This week at the movies, we’ve got bare-knuckle bouts (Fighting, starring Channing Tatum and Terrence Howard), the wonders of nature (Earth, narrated by James Earl Jones), a musical friendship (The Soloist, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx), and some office intrigue (Obsessed, starring Idris Elba and Beyonce Knowles). What do the critics have to say?
Look, you pretty much know what you’re getting into with a movie called Fighting: lots of tough-as-nails dudes beating the stuffing out of each other. And the pundits say that while director Dito Montiel does his best to infuse interesting characterization and a sense of place, Fighting is still a shopworn underdog sports movie. Channing Tatum stars as a kid who’s just arrived in New York City from Alabama; after attempting to make a living on the streets, he falls in with a sketchy character (Terrence Howard) who realizes he may be a natural fit for the world of underground bare-knuckle brawls. The pundits say Fighting is a bit better than its setup would suggest, with a good deal of energy and a dash of gritty authenticity. However, others say the performances are a mixed bag and the script is ultimately weighted down by clichés. (Check out Terrence Howard’s Five Favorite Films.)
The popular award-winning BBC series Planet Earth offered some staggeringly beautiful images of life around the globe. If the small screen version was too limited to contain such visual majesty, now comes its multiplex companion: Earth, which critics say is a remarkable document with a timely message. Narrated by (who else?) James Earl Jones, Earth focuses on three mother/child relationships in the animal kingdom, following the exploits of polar bears, humpback whales, and African elephants. The pundits say Earth doesn’t offer a ton of insight, but the images on display are so gorgeous that viewers are unlikely to quibble too much. Plus, it invites audiences to reflect upon our place in the larger ecosystem. Earth is Certified Fresh.
The Soloist tells an inspiring true story, and its stars and director are Oscar nominees. But distinguished pedigree does not a movie make, and critics say The Soloist is too uneven to fully resonate. Robert Downey Jr. stars as Steve Lopez, an LA Times reporter who befriends, and writes movingly about, a homeless, profoundly mentally ill man named Nathaniel Ayers, who was once a virtuoso cellist. The pundits say all the elements are here for a moving tale, and Downey and Foxx give it everything they’ve got; unfortunately, that’s not enough to overcome the film’s lack of focus and maudlin stretches. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Downey’s best-reviewed films, and find out director Joe Wright’s Five Favorite Films).
It appears the folks behind Obsessed were dubious that critics would be, ahem, obsessed with their film. Hence, it wasn’t screened prior to its release. The movie stars Idris Elba as a successful asset manager who’s happily married — to Beyonce, no less — before an attractive, brazen office temp (Ali Larter) threatens to bring his world crashing down. Kids, it’s time to guess that Tomatometer!
Also opening this week in limited release:
Finally, props to Brendan C. for correctly guessing Crank High Voltage‘s 63 percent Tomatometer.
While he’s become best known for portraying a red, horned antihero in Guillermo del Toro‘s popular comic book adaptations Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Ron Perlman has long been a favorite character actor among fantasy and science fiction fans thanks to his work in films like Quest for Fire, The City of Lost Children, Cronos, and Blade II. This week, the classically-trained actor (who is between seasons on his critically acclaimed FX series, Sons of Anarchy) stars in Mutant Chronicles as Brother Samuel, a monk dedicated to guarding a set of scriptures that predict the coming of an ancient enemy.
Rotten Tomatoes talked with Perlman about his favorite movies and directors, whose films he watches when he’s having a rough day, and his remembrances of working alongside one of his idols, Marlon Brando.
The two films that have to be tied for first — and this is probably a hackneyed answer, but it is the way it is — are The Godfather, Part 1 and Citizen Kane. The Godfather is a perfect film. There is not one shot out of place, there’s not one performance that’s not the best thing that actor has ever done. There is not one thing about the film, visually, that’s not mind-bogglingly beautiful and elegant and astounding. And it shines a light perfectly on its subject matter.
I think that there’s a gravitas, because of the presence of Marlon Brando, in the first film, that elevates it [as opposed to The Godfather, Part 2]. Not to say that the second and third films aren’t great films also, but when you have something as historically important as the performance that Brando gives as Vito Corleone, as the kind of central fulcrum point, then it goes into a class all by itself. He achieved that three times in his career, as far as I’m concerned. One was On the Waterfront. One was A Streetcar Named Desire. And one was The Godfather. And although he was the prevailing genius of the day, on those three occasions he just elevated phenomenally brilliant films into a place that became uncategorizable. How did he do that? It’s so ethereal, and so indescribable, that you could try to analyze it from now until the end of time and you couldn’t begin to put your finger on it. That was an otherworldly gift, that he had.
Citizen Kane (1941, 100%) is tied for first with The Godfather. It just has to be, it’s such an amazing achievement.
I don’t think I would name films as much as I would name filmmakers. You have to have a Frank Capra movie, you’d have to have a John Ford movie, and you’d have to have a Steven Spielberg movie in there. And then as a specific film, Pan’s Labyrinth would have to be in my Top Five. Because what Gabriel García Márquez was to fiction, that movie is to cinema. It’s magical realism, and it’s something that can only exist cinematically. It cannot be confused with any other medium. That makes it the perfect film. It’s also unlike anything you’ve ever seen before or will see again, it’s completely unique and not derivative, and it’s brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Setting fascist Spain — or fascist anything, for that matter –against this fantasy world created by this perfect, pristine, beautiful, pure girl.
He identified in a way that was so joyously American; an innocence and a humanism. Just a beautiful heart, that he had, and was able to put into his work. Adding screwball comedy elements to it, but at the center of which were these important thoughts about how lucky we are to be alive. He was able to do that in ways that are cinematic and entertaining as well. And eliciting these performances — like Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939, 96%) and Gary Cooper in Meet John Doe (1941, 92%), Cary Grant and everybody else involved in Arsenic and Old Lace (1944, 90%)…
I’d have to have a John Ford movie; there are four or five movies of his that are tied in my book. He added a secular audience involvement in what was the beauty of cinema. In other words, he was the first guy that I think made movies live up to the potential of what they could be, and continued to do so throughout his career. He was able to be, to me, the most profoundly humanistic bridge between the potential of cinema and how it relates to the human condition. (Pictured: 1940’s The Grapes of Wrath, 100%)
He has to be in the discussion. He made one masterpiece after another, and you can’t even pick which is the best. What are you going to say, that Close Encounters (1977, 95%) was better than E.T. (1982, 98%), was better than Raiders of the Lost Ark (1982, 94%)? You just can’t do it. You can’t do it with Ford, and you can’t do it with Capra either.
Next: Why Ron Perlman would love “another crack” at his one-time co-star and idol, Marlon Brando, and what films he takes on the road to cure his bad days
You once worked with Marlon Brando, on The Island of Dr. Moreau. What was that like?
Ron Perlman: I did work with him. The film I worked with him on does not fit into the category that we are grappling with at this moment in time [laughs], but it was amazing just to be in his presence.
Did you ever talk to him about how much you admired his career?
RP: He had two rules: You could talk to him about anything under the sun, except movies, and except the movie you were working with him on. Movies meaning acting; he refused to talk about acting to anyone. And if you happened to not know those rules going in, you know… that was going to be pretty much the last conversation you had with him. But he was a really cool dude, a very warm, friendly guy. He just didn’t want to talk about acting or the movie you were working on, almost like, “Hey, I don’t know how this stuff happens and I don’t even want to discuss it.” He was a magician; he was a Merlin. But he didn’t want to open it up for discussion, even with himself. It was just a magical thing.
How do you feel about talking about your own craft?
RP: I’m more eager to talk about my craft than he was, but you know, I don’t compare myself to him at all. I don’t compare anybody to him. He occupied a place that is — I don’t know if I would say unachievable — but we haven’t seen anything like him before or since.
I’d love another crack at him, but you know… he loved, loved to laugh. The only time I had a really, really good day with Brando on the set was, I happened to be pretty funny one day and I got him going. From that point on, there was a kind of new gleam in his eye. But the first three or four days I was on set with him, I was so intimidated and so nervous that I was a complete asshole. And he never got to see the more relaxed, easy-going version of me, which I really regret. Which is why I’d love to have another crack at him now, but… it is what it is, and I thank God that I even got to be in his presence, just for a moment.
What other actors or filmmakers did you idolize when you were younger?
RP: Gary Cooper. Errol Flynn. I think my number one guy, if you asked me, “Ron, we’re sentencing you to a month in your living room and you have to only watch one actor’s work,” it would be Cary Grant. I think he was the most entertaining, well-rounded, elegant gift to cinema that ever existed. Because his body of work is mind-boggling. He hit all the bases. To be able to have the same guy be the buffoon in Arsenic and Old Lace, and also the most sophisticated thing you’ve ever seen in Hitchcock movies like North by Northwest… he was fearless in his work. Fearless. There was nothing he was afraid to do or try. He had this elegance and handsomeness that’s also undescribable. You can’t put your finger on what made Cary Grant Cary Grant, you’re just thrilled that he existed.
Monty Clift, Paul Newman, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Gene Hackman. I carry around with me a couple of those CD carriers with movies wherever I go in the world, and that’s my kind of guilty pleasure — watching those guys’ work whenever I’m depressed and just got the s*** beat out of me on the set that day. I just go home and turn on one of those movies, and I’m all well again.
Watch Ron Perlman, Thomas Jane, and John Malkovich in Mutant Chronicles, which opens this Friday in select cities and is available now on Video on Demand. Get the latest reviews and trailers here and check out more Five Favorite Films in our archive, including:
Are you in the L.A. area and dying to meet your favorite masters of horror, science fiction, film, and television? Then the L.A. Convention Center is where you’ll want to be this weekend (April 17-20) for the 24th annual Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors — otherwise known as Fango Con — to preview the latest indie and studio horror flicks, see legendary casts reunite, and meet filmmakers like Sam Raimi, Ron Perlman, Tobe Hooper, Herschell Gordon Lewis, Jordan Ladd, and Sybil Danning. See how you can attend and get the full line-up (which , ahem, includes a live performance by Corey Haim) below.
Los Angeles is ground zero for hardcore horror and sci-fi fans this weekend, since the folks behind Fangoria’s 24th Weekend of Horrors have pulled together some of the biggest (and most legendary) names to grace the genre.
Festivities kick off today (Friday) at 2pm with previews of upcoming films, including the Donnie Darko “sequel” S. Darko, before Sam Raimi and Justin Long take the stage to introduce their May thriller, Drag Me To Hell (pictured above). Fans of classic exploitation cinema will get a real treat when the Godfather of Gore himself, Herschell Gordon Lewis (Blood Feast, Two Thousand Maniacs, The Wizard of Gore) arrives to show footage of his latest film and sign autographs. (The man is 82 years old, for goodness sake!) A “Shock ‘n Roll Fashion Show” caps the night, with a special performance by Lost Boys singer G Tom Mac featuring Corey Haim.
Saturday’s lineup includes more previews (Night of the Demons, Fading of the Cries featuring Thomas Ian Nicholas, Laid to Rest featuring Sarah Connor Chronicles‘ Thomas Dekker, and The Mutant Chronicles featuring Ron Perlman, pictured above) and a few highly anticipated events. For giallo fans, the Masters of Italian Horror panel will be a must-see, as it brings together Ruggero Deodato (Cannibal Holocaust), Lamberto Bava (Demons), and more to discuss the recently repopularized genre. Clive Barker fans will be treated to a Hellraiser cast reunion, a horror-writing seminar given by Barker himself, and a preview of the upcoming film adaptation of Barker’s Book of Blood.
(If you’re undead-inclined, join Fango Con’s Zombie Walk on Saturday and help them limp and stagger their way towards breaking the world record. “No eating of REAL brains or body parts permitted.” And of course, come in costume to take a stab at the $1000 cash prize.)
Sunday is highlighted by cast and crew reunions for the original Last House on the Left, Darren Bousman‘s recent Repo! The Genetic Opera (pictured above), and the first two Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies. Directors Patrick Lussier (My Bloody Valentine 3D), Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist), and Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman will give lectures and sign autographs, along with former WWF wrestler-turned-actor Roddy Piper. Lastly, be sure to check out the Horror on the Web Panel, in which your favorite writers from Fangoria, Dread Central, Icons of Fright, Arrow in the Head, and FearNet will be on hand.
For more detailed information, visit the official Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors website.