Sometimes feel like the deck is stacked against you? The “Never Let Me Go” trailer might put that into perspective for you

Think you’re in a pointless, no-win situation? Did you feel at school like you were just being prepared to put into the human meatgrinder we call the rat race? Well, you’ve got it easy, kid, compared to the strangely acquiescent students and alumni of Hailsham. I’d tell you more but I understand via Cinemablend’s Katey Rich and the novel’s very spoilery wikipedia entry that the arguably science-fictional premise of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Booker Prize short-listed 2005 novel is kept somewhat hidden for a significant portion of the book. (It was revealed to me years ago, however, via book reviews and author interviews.)

That premise will also be revealed to you if you watch the intriguing trailer so, if you plan to read the book (which I think I might try to do myself, anyhow) you might want to hold off. I will say that the Japanese-English Ishiguro wrote the very non-genre “The Remains of the Day” and history and frustrated love seems to his favorite topics. This time, though, the history hasn’t been written yet.

Even aside from Ishiguro, this one has an intriguing pedigree. The adaptation is by novelist Alex Garland, who recently has turned to screenplays with “28 Days Later” and “Sunshine,” both directed by Danny Boyle, and the director is Mark Romanek. For some reason, I felt compelled to avoid his highly divisive 2002 thriller “One Hour Photo,” but he’s made some of the best videos of all time as far as I’m concerned, including the amazing and ultra-creepy “Closer” for Nine Inch Nails, the memorable “Criminal” for Fiona Apple, and “Hurt,” Johnny Cash’s moving cover of a song by Trent Reznor. And, oh yeah, Carey Mulligan is in it. Does anyone not like Carey Mulligan?

  

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Why do you think they call them “Titans”?

There really doesn’t seem to be any way around it, “Clash of the Titans” will almost undoubtedly win the box office race this Easter and Good Friday weekend. Just anecdotally, I can see that interest is high for a remake of a swords-and-sandals fantasy flick that is a sentimental favorite for lots of guys, even if the original film is not really seen as the strongest movie in the cannon of the great stop-motion effects man, Ray Harryhausen, who turns 90 this summer. I’ve been hearing and seeing fairly enthusiastic chatter about this film from French-export action-guy director Louis Leterrier everywhere for months, including at my local Food 4 Less a couple of nights back.

Clash of the Titans

Critics like our own David Medsker may excoriate it for not even having impressive effects, and the Rotten Tomatoes crew as a whole may give it an unimpressive 34%, but you can’t really stop a titan, can you? Moreover, critics seem to agree that, especially in the post “Avatar” world, the retrofitted 3-D is not worth the extra money and audiences will get just as big a kick — if kick, there is, to be had — in cheaper 2-D. But, in for a penny, in for a pound, I suspect, will be the way of things and the roughly 2,170 3-D screens will be mighty crowded this weekend.

Indeed, a returning jolly Carl DiOrio over at THR informs us that the consensus among the box office guru types is that the film could well bring in over $60 million. He also mentions in his weekly video that Easter is traditionally a rather strong weekend at the box office. So, on the weekend that commemorates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as told in the Bible, hundreds of thousands of theoretically Chrisitan people all over the country will be seeing a movie that celebrates ancient pagan deities. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — I don’t really have a dog (or a god) in that particular spiritual fight. Still, maybe I should get a bit more worked up because Warner Brothers’ distribution Dan Fellman told DiOrio that: “We own males over and under 25…” All I can say as someone who falls into one of those categories, neither Warners nor Mr. Fellman own me and I think that’s actually kind of illegal. But, yeah, his movie will make some money and most of it will come from guys.

There are two other new movies coming out, but they both most definitely qualify as counter-programming and are primarily aimed at woman. Adult woman who are also African-American and the men who love them are pretty much the target demo for “Why Did I Get Married, Too?” — a sequel from the Tyler Perry ethnically targeted juggernaut.

Black Dynamite shows his softer side.I will point out, however, that alongside start Janet Jackson, Michael Jai White is in the cast. As everyone who saw him in “Black Dynamite” knows, if the Man wasn’t busy working overtime keeping him down, he’d already be a superstar. So, maybe I hope this does the usual Tyler Perry business and makes between $25-$30 million on a relatively low budget. The film hasn’t been screened for critics it appears. Why bother?

The PG-rated teen-centric weepy romance “The Last Song” starring Miley Cyrus, Greg Kinnear, and guest hunk Liam Hemswroth and adapted from a novel by the ever-popular Nicholas Sparks, who also co-wrote the screenplay, has actually been in theaters since Wednesday — what, you didn’t know that? The film has already done decent business from Ms. Cyrus’s devoted young fans and their moms despite predictably miserable reviews. Still, especially when Disney’s early take is discounted, it will still probably be fairly low on the b.o. totem pole come the Sunday estimates.

There’s no theater count up for it over at Box Office Mojo, and only a handful of critics have eve seen it yet, it appears (of them, currently 58% are favorable at Rotten Tomatoes) but the R-rated “The Greatest” open this weekend in apparently very limited release. Reviewer Jason Newman sure makes it sound like a solid, if heart wrenching, drama. It’s certainly got an outstanding cast with the eternally underrated Pierce Brosnan, the impossible to overrate Susan Surandon, mega-up-and-comer Carey Mulligan, and another potential superstar to be, Aaron Johnson of, dare I say it, “Kick-Ass.” Isn’t it weird that the spill-over notoriety from that couldn’t-be-more-different sure-thing hit will probably help this one move a few DVDs, at least?

Carey Mulligan and Aaron Johnson in

  

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Your end of week movie news dump

A ton has happened since my last of these posts and I’m sure I’m missing plenty, but here are just a few of the interesting things going on in the movie world as this rather loony week finally ends.

* Bryan Singer will be producing, not directing, the next “X-Men” prequel. He’ll be directing “Jack, the Giant Killer” instead. And another Mike Fleming story, an exclusive this time: “Paranormal Activity 2” has a director. He’s Tod Williams, best known for “The Door in the Floor.” Sounds to me like Paramount is keeping things modest, wisely.

* The very ill Dennis Hopper got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame today.  Amy Kaufman has video of the ceremony which included Hopper rather gently chiding the paparazzi for an incident which caused him to fall. The video itself ends with photographers yelling “Viggo!” and “Jack!”

* Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood” with Russell Crowe as Robin will be opening Cannes this year. The plot description put me somewhat in mind of the angle the great director Richard Lester and writer James Goldman took on the legend in a film I’m quite partial to, “Robin and Marian,” which starred Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn.

robin-hood-russell-crowe-and-his-merry-men

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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Another awards non-shocker: “The Hurt Locker” takes BAFTAs

Jeremy Renner in Really, the headline here tells the tale about last night’s awards from the English equivalent of our Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “The Hurt Locker” won six awards from the Orange British Academy Film Awards (which makes me wonder what other colours British film awards are available in). As described by Indiewire’s Peter Knegt — who also kindly provides a complete list of the awards — they include Best Picture, a directing award for Kathryn Bigelow, as well as for Mark Boal’s screenplay, editing, photography, and sound —  the better part of the whole behind-the-camera British enchilada. And, no, I don’t think that sounds very appetizing, either. Not quite all of it, though. For example, “The Young Victoria” got the awards that usually go to period dramas, costumes and make-up.

Perhaps almost as predictably, the main acting awards, however, did go to more local talent. Specifically Colin Firth won for his performance as a man in mourning in “A Single Man” and Carey Mulligan for her teen learning some hard, yet kind of fun, life lessons in “An Education.” Still, the BAFTAs bowed to standard practice by giving the supporting actor awards to Mo’Nique of “Precious” and Christoph Waltz of “Inglourious Basterds,” yet again. (Also truish-to-form, Mo’Nique wasn’t there.)

Best British film went to the highly praised “Fish Tank,” which happens to feature “Basterd” secret weapon Michael Fassbender opposite Kierston Wareing and newcomer Katie Jarvis. As for the lastest from the onetime Mr. Kathryn Bigelow, “Avatar,” it met the once traditional fate of well-regarded science fiction movies at the Oscars, and only got a Best Visual Effects and Production Design awards but, of course, is only making a double gazillion dollars. Aaah. Geeks may be take some solace, however, in learning that “Outstanding Debut By A British Writer, Director Or Producer” went to Duncan Jones for his intriguing feature debut, “Moon,” a small-scale space tale like they used to make.

Sam Rockwell in

  

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New York and L.A. Film Critics make their choices

The two most noted critics groups both gave their awards today and the results are pretty interesting. Just released, we have the winners from New York. Somewhat to my surprise, even though it’s received very positive reviews so far, “Avatar” won for best picture.  Last year’s winner was not “The Dark Knight,” which however did make it into the top 10, but the politically-themed biopic, “Milk.” Genre movies and blockbusters rarely win critics awards.

Avatar

Also, the suddenly more geek-friendly critics group actually gave the most awards to “Inglourious Basterds” which picked up a cinematography award for the always superb Robert Richardson, a best screenplay nod for Quentin Tarantino and, of course, a Best Supporting Actor award and also a Best Breakthrough Performance award for Christoph Waltz’s movie-stealing work as the evil but magnetic “Jew hunter,” Colonel Hans Landa. Another unusual war film, “The Hurt Locker,” picked up the Best Director award for Kathryn Bigelow and, not at all surprising, “Up” won the award for best animation.

Meryl Streep won for Best Actress for “Julie and Julia” and Jeff Bridges won for the not yet released country music drama, “Crazy Heart.” Mo’Nique from “Precious” picked up the Best Supporting Actress award. “The Cove” won Best documentary. ComingSoon.net has the complete list of winners. It’s a pretty interesting group.

The Hurt Locker

Just a bit earlier, the Los Angeles Film Critics, on the other hand, gave the top prize to “The Hurt Locker” (“Up in the Air” was the runner up) and Kathryn Bigelow took another Best Director prize for the thriller. Jeff Bridges, Christoph Waltz and Mo’Nique once again got the Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress prizes respectively. The L.A. crickets took a different path entirely, however, on the Best Actress category and gave it to Yolande Moreau for the French-language biopic, “Séraphine.” (The runner up was Carey Mulligan, whose work in “An Education” has been generating a great deal of buzz.)

They also, interestingly, diverted from the New Yorkers in the area of animation, giving the top prize to “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” another succès d’estime for Wes Anderson. However, they followed the NYC reviewers in giving the nod to “The Cove” for Best Documentary. In a nod to genre, “District 9” got a “New Generation” award for writer-director Neill Blomkamp as well as a production design award. Eugene Hernandez of Indiewire has the complete list.

Oscar-buzz fans take note, critics’ awards are not super-reliable indicators of Academy Awards, which tend to be less genre-friendly but also more prone to award big commercial hits. On the other hand, I think it’s safe to say that Kathryn Bigelow, Jeff Bridges, Mo’Nique, Christoph Waltz, as well as “The Hurt Locker”, “Inglourious Basterds,” and perhaps “The Cove” got a big boost today. (The documentary category is notoriously fraught.) Also, I haven’t mentioned its awards, but the little seen black political comedy and festival hit, “In the Loop,” picked up awards from both groups and could, I imagine, get a very helpful nomination or two in possibly the writing and the newly expanded “Best Picture” category.

  

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