Believe it or not, after all these years of being a crazy moviegoer, I had never seen four movies on the big screen in a single day. Tons of double-features and plenty of triples... but the quadruple had always managed to elude me, for whatever reason. That is, until Friday, August 20th, 2010, when the stars and showtimes were properly aligned, and I found myself at the movies all freakin’ day. And even more remarkable than the milestone itself... all four of the movies were actually good! It was one of the all-time great movie-watching days, and now I will take you through the experience, one movie at a time....
Thanks to the glory of 1:00 summer Fridays at work, I was able to easily make the 1:45 showing of the THE SWITCH at the AMC Empire, and it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It's a romantic comedy that follows the standard romantic comedy format -- but the plot is refreshingly original, the dialogue is snappy and the cast is truly outstanding, including Jason Bateman, Jeff Goldblum (who once again proves that he needs to be in more movies), Juliette Lewis and Patrick Wilson (the perfect Baxter). The kid is hilarious, and even Old Lady Aniston is better than usual. Funny, poignant, edgy and all-around entertaining -- probably the best traditional romantic comedy of the year so far.
Afterward, I grabbed some lunch and then went right back into the Empire for the 4:40 show of one of my most anticipated movies of the summer: PIRANHA 3D! I opted to see it in ETX format, which stands for "Enhanced Theatre Experience." This basically means that it’s better than HD, but not quite IMAX, highlighted by a larger-than-average screen that literally stretches from the floor to ceiling, so it sufficiently fills your field of vision. Crisp picture and booming sound, too. Definitely a better choice than the fake IMAX screen at the Empire (though a far cry from the true IMAX Experience at Lincoln Square)... and a buck cheaper, too.
Anyway... PIRANHA 3D... yeah, it is pretty awesome. From the opening scene with a very Matt Hooper-esque Richard Dreyfuss... to the non-stop cacophony of bouncing boobs and jiggling butts... to Eli Roth emceeing a wet t-shirt contest... to Elisabeth Shue as a kick-ass sheriff... to the naked underwater girl-on-girl ballet... to a truly geektastic cameo from Christopher Lloyd... to the grand climax featuring a solid 30 minutes of some of the craziest, unbridled bloody carnage I've seen in a movie since CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST... this movie is insane fun in every sense of the word and 3D technology at its absolute finest! It’s interesting that for the first hour, pretty much all the blood & gore is CGI... but in the big climax, it’s all old-school blood, guts & gristle, which makes for quite a contrast. Best death: When the wire snaps and slices diagonally across a girl's body, undoing her bikini top and revealing a perfect breast -- only to have her upper torso slowly detach itself from the rest of the body and fall into the lake. BRILLIANT. Tremendous effort by Alexander Aja, who has already proven his horror chops with HAUTE TENSION (a perfect movie until the last five minutes) and the excellent 2006 remake of THE HILLS HAVE EYES. Good stuff!
After that, I switched gears a bit and headed up to Lincoln Plaza for the 7:05 showing of A FILM UNFINISHED, a documentary that uncovers the truth behind the unfinished Nazi propaganda films of the Warsaw Ghetto. If you’ve ever seen a documentary about the Holocaust, you know the footage I’m talking about -- it has been used as a reliable historical document for decades, and many of the images are instantly recognizable. However, a few years ago, a long-lost reel was discovered that revealed the full extent to which the footage was intricately staged by the Nazis -- it’s basically an outtake reel containing alternate takes and a far more authentic, unedited look at the atrocities of the Ghetto. The Nazis’ true intent was apparently to show the world that there were plenty of well-off Jews who didn’t have it so bad and were indifferent to the plights of others, to the point where they would ignore beggars in the street and enjoy fine dining. But the outtakes prove that all of this was intricately manipulated -- scenes of well-dressed Jews sitting down for dinner were staged from multiple angles, with looks of fear evident on the “actors” faces. Crazy shit. The footage is shown in its entirety and juxtaposed with scenes of actual Holocaust survivors watching it in an empty theatre and reflecting on their memories. As fascinating as it is horrifying, this is an important film and a must-see.
So yeah, that was kind of a bummer. But undaunted, I headed a few blocks north to Loews Lincoln Square and snagged two tix for the 10:05 showing of SCOTT PILGRIM vs. THE WORLD! I met up with my lovely lady friend, Rachel, got pizza from our favorite pizza place on 68th, washed it down with frozen yogurt & coffee from a Frozen Yogurt & Coffee Truck we came across, and prepared ourselves for what we hoped would be two hours of pure, unadulterated epic awesomeness. And that’s exactly what we got -- SCOTT PILGRIM is another gigantic triumph for Edgar Wright, whose genius cannot be denied. It’s a geek’s paradise, loaded with video game references, non-sequiturs and ringer t-shirts, and bursting with some of the most creative visuals we’ll see all year. It’s also arguably Michael Cera’s best performance ever. Now, I’ve made no secret that his lack of range has been annoying me for a while. He’s basically been playing the George Michael Bluth role in every movie he’s ever made. But while Scott Pilgrim is still very much a Cera character, he is far more nuanced, more aggressive and confident in his own awesomeness... plus he kicks ass and rocks. Instead of being an awkward teenager who has trouble talking to girls, which is Cera’s forte, Scott Pilgrim is a slightly-less-awkward twenty-something who has success with girls in spite of himself. It’s like the culmination of all of Cera’s performances to date and I can't imagine anyone else in the role (though now would be a perfect point for him to go and do something COMPLETELY different next time, so we’ll see how that goes). Fantastic supporting cast, too -- Mary Elizabeth Winstead is indeed dreamy and ultra-cool as Ramona Flowers, while you gotta wonder if maybe Scott would be better off with sweet, loyal, excitable Knives Chau. And the League of Evil Exes is unquestionably one of the great ideas in the history of great ideas -- each one is awesome, hilarious and well-developed (personal favorite: Brandon Routh and his vegan superpowers. Also, anybody else recognize the actress that plays Roxy Richter? I didn’t, but my girlfriend did. Hint: she’s worked with Michael Cera before!) and the fight scenes are outstanding and really make me want to bust out of my old Super NES and play some Street Fighter II. I don’t usually put much stock in box office performance, but honestly, the fact that this movie is turning out to be a flop is definitive proof that the general public has shit for brains. Suffice to say that I am very much in lesbians with SCOTT PILGRIM vs. THE WORLD and I can’t wait to revisit it many more times on Blu-Ray!
Well, folks, there you have it. At around 12:15 a.m., I exited the theatre and headed home with four fresh ticket stubs in my pocket. My longest-ever day of movie-watching was complete. I guess the next step is to see FIVE movies in a single day. Difficult, yes... but not impossible. We'll see what happens someday when I have a full day off and am feelings particularly cinematic!