'The Little Mermaid' and 'Avatar' Both Return
1. The Animated Voice Business is Booming.
Children of the world, if you're looking for a job I'd start working on that voice of yours. As an example I'd like to point out exhibit A, Despicable Me out this weekend. As Thomas Leupp has already rightfully noted, it's delightful. But that's not the focus of this particular musing, nope, I want you to scroll down the cast list and note who "Jerry the Minion" is being voiced by, a fellow by the name of Jemaine Clement. A couple of things you should know about this casting choice:
1. Jemaine Clement is one-half of The Flight of the Conchords band, of HBO show fame, and a world-class New Zealand humorist. Admittedly, Jemaine Clement is a very funny human, worthy of any role offered to him.
2. The Minions are completely unintelligible in Despicable Me. You can't understand a word they are saying. Here, watch this:
So what conclusions can we draw when they have a hilarious Kiwi voice a creature that doesn't speak a lick of English? I'll tell you what conclusion to draw: they are handing out money for voice work. I don't know how much he made on this project, and you don't either, but I guarantee it's more than either of us made this year (unless C. Robert Cargill is reading this ... that guy is fully loaded). Clearly, the choice to cast Jemaine was crazy overkill, because they could have gotten the interns to speak gibberish into a microphone and called it a day. Hey, don't get me wrong, I'm appreciative of the effort, and the Minions are really funny throughout, I just want people in a down economy to having something to shoot for. Also providing a voice in this movie? Jason Segel, only you can't tell that it's him because he purposefully puts on an accent. That's right, they paid Segel NOT to sound like Segel! These guys had some budget to burn. Starting this weekend I'm working on not sounding anything like myself. It could be my key to financial freedom!
2. The Little Mermaid is Back!
The Little Mermaid was released all the way back in 1989; Splash came out three years prior. So the stage is definitely set for director Joe Wright to bring us some compelling live-action Mermaid-related content. No, Popeye didn't work. True, The Flinstones was a disaster. And Wright's last project, The Soloist was visually compelling but lacked anything nearing a coherent story. So this could turn into an epic disaster, a Waterworld level punchline.
Which is precisely why I'm betting on it. Our expectations couldn't be lower because mermaids usually look fake (the tail portion usually foils the shot) and the transition from cartoon to live-action generally ends in disaster. So why not? We've got nowhere to go but up with this project, though I do wish he was simply remaking the Disney version and not going all the way back to the Hans Christian Andersen source material.
Wright directed Atonement and Pride and Prejudice, two brilliantly paced films. He's visually gifted. This could work, I'm officially talking myself into it and I'm hoping they tap me to direct the viral campaign (Hint: it would involve multiple trips to the Red Lobster seafood buffet). One final piece of advice: consider casting Amy Adams or Emma Stone. Don't leave Ariel to chance, cast a pro.
3. Avatar isn't Done with You Yet.
Are people really going to buy another $15 IMAX ticket to see eight additional minutes of Avatar? The film was over 150 minutes already, how does another five percent of running time merit another trip to the multiplex? Or are there still folks out there who haven't seen it in theaters or watched the DVD?
I don't quite get this move because they'll still have to market it, send out prints, and compete against films no one has seen yet. Yeah, they'll probably be able to come up with another $50m or so in box-office revenue, adding to the prodigious $2.7 billion the film already earned, but it seems like a ton of effort for very little gain. Not to mention the mistake of fleecing the same sheep all over again. Avatar was a massive movie, a cultural touchstone, but it doesn't need another theatrical run for eight lousy minutes. I mean, c'mon fellas. Let's all act like professionals around here, eh? On that note, I hope you all have a great weekend, full of first-run films! Check out last week's Movie Musings here
Laremy is the lead critic and senior producer for a website named Film.com. He's also available on Twitter.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
In the late '50s a group of elementary students put futuristic drawings in a time capsule that is then buried on school grounds. One overly obsessed kid Lucinda goes her own way by writing hundreds of mysterious seemingly non-sensical numbers on her entry. Fifty years later it’s dug up and comes into the possession of Caleb the young son of John Koestler a recent widower and astro-physics professor who becomes obsessed with the papers Caleb has brought home from class. He soon discovers the random digits are actually not-so-thinly disguised dates (including 91101 of course) for “future” disasters and there are clearly three of those dates yet to come. Although nobody believes his ramblings about this code for impending doom a nearby plane crash proves he is on to something so ominous the fate of the world could be in jeopardy. With all hell about to break loose the prof takes matters into his own hands.
WHO’S IN IT?
Just a couple of years ago Nicolas Cage starred in Next as a magician who could see into the future and had to prevent a nuclear attack. Now he’s at it again as an MIT professor who also has clues to future catastrophes and also is out to prevent the inevitable. And of course in the National Treasure films he latched on to maps that had contained similarly dark deeply held secrets. Nic clearly likes “knowing” stuff before the rest of us and he’s quite believable even if some of the circumstances in his latest sci-fi adventure are really out there -- literally. Cage somehow makes you buy into this stuff which is key to the ultimate success of the flick. As the key kids Chandler Canterbury as Caleb and Lara Robinson as Lucinda (and later Abby Lucinda’s granddaughter) are properly eerie and haunted-looking. Rose Byrne is also along for the ride as Lucinda’s grown daughter who is able to provide goosebump-inducing information that the numbers alone can’t. There’s also some dead-on creepy emoting from D.G. Maloney as a quietly foreboding stranger who seems to be following Caleb.
Unlike some recent movies of this type with nothing on the agenda but pure mayhem “Knowing” delves into the bigger issues of why we are all here providing something other than just big explosions to talk about on the way home from the multiplex. Director Alex Proyas (I Robot Dark City The Crow) certainly knows how to pull off complex action set-pieces but he and his screenwriters also seem to be genuinely interested in exploring the meaning behind the madness.
Some of the more pedantic dialogue Cage is given can be groan-inducing but since he plays John as a total believer we can forgive it. Also the film falls victim to a final act that veers into typical disaster movie territory and isn’t as compelling as the first two thirds which try to keep the premise at least marginally credible. At two hours it probably could have been tightened anyway.
The rain-soaked plane crash sequence with its gritty hand-held photography is riveting to watch and one of the most frightening depictions of a jetliner disaster put on film yet.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN ...
If you are really squeamish it might be worth "knowing" that you should take breaks in the big disaster sequences as the CGI effects can get pretty violent and graphic particularly for a PG-13 movie.