The Weekend Warrior: June 12 – 14


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.

Updated Predictions and Comparisons

UPDATE: Let’s face it that this weekend can go one of three ways with the top 3 movies probably ending up fairly close, but we do think that Denzel Washington and John Travolta will pull out a victory after all, though it probably won’t make that much more than The Hangover on Friday. We have very little confidence in Eddie Murphy’s new movie, although we do think it won’t completely tank. Also, something we forgot to mention earlier this week, the romantic comedy The Proposal (Touchstone/Disney), starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, will be sneak previewing in roughly 800 theaters on Saturday night. That money will go towards Up, which should give it the boost it needs over The Hangover.

1. The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (Sony) – $30.2 million N/A (up $1.8 million and one place)

2. Up (Disney/Pixar Animation) – $29.4 million -34% (Down .1 and one place)

3. The Hangover (Warner Bros.) – $28.5 million 037% (Up 1.9 million)

4. Imagine That (Paramount) – $12.5 million N/A (down .7 million)

5. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (20th Century Fox) – $9.0 million -39% (same)

6. Land of the Lost (Universal) – $8.7 million -54% (down .1 million)

7. Star Trek (Paramount) – $5.6 million -33% (down .2 million)

8. Terminator Salvation (Warner Bros.) – $4.3 million -48% (same)

9. Angels & Demons (Sony) – $3.6 million -46% (same)

10. Drag Me to Hell (Universal) – $3.5 million -50% (same)

Weekend Overview

While last week’s battle of the comedies turned into a bit of a non-event with an easy winner, this week it’s all about the return of two popular and well-respected African-American actors, one making a rare summer appearance in a high-profile action-thriller remake and the other returning to family fare that’s proven so successful for him in the past. Both of them are opening in a relative mess where stronger movies like Up and The Hangover might not leave much room for new movies, but it’s the summer and anything goes!

Denzel Washington takes on John Travolta in Tony Scott’s remake of the 1974 subway heist thriller The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (Sony), which is coming into the weekend with very little competition for urban males, who haven’t really had a movie that directly connects to them. With that in mind, this should certainly be the first choice of guys in urban areas, although it may be held back slightly by its R-rating as well as general hesitance towards supporting remakes among older males. Denzel has a fairly reliable fanbase who’ll be curious to see if this will continue his roll from his last big movie, Ridley Scott’s American Gangster.

Still, we think that the Disney/Pixar hit Up will surprise many by taking the top spot after being narrowly defeated last weekend, and Warner Bros.’ R-rated comedy The Hangover will continue to do well, but will probably end up in third place. Either way, expect it to be a very close race with only a million or less difference between the three movie and our order may change once we know how many actual theaters “Pelham” will be playing in.

Up‘s only new competition for family audiences, if you can even call it that, will be the return of Eddie Murphy to family fare with Imagine That (Paramount/Nickelodeon Films), which has him playing a financial advisor who starts getting stock tips from his daughter’s imaginary friends. It’s a high concept premise that might not really sell itself well to kids, although hopefully, the Nickelodeon connection and seeing Murphy ham it up might bring in African-American family audiences, although it probably will have to settle for fourth place.

This week’s Chosen One is Robert Kenner’s fascinating documentary Food, Inc. (Magnolia)

Last year’s big June battle was to see whether M. Night Shyamalan’s apocalyptic The Happening (20th Century Fox) could stand a chance against the revamped superhero actioneer The Incredible Hulk (Universal), directed by Louis Letterier. The latter took #1 with $55.4 million, which was a lighter opening than the previous Ang Lee movie five years earlier, although the general consensus was that it was a better movie. Night’s new flick had to settle for third place behind DreamWorks Animation’s Kung Fu Panda, though its $30.5 million opening was respectable and it helped the top 10 accumulate nearly $175 million, which may be hard to match with this weekend’s offerings.

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (Sony)
Starring Denzel Washington, John Travolta, John Turturro, Luis Guzman, Michael Rispoli, James Gandolfini
Directed by Tony Scott (Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State, Spy Game, Man on Fire, Déjà vu); Written by Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential, Mystic River, Man on Fire, Payback, upcoming Robin Hood, Cirque du Freak, Green Zone)
Genre: Thriller, Action
Rated R
Plot Summary: When a Bronx-bound subway train is taken by a group of terrorists led by a man known only as Ryder (John Travolta), the subway dispatcher on duty, Walter Garber (Denzel Washington), must act as a liaison to try to get the situation resolved before they kill any of the 19 passengers on board.

Mini-Review: Considering how long it’s been since most people have seen the original 1974 thriller on which Hollywood’s latest remake is based, we’re not going to waste a lot of time making direct comparisons. Tony Scott’s remake remains faithful to the source material’s premise, while clearly being a movie that wants to explore modern times and how the world (especially New York City) has changed in the 35 years since then. With that in mind, it wastes very little time to set up the hijacking of a subway car of 19 passengers by John Travolta’s former convict (referred to only as “Ryder”) and his men. It’s pretty clear from the beginning that this idea will be handled more like “Die Hard” except in this case Denzel Washington’s Walter Garber does most of his “Yippi-kai-yaying” from the opposite end of a call radio inside the city’s high-tech control center. As Garber becomes the chief liaison and negotiator at the request of Ryder, the two men get involved in a series of verbal mind games, trying to learn more about their counterpart in order to gain the upper hand in a tense game where lives hang in the balance. Garber himself is a flawed man, having been demoted after being accused of taking a bribe from a Japanese train manufacturer, information that Ryder tries to use as leverage in their stand-off.

Washington gives another solid performance, more in his mild-mannered “John Q” persona than the Type A film archetypes he’s been playing more recently. There’s no way to ignore the fact that John Travolta is once again chewing up the scenery whenever he’s on camera. Being that he spends most of the movie in a subway car, there’s not a lot of scenery for him to chew up either, but Travolta does so much yelling and overacting it’s often hard to take his threats very seriously. On the other hand, James Gandolfini is so convincing as the mayor, it feels like he could easily step into the role without anyone questioning it, and New Yorkers should be able to appreciate the way that real New York politics has been incorporated into the story.

That’s just one of the elements that adds some depth to what might have been a simple hijack thriller, as the threat of hijacking is even more relevant in the time since 9/11. “Pelham” doesn’t take any of heightened security matters for granted, as well as using the technology one might find in a modern dispatch center compared to the ’70s. As much as the film strives for realism, a few silly moments make it hard to take it seriously, such as young man iChatting with his girlfriend on his laptop while underground on the train. Any New Yorker knows that Wi-Fi in the subway system is non-existent, but it’s one of the running subplots that’s continually revisited, taking one out of the movie almost as much as Travolta’s ridiculous performance. As per usual, Tony Scott goes overboard with his stylish camerawork and slow motion shots, trying to make the relatively slow-paced dramatic film more visually exciting. For the most, the tone never veers too far away from other recent Washington crime-thrillers such as “Inside Man” or “American Gangster,” while lacking the vision of either.

By the time two actors finally meet face to face, it’s a bit of a letdown as the movie turns into a standard chase that requires one to believe that a subway dispatcher might have the wherewithal to chase an armed felon through the streets of New York rather than leaving it to the authorities. “Pelham” may not be as exciting as some may hope for what is essentially a summer popcorn flick. What keeps it from being a complete loss is that it’s central premise is still a strong one, and it can thoroughly rely on the strong character work from Washington and Gandolfini. Rating: 6.5/10


Being June, it’s the time of summer when studios start getting a little more experimental with what they release in the generally slower period between Memorial Day and the 4th of July, essentially hoping to have something to offer moviegoers who’ve already seen the big movies but not necessarily expecting these to be big tentpole releases with massive returns. In the case of this remake of the 1974 thriller starring Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw, Sony is hoping the combination of two big name stars might get older audiences interested in seeing what can be done with the premise of hijacking a New York subway car in this day and age, when terrorism is so prevalent and something like this could actually happen.

The big draw for the movie of course will be the presence of Denzel Washington, who has become one of the top African-American stars right after Will Smith, and he’s reuniting with one of his frequent collaborators, director Tony Scott, as the duo make their fourth movie together. It all started nearly 15 years ago when Washington appeared in Scott’s submarine thriller Crimson Tide at a point when Washington was already becoming an established star – that grossed $91 million domestically. Nine years later, they reunited for the revenge thriller Man on Fire, which was a sleeper hit in the spring of 2004, grossing $77 million, and then their last pairing was for the sci-fi thriller Déjà vu, which opened rather softly over Thanksgiving 2006 to gross $64 million. So far, there hasn’t been a big deal made about them reuniting for another movie, maybe because they’re hoping that downwards trend doesn’t continue for their fourth collaboration. In the meantime, Scott has generally had more success since Crimson Tide with Denzel than without him, with movies like Domino, The Fan and True Romance being significant bombs, but also having hits with Brad Pitt (Spy Game) and Will Smith (Enemy of the State).

Oddly, Washington has not appeared in many summer movies, and his last one was also a remake, that being The Manchurian Candidate, directed by Jonathan Demme, which wasn’t one of his bigger hits but still brought in $65 million. Washington is coming off a rare year off, having starred in two movies for the two years prior, 2007 being a banner year as he directed The Great Debaters, a Golden Globe-nominated drama that brought in $30 million, shortly after co-starring with Russell Crowe in Ridley Scott’s New York based crime drama American Gangster, which became the actor’s highest opening and grossing movie with $130 million.

The new element to the Washington-Scott equation is the addition of another bonafide movie star in John Travolta, who used to star in these kinds of movies all the time during the ’90s, most notably when he co-starred in two of John Woo’s first English language movies, Broken Arrow and Face/Off. Travolta also played a villain in the second movie based on Marvel’s The Punisher as well as the summer action flick Swordfish. Otherwise, Travolta has mainly been doing comedies in recent years including the hits Hairspray and Wild Hogs, and like Washington, he has a definite audience who’ll see his movies, even if there might not be much overlap with Washington’s audience. (Travolta generally hasn’t been doing press for the movie because of the recent highly-publicized death of his son.)

The cast is rounded out by some of New York’s finest character actors in John Turturro, Luis Guzman and James Gandolfini (Emmy award winning star of “The Sopranos”), who may not be a big draw but do add to the personality of the movie. It’s clearly a very New York-centric film which will likely do very well in theatres in the city compared to other places, although Denzel has fans all throughout the South and other big cities, who’ve been waiting for him to make another movie.

This looks like it could be a fairly exciting movie just based on the premise and the two actors, so it should be a fairly easy sell. Even so, there doesn’t seem to be nearly as much advance buzz for “Pelham” as there was for American Gangster and moviegoing audiences are generally tired and skeptical of remakes as seen by the reaction to Keanu Reeves in The Day the Earth Stood Still last year. It opened fine but then divebombed afterwards. In some ways, the best comparison for this movie is Gone in 60 Seconds starring Nicolas Cage, which opened in June 2000 to $25 million and a total box office of $101. A couple of big differences were that it was far more action-driven than “Pelham” and was released at a time where movies weren’t as driven by opening weekend. “Pelham” is more likely to do its business opening weekend and tail off afterwards, especially when it loses theaters to “Transformers,” Public Enemies and others.

Still, the film isn’t bad and will probably get generally decent reviews, plus Sony is great at marketing movies to bigger openings than some might expect, though usually in the slower spring/winter seasons. This is their first movie with Washington since 1995’s Devil with a Blue Dress, so it should be interesting to see if they can get his fanbase interested. The R-rating shouldn’t have much of an effect, because as we saw last week, guys 17 and older are done with school and are looking for things to do and movies to see. The only significant competition for that audience is last week’s The Hangover, but older guys in urban areas will probably be interested due to the premise and the two actors, which should give the movie a strong chance at taking the top spot at the box office, although the number of big movies taking up screens might keep it just under.

Why I Should See It: The teaming of Denzel and Travolta in this kind of high concept thriller certainly will get people very interested.
Why Not: This is obviously a summer popcorn flick and one shouldn’t expect any Oscars thrown this movie’s way anytime soon.
Projections: $26 to 29 million opening weekend and roughly $75 million total.


Imagine That (Paramount/Nickelodeon Films)
Starring Eddie Murphy, Thomas Haden Church, Yara Shahidi, Nicole Ari Parker, Ronny Cox, Martin Sheen
Directed by Karey Kirkpatrick (Over the Hedge, writer of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Chicken Run, co-writer of Charlotte’s Web); Written by Ed Solomon (Super Mario Bros., Men in Black, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, The In-Laws), Chris Matheson (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure)
Genre: Family, Fantasy, Comedy
Rated PG
Tagline: “What if your daughter’s imagination… Was the secret to your success?”
Plot Summary: Financial advisor Evan Danielson (Eddie Murphy) is having problems at work with a hotshot rival named Johnny Whitefeather (Thomas Haden Church), but he suddenly finds himself with an edge when his daughter Olivia (Yara Shahidi) starts telling him stuff she’s learned from her imaginary princess friends that actually proves to be reliable investment advice.

Mini-Review: Eddie Murphy has proven countless times that he can survive any number of nuclear bombs and rabid cinematic dogs, and in the past, he’s used an innocuous family film to try to get back on his feet. Following in the footsteps of Adam Sandler’s “Bedtime Stories” and other movies where older adult comics are paired with kids, “Imagine That” mostly relies on people believing that Eddie Murphy doing the same schtick can possibly still be funny, because the movie relies on that more than it does on solid storytelling, ironically enough. The concept revolves around Murphy being a financial consultant whose daughter has a security blanket she calls “The Googah,” which brings forth a trio of imaginary princesses, who tell her things that turn out to be fairly reliable stock advice. Being that Murphy’s Evan Danielson is an investment advisor, this new revelation is a goldmine, but first, Danielson has to spend more time with his neglected daughter, and she takes advantage of that to the fullest. With that in mind, you can imagine that most of the humor comes from Murphy trying to kiss up to his daughter and keep her entertained, with the same basic formula as always: Team an adult comedy star with a kid and then have them doing stupid things to satisfy their young audience.

Unless you’re a pre-teen girl, you’ll probably find Murphy’s efforts grueling to watch, while his counterpart, newcomer Yara Shahidi, is the kind of precocious kid who can stare doe-eyed at the camera and get you to adore her. Far too often, she’s little more than a sassy brat. In one scene, she convinces Murphy to eat pancakes covered with all sorts of disgusting condiments, which shouldn’t be too surprising being that Nickelodeon has based most of its entertainment on turning sliming people into an artform. If you’re an adult, that kind of stuff just won’t have the same effect on you as on kids. Then there’s Thomas Haden Church’s Johnny Whitefeather, who is entertaining enough to carry some weight with his pretentious Native American sage advice, but the character quickly wears itself thin, hitting a trough when his young son hopped up on Red Bulls is trying to offer similar blanket advice. There’s also a small role by Martin Sheen as a powerful corporate type who insures that the plot will be as predictable as possible by having the two men compete against each other, forcing Evan to step up his game. Things get worse as Evan tries to get the security blanket away from his daughter, putting himself through even more humiliating situations.

Director Karey Kirkpatrick established a certain amount of good will for his involvement in “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and “Over the Hedge,” but in his live action directorial debut, he seemingly allows his star’s ego to run rampant over the film, rather than pulling Murphy back to a reasonable level of hammy slapstick humor. Usually, one should be thrilled at a filmmaker introducing the music of the Beatles to a younger audience, but Kirkpatrick’s collaborations with popular artists on versions of a couple classics aren’t very impressive, and it’s hard not to be bothered that Beatles music is permeating such a bad movie. Even worse is the false marketing that plays up the fantasy and fairy tale elements, making one think this will be an FX driven film. In fact, the only special effect is how Murphy’s presence might fool anyone into thinking this movie is funny.

Who knows why anyone thought a kid’s movie about financial investing might be of interest to anyone of any age? At best, the movie is schmaltzy kids’ fare, but at worst, it’s a horrible abomination that effortlessly hammers another nail into Eddie Murphy’s credibility as a comic star. Rating: 4/10

Analysis:Up and Ben Stiller’s “Night at the Museum” running rampant over the box office, it’s obvious that family audiences are craving entertainment, especially for younger kids, so it makes sense that studios are constantly trying to cater to that audience in the summer.

Actor Eddie Murphy is certainly in a strange position where 2008 began with an Oscar nomination and a huge hit with Norbit, followed over the summer with the mega-bomb Meet Dave. Some might wonder what this means for Murphy. Is his career over? Are people sick of him doing any thing that comes his way merely for money? The latter can’t be true, because last year’s Oscar nomination for Dreamgirls was a big step for Murphy being taken seriously as an actor. Even though for a long time he was the frontrunner to win, he didn’t, some think because of the proximity of the awards to the release of his cross-dressing comedy Norbit, which was universally loathed by critics even as audiences made it Murphy’s second biggest non-“Shrek” opening.

In this case, Murphy isn’t exactly reinventing himself as much as trying to return to the territory that has done well for him in the past, playing a father in a high-concept comedy where he can do his thing. The most obvious example of this was when he took on the moniker of “Dr. Dolittle” in a modernization of Hugh Loftig’s children’s book character who talked to animals, with two movies that grossed over $100 million opening in the summer. In 2003, he starred in Daddy Day Care and Disney’s The Haunted Mansion, both which opened close to $25 million and grossed more than $75 million. Of course, most kids will probably realize that Eddie Murphy is also the voice of Donkey from the three blockbuster “Shrek” movies, so it’s obvious he has a lot of awareness and pull with that audience. As we saw tragically this past weekend with Will Ferrell, when an actor goes to the same well and do the same thing too many times, audiences start tiring of it, although that doesn’t really explain why comics like Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence have had such lengthy careers despite numerous bombs.

The only other star of any significance is Thomas Haden Church, former star of the long-running “Wings,” who had an amazing comeback when nominated for an Oscar for his role in Alexander Payne’s Sideways. Since then, he’s provided his voice for animated movies like Kirkpatrick’s Over the Hedge, played Sandman in the mega-blockbuster Spider-Man 3, as well as roles in smaller indie comedies like last year’s Smart People.

Even though Imagine That does return Murphy to family-friendly fare, the premise of Imagine That isn’t that strong, and it doesn’t seem like something that would immediately interest kids, even though Paramount and Nickelodeon are trying to play up the fantasy angle to try to get younger girls interested. They’re obviously trying to make it look like Adam Sandler’s Bedtime Stories, which grossed $100 million over the holidays, although it opened weaker than some of Sandler’s non-family films. Younger moviegoers are also the most finicky group in terms of seeing movies, showing why the Jonas Brothers 3D movie bombed despite the rock group continuing to be very popular. On the other hand, African-American audiences haven’t had a lot of entertainment this summer that caters directly to families with movies like Next Day Air and Dance Flick being geared towards teen and older, but not making much of a mark with either.

With The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 being a strong draw for urban males over 17, this could bring in some of the family audiences over the weekend, because there will probably be enough parents who appreciate Eddie Murphy’s humor to insure this isn’t a complete bomb like Meet Dave. We see this being a moderate opening by Murphy standards, more in the realm of Showtime or I, Spy, than the $20 million opening of Daddy Day Care or the $30 to 40 million opening of his two biggest hits. Although it probably won’t be reviewed that well, we can probably expect it to have moderate legs at least for the next few weeks, as schools let out and there aren’t many new family films until the “Ice Age” 3-quel opens before the 4th of July.

Why I Should See It: If you’re a father with a daughter, this could be a great movie to bond over.
Why Not: Who are we kidding? Young girls want to see Miley and High School Musical and Zac Efron. Eddie Murphy is no longer viable to today’s kids.
Projections: $12 to 15 million opening weekend and between $35 to 40 million total.



As much as I want to give this one to the awesome Duncan Jones and his debut film, there’s no denying the power of a well-made doc, which is why Magnolia gets another win over Sony Classics this week.

Food Inc. (Magnolia)
Starring Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Gary Hirschberg, Joe Salatin
Directed by Robert Kenner (film debut, directed television shows/specials like “The American Experience”, Russia’s Last Tsar)
Genre: Documentary
Rated PG
Tagline: “You’ll Never Look at Dinner the Same Way”
Plot Summary: Filmmaker Robert Kenner takes a look inside the underbelly of the food industry, whose conditions and standards is supposed to be overseen by the USDA and FDA, government agencies run by those previously involved in the corporate system that has made the conditions for workers, as well as producing food that is unhealthy.

Interview with director Robert Kenner (Hopefully, Later This Week!)

On hearing what this documentary is about, some might immediately write it off as a movie that deals with subject matter that’s already been covered in Richard Linklater’s Fast Food Nation or the Austrian silent doc Our Daily Bread–not that anyone bothered to see either of those. Instead, filmmaker Robert Kenner looks at the food we buy and the food we eat, the process it goes through and how that has changed over the years. Food has become such a big corporate business, and so many of us completely take that for granted, as well as what we’re really eating. Like most people, I was somewhat worried that this would be another gruesome look at slaughterhouses as we watch animals being dismantled at the most basic level. There’s some of that but that’s not what this movie is about, as it’s more about the big business practices that are more than mildly questionable, because it’s more about how they can make the most money rather than about how they can provide the healthiest food and working conditions.

Like Enron: The Smartest Men in the Room and The Corporation, this is an amazing bit of investigative filmmaking that conveys the vast amount of data in an inventive way, combining interviews with hidden footage and clever graphics that make it hard to ignore the hard facts about how bad what we’re eating is for us.

Kenner’s film is made up of various segments that deal with different aspects of the food business, where are food comes from, how the animals and food are treated, and I was very happy to already mostly be a vegetarian when seeing how chickens and cows are being handled and treated from their birth to they hit our plate. Another segment deals with the bacteria and germs that infiltrate the corporate farming system, and how that has killed people, including a moving segment involving a mother who lost her 2-year-old son after he ate an Ecoli-tainted hamburger.

The most shocking revelation is to see how food that’s the easiest to afford by people with low income is also the stuff that’s bad to eat, as corporations use cheap corn and chemicals to create the flavors that can be found in many products. The fact that corn is being fed to cows and chickens and even fish to fatten them up is somewhat scary, because essentially, poorer families are forced to eat these foods that cause obesity and diabetes, as the cheaper foods skew towards bad calories. This is countered by a refreshing and enlightening segment involving Joel Salatin, head of Polyface Farms, who is working outside the system to remain true to the old ways of farming, doing everything by hand and treating the animals and workers better and selling his products directly rather than going through the supermarket chains. It gives a much better idea why its important to buy organic food products that are grown in your own region.

Because his film covers a lot of ground, including the use of low-paid immigrant workers, it does seem somewhat unfocused at times, and at times, Kenner goes too far into the anti-corporate anti-government mentality that often turns people off to Michael Moore’s work. Only one of the subjects completely went over my head and that was the significance of chemical company Monsato’s campaign against independent farmers for “seed saving,” something that is more about how corporations are using their clout to take down independent farmers than something that directly affects the consumer (or the moviegoer).

As much as the film is more about scare tactics, albeit those based in reality, than the type of a happy, fun entertainment most people are looking for during the summer months, it’s an important film, a fascinating and intelligent doc that’s easily one of the best of the year. (Ironically, Magnolia is also responsible for releasing one of the other ones, Kirby Dick’s Outrage.)

I don’t often like to use the hyperbole of calling a movie a “Must See,” in this case, the fact that Food Inc. deals with a topic that’s so important to every man, woman and child on a daily basis, it could very well make a huge difference in how you decide what you put in your mouth. (I wouldn’t suggest eating before seeing the movie, and you’ll probably be a lot more careful about what you eat afterwards.)

It opens in select cities on Friday.

Honorable Mention:

Moon (Sony Classics)
Starring Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey, Dominique McElligott, Rosie Shaw, Kaya Scodelario, Benedict Wong
Directed by Duncan Jones (debut); Written by Nathan Parker
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller
Rated R
Tagline: “The last place you’d ever expect to find yourself.”
Plot Summary: Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is the sole worker on a lunar mining colony nearing the end of his three-year contract, who suddenly discovers he’s not alone after all, as his mental and physical condition starts to deteriorate.

Sundance Interviews with Jones and Sam Rockwell

New Interview with Duncan Jones

My Thoughts from Sundance

As you can see above, I reviewed this out of Sundance earlier this year, but I gave it another look when it played at the Tribeca Film Festival last month and a second viewing certainly helped me appreciate what Jones was doing a lot more. It’s certainly a slower movie than other summer fare, but it’s really a beautiful iteration of the sci-fi genre in the vein of Alien where it’s all about setting the tone and creating the environment. Duncan Jones really knows how to do this, both with the visuals and also another gorgeous score from Clint Mansell which goes a long way in creating the mood of the film, as much as the film’s lunar setting. And of course, if you’re a fan of Sam Rockwell—and who isn’t after such great performances in movies like Joshua and last year’s Choke?—then you really get a lot of that great way he can be funny in serious settings in order to keep things light. With that in mind, I’d probably raise my previous rating from 7 to 8 out of 10 and recommend it to anyone who loves science fiction. It opens in New York and L.A. on Friday, then expands to other cities and theaters which you can follow on the Official Site.

Also in Limited Release:

Tetro (American Zoetrope Releasing) – Oscar-winning director Francis Ford Coppola (“The Godfather” trilogy, Apocalypse Now) directs his first original screenplay since The Conversation. It stars newcomer Alden Ehrenreich as an 18-year-old who visits his long-missing writer brother Tetro (Vincent Gallo) in Argentina to confront him about their past. Just to be different, it’s opening on Thursday in select cities.

Mini-Review: (Coming Soon!)

Call of the Wild 3D (Vivendi Entertainment) – Jack London’s classic work of fiction is reimagined for the screen in 3D by director Richard Gabai with Christopher Lloyd playing a widowed Montana man whose grandaughter (Ariel Gade) takes in an injured wild wolf/dog and decides to try to train him to be a sled dog leader, inspired by Jack London’s novel. It opens in select cities.

Sex Positive (Regent Releasing) – Daryl Wein’s documentary looks at ’80s safe sex pioneer Richard Berkowitz, a former S&M hustler who began a campaign for homosexual men to avoid unprotected sex as early as 1982 in order to avoid contracting the AIDS virus in its early days, being treated like a pariah for his efforts. It opens in New York at the Quad Cinemas on Friday, before expanding to Denver and L.A. on June 19, and San Francisco on July 3.

Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love (Shadow Distribution) – Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi’s documentary follows two years in the life of the venerable African singer from the release of his personal album “Egypt,” which received international acclaim while also being deemed blasphemous. After premiering at last year’s Toronto Film Festival, this film in the vein of “Glass: A Portrait of Phillip in Two Parts” and “Jimmy Carter Man from Plains” opens in New York at the IFC Center, the Paris Theater and BAM Rose Cinemas on Friday and in L.A. at the Laemmle Theatres on July 3.

Next week, the June comedy battles continue, this time with Jack Black and Michael Cera’s biblical comedy Year One (Sony) taking on Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds in the romantic comedy romp The Proposal (Touchstone/Disney). For the third weekend in a row, we may have a horse race at the box office, and that’s the kind of thing we live for here at the Weekend Warrior!

Copyright 2009 Edward Douglas