Greetings from the apocalypse! If you lost some fingers to frostbite while walking down the driveway to get your mail, don't panic, that's perfectly normal for this time of year … on the east coast, anyway. A few bits of drudgery opening at the multiplex will numb your brain even more than the cold, but lucky for you I've scouted out some alternative routes towards weekend moviegoing satisfaction.
Friday, January 25
There was a minute or two in the late '90s/early '00s when The Farrelly Brothers were the undisputed heavyweight champions of comedy, but after round-one knockouts like "The Heartbreak Kid" and "The Three Stooges" they're officially classified "punch-drunk." Now it seems Peter Farrelly has made a movie so bad even his brother Bobby's not involved, and it's called "Movie 43." Taking cues from sketch-based flicks like "The Kentucky Fried Movie," it offers a parade of hot stars (Seth MacFarlane, Hugh Jackman, Emma Stone) and once-were-hots (Halle Berry, Gerard Butler, Richard Gere) performing various acts of crudeness in the hopes of eliciting a chuckle or two.
The results of these strained antics might leave you crying bloody tears of boredom, so why not catch the Farrellys' "There's Something About Mary" at 5 p.m. on AMC to be transported back to a more innocent era (1998) when Ben Stiller masturbating was enough to keep audiences in hysterics. Stiller's stalker-esque attempt to reunite with his high school flame Cameron Diaz leads to fish hooks in the mouth, Jonathan Richman singing and a random Brett Favre cameo. *SPOILER* Diaz thinks it's hair gel, but it's really baby batter.
If you're in the Farrellys' native New England you'll definitely want in on Boston's Brattle Theater, which is hosting the area premiere of "A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman." The late, great Chapman was, of course, the de facto leader of the Pythons before he died from motherf**king cancer in 1989, and this new filmic experiment combines the work of 14 animation houses to bring him back to life. It's narrated by Chapman himself (recorded before he ceased to be, obvs), along with new voicework from all the surviving Pythons (except Eric Idle). If you miss tonight's three showings, it'll be paired with "And Now for Something Completely Different" on Saturday or double-featured with "The Life of Brian" on Sunday, know what I mean, nudge nudge, wink wink.
Let's cap off tonight with prep-work for tomorrow's cinematic pilgrimage to Hansel & Gretel territory: "Hard Candy" on Sundance Channel at 8 p.m., and again at 12 a.m. What does Ellen Page brutalizing Patrick Wilson for an hour have to do with evil witches? Well, the original Brothers Grimm story is essentially a metaphor for all the pervs out there who lure in kids with evil intentions, and that's exactly what this 2006 psychological thriller is about, except in this one the kid (Page) turns the tables rather exquisitely on her would-be seducer. It leads to the mother of all castration scenes.
Saturday, January 26
Okay, so you watched "Hard Candy" last night, and if you're a dude you woke up this morning and grabbed to see if your balls were still there. If they're not I'll be reading about you in the paper tomorrow, but if they are then head to the cinema for the R-rated, balls-to-the-wall "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters." After Jeremy Renner made this baby in 2011, he conquered the box office in three major sequels: "Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol," "The Bourne Legacy" and "The Avengers." Typically a flick that's been delayed this long bodes ill for its chances, but at the very least we get to see Gemma Arterton in skin-tight leather dispatching practitioners of the black arts with anachronistic weaponry.
Proof that delayed twists on Grimm fairy tales aren't always shite is Monty Python alum Terry Gilliam's "The Brothers Grimm" on Lionsgate VOD for $1.99. An undeserved flop in summer 2005, it pairs Matt Damon and a very heightened Heath Ledger as the titular bros, except instead of folkloric scholars they're traveling con men pretending to hunt witches … until they encounter a real one. Besides obvious story similarities with this week's "Hansel & Gretel," this quirky fantasy also likewise features Peter Stormare as a scenery-chewing Italian torture master. It may not be Gilliam's best, but it does have a gingerbread man who steals children.
Speaking of evil gingerbread, let's get confectionery crafty with this clever British YouTube vid that shows you how to make a gingerbread grenade. There's also a vid that shows you how to use gingerbread as a weapon, and let's throw in this pic of various sweet brown bits of gingerbread arsenal to defend against witches, zombies or any other supernatural punk asses who try to step.
Just in case those two trips to fantasyland weren't action-packed enough for ya, why not crack a cold one and enjoy last year's magnificent "The Raid: Redemption" at 10 p.m. on Starz? It stars nobody you ever heard of, but by the time this Indonesian actioner is done rocking your world you will never forget it. It concerns a SWAT team ascending up a 15-story high-rise controlled by a drug lord, and once the he gets wind of the cops in his territory the bullets and elbow jabs really start flying. HELL YES.
Sunday, January 27
Last night's "Raid" provided some heavy-duty butt-kicking, but 1995's "Heavyweights" at 9:15 a.m. on Showtime 2e gives us some heavy-duty fat camp chunkstyles doing what they do best; namely, eatin' and bein' funny. Besides some early over-the-top thesping from Ben Stiller (a total precursor to his asswipe fitness guru from "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story"), it also features "Bridesmaids" director Paul Feig, an underage/pre-SNL Kenan Thompson (What's Up with That?), not to mention a script by current comedy kingpin Judd Apatow. Watch some early-stage comedy zygotes develop under the microscope before your eyes!
All you culture-seekers who listen to NPR in your Lexus and have kitchen cabinets made of fine mahogany will want to keep an eye out for the next National Theatre Live presentation of "The Magistrate" at your area movie palace. This Victorian-era farce stars John Lithgow as the title dude who marries a woman who drops several years from her and her son's age. The comedy is broadcast direct-to-theaters live from London and can be seen in New York at the NYU Skirball Center on Friday Jan 25 at 7 p.m., at Guild Hall on Saturday Jan 26 at 8 p.m. and today at Symphony Space at 2 p.m. Check out the list of NT Live venues for the one closest to you.
This week's "Survivor of Thunderdome" takes its title quite literally, because it's 1989's "Survival Quest" on Hulu Streaming for free, yo. I decided to check this one out based solely on it being made by Don Coscarelli, who helmed previous "Survivor" (and limited theatrical release this weekend) "John Dies at the End." "Survival Quest" is about a bunch of big city pansies who go for a month-long sojourn in the woods led by humane (but still highly awesome) outdoorsy guru Lance Henriksen. Trouble is there's a rival group of militant survivalists led by Henriksen's fellow "Aliens" compadre Mark Rolston. Thrown into the mix are future ex-husband/wife Catherine Keener and Dermot Mulroney as well as a murderous lead villain played by eventual "Burlesque" director Steve Antin (keep thinking of that fact when he tries to kill people). It's a tight, exciting 90 minutes and an interesting departure for a guy like Coscarelli, who cut his teeth on horror flicks like "Phantasm."
Finally, might I add that you should PLEASE, for the love of God, buy, rent or Netflix Queue 1977's "The Kentucky Fried Movie" if you haven't seen it already. Seriously, use that cash you were gonna spend on "Movie 43." You can hang with the same buds and smoke the same doobies, but you will get 20 times the laughs, I swear to you.
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 …