After being lambasted as one of "the darnedest things," a "bizarre concoction," and "kind of Nixonian"—and that's just by our fellow MSN Movies critic Glenn Kenny—Sony's "The Smurfs" has nonetheless beaten all odds and expectations to debut to an estimated $36.2 million at the box office.
And there we have it: incontrovertible proof of the complete uselessness and wholesale impotency of the modern movie critic. Like a colonoscopy, while the experience may be excruciatingly painful, undignified, and humiliating, certain mediocre films will always be endured. Why? Whether it offers two hours respite from the responsibilities of parenthood or merely an escape from the oppressive heat of summer, the cinema will always be there for us. And for that we should be thankful.
Perhaps less surprising than "The Smurfs" actually being successful is the apparent failure of "Cowboys & Aliens." The $160 million genre mash-up faces a long road to profitability considering its underwhelming $32.6 million opening haul. While "The Smurfs" can reasonably expect to continue drawing families, the inebriated, and the confused, "Cowboys" faces a tough challenge in weeks to come as other films, like this week's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," arrive to steal its meager glory.
Did you see "The Smurfs" this weekend? Was it better or worse than the critical consensus? Are reviewers truly irrelevant? Does the abject failure of "Zookeeper" obviate my thesis on bad family films? And which would you rather see, "Cowboys & Aliens" or "Rise of the Planet of the Apes?" As always, leave your cogent analysis in the comments...
Focusing on a little-known element of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's life, René Féret's French-language film "Mozart's Sister" introduces us to Maria Anna "Nannerl" Mozart, herself a very talented and ambitious musician.
In the early days of the traveling Mozart family, Nannerl was the one with top billing, as a skilled harpsichord player and forte-pianist. Older sister Nannerl is considered one of the biggest inspirations to a young Wolfgang, who was enraptured by their father's instruction of Nannerl even when Wolfgang was as young as three. But as Nannerl aged and Wolfgang's skills improved, he was put forth as the featured name. Nannerl was limited by both her family and society because of her gender, and focus was put on marrying her off, even as she sought to channel her talents into composing her own music.
The trailer for "Mozart's Sister" lays out of all this and more - including a bold Nannerl's clever idea to cheat the very system and family that constrained her in order to showcase her talents and grow as a musician. The film was shot on location in Versailles, and it appears appropriately lush and beautifully shot. "Mozart's Sister" will be released in select theaters on August 19.
Check out the trailer, thanks to Apple, after the break.
In the wake of my touting the Western angle of "Cowboys & Aliens" as the film's strength, it looks like we may be in for another big budget "Western-flavored" film for a big star. The LA Times is reporting that Leonardo DiCaprio is "eager to play one of the lead roles" in "The Creed of Violence," a film adaptation of Boston Teran's novel of the same name. The film has been linked to director Todd Field for some time now, but there's no official word on whether or not Field is still on board. The film, however, is still set up at Universal Pictures.
"The Creed of Violence" is not an Old West-based film, but it does center on a 1910-era cowboy of a different kind. It follows "a criminal named Rawbone who tries to take a cache of weapons into Mexico as part of the country's revolution but is caught and then accompanied by a government agent who, it turns out, shares a secret past with him." DiCaprio's interest is reportedly in either of those characters, but I'd love to see DiCaprio playing dark and bringing Rawbone to the screen.
DiCaprio's name has long been attached to the villian part in Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained," and the idea of the actor playing two baddies in period films in a short period of time is a fine one. Tarantino's next film will see DiCaprio as Calvin Candie, a sadistic plantation owner who serves as the principal villain in relation to the titular Django, to be played by Jamie Foxx. DiCaprio, though often seen in the light of a "leading man," is also scarily adept at playing characters with darker motivations, such as in his work in "Blood Diamond" or "The Departed."
Would you like to see DiCaprio as the criminal or the government agent in "The Creed of Violence"?
This weekend's box office was lined with a number of very different offerings - little blue men coming to Earth (for the kids!), a multi-storyline romantic dramedy, an impressive number of indie picks, and Jon Favreau's latest comic book outing - "Cowboys & Aliens." With a relatively simple title hinting at the genre-splicing within, slick production values, and an overwhelmingly talented cast, the "Iron Man" director should have had a slamdunk film here. But why then did "The Smurfs" beat it on opening night? And why do I remain unconvinced of the value of the film, entertainment or otherwise?
MSN Movies' own Glenn Kenny wasn't particularly sold on the film - until he was. In his review, Kenny almost immediately calls the film "a could have been better" outing. But Kenny then moves past that issue, and instead examines "the solid virtues" the film does possess. By the end of his review, Kenny has come to extol those virtues, ultimately deciding that the does work, thanks to performances by the cast that are strong enough "that they succeed in taking the viewers on that journey with them [and that] is the precise extent to which 'Cowboys & Aliens' becomes something special." Kenny ultimately gave "Cowboys & Aliens" a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Whereas Kenny doesn't quite dig the Western elements of the film (he notices "no Leone-style mounting suspense montage here, nor any Ford-like real-time action kineticism" within the film), the classic plotting and archetypes at play within the film were absolutely my favorite part of the whole endeavor. Daniel Craig plays a "Man With No Name" style drifter, Harrison Ford is the rich cattle baron who runs the town, veteran Western-er Keith Carradine is trotted out as the Sheriff, and Sam Rockwell plays a riff on the man-who-must-become-a-man during the course of the film. When "Cowboys & Aliens" focuses on its cowboys, it's good stuff, interesting stuff that sticks to the classics and may inspire moviegoers to actually beef up on their Ford or their Leone. But, for me, the good stuff of the film ends with the cowboys. I don't even quite like that ampersand.
I have great respect for the critics on this site, James Rocchi (who also contributes to this blog) as well as Glenn Kenny. Their expertise about the movies is awe-inspiring and I enjoy reading their incisive reviews.
Not that I always agree with their opinions. Among the big films that opened this week, Rocchi was particularly hard on the ensemble comedy, “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” He gave it only one star. Glenn Kenny, on the other hand, gave “The Smurfs” two stars. Kenny’s review was hardly positive, but in a weird way, you could say that according to MSN Movies, “The Smurfs” is TWICE AS GOOD as “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” In related news, Speaker of the House John Boehner admitted today that President Obama is right about everything and he called for the immediate dismantling of the Republican Party. What? You mean we’re not living in a topsy-turvy parallel universe?
After the debacle of last year's “Sex and the City 2,” there were many who said the popular franchise was dead and buried. But guess what? Sarah Jessica Parker is back in a new installment! And she looks fabulous, as always. She and Big now have two adorable kids. But wait…why is Mr. Big being played by Greg Kinnear—did Chris Noth have a scheduling conflict? Hey, where are Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda? And hold it—why the HELL is Carrie living in Boston?!
Woops…the trailer below is not for a new “Sex and the City” adventure, it’s promoting Parker’s upcoming film, “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” based on the popular novel by Allison Pearson.
I was at the movies last night and saw the trailer for the remake of “Footloose” which will hit theatres on October 14. I just have one question. WHY?
I could now go on a familiar rant decrying the ever-increasing spate of film remakes and the lack of originality or risk-taking in Hollywood, blah, blah, blah. But I won’t. Those things may be true, but I do think there are times when remakes make sense—a new take on a great story for a new generation. Why not? There are a number of remakes that I prefer to the originals: the Jimmy Stewart/Doris Day version of “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” “Little Women” with June Allyson and Elizabeth Taylor, Al Pacino’s take on “Scarface,” and the retreads of “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Cape Fear,” “A Star Is Born,” and “Dangerous Liaisons,” to name a few. Does it help that the originals of these films were made many years before I was born? Is that why I accept the newer versions of the films so easily?
The rise and fall of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar is a staggering slice of history, and it's come as little surprise that filmmakers from Oliver Stone to Joe Carnahan have tried to tell his story on the big screen.
For one reason or another, no one has really succeeded to date (unless we're counting "Entourage"), but according to The Hollywood Reporter, director Brad Furman ("The Lincoln Lawyer") is going to give it a shot, with Matthew Aldrich ("Cleaner") working on the screenplay.
On the one hand, Escobar's charisma and hubris makes him an instantly alluring character, but on the other, I'm not sure how much the portrayal of his rise to power and eventual downfall can or will deviate from the formula well-established by "Scarface," "Carlito's Way" and other organized-crime dramas not directed by Brian De Palma.
Maybe Furman and Aldrich can crack this nut open as few others have; only time will tell.