MARS NEEDS SCREENWRITERS

11 Mar

1. The Lorax/Universal                                   Wknd/$  39.1            Total/$ 122.7

2. John Carter/Disney                                    Wknd/$  30.6            Total/$   30.6

3. Project X/Warners                                      Wknd/$  11.6             Total/$   40.1

4. Silent House/                                               Wknd/$    7.0            Total/$     7.0

5. Act of Valor/Relativity                                Wknd/$    7.0            Total/$   56.1

6. A Thousand Words/Paramount               Wknd/$    6.4            Total/$     6.4

7. Safe House/Universal                                 Wknd/$    5.0            Total/$  115.8

8. The Vow/ScreenGems                                Wknd/$    4.0            Total/$   117.6

9. This Means war/Fox                                   Wknd/$    3.8            Total/$    46.9

10. Journey 2: Mysterious Island/WB          Wknd/$    3.7            Total/$   90.7

MARS NEEDS SCREENWRITERS

The Lorax holds at number one followed by John Carter opening at number two and the rumblings of this being a flop have been going on for months, pretty much since that first teaser trailer almost a year ago.  Not helping was the decision to take “Mars” out of the title even though the promotional artwork still had “JCM” all over it.  See, an animated kids film called Mars Needs Moms flopped, so jerk-off reactionary Marketing people instantly concluded that anything with Mars in the title had to lose it—including your movie whose sole plot was about a man going to Mars. This is why there is no greater insult to concept of higher learning than the idea you can get a degree in “Marketing.”  Ignore that Mars Needs Moms was doomed from the second they decided to not use the art style of the book despite being animated and there were charges of misogyny about the basic plot.  No, it was the word “Mars” that put people off.   But that’s not the big problem with John Carter. No, as with everything it begins with the script and there’s nothing wrong with this movie that shouldn’t have been solved at the screenwriting level, starting with not one, but two prologues.  We’re almost a half-hour in before he even sets foot on Mars.  There’s nothing that happens in that time period that couldn’t have been explained away with a line or two of dialogue, especially the part where author Edgar Rice Burroughs is incorporated into the movie. Granted, this was part of the book (I read them as a kid after buying the Marvel comic based on the character), but it’s not like this is some kind of sacred tome that everyone knows so they couldn’t touch it.  Things get changed all the time for expediency and this should have been one of them.  It’s just like so many things Disney; they were so caught up in making a franchise (and I’ve no doubt theme park attractions), they forgot to make the movie. The story is clearly sacrificed to set up sequels, but Burroughs already did that!  The first book, A Princess of Mars (which clearly didn’t past muster with Marketing Assholes, ‘cause no action movie can ever have the word “princess” in it) end on a cliffhanger!  If anything you’d have to change it so it was a stand-alone movie!  They basically added a 5th wheel to a fully functioning car making it unmanageable. The consummate irony being, they actually took a theme park attraction and made it into a decent stand-alone movie in Pirates of the Caribbean, which turned into a billion dollar franchise.  What makes it sad is that there is so much good work otherwise onscreen from the special effects to the production design to even the performances and even though I didn’t care for the casting initially, Taylor Kitsch as John Carter did grow on me.  But none of it can overcome a script that was too busy thinking about stories in the future to tell a coherent story now.

U-S-A! U-S-A!

Project X is down to number three and this was inspired by an actual event in Australia where a teenager placed the address on his party on MySpace (here it’s been updated to Craig’s List) and attracted 500 people and caused $20,000 worth of property damage.  Now that’s just embarrassing. Not to him, but to us as Americans!  That kind of raw stupidity should be long to us and us alone!

HOW ABOUT YOU WALK BEFORE YOU RUN, KIDS

Silent House opens at number four and as we all know, I don’t do the scary and this actually looks a bit scary, but I’m sure they undo themselves with the whole “one-take in real time gimmick.” Now the real time thing might have worked, but forcing it to look like one take will only result in the silliness of Hitchcock’s Rope which also feigned one take.  It ultimately distracts you from the story with wondering where the actual cuts were made (which is anytime the camera seemingly went into a shadow).  Or maybe it’s perfect. Either way I’ll never know.

SINATRA. JORDAN. MURPHY?

A Thousand Words opens at number five and honestly no one really expected better given this was made four years ago and has been sitting on the shelf since then.  A needless variation on Liar Liar…you know what? I can’t even be bothered to describe this.  But Eddie Murphy doesn’t care and that I do respect. He’s 50 and he says at 50 he should be able to sit on his money and not give a shit and it’s clear he’s doing both because every time a non-animated Eddie Murphy movie comes out I always think, “Wait. He’s still making movies?”  Just go ahead and make your retirement official, big guy. You can always comeback like Sinatra and Jordan.  Maybe we’ll actually miss you because god knows Chris Rock didn’t replace you and David Chappelle who could have simply walked away.

SOMEONE’S CAREER IS SAFE; SOMEONE ELSE, NOT SO MUCH

Safe House is down to number seven and while not a huge success, this ain’t no failure either, having made $177M worldwide off an $85M budget and I can promise you people like my mom will be all over it on home video.  And if you wonder who’s responsible for that, know that there are two posters: one with just Denzel and one with Denzel and Ryan Reynolds.  No solo Ryan Reynolds poster and after Green Lantern and after The Change Up I’m sure they rethought putting him on it at all.  He must call Sandra Bullock at least twice a day asking when they’re going to make another movie together.

IT’S IN THE GENES

The Vow is down to number eight and also in this is Sam Neil as Rachel McAdams’ father and he’s building quite the career as the go-to movie star father of hot daughters.  He was Kirsten Dunst’s dad in Wimbledon and Scarlett Johansson’s dad in The Horse Whisperer.

YOUR CAREER IS PROOF GOD DON’T LIKE UGLY

This Means War is down to number nine and also in this is Chelsea Handler and while I honestly like her, her name attached to anything but her own comedy is a sign of crap because she’s only borderline funny to begin with.  That’s unfortunate because it’s a sign of how far Angela Bassett has fallen, given she’s also in this and undoubtedly billed below Handler. Guess this is punishment for talking shit about Halle Berry winning the Oscar. It makes an odd sort of sense that she is here however, because though unseen she was also part of the movie this one is trying to rip off: Mr. & Mrs. Smith. She was “Mother” Brad Pitt’s boss.

THE END

Finally, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island closes out the top ten at number ten.

TITLE’S A LITTLE REDUNDANT

TV never stops and it’s a wonderful thing. The latest series to pop up is GCB aka Good Christian Bitches or Good Christian Belles if you’re Kristen Chenoweth and while I do love her, she’s scary thin, even for Hollywood.  Just as I looked at Desperate Housewives once for Teri Hatcher, I looked at this once for Leslie Bibb, late of the underrated show, Popular (and most recently the journalist Robert Downey Jr. sleeps with in Iron Man).  This is based on a book and while I never read it  I do know they do made one notable change in the main character played by Leslie Bibb. In the book, she was a nice girl not expecting animosity upon returning home.  On the show, she was a bitch in high school and her enemies are looking to avenge old hurts (though there’s no way Kristen Chenoweth and Leslie are the same age).  Honestly, that does make her a more interesting character. Unfortunately the producers stop at this and lack the awareness to see that having Amanda resulting to “bitch tactics” to defend herself does not reflect someone seriously looking to change.  If she were a better-developed character she’d be trying to fight that impulse and then be regretful when she let it out, but she isn’t and they just go for the cheap laugh of “Look, she taught those bitches a lesson!”  I guess my wait for more fun crap TV will have to continue until Ashley Judd shows up in Missing, the estrogen TV remake of Taken.

THE KING

I Am Bruce Lee is the latest documentary and given I’ve seen almost all of them, it’s one of the best.  I actually learned things like the fact Bruce Lee actually has some German ancestry and caught shit while training with the legendary Yip Man because of it. I knew he was a child actor, but had no idea he was actually a star and when he returned to Hong Kong as an adult they remembered him from that.  And I had no idea that he knew two of the Manson Murder victims or that changes in dubbing of his films changed whole characters and motivations.  Also the use of footage from his films to illustrate moments from his life is also a nice touch.  One flaw is perhaps too many celebrities, who possess only the most tenuous connection to Bruce Lee beyond just being fans.  Kobe Bryant?  Really?  Mickey Rourke?  Well,  I guess he was boxer…kinda.  A pro-skateboarder? Well, I guess we gotta bring the kids in somehow. Taboo from Black Eyed Peas showing how his performance style is comparable to Bruce Lee’s fighting style is especially cringe-worthy.  Other choices like Ed O’Neil from Married With Children Modern Family turn out to make sense as he is long-time student of martial arts and old enough to remember when Bruce Lee was alive.  The other flaw is when it stops to become an ad for professional Mixed Martial Arts fighting, citing Bruce Lee as the father of it as an excuse to do so.  What’s funny is in the documentary the actual father of MMA, Gene Lebell is not only cited but appears and lets you know how pissed he is that Bruce Lee, whom he knew and worked with, gets the credit (he’s also hysterically funny in his brutally honest assessment of how Bruce Lee would not only lose to anyone in a higher weight class, but would have had his ass handed to him by Chuck Norris in a real fight). His widow, Linda Lee is here as always along with his daughter, Shannon, who briefly attempted an acting career.  Bob Wall, who appeared in three of his films is also here as is longtime friend and student Danny Inosanto, best known to you as the guy with the red sticks in Game of Death.  He famously introduced Bruce Lee to nunchakus. When discussing Bruce Lee’s death he still tears up, something not even Linda or Shannon do.  Oddly missing are Chuck Norris and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, the former who pretty much has a career because of Bruce Lee. What, you can’t make time to say some nice shit?  And never ever are any other members of Bruce Lee’s family ever interviewed.  He had siblings, but this joins the list of articles and documentaries where they never appear.  They give short shrift to where he died (his girlfriend’s apartment) but I think Linda Lee has earned the respect of a little revisionist history. She’s buried a husband and son and while I understand this isn’t about Brandon, I’m a little surprised he wasn’t part of this more.

ROCK THIS TOWN TONIGHT

So while I remain trapped in this place in my life, new camera not withstanding, others around me continue to move forward making babies and careers and shit.  The latest is none other than Chasing Amy who popped up sending me an invite to see her perform live at Kenny’s Castaways.  Chasing Amy and I both decided to take up guitar late in life but while mine gather dust, she’s been off at NYC Guitar School actually learning how to play better.  She took the Rock Band class where basically they teach you play in a band and ultimately put you to the test at a showcase at Kenny’s Castaways where you perform a few songs and you invite friends and family to watch you fulfill your rock & roll dreams.  Because I’ll never do it, I can only be kind in my judgment of their ability as half of it is just getting your ass up there.  The band—who had the sublimely dirty name “Raw Honey in the Car”—did three songs and didn’t sound like a train wreck.  A big part of this was their amazing lead singer (daughter of the bass player, but could easily pass for his sister ‘cause black don’t crack, baby), who clearly is doing this on the real and if she isn’t, she should be.  Now the band after them, however, didn’t seem to realize they weren’t good and subsequently keep their ambitions equally low.  When you only try to hop and do hop, that’s good. When you try to fly and only hop then you look like crap.  They sounded like crap because not only were they shooting too high, they didn’t stop after three songs and with each number their limitations became more and more apparent.  And they didn’t have a great lead singer to help cover them either.  After all was said and done, it made me want to go home and practice. I didn’t, but I did briefly think about it and it’s the thought that counts, right?  Oh, shut up.

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