It’s official: Movies are still your best entertainment value. Especially if you stop counting everything else.
Someone with little direct knowledge of economics – a community-college freshman, say, or Phil Gramm – might look at the record-breaking box-office take of movies like The Dark Knight and assume this country is on pretty sturdy financial footing. What that theory discounts is the way the skyrocketing cost of gas has made simply unthinkable the traditional summertime alternatives to multiplex attendance. So long, interstate vacations. Bye-bye, day trips to state parks. (Trust us, people actually used to do these things.) And that’s limiting the discussion to direct competition. We’d love to know how many folks sitting in IMAX theaters right now subconsciously funneled their ticket monies from non-entertainment-related pursuits they’ve long since categorized as simply undoable. Like repaying massive student loans. Or keeping a kid, instead of putting it up for adoption.
(Then again, that last choice may be purely philosophical. Who would want to raise an heir in a world in which Space Chimps can exist, anyway?)
Opening Friday, Aug. 1
The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor We were happy to read in OW that Brendan Fraser had proved himself forthright and disarming on a recent promotional visit to Orlando. Though we may kid Fraser, we’d rather remember him tugging at our heartstrings as a terminal patient on Scrubs than testing the stretching capacity of the human jaw in flicks like Journey to the Center of the Earth. That said, we’re expecting more bug-eyed pursuit than dramatic gravitas from this third ride on the Mummy-go-’round, which has no Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, no Rachel Weisz and certainly no Boris Karloff. But it might inspire a new theme beverage down at the parks, so that’s nice. (PG-13)
The Wackness If the words “1990s period piece” don’t send chills up your spine, you could conceivably be beguiled by this comedy about a college-bound kid who spends a summer selling dope all over New York City. The hometown verdict: The New York Times liked it, the Village Voice didn’t. Now ask yourself, which one has more intimate knowledge of the subject matter? (R)
Midnight Meat Train Clive Barker fans are up in arms that Lionsgate is trying to bury this feature-length adaptation of his short story about a subway-riding butcher. Evidence against that theory: After much back-and-forth, the movie is opening in Orlando after all. Evidence for? It’s opening at Colonial Promenade 6. (R)
Swing Vote Here’s how you get noticed in the movie business: You hit on the brilliant and timely story idea that a squeaker of a presidential campaign could be decided by one utterly uninformed voter. And here’s how you blow that cred in five minutes: You cast Kevin Costner and let him run wild with a hayseed impression that looks to be dripping with contempt for his perceived social inferiors. As if there are any of those. (PG-13)
Brideshead Revisited How could a filmmaking team manage to condense Evelyn Waugh’s 1945 novel – which 27 years ago yielded enough material for a beloved 11-part TV adaptation – into a tidy two hours? A hint may rest in the way star Matthew Goode described the story’s themes to Ain’t It Cool News: “Just life, really. Things don’t always work out.” Aaaaah, shorthand. (PG-13)
Opening Wednesday, Aug. 6
Pineapple Express With Superbad having raked in the dirtbag bucks last summer, writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have free rein to spew their schlubby self-love all over the screen, this time via the story of droopy-lidded potheads (Rogen and James Franco) who get caught up in all sorts of criminal mayhem. (Yes, it’s Weed Week at the moo’n pitchers. Cops get in free.) Director David Gordon Green has heretofore been responsible for arthouse yawns like All the Real Girls, which merely seemed to have been assembled while under the effects of herb. (R)
Available Tuesday, Aug 5
Leonard Maltin’s 2009 Movie Guide You’ve gotta love this guy: He’s memorized the production information for every five- minute Tom and Jerry short ever put to film, yet somehow his head doesn’t explode like a wad of Laffy Taffy in an industrial dryer. We’d only like him better if we ever got around to reading one of his weighty volumes from cover to cover and discovered he had started simply making shit up, either to meet a deadline or (even better) just for the hell of it. A hint to intrepid readers: Jessica Alba was not in Westward Ho the Wagons! (Signet)
Available Tuesday, Aug. 5
Pineapple Express Another reason to resent this movie: It marks the return of Huey Lewis as soundtrack artist – the final mystifying decision in a week that’s been full of them. Step away from the roach clip, boys; step away from the roach clip. (Lakeshore)[email protected]