Killers

When the ads for Robert Luketic’s “Killers” started appearing in theaters, a lot of people were quick to notice the similarities to another husband-wife action comedy, “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.” But while it certainly sounds like a clone of the Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie film on the surface, “Killers” should be so lucky to be considered in the same company. Katherine Heigl stars as Jen Kornfeldt, a recently single woman on vacation in France with her parents when she meets the seemingly ordinary Spencer Aimes (Ashton Kutcher) and the pair get hitched. What Spencer fails to tell her is that he used to be an assassin for the CIA, and although he’s since walked away from the job in order to lead a normal life, a bounty has been put on his head that sends a sleeper unit of contract killers posing as their neighbors and co-workers to take him out.

Unfortunately, Heigl and Kutcher just don’t have the chemistry needed to make a movie like this work, and I would have loved to have seen what other actors (like maybe real-life couple Ryan Reynolds and Scarlett Johansson) could have done in the roles. Of course, that wouldn’t change the fact that the film’s biggest flaw is the explanation as to why the bounty has been put on Spencer’s head in the first place – a twist ending so absurd that it makes the rest of the movie seem even dumber than it is. “Killers” still has a few good moments (including a cameo by a certain bestselling R&B musician that’s so out of left field it’s actually pretty funny), but they’re not enough to save it from the film’s own half-baked plot.

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“Shrek Forever Ever” threepeats, “Get Him to the Greek” wins silver amid box office malaise

Shrek Forever AfterThe numbers are out early this morning via Box Office Mojo and the Numbers, so I’m going to rush out the weekend box office news whilst I have time. Basically, it’s been a fairly slow couple of weekends with disappointing performances for movies like “Shrek Forever After,”  and, to a greater extent, “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” and “Sex and the City 2” — though I think most any sensible person could have told the studios these movies, suffering from overused or tired or just kind of lame concepts, never had much mega-blockbuster potential. Let’s see how things go when “Inception,” “Toy Story 3,” and, maybe, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” come out.

Anyhow, the news wasn’t all bad. The final “Shrek” production continues to capitalize on the fact that it’s been better received than the prior film in the hyper-extended series. It’s showing reasonable legs, earning an estimated $25.3 million for Dreamworks/Paramount in its third week and dropping a lower-than-average 41.6%.

Some seem to think it’s a disappointment, but “Get Him to the Greek” sure looks like a moderate success to me. It broke out from a pack of four new releases, two of which were supposed to earn more money than it, and earned a couple million more than some of the gurus were predicting on Thursday, an estimated $17.4 million. I guess the fact that some critics mentioned “The Hangover” in their reviews kind of ginned up expectations, but sleeper successes like that have their own surprising logic and always come out of left field. Universal needs a lot more than this to really break it’s losing streak, but it’s not a horrid start.

Russell Brand and Jonah Hill in

Nikki Finke, for some reason, expected “Greek” to make more than the movie it’s spun off from, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” However, the fact of the matter is that that film had more of an almost classical screwball romantic comedy premise that appeals to a wider audience of both men and women when done well, with more traditionally appealing leads — Jason Segal’s  unpretty but brilliant nude scenes notwithstanding. Even if Russell Brand and Jonah Hill were in the earlier film in scene-stealing supporting roles, the Mutt and Jeff twosome is still not all that widely known and a fairly unusual pairing for a mass audience movie in our time. Moreover, the $40 million budget is modest these days, making the very home-video friendly, Judd Apatow-produced, “Greek” a very probable nice earner over the long haul.

Moving on, things get worse. “Killers,” starring my least favorite male actor in the universe and Kathryn Heigl, came in third with an estimate of $16.1 million. With a budget of $75 million, this is obviously the opposite of a  homerun for Lionsgate. Despite being a family film, the CGI-aided talking dog movie, “Marmaduke”, had at least a certain degree of failure pretty much written all over it, coming in at sixth place with an opening weekend estimate of $11.3 million for Fox. Not quite in the basement, but with a $50 million budget and no reason to expect any kind of legs, this one looks (I cannot resist) like a bit of a dog.

Kim Cattrall in As for last week’s aforementioned debuts, it wasn’t pretty. Both Disney’s “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” and, more so, Fox’s widely reviled “Sex and the City 2” showed no legs this week, dropping by worse than average 54% and 59% respectively, and coming in fourth and fifth with $13.9 and $12.65 million respectively.

Though Nikki Finke and others are trumpeting the tale of how it even got a theatrical release at all, the creepy science-fiction thriller “Splice” pretty much died with $7.45 million estimated for Warners, which is keeping the project at arms length. It apparently did badly on Cinemascore, which I guess reflects my hunch that the modern blood-and-gore-thirsty, trauma-loving, horror audience was the wrong group to pitch the movie too, especially given its potentially misleading R-rating (as much for sexuality and language as “sci-fi violence”).  It should have been sold as more of an adult science fiction thriller and probably started out with more of a limited release. Instead, they promised the audience a chili-bacon cheeseburger and gave them Fettuccine Alfredo. Well, it only cost $30 million, it has its fans, and there’s always DVD/Blu-Ray.

  

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The pimp and the hippie

Since “Get Him to the Greek” has been on our mind lately, and if you haven’t read my mammoth press day interview thingy with cast members Russell Brand, Jonah Hill, Rose Byrne, and writer-director Nicholas Stoller you may do so now, or at your leisure. I’m also happy to report that, whatever the recently returned Nikki Finke is saying, it’s doing somewhat better than expected and defeating the really horrid looking (and, not surprisingly, horribly reviewed) “Killers” as of this moment at the Box Office.

Be that as it may, inspired by a fun piece over at the Playlist on fake bands from movies, along the lines of Aldous Snow’s Infant Sorrow from “Greek.” This weekend, I’ll be presenting some great moments with great fictional cinema bands. I’ll lead with one of the best moments from 2004’s “Hustle and Flow.” I think this was the moment I realized what I was watching was going to be a little more like “The Commitments” and a little less like “Superfly” when I saw it cold at Sundance. (Did I really declare it “the sweetest pimp movie of all time”? Oh, I was young and foolish then.) Since this is a rap tune created by an actual, fictional, pimp played by Terrence Howard, all the usual work-related provisos apply. Also, I wonder about those subtitles on the video. Just how do you translate “Whoop That Trick” into Greek? For that matter, how do you translate it into English?

And now for something completely different. A lot of you are probably familiar with the gay Hitler from the musical version of “The Producers” but fewer of you may know the hippie Hitler played to insane perfection by Dick Shawn in Mel Brooks 1968 original comedy cult-classic. Here, Lorenzo St. Dubois, call him “LSD” for short, sings “Love Power” and grabs the Broadway glass ring with the help of his all-female back-up band.

  

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“Shrek Forever After” to live up to its name?

Shrek Forever After Quite possibly, if three weeks constitutes “forever.” The final installment of the CGI animation series was considered a fairly major disappointment in its first week, earning a relatively anemic amount just under $71 million, tens of millions less than prior entries. However,  “Shrek Forever After” has shown decent staying power, indicating that the relatively strong reviews this time around might be reflective of something that actually matters to audiences. If we are to believe jolly Carl DiOrio, it is once again the probable box office champion. Indeed, DiOrio expects the grosses to be between $25 and $30 million, which could easily double almost all of the four, count ’em, four major new releases coming out this week, assuming his lowish guesses for the other films are right.

To a lesser extent, the second week of the widely hated “Sex and the City 2” is also a contender for third place according to DiOrio — in his video, he doesn’t mention it in writing — but the Numbers see things quite a bit differently. I’d personally expect a bigger than average drop-off from it’s unimpressive debut simply because I get the feeling that hardly anyone liked it much, perhaps not even the franchise’s biggest fans.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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It’s your barely pre-Memorial Day weekend end of week movie news dump (updated)

And that’s only “pre” on the West coast. Anyhow, thing are going to get a lot less verbose from me over the next few days and I’m in a relatively laconic mood tonight, so enjoy the relative brevity to come.

*  “The Hobbit” remains in suspended animation because of MGM’s fiscal limbo, says Guillermo del Toro. Anne Thompson has some added details on the possible future of MGM, such as it is.

Johnny Depp in * “Alice in Wonderland” just crossed the $1 billion mark. Mike Fleming speculates that this might might make Johnny Depp — say it like Dana Carvey’s impression of Mickey Rooney now — the biggest star in the wooorld. If true, the questionable virtues of playing it artistically safe look ever more questionable.

* Interviews with remarkable men: Michael Caine and an extremely funny George Romero in Vanity Fair plugging his new “Survival of the Dead” which is a very limited release right now. Definitely read the Romero whose zombies, we must repeat, never ate brains and, since everyone else is doing it anyway, is working on his own zombie novel. And, yeah, someone is working on “Night of the Living Dead” musical for Broadway, but Romero’s smart enough to stay off of that particular gravy train.

* I’ve never seen them, and they’re not available on DVD, but the autobiographical dramas by Terrence Davies, “Distant Voices, Still Lives” and “The Long Day Closes” have an incredible reputation among critics and others. Davies is coming back with an adaptation of a play by Terrence Rattigan, “The Deep Blue Sea.”  This will be the first movie adaptation of a play by the English writer since David Mamet’s perfectly swell — and, believe it or not G-rated — 1999 version of “The Winslow Boy.”

* “Lost Boys 3” starring the late Corey Feldman doing a Batman-style raspy voice. I don’t even begin to know what to think. [Update: I obviously made a mistake here last night. Mr. Feldman is still, I’m happy to say, very much with us. See comments.]

* He didn’t make many movies, but RIP Gary Coleman anyway. Be sure and check out Will Harris’s terrific remembrance a couple of posts below this one.

* Action-meister Luc Besson is letting members of the French-speaking public become “producers” of an upcoming movie. The first ten-thousand participants will have their names in the credits. Talk about film-making by committee.

* It’s TV but this is too close to home to ignore…the cast of the upcoming HBO TV show starring Diane Keaton and directed by Bill Condon which is not about Nikki Finke just keeps getting better. Recent additions include Ellen Page and Wes Bentley.

* As part of a lame maneuver to try and do and end-run around critics on behalf of what surely seems to be a lame movie, alleged actor Ashton Kutcher is claiming that he’ll pirate and release — all on his own of course — the first ten minutes of his upcoming and pretty lame looking “Killers.” Spare me. Truly.

* If you live in the movie capital, things tend to get a bit quiet over holiday weekends like Memorial Day. It can be kind of nice. Not like the beautiful short below by Ross Ching, but not completely removed from it either. Strangely enough given the impossibility of what’s being shown, this, by the way, is one of the closer depictions of how L.A. actually looks to a native like me.

Running on Empty from Ross Ching on Vimeo.

  

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