It’s the age old story. Girl likes pretty things. Girl racks up crippling credit debt. Girl gets job on financial magazine.
The greatest tragedy about this film is not that it’s an example of shining mediocrity — or even that it isn’t that funny — it’s that there are some supremely talented people involved… and it still sucks.
Director P.J. Hogan turned the chick flick genre, and Australian cinema, on its head with Muriel’s Wedding. Muriel might have been a nutter but she was a female character with depth and complexity. Even when he dipped his toes into the Hollywood big time with My Best Friend’s Wedding, Hogan created women with some oomph, and a sense of humour and fun. This movie is about as fun as that screeching noise you make when you let the air out of a balloon really, really slowly.
Isla Fisher, bless her, works her butt off to make something of this film. She’s her bubbly, charismatic self, but sadly, all the red-headed charisma in the world is not going to save a clichéd, caricature of a script.
It’s time rom-com fans took a stand and said: ‘We like movies, too… dammit! Give us some decent cinema!”
Consensus: This middling romantic comedy under-utilises a talented cast and delivers muddled messages on materialism and conspicuous consumption.
Kevin James both stars in and co-wrote this film about a mall cop who dreams of one day becoming a New Jersey state trooper. James was likeable in the US sit-com, The King of Queens, and he’s likeable in this.
James’ appeal might explain why this film did so well at the box office. Never mind the thoroughly rotten Tomatometer, audiences flocked to see this 91 minute-long fat joke in droves. And just when you think they’ve milked every fat joke available, they find one more. There is something admirable about that kind of thoroughness and rigour.
Despite its lacklustre performance and non-comedic comedy, there is one thing about this film that shines — they used the Wilhelm scream! The Wilhelm, of course, is the sound effect that has become so famous, and so over-used, that it long ago made the transition from cliché to most excellent in-joke. See if you can spot it…
Consensus: Paul Blart: Mall Cop has some laughs, but its plot is flimsy and lacking in any sustained comic momentum.
The release of this DVD marks the end of a great American series. Created by hitmaker David E. Kelley, this law drama had all of his usual quirks and left-wing intentions.
It also contains one of the most interesting relationships on television — the relationship between Denny Crane (William Shatner) and Alan Shore (James Spader). The friendship between these staunchly heterosexual men is as close to a loyal marriage as can be found on the small-screen.
Boston Legal is wonderfully self-referential, and over the years the characters have made references to the writers’ strike, the show’s changing time slots and even the unrealistic, formulaic style of the series itself. Boston Legal gets so close to jumping the shark in the final episode that one suspects if they could actually have jumped a shark they would have.
The ending of this season brings to a head the years of ridiculousness this series has brought us, but also a lovely representation of the humour and staunch moral positioning around loyalty, freedom and friendship that has made the show so popular. The final season also works to showcase the supporting cast, which includes the glorious Candice Bergen, as well as Christian Clemenson, Rene Auberjonois and Tara Summers, plus a broad selection of guest stars appearing as the oddball client and judges.
Ask most sensible people what their favourite show on TV is and they will rattle off all the HBO greats — until they suddenly remember that one show that makes everyone happy: Grand Designs.
Sure, it’s just another show about people renovating houses that the rest of us can’t afford, but somewhere along the way this gem crept into the heart of cult viewing and good people around the globe cannot get enough. Hosted by the very British, very sexy Kevin McCloud, this is a must-own DVD. Despite running for over ten years they’ve only released one other DVD up until now, and that was for Season Four. I bought that DVD six months ago and have not seen it since, as it has been borrowed by everyone I know.
Season Five contains such fabulous builds as the House Shaped Like A Curvy Seashell in Devon, the Family Home Built out of Finnish Logs in Kent, and the 21st Century Answer to a Roman Villa in Belfast.
I don’t know why this series is so successful. It could be the impossibly ambitious design projects, the car-crash glee we feel as we watch them trying to do it themselves to imminent disaster, or the way Kevin continually needles them about their rising budgets. I think it’s because so many of us are fascinated about the idea of being able to create our own world as we want to live in it and this show illustrates the joys and hazards of that dream.
Also, Kevin McCloud is really, really sexy.
In the offbeat comedy-drama Adam, the 34-year-old Brit plays a lonely New Yorker with Asperger Syndrome, a form of autism. Adam’s lack of social skills make his courtship of neighbour Beth (Rose Byrne) comically awkward, and their resulting relationship a testing one.
Hugh Dancy: You know what, I don’t even know if I had. The most I could possibly have said is, “I think I have heard of that,” like most people. The script landed on my lap without any basic description. I read my way a third of the way in, to the point where Adam the character announces that he has this condition. At that point my interest was really piqued: the decision to hold off on that diagnosis in the movie was very unusual and much more interesting. So what I got out of the script was close to the enjoyment I hope people get out of it when they sit and watch it. People who know nothing about Asperger’s – they don’t feel like they’re watching a movie of the week. You’re not having an Asperger’s information video forced down your throat.
HD: I realised it would be quite a challenge for me. When I went to meet Max Mayer, the writer and director, we talked through it all and he offered me a little bit of his knowledge of Asperger’s. I think if he’d really thrown the door wide open I would have totally freaked out and run a mile, but he gave me just enough, like a good director would, to make me hungry. I didn’t even occur to me as a glory project or something.
HD: [laughs] I realise it’s very easy to see this kind of movie in that light – I’ve now answered enough questions about the movie to know that! But fortunately, I think that the movie offers more than that.
Dancy with Rose Byrne in Adam.
HD: Because of the nature of Adam’s condition, it specifically denied me most of the things you rely on as an actor; communication, empathy and reaction. That quick, spontaneous reaction to somebody else in a room usually gets captured on camera, and that makes it feel real. But you can over-rely on those things to cover a slight lack of understanding of the scene that you’re playing, thinking, “It doesn’t matter because I can act it up, I’ll be really present if I haven’t really considered the ramifications.” Well I literally did not have that vocabulary available to me. I couldn’t really look into Rose’s eyes.
That really intrigued me because it’s the polar opposite of what you’re supposed to do as an actor, which is to emote wildly and be a human sponge.
HD: Or did I just turn up on day one and hope for the best? [laughs]. Actually, all of the above. There was a lot of information that I had to absorb. I read a lot of different stories, talked to a lot of different people. But there is also a truth to the idea that you still turn up on day one and think, “What the hell’s going to happen here?” We only had 20 odd days to film this so the truth is I was in a state of constant shock from start to finish. It’s not like I spent hours in a rehearsal room with Max going, “Should I walk like this? Should I walk like that?”. The first scene we shot was the first scene of the movie and I remember turning round and walking from the grave of my father’s funeral and thinking, “Oh, it’s gonna be like this!”.
HD: I don’t hope, I know that they will take away a sense that it has spoken to them, even if they have never met anyone with Asperger’s. They will recognise the very human story of one individual, any of us, trying to properly make contact with another one. That’s what I think is at the heart of this film.
Adam is out in the UK on August 7th.
This week at the movies, we’ve got creepy campers (Friday the 13th, starring Jared Padalecki and Danielle Panabaker), conspicuous consumption (Confessions of a Shopaholic, starring Isla Fisher and Hugh Dancy ), and corporate criminality (The International, starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts). What do the critics have to say?
You’d think Camp Crystal Lake would be closed by now. Not only does it have a higher per-capita murder rate than most major American cities, but the exploits of its most famous camper — the masked Jason Voorhees — have been pretty well documented at this point. That hasn’t stopped Marcus Nispel from trying to reboot the Friday the 13th franchise, and critics say it isn’t an embarrassment, just a derivative horror flick. A sort of greatest-hits compilation of the first three Friday movies, his installment finds a young man (Jared Padalecki) searching for his sister, who went missing after some woodland partying; he meets a young woman (Danielle Panabaker) who helps him, and soon they’re crossing paths with aspiring goaltender/serial killer Jason Voorhees. The pundits say Friday the 13th is pretty generic stuff, filled with shopworn 1980s slasher tropes and lacking the low-budget panache of the early installments. (RT editor Alex Vo watched all the Friday the 13th movies in preparation for the new film; check out his write-ups here.)
Given the wretched state of the economy, a light romantic comedy about spending beyond one’s means may not be what the doctor ordered for filmgoers looking for an escape. But bad timing isn’t the only thing wrong with Confessions of a Shopaholic, critics say. Isla Fisher stars as a deeply indebted columnist for a financial magazine with a crush on her editor (Hugh Dancy) and a serious jones for designer labels. Will our heroine learn to love the thrift shop? The pundits say Fisher is fine in her first starring vehicle, but director P.J. Hogan, who has a knack for crafting charming chick flicks, is not at the top of his game here. Worse, the screenplay doesn’t explore the darker aspects of its protagonist’s conspicuous consumption. (Check out our interviews with Fisher and producer Jerry Bruckheimer).
If you’re both an action fan and an architecture buff, the critics say you could do worse than The International, a conspiracy thriller with some electric scenes and plenty of intriguing locales. However, they also note the film is over-complicated and occasionally absurd. Clive Owen and Naomi Watts star as an Interpol agent and a Manhattan assistant D.A., respectively, on the trail of a rogue banker — a globetrotting mission that puts them in the crosshairs of a vast criminal enterprise. The pundits say The International is good for a couple of exceptional set pieces, but it’s ultimately undone by major gaps in logic and convoluted plotting.
Also opening this week in limited release:
Jason lives and is terrorizing young punks again in the new Friday the 13th which opens on the most perfect day. The horror remake should easily lead the North American box office over the Presidents’ Day holiday frame and will be joined by two other new offerings for those with not as much bloodlust. Buena Vista releases the comedy Confessions of a Shopaholic while Sony counters with the crime thriller The International. Overall, the marketplace seems set once again to surpass year-ago grosses by a comfortable margin.
Hollywood loves remakes because the formula to make them is so simple – take a successful older film, add in cell phones and minorities, call it a ‘reimagining’ in press interviews, and you’ve got a surefire box office winner! This formula should work wonders this weekend for Friday the 13th which comes from the lucrative franchise’s new and old studios – New Line and Paramount – with Warner Bros. taking on domestic distribution duties. The twelfth film in the series, this R-rated film finds iconic killer Jason Voorhees doing what he does best – slicing and dicing visitors of Camp Crystal Lake. The new Friday goes back to the slasher antics that made it a runaway success in the first place. No jetting to outer space, taking Manhattan, or fighting Freddy Kruger here.
The new Jason flick packs the goods and will be a potent force at the box office this weekend. It provides everything horror fans want – creative killings, horny college kids, bare breasts, and plenty of scares. Reviews and the lack of starpower should mean nothing. The marketing push has been very effective, especially the anti-Valentine’s Day spots, and the brand name alone will be enough to pull in a new generation of ticket buyers not even born yet when Mrs. Voorhees first launched the family killing spree three decades ago.
Friday should power its way into the same league as other R-rated horror remakes like 2003’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre which bowed to $28.1M in the fright-friendly month of October and 2007’s Halloween which debuted with $26.4M over the three-day portion of its Labor Day holiday opening. Given its timely launch on Friday the 13th, today’s higher ticket prices, and the holiday frame which should make Sunday grosses higher than normal, the new Jason pic could carve out a bigger debut. Also, enough time has passed since the last impressive horror launch which came courtesy of My Bloody Valentine 3D a month ago so genre fans are ready for a new hit to rally behind. Attacking 3,105 theaters, Friday the 13th might debut to about $30M over the Friday-to-Sunday portion of Presidents’ Day weekend.
Beyoncé’s army of single ladies will be out in full force to see Buena Vista’s new comedy Confessions of a Shopaholic, a film adaptation of the best-selling novel. The PG-rated entry stars Isla Fisher as a New York City gal with a shopping addiction and will skew heavily to an audience of young females. As the industry has learned before, especially in the last year, comedies based on popular female-skewing brands with built-in audiences attract huge openings. This one should be no different although its release, which is not ultrawide, will limit the potential.
So far this year we’ve seen He’s Just Not That Into You, which is also based on a popular book, bow to $27.8M and a $8,751 average and Bride Wars which was driven more by starpower and plot debut to $21.1M and a $6,528 average. Both were powered mostly by the fairer sex. Shopaholic will have the second weekend of You to compete with for the same crowd. However, the dual holidays of Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day will expand the marketplace leaving room for plenty of business. And the tame rating opens the door for younger girls too. The marketing campaign has been effective, but with a story about buying clothes and shoes, don’t expect too many men to be sold on the idea. Entering 2,507 theaters, Confessions of a Shopaholic could debut with roughly $17M over three days.
Sony offers up the weekend’s only new action film with The International, a global banking thriller starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts. But the R-rated pic is more crime drama than action film which is what it’s being promoted as. Though talented as actors, the leads do not provide much bankability here which puts pressure on the subject matter and marketing. A film about European banking forces profiting from weapons sales between nations doesn’t exactly qualify as must-see entertainment. In fact the story and stars should help The International perform much better in international waters. The U.S. is not the key market that will propel this film past breakeven. The studio should be commended for giving this what push it can. It’s a tough sell, no doubt, and mixed reviews will repel some mature adult audiences, especially when they have Liam Neeson‘s Taken as a viable option for the long weekend. Infiltrating over 2,300 theaters, The International may collect about $11M over the first three days.
Valentine’s Day should help keep moviegoers stay into He’s Just Not That Into You so the reigning champ from this week may see a drop of 35%. Shopaholic will certainly provide some direct competition for young women, but the holiday weekend should allow for an expanded marketplace where both can survive. Look for You to fall to about $18M over three days and raise its ten-day tally to $52M.
Fox’s Taken has been a terrific box office performer overachieving in every way. The International will try to take away some of the action crowd but Liam Neeson’s third weekend take may just end up outgunning Clive Owen’s first weekend numbers. A 25% fall would give Taken around $15M lifting the 17-day cume to an amazing $73M making for a guaranteed invite to the century club.
No new films for kids open this Friday which is rare for the Presidents’ Day holiday frame when most schools have Monday off. That means that last weekend’s pair of debuting PG pics will continue to target families. Coraline was a big winner with a $16.8M bow and $7,329 average. Focus should enjoy a strong hold for its 3D fantasy and could decline by 25% to around $12.5M. That would give the stop-motion adventure $33M in ten days.
LAST YEAR: The box office sizzled over the Washington-Lincoln holiday session with four new films opening strong cleaning out the top five. The sci-fi actioner Jumper debuted in the number one spot with $27.4M over three days on its way to $80.2M for Fox. Coming within a hair of each other were the effects-driven fantasy The Spiderwick Chronicles which bowed to $19M and the dance sequel Step Up 2 The Streets opening to $18.9M across the Friday-to-Sunday span. Final grosses reached $71.2M and $58M for Paramount and Buena Vista, respectively. Fool’s Gold dropped from first to fourth with $12.9M while Universal’s Definitely, Maybe premiered in fifth with $9.8M with $32.2M in the bank by the end of the run.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
He’s taking people (in this case, the chick lit crowd) on a journey. In our discussion below, RT chats with Bruckheimer about his Five Favorite Films, many of which were directed by a sort of blockbuster magician of another generation, the celebrated British filmmaker David Lean. All five of his favorites, however, share certain elements that Bruckheimer strives for in his own career — a fortuitous combination of great writing, great visual style, and great casting. (They also share a lot in common with the picks of last week’s Five Favorite Films subject, Djimon Hounsou, to which Bruckheimer quips, “Really? He’s a smart man.”)
Below, Jerry Bruckheimer reminisces on working with Paul Schrader and the late artistic director Ferdinando Scarfiotti, with whom he worked on Cat People and American Gigolo, and compares the plight of Shopaholic‘s indebted heroine to America’s current economic crisis. Intriguingly, Bruckheimer also argues that there is no glass ceiling in Hollywood for female filmmakers today (although Confessions of a Shopaholic is helmed by male director P.J. Hogan). Read on for all this and more with Jerry Bruckheimer.
I’m a big fan of David Lean. Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, and Dr. Zhivago take up three of my favorites. This can go for all three of Lean’s films, because they’re all very similar. They all have very strong characters, very developed characters. He has a unique visual style; it’s very important for the way the movie looks. There are stories about how he’d sit in the desert for half a day, just waiting for the clouds to be right before he’d start filming. You can imagine what a producer would be doing during this. [Smiles] So I love films that have strong visual styles, and all of those films have very unique styles.
The Godfather is another big favorite of mine. It’s a great characterization. Fantastic casting, in every film. I can generalize on all of these favorite films, because they all have the same elements to them. Very strong directors; very strong writers. Robert Bolt wrote most of David Lean’s movies. You have a fantastic screenwriter working at your hand, penning these wonderful characters.
Another masterful director [Martin Scorsese]. Paul Schrader was one of the writers on that, another great writer and director. Casting, again; De Niro is amazing.
Next: Bruckheimer on Paul Schrader, making films to “empower women,” and how he pulls each project together
Jerry Bruckheimer: It’s cute, isn’t it? Not cute, but it’s out there.
It’s visually amazing. There are a number of things you’ve mentioned that seem to resonate, among them Paul Schrader delaying production a few times…do you remember making that movie very well?
JB: That’s right! Ferdinando Scarfiotti was the designer on it; he was just a genius, he really was. He was from Italy, and he comes to America and has a whole different perspective on what he sees. Things that you and I pass by every day that become commonplace, they’re unique to him. It’s so interesting to see things through his eyes, and that’s what that movie was. He also did American Gigolo, which I produced, with Paul Schrader.
I heard there was some lobby to get him a co-director credit because of how much he contributed.
JB: He was a genius, and one of the sweetest men ever. Just an amazing individual.
Now, we’ve got Confessions of a Shopaholic, which at first glance seems like somewhat of a departure for you.
JB: A little bit, but not really. My first [romantic comedy] was 25 years ago, with Flashdance, and then we did Coyote Ugly. But I like to make movies that empower people — especially women — and I think this is a very powerful film. All three of those movies empower women, and take them on a journey. Shopaholic is the journey of this young girl who obviously has problems. She doesn’t like her job, she has a spending problem. And through the course of the movie, through her own conviction and through her own realization, she overcomes her problems, finds something she really likes doing, and finds romance. I think we all look for that. A lot of us have had jobs we hated, or have problems we have to overcome. So I think it’s nice for young kids to see that they can come out of these things.
On the one hand, you see Isla Fisher in Patricia Fields’ fabulous clothes, and on the other you have this story about debt which is really quite timely in today’s economic climate.
JB: It’s so funny how things happen. When we bought this book years ago, the country was flying high. Now we have the same problems that Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher’s character) has. We’ve spent too much, put too much on credit, and now they’ve come to collect and we don’t have the money. We have to take some lessons from Becky.
Could you compare Shopaholic to any of your big action blockbusters, in terms of how you put the pieces together?
JB: I think you try to find the strengths and weaknesses of all the people you work with. If the director’s very visual — like Ridley Scott and Tony Scott, the Scott brothers are both very visual — then it doesn’t matter who the designer or the cinematographer is; it’s really their vision and you just have to have someone who’s very good at executing their vision. But other directors focus on character and story, and they don’t have the desire to have something more brilliant; that’s not their expertise. You have to find the Nando Scarfiottis of the world to come in and design the film. It’s the same thing with the cinematographer. Some directors are trained a different way, and they don’t have the skill and the understanding of what good cinematography is, so you’ll have to get a brilliant cinematographer. It’s all mixing and matching the talents of the people that surround you.
Some writers write great characters and great dialogue, but their storytelling is not as good. In the old Hollywood system, studios used to have writers under contract. Every screenplay went through five different writers. It started with the plotter, the guy who wrote the great plots, then they’d give it to the character person, then they’d it to the punch up dialogue, then they’d give it to the female writer, who bolstered the female characters, then they’d bring in somebody, if it was an action movie, who understood how to write action… it went through all these different hands. That’s why you have all those great movies in the ’30s and ’40s that had brilliant dialogue; they went through so many different typewriters.
Next: Bruckheimer on the best writers in Hollywood, gender politics in Hollywood, and why he selected a man to direct the female-centric Confessions of a Shopaholic
Do you think a similar writing system could work today?
JB: Well, we sort of do it. It’s rare that we have writers like Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, who can actually do everything. The problem is, there may be ten of them in Hollywood, and they’re always busy so you can’t always get them. So you have to find somebody else and nurture them along, or you have to go through a bunch of different computers to get where you have a complete screenplay.
How did you decide on hiring P.J. Hogan (Muriel’s Wedding) to direct Confessions?
JB: You just look at his work. He’s wonderful with female characters, he’s wonderful with comedy, and he’s got a very light touch. He understands physical comedy. He was the perfect choice.
Confessions is poised to become a female-driven blockbuster. It’s a female movie, with a female audience. So why not hire a female director?
JB: I don’t look it as far as gender. I look at it as who’s available at the time, who’s the most talented. These pictures have a very short window in which they can get made, so you try to get a list of people who you think are really talented, and they start getting crossed off one by one because they’re making other movies.
Why do you think there is such a lack of female filmmakers in mainstream movies?
JB: I think that’s changing. I think you saw that when you saw Twilight; [director Catherine Hardwicke] is very talented. There’s a whole group of young women and older women who are directing now, doing very well.
True, but I feel like despite there being a handful of established female directors, like Catherine Hardwicke, even with her success — nobody really knows what happened in the decision making process with the Twilight sequel, New Moon.
JB: From what I’ve read, it seems that most studios want to make movies for less money and she felt that she needed a little more…
Or a little more time —
JB: Well, time is money. [Smiles]
So from what you can tell, Hollywood isn’t terribly unbalanced gender-wise –there’s not a huge uphill battle facing aspiring female filmmakers?
JB: Not at all. Quite the opposite. Historically, they’ll even hire people who have all kinds of problems, as long as they can make money. It’s all about talent.
For a director, do you think it helps or not to be an auteur?
JB: It works either way. It depends on what kind of auteur you are; if you’re a commercial auteur, that’s one thing. If you’re an auteur who makes very personalized movies that people don’t go see, it’s much harder to get work — or to get people to finance your films.
What is your favorite Jerry Bruckheimer film?
JB: I don’t have one — they’re all favorites. They’re all your children.
Confessions of a Shopaholic opens in wide release February 13, 2009. Click here for a full synopsis, photo gallery and trailers. Want more Five Favorite Films? Check out previous installments with Ernest Borgnine, Jean Reno, Danny Boyle, and James Franco.
Variety reports that Joan Cusack and John Goodman have joined Fisher in the cast of Confessions of a Shopaholic, the P.J. Hogan-directed adaptation of the bestselling Sophie Kinsella novel that’s currently filming in New York and Connecticut. From the article:
[The film] centers on a woman who must deal with the stresses of mounting credit card debt while trying to navigate the New York magazine world. Goodman and Cusack will play the parents of Fisher’s character. Hugh Dancy and Krysten Ritter also star.