Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Keanu Reeves, One-time King of Cool
Central air-conditioning has been part of my life long enough to become bourgeois blasé. But early August’s triple-digit heat wave brought back twenty-something memories of stifling apartments, clunky window air-conditioners that seldom worked and evenings spent watching ice melt. Way back in 1991, during a heart wave as grueling as this summer’s, Keanu Reeves was my savior, my personal King of Cool. It was a dog day afternoon in mid July and my girlfriend and I were weary of walks at the local shopping mall. We had already watched every summer movie we wanted to see: “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” It was too hot to say in our apartment so we opted for Reeves as stone-faced FBI Agent Johnny Utah battling Patrick Swayze’s surfer/bank robber in the action movie “Point Break.” Twitchy Lori Petty played the love interest and Gary Busey provided lackadaisical support as Utah’s partner. I remember director Kathryn Bigelow managing a couple of exciting robbery escapes in a movie best summed up as a B-grade mess. Still, the movie delivered exactly what we were seeking, a break from the heat.
Power failures, steaming sidewalks and melting pot temperatures came back with gusto this summer but I wonder if as many people need movie theaters for escape from the heat they way I needed them in 1991. If that were the case then filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan’s failed mermaid thriller “Lady in the Water” certainly would have sold more tickets.
Monday, August 21, 2006
What a Hit Looks Like – ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest’
My eight-year-old son was not happy about being the last boy at his summer camp to watch “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” especially since his dad’s a film critic. So I took him to a Sunday morning show in late July, early enough in the day for plenty of swim time later. I know there’s plenty of stats and box office rankings to describe how "Dead Man’s Chest" qualifies as a movie phenomenon. But what continues to astound me was the packed crowd inside the Cincinnati multiplex and its incredible diversity. Who would have thought that ordinary people (not film buffs waiting in line outside some cinematheque for a weekend Western series) even considered Sunday morning a good time to catch a movie? I may take summers off from attending church, in addition to fall, spring and most of winter, but I’m convinced there are lots of churchgoers left in the world. If they’re not singing, praying and listening to sermons, they’re at least sleeping late.
But 500-odd people skipped their Sunday routine to watch “Dead Man’s Chest” with my son and I. Hundreds others filed into an adjacent auditorium. There were parents with young children, teens on early dates; college-age buddies horsing around; elderly couples, basically every possible demographic. There were there to see the performance of the summer, Johnny Depp’s flamboyant anti-hero Capt. Jack Sparrow. While nobody left declaring “Dead Man’s Chest” the film of a lifetime, everyone had a laugh-out-loud, rollicking good time.
This past late August weekend, ‘Dead Man’s Chest” finished in eighth place for the weekend box office and with $5 million in sold tickets but it crossed the $400 million mark to become the seventh film in box office history to reach that milestone. The stats say phenomenon but I use different criteria. Any movie that fills the house on a Sunday morning with every age, race and economic class represented, is a movie people have decided they have to see.