Greetings from the apocalypse, and welcome to an extra-LONG, extra-FUN Presidents Day weekend that does not involve Bill Clinton. (Actually, it does, but I can't resist a good penis joke.) Enjoy the festivities, and if George W. Bush asks why he didn't get an invite to the BBQ just tell him it must have gotten lost in the mail. If he still won't shut up about it just tell him to go paint another picture of his bathroom.
Friday, February 15
O John McClane, where art thou? Having watched all four prior flicks in the "Die Hard" canon this week, I am saddened to hear that this might be a bad weekend for "A Good Day to Die Hard." The Rotten Tomatoes scoreboard has this puppy down for the count at a pathetic 13% approval rating, so keep in mind that "Texas Chainsaw 3D" got 19% when you're deciding whether or not this actioner is worth a bullet. Or you can always read Kristy Puchko's hilarious all-GIF review of the fivequel over at Cinema Blend. I'm glad Bruce Willis was able to make a hefty withdrawal from 20th Century Fox's savings account, but what is the deal with action flicks like this and "Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol" being set in Russia? Is the Cold War back on? Good thing I have Wi-Fi in my fallout shelter.
My pals over at Brooklyn's Bottleneck Gallery are trying to keep those Valentine's Day fires burning with "Get a Room," a new collection of pop culture-infused romantic artworks that you can drink vino and lip-lock to at their opening reception, tonight from 7 to 10 p.m. The paintings pay tribute to the greatest couples of our time, including Neo and Trinity, Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson, Bogie and Bergman, and Ann Darrow and King Kong.
The All-Nite Scream-O-Rama at The Loft Cinema in Tucson, AZ promises you'll be dead by dawn with their 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. line-up of fright flicks. On the scare-genda tonight are 1981's "My Bloody Valentine," Peter Jackson's splatstick masterpiece "Dead Alive," cult classic "Phantasm," John Carpenter's slow ride through Stephen King country "Christine," 2007's found footage creeper "REC" and the best "midget fetus in your neck" movie "The Manitou." Cap the night with George Romero's anthology of terror, "Creepshow."
Saturday, February 16
Now that my Arizona peeps have a full 12 hours of scares under their belt, why not chug a coffee, hop in the car and drive a solid 1,738.3 miles to Somerset, Kentucky for Dead Winter Horror Convention. Running Friday through Sunday, this festival of fright is a nightmare lover's dream, with guests including Tony Todd ("Candyman"), mad make-up genius/occasional thespian Tom Savini ("Dawn of the Dead," "Friday the 13th") and Playboy cyber girl of the year Leana Decker, because it wouldn't be a horror convention without a random Playmate for gorehounds to attempt (in vain) to look in the eye.
If your tastes in the supernatural lean less towards brimstone and more towards vanilla, than the other big weekend theatrical release might be your speed. Last fall I caught a glimpse of the movie adaptation of YA phenom "Beautiful Creatures" at New York Comic-Con, and even for a staunch anti-"Twilight"-er like myself it looked tedious. You could feel the air sucked out of the room by the sub-"True Blood" southern gothic/soap opera magical realism thing it was trying (and failing) to achieve. That said, the world needs more sexy-witch movies, especially after my failed pitch for a "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch" reunion spread in Hustler. Also, screenwriter/director Richard LaGravenese is a pro, having penned ace scripts like "The Fisher King," so I'm hoping the scent coming off this movie is just the taquitos I absentmindedly left in the microwave for six weeks.
"He did it! He blew it up! Damn you, Tim Burton! Damn you all to HEEEEELLLL!!!" That was me circa 2001 when the woeful "Planet of the Apes" remake scorched the earth with its putridness. We got a decent James Franco-fied reboot a few years later, but neither stands the test of time like the original five-movie run from '68 to '73, which is why I'm positively gleeful AMC is unspooling them all for a "Planet of the Apes" marathon today starting at 9 a.m. Catch all the unsubtle Civil Rights Movement revolution stuff, all the human separatists in armored school buses and just the right amount of Charlton Heston-on-ape make-outs. Now that's what I call a sexy franchise.
Sunday, February 17
As far as being "the 007 of Plainfield, New Jersey," John McClane needs less "Die Harder" and more "try harder," but the REAL 007 still knows how to take care of business on the other side of the pond. Last year's "Skyfall," which hit Blu-ray/DVD shelves this week, managed to bring some fresh biscuits to tea despite being the twenty-third entry in James Bond's extensive career in spying/boning. I'm christening "Skyfall" this week's "Survivor of Thunderdome" because Daniel Craig got to hurtle himself off a motorbike and onto a moving train AND blow up his childhood home all in THE SAME MOVIE. That would be, like, at least two "Jack Reachers." This is not just another flawless execution of the Bond formula, but a kind of meta commentary on the man (booze, pills, bravado) and his iconography (gadgets, babes, wheels, secretaries). I've perused the disc myself and it contains a cool hour-long behind-the-scenes thingy wherein director Sam Mendes expounds on being the caretaker of cinema's longest-running franchise, while behind his eyes you can tell he was mainly in this for that sweet Bond Girl casting couch. With pleasure ... With pleasure.
Since we're on a Bond kick, why not slap on our snappiest duds, tip the valet and head to "Casino Royale" at noon on USA. This 2006 reboot of Great Britain's finest export introduced the world to the Aryan charms of Daniel Craig, easily the best and most nuanced Bond that's ever been. (In your FACE, Timothy Dalton). Although its plot is essentially "Batman Begins" shaken -not-stirred, this origin story takes the superspy to a darker, near-psychotic strata than he's ever orbited, with a breakneck pace supplied by capable journeyman director Martin Campbell.
If you're celebrating Presidents Day weekend in America's itsy bitsiest state of Rhode Island, then scrape whatever remains of Nemo off your car, pack up the kiddies and head to the Providence Children's Film Festival. From the 14th to the 19th they have plenty of oddball entries from "Alfie the Little Werewolf" to Holocaust tale "Wunderkinder." There's oodles of shorts, too, but when it comes to the more international entries be forewarned that Eastern European filmmaking seems to abide by one hard and fast rule: "If we CAN make a film with weird puppets, we WILL make a film with weird puppets!"
Monday, February 18
Since "today" is the birthday of the Father of Our Country (it's actually Feb 11), not to mention that guy with the Amish beard that Daniel Day-Lewis played (actually Feb 12), I thought I'd splurge and get George Washington and his afterlife bestie Abe a little surprise …
If that erotic display didn't totally bowl you over, then why not strap yourself in for a special Presidents Day movie three-fer courtesy of the Max-man? First up, Netflix Instant has a hard fightin', hard drinkin', hard lovin' "Abraham Lincoln" biopic from 1930, "Personally Directed by D.W. Griffith" (best director's credit ever). Griffith was trying ever-so-hard to atone for making the Ku Klux Klan recruitment film "Birth of a Nation" with this flick, his second-to-last film and one of his few talkies, although the sound is sporadic on Netflix's print. Walter Huston, the papa of John Huston, is positively badass in the role and, unlike Daniel Day-Lewis, actually gives us an assassination scene you can take to the bank (in pennies). "It'll take a bigger man than George Washington to keep those stars in that flag!"
I promised you Bill Clinton, and by golly yer gonna get 'im. Documentarian D. A. Pennebaker sure bet on the right horse when he decided to imbed his camera within Clinton's 1992 campaign for the Presidency (SPOILER! he won), and the result is "The War Room," available for rent on Amazon Instant Video for $2.99 and to own from Criterion Collection. This is that rare fly-on-the-wall doc where the filmmakers found themselves right in the eye of the storm, at the center of which are Clinton's Communications Director George Stephanopoulos and Lead Strategist James Carville, now both ubiquitous in political TV coverage.
As far as representing that great United States tradition for freedom of speech, you won't find a better representation than in the doc "American: The Bill Hicks Story" on Netflix Instant or for free, yo (with pesky commercial interruptions) on Hulu. Hicks had a short run in stand-up through the '80s and into the early '90s before being snuffed out by cancer, but by the time he died at only 32 he had become a dark warrior of the comedy wastelands, raging at everything from anti-evolutionist Christians to the corporate c**ksucking of Rock Against Drugs. He also had the cojones to point out to crucifix-wearers that when Jesus comes back he does NOT want to see a cross. If you are not a flag-waving convert of the Church of Hicks (which, really, is any church … HIYOOOO!), you will be after this great doc.
As I ride off into the distant horizon, here's wishing you fellow weekend road warriors the best outing possible from this burnt-out, blighted wasteland. Enjoy your fast Internet, clean-ish movie theaters, plentiful gasoline and all the comforts of home, for this world lives now only in my memories …