This is one of the most anticipated movies of the year.
This is one of the most anticipated movies of the year.
Hidden Netflix Gems is a new feature designed to help readers answer that burning question, “What should I watch tonight?” It will be updated every Saturday before the sun goes down.
The 1987 film Project X (not to be confused with this year’s raunchy, over-the-top party comedy of the same name) is a strange but charming little oddity of a movie. Directed by Jonathan Kaplan, who is known for socially conscious films such as The Accused and Brokedown Palace, as well as more conventional genre fare such as Unlawful Entry and Bad Girls, Project X is a blend of these two types of filmmaking. It is a comedic science fiction movie that ultimately becomes a sort of political thriller, taking a stance against cruelty to animals in the name of science. It is also a movie for the Homer Simpson in all of us, because who doesn’t enjoy watching chimpanzees behave like human beings?
Jimmy Garrett (Matthew Broderick) is an Air Force pilot assigned to an experimental project as punishment for illegally bringing a date into the cockpit of a government plane. It turns out that the project involves using chimpanzees in simulated flight scenarios, and that one of the chimps, Virgil (Willie), knows sign language, which he was taught by his beloved trainer, Teri (Helen Hunt). Jimmy is impressed by Virgil’s abilities, but his hard-ass superior, Dr. Carroll (Bill Sadler) doesn’t seem to care. As Jimmy eventually finds out to his horror, this is because the chimps in the experiment are being killed y radiation poisoning, in an effort to determine how long a pilot could survive a nuclear exchange known as the “second-strike scenario.” Jimmy manages to contact Teri, and they team up to try and save Virgil and the other chimps who haven’t been killed yet.
The coolest thing about Project X is how much the chimps themselves become the true stars of the movie. In fact, they are listed first on the film’s IMDb page, with Broderick in a distant 11th place. They each have distinct personalities, too, like a sort of simian wild bunch, with Virgil as the leader and hero, Goofy (Okko) as the comic relief, and Goliath (Karanja) as the grizzled old bad-ass, the type of role Mickey Rourke might play in a movie entirely cast with human actors. This successfully makes the audience root for Jimmy, Teri and their primate friends over the mean old military scientist baddies, and the film’s climax is a triumphant, feel-good adventure sequence made all the more joyful by the aforementioned Homer Simpson factor.
It’s Superbowl weekend and that means partially empty theaters on Sunday as a good chunk of the nation drinks beer, eats various high fat and sodium foods, and obsesses either over the game or the commercials. Between that and possible lingering effects of the big storm being suffered through by my easterly Premium Hollywood/Bullz-Eye colleagues in the Midwest and the East, you’re talking about less than optimum movie-going conditions. And, this week, it’s certainly looks like a battle between two less than optimum movies.
To be specific, we have “The Roommate” from Sony/Screen Gems which features “Gossip Girl” star Leighton Meester and the similar looking Minka Kelly of the acclaimed “Friday Night Lights” in a what sure looks like a retread of one of those “the _______ from hell” movies of the eighties and nineties. I never actually saw it, but the model in this case appears to be 1992’s “Single White Female” but set in a dorm room — scarier because the personal space is even smaller, I suppose.
It’s also scarier because it’s not being shown to critics and the trailer for this alleged thriller actually gave me a couple of good laughs. Even so, hopes are reasonably high for this very young female skewing PG-13 flick to top this very top-able weekend. The L.A. Times‘ Ben Fritz and THR‘s Pamela McClintock both pass on the general opinion that the take will probably not be much more than $15 million and quite possibly significantly less. On the other hand, “The Roommate” only cost $16 million to make so, it’ll make back its budget and it doesn’t seem to me like the studio is blowing much on marketing this one either. Today was the first I’ve heard of it.
The other major new release, which has been on my radar to some degree, is an underwater Australian thriller shot in 3D that is pushing the name of its producer as hard as it can. I guess James Cameron can afford to sully his brand name with what sure looks like a sub-par effort if he wants to. It’s not nice to judge a movie you haven’t seen but with mostly bad reviews and a trailer showing off some scary moments and some surprisingly poor acting it’s hard to hope it’ll be terribly good.
Pamela McClintock reports that Universal is downplaying expectations with a guess of $6 to 8 million. $10 million is apparently too much to hope for. Considering that men are the primary audience is here, if you want to treat a movie theater like your own inner sanctum, I suggest seeing this around 6:00 on Sunday in a theater in or near Wisconsin or Ohio.
In limited release in some 26 theaters according to Box Office Mojo, we have a film with a title that must be on movie marketers’ minds every Superbowl weekend: “Wo Zhi Nu Run Xin.” That’s, transliterated Mandarin for “What Women Want.” The remake of the rather funny Mel Gibson/Helen Hunt 2000 fantasy rom-com from Nancy Myers is back at us from China with Andy Lau and Gong Li.
Now, while I’ve certainly never made a secret of my politics here, I don’t generally use this particular locale to vent on strictly political matters. And so, it is not in the spirit of persuading anyone to, say, call wavering congressmembers (especially if you live in their district, or even close by) to encourage them to vote for the president’s health reform package tomorrow. No, it is strictly a coincidence that I will be presenting movie moments relating to importance of health care this weekend. I’ll start with this scene, possibly NSFW for some words blurted by Helen Hunt, especially if you work in health insurance.
Of course, HMOs aren’t inherently evil. (I like mine, Kaiser, a non-profit, but even that has its considerable issues.) The problem is the stranglehold of enormous, for-profit bureaucracies. In saner systems, I’m sure not all doctors are as cool as Harold Ramis is in “As Good as it Gets,” but in many of those places they really do still make house calls. This scene, however, which depicts nothing more special than a competent and conscientious professional doing his job in the best way he knows how, remains a complete fantasy for the vast majority of us and will for some time. But you’ve got to start somewhere.