The Weekend Warrior

The Weekend Warrior: August 5 - 7

Source: Edward Douglas
August 2, 2011

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 theatre counts.

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Updated Predictions and Comparisons -

UPDATE: Not much to say except that we're holding the line on our prediction for "Apes" even though it's probably the highest prediction out there this week. The overwhelmingly positive reviews should help convince anyone who was doubtful that it's worth seeing, which should help make it a first choice on Friday. We've been going back and forth on whether The Change-Up might succeed but it's essentially going to be fighting for third against Cowboys and Aliens rather than giving The Smurfs much of a run for the kid/family audience that really has few other choices in theaters.

1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox) - $47.6 million N/A (down .2 million)

2. The Smurfs (Sony) - $22.0 million -38% (up .3 million)

3. Cowboys & Aliens (DreamWorks/Universal) - $17.6 million -52% (up .1 million and 1 spot)

4. The Change-Up (Universal) - $17.4 million N/A (down .8 million and 1 spot)

5. Captain America: the First Avengers (Marvel/Paramount) - $13.0 million -49% (up .3 million)

6. Crazy, Stupid, Love. (Warner Bros.) - $12.0 million -38% (same)

7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 (Warner Bros.) - $10.5 million -52% (down .3 million)

8. Friends With Benefits (Screen Gems/Sony) - $4.8 million -48% (same)

9. Horrible Bosses (New Line/WB) - $4.2 million -40% (down .3 million)

10. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Paramount) - $3.0 million -52% (down .4 million)

Weekend Overview

The last month of summer kicks off with two fairly high concept movies, one linked to a famous movie franchise of the '70s, the other a comedy teaming two burgeoning stars who have both done their fair share of hit comedies.

With solid brand name value from the popular franchise of the '70s and a very different CG-driven take on the concept, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox), starring James Franco and Freida Pinto, hopes to offer a new take on the prequel to the '70s classic Planet of the Apes. With Andy Serkis and others doing performance capture to play the apes combined with groundbreaking computer-generated apes by Weta FX ("The Lord of the Rings"), it's a film that's created just as much interest as it has concern among fans of the earlier movies. The generally slower box office and pushback against sequels and remakes might keep the movie from the type of opening it might have done, say, three or four years ago, but it should still be able to bring a significant number of guys from 15 to 40 and older due to the connections to the sci-fi classics and due to a strong marketing campaign that focuses on the "apes attack" action. It's basically going to win the weekend with an opening between $45 and 50 million, though it will have to get good word-of-mouth to stay afloat the weekly releases of movies looking for the same genre audience.

Also opening this weekend and trying to get business away from the high-profile action-thriller is something like the sixth or seventh R-rated comedy this summer, The Change-Up (Universal) with Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman switching bodies for comedic results. This sort of high-concept comedy is usually relegated to PG family films so it's definitely something different trying to do it in an R-rated context. One would assume the movie would appeal mostly to 20-to-30 something guys, who will be just as interested in the Apes, but will women come to see the funny actors? Or is everyone tired of R-rated comedy after so many big hits this summer? We think this one might struggle its opening weekend but potentially bring in some word-of-mouth business because it does deliver some strong laughs.

This week's "Chosen One" is Alex Gibney and Alison Ellwood's documentary Magic Trip (Magnolia) about Ken Kesey and his 1964 road trip with the "Merry Band of Pranksters," which you can read more about below.

Last August kicked off with the Will Ferrell-Mark Wahlberg action-comedy The Other Guys (Sony), which kicked Christopher Nolan's Inception out of its roost in the top spot to take #1 with $35.5 million. Opening in third place (behind Inception with $18.5 million) was the 3D threequel Step Up 3D (Disney) with $15. 8 million in 2,435 theaters. The Top 10 grossed $118 million, a number which shouldn't be too hard to beat with Rise of the Planet of the Apes doing better than The Other Guys.



Rise of the Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox)
Starring James Franco, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo, Andy Serkis
Directed by Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist); Written by Amanda Silver, Rick Jaffa
Genre: Action, Thriller
Rated PG-13
Tagline: "Evolution Ends, Revolution Begins"
Plot Summary: Scientist Will Roadman (James Franco) has been working on a cure for Alzheimers in hopes of saving his father (John Lithgow) and he's been doing experiments for a smart drug on a chimp named Caesar (played by Andy Serkis... honestly!). When his boss shuts down the experiment, Caesar is sent to a primate reserve where his intelligence is used to form a revolution among the apes to escape and fight back against the human oppressors. Damn, dirty CG apes.

Mini-Review No one likes to see their favorite movies poked and prodded in order to remake them for modern audiences, maybe because it's been done so much and so poorly in recent years it's hard to imagine anyone, let alone a relatively unknown director such as Rupert Wyatt, can succeed where more experienced directors have failed. That's one of the reasons why this prequel to the 1968 sci-fi thriller "Planet of the Apes" is such a pleasant late summer surprise, because whatever expectations you're likely to have going in, there's a good chance this movie will surpass them.

As the movie opens, James Franco's Will Rodman is developing a smart drug to try to cure Alzheimer's, which his father (John Lithgow) suffers from, and after the first experiment on a female ape goes wrong, he discovers the ape's progeny has also picked up some of her traits. He takes the young chimp renamed "Caesar" home and over the years, Caesar picks up more and more as Will starts trying out his drug on his father. As we've seen with James March's recent doc "Project Nim," there's only so long you can keep a chimpanzee as a pet before they start acting like the wild animal they are. An incident between Caesar gets him sent to a primate reserve where he's subjected to abuse while trying to interact with his own kind for the first time.

It's a similar classic slow-build origin story that's become so popular in recent years, but every story element, character or plot twist is introduced in a way that adds up to create true motivation for what happens later in the movie. In this case, it's not the apes who are the antagonists, as much as it is the combination of corporate greed and animal cruelty that ultimately forces them to rise up against their "masters."

Serkis is so good performing as Caesar that he easily shows up the human characters, maybe since he's much more emotive than the actors playing them, whether he's portraying the younger and more playful Caesar or showing his transition to the angry militant leader. Franco is a little stiff but never as bad as we've seen him before even though he's mostly acting opposite a guy in a sensor suit. Although the focus always remains on Caesar and his perspective, there are a number of great supporting characters both who help him and stir up his desire to revolt with the likes of Brian Cox and up 'n' coming Tyler Labine making the most out of their roles. Tom Felton and David Oyelowo end up taking the main antagonist roles, and Freida Pinto is easily the weakest link - the Katie Holmes in "Batman Begins" if you choose to use that analogy. Even in some of the less inspired moments, it still ends up being a film filled with real human emotion and dramatic weight, far more than we normally see in a "summer movie." Patrick Doyle's terrific score does a fine job embellishing it, yet you can tell that Wyatt has done well enough that the scenes would work without it.

The true brilliance of the film comes from the contributions by Wyatt's collaboration with Weta Digital, and once you realize that Caesar and every single ape in the movie is constructed entirely from CG and performed by an actor, it's an even more amazing achievement. Every single frame of the film looks fantastic as Wyatt takes full advantage of the city of Vancouver from the forests to the bridge to the architecture. There are a few noticeably wonky bits of CG but considering how much of the movie is CG, the one or two clunky bits are rare compared to the visual moments that really leaves your jaw agape.

Once the apes escape from the primate shelter, the last act of them laying siege to the city delivers a terrific payoff, and fans of the series should appreciate some of the subtle references to the original movie including a possible hint of where things might go next.

Fox doesn't exactly have a great track record for rebooting franchises, so for "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" to come out the same summer as "X-Men: First Class" really shows the studio is ready to change fanboys' perceptions of them as a studio who only f*ck up beloved franchises. Bottom line is that "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" is up there with some of the best franchise reboots from "Star Trek" to "Batman Begins" and "Casino Royale," and anyone seeing it, whether they're a fan of the previous movies or not, will leave it hoping it does well enough to warrant more.

Rating: 8.5/10

Analysis:

The attempt to reboot, remake and "prequelize" every possible franchise continues with this innovative take on the '70s franchise that had actors walking around in monkey costumes behaving as if they were doing Shakespeare. The first movie starring Charlton Heston was released in 1968 and it's long been considered a classic in science-fiction and action, leading to four more movies in the '70s, which showed diminishing returns in quality and box office. It led to both live action and animated television series following the release of the fifth movie Battle for Planet of the Apes.

And then the franchise lay dormant for quite some time until in 2001, Tim Burton tackled a remake of Planet of the Apes with Mark Wahlberg. Burton had already established himself with two "Batman" movies that were incredibly successful and a few more esoteric movies after that but taking on such a beloved classic was a huge deal and it was one of the big event movies of that summer with a fantastic opening (for that year) of $68 million. Even though it ended up grossing roughly $360 million worldwide, the movie was not exactly loved with many fans being disappointed with some of the choices, and then it once again lay dormant.

Now, 20th Century Fox are ready to try to revive the franchise with a prequel that takes a different approach to the way the apes were brought to life in past movies and the show using make-up and costumes. They're also tackling the reboot in a way that's worked quite well in recent years by creating a new origin story that's meant to act as a prequel to the 1968 movie. So far, that's worked well for James Bond in Casino Royale, Batman with Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins, and J.J. Abrams' Star Trek. Just a few short months back, Fox tried doing it with Matthew Vaughn's X-Men: First Class, which didn't do nearly as well as some of those others even if it was generally liked by critics and fans alike. Helming this reboot prequel is Rupert Wyatt, the British director who made his feature film debut a couple years back with the low-key Sundance film The Escapist, which was also about a prison break of sorts.

The movie certainly has an eclectic cast starting with modern Renaissance man James Franco, whose career began in the '90s with a role on Judd Apatow and Paul Feig's cult show "Freaks and Geeks," which led to his casting in Drew Barrymore's Never Been Kissed. Some might see Franco's big break being cast as Harry Osborn in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man a few years later, and that's led to being cast in the lead for other movies such as Tristan and Isolde and Annapolis, neither which did very well when released within weeks of each other in January 2006. Since then, Franco's career has been up and down, appearing in low-profile indies or making cameos in movies like The Wicker Man, while doing the Spider-Man movies. His real turn came a couple years back when he decided to go back to school, which led to a desire to not just be "an actor." He directed the documentary Saturday Night and took on a recurring role on the soap opera "General Hospital," the latter not something you'd normally see from an actor once they make movies. Last year, he starred in Danny Boyle's 127 Hours, which garnered him an Oscar nomination but only grossed $18 million domestically. His return to comedy in David Gordon Green's Your Highness alongside fellow Oscar nominee Natalie Portman didn't fare well, topping out at $21 million. The thing is that these last two things prove that Franco, regardless of his prominence in the public spotlight, hasn't been able to translate all of his publicity into box office, and that may be why the ads and trailers are focusing more on the CG apes and not so much on the actors.

Franco is joined by actress Freida Pinto, who first made waves in Danny Boyle's Slumdog Millionaire, but hasn't been doing very much since then. Since then she's appeared in films directed by Woody Allen and Julian Schnabel, but this will be her first high-profile wide release since then and it will be followed by Tarsem Singh's Immortals later in the year, so it will be a good barometer to see if she's able to transcend her early breakout film.

A lot of attention is being focused on Andy Serkis, who is once again donning the motion-capture suit to create Caesar, the chimpanzee leader of the apes. This is something Serkis has done quite successfully already, first as Gollum in Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, giving a performance that many thought was worth Oscar accolades, and he followed that by performing the title role in Jackson's remake of King Kong. The cast is rounded out by Tom Felton, Draco Malfoy from the "Harry Potter" movies, Brian Cox and others.

Despite the eclectic casting, the name brand value of "Planet of the Apes" is a better commodity than the star power, which may be why the title has made a number of transitions from "Caesar: Rise of the Apes" to its current title, which references the original movie. 20th Century Fox have done a fine job marketing the movie for the most part slowly showing more and more of the story and doing different television commercials to different demographics. During sports shows, they focus on the bestiality of the apes and their rampage, while during morning talk shows (mostly catering to women), they focus on Caesar as an adorable chimp and his relationship with James Franco. Tricky, huh? Still, it's more likely that men will be interested as they'll be more familiar with the franchise.

Unfortunately, 20th Century Fox have already proven they can botch up what should be a sure thing with last year's Predators and The A-Team, both movies that should have been able to capitalize on the nostalgia of 25 and older males who tend to have the cash to go to movies. While they haven't necessarily turned this into a must-see event movie, they've done a good job generating awareness and get people interested in checking it out, and it's likely to do better than either of those 2010 disappointments.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes should have a solid opening day as the guys who think the photo-realistic CG take on the apes looks cool will go out to see it either at midnight or on Friday and casual moviegoers should immediately know what to expect from seeing the title on the marquee.

Why I Should See It: The CG-generated apes look absolutely brilliant and this really could be a great introduction to a fan-favorite franchise from the '70s.
Why Not: We've seen way too many bad James Franco movies to believe that he's going to be nearly as interesting as the Andy Serkis-performed Caesar.
Projections: $45 to 48 million opening weekend and roughly $130 million total.

COMPARISONS



The Change-Up (Universal)
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin
Directed by David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers, Fred Clause, Shanghai Nights); Written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (The Hangover, Flypaper, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past)
Genre: Comedy
Rated R
Tagline: "Who says men can't change?"
Plot Summary: Childhood friends Mitch and Dave (Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman) have gone in different directions with their lives, Dave getting a good job as a lawyer, getting married and having three kids, while Mitch is an actor who spends his free time smoking pot and slacking off. One night, they're out drinking and suggest they might want each other's lives while peeing in a fountain and the next morning they find themselves in each other's bodies.

Review

Analysis:

Yes, it's another R-rated comedy but it's not the last one of the summer, yet the genre continues to thrive with a number of movies coming very close to crossing the $100 million mark, something that once was a rarity but now is the norm.

This one does have a lot going for it, the main one being the fact that it brings together David Dobkin, the director of Wedding Crashers, the R-rated comedy that grossed $200 million in the summer of 2005, and Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who wrote the original screenplay for The Hangover, which grossed over $250 million a few years back. It also is the first time, at least that we know, that the body-switching comedy premise seen in movies like Freaky Friday, Vice Versa and others has been used in an R-rated context, one that looks at the differences between married and single guys and how the latter might transition into the former when given the responsibility of caring for children. In that sense, it combines a number of '80s premises because in some ways, the idea of a single guy being put into a body of a father having to care for kids is a bit like Michael Keaton in "Mr. Mom."

More important than the concept is that The Change-Up brings together two comic actors who have been paying their dues for years and have certainly slipped if not into the realm of the A-lister, they're at least right on the outskirts, Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds. Bateman is an interesting case because like James Franco, star of this week's other big movie, he started at a very young age on television, except that Bateman spent at least the '90s in relative obscurity before having a huge comeback with movies like Dodgeball and the Ron Howard-produced television series "Arrested Development." Filmmakers like Pete Berg and Jason Reitman have kept Bateman going to the point where he was officially moved into leading man roles in Mike Judge's Extract and The Switch opposite Jennifer Aniston, though neither did particularly well. Even so, Bateman has played a part in a large number of successful movies including Will Smith's Hancock and the ensemble comedy Couples Retreat and he's coming off the enormous comedy hit Horrible Bosses, which is about the pass the $100 million mark, so he's fresh in moviegoers' minds.

Reynolds meanwhile is coming off the rather disappointing showing for his fourth appearance as a superhero in Green Lantern, which has barely made $150 million worldwide, but the good thing is that The Change-Up returns him to comedy which he's generally been most successful with, particularly when paired with Sandra Bullock in 2009's The Proposal. That was Reynolds' second-biggest movie following his introduction as Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which has been rumored to have a spin-off prequel starring Reynolds. Who knows if that might happen with Green Lantern failing? Maybe Warner Bros. won't bother with GL sequels which will make it more likely. Either way, Reynolds certainly is known and the fact he's back doing comedy, something he does so well, will certainly be a draw for the movie, as well as his pairing with Bateman.

The movie also stars Leslie Mann aka Mrs. Judd Apatow, who really broke into the big time with her hilarious performances in her husband's The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, as well as other roles since them. They're also joined by the sexy-hot Olivia Wilde, who just appeared in Jon Favreau's Cowboys & Aliens this past weekend, as well as co-starring in Disney's TRON: Legacy last year, and Oscar winner Alan Arkin, who will bring some gravitas to the whole thing.

As much or more than some of the other R-rated comedies this summer, The Change-Up will be playing up the combination of star power with premise, and certainly the idea of a responsible married man and his slacker single best friend will be something that all guys either married or single will be able to relate to. In fact, it's something so much more relevant for guys that one wonders why Universal would release it this weekend. Taking on Rise of the Planet of the Apes may hurt the comedy, because it's likely to lose most guys to that, but there's a chance that women may still go to what looks like a guys' comedy just for the sake of seeing Ryan Reynolds doing comedy again.

Universal has had decent success with R-rated comedies, beginning with the aforementioned Apatow-directed films and also having success with some of the movies he's produced, most notably this summer's Bridesmaids, which is one of the most profitable films of the summer. Apatow has nothing to do with this movie though, so they're instead hoping that the connections to The Hangover and Wedding Crashers, two of the highest grossing R-rated comedies of all time, will do the trick.

Even though this is by no means the worst R-rated comedy of the summer, it's also not the strongest in terms of what it has to offer. There's also some danger of there being burn-out, especially among the older moviegoers who are probably getting ready for their summer vacations before school begins again. The first two weeks in August have always been fine for releasing movies with Will Ferrell having great success on this weekend, but we do think it's taking on a much stronger movie in "Apes" and might have trouble bringing in more than $20 million. If people like it (and they probably will), it should have decent legs but we think it will gross closer to the normal $40 to 60 million range these sorts of comedies tend to do rather than breaking out.

Why I Should See It: Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman have proven themselves to be very funny on their own; just imagine them playing each other!
Why Not: In order to earn its R rating, it sometimes goes into gross-out territory not unlike the Farrelly Brothers and it's kind of a turn-off.
Projections: $17 to 19 million opening weekend and roughly $50 million total.

COMPARISONS



THE CHOSEN ONE:

Magic Trip (Magnolia)
Starring Ken Kesey, Ken Babbs, Neal Cassady, Paula Sundsten, Jane Burton, Kathy Casamo, George Walker, Steve Lambrchet
Directed by Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Casino Jack and the United States of Money, Taxi to the Dark Side, Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson and more) and Alison Ellwood (editor of some of those); Written by Alex Gibney, Alison Ellwood
Genre: Documentary
Rated R
Tagline: "Ken Kesey's Search for a Kool Place"
Plot Summary: Using virtually unseen 16mm film footage, audio tapes and archival photos, Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney and his regular collaborator Alison Ellwood recreate the legendary 1964 cross-country bus trip led by "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" author Ken Kessey along with his "Merry Band of Pranksters," a drug-fueled journey that was made famous by Tom Wolfe in his legendary novel "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test."

Interview with Alex Gibney & Alison Ellwood

I'm going to have to preface this week's "Chosen One" by saying that as much as I love the documentary work by Alex Gibney, which has been featured fairly prominently in this column, "Magic Trip" isn't my favorite film of his. It may be because the '60s and hippie culture is not a subject matter that particularly interests me, but anyone who has read about Ken Kesey's trip in Tom Wolfe's "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" will be impressed by how Gibney and his regular editor Alison Ellwood, now co-directing, have recreated this historic road trip and its aftermath. In a psychedelically-painted bus dubbed "Further," Kesey and a bunch of significantly younger artists and wannabes, travel across country, influenced by Jack Kerouac's "On the Road." One of their numbers, Neal Cassady, is even said to be one of the influences for that novel.

The opening introduction to Ken Kesey, narrated by Stanley Tucci, is about as traditional as the doc gets, as the rest of the film uses film footage of differing qualities and imaginative animation by title designer Karin Fong's Imaginary Forces, to show a fairly linear look at every aspect of the trip, narrated by the living Pranksters as well as existing interviews with the late author himself. Combine the amazing rarely-seen footage and the testimonials with great musical decisions of era-relevant tunes and you end up with a movie that really puts you into the experience, a great introduction to the '60s, covering many of the personalities of the pre-"Summer of Love" era. On returning from the road trip, the Pranksters start throwing a series of parties in Northern California that helped start the hippie culture that led to the likes of Woodstock etc., all fueled by the use of marijuana, LSD and other hallucinogenic drugs, making them somewhat legendary for the times. I have to be honest that as much as I thought I knew about the era, I learned a lot of things from the doc, such as the fact that the proclaimed "Acid Test" actually had a graduation ceremony as Kesey tried to break away from his LSD connections.

As much as the film is interesting for that historic sense, the problem is that most of the Pranksters are high off their asses on this trip and watching their antics without any sort of substance to put yourself in a similar head makes it harder to really appreciate their experience. It also doesn't quite have the social or political relevance of something like "Chicago 10," instead being a movie that will appeal to '60s enthusiasts (and possibly Deadheads for the connection Kesey has to the Grateful Dead in their early days) but not seem as much of interest to others.

While Magic Trip may not immediately feel like Gibney's most inspired doc compared to his more politically-tinted work, it's certainly a unique look at interesting times and people. As much as the '60s may seem like a long, long time ago, it's easy to see how watching the Prankster's adventure in Magic Trip might create the inspiration for young people to get in their own car or multi-colored bus and discover our country for themselves.

Magic Trip opens on Friday, August 5, in New York at the Cinema Village, in San Francisco at the Embarcadero Center Cinemaand in Berkeley and Santa Cruz. It expands to Portland, Santa Barbara and Los Angeles on August 12.

Also in Limited Release:

Rachel Weisz stars in Larysa Kondracki's drama The Whistleblower (Samuel Goldwyn Films), playing real-life smalltown police officer Kathryn Bolkovac, who took a job as a peacekeeper in Bosnia only to discover a ring of corruption and lies involving sex trafficking and UN officials who knew about it and covered it up. Also starring Vanessa Redgrave, David Strathairn and Monica Bellucci, the real world thriller opens in select cities on Friday.

Mini-Review

Evan Glodell wrote, directed and stars in the Sundance and South by SouthWest favorite Bellflower (Oscilloscope) as Woodrow, a guy who spends all his time with his friend Aiden (Tyler Dawson) building flamethrowers and crazy futuristic cars, but when he meets Milly (Jessie Wiseman), he falls for her, and everything starts falling apart. It opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.

Mini-Review: There's a good chance you'll walk out of Evan Glodell's debut either thinking you've experienced absolute genius or that you've wasted an hour and 45 minutes watching absolute horsesh*t; which side of that divide you fall upon will probably depend on your perspective and whether you're able to figure out what the filmmaker was trying to do with this mish-mash of ideas.

It begins like so many other post-mumblecore movies we've seen in recent months with a bunch of annoying young people who drink too much, say "dude" too much and jump into bed with whomever is handy. In the case of best friends Woodrow (played by Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson), they're too busy spending their time building a flamethrower and dreaming of a future where they'll own a Mad Max style monster car to worry about girls, until one night, they meet friends Milly and Courtney (Jessie Wiseman, Rebekah Brande) in a bar and Woodrow and Milly hit it off. Their first date immediately turns into a road trip across the country, leaving all their friends wondering what happened to them.

The movie then jumps forward an unknown amount of time when Woodrow and Millie have been together for a while and he comes home to find her having wild sex with her old roommate Mike, at which point he flips out and drives off on his motorcycle, getting into a debilitating accident. The movie then gets darker and darker, crazier and crazier, and we wish you the best of luck trying to figure out what exactly is going on. Woodrow starts sleeping with Courtney, who his pal Aiden had been dating, and he then gets into a bit of back and forth with Milly, leading to a series of violent actions and equally violent retributions. It's so dark and grim and different from the first half that at times, you're apt to be wondering if you're watching some sort of side effects of Woodrow's accident, possibly some sort of brain damage?

The thing is that if you like the mumblecore rom-com aspect of the first half, you're likely to be truly disturbed and bothered when things start going wrong, as cool as it may look. Glodell certainly has an inventive way of telling a story and innovative way of shooting things, especially in the darker second half, which takes advantage of his custom-built cameras. There's something that can be said about the way the movie explores male bonding and friendship, but there really isn't much of a story here, and as it spirals further into madness, you wonder what you're supposed to get out of any of it.

Glodell clearly has talent, maybe not so much as a writer--that's probably the weakest aspect of the movie--but certainly as director and actor, and his co-stars also have personalities that can get them more work, especially Wiseman, who could easily be the next Greta Gerwig. Maybe given something that requires a bit more structure or discipline, Glodell can strive as a filmmaker. For now, he seems to be straddling the line between the madness of Nicolas Refn and Lars von Trier and the low-fi production values of Joe Swanberg, and as "Bellflower" proves, those two things don't necessarily coexist well within the same movie.

Rating: 5.5/10

Camilo Castelo Branco's Portugese novel Mysteries of Lisbon (Music Box Films) is adapted by Raul Ruiz, the story of Joao, the bastard child of two members of the aristocracy who weren't allowed to marry and his search for the truth about his parents. It opens exclusively at Lincoln Center's Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center on Friday.

Scott Rosenbaum's musical drama The Perfect Age of Rock and Roll (Red Hawk Films) stars Kevin Zegers as famous musician Spyder who returns to his hometown along with his mentor August West (Peter Fonda) and manager Rose (Taryn Manning) along with his crew of musicians. Once there, he reconnects with his former friend Eric (Jason Ritter) who he used to make music with but is now a music teacher. It opens in select cities Friday.

Rashaad Ernesto Green's Gun Hill Road (Motion Films Group) stars Esai Morales as a man returning home to the Bronx after three years in prison to learn that his wife Angela (Judy Reyes) is having an affair and that his son Michael (Harmony Santa) is having sexual identity issues and is trying to get a sex change. It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday.



Next week, the last month of summer continues with a battle between two R-rated movies, the horror franchise Final Destination 5 (New Line/WB) and the action-comedy 30 Minutes or Less (Sony), starring Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride and Aziz Ansari. Emma Stone, Bryce Dallas Howard and Viola Davis star in the adaptation of the best-selling novel The Help (DreamWorks/Touchstone Pictures), while the popular singing television show comes to theaters with Glee: The 3D Concert Movie (20th Century Fox).

Copyright 2011 Edward Douglas




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