Yes, we’ve got a weekend of strong contrasts and a real rarity, two critically lauded films that each have a chance of doing some seriously good business.
Of course, the big movie this week is Disney/Pixar’s “Up” which is already, predictably enough, a huge hit not only with our own David Medsker, but with critics across the board, rating a mondo-boffo-socko 98% “fresh” rating at Rotten Tomatoes. As I write this, only two critics have seen fit to turn thumbs down — and one of those two is the increasingly mindless contrarian, Armond White, who, I gather, loathes us all. (See David Hudson at IFC for more review excerpts and a concise reaction to the ever-more self-parodying White.)
It seems logical to expect something like the money that past smashes from the studio have made (Variety is saying about $60 million for the weekend), but there is always the possibility of audiences turning contrarian themselves, mindlessly or otherwise. If people were concerned that a gourmet rat or a wordless robot might turn off audiences, then a crochety and rather uncute 78-year-old lead could bring out latent movie ageism. Though, as others have pointed out, it doesn’t seemed to have harmed Clint Eastwood much. In any case, the experts seem convinced that the Pixar name, and the fact that this is the very first 3-D production from the amazingly reliable studio, will ensure that the Emeryville studio’s unprecedented track record of critical and commercial success should continue for one more film. (For more on “Up” you are commended, if not commanded, to read Medsker’s interview with director Pete Doctor — at least until the place where David suggests that maybe you should stop.)
As if that weren’t enough, this weekend brings that rarest of all cinematic creatures: A PG-13 horror film that not only is not drawn from an Asian hit, but was actually shown to critics in advance, and got a Pixaresque 96% positive RT rating. I speak, of course, of Sam Raimi’s return to his humor-spiked pulp horror roots with “Drag Me to Hell.” Now, this seems to be less of a sure thing in that the conventional wisdom has been that audiences don’t trust the cinematic chocolate of comedy — even in relatively small doses — combined with the peanut butter of actual scary horror, but Raimi’s name and some credible frights will perhaps cause filmgoers to decide these are two great tastes that go great together. All in all, this could be a canny bit of counterprogramming for teens looking to avoid the wholesomeness of “Up” and the still potent “Night at the Museum” sequel. Besides, Bloody Disgusting gave it 4 and a half skulls.
Also, cinema-chicken though I be, emboldened by that PG-13 rating, I personally, as well as world famous, horror-lovin’ cinephile blogger Dennis Cozzalio of Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, and, I’m told, numerous friends and filmic potentates, will be pumping up the grosses of “Hell” in the place where, some say, pulpy horror movies may best be viewed. I speak of the Mission Tiki Drive-In in Montclair, California. If you’re in the area on Saturday, 5/30, there may be more hellish things to do, though if you stay for co-feature “Angels and Demons” all bets may be off.