My source says Beowulf went up 5% from Friday to Saturday, and is now expected to take in $27,286,000 as of late tonight. Fantasy Moguls’ Steve Mason is reporting that Robert Zemeckis’ motion capture fantasy went up 20% from Friday and will tally just over $30 million. Deadline Hollywood Daily‘s Nikki Finke is reporting that Beowulf gained only 6% Saturday and will end up with $28.1 million. Add it all up and the verdict is that Bewoulf showed vigor and performed fairly well.
It may be difficult if not impossible to find a photograph of phantom New Jersey screenwriter Kelly Masterson, whose original script of Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead (written in ’99) finally made it to the screen this year. Directed by the great Sidney Lumet, it’s become one of ’07’s best reviewed films. Masterson’s reclusiveness is not on the level of Thomas Pynchon or Glenn Gould. He takes part in WGA picket lines and has given the occasional interview. This one with with AICN’s Elston Gunn — not given in person or over the phone, of course, but via e-mail — is worth reading.
Masterson comment #1: “I did not know I was writing a heist film; I thought I was writingacharacter piece. When I first sent it to my agent, I told him it was a dark drama about people who tragically can not extricate themselves from their own stupid behavior. It was not until later I realized that it was a heist movie with noir overtones.
Masterson comment #2 (responding to Gunn’s observation that BTHDKYD‘s nihilism is mixed with a wide range of emotion and melodrama, suggesting that ‘nihlodrama‘ could be the wave of the future): “I was not consciously writing a ‘nihlodrama.’ I wanted to burrow inside each of these four people and tap into their darkest impulses and then follow them as they tried to find the light despite their own darkness. I think of the story as more existential than nihilistic.”
“Seeking a way out of an acrimonious relationship at Paramount, the DreamWorks principals David Geffen and Steven Spielberg have been negotiating to move their operation to NBC Universal,” according to N.Y. Times reporters Sharon Waxman and Brooks Barnes. They add, however, that “negotiations have hit a wall over financing.”
One thing’s for sure — I will be on serious pins and needles until Geffen and Spielberg finally settle on a happy partnership. Knowing that they feel unfulfilled and unappreciated by their current partners at Paramount concerns me a great deal. Here’s hoping things work out with NBC Universal. I’m pulling for these titans of industry like a Dodgers fan pulling for his/her favorite pitcher or hitter during the playoffs. More power, more millions…hit it out of the park!
Note: Nikki Finke reported yesterday morning that the Times story is “all wrong.” She says that “everyone including me has reported that DreamWorks has been talking to NBC Uni since the summer…except for the N.Y. Times.” She underlines that DreamWorks is contractually prohibited from negotiating with other companies before April 2008, and that a “meeting” between Geffen and GE chairman Jeffrey Immelt, Universal boss Jeff Zucker and Universal Studios president Ron Meyer this coming week is “simply a dinner.”
And when these guys sit down they’re going to talk about what…starting a Bhagavad Gita reading group? Personal fulfillment issues? Sierra hiking trails?
Esquire‘s Mike D’Angelo has written that Cate Blanchett‘s Bob Dylan performance in Todd Haynes‘ I’m Not There “goes beyond mimicry, capturing not only Dylan’s adenoidal mannerisms but his unruly prankster spirit. Whether needling pompous journalists or muttering random aphorisms, her ‘Jude’ greets the world with an expression of perpetual bemusement, as if enjoying some strange private joke.
“It’s an uncanny approximation of the Dylan seen in Don’t Look Back — so convincing that you often forget you’re watching a gender-reversed stunt, and so mesmerizing that you can’t help but feel disappointed every time the movie cuts to one of the other, far less iconic pseudo-Bobs.”
I dropped by the Four Seasons two days ago for a chat with Keri Russell. Not to talk about her latest film, August Rush (Warner Bros., 11.21), a Claude Lelouch-ian musical fantasy which I haven’t written about yet, but Waitress, which Fox Searchlight opened last May and which will re-open on DVD on 11.27. Directed by late Adrienne Shelly, it did well by reviewers and earned $20 million domestically.
Keri Russell — Thursday, 11.15.07, 3:45 pm.
Russell is friendly, casual, open. Like any successful actress, she knows how to charm without making it seem like an effort. Now 31, married and a mother of five month old child, Russell has been a working actress since she was 15. She has the agreeable aura of someone who’s lived through some ups and downs, and has been made wiser and stronger from this. She doesn’t seem the least bit neurotic or nuts. (Aren’t actresses are supposed to be a little bit twitchy?) Whatever — she’s an easy conversationalist.
I was okay with Waitress except for two significant things.
One, I couldn’t understand why Russell’s character, a spirited small-town waitress with a gift for cooking exquisite pies, is married to such an uncouth blue-collar pig (Jeremy Sisto). She’s bright and sensitive and appreciates the eternals, and yet she’s married to a brute caveman who does everything but club her on the head and drag her back to his cave by her hair. Such a relationship didn’t seem the least bit believable. In my experience animals hook up with animals and women with creative longings (stifled or otherwise) tend to hook up with guys who respect and understand them to at least some degree.
Ellen Burstyn was married to a guy like Sisto (played by Billy Greenbush) in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, but director Martin Scorsese solved the credibility problem with a two-line exchange. Burstyn’s on-screen son asks her why she married him and she says, “Well, he’s a good kisser.” That, at least, is some kind of explanation. Waitress provides nothing along these lines.
The other problem is that Russell’s affair with a small-town doctor (Nathan Fillion) goes on for months and months and no one gets wise including the doctor’s wife. Lovers make mistakes. Infidelity always comes out in the wash. People in one-horse towns always know who’s diddling who. It was nice not to have to deal with all that hurt and anger, but I still didn’t buy it.
George Hickenlooper and Fax Bahr‘s masterful Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (Paramount Home Video, 11.20) is one of the best making-of-a-famous-movie docs ever made, but the new DVD looks like a VHS tape. It could have looked much better if the original elements had been remastered, but Apocalypse director Francis Coppola, who narrates the DVD along with wife Eleanor, provided PHV with “the same 1″ inch tape that was used when they struck the materials for the 1991 videotape,” says Hickenlooper.
No remastering, tweaking or upgrading…brilliant! It’s almost 2008 with high-def video setting the hgh-end standard, and Coppola and Paramount Home Video have pooled their resources in order to give viewers an image consistent with video standards of 15 years ago.
DVD Beaver’s review says that “the quality is poor…parts of the documentary [are] dark and muddy since the footage was shot with 16mm cameras [and[ some scenes were shot or mastered on video. Plus “the raw footage that Coppola shot for his movie was un-restored (scratches, sprocket jumps, etc.), though scenes from the finished film look very good.”
DVD Talk’s review says “it’s aggravating that Paramount didn’t give the film a cursory touch-up…this 1.33:1 fullscreen transfer is only a step or two above my VHS copy of the film. The ragged, worn look does evoke the proper atmosphere, but the screens of text lack sharpness and often [and] the newer interview segments look flat and a bit washed-out…a very so-so transfer of a long-awaited title.”
The Other Boleyn Girl (Sony/Focus, 2.29.08), based on screenwrirter Peter Morgan‘s adaptation of the historical novel by Philippa Gregory, is about a sort of romantic competition between Anne Boleyn (Natalie Portman) and her older sister Mary (Scarlett Johansson) for the love and allegiance of King Henry VIII (Eric Bana).
We all know which sister lost her head in real life. (Those of us with a high-school education, I mean.) I’m not sure if the film delivers this particular climax, but it will apparently depict a romantic triangle and a hissing sisterly rivalry.
Wikipedia says that while Mary Boleyn was first to “know” Henry, she was actually King Henry’s “short-term lover” during the time that she was married to Sir William Carey (played by Benedict Cumberbatch).
Anne Boleyn, the account says, “resisted [Henry’s] attempts to seduce her and she refused to become his mistress. Eventually she accepted his marriage proposal and yet “she decided not to sleep with Henry before their marriage, as pre-marital intercourse would mean that any children they had would be born out of legitimate wedlock.”
As the trailer makes clear, the film’s problem is not historical accuracy but the ornate hats that Bana is obliged to wear. They seem historically authentic, but they make Bana look a little silly, like he’s playing dress-up in the attic with stuff he’s found in his great-grandmother’s chest. He resembles one of those middle-aged Italian fascists in that drag scene from Pier Paolo Pasolini‘s Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom.
In a cottonball interview with Rose McGowan by some worshipping fanboy, McGowan is asked about the Robert Rodriguez Barbarella project, which the N.Y. Observer‘s Spencer Morgan reported last month was in doubt because Universal doesn’t believe McGowan is a big enough draw to topline a $100 million sci-fi fantasy.
McGowan tells the fawning suck-up that she “can’t answer that question just yet” but says that “anything negative that has been written about me doing this film is utterly and completely untrue.” Perhaps she’s speaking about Morgan’s piece (everyone reads the Observer), but perhaps not. Whomever she’s referring obviously struck some kind of nerve, however, because McGowan rips into the this person as a word-slurring alcoholic.
“I suppose i should’ve wasted more of my time trying to decipher the ramblings of a drunken, slurring writer,” she says. “It seems that since i didn’t give enough time to this drunk, he took out his bitterness by writing lies. One of the biggest downsides of my business is that when people have the forum to write lies, I don’t have a forum to fight back. I’ll be honest, that stuff does upset me and hurt my feelings.”
My weekend Beowulf figure says $25,886,000 but Fantasy Mogul’s Steve Mason says Beowulf took in $10.4 million yesterday and will probably reach $30 million by Sunday night. (Who can you trust? Every day brings deception.) Bee Movie will edge out American Gangster, $13,801,000 to $12,792,000, for the #2 and ##3 slots. And Fred Claus, believe it or not, dropped only 32% — a pretty good hold. Critics and others with actual taste buds detested it, but the low-rent family audience will line up for almost anything cheery, glossy, broad and kid-friendly.
And yet they didn’t support Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, which will earn $9,396,000 and just under $3000 a print by Sunday night — a tank. (Was it the Dustin Hoffman factor? Family auds are renowned for their lack of standards so why did they blow this one off?) No Country for Old Men expanded to 148 screens and will end up $2,944,000 for the weekend — just under $20,000 a print. Love in the Time of Cholera is a wipeout with $1,960,000 and $2300 a print for the weekend.
The Last Great Hope of the 2007 Oscar season is Denzel Washington‘s The Great Debaters, which isn’t saying much. “Hope” doesn’t mean zip in this context. No one has seen the Weinstein Co. release (the first screening happens on Tuesday, 11.20) and there are concerns that Debaters‘ inspirational story might be (a) a little too familiar and (b) take a little too long to unfold. But Washington’s a focused and confident director and I’ve been told the film works very nicely, so let’s see.
I’m saying this because the other presumed award-level contenders — Charlie Wilson’s War, Sweeney Todd and The Bucket List — are looking hazy as Best Picture contenders.
The word all along has been that Sweeney may be trippy or rousing or even euphoric on its own terms, but it’s too Burton-ish and purple-arterial for the Academy.
I’ve read the script of The Bucket List, and it suggests that Rob Reiner‘s film will be fine — it has an assured feeling for character comedy and offers a certain tidiness, wholesomeness and old-guy wisdom. (Of course, tidiness can be a hindrance in itself.) It’s no secret that director Reiner, nice guy and Hillary Clinton Democrat that he is, has been off his game since the mid ’90s, and I don’t see any great Bucket surge in the offing.
What happened to Charlie Wilson’s War, you ask? Nothing. It’ll begin screening later this month and then we’ll know what’s what. It’s just that (I can’t ignore this) a negative CWW comment popped up earlier this evening from a certain blogger who has since taken the comment down. How’s that for a solid piece of information?
I’m not simple-minded enough to presume that this opinion is necessarily related to Universal’s decision not to stage a traditional bells-and-whistles CWW junket, which is at least partly due to a reluctance (or an inability) on the part of director Mike Nichols and the cast to assemble in Los Angeles for more than one day (Friday, 11.30). They had to know that at least some eyebrows would be raised about this. And we all know how this plus the withdrawn negative item is going to spread over the next 48 to 72 hours.
All this crap tells us nothing concrete. Certainly nothing I’d care to put into words, but I am starting to suspect (in faint little hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck ways) that Charlie Wilson’s War, sharp and entertaining as it might be, isn’t this year’s Million Dollar Baby. The combination of these two items plus Julia Roberts‘ neo-Texas accent won’t support it.
It was announced an hour ago that WGA strikers will resume negotiations with studios and networks on Monday, 11.26 — 11 days from now. Nobody can meet next week because everyone on both sides will be totally consumed by extensive travel, shopping and food-preparation arrangements in order to share Thanksgiving dinner with numerous friends and loved ones for a 90-minute period on Thursday, 11.22.
Outed ex-CIA spy and Fair Game author Valerie Plame spoke earlier this week to Politico‘s Jeffrey Ressner about the movie version of her book, which will be produced by Jerry and Janet Zucker and Beautiful Mind screenwriter Akiva Goldsman for Warner Bros.
Plame told Ressner that (a) “the script follows the book fairly closely, but obviously the writers take [liberties]. It’s factual up to a point, and where there were areas I couldn’t speak to them about, they drew from their vivid imaginations“; (b) it’s “a story of political intrigue, an espionage story and a love story…about the loss of innocence, about speaking truth to power…and it has some black humor, too, where possible”; (c) she feels that George Clooney, “who’s shown a deft hand behind the camera as well as in front of it [with] Good Night and Good Luck,” would be a good director for the Fair Game film; and (d) the film will be “all-encompassing” in that Bush and Cheney “will make appearances, but there are creative decisions that haven’t been quite figured out yet…it’s a story about the decisions that were made to take our country to war in Iraq.”