It used to be that a new movie coming out that I wanted to see meant making plans for Friday night. There’d be four or five or six of us, and it would be a matter of coordinating where we were going, when we’d get there, where we’d eat beforehand, who was driving, all the logistics of getting a group to do the same thing at the same time. And “wanted to see” was a pretty generous window, ranging from, “Holy crap that looks amazing!” to, “Eh, that’ll do.” Of course, that was before an evening show was going to set you back at least ten bucks, and before going home and simply collapsing on the coach on a Friday night became a much more appealing option. Sure, the really big events will get me out on opening day, but for the most part, I enjoy the relatively calm, less expensive solitude of 11:00am on a Saturday morning. It makes it more about the film than about the social gathering.
Although I do kind of miss that frenetic rush that came with a packed theater on a Friday night. Of course, with the proliferation of multiplexes and the increased quality of the home experience, theaters don’t seem all that crowded anymore anyway. Films still come out and do record business, but there are so many theater options, it’s rare to see the old line around the block. Missed the 8:15 show? Don’t worry, there’s an 8:30, 9:15, 9:45 and 10. At the same theater. Event films just don’t feel that much like events anymore, at least in the sense of being part of this mass group of people taking it in. And that’s something we’ll probably never get back. Not that Hollywood won’t keep trying.
That said, I don’t think the words “event film” apply to Chasing Mavericks, save in the most literal sense of “event” as “a thing that happened.” It’s also probably a big deal for those who have been anxiously awaiting the definitive Gerard Butler surfing movie. What’s really astonishing is that it took two directors to make this, Michael Apted and Curtis Hanson, with Apted taking over when Hanson pulled out due to health reasons. That doesn’t bode well for any kind of real vision here, and makes the whole thing seem like a product that had to be finished by a certain date rather than a story that was really worth telling.
It wouldn’t be the weekend before Halloween without some films looking to cash in on the holiday, which means Silent Hill: Revelation is probably going to clean up. The trailers make it look like a suitably creepy and over-the-top fun house ride, exactly what moviegoers want in a Halloween film. I’m pretty sure any connection to the video game series is fairly tenuous, and I’m equally sure that doesn’t matter one damn bit to the people who are just looking for something to scream at for a few hours before forgetting about it come Thanksgiving. It’s smart marketing more than inspired filmmaking, and hey, nobody ever went broke engaging in smart marketing. See you next year for Silent Hill: Revelate Harder.
The other Halloween-themed film this weekend is Fun Size, which, sadly, does not wrestle with the deep philosophical issue of why a candy bar one-third the size of a normal candy bar is somehow considered fun. Instead, it feels like a mix between Can’t Hardly Wait and Adventures in Babysitting, with a dash of Gossip Girl thrown in thanks to director Josh Schwartz, who developed the TV show. It’s probably not high art, it’s probably not even art at all, but I’m a sort of a sucker for “it all happened in one night” movies, and Jane Levy has pretty much won me over thanks to Suburgatory. Which means I’ll probably rent this the first week it’s available on disc.
Because we do have an honest to goodness event film this week, and that’s Cloud Atlas, a film so bursting with ideas and imagery that it took three directors to make; take that, Chasing Mavericks. Tom Tykwer and Andy & Lana Wachowski have taken what was believed to be David Mitchell’s unfilmably complex novel — it features six different stories and time periods nested within each other — and apparently knocked it out of the park. It’s big (three hours big), bold, ambitious filmmaking that deserves to be seen and which will probably get beat up by Argo and Silent Hill at the box office this week. For some reason, people only get excited about the Wachowskis when they’re shooting people in bullet time, which is too bad, because they’ve got a lot more going on than just Matrix movies. Even if Cloud Atlas stumbles — and there seems to be a pretty healthy critical divide forming on that point — it’ll likely be a much more interesting failure than some of the successes I’ve seen this year. At least it’s aiming high.