Take note.We are one month away from my birthday (Aaron Dietz directed my attention to a Tauntaun sleeping bag, if you’d like to start up a collection), and every year on my birthday I go see a movie.Which isn’t so unlike any other time of year, except that any other time of year I can choose not to go to the movies if there’s nothing good on.But on my birthday, I MUST GO TO THE MOVIES. I must because somehow squashing down in a theater seat with a contraband package of HoHos has become a tradition that if not practiced will result in meteors pelting the earth, puppies and kittens spontaneously combusting, and Sandra Bullock winning an Oscar.
So, the problem with being thus compelled to go the movies on my birthday is that my birthday falls on September 8, which in the movie world is the equivalent of flying Virgin Atlantic, being stuck on a tarmac, and realizing that all you have left to distract you, having finished your book and skimmed your magazines, is the fold-out safety information card. That’s a September movie.That’s my birthday. That’s what you can expect.So, in short, this means that for roughly a decade I’ve spent my birthdays with Jason Statham.
Not so long ago, the Huffington Post challenged readers to identify different Jason Statham movies by eyeballing the movie poster for each.All of the posters featured a furrowed-browed Statham leaping with a gun in each fist.Sure, this might tell you Statham’s films are indistinguishable from one another, that they’re so cliché they’re practically parody.But then, they also say that at the very least Statham knows who he is.He’s the leaping guy with two guns.He’s the guy who can kick ass in motor oil and a pair of pedal clips snapped off a bike.He’s the guy who belongs in September more than anybody else, and he embraces it with a wink and a nod.You have to admire that, right?
So, my birthday is a month away.Enter Jason Statham with The Expendables.You gotta give it to the man.Not only does he always find weapons to leap with but he’s punctual about it as well. Early, in fact. Look, I don’t have any choices here (meteors, puppies, kittens), but you … you have choices.You can stay home and watch something else over the next couple of months, and while I can’t spare myself from venturing into the theater during this, the brink of one of the worst possible seasons for movies, I can tell you what I would do in your shoes.
You know that guy who wanders onto the “Today Show” set now and then and shows you how a McDonald’s Big Breakfast is the equivalent of eating thirteen commercial-sized tubs of Cherry Garcia?And then he tells you how you’d be better off making yourself a bean-sprout quiche the size of a baby’s thumbprint?Imagine I’m that guy.Except with better legs and a dimple.And I’m offering you a swap-out that’s both more substantial and more delicious.Consider it my early birthday gift for you, even though you should be giving me something, like the Tauntaun sleeping bag.
Watch:The Magnificent Seven, not The Expendables
Some little girls had Hello Kitty posters over their beds.I had the one-sheet for First Blood.Stallone! Rourke! Willis!There was a time when that line-up would have warranted a double take, but those names have lost their exclamation marks and the synopsis for this one reads like a rejected draft for the last Rambo (and have you seen the last Rambo?).Strip it of its nostalgia factor and its just another Statham movie with a lot less Statham.In 1960, another list of action greats assembled to make a film about as perfect as a film can get. Adapt The Seven Samurai as a western, add McQueen, Bronson, Coburn, and Brynner, and you have a movie you can get absorbed in without the aid of Demerol or Dolph Lundgren jokes.
Watch:Dogfight, not Dinner for Schmucks
Ah, back in the days when River Phoenix was our Joaquin he made a movie about soldiers one night shy of being shipped off to Vietnam competing to see who could bring the ugliest date to a party.Phoenix’s Eddie finds a winner in a homely pacifist named Rose (Lili Taylor).Okay, so it’s not exactly a comedy, but it is the basic Dinner for Schmucks premise done right.
Watch:La Femme Nikita, not Salt
For years, I have wanted nothing more than for Angelina Jolie to be the next big action hero, but time and time again she has rendered herself soulless and personality-free on the big screen.She becomes little more than a gorgeous shell of a human being, scaling walls, tossing hand grenades, ducking into subway cars at the last second, and if by chance any of her characters did not walk fast enough away from that obligatory unfurling fireball I would have zero reaction.Before he was penning the Transporter flicks for Jason Statham, Luc Besson was directing Anne Parillaud in La Femme Nikita, the French film featuring a character as sympathetic as she is flawed, as badass as she is beautiful.As Nikita, Parillaud lunges from many a fireball, and each time I watch from between my fingers.
Watch:Hideous Kinky, not Eat Pray Love
I should know better than to do this after my already precious-few Twitter followers peeled off by a fourth after I slighted Eat Pray Love.I have not read the book yet.Maybe it’s brilliant and moving and life-affirming.I can’t say.But I can say with certainty that when I see the preview for Eat Pray Love that title becomes like a voodoo incantation making my gag reflex dance a little jig. I was raised on Scorcese and John Ford.Red meat and lawn darts.Give me something with the schmaltz wrung out of it.Give me Hideous Kinky, a movie with one of the worst titles but one of the best performances by Kate Winslet playing a single mother who takes her two daughters to Morocco in hopes of finding spiritual enlightenment under the guidance of a renowned sufi.Also based on a true story but there’s nary a plucky score or soft lens in sight. (Please don’t send me hate mail.I don’t do confrontation well.I will simply cover my eyes and think you can’t see me.)
Watch:Truly, Madly, Deeply, not Charlie St. Cloud
Awkward admission time.When I saw Die Hard in high school, Alan Rickman became my Zac Efron.Come on!Who could resist that snarl, that deep voice weighty with disdain, that level of villainy?Rickman already had me at, “now I have the machine gun, ho, ho, ho,” but then he took a turn for the romantic in Truly, Madly, Deeply directed by Anthony Minghella.Forget Zac Efron’s overwrought tear-jerker of a ghost story.If you’ve seen the preview, you’ve seen the whole thing already.In Truly, Madly, Deeply Rickman is the ghost – a witty, snarky, cello playing ghost – impeding a living loved-one’s sense of closure.Please forget that it spawned a hokey Savage Garden song of the same name and see it anyway.You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and more importantly you’ll validate my Rickman fixation.
Watch:“Dr. Dunk, Dancing Hamster” not Step Up 3-D
Seriously.It’s bound to be better.