Tag: Ondi Timoner

Box office preview: “Unstoppable”? Perhaps


Apparently Tony Scott and Denzel Washington enjoyed making their underground run-away train thriller, “The Taking of Pelham 123” so much, they decided to turn around and make an above-ground run-away train thriller. Not everything would be the same. This time Chris Pine would be in tow instead of John Travolta. Another difference is that, this time, the critics are majorly onboard as well, which may or may not indicate that “Unstoppable” will do better over the long haul than its sister film.

Both of my usual b.o. gurus are suggesting a low-to-mid twenties opening for the thriller from Fox, but there is still some daylight between them. Ben Fritz of the L.A. Times is expecting a tough race for the #1 spot with last week’s big winner, “Megamind,” which grossed over $46 million.  The Hollywood Reporter’s Carl DiOrio, who remains jolly even while his intro music grows oddly sinister, seems more sanguine that the amped-up train ride will do better. However, Fritz may be on to something considering that family animated films have proven to be leggy in the past and that a decline of significantly less than 50% seems very possible. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised to see “Unstoppable” overperform.

Rachel McAdams, Diane Keaton, and Harrison Ford wonder: What's the story?There are two other major releases this weekend, but neither of them really seems to have much oomph behind them. True, jolly Carl is fairly high on “Morning Glory.” It’s a sort of update on “Broadcast News” minus the critical acclaim putting 32 year-old beauty Rachel McAdams alongside 60-something icons Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton. My money is on Ben Fritz’s take, which is that it’ll be fortunate to break $10 million. Exhibit A is that the comedy from Paramount actually opened yesterday and hasn’t shown much life.

Coincidentally, $10 million is the reported budget for the effects-heavy science-fiction tale being released by Rogue and Universal, “Skyline.” The few critics who’ve seen it mostly agree that all the film really has to boast of are the effects. Fritz thinks it’ll do about the same as “Morning Glory” — though obviously from a younger and more male demographic. Since that amount is also roughly its budget, however, this film may just be a success.

Debuting in a fairly aggressive 41 screen limited release is the latest documentary from Ondi Timoner, who made the excellent “DiG!” and “We Live in Public” both of which never really got much distribution. This time, however, her film is getting some critical flack, not too surprising considering it’s kind of an anti-“An Inconvenient Truth” and features a maverick scientist who isn’t exactly a climate denier and who isn’t coming from a politicized perspective, but who does insist that all the global warming fear is just plain overdone. That is no majority scientific opinion. Entitled “Cool It,” it’s so far been ignored by far-right film blog Big Hollywood, which can only be a good sign.

Another film we all might be hearing from later on is the award-winning festival-friendly first feature from Lena Dunham, “Tiny Furniture.” It’s a comedy, but I don’t find this trailer funny so much as aggressively quirky and mildly annoying, perhaps because of the deliberately flat performances of the nonprofessional cast. On the other hand, I sort of dig the look of the thing. See if you disagree.

“We Live in Public” and the arrival of the new flesh

First of all, my apologies for subjecting you to the picture above of “Luvvy,” the frightening Mrs. Thurston Howell III-inspired clown alter ego of dot-com millionaire turned visionary self-described artiste Josh Harris. However, it’s arguably one of the less disturbing images available from what is probably going to be the most newsworthy film I’ll see at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and maybe anywhere else for a while.

It seemed even more that way when I learned while writing this post that Michael Jackson, an early experiment in living in public, had passed away at UCLA Medical Center — less than a quarter mile from the coffee house I’m writing this from. There’s a weirdness floating over L.A. right at the moment (as well as what sounds like a thousand helicopters).

Ondi Timoner’s “We Live in Public” scored the grand jury prize at Sundance this year, and not for no reason. If there’s any doubt that, despite the lack of flying cars or commercial space travel, we live in a science-fiction world, this film’s look at Harris’s ethically questionable but fascinating experiments in weirder-living through ‘net-driven intrusion does the trick. Philip Dick would be quite comfortable here and the Marshall McLuhanesque nightmare envisioned by David Cronenberg 1986 science-fiction classic, “Videodrome,” with its talk of media-generated “new flesh” seems closer than ever. (Naturally, a remake is in the offing.)

After making a bundle by arriving very early at the commercial and entertainment possibilities of the webtubes, Harris spent a huge chunk of his earnings in 1999 and 2000 on “Quiet.” It was an ultra-“Big Brother” type experiment in which hoardes of NYC hipsters and artists were sequestered in a high-tech bunker and placed under constant Internet surveillance, subjected to Stasi-style interrogations, and otherwise robbed of their humanity with their full cooperation. People who heard about it were able to see everything, and that includes all the stuff you’re thinking of (though judging from the film, a few people at least resorted to the old PG-13 movie trick of making love underneath blankets). Since there was also quite a few guns around, for some reason, it’s no surprise that the NYPD finally broke the thing up, though the situation had already turned a bit ugly, though not gun-ugly.

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