With disappointing box office returns, a look at the resistance to films about Mars
If there were a film titled “The Curse of the Red Planet” that took place on Mars -- or had Martians as central figures -- recent endeavors indicate that it would be a financial disaster. Or at the very least, it would have little chance of success. Disney became so convinced of the power the word “Mars” had to repel ticket sales (though in part due to fear of alienating a female audience) that they did a mid-campaign 180 and switched the title “John Carter of Mars” to the equally problematic “John Carter” (which left many people wondering, “Should I know who that is?”)
Indeed, film pundits have (primarily sight unseen) been predicting grand scale disaster for “John Carter” for months now. In truth, the title had a disappointing opening weekend, coming in just behind Universal’s family film “The Lorax” with a $30.6 total. Though, as Gregory Ellwood points out in today’s box office report, “John Carter” earned $70 million internationally in addition to its domestic gross, a figure that may give the financiers at Disney some measure of hope that the $250 million film will not pick up where 2011’s disastrous “Mars Needs Moms” left off (In the red. Yep).
Nominees for 2011's worst range from Michael Bay to Glenn Close
I've complained before about the Razzie Awards, a goofy institution that long ago had the fun sapped out of it by its voters' narrowness of focus and constant recycling of the same targets. This year's awards, curiously shifted to April Fools' Day, are a case in point: how many times do we need to keep beating up on the "Twilight" franchise when there are more egregious (not to mention original) offenders out there? As if to illustrate how devoid of inspiration the Razzies have become, they nominated the same five films for Worst Picture, Director, Screenplay and Ensemble. Spread the
love loathing a little, people.
Evidently, I'm not the only one to feel this way. The folks at Movieline have decided to beat the Razzies at their own game with the inaugural Soily Awards, a self-described "attempt to reconcile the year's highest-profile Hollywood misfires with their truly uninspired brethren." 20 critics and journalists were polled, including yours truly, and while the resulting nominations aren't quite as cutting as they could be, they at least make for more amusing reading than the Razzie list.
It's as shameless as it is stupid
- Critic's Rating D
- Readers' Rating A
AUSTIN, Texas - Like the thugs who put the film’s plot into motion, “The Aggression Scale” is as shameless as it is stupid. The story of a family fighting back against a group of gun-toting hoods who come in search of their boss’s money, director Steven C. Miller’s South by Southwest debut is despicable, mean-spirited sleaze that survives only on the pretense that it could be interpreted as exploitation “fun.” Featuring performances by former Jason Voorhees Derek Mears, two “Twin Peaks” alumni and one of Harmony Korine’s “Gummo” collaborators, the film is thoughtless and trashy in all of the wrong ways.
Ray Wise (“Peaks,” “Tim & Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie”) plays Mr. Bellavance, a recently freed crime boss who sends his underlings to retrieve $500,000 in “getaway” money that some former employee stole while he was in prison. Led by Lloyd (Dana Ashbrook), the four-man team ruthlessly mows down a series of suspects before arriving at the freshly-bought home of Bill (Boyd Kestner) and his wife Maggie (Lisa Rotondi), newlyweds who are awkwardly trying to cajole his son Owen (Ryan Hartwig) and her daughter Lauren (Fabianne Therese) into calling one another siblings.
Film heralds the arrival of an exciting but unsure voice
- Critic's Rating B-
- Readers' Rating n/a
AUSTIN, Texas - Following in the footsteps of “Sound of My Voice” and “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” the indie world’s fascination with cults – or cult-ish behavior – continues at the 2012 South by Southwest film fest with Rebecca Thomas’s “Electrick Children,” a quirky portrait of two Mormon teenagers searching for meaning in suburban Las Vegas.
Inspired by the filmmaker’s own experiences as a Mormon growing up outside Sin City, the film explores faith in delicate, sensitive ways, particularly in the face of secular temptation. But it eventually acquiesces to indie-film clichés instead of digging deeper into its intriguing philosophical quandaries, ultimately creating a portrait of divine providence that’s more promising than profound.
Julia Garner (perhaps ironically, “Martha Marcy May Marlene”) plays Rachel, a devout teenager who gets introduced to the world beyond her insular Mormon community after her father Paul (Billy Zane) records her religious testimony on a tape recorder. Fascinated by the mysterious technology, she sneaks out to listen to it at night, and among the interview recordings she finds a cassette tape with music on it – the first rock & roll she’s ever heard.
"You lost, man. You don't get no Oscar."
Oh, you thought awards season was over? Well, it is, but there's plenty of room to drag out its last throes on late night, like Jonah Hill did to kick of "Saturday Night Live" last night.
The whole thing just reminded me of something that kind of nagged at me last season, even if I didn't have an issue with it in principle: I still don't get how Hill got as far into the season as he did. I mean, yeah, he grew up in Beverly Hills and has plenty of friends pulling for him in the industry, but I just never thought his performance in "Moneyball" was much more than serviceable (as I note now, the same word I used to describe the work back in September), and familiar.
But I'm not trying to take anything away from the guy. I'm happy for him and it looks like he's poised to hit 2012 running with "21 Jump Street." Still, I don't think he really moved much beyond his comfort zone for that role.
The actress gives one of her finest performances to date in the HBO adaptation
So I was out most of the day and had to come into Jay Roach's "Game Change," which premiered this evening on HBO, somewhere in the middle. No way I was gonna wait and watch it all in one fell swoop. I've been eager to see this and, particularly, Julianne Moore's performance as Sarah Palin, for some time now. When it was over, I waited an hour, caught the first half and here we are. Full disclosure.
And make no mistake, Moore OWNS this film. But not in the way you'd have expected. Sure, any actress tasked with portraying a lightning rod like Palin is going to get a lot of scrutiny and consideration, and the performance is bound to play up broad elements because, well, Palin can be a broad character.
But Moore hits the deep fissures of fear and mortal terror, emotional overload and, ultimately, unbridled narcissism expertly -- at times, profoundly. It's one of her finest performances. And while I won't say I was brought too far into empathetic territory, I was happy with the textured consideration that really gives you a reason to maintain issue with who Palin is, deep down: an egomaniac.
The actor reflects on the hot button medium following his recent experience
Disney’s “John Carter” opened this weekend and, thus far, seems to be maintaining a slightly stronger presence at the box office than was originally anticipated. Andrew Stanton's film won Friday night with $9.8 million, though Universal’s “The Lorax” is predicted to overtake it by today’s end.
Adapted from Edgar Rice Burroughs's “A Princess of Mars” (initially published in 1917), the first in the author's sci-fi/fantasy series about the planet “Barsoom” (Mars), the film follows an embittered Civil War veteran on his unlikely journey to the planet, where he is, once again, drafted into a conflict not of his making.
Established character actor Willem Dafoe signed on to don a performance capture suit and stilts in order to portray Tars Tarkas (the 9-foot-tall leader of the alien warrior race the Tharks) in the film after having worked with helmer Stanton on “Finding Nemo” and was intrigued by the idea of doing something he had never done, or seen, previously.
The home town contributed 25% of last weekend's overall gross
Here's a box office story antidote to all those depressing sentiments regarding the $100 million write-off that is "John Carter."
As Austin's South by Southwest Film Festival forges ahead this week, it's worth remembering that last month's Oscar-winning documentary feature, "Undefeated," started it's long journey there almost exactly a year ago. Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin's inspirational look at an embattled high school football program bowed at the fest on March 13 of last year, was later acquired by The Weinstein Company, and finally saw a theatrical release on February 17, just a week before the Academy Awards.
However, it wasn't until March 2, last weekend, that it finally found its way to Memphis, Tennessee, the film's setting, as it splashed onto a screen at the Malco Paradiso Theatre. And what a splash it made.
The film opens today
Well, the blockbuster movie season is upon us. Though I guess it's left to be seen how many blocks "John Carter" will really bust. I haven't seen the film yet, so I have nothing to offer. I've heard some good things but mostly I've been warned off a few dozen times. I'll saddle up to it in due time, but for now, I imagine many of you will be hitting the multiplex this weekend to have a look for yourselves. When/if you do, head on back here and give us your take.
It'll be the director's first film to premiere on the Croisette
The Cannes Film Festival has a reputation for choosing slight-to-major disappointments for its opening night -- think back on such flat party-starters as "Robin Hood," "Blindness," "My Blueberry Nights," "The Da Vinci Code" and "Hollywood Ending," if indeed you care to remember them at all. But the odds have improved lately: two recent Cannes curtain-raisers (and eventual Best Picture nominees), "Up" and "Midnight in Paris," salvaged the slot's reputation sufficiently that the news of a major auteur's latest opening this year's fest needn't sound alarm bells.
That auteur, as most Cannes-watchers correctly speculated, is Wes Anderson, whose "Moonrise Kingdom" was confirmed yesterday as the film that will kick things off on May 16. Given that the film is opening in French theaters on the very same day -- and in the US only nine days later -- it was an inevitable choice, though it's worth noting that this is Anderson's first film to play the Croisette. (His last live-action feature, 2007's "The Darjeeling Limited," premiered at Venice, marking his European-major debut.)