Greetings and welcome back to the Weekend Warrior, your weekly guide to the weekend's new movies. Tune in every Tuesday for the latest look at the upcoming weekend, and then check back on Thursday night for final projections based on actual theater counts.
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Updated Predictions and Comparisons
UPDATE: We're expecting both new movies to cover a little more ground this weekend which might give Step Up
a slight edge to beat Inception
this weekend but it will be close. The crime drama Middle Men
(Paramount) and Joel Schumacher's Twelve
(Hannover House) are both opening in over 200 theaters but we don't expect either one to crack the Top 10 this weekend. We'll give the former the edge to come closer to cracking a million this weekend, while Schumacher's movie will probably end up with less than half that.
1. The Other Guys
(Sony) - $37.3 million N/A (Up 1.7 million)
2. Step Up 3D
(Disney) - $18.4 million N/A (up .9 million and one spot)
(Warner Bros.) - $18.2 million -34%
4. Dinner for Schmucks
(Paramount) - $12.4 million -47%
(Sony) - $11.1 million -43%
6. Despicable Me
(Universal) - $10.4 million -34%
7. Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore
(Warner Bros.) - $7.0 million -43%
8. Charlie St. Cloud
(Universal) - $5.8 million -53%
9. Toy Story 3
(Disney/Pixar) - $3.2 million -38%
10. Grown Ups
(Sony) - $2.5 million -43%
It's August, the last month of the summer movie season and the last chance for studios to make a mark before the fall movie season slows things down at the movies.
Almost exactly four years ago, Will Ferrell and his long time friend and collaborator, director Adam McKay, had one of their biggest hits, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
, and now they're back with their fourth movie together, The Other Guys
(Sony), this one a New York-based police action-comedy co-starring Mark Wahlberg, Michael Keaton, Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson. While the (relative) success of last week's Dinner for Schmucks
bodes well for moviegoers' desire for comedy, this one seems like more of a slam dunk due to the love moviegoers have for Ferrell's previous movies directed by McKay, and the promise of action, which should bring in a decidedly male audience from teens to 20-somethings. Working against it is that the police buddy comedy is somewhat of a dead genre and a good number of moviegoers may be tired of Will Ferrell's schtick, two things that are likely to keep the movie from opening to Talladega Nights
(or Bad Boys II
) numbers, though it should still open decently due to lack of direct competition before being crushed by next week's offerings.
Acting as counter-programming by targeting younger women and the urban audience is the third installment in Disney's successful dance franchise, Step Up 3D
, once again switching to other characters whose lives are caught up in the world of dance, this one being more in the vein of movies like You Got Served
. With a strong built-in fanbase from the previous movies, it should open decently despite a moderate theater count--a good percentage of them being 3D and thereby, getting more money per ticket--but it's likely to be battling against Christopher Nolan's unstoppable Inception
for second place.
Last year August kicked off with Stephen Sommers' G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
(Paramount), the first live action movie based on the Hasbro action figures and related cartoons/comics, which raked in $54.7 its opening weekend. Offered as counter-programming was the bio-comedy Julie & Julia
(Sony) starring Meryl Streep, Amy Adams and Stanley Tucci, which took in just $20 million, but had huge legs ultimately grossing $94 million and getting Meryl Streep her 5000th Academy Award nomination. Pitch Black
director David Twohy returned with the vacation thriller A Perfect Getaway
(Rogue Pictures) starring Tim Olyphant and Milla Jovovich, but it had a disappointing opening with less than $6 million in seventh place. The Top 10 grossed $125 million and unless one of the two movies really breaks out, this may be a weekend down from the last.
THE BATTLE CRY
This year's San Diego Comic-Con has been and gone and we greatly appreciate everyone putting up with last week's minimal column as we tried to catch our breath and catch-up. With a week to let the experience gestate, it's time to look back at this year's winners and losers. And when we say "winners" and "losers," it's something rather subjective that has everything to do with how the convention was used in terms of marketing and which studios benefited the most from it.
Having been to Comic-Con back in the '90s when it was still about comic books first and foremost and having watched it evolve into a place where all pop culture and especially geek culture is held to the highest esteem, the annual convention has essentially grown to the point where it's impossible for one person to possibly cover all of it without the powers of Jamie Maddrox. Now mind you, this year I didn't exactly try to be everywhere at once and was very selective about what I covered and what was assigned to other writers, but it's not hard to read the buzz in the air when things worked or didn't work, and really there were very few highlights that everyone can agree upon.
The key thing to realize is that Comic-Con in its current guise is all about marketing. There is very little that takes place at Comic-Con that doesn't have at least something to do with marketing. Even the comic book related stuff--the booths, the panels, etc--it's all about letting people know there are new books down the road the companies want people to buy and read. Sure, some of it is about connecting the fans to the creators, as is the case with many of the television panels--for instance, HBO certainly doesn't NEED to promote "True Blood" because the show is already quite huge. But it's really hard to be anywhere in San Diego during the four-and-a-half days of Comic-Con without someone telling you something, handing you something or showing you something in regards to something they want to sell you.
Of course, most of our time was focused on the movies being touted at Comic-Con, and Hall H was the place to be almost every day if you were a movie buff.
The one true winner of the weekend (at least on paper) had to be Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
, out next week, which couldn't have been more pervasive unless the Universal marketing department had snuck into people's dreams and planted the idea that they want to see the movie more than anything else this summer. Besides having a "secret" sneak preview premiere, Universal plastered a prominent hotel with the poster for the movie and then took over the courtyard of another hotel to create the "Scott Pilgrim Experience" where just about anyone--whether they were attending Comic-Con or not--could stand in line for custom T-shirts, flipbooks and lots of other cool stuff. The whole event was just a stroke of genius, especially because it wasn't limited to the 6,400 people who could get into Hall H or to the 125,000 people at the convention alone, but pretty much anyone in San Diego who happened to come down to that area would know that this movie was coming. The fact that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
is based on a series of graphic novels whose popularity has grown in recent years certainly made Comic-Con the perfect place for such an event to take place and next week, we'll be able to see if it pays off for Universal.
Another winner was Jon Favreau's Cowboys & Aliens
, which probably was already a no-brainer follow-up for the "Iron Man" director, but given how well he's used Comic-Con to pump up audiences for the "Iron Man" movies, it made perfect sense he would bring footage from the movie. Not only that, but he also brought the legendary Harrison Ford, whose involvement in the "Star Wars" movies paved the way for geekfests like Comic-Con. We couldn't get into Hall H for it, but we could hear the crowd going wild from outside.
After the TRON: Legacy
panel on Thursday, Disney showed a teaser of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, which probably did a good job reminding people why they loved the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies and set them up for next year's On Stranger Tides
. Being so early in the convention, it may have been forgotten by the time Saturday came around.
Personally, I loved seeing the footage from Jonathan Liebesman's Battle: Los Angeles
, which looks to be a great summer tentpole-like movie being released in March, and I hope that the rest of the movie stands up to the extended trailer shown at Comic-Con.
I was really excited to see the Hall H reaction to Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch
, having had a great look at what the director was up to while he was shooting in Vancouver, and I wasn't disappointed as the wild montage of footage really blew the audience away.
Unfortunately, one of the losers may have been the Green Lantern
panel, only because they had no footage with Ryan Reynolds in costume--possibly due to the backlash to the "Entertainment Weekly" cover earlier that week--and they only showed the teaser once. At least Ryan Reynolds charmed the audience by reciting the Green Lantern oath and he and Geoff Johns revealed some new information about some of the characters that may appear in the movie, which was pretty cool.
It was really obvious how badly it got blown away when Marvel kicked-off their highly-anticipated annual panel with a teaser for Captain America: The First Avenger
and some quickly cut-together footage from the first week of shooting, then they blew that away with some of the first footage from Thor
, then a teaser for The Avengers
with the entire cast in attendance including Robert Downey Jr., something that was kept a big surprise leading up to the day.
The scheduling of programming continues to be a problem, because while Thursday and Saturday had enough big movies to insure there was a long line for Hall H, movies like Drive Angry 3D, Skyline, James Gunn's Super and others suffered on Friday because there just wasn't that much interest. Hall H was generally half full with no line to get in, and that didn't do a lot to create excitement or interest in any of those movies, which is a shame 'cause there was some good stuff. Skyline looks intriguing and Drive Angry 3D looks like it could be a cool violent action thriller. Even so, it's obvious that some of the more popular television shows presented at Comic-Con that had consistently huge lines probably could have swapped locations and benefited from being in Hall H. It used to be that smaller movie presentations were done in smaller halls on Thursday or Sunday but this year's decision to put all of them in Hall H might not have been a wise move.
I also enjoyed seeing the return of Miramax, which was declared dead last December, but are slowly starting to schedule the release of some of their completed films. (Sadly, a lot of the great people who worked so hard to keep the company alive after the Weinsteins' departure wouldn't be around to see it.) The one movie that really got my attention was Troy Nixey's remake of Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, co-written and produced by Guillermo del Toro, which looks very much like the kind of movies we've seen from the Mexican-born master filmmaker.
I was also impressed with parties thrown by Paramount for Jackass 3D and 20th Century Fox for Machete, which probably helped raise awareness for both projects. Some of the movies that just couldn't get people exited included Lionsgate's The Expendables - don't know a single person who attended the panel and there was just too much going on Thursday night for many journos to be at the party. I also heard word that not a lot of people hung around to see the footage from Michel Gondry's The Green Hornet, part of the Sony panel on Friday, though many showed up to see Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg goof around for The Other Guys. That's a little disconcerting considering how much money Sony has put into the movie and being that it should have been a slamdunk with Seth Rogen and Christoph Waltz in attendance.
This year, I started to get a bit more cynical about the Q&A portion of the movie presentation as it's gotten to the point where they seem very generic, like you can pretty much put any movie in Hall H and the questions and answer will generally be exactly the same. As someone who doesn't even like doing press conferences and roundtables, it was hard sitting through some of the panels beyond seeing the great footage.
One odd thing was that I was getting recognized a lot more this year at parties, which might not seem that weird except that this was the first Comic-Con I was at in 13 years where I had long hair and a beard. Some of them may have seen me on the "Masters of the Web" panel thrown by AMC Entertainment, but it certainly was weird on Friday night to be getting into all the parties while a lot cooler people were waiting outside in line.
A few things I missed which I was kinda bummed about include a first look at James Gunn's Super, first footage from the new Simon Pegg-Nick Frost comedy Paul directed by Greg (Superbad) Motolla--I went off to do interviews and couldn't get back into Hall H on Saturday!--and Jon Favreau's Cowboys & Aliens.
But otherwise, it was a generally satisfying Comic-Con, not just because I did finally get to see some footage for stuff I'd been looking forward to, but also got a look at a couple of movies that weren't on my radar that may be better than they sound on paper. As always, we'll be interested to see how having a presence at Comic-Con will help create buzz or anticipation for a movie and how that translates to box office.
The Other Guys (Sony)
Starring Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Eva Mendes, Michael Keaton, Steve Coogan, Ray Stevenson, Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson, Rob Riggle, Damon Wayans Jr.
Written and directed by Adam McKay (Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers) with Chris Henchy
Genre: Comedy, Action
Plot Summary: When the city's top cops Danson and Manzetti (Dwayne Johnson and Samuel L. Jackson) are taken out of commission, desk jockey Detective Allen Gamble (Will Ferrell) and his unlucky partner Terry Hoitz (Mark Wahlberg) have to step up and solve a crime that they're clearly not prepared for.
Mini-Review: If you think (or have hoped) you've seen the last of the buddy cop action-comedy genre, you might want to hold that thought, at least to see what Will Ferrell and his long-time collaborator Adam McKay do when they get their hands on it.
The movie follows two detectives from a busy Manhattan precinct who have been assigned to desk jockey jobs. While Mark Walhberg's Hoitz wants nothing more than to be on the streets fighting crime, his partner Ferrell's Gamble is more content remaining in a place that's safe and quiet. When the city's top risk-taking cops, played with suitable bravado by Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson, are no longer available, it leaves a gap open for other city police officers to fill their shoes. Instead of being about fighting terrorists or drugdealers or gangs, "The Other Guys" takes place in the world of financial crime, which allows for a more intelligent and relevant modern take on the police comedy than we've maybe ever seen. Surprisingly, Ferrell doesn't turn this into a one-man show where he's constantly eating up scenery, instead being generous enough to allow every other actor around him to have their moments, especially Wahlberg who's able to hold his own and proves himself to be able to make some of Ferrell's schtick even funnier with his reactions. On paper, one might not think this pairing would work, but it proves to be one that keeps you well invested in their story.
An even bigger surprise than how funny Wahlberg can be is seeing Michael Keaton enter the FerrellMcKayVerse without batting an eye and being spot-on with his ability to make every scene funnier with his ad-libs and expressions. Similarly, Rob Riggle and Damon Wayans Jr. are allowed to run rampant on the improv, maybe taking it a little too far at times even as they're getting in many good jabs in at Hoitz and Gamble's expense. There are a couple of really funny scenes where Eva Mendes gets to play up the fact she's obviously way out of Ferrell's league, and an even funnier bit involving her mother later in the movie. Steve Coogan has had better roles than playing the CEO who lost billions whom everyone wants to get their hands on, made more apparent by the fact some of the cameo performers like Bobby Canavale get more laughs with just a line or two.
As would be expected, there are a ton of funny gags and once in a while, the movie veers into a sort of "kitchen sink" craziness that makes it even more entertaining. There's a bit of backstory to Gamble's character that's a bit silly and Ferrell plays it out, taking it maybe a little too far to be funny. Other examples include a rather random slo-mo rap video montage of Hoitz and Gamble out drinking and the creation of a new type of sex orgy involving homeless people inside Gambel's stolen then abandoned car. As funny as McKay's more visual ideas are, it does make the movie uneven at times, unsure how far to take the humor while trying to maintain an air of being set in the real world. This is something made more obvious by the odd political bent McKay takes with the end credits, serious animated graphics ala "An Inconvenient Truth" that dissects some of the bigger financial crimes of the last few years.
The movie's biggest achievement is not ruining all the funniest jokes with the commercials and trailers; in fact, they may not even give an accurate idea how truly funny the movie really is. Either way, while "The Other Guys" may not resonate as soundly as "Step Brothers" or be as quotable as "Anchorman," it's certainly another one chalked up in the "win" column for Ferrell and McKay. Rating: 7.5/10
Certainly, no summer could possibly come to an end without Will Ferrell popping up with at least one comedy, and this summer's offering bodes well for the comic actor, being that it's his fourth movie with long-time collaborator and partner Adam McKay, who has directed two of Ferrell's biggest hits and helped create some of Ferrell's most memorable characters like Ron Burgundy from Anchorman and Ricky Bobby for Talladega Nights. This time, they've decided to tackle their own version of the buddy cop comedy, a genre that's lead to a number of huge franchises including Eddie Murphy's "Beverly Hills Cop" movies, the "Lethal Weapon" series, Will Smith and Martin Lawrence's Bad Boys and Brett Ratner's "Rush Hour" movies. In recent years, the genre hasn't been as lucrative as in the '90s, the most recent example of the genre being Kevin Smith's Cop Out, teaming Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan, which opened with $18 million and $45 million total earlier this year. That's not a good sign that moviegoers still want to see this type of comedy, although one expects Ferrell has a bigger fanbase than either Willis or Morgan at this point.
That said, Will Ferrell is in a strange place in his career, because for every $100 million hit, he has two to three disappointments and a few outright bombs. If you just look at the movies made with McKay, that would be Anchorman ($84 million gross), Talladega Nights ($148 million) and Step Brothers ($100 million). It's hard to tell exactly why the movies in between: The Producers, Semi-Pro and Land of the Lost, ranging from $19 to $49 million gross, didn't do nearly as well, except there has been a lot of talk in recent years about whether Ferrell is funny anymore or whether he's just doing the same thing over and over in a different setting (or sport). One thing that certainly seems to be a common factor is that Sony knows how to better market a Will Ferrell comedy than other studios, and that putting Ferrell into any movie based on another property (i.e. a television remake or musical) is just asking for trouble. Ferrell's character in The Other Guys is a little less crazed than some of his more outlandish characters, that's for sure, but he also seems to deliberately be toning down his humor, which means Sony doesn't have that much to work with in terms of jokes for the trailers/commercials.
What Ferrell does have this time around is a solid co-star in Mark Wahlberg, who is not really known for doing comedy, though earlier this year, he stole a number of scenes in the Steve Carell-Tina Fey comedy Date Night. Wahlberg has done quite a few police dramas over the years, most notably Martin Scorsese's The Departed, for which he got an Oscar nomination, and James Gray's We Own the Night. The key is that Wahlberg does a lot more serious dramatic roles, which means he'll bring another layer to the humor, likely playing the straight man. The movie also stars Eva Mendes, who has done comedy in the past, most notably Hitch with Will Smith, and she's been doing the talk show rounds for the movie as has Michael Keaton, who is doing comedy for the first time in many years. There's also some bonus starpower from the likes of Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson, who have smaller roles, although they'll certainly help with the urban audiences that normally dig action-comedies.
It's certainly going to appeal more towards younger guys than to women, which means it's not as four-quadrant as something like Step Brothers, which played on a far more mainstream premise about dysfunctional family relations. There's certainly room for a movie for guys to do well in theaters with Christopher Nolan's Inception having been out for weeks, and the police genre may bring in a different audience than Ferrell normally brings in.
The Other Guys may be Ferrell and McKay's biggest budget movie since Talladega Nights and it's opening the same early August weekend (as well as the same weekend as the HUGE buddy cop hit Rush Hour 2), and presumably, it's one of the last viable summer weekends where a lot of people are still around before going on vacation in the second half of August. The past few years have seen many huge hits targeted specifically for the guys coming out in August, especially last year with the trifecta of G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra, District 9 and Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, and Sony is hoping that they can get some of those guys this week before aiming for the ladies next week with Julia Roberts' Eat Pray Love.
Sony has been doing their usual amount of mass promotion but they're also releasing the movie into more theaters than either Step Brothers or Talladega Nights. They're also advertising the movie as being "from the director of 'Talladega Nights' and 'Step Brothers'" which will certainly drive home the point that The Other Guys will probably be one of Ferrell's funnier/better comedies, and supposedly, the commercials aren't giving away the funniest jokes. Still, it will be focusing more on the comedy than the action, and in that sense it's more like the buddy comedy Starsky & Hutch starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson--Ferrell had a small uncredited role--as opposed to something to be taken seriously as an action flick.
There are a couple of things working against the movie, mostly the movie's old hat retro genre and Ferrell's fickle audience, and though we do think it will open better than Anchorman and Step Brothers, we just can't see this having the huge opening of Talladega Nights. It's also likely to be hurt by the number of action movies out next week, though if word-of-mouth is good, it could pick up some business in the slower weeks of late-August.
Why I Should See It: Ferrell and McKay have proven themselves to be quite a formidable comedy pairing, and The Other Guys should continue that run.
Why Not: It feels like a step backwards for them to take on the buddy cop genre, which was already played out by the end of the '90s.
Projections: $33 to 36 million opening weekend and roughly $100 million total.
Step Up 3D (Disney)
Starring Adam Sevani, Alyson Stoner, Rick Malambri, Sharni Vinson, Keith "Remedy" Stallworth, Kendra Andrews, Stephen "tWitch" Boss, Joe Slaughter
Directed by Jon M. Chu (Step Up 2 the Streets); Written by Amy Andelson and Emily Meyer (debut)
Genre: Dance, Drama
Tagline: "Take the biggest step of all in 3D"
Plot Summary: A group of New York street dancers team-up with NYU freshman Moose (Adam Sevani) to take on the world's greatest breakdancers in a high-stakes showdown battle.
Mini-Review (Coming Soon!)
With the summer coming to a close, there are going to be a few last ditch attempts to get young people into theaters, and really, the only thing this dance movie threequel has going for it is that it has a name in common with two successful previous installments and the promise of being the first 3D dance movie... that is, if you don't include the movie StreetDance 3D, which opened over two months ago in the UK but not the United States.
Ever since John Travolta donned a white suit in Saturday Night Fever in 1977, moviegoing audiences have enjoyed watching the latest dance moves on screen, though the dawn of the modern dance movie probably didn't kick off until 2001 when Julia Styles starred in Save the Last Dance, followed by Jessica Alba's early movie Honey. Things really exploded with movies like You Got Served and Stomp the Yard which both opened big despite low theater counts by bringing in urban audiences. The fact is that kids are the ones going to clubs and school dances so they're usually the ones open to learning new moves, and these types of movies don't just bring in girls but also younger guys looking to woo them by taking them to see a dance movie on a date. (One assumes this is normally the case when they can't dance themselves.)
Amidst all the dance movie frenzy, Disney got into the game with their own movie Step Up, which opened in August roughly four years ago. It introduced most of the world to Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan, who got so caught up in the movie's romantic storyline that they eventually got engaged and then married themselves. Tatum appeared briefly in the sequel Step Up 2 the Streets, which opened over Presidents' Day weekend a few years later, but it switched gears to deal with another set of dancing characters, yet it still did decently, grossing $58 million compared to the $65 million of its predecessor. Similarly, Step Up 3D deals with another set of mostly new characters--Adam Sevani's Moose is back--played by actors few people will know by name. Alyson Stoner is a long time Disney Channel vet who appeared on shows like "That's So Raven" and "The Suite Life with Zack and Cody," but the real leads are newcomers Rick Malambri and Shari Vinson. Director Jon Chu, who is also the director of the webseries "LXD" ("League of Extraordinary Dancers," get it?), is back for the threequel, this time shooting the movie in 3D.
The thing is that other than the first Step Up, few of these movies really are cashing in based on who is directing or appearing in them but more about the music and the eye candy of getting some crazy dance moves on screen. Step Up 3D had the added benefits of that third dimension which allows theaters to charge more money per ticket, and one assumes that those who enjoyed the first two movies won't mind paying extra to see if the dancing benefits from the 3D. (Just for reference, the first Step Up movie rated 6.1 on IMDb, while its follow-up rated 5.6, both fairly decently for movies that could be considered disposable entertainment.)
While the 3D craze certainly has dried up this summer due to the weak 3D conversion movies, Step Up 3D was shot in 3D and it's likely fans of dance movies will be curious to see the wild dance movies pop off the screen even if the story seems so far removed from the original Channing Tatum-Jenna Dewan movie that won over so many teen and older girls.
With the added price of 3D tickets, there's little reason why this threequel shouldn't open decently, and do at least as well as the sequel, especially with weaker August movies in the weeks to come, although there's a good chance the third movie will be more of a one-week wonder as the hangers-on still interested in the franchise rush out to see it opening weekend.
Why I Should See It: One can probably expect lots of crazy dance moves that should look amazing in 3D.
Why Not: Can't one just go to a dance club and see the same thing? (I'm guessing, I haven't been to a dance club in decades.)
Projections: $17 to 19 million opening weekend and roughly $55 million total.
THE CHOSEN ONE:
The Disappearance of Alice Creed (Anchor Bay)
Starring Gemma Arterton, Eddie Marsan, Martin Compston
Written and directed by J. Blakeson (directorial debut)
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Plot Summary: Two ex-convicts (Eddie Marsan, Martin Compson) kidnap a young socialite named Alice Creed (Gemma Arterton), planning everything down to the smallest detail but not realizing that she might not allow herself to be kidnapped so easily, as each of the three starts playing manipulative mindgames with the other two.
Interview with J. Blakeson
Interview with Gemma Arterton
My thoughts from Toronto
As you can tell from the link preceding this, I first saw this movie at last year's Toronto Film Festival. It was kind of a last minute decision that led to one of the nicest surprises of the festival. Saw it again when it played at Tribeca earlier this year and have now seen it a third time, which is something I don't do very often. The nature of this brilliant crime-thriller from first-time director J. Blakeson makes it the type of movie that can be watched multiple times with a similar effect but also providing new information with each viewing. To be honest, it's not the type of thing you expect from a relatively inexperienced filmmaker.
From the opening scene--which you can watch here--of two men silently preparing for a kidnapping down to the minutest detail through the course of every twist thrown at them from the moment they tie their captive to a bed in a deserted flat, Blakeson takes a fairly simple crime-thriller premise, a kidnapping, deconstructs it and puts it back together to become as much about the psychology of the victim as it is about the kidnapping. While "Alice Creed" starts like some sort of depraved male power fantasy about putting a rich sexy socialite in bondage, it doesn't take long for it to show its true colors as a female empowerment movie.
Not wanting to give too much away makes it difficult to talk at length about specific things that make the film so special, but the fact a movie can be so captivating with the minimal of locations and just three actors--we don't see a single other person in the movie, not even an extra!--is a testament to Blakeson's skills as well as theirs.
Without a question, the movie wouldn't work so well if not for the performances, especially that of Gemma Arterton as Alice Creed, a role that doesn't just require a lot of kicking, screaming and crying but also the ability to really turn things around and be strong enough to take on her captors. It's quite daring not just due to the nudity and the emotional rigors of the role, but also because like with Blakeson, it's the type of performance you normally might expect from a much more experienced actress. There's obviously a lot more to Arterton than we've been able to see from her fluffier previous roles, and that's par for the course on a movie that constantly shocks and surprises you.
I've been a fan of British character actor Eddie Marsan for years and have been absolutely thrilled he's been getting more recognition as he moves into leading roles. In this, he plays Vic, the more domineering of the two kidnappers, who is clearly in charge of the operation and won't put up with any mistakes in this job. It's a great follow-up to his character in Mike Leigh's Happy Go Lucky, because it takes him further away from the timid and meek characters he has played so often in the past. I wasn't even remotely familiar with Martin Compson before seeing this movie, but there's no question he may have the toughest role as he's caught in the middle of these two huge dramatic forces. The way the relationship between these three characters evolves over the 24 hours as we learn more about them and them about each other is how this relatively simple plot maintains our interest, as each of them tries to get the upper hand in the precarious situation.
Without a question, J. Blakeson is one of the most talented new directors we've encountered this year. Along with Australia's Nash Edgerton (director of The Square) and David Mich˘d (director of next week's "Chosen One" Animal Kingdom), we may be witnessing a Renaissance of indie filmmakers looking to turn the crime genre on its ear by focusing as much on characters as plot. It certainly will be interesting to see what these filmmakers do next, and "Alice Creed" is a fantastic calling card for Blakeson that should guarantee him work in the future, because being able to make so much out of so little is an incredibly valuable asset as a filmmaker.
The Disappearance of Alice Creed opens in select cities on Friday.
Lebanon (Sony Pictures Classics)
Starring Yoav Donat, Michael Moshonov, Zohar Shtrauss, Dudu Tassa, Itay Tiran
Written and directed by Samuel Maoz
Genre: Drama, War, Thriller
Plot Summary: In June 1982, on the start of the first Lebanon War, a group of rookie soldiers in a tank are dispatched to a hostile town, a mission that turns into a nightmare as the members of the crew find themselves in a situation they're not sure whether they can survive.
Interview with Samuel Maoz
Mini-Review (Coming Soon!)
Also in Limited Release:
Two studio movies open in limited release this weekend with plans to expand wide later in the summer.
Rob Reiner's romantic drama Flipped (Warner Bros.) follows the relationship between two second graders, Bryce and Juli, played by Callan McAuliffe and Madeline Carroll, through their junior high years as they fight off the inevitable romance growing between them. It opens in Los Angeles, Austin and Sacramento on Friday and then wide on August 27.
Luke Wilson and Giovanni Ribisi star in George Gallo's crime-drama Middle Men (Paramount) about the men who first discovered how much money could be made from putting porn on the internet and charging people for it. It opens in 200 theaters in New York, LA, San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas, Austin and Seattle with a nationwide rollout on August 20.
Review (Coming Soon!)
Patricia Clarkson and Alexander Siddig star in Rubba Nadda's romantic drama Cairo Time (IFC Films) about a fashion editor named Juliette who travels to Cairo to meet her husband for a three-week vacation but when he's delayed, she ends up spending time with his friend Tareq and as they see the sites and sounds of the city, Juliette finds herself become attracted to her husband's friend. It opens in New York at the IFC Center.
Joel Schumacher's controversial Sundance drama Twelve (Hannover House), based on the novel by Nick McDonnell, stars Chase Crawford ("Gossip Girl") as White Mike, a high school dropout who becomes a successful drug dealer on the Upper East Side, selling to kids back from boarding school. Mike gets pulled further into the drug trade while trying to keep the truth a secret from his friend Molly (Emma Roberts). It opens in select cities on Friday.
Anthony Geffen's documentary The Wildest Dream: Conquest of Everest (National Geographic Films) about the death of George Mallory on Mount Everest back in 1924 and what really happened after his body was discovered 75 years later by mountaineer Conrad Anker, who then returned to Everest to try to recreate Mallory's expedition. Narrated by Liam Neeson, Hugh Dancy, Ralph Fiennes, Alan Rickman and the late Natasha Richardson, the film opens in select cities on Friday.
Marco Amenta's crime drama The Sicilian Girl (Music Box Films), is based on the true story of Rita Atria, a 17--year-old girl who breaks the Mafia's code of silence to testify against the family business after her father and brother were murdered by rivals. It opens at the Film Forum on Wednesday.
Elijah Wood and John Hurt star in ┴lex de la Iglesia's crime thriller The Oxford Murders (Magnolia Pictures) based on the novel by Guillermo Martinez about two men, a student and a professor, who find the body of a viciously murdered old woman and realize that it's the start of a series of murders that only the two of them can solve. It opens in Portland at the Living Room Theaters on Friday and then in San Francisco at the Opera Plaza Cinemas 4 on August 13.
Next week, the month of August continues with one of the fiercest battles of the summer as Edgar Wright's
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Universal) starring Michael Cera tries to take on the overwhelming starpower in Sylvester Stallone's action flick The Expendables (Lionsgate), co-starring the likes of Jet Li, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren and more, and Julia Roberts is starring in the adaptation of the bestselling novel Eat Pray Love (Sony).
Copyright 2010 Edward Douglas