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A roundtable chat with Paul Giamatti and Rosamund Pike, of “Barney’s Version”

If you’re going to be shallow about it, Paul Giamatti and Rosamund Pike might seem like a slightly odd pair of movie lovebirds. However, the love affair between their characters in “Barney’s Version” hasn’t aroused any of the complaints Seth Rogen regularly gets when his movie character gets lucky with a beautiful woman. No offense to Rogen, but maybe that’s because Giamatti gets a pass for being an extraordinarily brilliant actor — who, as it happens, just picked up a well-deserved Golden Globe for his performance in this very film — and Pike gets points for having the sense to work with him, not to mention for being rather extraordinary herself.

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In fact, the pair have some things in common. Pike’s parents are accomplished serious musicians and she is an Oxford Graduate. Paul Giamatti’s father was the noted Yale University President and Commissioner of Baseball, A. Bartlett Giamatti. Naturally, the younger Giamatti is himself a graduate of Yale. Both have also been busy working actors for some time. After “American Splendor,” “Sideways,” and — on a more heroic level — the miniseries “John Adams,” not to mention innumerable outstanding supporting roles, Giamatti is a bonafide star. The sky is the limit for Ms. Pike, a vastly-above average “Bond girl” opposite Pierce Brosnan in 2002′s “Die Another Day,” who more recently has received a lot of notice for her very diverse roles as a less than brilliant conman’s girlfriend in “An Education” and, more under the radar but no less brilliant, as a highly educated but frustrated housewife and mother in “Made in Dagenham.”

When I and a bunch of other junket journos encountered Giamatti and Pike, they were promoting the new adaptation of Mordecai Richler’s tragicomic final novel about the life and loves of a youthful hustler and bohemian turned aging Montreal television producer and crank. For us shallow types, Giamatti bats 1000 well out of his league with three wives in the course of “Barney’s Version,” played by the lovely Rachelle Lefevre, Minnie Driver, and Pike as Miriam Grant-Panofsky, whom he actually loves. If you read my review, you’ll see that I think the film is a very mixed bag, but the performances are first rate throughout. In addition to that Golden Globe, Giamatti’s performance was praised by his colleague Ron Perlman, and easily deserves whatever accolades it may find. Pike is, as the cliche goes, luminous in a role as a really good person that a lesser actress would have rendered merely saintly and dull.

Rosamund Pike arrived first, but in a moment Paul Giamatti entered, bantering with a female reporter. “She forced me to proclaim myself an ‘indie darling’ yesterday,” Giamatti said.

“Nobody forced you to do anything,” the reporter remonstrated.

“Yes, you did,” he argued. “You tricked me into saying it on camera. She said, ‘When you became an indie darling,’ and I went ‘Well, when I became an indie darling…’” and I thought, ‘I just said those words! Goddammit, that’s on film now, forever.’”

Giamatti, a born comedian as well as a master thesp, was already breaking up the room.

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It’s a brand new week and never too early for movie news!

* Sofia Coppola’s latest, “Somewhere,” won the highly prized Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival. The problem, if there is one, is that she is a current friend and former flame of Jury President Quentin Tarantino. I have to admit that I had forgotten they’d ever been a “thing,” but many do remember and there’s been some grumbling to the effect that the movie isn’t all that “fucking great.” It ain’t the crime of the century, but I guess Tarantino should have recused himself. Speaking for myself only, I find that I tend to be either more harsh or more enthusiastic about friends’ work.  As for Monte Hellman, Tarantino’s hardly alone in praising the maverick writer and director.

* Someone took Stanley Kubrick’s ultimate trip with way too much chemical enhancement over the weekend at the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theater in Hollywood. I have a story about that I’ll tell you sometime. In the meantime, protective measures may be in order.

2001-a-space-odyssey-ape

* So, if Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Robert DeNiro are going to be in a film by Martin Scorsese, naturally it’s called “The Irishman.” Daniel Day Lewis, Brendan Gleeson, and Pierce Brosnan need to make a film called “The Italian” with Neil Jordan directing.

* Good. L.A. needs all the love letters, cinematic and otherwise, it can get. Naturally, all the lead actors are from foreign lands (Christopher Plummer is Canadian, but he feels like he’s from actual overseas), though I’m not sure about the characters. One of the things I loved about “A Single Man” was the way it depicted the European’s love affair with a town that U.S. natives mostly don’t seem to get.

* Woody Allen has stepped in to a long-running rumor-created fracas. France’s acting first lady, Carla Bruni Sarkozy, apparently did just fine in “Midnight in Paris.”

Mickey Rourke scares small children * Mickey Rourke’s latest gig appears to be playing notorious mob killer Richard “the Ice Man” Kuklinski. I think this is a close to making a true family film as Rourke may ever get, next to “Iron Man 2.” The man’s face doesn’t only scare small children, it scares me.

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Why do you think they call them “Titans”?

There really doesn’t seem to be any way around it, “Clash of the Titans” will almost undoubtedly win the box office race this Easter and Good Friday weekend. Just anecdotally, I can see that interest is high for a remake of a swords-and-sandals fantasy flick that is a sentimental favorite for lots of guys, even if the original film is not really seen as the strongest movie in the cannon of the great stop-motion effects man, Ray Harryhausen, who turns 90 this summer. I’ve been hearing and seeing fairly enthusiastic chatter about this film from French-export action-guy director Louis Leterrier everywhere for months, including at my local Food 4 Less a couple of nights back.

Clash of the Titans

Critics like our own David Medsker may excoriate it for not even having impressive effects, and the Rotten Tomatoes crew as a whole may give it an unimpressive 34%, but you can’t really stop a titan, can you? Moreover, critics seem to agree that, especially in the post “Avatar” world, the retrofitted 3-D is not worth the extra money and audiences will get just as big a kick — if kick, there is, to be had — in cheaper 2-D. But, in for a penny, in for a pound, I suspect, will be the way of things and the roughly 2,170 3-D screens will be mighty crowded this weekend.

Indeed, a returning jolly Carl DiOrio over at THR informs us that the consensus among the box office guru types is that the film could well bring in over $60 million. He also mentions in his weekly video that Easter is traditionally a rather strong weekend at the box office. So, on the weekend that commemorates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as told in the Bible, hundreds of thousands of theoretically Chrisitan people all over the country will be seeing a movie that celebrates ancient pagan deities. Not that there’s anything wrong with that — I don’t really have a dog (or a god) in that particular spiritual fight. Still, maybe I should get a bit more worked up because Warner Brothers’ distribution Dan Fellman told DiOrio that: “We own males over and under 25…” All I can say as someone who falls into one of those categories, neither Warners nor Mr. Fellman own me and I think that’s actually kind of illegal. But, yeah, his movie will make some money and most of it will come from guys.

There are two other new movies coming out, but they both most definitely qualify as counter-programming and are primarily aimed at woman. Adult woman who are also African-American and the men who love them are pretty much the target demo for “Why Did I Get Married, Too?” — a sequel from the Tyler Perry ethnically targeted juggernaut.

Black Dynamite shows his softer side.I will point out, however, that alongside start Janet Jackson, Michael Jai White is in the cast. As everyone who saw him in “Black Dynamite” knows, if the Man wasn’t busy working overtime keeping him down, he’d already be a superstar. So, maybe I hope this does the usual Tyler Perry business and makes between $25-$30 million on a relatively low budget. The film hasn’t been screened for critics it appears. Why bother?

The PG-rated teen-centric weepy romance “The Last Song” starring Miley Cyrus, Greg Kinnear, and guest hunk Liam Hemswroth and adapted from a novel by the ever-popular Nicholas Sparks, who also co-wrote the screenplay, has actually been in theaters since Wednesday — what, you didn’t know that? The film has already done decent business from Ms. Cyrus’s devoted young fans and their moms despite predictably miserable reviews. Still, especially when Disney’s early take is discounted, it will still probably be fairly low on the b.o. totem pole come the Sunday estimates.

There’s no theater count up for it over at Box Office Mojo, and only a handful of critics have eve seen it yet, it appears (of them, currently 58% are favorable at Rotten Tomatoes) but the R-rated “The Greatest” open this weekend in apparently very limited release. Reviewer Jason Newman sure makes it sound like a solid, if heart wrenching, drama. It’s certainly got an outstanding cast with the eternally underrated Pierce Brosnan, the impossible to overrate Susan Surandon, mega-up-and-comer Carey Mulligan, and another potential superstar to be, Aaron Johnson of, dare I say it, “Kick-Ass.” Isn’t it weird that the spill-over notoriety from that couldn’t-be-more-different sure-thing hit will probably help this one move a few DVDs, at least?

Carey Mulligan and Aaron Johnson in

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Weekend box office: “Alice” will be in the zone and out of everyone’s league

Johnny Depp is the Mad HatterYes, there really doesn’t seem to be any reason at all to think any of the four new major releases this weekend will come anywhere remotely near the grosses for the latest tentpole flick from Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, and company. That’s because last weekend saw the 3-D “Alice in Wonderland” earn an enormous $116 million, so even a gigantic drop would mean a rather huge second weekend by normal standards. And, as both Anne Thompson and Jolly Carl DiOrio seem to agree, the new competition isn’t incredibly strong.

The leading contender of those, however, appears to be the new movie from director Paul Greengrass and star Matt Damon, “Green Zone.” The publicity is doing everything it can to remind the audience that both of them worked on the last two Jason Bourne films. However, the film itself is a political thriller — never, I’m sorry to say, the strongest genre commercially. Oh, and it’s about the Iraq war, not a favorite topic of escape-seeking audiences, it appears. Indeed, the only thing worse commercially than a political thriller about an unpopular and still ongoing war is one with mediocre reviews.

Green Zone

Still, the Bourne connection, Damon’s appeal, and a bit of topicality may be good for something. About $14-16 million says Carl DiOrio, which may not be enough to support the film’s hefty price tag, he warns. Anne Thompson, also has some hints about what went might have gone wrong with the film. (Hint: Except perhaps on documentaries, it’s rarely a good thing when a director has to “find” the story in the editing room. It’s nice to have it in the screenplay, but I’m old fashioned that way.)

Like “Green Zone,” the primary commercial asset of “Remember Me” is its male lead. To a certain segment of the market, Robert Pattinson certainly kicks Damon’s box office keister, even if the “Twilight” pasty-factor is out of this picture. On the other hand, if a single unaccompanied male sees the weepy romantic/emotional drama which also features Emile de Raven and Pierce Brosnan, it’ll be a shock. Pretty much detested by David Medsker, this one didn’t exactly wow the mass of critics either. There’s also the matter of its ending, which has been leaked on the web and many find a kind of insult.

Jay Baruchel and Alice Eve in Under those circumstances, you might expect the seemingly Apatow-esque (but not Apatow-associated) guy-friendly romantic comedy, “She’s Out of My League” to do rather well. Like Apatow’s break-through film, “The 40 Year-Old Virgin,” it benefits from a premise, fully explained in the title, that plays to the kind of universal male insecurities that seem to make for commercial comedy gold. Still, though our own David Medsker found the film quite likable, the overall reviews are middling and the level of interest out in the world appears to be low.

So low is the interest in the comedy, in fact, that Carl DiOrio actually expects the abysmally reviewed comedy, “Our Family Wedding,” to make about $3 million more dollars than “League,” even though it’s in nearly thirteen hundred fewer theaters. Featuring actors who I’m sure deserve better, including Forest Whitaker, America Ferrera and Taye Diggs, as well as comedian Carlos Mencia (who absolutely does not deserve better), I’m not sure why people would want to see this. On the other hand, since when am I “people”?

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Can Marty and Leo take the weekend without women?

That’s the question being posed by The Hollywood Reporter‘s jolly Carl DiOrio as he predicts that the latest from the team of Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio will enjoy a $25-30 opening. The atmospheric Dennis Lehane adaptation, “Shutter Island” is apparently “tracking” best with older men — I’m definitely interested and by “older” I assume they mean “over 15″ — and fairly well with younger men, but not so with female of the species.

Leo and friends in

DiOrio finds this surprising because of Leo’s tried and true girl appeal but it’s really not when you consider that the marketing suggests a sort of hard-boiled cop/horror combo with barely a female or any kind of love interest in site and what appears to be a lot of very male-style histrionics.  The trailer certainly emphasizes the male cast members with Michelle Williams and Patricia Clarkson making what amounts to cameo appearances.

As for the reviews, which for a movie like “Shutter Island” can really make a difference, they are okay but not too impressive when you consider that Scorsese is a long-time critical mega-favorite and easily one of the five or so most revered living directors still living. Our own Dave Medsker was notably disappointed in his mixed review and he’s certainly not alone, with only 61% of “top critics” digging “Shutter Island” according to Rotten Tomatoes. (He gets a somewhat better 67% with the critical hoi polloi.) Scorsese’s last attempt at a big time Hollywood thriller, the 1991 version of “Cape Fear,” is the only one of his film’s I’d personally dare call “bad” and I’m hoping I like this one at least a little better. On the other hand, that one made a relative mint for Marty Mr. Scorsese and his colleagues, so who cares if I like it or not?

What's-his-name and what's-her-name in As for this week’s possible #2 and #3, well, last week’s winner “Valentine’s Day” may be in there, but the question is will the critically dissed comedy have any legs now that it’s holiday is long past. Also, with a lack of competing family films, that “Percy Jackson” movie that I’m simply too lazy too type out a complete title for may do pretty well. And let’s not count out “Avatar” quite yet, either, if one of the other films takes a big dive.

Debuting in very limited release this week is what looks like a nifty little political thriller that’s getting solid reviews, “The Ghost Writer.” It stars Ewan MacGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, and my and Max Fisher’s one-true-love, Olivia Williams. The director is Roman Polanski, so there’ll be another test of the “no such thing as bad publicity” dictum, I suppose.

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Yet another Friday night movie news dump

Really not that much to say, except…

* Summit has acquired the North American rights to distribute “The Ghost Writer,” a political thriller starring Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan. And why is this the top item? The director is Roman Polanski. Wait for this film to benefit from a lot of free publicity generated by people who think it’s wrong to see any movie in which someone involved with it once did a very bad thing. If you follow that rule, you’ll miss a lot of movies.

* Not too surprisingly, that report I mentioned on Wednesday that James Cameron‘s next movie is going to be an outer space redo or homage or what have you of The Seven Samurai was all wet. Instead, quoth the Playlist, he’s producing, but not directing, a remake of the not-so-great (at least as far as I can remember it) sixties sci-fi hit, “Fantastic Voyage.” It could work and will probably be at least a little bit fun in 3-D.

fantastic-voyage-rm-eng

* Speaking of Cameron, it’s a bit weighted towards the geek press at this moment, but reviews have been leaking all over the place for “Avatar” and, guess what, the critics seem to think there’s something to the hype. At the very least the film is guaranteed to get a bunch of technical nominations and probably win them. Throw some Oscars into the marketing mix of James Cameron’s latest, and a genuinely gigantic hit with massive legs could brewing.

How long before the inevitable backlash? Well, Michael Phillips‘ review encompasses both frontlash and backlash. Putting on her critic hat, Anne Thompson writes a prose poem. She says all us cinephiles are going to have to see it multiple times. Well, I’m sure some of us will disagree there. Contrarians, skeptics, and extra-tough critics, start your engines.

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