Tag: Ethan Hawke

Go ask “Alice” about weekend box office

Alice in Wonderland

Jolly Carl Diorio is saying it could make $75 million or so. Indeed, there’s no particular reason to doubt that the combination of the name recognition of director Tim Burton, star Johnny Depp, and the enduring, if eternally semi-culty, appeal of Lewis Carroll’s subversive not-at-all-just-for-children literary classic will mean some degree of big dollars at the Oscar weekend box office.

At the same time, I wouldn’t expect “Alice in Wonderland” to haven gigantic lasting power. With a few notable exceptions, weak stories have been the otherwise brilliant Burton’s Achilles heel throughout his career. Moreover, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass have never really broken through in film versions in a huge way because of their chaotic, episodic structure. It took the advent of marijuana, LSD, and the Jefferson Airplane to make Disney’s “Alice” a theatrical hit in 1974, 23 years after it’s original release. 3-D is the closest thing our more abstemious age has.

Of course, the new film as written by Linda Woolverton is technically a sequel to original stories and attempts to lay a more coherent structure over Charles Dodgson’s chaotic classics but, judging from the reaction of our own David Medsker and critics overall, the results are mixed. Audiences will come for Burton’s visuals, Depp’s appeal, and the 3-D, but what will they stay for on the second weekend? Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter as dramatic queens won’t hurt, but still.

Don Cheadle and Wesley Snipes are not rural in The fiscal prospect of the week’s other new major release, “Brooklyn’s Finest” seems considerably more modest, though with Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Wesley Snipes and Ethan Hawke in the cast it has its share of big name stars. Reportedly filled to overflowing with cop-movie cliches, the R-rated film from director Antoine Fuqua of “Training Day” has left critics unimpressed and jovial Mr. DiOrio doesn’t expect it to break double-digit millions, noting it “tracks best in urban demos” — which I guess either means that African-American filmgoers are somewhat more kindly disposed towards it than, say, Armenian-American filmgoers, or that filmgoers in farming communities aren’t up for it.

New York, I Love You

Composed like a mini festival of short films on the subject of love, “New York, I Love You,” the second installment in the city-based anthology series, starts off strong before coming to a screeching halt. A majority of the best segments not only occupy the first half of the film, but they also have the most star power, including one by Jiang Wen starring Hayden Christensen and Andy Garcia as two men vying for the attention of a beautiful girl (Rachel Bilson); Yvan Attal’s playful two-parter (featuring Ethan Hawke, Maggie Q, Chris Cooper and Robin Wright Penn) about flirting with strangers; and perhaps most surprisingly, Brett Ratner’s charming tale of a young kid (Anton Yelchin) whose last-minute prom date (Olivia Thirlby) turns out to be more than meets the eye. Mira Nair’s segment about a Jain gem merchant (Ifran Khan) and Chassidic dealer (Natalie Portman) haggling over the price of a diamond (and bonding over religion) is also cute, but it probably would have made for a better full-length feature.

Portman also directs a segment that is easily one of the weaker entries in the anthology, while Shekhar Kapur’s story about a retired opera singer (Julie Christie) just doesn’t fit tonally with the rest of the film. The same can be said about Scarlett Johansson’s contribution, which was deleted from the theatrical cut and appears only as a special feature on the DVD. It’s probably a good thing it was removed, because with the exception of a hilarious final segment starring Eli Wallach and Cloris Leachman as an old married couple making their way to Coney Island for their anniversary, the second half of the film is a bore. It’s also a little strange to see Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee sitting on the sidelines, because no one knows New York better than these guys. Maybe the producers will be smart enough to recruit them during their next visit to the Big Apple.

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A Na’vi, some singing rodents, and Sherlock Holmes walk into a movie theater…

…And never leave.

Well, that’s the scenario provided by jolly Carl DiOrio, the only box office prognosticator I have access to now that Variety has gone behind that pay wall. I certainly have little reason to doubt that Fox’s “Avatar” will experience a fourth weekend atop the box office pile, considering how the film has most definitely emerged as one of those rare demographic-spanning productions that becomes a self-perpetuating “must see” phenomenon. It’s already the tenth biggest domestic money-maker of all time at $380 million+ and I’m almost afraid to check the international numbers.

The last movie like this was “The Dark Knight,” which also ruled the roost four weekends running, but sometime tells me that the appeal of James Cameron’s movie might actually be wider over the long run in terms of attracting an older and less gender-specific audience. I could be easily be wrong about that but, considering how excellently the film has been holding up to now, even a relatively precipitous post-holiday drop still seems to promise another very hefty payday for Cameron’s epic spectacular.

Family appeal should never be underestimated at the movies. However, I have to admit that I’m a bit stymied by the degree of success of Fox’s “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel.” It’s just that I can’t imagine adults wanting to see it. Still, the movie came in third in a photofinish with Warners’ “Sherlock Holmes” last week (both made $35-36 million), and both movies apparently seem set for a similar repeat. Personally, though I wouldn’t be surprised if either film experienced a bigger than expected post-holiday drop. I found the opening hour of “Holmes” pretty dull stuff, despite a lot of running around and mucking about and it’s not like moviegoers don’t have some interesting options this weekend.

Indeed, unusually for the first post-holiday weekend of the New Year, we have two rather solid-looking entertainments on tap. Hopes are reasonably high for “Daybreakers,” to be a strong #4 for Lionsgate. It appears to be a clever, horror/sci-fi/action/satiric variation on an old Monty Python sketch, in which a world dominated by vampires  must deal with dwindling supply of delectably sanguinary humans. It’s an intriguing enough conceit to draw my attention despite the film probably having too much gore for my taste and having almost certainly way too much of leaden star Ethan Hawke for my preference. Still, a second billed Willem Dafoe can go a long way toward fixing that and critics are reasonably, though not ridiculously, positive, as in type O. Top critics are a leaning a hair negative, also as in type O, though it definitely has its fans.

Finally, there’s something about “Youth in Revolt” which, despite the fact that most people, including most critics, seems to like it well enough, makes people somewhat downplay its commercial possiblities — despite being part of the ever-popular genre once dubbed by Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel as “the horny teenager movie.” The plot is also a variation on Woody Allen’s “Play It Again, Sam” (a horny adult movie and stage play), which certainly worked well in its day and has more than little appeal to the nerd within all of us. Certainly, director Miguel Arteta (“The Good Girl,” “Chuck and Buck”) has a low key comic style that may not spell blockbuster though being based on a popular series of novels won’t hurt, I suppose.

Another side of Cera In any case, I don’t think we’ve seen the end of Michael Cera‘s box office appeal even if he’s inevitably been the subject of something of a backlash from those who argue he’s a one-comic-trick pony, though playing a dual role as his dangerously roguish alter ego might help there. Also, Cera’s memorably named costar, Portia Doubleday, is generating her own interest. That can’t hurt. The Weinstein Company could certainly use a bit of commercial help, right now. DiOrio is calling for the film to just break double-digits, but I wouldn’t be surprised by a surprise, especially given the lack of youth-friendly films and actually funny comedies right now.

What Doesn’t Kill You

Some people may wonder why “What Doesn’t Kill You” didn’t receive a proper theatrical release, and to be completely honest, it all comes down to luck. Over the last few years, there have been a number of gritty crime dramas released in the same vein as Brian Goodman’s directorial debut, and though a majority of them weren’t any better or worse, they had the good fortune of being made first. That’s really the only thing standing in the way of the film, a based-on-a-true-story tale about two lifelong friends (Mark Ruffalo and Ethan Hawke) making a living as soldiers for the local crime boss in Boston. When a job gone wrong lands the pair in prison, however, one struggles to make the most of his second chance under the haze of drugs and money.

If there’s one thing going for “What Doesn’t Kill You” that some of the other likeminded films didn’t have, it’s a strong performance from its lead actor. Mark Ruffalo has been on the brink of breaking out for what seems like a decade now, and yet he continues to hammer away with quality roles where he really gets to flex his dramatic muscle. Ethan Hawke isn’t quite as memorable in what could easily be viewed as a copycat of his character in 2007’s “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” but he still does his best work in films destined for the festival circuit. Unfortunately, though “What Doesn’t Kill You” may claim to be based on a true story, it’s simply too far-fetched to be believed. Goodman should have had the good sense to ignore that aspect of the tale and just focus on crafting a movie that we haven’t already seen countless times before. Maybe then it would have never gotten lost in the shuffle.

Click to buy “What Doesn’t Kill You”

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