The Lesser Home Video Offerings of Cameron Crowe, by Matt Warren
A little known fact about Cameron Crowe’s creative process is that for every one film of the writer-director’s that receives widespread distribution and major studio promotion, Crowe produces 5-10 separate films with similar themes and narratives, which are then dumped without fanfare to a variety of second-market platforms, including VOD and direct-to-DVD (though some do receive a mainstream release in parts of the former USSR.) Though expensive and inefficient, this technique allows to Crowe to ensure that only the finest permutation of vine-ripened cinematic heirloom ingredients find their way to multiplexes for mass consumption. So, with the DVD release of Crowe’s upcoming We Bought a Zoo upon us, which misfires did Crowe leave to die in the vineyard? Read below to find out…
We Bought an Abandoned Silver Mine
Synopsis: Still reeling from his wife’s death in a freak hot air balloon disaster, a depressed widower (Matthew McConaughey) quits his job as a soulless-yet-successful Manhattan divorce attorney and, on a whim, blindly purchases defunct ski resort at tax auction. Despite his complete lack of experience with the winter sports industry, McConaughey moves his family—skeptical daughters Chloë Grace Moretz and Elle Fanning in tow—to the frigid Wasatch front and begins building a new life. But things take a sudden, dark turn when McConaughey and his daughters fall through an abandoned mineshaft (leftover from George Heart’s Comstock Mining concern of the mid-nineteenth century.) Falling four stories into a dank, noxious-gas-ridden vertical hellspire, McConaughey breaks his neck and, paralyzed from the cheekbones down, finds that he can only communicate with the terrified brood through an elaborate system of blinks and furrowed brows. But things worsen even further when the girls are cornered in a long-abandoned subterranean pump house by a rabid Alaskan malmute attracted by the scent of their father’s coagulated blood. Will Moretz and Fanning escape? Or will black lung turn their insides into ashy viscous first, rendering the entire Malmute situation moot? Soundtrack features My Morning Jacket and Band of Horses.
We Bought a Large Hadron Collider
Synopsis: Still reeling from his wife’s death in a freak Dyson Air Ball accident, a depressed widower (Ben Affleck) quits his job as the CEO of a successful online umbrella retailer and travels to Geneva, daughters Taissa Farmiga and Kiernan Shipka in tow. One day during après ski, Affleck befriends a kindly old man in a cable-knit sweater (Max von Sydow) and spends a long night bonding with him over hot toddies. The next morning, Affleck is shocked to find that, not only has the old man passed, but that he was, in fact, Dr. Gustav Brandenberger, creator of the Large Hadron Collider. Finding Sydow’s last will and testament drunkenly scrawled on a cocktail napkin, Affleck and his girls are shocked to discover that they’ve been bequeathed ownership of the world’s largest particle accelerator. Trying hard to make his daughters proud, Affleck assumes control of the potentially apocalyptic device, ignoring the desperate pleas of the scientific community to sign ownership of the device over to a qualified team of astrophysicists. Hijinks ensue, and the family learns many important facts about love, family, and doomsday phenomena. Soundtrack features Drive By Truckers, plus six never-before-heard tracks from the late Mark Linkous (Sparklehorse.)
We Bought a Sbarro’s Franchise
Synopsis: Still reeling from his wife’s death in a freak Quebecois skiing accident, a depressed widower (Liam Neeson) quits his job as Brooklyn-based McArthur Award-winning industrial designer and moves to across the country with his two young daughters—a dual performance by Andy Serkis in an ILM motion-capture suit—to buy a Sbarros franchise at the Laguna Gateway Fashion Plaza food court in suburban Sacramento. The second half of the film takes a radically experimental left turn as Crowe abandons conventional mainstream directorial technique in favor of several wordless, 20+ minute takes of Neeson and his employees performing a variety of mundane tasks, including unpacking palettes of cups and napkins, thawing ingredients, and scrubbing out the ovens with disinfectant. Winner of 38 French Academy Awards. Soundtrack features Randy Newman, Eric Clapton doing some more boring-ass blues horseshit, .38 Special, and Mother Love Bone’s Jeff Ahmet.
We Bought a Monkey’s Paw
Synopsis: To celebrate his wife’s death in a freak cryogenics accident, a paunchy Midwestern pet obituary proofreader (Paul Giamatti) cashes out his 401(k) and takes his two daughters—Willow Smith and Rae’Ven Larrymore Kelly—on vacation to rural Tangiers, where he purchases the macabre monkey’s paw talisman as a souvenir. Returning home to their trailer park home outside Duluth, MN, Giamatti idly wishes for every 7-Eleven in northern Minnesota to begin selling King’s Hawaiian -brand sweet rolls. The next morning, a delighted Giamatti wakes to discover that this is indeed now the case. Greedily, he buys up his local 7-Eleven’s entire King’s Hawaiian inventory and rushes home to gorge himself on the tasty treat. But Giamatti soon learns the hard way to be careful what you wish for, as he later begins to experience a mild stomach ache from too many carbohydrates. Deciding to leave well-enough alone, he stashes the paw in a rented storage unit and never thinks about it again. The paw later appears on an episode of A&E’s Storage Wars: Minnesota. Soundtrack features: Matthew Sweet, The Allman Brothers, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and Einstruzende Neubauten.
We Bought a Zune
Still reeling from his wife’s gender reassignment surgery, a clinically-depressed typewriter museum janitor (Mark Ruffalo) buys a Zune in hopes of downloading some Jack Johnson albums and just fucking chilling out, bro. He is devastated, however, to discover that Microsoft has discontinued the device, and that the Zune Marketplace is no longer active. The last half of the film follows Ruffalo as his character slowly circles the drain, trapped in a bleary shame-spiral of alcohol and pills. Filmed entirely in Esperanto for tax purposes. Soundtrack features: Skrillex.