It's Labor Day weekend, where people set aside some time between the Rib America Fest, the Indians' regular season closers (with fireworks on both Friday and Saturday!), the parades (two this year) and all the cookouts to get caught up on the Big Summer Flicks they missed.
Sure, there are several new wide-release movies opening this weekend, but the odds of any them being really great are slim at best. That All About Steve comedy with Sandra Bullock, Bradley Cooper and Thomas Haden Church may look promising, but there's likely a good reason why it wasn't put out during the peak weeks of summer.
So good luck to those of you willing to try out the new mainstream stuff, and a tip of the hat to everyone checking out the new independent releases, like Francis Ford Coppola's Tetro, the 'Zaire 74 concert film Soul Power and the wistful Norwegian retirement comedy O'Horten. Now let's take a look at what's out there for you catcher-uppers.
Some of the best movies of the summer are still in theaters, like District 9, the exceptional tale of the treatment of alien (the outer space kind) refugees in South Africa. With the look of a documentary, the gritty — hell, brutal — thriller manages to be thought-provoking while packing in some great action scenes. If you're sensitive to moments of grisly violence or shaky cameras, proceed with caution. Otherwise, don't miss this one.
The Hangover, the surprise blockbuster about a Las Vegas bachelor party gone horribly, horribly wrong, is still playing. It's raunchy, it's engaging, it's a little more grown-up than most R-rated comedies and yes, you really do see what you think you are seeing in the photo montage over the closing credits!
How about Up, the great Pixar computer-animated tale of a grumpy old man on a fantastic adventure with a pesky little stowaway on his hands? You can catch this doozy at the dollar-something theaters. And believe it or not, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is still playing at a number of full-price screens.
In the mood for a romantic comedy? The Proposal, starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, is strictly a formula film, but the cast is so appealing that they make it work. Meanwhile, (500) Days of Summer, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, is anything but formula, hopping back and forth in time throughout a 500 day relationship that worked for a while before it imploded. Good film.
Quite a few crowd-pleasers are still out there. Quentin Tarantino's revisionist WWII guns, gore and yakfest Inglourious Basterds, which a lot of you liked more than I did, continues its strong run. Meryl Streep and Amy Adams star in Julie and Julia, the delightful tale of Julia Child's breakthrough years intermixed with the annoying story of a self-absorbed young blogger. The Time Traveler's Wife, with Eric Bana as the title traveler and Rachel McAdams as the title wife, continues to entrance romantics. And, for those who like things that go "Boom!," G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen are still duking it out at a theater near you.
Enjoy your picnics, parades and festivals, but heed my warning: Will Ferrell's Land of the Lost is playing at the cheap theaters. Do not let the low prices entice you to give a look-see to this wretched excuse for a comedy, which has a funny scene at the start, a funny scene at the end and a big pile of crapola in-between. Remember, Labor Day weekend is supposed to be a happy time.