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In a normal year, early September is a pretty quiet time for theaters.

Summer has run its course. High school football cuts into Friday night grosses; college football is king on Saturdays. The studios are holding off what they consider their best shots at award season glory for at least a few more weeks.

Usually what we get this time of year are a few would-be prestige films that didn't quite work out, the half-baked not-quite-summer spectacles and the utilitarian horror films that reliably return revenues to their investors.

This week isn't all that different.

I hadn't heard of "The Broken Hearts Gallery" until Dan Lybarger asked me last week if I wanted him to cover a screening of it. ("When is it opening?" I asked. "Uh, next week, Mr. Big Shot Movie Man," he replied. OK, go for it.)

It has been difficult to focus these past few weeks, as covid-19 has frustrated a lot of expectations. I should have watched the screeners for "Rent-A-Pal" and "I Am Woman" earlier than I did, but when they hit my in-box, Sept. 11 seemed like a long time away. Now those films are in theaters too, and while they both have their virtues, neither might have had a real theatrical release in a "normal" year.

On the other hand, they fit the profile of the best kind of early September releases -- off-speed pitches that aren't quite what they seem. "I Am Woman" is a bit more than a celebrity bio-pic; "Rent-A-Pal" is best received as a dark comedy instead of the horror movie it's being marketed as being.

Neither of these strikes me as an event movie that requires a theatrical experience, but depending on your comfort level, most movies are better in the theater. It was an absolute blast watching "The Personal History of David Copperfield" in a theater; even if there were only a couple of other moviegoers present, there still was an energy in the room that's absent in a living-room setting.

I've been watching most movies on laptops and iPads for a few years now, and while it's better than nothing (and getting better all the time) it's still a fundamentally different experience. Every movie looks better on a big screen.

That said, we have to make do with what we can get, and while the pandemic has kept us out of theaters it has not kept the movies out of my in-box. If publicists ask me if I want to see their movie, I will invariably say yes, without giving much thought to when I'm going to watch said movie. So I'm a couple of weeks behind.

"Max Winslow and the House of Secrets" premiered on Amazon Prime a few weeks ago; my review never found its way into the newspaper (and technical problems have kept us from posting much on the blood, dirt & angels blog lately) so let me take this opportunity to say it is a fine piece of family sci-fi entertainment that is as about as far removed from anything I'd ever choose to watch on my own dime as Nordic noir is from karma yoga.

Chad Michael Murray plays a billionaire named Atticus Virtue (I love that, even if it's not meant as shade at Harper Lee) in the film, but I'd never seen him in anything before this movie. He's a lot of fun in this, and the young lead -- Sydne Mikelle -- has some charisma.

Also, I was hoping that Kevin Willmott's "The 24th" would get some sort of theatrical release, but it slipped past me and is now available for rental on most digital platforms. Willmott, who has worked with Spike Lee on a number of projects including "BlacKkKlansman" and "Da 5 Bloods," is a friend of the program who we've interviewed on several occasions; his movie is worth checking out when you find the time.

And our latest interview with Willmott should run elsewhere in this section unless we run out of room. Again.

In consideration of that, we'll leave it here for this week. See you at the movies. Or not. Just be safe.



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