Robert Zemeckis is a blockbuster director at heart. Action has never been an issue for the man behind Back to the Future. When he puts aside the high concept adventures for emotional human stories — think Forrest Gump or Cast Away — he still goes big. His latest Flight continues the trend revolving the story of one man's fight with alcoholism around a terrifying plane crash. Zemeckis expertly crafts his roaring centerpiece and while he finds an agile performer in Denzel Washington the hour-and-a-half of Flight after the shocking moment can't sustain the power. The "big" works. The intimate drowns.
Washington stars as Whip Whitaker a reckless airline pilot who balances his days flying jumbo jets with picking up women snorting lines of cocaine and drinking himself to sleep. Although drunk for the flight that will change his life forever that's not the reason the plane goes down — in fact it may be the reason he thinks up his savvy landing solution in the first place. Writer John Gatins follows Whitaker into the aftermath madness: an investigation of what really happened during the flight Whitaker's battle to cap his addictions and budding relationships that if nurtured could save his life.
Zemeckis tops his own plane crash in Cast Away with the heart-pounding tailspin sequence (if you've ever been scared of flying before Flight will push into phobia territory). In the few scenes after the literal destruction Washington is able to convey an equal amount of power in the moments of mental destruction. Whitaker is obviously crushed by the events the bottle silently calling for him in every down moment. Flight strives for that level of introspection throughout eventually pairing Washington with equally distraught junkie Nicole (Kelly Reilly). Their relationship is barely fleshed out with the script time and time again resorting to obvious over-the-top depictions of substance abuse (a la Nic Cage's Leaving Las Vegas) and the bickering that follows. Washington's Whitaker hits is lowest point early sitting there until the climax of the film.
Sharing screentime with the intimate tale is the surprisingly comical attempt by the pilot's airline union buddy (Bruce Greenwood) and the company lawyer (Don Cheadle) to get Whitaker into shape. Prepping him for inquisitions looking into evidence from the wreckage and calling upon Whitaker's dealer Harling (John Goodman) to jump start their "hero" when the time is right the two men do everything they can to keep any blame being placed upon Whitaker by the National Transportation Safety Board investigators. The thread doesn't feel relevant to Whitaker's plight and in turn feels like unnecessary baggage that pads the runtime.
Everything in Fight shoots for the skies — and on purpose. The music is constantly swelling the photography glossy and unnatural and rarely do we breach Washington's wild exterior for a sense of what Whitaker's really grappling with. For Zemeckis Flight is still a spectacle film with Washington's ability to emote as the magical special effect. Instead of using it sparingly he once again goes big. Too big.
Last year director Garry Marshall hit upon a devilishly canny approach to the romantic comedy. A more polished refinement of Hal Needham’s experimental Cannonball Run method it called for assembling a gaggle of famous faces from across the demographic spectrum and pairing them with a shallow day-in-the-life narrative packed with gobs of gooey sentiment. A cynical strategy to be sure but one that paid handsome dividends: Valentine’s Day earned over $56 million in its opening weekend surpassing even the rosiest of forecasts. Buoyed by the success Marshall and his screenwriter Katherine Fugate hastily retreated to the bowels of Hades to apply their lucrative formula to another holiday historically steeped in romantic significance and New Year’s Eve was born.
Set in Manhattan on the last day of the year New Year’s Eve crams together a dozen or so canned scenarios into one bloated barely coherent mass of cliches. As before Marshall’s recruited an impressive ensemble of minions to do his unholy bidding including Oscar winners Hilary Swank Halle Berry and Robert De Niro the latter luxuriating in a role that didn’t require him to get out of bed. High School Musical’s Zac Efron is paired up with ‘80s icon Michelle Pfeiffer – giving teenage girls and their fathers something to bond over – while Glee’s Lea Michele meets cute with a pajama-clad Ashton Kutcher. There’s Katherine Heigl in a familiar jilted-fiance role Sarah Jessica Parker as a fretful single mom and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges as the most laid-back cop in New York. Sofia Vergara and Hector Elizondo mine for cheap laughs with thick accents – his fake and hers real – and Jessica Biel and Josh Duhamel deftly mix beauty with blandness. Fans of awful music will delight in the sounds of Jon Bon Jovi straining against type to play a relevant pop musician.
The task of interweaving the various storylines is too great for Marshall and New Year’s Eve bears the distinct scent and stain of an editing-room bloodbath with plot holes so gaping that not even the brightest of celebrity smiles can obscure them. But that’s not the point – it never was. You should know better than to expect logic from a film that portrays 24-year-old Efron and 46-year-old Parker as brother-and-sister without bothering to explain how such an apparent scientific miracle might have come to pass. Marshall wagers that by the time the ball drops and the film’s last melodramatic sequence has ended prior transgressions will be absolved and moviegoers will be content to bask in New Year's Eve's artificial glow. The gambit worked for Valentine's Day; this time he may not be so fortunate.
After garnering widespread praise (and an Oscar nomination for screenwriting) for his 2000 directorial debut You Can Count on Me Kenneth Lonergan was in-demand. In September 2005 the writer/director began production on a follow-up feature: Margaret which touted Anna Paquin Matt Damon Mark Ruffalo Matthew Broderick Allison Janney as well as legendary filmmakers Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) as producers. The movie wrapped production in a few months time. The buzz was already growing.
Now six years later the movie is finally hitting theaters. So…what took so long?
The journey to this point hasn't been an easy one and it shows. If a film's shot footage is a block of granite and the editing process is the careful carving that turns it into a statuesque work of art Margaret feels like it was attacked by a blind man with a jackhammer. The film is a cinematic disaster a mishmash of shallow characters overwrought politics and sporadic tones. The story follows Lisa Coen (Paquin) a New York teenager who finds herself drowning in chaos after distracting a bus driver (Ruffalo) causing him to hit and kill a pedestrian (Janney). Initially Lisa tells the police it was all an accident but as time passes regret takes hold and the girl embarks on a mission to take down the man she now regards as a culprit. That's just the tip of the iceberg–along the way Lisa deals with everyday teen stuff: falling for her geometry teacher (Damon) combating her anxiety-ridden actress mother losing her virginity dabbling in drugs debating 9/11 and the Iraq War cultivating a relationship with her father in LA and more. There are about eight seasons of television stuffed into Margaret but even a two and a half hour run time can't make it all click.
For more on Margaret check out Indie Seen: Margaret the Long Lost Anna Paquin/Matt Damon Movie
Labor Day is a dumping ground for bad movies, but this year seems more toxic than usual. Three of the four new wide releases--Babylon A.D. (Fox), Disaster Movie (Lionsgate) and College (MGM)--were not screened for critics, while Traitor, the Don Cheadle thriller from Overture, has managed just a 54 percent Fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes. Horror and action have always been good plays on this weekend with Halloween 2007 ($30.59M opening), 2005's Transporter 2 ($20.1M opening) and Jeepers Creepers 2 ($18.36M) as the all-time best Labor Day openings, but there is no horror on the menu at America's multiplexes this weekend, and Traitor is more of a grown-up thriller than a pure action genre pic.
That has left the door open for another weekend win for the Ben Stiller-directed Tropic Thunder (Dreamworks/Paramount). The R-rated movie satire has grabbed an estimated $3M on its third Friday, which should translate to an $11.5M 3-day and a very strong $14.2M for 4 days. By Monday night, the movie will have banked $86.53M, and I am projecting a final domestic take of $115M-$120M.
French director Mathieu Kassovitz’s Babylon A.D. (Fox) managed to score $3.5M on its opening day, enough to win Friday, but the Vin Diesel sci fi flick will finish the weekend at No. 2. I am calling for a three-day of $10.6M and $13.1M in sales by Tuesday morning. Vin Diesel, whose career seemed promising after his work in Saving Private Ryan, will likely post only his 8th-best 3-day opening, behind XXX ($44.5M), The Fast & The Furious ($40M), Saving Private Ryan ($30.6M), The Pacifier ($30.5M) and The Chronicles of Riddick ($24.3M).
There is just no stopping The Dark Knight (Warner Bros), which seems headed for a strong 3rd on the 3-day and 4-day scoreboards. The Christopher Nolan-directed phenomenon generated $2.1M or so on Friday, but the Caped Crusader will get his usual monster weekend bounce. The 3-day total should be in the $8.8M range and the 4-day is looking like $11.3M. Sometime on Sunday, TDK will smash through the magical $500M barrier, and the movie will push to a new cume of just under $505M.
Another holdover The House Bunny (Sony) seems headed for No. 4. The Anna Faris Under 25 Female-driven comedy added $2.7M to start its second weekend, and that should translate to $8.5M for the 3-day and a 4-day of $10.9M. The new cume for this PG13-rated comedy will be a nifty $30M.
Despite sub-$1M days on Wednesday and Thursday, business has picked up dramatically for Traitor. With the always trusty Cheadle in the lead, the movie delivered about $2.3M on Friday, and it will play well with the 25 Plus crowd over the weekend. It should finish 5th with $8.4M by Sunday night and a very solid $10.8M by the end of Labor Day.
The news is very bad for the other two new wide releases. It appears that Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer have gone back to the "movie spoof well" one too many times. Disaster Movie (Lionsgate) managed $2.2M on Friday, No. 5 for the day, but it is headed for just $7.3M for the four days. That is far behind previous Friedberg/Seltzer openings Scary Movie 3 ($48.1M), Scary Movie ($42.3M), Scary Movie 4 ($40.2M), Scary Movie 2 ($20.5M), Epic Movie ($18.6M) and Meet the Spartans ($18.5M).
MGM's College never really had much of a chance. With stars like Drake Bell, who has 54 episodes of the Nickelodeon series Drake & Josh on his resume, along with Andrew Caldwell (a few episodes of Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel), Kevin Covais (the singer known as Chicken Little from American Idol), Alona Tal (10 episodes of Veronica Mars on the CW) and Ryan Pinkston (a season of the Andy Richter series Quintuplets), this should have gone straight to video. The picture flunked on Friday with $660,000, and it will top out at $2.2M for the Labor Day weekend.
The news was also dismal for the Focus comedy Hamlet 2, expanding to 1,500 screens. This Sundance favorite could only muster $600,000 on Friday, and it will be limited to an estimated $2.5M for the long weekend.
EARLY FOUR-DAY ESTIMATES
1. Tropic Thunder (Dreamworks/Paramount) - $14.2M, $4,089 PTA, $86.53M
2. NEW - Babylon A.D. (Fox) - $13.1M, $3,864 PTA, $13.1M cume
3. The Dark Knight (Warner Bros) - $11.3M, $4,109 PTA, $504.97M cume
4. The House Bunny (Sony) - $10.9M, $4,016 PTA, $30.45M cume
5. NEW – Traitor (Overture) - $10.8M, $5,258 PTA, $12.3M cume
6. Death Race (Universal) - $9.68M, $3,816 PTA, $26.53M cume
7. NEW – Disaster Movie (Lionsgate) - $7.3M, $2,763 PTA, $7.3M cume
8. Pineapple Express (Sony) - $3.47M, $1,696 PTA, $79.85M cume
9. Mamma Mia (Universal) - $3.33M, $1,751 PTA, $130.42M cume
10. Mirrors (Fox) - $3.29M, $1,809 PTA, $25.36M cume
*Hamlet 2 (Focus) - $2.5M, $1,565 PTA, $3.53M cume
*NEW – College (MGM) - $2.2M, $1,036 PTA, $2.2M cume
In the tradition of Batman Begins and Casino Royale the clock is rolled back on the legendary icons the D—the self-proclaimed greatest band in the world—as the curtain is pulled back on their secret origins and the demons that drive them are unveiled… OK so it’s not really that deep. Though the heavy metal/comedy combo of Jack/JB/”Jabeles” (Jack Black) and Kyle/KB/”Kage” (Kyle Gass) have long played hip clubs cut an album starred in their own short-lived HBO series and amassed a devoted cult of fans their first feature film reveals how the pudgy duo first meet form the band meet their first fan (Jason Reed as TV holdover Lee) go questing the fabled Pick of Destiny—a shard of Satan’s tooth turned into a guitar pick passed among rock’s most accomplished shredders—and ultimately smack down with the devil himself. Believe it or not it’s a love story. Thanks to their long professional partnership Black and Gass comprise two perfectly crafted sides of a very polished comedy coin: Black is the wild-eyed uncontrolled id Gass is the low-energy manipulative slacker and they meet in the middle with an equal amount of unchecked delusion about their musical ability and potential. They both deftly pull off the trickiest types of comedy: smart jokes in the guise of dumb characters and it’s nice to see Black—obviously the bigger film star of the two—share the funniest bits equally with Gass. Of course all of this hinges on the audience’s tolerance for the ambitiously clueless ego-cases (and moviegoers who only love Black for his tamer version of the same persona in School of Rock should be warned—this is the cruder ruder and more profane incarnation) but we admit we’ve long had a taste for the D. They boys carry they movie squarely on their shoulders though longtime D supporters Tim Robbins and Ben Stiller stand out in cameos—the first Stiller cameo in ages that’s both amusing and non-gratuitous! Also appearing in small bits: SNL’s Fred Armisen and Amy Poehler Oscar-nominee Amy Adams Colin Hanks hard rock hero Ronnie James Dio Foo Fighter Dave Grohl as Satan and an uncredited John C. Reilly though you’ll never ever recognize him when he’s onscreen. And kudos to whoever had the inspired notion to cast Meat Loaf as JB’s pious father and Troy Gentile as the young rockin’ JB (Gentile also played a junior version of Black in Nacho Libre). Helmer Liam Lynch who also collaborated on the screenplay with Black and Gass and directed their music video “Tribute ” understands the absurd world of the D completely and demonstrates a clever assured sense of straight-faced silliness. Indeed the first ten minutes of the film alone—a mini-rock opera in itself—announce him as a comedy director to watch. Although we’re sure the bandmates themselves would take full credit for the film’s success. After all they may not have made the greatest movie in the world but in D-speak they came up with a pretty rockin’ tribute version.
Sea of Love star Ellen Barkin has signed on as the latest leading lady for the second sequel to hit 2001 movie Ocean's Eleven.
Ocean's Thirteen, a follow-up to 2004 sequel Ocean's Twelve will begin filming in July at Warner Bros studios in Burbank, California, where a fully operational casino will be built.
The first Ocean film was shot at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, Nevada and the sequel was shot on location in Europe.
Film executives say it became too arduous to shoot a movie around the gambling traffic in a real casino, and decided to build their own casino instead.
Barkin will be stepping in to replace former Ocean's leading ladies, including Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones and will get closely involved with Matt Damon's character Linus Caldwell.
Director/producer Steven Soderbergh is back on board to direct returning cast members George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Andy Garcia, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Casey Affleck, Scott Caan, Carl Reiner and Elliott Gould.
Ocean's Thirteen is being fast tracked and is scheduled for a summer 2007 release.
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