The big new movie this week, Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, is terrible. Not just in the expected “3rd sequel to a series we’re all kind of tired of” way, but in the most cynical and lazy way possible. It’s essentially a re-dressing of the first movie with whichever actors they could bring back, sloppily assembled on the belief that all Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer have to do is get something – anything – called Pirates of The Caribbean into theaters and they’ll automatically make their money back because … well, heck, what else are you gonna do this weekend?
So, I thought it would be worthwhile to assemble a rundown of some other things (and not just other movies!) you could be doing instead of enabling Johnny Depp’s bad behavior.
See Midnight in Paris
Alright, this is obvious to the point of “cheeky,” but there really is no better act of defiance against a bad big-budget cash-vacuum than to skip it and see the inevitable smaller-scale movie released against it. Fortunately, in this case audiences (in the U.S., anyway) actually have a decent option filling that slot: A new comedy from Woody Allen that’s actually one of his best recent offerings.
Best described as Back to The Future re-imagined by Classic Lit majors (or maybe Scott Pilgrim for folks with a fondness for the Jazz Age art/culture scene), Midnight stars Owen Wilson as a writer visiting Paris with his increasingly-unpleasant fiancée. Through a bit of story mechanic magic, he finds himself making nightly trips back in time to the Paris of the mid-20s – his “favorite decade” – where he finds himself swept into the freewheeling social circle of his literary/artistic heroes like Ernest Hemingway, The Fitzgeralds, Pablo Picasso, etc. Complications arise when he falls – hard – for a mystery woman of the era (Marion Cotillard) but this being Woody, it’s more about screwball comedy than high-drama.
The selling point, of course, is seeing Wilson’s hapless fanboy geek-out at the parade of famous “real” characters, and while the long-term standouts may be Thor’s Tom Hiddleston as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Corey Stoll as Hemingway, for me Adrien Brody as a hysterical Salvador Dali is worth the admission on its own. Obviously, the humor is kind of specific (i.e. if you don’t recognize those names, probably not your scene) but on its own terms it’s a seriously clever diversion. Although…
Look Up the Respective Works of the Names You Don’t Recognize from the Character Roster of Midnight in Paris
Hey, why not? Just one quick example: Two of the funniest scenes in the film involve movie director Luis Bunuel. He’s a name you should know. A bunch of his movies are on Netflix, including his first – the Dali collaboration Un Chien Andalou – and at least three are in the Instant Watch setup.
Is there water where you are? Is it supposed to be there, as opposed to being there because of one of Mother Nature’s recent hot flashes? Maybe go splash around in it – you can accurately simulate the only vaguely interesting few minutes of Pirates without having to sit through the rest of the feature.
See Thor Again
Is watching a two-week-old action movie again to maybe scope out more Avengers clues a better bet than watching a bad brand-new action movie? Yeah, pretty much.
I’m not 100% sold on Bridesmaids as the girl-comedy messiah, but it’s a screamingly funny movie that – thanks to the dearth of aggressively gross female-centric comedy otherwise – actually has a bunch of jokes and physical comedy routines that haven’t been run into the ground yet.
The film stars Kristen Wiig as a well-meaning walking disaster whose recent streak of terrible luck culminates in her best friend (Maya Rudolph) marrying into big(ger) money and sweeping her up into the pre-wedding activities set up by her intimidatingly exceptional new pal (Rose Byrne). As you’ve heard, the movie is basically stolen by Melissa McCarthy (Molly from Mike & Molly) playing the female version of the “oversexed, hyper-confident ball-of-energy buddy” usually played by the likes of Jack Black or the late Chris Farley.
Play Through L.A. Noire
Stories of Hollywood blockbusters “tanking” because this or that big videogame just came out are always overblown, but it’d sure be nice for it to actually happen in this one case. Also, I want to see the developers rewarded for trying to yank the sandbox/crime genre out of the reflexive Scarface-worship that’s permeated it for so long and into something different.
Make and Eat “Chinese Burritos”
Seriously – this is better than it sounds like it would be.
Step 1: Order takeout Chinese Food (preferably single-orders of meats/rices/sauces as opposed to mix-dishes or meals) from the establishment of your choosing.
Step 2: Procure a good supply of soft tortillas.
Step 3: Put various portions of Chinese foodstuffs into tortillas, roll up and eat.
Step 4: Take credit for “inventing” the Chinese burrito, just like every other drunken college student (or article-padding movie critic) does when they stumble upon this idea and somehow assume that no one ever thought of it before.
See Cave of Forgotten Dreams 3D
If you want to see, finally, a genuine justification for the modern existence of 3D movies, don’t miss this one if and when it plays your area during its (surprisingly wide) release in theaters.
German film legend Werner Herzog – who we’ve talked about before – took an array of high-grade 3D cameras to capture incredibly important footage in the highest quality possible: A full, detailed examination of the prehistoric cave paintings preserved inside France’s rarely-opened, meticulously-guarded Chauvet Cave. It’s the most exciting set of long, lingering pans over old rocks you’ll ever see, and I’m not joking.
Herzog’s trademark dark humor and eye for weird irony (a whole aside is dedicated, with only the slimmest justification, to a family of albino alligators living in an artificial swamp created by a nearby nuclear reactor’s cooling runoff) is present, but the majority of the film really is a thorough capture of Chauvet’s priceless human time capsule. And thanks to the top quality 3D, you can actually see the way that the existing texture of the rocks may have “suggested” what types of animals and scenarios early humans painted on them – in essence, the film is using the most advanced artistic technology of the present to capture the beginning of art itself.
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Including our latest jaw-dropping, hard-hitting, take-no-prisoners blockbuster expose on … a forgotten Super Mario Bros. anime from the mid-1980s!
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Go for a Brisk Walk, Taking Care to Bring Plenty of Water and a Low-Calorie Snack Treat
Because I’m thinking maybe putting that in will qualify me for one of those cushy federal health promotion grant thingies.
Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you’ve heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.