Opening in New York, The Ides of March

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At the multiplexes this weekend are two films, neither of which interest me at all. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (44) is a film about Vegas magicians. I’ve noted that I have not seen one promotional item for this film at all, though others have. I’m interested that Jim Carrey does not even appear on the poster. As A.O. Scott points out, it seems that Steve Carell is playing a part that calls out for Will Ferrell.

The other film opening big this weekend is The Call (52), which seems to indicate that the Oscar curse is still haunting Halle Berry.

Lots of action in the art houses this weekend, highlighted by Spring Breakers (64). There’s been a ton of press on this, especially considering it’s a Harmony Korine film, and his last was something called Trash Humpers. Of course, the press concerns the stars and Disney Channel refugees, Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens. I don’t know whether I’ll catch this in theaters, but you can bet I’ll see it on DVD, where I can use zoom and pause. I love this from Manohla Dargis, in the rating explanation: “Gun violence and enough naked breasts to supply material for a second Seth McFarlane song.”

Also in art houses is Ginger and Rose (69), a British film from Sally Potter starring Elle Fanning and Alice Englert as girlfriends in the early ’60s; Upside Down, (41) a sci-fi film starring Kirsten Dunst; and If I Were You, (28) with Marcia Gay Harden.

Philip Roth: Unmasked (65) opened on Wednesday for a one-week run at Film Forum before airing on PBS’s American Masters series later this month. It’s part of the celebration of the novelist’s 80th birthday on March 19th. He is my favorite novelist, so I’ll hunt it down on television.

About Jackrabbit Slim

Location: Vegas, Baby! I’m much older than the other whippersnappers here, a baby boomer. I tend to be more snobbish about film, disdaining a lot of the multiplex fare for “cinema.” My favorite films: Woody Allen’s oeuvre (up until about 1990), The Godfather, The Graduate, A Hard Day’s Night, Pulp Fiction. Politics: Well, George McGovern was my political hero. I’m also a prickly atheist. Occupation: Poised to be an English teacher in Las Vegas. For many years I was an editor at Penthouse Magazine. My role on this blog seems to be writing lots of reviews and being the resident Oscar maven.

29 responses »

  1. A sci-fi film starring Kirsten Dunst? What?

    I thought of you when I saw the review in the Ledger for the Roth documentary, wondering if you knew about it.

    If you watched Kourtney and Kim take Miami, you would have seen too many ads for Wonderstone.

  2. If you watched Kourtney and Kim take Miami, you would have seen too many ads for Wonderstone.

    Sadly, I haven’t seen any episodes of that show. I’ll catch up on the DVDs.

    Burt Wonderstone is looking at an 11M opening weekend. Bomb, anyone?

    Carell also bombed with that End of the World movie. I’m not sure he’s so reliable.

  3. That Dunst film looks absolutely terrible.

    re: Carell’s track record – two disappointments in a row (given budgets, I wouldn’t label either an outright bomb) is a fluke in a ridiculously consistent career. I wouldn’t even count Seeking a Friend against him since it was a fairly low budget indie movie.

    Despicable Me 2 is a lay-up, as is Anchorman 2. Foxcatcher is 2013 Awards-bait. He’s got a good 12-15 months ahead of him.

  4. Do actors get credit (of the box office kind) for voiceover work they do in animated films? I suppose they do but it doesn’t really make sense to me.

    While I agree Carrel’s record has been good overall, he also had ‘Dinner For Schmucks’ film from a couple of years back which iirc was a bomb.

  5. Yeah, I forgot about Dinner for Schmucks. It was a reasonable-sized hit, but that budget (a few million short of it’s worldwide gross, which is shockingly high) definitely = bomb.

  6. And yeah, i think actors get some credit for the voiceover work they do. In cases (like Ellen) it can kick off a new phase to their careers.

  7. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll never understand using high-priced stars for animated films. Disney never did through their heyday, and the target audience (4-10 year olds) for Despicable Me had certainly no knowledge of who Steve Carell is. For Pixar films, which attract an adult audience, it makes some sense, but why stars in films like Escape from Planet Earth?

  8. It’s marketability to an extent, particularly if the studio hasn’t figured out a way to sell it. Plus (as a parent subjected to these films on a regular basis) they’re sometimes made a little more bearable with the familiarity of a celebrity voice.

  9. I can understand using celebrity voices to appeal to parents to a minor extent, but overall I’m with JS on this – the constant plethora of celebrity voiceovers for virtually every mainstream animated film these days. It’s such a standard now that it’s market value (if any) would be largely null.

  10. I agree with Marco and Slim, but James gets to the core of it: It’s a name on a poster that can be marketed. Without it, it’s just an animated movie. Especially overseas, most filmgoers just want to see the American actor, no?

  11. Except they dont’ “see” the actor. Here’s an example: does anyone think Angelina Jolie was worth the money they paid for the two Kung Fu Panda roles? No one goes to a movie to just hear Jolie, and in foreign markets they not only don’t see her, they don’t hear her (foreign animated films are usually dubbed, because children may not be able to read subtitles). Even in the U.S., did anyone say to themselves, “I want to see that Kung Fu Panda because Angelina Jolie is a voice actor in it.” Any of a thousand other actors could have done it just as well (and better) for scale.

    I know it’s been done for 25-30 years (the first recognizable actor I remember doing a voice role was Brian Bedford, a respected British stage actor, who was the main voice The Great Mouse Detective) but I submit it’s been a colossal waste of money.

  12. I don’t disagree that it was a colossal waste of money to begin with – but it’s essential to compete now.

    The other thing to remember is that the actors (with some limited exceptions) actively promote the films. You can get Steve Carell on The Today Show and the late night programs, Entertainment Tonight, every movie blog and magazine out there to push Despicable Me. Random cartoon voiceover guy brings absolutely nothing to the table in terms of promotional value and building awareness.

  13. I think a pivotal one for this was Robin Williams in ‘Aladdin’. iirc that one was marketed as Williams’ character of the genie being virtually Williams himself – I think the success of that led to celebrity voices being much more commonplace.

    But the strange thing is how it’s not only commonplace to use “box office” names in animated films, but ones that don’t have that clout. For example, while she’s a respected actress, why use Kelly Macdonald as the voice star of a major Pixar film when she has no box office clout when an experienced VoiceOver artist could’ve been used much cheaper?

  14. Speculating, it might be something where the filmmakers specifically wanted to work with MacDonald. Not sure.

    In terms of pay, I’d be shocked if she earned very much.

  15. It’s for the calendar, Slim. The ‘core’ of it. maybe I didn’t say it right, but I would pay for Jolie so she’s on the poster and so she does interviews so I can sell the movie overseas for people who want to see Jolie. And I disagree. A majority of films are subtitled. They are dubbed here.

  16. It’s no different than the ‘colossal waste of money’ for Carrey in an 80 million dollar movie to pay him 20. The ticket sales far outweigh the cost to have his name and his promotion.

  17. Unless I’m mistaken, MacDonald can be had for ‘tv money’. She’s not a ‘colossal waste of money’. She’s a name. One at least *some* people recognize and as such, she’s better than ‘Susie Amis’ who is competent but a little cheaper. Some people will at least say ‘I loved her in those period pieces and even fewer will say ‘I loved her in Trainspotting’.

  18. It’s an actor. The same as you would use if you were making a ‘live action’ panda movie. Why not just hire voice-over artists for the cartoon section of Avatar, oh, wait, it’s all cartoon, and I think he was pretty cheap at the time.

  19. Dude, if a studio came to me and I was producing a cartoon and they gave me 10 million and Jolie said “I’m interested but I cost 9 million and 300 thousand dollars’, I would make a cartoon of stick figures with her voice and tell people in interviews it was an ‘artistic decision’ to do that.

  20. My guess would be that MacDonald earned somewhere between 60-150k for Brave. That would be in line with what someone like Justin Long got for those Alvin and the Chipmunks films. Carell obviously earns a lot more for something like Despicable Me (probably a few million) which is both a gender and starpower issue.

    So yes she’s a more expensive than random voiceover girl, but given the increase in talent – it’s a bargain.

  21. Why is it an increase in talent though? Wouldn’t a VoiceOver actor with years of experience working in animated films have more expertise than an actor used to a completely different medium doing it for the first time?

    Also, with regards to one of your earlier points I think the animated film makers would in part like working with celebs and top actors not only because of the obvious appeal it brings, but it makes their project feel like a substantial, significant work.

  22. Why is it an increase in talent? Why is MacDonald an increase in talent over some random voiceover girl? Why is Carrell an increase over some VO guy? They’re A-list and B-list actors. They’re, um, stars.

  23. I’ll buy the promotion angle. Also, it may be a way to ingratiate with the talent. It’s such an easy gig–two or three days work, no makeup, they can wear sweats. Maybe they negotiate–“I’ll do that picture if you give me one of those animated cash cows.”

    And FM, I’m pretty sure all children’s films are dubbed. What’s a kid that can’t read gonna do with subtitles? Nick, do they dub animated films in Sweden, or does everyone speak English there so they don’t need to?

  24. By sheer coincidence, I watched Brave again last night, and for what it’s worth I think the movie gains a lot from MacDonald (and Billy Connelly). I think she’s much better than a random voiceover person. Good actors – and I mean, really truly good actors, which I think MacDonald is one of – simply have a force of personality that not everyone has. It’s more than just someone having a nice voice, and frankly, for the most part I don’t think of the classic Disney features as having voiceovers that are what I would describe as performance-based. They’re mostly broadly played to a particular character type, if that makes sense.

    Now, does that mean that no one could have done as good a job as MacDonald for much less money? Probably not, the world’s full of talented people just looking for work. But we’re presumably talking about a pittance relative to the overall budget, at least in her case.

    That said, I do get annoyed by animation voiceovers where the performer doesn’t really act, but just does some kind of shtick. I think John Goodman is great in Monsters, Inc., but Billy Crystal grates. Tim Allen is great in Toy Story, but Robin Williams’s Aladdin is annoying. Etc, etc.

    So I can see both sides of the issue, I guess. Like everything else, it can be good or bad, it just depends on execution.

  25. Nick, do they dub animated films in Sweden, or does everyone speak English there so they don’t need to?

    They used to dub all animated films – all films aimed at children younger than ten or so come to think of it – but now they’ll have both Swedish and English, since movies like Pixar’s are aimed at kids and adults.

    For what it’s worth, I remember all animated Disney films pre-1995 in Swedish. Hearing them in English feels wrong.

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