by Jeff Stark
Film critics typically publish a Summer Movie Guide, a Fall Movie Guide, perhaps a Holiday Movie Guide…and then these ubiquitous guides conspicuously go into hibernation for the next few months. There is a definite reason for this; winter is typically regarded by all as a dead time at the megaplex. In recent years, the expansion of the summer movie season to May has made even April a somewhat desirable month for studios to unload their latest shlock, but January through March still remains a quality graveyard. But even in graveyard terms, the first three months of 2008 have to go down as one of the worst three months of film in cinematic history.
Forty films have or will come out between January 1st and March 31st of this year, and even by the most dumbed down of popcorn gobbling standards barely half of these are worth even the Target Bargain Bin DVD they will inevitably spawn. For a more concrete example, look no further than myself; as something of a film critic, I have access to advance screenings of most every studio film that comes out. In layman’s terms, that means a free ticket with a reserved seat in the best section of the theater and validated parking – and even I haven’t gone to the movies more than twice since 2008 rang in.
A brief rundown of the worst of the worst includes a family friendly alleged “comedy” starring the black hole of talent formerly known as a gangsta rapper Ice Cube, yet another video game adaptation by legendarily horrible filmmaker Uwe Boll, a fifteen years overdue sequel to a jingoistic action film, an inexplicably theatrically released VeggieTales movie– and that’s just January! Two “disaffected youth makes goodthrough urban dance” flicks were released within three weeks of each other, and a third is scheduled for a month later that tackles the same story but imaginatively moves it into the world of mixed martial arts. An already dated parody of last year’s blockbusters, two artlessremakes of stylishAsian horror films, two Martin Lawrence vehicles (one so bland and uninspired that it manages to be live action but earn itself a “G” rating), foursaccharineromantic comedies and Hannah Montana– what exactly did we do to deserve all this, Sony, Disney, Warner Bros, Universal, Paramount and Fox?
Of course there are some predictably brighter spots to be found in the world of independent film – the already classic There Will Be Blood, Woody Allen’s new film Cassandra’s Dream, award winning playwright Martin McDonagh’s controversial feature film debut In Brugesand severalreveredforeign films, to name but a few. And March’s outlook is a tad better, if ‘nothing starring Larry the Cable Guy’ is any indicator of quality. But by the time April comes around and some actually talented (or at the very least, capable) filmmakers unleash their films on the populace, I tip my hat to any film buff brave enough to open the movie times section without involuntarily cringing.