Early tracking numbers on Miami Vice and Snakes on a Plane won’t be surfacing for a while, but some of the mid-July attractions are going to make exhibitors “moan and moan loud,” I was told earlier today. Things could always bump up once the TV ads for the following films kick in (current figures are basically about the impact of theatrical trailers), but right now July isn’t looking that great aside from Pirates 2 business. Columbia’s Little Man (7.14) has a sluggish 68% general awareness, a 25% definite interest, a 20% definitely not interested and 4% first choice. Universal’s You, Me and Dupree (7.14) is looking “very soft” so far: 59 % general, 27% definite interest, 5% definitely not interested and 3% first choice. Clerks 2 (Weinstein Co., 7.21) has a reported 29% general, 31% (one third of the 29%) definite interest, 10% no interest and 3% first choice. The numbers on M. Night Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water (Warner Bros.) are not encouraging for a movie by a auteur-level director whose name is recognized by audiences like Steven Spielberg‘s: 53% general, 29% definite, 16% definitely not interested (higher than it should be…scary) and 3% first choice. Columbia’s Monster House (7.21) is at 60% general, 25% definite interest, 5% not interested and 2% first choice. Ivan Reitman’s My Super Ex-Girlfriend (20th Century Fox, 7.21) is at 56% general, 20% definite interest, 8% no interest and zero first choice.
Most descriptions of gallery art sound like pretentious bullshit, but this is funny besides: “The screenplay is never an end in itself; rather it is a vehicle for further creative exploration. By making the screenplay, the object and the end product of the artwork, screenwriter Tom Benedek (Cocoon) has corrected the internal contradiction inherent to the process.
“Tom’s artwork stars the screenplay, and that within it lives a movie, is just one aspect of the whole. By ‘shooting the script’ what he is really doing is liberating the word. Tom’s selection process only addressed “those of his scripts that were commissioned but [which] he no longer controlled, so that this incomplete document is elevated to a status it otherwise would never attain” Benedek’s artworks, which are being presented under the title “Shot by the Writer”, are being celebrated at a reception on Thursday, 6.29, at the Shavelson-Webb Library, 7000 West 3rd Street, Los Angeles, CA from 6:30 to 8:30.
Slate‘s Kim Masters is also saying that the Los Angeles Times “left out the punch line” in its story about M. Night Shyamalan‘s book that tears into Disney production chief Nina Jacobson for failing to applaud and support his Lady in the Water screenplay, which he later took over to Warner Bros. “The buzz on the movie — about an apartment-building superintendent who finds a sea nymph in a swimming pool — is not good,” Masters writes. If things turn out badly for the film, “Disney will have the last laugh [and] Warners will not be laughing at all,” she adds. “Shyamalan has a passionate group of fans who will probably help the movie open respectably but its success is far from assured. ‘He’s going to make Disney look brilliant,’ predicted one high-level producer.”
It’s hard to understand what it was about about Dawn C. Chmielewski‘s Snakes on a Plane article that that Calendar editors at the L.A. Times thought was fresh in any way, shape or form. Her article is a total regurgitation of facts and observations that other journalists have been writing about the grass-roots marketing of Snakes since last March. It’s like someone said, “Guys, we need to run a Snakes marketing piece that’s aimed at the 60-and-older crowd that hasn’t been keeping up.”
What…another story about Leonardo DiCaprio‘s Appian Way hitting the gas on a Timothy Leary biopic? (Playwright Craig Lucas and Leary archivist Michael Horowitz have been hired to write a script.) As I’ve been noting all along, Leo’s been half-heartedly stirring the Leary pot for the last few years and nothing’s happened.
A trustworthy source told me a few months ago that “there’s not a lot of focus” at Appian Way. “Leo is all over the map…he wants to work with Marty on this and that…[Appian Way] doesn’t exactly have a center-of-gravity thing going on.” The film will reportedly focus on Leary’s life between his enrollment at West Point in the early 1940s and his escape from prison in 1970. I’ve mentioned this about 18 times, but now that Lucas is on the case he should definitely read a superb book about ’60s psychaedelia called “Storming Heaven,” written by Jay Stevens.
“Superman Returns was supposed to be the sure thing. But considering the expense of making the picture, it has to do huge numbers just to come out okay. And it needs to do more than come out okay. An event film like Superman is supposed to make up for the other movies that fail. “If what you can say at the end of it all is, ‘We broke even,’ that’s awful,” says a top executive at another studio. “It’s not why you mount this type of movie. They’re so painful, they’re so stressful, they use up so much capital and they tie up the infrastructure. You need those to give back and when they don’t, it’s costly.” — taken from Kim Master‘s Slate piece on the financial pospects facing Bryan Singer’s film. Masters’ piece starts out noting that Superman Returns is going to get clobbered when Pirates 2 opens on July 7th, but she fails to mention one small but possibly crucial detail: Superman Returns is about something — it has a heart and a soul — and Pirates is about dead fucking nothing. If inner values mean anything to anyone out there, uperman Returns might hang around a little longer than the handicappers are predicting.
Here’s Marketwatch columnist Jon Friedman ‘s interview with L.A. Weekly columnist-blogger Nikki Finke, which ran yesterday (6.28). I don’t know Nikki but I’ve dealt with her from time to time (yeesh), and it didn’t surprise me to read that she’s lost it over a quote from Gawker co-editor Jesse Oxfeld that Friedman included in his piece. Oxfeld said that Finke is “at least a bit crazy — and you can never quite figure out if it’s good crazy or bad crazy. She’s a great reporter and a fun writer, and God knows I wouldn’t want to be on her bad side.” Obviously what he meant was that she’s eccentric, spirited…inclined to go on a rip every so often over something she strongly feels or believes. The best people in this industry are all a bit “nuts”. The fact that there aren’t enough Hollywood nutters — i.e., people who lay it on the line and worry about measuring or modifying their views after they’ve said or written them — and the town is full of cowards who tip-toe around any and all declarative statements is obviously what’s wrong with it. Finke being Finke, she’ll probably take this comment as a slam also…but that goes with the territory and there’s no stopping her.
I heard from Southland Tales director Richard Kelly, his friend-producer Sean McKittrick and another producer, Persistent Entertainment’s Matthew Rhodes, earlier today about Sony having acquired Tales for theatrical and home video distribution. No one’s saying which theatrical distrib branch — Columbia, Screen Gems, Sony Classics — will put it out there, but it would be really weird if it was Screen Gems. The first piece of news I learned is that Tales will most likely come out sometime in early ’07, and also that a showing at September’s Toronto Film Festival isn’t necessarily in the cards. Kelly and his editor are “re-ordering” some scenes, cutting some others, re-writing and re-recording some voice-over with Justin Timberlake, and then finishing a bunch of visual effecfts shots that weren’t done in time for Cannes. The finished cut will clock in around 10 minutes shorter, give or take, and Kelly expects to show it to Sony honchos in a few weeks time. Release-wise “we have heard rumblings of January,” said Kelly, “which might be cool since it is sort of a wasteland time for other movies and our movie would have room to be discovered as a wild card, and the graphic novels will have more time to be digested and read by fans, so I’m game. It just feels good to have the biggest movie studio in the world behind me…never had that before.” And by the way, the first Southland Tales Two Roads Diverge” — is being toasted at ViewAskew’s Westwood store called Secret Stash on July 6th.
For a brief period in the early ’80s I was seriously flirting with an idea of launching a glossy culture magazine called Nothing. Of course, a series of snide, lighthearted riffs on what was then an emerging new current — a notion that glib irony and an increasing absence of sincerity or “meaning” in the arts had virused into a kind of existential fast-food that everyone was consuming — was doomed to fail. It was too uptown, too dry.
Bill Nighy as Davy Jones — the greatest movie villain to come along in years, and a landmark CG accompishment
But if Nothing had succeeded and was still publishing today (and I were still the editor), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest — a profile of director Gore Verbinksi, probably — would be on the cover of the current issue.
Every scene, every shot, every frame of this 149-minute action blast and production-design extravaganza is a technical knockout. If your idea of great entertainment is measured primarily in terms of EED — extraordinary eyeball diversion — Pirates 2 is going to wow you. It’s going to fill you with good-time- movie delight.
I was over the moon about one particular element — Bill Nighy’s Davy Jones character, not only a villain extraordinaire but a masterful CG creation. Nothing I say in the rest of this review will slight this accomplishment in any way, shape or form.
But you need the right kind of hollowed-out attitude about movies to have a truly good time with Pirates 2. If you’re don’t, you may have some problems.
There is nothing, nothing, nothing going on inside this film. I can hear the Sons of Matthew McConaughey going “awww, screw him” right now. Only guys who are out of the post-Millenial loop would complain about a good-time jokey-ass pirate movie, they’re probably thinking. Lighten up and grow a sense of humor, dude. Life sucks if you can’t kick back and have fun.
But I get the humor. Pirates is very funny at times. It’s inventive and spunky every step of the way, and there’s the comfort of Johnny Depp’s jaded-smartass performance as Cpt. Jack Sparrow, and the pleasure of seeing Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley hold their own and then some, and studying all those wonderfully choregraphed action sequences.
Johnny Depp as Cpt. Jack Sparrow
This is a superbly calibrated and perfectly-timed movie, and Darius Wolski’s photography is drop-dead luscious. There’s a shot of rain falling on a set of teacups in the very beginning that really made me smile.
But it’s almost creepy how everything that’s good about this film is entirely about the eyes. Nothing kicks in within. Not ever, not once.
Jerry Bruckheimer used to make sirloin-steak guy movies. This is a Vegas movie for the whole overweight popcorn-munching family, and it feels like a real shame. I never realized in the mid-to-late ’90s that The Rock, Con Air and Gone in 60 Seconds were manifestations of Bruckheimer’s golden era, but they sure seem that way now compared to Pirates.
I need to reiterate how absolutely delighted and mesmerized I was by Nighy’s Davy Jones, the slimiest, yuckiest squid-faced villain to ever rule over a motion picture. The whole world is going to feel this way — this is a world-class baddie for the ages — although it’s only Nighy’s voice and body (i.e., not his head) at work here. His petroleum jelly maggot-squid head and light-blue eyes are all CGI.
Nighy is the captain of the Flying Dutchman, a three-masted ship that dives like a submarine and mostly prowls around underwater, which accounts for the barnacles and slime covering everything and everyone on board. (So why is it called the Flying Dutchman?) Nighy deliver his lines with perfectly honed humor and wit. He should be nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar…really.
The basic plot is twofold. Davy Jones believes that Sparrow owes him his soul, and he’s slimy and ferocious enough to insist upon this so Sparrow has to figure an escape. (Finding a key and a small wooden chest containing an organically throbbing object figure into this.) And the romantically entwined Will Turner (Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Knightley) have to deliver Sparrow’s compass to a frigid, bewigged British magistrate who will hang them if they don’t.
And for whatever reason, Verbinksi has decided to take two and half hours to tell one half of the story. (Pirates of the Caribbean 3 will be out in May ’07, and if it’s as long as this installment that two films will one day be a five-hour DVD.) The reason it’s so long is that Verbinksi is a Big Cheese these days and, like Peter Jackson, can do what he wants to do. And what he wants for this film is to digress and joke around and sometime slow things down for exposition’s sake.
The giant-squiddy Cracken monster, one of the joke-around elements, is just okay. Very fine CG, I mean…big tentacles!…but again, it’s strictly an EED thing. If that’s all you want from a film, fine.
Pirates 2 didn’t have to be this long, of course. Attitude romps should never run more than two hours. Verbinski and Bruckheimer know this — it’s a law — and they went ahead anyway.
I became very depressed last night when I looked at my watch, hoping to see I had about 30 or 40 minutes to go, and I realized there was a whole hour more. An hour! I had to go out to the lobby and walk around a couple of minutes to prepare for the coming ordeal.
The script should have been tighter, there didn’t have to be so many tangents and curlicues, and I swear to God I couldn’t understand any more than five or ten words spoken by a voodoo priestess character with black lips and inky-purple teeth (played by Naomie Harris). But I liked Stellan Skarsgaard as Bloom’s barnacled ghost-dad. He’s the only one trying to do anything semi-soulful in the whole film.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is the best-made serving of big-studio eye candy in a long time. The craft that went into it is truly top of the line. It looks great and buckles swash like a champ. But if you see this thing and use the word “joy” to describe the way it made you feel deep down, there is really and truly something wrong with you.
The content obviously isn’t news, but the brevity and simplicity of this e-mail, received this morning at 8:50 am, is striking: “As of Friday, June 30th, the DreamWorks Pictures New York and Los Angeles publicity offices will be closing. Please direct any press inquiries about future DreamWorks Pictures releases to Paramount Pictures Publicity at ([phone number].”
I’ve been told that MCN’s estimate on Superman Returns numbers — between $3 million and $4 million late Tuesday night and just under $10 million on Wednesday — is wrong. I’m told SR took in a bit more on Tuesday (between $4 and $5 million), and that yesterday’s take was around $14.7 million for a so-far total of just under $20 million.
Warner Bros. will probably report a figure of just over $20 million, which obviously sounds flusher. (Since I wrote this earlier today, Variety‘s Ben Fritz went with a WB-supplied figure of $21 million.) The 7-day total (Tuesday, 6.7 through Tuesday, 7.4) is, I’m guessing, probably going to be around $100 to $110 million. Not drop-dead stratospheric but pretty good.
Slate asked a bunch of filmmakers to name the one film they’ve watched the most. Their special teddy-bear comfort film. I gotta hand it to Jake Kasdan for having the balls to admit that his teddy-bear film is Ghostbusters. I can’t decide on just one, but the list starts with Paths of Glory, closely followed by Lolita, Dr. Strangelove …you get the drift. Early Stanley Kubrick soothes like valium.