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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A Chat with Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss (“Sherlock”)

The characters of Sherlock Holmes and his trusty associate Dr. John Watson have been interpreted every which way but loose since their original inception in 1887, courtesy of Arthur Conan Doyle, and with Guy Ritchie’s take on the Holmes mythos having only just hit theaters last year, it would seem to be a bit premature to put Baker Street’s most famous detective onto the small screen as well…but, then, “Sherlock” – premiering here in the States as part of PBS’s “Masterpiece” on Sunday, Oct. 24, bears precious little resemblance to Robert Downey, Jr.’s big-screen adventure. This is a modern-day look at the characters and their mythology, and for those who might be skeptical that they can successfully survive such a transformation, I believe you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I’ve only seen a portion of the first episode (“A Study in Pink”) thus far, but it was more than enough to sell me on tuning in on the 24th. Mind you, I also had the advantage of sitting down with the series’ executive producers, Steven Moffat and Mark Gattis, whose enthusiasm for the project proved decidedly contagious.

Bullz-Eye: Steven, you and I met in passing a few years ago at the “Jekyll” panel…a show which I loved, by the way…

Steven Moffat: Oh, thank you. Oh, good!

BE: …and, Mark, I didn’t realize it at the time, but I now know that you made an appearance in that series.

Mark Gatiss: That’s right!

BE: So, Steven, what do you enjoy about the challenge of contemporizing British icons? I mean, you can argue that Dr. Jekyll is an icon of sorts, but then you’ve got Doctor Who, and now Sherlock Holmes.

SM: Well, being honest, for me, there isn’t really…it looks like there’s a narrative through that, that I’m trolling for things, but I’m really, really not. “Jekyll” was a totally different experience to this, the one big difference being that it was a sequel set in the modern day. And, really, it looks as if I’ve just been doing that, but, really, seriously, it wasn’t that. This is a completely different experience, and the challenge of this…well, they’re just joys, aren’t they?

MG: It’s true, yeah.

SM: There are so many things that…well, once having started talking about this, we realized it was going to work, because he can still be coming home from Afghanistan, a flat share is what we now call sharing rooms, we’ve gone back to sending telegrams by sending texts…it’s just perfect.

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Movie news and commentary…lots of it: “The Hobbit” is cast but <sigh> Mel Gibson exists and must be dealt with, somehow (updated)

Tonight’s box office preview has been moved to tomorrow because of a couple of a films news items that just can’t quite wait. The first can be dispensed with in a second. Casting has been announced on “The Hobbit,” short, snub-nosed and talented Martin Freeman will face his inevitable hobbity destiny as Bilbo Baggins, as Peter Jackson again casts a bunch of people I’ve mostly never heard of in smaller roles who’ll probably all be great.

And then there’s this news of Mel Gibson being let go from “The Hangover 2 just a day after it was announced he’d been hired to play a supporting role. Oy.

US-CINEMA-EDGE OF DARKNESS

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Midweek movie news

You’d think Jewish New Year and Labor Day coming so close together would slow down the pace of movie news a little, but leisure is for suckers and Yahweh is just another bit player in this hard luck town.

* The talk of the geek-o-sphere for some time is going to be the announcement of a massive and potentially trendsetting film/television cross-over adaptation of Stephen King’s multi-volume “The Dark Tower” mega-epic. Universal, which has had some very tough times lately, is taking what I’m guessing could be a make-it-or-break-it gamble on the project, the news of which was broken by Mike Fleming earlier.  I’m not a King reader, but I am intrigued by the fact that it’s a western-science fiction-horror cross-breed. In any case apparently the plan is to start with a movie, go to a 22 episode not-so-mini-series, and then onto another movie, another series, then wrapping it all up with movie. The idea being to provide fans with both the grandeur of theatrical films and the detail and time of a television series.

the_dark_tower

It’s intriguing but laden with potential pitfalls. One is that it demands an awful lot of time and people who aren’t following the series may feel shut out of the latter two movies. The other is that, quite frankly, I feel the “A Dangerous Mind” creative team of director Ron Howard and writer Akiva Goldsman — who I gather will be writing and directing the first two films and the entire first series at least, which could be some kind of record if that’s what’s really going to happen — simply haven’t indicated they’re up to this kind of material. I hate to say it but winning Oscars can be negative indicator sometimes.

It’s not that I doubt their ability to crank it all out. Howard is obviously a very competent director who knows how to make highly professional material and I have tremendous respect for him as an individual and one of the more positive forces in Big Moviedom. However, he’s always shown a tendency to play it safe and often a bit dull when the chips are really down creatively as a director and none of Goldsman’s movies have been all that inspiring to me either. All I’m saying is that I had a good feeling about Peter Jackson taking on “The Lord of the Rings” and I have a bad feeling about it, though I’d seriously love to be wrong.  Something tells me this project needs a real lunatic and Ron Howard is one of the sanest guys in show business. Huge King fan Quint at AICN has similar misgivings. He has a more riding on this than I.

* Simon Abrams is right re: “Kick-Ass” doing a lot better than people assumed. Even though I cover the weekend grosses here, we all make way too much of those openings and fail to look at the overall picture. Calling a movie a bomb that makes nearly half its budget in its opening weekend is just idiotic anyhow. The actual success of the film may have figured in the ongoing financial struggles between Lionsgate and Carl Icahn.

Aaron Johnson is

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