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: We still think it’s going to be a tougher battle between Final Destination 5 and 30 Minutes or Less this weekend although they’re still going for 2nd place at best. Obviously, having made $5.5 million on Wednesday alone, The Help is probably going to be having a better weekend than we already projected although we still think it’s going to end up in fourth place this week.
1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (20th Century Fox) – $27.4 million -50% (down .3 million)
2. Final Destination 5 (New Line/WB) – $25.0 million N/A (up .2 million)
3. 30 Minutes or Less (Sony) – $20.6 million N/A (up 2 million)
4. The Help (DreamWorks) – $17.5 million N/A (up 2.7 million)
5. The Smurfs (Sony) – $12.0 -42% (same)
6. Glee: The 3D Concert Movie (20th Century Fox) – $8.2 million N/A (down .1 million)
7. Crazy, Stupid, Love. (Warner Bros.) – $7.8 million -35%
8. Cowboys and Aliens (DreamWorks/Universal) – $7.5 million -52%
9. Captain America: the First Avengers (Marvel/Paramount) – $7.0 million -46%
10. The Change-Up (Universal) – $7.0 million -48%
Although the Weekend Warrior has generally had a good summer in terms of our predictions, this August is particularly tough because there are more potential franchise movies being extended into the slower weekends of August. While the second weekend is still a potentially strong one, there are a four movies released this weekend and at least two of them are fighting for the same audience, which is also the audience for last week’s hit prequel Rise of the Planet of the Apes which exceeded most expectations. We expect it to pull a surprise second weekend at #1 despite the competition.
For second place, we have to give a slight advantage to the fifth installment of the popular horror franchise Final Destination 5 (New Line/WB) only because it’s getting more theaters including 3D and IMAX, and it has the name brand sequel factor going for it. The franchise may be suffering from a bit of burnout after four movies, particularly the last one which wasn’t that well-received, but a couple of major changes in direction and marketing (see the analysis below) as well as the number of moviegoers who have seen the previous four movies endlessly on cable or DVD should help it have a decent opening weekend, probably weighed heavily towards Friday.
It does have some competition vying for the exact same coveted 16 to 25 male moviegoers, which is Ruben (Zombieland) Fleischer’s action-comedy 30 Minutes or Less (Sony), a movie that will benefit from a lot of popular comic actors including Aziz Ansari in his first major leading role alongside The Social Network‘s Oscar-nominated Jesse Eisenberg, as well as Danny McBride. While R-rated comedy might also be suffering from some burnout, this one has the advantage of being an action movie as well, and a short running time will allow for more screenings per print than normal.
Either way, we’re not gonna take sides ’cause we’re excited about both movies doing decently this weekend, so may the best genre flick win!
Apparently, women also like going to the movies and while some of them will be just as thrilled watching D-grade actors getting killed and comedians getting into all sorts of trouble with the law, there are some who might want something a bit more. That’s where Tate Taylor’s adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s bestselling novel The Help (DreamWorks) comes in. With a strong cast of female actors including the omni-present Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain, the movie will be targeting one of the most underserved demographics of the summer, which is African-American women who haven’t had a single movie geared directly for them since Jumping the Broom way back in the first weekend of the summer. While The Help doesn’t have the benefits of an Oprah to help it out, the movie has been getting a huge amount of publicity on other morning talk shows, magazines and newspapers like “USA Today,” so fans of the book and women in general will definitely be interested even if it opens moderately on Wednesday then builds its audience based on positive word-of-mouth.
One assumes that the mostly female (and homosexual?) audience for Fox’s popular hit television show won’t necessarily race out to see Glee: The 3D Concert Movie (20th Century Fox), the concert movie shot during the 2010 cast tour, but those who are fanatical enough to see this will likely go out in en masse on Friday. These sorts of concert movies can be hit or miss and though Fox is releasing it into more theaters than Miley Cyrus’ hits, it’s hard to imagine this one can do as well as that or Justin Bieber’s recent concert doc. Best it can do is sixth place, though it could get caught up in the miasma of $7 to 8 million grossers below that.
This weekend last year, Sylvester Stallone directed and starred in the all-star ensemble cast of the action movie The Expendables (Lionsgate), co-starring Jason Statham, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke, Dolph Lundgren and Steve Austin. Guys came out in force to see this one, allowing the movie to open at #1 with $34.8 million. That was countered by the Julia Roberts-headlined chick flick Eat Pray Love (Sony), based on the bestselling novel of the same name, which brought in $23.1 million its opening weekend for 2nd place. Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright brought together an exciting young cast including Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead for the adaptation of Brian Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel series Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Universal). Despite a huge amount of promotion at Comic-Con a few weeks earlier, the movie tanked with just $10.6 million to open in fifth place. The Top 10 grossed just under $128 million, which this weekend’s offerings should be able to beat.
Final Destination 5 (New Line/WB)
Starring Nicholas D’Agosto, Emma Bell, Miles Fisher, Arlen Escarpeta, David Koechner, Tony Todd, Courtney B. Vance, P.J. Byrne, Ellen Wroe, Jacqueline MacInnes-Wood
Directed by Steven Quale (Aliens of the Deep, 2nd unit on Avatar and Titanic); Written by Eric Heisserer (A Nightmare on Elm Street remake and the upcoming The Thing prequel)
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Tagline: “Death has never been closer.”
Plot Summary: A group of office workers on a bus to a team-building retreat are saved from being killed on a suspended bridge as it collapses, and having survived, they consult with a mortician (Tony Todd) who knows a thing or two about “Death’s Design,” which isn’t going to let them get away with avoiding their fate.
As a super-fanboy of the horror series that’s managed to create its very own distinct horror sub-genre and, for better or worse, stick to its formula, we were pretty disappointed with the fourth installment. For the first time, it felt like that formula completely faltered, so it’s mighty grand that they’d have one more chance to do things right. For their fifth go-round they wisely took what worked so well in the first three movies and then threw a suitable amount of wrenches in the works to keep the viewer off-balance. We’re not going to give away any of the spoilers that might detract from your enjoyment or reveal the main twist introduced this time around, but let’s just say that however much you’ve already seen, you will still be surprised.
From the brilliantly-executed opening disaster on a suspended bridge through each and every kill, there’s just a lot more inspiration and creativity to every aspect of the film and hiring director Steven Quale was probably the most inspired decision. The James Cameron protégé uses many of the techniques that worked so well before to create tension and unease with enough subtle misdirection to make you think you know what’s gonna happen and then throws a curve ball your way. They’ve also outdone themselves with the make-up FX, relishing every single gory kill and making it even more squirm-worthy by insuring the 3D doesn’t take away from the graphic realism. Overall, the film just looks so damn good and it makes the 3D feel a lot more warranted than so many other movies using the format.
Sure, at times, the movie gets bogged down with a bit too much dramatic exposition and some of the actors are better at delivering some of those cheesy “I’m so confused about what is happening” lines than others in a way that doesn’t feel you’re watching a soap opera. Even so, their characters are generally better-developed and they’re also a lot more likeable than past victims of Death’s Design, with the one exception being PJ Byrne’s Isaac, who pulls off a brilliantly hilarious characterization of a womanizing jerk. Another smart and welcome move was bringing back Tony Todd as the coroner who always knows more about death than anyone else. Another great addition is Courtney B. Vance as the inspector investigating all the freak deaths, something that’s been glossed over in past movies where it only makes sense the authorities would start piecing things together.
The climactic ending veers a bit into Hitchcock tension territory, and then they take things to a place that might leave a few fans scratching their head because something happens that… Well, let’s just say that you’ll probably want to see the movie again to put the pieces of the puzzle together. It’s clear that this was a movie made for the fans, something evident from the opening title sequence as well as the ending callback to some of death’s “greatest hits.”
This is easily the most shocking and disturbing movie in the series and if they choose to finally end things here, they would be ending things on a high note… but we’d be just as happy if they figure out a way of keeping things going if they can retain this level of quality.
Roughly 11 years ago, a little horror movie called Final Destination opened in the wake of successful horror hits Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer and introduced a different type of horror, one that didn’t involve a slasher or a killer with a personality as much as it did “death’s design,” the idea that you can only escape death for so long if you’re fated to die.
An odd concept to be sure, the first movie opened in mid-March 2000 with just $10 million but had grossed five times that amount by the time it left theaters, showing a rare amount of legs for a horror film even back then. Three years later, the sequel Final Destination 2 opened slightly better with $16 million and settled for second place behind Colin Farrell and Al Pacino’s thrillers The Recruit. Three years later again and Final Destination 3 had the best opening of the series with $19 million and it grossed more than the first movie. Two years ago, the fourth installment, optimistically named The Final Destination broke into new territory by being filmed in 3D and the relative newness of the medium helped the movie open with $27.4 million, the best opening yet as well as having the biggest gross for the franchise with $66.5 million. It was the first of the series to open during the summer, but it opened in a tough late August weekend against Rob Zombie’s sequel Halloween II and absolutely trounced it.
With that sort of performance, it was a no-brainer for Warner Bros. (who incorporated original distributor New Line while The Final Destination was being made) realized they couldn’t actually end the series on a movie that was commercially successful even if it was generally disliked by the fans, so they went back to the drawing board. That’s where things become a little more interesting since there are a couple major difference with the fifth movie, the first being the scale of the opening set piece which is much bigger than anything in the previous four movies. It also introduces a new director to the series having alternated between James Wong and David R. Ellis for the first four movies. That director is Steven Quale, best known for being James Cameron’s right-hand man and 2nd Unit Director on movies like Titanic and Avatar, both really big movies in every sense of the term. The latter is important, because like the fourth movie, Final Destination 5 was also shot in 3D and they couldn’t really get someone more skilled than one of the guys who was around when Cameron was pioneering the technology; Quale also directed the 3D doc Ghosts of the Abyss, which was produced by Cameron.
The other major difference is that for the first time since the first movie you might actually know someone in the cast. Seann William Scott had already made a name for himself playing Stiffler in the original American Pie before starring in Final Destination, but few of the actors featured in the first four movies have gone onto much else. One exception is Ali Larter, who starred in the first two movies, then became one of the key characters in NBC’s hit sitcom “Heroes” and star of the hit thriller Obsessed and appeared in the “Resident Evil” movies, but the only other actor who has gone on to do anything of significance since being in the “Final Destination” franchise is Mary Elizabeth Winstead, star of the third movie, who starred in last year’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof. (Feel free to make the joke about death having a design on the career of the actors in the “Final Destination” franchise.)
Horror movies can often be made cheaper because they mostly feature unknowns, which is why it’s quite significant for Final Destination 5 to have the likes of Nicholas D’Agosto, who starred in the comedy dud Fired Up! and the indie hit Rocket Science, as well as Emma Bell, who starred in the indie festival hit Frozen. Probably the actor who will be best known among movie fans is David Koechner, who is far from A-list but is an incredibly prolific actor who has appeared in classic comedies like Anchorman and Balls of Fury as well as on shows like “The Office” and making appearances in smaller comedies like Sex Drive and the recent Paul. Koechner is one of those comic character actors who can show up in a movie and immediately steal scenes. Similarly, PJ Byrne is a regular character actor in lots of movies, including the recent New Line hit comedy Horrible Bosses. Both of them will bring more humor to the table that might actually be funnier than previous movies.
Horror fans have been a severely underserved market in the last few months, and “Final Destination” has the honor of being one of the most progressively successful horror franchises. What should get them excited for the fifth movie is that it brings back Tony Todd as the mortician who played such an important role in the first two movies. Even with the better-known cast–who actually aren’t mentioned in any of the trailers or commercials–and Tony Todd, this is one of the easier sells of the weekend because so many are familiar with the premise from the previous four movies that have played regularly on cable.
The fifth installment is intended as a bigger movie than the previous ones due to the opening sequence of a suspended bridge collapsing, which is also why it’s the first installment of the franchise to be released in IMAX theaters. While the movie has a true 3D pioneer at its helm, it’s also coming out at a time when moviegoing audiences seem to have turned against 3D and aren’t as interested in seeing movies in the format, though the way this one takes advantage of the format might allow it to do more 3D business than some of the recent converted movies.
While the fans should be out in force this weekend, the movie does have a lot of competition over the next few weeks with three new movies in 3D next week as well as new horror competition every weekend for the rest of August. Not that it matters since horror movies often do their biggest business in their opening weekend and that’s especially the case with sequels. With that in mind, we think this will probably be very frontloaded to opening weekend with most of the fans going out on Thursday at midnight or Friday, then it will tail off over the weeks to come.
Why I Should See It: This promises to be the biggest and best movie of the franchise with some great potential with its new director and screenwriter and a stronger cast.
30 Minutes or Less (Sony)
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride, Aziz Ansari, Nick Swardson, Michael Pena, Fred Ward,
Directed by Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland); Written by Michael Diliberti, Matthew Sullivan
Genre: Action, Comedy
Plot Summary: Nick (Jesse Eisenberg) is a slacker who has been content delivering pizzas at a dead-end job, but when he’s captured by two masked men (Danny McBride, Aziz Ansari) and they strap a bomb to him, he has ten hours to rob a bank and bring the money or… BOOM! Desperate and not sure what to do, he calls upon his estranged pal Chet (Aziz Ansari) to help him.
Interview with the Cast (Coming Soon!)
The summer isn’t quite over yet but for the second weekend in a row, we have an R-rated comedy, although this one is pretty different from the others, being more of an action movie rather than a high concept vehicle for one or two big name stars. It’s the second movie from director Ruben Fleischer, who got the attention of Hollywood when he helmed the zombie comedy Zombieland, which was able to make back its production budget in its opening weekend.
Reuniting with Fleischer for their second movie together is Jesse Eisenberg, a young actor who made his debut in the indie Roger Dodger back in 2002, and over the years, he’s become quite an indie darling, starring in movies like Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale, Greg Mottola’s Adventureland and many others that have debuted at Sundance. Starring in Fleischer’s Zombieland was the big break Eisenberg needed, followed by being cast by David Fincher as Mark Zuckerberg in the hit drama The Social Network, which earned Eisenberg an Oscar nomination as well as a stint hosting “Saturday Night Live.” One has to imagine that Eisenberg has been able to up his fanbase among older teens along with his prominence, which certainly makes it easier for him to headline a comedy like this one.
Other than Eisenberg, the only established actor is Danny McBride, who was a struggling actor for many years before 2008, when he starred in the back-to-back comedy hits The Pineapple Express, directed by long-time pal David Gordon Green, and Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder. McBride then appeared with Will Ferrell in the disappointing Land of the Lost, but he really came into his own when his show “Eastbound & Down” debuted on HBO, bringing a new status to McBride as a comic actor. McBride’s last movie was the fantasy-comedy Your Highness (also directed by Green), which tanked when it opened this past April, though that may have been more due to the premise and lack of interest in the material than due to McBride or the rest of the cast.
In some ways, the movie is a reunion for some of the cast of Jody Hill’s Observe and Report, because it also stars Aziz Ansari, the popular stand-up comic who has been building a fanbase ever since he appeared on MTV’s “Human Giant” and more recently on the NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation.” Ansari has had roles in other prominent comedies such as Judd Apatow’s Funny People, but this is the first time he’s playing a co-lead. The movie also stars Michael Peña who has transitioned in recent years from serious actor, appearing on “The Shield” and Paul Haggis’ Oscar and SAG-winning Crash to doing more comedies such as Observe and Report and the upcoming Tower Heist starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy. Last but definitely not least is Nick Swardson, the Adam Sandler pal who has appeared in many of his movies including the recent Just Go With It, in which he had a more prominent role than previous movies.
Sony’s been doing their usual job marketing the hell out of the movie with commercials that highlight the raunchy comedy and action, as well as the hilarious cast. It’s hard to ignore that the movie is being released essentially the same weekend as their breakout hit Superbad a few years back and The Pineapple Express a year later, and they’ve taken a similar approach by bringing some of the cast and showing the movie at Comic-Con.
The biggest hurdle it faces is the one-two punch of the second week of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the opening of Final Destination 5, which is a known commodity and generally liked by the same teen male audience that might be interested in this comedy. That might hold this back slightly this weekend, possibly even keep it under the $20 million mark, although word-of-mouth should generally be good and the short run time should allow more screenings per print than longer comedies.
Why I Should See It: A great cast paired with one of the brightest new directors of the last few years guarantees fun and laughs.
The Help (DreamWorks)
Starring Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis, Bryce Dallas Howard, Allison Janney, Chris Lowell, Sissy Spacek, Octavia Spencer, Emma Stone, Cicely Tyson, Mike Vogel
Written and directed by Tate Taylor (Pretty Ugly People)
Tagline: “Change begins with a whisper.”
Plot Summary: Returning to her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi, “Skeeter” Phelan (Emma Stone) is shocked by the treatment of her childhood friend’s black housemaids, including Aibileen (Viola Davis) and her feisty friend Minny (Octavia Spencer) and she decides to write an article about their conditions from their point of view. The resulting book causes a huge scandal especially with the community’s “alpha female” Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) who is at the forefront of some of the town’s racist policies.
It’s become quite evident that if you buy the rights to a popular bestselling book that women love and you make a decent movie out of it with some well-known actors who can do the talk show rounds and you have a good chance of having a hit. That’s been the case with books like The Devil Wears Prada and Eat Pray Love and Julie & Julia, the latter two released in the same weekend in August. That’s probably why filmmaker Chris Columbus decided to make a movie based on Kathryn Stockett’s bestselling novel about black housemaids in Jackson, Mississipi during the ’60s, before the Civil Rights Movement. Columbus decided to produce and have a relative newcomer named Tate Taylor adapt the popular book.
The mostly-female cast is quite amazing starting with Emma Stone, who is clearly achieving a new level of an actress after debuting in the hit comedy Superbad and having smaller roles in other comedies before 2009’s Zombieland was one step up for her followed by Will Gluck’s Easy A, which really broke Stone out as a star who could carry a movie. Just last week, Stone co-starred in the breakout hit romantic film Crazy, Stupid, Love. opposite Ryan Gosling, which is doing far better than expected.
Her nemesis in the film is played by Bryce Dallas Howard, who has done her share of drama from M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village and Lady in the Water as well as Lars von Trier’s Manderlay. Last year, she appeared in Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter and she has experience with Southern drama from her starring role in the Tennessee Williams adaptation The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond, but her biggest movie to date was obviously her role as Gwen Stacy in Spider-Man 3. (Ironically, Emma Stone is playing the same character in the upcoming The Amazing Spider-Man, so one can expect there may have been more behind the catfights between the characters.)
Even though Stone and Howard are two of the more prominent and known actresses in the cast, the story is told from the perspective of the maid played by Viola Davis, one of the most reliable dramatic actresses whose prestigious career includes years on Broadway where she became a Tony winner. She was also nominated for an Oscar for her performance in the big screen version of the play Doubt, which she appeared opposite other Oscar nominees Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams.
Another featured character is played by Octavia Spencer, an African-American character actress who has appeared in many movies in small roles as well as having appeared in Taylor’s previous film Pretty Ugly People, also in a larger role than she normally plays. The movie also stars up ‘n’ comer Jessica Chastain who was featured in Terrence Malick’s critically-acclaimed Tree of Life earlier this summer, and she’ll appear in The Debt next month as well as two movies at the Toronto Film Festival, Jeff Nicholls’ Take Shelter and Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus. She is clearly an actress that auteur directors love, and that’s an amazing number of films for her to show up in (although some of them appeared in festivals last year and were filmed years ago). The cast is rounded out by big names like Sissy Spacek and Allison Janney in smaller roles as the mothers of Howard and Stone’s characters, respectively, and a brief appearance by living legend Cicely Tyson.
Having such a large female cast puts The Help amongst similarly female-friendly movies like Steel Magnolias and The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, which both did quite well in theaters. Similarly, other movies set during the ’60s and dealing with Civil Rights have had moderate success like The Secret Life of Bees and Emilio Estevez’s Bobby, but they weren’t based on a bestselling novel like The Help is.
The best thing going for The Help is that DreamWorks has been giving it a big push towards black outlets, knowing full well that African-American women are the most underserved market for moviegoing this summer, not having a movie geared directly towards them since Jumping the Broom way back in early May. There certainly have been other movies they might be able to see and enjoy, but The Help couldn’t come at a better time to fill a niche. DreamWorks have promoting the movie up the wazoo for months with lots of early screenings and having the four main actresses doing the talk show rounds and appearing in prominent magazines and newspapers like “USA Today,” where the movie had the front page on Friday. They’re also opening the movie on Wednesday, trying to get a jumpstart on a busy weekend, knowing full well that the movie is strong enough to spread positive word-of-mouth before the weekend when women who are working will likely go out to see the movie as a group either Friday after work or on Sunday after church (not to be presumptuous there).
The only significant competition for older women is the romantic drama Crazy, Stupid, Love., although one can presume that some of them may also be “Glee” fans, even if that’s definitely going to skew younger. One has to assume that the market can sustain more than one movie targeted towards women, and regardless of how The Help does this weekend, it’s the definition of a crowdpleasing movie that will build from the audience that sees it opening week due to word-of-mouth.
Why I Should See It: This is a strong adaptation of a beloved novel with a great cast doing some of their best work.
Glee: The 3D Concert Movie (20th Century Fox)
Starring Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Amber Riley, Chris Colfer, Kevin McHale, Jenna Ushkowitz, Mark Salling, Dianna Agron, Naya Rivera, Heather Morris, Harry Shum, Chord Overstreet, Darren Criss, Ashley Fink
Directed by Kevin Tancharoen (Fame)
Plot Summary: The cast of the FOX show “Glee” went on tour in the summer of 2010 and it was captured in 3D so that anyone who missed it can go see this movie instead… or not.
Not sure we have that much to say about this one since it’s one of those movies that can go either way. Essentially, this 3D concert movie is a spin-off of the popular Emmy-winning FOX television show “Glee.” Last year, they brought the popular television cast on the road for a concert tour, and it was captured on camera for those who couldn’t get out to the shows, and the resulting film is directed by Kevin Tancharoen, whose remake of Fame tanked a few years back. It’s definitely an anomaly because while TV shows like “American Idol” have regularly sent their contestants on tour to perform live for receptive audiences, rarely has a dramatic show like “Glee” done this. One expects that fans of the show went out to see the live shows so the only one who might be interested in the movie are those who missed it. Glee: The 3D Concert Movie is taking a similar tactic as the Disney Channel’s popular movies “High School Musical” by transitioning into movie theaters.
We’ve seen a bunch of successful 3D concert movies in recent years, most notably Hannah Montana concert movie and Justin Bieber doc Never Say Never, while the Jonas Brothers concert movie that came out in between and did disappointing business.
Fox are hoping that the diehard fans of the show will flock to see the movie as soon as possible, but we generally think there’s a limited audience who’ll want to pay to see the cast of “Glee” in theaters when they can see them on television for free. Because of this, it’s likely to be more frontloaded than anything else this weekend as young teen girls rush out to see it on Friday but the movie doesn’t really crossover to anyone beyond the fanbase.
(A quick addendum that we forgot to mention earlier is that the only significant bit of news in the past week about the movie was that the popular character played by Jane Lynch that earned her an Emmy and has been featured in the commercials won’t be appearing in the movie. Not sure if that will affect anyone attending but we should definitely mention that.)
Why I Should See It: You’re a fan of “Glee”?
THE CHOSEN ONE:
Senna (Producers Distribution Agency)
Due to time constraints, we’ll probably save most of our thoughts on this new doc about Formula 1 racing for our interview with the director, but it’s certainly a far more interesting sports doc than others we’ve seen in recent years. Part of that is because director Asif Kapadia, mostly known for his dramatic work, put together this film entirely from existing footage of Senna’s races, recreating his rivalry with Alain Prost and how that played out over a number of years during the mid-’80s.
Whether or not you’re a Formula 1 fan (or the American equivalent of NASCAR), we can’t say enough about how exciting it is to watch some of Senna’s race from behind the driver’s seat of his car, and there’s lots of never-before-seen footage showing the discussions behind the more controversial decisions made that affected Senna’s racing career. It’s hard to decide whether knowing a lot about Senna, his life and his career, will improve the experience of watching it unfold or will detract from it, but this is a strong first doc from Kapadia and an interesting look at an enigmatic figure from the world of racing.
Senna opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.
Also in Limited Release:
Mike Ott’s indie drama Littlerock (Variance Films) follows a Japanese student named Atsuko and her brother as they get stranded in the desert town of Littlerock in Southern California and discover America through a number of encounters with locals that make them rethink their impressions of America. The winner of the Gotham Award for “Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You” and a “One to Watch” Spirit Award opens in New York at the Cinema Village on Friday, then in L.A. on September 2 and San Francisco on September 9.
Mini-Review: It gives me very little pleasure to trash independently-made films considering the amount of blood, sweat and tears and personal finances it often takes to get them made. Clearly, filmmaker Michael Ott had an idea he wanted to explore, so one cant fully fault him for at least getting that idea made into a film, but after watching Littlerock, were fairly hard-pressed to figure out who besides his family, close friends and the cast and crew might care.
The movie starts slowly with Atsuko and her brother arriving in town and they shortly meet a guy named Cory who clearly likes Atsuko. Cory is just another loser dweeb who doesnt have a chance of getting the girl, while she hooks up with a much more aggressive friend of his, and as she acclimates herself into the town, she gets a job and becomes more involved with the locals, something with which her brother doesnt approve.
There really isnt a lot more to this sub-Mumbelcore movie thats plagued by poor writing and even worse acting, the only exception being Atsuko Okatsuka herself, who is quite lovely and does a fine job carrying the movie without speaking any English (and barely speaking at all in fact). On the other hand, Cory Zacharia who plays Cory, isnt nearly as good and the whole thing about him liking her but her not being interested is just so overdone. Their scenes together get tiring as he tries to speak English with her and her not being able to respond, and if Cory is bad, then the rest of the cast is even worse as its rounded out by a lot of bad non-actors who do little to make any of the situations seem convincing.
The film ends with a complete tangent as Atsuko and her brother visit a museum that shows the plight of Japanese in California during WWII, which has very little to do with the quote-unquote story up until that point. Other than that, no amount of patience will make up for the fact that the movie goes nowhere that isnt entirely predictable , especially how things end up, making it a boring film that just feels far too twee and precious without delivering the storytelling or filmmaking to back it up.
Sure, its always great that movies like this can be made for so little money, but when the results are so dull and derivative, the only real question is Why bother? Rating: 5/10
From Bollywood, Prakash Jha’s thriller Aarakshan (Reliance Big Pictures) about a principal (Amitabh Bachchan) and his loyal disciple (Saif Ali Khan) who also loves his master’s daughter. It opens in select cities where most Bollywood films open.
Opening on Wednesday at the Film Forum is Sophie Fiennes’ new documentary Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow (An Alive Mind Cinema) telling the story of 65-year-old artist Anselm Kiefer’s journey to turn an abandoned silk factory in France into an arts center where he can store all his paintings and sculptures.
Next week, the Dog Days of Summer slowly approach as August rolls on with four movies in wide release, three of them in 3D! They include the new envisioning of Conan the Barbarian (Lionsgate) starring Jason Momoa from “Game of Thrones,” Anton Yelchin and Colin Farrell star in the 3D remake of Fright Night (DreamWorks) and Robert Rodriguez’s return to his family franchise Spy Kids: All the Time in the World (Dimension Films). Meanwhile, Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess star in the two-dimensional romance drama One Day (Focus Features).
Copyright 2011 Edward Douglas