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Monthly Archives: June 2007

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Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium Makes Me Sick

When I heard that Zach Helm, the scriptwriter of Stranger Than Fiction was going to be making a movie I was really excited. The prospect sounded like the possibility of the next Wes Anderson showing up on the scene. So I waited eagerly for a scrap of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. Some Russian site had supposedly put up an early trailer for it which was promptly taken down and the months passed. And then voila. AOL has the trailer. And I saw. And I was sickened.

Now granted this could be all one big mistake. Trailers often misrepresent movies and the trailer for Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is basically a collection of brief gags and special effects. So it could all be a big mistake but I somehow doubt it.

Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is precisely what you should expect from Walden Media. It’s big, bright, colorful, aimed at kids and utterly souless. That’s right, I said soulless. For a movie that’s all about believing in magic, this thing is right up there with The Polar Express as a collection of computer special effects driven cutesy gimmicks that’s as phony as a Hallmark Gold Crown Store, a collection of fake sentiment with no sincerity behind it.

Dustin Hoffman doesn’t work much these days which makes you wonder why he took a role where his primary line seems to be imitating Robin Williams or at best, Gene Wilder. Top that off with a really fake looking grey wig and pancake makeup and you want to weep. Natalie Portman manages to somehow look like a 12 year old boy in every scene. (Well more so than she usually does.) Only Jason Bateman looks anything remotely resembling human.

All told Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium looks like every lame pre-Christmas movie that gets run on television. It may not be about Christmas but it has the same hollow cheapness to it. Walden Media’s mission to provide movies for kids may be noble but their movies are just awful. Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium is no doubt supposed to be this year’s Night at the Museum but unlike Night, it seems determined to telegraph every single moment. Maybe Zach Helm has yet to show what he can do.

Elisha Cuthbert Squeaks Out on Captivity

For all the condemnations of Captivity we’ve yet to hear from the dim blonde at the center of it all, Elisha Cuthbert, best remembered for having a boy’s name and irritating millions of 24 viewers when the mountain lion failed to eat her. Luckily she’s been off 24 for a while, perhaps escaping mountain lions somewhere else and she’s managed to return in Captivity, a movie just about everyone besides Courtney Solomon finds nauseating.

Luckily for us, Cinematical has an interview with the dim blonde herself.

To be perfectly honest with you, a lot of it baffles me, and a lot of it is intriguing at the same time, because I had no idea that, in the world of the Saws and the Hostels … somehow our film has sort of stuck out. I’m grateful for that, but at the same time, I’m a little confused.

Yeah it’s baffling really that you’d put up giant billboards about torturing and killing women in public and somehow your movie then gets attention. Who knew. But really she is right, Captivity is no worse or better than the Hostels or the Saws, it’s just more obnoxiously marketed. For which you can once again thank Courtney Solomon.

I set out to make a film about a woman who fights for her life and comes out in the end sort of strong and learns something from her experience.

I think that’s the premise of every slasher movie out there.

But 30 million people chatting about it online? I couldn’t ask for anything more!

30 million is overshooting by like 29 million but you could ask for some good publicity. Far more people were talking about Showgirls than are talking about Captivity and you know how that turned out. At least Elizabeth Berkeley had actual talent. But you may just wind up with her career, whether you ask for it or not.

I personally didn’t, but then again that doesn’t mean it’s not going to affect someone in a negative way, and we’re here to sort of appease the people who go see the films. The only thing I can say about it is that I thought that they were interesting enough to be up.

Yeah but those six year olds may not be as tolerant of giant billboards of mutilated women as Elisha Cuthbert. Or their moms. Pity.

You know, I’ve never been much of a method actor. I feel like, with every project I go in extremely prepared and I like to have a good time. I like to have a good atmosphere on the set

Yeah I think we’re all shocked that Elisha Cuthbert isn’t a method actress. We all just naturally assumed she spent a month shackled in the desert with a mountain lion in preparation for her role.

Yeah, I mean I love horror films, so I guess it’s one of those things where I find myself interested in the script. Captivity is a bit of an interesting situation, because I think it was really wanting to work with Roland Joffe that triggered my interest in the film.

Anyone who seriously believes that Elisha Cuthbert even knew who Joffe was before she did the movie or has seen anything he directed may want to look into used bridges in Brooklyn.

I don’t know, my brother called me, and he’s sixteen years old. He saw the preview on TV and said ‘wow, this is the one that I want to go see,’ and I found that interesting, because that’s the first time he’s ever been vocal and excited, aside from the fact that his sister’s in it. Just as a movie in general, it’d be something he’d be interested in, and I thought ‘what a great thing for him to say.’

What’s left to add? Absolutely nothing at all. It’s really great that her sixteen year old younger is into torturing women. That’s the kind of bondage that really brings families together.

Evan Almighty and Getting Movie Religion

When Hollywood finds religion, it usually runs away – declining to distribute “The Passion of the Christ” or playing down spiritual themes in “The Chronicles of Narnia.” But last week, Universal Pictures released “Evan Almighty,” an overtly spiritual Noah’s-ark comedy squarely aimed at the nation’s faithful. In investing more than $200 million in the film’s production and marketing, Universal is betting that blue-state filmmakers can once again tap into red-state values.

Here’s where we go wrong. Religion in America comes in different forms. It was ultimately the religious right in America that boosted The Passion by aggressively promoting it as the movie those evil Hollywood liberals want to kill. By contrast Evan Almighty, a talking animal comedy that comes from a strictly environmentalist and casual deity viewpoint, might play to the religious left but not to the religious right at all.

The religious right is certainly sizable, but the problem it is has no real identity. When the religious right gets behind a movie, that provides for a major push because it brings an untapped demographic that is generally disgusted with Hollywood, to the table. The religious left provides no such advantage. The religious left is ultimately more blue state than red state.

Finally calling Evan Almighty a case of Hollywood getting religion is dubious at best. Evan Almighty is no more religious than Bruce Almighty or The Santa Clause. Its marketing has attempted to tap into churches but that was a no show from the beginning and Evan Almighty is set to be a major box office loser, whereas if they had spent the 200 million to just remake The Ten Commandments, they would have easily earned that money back. But that’s really tapping into religion.

If “Evan Almighty” turns into a summer hit, as several competing studio executives predict, the movie could put Hollywood back in the business of making big-budget movies that intentionally embrace sacred subjects.

You mean wacky movies about religion with slapstick and talking animals? I know that’s what the red state religious people of America want is wacky comedies about biblical events. Anyway the odds of a flood are better than the odds of Evan Almighty becoming a hit. Of course if there is a flood, you could make a sequel for a lot cheaper. We can call it Evan Aaaaaaaaaaaah Help I’m Drowning.

“For some reason, Hollywood doesn’t make this kind of movie,” says Tom Shadyac, the director of both “Evan Almighty” and its racier predecessor, 2003’s “Bruce Almighty,”whose religious message was less palpable. “I don’t know if it’s out of fear. I really don’t. Maybe we’re not living as closely to these themes.”

Possibly because Hollywood instead chooses to dumb down religion and ignore the real issues in favor of a talking giraffe with a nailgun. Hollywood doesn’t make those kinds of movies because they have nothing in common with a religious value system not dependent on some guru.

Christian moviegoers have been an increasingly hot target since Gibson’s “Passion” grossed more than $370 million in 2004. In assembling “Evan Almighty,” Universal and Shadyac endeavored to create a crowd-pleasing, but non-dogmatic, parable. The goal was to appeal not only to fans of star Steve Carell – who starred in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” – but also liberal environmentalists and more socially conservative audiences who rarely venture into the multiplex.

Now see what you did there Universal? Look closely. You wanted liberals and conservatives at the same movie and you thought that you could somehow fuse religion and environmentalism and talking animals and Steve Carell. It doesn’t work. It was never going to work. It was arguably the worst idea since a gill breathing Kevin Costner.

Just a few minutes into the movie, Carell’s character gets on his knees and prays to God. Unlike the higher-power conversations in the George Burns “Oh, God!” comedies from 30 years ago, it’s not done purely for laughs.

Not “Purely” for laughs. It’s only semi-funny praying. Seriously people, do you hear yourselves? Do you even wonder why this movie is bombing? For marketers, you have zero clue about your audience.

End of June Box Office Roundup

So Evan Almighty came in not like a lion but like a lamb with 32 million. 32 million would be a good take for a comedy starring Steve Carell if that comedy didn’t happen to have a budget in the 200 million dollar range. With the expected kind of fall off that will come next week at the tip opening of July, we can expect Evan to get pulverized. The movie probably won’t lose money when all the receipts are totaled but with its hefty marketing budget, the real cost of Evan Almighty may ascend to somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 million and DVD rentals and foreign box office just won’t do more than maybe ensure that it doesn’t lose money. But overall Evan Almighty is another Waterworld.

By the 29th, Ratatouille appears in theaters and will eat Evan Almighty’s family audience alive. At the same time Fantastic Four has more audience appeal than Evan Almighty does and it’s still around. By the 3rd when Transformers opens, you can safely toss the remains of Evan Almighty overboard. The likely total for Evan Almighty is going to be barely at 60 million if the producers are very lucky. If not it won’t even make 50 million domestic. That means it will barely cover its own marketing budget. Ouch.

Paramount Vantage’s “A Mighty Heart,” starring Angelina Jolie as the wife of kidnapped and slain journalist Daniel Pearl, had a so-so debut, coming in at No. 10 with $4 million.

So-so is more like painfully mediocre but what do you expect from a movie with nearly zero interest aside from the celebrity factor and let’s face it Jolie is as appealing to female audiences who would otherwise be a natural for this as a rabid weasel.

“It’s trying to get people talking about the movie, rather than the idea of the government trying to shut down the movie,” Weinstein said. “It’s saying to the government, `Hey, this movie is out there being appreciated by people. Think twice before you try to confiscate or take any legal action.'”

Oh please, the “Government is out to seize this movie” gimmick is the only thing Sicko has going for it and Weinstein knows it and orchestrated it. But yeah I’m sure the government is terrified of the same few thousand people that actually want to see a documentary by a painfully obese millionaire hypocrite about the health care system.

Grand Theft Auto IV Trailer – Take Two

Rockstar Games’ fortunes may be looking bad after Manhunt 2 got shot down but the Grand Theft Auto IV trailer looks great. While the first GTA VI trailer was heavy on the gee whiz special effects of New York, the second GTA IV trailer is far better at giving you a grasp of the story.

Not that there still aren’t great visuals to be had here including a shot of Lower Manhattan below Brooklyn Bridge that takes in South Street Seaport Pier 19 and shows an amazing level of detail. A street scene that looks straight out of Taxi Driver with realistically rendered characters, a hot dog vendor and stores and a diner. But this is the work of the same Rockstar guys who fell in love with New York via the movies and GTA IV is very much a gangster movie and in a movie credible way than failed attempts like Max Payne 2 or the GTA3 series ever were.

GTA IV appears to be throwing out a more conventional mobster movie with a better storyline involving an eastern european immigrant on a dangerous quest for something in New York and doing it at gunpoint too.

Coolness abides.

Bully of the Web

Nearly one in three teenagers who use the Internet say they have been harassed online by “cyberbullies” who spread rumors, post embarrassing pictures, make private conversations public and even send threatening messages.

“Bullying has entered the digital age,” the Pew Internet & American Life Project stated this week

I always love stories like this. I remember this story being reported year after year after year. Nary a year doesn’t go by since the average person discovered the internet that ridiculous stories like this aren’t repeated. Ridiculous because they’re false? No ridiculous because they’re cliches. Blatant, stupid and silly cliches.

Bullying exists wherever kids are. If kids hang out at the mall, there will be bullying there. If they hang out online, there will be bullying there. Bullying is what kids do to each other. Where kids go bullying follows. It didn’t happen last week or last year. This was the way it always was.

Now what this story additionally suffers from the usual misapplied terminology. Simply calling anyone who says nasty things to you online a bully is stupid, ignorant and wrong. It’s like describing every finger raised in traffic as road rage. The reality is your average kids will say nasty things to each other. Does that make them cyberbullies?

If we’re to make up the phony term, cyberbully, then we can actually limit it to the same meaning as a real world bully, namely it’s a pattern of behavior rather than just kids being kids.

CBS Air Taxi

A fired CBS News producer has sued the network, claiming that he was discriminated against for being gay. Dick Jefferson filed papers at the New York Supreme Court in Manhattan alleging that CBS News terminated him after he spoke out publicly about being attacked for being gay while on holiday in the Caribbean last year.

Jefferson said he called CBS, who sent an air ambulance to rescue both him and co-worker Ryan Smith from the island of St. Maarten. Jefferson said that action probably saved Smith’s life. Smith still works on the CBS magazine programme 48 Hours.

Well it’s well known that much of the bahamas native population is not exactly gay friendly but you have to wonder why CBS was sending a helicopter to rescue a vacationing producer. I mean even the army won’t do that. It seems like the network already bent over backward to help him here. Doesn’t the place have their own police force? And it’s unclear whether he was already injured or not? It does seem odd that he had to be evacuated from an entire island. And why would CBS go to this much trouble for one of their producers and then fire him?

Awesomely Unfunny

National Lampoon will begin production this fall on National Lampoon’s 301: The Legend of Awesomest Maximus Wallace Leonidas. Awesome! Looking to spoof such films as 300, Gladiator, Troy and Braveheart, pic will follow an out-of-shape Spartan general named Awesomest who “fails forward on a path to greatness.”

It’s possible to make a funny movie spoofing historical epics. It is. But the trend lately is to make spoofs so bad that they actually kill anyone within 50 feet of them. National Lampoon’s sheer awfullness has to compete with the terrible spoofs of Date Movie and Epic Movie which themselves were scraping the bottom of the barrel that Scary Movie had dug out. Basically at this point we’re barely one step away from Idiocracy and a butt on the screen for 90 minutes.

Typical of National Lampoon and SNL skits, we begin with a premise that lasts for about two minutes worth of comedy. That means National Lampoon’s 301: The Legend of Awesomest Maximus Wallace Leonidas will have to fill the other 88 minutes with fart jokes, poop jokes and some combinations of the two. Think Epic Movie basically. The sad part is there’s plenty of ways to parody the sheer over the top stupidity of 300 or Braveheart. You just need a brain to do it with.

New York Film Festival Roars on In

Wes Anderson’s comedy “The Darjeeling Limited” will kick off the 45th annual New York Film Festival on September 28, while Joel and Ethan Coen’s drama “No Country for Old Men” will screen in the Centerpiece slot.

Two other features in the lineup — Cristian Mungiu’s Cannes Palme d’Or winner “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” and Lee Chang-dong’s’s “Secret Sunshine” (which won the Cannes best actress award for Jeon Do-yeon) — also were confirmed Wednesday, due in part to leaks about their inclusion.

That’s a hell of a roundup. The first two that is. Wes Anderson and the Coen Brothers are fantastic when they’re on a roll. Granted the Coen Brothers have been way off the roll for a while now but the trailer for No Country for Old Men is so amazing, that it can’t help but be a great movie, leaving behind their unfortunate George Clooney era, which nearly destroyed them as filmmakers.

I’m also looking forward The Darjeeling Limited which looks neat in theory. I’m hoping that despite the family dysfunction this won’t be another, Royal Tennenbaums but even if it is I’ll eat it up with ice cream because a weak Wes Anderson movie is still better than anything Spielberg has done in the last five years. Sad. Sad but true.

I could care less about Secret Sunshine. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is well done in the way that those realistically observed movies about the human condition are but I doubt I want any part of it. I have spent way too much time seeing the grimmer side of life as it is and call me a traitor to the cause but I want me some escapism and the Coen Bros and Wes Anderson are likely to deliver.

The Coulter Edwards Windfall

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards on Wednesday encouraged his supporters to donate to his campaign in response to “hateful” comments from conservative author Ann Coulter.

Edwards made his first comments to The Associated Press in response to Coulter’s suggestion that she wished he would be “killed in a terrorist assassination plot.” His campaign cited her remarks in two e-mails and a telephone text message to supporters for donations, with the fundraising deadline on Saturday.

It’s not the first time Coulter has given the Edwards campaign a financial boost. In March, she called Edwards a “faggot” and the campaign used video of the comment to help raise $300,000 before the end of the first quarter.

Is it just me or does anyone else think the Edwards campaign is just outright paying Ann Coulter to say nasty things about him?

I mean overall John Edwards just can’t catch a break. The media which is besotten with Hillary and Obama, has never ducked a chance to take a shot at him even when his wife got cancer. All that Edwards has going for him is the hope that the somewhat sane Democratic voter is not going to vote for Hillary or Obama except at gunpoint. But he still has to make it to some real primaries without being written off as a candidate by sheer media pressure. So far Ann Coulter is the only one really paying any attention to Edwards. It’s rather baffling since conservatives generally hate Hillary far more than Edwards with Obama as a close second these days. Coulter lavishing this much venom on Edwards almost makes you think that they have an arrangement between them, an arrangement Edwards is certainly profiting from him by posturing as the victim of right wing hate attacks. (Though is there anyone Ann Coulter doesn’t hate?)

Wouldn’t be the first dishonest gambit in this election. Wouldn’t be the last.

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