Thursday, February 1, 2007

Hope You Weren't Planning on Hitting the Megaplex

Good sweet Jesus is this going to be an off week at theaters around the country. I certainly don't mean that in terms of box, although it might be that too, but it's shaping up to be a rare weekend in regards to the overall quality of movies that will be available to most of the country.

According to our old friend Rotten Tomatoes, not a single movie in last week's top five Box Office winners scored above a 45% (it takes 60% to be considered "fresh"). For the mathematically inclined readers, last week's top 5 averaged a pretty paltry 23.8%, led of course by last week's winner, Epic Movie, which clocked in at 3%. Yeah I know, I was shocked that 3% of reviewers liked it too. But, as I've said, I'm not one to quibble with audiences' viewing choices.

The real bad news for the discerning film going community is that it looks like things are going to get worse before they get better. This week we have two releases, both of which have received a nauseating amount of advertising run-up. As of this writing only one of the films has received any RT love, and let's just say, you might want to stay home this weekend. I don't know if anyone keeps stats on these things, but we might be looking at an all-time box office top ten shit show when it comes to RT scores. 23.8 is the number to beat, but I think these films are up to it.
The first of these cinematic gems is Because I Said So, which might be the most laugh-out-loud bad title this side of porn. Everything I know about this film I've garnered from watching the preview, but my guess is it doesn't get a whole lot deeper. Apparently Diane Keaton (why, oh why?) plays an overbearing mother to Mandy Moore's rambuncious 20-something. There's some tension, and, gasp, BOYS! And mom and daughter probably butt heads a lot only to realize that they really love each other at the end of the day. Critics seem to be referring to this as a "chick-flick," the generic implications of which I won't even begin to address at this juncture, but I'd dare anyone to find me five so-called "chicks" who are interested in seeing this film. I goddamn dare you. Oh yeah, and just so we're clear, Because I Said So is currently clocking in at an Epic-Movie-like 8% right now over at RT. Good times.
The back end of this weekend's shows some potential. The Messengers is a horror film, which obviously curries favor with this writer, but it's also a Ghost House film (Sam Raimi's production house), so there's hope that it won't be a total waste of time. John Hodgman actually discussed The Messengers a fair amount in his NYT Magazine story "The Haunting", (sorry NYT Select members only it looks like) which looked at the current state of horror in the US. Actually a really nice article if you can get your hands on a full copy somewhere. But I digress. There's one glaring problem here, and it's probably the first thing that jumps out to any fan of the horror genre: a PG-13 rating.

Does a PG-13 rating preclude a film from being scary? No, of course not. But what it does mean is that a large number of the conventions of the genre will be absent or woefully nuetered. Gore, sex, extreme violence? Sorry, go see The Hitcher again. Obviously, films have done pretty well for themselves without all those goodies--Poltergeist and The Ring are just the two that come most readily to mind, Jaws somehow got a fucking PG--but it's an uphill battle. And those exceptions had one thing in common for the most part: decent direction by Speilberg, Hooper and Verbinski. The Messengers is being helmed by two Hong Kong stars, the twin Pang brothers, but what kind of work they'll turn out stateside remains to be seen.

What The Messengers will do is get those pesky teens to the theater. You know, the not-quite-ready-for-Rob-Zombie crowd who still likes a good spook and enjoys a night away from mom and pop? They'll be out in numbers I'd expect. Probably even enough to put Messengers into number one. No guarantees of course, but it'd be nice to see because it would get some good traction going for Ghost House, who will be dropping two more horror ditties on us later this year.

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