The word is good enough on
Monster-in-Law and New Line Cinema is confident enough that they’ve decided to sneak it on a fairly sizable (800 screens) nationwide basis on the weekend before the 5.13 opening. And the date, of course, will be Sunday, May 8th — Mother’s Day.
Socially, culturally, whatever…I think we have an unusual reaction kicking in with the coming of Warner Bros. and Joel Silver’s House of Wax. The big attraction-repulsion element, of course, is Paris Hilton’s costarring role. There are guys on message boards everywhere saying they’ll go to it only if she dies and some saying, “She dies? Thanks for ruining it!” and still others saying they won’t see it at all because she’s in it. Let’s get one thing straight. If you know anything about horror films, you know that lead actresses sometimes die, but suppporting actresses always die, so she’s toast and that’s it. The pleasure element, for me, is (a) how slowly and painfully will she die, (b) how long and how loud will she scream before she croaks, and (c) how naked does she get before it happens? If the answers to these questions are (a) very slowly and very painfully, (b) really loud and long and (c) fairly naked, I’m there. I mean, I’ll definitely go to the all-media.
A Lot Like Love has opened and people know what the shot is, so here’s my question. The movie takes place over a seven-year span during which Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet meet and clack against each other like billiard balls and bounce around and don’t get down to really being with (and for) each other until the end, which is naturally presumed to be now, i.e., sometime in ’05. The story begins, therefore, sometime in ’98. Much of A Lot Like Love happens in New York City, and one of Peet and Kutcher’s early scenes happens somewhere in the vicinity of the East River and the Brooklyn Bridge, and at night. Now, what visual image would immediately convey that this scene is in fact happening several years ago? Obviously, a shot of the World Trade Center towers, which could be easily CG’d into the Manhattan skyline. This wasn’t done, one assumes, due to some form of cowardice or trepidation. Director Nigel Cole (Calendar Girls) didn’t want to throw in a slight gulp-inducing visual cue into a vaguely escapist relationship comedy because he lacked the confidence, and was afraid a glimpse of the towers would somehow upset the vibe. Well, okay, it might have for a minute or two, but life is like that sometimes, and this doesn’t mean lovers don’t go right back to being in love and saying dopey things to each other five minutes later. This movie rests on the idea of Peet and Kutcher’s relationship beginning several years back, and if Cole wanted to avoid the issue I’m raising here he could have easily shot their outdoor Manhattan scenes in Grammercy Park or Yorkville or anywhere else besides the way-downtown area of Manhattan. I understand that comic farces can’t touch reality without shattering their chemistry, but A Lot Like Love pretends to be emotionally earnest and socially particular and down-to-earth. Not using the twin towers as a visual backdrop was, I feel, a profoundly chickenshit move on Cole’s (and Disney’s) part.
You might expect the idea of Michael Bay remaking Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 The Birds, as reported on 4.26 by THR‘s Liza Foreman, to induce purist convulsions among people like myself. But taken as a whole (and I mean apart from the excellent bird-attack sequences and the “end of the world” scene in the Bodega Bay diner), The Birds has always been a flat and rather stodgy film, and it could use some jazzing up. No one expects an egoist like Michael Bay to do a Gus van Sant and try and visually recapture Hitch’s 42 year-old original, and it would be a total shocker if Bay were to ape Hitch’s discipline in very gradually building the suspense and intimations of the coming bird attacks. We all know he’s going to speed up the story (if he pays any attention at all to the Hitchcock film or the Daphne du Maurier short story it was partly based upon) and go right for the jugular and heap on the CGI and so on. But at least Bay won’t have the terminally glacial Tippi Hedren as his lead actress (watch the Birds DVD…her performance wasn’t that good to begin with, and it really doesn’t hold up by today’s standards). And unless he’s a total klutz, Bay will have to be better with child actors that Hitch was. With the exception of the young Vernonica Cartwright’s, every kid performance in The Birds is flat-out awful…squirm-inducing. My son and I were watching the DVD a couple of months ago, and we were laughing and hooting when those black crows attack the kids as they’re running from the schoolhouse. Their acting was so bad that we wanted them to die.