Weekend Forecast: 11/2/07

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I’m not going to have a lot of time for new releases this week because of the AFI Film Festival, but I haven’t missed a Weekend Forecast yet. Here are this week’s wide releases:

  • American Gangster. I hope this one is good, but I’m afraid Ridley Scott is no longer in my pantheon of must-see directors. He’ll always pique my interest in the hope he can recapture his Alien/Blade Runner glory, but his track record in the last 20 years has been very spotty. I’m not even a huge fan of his hits Thelma & Louise, Gladiator or Black Hawk Down. Am I going to movie hell now for saying that out loud?

  • Bee Movie. BzzzzzzZZzzZZ zZZzZZzZZzzzz ZZZzzZZZZZzzzZZz ZZZzzzZZzzZZ ZZzzzZZZzZZZz ZzZzzzzZZZZzzzzZZ ZZzzZzzZZzZzzz ZZzzzzZZz zZZzzzZzZz ZZZZzzzzzZzZZ zZZzzZZzzZZZz ZZZZZzzz…
  • Martian Child. I fell for a movie about a dude who falls in love with a sex doll, so why can’t I buy this one about a couple who adopts a child who says he’s from Mars? I don’t know, but John Cusack aside, I’m just not.

Expanding:

  • Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. Already opened in limited release. Expanding a little bit this weekend.

Limited Release:

  • Darfur Now. Documentary about the genocide in Sudan.
  • Fat Girls. The L.A. Times is calling is comparing it to Napoleon Dynamite minus the good-hearted eccentricity. In other words: if you loved Napoleon Dynamite, you’re going to hate Fat Girls and if you hated Napoleon Dynamite, you’re going to hate Fat Girls. Or maybe not. This one’s about a gay Texas teen and his plus-sized female friend and I’m sure it’s designed to appeal to the outcast in all of us.
  • The Good Night. I’ve already mentioned Jake Paltrow’s directorial debut, but it’s opening in L.A. this weekend so here you go.
  • Joe Strummer the Future is Unwritten. Julien Temple’s documentary about the late co-founder of The Clash.
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19 thoughts on “Weekend Forecast: 11/2/07

  1. If you’re in movie hell Craig then I guess I’m in…whatever’s worse than Hell. I actually kinda hated Black Hawk Down, I think it’s a videogame that got a pass because it has the “auteur” stamp of approval. Gladiator doesn’t hold up, and Thelma and Louise, well, I think it’s well directed, but the deck seems a bit stacked to me.

    Excluding the terrific Alien, I like Scott’s less Scotty movies, stuff that most people may not even associate with him. I really liked Matchstick Men, and Black Rain is a great fuck it bit of macho, vaguely irresponsible entertainment. As absurd as it is, I actually kinda dug Hannibal too, at least it doesn’t sleep walk like Red Dragon did.

  2. You said it, Chuck, although I couldn’t get into Hannibal or Black Rain much at all. I think Black Hawk Down is hugely overrated by fans and I think Ridley Scott is a mid-level directing talent at best.

    The irony here is that I say this but I’m going to see Blade Runner Redux tonight, the ultimate expression of directorial ego possible, reworking and re-releasing a movie not once, but twice.

    Alien Child: So when did John Cusack become this decade’s Tom Selleck? Seriously, I love most of Cusack’s work up to High Fidelity and then it’s all down hill from there. He REALLY needs to fire his agent. Fuck, I saw the commercial for this movie and I was tuning out within three seconds.

    Bee Movie: Please make it stop. Seinfeld is making my head hurt. The first two trailers for this will be far better then the sum total of this movie.

    Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead: I want to see this one.

  3. I won’t quibble with anyone’s pro or con Ridley picks since it appears we all take away a similar opinion.

    I still have a measure of hope for Gangster, but I’m not counting on it delivering.

    As for Cusack…well his next one, Grace is Gone might be good…at least I heard it was but I have to admit the trailer looked pretty crumby. I don’t know. Where have ye gone Lloyd Dobler?

  4. I appreciate that you’re not impressed with Scott’s worth as a director Joel. We can’t like someone simply because others tend to. But dismissing him as only of middling talent as a director simply doesn’t stack up. He’s directed what are generally regarded as masterpieces of genre filmmaking – science fiction. Not only have these films been passionately loved by many movie buffs and to some extent the general movie going public (through re-runs, video home rentals etc.) but they’ve been written about extensively in film journals and books with regards to what was new and innovative about them in terms of style and ideas. Much of this can be referenced to Scott’s ability as a director and story teller. More importantly, they have acted as a major and readily acknowledged influence on many other directors working within the genre.

    In addition to the aforementioned films Scott has directed a number of other quality films that genuinely middling ability directors would die for -> The Duellists, Thelma and Louise, Gladiator, and Black Hawk Down. He’s also made films of unexceptional interest and execution. But all have their champions.

    What about this says middling to you? One could look at the canon of many of the most highly regarded auteur directors and find a couple of easily argued masterpieces, several other consistenly regarded as higher quality films, and several less well regarded films that have their champions. Your directors of high ability must comprise a very small club πŸ™‚

  5. Touche, Sarte, but I have to ask…what has Ridley done for me lately? Not much. I think he’s a weak storyteller, his characters benefit more from good casting than narrative depth, and he has a tendency to exploit simple sentimentality rather than delve into anything more complex.

    I think Scott is like many directors who started in commercials and transitioned to films: he has a very strong sense of style, but very little substance to his storytelling.

    Sure, Alien and Blade Runner had a profound effect on the production design and atmosphere of numerous genre films that followed, but what else is there? And since we’re talking visuals here, it’s important to note that the DPs, the production designers, the costumers, and the effects artists had as much if not more of an effect on these films than Scott did directly. And I say that because I’ve read interviews with Scott where he has acknowledged this as fact.

    Heck, if you forced me to admit to it, I’d say that I love Aliens far more than I do Alien, but Alien did scare the crap out of me as a child.

    But I also admit this is simply my opinion. A lot of people really, really love Ridley Scott and that’s great. I just don’t hold his work in the same esteem.

  6. And I apologize if my blunt tone offends, but Sartre sort of called me out and I felt I had to be honest.

    That said, Viva American Gangster. I hope it lives up to the hype.

  7. No apologies necessary for blunt tone. I was interested in hearing more of your rationale. And besides I have no problem with lively debate. Not surprisingly I think one could challenge the characterization of Scott as solely a stylist, and one whose success owes more to his collaborators (him commending them at interview is open to other reasonable interpretations from the one you’ve taken). But I sense that we’re so far apart on this topic that further debate serves no purpose. Let’s agree to disagree.

    One thing I don’t dispute is that he hasn’t been in top form for some time. Something I don’t find surprising among artists in their later career. Even Scorsese had arguably been in an extended artistic slump prior to The Departed – a film that for all its accomplishment seemed to me a remix of his earlier and most creatively exciting work.

    Lastly, I expressed disagreement. I didn’t call you out in front of the saddle tramp saloon for a shoot-out πŸ™‚ Sorry if it felt too pointed. I’d only shoot myself in the foot if I ever drew a gun with speed.

  8. Allow me to try and take the middle position. On one hand, I completely agree with Joel’s question of “What has Ridley done for me lately?”…in essence what I was asking with my initial skepticism over American Gangster. My answer is: not much. Reasonable people can disagree on that. On the other hand, any director who delivers two films of the influence and quality of Alien and Blade Runner is jake in my book. They need do nothing further for me to always think upon them fondly.

    In this case, I’m not so much concerned with Ridley’s reputation, that’s established, but as I said before, he’s not a slam dunk for me. I’m curious about whatever he does, but reserved. Whereas if Joel and Ethan Coen shit the bed and filmed it on VHS stock with a band of SAG disqualified monkeys and assorted circus performers….I WANT TO SEE IT. Ridley I strike a more wait and see attitude.

  9. Interestingly, I was an inch away from tempering my expectations with regards the Coens after a string of 4 films that varied from what I thought was just below their best level – O Brother Where Art Thou – to their rock bottom – The Ladykillers. One more less exceptional effort and I would have struck a more wait and see attitude towards their future films. The news that they’ve returned to top form directing a book I love is so exciting.

  10. That’s funny because I’m still in denial about both Ladykillers and Intolerable Cruelty. I don’t consider them to be true Coen pictures and, once again in the immortal words of Shep Proudfoot: “I can’t vouch for ’em”.

    Still it’s fair to say I liked them both slightly better than just about anyone I know and they suffer mainly in comparison to their other work.

    I also like O Brother quite a bit and The Man Who Wasn’t There even more so even if I admit to myself of a cold dark night that their last two movies were stinkers, I’m ok with that.

    On a tangentially related note, I just got finished typing another comment in another venue in another land about how in a certain way I’m more excited about the new PT Anderson movie than I am the Coen film which for me is very strange. The reason is that I have less to lose with There Will Be Blood. I want it to be great, but if it’s not, I will recover like a champ and move on with my life. If No Country For Old Men is even slightly disappointing, well I’ll be bummed for months. All that pressure can’t be good.

  11. Thanks Sartre, I agree with both of your comments for the most part. I could be just completely missing the point on Ridley in general and although I do enjoy Blade Runner and Alien, his recent tinkering with both has made me question the originals probably more than I would otherwise.

    And it is compelling that many (definitely not all) directors seem to lose some of their…inspiration, ahem, as they get older. Scorsese is an interesting case in point because I can see the artistic zeal of his early days in his last few films but other than Departed, none of them really have completely come together in some time.

    Of course, if Scorsese wanted to do a remake of that Coen Brothers stain Craig mentioned in his previous post, I’d be there on opening weekend happily buying a ticket to see the results.

  12. I actually have all but one of the Coen Brothers films in my home DVD library -> Ladykillers. It was an interesting remake choice. I wasn’t that fond of the original Ealing Studios effort. They would have done better to update Kind Hearts and Coronets – a wonderful black comedy that stands the test of time.

    If we’re to believe the reviews No Country is a masterpiece.

    I’m guessing that it, There Will be Blood, and Jesse James will be the 3 current batch of films most remembered in 10 years time. It’s shaping up as a special year.

    “Scorsese is an interesting case in point because I can see the artistic zeal of his early days in his last few films but other than Departed, none of them really have completely come together in some time.”

    Totally agree Joel.

  13. I agree about Ridley Scott. For a while, I always felt like: Ridley = intellectual, Tony = smoke and flash. Not just in style but in terms of their material. Over the years, however, their sensibilities seem to have merged closer and closer together. Which is not a slam against Tony, I’ve just never seen him as the kind of mind who could pull off “Alien” or “Bladerunner.” Now I don’t see Ridley that way, either.

    But I have to say I think “Intollerable Cruelty” actually gets kind of a bum rap. It’s a lark. And I definitely prefer it to “O Brother,” which I’ve never been a big fan of.

    Both films are contrived, but whereas “Cruelty” embraces its romantic farce trappings, “Brother” tries to have it too many ways — oddball slapstick, Homerian epic, gritty Southern parable, racial commentary, religious satire and roots music warehouse with a Grammy certification from how many different years? Like three?

    Eh. It’s a preference. I have two friends whose opinion I trust who’ve seen “No Country” and “There Will Be Blood” and both of them have warned me to hold onto my balls when I finally see the films because both movies are capable of knocking them off.

  14. It warms my heart Harv to see someone stepping in front of the bus to give a little respect to Intolerable Cruelty. It still doesn’t feel exactly like a real Coen movie to me, but it’s got two things going for it: 1) a terrific performance by George Clooney and 2) Wheezy Joe. Come on! Wheezy Joe was awesome. Best entrance and best exit of a character in ages.

    O Brother gets a lot of mileage out of the bluegrass music which I’m quite fond of. Covers up some of the other weaknesses you identify.

    I kind of hope Ridley has another good one in him and that maybe American Gangster is it. We’ll see though.

    Also, thanks for stopping by.

  15. Intolerable Cruelty was better than Ladykillers even if Ladykillers felt more Coen Brothers in style and atmosphere than Intolerable Cruelty did.

    But I would have to agree with Craig that Wheezy Joe could only be a character in a Coen Brothers movie and thank god he shows up in Intolerable Cruelty.

    Kind Hearts and Coronets? Now I’m curious to check this one because I agree, Ladykillers really hasn’t aged well, as much as I love Alec Guinness (although it works better than the remake).

  16. Joel and Ethan Shit the Bed is regarded by many reputable scholars as a classic of its genre.

    Intolerable Cruelty was chugging along pretty well until the copout ending, which tried to have it both ways; that is it wanted to BE a happy ending for box office reasons, and be a parody of one for Coen fans. Didn’t work. This film needed a War of the Roses ending.

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