Greetings from the apocalypse! It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock n' roll, but if you're Will Smith's kid it ain't that long. The thoroughly Thetan-free father-son gods among us will be exemplars of human perfection on screen this weekend, but that doesn't mean you have to give them your money. There's plenty to see, do, touch, taste, smell, snort and vomit with the fully stocked weekend of entertainment I have lined up for ya, kiddos.
Friday, May 31
POW! IN THEATERS
M. Night Shyamalan hasn't exactly been an audience's best friend for the last, oh, decade or so, which is why the studio wasn't generous in name-dropping him as director of "After Earth." Indeed, the real power behind the throne appears to be Will Smith and his superior progeny Jaden in this vehicle designed to showcase them as a father-son duo who crash land on an uninhabitable future Earth absolutely silly with monsters. Don't underestimate Shyamalan, though, who's always game to throw a twist at us. We're guessing the surprise is that Smith was a ghost the whole time whose weakness was water, and that the Earth wasn't actually ruined but rather they just accidentally landed in New Orleans five years from now. And then the "Dianetics" volcano erupts.
BASIC CABLE BLUES
Lord knows no one is more oversaturated than Will Smith, but if your weekend needs some freshening from said Prince then go ahead and double dip with "Enemy of the State" at 5 p.m. and "Hancock" at 8 p.m. on FX. "Enemy" is the late Tony Scott's kinda-sorta spiritual sequel to "The Conversation," with Gene Hackman again playing a paranoid surveillance expert helping Smith's man on the run. If that wasn't big, loud and dumb enough for ya then "Hancock" should do the trick with Smith's alcoholic superhero learning to do good again. You can tell he has attitude 'cause he always wears shades, man.
NETFLIX RECOMMENDS WITH A VENGEANCE
Believe it or not, "After Earth" isn't the first sci-fi movie to carry said nomenclature. That honor goes to Don Bluth's 2000 animated bomb "Titan A.E." (guess what the "A.E." stands for), one of the last gasps of traditional 2-D animation, and it's available on Netflix Streaming. This tale of a ship designed as the last hope for humanity after d**khole aliens blow up our planet was co-written by none other than Joss Whedon, still working out the kinks in his space opera toolbox before "Firefly." Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore and totally distinguishable Ron Perlman voice what could best be described as "Heavy Metal" without the boobs and only a moderate amount of bloodshed. Luckily an annoying cockroach character voiced by Jim Breuer is murdered way early on.
THE CON IS ON
Philly is the city of nerderly love for the next few days as Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con decides if it wants a cheesesteak with whiz or without from May 30 through June 2. Appearing to finalize their career skids trajectory are Jon Heder of "Napoleon Dynamite," the X-Men's Iceman Shawn Ashmore, Mini-Me himself Verne Troyer, Boondock Saint Norman Reedus, all-around hot "Serenity" chick Summer Glau and Marvel Comics main man Stan Lee. There may also be some comic books there, but don't quote me on that. At the very least you might ogle a porn star dressed as Power Girl.
Saturday, June 1
POW! IN THEATERS
"Now You See Me," now you don't. I probably won't, but if I had to choose between this one and "After Earth" I gotta admit this magician caper thriller comedy thingy has the higher pedigree. For starters you've got Louis Letterier, who made one of the better Marvel movies IMHO with "The Incredible Hulk," you've got co-writer Ed Solomon of "Bill & Ted"/"Men in Black" fame, and not to mention that cast! My favorite neurotic heartthrob Jesse Eisenberg reteams with his old zombie killing buddy Woody Harrelson who, along with Isla Fisher and James Franco's brother, form an unbeatable magic act known as The Four Horsemen. Their specialty is robbing banks via abra cadabra, then giving the money away to their audience. If the filmmakers can actually come up with an explanation for how they pull that off in a way that doesn't involve some stupid sci-fi crap then I'm all about this.
Here's something. It's called "Hempsters: Plant the Seed." It's a documentary about hemp. Woody Harrelson is an interviewee in it. Do you really need more context than that? Thought not. Watch it in its entirety below via HULU fo free, yo:
It seemed appropriate that this week's much-recommended Survivor of Thunderdome be an oldie-but-goodie rarity, so since we're more into magicians than Claudia Schiffer let's roll with the best as we observe "Penn & Teller Get Killed" via the miracle of YouTube. This 1989 feature film, the last by the great Arthur Penn ("Bonnie and Clyde"), gave Penn Jillette and his silent partner Teller a vehicle through which to subversively explore some clever notions about skepticism, illusion and elaborate pranks as Penn dares everyone in the country to kill him on national television. Danger ensues. Not only does the movie completely live up to its title, it might be the only one of its kind until "Fight Club" a decade later to actively engage the audience in questioning their values and perceptions. Deep, man. Watch it in its entirety below:
For the rest of the summer I wanna try and highlight at least one outdoor screening event each week, starting with this one in the snooty Brentwood area of Los Angeles, CA. You can roll your eyes at the first 8-year-old you see with their own iPhone as Paul Revere Middle School and Showtime hosts a free screening of the 1995 classic "Clueless," the movie that made Alicia Silverstone a star for a few months and proved that Jane Austin can be translated into moron. There will be live music by Tic Tic Boom, lots of female chefs participating in Lady Food Truck night and giveaways of new Katy Perry flavored popchips … I'm not sure how they extracted Katy's essence, but it was probably legal.
Sunday, June 2
MASTER OF THE ART HOUSE
If you want a safe, moderately edgy indie flick with the heart of a single-camera sitcom then how about you check out "The Kings of Summer" in limited release. It follows a doofy kid named Joe, his rash-covered pal Patrick and token hyper-weirdo Biaggo as they ditch their nutball families in order to live out a "Lord of the Flies"-with-ADD existence in a house they've built out of scrap in the woods. The script is pretty predictable and the deadpan zingers come out of Nick Offerman's mouth at a ratio of six for every minute of screen time he has. All in all not bad, but the recent "Mud" dealt with similar themes with more flair/ believability. To learn about other movies in the limited "Kids Build Wacky Stuff" genre, be sure to check out my piece on that very topic over at Film.com right friggin' now.
PAY CHANNEL PAYBACK
I know y'all still haven't had your fix of Jesse Eisenberg, so let him razzmatazz you once more with his Micro-Machine Man rapid-fire dialogue in 2010's "The Social Network" at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on Fox Movie Channel. Eisenberg plays Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg like he's "Mark Asperger," an emotionally detached cunning warrior of the web who will bulldoze over friends, colleagues and lovers in order to prove he's the smartest guy in the room. When you're making the kind of swingin' d**k money that Zuckerberg is raking in from us Facebook users voluntarily doling out personal info in pursuit of networking and getting laid then more power to him, ya know?
Are you one of those people that needs someone cool to tell you something's cool before you can realize it's cool? Me too — that's why I'm dying to read "The Best Film You've Never Seen: 35 Directors Champion the Forgotten or Critically Savaged Movies They Love." British rom-com king extolls the virtues of 1979's hometown dramedy "Breaking Away," Jay Duplass sings the praises of the surreal Tom Hanks vehicle "Joe vs. the Volcano" and Edgar Wright loves him some "Super Cops." Other great directors chipping in include Guillermo del Toro, Neil LaBute, Richard Kelly, Todd Solondz, Bill Condon, Frank Oz, Kevin Smith and many others. This sounds like my jam.
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 …