Hello again, my geeky friends! This group of days brings us to the 3rd weekend of July and the first week where no one is sure where the chips are going to fall at the box-office. We have four major releases and based on tracking numbers, the studio’s don’t have faith in three of them. You may or may not be surprised at which one they do have faith in, based on your predilections.
Before we get into this week however, lets take a rare look back, shall we?
Last week I made no secret of where my allegiances lay. I openly asked each and every one of you to go and see Pacific Rim avoid Grown Ups 2 and show Hollywood that we as discerning geeks will put our actual money where our mouths are. I am in no way retracting the essence of what I said last week both here and on Facebook, however I feel that I may have stepped over the line just a little. What do I mean? I work at a theatre. I actually work at the largest theater in Charlotte. There is one that has as many screens as we do and one that has 2 more screens, but in sheer volume of people through the door, we are number one. This only means that I see an awful lot of people coming in and going to films that I know are not good. I see it all the time. To be fair, I also see lines out the door for some great films. Lines for The Hunger Games, The Avengers, Django Unchained, Iron Man 3, Man of Steel and several others that I am forgetting. Then, every once in a while, I see something really special. Something that is so new and so fresh that it is a miracle it even got made. It’s not a sequel and it’s not based on an existing property. Pacific Rim is such a film. Is is so bold in being so old-fashioned that it almost seems a forgotten film from another era, one that made the film and then buried it for a quarter century.
I knew going into last weekend that the Studio had given up on the film in the United States and were counting on foreign box-office to make all the money. To be fair, it is a film that was engineered for International markets. It will make serious cash overseas and that is great, but something deep inside me wanted for the people in the States to prove them wrong and turn the film into a mini Avatar.
That isn’t going to happen and although the great word of mouth will give the film some legs, it is always going to be seen as a disappointment here. I have come to terms with that. On a certain level, I don’t care about the success because we, as geeks and lovers of cool things, get to have this amazing and wonderous film for the rest of our lives. But in pleading for you, each and every one of you, to go see it…that might have come off a little crass and takes advantage of what I’m doing here. For that, I’m sorry. I will try my best to not do that kind of thing again. As for Grown Ups 2, well that still stands. Screw that movie.
Now, onto the future that is this weekend:
RED 2 (PG-13 116 Minutes)
I have a confession to make. I didn’t see the first film in the theatre. I have to admit that feels strange even to me. It had all the elements that make it a guilty pleasure. I came of age in the 80’s, so I have a soft spot for Bruce Willis, who quite literally ushered in an entire new kind of film hero with 1988’s seminal action masterpiece Die Hard. I loved pretty much everyone in the film and I am a soft touch for these kinds of spy/assassin/old vs.new kinds of films. I should have seen it. I probably should have seen it twice.
Nope. I saw it for the first time this past April when I bought it on dvd for $5.00 at Wal-Mart. I watched it and I have to admit, I really liked it. Is it dumb? Absolutely. Is it over-the-top? Of course. It is completely ridiculous and I had a blast with every single minute of it. There are two kinds of spy films. Well, there are probably more than that, but for sake of brevity lets say there are two. There is the serious kind, which are films like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy which are like swiss watches and are air tight (and probably more like the real thing) and there are films like this. This and James Bond are in the same group if I may be so bold. Both are designed for one thing and one thing only: to give the audience a thrill ride for a couple of hours and then to wrap things up in a nice pretty bow and let you leave the theater feeling good.
As Summer grinds its way towards Fall and the heat has become oppressive, sometimes that is okay. It’s not going to tax your brain as you try to unravel its plot and it isn’t supposed to. I like to think of the RED series (if this one is a hit, you know there will be a third) as the Oceans Eleven of spy films. Oceans Eleven just might be my favorite film and it has zero to do with how to really stage a heist.
Along with returning stars Bruce Willis, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker and the wonderous Helen Mirren, new-comers to the series are Catherine Zeta-Jones, Byung-hun Lee and the always great, Anthony Hopkins.
I wouldn’t go in with very high expectations for this and you might just find yourself having a really good time. When I watched the first film, I knew that the sequel was coming, of course, so I knew that there wasn’t going to be any massive Wild Bunch style last stands for our heroes and I’m sure that colored my viewing experience, but all I can tell you is that I had a really good time with the first film and I’ll be there when this starts screening on Thursday night.
SPECIAL SCREENINGS BEGIN THURSDAY NIGHT AT 7PM, OPENS EVERYWHERE FRIDAY.
R.I.P.D (PG-13 96 Minutes)
This film is one giant question mark. It has a (sort of) tie-in with RED 2 in that it co-stars Mary-Louise Parker and is directed by Robert Schwentke, who directed the first RED back in 2010. As far as I can tell, that is where the comparisons end.
If you’ve been getting a Men in Black vibe from the trailers for this, you’re not alone. Everything about this film screams Men in Black to me and a lot of other people. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As one on-line blogger said The good news is, it could be Men in Black and the bad news is, it could be Men in Black 2. We just don’t know. Like MIB this was based on a Graphic Novel. The Dark Horse comic was written by Peter M. Lenkov, who as from what I can tell, had no involvement with the film.
There are five (5) different credited writers on the screenplay, which usually means the studio and filmmaker didn’t have the tone locked down before they started shooting. Again, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, well it is a really bad thing, but it doesn’t mean they didn’t keep working on it until it was fixed. There have been quite a few classic films where the script was being constantly re-written during production. Just one example is the complete Lord of the Rings trilogy. That worked out okay, right?
Either way, I’m on-board just to see Jeff Bridges prance around like a weird cross-breeding of The Dude and Buffalo Bill Cody. I thought The Green Lantern was an exercise in torture when I saw it, but I actually did enjoy Ryan Reynolds in that film. I know what you’re thinking. I know because I’m thinking the same thing as I type this: How can you hate a film and like the lead character and actor? I really don’t know the answer. I’m just complicated.
The premise sounds interesting. A great cop, Nick (Reynolds) is killed in the line of duty and because he was a great cop, instead of going to his reward in heaven or wherever, he is drafted into service at the R.I.P.D, also known as the Rest In Peace Department. In classic buddy-cop movie set-up, he is partnered with Roy, played to the absolute hilt by Jeff Bridges. Based solely on the very amusing trailers, I’m going to guess they don’t get along at first but grow to respect each other, what with one being from the old west and the other being from modern-day New York, because they are both law enforcers at heart. The success or failure of the film rests on a couple of factors. First, it really does look like Men in Black and that is a kind of short-hand for the audience. We are about to find out if they actually liked the concept of those films or if they were just there for Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. I think a team-up of Bridges and Reynolds could be blisteringly good if they have really great chemistry.
That is factor number two. If they crackle off each other during the film, the word of mouth could be great. I remember seeing the first Men in Black when it came out and just having a blast hanging with those two guys. They had a solid and economic script that helped to be sure, but at the end of the day, we went to that movie again and again to see those two character bounce off each other. I’m sure that they will be forced to get past their difference to save the world by the 3rd act, but the most important thing for the film is how we as the audience like the characters and their back-and-forth. That’s another thing this film has going for it: It’s 96 minutes, which is actually about 89 minutes before end credits. That is, by pure coincidence I’m sure, the running time for Men in Black.
One thing the trailers are selling but not hardcore is the fact that they only look like Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds to other dead people. To the world at large they look like an old Chinese man and a beautiful and tall woman. As a long-time fan of John Carpenter’s ‘Big Trouble in Little China’ it’s a blast to see James Hong in a genre picture again. Based again only on trailers, I’m sure a lot of young boys are going to develop their first crush on Marisa Miller as well.
OPENS IN 2D, 3D and REALD 3D AT 8PM THURSDAY, FRIDAY EVERYWHERE.
TURBO (PG 96 Minutes)
There has been a certain disconnect on this one. As I’ve stated, I work at a theatre and we have a giant Turbo figurine sitting out of reach of anyone in our lobby. Without fail every child that comes into the theater looks up, see’s the Turbo and squeals with delight about how cute he is and they can’t wait to see the movie. Most times there is also a faithful parent snapping a picture of Turbo for later.
However the film itself is tracking light. That is not great news for Ryan Reynolds who aside from R.I.P.D, also lends his voice to the lead character of Turbo, the tiny snail who dreams of going fast and gets his wish when he falls into a race car engine and soaks up the nitro? I think that’s the plot, based on seeing the trailers. To be honest, the trailer has vivid colors and snappy one-liners and the warm and familiar tones of Samuel L. Jackson, so I will probably catch this at a matinée sometime over the next couple of weeks.
It’s a Dreamworks Animation film who have done both the amazing How to Train your Dragon and the recent dud, The Croods, so this could really go either way. I believe the studio is afraid that Despicable Me2 and Pixar’s Monster’s University are pretty much unstoppable juggernauts and they may be, but I think this film might be the little movie that could.
OPENED WED, JULY 17TH IN 2D, 3D AND REALD 3D EVERYWHERE.
THE CONJURING (R 112 Minutes)
This is actually the film that most tracking suggests will win the weekend. This is the one the studio has faith in. They very well could be right. The last horror film that came out was June’s The Purge, which did incredibly well. Horror films generally do very well on opening weekend and this could be the perfect counter-programming.
Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga play real life Paranormal Investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, who in the 1970’s answered the call for help by a couple being terrorized by an evil entity in their rural farmhouse.
The couple being haunted is played by the always delightful Lili Taylor and Ron Livingston. With such a talented cast and working from an actual “Based on a True Story” style case, this could be both successful and actually really good. Director James Wan has a stellar track record with low-budget horror films that actually deliver the chills, having made the original SAW in 2004 and Insidious in 2010.
An interesting side note: James Wan’s next film, having completed the sequel to insidious already, will be the next and supposedly last film in the Fast and the Furious franchise, which comes out next Summer and starts filming in a couple of Months. You could read that as him going as far in the horror genre as he can, which could mean that The Conjuring is very scary indeed.
SPECIAL SCREENINGS BEGIN TONIGHT AT 8PM, OPENS FRIDAY EVERYWHERE
Well that just about does it for this weeks column, but join me next week when we ponder how it is that The Wolverine never breaks out into a soft shoe song and dance to throw off his enemies. Come on, you know that would confuse even the sturdiest Ninja!
Until next time, Keep the Projector Threaded.