Box Office Preview: Two kinds of romance, chimps and Bob Marley

What’s new this week? Well, not much. In terms of wide releases we’ve got a romantic drama starring Zac Efron, a rom-com based on a Steve Harvey book, and a nature documentary from Disney. A critically acclaimed documentary about Bob Marley could break up the monotony. It won’t be in a huge number of theaters but it will be available through on demand television services. For you glass half-full types, at least we won’t be subjected to any sequels or 3D re-releases.


The Lucky One
This movie is exactly what you think it is. It’s an adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel (you know, that guy who wrote “The Notebook”) starring Zac Efron. Reviews have been mixed, but tilt towards the not so good side. Even the nicer critics are quick to point out that there’s a formula at work here.

It’s rarely a good sign when you can figure out the entire plot of a movie from a trailer.

While serving in Iraq, U.S. Marine Logan Thibault finds a picture of a woman he has never met and decides it’s lucky. So lucky in fact that he credits it with keeping him alive. Sound familiar? Didn’t Channing Tatum star in this movie like two years ago?

Logan comes home determined to find the woman, Beth, and succeeds after just a bit of internet stalking. Right when things start to get romancey, boom, conflict. Beth discovers the picture and is understandably creeped out before things inevitably work out in the end. Moral of the story: stalking is OK as long as you look like Zac Efron.


Think Like a Man
Again, nothing new to see here. “Think Like a Man” has gotten mixed reviews and looks like any other romantic comedy with an ensemble cast. Although to its credit, the movie seems like it could be appealing regardless of gender. Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter sums it up nicely:

As executed by an appealing ensemble of smooth operators, this adaptation of the Steve Harvey advice book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man often hits its amusing marks, but with a weighty running time of two hours, it often feels more like a lecture than an intended romp.

My fellow TV junkies will see some familiar faces. Most prominent is Jerry Ferrara, also known as Turtle from “Entourage.” Also appearing are Michael Ealy and Meagan Good, who’ve had recurring roles in “Californication,” as Ben and Kali, respectively.

Hopefully Kevin Hart and Romany Malco, who had a hilarious exchange in “The 40 Year-Old Virgin,” will get to interact again.

Last and least, R&B singer/Rihanna-beater Chris Brown has a role as well. Because nobody belongs in a romantic comedy more than a man convicted of felony assault. Hilarious!


Chimpanzee
Jane Goodall’s appearance on “The Daily Show” on Monday certainly made “Chimpanzee” sound intriguing. The nature-doc has received more good reviews than bad ones.The consensus seems to be that the spectacular raw footage outweighs the sometimes forced, cutesy narration. Above all this is a Disney movie, so even its primate stars can probably count to the average age of its target audience.


Marley
It’s probably just a coincidence that a documentary about Bob Marley is being released on 4/20, also known as the stoner’s Fourth of July. When I say “coincidence,” I mean brilliant marketing. I’m going to stop right there, I don’t want my discussion of a critically acclaimed film directed by Oscar-winner Kevin Macdonald to descend into pot jokes. But believe me, they’re up my sleeve.

The film’s official site describes it as “the definitive life story of the musician, revolutionary, and legend, from his early days to his rise to international superstardom.” “Marley” celebrates its subject’s life, the good parts and the bad. Melissa Anderson of The Village Voice called it “a rousing tribute to a mesmerizing performer that forgoes blind hero worship.”

Despite its Oscar-winning director and overwhelmingly positive reviews, “Marley” will see only limited release. The good news is the film will be available through various on-demand television services. VOD is the future of film. You won’t have to “get up, stand up” and go to the theater, you pay $10 total instead of $10 a piece, and you can pause the movie for bathroom breaks.

Happy holidays.

  

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Greetings to the New Pilots: 20 Series We Hope to See in Fall 2011

Yes, once again, it’s pilot season: the time when the broadcast networks put all of the potential projects for the 2011 – 2012 season on the table, take a cold, hard look at what’s available to them, and decide which ones have the most potential for success come the fall…or spring, depending on how much or how little confidence they end up having in the final product.

Critics everywhere should be throwing parades in honor of TV Guide’s Natalie Abrams, who has done the heavy lifting for the rest of us and offered up The Complete Pilot Report, listing off all of the pilots currently in the running for ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox, and NBC, along with their creators, their premises, and the actors currently attached to them as of this writing.

Having taken a gander at Abrams’ decidedly comprehensive list, here’s our list of the 20 shows we’d most like to see turn up come the kickoff of the Fall 2011 season:

1. Alcatraz (Fox): A cop (Sarah Jones) and a team of FBI agents track down a group of missing Alcatraz prisoners and guards who reappear in the present day after disappearing 30 years earlier. J.J. Abrams will executive-produce and Liz Sarnoff (“Lost”) will be the showrunner. Jorge Garcia, Sam Neill, Jonny Coyne, Jason Butler Harner, Parminder Nagra, Santiago Cabrera and Robert Forster also star.

2. Awakening (The CW): Two sisters (Lucy Griffiths and Meredith Hagner) face off during a zombie uprising. William Laurin, Glenn Davis, Howard T. Owens, Carolyn Bernstein and Todd Cohen will executive-produce.

3. Brave New World (NBC): The project centers on a group of characters at Pilgrim Village, a theme park that recreates 1637 New England. Peter Tolan (“Rescue Me”) wrote the pilot and will executive-produce with Michael Wimer (“2012”). Ed Begley Jr., Nick Braun, Will Greenberg, Jazz Raycole, Robbie Benson and Anna Popplewell will star.

4. The Council of Dads (Fox): Based on the non-fiction book by Bruce Feiler, a man who learns he’s dying enlists five men to help his wife raise their two children. The project comes from “Rescue Me” creator Peter Tolan. Kyle Bornheimer, Diane Farr, Patrick Breen and Ken Howard will star.

5. Hail Mary (CBS): An Atlanta-set P.I. drama tells the story of a suburban single mom (Minnie Driver) who teams up with a street hustler (Brandon T. Jackson) to solve crimes. Jeff Wadlow will write and executive-produce with Joel Silver and “The L Word” creator Ilene Chaiken. Enrique Murciano and Stephen Tobolowsky will also star.

6. How to Be a Gentleman (CBS): An uptight guy (David Hornsby) learns to live his life with the help of an old high school friend. The project comes from Hornsby (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”). Dave Foley, Nancy Lenehan and Rhys Darby will also star.

7. Little in Common (Fox): This project revolves around families whose children play Little League together. “Veronica Mars”‘ Rob Thomas will write and executive-produce. Rob Corddry, Paula Marshall, Kevin Hart and Gabrielle Union star.

8. Pan Am (ABC) – The stewardesses and pilots of the titular airline are the stars of this soap set in the Jet Age of the 1960s. Jack Orman (“ER”) wrote the pilot and will executive-produce with Nancy Hult Ganis and Tommy Schlamme (“The West Wing”). Christina Ricci, Margot Robbie, Karine Vanasse and Michael Mosley will star.

9. Person of Interest (CBS): A presumed-dead CIA agent (Jim Caviezel) is recruited by a billionaire (Michael Emerson) to catch violent criminals in New York City. “Memento”‘s Jonathan Nolan and J.J. Abrams will executive-produce. Taraji P. Henson will also star.

10. Playboy (NBC) – At the Playboy Club in Chicago in 1963, “bunnies” (incuding Amber Heard and Naturi Naughton) flirt with danger. Chad Hodge and “Apollo 13″‘s Brian Grazer will executive-produce. Jeff Hephner, Laura Benanti, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Leah Renee, David Krumholtz and Wes Ramsey also star.

11. Reconstruction (NBC) – In the aftermath of the Civil War, a soldier (Martin Henderson) crosses the country and settles in a complicated town where he is welcomed as its savior — whether he likes it or not. “St. Elsewhere” co-creator Josh Brand wrote the pilot. Bill Sage, Claire Wellin, Emma Bell and Rachelle Lefevre will also star.

12. REM (NBC): A police detective (Jason Isaacs) who’s involved in a traumatic car accident wakes up in two fractured realities. The project comes from Kyle Killen, creator of Fox’s short-lived “Lone Star,” and “24”‘s Howard Gordon will also executive-produce.

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