The Weekend Warrior: May 21 – 23

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.

If you’re not doing so already, you can follow The Weekend Warrior on Twitter where he talks about box office, movies and all sorts of random things.

Updated Predictions and Comparisons -

UPDATE: The fourth and final “Shrek” movie is getting far more theaters than originally estimated and while we still think it will open lighter than the previous two movies, it should come closer to $100 million, especially as theaters start to drop many of the April releases to make way for it and next week’s movies. By next weekend, it should be all about the May movies in the Top 10.

1. Shrek Forever After (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) – $96.2 million N/A (up 2.8 million)

2. Iron Man 2 (Marvel/Paramount) – $25.3 million -52% (up .3 million)

3. Robin Hood (Universal) – $16.3 million -55% (down .5 million)

4. MacGruber (Universal) – $13.2 million N/A (up .5 million)

5. Letters to Juliet (Summit) – $8.5 million -37% (up .1 million)

6. Just Wright (Fox Searchlight) – $5.0 million -40% (same)

7. How to Train Your Dragon (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) – $2.7 million -47% (down .1 million)

8. Date Night (20th Century Fox) – $2.4 million -38% (down .2 million)

9. A Nightmare on Elm Street (New Line/WB) – $2.2 million -53% (down .3 million)

10. The Back-up Plan (CBS Films) – $1.0 million -457% (down .3 million)
(The Back-Up Plan may be fighting with Furry Vengeance for 10th place with each making close to or less than a million over the weekend.)

Weekend Overview

After two weeks of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2 dominating the box office, another Paramount-distributed movie and the final installment of DreamWorks Animation’s most successful franchise Shrek Forever After will take the top spot. The question on most minds is whether the fourth movie in the series can achieve the success of the previous three, especially with the poor reception to the third movie. Although there may be somewhat of a negative backlash against the franchise with thoughts about them running out of steam, this is the first installment available both in digital 3D and IMAX theaters, which should help bolster its opening weekend, at least partially making up for lower attendance. We think this one will open under $100 million but not be as frontloaded as the third movie with potential for a strong Memorial Day weekend showing against movies that aren’t as strong family draws.

It’s been many years since “Saturday Night Live” spun-off one of its character sketches to the big screen, though it’s doubtful Will Forte’s MacGruber (Universal) will be the movie that brings the once-great late night comedy show back to the forefront as a star-making machine. With a strong marketing campaign, it shouldn’t bomb as badly as It’s Pat or The Ladies Man, but it’s not likely to be as big a hit as Wayne’s World either. Expect a younger crowd to be out in force on Friday and Saturday night, although the movie will quickly get lost in the shuffle of more high profile new releases.

This week’s “Chosen One” is Marshall Curry’s documentary Racing Dreams (Hannover House) about three young people using go-kart racing as their first step into driving NASCAR, which you can read more about below.

This weekend last year, Ron Howard and Tom Hanks reunited for their adaptation of Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons (Sony) which tanked with just $46.2 million, following the $200 million grossed domestically by its (sort of) predecessor The Da Vinci Code (that opened to $77.1 million) three years earlier. It only narrowly defeated J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, which grossed $43 million in its second weekend. The Top 10 grossed $128 million, an amount that should be easily bested with the release of the latest “Shrek” movie.


THE BATTLE CRY

I’m starting to get more than a little annoyed with the cynicism surrounding movies these days, not just from people in the industry who deem themselves “critics,” merely because they have a place where they can voice their opinions, but also from people who openly admit to loving movies who’ve set the bar for every single movie they see way higher than is reasonable or fair.

We’re exactly two weeks into May and people are already writing off the entire summer as one of the worst summers ever. They feel there are few movies to look forward to and nothing is getting them excited enough to leave their house, and this isn’t just something I’ve heard from one or two people. No, this is slowly becoming the pervasive mindset among a wide group of people I speak to, and it’s kind of depressing. After Iron Man 2 and maybe Toy Story 3, the only movie that seems to have any kind of interest among a wide audience is Christopher Nolan’s Inception, and that’s not out until mid-July.

I’m sorry, but Iron Man 2 and Robin Hood are decent movies, much better than so much crap we’ve been forced to endure in summers past. Obviously, people need to be reminded of movies like Poseidon… or The Love Guru. The thing is that summer movies are always meant first and foremost as light escapist entertainment, but so many people are constantly expecting something a bit more intelligent and then whenever someone does try to offer something a little more thought-provoking or different, such as Ridley Scott, they get attacked for it. There’s something to be said for quality filmmaking, and that’s certainly something we’re getting more and more of during the summer months, rather than having to wait until the late fall, but that pervasive skepticism seems unable to accept the quality of any movie released during the summer months. The fact that two summer movies from last year–District 9 and Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds–were able to make it to Oscar night is promising of that changing, but there are still too many people ready to write-off movies just because they’re getting summer releases.

At this time last year, most people had already fallen head over heels over J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek, but not too many people had seen Todd Phillips’ The Hangover and few knew that it was going to be nearly as funny or popular as it ended up being. In any summer, there is room for surprises like that, but to expect any movie to be as good as Star Trek or The Hangover, two movies that were very much anomalies to their respective genres, is being unfair to other filmmakers.

For whatever reason, people go into summer expecting every movie to be frickin’ Star Wars, then nitpick every single movie to death when they don’t live up to those unrealistic expectations. People just have the knives out ready to attack anything that doesn’t completely fulfill their lofty expectations, rather than differentiating the movies that are actually bad from those they just wish were better or different.

I’m not going to apologize for liking many of the movies I’ve already seen coming out in the weeks ahead, including The Karate Kid, which I’m sure will fall victim to the same cynicism, either from people who loved the original movie or those who just don’t think a remake is necessary. But to say that this is a dead summer before having seen what’s coming out in June and July is just being negative pessimism that accomplishes nothing.

Even as someone who deems themselves to be a critic, it’s kind of a bummer to be surrounded by such negativity at all times. The problem is that if this keeps up and movies keep under-performing because of it, studios will be less likely to take chances and try daring new things during the summer months. In fact, that’s already becoming the case as next summer seems to once again be all about the sequels. So appreciate what you have while you have it, because things can certainly be worse, and don’t worry… if moviegoers keep snubbing their noses at all of the movies that try to do something different… they will be.


Shrek Forever After (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount)
Starring (the voices of) Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Jon Hamm, Kathy Griffin, Kristen Schaal
Directed by Mike Mitchell (Sky High, Surviving Christmas); Written by Josh Klausner (Date Night), Darren Lemke (Lost–the movie not the show–and “Flashpoint”—the show not the movie)
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Family
Rated PG
Tagline: “It Ain’t Ogre… Till It’s Ogre!”
Plot Summary: Unhappy with his life in Far Far Away where he’s far too well known and popular, rather than fierce and scary, the ogre Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers) makes a deal with Rumpelstiltskin (Walt Dohrn) to revert his life back to what would have happened if he never arrived. Before you can say “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the entire city and its inhabitants have been changed into different versions who don’t remember Shrek.

Analysis:

This summer continues to be one of the most difficult ones in years to predict, because we have a lot of movies with no historic precedent, plus also, things have changed so much in the movie business even from last year. Here we have the very first CG-animated franchise to achieve its fourth installment, also being the most successful series of CG-animated movies in the fairly short history of the genre. Of course, we’re talking about “Shrek” the character who helped put Jeffrey Katzenberg’s DreamWorks Animation on the map when he was first introduced this weekend in 2001, putting together the talented voicecast of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy to the tune of $268 million ($484 million worldwide). Nine months later, it became the first animated movie to win an Oscar in the new category for feature-length animation and director Andrew Adamson began development on a sequel with DreamWorks Animation.

Shrek 2 was released on the same weekend three years later and despite opening on a Wednesday, it made $108 million on its first full weekend, becoming the second-highest opening movie (at the time). It would become even more successful than the first movie, grossing over $900 million worldwide, $414 million domestically. With Adamson leaving to make the “Narnia” movies, Shrek the Third brought in a new creative team, and it opened well with $121.6 million 2007, but received some of the worst reviews for the franchise with 6.1 out of 10 on IMDb compared to 8/10 for the first movie and 7.5/10 for the sequel. It received 41% Fresh reviews compared to the 90% of the original from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, so obviously, people were not happy with the third movie.

It’s now been nine years since the first movie and three since the last one, and for the most part, all the voicecast from the previous movies are back for this one and there aren’t too many new characters worth mentioning though wisely, DreamWorks have hired an all-new team to make the movie, although Mike Mitchell’s previous movies, Sky High and the Ben Affleck bomb Surviving Christmas), don’t bode too well for the new movie. At least it’s written by Josh Klausner, coming off his hit Date Night for Fox.

The big question is whether the franchise has peaked and lost many of its dedicated fans after the last movie or whether it can be the first franchise to have three $100 million plus openers in a row. There are two things that might make the biggest difference in whether the fourth “Shrek” movie succeeds or fails in that effort, the first one being that this is the first chapter being released in 3D and in IMAX theaters. In both cases, that will mean higher ticket prices for families who choose to view the movie in those formats, which means that the movie can do well even if fewer people decide to give it a chance. Being released in IMAX didn’t help Iron Man 2 score that much bigger an opening than Iron Man, but 3D is still something that’s a strong factor in getting kids excited about going to the movies – teens and young adults are a bit more skeptical and there’s nothing about this movie that makes it seem necessary to pay extra to see it in those premium formats.

The second is that the movie is being touted as “The Final Chapter.” In fact, the commercials have used that title rather than the film’s actual title, stressing the urgency of this being the last chance to see Mike Myer’s Shrek and Eddie Murphy’s Donkey on screen together. (Oddly, the commercials barely show Cameron Diaz’s Fiona at all and many of them seem to focus on the supporting characters.)

There’s still a lot of kids who love the character and with the only other kids or family film in theaters being DreamWorks Animation’s previous movie How to Train Your Dragon, comfortably sitting in the Top 10 for two months, it’s likely they’re looking for something new to see with the start of summer. With the namebrand value of “Shrek,” enough parents should be fine bringing their kids to see it over the next couple weeks, even if the teen and slightly older crowd who might go out to see the movie normally, might give it a pass until they hear whether it’s worth seeing. The key to the movie doing even semi-decently this weekend is that at this point “Shrek” has a namebrand value among audiences that it can bring in a lot more casual moviegoers, rather than being one of those movies that people are anxiously awaiting and rush out to see opening day.

Why I Should See It: It’s the Final Chapter!!! And if you don’t see it, you’ll never have another chance to see it again! (Well, except on DVD, Video-on-Demand, cable, network television, etc. etc)
Why Not: The franchise had already jumped the shrek (ha ha) with the previous installment, so it’s doubtful that being able to see it in IMAX or 3D will make that big a difference.
Projections: $92 to 95 million opening weekend and $295 to 305 million total.

COMPARISONS


MacGruber (Rogue/Universal)
Starring Will Forte, Ryan Phillippe, Kristen Wiig, Val Kilmer, Powers Boothe, Maya Rudolph
Directed by Jorma Taccone (debut film from one-third of The Lonely Island who produces the “SNL Digital Shorts” for “Saturday Night Live”); Written by Will Forte, John Solomon, Jorma Taccone (Extreme Movie)
Genre: Action, Comedy
Rated R
Tagline: “The Ultimate Tool”
Plot Summary: Having given up crime-fighting for ten years after the death of his fiancée, special Ops agent MacGruber (Will Forte) learns that his enemy Dieter von Cunth (Val Kilmer) has gotten his hands on a nuclear warhead, so he assembles an elite team (Ryan Phillippe and Kristen Wiig) to take down Cunth’s army of assassins.

Review

Interview with Jorma Taccone and Will Forte

Analysis:

It’s been a long time since a movie has spun-off of a “Saturday Night Live” sketch, maybe because so few of those movies have actually done well at the box office the last time they tried. Those movies can certainly be a stepping stone for the right comic actor to make the transition into movies, and that certainly seems to be the driving factor between creating a movie around Will Forte’s hilarious sketch character MacGruber, who was clearly meant as a spoof of MacGyver, the ’80s television hero best known for getting himself out of fixes by jury-rigging devices from ordinary household items.

Will Forte has been a member of the cast on “Saturday Night Live” for eight years, a time when he’s gone from being a featured supporting player to being one of the show’s most reliable comic actors. He’s also made a few brief forays into movies during that time. Besides appearing in the last two Broken Lizard comedies, he also starred with Will Arnett in the comedy The Brothers Solomon, which was actually a horrendous bomb, making less than a million dollars in theaters despite a wide release. Joining Forte is his “SNL” castmate Kristen Wiig who has had much better luck in movies than others of her peers, mainly with small appearances in comedies like Knocked Up, but she’s had bigger roles in indies like last year’s Adventureland, Extract and Drew Barrymore’s Whip It. She’s also done very well with her voicework like in the recent hit How to Train Your Dragon.

There was a time when Val Kilmer, who plays the film’s villain, was a leading actor who could topline movies, and this is only Kilmer’s second foray into comedy, having starred opposite Robert Downey Jr. in Shane Black’s critical fave Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, which barely made much more than Kilmer’s previous releases Mindhunters and Spartan. Still, Kilmer’s only real blockbuster hit to date was when he donned the cowl for the lead role in Batman Forever, and it’s doubtful his presence will have that much effect either way. The same can be said for Ryan Phillipe, a former teen idol who seems to have joined Kilmer having fallen under hard times. This is Phillipe’s first movie since the long-delayed 2008 drama Stop-Loss–having mostly been in the tabloids due his split with wife Reese Witherspoon–but before that, the actor appeared in Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers, Billy Ray’s espionage thriller Breach and the Oscar-winning Crash. That really was Phillipe’s biggest movie going back to his appearance in I Know What You Did Last Summer eight years prior.

The movie is directed by Jorma Taccone, one third of The Lonely Island comedy troupe, which includes Andy Samberg and Akiva Schaffer, whose careers have also exploded due to their “Digital Shorts” on “Saturday Night Live.” Their previous jump into movies was with the bomb Hot Rod for Paramount, which may have been why the studio balked at reteaming with producer Lorne Michaels despite the deal Broadway Video has had with the Paramount-based MTV Films for years. Instead, they went with the NBC-affiliate Universal, which allowed for the type of synergistic marketing that they do so well.

So essentially, we have a cast of actors who have barely been able to have a hit between them with a director whose last movie bombed, which makes you wonder why MacGruber may be any different. And that might be where the “Saturday Night Live” factor comes in. Forte is joining a fairly exclusive rank of “SNL” cast who were able to make the jump to movies via one of their sketches being brought to theaters. The tradition began in 1980 when John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd brought their characters The Blues Brothers to the big screen to great success. Twelve years later, Mike Myers went onto have quite a lucrative film career after appearing with Dana Carvey in two “Wayne’s World” movies and Will Ferrell’s career also exploded after A Night at the Roxbury – Carvey and Chris Kattan weren’t so lucky. Then there were the likes of Molly Shannon’s Superstar and Tim Meadows as The Ladies Man, neither which did very well but not quite as poorly as Julie Sweeney’s hermaphrodite comedy It’s Pat, which was dumped into 33 theaters where it made $61,000. Ouch.

Although “Saturday Night Live” has had a number of off-seasons, the show seems to be more popular than ever, having recently received its best ratings ever with the Betty White episode, in which she also appeared in a “MacGruber” sketch. The biggest issue is that “SNL” sketches tend to be funny for a few minutes, if even that, and trying to stretch or expand the characters beyond that usually falls flat. Also, plenty of “SNL” members have made the jump to movies without actually bringing their characters from sketches and not all of them have succeeded, Andy Samberg’s role in Hot Rod being a good example. Another recent “SNL” castmate who didn’t quite make waves in movies was Jimmy Fallon who had two mediocre movies before becoming a late night talk show host.

With that in mind, NBC/Universal have been pushing the hell out of the movie, not only during “SNL,” but also with appearances by the cast in character on the wrestling show “Monday Night Raw,” hoping that wrestling fans might enjoy the dumb humor of the character. They also pushed the release back to May from mid-April where it would have been facing competition from The Losers to instead act as counterprogramming to the latest “Shrek.”

One probably shouldn’t expect many good reviews – or any for that matter, since after premiering the movie at the South by SouthWest Film Festival in March, Universal decided to hold all press screenings until Thursday night, too late for most print critics to get a review in the Friday paper. Obviously, they’re not expecting critics to like it and are expecting this to be a frontloaded opening week wonder, a plan that could only work if the movie gets bad reviews. Either that or they’re worried about spoilers, but that seems silly considering that the movie was already seen by hundreds of people.

Even with the limited potential for an SNL sketch movie, there should be a group of young people under 25 who will be interested in seeing this, though being R-rated will probably limit how young the movie might go, making it harder for the 13 to 15 set who watch the show to get into the movie. (One can probably expect them to buy tickets to “Shrek” or one of the other movies and then sneak in.)

Why I Should See It: “MacGruber” is one of the most consistently funny SNL skits of the past couple seasons.
Why Not: There aren’t many SNL skits that are funny enough to sustain more than 4 or 5 minutes.
Projections: $11 to 13 million opening weekend and roughly $32 million total.

COMPARISONS


THE CHOSEN ONE:

Racing Dreams (Hannover House)
Starring Annabeth Barnes, Brandon Warren, Josh Hobson
Directed by Marshall Curry (Street Fight)
Genre: Documentary
Rated PG
Tagline: “Coming of Age in a Fast World”
Plot Summary: This doc takes a look at three kids from the ages of 11 to 13 competing in the World Karting Association’s National Series with dreams of eventually racing NASCAR, following in the tire tracks of some of the greatest NASCAR drivers who previously competed in the championship. These dreams are hard to come by, especially as they face their own adolescence and making tough decisions that come with it.

The first time I saw Marshall Curry’s amazing doc was at the Tribeca Film Festival last year where it won one of the festival’s audience awards along with City Island, “Chosen One” from a few weeks back. The follow-up to Curry’s acclaimed doc Street Fight, about the battle for the mayorship of Newark, New Jersey, fought on the streets by Cory Booker, Racing Dreams is a similarly strong doc that follows the progress of three very different young people who are at the point in their lives whether they have to decide whether they want to race cars as a hobby or if they will do what it takes to make a career out of racing.

Without any idea how any of their stories might play out, Curry seemingly lucked his way into finding three very different subjects who create a strong contrast as they interact with their families and each other. The movie follows a year in their lives as they take part in the Go-Kart championship with dreams of one day racing NASCAR. It’s a pricey journey that costs their parents quite a lot of money to support their kids in terms of buying equipment and traveling to races.

The most interesting journey is that of 11-year-old Annabeth Barnes who is just as ambitious as the boys, but as she reaches puberty and starts seeing boys as more than competition, her interest in racing starts to wane despite the amount of money being spent on her career. 13-year-old Brandon Warren comes from a poor dysfunctional family including a few members who have spent time in jail. He’s a strong racer who needs to learn to control his temper on the track, but even his natural racing abilities may be hindered by the lack of funds to support his dream. Then there’s 12-year-old Josh Hobson, an articulate and smart kid who already knows how to pimp his endorsements during interviews, and clearly seems to be the guy who has the best chance of making it. All three kids are really outspoken and have enough charisma to make them great doc subjects, keeping you interested in their journey to try to be the top racer.

If you’re aware of how obsessed people in certain regions of the country are with NASCAR, you can understand where they’re coming from, and here are three kids who want nothing more than to be racecar drivers. Unfortunately, there’s a lot more in play than just being able to drive well, including family drama and the expenses that surround the sport.

Curry’s just an amazing filmmaker who knows exactly how to pace the movie so it isn’t just talking heads, having his cameras present for a lot of great moments, including a budding romance between two of the subjects. Through a series of open interviews, Curry is really able to get into the mindset of these three kids and their families, to show how their relationships change over the course of this difficult year. These testimonials are together with amazing footage of these Go-Karts whipping around the track at 70 to 80 miles per hour using great rockin’ music to keep it exciting. (Curry uses a lot of The National, one of my favorite local bands, so points for that, too!) The camerawork throughout is very impressive, never looking at all like the typical way races are shot for television.

If you’re into NASCAR racing or competitive docs like Spellbound, Curry’s film will certainly be one you won’t want to miss. It’s one of the most riveting and insightful docs you’re likely to see this year as it pulls you into the lives of these 11-to-13-year-olds, that you’ll leave the movie wanting to see what the future holds in store for them.

Racing Dreams opens in select cities this weekend, mainly in the South and Midwest, then racing country Indiana on May 28, Oregon on June 4, then finally New York on June 11.

Honorable Mention:

Christopher Browne’s doc After the Cup: The Sons of Sakhnin United (Variance Films) follows Bnel Sakhnin, the first soccer team from an Arab town in Israel to win the National Cup, though the following season, they’re plagued with problems trying to follow-through on that success.

It’s a movie that has quite a bit in common with Marshall Curry’s Racing Dreams, not only because they both premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, clearly one of the top film festivals for docs these days, but also because it follows a full season of competitive field. In this case, it’s about the only soccer team from the Arab sector of Israel, and one of the few Israeli teams that mixes Arabs, Jews and foreigners to create the type of coexistence in the Middle East that people have been dreaming about for decades.

Very much the outsiders in Israel, the Arab members of the team are constantly have to deal with the identity crisis of being a part of their country while being treated like outcasts. After Bnel Sakhnin won the Israel National Cup, things seemed to be looking up for the team until the next season, where they’re plagued by problems and can’t catch a single break. Exacerbating the problems facing the team is the amount of racism they face from their countrymates, which is somewhat shocking in this day and age. Even the Arabs in the country who tend to be on the side of Bnel Sakhnin are becoming disgruntled with the number of horrible losses the team faces, knocking them further down the ranks. They’re doing so poorly in the season that they’re close to being dropped out of the Premiere League for a secondary one.

For the most part, the film focuses on the team’s Jewish coach Eyal Lachman and the Arab captain Abas Suan, who has just made the Israeli National Team, the two men who have to contend with the most stress and pressure for the team’s failures. Lachman ends up being the scapegoat by the fans, as his decisions in terms of creating an overly-aggressive team and benching many of the foreign players is called into question.

The amount of time this movie has been sitting on the shelf is somewhat obvious by the fact it show the Israeli National Team preparing for the 2006 World Cup, four years ago, and it’s a missed opportunity that it doesn’t really follow through on that aspect, especially after Abas Suan scores a goal that potentially wins over some of his detractors. In that sense, it’s somewhat unfocused in telling its story.

On top of that, the movie’s momentum is killed by the way it ends in a rather strange place without really resolving the story that’s been building to. Instead of following through, Browne ends the movie with a number of title cards revealing where the main players are now. One hopes that he has gone back since the film’s premiere in 2007 to update the stories, but there still seems to be a lot of loose ends.

Regardless of the relatively minor problems, Brown has found a fantastic story, even if it’s somewhat of a downer at times, and it’s certainly a unique look at the conflict in the Middle East by putting it in the context of a competitive sports doc.

After the Cup opens in New York at the Cinema Village on Friday.

Also in Limited Release:

Michael Douglas stars in Solitary Man (Anchor Bay Films) a drama from Brian Koppelman and David Levien, writers of Rounders and Ocean’s 13. Douglas plays Ben Kalmen, a middle-aged former automobile magnate trying to recover from a scandal that has disgraced him. His attempt to get out of it is hindered by his constant sexual indiscretions with various women he meets, including the teen daughter of his girlfriend, played by Imogen Poots and Mary-Louis Parker respectively. After premiering at the Toronto Film Festival last year, the film which also stars Jesse Eisenberg, Susan Sarandon and Danny Devito, will open in New York and L.A. on Friday.

Interview with Brian Koppelman and David Levien

Mini-Review:

Eisenberg also stars in Kevin Asche’s crime-drama Holy Rollers (First Independent Pictures) as a young Hassidic Jew from Brooklyn who gets caught up in a drug trafficking ring that smuggles pills into the country from Europe using other Hasids as mules. It also opens in New York and L.A. on Friday, then expands into other cities on June 4.

Interview with Jesse Eisenberg & Justin Bartha

Interview with Director Kevin Asche (Coming Soon!)

Mini-Review:

The Rape of Nanking, China by the invading Japanese army in 1939 is the central setting for director Florian Gallenberger’s John Rabe (Strand Releasing), starring Ulrich Tukur as the title character, a German businessman who is assigned to head the committee setting up an International Safe Zone for the civilians of the area, saving the lives of thousands. The film also stars Steve Buscemi as an American doctor and Daniel Bruel (Inglourious Basterds) as a German Jewish diplomat, all who must work together despite their differences. It opens in New York on Friday and in L.A. on June 4.

Mini-Review

The documentary 180 South: Conquerors of the Useless (Magnolia) by Chris Malloy follows Jeff Johnson as he tracks through the Patagonian wilderness following in the footsteps of his heroes Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins, until he encounters the two of them who have returned to Patagonia to protect it.

Chris Malloy’s film strikes so deeply into the heart of Patagonia’s wilderness we come to feel at home there. 180° South: Conquerors of the Useless follows Jeff Johnson as he retraces the epic 1968 journey of his heroes Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins to Patagonia. Along the way he gets shipwrecked off Easter Island, surfs the longest wave of his life — and prepares himself for a rare ascent of Cerro Corcovado. Jeff’s life turns when he meets up in a rainy hut with Chouinard and Tompkins who, once driven purely by a love of climbing and surfing, now value above all the experience of raw nature — and have come to Patagonia to spend their fortunes to protect it.

Bollywood superstar Hrithik Roshan (Dhoom 2) stars in Anurag Basu’s Kites (Reliance BIG Pictures) as “J,” a Las Vegas hustler who makes money by marrying women looking to get legal immigration status, a plot that backfires when one of them, a beautiful Mexican woman named Linda (Barbara Mori), turns up as the fiancé of his girlfriend’s brother. When “J” and Linda rekindle their romance, they must go on the run from his girlfriend’s father, a ruthless Vegas casino owner. It will open in select cities on Friday, and then on Friday, May 28, a shorter 90-minute version edited by director Brett Ratner for American audiences called Kites: The Remix will be released.

In Ian (A Film With Me In It) Fitzgibbon’s Irish comedy Perrier’s Bounty (IFC Films), Jim Broadbent and Cillian Murphy play father and son fugitives on the run from the gangster Darren Perrier (Brendan Gleeson), whom they owe money to. It opens at the IFC Center in New York on Friday.


Next week, it’s Memorial Day weekend and one day early on Thursday comes the long-awaited sequel Sex and the City 2 (New Line/Warner Bros.), then a day later, the Jerry Bruckheimer production of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Disney), starring Jake Gyllenhaal, will try to overcome the normal trepidation people seem to have towards video game movies.

Copyright 2010 Edward Douglas

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