Fierce Anticipation: January 23th – 25th


a blogumn by Ryan Dixon


Re-Watching The Dark Knight in IMAX

darkknightimaxEven though it was criminally shut out of both the Best Picture and Best Director categories for this year’s Oscars, it still doesn’t alter the fact that if you haven’t seen The Dark Knight in IMAX, then this re-release is cause for celebration.  Unlike many studio features screened in IMAX, large portions of The Dark Knight were shot with IMAX cameras, creating a unique, breathtaking experience that rivals many of the best rides found at theme parks.

Now in IMAX theaters


Poison Ivy 4: The Secret Society

Note: This past November, I received a lot of criticism for placing the lesbian romantic comedy I Can’t Think Straight under the category of “Wouldn’t Watch It If You Paid Me”. Many of my readers correctly pointed out that any movie that included a make-out session as hot as the one included in the trailer for that film couldn’t be all that bad. In an effort to avoid a similar controversy, I’ve preemptively put PI4:TSS in the “Kinda Wanna See” category, under the assumption that many of the elements I criticize in the paragraphs below will only serve as further enticement to see the film.

poisonivy4While Poison Ivy, Poison Ivy 2 and the aptly named Poison Ivy 3: The New Seduction starred a Murderer’s Row of Maxim cover girls (Drew Barrymore, Alyssa Milano and Jaime Pressly) and smartly tapped into the illicit “my daughter/sister’s slutty teenage friend” archetype that remains one of the preeminent sexual fantasies for males ages 10 through 85, the fourth film of the saga, which premiered last year on Lifetime, takes its inspiration more from The Da Vinci Code by way of Animal House. In the film, we watch as our heroine Daisy*, played by Miriam McDonald (Miriam, I served with Alyssa Milano. I knew Alyssa Milano.  Alyssa Milano was a friend of mine. Miriam, you’re no Alyssa Milano.”), enrolls in a prestigious New England college and joins the Ivy Society where instead of the traditional formals and philanthropy, Saturday nights are filled with murder, lies and the occasional Pagan orgy.

While I understand the desire to watch straight-to-DVD sequels to beloved films like American Pie, Tremors or Darkman (which might have the best sequel title, straight-to-DVD or not, of all time; Darkman III: Die Darkman Die) who amongst us is making the conscious effort to rent or, God forbid, buy this film? Perhaps it’s male adolescents who want their wet dreams on the rocks or maybe the majority of viewers are externally loyal husbands who get to indulge in a secret Lolita fantasy after convincing their wives to rent the film with the argument, “Honey, you’ll love it. It premiered on Lifetime!”

If you are an Ivy fanatic, the good news is that you don’t have to wait for Netflix or make the trip to Blockbuster, as the movie is available on YouTube. After the jump is a sequence where our dear Daisy is first initiated into the Ivy Society and then branded with a hot poker, all the while coping with horrendous 80’s MTV video effects:

*For those unfamiliar with the Ivy cannon, the smoking hot protagonist of each film is named after some type of plant, thus we’ve had the titular Ivy followed by Lily, Violet and now, Daisy.

Now available on DVD and Blue-Ray


Henry Poole Is Here

Junk may be hard to sell, but it’s not always that much easier to give away. At least this was the lesson I learned in 2007 when I worked as a movie recruiter (aka “The Worst Job Ever”).

Before a movie is released, studios will often “test” a film and do further edits based on those results. (For an amazing insider look at the entire Hollywood marketing machine, check out Tad Friend’s recent New Yorker article about the selling of Oliver Stone’s W.) A recruiter’s job is to lurk in and around shopping malls, movie theaters, college campus and street corners in an effort get members of the general public to come to these test screenings. We’re paid by the amount of people who show up to the test screening, so success often hinges on the quality of the movie you’ve been assigned.

Sadly, Will Smith can only star in one or two movies a year, so most of the time you are stuck with unappealing movies with D-list stars. On one particular week I was given the unenviable task of coaxing the populace to see a test screening of Henry Poole Is Here, a religious dramedy starring Luke Wilson and George Lopez that was six months away from being released. My boss at the time, a high-strung man who was an amalgamation of Donald Rumsfeld, Freddy Krueger and the corrupt orphan wrangler in Slumdog Millionaire, told me to use the following description when selling the film:

henrypooleishereAfter the death of his wife, Henry Poole moves into a suburban enclave where the visage of the Virgin Mary on the wall of his house brings hope and miracles to his various neighbors as well as giving Henry a chance for redemption.

To further entice potential audience members, I was told  that our company was giving away two free passes for any movie to anyone would show up for this screening (a telltale sign that no one is going to want to see this film).

Then, after informing me how to pitch the project, my boss handed me two separate stacks of passes. The first stack, highlighting both the religious content in the film and the fact that George Lopez was a co-star, was for Latinos only. For the whites (African-Americans, Asians, etc. weren’t in this film’s “demographic” and thus we were told to steer clear of them), I was informed that my main selling point should be, well…Luke Wilson.

And thus I traveled to Simi Valley to recruit. For those unfamiliar with Simi Valley, this city 40 miles northwest of LA was the happy home of the infamous Rodney King trial and is the location of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, to whose visit I owe the employment of an ex-girlfriend — unaffectionately known to my friends as the “Red Snapper” –whose penchant for self-affixed misery was matched only by a Black Hole’s hunger for light.

After about a half hour standing outside the theater it became readily apparent that, aside from the always-faithful homeless population, no one wanted to see this movie, despite the fact that we were essentially paying them to do so. Desperate for cash, I decided that the Virgin Mary had to go and I changed the movie’s concept to something more, well, accessible:

When a pot-smoking slacker (played by Luke Wilson) discovers that he can perform miracles, he begins to use these powers for his own selfish advantage, until a wacky neighbor (George Lopez) discovers his powers and threatens to expose him.

Did it work? Well, yes and no. I certainly gave more passes out on the auspices that this movie was The Pineapple Express meets Phenomenon rather than a mediocre version of Highway to Heaven and I was able to pay the rent, which is always a small victory.

But more than anything else, the entire experience left me with two important lessons:

#1: Don’t bother casting Luke Wilson as the lead in a movie. You’d be better off casting my actor friend Davitt. He’s a lot better and comes at a much cheaper price. For further proof, check out the box office returns for Blonde Ambition, You Kill Me, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Idiocracy, ad infinitum…

#2: The general public has a surprisingly accurate crap detector. When it was finally released, Henry Poole Is Here went nowhere, receiving a dismal 33% on Rotten Tomatoes and grossing a tepid $1.8 million dollars at the box office. My sense of the public’s sixth sense was only strengthened when, a few weeks later I was in the heavily African-American populated city of Long Beach and was unable to give test screening passes away for the destined-to-flop Eddie Murphy vehicle, Meet Dave.

Sometimes, junk is junk. No matter how well you sell it.

Now available on DVD and Blue-Ray