(Photo by Warner Bros. / courtesy Everett Collection)
After a decade of bit parts, many of them within the gainful employ of Steven Soderbergh’s production company, Viola Davis broke into the mainstream with a movie-stealing turn – and from Meryl Streep! – in 2008’s Catholic Church child abuse drama Doubt. Davis has all of 10 minutes of screen time in Doubt but earned an Oscar nomination for her work, joining the likes of Ruby Dee for American Gangster or Ned Beatty for Network of Oscar nominees who made the most out of their single-scene appearances. Yet, Davis forms Doubt’s emotional pillar, powerfully delivering social and cultural history that further obfuscates the film’s central mystery.
Davis has been releasing multiple movies a year ever since, frequently playing women of power or high up in their professions, in the likes of Law Abiding Citizen, Knight & Day, Ender’s Game, and Suicide Squad, as Amanda Waller, one of that movie’s rare bright spots. And Davis has frequently reached the same heights as Doubt in Certified Fresh films like Widows, The Help (receiving a Lead Actress nomination), and Fences, for which she won a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award. Davis got another Lead Actress nom for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and she returned as Waler for James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. And now, we’re ranking all Viola Davis movies by Tomatometer!
(Photo by DreamWorks/courtesy Everett Collection)
A recording career and starring roles on In Living Color and his very own sitcom sound like they would have been enough to keep Jamie Foxx out of the movie game during the ’90s. But indeed, Foxx the multi-hyphenate found time to debut as a comedy movie lead for The Truth About Cats & Dogs in 1996 and then delivered his first dramatic performance in Oliver Stone’s Any Given Sunday three years later. But that was all a prelude to his big 2004, when Foxx was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award with the Michael Mann/Tom Cruise thriller Collateral and took home Oscar gold that night for Best Actor, thanks to the musical biopic Ray.
He teamed up with Mann again for Miami Vice in 2006, the same year of musical sensation Dreamgirls‘ arrival. Due Date, Valentine’s Day, Rio, and Horrible Bosses were four $100 million-grossing box office hits in a row, so with his reputation as a guy who can get awards and put butts in seats cemented, there was only one place to go left: Casa de QT. Working with Quentin Tarantino produced the brassy Western Django Unchained, which would go on to become the director’s biggest B.O. draw.
Django would be Foxx’s last Certified Fresh movie for a while, through a stretch of years that has included The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Robin Hood, and White House Down. 2017’s Baby Driver brought back some of that critical acclaim, and so has his latest: Just Mercy, a true story legal drama featuring Foxx as Walter McMillian, who was imprisoned for a murder in 1986 he did not commit. Co-starring Michael B. Jordan and Brie Larson, see where the critics place Just Mercy as we rank all Jamie Foxx movies by Tomatometer!
Hart and Johnson: The world’s two unlikeliest megastars join forces this week for Central Intelligence, playing former high school classmates who reunite and get embroiled in international action courtesy of the CIA. Since its inception in 1947, Hollywood has committed plenty of celluloid around the agency’s foundation of espionage and top-secret missions, inspiring this week’s gallery: the best and worst CIA agents in movie history.
Welcome to another week in home video. Many of the films that made big impacts before the winter movie season of 2009 have already found their way to DVD, so there isn’t as much out there as one might hope. Nevertheless, we’ve been able to comb through the list of new releases to find some interesting choices for the discriminating consumer, and we’re happy to report that only one of this week’s choices has been reviewed as a Rotten film! The biggest (at least, probably best known) release this week is Law Abiding Citizen, starring Gerard Butler and Jamie Foxx, but films like Black Dynamite, Good Hair, and Revanche were all highly regarded films that also hit shelves this week. Have a look at our full list and decide for yourself which might be worth checking out.
It seems like Gerard Butler is everywhere these days, starring in everything from romantic comedies to action thrillers. In director F. Gary Gray’s (Friday, Set It Off) latest film, Law Abiding Citizen, Butler squares off against Jamie Foxx in a film that combines elements of horror like Saw and psychological terror like The Silence of the Lambs. Unfortunately, most critics felt that Citizen was riddled with problems, from the believability of its story to its gratuitous violence. But hey, if you’re a fan of the up-and-coming former King Leonidas, then you might still get a kick out of it. There are lots of explosions.
Quentin Tarantino seems to have cornered the market on well-made homage films that pay tribute to genres and cinematic eras of the past, but last October, a certain retro comedy opened in limited release and received a lot of attention. The film was Black Dynamite, a loving celebration of Blaxploitation cinema starring Michael Jai White as the title character, a martial arts do-gooder out to rid the streets of “The Man.” Certified Fresh at 83%, Black Dynamite manages to pack enough laughs and clever winks to satisfy both those looking for a fun comedy and those looking to relive the days of Shaft and Coffy. You can pick it up on DVD and Blu-Ray this week.
One of the highest-rated films on this week’s list, Chris Rock’s examination of the concept of “good hair,” aptly titled Good Hair, is a documentary focusing on the relationships between African-Americans and their, well, hair. Speaking to a number of notable black personalities and attending various hair-centric events, Rock succeeds in combining humor (naturally) with thoughtful speculation to help shed light on the topic. Critics felt the film was eye-opening, funny, and sometimes sad, but always poignant, and awarded it Certified Fresh status with an impressive 94%. In other words, this is one documentary definitely worth checking out, even if you’re not a fan of Chris Rock.
Next up, we’ve got a French biopic about one of fashion’s enduring and most timeless icons, Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. Biopics are typically great fodder for films, as the general public is always curious how the celebrities they see on television got to be where they are. Chanel’s story is no different, and Coco Before Chanel sheds light on her formative years, beginning from the time she was an orphan. Directed by Anne Fontaine (My Father and I, The Girl from Monaco), the film stars Audrey Tatou (Amelie) and sits at a decent 65% on the Tomatometer. You can pick it up on DVD or Blu-Ray this week.
Now comes the first of three new Criterion Collection films releasing this week. Though Criterion is known for restoring and rereleasing older classic films, every once in a while they do also tackle brand new releases, and Hunger is one of those rare cases. Based on true events, Hunger recounts the details of the hunger strike undertaken by imprisoned IRA members, led by Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender), in the early 80s. It’s the feature debut of British video artist Steve McQueen (no relation to the legendary American actor), and critics say it’s a gripping triumph with some innovative and experimental filmmaking techniques that make for an even more visceral experience. Criterion is releasing the Certified Fresh film in both DVD and Blu-Ray this week.
This is the second of Criterion’s brand new releases this week, another small film that came to us from Austrian filmmaker Götz Spielmann. The story centers around an ex-con, Alex, who falls in love with one of the prostitutes in the brothel where he works and devises a criminal plan for escape. When a bank robbery goes tragically awry, Alex’s life becomes intricately entwined with the lives of a neighboring couple. Critics felt that Revanche was a powerful display of suspense and drama, rewarding it with a whopping 95% on the Tomatometer, and the film has been selected as one of the nominees for the Best Foreign Language Film at the upcoming Oscar ceremony. If Revanche‘s limited release passed you by, now’s your chance to catch it.
Criterion’s last new release of the week is, unlike the previous two, not a contemporary film. Instead, it’s a reissue of a German classic, legendary director Max Ophüls’ period piece Lola Montes, a historical biopic about the life and times of the title character. For those unfamiliar, Lola Montes was a 19th Century Irish-born actress-turned-dancer probably best known for her affairs with composer Franz Liszt and King Ludwig I of Bavaria. Told in flashback style, the story covers various experiences from Montes’ past as she recounts them to her current employer, a circus ringmaster played by Peter Ustinov. As expected, Criterion has put together a newly restored HD transfer of the film, as well as a slew of special features featuring Max Ophuls, many of his collaborators, and the actress who played Montes, Martine Carol.
It wasn’t too long ago that we began our Great Directors series here on RT by profiling Clint Eastwood, taking a look back at the important films of his career. Now, a new collection from Warner Brothers covers 35 of Eastwood’s films over just as many years spent with the studio. Beginning with 1968’s Where Eagles Dare and culminating in 2008’s Gran Torino, the collection also features such classics as Dirty Harry, Pale Rider, Unforgiven, Letters From Iwo Jima, and the rest of the perennial Eastwood favorites. Also included are special features like a short film about Eastwood by critic Richard Schickel and tons of commentaries and featurettes. It’s a must have for any Eastwood fan.
It’s clear that people are divided when it comes to the work of Eli Roth (the Hostel films), but it remains that his debut feature, 2002’s Cabin Fever was well received and has gone on to earn somewhat of a cult following. The new Unrated Director’s Cut includes about 6 minutes of new footage, as well as a brand new commentary track recorded specifically for the release. The other extras are, for the most part, the same as the previous DVD release, with the addition of two more episodes of the “Rotten Fruit” stop-motion animated series. If you’re a fan of the film, or of Eli Roth, this might be worth checking out on video.
Since Shutter Island is opening this week, and since there are really only a few other video releases worth mentioning this week, we thought we’d go ahead and talk about the new 20th Anniversary Edition (wow, has it really been that long?) of Martin Scorsese’s gangster classic, Goodfellas. For the uninitiated, Goodfellas is the story of native Brooklynite Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) and his rise to power within the ranks of the organized crime family in his neighborhood. When things go awry for him, he testifies against the mob and ends up in the witness protection program. But the film is more than its story, with iconic performances from Scorsese regulars Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci, among others; suffice it to say, if you haven’t seen it, you probably should. And if you’re going to get it on Blu-Ray, you might as well pick up this special edition, as it contains a combination of special features found on various previous releases of the film. These include commentary tracks as well as featurettes on the making of the film, the cinematic legacy of Goodfellas, a lengthy documentary on early Hollywood gangster films, and even a collection of classic WB cartoons featuring depictions of famous actor-gangsters (myeah, myeah, see?). All in all, not a bad pickup for fans.
This week, we’ve got a wild rumpus (Where the Wild Things Are, starring Max Records and Catherine Keener), a legal skirmish (Law Abiding Citizen, starring Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler), and unconventional parenting (The Stepfather, starring Dylan Walsh and Sela Ward). What do the critics have to say?
Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are is one of the most beloved classics of modern children’s literature, but the brief text doesn’t necessarily lend itself to feature-length cinematic treatment. Critics have largely praised Spike Jonze for maintaining the spirit of the book while adding some visually daring touches to bring it to life; however, some feel the narrative is a little thin. Max (Max Records) is a troubled youngster who disappears into a fantasy world of his own making, populated by fluffy monsters who symbolize the various facets of his personality. The pundits say Wild Things may be a little too creepy for the wee ones, and it lacks a strong plot. However, the images Jonze crafts are so wondrous that older kids — and adults — will find the film to be a fascinating, poignant dreamscape.
Nobody says that a thriller needs to be completely plausible to be watchable. However, staying somewhere within the bounds of believability is generally required, and on this count, and several others, critics say Law Abiding Citizen fails. Gerard Butler stars as a man whose family has been murdered; he becomes enraged when the prosecutor (Jamie Foxx) makes a plea deal with the killer, and goes about exacting revenge. The pundits say Law Abiding Citizen isn’t just outrageously contrived; worse, it lingers a little too long over some gruesome violence under the guise of making a political statement about the judicial system. (Check out our interview with director F. Gary Gray, who shared his Five Favorite Films with RT.).
It appears the folks behind The Stepfather are being a little too strict with their baby, as it wasn’t screened for critics prior to release. A remake of the 1987 cult classic of the same name, the movie stars Dylan Walsh as a man who’s so perfect for Sela Ward that he must be hiding a dark secret. Kids, guess that Tomatometer!.
Also opening this week in limited release:
Director F. Gary Gray began his career creating music videos for several big name R&B and hip-hop artists in the early 90s, including Ice Cube, TLC, and OutKast. In 1995, Gray made a big screen splash with a little stoner comedy called Friday, starring a pre-Rush Hour Chris Tucker and an up-and-coming Ice Cube, a friend of Gray’s. Friday was a surprise hit, opening the doors for future high profile projects such as The Negotiator, 2003’s The Italian Job remake, and Be Cool.
This week, Gray continues his strong track record in the crime/action genre with Law Abiding Citizen, starring Gerard Butler in the role of a victim of a brutal home invasion who exacts vigilante justice on his attackers… and then some. We had the opportunity to chat with Gary about the movie and his career, and he kindly offered us his Five Favorite Films. Read on to find out more.
I’d say Casablanca. I love that it was a combination of political… It had a great love story, and it was unpredictable. It didn’t have the classic Hollywood ending, and that was what was great about it. Also, I love Humphrey Bogart, because he had the great ability to be masculine, yet vulnerable, and that was the perfect role to display that.
La Dolce Vita by Federico Fellini, who I’m sure you’re familiar with. And again, not the formula. He was incredible at expressing himself in a way that no other filmmaker could get away with. You see these sequences that may or may not be related. [laughs] Somehow, at the end of it all, it all makes sense, and you’re floored. The photography, and the shots, and the choreography can stand up to anything that’s been released up to now.
On the Waterfront, with Marlon Brando. Between the look, the feel, the casting… even the casting of the extras. Just to look back and get a sense of what America was like back then, and the details, it was just amazing. And again, it was another one of those movies where the leading man, the way they struck a balance between masculine and vulnerable. Humphrey Bogart did it in Casablanca; I think Marlon Brando did it in On the Waterfront, so that’s why they stick out as the best to me. They’re pretty incredible. You’re just like, you sit back and you say, “Damn, I wish I could do that!” [laughs]
Next, Gray talks about Law Abiding Citizen, what it’s like to sit with an audience through the premiere screening of one of his films, and his career.
RT: Let’s talk a little bit about Law Abiding Citizen. I was actually at the screening you held at the Arclight a few weeks ago, when both you and Gerard Butler showed up. The audience reaction to that was incredible; everyone seemed to enjoy it. What is that like, sitting along with an audience to watch one of your films for the first time?
F. Gary Gray: It’s nerve-wracking at first, because you just have no idea how they’re going to respond. That was the very first screening. You know what you like about the picture, but you have no idea what 350 people feel about your choices, and you get to see it firsthand. The audience reaction was amazing; I couldn’t ask for a better response, honestly.
Was there anything that the audience responded to in a way that you didn’t expect?
FGG: Well, there’s a moment with the judge, and I can’t give it away to the readers, but there’s a surprising moment with the judge in our picture. When I shot it, I knew it would pack a punch and I knew that it would be surprising, but I had no idea people would jump out of their seats and talk for the duration of the scene about that moment. There are a couple of moments like that, but I think that’s the biggest moment where you’re just kind of like, “Wow, I had no idea that would have that impact.”
I know that you weren’t initially attached to the project in the beginning. Can you talk a little bit about how you came to be a part of Law Abiding Citizen?
FGG: Yeah, Jamie Foxx gave me a call, and we’ve been trying to find a project for quite a while. I’ve always wanted to work with him. We really wanted to find the perfect material, the right material. He called me and said, “I found something great for us. I think you would be absolutely perfect. You should read it right away and tell me what you think.” And, you know, I read it, sat and met with the producers, the film department — Lucas Foster and Mark Gill — and two weeks later I was in Philadelphia in pre-production. It doesn’t always happen like that, but it did. I’m kind of lucky that it happened that way, because the material was great and the concept was great. To have it almost fall in my lap like this was perfect.
Speaking of working with Jamie Foxx, who also has a music career, I know you’ve done music video work with a lot of different artists, like TLC and OutKast. Some of your videos have a grand, epic feel to them, almost like mini-movies. What is it like directing pop stars versus directing actors? Are there any noticeable differences in the methods you have to employ?
FGG: Well, it’s two totally different universes. Directing actors in a movie, you have to pay close attention to the detail of the character, the character’s background, the character’s back story, how that character works within the context of the world that you’re creating within the context of the sequence you’re creating. It’s just a lot of detailed work. It’s obviously kind of predetermined when you’re working with a music artist. When you’re working with a music artist, you may have to do a little bit of that if you have a high concept, like a story within a music video, but a lot of that work is already decided because they already have their persona. It’s quite different. With music videos, I guess in general, you focus on entertaining people with images primarily. But with movies, it’s a completely different universe.
I had fun doing music videos, and it certainly helped me technically when I was coming up. I certainly wanted my music videos to feel like movies, but again, I can’t say that it’s a smooth bridge from music videos to movies because they’re two different worlds.
In Law Abiding Citizen, you maintain a high level of tension throughout the film. And with Gerard Butler’s character behind bars, manipulating events on the outside, and the gruesome early scene that takes place in the factory, forgive me for making the comparison, but it bears a resemblance to the Saw films. With that in mind, having mainly done comedies and crime thrillers, have you given any thought to branching out to other genres, like maybe horror?
FGG: It’s truly about the material. If I find a sci-fi project or horror project that I have passion for, then absolutely. I never limit myself when it comes to telling stories; I think people can see that in my body of work. It’s just about, what’s a great story? Is it unique? Is it a challenge? Am I up for it? It’s really simple. Yeah, you’ll see other things from me in different genres, especially this next chapter. I kind of consider my first six films like training camp, and the next chapter is really about the filmmaker and what I’ve learned, and applying that to my storytelling.
Do you have something specific coming up on the horizon that you’re working on?
FGG: I have a few things, but it’s best for me to get a little closer before I talk about them.
These days, particularly with the advent of internet sites like YouTube, it’s become much easier for aspiring filmmakers to have their work seen. Considering your background and how you came up in the industry, having not studied filmmaking formally, would you prefer to have had these same advantages or to have done things any differently than you did?
FGG: That’s a good question. I think there are a lot of benefits to having the technology today to try things out and to get a reaction from people on these social networks, but I’ve had a great career, so I don’t know if I’d do it any differently. This industry has been great to me and my career. You always want to adjust certain things, but overall, I’ve been fortunate.
F. Gary Gray’s Law Abiding Citizen, starring Gerard Butler and Jamie Foxx, opens nationwide this weekend.
For more Five Favorite Films, check our archive.
The iPhone is cool, but it’s even cooler to get one for free!
You could be the lucky winner of a $300 Apple Store gift card, if you enter the Law Abiding Citizen Re-Tweet contest. Here’s what you need to do:
1. Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Twitter.
2. Watch for us to re-tweet a link to an exclusive clip from Law Abiding Citizen. We’re following the director, F. Gary Gray, and he’ll be tweeting the clip link sometime on Wednesday, October 7.
3. Re-tweet OUR tweet of the clip link with 24 hours, and you’ll be eligible to win a $300 Apple Store gift card. Make sure your tweet begins with “RT @RottenTomatoes RT @F_Gary_Gray”
The winner will be randomly chosen from all of the retweets, and the winner will be contacted via a direct message on Twitter by Friday, October 9. Good luck!
While you’re waiting, check out photos from Law Abiding Citizen, and don’t forget that the movie opens on Friday, October 16.
Go to the next page for the complete rules of the contest.
NO PURCHASE OR MOBILE TWEETING NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A PURCHASE WILL NOT INCREASE YOUR CHANCES OF WINNING. OPEN ONLY TO LEGAL RESIDENTS OF THE FIFTY (50) UNITED STATES AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, WHO ARE OF LEGAL AGE OF MAJORITY IN THEIR JURISDICTION OF RESIDENCE (AND AT LEAST 18 YEARS OF AGE). VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. Employees (and their immediate families (parent, child, spouse or sibling and their respective spouses, regardless of where they reside) and those living in their same households, whether or not related) of the Overture Films, LLC (“Sponsor”), Twitter, F. Gary Gray, Incfusion Corporation d/b/a Rotten Tomatoes, (“Rotten Tomatoes”), and their respective parents, affiliates, subsidiaries and advertising and promotion agencies are not eligible to enter or win. By participating, entrants agree to be bound by these Official Rules and the decisions of the judges and/or Sponsor, which are binding and final on matters relating to this sweepstakes. Sweepstakes is subject to all applicable federal, state and local laws.
TO ENTER: Sweepstakes begins at the time Rotten Tomatoes retweets F. Gary Gray’s tweet of the link to a Law Abiding Citizen clip on October 7, 2009 and ends twenty-four (24) hours thereafter; see below for additional details (the “Entry Period”). On October 7, 2009, check the Rotten Tomatoes Twitter page at http://twitter.com/RottenTomatoes for a retweet of F.Gary Gray’s tweet of the link to a Law Abiding Citizen clip. Once Rotten Tomatoes retweets the link, you will automatically receive one (1) entry into the sweepstakes when you retweet the link. Retweet must be in one of the following formats: “RT Rotten Tomatoes RT F. Gary Gray [insert link URL]” or “RT Rotten Tomatoes RT F. Gary Gray check out this exclusive clip: [insert link URL]”. You may only receive an entry if you retweet Rotten Tomatoes’ retweet during the Entry Period. You must be a registered member of Twitter. Registration is free. All entries must be received during the twenty-four hour Entry Period to be eligible. All entries become the property of Sponsor and will not be returned. Please note: You can still retweet the link on Twitter after the Entry Period has ended; however, you will not be entered into the drawing. Limit one (1) entry per username, per person and per email address for the duration of the Entry Period. Multiple entries received from the same username or person or e-mail address will be void. Entries generated by script, macro or other automated means or which subvert the entry process are void. All entries become the property of Sponsor and will not be acknowledged or returned.
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