http://chud.com/nextraimages/king_dom.jpgI was computer-less for three days last week. For the first time in a long time. Being unable to write was very strange, and somewhat freeing. I was forced to realize how Cronenberg-bound I am to technology. But I was never without the internet. Cause I have it on my phone. Sometimes I marvel at the world we live in but as Chris Onstead said recently about how quickly we as a culture are absorbing new technologies that “you could print “PAST THE POINT OF REFLECTION’ on millions of terrycloth headbands, air-drop them over high school graduations, baseball games, Olive Gardens, and traffic jams, and have yourself a tidy little situation.”

Long live the new flesh.

I like to change up the opening. Sometimes it’s observational, other times, all business. Keep you guys on your toes and shit. My goal is to be ripped off by College students looking for ideas.

THE KINGDOM OF LATE SEPTEMBER

In regards to Peter Berg’s career as a director, this late September timeframe has been his stomping ground. Though Very Bad Things came out in November, The Rundown and Friday Night Lights came out around now in 2003 and 2004. Unfortunately, The Rundown didn’t click theatrically, though Friday Night Lights did all right and at least inspired a TV show (which means DVD sales were good). Berg has proved himself to be an above average craftsman and attaches himself to fairly good material. Which is good because as an actor he seemed bland, though he did good work in The Last Seduction. In fact directing (and time) has made him a much more interesting face and presence.

If a studio will support you (as Universal has on his last three directorial outings) hell, that’s something, and it’s been great to watch his craft get honed. But this timeframe is still just about dumping grounds, and The Kingdom strikes as neither fish nor fowl. Though the fall may be loaded with them, it seems likely that America (at least commercially) is not as readied to deal with the current conflict as Hollywood is. In the Valley of Elah has not been out-of-the-box performing, and the expansion that will happen this weekend (it goes to near 800) will likely not improve its modest box (though it may crack the top ten, likely the bottom half).

Looking at Vietnam, Apocalypse Now came out in 1979 and Francis Ford Coppola swore the movie “was Vietnam” (and for him maybe it was), but cinematically the healing began – and to a certain extent ended – with Oliver Stone’s crudely effective Platoon. Which came out in 1986, long after America withdrew. American culture is still divided about Iraq and the current president (which are inextricably linked), and the wounds haven’t even begun to heal. Though arguably cinema was dealing with ‘Nam in the late Sixties and Seventies, that was the culture of the time, but the films weren’t set in the war even if they were connect to it directly or inderictly by their themes (The Graduate, Easy Rider, Bonnie and Clyde, M*A*S*H, etc). And for all the disgust and distaste the “Torture Porn” genre has raised, its defining characteristics (rampant hatred towards American interlopers, prolonged sequences of torture) are simply modern horror filmmakers tapping into the current cultural climate. Horror must reflect modern mores to have any sort of relevancy or bite (the ironic detachment that came with Scream can partly be seen as a reflection of the boogeyman’s perceived cultural dismissal), while other filmmakers (most notably Steven Spielberg) have certainly used the post 9/11 culture as a backdrop to explore issues.

But head on? It seems a bad move fiscally even if artists are drawn towards liberal causes. But just as likely anything close to advocating a stance against of for (imagine!) will be deemed propaganda (some have critiqued Transformers for bothering to show the military in a sympathetic light). The Kingdom is set in the middle East-ish situation and involves a kidnapping. You don’t score a trailer to “Bullet the Blue Sky” and not invoke a sense of greater political weight (such is the curse of U2). And, for better or worse, Jamie Foxx is not a box office draw.

No matter the quality, it will likely be outdrawn by The Game Plan. Ironically, The Rock may have his first out of the gate hit while his best director does just okay. My favorite professor in college – and something of a mentor – Cheney Ryan once told me that in 1968 – with all the cultural divides, assassinations, rioting, violence and cultural strife – the most successful film of the year was The Love Bug. It’s too good a truism to check if it’s accurate. Even if he was printing the legend, people go to cinema (for the most part) to escape the modern world more often than confront it. And there is nothing all that wrong with that.

YOU BETTER GET YOURSELF PREDICTIONS, WRITING’S ON THE WALL

It could be neck and neck – and most people are calling it that way – but when all is said and done, The Rock should have the weekend by a couple of million. I’m guessing a 23 bow for his Game Plan (I guess those sneaks worked), and a little under 20 for The Kingdom. Resident Evil should be in third, while everything else just sort of hangs around and pouts.

1. The Game Plan - $23.2 Million
2. The Kingdom – 19.4 Million
3. RE: Apocalypse: Not so much – $9.1 Million
4. Good Suck Suck - $6.9 Million (yeah baby)
5. The Brave UNO player - $5.2 Million

More Sunday. I hope.