Once upon a time people would go to grandiose, darkened theaters to watch images projected on large screens via illuminated strips of film.
Those days are all but over.
Initially altered by the late-’70s advent of platter projection — not to mention that same era's movie-magic-eroding advent of cable TV and home-video players — film culture is now going through a sea change as theaters of every stripe move to digital projection, a turnabout that has had more of an impact than might meet the eye.
A “re-imagining” of A Nightmare on Elm Street opens this week. Really? The original Freddy movie, which is now best known as Johnny Depp’s first big-screen role, not to mention its endless (and endlessly lame) sequels?
Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko might be the cult film of the new millennium.
The young auteur’s moody opus struggled to find an audience amid a post-9/11 climate that apparently had little patience for the film's head-scratching, reality-shifting narrative and apocalyptic overtones — it received a limited theatrical release about a month after the terrorist attacks and quickly faded from view.
It's been a pretty shitty year to date at the movie house. Check this list of critical bombs that have graced the multiplex in 2011, all of which generated a D or worse from CityBeat's review team: Season of the Witch, The Rite, Drive Angry, Big Momma's: Like Father, Like Son, Sanctum, From Prada to Nada, Country Strong, The Roommate, Hall Pass, Just Go With It and No Strings Attached. (Curiously, that group features films starring Oscar winners Nicolas Cage, Anthony Hopkins, Gwyneth Paltrow and Natalie Portman.)
A pair of new books centering on film critic Pauline Kael — The Library of America's lavishly rendered The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael and Brian Kellow's incisive biography Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark — have resulted in an avalanche of recent Kael appraisals and reminiscences a decade after her death in 2001 and 20 years after her retirement from writing in 1991.
I can't quite remember when I became aware of Kael, but it had to be in my late teens, which is when I began to move beyond the Hollywood blockbusters of my youth and into deeper, more adventurous cinematic waters. I do know that my initial Kael exposure occurred after she had retired from The New Yorker, where she rather famously wrote film essays and reviews for nearly 25 years.
Surprisingly, early word on No Strings Attached — Ivan Reitman's sexually liberated romantic comedy featuring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher — is strong.
Before a recent Saturday matinee screening of Alexandre Aja's Piranha 3D — which, for the record, is a unabashedly bloody excursion into B-movie mayhem — I took in trailers for no less than five new 3-D movies: Resident Evil: Afterlife, Tron: Legacy, Green Hornet, Jackass 3D and Saw 3D, all of which and more (including the next installments in the Harry Potter and Chronicles of Narnia series) arrive on the heels of this summer's avalanche of like-formatted fare.
The dire situation has more acute at the multiplex.