Stallone vs Schwarzenegger

Here’s a pretty funny exchange between Sylvester Stallone and Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show as Stallone discusses his rivalry with Arnold Schwarzenegger back in the day. Stallone admits to hating Schwarzenegger back in the 80s, though now things seem very friendly as they collaborate with other action stars in the “Expendibles” series of action films.

  

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Arnold congratulates Sly Stallone on his Golden Globe

With social media these days we can see real time interactions like this one from Arnold Schwarzenegger congratulating Sylvester Stallone for his award for best supporting actor for his reprisal of Rocky Balboa in “Creed.”

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Box Office Preview: ‘The Expendables 2,’ ‘ParaNorman,’ and ‘The Odd Life of Timothy Green’

The Expendables 2

Come on, look at all the names in this one: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Chuck Norris, Mickey Rourke, Terry Crews, Liam Hemsworth, Jean Claude Van-Damme, John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Dolph Lundgren, and of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger. If you need me to tell you what to expect you’re nearly 40 years behind the Hollywood action scene (and have likely never voted in a California gubernatorial election).

If you saw the first “Expendables” movie, then you know what’s coming here: action, action, and more action. Seriously, watch the trailer, it’s just the names of the stars intercut with explosions, guns firing, and chase scenes. It gives literally no information relating to the plot, which tells you just about all you need to know regarding its importance to the film. Nonetheless, here’s the official synopsis:

The Expendables are back and this time it’s personal… Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren),Toll Road (Randy Couture) and Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) — with newest members Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) and Maggie (Yu Nan) aboard — are reunited when Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) enlists the Expendables to take on a seemingly simple job. The task looks like an easy paycheck for Barney and his band of old-school mercenaries. But when things go wrong and one of their own is viciously killed, the Expendables are compelled to seek revenge in hostile territory where the odds are stacked against them.

“The Expendables 2” has a 65 percent rating on the Tomatometer. Check it out if you’d like, just don’t expect much in the way of plot or character development.

ParaNorman

“ParaNorman” is the second feature film made by stop-motion animation studio LAIKA, the first being 2009’s “Coraline.” Both films have been met with a great deal of critical acclaim, and each has been “certified fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes, with “ParaNorman” garnering an 86 percent rating on the Tomatometer and “Coraline” sitting pretty at 90 percent. Not to mention that in the year of its release, “Coraline” was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. With all the accolades the two films have received, LAIKA may be the first studio that can really compete with Pixar if it can keep producing films of high enough quality that they transcend the box animated films are so often put in.

Anyway, let’s talk about “ParaNorman.” Kodi Smit-Mcphee stars as Norman Babcock, an oft-misunderstood young man with the uncanny ability to communicate with the dead, a talent that comes in handy when his small town is overrun by zombies. The official synopsis tells us “In addition to the zombies, he’ll have to take on ghosts, witches and, worst, of all, grown-ups, to save his town from a centuries-old curse. But this young ghoul whisperer may find his paranormal activities pushed to their otherworldly limits.” Smit-Mcphee’s co-stars include Casey Affleck, Jeff Garlin, John Goodman, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse.

Many adults discard animated films, believing them to be childish or incapable of conveying the same emotion and character that live action films can. But like Pixar, LAIKA makes films that relay all those elements in spades, the fact that they’re animated isn’t a detractor. As such, despite its PG rating, ‘ParaNorman” is a kid’s movie that isn’t really for kids. As Bullz-Eye’s Jason Zingale put it, the film is a “journey into the weird and macabre that will likely play well with pre-teens and older, but may be too frightening for younger audiences. Though parents should use discretion when deciding whether their children can handle the scarier moments, “ParaNorman” is packed with enough comedy that it helps dampen the effect.” It seems “ParaNorman” is a film more for those who are children at heart than actual children, and deserves to be checked out.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green

The last film seeing a wide release this weekend is “The Odd Life of Timothy Green.” Let’s check out the official synopsis from Disney:

Director/writer Peter Hedges brings enchantment to the screen with The Odd Life of Timothy Green, an inspiring, magical story about a happily married couple, Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton), who can’t wait to start a family but can only dream about what their child would be like. When young Timothy (CJ Adams) shows up on their doorstep one stormy night, Cindy and Jim — and their small town of Stanleyville — learn that sometimes the unexpected can bring some of life’s greatest gifts.

Given that its a Disney movie with a 41 percent rating on the Tomatometer, “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” appears to be a try-hard heartwarmer that is ultimately more “style” (in the most Disneyfied sense of the word) than substance. Check it out only if you’re the overly-emotional type susceptible to that kind of drivel.

  

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A roundtable chat with producers Irwin and David Winkler of “The Mechanic”

Irwin and David WinklerHealthy father and son relationships are certainly more the exception than the rule at the movies. Even so, the murderous biological and surrogate father and son pairings in the original film “The Mechanic” and its action-packed update with Jason Statham and Ben Foster, are unusually problematic. It’s a tale, after all, about a junior hit-man learning from an older paid killer who has, in turn, killed the younger killer’s dad.

That, of course has pretty much nothing to do with two of the new version’s real-life father and son producers, Irwin and David Winkler. For the remake of the 1971 actioner, the pair have teamed up with another parent-and-offspring team, Irwin Winkler’s long-time producing partner, Bill Chartoff and his son, Robert. (For the record, there are a total of ten producers and five executive producers credited on the film.) Both individually and with Bill Chartoff, the elder Winkler has been involved with a remarkable number of good movies and a few genuine classics, starting with Sydney Pollack’s pitch-black Oscar winner, “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” and also including two of Martin Scorsese‘s signature works, “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas.” Winkler and Chartoff also, of course, produced “The Mechanic,” the first time around when it was as much of a chilling look at sociopathy as it was an action flick.

Like any great producer, Irwin Winkler has had his share of interesting financial failures.  There was the ultra-culty early John Boorman film, “Leo the Last” and Martin Scorsese’s big budget 1977 disappointment “New York, New York.” Fortunately, there was also the occasional modest but high quality success like Bertrand Tavernier’s great 1986 love letter to jazz and jazz fandom, “‘Round Midnight.” He and Bill Chartoff were also key players in one of the most enduring franchises in film history, the one that started with a low-budget boxing drama called “Rocky.” Since 1991’s “Guilty by Suspicion,” Winkler has also occasionally directed. His most recent films include the musical Cole Porter biopic, “De-Lovely,” and the Iraq war drama “Home of the Brave,” which received a speedy burial.

For his part, son David Winkler has worked on a number of television movies as well as with his father on 2006’s “Rocky Balboa.” He also directed the 1998 drama, “Finding Graceland” starring Harvey Keitel.

I was personally anxious to talk to Winklers during a recent L.A. press junket for “The Mechanic” because of an oddball “only in L.A.” family anecdote. I was nevertheless beaten to the punch by an Italian reporter with a rather distinctive interviewing style who tended to dominate the discussion.

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Weekend box office: “The Expendables” hold their ground, otherwise things pretty much “Suck”

Sylvester Stallone in I guess all Americans should all be grateful to the very patriotic Sylvester Stallone and company for “The Expendables” for being #1 at the U.S. box office, even with a not-terribly leggy performance of $16.5 million in week 2, a 53% drop. That’s because him and his studly posse turned out to be only standing between us and the spectacle of “Vampires Suck” being the #1 movie in the U.S. of A.

Yes, I know I never have, and probably never will, see more than a minute or two of the parody. However, a very tiny minority of films and filmmakers are so bad and so devoid of even the minimum level of dramatic/comedic acumen that a minute or two is really all you need to see and, from its titles to its sub-idiot-mentality trailer, this is one of those rare films, unless my cine-spider senses totally have failed me.

Yet, the PG-13 “Twilight Saga” spoof, so rated because, if you’re over 13, you should be too old to find anything in its trailer remotely funny, did far better than it surely deserved. It seems the Twi-hards really wanted a spoof movie to call their own, so many went and the film earned an estimated $12.2 million, just barely edging out the roughly $12 million second weekend of “Eat, Pray, Love.” Somebody really blew an opportunity a few years back to rush a quickie adaptation of the Harvard Lampoon’s legendary “Bored of the Rings.”

Overall, this  weekend should be familiar to we Democrats in that it was a real circular firing squad, with too many new movies competing for attention and, I suspect, sort of canceling each other out. Nobody really did that well though some did better than you might assume.

The so-called “urban demos” appeared to turn out for the comedy “Lottery Ticket” which netted an estimated $11.1 million. Not at all bad considering it’s thrifty $17 million budget.

Lottery Ticket

As for nerd male demos, “Piranha 3D” fell squarely into an amount I’m going to just go ahead and name the “geek zone” with an estimated $10 million despite the boost from 3D ticket prices. Despite lots of gore, I’m guessing the movie just didn’t seem scary enough for today’s trauma-loving hardcore horror fans and naked breasts are available in many venues these days. Even so, since that movie cost $24 million, extremely modest especially considering the amount of effects involved, I wouldn’t rule out an even lower budget “Piranha 4D” or something. That might have been a disappointing number, nevertheless, but it still managed to beat two films some analysts apparently expected to do significantly better, the family comedy “Nanny McPhee Returns” and the relationship comedy, “The Switch.”

I’m running short on time this week and there’s a lot more interesting stuff going on. So, I’ll simply refer you the source for my numbers this and most weeks, the mighty Box Office Mojo weekly chart. Also, on the arthouse side, there was good news for the outstanding documentary “The Tillman Story” and liked-by-everyone-but-me folk tale “Get Low,” among many other interesting tidbits. For that, as always, I refer you to Indiewire’s detailed coverage.

  

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