As Indiana Jones would say, “It’s not the years, honey. It’s the mileage.” Well, that’s true and all, but today it’s not the mileage that’s got me grabbing my own face like an Edward Munch painting.
Harrison Ford is one of those older, distinguished actors who’s accomplished so much badassery in his career that he can be a pot-smoking guy who films jaunty romantic comedies, sports a silver hoop earring, and put a ring on Calista Flockhart and yet still retains the monikers of his greatest characters instead of becoming just some weird old actor. So imagine my surprise — nay irrational shock — when the irrefutable science that is mathematics revealed that because Harrison Ford was born July 13, 1942, he is in fact 70 entire years old. (It looked something like that time parents told me we weren’t getting a puppy mixed with the realization that my entire reality has just been shattered.) But as a devoted fan of Jack Ryan (Ford edition), Han Solo, and of course Indiana Jones, I’m putting my foot down. Harrison Ford is not 70. He’s just not. Math be damned. I simply reject the notion that one of my favorite actors/heartthrobs (my girl, Liz Lemon, knows what I’m talking about) is 2.8 times my age. It’s not real and it doesn’t exist.
Nope. Ford ceased to age the day he finished filming Air Force One in 1997. He was 55 and he was still aggressively grumbly enough to tell Gary Oldman “Get off my plane” and shove him out of a 747. He was still alluring in a distinguished veteran of war, presidential sort of way. Just a few years before that, he played the bespectacled Linus Larrabee to Julia Ormond’s beguiling Sabrina, and though it didn’t match the pitch-perfect level of the original Audrey Hepburn film, Ford was still worth swooning over.
But even with the gentlemanly roles of his 50s, Ford will never, ever, ever not be known as his two greatest characters of all time: Han Solo and Indiana Jones. His two scrappy, daring rogues are the epitome of manliness. Han and Indiana were brave, but not too brave. (I hate snakes too, Indy.) They were romantic, but not mushy. (The Leia and Han “I love you”/ “I know” dynamic is still on my wish list, even if Liz Lemon stole it with her Hulk hands.) They were stupidly, bravely reckless, and obnoxiously, charmingly lucky. (If you need examples, you’ve clearly never seen a Star Wars movie or a single minute of an Indiana Jones film and if that’s the case, you’ve got bigger problems, my friend.) And then there’s the way in which both characters wear (yes, wear – I’m happily living the past) scars, scuffs, and a little 5 o’clock shadow in such a disarming, nonchalant manner. (Swoon.)
No matter who he grows into as his (nonexistent) age continues to rise, Ford will forever be a hybrid of Indy and Han in my mind, and I’m assuming most of his fanbase’s minds as well. There was no fourth Indiana Jones movie. Shia LaBeouf does not get to refer to our hero affectionately as “Harrison.” That hoop earring is just a bit of glare (in every photo of him for the past seven years).
And he is definitely not 70 years old.
Happily, Indefinitely in Denial
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In 1977 Harvey Milk (Penn) was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. While this would not normally be an earth-shattering phenomenon in this case Milk became the first out-of-the-closet gay person to win a major public office in the United States -- and was assassinated in 1978 along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone. Based in part on the Academy Award-winning documentary The Life and Times of Harvey Milk the film focuses on the last decade of his life as he moves from New York at age 40 to San Francisco with lover Scott Smith (James Franco). Using his experience as an entrepreneur as a catalyst he suddenly becomes more politically involved making a couple of runs for office and finally getting elected. With a new lover (Diego Luna) and agenda Milk takes on some major issues -- including lobbying against California’s controversial Prop 6 an initiative to fire gay schoolteachers. But his activities anger another supervisor Dan White (Josh Brolin) and soon their destinies will collide. It’s not an overstatement to say that Sean Penn’s performance here is a revelation. As Harvey Milk he not only perfectly embodies the late politician but exudes a certain kind of warmness and humor we rarely see from the star. His immersion into the persona of Milk is truly remarkable and winning. A large supporting cast includes: standout performances from Franco as Milk’s true love and friend Scott who eventually can’t compete with Harvey’s increasing ambition; Diego Luna hilarious and annoying as Milk’s lover later; and Emile Hirsch as Cleve Jones a young activist and Milk protégé. Brolin as the unlikeable White perfectly captures the frustration and simmering jealousy the man he feels steals his job. It’s a risky role and there is little room for audience empathy but Brolin makes this loser understandable if not acceptable. As the lone woman among the principal players Alison Pill is bright and appealing as Milk’s campaign manager Anne Kronenberg. Gus Van Sant’s odd directorial career encompasses a series of ups and downs with the highlights being Drugstore Cowboy and his Oscar-nominated work on Good Will Hunting. The absolute nadir of Van Sant’s resume is undoubtedly his ill-advised shot-by-shot remake of Hitchcock’s untouchable Psycho. It’s nice to report he’s back in form now with the warm funny and moving Milk a film that doesn’t quite escape the clichés of the biopic genre but still finds its own beats thanks in large part to the piercing performances. Getting such mature and joyful work from Penn a brilliant but distant actor is impressive indeed. He also imbues the movie with a documentary feel appropriate since much of the source material comes from the Oscar-winning docu. Milk paints us a triumphant and inspiring life one that won’t soon be forgotten especially with its parallels to current California circumstances. The state’s recent anti-gay marriage initiative Prop 8 could not have come at a more significant time in making Harvey Milk’s crusade seem more relevant than ever.
Oh boy does it ever! From the opening sequence in which Mr. Smith (Clive Owen) inadvertently helps an ultimately doomed woman deliver her baby amid a hail of bullets and then severs the umbilical chord by shooting it you get a pretty clear picture of what you’re in for here. Smith may be the “angriest man in the world ” but he’s also a fairly chivalrous one. Once he has the little tyke in his possession he has no other choice but to protect it from an endless stream of assailants--led by the sadistic Hertz (Paul Giamatti)--engaging in every conceivable permutation of gunfight. Smith even teams up with a prostitute (Monica Bellucci) whose specialty is catering to those men with a fetish for suckling on lactating breasts. She proves very useful in this scenario. Question is why does everyone want this baby dead? Trust me the explanation is stupid and superfluous; it’s the 80-minute shooting gallery that makes this actioner fly. Even though Clive Owen is absolutely spot-on as the hardboiled antihero Mr. Smith the actor must be able to do it in his sleep by now having basically played the same role in films such as Inside Man and Children of Men. And along with Children of Men he’s now pretty good at assisting a woman in childbirth too. Still we love it when he shoots a gun. Giamatti is the one who goes out on a limb in Shoot ‘Em Up. When casting a cold-blooded vicious killer the sweet sad sack from Sideways isn’t your immediate image. Ah but that’s what makes Giamatti such a consummate actor. Flashing a Cheshire cat-like grin and armed with an arsenal of one-liners he doesn’t downplay his nerdy appearance but rather relishes it playing Hertz as far over the top as he can possibly get without looking completely ridiculous—which allows him to say things like “Well f**k me sideways ” with a straight face. Giamatti is a real treat. Bellucci on the other hand is fairly wasted. She’s obviously there to add a feminine touch--being able to feed the baby and all—as well as have raucous sex with our leading man. But her character doesn’t really add anything else to the proceedings. Writer/director Michael Davis really hasn’t had his shot (pun intended) yet. Moving up from the B-movies (anyone heard of Monster Man or Girl Fever?) Davis finally gets to show some of his stuff with Shoot ‘Em Up. Obviously influenced by the Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantinos of the filmmaking world Davis crafts a thrilling action-packed film shot in that gritty style so popular these days. Besides all the gunplay Davis also incorporates a few other creative ways of offing people such as shoving a carrot (something Mr. Smith is fond of eating) into someone’s eye. And well a lactating prostitute is just pure genius. Still it's all about guns which rule supreme as well they should with such a titular title. The four or five gun battles get more spectacular culminating with an aerial shootout after jumping out of an airplane with parachutes. Shoot ‘Em Up however could have used a rewrite by Mr. Tarantino. Sure the purpose of this movie is to show as many guns being shot off in as many ways as possible but a plausible story would have been nice too. Oh well.
Fancy another shag, baby?
The horniest of all secret agents springs into action for the third time in Austin Powers in Goldmember, which should jolt the box office back to life after two less-than-shagadelic weekends.
This spoof of the James Bond classic Goldfinger pits Powers against nemesis Dr. Evil and his new partner-in-crime Goldmember, all played by Mike Myers. A perfectly cast Michael Caine joins the franchise as Powers' father, a master spy who's more Bond than Harry Palmer, the working-class secret agent Caine played in five theatrical and cable TV films in the 1960s and 1990s, including The Ipcress File. Destiny's Child singer Beyoncé Knowles, the newest Powers girl, pays homage to the Pam Grier blaxploitation flicks of the 1970s as the butt-kicking Foxxy Cleopatra.
The cast additions clearly are an attempt to keep things fresh and fun, but the franchise is very quickly losing its mojo. Goldmember never seems more funnier or inspired than its cameo-laden pre-opening credits sequence, and it regurgitates too many of the first two films' most hilarious moments, as one guest star splutters. There are only so many times you can laugh at Powers purring, "Yeah, baby!" incessantly, Dr. Evil coddling clone Mini-Me and Scott Evil desperately trying to win his father's approval. Knowles brings a little spunk to the proceedings, but the film lacks comic sparks during Caine's many long absences. Goldmember is a worthless creation who does nothing except roller boogie and munch on his own dead skin.
Added up, that could harm Goldmember's opportunity of duplicating the success of its predecessor. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me debuted with $57.4 million, blowing away the $53.8 million total earned by Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and recording the third-highest-grossing weekend haul at the time. The Spy Who Shagged Me danced its way to a smashing $206 million total.
Goldmember's cheekiness should charm audiences who have shown little or no interest in recent newcomers K-19: The Widowmaker, Reign of Fire and Eight Legged Freaks. This second sequel should debut with a whopping $50 million--about even with Men in Black II and Scooby-Doo--but will lose its groove at around $170 million when the prevailing sense of déjà vu surrounding Goldmember starts to set in.
Accordingly, Goldmember will fail to gross more than its immediate predecessor, a trend that has afflicted the majority of this summer's sequels. Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones remains the best example as it struggles to reach $300 million. Attack of the Clones has $295.6 million vs. Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace's $431 million.
There go the Men in Black, as the sequel to the 1997 sci-fi spoof fell 40 percent in its third weekend, from $24.4 million to $14.5 million. MIBII has $163.4 million through Wednesday, with little chance of surpassing Men in Black's $250.1 million total.
The other Michael Myers--he who enjoys nothing more than slicing and dicing promiscuous teens--isn't scaring as many people as he did in Halloween: H20. Halloween: Resurrection, the eighth in the slasher franchise, dropped 55 percent in its second weekend, from $12.7 million to $5.5 million. Myers' H20 rampage, aided by the return of Jamie Lee Curtis, earned a bloody good $55 million. Resurrection, which reduces Curtis' presence to a pre-opening credits cameo, has $23.2 million through Tuesday.
The latest underachiever: the extremely expensive Stuart Little 2.
The sequel was expected to build upon the success of its 1999 predecessor, but the lovable animated rodent bit off more cheese than he could chew this time around. Stuart Little 2 debuted with $15.1 million vs. Stuart Little's $15 million. This lackluster debut allowed Road to Perdition to top the box office after opening last weekend in the second slot.
Stuart Little managed to climb to $140 million through sheer tenacity. With a mousy $22.1 million through Wednesday, Stuart Little 2 needs all the help it can get to scurry past $70 million. It doesn't help that Disney's Lilo & Stitch is still doing good business, having amassed $130.7 million through Wednesday, or that Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams opens in less than two weeks.
Only The Sum of All Fears looks set to surpass its predecessor, Clear and Present Danger, and would become the biggest earner in the Jack Ryan franchise in the process. The Sum of All Fears has $116.9 million through Sunday, while Clear and Present Danger ended with a $122 million total.
Remakes, conversely, seem like a sure thing. Adam Sandler's Mr. Deeds has $111 million through Wednesday. Insomnia, with Al Pacino and Robin Williams, has $66 million through Sunday.
Hollywood often seeks inspiration from comic books, classic and foreign films, TV shows and Internet-originated series.
But theme park attractions?
The Country Bears brings to life those singing grizzlies from the Disneyland and Disney World attractions. A young bear raised as a human sets out to finds its roots. Along the way, he recruits a band known as The Country Bears to help save a concert hall from being demolished by banker Christopher Walken. The Sixth Sense's Haley Joel Osment lends his voice to the young bear.
What's scarier? That such an attraction could inspire a film? Or that Disney has already commissioned a script for a sequel?
Not that a sequel--at least one headed for theaters--seems a possibility. If kids want to see a fairy tale about a talking animal adopted by a human family, they're more likely to be enticed by the familiarity of Stuart Little 2 than the country-rock shenanigans of The Country Bears. And parents would happily sit through Lilo & Stitch or Like Mike ($43.2 million through Wednesday) again before being dragged to see bear-costumed actors whoop it up Hee-Haw style.
With a likely opening of between $8 million and $10 million, The Country Bears will join The Powerpuff Girls Movie ($10.8 million through Sunday) and Hey Arnold! The Movie ($6.7 million through Sunday) as the summer's least family-friendly attractions.
Not that The Country Bears represents Disney's sole attraction-inspired film. Haunted Mansion will star Eddie Murphy. Johnny Depp, of all actors, will headline the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced Pirates of the Caribbean. Let's hope it's not quite as small a world that Disney wants us to believe it is.
Kids currently seem to have little interest in animals, talking or otherwise, real or mythical.
The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course plummeted by 51 percent in its second weekend, from $9.5 million to $4.5 million, and has $20.8 million through Wednesday. Perhaps wild man Steve Irwin should stick to wrestling crocodiles on his cable TV show.
Eight Legged Freaks crawled its way to a disappointing $6.4 million weekend and has $11.2 million through Wednesday. The comic tale of giant mutated spiders overrunning a small Arizona town didn't look funny or scary enough for most folks.
Man's battle against fire-breathing dragons proved somewhat more appealing, but by not much. Reign of Fire eroded by 53 percent in its second weekend, from $15.6 million to $7.3 million, as it waged war against Eight Legged Freaks. With $32.1 million through Wednesday, Reign of Fire won't blaze past Dragonheart's $51.3 million total.
Stuart Little 2's struggles allowed Road to Perdition to gun its way to the top of last weekend's box office. Tom Hanks' gangland epic expanded from 1,797 theaters to 2,159 theaters and eased by 30 percent in its second weekend, from $22 million to $15.4 million. Initial estimates put Stuart Little 2 ahead of Road to Perdition, but when the final numbers came in, the latter reigned supreme. Still, that's the lowest-grossing No. 1 film since Queen of the Damned debuted Feb. 22 with $14.7 million.
Road to Perdition continues to capitalize on a stellar cast that includes Paul Newman and reviews that labeled this Irish Godfather as the first Oscar-worthy offering of the year. It has $52.9 million through Wednesday, with $100 million a certainty.
Hanks might play a Mob enforcer who kills in cold blood, but that's not stopping audiences from sympathizing with his plight to save his oldest son from being murdered. The same cannot be said for K-19, starring Harrison Ford as the stern commander of a crippled Russian nuclear submarine.
Torpedoed by poor reviews, K-19 limped to a $12.7 million opening. That's Ford's worst opening since his dire 1995 remake of Sabrina.
Ford, sporting a distracting Russian accent, couldn't interest teens or adults in a fictional account of a Cold War-era incident told from the Soviet perspective. With $16.7 million through Wednesday, K-19 will find itself sinking somewhere between The Devil's Own's $42.8 million and Random Hearts' $31 million.
While teens crowd MIBII and Mr. Deeds, adults are finding their way to films that offer more than gunfights, car chases and explosions. Road to Perdition is a good example. So is My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which has amassed $30.8 million without cracking the Top 10.
August will see several intelligent art house offerings that could receive such mainstream acceptance, including Full Frontal, The Good Girl and One Hour Photo.
Tadpole got a jump on the similarly themed The Good Girl, which both praise the virtues of older women. In Tadpole, a 16-year-old boy lusts after stepmother Sigourney Weaver but ends up bedding her best friend, Bebe Neuwirth.
Miramax picked up Tadpole for a reported $5 million after director Gary Winick's digitally shot coming-of-age comedy won the Best Dramatic Director's award at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Miramax's been burned before when overpaying for pickups--remember Happy, Texas?--but Tadpole is a genuinely smart and funny tale featuring terrific performances by Weaver, Neuwirth, John Ritter and relative newcomer Aaron Stanford.
Tadpole, which opened last weekend at six theaters and earned a solid $80,682, expands this weekend in certain cities. Whether Miramax overpaid for Tadpole remains open for debate.