This Week In Movies – “Jackass 3D,” “Red,” “Conviction”

By Pete Hammond Box office-wise this will probably be known as the week that clearly marked the decline of western civilization. With its near stunning $50 million gross Paramount’s scatological gross-out epic “Jackass 3D” exceeded expectations on about the same level as it managed to exceed any expectation of taste. The enthusiastic public reception to this third chapter in Johnny Knoxville and gang’s low brow exercise in vomit-inducing bodily pranks probably says more about what audiences crave than it does about the “filmmakers” who serve it all up in gut-blasting 3D. Want to see a dildo fly right into your face? This is the place. Want to watch a fat guy running on a treadmill wrapped in cellophane producing ‘sweat cocktails’ for adventurous drinkers? Line up now. Want to check out a hungry pig named Bob trying to extract an apple from the same fat guy’s rear end? Welcome to Knoxville’s own Fellini-esque vision of human debasement. It’s like watching The 3 Stooges on an acid trip, only there are 9 of these guys with names like Bam Margera, Ryan Dunn, Steve-O, Jason “Wee Man” Acuna, Preston Lacy, “Danger Ehren” McGhehey, Dave England and Chris Pontius whose self-induced torture of his male member (aided by a toy helicopter) deserves some sort of bravery medal. Some of it is undeniably funny but you’ll want to take a cold shower afterwards. Of course this kind of stuff is nothing new, it’s just more extreme. In the 60’s there were a series of shockumentaries such as Mondo Cane which promised such sights as people eating excrement etc. The difference now are 3D effects that allow the excrement to seem like it’s flying off the screen and into the theatre. You haven’t lived until you witness the outhouse bungi jump! Even with hiked prices for 3D the studio was taken by surprise by just how much of a craving moviegoers have for this kind of thing. Another “Jackass” is guaranteed and certain to go even further than this. These are the times we are living in.

The week’s other wide release also did quite well, if not even half the “Jackass” haul. “RED” could be dismissed as just another Bruce Willis action vehicle were it not for a supporting cast whose combined ages number into the several hundreds. This clever “geriaction” movie features the likes of Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Morgan Freeman, Richard Dreyfuss and even 94 year old Ernest Borgnine in a senior citizen orgy of violence in which Willis rounds up all his retired old CIA cronies for one last swing at the bad guys. Seeing Mirren firing off automatic weapons with aplomb is alone worth the price of admission. At $22+ million “RED” was able to draw the usual crowd for this sort of thing but also an older audience that could indulge in the fantasy.

The limited release of “Conviction,” the kind of more traditional adult drama that we see a lot in the fall sadly did not fare as well as the straight entertainments earning only a disappointing $10,000 per on 11 screens. Word of mouth could help it recover because this is a remarkable true story of Betty Ann Waters, a Massachusettes wife and mother who spent 18 years fighting the justice system by putting herself through high school, college and law school for the sole reason of freeing her wrongly imprisoned brother. A top cast including Hillary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver, Melissa Leo and Juliette Lewis give their all. Perhaps the public is perceiving it as more a TV Movie type drama, but its force and cast rise above that level. Lewis was making the rounds this weekend in Los Angeles doing post-show Q&As at theatres in Hollywood and Century City playing the film. By advertising in-person appearances of cast members the distributor is able to bump up the gross for prime Friday and Saturday night shows. She told me after one of them Saturday that Fox Searchlight told her this was what actors have to do now to support these kinds of smaller indie movies and she happily obliged. Lewis took several years off from acting in order to pursue a music career with her band, The Licks and though successful, she says she is now having a renewed love affair with acting. In “Conviction” she plays an ex-girlfriend of Rockwell’s character who basically sends him up the river. She only has two scenes and about ten minutes on screen but she turns it into one of the most complex portrayals this year proving, as she did as a tough-as-nails roller skater in last year’s Whip It, that she still has it. After the August comedy, “The Switch” and the upcoming November release opposite Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis in “Due Date” Juliette Lewis is having quite a year.

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About Pete Hammond

Pete Hammond is a writer, producer, movie critic and film expert whose commentary on the entertainment industry has appeared in numerous publications and on air interviews including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, OK Magazine, NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw, Evening News With Brian Williams on MSNBC, the CBC, BBC, Bravo, E!, AMC, Canada AM and the KTLA Morning Show.

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