Time to test a hypothesis. Traditionally, Labor Day weekend is considered the absolute worst weekend of the year. If a film hits this weekend, it must be the worst. It’s the ultimate dump weekend. After all nobody is going to the movies during the last summer weekend so you might as well toss out your worst. But is that true? I thought it would be fun to stop and look over 30 years of Labor Days and see. So here goes.
Bob Roberts: This was a limited release and probably actually ideally timed. Two weeks later into a tiring political season and it’s a miss. Well loved but an outlier.
Out on a Limb: Here’s what I mean. A film by Francis Veber, his only English film he directed not based on a previous film or his own writing. Matthew Broderick and Jeffrey Jones reunited. It’s a relic of the past. And it’s not considered watchable.
Calendar Girl: Jason Priestley’s only starring vehicle. From director John Whitesell whose career is a horror show. Marilyn Monroe exploitation too. Wow I hate everything about this.
Fortress: On one hand I get why this was a Labor Day dump as Christopher Lambert sci-fi isn’t huge. But this was Stuart Gordon! He ruled. Logical but better than the norm.
Kalifornia: This was a box office bomb. And yet if you did see it, it had to feel like watching the 90s to come. A grungy, thoughtful, violent film that hard grabbed the narrative back for Brad Pitt after Cool World and reestablished him as one of the best actors of the decade. Also a good David Duchovny performance that should have launched him.
Milk Money: Well this is almost iconically bad. I get why it was dumped. This doesn’t fit in any time. It’s a 1950s film that’s grotesque in its plot. Burying it was a smart move.
A Simple Twist of Fate: Written by Steve Martin, who starred. It’s a bit too serious and atonal but it’s classy.
Magic in the Water: Oh, we have peak dump weekend material here. Memorial Day 1995 gave us Casper, not great itself, but this is the cheap version. A low budget family film that was released out of desperation. Notice that after next year we won’t see any family films this list.
The Prophecy: I think next year was as ambitious as it was because this cult classic popped in. This is a legendary film with Christopher Walken as a killer angel trying to create a new war in Heaven. Viggo Mortenson is Lucifer. Elias Koteas is in a rare lead. This is a-grade for the weekend.
First Kid: One of two kids films. This is the better one. It’s not great but Sinbad was such a likable, funny lead that he entertained me. It’s low key enough it probably fit this best.
The Crow: City of Angels: This was a trainwreck. This killed The Crow as a brand, aside from two more baffling films. This feels like it was meant to carry the idea of a good cult film on this date and instead it ended it. Though there are still more coming. It’ll take a bit.
The Stupids: Definition of a dump film. In fact, this was the next to last theatrical film for John Landis. Next to last Tom Arnold starring film. It’s not bad for what it is, in fact if you grew up on the source books you might dig it, but it was a long delayed film that was burnt off.
Excess Baggage: One of the darkest burnoffs. I feel like there was still a drive to make Labor Day happen so Sony tried the teen girl market. But the tide was turned hard against Alicia Silverstone. What happened was going to happen I fear. Also it’s not good.
Kull the Conqueror: The idea of a Conan knock off starring Kevin Sorbo flopping shocked nobody. Very Labor Day.
Knock Off: Jean Claude Van-Damme’s last film before it was all DTV from here really isn’t disproving my theory dammit. JCVD actually became a much richer actor from here so maybe not a huge loss.
Chill Factor: OK, I can officially say careers went to die here. Chill Factor took down Cuba Gooding Jr. and Skeet Ulrich. Classic plot of two men trying to keep a substance below 50 degrees or it will explode.
Outside Providence: Higher grade in that it’s a more serious film from the Farrelly brothers who cowrote it with director Michael Corrente. It did ok. But do you remember it? Still basically a burnoff.
Highlander Endgame: The penultimate Highlander film and the last in theaters. Another Christopher Lambert/Dimension film. A total dump. I’m amazed this saw theaters. Can I rant about how much it stinks Donnie Yen, one of the most charismatic movie stars of the last 50 years, is in this? He deserved better here.
Whipped: At some point I may do a review series on Destination Films, maybe the most perfect example of why 2000 was a bad year in film. This was their film to throw way and in fact their next to last film as an independent unit. It’s pretty toxic.
Jeepers Creepers: (Austin’s thoughts on this film have been redacted as what would go here is largely a rage filled, profanity laden rant about how impossible he finds it that a convicted child molester could make this film.)
Feardotcom: William Malone on the other hand I love as an old school b-movie guy. This was a good fit. However, say it with me. Last theatrical film. Next to last film.
Jeepers Creepers 2: (Again, Austin had a rage seizure processing how this happened, He curses that this was possible.)
Vanity Fair: We’re in shockingly good terrain here. Mira Nair directed. Julian Fellowes cowritten. High quality source. High quality casting, Not disliked. The first of two Focus tests of good films here. This missed the Oscars. They won’t next year.
The Cookout: Honestly why don’t more films for POC open here? Not that this is any classic. But it’s a good weekend for it.
Paparazzi: Total example of a burnoff film. Vanity film for producer Mel Gibson. This is hysterically bad on every level. It’s about a movie star named Bo Laramie getting revenge on photographers who caused an accident that put his kid in a coma and cost his wife her spleen.
Wicker Park: This is another above par film. First of two times Josh Hartnett and director Paul McGuigan collaborated and they’re respected. Not bad.
The Constant Gardener: Focus takes a second stab at Labor Day to great success on every level. The film tripled a low $25 million budget. Rachel Weisz won Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars. But most importantly the film is truly great. Like top 5 for the year great. Obviously Weisz is great in my second favorite work from her behind The Brothers Bloom. But Fiennes is next level here in a rare sober, vulnerable turn. This is a masterful film. :pause: The director will still only do two more English language films. Labor Day devours.
A Sound of Thunder: I keep typing next to last or last film! The film made while Franchise Pictures went bankrupt. They had two more films but this was the death. That’s not what hurts. The great Peter Hyams ended his theatrical career here. He deserved to go out a legend.
Transporter 2: I saw The Constant Gardener Friday. I saw this Sunday. This is a wretched film. It’s not even as good as the first. Better canon: The Transporter is in Collateral. There’s nothing saying it’s not him. Louis Leterrier said so. So fine. That’s the sequel. Louis Leterrier keeps working though!
Underclassman: This is it for Nick Cannon as a leading man. Good.
Crank: Wait? Really? This makes sense as Statham has never been more than a cult actor but this is THE Statham movie. This is really well liked. But it proves that the best you’re getting is cult level.
Crossover: Sports movie. I know nothing about it but I’m kind of intrigued by the plot I read.
Idiocracy: This technically doesn’t count. Not a wide release. Burned off in Austin and a few markets before dumped on video. But such a cult film. I hate it though. Just as I hate…
The Wicker Man: Really high profile film. Really offensive if you like women. Looking at this reminds me 2006 felt like Labor Day all year. The majority of even good films were cult hits. This isn’t good.
Death Sentence: Ok I’m baffled. Because this is really good! This isn’t a film that should have been burnt off. But again, everyone was emboldened by the year before. Also someone wanted to challenge Dimension. Again, this is James Wan! Really not bad.
Halloween: Nor is this. Come at me. I like this film. Honestly this is a great weekend. Smart plays here. Probably the biggest missed opportunity was not holding Grindhouse to here and Halloween to October. Just my thought.
Babylon AD: An infamous disaster crashed here. Ended a great summer absurdly. And it’s not the worst film today.
Disaster Movie: I rightly hate this movie. That said this was a perfect place for it. It’s so lazy it fits here.
College: I remember nothing.
All About Steve: Again, textbook burnoff. Long delayed. The stars had hits that summer. Unmarketable. It was shunted here. I saw this on a dare.
Extract: Mike Judge goes to wide release with an excellent little gem that was a hard sell but I love it. The smartest film he’s made.
Gamer: Wait, is it 2006 again? Mike Judge and Neveldine/Taylor back in theaters? Not a great film but definitely above some films I’ve covered.
The American: A not well remembered George Clooney arthouse burnoff before a really genius fall.
Going the Distance: Drew Barrymore/Justin Long comedy. Honestly nice counterprogramming.
Machete: Like I said: Grindhouse should’ve hit now. This is my favorite Labor Day release ever. I love that this is pure late summer, sleazy, cheap looking grime. It’s a nice cool afternoon.
Apollo 18: Long delayed, recut and reshot, Dimension release. Wow it’s even the last theatrical film for the director!
Shark Night 3D: :Sigh: RIP, David R. Ellis. His last film as a director after a cool studio b-career. He only had three more 2nd unit jobs, his true genius, before a relatively young death at 60.
The Possession: All together now! Long delayed, retitled, last English film for the director! So generic I saw it and I forgot everything about it.
Getaway: Last film as director for Courtney Solomon. Really not well liked. Weirdly ok cast.
As Above, So Below: Oh this one people like. Occasionally good horror slides in. John Erick Dowdle even made another movie after this.
Hitman: Agent 47: A busted reboot of a franchise that bombed nightmarishly the first time. Who wanted this? And yes, only film of the director.
The Light Between Oceans: This was a very serious film from director Derek Cianfrance, who did Blue Valentine and The Place Beyond The Pines. Not only does he have yet to direct a new movie, having moved to TV, this is the last Touchstone movie.
Morgan: Only film directed by Luke Scott whose entire filmography is all work on Ridley Scott movies. He…did not earn those jobs as his name hints.
Nothing: Seriously. Not one wide release.
The Nun: The Conjuring spinoff! It’s not the worst thing I’ve heard of. I mean you probably know it.
Peppermint: Ouch. This seems to have killed Jennifer Garner’s run as a lead. Maybe a movie about a white woman killing gang members is a bad idea.
Nothing. No wide releases at all. See a trend.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: Disney’s biggest risk. They had to see if the market was ready. It was. This rocks.
Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul: This is getting a hybrid release. Very well received but streaming is the win.
So, final verdict? I had no idea what a graveyard this weekend was. So many careers ended here. In fact even a number of the cult films were the last wide theatrical releases for their directors. That was a trend I hated.
Yes, this was a big burnoff moment. Almost none of the films released here were on their initial dates. A lot of these films suffered from recuts, Damaged goods abounded.
I also think you can’t miss an important trend. The Weinsteins owned this weekend. When they collapsed, it’s not accidental the weekend went product light. They constantly tested interesting films here at least.
Ultimately, my verdict is this. Labor Day weekend: That bad.