Renny Harlin

Finnish director Renny Harlin has one of the most schizophrenic CVs in movie-dom. He’s directed some of the most beloved action films of the last 20 years, including Die Hard 2, Deep Blue Sea, The Long Kiss Goodnight and, of course, Cliffhanger (sample dialogue: “I must say, you’re a real piece of work.” “I must say, you’re a real piece of shit.”). His latest, the faintly-ridiculous but always-enjoyable 12 Rounds continues this tradition.

He’s also, however, responsible for two of the most reviled movies of recent times — for notorious flop Cutthroat Island and for taking a hatchet to Paul Schrader‘s The Exorcist: The Beginning. For someone with such a varied back catalogue, we had no idea what his five favourite movies would be.


Renny Harlin

Rosemary's Baby

Rosemary’s Baby

“I would say that one of the most profound memories was when my mother – who was film fanatic and loved thrillers – took me to see Rosemary’s Baby when I was nine years old. The film had a huge impact on me and, of course, scared the shit out me! I certainly wouldn’t take my 10-year-old to see Rosemary’s Baby.

“It is a masterpiece in terms of the way it uses the language of movies and it directed me towards Hitchcock and that kind of visual storytelling, and thrillers in general – or maybe more psychological thrillers. So that was my first and most memorable movie. It was the psychological fear and oddness, the oddness of the characters; I remember I didn’t even understand it all when I first saw it. Visually there were so many things that I hadn’t seen before that have stayed with me.

Click on a thumbnail below.

Rosemary's Baby
Rosemary’s Baby

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
They Shoot Horses

Apocalypse Now
Apocalypse Now

Lawrence of Arabia
Lawrence of Arabia

Cinema Paradiso
Cinema Paradiso


Renny Harlin

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

” I don’t know what it was about that movie that was just incredible. It was something about the storytelling, the characters, and the pace of the movie, the atmosphere of it and the tragic ending that absolutely blew my mind. It made me realise movies could tell stories in a different way. That was the day – when I was 11 years old – when I decided to get involved in movies. It was when I said to myself, “I want to be a director.” It was so powerful to me. It’s really worth seeing; it’s an amazing bleak, beautiful, tragic movie.”

Click on a thumbnail below.

Rosemary's Baby
Rosemary’s Baby

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
They Shoot Horses

Apocalypse Now
Apocalypse Now

Lawrence of Arabia
Lawrence of Arabia

Cinema Paradiso
Cinema Paradiso


Renny Harlin

Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now

“It’s a typical choice maybe. I’m a huge Coppola fan – I’ve seen it many times in many different versions and formats and that movie, to me, is just fantastic storytelling, interesting characters, maybe the best war film I’ve ever seen. You are transported into his incredibly exotic world and it tells the story of something that is based on reality but the director kind of creates his own reality. He constructs this horrible place – his own interpretation of hell and he that makes me believe in it. It’s a movie that I can always watch again and never get tired of, and it always feel like I’m in the presence of a genius magician. I think I prefer the theatrical cut of the movie. The Redux, with the scene with all the French colonialist people, I didn’t feel added much.”


Renny Harlin

Lawrence of Arabia

Lawrence of Arabia

“Another movie that is hugely influential to me and I never get tired of watching it. The cinemascope photography is unbelievable, evolutionary and fantastic. The performances, the production design and the pacing – it’s kind of slow but it draws you into it and it makes you wish there could still be movies like that nowadays. I mean most movies these days are made for teenagers. It’s almost as if people’s brains work differently these days. Maybe its commercials and music videos and videogames and you just want more stimuli at a faster pace. Filmmakers seem to be afraid to trust the audience more. I don’t mean that movies should be slow and boring, but if you have a good enough script you should be able to use the power of the image to tell a story. It’s like if you look at Pixar movies like Wall-E, actually I do think they have a slower pace, there’s such richness in every frame.”

Click on a thumbnail below.

Rosemary's Baby
Rosemary’s Baby

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
They Shoot Horses

Apocalypse Now
Apocalypse Now

Lawrence of Arabia
Lawrence of Arabia

Cinema Paradiso
Cinema Paradiso


Renny Harlin

Cinema Paradiso

Cinema Paradiso

“Despite the kind of movies I make, I love small, little movies. I love foreign films in general, I love to see something that really moves me emotionally, and that moves me to tears. Maybe Cinema Paradiso is a little bit of a cliché, but I’m sure every cinema lover lists it as their favourite movie. There’s something so beautiful about it, I love the milieu of the little town and this boy’s story and what the whole thing says about how lives go and about our dreams and memories. When he grows up and goes to the movie theatre and sees all the bits that the priest cut out and it reminds him of his childhood… Cinema doesn’t get more beautiful. The whole film is about the incredible nostalgia of movies in general.”


This week at the movies, we’ve got a war of the worlds (Monsters Vs. Aliens, with voice work by Reese Witherspoon and Seth Rogen), a demonic abode (The Haunting in Connecticut, starring Virginia Madsen and Martin Donovan), and a royal rumble (12 Rounds, starring John Cena). What do the critics have to say?



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Monsters vs. Aliens

Monsters vs. Aliens pays loving homage to B-grade 1950s monster movies, utilizing state-of-the- art 3-D CG animation and a crack voice cast. And critics say it’s rousing, wry, and technically impressive. When Susan Murphy (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) is hit by a meteor on the way to her wedding, it causes her to grow nearly 50 feet tall; she’s ostracized by society, but it turns out that she and her fellow monsters may be the only ones that can save earth from an alien invasion. The pundits say Monsters vs. Aliens is often more whiz-bang than emotionally resonant, and many of the gags will probably soar over the wee ones’ heads. However, those may be small prices to pay for a film of such remarkable visual invention and good humor. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we rank every DreamWorks animated film by Tomatometer, and be sure to take our our DreamWorks Cartoon Challenge.)



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The Haunting in Connecticut

The Haunting in Connecticut is allegedly based on a true story. However, most critics feel this New England-set supernatural thriller has more in common with other haunted house flicks like The Amityville Horror than real-life supernatural occurrences. Virginia Madsen and Martin Donovan star as a couple who move to the Nutmeg State only to find the nice old Victorian they’ve just purchased was once a funeral home, and it’s haunted by a demonic presence that only avails itself to the couple’s teenage son. Bedeviling ensues, along with creaking floorboards and (presumably) bad caulking. The pundits say The Haunting in Connecticut has some effectively spooky atmospherics, but ultimately it’s mechanical and cliched.



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12 Rounds

It appears the folks behind 12 Rounds were afraid their film would receive a critical beatdown, since it wasn’t screened prior to release. Renny Harlin directs WWE superstar John Cena, who plays a cop in the midst of a cat-and-mouse game with a terrorist who has kidnapped his girlfriend. Kids, take a break from your study of Thuganomics and guess that Tomatometer!


Also opening this week in limited release:

  • Ramin Bahrani‘s Goodbye Solo, about the strange relationship between a Senegalese cab driver and a gruff old southerner, is at 100 percent.
  • Shall We Kiss?, a Woody Allen-esque French romantic comedy about the implications of a single kiss on a multitude of characters, is at 80 percent.
  • Guest of Cindy Sherman, a documentary about the failed relationship between the art star and her public access cable host beau, is at 70 percent.
  • Fred Durst‘s The Education of Charlie Banks, starring Jesse Eisenberg in a tale of coming of age in 1970s New York, is at 50 percent.
  • The Czech import The Country Teacher, about a closeted science teacher and his relationship with a local family, is at 40 percent.
  • American Swing, a documentary on the 1970s heyday of the notorious sex club Plato’s Retreat, is at 33 percent.
  • Spinning into Butter, a drama about racial tensions at an elite Vermont college starring Sarah Jessica Parker, is at 27 percent.

Ginormica and her mutant pals look to seize control of the North American box office with the animated 3D adventure Monsters vs. Aliens which will try to overtake a group of not-always-fully-dressed superheroes for the biggest opening weekend of 2009. Two other new releases also hit the multiplexes on Friday, the spooky horror flick The Haunting in Connecticut and the cop actioner 12 Rounds, but will attract much smaller numbers. The overall marketplace is set to crush year-ago numbers putting an end to the back-to-back down weekends the industry just experienced.

DreamWorks Animation puts a lot on the line with Monsters vs. Aliens and is looking for a big response from audiences this weekend. The PG-rated pic is the first 3D foray for the studio which will make all future toons in the format as well. Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Kiefer Sutherland, and Stephen Colbert lead the voice cast in the story of government-imprisoned monsters that are released in order to defend America from an alien invasion. DreamWorks has always had the right formula for toon success. Since Shrek, the company has steered clear of dramas focusing instead on comedic stories paired with big stars known for their funny fare. Monsters is no different as it packs lots of laughs, gripping action, and is peppered with numerous familiar voices from actors people love. And what an easy paycheck for them!

But what the studio and distribution partner Paramount are really looking for is a boost at the box office because of the 3D experience. We’ve already seen solid performances this year from the kidpic Coraline and the horror film My Bloody Valentine 3D which have used the format, and the higher ticket prices, to collect better-than-expected grosses. Monsters has been eventized enough that families are likely to pay the extra $3 or so per ticket for an experience that can’t be duplicated at home. Paramount’s official theater count is 4,104 which is normal for A-list animated films from DreamWorks and Pixar these days. Of the roughly 7,000 total screens being booked for the pic, about 2,000 will feature 3D with the balance showing the standard 2D version at regular ticket prices. But the per-theater average from the 3D locations will tower over the 2D average.

The marketing has been top-notch and the expensive Super Bowl stunt certainly helped in putting the film on the map and making audiences realize that this would be an event not to miss out on. Appeal may be solid outside of the core audience of families too as teens and young adults should contribute a nice bundle of cash. Reviews have been generally upbeat so that may help a bit as well. With only one other toon released this year, and kidpics like The Pink Panther 2 and Jonas Brothers failing to make a big impact, the target audience is ready to go out and give Monsters vs. Aliens a try. A debut of about $60M over the Friday-to-Sunday period may result.


Monsters vs. Aliens

For those looking for real spooky thrills and not cartoon ghouls, Lionsgate rolls out its supernatural thriller The Haunting in Connecticut. The PG-13 film tells of a family that moves into a house that was previously a mortuary with a dark past. Teens, young adults, and horror buffs will make up the audience here and a female skew is likely as is usually the case for the more tame fright pics out there. Teenage girls don’t have much out there for them right now and if Reese doesn’t pull them in with her cartoon alter ego, then Haunting could do well with that demo. Lionsgate knows how to sell these types of films and using the ‘based on a true story’ tag in the marketing materials is the smart way to go. Plus the boy puking up a ghost in ads certainly generates intrigue. A trim 92-minute running time will help as will the number of multiplexes double-screening it. Creeping into 2,732 theaters on Friday, The Haunting in Connecticut could take in roughly $14M this weekend.


The Haunting in Connecticut

Yet another revenge thriller makes its way into theaters, this time with John Cena in the lead in 12 Rounds. The PG-13 actioner finds the wrestler/actor playing a detective taunted by a criminal he put away who wants vengeance for the death of his girlfriend. Young males are the only ones who will take interest here as the Fox release hopes to tap into the built-in audience provided by World Wrestling Entertainment which also co-produced the pic. WWE has struggled to find success at the box office with its recent stable of grapplers with Cena’s The Marine opening to $7.1M, See No Evil starring Kane debuting to $4.6M, and Steve Austin‘s The Condemned launching with only $3.8M. 12 may grab some business from its core target, but don’t expect much beyond that as overall buzz is not strong. Landing in more than 2,200 locations, 12 Rounds could debut with about $6M this weekend.


John Cena in 12 Rounds

Nicolas Cage may have a way of predicting impending doom, but he won’t be able to stop the fist fight between monsters and aliens this weekend. The actor’s sci-fi thriller Knowing should drop by about half in the second frame and fall down to roughly $12M giving Summit a solid $43M tally after ten days. Paramount enjoyed a good start for its buddy comedy I Love You, Man. Sophomore drops last year for Paul Rudd‘s Role Models and Jason Segal‘s Forgetting Sarah Marshall were 42% and 38%, respectively and this latest R-rated comic offering may get into the same neighborhood. There will be some competition from new releases, but it shouldn’t be too direct. A 40% decline would leave Man with around $10.5M and a ten-day cume of $34M.

Duplicity‘s audience of adult women should help give the Julia Roberts pic a decent hold since that crowd is not known to rush out on opening weekend for a non-brand name film. Competition from new titles is not direct, however MvA will certainly take a lot of moms out of the picture. Look for a 40% drop to about $8.5M and a total of $26M in ten days for Universal. Disney’s family film Race to Witch Mountain should fall by 40% to approximately $7M and lift the cume to $54M after 17 days.

LAST YEAR: Kevin Spacey and his college pupils landed in first with the gambling drama 21 which bowed to $24.1M. Sony’s unlikely hit topped the charts for two weeks and went on to gross an impressive $81.2M domestically and $158M worldwide. The animated blockbuster Horton Hears a Who dropped by only 28% in its third session and ranked second with $17.7M. The spoof comedy Superhero Movie opened in third with only $9.5M on its way to just $25.9M for MGM. Tyler Perry‘s comedy Meet the Browns tumbled 63% in its second weekend to $7.5M and Owen Wilson‘s Drillbit Taylor fell 45% in its sophomore round to $5.7M rounding out the top five. Debuting in eighth with just $4.6M was the soldier drama Stop-Loss which ended with a mere $10.9M for Paramount.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

With 12 Rounds hitting theaters, wrestler turned actor John Cena stopped by Current TV’s Rotten Tomatoes Show to share his favorite films.


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