Box Office Preview: The Movie that Shall Remain “Nameless here for evermore,” Jason Statham, Pirates! and the next Apatow/Stoller/Segel Comedy

The Raven

Let’s just get this out of the way, this movie looks like shit, which is unfortunate given some of the names involved. “The Raven” was directed by James McTeigue, who was an assistant director for the “Matrix” trilogy before making his directorial debut with “V for Vendetta” in 2006. The cast includes Brendan Gleeson (“Braveheart,” “Gangs of New York,” “Harry Potter”), and stars John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe.

Poe’s death is shrouded in mystery, so the filmmakers took more than a few creative liberties in this fictionalized account of the writer’s last days. When a serial killer begins using his work as the inspiration for a series of gruesome murders, police enlist Poe to help bring the assailant to justice.

Reviews have been bad, hovering around 20 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and not without reason. Edgar Allan Poe was a fascinating human being. In 1836, at age 27, he married his 13 year-old first cousin. The man was a great many things: author, poet, alcoholic, opium addict, and the inventor of detective fiction. He uneqivocally was not an action hero or some macabre version of Sherlock Holmes. With such an intriguing life story, there was no reason to make him into such.

“The Raven” is the 241st film or television adaptation of Poe’s work. That leaves you 240 options that might not be garbage, so pick one of those. Or, better yet, pick up some of his written work, which is in the public domain (that means it’s free).

Safe

In “Safe,” Jason Statham plays Luke Wright, “the Big Apple’s hardest cop, once up on a time.” Now, he’s a a second-rate cage fighter who drives fast, kicks ass, and always has a wry one-liner up his sleeve. That is, Jason Statham plays Jason Statham doing Jason Statham things, only he’s got an American accent (sort of). In this case, his excuse for coating the streets in blood is protecting a 12-year-old Chinese girl who’s memorized a valuable code from some Russian mobsters. Purely by coincidence, they’re the same Russian mobsters who murdered his wife.

“Safe” couldn’t have a more appropriate title. It’s another formulaic Statham action movie that’s split critics right down the middle because even though you know what’s going to happen, you can’t help but be entertained. Perhaps Aaron Hillis of The Village Voice put it best: “Safe” is a “preposterously enjoyable—or enjoyably preposterous—action-thriller.”

If “Safe” is your style, go and enjoy it, you’ll get no argument from me. But since you already know the endings anyway, you might as well rent “Snatch” or “Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels” instead.

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CBS: What’s New for Fall 2009

Accidentally On Purpose (Mon., Sept. 21 @ 8:30 PM, CBS)

The competition: “Dancing with the Stars” (ABC) “Heroes” (NBC), “House” (Fox), “One Tree Hill” (The CW)

Starring: Jenna Elfman, Grant Show, Jon Foster, Ashley Jensen, Lennon Parham, Nicolas Wright
Producers: Gail Berman (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel”), Gene Stein (“Less Than Perfect”), and Claudia Lonow (“The War at Home”)
Network’s Description: Billie is a single woman who finds herself “accidentally” pregnant after a one-night stand with a much younger guy, and decides to keep the baby… and the guy. A newspaper film critic, Billie is barely surviving a humiliating breakup with her charming boss, James, who’s still trying to resume their relationship. Suddenly expecting a child with her “boy toy,” Zack, Billie and Zack make an arrangement: to live together platonically. Billie’s party girl best friend Olivia, and Abby, her conventional, younger married sister, eagerly look forward to the new addition and offer their own brands of advice and encouragement. But when Zack and his freeloading friends, including Davis, start to turn her place into a frat house, Billie isn’t sure if she’s living with a boyfriend, a roommate, or if she just has another child to raise.
The Buzz: Elfman’s been trying to mount her post-“Dharma and Greg” comeback for some time now (2006’s “Courting Alex” only lasted 13 episodes), but CBS’s decision to place the comedy in the midst of its Monday night line-up – and between “How I Met Your Mother” and “Two and a Half Men,” no less – shows their confidence in it. Or is that desperation?
Pilot Highlight: Billie’s walk of shame after what, at the time, appears to be a one-night stand.
Bottom Line: The young man / older woman dynamic obviously has potential for comedy, but this is a painfully pedestrian affair, one which feels like it never would’ve been made if Elfman hadn’t been attached.

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Harry Potter and the more family-friendly rating

Early ticket sales are outpacing “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” which naturally warms my Michael Bay-unfriendly heart, but that’s not the only news for the upcoming “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”

A day or two back, Pamela McClintock of Variety wrote an article detailing the possible box office up- and downsides of the milder PG MPAA rating the upcoming Harry Potter film, “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” will have in comparison to the stronger PG-13 rating of the previous film. (Shorter version: parents may be more likely to encourage to allow kids to see it, but teens may prefer the allure of mild cinematic transgression promised by the PG-13.)

This PG-rating seems like another example of the arbitrary nature of the ratings. (It’s actually worse than that, but that’s another blog post.) Of course, I haven’t seen the new Potter film — and I’m not half way through reading the book yet — but by the very nature of the series, with the characters maturing and a war of wizards raging, the new film should, if anything, be at least slightly more violent and sexually charged than the prior film.

Even with most of us lucky enough to lead lives more or less without violence, real life is NC-17 from a fairly young age. For most of us, daily life is full of cursing, scatology (assuming we’re reasonably regular), sex and/or thoughts of sex. It’s not implying any scandal whatsoever to say that a sufficiently frank documentary about the making of a Harry Potter film could get an quick R-rating simply for language. Thanks to Ricky Gervais and company, we already have an idea of what such a documentary might be like.

  

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