All About Steve

Sandra Bullock may be experiencing her best year ever with box office hits like “The Proposal” and “The Blind Side” (not to mention rumors of an Oscar nomination), but that doesn’t excuse her for starring in junk like “All About Steve.” As Mary Horowitz, a blabbermouth crossword puzzler who begins stalking a TV news cameraman (the titular Steve, played by Bradley Cooper) after she’s convinced they belong together, Bullock attempts to play the character as a quirky social reject but comes off looking mildly retarded instead. There are certain things that someone of her supposed intelligence simply wouldn’t do, and though the film tries to exploit her eccentricities for comedy, there’s nothing particularly funny about it. Cooper and Thomas Hayden Church (as Steve’s news reporter-in-crime) fare a little better in their scenes without the actress, but you still can’t help but feel bad for them. “All About Steve” might have been a pretty decent dark comedy with the right script, but director Phil Traill relies so heavily on his goofy protagonist to propel the story that he shoots down any chance of that happening the minute Bullock walks on screen.

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Box office can be bad all by itself (updated)

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And by “bad” I might actually mean “good” for at least one, perhaps two, of the four new major releases coming this first weekend of the traditional movie fall season.

First off, jolly Carl DiOrio of THR is bullish as he anticipates about $20 million for the latest from Tyler Perry, the hyphenate auteur whose major appeal to African-American audiences, and major lack of appeal to critics, has been proven several times. His latest film version of one of his hit plays, “I Can Do Bad All By Myself,” is not being screened for the nasty folks of the press. The latest appearance of Madea, Perry’s chunky female alter-ego, is nevertheless thought to be attracting interest with his usual blend of melodrama, broad comedy, and music. (Having both Mary J. Blige and the great Gladys Knight in the cast won’t hurt this one.)

For cinephiliacs and geeks, the most interesting release this week by far is the computer animated dystopian science-fiction fable, “9” — which is not to be confused with the upcoming musical stage adaptation, “Nine.” This may seem a bit odd, but it gets downright weird. I just did little searching on IMDb and found two other films named “9” (not counting director Shane Acker’s original short subject). I also found a total of six films entitled “Nine,” including the upcoming musical version of Felini’ s “8 1/2” starring Danel Day Lewis and Marion Cotillard and directed by Rob Marshall. That makes six films named “Nine” and three films named “9” which, of course, comes to nine films called “9” or “Nine.” That either means the apocalypse is nigh this November 25 when the musical “Nine” comes out or, the moment of its release, I should go to Vegas, head straight for the crap tables, and bet everything on hitting 9. How can I lose?

Nine
As for Shane Acker’s, “9,” though it’s been the beneficiary of some buzz, I personally wouldn’t bet everything on the dark tale finding a huge foothold with audiences. With a PG-13 rating, a vision clearly too scary for small children, and characters who a friend of mine — who really wanted to see it — likened to a jock strap, this film would be risky even if it was tremendous. However, David Medsker’s mixed review seems pretty much in line with the unspectacular 60% “Fresh” Rotten Tomatoes rating; the consensus being that this expansion of a short film is weak on story though strong on compelling visuals. “9” actually opened Wednesday and made about $3 million. Expectations are fairly high, with DiOrio suggesting the film could reach $15 million, even though the theater count is a relatively modest 1650+.

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Holdovers nail Labor Day audiences

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Sorry, I couldn’t not use the image above, since it graphically demonstrates what happens when the studios release a trio of unexciting-to-detested entries into a Labor Day market full of strong, and strongly violent, competition. It starts with this week’s b.o. winner. It might not be anything resembling a critical darling, but “The Final Destination” boasts the power of gimmicky horror added to the additional gimmick of 3-D, offering some pretty easy to sell ghoulish fun to audiences, who bought it to tune of an estimated $15.4 million over the long weekend.

Brad Pitt contemplates his masterpiece.And this year’s cinephile sensation is also a hit with audiences. “Inglourious Basterds” held beautifully in its third weekend and only came in a few points below its “Final” competition with an estimated $15.1 million. Word of mouth, or tweet, or whatever is obviously working in the long-awaited WWII-flick’s favor — as may be the fact that every film geek in the world is probably going to see it at least twice, if not thrice.

Variety‘s Pamela McClintock also reports that “Basterds” actually won the day on Sunday. She also mentions that with a domestic “cume” of $95.2 million, the wartime fantasia is now Tarantino’s second biggest earner after “Pulp Fiction,” which made just below $108 million back in 1994. Adjusted for inflation, that number may still be hard — though not impossible — to beat. Not adjusted for inflation is looking easier all the time to me. When you consider the near absolute certainty of at least two or three Oscar nominations (quite possibly several more at this point), I’m not sure when this thing stops earning signficant money. Also, THR reports “Basterds” topping the international charts in a slow overseas weekend.

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Void at the box office

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There’s a definite feeling of apathy about this week’s new box office releases, but on we go.

Topping this Labor Day weekend’s movie newbies is the Gerard Butler sci-fi action flick from the team who brought us “Crank.” “Gamer” adds a video game twist to such past violent media commentaries as “Death Race 2000” and “The Running Man.” Lionsgate isn’t screening this one for critics, so there’s no reason to assume there’s anything terribly clever or satirical about it, though a capable supporting cast led by Michael C. Hall (Showtime’s “Dexter“) as a villainous game designer as well as Ludacris and Kyra Sedgwick seem to indicate someone, at one point, hoped to do something interesting with this one. As for commercial success, it appears to all be laid at the feet of Butler. Nothing against the very capable Scottish thespian, but I just don’t see this one beating last week’s leader, the gimmick-driven 3-D horror opus, “The Final Destination.”

And that, I’m sure goes double for next of the three new major releases of the week, the Sandra Bullock headlined screwball romantic comedy, “All About Steve.” A film which the nation’s critics might well wish Fox had withheld, it has achieved the still fairly rare honor of a 00% Rotten Tomatoes “Fresh” rating (as in 100% “rotten”). Costar Bradley Cooper’s newfound recognizability via “The Hangover” probably won’t help much here, and Thomas Haden Church doubtless deserves better. Apparently the creators of this one intended Bullock’s character to be a lovable eccentric, but instead wound up with the more usual sort of eccentric — the kind who’s just weird. There’s likely a reason this one’s being dumped at the end of a long movie summer.

It’s in significantly fewer theaters than its competitors at only about 1,500, but Mike Judge’s “Extract” simply has to be better than either of them. At a 55% RT rating, the nation’s critics pretty much reflect the divided reaction of my fellow PH-er Jason Zingale, who calls it “a wildly uneven film that is deftly funny at some points, and just plain dull in others.” Still, though Jason 100% detested Judge’s earlier, barely released, “Idiocracy” that film got better reviews and the portions I’ve seen on cable certainly made me laugh — not that anyone cares what us critics think.

Jason Bateman in
As the writer-director of “Office Space” and the creator of TV’s “King of the Hill” and “Beavis and Butthead,” Judge is a knotty figure when it comes to movies. His now legendary workplace comedy was pretty much dumped at the box office only to be discovered later on vide0, and “Idiocracy” got even less promotion than the original release of “Space.” (Jason would say for good reason.) “Extract” star Jason Bateman is a skilled comedian but despite important parts in numerous hits, including “Juno,” he’s a very long way from the film stardom of his onetime TV son, Michael Cera. Still, both Judge and Bateman have a lot of pent-up goodwill. Maybe there’ll be a surprise here, but don’t bet the farm, or even the garden, on it.

That leaves two 100-theater releases. The first is a horror flick being dumped after the demise of Paramount Vantage. “Carriers” seeks to milk horror from pandemic fears. Quarantined from critics, it stars the talented Lou Taylor Pucci and the new Captain Kirk, Chris Pine. Speaking of James Tiberius, the other release isn’t new at all but another chance to catch J.J. Abrams’ hugely entertaining (if oddly filmed) “Star Trek” in Imax, which has certainly lived long and prospered at the box office.

Star Trek

  

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