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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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Midweek movie news of the world

I’m getting a very, very late start tonight/this morning so let’s see how efficient and brief I can be. Also, we’ll see how many utterly huge stories I’ll miss.

Mark Ruffalo in *  I suppose the big news today is that it really appears as if there’s already an Edward Norton replacement after his departure as the Hulk from “The Avengers” was egregiously mishandled by Marvel’s Kevin Feige. The choice appears to not be Joaquin Phoenix but the first-rate, not nearly famous enough Mark Ruffalo. He is the deceptively low-key actor I’ve been rooting for since catching him in “You Can Count On Me” back in 2000. (It was my favorite movie of that year and also made me a life-long fan of Laura Linney.) Ruffalo is currently in the year’s probable indie-smash, “The Kids Are Alright.” As sussed out from various reports by Kevin Jagernauth of the Playlist, it appears he’s still in some pretty serious negotiations that are not yet really anything like a done deal. He’s a shrewd choice for Marvel and this would be a good way to salvage a thoroughly unfortunate situation.

* Joaquin Phoenix might not be the Hulk, but the probable mockumentary (or not) about him made by his brother-in-law, Casey Affleck, has been picked up by Magnolia. I’m not looking forward to the already infamous “Cleveland steamer” scene. Just FYI, much as I admire John Waters, “Pink Flamingos” is on my short “never see” list, but that infamous final scene is a lot worse, I suppose. I get ill just thinking about it.

* The fascinating outlandish career of arthouse poet turned stoner-action-comedy specialist David Gordon Green may take another fascinating turn if he really does remake Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” — which, I somehow managed to sit through some fifteen years or so back despite my squeamish/scaredy cat ways, because, among other reasons, it’s so freaking beautiful. Also, I’ve always had the hots for Jessica Harper.

Suspiria4

* If you want to know who the best, most essential, and most thoughtfully cinephilish bloggers and blogs are, check out the terrific blogroll from the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Congrats to my old bloggy compadres Dennis Cozzalio, Kimberly Lindbergs, Farran Smith Nehme, and Greg Ferrera, among others, for making the prestigious list.

* Nathaniel Rogers didn’t get a mention, though he certainly deserves it. The openly actresexual blogger did, however, get a very nice interview with his idol, Julianne Moore, who I kind of idolize myself. More congratulations are in order.

* I suspect that those old Steve Reeves Hercules movies will wind up being a lot more watchable than whatever Brett Ratner makes of the mythical strongman. I’m sure he can’t top the Disney animated film, even if it wasn’t the greatest of the studio’s nineties animation output. Cue the “do you like to watch gladiator movies”  jokes.

* If you’re wondering why the post two posts below this one has no video, here’s why. Somebody let me know if there’s a new version up, since the whole thing is a bit of a legalish technicality.

* Note to my friend, Zayne: Yeah, I missed this reconstruction of a lost ultra-obscure exploitation gangster film tonight about kidnapping the Pope (and asking for a $1.00 from every Catholic in the world — though  these days I doubt they’d pony up). I’m therefore bummed.

* Alison Nastasi has an interesting response to a fairly thoughtful rant by Dustin Rowles on the controversy around the new cover art for the remake of another film on my probably never-see list, “I Spit On Your Grave.” The poster is obviously in horrible taste, but isn’t that kind of the point?

* Now that a fourth tape is out, I wonder if Mel Gibson will get the message and give up the drunk dialing.

* I’m confused. If the planned film with Jeremy Piven and Thomas Jane is in any way actually closely modeled on John Cassavettes’ “Husbands,’” as director Mark Pellington seems to say, then I don’t think it should be called a “thriller.”

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The Cove

I might be a liberal native Californian, but I’m no vegan and no fan of the animal rights absolutists at PETA. On the other hand, I make an exception when it comes to eating or capturing animals that might be self-aware. “The Cove,” from National Geographic photographer and first-time director Louie Psihoyos, exposes a crime that is arguably the moral equivalent of genocide, but that’s only the beginning. This likely documentary Oscar nominee chronicles the efforts of a diverse group of activists, including onetime “Flipper” trainer Rick O’Barry, to videotape the secret mass killing of dolphins by Japanese fishing interests. Much has been made of the “caper” aspects of “The Cove” in chronicling how the footage was illegally obtained. It’s strengths, however, lie in the clear line it draws between the slaughter of animals who might be our intellectual equals — there but for the lack of an opposable thumb go we — and the ecological horror behind it. The dolphins are not being killed primarily for their meat, which is so mercury laden you’d be far better off consuming Jeremy Piven, but was nevertheless criminally forced on local schoolchildren. The true motive for the crime turns out to be to eliminate a competitor for the dwindling supplies of seafood, a key source of our increasingly hungry world’s supply of protein. Despite all this, the dolphin is not yet an official endangered species, but then, neither are we.

Click to buy “The Cove”

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The Goods

You know that a movie isn’t very good when the studio comes running to you with an interview opportunity after opening weekend (speaking of which, check out Will Harris’ chat with producer Adam McKay), but although “The Goods” may not be very funny, it’s still a better-than-expected comedy thanks to its ensemble cast. Jeremy Piven stars as Don Ready, a smooth-talking car salesman who’s made a living by conning his way to the next big sale. But when his traveling team of liquidating specialists (including Ving Rhames, David Koechner and Kathryn Hahn) is hired to save a flailing dealership by selling every car on the lot, Don discovers that the job might be too big even for him. Though the idea is ripe for some pretty funny material, the story feels a little too safe compared to the crude humor that appears throughout. Thankfully, director Neal Brennan is completely unforgiving of the film’s vulgar tone, and it ends up working to its benefit. Piven’s confident, fast-talking schtick is tailor-made for the lead role, but it’s character actors likes Ken Jeong, Rob Riggle (playing a 10-year-old boy with a pituitary disorder), and Craig Robinson who end up stealing the show. “The Goods” isn’t for everyone, but for fans of the comedians involved, it’s probably worth checking out.

Click to buy “The Goods”

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Entourage 6.12 – Give a Little Bit

After five seasons, “Entourage” finally lived up to its name this fall. While E, Turtle and Drama each enjoyed meatier storylines than normal this season, Vince’s role in the proceedings essentially amounted to an imaginary stalker and a random fuck scene of the week. But Vince’s marginalized contributions led to one of the strongest seasons of “Entourage” in a long time, culminating in one hell of a finale tonight.

Let’s hit the main arcs from least to most interesting, beginning with the saga of Turtle and Jamie-Lynn. I recently wrote in a comment on a different episode that Turtle’s UCLA co-ed was hotter than Jamie-Lynn, and I saw nothing tonight to make me alter that stance. I mean…good, GOD. And while it was nice to see Turtle resist her advances in the name of true love, I’m fairly confident that scene would have played out far differently in real life. Girls like that don’t get turned down that often, not by guys like Turtle, and especially not when they’re wearing outfits like that. I found it hilarious that they didn’t even bother to completely shut the vertical blinds in the room, but the topper was when Turtle offered his condolences for leaving after getting her worked up by asking, “You want me to go down on you or something?” Hey, Turtle is nothing if not generous. He’s also single now, after getting dumped right before his plane to New Zealand took off. May as well hop on over to Rome then, right?

I’ll lump Drama and Vince together here, if only because Vince’s auxiliary storyline couldn’t carry a paragraph by itself. Who would’ve thought that Turtle of all people would inspire Drama to figure out what’s truly important to him? You knew he wasn’t going to give up acting for good, but would he change his mind before the credits rolled tonight? Would it be too late? Turns out he killed at his “Melrose Place” audition but the network wants to go younger with the cast. I’ve got to say that the thought of building a show around Drama makes me chuckle. I just hope we get to see some of it next season. Of course, even better is that now Drama is free to go to Italy with Vince. Ah, but not before Matt Damon and his buddy LeBron James (um…what was with the glasses, LBJ?) railroad Vince into giving a bunch of hungry children $150,000. Actually, there were three great cameos tonight, if you include Bono showing up on Damon’s laptop. There were several classic lines in tonight’s episode, but one of the finest was when Damon bullied Drama into handing the phone to Vince. “Sorry, he Jason Bourne’d me,” Drama explained to Vince. Sounds reasonable to me.

I was tempted to rank Drama ahead of E but that would be underestimating just how shocked I was when E proposed to Sloan. In hindsight, maybe I should have expected it – I mean, what was so special about a lunch date at a restaurant the two of them used to go to? – but right up until E mentioned making a commitment to Sloan, I was oblivious. It was actually a pretty cool scene, capped by Sloan’s very believable reaction to the proposal. I feel almost embarrassed about the fact that I thought it was even remotely possible that they’d leave us hanging on Sloan’s answer until next season. I can’t remember an “Entourage” finale that didn’t have all the loose threads sewn up by the end of the episode, and tonight was certainly no different.

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