Archive

Posts Tagged ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’

Movies (not) by the numbers…

June 4th, 2011 No comments

 

OK, let’s face it: unless you’re a fan of: A). Gross-out comedies; B). Superhero/Robot/Alien action films; C). Sequels, or D). All of the above, there’s not a lot to see at the movies this summer. Rarely have there been so few ‘original’ films in the marketplace. Despite this, there are films for people who have never cracked a graphic novel in their life, aren’t into anthropomorphic machines or don’t care for numerical film titles. (And, for good measure, we’ve added a trio of ‘guilty pleasures’ that straddle the line between originality and nostalgia.)

Rare, Crafted Original

How do you like your original movies? Arty? Packed with A-list talent? How about an examination of the origins of the cosmos? Well, in Terrence Malick’s demanding “The Tree of Life,” alternately an epic tale of a Texas family and a tone poem about the creation of the universe, you get all three. Brad Pitt and Sean Penn play father and son roles alongside relative newcomer Jessica Chastain; the film opened last week in only 4 theaters and grossed $631,000. Undoubtedly Malick’s reputation as a perfectionist (he reportedly spent 3 years laboriously completing the film) has brought in Malick enthusiasts (he has only directed 5 features in 38 years, with another on the way – if you believe Malick), but the overall box office prospects of “The Tree of Life” aren’t such a sure bet. However, if you like your films evocative and discussion-worthy (not to mention hand-crafted), give Malick’s latest a try – just don’t complain that it made you think too much…

Lasting Impressions

Director Mike Mills doesn’t make movies that are easy to logline. His last feature, 2005’s “Thumbsucker,” was a film festival darling, nominated at the Berlin Film Festival, The Independent Spirit Awards and the Sundance Film Festival. At all three, Mike Mills didn’t win – but his lead actor, Lou Taylor Pucci, took home the Silver Bear in Berlin and a Special Jury Prize at Sundance. Now Mills’ second feature, “Beginners,” starring Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor, opens this weekend and is equally difficult to describe: an aimless son contends with his 75 year old dad’s announcement that he is gay, as the film touches on issues of acceptance, death and responsibility for one’s life. Mills based the film on his own life experiences, and early critical response suggests McGregor and Plummer both turn in award-worthy performances.

Old Fashioned Romance

Coming closest to a ‘tentpole’ picture as any on this alternative list, director Tom Hanks’ second theatrical feature (although he has logged serious directing time on his production company’s several HBO mini-series, including “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific”) “Larry Crowne” stars Hanks and Julia Roberts as a downsized worker and local college professor, respectively. In an attempt to reinvent himself, Hanks attends college and reignites the passion Roberts had lost for teaching (and for love, apparently). The script is co-written by Hanks and Nia Vardalos, whose surprise hit “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” was produced by Hanks’ Playtone. Don’t expect much beyond ‘boy meets girl, etc…’ from “Larry Crowne.” But if you liked the easy chemistry between Hanks and Roberts in “Charlie Wilson’s War,” expect much more of that here…

Love in a Day? Crazy Life?

Two very different films open on July 29: “Life in a Day,” from National Geographic Films, edits together footage from thousands of contributors to tell the story of life on earth in 24 hours; and “Crazy, Stupid Love,” starring Steve Carell as a suddenly-single man accepting romantic advice from playboy pal Ryan Gosling. The ‘Life’ project has been seen on YouTube (which co-produced), but makes its big-screen debut domestically. Carell’s film is a big investment by Warner Brothers in Dan Fogelman’s script ($2.5 million), but the studio apparently has great plans for the writer, having recently bought Fogelman’s pitch for a Tom Cruise vehicle for $2 million (with an additional $3 million due at completion). Either 7/29 film should prove a cure to the sequel-mania sweeping cinemas by this time of the summer. And – an added plus – neither film is in 3-D!

Everything Old is New Again! – Guilty Pleasures…

Of course, one does not live by original films alone – commercial films can be enjoyed like a palate cleanser between original movies. But they’re only necessary in small doses – the following films emulate the current trend towards remakes and sequels, but still offer something new.

Reel Suspense

Looking an awful lot like an early Steven Spielberg film (in more ways than one), J.J. Abrams’ “Super 8” is a coming-of-age tale whose plot is still shrouded in secrecy, although the film opens in one week. But Abrams is open about the effect his film’s co-producer has had on him, citing Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Jaws,” and “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” as primary influences. Given Abrams’ film’s youthful cast, suspenseful action and government conspiracy overtones, “Super 8” looks to have the potential to be a breakout hit worthy of early Spielberg – depending on what is on that crashed train…

Naughty Cameron?

Just when you were beginning to think you imagined “There’s Something About Mary,” Cameron Diaz returns in the R-rated comedy “Bad Teacher,” in which she plays a foul-mouthed junior high school teacher who, after being dumped by a sugar daddy, proceeds to pit two colleagues against one another in her effort to pay for breast implants. Co-starring Justin Timberlake and Jason Segel and directed by Jake Kasdan, this dark comedy offers a real alternative to robot movies.

Hey, it’s the last one…

On the rare chance you’ve been out of touch for the last 13 years, there’s been a phenomenon called ‘Harry Potter,’ first in the publishing world, and soon after in the movies. Now, after 10 years, and 8 movies from 7 books, the series is coming to a finale with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2” in 3-D, on July 15th, 2011. It will be the first ‘Potter’ feature in 3-D ( last year’s ‘Hallows Part 1’ simply didn’t have time for the complicated 3-D re-tooling process and make its preset distribution date); as a result, expect enormous numbers for the final Harry Potter film. That is, unless series creator J.K. Rowling decides to pull another wizard out of a hat, so to speak…

So there is hope for fans of original cinema this summer. Just remember – diamonds are hard to find, too.  And, as with any good movie, they’re always formed under pressure…

Meanwhile, in the Executive Suite…

May 14th, 2010 No comments

Kick Cannes

The honchos of Hollywood have decamped for the rainy, volcanic ash-threatened French Riviera for the 63rd Cannes Film Festival. Most travel plans were complicated by ash clouds from the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull, which caused all sorts of delayed flights, missed connections and other travel headaches for the Hollywood executives and filmmakers on their way to Nice or Cannes. The weather hasn’t really cooperated, either: last week large waves pounded the Croisette, damaging the beach and local establishments. On Wednesday’s opening night, the weather held until after the opening ceremonies, then started raining once the opening film, Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood,” began screening.

And those lucky enough (or beset upon, depending on who you talk to) to make it from Hollywood to exotic southern France can look forward to… more Hollywood. This year the festival runneth over with Hollywood’s touch, from opening remarks delivered by Kristin Scott Thomas, to a jury headed by Tim Burton and including Benicio del Toro; and don’t forget the movies: the slate of Hollywood product includes “Robin Hood,” “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” Woody Allen’s “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger,” and Doug Liman’s “Fair Game,” based on the memoir of outed CIA agent Valerie Plame, starring  Naomi Watts as Plame and Sean Penn as her diplomat husband Joseph Wilson.

So far, apparently, business is subdued at Cannes. But – a slow business climate, lots of American product on display, scads of Hollywood insiders walking around… Dare I say it? Maybe all those executives should’ve stayed home and caught up on their sleep, ’cause they’re practically in ‘little Hollywood’ now!

I Thought I Saw an Apparition – But I Guess I Was Mistaken…

One of the weirder story items coming from Hollywood (and subsequently Cannes) these days is the abrupt departure of Bob Berney, one of the two principals at

Berney & Pohlad

Apparition, the film company he and Bill Pohlad announced last August. Since then, Apparition has acquired and released several films, including Jane Campion’s “Bright Star,” “Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day” and the Oscar-nominated “The Young Victoria.” But Berney’s sudden split from Apparition on the eve of Cannes, where he was to represent Apparition, has left partner Pohlad and company staffers stunned – and scrambling to make alternate arrangements to represent their interests at the festival. Apparition staffers learned Monday of Berney’s departure in a company-wide email, which was forwarded to the press in defiance of conventional Hollywood public relations protocol, wherein executives do little but gush over one another.

But there’s a twist (it wouldn’t be Hollywood without one, right?): Bob Berney is going to Cannes… So everyone in Tinseltown asks – why? It’s invariably about money… But what sort? Another indie film releasing company? Something bigger? And already, the sharks are circling: aware of Apparition’s distribution deal with Sony, industry bulletin boards around town lit up with speculation that a distribution deal may have become available at the major, prompting denials, frustration and confusion all around.

Berney is a recognized industry leader, having been involved with Newmarket Films, IFC Films and Picturehouse. Among the successes he’s associated with are “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” “La Vie En Rose,” and “The Passion of the Christ.” It’s not clear what his plans are on the Croisette, but – there’s always that rarely-seen ‘other choice’ of running a studio…

 

 Lion Around?

Much has been written of the slow and inevitable demise of Metro Goldwyn Mayer and United Artists. (See my posting “Dyin’ Lion?”) But MGM, whose creditors have been trying to sell the once-revered Leo the Lion, isn’t garnering the kinds of bids the creditors would like. As a ‘studio’ awash in $3.7 billion worth of debt, MGM simply isn’t an attractive purchase prospect, despite its large library of titles. The studio eventually received only two purchase offers, and one of those, Access Industries, has since rescinded; the remaining offer, from Time Warner for $1.5 billion, was deemed too low by the Lion.

So apparently the company’s creditors have adopted a new strategy: Bloomberg.com reports that the top five creditors have amassed a controlling portion of the company’s debt and are now putting out feelers to Hollywood heavyweights who could run the studio as a going concern. Never mind that MGM already has a Motion Picture Group chairman, Mary Parent, who was production head at Universal before moving to the Lion’s den – the creditors want new blood, and have spoken to a number of former studio heads and other top players, from former News Corp. head Peter Chernin and ex-Viacom topper Jonathan Dolgen to Spyglass principals Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum. Who knows? Maybe Bob Berney’s on their list as well… he’s currently ‘between projects,’ as we say here in LaLa Land…