Get ready for a post-Memorial weekend pileup at the nation’s theaters as four brand new wide release openers debut in an already crowded marketplace and in the midst of a box office slowdown.
The good news is that there is something for every taste and every age range as the four “food” groups of the genre scale are represented. In the comedy realm we have Universal’s “Get Him to the Greek” starring Russell Brand as his “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” character the musician and notorious lothario, Aldous Snow and re-teaming him with his “Marshall” co-star Jonah Hill. Notably, Sean “P Diddy” Combs has been getting raves for his performance as a record company executive. Great marketing, a funny trailer and a terrific concept may make this one a sleeper comedy hit. Directed by Nicholas Stoller and with characters created by actor Jason Segel, “Get Him to the Greek” will aspire to get audiences to the movie theatre this weekend.
Lionsgate brings the action genre vibe with the “rom-action” comedy “Killers” starring Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl as ill-fated lovers who find themselves caught in a web of danger and unknown identities in a sort of updated version of “True Lies.” The film combines action, humor and romance into a “date friendly” package that will hopefully draw men and women in equal measure. This genre hybrid has brought us films like “Date Night,” “The Bounty Hunter” and of course “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and it will be interesting to see if this resonates with audiences enough to draw crowds this weekend.
No genre-laden weekend would be complete without a solid serving of family-friendly entertainment and Fox will let the dogs out as “Marmaduke” brings the kibble home with this PG-rated family film that brings the classic comic strip-canine to big screen life. With hope for a franchise starting weekend, the film features Owen Wilson as the voice of the eponymous canine character, Emma Stone (“Superbad”) as the voice of Mazie and George Lopez providing the voice for Carlos the cat. Kids love dogs, families love family films and with the summer season in full swing, look for “Marmaduke” to have a solid box office bite when it opens on Friday.
Finally great casting and a truly scary concept deliver the R-rated thrills in Warner Bros.’ “Splice” which stars the always-terrific Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley. Solid casting can often elevate the material to a whole new level and Brody and Polley bring their serious acting chops to bear on this horror/sci-fi genre film and take the quality and the pathos up a giant notch and the effect is scarily effective. As an executive producer on the film, the great Guillermo del Toro (director of the amazing “Pan’s Labyrinth” and the “Hellboy” films), “Splice” takes a “science gone wrong” premise and wrings some truly chilling and disturbing images and situations out of the idea. The relatively unknown Delphine Chaneac beautifully plays the object of Brody’s and Polley’s experimentation and her touching, sensual and ultimately scary-as-hell performance will have many men looking askew at their dates as they leave the theatre. A solid R-rated thriller that should generate way above average word-of-mouth for a film of this type, “Splice” could perform well this weekend and beyond.
The marketplace needs a boost and it needs it now as the Summer attendance is off around 5% from last year and many films have not performed to expectations. With some luck, these four new films coupled with the current films in theatres can instill the excitement in moviegoers that has been sorely missing over the past month. A savior may come in the form of a re-make of an 80’s classic when Sony’s “The Karate Kid” opens on June 11 and will likely surprise the analysts with a bigger-than-expected debut. Fox’s “A-Team” also opens during this “Totally Eighties” weekend that I hope will help to jump start this all-important movie going season.
Jason Segel, who wrote the latest Muppets movie with Nicholas Stoller, will also play the non-Muppet lead.
According to the Heat Vision blog, Segel will also join David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman of Mandeville Films/TV as a producer on the project.
James Bobin is on board to direct. The plot is under wraps but it is known that Segel plays a man on a quest to find and reunite the Muppets.
Elisabeth Moss, Rose Byrne and Sean Combs are heading to the Greek. The actors will join Jonah Hill and Russell Brand for Get Him to the Greek, the Universal comedy to be directed by Nicholas Stoller.
The film reunites Hill and Brand who had supporting roles in Stoller's feature debut Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Also written by Stoller, Greek is about a record company intern who has two days to drag an uncooperative rock legend to Hollywood for a comeback concert.
Moss will play Hill's girlfriend, while Byrne will take on the role of a scandal-plagued pop star and love interest of Brand's character, Variety reports. Combs is in as a record company executive.
Judd Apatow is producing.
Moss, of Mad Men fame, is currently shooting the Hugh Grant-Sarah Jessica Parker romantic comedy Did You Hear About the Morgans?.
Byrne, from FX's Damages, will next be seen in Fox Searchlight's Adam.
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Writer and star Jason Segel concocted this romantic comedy from an experience in his own life. It is a moment recreated right at the top of the film when TV and frustrated puppet theatre composer Peter Bretter (Segel) stands naked physically and emotionally as his TV-series star girlfriend Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell) dumps him for another guy. Not being able to deal with the sudden rejection and unable to perform properly at his job he decides to take the Hawaiian vacation he and his now-ex never got around to. Unfortunately she coincidentally has the same idea and with her English rocker new boyfriend (Russell Brand) in tow and winds up in the exact same resort with poor pitiful Peter. In a tactic designed to prove Sarah made a huge mistake he manages to hook up with the hotel’s pretty and sympathetic concierge (Mila Kunis)--signing up for “activities” she is unlikely to suggest to any other guest. With the Hawaiian paradise as the perfect backdrop the film turns into a classic battle of the sexes as Peter attempts to put the pieces of his shattered heart back together. One of the original regulars of producer Judd Apatow’s short-lived NBC series Freeks and Geeks and now co-star of How I Met Your Mother Jason Segel smartly breaks out of the supporting TV mode and proves his worth as a fine comic movie lead in his sharply observed script inspired by an incident that happened in his own life. Sure to be much discussed and dissected the hilarious opening scenes in which he boldly goes for laughs displaying his full frontal manhood signals him as a screen actor unafraid to let it all hang out there. That’s just perfect for a character who pretty much wears his vulnerability on his sleeve (when he has one on). As a screenwriter he has also given his co-stars choice roles to run with as well. Bell as the vapid TV actress takes what could have been a one-dimensional role and shapes her Sarah Marshall into a believable human being who finally hits a wall in her longtime relationship. Kunis (TV's That '70s Show) is an enormously appealing and warm screen presence and Brand as the loopy rocker steals every scene he’s in with one of the year’s most indelible comic creations. As usual some of Apatow’s stable of regulars turn up here as well with standout bits from Knocked Up and 40 Year-Old Virgin’s Paul Rudd as a loony surf instructor and Superbad’s Jonah Hill as the fanboy restaurant host. Debuting feature director Nicholas Stoller got some early experience on Apatow’s underappreciated series Undeclared and does a nice job here bringing Segel’s creation to the screen. A mark of a good director is good performances and there isn’t a bad one in the bunch. Not too shabby for a first timer. His achievement however is clearly overwhelmed by the imposing shadow of producer Apatow and his star/writer. It’s their show but Stoller goes light on stylistic touches and doesn’t screw it up seamlessly letting the actors the terrific script and the scenery do all the heavy lifting making this Sarah Marshall hard to forget indeed.
Fresh out of the slammer Calvin “Babyface” Sims (Marlon Wayans)--or to us “Little Man”--robs a jewelry store along with his partner in crime Percy P (Tracy Morgan). After the heist is somewhat botched Calvin drops the jewel in the purse of an unsuspecting young woman Vanessa (Kerry Washington) in an attempt to elude cops. Calvin then follows Vanessa and her husband Darryl (Shawn Wayans) out to their suburban home where it’s calm and where the thief learns Darryl is desperate to father a child. So three-foot-tall Calvin shows up on Darryl’s doorstep in a dog basket goo-goo-ga-ga-ing much to the couple’s delight. They take him in and turn a blind eye on the fact that he has facial stubble and a mouthful of pearly whites as Cal tries repeatedly to retrieve the diamond. Amid countless muck-ups and pratfalls the trio grows closer with even Cal showing his heartfelt side. But he is still a criminal with a motive a motive which Vanessa’s elderly father (John Witherspoon) thinks he’s got figured out. Shawn and Marlon Wayans are easily two of the top five actors in the Wayans clan which is a feat if you know their genealogy but at this point it’d be nice to split the brothers up. Their roles here weren’t easily executable--especially Marlon’s--but it’s as if they implore us to not see them as artists. Marlon whose head is superimposed atop a little person’s body--a not-so-special effect--boasts some funny lines as a hardened thief but makes for a grating “toddler ” even though most will inexplicably find his proportions to be hilarious. Meanwhile Shawn actually steals more of the physical gags like getting hit in the groin oh maybe a dozen times by various objects. And it’s a sad day in Hollywood when people like Ray’s Kerry Washington bolt the good stuff for a Wayans vehicle but hey at least she looks great! The true comedy here sparse as it may be comes from numerous cameos by In Living Color alumni and three SNL-ers (Rob Schneider Molly Shannon and Tracy Morgan). Marlon Shawn and Keenen Ivory Wayans are an absolute testament to the Hollywood Machine in action. They “get” Hollywood more than perhaps even George Lucas does making them studio execs’ best friends. They are also more in touch with their fanbase than anyone and churn out precisely what their loyalists crave. In short they are utterly fascinating. Their movies? Not so much. Director Keenen often seems to mistake irreverent for crude and co-writers Marlon and Shawn--well clearly they didn’t envision a brainbuster but they produced (at least) one: We’re merely supposed to laugh at the fact that Vanessa and Darryl don’t notice Calvin’s perpetually changing ages spewing unintelligible babytalk in one scene and playing football in the next. Otherwise it’s more or less a series of Keenen alternating locales to exploit pratfalls that would arise if the man-child problem existed.