Monday, April 15, 2013

Hollywood is run by lunatics (chapter XLVII)

Michael Bay's comedy "Pain & Gain" opens April 26 across America. So I wasn't surprised to get an invitation to an advance screening that would make a review possible. I was surprised, however, to see that it's being held in Raleigh.

I e-mailed the Southern publicist for Paramount Pictures to ask if this was an error. No, I was told: The film wasn't being screened for critics in Charlotte. If we wanted to make a 300-mile round-trip, we were welcome to review. (I'd love to do that, because it would fill up an entire workday, and I'd be given $120 reimbursement for mileage. But the boss would say no.)

Now, the News & Observer in Raleigh no longer has a regular movie person; they're our sister paper in the McClatchy chain, and they run my reviews. So this picture was being screened in the market that has no daily newspaper critic and NOT screened in the market where the critic's review would serve both papers.

But wait: Things get more idiotic. Entertainment editor Theoden Janes, who sits next to me, was getting a separate advance screening in Charlotte so he could interview star Ken Jeong, who comes from Greensboro and has a major role in "Pain & Gain." I asked if I could attend that screening, but it was open only to people who were going to do feature stories, not reviews -- even though it's the same film, frame for frame.

I'm sure I'm not missing a masterpiece, because April 26 is traditionally a week when Hollywood cleans out the attic; it's used for movies that aren't important or strong enough to release among the summer blockbusters, which start on May 3 this year. But I'd have been happy to give it a shot; Dwayne Johnson, Mark Wahlberg and Bay have all done good work at times. (To properly appreciate Ken Jeong, I'm sure we'll have to wait for "Hangover 3.")

Yet the logic escapes me. If the film's so bad you don't want reviews, why hold critics' screenings anywhere? If it's good enough to warrant reviews, why not screen in the largest market in the Carolinas? Well, that's what I get for expecting a studio decision to make sense. After writing about movies for 33 years, I should know better.

And an update: Paramount decided to hold a Charlotte screening the afternoon after this blog was posted. Common sense prevails!