I was born by the river in a little tent. And just like that river, I’ve been running ever since.

Captivity’s Just Another Word for Nothin’ Left to Shill

If you gaze long into an abyss, I’ve a feeling the abyss will start to look an awful lot like Roland Joffe’s Captivity – or, at least, the outdoor ad campaign. For the better part of a year, After Dark Films has heralded the (interminable) forthcoming release of what British critics have dismissed as "a grubby, exploitative film with an extremely guessable twist and universally dull performances*," and "a misshapen, ill-wrought work of vulgar opportunism of which all involved should be deeply ashamed**" by celebrating the fictional abduction, abuse and murder of women. I know what you’re saying: "Didn’t MGM do the same damn thing fifty-five years ago with George Cukor’s Pat and Mike?" Well, no. No, they didn’t. But I do see your point.

For a piece of torture porn that will probably be as forgettable as the last Saw installment if nowhere near as profitable, Captivity sure has clenched up a whole mess of sphincters. (It’s also ushered in a new form of urban-based expression that can most crudely be described as "Cuthbert-Cock Art".) But considering that a half-year’s worth of not-inexpensive marketing has failed to move the tracking needle (as the title has bounced around the release schedule), I figured the movie would meekly crawl under Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and die a quiet death on July 13th (especially since it appears that the majority of the film’s once omnipresent outdoor ads are rapidly disappearing).

Then I woke up this morning, read Michael Cieply’s New York Times profile on After Dark Films’ Kommandant Courtney Solomon, and discovered the publicity blitz just ground its way into a higher gear – which is a little like watching a rusted-out 1982 Mercury Cougar topping fifty on a dirt road. And yet I’m not certain Captivity‘s going to break apart that spectacularly. The twenty-four-hour news cycle has been grist-starved for weeks; though U.S. soldiers are still getting blown to bits over in Iraq while the constitution is being brazenly subverted before our very eyes, CNN and its ilk have been reduced to fulminating over the mis-imprisonment of Ms. Paris Hilton and somberly mourning the murder of a single pregnant woman as if Baby Diego just died. If these are the headlines, there’s an opening for an opportunistic scumbag like Courtney Solomon.

"If Captivity is what it is," boasts Solomon to Herr Cieply, "and we’re the bad boys, then Captivity deserves a bad-boy party." Regardless of whether Captivity "is what it is" (i.e. tedious and derivative), Solomon is undeterred, planning a buzz-building shindig at the popular Hollywood club Privilege that – provided he delivers on the names and deeds checked in Cieply’s article – could be the lamest feint at transgression since Anthony Michael Hall tried to dirty up his image with Out of Bounds. Here’s what Solomon’s hoping to line up:

  • Three of the wildest Suicide Girls have been enlisted to serve as dates for three "fans" (of the website or an unreleased movie?). Their entire evening will be documented online.
  • Random attendees will be dragged from the party to "torture rooms".
  • Notorious street brawler Kimbo Slice will engage in some MMA cage fighting.
  • A "probably not legal" main event will close out the evening.

First off, that "probably not legal" main event will probably be very legal because the last thing co-distributor Lionsgate needs is more bad publicity following the online leaks of the company’s two high-profile summer releases, Hostel: Part II and Sicko. Secondly, the only thing dangerous about Suicide Girls in 2007 is how cliche their act has grown. And thirdly, Kimbo Slice is not Kimbo Slice unless he’s throwing down sans gloves.

That dull thump you hear is Solomon butting up against the wall of pretend amorality. Notwithstanding the dubious value of throwing a big Hollywood party to whip up publicity for a wide theatrical release, the kind of Bacchanal Solomon would no doubt love to convene stands in direct opposition to the purported value of extreme horror movies. Whether they’re used as shock therapy or outlets for the viewer’s darkest desires, they’re definitely not supposed to be springboards to legitimately antisocial behavior; ergo, the idea of throwing a "bad-boy party" without full-on S&M activity and bare-knuckle fisticuffs offers less potential for scandal than a college kegger (which reminds me I’d love to see a reality show centered around Kimbo Slice attending frat parties and taking on all comers once their liquid courage kicks in). If Solomon had the goods, he would’ve barnstormed the country ala Wright/Pegg/Frost and sold his film to the gorehounds who’ve made Saw a cash cow for Lionsgate. This base Privilege bash is just a lot of distraction.

But there is something a tad nauseating about Kimbo Slice’s sudden respectability, which is the product of several years worth of streaming video pimp-age. His two most widely disseminated fights – the backyard brawl where he destroys his opponents eye and the brutal punch-up with Sean Gannon – are depressing spectacles. The Gannon contest is especially awful: the two combatants are in dire need of hospitalization once their "friends" decide to separate the men. Whenever I see Kimbo, I think of that disturbing, grainily-shot tableaux of a couple of men pummeling each other for money and pride until they can no longer stand. If this is the audience Solomon craves, he should give up filmmaking (no loss there!) and move into arenas befitting his low character – e.g. dog fighting, bear-baiting and engaging in unprotected intercourse with Paris Hilton.

Eat Me, Rothman

Three planes just flew over my house dragging banner ads for Live Free or Die Hard. I’m still not paying to see that presumable piece of shit, and I’d encourage you to do likewise. If you really need a John McClane fix (and who doesn’t from time to time?), just re-watch the previous three films and read Russ’s terrific traipse down memory lane. That should do it. After all, you’re not getting paid eight figures to lazily relive your glory years.

The Perils of Principles

I wrote my Transformers review on Friday figuring I’d post it that night in response to Variety‘s lukewarm assessment if only because I couldn’t imagine Paramount/Dreamworks getting upset by a second, very positive notice. But we’re being held to a day-and-date embargo, so nothing for you (other than this embargo-flouting blurb: in 132 minutes, Michael Bay completely atones for all three May misfires).

The Loosening Up of Todd McCarthy

First there was his uncharacteristically bawdy 300 review; now, he’s talking about "incidental hottie moments" in his "whatever" review of Live Free or Die Hard. Is this the same man who wrote the erudite biography of Howard Hawks currently resting on my desk’s ersatz bookshelf?

Great Moments in Weinstein Company Publicity

"Our press conference with Michael Moore scheduled for tomorrow has taken another turn and will be something different than the usual film conference that everyone is used to. We will no longer be conducting the press conference as previously scheduled.

Instead, we would like to invite you to attend this special rally downtown with Michael Moore in support of the film Sicko.

We hope you can make it and will work to reserve space in the front for your convenience. There will be some time for questions from the press and the crowd."

No thanks! I’ll head downtown and hang out with Ice Cube and Tracy Morgan on the set of Next Sunday. But congrats on 1408!

But if you’re a Los Angeleno and want to be a part of this well-intentioned, for-the-converted rally, drive on down to City Hall (200 North Spring Street) tomorrow (Tuesday, at around 11:00 AM) and give the assembled local media what for!

*Paul Arendt of the BBC.

**Mark Kermode of The Observer