Sunday, June 30, 2013

Movie roundtable

Jim: It's summer and the summer blockbusters are out.  That's our topic for this roundtable.  Warning, there will be some spoilers.  Our e-mail address is Participating our roundtable are  The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Ty, Jess, Ava, and me, Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz); Ruth of Ruth's Report; Trina of Trina's Kitchen; Wally of The Daily Jot; Marcia of SICKOFITRDLZ; Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends; Isaiah of The World Today Just Nuts and Ann of Ann's Mega Dub. Betty's kids did the illustration. You are reading a rush transcript.


Jim (Con't):  Betty, you wrote  "Super Bomb: Man of Steel is awful" a little while ago and followed that up Monday with "Browsers and the bomb that is Man of Steel" -- why are you calling the film a bomb?

Betty: Superman Returns was judged a bomb as a result of it not having legs.  Man of Steel doesn't have legs either.  It had a great opening.  But it's already dead and it couldn't even make it with two solid weeks of ticket sales.  It'll see a bump for this weekend but it's dead.

Jim: You also loathed the movie.

Betty: I did.  It was heartless, it had no point to it and it was charm free.  One of the worst movies of the summer.

Jim: Alright.  Friday saw two anticipated films open, Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx starring in the action flick White House Down and Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy starring in the comedy The Heat.  Marcia, you saw White House Down, your thoughts?

Marcia: It's a popcorn movie.  It will hold your attention.  The best stunts and action are in the last forty minutes.  The best action may be when there's a long car chase on the White House lawn.

Jim: The premise of the film?

Marcia:  Jamie Foxx is the President of the United States.  Channing Tatum is security for the Speaker of the House.  Channing wants to become part of the Secret Service.  He gets an interview via a woman who wants him to go to at least second with her.  He also gets a White House pass for his daughter.  This is why they're in the White House when it's under attack.

Jim: Cedric, you saw it?

Cedric: Ann and I went to matinees Saturday of both films.  We took our son who slept the whole time.

Jim: He's a newborn, not even two months old, just FYI.

Cedric: Right.  It's a great action movie.  Channing Tatum's great in it.

Jim: I sense a reservation?

Cedric: Jamie Foxx wasn't that good.  He lacked magnetism and authority and I think Vanessa Williams came off stronger in Eraser than he does in this film.

Ann: And the child.

Jim: The child?

Ann: Channing Tatum, who is great in it the film, has a daughter.  Spoiler alert's already been noted stop reading now.  So at one point, Jamie turns himself into the bad guys -- supposedly to save Channing's daughter.  But then he's going to let James Woods shoot the daughter and tells the daughter that if he does what Woods wants then millions will die.  Then we've got the little girl preparing to be shot in the head and telling Jamie that it's okay. He looks weak.  He can't protect a child.  And Vanessa Williams was a lot more a part of the action in Eraser.  I was expecting Marcia to give a one-sentence review: "White House Down?  Try Driving Miss Jamie!"

Marcia: I should have said that. I would have if I'd have thought of it.  But, Cedric's point, yeah, Jamie doesn't really have the acting chops for this role.

Cedric: And you can argue that's especially the case when you're up against James Woods.  I think he was fantastic in the film.  But Channing held his own.  And he came off like a man. This is the second film where Jamie Foxx's manhood's been in question.  We didn't need to see his junk exhibited for the thrill of vengeful Whites in Django.  That film was deeply racist. Here, he was cast in the Bill Pullman role.  And that's not a role that provides much to do.

Stan: I want to praise an actor who was really good in it that hasn't been mentioned yet.  Lance Reddick was great.  I would argue he should get a nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Mike: I'd agree with that.

Jim: He has a secondary role as a military head.

Stan: Right and for the film to work, there has to be some surprises.  He is strong enough in the role to make you wonder if he's in on the terrorist attack.  Spoiler: He's not.  But he does make you wonder as he knocks heads with everyone and if he wasn't misleading you, you'd figure the movie out immediately.

Mike: I'd agree with that.  He brings an intensity to the role.  Most of us -- including Stan and me -- know Reddick from his role on Fringe as Broyles.

Betty: And it's a strong cast.  Maggie Gyllenhaal is really good in an underwritten role.

Jim: Alright.  C.I., I'm going to you for a critical overview?

C.I.: Channing Tatum's natural movie star appeal carries the film.  Disclosure, I know Channing.  The film is often too precious for words.  It starts off slow because they need to give a 'cute' to Jamie Foxx's character.  So he's headed home but wants the helicopters to deviate from the route to zip close to landmarks in DC.  Is there any point to it?  Not at all.  They trot it out at the end as well.  The president is not the lead character.  This is a case of an actor needing a 'moment' in a script.  It's wasted and makes the film drag.  Channing's wife in the film was miscast and we could have done without her because we've already had enough backstory at this point.  You could lop 15 minutes off the start without the film losing anything.  When the action does finally get started, it moves along quickly enough.  Even so, I would cut the scenes in Paris of panicking First Lady.  We don't need them, they slow everything down -- it's just two scenes -- and we've already got dialogue establishing the First Lady is in Paris.  We don't need to see her.  She's not part of the action at the White House.  Jaime Foxx tries too hard to be likeable to the point that he's failed to provide the stature a president is supposed to have.  Channing Tatum carries the film on his shoulders.  A tighter edit would have made this the action film of the summer.  Jaime Foxx emerges from the film having made another questionable decision and even more in need of an audience pleaser that finds him playing a functioning adult.  Channing emerges unscathed and earns the credit for the film's success.

Jim: Okay, we're now turning to The Heat.  Isaiah, overview?

Isaiah: Sandra Bullock's a special agent with the FBI.  There's a drug lord that they have a name for but no idea what he looks like or details on him other than he's in Boston.  If she can nail this case, her supervisor's ready to overlook her problems interacting with her peers and give her a promotion she's earned.  So off she heads to Boston where she learns that a police officer is working a related case, Melissa McCarthy.  While Bullock's character is prim and by the book, McCarthy's is loud and off-the-book.  The Heat is in the tradition of 48 Hours and other buddy cop comedies.

Jim: Trina, you found it hilarious?

Trina: I couldn't stop laughing.  Melissa and Sandra, as Betty noted in "The Heat," make a great team.  Actors are always being teamed up, Midnight Run, for example, found the always hilarious Charles Grodin teamed up with a very disappointing Robert De Niro.  It did not work.  They did not gell.  So the natural way that Sandra and Melissa work together is really something to behold.  A great deal of the time, I'm aware, I was howling at reactions from the actresses and not necessarily the lines themselves.  But that's because the chemistry really makes this film.  It's funny, it's hilarious, but that's largely from the actresses.

Jim: Kat?

Kat: Spoilers are allowed so stop reading.  When Melissa blames Sandra for what happens to her brother and ends the partnership and both women are off the case, Sandra's walking through the Boston FBI headquarters where a new team to find the drug lord has been assembled and as she passes she sees that they are making fun of Melissa.  She stops and tells them all off.  It's funny and it's touching and it's one of the moments that makes the film.  You believe it and that goes to Trina's point, they have real chemistry, Sandra and Melissa.  You believe that these two different people really do bond.

Jim: Wally, the nature of the humor?

Wally: It's easy to just think it's foul mouthed humor.  Melissa's character swears -- like most of us do -- and Sandra doesn't swear until the end of the film.  But there are a lot of humor twists and turns and the comedy derives more from human nature than anything else.  This probably is the funniest film of 2013 so far.  Not just of the summer, but of the year.  Like Betty, I'm glad to see Sandra doing a comedy again. 

Jim:  Betty's "The Heat."

Wally: Right.  Like Betty points out there, a lot of actresses win a Best Actress Oscar and you're left wishing they hadn't.  They go into this whole First Lady of Film mode that makes you wince whenever you hear the names, for instance, Julia Roberts or Susan Sarandon.  So it's great that Sandra's breaking that pattern.  I'm sure she'll do many dramas but she's not going to sneer at comedies that make us erupt in laughter.

Jess: And we need comedies.  My parents saw the film and they wanted me to make a point when I told them we'd be talking about it here.  My mother's a pro bono attorney, my father's an activist who works to overturn the death penalty.  They do serious work.  If they go to the movies, they're not looking for Merchant Ivory.  They're looking to laugh.  So, as kids, my sister and I were dragged to every Goldie Hawn and Steve Martin comedy there was, for example.  And that's great and I love their movies to this day.  But the point is, laughter is important and, like Betty pointed out, a performer in Bullock's league who wins the Academy Award usually turns their back on the fans and does so quickly.  My parents loved The Heat.

Jim:  Elaine?

Elaine: I agree with Jess' parents 100%.  With the stress of working on something you care about, when you go to the movies, you're looking to be entertained.  Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy make for a great comedy team and I'll note that one of the things that they excel in is physical comedy.  For example, when they're attempting to bug the phone of a drug dealer, they go to a club and it's hilarious watching them attempt to work their way into the dealer's circle and when Sandra says she wants to sit on his lap, you'll be howling.  Or when Sandra's stabbed in the leg and trying to breathe through the pain and then Melissa stabs her in the leg, you'll be howling.  It's a very funny movie. 

Jim: Ava?

Ava: This is a tight film with no extra.  Please do not leave when the film is over.  There's a great scene coming and I think they waited until after the end for it out of fear that it might make the film too long.  This bonus scene revolves around a cat.  So be sure to wait for it.  Despite the claims of Bridesmaids changing everything, the film changed nothing.  Every couple of years, we get a chance to see women team up.  That's been true since 9 to 5.  Bridesmaids did not lead to a plethora of comedies with women in the lead.  In the 80s, Bette Midler began a run of comedies and Goldie Hawn has a filmography of comedies.  The Heat has more in common with those, or a Diane Keaton comedy, than it does with Bridesmaids.  It's a funny film that had the theater I was in erupting in laughter over and over.  As soon as you think the laugh's over, another one hits you.  For example, at the morgue, Sandra makes a tongue in cheek pun that gets loud laughter and then Melissa follows with a zinger that extends the laughter.  They really are a great team. 

Jim: Alright.  Now it's not even July, there are other would-be blockbusters in store.  Ruth, Dona and Ty are going to talk to us about them.  First off, a film comes out this Wednesday.  Ruth?

Ruth: The Lone Ranger.  This has already been the basis for a film that bombed in 1981 starring Klinton Spilsbury.   Westerns haven't done well in recent years and comedy westerns have struggled even more so.  This one stars Johnny Depp which should be good except he is playing the sidekick Tonto.  Lone Ranger?  He is played by Armie Hammer who's never carried a film before and came closest in Mirror Mirror when he was the third lead.  The trailer should be making us anticipate the film but instead seems to be breeding, based on online discussions, aversion.  There's not one sweeping moment, one great thrill, that the trailer indicates or makes you eager to see.  Will it bomb?  I have no idea.  But I think the idea that it is going to be a big hit or a satisfying film -- I do not see it happening.

Ty: A film that has much more interest is The Girl Most Likely which opens July 19th and finds Kristen Wiig in her first leading role follow up to Bridesmaids.  The film has a strong cast which includes Annette Bening, Matt Dillon and Natasha Lyonne. 

Dona: The other film that is interesting is The Wolverine.  Hugh Jackman back as the lead character is enough to interest most.  But the trailer's made it even more buzz worthy noting that Famke Janssen has a brief appearance as Jean Grey.  Wolverine's the natural super hero, he doesn't need all the gimmicks so many of the Marvel and DC super heroes do.  Like many, this is the film I am longing to see.  It comes out July 24th.

Jim: Okay, this is a rush transcript and our look at summer film.

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