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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UPDATE: So we’re changing things up a bit now that we have final theater counts.
1. Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney Pictures) – $42.5 million -63% (up .2 million)
2. Green Zone (Universal) – $19.4 million N/A (up .8 million)
3. She’s Out of My League (Paramount/DreamWorks) – $12.6 million N/A (up 1.1 million)
4. Remember Me (Summit Entertainment) – $11.5 million N/A (up 3.7 million and two places)
5. Shutter Island (Paramount) – $8.1 million -39% (up .2 million)
6. Our Family Wedding (Fox Searchlight) – $7.3 million N/A (down 1 million and two places)
7. Brooklyn’s Finest (Overture Films) – $7.1 million -47% (same)
8. Avatar (20th Century Fox) – $5.8 million -30% (up .2 million)
9. Cop Out (Warner Bros.) – $5.0 million -46% (up .4 million)
10. The Crazies (Overture) – $3.7 million -48% (up .4 million)
While Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland should continue to run rampant over the box office this weekend thanks to IMAX and 3D, four new movies will open trying to bring in some of the people who already saw it last week.
The strongest of the bunch is the reunion of Matt Damon with Paul Greengrass, director of the last two “Jason Bourne” movies, for the Iraq-based political thriller Green Zone (Universal). The commercials which make it look like “Bourne in Iraq” should help bring in older guys, but reviews will likely be mixed and moviegoing audiences have generally shunned Iraq-based movies, as seen most recently by the lack of box office for Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker. It should still open stronger than Damon’s last two movies, The Informant! and Invictus due to the promise of “Bourne-like” action, but it’s still facing a lot of male-friendly fare still paying in theaters.
Judd Apatow regular Jay Baruchel stars in the R-rated romantic comedy She’s Out of My League (Paramount/DreamWorks) as a nerdy guy who dates a super-hot blonde he meets at the airport, while getting terrible advice from friends and family. It’s not going to bring in the younger teen girls who normally would go see a movie like this and older women might be put off by the raunch, but it could be one of the stronger date movies for the under-25 set this weekend, which should allow it to do moderate if not huge business this weekend, helped by the general lack of comedies in theaters.
That leaves the other two movies, which will likely be vying for fourth and fifth place but either of which could end up breaking out or bombing. (How’s that for decisiveness?)
The focus on Robert Pattinson, star of “The Twilight Saga,” will be the biggest draw for Allen Coulter’s Remember Me (Summit), a romantic drama which surrounds him with the likes of Emilie de Ravin, Pierce Brosnan and Chris Cooper. It’s also a movie that’s difficult to market for what it is, especially with a huge shocking twist that might put people off if they know about it in advance. Because of this, the movie will mainly be bringing in the young girls who want to gush over Pattinson and few others unless reviews somehow steer older moviegoers to check it out.
While movies geared towards urban markets and wedding-based movies have both done well, the marketing for the ensemble comedy Our Family Wedding (Fox Searchlight), featuring the likes of Emmy-winner America Ferrera and Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker, might have some interest for Hispanic and African-American women, but most moviegoers will probably be fine waiting for cable or DVD on this one. With a moderate release into less than 2,000 theaters, it’s hard to imagine this will break out like other urban comedies and will most likely will remain under most radars, but we can see both of these ending up under the $10 million mark for the weekend.
This weekend last year, Dwayne Johnson’s action-comedy Race to Witch Mountain (Walt Disney Pictures) topped the box office with $24.4 million in 3,187 theaters, while the horror remake The Last House on the Left (Rogue Pictures) opened in third place with $14 million in 2,401 theaters. The comedy Miss March (Fox Searchlight) bombed with $2.4 million in 1,742 theaters, but still made it just barely into the Top 10, which grossed a cumulative $84 million, an amount that should be easily bested between the second week of Alice in Wonderland and the new movies.
THE BATTLE CRY
It would make some sense for me to use this section of the column to muse on the recent outcome of the Academy Awards, but something else happened over this past weekend that took the movie world by surprise, especially me, and that was Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland making more than $115 million, setting a new IMAX record in the market with $12.1 million.
Some might remember that last week I predicted it would make roughly $75 million which even seemed kinda high to me at the time even with the movie playing in IMAX and 3D screens compared to Burton’s other movies, but we obviously underestimated how many people wanted to see the movie and were willing to pay more to see it in one of those enhanced formats.
I still remember when Spider-Man set a new benchmark by being the first movie to gross over $100 million over a three-day weekend, and Alice in Wonderland effortlessly surpassed that amount this past weekend to become the top-opening non-sequel ever. Sure, a few people by Friday last week realized “Alice” might open bigger than expected when midnight numbers and advance sales started coming in, but considering how long 300 has held the March opening record, it’s obvious few could ever imagine seeing that kind of opening for a movie in March. Clearly, the box office is in better shape than ever, much of that due to the higher ticket prices that come with IMAX and 3D, two formats audiences seem to be flocking to thanks to James Cameron – granted, we’ve only had one movie in IMAX opening since Avatar and two more 3D movies coming out in the next month.
When the summer of 2007 kicked-off with three big sequels, Spider-Man 3, Shrek the Third and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, everyone expected them to open big because they all followed movies that grossed over $350 million. Sure enough, Spider-Man 3 quickly set a new opening record over the previous “Pirates” movies, and it held onto it until the anticipated The Dark Knight was released a year later. The latter would go onto gross $533 million, the second-highest domestic gross, which in turn was passed by Avatar a few months back.
The question now is whether a movie opening with $100 million is even impressive to anyone anymore. Anyone who watches “Entourage” on HBO might remember the big joke when James Cameron’s Aquaman opened bigger than Spider-Man, but so far, six movies have opened with more than Spider-Man since it opened in eight years and another eight have crossed the $100 million mark. It seems like $100 million has almost become a meaningless number since big budget tentpoles can pass that mark almost without even trying, like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The fact that a movie like The Twilight Saga: New Moon could open with an astounding $142.8 million following a movie that grossed less than $200 million is shocking because it literally made 74% of its predecessor’s total gross in three days.
Maybe so many big openers isn’t that exciting, but does anyone remember how long The Lost World: Jurassic Park held its opening weekend record of $72 million since being released on Memorial Day 1997? It held it for over four years. Right now, The Lost World is the 34th-biggest opening ever, and those 33 movies that have opened higher all came out in the last 8 1⁄2 years. (James Cameron’s Titanic opened later that year and held the domestic gross record for twelve years!) A lot of this can be accounted to higher ticket prices, especially with the popularity of IMAX and 3D, but one can’t just assume it’s inflation and clearly more people are going to theaters and there are more theaters to go to, but one has to assume that there is a ceiling that these movies will eventually have to hit because there are only so many movies people will rush out to in waves like some of those biggest openers. Who knows when that might happen as even the recession has clearly not affected moviegoer’s habits.
With that in mind, we have three movies coming this summer that could readily open over the $130 million mark and possibly even best The Dark Knight‘s current record, with the most obvious being Iron Man 2, followed by Toy Story 3 and The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. All three sequels will open big because there’s a lot of anticipation for them, probably more for the first two than the latter, but the real question is what kind of opening will impress anyone when we know they’re all going to do well? Will someone eventually predict a movie opens with $200 million and then it surpasses that amount in one weekend? Is that even physically possible? Obviously, we’re living in strange times where theaters can charge higher ticket prices and moviegoers are fanatic enough to pay them, but any realist knows that every bull market eventually has to hit a wall that stops it in its tracks, and one can only remain so optimistic that the current box office upswing continues unabated.
So if you have some thoughts on what future movie might surpass the opening of The Dark Knight or the total gross of Avatar, let us know in the comments below.
Green Zone (Universal)
Starring Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Amy Ryan, Brendan Gleeson, Jason Isaacs, Khalid Abdalla
Directed by Paul Greengrass (United 93, The Bourne Conspiracy, The Bourne Ultimatum, Black Sunday); Written by Brian Helgeland (Mystic River, Man on Fire, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, Blood Work, Payback)
Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller
Tagline: “Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller is done following orders”
Plot Summary: A few months after the invasion of Iraq, Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller (Matt Damon), the army officer in charge of finding the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) starts suspecting that the intel he’s being given isn’t accurate, so he tries to get more information from a field reporter (Amy Ryan) and two CIA agents (Greg Kinnear, Brendan Gleeson) who seem to be working at cross-purposes.
Mini-Review Few filmmakers are able to explore topical real-world political issues in a way that’s as entertaining as it is informative, but after sandwiching the unforgettable “United 93” between the intelligent popcorn fare of the “Bourne” sequels, Paul Greengrass tries to do something that literally merges the two worlds. “Green Zone” explores how we went from looking for the WMDs in Iraq to finally admitting maybe there were none, a fictionalized story based in reality told though the viewpoint of a soldier at the forefront of that search. In fact, as it begins, you might even feel as if you’re watching a documentary, the only real telling factor being that you have Matt Damon leading the soldiers as they explore the regions given to them by the latest military intel.
Damon does a perfectly acceptable job playing Miller, a soldier trying to do his duty and follow orders despite being unsure whether what he’s being told is the truth. This is his show as he interacts with one of the players or another. As the CIA operative trying to help Miller uncover the truth, Brendan Gleeson has one of the most ridiculous accents you’ll hear in a movie this year, attempting something like a Southern accent, but making him come across as far too effeminate. Amy Ryan is fine but underused as a field reporter essentially reporting whatever she’s told, Jason Isaacs is almost unrecognizable as a gregarious special ops soldier and he brings a much-needed spirit to the movie, especially because Greg Kinnear delivers such a bland performance that he kills the energy whenever he’s on screen. Regardless, it’s the talented Arab actors who do the best job bringing realism to the story, whether it’s Khalid Abdalla as the Iraqi informant who helps Miller learn the truth or Igal Naor (also the best part of Gavin Hood’s “Rendition”) as the Iraqi General supplying information to the CIA.
The movie just isn’t very timely since it’s dealing with a subject matter that’s been discussed to death on the news networks and in any of a dozen or more documentaries. After a film like “The Hurt Locker,” this is somewhat of a let-down. Part of the problem is that there’s a serious disconnect between the reality and the fiction, almost to the point of being distracting, because you hear things you know to be true from the news, etc, and the next moment, you’re watching a chase that could have been culled from any action movie. Not to mention that it’s impossible to get out of your head that you’re watching actors.
In fact, films like “The Kingdom,” Ridley Scott’s “Body of Lies” and “Syriana” have done a far better job finding their way within a Middle Eastern setting post-9/11, because they tell their own stories rather than one based on facts most audiences will already know about. Greengrass’ trademark shaky camerawork and machine gun editing is often jarring, even more than in the car chase in “The Bourne Supremacy,” to the point where you’re not always sure exactly what’s going on. The fact that any person can have a similar experience by playing “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” and be able to interact and change the outcome of that experience doesn’t help matters either. Like with the “Bourne” movies, John Powell’s score does such a good job creating excitement and pulling the elements together into something more cinematic.
It’s a shame that “Green Zone” doesn’t always work, because there’s so much potential to the idea of Greengrass illuminating the truth behind the lies that led to the Iraq War. Except that we already know the truth, and rehashing it again does little to change any of it. “Green Zone” isn’t the best Iraq movie to date, nor is it the worst, but one certainly expects more and better from those involved, and its attempt at introducing “Bourne”-style action into a real war setting is always on the precipice of utterly failing as a concept. Rating: 6.5/10
With two more months until the summer movie season, there are a lot of movies being released in between the potential blockbusters just hoping to bring in business during the winter/spring movie doldrums. Here we have a new movie from the Oscar-nominated director of two of the most respected action-thrillers of the last decade as well as a timely 9/11 thriller. Yet Paul Greengrass directing an Iraq movie isn’t exactly the best as much as Greengrass reuniting with “Jason Bourne” (aka Matt Damon) for another action-thriller, that just happens to take place in Iraq.
Matt Damon’s career is certainly one of the more interesting one, especially once he went from being an Oscar-winning screenwriter to becoming part of two successful franchise trilogies in the Jason Bourne and Danny Ocean movies. It was in The Bourne Supremacy, the sequel to his breakout hit The Bourne Identity where Damon was first teamed with Greengrass, and it certainly upped the ante on the action genre, to the point where even the James Bond movies started using a similar formula for their action scenes. Clearly, those big summer blockbusters helped Matt Damon’s status as a box office draw, but Damon’s two 2009 movies, The Informant! and Invictus, both directed by equally respected Oscar-winning directors Soderbergh and Eastwood, failed to gross more than $40 million total. Even with the “Bourne” connection and promise of action, Green Zone is probably more like movies such as Robert De Niro’s The Good Shepherd or Steven Gaghan’s Syriana–the latter pairing Damon with Clooney–both which dealt with the CIA and political intrigue and did slightly better, more in the $50 to $60 million. Both those movies generally appealed to audiences between 20 and 40, balanced between men and women, while this one will probably be geared more towards guys due to action.
The rest of the cast includes the Oscar-nominated Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone), the ever-present Greg Kinnear and almost more-present Brendan Gleeson, generally just another good cast as Greengrass has been able to pull together for his “Bourne” movies (though to be fair, many of them were carried over from the first movie.) While they might help bring some validity to the movie, few people will even realize they’re in the movie because so much of the focus is on Damon.
So many movies set in Iraq have not been able to bring in audiences, even Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker, which takes place in that setting but isn’t really an Iraq movie. Peter Berg’s The Kingdom wasn’t an Iraq movie either, but it’s a similar action movie set in the Middle East with substantial starpower, and that topped out at a gross under $50 million. (Granted, Berg hadn’t had the success of Greengrass/Damon with the “Bourne” movies either.) Green Zone on the other hand is very much an Iraq movie, dealing with things that have been covered quite extensively in documentaries that have mostly been ignored when they played in theaters. Mainstream audiences might find it rather preachy to be doing another movie about the WMDs in Iraq and also a bit late in the game, considering how few people are even talking about Iraq anymore. In other words, the ongoing war is no longer a hot topic, and times have changed a lot in recent years, which might explain why The Hurt Locker underperformed so badly.
Reviews will probably be mixed, though Greengrass is respected enough among film critics that they’ll probably give him the benefit of the doubt rather than just outright trashing the movie, especially because he is making an effort to make a different kind of Iraq movie. For the most part, it contains many of the same stylistic elements of the Bourne movies like Greengrass’ use of handheld cameras and quickly-edited action scenes, which some audiences find jarring.
A movie like this generally won’t appeal at all to women, certainly not as much as Damon’s other recent movies, and only having half of the potential audience will make it harder for this movie to really break out. With that in mind, we expect a moderate opening, definitely better than Matt Damon’s last two movies, as it mainly brings out older guys hoping that the movie lives up to the expectations created by the commercials.
Why I Should See It: The idea of the team who made the “Jason Bourne” sequels so entertaining and successful tackling a realistic take on the Iraq War is a fascinating prospect.
She’s Out of My League (Paramount/DreamWorks)
Starring Jay Baruchel, Alice Eve, T.J. Miller, Nate Torrence, Krysten Ritter, Geoff Stults, Lindsay Sloane, Mike Vogel
Directed by Jim Field Smith (debut); Written by Sean Anders, John Morris (Sex Drive, upcoming Hot Tub Time Machine)
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Tagline: “How Can a 10 Go For a 5?”
Plot Summary: Kirk (Jay Baruchel) is a Pittsburgh airport security agent who encounters the gorgeous Molly (Alice Eve) while doing his job, and much to everyone (including Kirk’s) disbelief, she actually finds him funny and wants to spend time with him. The question is whether the dorky Kirk is up to the standards a woman like Molly needs in a man, something that is making him insane.
Continuing on the theme of March being a good time to “try new things,” here we have a raunchy R-rated romantic comedy in the vein of There’s Something About Mary and Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up that hopes to do for Jay Baruchel what the latter comedy did for Seth Rogen or Forgetting Sarah Marshall did for Jason Segel.
Some may have already been familiar with Jay Baruchel when he appeared on Judd Apatow’s college comedy “Undeclared,” but he came back in a big way, first playing Seth Rogen’s friend in Knocked Up and then appearing alongside Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder. It was probably the latter that convinced producers he could pull off the role of a geeky guy in this romantic comedy, and it helps that he’s generally likeable. 2010 is looking like it’ll be a good year for Baruchel between this, the upcoming DreamWorks Animation family film How to Train a Dragon and then in the summer with Jerry Bruckheimer’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice opposite Nicolas Cage. Not too many Americans will be familiar with his romantic interest Alice Eve unless they happened to see the British comedy Starter for Ten starring James McAvoy, but she certainly fits the bill for the role. The only other actors who might be known are T.J. Miller and Mike Vogel who both appeared in the monster movie Cloverfield, and Nate Torrence, best known for his appearance in Get Smart, which spawned a spin-off video release.
Written by the duo who brought us the hilarious but overlooked Sex Drive (and the upcoming Hot Tub Time Machine!), this is the directorial debut by Jim Field Smith, and it’s quite a daring move by DreamWorks to invest so much in a movie with only one known name star, and not even a big one. That said, the movie probably didn’t cost very much and Paramount are advertising this somewhat conventionally using Red Band trailers, but also using the two-pronged approach of having commercials that might appeal to the guys with the raunchy humor and to women with the romance. So far, it’s looking like this one is generally playing better with guys, but one can see the 18 to 25 year old crowd looking for something to see with a date this weekend choosing the movie because it’s such a funny concept.
Until the past few years, March hasn’t been a great time to release a comedy and Paramount hadn’t exactly made waves with previous comedy release. Last year’s I Love You, Man changed all that, and now they’re hoping this high concept comedy will follow suit. We expect this won’t be getting nearly as many rave reviews which means it will be relying on the advertising and the audience who haven’t already decided to see either Green Zone or Remember Me this weekend. That said, it’s one of the few comedies in theaters and moviegoers should be ready for some laughs, so expect a moderate opening rather than it being a breakout or a bomb.
Why I Should See It: The combination of raunchy humor and sweet romance might make this a movie young men and women can enjoy together, making it a great date movie.
Our Family Wedding (Fox Searchlight)
Starring Forest Whitaker, America Ferrera, Carlos Mencia, Regina King, Lance Gross, Diana Maria Riva, Anjelah Johnson, Lupe Ontiveros, Charlie Murphy, Shannyn Sossamon
Directed by Rick Famuyiwa (Brown Sugar, The Wood); Written by Rick Famuyiwa, Malcolm Spellman (upcoming Soul Train and Johnson Family Vacation 2), Wayne Conley (King’s Ransom)
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Tagline: “To have and to hold… ‘Til Dads do us part.”
Plot Summary: When Lucia and Marcus (America Ferrera, Lance Gross) decide to get married, they realize they’re going to have to go back to L.A. and tell their parents, but the hardest part will be telling their respective fathers (Carlos Mencia, Forest Whitaker) who have already had an altercation that will make it harder for either of them to accept the other into the family.
Dysfunctional families may be the perfect fodder for comedy since we all have members of our family (or our entire family) who drive us crazy with their behavior, and that factor seems to escalate whenever someone gets married because it brings all of them together in one place. That’s the premise behind this comedy which hopes to create something like My Big Fat Greek Wedding meets Meet the Parents for Latinos and African-American audiences with a diverse ensemble cast. It’s helmed by Rick Famuyiwa, whose last film Brown Sugar was a moderate hit for Fox Searchlight in 2002.
Like that movie, Our Family Wedding is going to try to bring in urban audiences who don’t have many choices, plus it will try to capitalize the success of movies that have “Wedding” in their title, which is often enough to entice women, since so many of them can relate either because they’ve been to weddings or they have dreams of their own. Of course, the biggest of them was My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but you can also look at movies like Monsoon Wedding from Mira Nair, My Best Friend’s Wedding starring Julia Roberts, The Wedding Date, The Wedding Planner and many more. Many of those were geared primarily towards white audiences (or Greek and Indian audiences in the case of the first two), so trying to create a wedding movie that might appeal to ethnic groups who aren’t normally catered to with this sort of fare.
Of course, African-American women have had the various movies by Tyler Perry, the closest one to this being Why Did I Get Married?, but Latinas haven’t had as many movies geared toward them released by a major studio. While Screen Gems had a huge Thanksgiving hit with the African American Christmas film, conveniently called This Christmas, the Hispanic-driven Yuletide movie Nothing Like the Holidays, which opened a few weeks later, tanked big time. This one takes the premise of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? by playing the differences and prejudices between African-Americans and Latinos, which maybe those audiences will find funny or maybe they’ll feel it’s too stupid to waste their money on.
The two biggest stars in that cast are Forest Whitaker and America Ferrera, the latter being very popular from her sitcom “Ugly Betty,” a role for which she’s already won an Emmy and a Golden Globe, but she hasn’t done much moviework besides her debut Real Women Have Curves, the two “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” movies and a couple small roles and productions. Certainly the fans of her show would probably enjoy this movie even if it’s a very different characters. Whitaker is an Oscar-winning actor (for Last King of Scotland) who has mainly done serious roles and is trying to branch out by doing a little comedy, which certainly is not what his fans have been itching to see. Then you have comedian Carlos Mencia, who used to have a popular show on Comedy Central but has generally been missing-in-action, having only made one other film appearance in Ben Stiller’s bomb The Heartbreak Kid. The male lead is played by Lance Gross who appeared in Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns as well as on his television show “House of Payne,” and many will be familiar with Regina King from her many roles including a supporting role in Ray and playing a part of the ensemble cast of the aforementioned This Christmas.
It’s hard for a white boy like me (and most critics) to get into the heads of Latinas and African-American women and whether they might find this funny, but other than Brown Sugar, Fox Searchlight hasn’t really had much luck with movies geared towards urban audiences. In fact, most of their comedies last year, romantic or otherwise, other than (500) Days of Summer, bombed badly. Their last attempt at an urban comedy was the roller skating movie Roll Bounce, which topped out with $17.4 million after opening with $7 million in a similar number of theaters (~1600), and one would think that a movie about a wedding would generally be of more interest, although this one’s mixed messages and target audience may backfire, especially because the movie doesn’t look particularly funny.
Why I Should See It: If the other movies don’t interest you much, then this one certainly offers something different from them.
Remember Me (Summit)
Starring Robert Pattinson, Emilie de Ravin, Chris Cooper, Lena Olin, Tate Ellington, Ruby Jerins, Pierce Brosnan
Directed by Allen Coulter (Hollywoodland, various HBO shows) ; Written by Will Fetters (upcoming The Lucky One, A Star is Born)
Genre: Drama, Romance
Tagline: “Live in the Moments”
Plot Summary: After the death of his brother, a rebellious college student named Tyler (Robert Pattinson) goes off the rails, getting arrested after a bar fight. When he sees an opportunity to get revenge against his arresting officer (Chris Cooper) by seducing his daughter (Emilie de Ravin), the two discover they have a lot in common and fall in love. At the same time, Tyler is having issues with his rich but selfish father (Pierce Brosnan) who is more concerned with what’s happening on Wall Street than with his family.
Certain to be considered this weekend’s biggest anomaly is this Manhattan-based romance drama starring one of Hollywood hottest actors, Robert Pattinson, which on the surface, looks like a similar young person’s romance as the recent Dear John, based on a Nicholas Sparks’ novel. Really, it’s more of a character drama, much like the type of fare one would normally see come out of the Sundance Film Festival, but done on a bigger budget.
That larger budget comes from the fact that Summit Entertainment are hoping their Golden Boy, whose two “Twilight” movies grossed ONE BILLION DOLLARS worldwide–read that again… no mistake–will bring some of his fans into see whatever movie he does next. Certainly, Johnny Depp’s breakout roles in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” convinced many women to see his interim movies like Secret Window, and Pattinson in a teen romance isn’t that much of a stretch from the romance of the “Twilight” even if this one is based entirely in reality. Oddly, Pattinson’s portrayal of Salvador Dali in the indie Little Ashes last year didn’t bring in many of Pattinson’s fans, despite them pimping the move whenever they had the chance. The odd thing is that Remember Me first started generating awareness when Pattinson was out and about in New York shooting the movie with his fans staking out space to watch and lots of photos of the production; that kind of awareness is hard to generate even with the best marketing or publicity campaign.
Joining Pattinson is Emilie de Ravin, best known for playing Claire on “Lost” (and who just returned for the new season). Her previous films include roles in Alexander Aja’s remake of The Hills Have Eyes and a smaller one in Michael Mann’s Public Enemies, although it’s hard to imagine fans of any of those movies seeing this one just for her. The ensemble cast also includes Pierce Brosnan, appearing in his third movie of the month, and Academy Award winner Chris Cooper.
Because of Pattinson, the movie is mainly being marketed as a light teen romance, which means that guys won’t have any interest in it whatsoever nor will adults over thirty for the most part. In fact, it’s a fairly rich and deep film that would probably appeal to older moviegoers if they were to give it a chance. There’s also the “big twist,” something that happens in the last ten minutes that’s likely to throw a lot of people off; in fact, the critics that give away that ending i.e. *ssholes are likely to be the ones to give the movie a bad review, and how that ending is referenced in reviews certainly might put off some people from seeing it.
Not that the young women who love “Pattz” (or whatever they’re calling him these days) will care about reviews as they’ll just want to see him in another romantic role to tie them over the three and half months before the next installment of “The Twilight Saga.” Regardless, there’s no way around the fact that the movie is a far tougher sell than a movie based on a popular novel or something more high concept, and Summit hasn’t exactly proven themselves as a marketing powerhouse ala Warner Bros. or Sony, who would normally try to make it look more like something to appeal to wider audiences. While they’ll have a tough time convincing anyone but the Pattinson Brigade to rush out to see it opening weekend, it’s generally the type of movie that could hang around for a while based on word-of-mouth as long as that ending doesn’t hurt it.
Why I Should See It: This is a strong second feature from Allen Coulter, which finds ways of raising the game on the “teen romance” genre.
THE CHOSEN ONE:
Mother (Magnolia Pictures)
The lack of respect American moviegoers seem to show for Korean filmmakers by virtually ignoring their movies when they’re released in U.S. theaters is fairly despicable, especially as Korean cinema continues to be dominated by three auteurs who approach their craft with a similarly unique perspective as the likes of the Coens, Spike Jonze or Wes Anderson. One of those is Bong Joon-ho, whose monster movie blockbuster The Host I absolutely loved (almost as much as my editor hated it).
After directing a segment in the Tokyo! anthology, Director Bong is back with Mother, a very different movie for him, one that’s going to be more of an acquired taste for those who like their movies a bit off the beaten track, but also one that returns him to the themes of his earlier film, Memories of Murder. I probably loved the movie more when I first saw it at the Toronto Film Festival than my second viewing, but there’s no doubt that actress Kim Hya-Jja gives an amazing performance that really drives the piece.
When we first meet her character, she’s walking through a field placidly, and then we cut back in time. Her son Do-Joon is a simpleton who has memory problems–we’ll learn why later during one of the film’s many flashbacks–and she’s extremely overprotective even though he’s clearly old enough that he should be able to take care of himself, instead palling around with a troublesome ex-military hooligan who constantly leads him astray and takes advantage of him. One night, her son gets drunk and the next day, he’s accused of killing a teenage girl and put into jail. His mother can’t believe her son would be capable of murder and she begins her own investigation to get her son released, one that gets hairier as it goes along, and she learns that the murdered girl has a history that has given many locals reason to kill her.
At the core of the film is a murder mystery plot that could easily be morphed into a typical Hollywood thriller. In fact, there are certain aspects that Hitchcock would have absolutely loved, but it’s the distinctive way that Bong brings in Korean traditions, especially those of rural areas, that makes it so memorable.
As someone who has a mother who cares a little too much about my well-being, I could totally understand this character and some may be surprised that other than its weirder moments, this is also Mr. Bong’s most easily accessible film for Eastenr audiences, especially older women, who’ll be able to understand the main character’s motivations even if it’s taken to the craziest extreme.
There’s a lot of the strange comical performances that seem to go hand-in-hand with the tradition of South Korean filmmaking, and some of the humor is deliberately being done at the expense of her simple son, but really, it’s Ms. Kim’s performance that drives the thing from start to finish. She can easily go from one emotion to the next without batting an eye, giving the type of performance that in a perfect world would put her on the Oscar ballot against Meryl Streep. She is absolutely amazing and if nothing else, she’s the reason to see movie.
Mother isn’t quite as entertaining as The Host was, but there’s a depth Bong Joon-ho brings to his latest that shows he’s clearly ready to bring his vision to Western films. He sets the film up perfectly so that when we finally reach the big reveal, it’s impossible to see it coming, though it leads to a puzzling finale that could divide those who see it. Even so, if you’re a fan of Korean cinema, Director Bong continues to be on par with Park Chan-wook, Kim Ki-Duck and others in terms of pushing the envelope in what can be done with storytelling on film.
Mother is now playing on Video-on-Demand and opens in select theaters on Friday.
Tales from the Script (First Run Features)
I don’t have a lot to say about this documentary by Peter Hanson except that if you have any interest whatsoever in writing a screenplay or trying to get a gig writing in Hollywood, this is a must-see film and a great companion to the book, which is similarly a must-read. Hanson and his co-writer Paul Robert Herman gathered some of Hollywood’s most-respected (and sometimes controversial) screenwriters to talk about their job and share anecdotes and stories about their experiences doing it. The impressive roster runs the gamut from Oscar-winning vets to guys best known for writing (or rewriting) summer popcorn fare and even includes one guy whose screenplays almost always go straight to DVD.
Having interviewed many screenwriters over the past few years, it’s been easy for me to learn what a difficult job it is, and how one has to have a certain zen attitude towards the business and how it works to be able to endure the obstacles even the most seasoned and respected writer face in the system. The book and this doc do a great job clarifying what some of those are and prepares the prospective screenwriter to learn how to deal with them with lots of great lessons.
As good as the book is, watching these writers tell these stories in on-camera interviews makes for an even more entertaining experience, because one can easily tell how candid and honest they’re being with what they’re sharing, often for the first time. The various interviews are broken down into nice bite-sized chunks with each chapter given a clever title and introduced with a movie clip whether it’s the Coens’ Barton Fink or other movies that have dealt with the studio system. Some of their horror stories are actually kind of fun and entertaining, whether they’re talking about how studio politics affect the development process or the crazy egos they have to deal with. Personally, I enjoyed Guinevere Turner’s stories about the writing of BloodRayne and how little of what she wrote ended up on screen.
There are times when the amount of talking heads gets a little tiring, but anytime it starts to dip into a lull, it quickly gets over that bump and we’re made privy to an unforgettable story that picks things up again. Hanson did an amazing job editing together all of these interview into what ends up being quite an inspirational film for those interested in taking on Hollywood, and it’s somewhat surprising that no one has ever tried to do something like this before. I’d suggest seeing the movie first then picking up the book, as it offers a lot more information and fleshes out what made it to the movie.
The book is currently available, while the movie opens in New York on Friday at the Quad Cinema and in L.A. on March 19 before its release on DVD on April 20.
Also in Limited Release:
The Exploding Girl (Oscilloscope Pictures) – Bradley Rust Gray’s indie dramedy stars Zoe Kazan as Ivy, a 20-year-old college student who returns home to New York City for summer break and tries to make a new romance work after her childhood friend Al (Mark Rendall) asks to stay with her during the break. It opens on Friday in New York at the Landmark Sunshine on Friday, then in Washington D.C. at the Landmark E. Street on March 26, Philly on April 16 and Boston on May 7.
Stolen (IFC Films) – Jon Hamm and Josh Lucas star in this thriller from Anders Anderson about two fathers in different eras whose missing sons seem to be intrinsically linked. Hamm plays Detective Tom Adkins whose ten-year-old son has vanished but when they find a body of a young boy in a trunk that’s been buried 50 years, he takes charge of the investigation; Lucas plays the father of the boy in that trunk. It opens in New York on Friday and in L.A. on March 19.
Suicide Girls Must Die! (First Look Studios) – In this unscripted horror film, twelve models from the Suicide Girls website travel to a remote cabin in Maine to shoot a pin-up calendar but then they start disappearing one by one. Trying to blur the line between horror and reality, it opens in select cities on Friday.
Next week, Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler face-off in The Bounty Hunter (Sony), the popular kids’ book Diary of a Wimpy Kid (20th Century Fox) comes to the screen, while Jude Law and Forrest Whitaker are Repo Men (Universal). (Because the Weekend Warrior will be busy covering the South by Southwest Film Festival and ShoWest, we’ll probably be doing another stripped-down minimalist column next week.)
Copyright 2010 Edward Douglas