Hollywood Box Office News from Ginger Liu
Funny People, Judd Apatow’s tale of LA stand-up comedians played by Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen, hit the top of box office charts over the weekend and are expected to nose dive like a bad joke. Apatow’s signature take-no-prisoners comedy is sadly lacking in the laughs that made Knocked Up and The 40 Year Old Virgin, Apatow’s previously helmed movies, such huge successes.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince wins the title as the biggest international opening of all time and will continue to do well as the movie opens in Imax cinemas across the USA. G-Force is down to third place in the box office but will continue to draw young support over the summer, and is just ahead of The Ugly Truth’s dating comedy starring Gerald Butler and Katherine Heigl.
Opening This Weekend:
Julie & Julia is essentially two films about how passion and food can change peoples lives. Although in Julia Child’s case, the bon vivant American cook with French sensibilities changed the lives of a whole nation used to eating convenience food in post war America and beyond. The other Julie of the title is Julie Powell. The only life she is changing is that of her own and she represents the vanity of everyday bloggers who are looking for instant fame and attention.
Originally conceived as two separate movies, director-writer Nora Ephron decided that Julia Child’s memoir, My Life in France and Julie Powell’s blog memoir, Julie & Julia, didn’t have enough meat to sustain a 90 minute feature on their own. This is a shame because Julia Child’s other life in France is not only thrilling reading, but with Meryl Streep’s performance as the passionate lover of life Julia Childs, the film is absolutely riveting and laugh out loud funny. Unfortunately, Julie Powell’s life is hardly the stuff of legend and hardly changes lives. Comparing her contemporary life as an unfulfilled writer in NYC to Child’s talent, hard work, and genuine need to teach others, is nothing short of insulting.
Nora Ephron is no stranger to juxtaposing lives in her work in films such as You’ve Got Mail (1998) and Sleepless in Seattle (1993). Her trademark comic timing and direction will not disappoint Ephron fans. But my heart sank every time Ephron returns to the story of Julie Powell. Amy Adams, Streep’s co-star in Doubt, fails to ignite any sympathy or even much care from audiences as her portrayal of Powell as nothing more than an under achiever who is jealous of her friends successes and embarks on a project that she at least hopes she will finish. Adams’ Powell is not cooking for the greater good or writing a self-help book, she isn’t even teaching herself the fine art of cuisine. But maybe this is Ephron’s point all along about how blogs and the internet as a whole, validates our existence, or at least goes to prove that with as little effort as possible, a blogger’s mundane life can be pitched against the life of one of the most influential people in America. How many of us rushed to write blogs on hearing of Julie Powell’s book deal? How little of us want to put in the hard graft, the real work into being another Julia Child. Ephron’s second and by far less interesting story of Powell makes the biggest statement of our 21st century lives.
Julie Powell works as temp middle manager in a New York government office, answering calls from distraught 9/11 victims and families. The work is full time strain on her emotions. Living in Queens with her loving editor husband Eric (Chris Messina), she cooks in their tiny kitchen and uses the time as her only escape from the day. Powell is approaching thirty and is constantly aware of her unfulfilled life. Her husband suggest she start a blog about cooking and Powell, with Child’s cook book in hand, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, embarks on a year long project to cook up all 524 recipes and blog about her adventure.
Back in 1948, Julia Child and her husband Paul, dashingly played by Stanley Tucci, are brought to Paris because of Paul’s job as a cultural attaché at the American embassy. The couple’s liberal outlook and enjoyment for life and French food, give Julia a reason de’tair. Julia’s hobby turns to passion after she becomes the first American to study at the Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. She meets fellow foodies, Simone Beck (Linda Emond) and Louisette Bertholle (Helen Carey) to co-write Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
There’s no contest as to whose life is more appealing and Streep and Tucci’s chemistry, united again after their starring roles in The Devil Wears Prada, is a joy to watch.
When Paramount decided to hold back on the reviewers pre-screening of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, the usual suspicious sniffs of turkey wafted around Hollywood as fast celebrity gossip. But let’s not forget that Paramount’s very own Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was panned by every critique with any note, only to become one of the biggest box office successes in recent years. Not to make drastic assumptions about young kids reading abilities but I don’t think many were taking any notice of what critiques had to say, they just wanted to see some kick ass special effects. Which brings be back to G.I. Joe. For those who have seen it, it packs every CGI punch it can muster in its 118 minute running time and satisfies grown up boy fans of the original 1964 G.I Joe plastic action figures and subsequent 1980’s comic and cartoon series. Paramount is going for the juggler with the obligatory toy merchandising tie-ins, just as they did with Transformers. And the cast list is impressive with Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Dennis Quaid, Byung-Hun Lee, Sienna Miller, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Christopher Eccleston, cashing in on what would hope to be a successful franchise of Transformer proportions.
Set in the near future, army pals Duke (Tatum) and Ripcord (Wayans) transport a deadly weapon capable of destroying whole cities. Scottish arms magnate McCullen (Eccleston) intends to steal the device and hold the world to ransom. McCullen is a member of an evil organization called Cobra and enlists the help of its army of super fighters, Storm Shadow (Lee) and the Baroness (Miller). G.I. Joe commander General Hawk (Quaid) trains Duke and Ripcord to take on Cobra and battle to save the world.
A Perfect Getaway is the kind of romp that plays on people’s fears of having too much of a good time away from the mundane but at least controllable confines of an American city. Milla Jovovich and Steve Zahn are honeymoon couple, Cydney and Cliff, who decide to hike eleven miles to a remote beach. Along the way they meet another couple, Cleo (Chris Hemsworth) and Kale (Marley Shelton), and traveler’s Nick (Timothy Olyplant) and Gina (Kiele Sanchez). Rumor has it that a couple murdered a pair of honeymooners in Honolulu and are still at large around the islands. Director-writer David Twohy (The Chronicles of Riddick, Pitch Black) provides the kind of fireside spooky story that people love plus a liberal amount of twists and red herrings to warrant a sequel.
Director-writer-producer John Hughes died today in NYC of a heart attack. He was 59. Perhaps no other filmmaker in Hollywood captured 1980’s American teenage-angst better than Hughes. No other decade before or since has been defined by a single director as Hughes was for the 80’s. He directed teenage classics, The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, adult comedies, Plan, Trains & Automobiles, She’s Having a Baby, and Uncle Buck. He also wrote Pretty in Pink, Some Kind of Wonderful, and the phenomenal hit, Home Alone. His cast of characters became famous by association: Matthew Broderick, Molly Ringwald, James Spader, Andrew McCarthy, Jon Cryer, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Eric Stoltz, Mary Stuart Masterson, John Candy, Elizabeth McGovern, and Macaulay Culkin.
Hughes took a ten-year break from Hollywood to be with his family. For many, the 80’s died with him today.
Leo DiCaprio and director Ridley Scott are on board to adapt Aldous Huxley’s 1931 novel, Brave New World. Huxley’s visionary sci-fi tale is set in the 26th century in a perfect world were births are strictly controlled in laboratories, families are outlawed, and all live within five distinct castes of varying hierarchies. In Huxley’s novel, traditional methods of reproduction are outlawed and thus recreational heterosexual and homosexual sex are encouraged from an early age. Transferring Huxley’s unique vision to the screen is a huge undertaking that only Ridley Scott -think Blade Runner (1982) -can master.
Ridley Scott is also revisiting his directorial past with an Alien (1979) prequel in development. The movie made names of both Scott and Sigourney Weaver with her portrayal as superhero and female icon, Ripley. Ripley was recently voted at Comic Con as the greatest onscreen feminine superhero of all time. No news of whether Weaver will cameo in the prequel, which is due for release in 2011. Comparisons to Weaver’s Ripley will no doubt disappoint but who out there could possibly fill her shoes. My bet is that Scott will choose a relative unknown for the female lead, as he did when he cast Weaver, that is if it is presumed that his prequel will center on a woman. This may not be the case.
Robert Rodriquez’s (Grindhouse-Planet Terror, Sin City, From Dusk Till Dawn) new movie, Machete, is set for release in 2010 and centers around an ex-agent, played by Danny Trejo (Grindhouse) who enacts blade-wielding revenge on the bosses who portrayed him. Machete’s character first appeared in a segment at the beginning of Grindhouse. Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Michelle Rodriguez, Lindsay Lohan, Steven Seagal, Cheech Morin, Jeff Fahey, and Don Johnson make up the ensemble cast.
New On DVD:
Race to Witch Mountain stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a Las Vegas taxi driver who picks up teenager runaways Seth and Sara who are on the run from mobsters, aliens, and the government. Their only hope for survival and to save the earth lies on Witch Mountain.
Jamie Foxx stars in the title role as The Soloist. The film tells the true story of Los Angeles Times journalist Steve Lopez discovery of mentally ill and homeless genius musician, Nathaniel Anthony Ayers. Robert Downey Jr. is Lopez and both his and Foxx’s performances are mesmerizing.