Opening in Chicago, 03/09


Being Flynn (trailer)
Director: Paul Weitz (In Good Company, American Dreamz, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, Little Fockers)
Personal Interest Factor: 7
I rather liked In Good Company but Weitz’s career (he’s not to be confused with his brother, Chris) has been … uninspiring since then. The trailer for this looks pretty good, though, and it looks at least like an attempt at quality by Robert De Niro.
Metacritic: 52

The Forgiveness of Blood (trailer)
Director: Joshua Marston (Maria Full of Grace)
Personal Interest Factor: 7
Maria Full of Grace was very good, and now Marston returns 7 years later with this film set in Albania. I’m guessing this would be the first movie I’ve ever seen in Albanian. Which is good, because all I really know about Albania is that it’s hard to rhyme.
Metacritic: 73

Friends with Kids (trailer)
Director: Jessica Westfeldt
Personal Interest Factor: 5
Problem with the trailer is that there’s nothing all that funny about it, although on the other hand there’s nothing flagrantly stupid about it, either. I guess I’d say that the movie looks not all that painful but still easy to skip.
Metacritic: 55

John Carter (trailer)
Director: Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL-E)
Personal Interest Factor: 7
Can’t say that this looks terribly promising, but Stanton’s first two movies were both so good that I’m eager to see what he does with live action. If it’s no good, oh well.
Metacritic: 52

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Distant, Climates, Three Monkeys)
Personal Interest Factor: 7
I’ve yet to see one of Turkish filmmaker Ceylan’s films, although they each arrive with acclaim. This one looks beautiful if nothing else, although I’m not sure I’m going to get around to it this week. We’ll see.
Metacritic: 79

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (trailer)
Director: Lasse Hallström (An Unfinished Life, casanova, The Hoax, Dear John)
Personal Interest Factor: 4
Finally. I’ve seen this trailer constantly for the last couple months, and the movie just looks so banal and stupid. Actually, with this, Being Flynn, and Friends with Kids all opening the same week, I have no idea what trailers I’ll be seeing now. There’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, I guess, but other than that? I have no idea. Oh shit, that’s right, Jeff Who Lives at Home. But that actually comes out next week, so yay.
Metacritic: 60

A Thousand Words (trailer)
Director: Brian Robbins (The Perfect Score, The Shaggy Dog, Norbit, Meet Dave)
Personal Interest Factor: 2
Seems like I read an interview with Eddie Murphy not long ago, about the time when Tower Heist came out in fact, where he said he was done with all the family crap he’d been doing. Remember how that was his big comeback to classic Eddie Murphy roles? And now his next movie finds him back with Brian Robbins, whose last four movies (including two with Murphy!) have an average IMDb score of about 4.5. Stay classy, Eddie. EDIT: See comments, this isn’t really fair to Murphy.
Metacritic: 26

Also this week:
Silent House (trailer) – real-time horror movie with Elizabeth Olsen


54 responses »

  1. Seems like I read an interview with Eddie Murphy not long ago, about the time when Tower Heist came out in fact, where he said he was done with all the family crap he’d been doing. Remember how that was his big comeback to classic Eddie Murphy roles? And now his next movie finds him back with Brian Robbins, whose last four movies (including two with Murphy!) have an average IMDb score of about 4.5. Stay classy, Eddie.

    To be fair: Murphy shot A Thousand Words way back in May of 2008. It’s been gathering dust in Paramount’s vault waiting to strike an unsuspecting public for the past four years.

    Hopefully, his comments re: his future plans remain true.

  2. To be fair: Murphy shot A Thousand Words way back in May of 2008. It’s been gathering dust in Paramount’s vault waiting to strike an unsuspecting public for the past four years.

    Ah. I assumed he had shot it before the interview, but I wouldn’t have guessed it was that long ago.

    I guess that explains the relative lack of marketing, too.

  3. Really torn on what to see this weekend. John Carter and Friends With Kids have about the same lackluster Metacritic score. A third option is staying home and doing something else. Decisions, decisions.

  4. The title of the source material for Being Flynn is Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. A shame they couldn’t go with that title–Being Flynn is a big comedown.

  5. Damn, Slim beat me to it.
    Another Bullshit Night in Suck City was all over Boston when it came out, and holy shit if t doesn’t encapsulate my view of that city perfectly. At the time, I had also just come off of working with the homeless in an actors program for the Boston Globe, and so it was interesting to see what the city does to it lower denizens (as it would in any city), and I agree, that title is HORRID. Finding Forrester, anyone?

  6. John Carter’s opening weekend audience: 60% male, 30% over 50 and 75% over 25. In terms of demographics: John Carter makes Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy look like High School Musical.

    I can’t even begin to process how a broadly marketed sci-fi action film gets to those numbers. I don’t want to say it’s unprecedented, but it may just be. There’s a fascinating story here, it’s going to be interesting to hear it all as egos heal down the line.

  7. I can’t even begin to process how a broadly marketed sci-fi action film gets to those numbers.

    Sci-fi skews male anyway though, doesn’t it? And it’s based on source material that has more of a following among older people than younger people. How does this compare with Cowboys & Aliens?

    There’s a fascinating story here…

    I guess. “Studio makes bad call” seems unremarkable to me, though.

  8. I guess. “Studio makes bad call” seems unremarkable to me, though.

    -It’s between the 2nd and 4th most expensive film ever made
    -With one of the largest marketing budgets in film history
    -The live-action debut of an animation legend
    -A regime change in the middle of pre-production
    -A studio reluctantly proceeding with a greenlight to avoid a political minefield
    -The marketing campaign. How could a film that should have appeal to the masses fail to sell to almost every demo? Is it true that Stanton’s team really crafted the campaign, despite the drubbing that Disney has received in the press?
    – Just focusing on Stanton is a huge part of the story. Developing, producing and promoting something outside the insulated Pixar bubble, the humbling reality of live action filmmaking, facing hostile press/critics for the first time in his career.
    – Whatever the subsequent fallout is and what effect it will have on this type of filmmaking, if any

    If you don’t have an interest in the “inside baseball” side of things, it would’t be up your alley. For those of us who enjoyed things like The Devil’s Candy and Hit & Run it’s going to be entertaining.

    It is based on a book that’s almost 100 years old.

    True, but things like Spider-Man, Pirates of the Caribbean, Batman, Superman, Narnia, Lord of the Rings, etc. didn’t have issues bringing in numbers despite being 30-50 years older than the target audience. You could argue that adapting a 100-year old book was the critical flaw, but it really came down to a failure to make it relevant to the current market.

  9. How could a film that should have appeal to the masses fail to sell to almost every demo?

    I guess I dispute the underlying assumption here. Why should it have had appeal to the masses? Comparing the relatively obscure John Carter of Mars with enduring icons like Superman and LOTR seems absurd.

    Again, I bring up Cowboys & Aliens, which seems like a pretty decent comp in terms of demographics, although I don’t know the numbers in that case. And even that had the advantages of actual movie stars and being released in summer instead of early spring (why Disney thought the second weekend of March was a good idea baffles me more than anything else about the marketing, btw).

    Or take pretty much every other movie ever made about Mars, for that matter. Frankly, this doesn’t seem like fertile box-office territory to me at all, being a sci-fi Mars flick, based on source material that barely anyone under the age of 40 has heard of, with no stars, and from a director who is well-known in the industry (in a different field) but has pretty much zero mainstream name recognition.

  10. Hit & Run was awesome. Have to look up the other.
    If you’ve never read Final Cut James, seek. it. out. The best ever.

    Why was there a pressing need for this movie to be a huge tentpole? Spider-Man and the ilk are always in the news, are current and relevant to those who follow it, no matter how old they are.
    John Carter of Mars is an old book I have never read and I love Frederik Pohl and Joe Haldeman and the like and I could care less about a dude who is transported from the civil war to a place called Barsoom. Why isn’t it called Mars? I don’t care.
    Either way, there’s a person one step removed from Channing Tatum in the lead, it has stupid large animals you’ve always seen before and specific scenes from the trailer rip directly from God of War. No need to see it.
    What makes people believe an animation director would be just as good at live action. I would think the two would barely correlate, since you are completely in control of animation and anything can happen in filming live action; you’re beholden to whatever happens whle shooting. There are no Man of LaMAncha’s in animation, unless you count that 6 hour unfinished animation Aladdin ripped off, but that was due to the vagaries of the ‘artist’ in charge.

  11. Look at Pitch Black and Chronicles of Riddick.
    Pitch Black was a tight, suspenseful, engaging sci-fi actioner that kept you enthralled with a strong central performance, good story, and good supporting characters.
    And then look at Chronicles of Riddick: A bloated, overly-self-important turkey of a movie that thought too much of itself to be engaging.

    Another example: Moon. A movie that worked really well. Sometimes space movies make too much of spectacle and not enough on character.
    2001 would just be a series of indecipherable pretty pictures without the geniu of Stanley Kubrick.

  12. You know what science fiction blended character and epic scale so masterfully? Battlestar Galactica. Some of the scenes in that were *immense*. And then we zoom into the Galactica and get real, human stories from a paranoid schizophrenic who sees a female cylon in his mind. Some of the best storytelling tv has ever had.

  13. John Carter is OK. Storywise, it’s pretty clunky at times, with a few things not all that well explained (the villians … what’s up with those guys?), and some of the dialogue is pretty awful, especially the stuff that involves the Martian deities. Or, I dunno, maybe if I had been alive in 1977 I would have been complaining about all that silly Force talk in Star Wars. Who can say.

    But, otherwise, it’s fairly well crafted. I mean, I’ve seen better, but I’ve also seen a lot worse. Stanton does a reasonably good job with the action setups, it’s appealingly shot (or at least manipulated by DI techs to make it appear appealingly shot), and the special effects are pretty good as far as it goes. There’s a good movie here if they could have tightened up the script and cast better actors.

    Interestingly, the end credits show the title as John Carter of Mars, while over the opening it’s simply John Carter. Thought that was weird.

  14. See, I took your last response and liked it so much that I decided that’s my go-to phrase for things that suck so bad that saying they suck doesn’t do it. So when something is so bad there are no words, I’m using that.

  15. Okay, one more time, for the cheap seats. Since the Black Swan debacle, I will not talk about any movie I have not watched.
    So not only did I have to sit through the forced screenplay shortcut of not even having a character answer his name the same way the guy from MARS answers him, but using a full sentence when answering a being with 4 arms and tusks and say “I am John Carter from Virginia” as though that’s even slightly any more intelligent than just saying “John” and then have a running gag where the being calls this asshole ‘Virginia’ and asks him to jump the entire time. Newsflash for these idiot writers: Yes, Mars has lower gravity than earth, but building the entire beginning of your movie around that fact is something a 4 YEAR OLD would do if he wanted to have a hero who went to Mars. There is no WAY that’s a central point in the book. And if it is, I’m happy I never read it.
    I thought this movie sucked with a hardcore passion even BEFORE Hinds entered (and I fully expected to hear ‘He was a consul of ROME!) and I was out when even the same guy from Rome who played Marc Antony was even there and then I physically laughed. out, loud. every time Domenic West did some stupid thing with some stupid thing that looked like the Omni-Tool from Mass Effect and I didn’t pay much attention after that until they ripped off God of War and then I really didn’t pay attention.
    At least Hugo kept you watching through the genius of Martin Scrosese, even if it WAS stultifyingly boring.
    Please don’t ask that again.

  16. I won’t ask it again as long as you let us know you’ve seen something. We’re not mind readers. Especially when you made a long comment about how you didn’t want to see it.

  17. It seems the only things available are movies like this.
    After Brian’s post, all I want to see is Certified Copy and that action movie Nick wrote about that takes place in the high-rise, but being in the wilds of New Jersey (practically farm country PA), I can’t find any of those movies. What business doesn’t allow product that everyone might want to see?
    It’s like capitalism has turned into one great big version of Wal Mart where you can only get niche items from really fancy places ‘in the city’…I really, really want to watch Certified Copy. I thought technology was supposed to open up movies like the one in the high rise….is Certified Copy on blu ray yet?

  18. Wow…sorry, that sounds depressingly like a ‘rant’. Just been thinking about where film is as a ‘form’, how nothing is new and where do you go when everything has been done and when SXSW ‘premieres’ Hollywood movies and what is ‘independent film’ anymore and, yeah, I’m still ranting.

  19. Criterion is putting out Certified Copy in May. I’m almost afraid to see you so excited about it, because it seems like there’s a very high possibility that it won’t be your thing.

    Have you seen any of Kiarostami’s films before? If not, there’s a Criterion edition of his 1990 film Close-Up out there if you’d like somewhere to start. It’s somewhat similar thematically to Certified Copy, although the latter is a multilingual French-Italian production and Close-Up is an Iranian film. Close-Up is also very much a movie about films and filmmaking, so you might find it worthwhile anyway.

    I’ve also seen his Ten, although I didn’t like it nearly as much.

  20. I’ve seen two movies of his.
    One, I don’t know the name and never learned it. It is a short film about a motorcycle crash with an ambulance and then entire movie is one dolly shot that moves back and forth from one end of the accident to the other and that’s all it is. Back and forth and back and forth and it was one of the most amazing short films I’ve ever seen.
    And I’ve seen his short film in the anthology (is that the word) film Tickets. I loved it. Very much. And so I really would like to see a proper Kiarostami film, and since you put Certified Copy above A Separation, I’d like to start with that.

  21. Cool. My reservations are definitely lessened if you’ve seen some of his work. He’s apparently making his next movie in Japan!

    I’ll try to find out the name of that short film.

  22. Filmman, I definitely agree with your rant. I’m in a fairly good place for movies, considering it’s the suburbs, with two art houses nearby. But even still some interesting movies never get here, like Shame or Coriolanus. Fortunately Comcast On Demand shows some interesting films, like from IFC and Sundance. But otherwise I have to hop a train into NYC to see the real obscure stuff.

    I was contemplating a move to Las Vegas, which would make it even worse, as there are nothing multiplexes.

  23. I was contemplating a move to Las Vegas…

    So I assume from the word ‘was’ that this is not going to happen?

  24. As of now, no. But this involves a woman, so things can change.

    Here’s a topic for discussion–in seeing all these ads for a new TV show for Ashley Judd, I’ve been wondering if there’s anyone who has wasted her talent more than she has. Way back when, when she did Ruby in Paradise and Heat, I thought she’d win an Oscar some day, but she took the route of disposable thrillers and it seems unlikely she will ever be considered a major actress again.

    Who else has squandered their talent in this way? Kate Hudson? Matthew McConnaughey?

  25. Ugh. Every time I watch the ‘How about you put your badge on this table here and walk away. A lot o’ people in this town are sick to death o’ your bullshit, Charlie Wade…you made yourself scarce, you could make a lot of people happy” scene in Lone Star, I always wonder what could have been for McConaughey.

  26. Reese Withersoon would fall into that category at this point.

    I thought Edward Norton would have an Oscar or two in-hand by now, but he chose to burn so many bridges that no directors of note want to work with him.

  27. YES. Edward Norton.
    And no directors? I heard no one has an easy time working with him.

  28. I think Reese Witherspoon’s career is exactly where her talents lie. She’s really a light comedienne–her Oscar was an outlier. She does the Legally Blonde thing really well–there’s no need for her to really branch out at this point.

  29. And yet he’s in the new movie by Wes Anderson, easily one of the most finicky directors working today.

    Good point, forgot about that. I hope it’s a sign of things to come, because he’s wasted over a decade in mediocrity thanks to his own behavior. This is a guy that should be winning Oscars, not making invisible indie films and career rehab flicks every few years.

    He’s also the villain in the next Bourne movie, which could help things.

  30. He’s the next Bourne villain?!
    Holy shit, that’s excellent.
    (In a nasal, whiny voice) Well, Jason, I mean, whichever Bourne you are…
    It’ll be like someone’ younger brother who finally got their evil plan to work. Like the villain in The Incredibles!

  31. Yeah, mentioned Norton along these lines a little while back. Back towards the end of the late 1990s, you’ve would’ve thought Norton would have the acting track record in the 2000s that Clooney had, and vice-versa.

    I think Reese Witherspoon’s career is exactly where her talents lie. She’s really a light comedienne–her Oscar was an outlier. She does the Legally Blonde thing really well–there’s no need for her to really branch out at this point.

    I don’t know about that – she was good in Pleasantville & especially Election in the late 1990s, but seemed to settle for much less challenging fare generally since the start of the 2000s.

  32. Some others to nominate – Gwyneth Paltrow’s career has stalled pretty badly over the last decade or so, probably from about the time of the flop comedy ‘View From The Top’.

    Also, post-Silence of the Lambs, Jodie Foster’s career with one or two exceptions (e.g. Contact) has been largely disappointing.

  33. I think Jodie Foster’s career is sharply delineated pre-motherhood and post. After she had kids I think she cashed in on a few multiplex hits like Panic Room and Flightplan and is now just kind of noodling. I don’t hold that against her. After all, she has two Oscars, she can coast if she wants to.

    My original question, visa vis Ashley Judd, is performers who showed promise but never really attained the level they could have. Foster got about as respected as a performer can get.

  34. What the hell happened to Clive Owen?
    What is this Intruders madness?
    Why do I always confuse him with Scott Speedman? They look *nothing* alike…

  35. Fassbender is in danger of falling into the same pattern of overexposure that sunk it-actors like Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Clive Owen in the last decade.

    However, he seems to be making better decisions so far.

  36. Aside from X-Men, though, Fassbender’s mostly been working outside of typical multiplex fare. I don’t think a lot of mainstream audiences really even know who he is.

  37. Sure, he’s “the guy who played Magneto”. Seriously though, I think X-Men got him noticed by the mainstream (even if not by name). We’ll see if Prometheus continues his good luck, although I can see that underperforming.

  38. I don’t see Fassbender making any decisions to get him more press and even making decisions to stay arthouse.
    A blond robot in a sci-fi movie. A sex addict in an NC-17 barn-burner. He played Magneto in a movie where the median demographic was 20, maybe (and I caught that recently, and had forgotten how poor it was) and he is that smarmy charming guy in Inglorious Basterds.
    I don’t see him flaming out because really, no one knows him. I was saying ‘that’s the guy from Bourne’ well into Owen’s third movie after that and Law at least had the relationship to keep him in the news and Farrell is a severely underrated actor. Truth.
    But with Clive Owen, it really feels like he’s just disappeared. Bam. Off the radar. Kinda stunning in its swiftness.

  39. Owen just played the villain in a Jason Statham movie, yet turned down the secondary lead in Spike Lee’s remake of Oldboy. A studio film with a well-regarded director he’s worked with before.

    It’s basically been nothing but bad decisions since Children of Men. It’s pretty clear that audiences aren’t really interested in the guy as a lead, but he’s not even choosing decent supporting roles.

  40. Oh, right, the movie with Giamatti where all they did was shoot and then the Statham movie and…wow. I wonder what his reasoning was for turning it down. Do you think, as an actor, he isn’t interested in ‘acting’ anymore? Do you think he’s just decided actually stretching himself isn’t the road he wants to take?
    Honest question.

  41. I did forget about Duplicity, which I really liked and probably looked very good on paper from a commercial standpoint.

    He’s heading to DTV-land, so I would expect he’ll move over to television in the next couple of years. Maybe something on Showtime or HBO.

    As for Oldboy, no idea why he turned it down. He was offered after many other folks (Bale, possibly Cruise, Colin Firth) but he’s not in the position they are career-wise. They’ve got Elizabeth Olsen as their female lead, which is exciting.

  42. Yes, at one point in the Pierce Brosnan aftermath, I think Owen was basically the presumed next Bond. Seemed like it was a pretty big surprise when Craig ended up with it.

  43. Yeah, I think the press built him up as the next big Bond candidate but if I recall he was never really in active consideration.

    Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale were other names floated last time. Jackman could work well, but I don’t know if they’re ready for an Aussie Bond.

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