(Photo by Universal/courtesy Everett Collection. Thumbnail image: Sony Pictures, Warner Bros./courtesy Everett Collection.)
If we had known that The Rock was indeed cooking a biggest-star-in-the-world movie career, we would’ve stuck our noses up in there a lot sooner. Yes, we would have sniffed up those early stinkers Doom and Be Cool, because at least nestled somewhere in there was The Rundown, which featured peak Seann William Scott and a cameo from Arnold Schwarzenegger passing the action torch to this upstart, the man who would be Dwayne Johnson. And indeed Johnson was the action man of the mid-aughts, tacking on the likes of Walking Tall to his brawny resume. And like his action forebears, he made a curve into family comedy, releasing The Game Plan, The Tooth Fairy, and Race to Witch Mountain to the delight, we assume, of some people. On a scale between Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot to Kindergarten Cop, we rate Johnson’s comedy career detour Top Dog.
But things turned around in 2010. That’s the year he jumped face first off a building into the pavement. And thus was born a new action/comedy classic: The Other Guys. Meanwhile, ’70s-style throwback Faster showed a leaner, meaner Johnson back in a hard-hitting groove. He was invited into the Fast & Furious family, helping turn Fast Five into the franchise’s first Certified Fresh entry and a global phenomenon. San Andreas, Rampage, and Skyscraper turned him into the master of disaster, while Moana and Fighting With My Family, which he also produced, are among his highest-rated movies.
Central Intelligence was the first collaboration Johnson had with Kevin Hart, which was merely the opening for the main course: Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, the unlikely reboot-sequel that connected with audiences and critics worldwide. He, Hart, Jack Black, and Karen Gillan all came back for Jumanji: The Next Level, and we’re taking a look back on all of Dwayne Johnson’s movies ranked by Tomatometer!
A Wrinkle in Time, adaptation of the Madeleine L’engle kids fantasy novel and Ava DuVernay’s sojourn into $100 million filmmaking, isn’t getting the best reviews. As the score settles in the lower-40s, Wrinkle would place somewhere in the middle of this week’s gallery: the 24 worst children’s book adaptations, each rated PG and ranked by Tomatometer.
From the football field to the professional wrestling arena to the big screen, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has dominated every field he’s entered — and with his latest action outing, Brett Ratner’s Hercules, flexing its way into cineplexes this weekend, we figured now would be a pretty good time to honor that success by taking a fond look back at what he’s been cooking at theaters since breaking into the movie business. Oil up those pecs, because it’s time for Total Recall!
When Dwayne Johnson moved out of the wrestling ring and into family-friendly filmmaking, many of the roles available to him tended toward the excessively kiddie end of the spectrum, a la 2010’s Tooth Fairy. But at least in terms of its outline, 2006’s Gridiron Gang would seem to have offered the best of both worlds — a wholesomely uplifting drama about a tough-as-nails probation officer who lifts L.A. kids out of their lives of juvie crime by offering them a strong example of positive male leadership. Alas, most critics felt that this Gang didn’t flash enough of the right signs during its time on the screen; although few writers argued against the movie’s undeniably admirable aims, they felt screenwriter Jeff Maguire’s script did a poor job of bringing dramatic life to a real-life situation that deserved more depth. Still, for some scribes, the ends justified the means; as Claudia Puig wrote for USA Today, “Gridiron entertains and makes a powerful point about the faults inherent in the penal system, particularly for youths with hopes of rehabilitation.”
As acting gigs go, the prospect of taking over the reins of an effects-driven franchise from Brendan Fraser probably don’t rank high on many movie stars’ wish lists — but after Journey to the Center of the Earth made more than $240 million in 2008, a sequel was pretty much a foregone conclusion, and by securing the services of Johnson and Vanessa Hudgens to round out the cast with returning young lead Josh Hutcherson, the producers of Journey 2: The Mysterious Island probably felt like they had the makings of an all-ages blockbuster waiting to happen. In financial terms, they were right — Journey 2 broke the $300 million mark — but critically speaking, the results proved a letdown, with many writers questioning the clunky mishmash of dopey plotting and Hudgens cleavage shots. For others, though, those were minor missteps worth looking past to see a good old-fashioned adventure; Beliefnet’s Nell Minow, for example, called it “A well-paced and highly entertaining family film made with good humor, panache, and imagination.”
Dwayne Johnson against Billy Bob Thornton in an action thriller about an ex-con out to avenge his brother’s death while on the lam from an aging lawman and psychotic hitman? By all rights, 2010’s Faster should have been exactly the sort of out-and-out smash that makes absolutely no bones about playing squarely to each of its participants’ strengths — especially given that it saw Johnson’s return to R-rated action after an uneven stretch of family-friendly fare. Sadly, most critics felt Faster failed to live up to its title, and audiences seemed to agree, sending the film to an ignominious $35 million total at the box office. Once again, however, our star’s work was singled out as a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing movie: “Johnson’s performance is one of seething rage camouflaging emotional scars as ugly as the physical ones,” wrote Gary Dowell of the Dallas Morning News, calling Johnson’s Driver “a grim, single-minded figure straight out of a Jim Thompson or Richard Stark novel.”
For viewers of a certain age, Disney’s Witch Mountain movies — adapted from Alexander Key’s classic novels — rank among the studio’s better live-action efforts, although it would be hard to argue the notion that the films’ acting and/or special effects offered room for improvement. So when director Andy Fickman took the helm for a franchise reboot in 2009, with Johnson attached to play a cab driver who ends up acting as reluctant protector for a pair of mysterious kids (AnnaSophia Robb and Alexander Ludwig) on the run from a cruel Defense Department goon (Ciarán Hinds), it didn’t seem altogether out of the question that they might produce compelling results. Unfortunately, Race to Witch Mountain wasn’t quite the sequel-starter the studio seemed to be hoping for; although it did decent business, racking up more than $145 million in worldwide grosses, many critics were let down by the movie’s lack of depth and reluctance to explore the poignant, intelligent themes in Key’s books. As tends to be the case with even his worst-reviewed films, however, Johnson earned praise for his charismatic performance. “The star of this movie universe is undeniably Dwayne. His cinematic charisma is as big as his biceps,” wrote Film.com’s Christine Champ. “Hard and soft in all the right spots, he’s a badass hero with heart, armed with world-weary one-liners and wicked comic timing.”
Michael Bay movies are frequently derided for their general insensitivity — to character development, to all notions of filmmaking subtlety, to the art of storytelling, to viewers’ eardrums — but if ever a movie seemed like it might call for that treatment, it should have been Pain & Gain, which adapts the true-life story of a group of Miami gym rats (Johnson, Mark Wahlberg, and Anthony Mackie) whose thirst for wealth leads them to make a series of spectacularly ill-advised decisions, including kidnapping, theft, and murder. Unfortunately, Bay’s insensitivity hampered him here, too; in the eyes of many critics, his decision to treat the story as a sort of gaudy action comedy felt wrong, given that it’s a movie about horrible things that happened to real people. Set that aside, however, and you might just enjoy Pain & Gain on its own merits: “Might this be the best Michael Bay film ever?” asked Tara Brady for the Irish Times. “We know what you’re thinking. But we mean it in a good way.”
By 2008, Steve Carell’s work as Michael Scott on NBC’s The Office had elevated him to the ranks of comedy’s preeminent doofuses, so he was a natural choice to step into Don Adams’ hallowed shoe phones when Warner Bros. decided to put together a modernized film adaptation of the classic 1960s TV spy comedy Get Smart. Alas, in spite of Carell’s suitably bumbling turn as clueless spy Maxwell Smart — and the presence of a strong supporting cast that included Alan Arkin as Smart’s exasperated chief, Anne Hathaway as the inexplicably amorous Agent 99, and Dwayne Johnson as the impossibly smooth Agent 23 — Smart left many critics cold. For others, the key to enjoyment was lowered expectations; as Susan Tavernetti argued for Palo Alto Weekly, “You’ll have a better time if you don’t expect this re-imagined work to resemble the original. The phone shoe does fit Carell, and he wears it well.”
It’s got a one-word title and a tough-lookin’ Dwayne Johnson behind the wheel of a truck, but Snitch isn’t your average Rock action thriller. Directed by Ric Roman Waugh, it’s actually something of a message movie, starring Johnson as the anguished father of a boy (Rafi Gavron) whose trumped-up drug-dealing charges could send him to prison for at least 10 years — unless Dad follows through on a hastily struck deal with the US Attorney’s office, the terms of which require him to infiltrate a local drug kingpin with no support from law enforcement. With Johnson in the lead, the temptation to turn Snitch into a typically overdriven action flick had to have been high, and it’s to Waugh’s credit that he actually practices a modicum of restraint; unfortunately, many critics felt that left the movie stranded in a rather dull no-man’s-land between thoughtful drama and brainless thrills. Still, it wasn’t without its admirers; as Tom Russo wrote for the Boston Globe, “Nobody is going to confuse a Dwayne Johnson movie with Les Misérables. But Snitch gets a decent amount of drama (and action, of course) out of the argument that there’s paying for a crime, and then there’s overpaying.”
Retooled into an action franchise that just happened to include lots of cars, the Fast & Furious series roared into its sixth installment with a lot more momentum than most similarly persistent film properties, and although the reviews for Fast & Furious 6 weren’t quite as kind as they’d been for Fast Five, critics were still generally on board for another round of Johnson, Vin Diesel, and Paul Walker wreaking extralegal mayhem in order to bring down a truly nasty bad guy. The heavy this time around is Shaw (Luke Evans), whose nefarious plot stretches beyond your average multi-national criminal ring; in fact, he’s gone and — you guessed it — made things personal for our heroes. “Some of the action sequences are insane,” enthused the Denver Post’s Lisa Kennedy. “No, really. Absurd, impossible, physics defying, triage-required stuff. No matter. That’s the foolish rush of a franchise that must go faster and faster and furiouser and furiouser.”
It’s a formula as old as film: Take a big, strong guy, give him a more averagely built comedic foil, and stand back while the laff-a-minute hijinks fly. Kind of a cheap cinematic trick, but one that still tends to work pretty well; why, just take a look at The Rundown, which throws Johnson and Seann William Scott together in an action caper about a retiring bounty hunter (Johnson) who’s wheedled into hunting down his boss’s twerpy wayward son (Scott) in a Brazilian rainforest where he’s managed to tick off an unscrupulous mining kingpin (Christopher Walken) while pursuing some treasure. It’s the kind of movie that delivers the expected beats at the expected moments, but thrives on the charisma of its stars; as James Berardinelli wrote for ReelViews, “The Rundown offers everything a good movie of this sort should: plenty of suspenseful action, a few good laughs, and a share of obligatory ‘reluctant buddy’ bonding.”
The Fast and the Furious franchise seemed to be petering out after 2006’s Tokyo Drift, but things got back on track with 2009’s The Fast and the Furious — which in turn set up 2011’s Fast Five, the fifth installment that turned the series into the sequel-churning heist thriller factory it’s become. Aside from jump-starting FF‘s creative prospects, Five also gave Johnson the part he may have been born to play: government agent Luke Hobbs, the bounty hunter-turned-U.S. Marshal who goes bicep-for-bicep against series mainstays Vin Diesel and Paul Walker. This time around, even critics — who’d always been notoriously recalcitrant where the Fast and Furious movies were concerned — climbed on board, including Connie Ogle of the Miami Herald, who applauded it as “Embarrassingly fun, the sort of speedy, senseless, violence-crammed action flick that virtually defines the summer season, with superheroes who aren’t gods or crusaders in tights but guys in T-shirts and jeans who can drive cars really fast.”
In case you were wondering, here are Johnson’s top 10 movies according RT users’ scores:
1. Fast & Furious — 84%
2. Gridiron Gang — 82%
3. Fast Five — 82%
4. The Game Plan — 70%
5. Get Smart — 67%
6. The Rundown — 67%
7. Snitch — 62%
8. Walking Tall — 61%
9. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island — 60%
10. G.I. Joe: Retaliation — 49%
Finally, here’s Mr. Johnson’s famous catch phrase:
We know it’s shaping up to be quite a disappointing week for DVD, but we
promise at least a little light at the end of the tunnel. If fantasy is your
thing, you’ve got the latest family flick from the artist formerly known as The
Rock (Race to Witch Mountain), an otherworldly animated flop (Delgo),
and Thomas Jane’s strange sci-fi actioner based on a role-playing game (Mutant
Chronicles). Joe Wright delivers an Oscar would-be (The Soloist,
starring Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr.) while the likes of Sienna Miller,
Peter Sarsgaard, Forest Whitaker, Dakota Fanning and others languish in
poorly-reviewed indie pics (The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Fragments).
Only Blu-ray owners truly have something to celebrate (Big Trouble in Little
China on Blu-ray)! Read on for more.
matter how gosh darn charismatic Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is, even his bemused,
enthusiastic performance couldn’t save this Disney kids’ adventure. The biggest
reason for this, of course, is that we didn’t need another Witch Mountain
flick — the 1975 Escape From Witch Mountain is a classic in its own
right, thank you very much — and director Andy Fickman (The Game Plan,
She’s the Man) attempts to “update” the reboot by borrowing liberally from
EVERY OTHER SCI-FI FILM ever made. The story begins as two alien children (AnnaSophia
Robb and Alexander Ludwig) convince an ex-con taxi driver (Johnson) to help them
find an alien doohickey they need to save their home planet. A handful of
drawn-out chase scenes later, they’ve been joined by Carla Gugino’s lady
scientist and are on the run from not only the sinister US government, but a
Predator–Terminator knock off space hunter. DVD extras are sparse,
though the “Which Mountain?” Blu-ray only feature allows Fickman to walk us
through the subtle references to the first Witch Mountain flicks,
demonstrating that he apparently did watch them before deviating so far from
what made them, you know, good?
Next: A very special movie from Jamie Foxx and Robert Downey Jr.
first sign of trouble came when The Soloist was pushed from November to
March. Directed by hot Brit helmer Joe Wright (whose last two films,
Atonement and Pride & Prejudice, earned multiple award nominations
and one Academy Award), the true story of a schizophrenic classical musician
(Jamie Foxx) and his friendship with a reporter (Robert Downey Jr.) was
originally destined for an Oscar push, so it came as a shock to many when
Paramount’s release date change essentially took it (and its players) out of the
Oscar race altogether. Turns out the move was warranted, according to critics,
who gave the drama less-than-Fresh marks for unfocused, pedestrian direction.
Deleted scenes, a handful of featurettes, and a commentary by Wright
nevertheless supplement the film (watch it on Blu-ray for its impressive
Next: Get Obsessed with Beyonce Knowles and Ali Larter
Obsessed — 18%
Fatal Attraction, only with Beyonce Knowles and Ali Larter, and you might
imagine why critics gave the collective thumbs down to Obsessed. Idris
Elba stars as the luckiest man alive — with Beyonce as his wife, and Larter as
his hot office temp — until Larter goes insane with obsessive lust for him. I
mean, does that suck, or what? Predictably (and, worse — PG-13), Obsessed
is the latest DVD release that you can skip with absolute confidence. We
won’t bother you with the bonus feature details, although one is entitled, “Girl
Fight!” so you know they’ve stayed classy.
Next: The last stop for infamous animated bomb, Delgo
know what you’re thinking; how could an independently-produced CG animated film
blending Tolkienesque mythology with Eastern philosophy, featuring the voices of
Freddie Prinze Jr. and Jennifer Love Hewitt as anthropomorphized dinosaur man
and a butterfly winged-creature, respectively, ever tank at the box office? We
don’t know either, but somehow, this $40 million flick earned just $511K its
opening weekend. If you choose to take pity on this indie animated adventure
(which also features the voices of Chris Kattan, Val Kilmer, Louis Gossett Jr.,
Anne Bancroft, and Burt Reynolds), at least you’ll have an extensive bonus menu
to watch — behind-the-scenes features, filmmaker commentary, creature guides,
deleted scenes, and more are included.
Next: Short Cuts. Er, I mean, Fragments
Fragments — 64%
Australian director Rowan Woods (Little Fish) had a unique outsider spin
to lend to Fragments (originally titled Winged Creatures from the
book on which it’s based), it unfortunately wasn’t evident to critics, who say
that Fragments is very much like many other LA-set dramas about random
strangers “crashing” into each other. Nevertheless, the film’s impressive cast
is not to be slighted; it includes Oscar-winning actors Forest Whitaker and
Jennifer Hudson, Oscar-nominee Jackie Earle Haley, Dakota Fanning, Guy Pearce,
Kate Beckinsale, Jeanne Tripplehorn, all of whom critics say give it their all.
Next: Lindsay Lohan goes through some Labor Pains
actual labor pains couldn’t be as excruciating as watching this Lindsay Lohan
vehicle, a light comedy about a woman who keeps her job by lying that she’s
pregnant. Saved from complete direct-to-DVD hell when it debuted (to decent
ratings) on the ABC Family Channel, Labor Pains is not the comeback
project that Lohan really needed; when you find yourself forced to act opposite
Chris Parnell getting projectile vomited on by a miniature dog, it’s time to get
a new agent. We valiantly sat through this poorly-plotted, tedious “comedy” so
you fine folks don’t have to. Please say our efforts were in vain.
Next: The Mutant Chronic-WHAT-les of Thomas Jane and Ron Perlman
Jane and Ron Perlman star in this strange little science fiction adventure about
a ragtag band of soldiers (including Devon Aoki and Hellboy II‘s Anna
Walton) tasked with stopping an army of mutated zombies quickly multiplying
across the earth. Based loosely on the role playing game of the same name,
Mutant Chronicles has an interesting steampunk-meets-WWI aesthetic, a bleak
future in which international super powers are synonymous with corporations; too
bad, then, that the ambition of its filmmakers far outpace what they’re actually
able to bring to the screen. That said, if watching Tom Jane blast his way
through mobs of blade-armed mutant folk, you might just have a “so bad it’s
good” viewing experience.
Next: The Conchords take Flight again!
and Jemaine are back in the second season of Flight of the Conchords, the
comedy-music-parody show in which two New Zealander buddies embark on a series
of absurd-mundane adventures. In season two, watch as Bret starts a gang,
Jemaine dates — gasp! — an Australian, and the two literally duel over a woman.
If you’re a fan, you’re in luck; plenty of deleted scenes, outtakes, and some
imaginative featurettes accompany the season’s ten episodes.
Next: The latest Michael Chabon adaptation
hard to believe that a film adapted from a Michael Chabon novel could come and
go with such little fanfare, but that’s what this Sundance festival flick did
when it flitted in and out of theaters last spring. Writer-director Rawson
Marshall Thurber (Dodgeball) took heavy liberties with Chabon’s
bestseller, turning the ’80s period character study into a love triangle between
main character Art (Jon Foster), Jane (Sienna Miller, in her self-professed “indie
year”), and Cleveland (Peter Sarsgaard). The coming-of-age clichés abound in
what critics called a charmless, clumsy adaptation that simply missed the mark.
Next: Little China gets in Big Trouble on Blu-Ray
all the rotten offerings in home video this week, we saved the best for last.
That’s right — ol’ Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) has finally made it to Blu-ray!
Watch John Carpenter’s 1986 cult classic Big Trouble in Little China in
glorious HD, in a new edition that not only includes the theatrical cut, but an
extended cut that contains never before seen footage. Also included are nine
deleted scenes, an entertaining commentary track by Russell and Carpenter,
behind the scenes features, trailers, and more. Sure, all of these bonus
features have been released in previous DVD iterations, but if you’re like us,
you can’t wait to watch the misunderstood wizard Lo Pan (James Hong) stir some
s*** up… I mean, all the guy wanted was a green-eyed beauty to be his eternal
wife. And isn’t that all any of us wants in life?
Until next week, happy renting!
This weekend Wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne Johnson became the undisputed heavyweight champion of the North American box office with his Disney adventure film Race to Witch Mountain which opened strongly at number one. The comic book saga Watchmen plunged in its sophomore frame settling for second place while the new horror entry The Last House on the Left bowed impressively in third. Existing films held up very well as five of the seven holdover titles in the top ten dipped by less than 30%. However, the overall marketplace fell from last year’s levels for the first time in six weeks.
Dwayne Johnson scored his sixth career number one opener for a lead role with Race to Witch Mountain which easily claimed the top spot with an estimated $25M. Playing to a broad audience, the PG-rated adventure averaged an impressive $7,844 from 3,187 theaters and did especially well with family audiences. The debut beat out the launch of Johnson’s last Disney vehicle with director Andy Fickman The Game Plan which bowed to $23M on its way to a solid $90.6M which amounted to four times the debut weekend figure. Race was inspired by the Witch Mountain franchise Disney had in the late 1970s.
Following the biggest opening weekend for any film this year, Watchmen saw more than two-thirds of its audience disappear in its second weekend as the superhero epic fell a steep 67% to an estimated $18.1M. It was the fourth largest second weekend drop for a number one opener over the past year trailing last month’s Friday the 13th (80%), July’s Hellboy II (71%), and December’s The Day the Earth Stood Still (68%). After ten days, Watchmen has taken in $86M and now looks headed for a domestic finish of about $120M. The pricetag for the effects-heavy comic pic has been estimated at $125-150M. The much-hyped actioner has played mostly to its core audience of comic fans and has not branched out much beyond that. With most seeing the film in its first week, a huge sophomore plunge was expected.
Universal generated a solid opening for its new horror film The Last House on the Left which grossed an estimated $14.7M from 2,401 theaters. The R-rated thriller about a couple’s revenge after a teenage daughter is brutally assaulted averaged a sturdy $6,105 and played to a young female audience. Studio research showed that 57% of the crowd was female and 60% was under 25. House is a redo of Wes Craven’s 1972 classic fright flick and is the fifth horror film this year to open with an average north of $6,000. Being the first scary movie in a month also helped as there was little competition.
The Liam Neeson kidnapping thriller Taken once again posted unbelievable strength dipping a ridiculously low 9% in its seventh weekend to an estimated $6.7M for fourth place. Fox has now boosted its cume to an amazing $126.8M and should have no problem breaking the $150M barrier with this sleeper sensation. Over the past two years, the only other film to spend seven weeks in the top five was The Dark Knight, the follow-up to Batman Begins which co-starred Neeson.
Lionsgate followed in fifth with Madea Goes to Jail which took in an estimated $5.1M, down 40%, to lift the total to $83.2M. Oscar king Slumdog Millionaire ranked sixth dipping 26% to an estimated $5M. Fox Searchlight’s sum to date stands at $132.6M with the $150M mark within reach.
Another durable blockbuster Paul Blart: Mall Cop followed with an estimated $3.1M, off just 25%, giving Sony $137.8M thus far. The Kevin James smash may also join the century-and-a-half club. Warner Bros. saw a low 28% drop for the comedy He’s Just Not Into You which grossed an estimated $2.9M in its sixth frame for a cume of $89M to date. Reaching the $100M barrier is not out of the question. The family hit Coraline took in an estimated $2.7M declining only 19% and gave Focus a sum of $69.1M.
Rounding out the top ten with a weak start was the sex comedy Miss March which bowed to an estimated $2.4M from 1,742 locations. The Fox Searchlight release about a young man who wakes up from a four-year coma to learn that his lady friend has become a famous Playboy bunny averaged only $1,349 and drew negative reviews across the board.
The indie comedy Sunshine Cleaning made a sensational debut in platform release this weekend grossing an estimated $214,000 from only four sites in New York and Los Angeles for a scorching $53,500 average. Starring Amy Adams and Emily Blunt as sisters that run a crime scene clean-up business, the R-rated film premiered to plenty of buzz over a year ago at the Sundance Film Festival and was snapped up by Overture a month later. Insiders put the film’s budget at $7M with the distributor acquiring domestic rights for $2M. Sunshine hopes to keep the momentum going this Friday when it expands to 15 additional markets across the country to become the year’s first new breakout indie smash.
The top ten films grossed an estimated $85.5M which was down 16% from last year when Horton Hears A Who opened in the top spot with $45M; and down 15% from 2007 when 300 remained at number one with $32.9M in its second weekend.
This week at the movies, we’ve got a supernatural quest (Race to Witch Mountain, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and AnnaSophia Robb), a vengeance thriller ( Last House on the Left, starring Sara Paxton and Garret Dillahunt), and playmate pratfalls (Miss March starring Zach Cregger and Trevor Moore). What do the critics have to say?
Race to Witch Mountain finds Disney attempting to resurrect a franchise that delivered some sizable hits for the studio in the 1970s. However, critics say the reboot is only sporadically successful, despite the best efforts of a talented cast. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars as an ex-con cabbie who picks up two teens with supernatural powers; together, they attempt to elude government officials and ominous forces. The pundits say the cast is just fine, especially the Rock, who mixes toughness and good humor with panache. But the rest of the film is alternately too noisy and not exciting enough to maintain interest throughout. (Check out star Carla Gugino‘s five favorite films, and our rundown of the finest live-action Disney films.)
Wes Craven‘s original The Last House on the Left was a horror movie touchstone, a film so violent in its time that even its poster had to reassure audience members that it was only a movie. Critics say the remake (which Craven produced) is stylishly crafted and effective in spots, but it misses the spirit of the original by miles, lacking Craven’s bleak artistry and his sense of social commentary. Sara Paxton stars as a young woman who is brutally attacked by a prison escapee and his flunkies. She flees to the supposed safety of her house, but when her parents discover that they’re harboring the very thugs who attacked their daughter, they exact their own brand of revenge. The pundits say the film is better-made than most, but it’s ultimately pretty generic, substituting the dark subtleties of Craven’s landmark film with oodles of gratuitous gore.
Unless your taste runs toward the bottom-of-the-barrel lowest common denominator, the critics say you may want to scratch Miss March off your calendar. The film stars Zach Cregger (who also directed with co-star Trevor Moore, both part of the the Whitest Kids U’ Know comedy troupe) as a young man who awakens from a coma to discover his once-chaste high school significant other is now a Playboy centerfold. The pundits say Miss March is crass, unfunny, and poorly made, a gross-out comedy with little beyond scene-stealer Craig Robinson to recommend it.
Also opening this week in limited release:
After five consecutive frames of beating the 2008 box office, ticket sales this time may have a tough job keeping the streak alive. Looking to knock the superheroes of Watchmen out of the top spot is the artist formerly known as The Rock, Dwayne Johnson, who headlines the new Disney live-action film Race to Witch Mountain opening on Friday. A pair of debuting R-rated pics will target older audiences. Universal unleashes the horror entry The Last House on the Left while Fox Searchlight releases the weekend’s only film not inspired by a 1970s classic with the comedy Miss March.
Dipping back into the Disney well after the successful hit The Game Plan grossed $90.6M, Johnson this time plays a Las Vegas cab driver who picks up a pair of teens with supernatural powers in Race to Witch Mountain. The PG-rated adventure is the latest in the studio’s long line of recycled films updated for a new generation of children. Kids and younger teens sick of seeing Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Coraline yet again, and who obviously were less than thrilled by the Jonas Brothers concert flick, make up the target audience here. Most of the major films in release right now target older moviegoers so Witch has a great opportunity to score.
The wrestler-turned-actor provides ample starpower and has family-friendly credibility too. Game Plan bowed to $23M in 2007 during the normally slow month of September. Actors Anna-Sophia Robb and Ciaran Hinds give the film cross-gender appeal plus the title will be familiar to parents making it a safe choice for the whole family. Marketing hype has been about normal for this type of pic which should be good enough to propel it to the top of the charts. Reviews have been fairly good which certainly can’t hurt. Opening in 3,187 theaters, Race to Witch Mountain may debut with around $27M this weekend.
Universal’s Rogue Pictures banner has a strong track record in the horror field and aims for another hit this weekend with the new update of The Last House on the Left. The R-rated revenge thriller is inspired by the 1972 film of the same name from director Wes Craven who sticks to producing this time around. This brutal fright flick will play to a core horror crowd and its Friday the 13th release date will help on opening night, even though it’s not a key element of the marketing campaign. Horror films for the most part have overperformed this year with big bows for Rogue’s The Unborn ($19.8M), My Bloody Valentine 3D ($21.2M), and Friday the 13th ($40.6M). No new offering from the genre has hit theaters since Jason’s return so direct competition will be weak for Left which will have a clear field ahead of it. Those looking for a good scare are ready for a new film. Breaking into about 2,400 locations, The Last House on the Left could take in roughly $14M this weekend.
Fox Searchlight goes after older teens and young adults with the raunchy comedy Miss March which tells of a young man who wakes up after a four-year coma to find that his former lady friend has become a Playboy bunny. The R-rated pic hopes to connect with spring breakers who may not have the cash for a trip to Florida or Cancun but want some sort of wild fun anyway. The plot is interesting, but with no starpower the film will only go so far. The audience should match to some extent the small crowds that came out for October’s R-rated Sex Drive ($3.6M opening) and last month’s PG-13 Fired Up ($5.5M). Entering 1,742 theaters, Miss March could take in about $5M this weekend.
All eyes will be on Watchmen‘s second weekend to shed some light on what type of final gross Warner Bros. will extract from the domestic market. Given its fanboy following, the R-rated effects-heavy pic is built to draw the bulk of its business in week one so a sizable decline should be in store for the sophomore frame. Looking at recent early March action films from the studio that relied heavily on special effects, second weekend drops were 53% for last year’s 10,000 B.C. and 54% for the previous year’s 300. Watchmen is more of an upfront film pulling in its audience in the first few days, and there is little indication that the comic flick is branching out to non-fans of the source material. Word-of-mouth is not very strong either with over 7,000 users of Yahoo Movies giving it a B- average. Dr. Manhattan and pals might fall by 60% this weekend which would lead to a three-day take of $22M and a ten-day cume of $90M.
Liam Neeson‘s unstoppable revenge thriller Taken could dip another 25% to about $5.5M lifting Fox’s amazing cume to $125M. Tyler Perry looks to suffer a 45% drop for his highest grossing film ever Madea Goes to Jail. That would put the Lionsgate release at $5M for the weekend and $83M overall. Slumdog Millionaire could slip by 40% this weekend to roughly $4M and give Fox Searchlight $131M to date.
LAST YEAR: Fox teamed up with Dr. Seuss and generated a huge number one opening for Horton Hears a Who which bowed to a stellar $45M. With voices from Jim Carrey and Steve Carell, the animated hit went on to bank a sizable $154.5M domestically and $297M worldwide. The prehistoric drama 10,000 B.C. fell 53% in its second weekend to $16.8M ending up in second place. Debuting in third was the actioner Never Back Down with $8.6M on its way to $24.9M for Summit. Rounding out the top five were the Disney comedy College Road Trip and the Sony assassination thriller Vantage Point with $7.8M and $5.5M, respectively.
Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com
We tend to think of Walt Disney Pictures as chiefly an animation studio — and with good reason — but the house Uncle Walt built has been churning out quality (and often highly profitable) live-action entertainment since the 1950s, something we were reminded of when we noticed that the latest chapter in the Witch Mountain franchise (and the Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s latest bid for the undisputed heavyweight champion of kid-friendly cinema), Race to Witch Mountain, was landing in theaters this Friday. What better time, then, for your pals here at Rotten Tomatoes to devote a Total Recall list to the 10 best-reviewed live-action entries in the Disney canon?
Of course, not all of Disney’s live-action efforts have been critical winners — we’re guessing Condorman is discussed as infrequently as possible at the Mouse House — but not everything that missed the list was a dud: You’ll find plenty of the classics you remember (yes, Old Yeller is present and accounted for), but you’re bound to take umbrage with a few omissions. Some movies missed the cut on technicalities — we limited our scope to films without animation (so long, Bedknobs and Broomsticks) and crossed any co-productions off the list, too (thus sparing Operation Dumbo Drop the embarrassment of being disqualified on critical grounds). Others, however, simply didn’t have the reviews — something we think says a lot about the strength of the competition. So let’s see what we ended up with, shall we? The live-action world of Disney awaits!
Well, well, well. How’s this for perfect? Not only did it provide a starting point for this week’s Total Recall honoree, 1975’s Escape to Witch Mountain wound up making the list itself. While not the best-remembered of Disney’s 1970s properties, this adaptation of the Alexander Key novel helped kickstart a mini-franchise that eventually extended to 1978’s Return from Witch Mountain, a 1982 TV movie and 1995 made-for-TV remake, and, of course, 2009’s Race to Witch Mountain. Placing extraordinary kids in situations of nail-biting, grown-up peril is something Disney has always done well, and Escape is no exception; psychic alien twins Tony and Tia are literally running for their lives from creepy millionaire Aristotle Bolt (Ray Milland). Though not all critics were susceptible to its charm — Vincent Canby of the New York Times called it “a Walt Disney production for children who will watch absolutely anything that moves” — most scribes took its popcorn-flavored blend of action, sci-fi, and family drama at face value, including Roger Ebert, who called it “a sci-fi thriller that’s fun, that’s cheerfully implausible, that’s scary but not too scary, and it works.”
No list of the Disney live-action oeuvre would be complete without a mention of Fred MacMurray’s work for the studio. Although he’d been a major film star for decades before making his Disney debut with 1960’s The Shaggy Dog, it’s MacMurray’s late-period string of pipe-puffing father types that he’s arguably best remembered for, particularly among younger film fans. The most critically successful of these movies, 1961’s The Absent-Minded Professor, casts MacMurray in the title role as Ned Brainard, the accidental inventor of an incredible energy-producing substance known as Flubber. Over the course of the film, Brainerd uses Flubber to make himself look like a talented dancer and helps an entire basketball team cheat during the big game, but thanks to MacMurray’s Everyman charm, you still believe he’s the good guy. It’s goofy, and light as a feather, but Disney has always known how to make the most of those two ingredients; as TV Guide put it, “This is a zanily inventive piece of work, with delightful special effects, which set the style for a long series of live-action Disney films.”
Even in the context of the other classic films in the Disney vaults, 1960’s Swiss Family Robinson was a huge success — its $40 million gross is equivalent to $367 million in today’s money, placing it proudly among the ranks of the most successful G-rated films of all time. Johann David Wyss’ 1812 novel has been adapted on numerous occasions, for film and television, but Disney’s Ken Annakin-directed treatment is the most well-known; although it doesn’t skimp on the cheesy dialogue and cornpone wholesomeness that came prepackaged with many of the studio’s live-action efforts, Lowell S. Hawley’s screenplay does a fine job of drawing enough swashbuckling action and tropical derring-do out of the source material to guarantee a good time for viewers of all (okay, most) ages. Channel 4 Film’s Alistair Harkness spoke for many of his peers when he wrote, “It’s no Pirates Of The Caribbean, but the spirit of adventure, and Disney’s high production values, means that there’s still some fun to be had watching this wholesome family adapt to island life.”
Hayley Mills, like Tommy Kirk before her (and countless fresh-faced Disney teen starlets after her), became a household name thanks to a string of starring roles in Disney live-action films. Mills’ six-movie run got off to a pretty good start with 1960’s Pollyanna; although its box office performance was initially something of a disappointment for the studio, Mills won a special Academy Award for her performance. For many, the film is now considered one of Disney’s earliest live-action classics; though Disney was far from the first to adapt Eleanor Porter’s novel, it’s Mills that people usually think of when they hear the name “Pollyanna” — and for good reason, as even critics who overdosed on the movie’s relentless optimism, like the Time critic who called it “a Niagara of drivel and a masterpiece of smarm,” were often swayed by her performance. Variety, for instance, said her presence “more than compensates for the film’s lack of tautness and, at certain points, what seems to be an uncertain sense of direction.”
By 2002, the “inspirational sports movie” genre was seen as well past its prime — and so was Dennis Quaid: one of the more bankable matinee idols of the 1980s, Quaid was suffering through a dry spell when he signed on for Disney’s John Lee Hancock-directed dramatization of the brief-yet-noteworthy Major League Baseball career of high school teacher-turned-Tampa Bay Devil Ray pitcher Jimmy Morris. Like Morris himself, The Rookie was initially written off by many as an amiable relic of a bygone era — but try as they might, most critics were too charmed by its true-life inspirational story, and Quaid’s refreshingly low-key performance, to be cynical about the film. The Rookie earned a healthy return on Disney’s $22 million investment, kick-started a new chapter in Quaid’s career, and earned a surprising number of endorsements from critics like Looking Closer’s Jeffrey Overstreet, who called it “one of those rare, wonderful ‘formula’ films that … favors understatement over exaggeration, subtlety over sentimentality.”
For a relatively lightweight rom-com, The Parent Trap has enjoyed an incredibly long life; not only was the original film re-released to theaters seven years after its theatrical debut, but Hayley Mills ended up reprising her dual roles for a trio of made-for-TV sequels more than 20 years later — and the career-boosting power of the story of matchmaking twins who play Cupid for their divorced parents proved every bit as potent in 1998, when Lindsay Lohan starred in a remake. Part of Trap‘s appeal no doubt came from its pioneering use of the trick photography that made it appear as though Mills was actually her own twin — a technique later used to notable effect on The Patty Duke Show two years later — but even without special effects, The Parent Trap is a solid, albeit proudly corny, film that benefits from a strong performance by its winsome star. Mills’ charms were even sufficient to win over more “serious” publications, such as Time, whose reviewer wrote, “Surprisingly, the film is delightful — mostly because of 15-year-old Hayley Mills, the blonde button nose who played the endearing delinquent in Tiger Bay.”
Whether you attribute it to beginner’s luck or the steady hand of one of Hollywood’s most quality-conscious studios, it’s worth noting that Richard Fleischer’s adaptation of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is both one of Disney’s most highly regarded live-action efforts and its first foray into science fiction. Proving he had an eye for giant squid battles to match his knack for animating adorable fauna, Walt Disney personally produced 20,000 Leagues, helping Fleischer blend an attentive eye to period detail with a rip-roaring action yarn that just happened to have strong Cold War parallels (right down to the mushroom cloud witnessed after the climactic battle). Enlisting the talents of A-list stars like Kirk Douglas, James Mason, and Peter Lorre certainly didn’t hurt Leagues‘ box-office prospects — nor did glowingly positive reviews from the likes of the New York Times’ Bosley Crowther, who called it “as fabulous and fantastic as anything [Disney] has ever done in cartoons.”
Younger filmgoers may be more familiar with the 1997 remake, starring Christina Ricci and Doug E. Doug — which, as illustrated by that film’s woeful seven percent Tomatometer rating, is a shame. The 1965 original, starring Hayley Mills as the owner of a robbery-foiling feline (and the immortal Frank Gorshin as the robber), was a perfect example of the sort of goofy, animal-assisted middlebrow flick that Disney’s live-action arm became known for in the 1960s — but if it’s silly stuff, it’s at least eminently well-crafted, thanks to the steady hand of director Robert Stevenson and charming performances from a cast that included Disney vets Mills and Dean Jones. Critics were kind, if not exactly effusive (Rob Thomas of Madison’s Capital Times waved it off as “lightweight, forgettable family fun”) — but it was the titular cat that earned some of the movie’s highest warmest praise, including high marks from the New York Times’ Bosley Crowther, who said, “The feline that plays the informant, as the F.B.I. puts it, is superb. Clark Gable at the peak of his performing never played a tom cat more winningly.”
A movie so successful that it spawned a sequel, Tommy Kirk’s career, and the heartbreaking on-screen deaths of dozens of beloved critters, Old Yeller is mostly remembered today for its tearjerking final act and cornpone dialogue — and although this Robert Stevenson-directed adaptation of Fred Gipson’s popular novel certainly doesn’t skimp on the familiar plot points and gooey nostalgia so often identified with the Disney films of the era, it also tries to impart some useful lessons about the tough choices that come with growing up. Those lessons were imparted to a huge audience, too — watching Old Yeller was a rite of passage for multiple generations of filmgoers, among them DVDTalk’s Scott Weinberg, who called it “every bit the warm, comfortable, and tragically bittersweet classic that had you sobbing like a infant the first time you saw it.”
The best-reviewed of Disney’s late 1970s/early 1980s string of family-friendly live-action flicks, Never Cry Wolf offers a surprisingly mature, unflinching adaptation of Farley Mowat’s memoir detailing the years he spent studying the hunting habits of wolves in the Canadian wilderness. One year later, Disney would spin off Touchstone, an imprint which would eventually be responsible for some fairly racy fare, but in 1983, Wolf director Carroll Ballard’s decision to afford audiences a glimpse of Charles Martin Smith’s bare buttocks was a major step for the Mouse House. Though the film wasn’t a giant hit, it did manage an impressive 27-week theatrical run — all the more notable considering its small cast, exceedingly minimal dialogue, and deliberate pace. Critics were suitably impressed, sending Never Cry Wolf all the way to a 100 percent Tomatometer rating on the strength of reviews from scribes like Time’s Richard Schickel, who raved, “Ballard and his masterly crew of film makers have reimagined a corner of the natural world…They leave us awed.”
Check out the rest of our Total Recall archives here.
Finally, we leave you with a clip from one of Disney’s trippiest live-action offerings. It’s a close encouter of the feline kind: The Cat from Outer Space.
A certain quest for variety has allowed Carla Gugino to cultivate a fan base within two distinctly divergent demographics, alternating between femme fatale and strong maternal figures in films like Sin City and the Spy Kids trilogy, respectively. The juxtaposition has never been more apparent than it is during this month, in which she appears in back-to-back weeks as the pin-up superheroine Silk Spectre in Zack Snyder’s Watchmen and then as Dr. Alex Friedman, a brainy UFO specialist who teams up with a cab driver (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) to help a pair of alien teens in this week’s Race to Witch Mountain.
Rotten Tomatoes spoke with Carla Gugino about her favorite films of the moment (every true film geek has a hard time picking just five) and discussed her drive to diversify her career. While Race to Witch Mountain marks her third film of the year so far (following The Unborn and Watchmen) and her eighth in two years (including American Gangster, The Lookout, and Righteous Kill), Gugino also shared her enthusiasm for a trio of upcoming passion projects: Women in Trouble and Elektra Luxx, the first two films in a trilogy which she’s producing and starring in for director Sebastian Gutierrez.
Below, read on as Carla Gugino shares her Five Favorite Films (or go straight to our extended interview).
“Straight up Bob Fosse goodness. Roy Scheider is amazing in this movie. (It’s my favorite performance of his though I have many a good friend who would argue it’s in Jaws, but check it out and I think you’ll agree with me.)”
“I am a huge Almodovar fan, so it’s hard to pick only one of his films, but today I shall choose this. Antonio Banderas and Victoria Abril are fantastic. It’s funny, sexy, and deeply human.”
“I think it’s a totally underrated Scorsese movie. Massive in scope, stunning to look at and amazing performances all around. Plus, the coolest wardrobe ever.”
“I just can’t see this movie enough times. Genius, Gilliam. He creates such an impressive alternate world. And one of my favorite performances by Brad Pitt.”
“Audrey Hepburn, Paris, fashion, all wrapped up in one great movie. Makes you happy — perfect for a rainy day.”
Your character in Race to Witch Mountain is sort of a nerd’s dream girl — beautiful, smart, and a little bit dorky. Is that something that comes from you?
Carla Gugino: Yes! I think kind of in the way that everyone wishes they were smoother than they are. That was one of the things I really loved about playing that character — the fact that she is smart, and she’s got her act together to some extent, but when she’s confronted with something that blows her mind, she becomes a kid. And has obsessions about funny things, and is sort of phobic about being outside. I don’t share that particular one, but I definitely relate to the nerd in her.
What kind of nerd are you?
CG: Well, first of all, I’m an incredibly gullible person — I’m so bad that when I said that to someone, my friend said, “You know, ‘gullible’ isn’t even in the dictionary.” And I said, “Really?” As I was saying “Really?” I will acknowledge that I then realized what was happening, but that’s how bad I am. I like to think that’s a good quality, in the long run.
For your character, Dr. Alex Friedman, the day that the alien kids come to her for help is the most important day of her career, possibly of her entire life. Have you had a similarly defining moment in your career?
CG: I’ve had nothing in comparison to that — in the sense of that moment where really, you thought something was completely impossible, but it was actually happening to you. But I’ve certainly had those “pinch yourself” kind of moments in the sense that, obviously as you know, this business is so tough, and I’ve been really fortunate. But you know, you get turned down a lot, and you have to not take those things personally. And so, I think along the way, when I’ve fought really hard to get a role and I’ve actually gotten it…there have been those times in my life where it’s absolutely ecstatic and you’re like, Oh my God, the hard work actually paid off! Because you get so used to having people say, well, there was the best person who came in, but we’re going to go with so and so…[laughs] so certainly in terms of the magnitude of Alex Friedman’s discovery, I haven’t had one of those yet.
Given that you’ve been working in Hollywood for so long and are known for so many different types of roles in studio films, independent films, and television, I would think your name recognition would carry you pretty far and you wouldn’t have so many of those moments any more.
CG: Thank you. Well, I definitely [have those moments] less than I have had. I’ve been doing this since I was 14, so I’ve gone through a lot of that for so many years that I think it’s just in your bones. But the truth is, I have more choices now than I did before, which I’m so grateful for.
That brings me to your current gigs — the juxtaposition of your two back-to-back films is somewhat ironic. You’re going from playing Sally Jupiter (AKA Silk Spectre) in the R-rated Watchmen to playing a brainy maternal figure of sorts in Disney’s Race to Witch Mountain.
CG: I know, it’s so wild! You know, all my life I’ve sort of gravitated toward really different kinds of roles and I’ve always mixed it up. Right before I played the mom in Spy Kids I played a prostitute in Wayne Wang’s Center of the World. I’ve definitely always found myself gravitating towards the opposite of what I’ve just done, and after doing Watchmen and Righteous Kill, which I was shooting simultaneously, I was excited to go do something light and fun, and get to play kind of a kooky scientist! It was just a really appealing thing to me. Most people who understand movies and actors and all that, understand the desire to not be typecast and the desire to play different things. But I think I also confused people for a while…it’s funny because it’s never been so obvious as right now, because there are two big movies coming out at the same time and the roles are so different, the films are so different. It’s nice because I get to talk about what actually does matter to me, which is playing characters that are diverse and getting to challenge myself each time. I just think that in order to be good at what you do and get better and better — which is what I care about — you have to the things that scare you or inspire you.
With the whole world watching and talking about Watchmen right now, are you very attuned to all the buzz?
CG: I haven’t been checking the boards or blogs, just because for me, once I open that door it’s like too much information. I’m really excited that people are excited about it. I’ve been attuned to some responses, from people I know and/or from press, so I’ve gotten a sense of things to some extent. But you know what’s cool, I love the movie so much — I actually love both of these movies, and they’re such different movies, and I love them for different reasons. I think Watchmen is extraordinary. The character that I play was such a great challenge; I love the character, Sally Jupiter, so much. But there’s also a lot of the movie that I’m not in, so I feel I’m able to be pretty objective. And I do think that Zack [Snyder] has done something amazing, and with a great sense of passion and specificity. He is a fan. He’s a fanboy — as we all have become. In that way, I feel excited for people to see it. I think it is a challenging movie; I don’t think it is for everybody. But it is an exceptional movie, and I don’t think anyone will have seen anything like it.
Next: Gugino on the psyche of Sally Jupiter and getting friends like Malin Akerman and Marley Shelton onboard her passion project, Women in Trouble/Elektra Luxx
Your character, Sally Jupiter/Silk Spectre, is one of the more fascinating characters in Watchmen — moreso because of how she relates to The Comedian, before and after their violent encounter.
CG: She is endlessly fascinating. It was so interesting, when I sat down with Zack and he said, “I really want the rape scene to be brutal, as it is in the graphic novel, and not titillating.” And I said, I think that’s really important. Obviously, there are the shots preceding it that are sort of sexy, as she’s undressing, and then you’re like, oh, holy shit, this is not what we thought it was going to be. Because it determines so much for her character and also The Comedian and the rest of the story. “But,” I said, “what we have to also maintain is the fact that she’s still really in love with him, even after that, and he is with her, too.” We were like, isn’t that amazing — it’s so great to be able to do a movie where you’re adapting it from a graphic novel where so often, big budget Hollywood movies end up having to simplify things as opposed to leaving the complexities that generally exist in human beings. And to be able to do it, and not quite be able to answer why she still loves him. But the truth is, for whatever reasons, they are kind of intrinsically connected.
Definitely. Another project of yours that is really intriguing to me is Elektra Luxx. Can you describe that project and how it relates to another upcoming film, Women in Trouble?
CG: Yes — they are both part of a trilogy of movies that we made for very, very little money with friends who are a bunch of amazing actors. Sebastian Gutierrez wrote and directed them, and writes amazing women characters. Basically, Women in Trouble is the first, which is going to premiere at South by Southwest on March 15, which is really exciting; it’s a total labor of love, a day in the life of a bunch of different, amazing women and complex characters. It’s funny and sexy, and will possibly make you cry, too. It’s much more European-influenced; Almodovar is Gutierrez’s mentor, and it’s got a lot of those kinds of elements to it. That’s the first film, and in it I play a porn star named Elektra Luxx. The second film is Elektra Luxx, which sort of follows her more but we have a few returning characters and some new characters as well.
In Women in Trouble it’s myself, Connie Britton, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Adrianne Palicki, Marley Shelton, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh Brolin, Simon Baker…it’s a really cool group of people. In the second one, some return, but we’ve also got Timothy Olyphant —
CG: –and Malin is in Elektra Luxx, which is so awesome!
Did you have a hand in her joining the cast?
CG: I did. Because we worked together on Watchmen, and right when I finished Watchmen we shot Women in Trouble, and she was like, “Oh my God, that sounds so cool!” We became very close friends; Malin’s like my sister now. There was a great role in the storyline with Joe Gordon-Levitt in Elektra Luxx, and Sebastian thought Malin would be perfect, so it all came together beautifully. So we finished shooting that, it’s actually being edited now, and Women in Ecstasy, which is the third film in the trilogy, has been written but we have not shot it yet.
It was just sort of an experiment; we were like, let’s make little movies that we sort of own a part of, that nobody makes money on, but we play great characters, shoot them in really short periods of time in between our “real movies,” and we ended up falling in love with them and having a great time!
CG: Yes! She’s also in Elektra Luxx, and one of my dear friends. I’m a huge fan of her as an actress. We knew each other before Sin City — we actually met years ago, at the Toronto Film Festival. She was there with Pleasantville, and I was there with Judas Kiss. We ended up being fans of each others’ work, and her husband is a wonderful film producer who actually produced Judas Kiss, but they weren’t together at the time…just one of those small world things, and she’s since become one of my dearest friends.
It’s nice to see that films like Women in Trouble can come together from such a small, connected group of artists.
CG: That’s what’s been really valuable, certainly to me and I think to all of us. You just realize, we should start trying to make movies together! I’ve been doing this for 20 years and ended up crossing paths with so many wonderful and super-talented people, so to go, wait a minute, we should try to do this ourselves, as opposed to waiting around…of course, what you realize is when you do that, other people’s great creative energy comes in, like Robyn Hitchcock, who’s doing the score. It really inspires a lot of artists in a lot of different areas to come together to make something cool.