By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, January 18, 2013 - 0 Comments
He’s back. Now that his marriage and political fortunes have gone up in smoke, Arnold Schwarzenegger makes a game attempt to re-ignite his career as a Hollywood action hero with his first lead role in a decade. In The Last Stand, The Governator re-enters the fray as a kind of unplugged Terminator, an old-school sheriff in a sleepy Arizona border town who ends up battling a fugitive Mexican drug lord in an armed stand-off that unleashes more firepower than the Alamo. Landing in the thick of the current debate on gun control, the timing couldn’t be worse, especially with Arnie using a school bus as a lethal weapon, along with a vintage arsenal of big, bad-ass guns that turn the sheriff’s one-horse town into an NRA fantasy camp.
The Last Stand‘s formulaic scenario, of a crusty lawman hauling himself out of semi-retirement, could be seen as Arnie’s Unforgiven, but with way more cheese and no gravitas. At best, it’s a guilty pleasure. Continue…
By Emily Senger - Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 5:18 PM - 0 Comments
Fans celebrate ‘Breaking Dawn Part 2’ with 11.5 hours of sparkling vampires, teenage angst and sexual tension
They skipped class, skipped work, called in sick, or used up a precious vacation day. However they got there, the fans gathered in a half-full downtown Toronto movie theatre for a marathon of epic proportions: all five Twilight films screened back to back, culminating with the newest release, Breaking Dawn Part 2 at 10 p.m.
That’s approximately 11.5 hours of sparkling vampires, teenage angst and sexual tension — until, at least, (SPOILER ALERT) the fourth movie, Breaking Dawn Part 1, where Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) finally get married and consummate the deal.
At the Scotiabank Theatre Toronto, the fans come prepared.
By Jessica Allen - Monday, November 12, 2012 at 2:23 PM - 0 Comments
A recap of the mania, plus 12 Twihards to follow on Twitter to avoid missing Twilight-related breaking news
When I found out several years ago that many of my thirtysomething friends were reading the Twilight books, children’s books by most accounts, I felt sorry for them. Then I accidentally rented the first movie, watched it twice, and started to search Google for photos of Robert Pattinson, who plays the 104-year-old Byronesque vampire Edward in love with a human highschool student Bella Swan.
I knew it was inappropriate to look at these photos — it reminded me of the time I constructed a River Phoenix scrap book when I was 14. Even still, I downloaded the second book, New Moon and read it straight through with only one bathroom break.
Then I found PDFs of Eclipse and Breaking Dawn and read them, sometimes at work, on my computer. I actually skipped the bits in Breaking Dawn that were written from the werewolf Jacob’s perspective. I didn’t care how he felt about Bella. I just wanted to know that everything would work out between Bella and Edward and they would be in love forever. Forever.
It was a dark time.
By Jessica Allen - Friday, September 7, 2012 at 1:17 PM - 0 Comments
We expected some of the boys, but got Kirsten Dunst. Fine by us
By Kara Dillon - Friday, September 7, 2012 at 11:25 AM - 0 Comments
A couple of red carpets studded with stars like Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt and Kristen Stewart
By Peter Nowak - Friday, September 7, 2012 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
Last week’s post about how the budgets for television shows may need to go down in order to adapt to the internet sparked some interesting discussion over on Twitter. The discussion involved films, of course, with one commenter suggesting that A-list actors such as Tom Cruise command huge salaries because they’re proven draws.
That got me thinking: do movie executives really cast their movies based on the drawing power of the actors? Of course they used to, so the better question is perhaps whether they still do? And if so, is it possible to play games with such a system, similar to how baseball manager Billy Beane played “Moneyball” with the Oakland Athletics?
Surely I’m not the first person to have thought of this – it would actually only surprise me if this sort of thing wasn’t widespread in Hollywood.
Beane’s Moneyball strategy, for the uninitiated, was a system of picking players based on non-traditional statistics. For much of its history, Major League Baseball has aligned the value of its players according to traditional stats, like batting average, home runs, stolen bases, earned run average and so on. If one guy consistently hits .300 and 40 home runs, then he’s an all-star who should make big bucks, or so the system has gone.
Beane, however, didn’t have those big bucks to spend with the A’s, so he instead focused on what he felt were more important statistics, such as on-base average and slugging percentage. After all, it doesn’t really matter how a player gets on base – whether it’s through a hit, a walk or even hit by a pitch – because once he’s there, he has the same chance to score a run as a good hitter, which is the only thing that matters in a game that’s decided by one team outscoring the other.
As dramatized in the Brad Pitt film, Beane put together a successful team based on his stats that had no bona fide all-stars, just players who put together solid numbers but were paid modestly. The “Moneyball” strategy has of course had a big effect on baseball since, with many teams now employing statisticians that study such numbers.
The logic seems to apply to movies as well. Over the past year, Tom Cruise was again the highest paid actor, according to Forbes. The illuminating part, however, comes from looking at the magazine’s most overpaid actors list, which calculates the revenue from their last three films against salaries. Right there at ninth most overpaid is Cruise, whose movies earn $6.35 for every dollar he’s paid.
Contrast that with the most profitable actor, Kristen Stewart, whose movies (which have basically been Twilightfilms, so far) earn $55.83 for ever dollar she’s paid.
The two lists are quite obvious when compared. The overpaid list includes established, big A-listers including Cruise’s ex-wife Nicole Kidman and comedians such as Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell and Eddie Murphy. The most profitable list, meanwhile, is made up mostly of young actors such as Stewart’s co-star Robert Pattinson, Daniel Radcliffe and Shia Labeouf.
The major flaw with Forbes’ process is equally obvious when the types of movies the actors star in are considered. People go to see comedies based on the actor/comedian, while not many go to big event movies like Transformers to see Labeouf. Comedy actors thus probably merit higher pay while their movies earn less than blockbusters, which pay their stars relatively little. This skew explains much of the two lists.
Still, the inclusion of dramatic actors such as Cruise and Kidman on the overpaid list does lend credence to the fact that paying an actor large amounts of money to star in a movie is pretty risky, if not foolish. From a financial perspective, it would seem to make more sense to play Moneyball with actors. As long as it’s not a movie that’s completely dependent on the actor’s personality, young players consistently deliver a better bang for the buck.
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, June 1, 2012 at 3:41 PM - 0 Comments
Mirror mirror on the wall, which is the fairest fairy tale of all? Well, this weekend offers a choice between the Enchanted Forest and the Forest of Disenchantment—between Snow White and the Huntsman, another Hollywood revision of the classic fable, and Moonrise Kingdom, Wes Anderson’s quirky tale of two lovestruck 12-year-olds who elope into the woods.
Snow White and the Huntsman
Being locked in the tower of Twilight all these years, doting on a sullen vampire in a world where sex is a mortal sin, Kristen Stewart must have been dying to break the mold and recast her image. So here goes! She got naked for the bohemian rhapsody of On the Road, an adaptation of the Jack Kerouac novel that premiered in Cannes last month. And now she dons a suit of armour in an epic makeover that turns the Seven Dwarves’ den mother into a veritable Joan of Arc—Snow White, princess warrior.
This is the second movie this year to draw from the fairy tale for source material, after the wretched Mirror Mirror, a cutesy-poo confection starring Julia Roberts as the wicked queen. (It, too, featured a fighting princess; Hollywood now seems to have a law requiring all fairy tale heroines be empowered, if not super-powered.) But Snow White and the Huntsman is far more watchable, even if the tempo of its earnest narrative, stretched beyond two hours, gets a bit turgid, and occasionally mired in a Black Forest tar pit of self-importance.
This feature directing debut by Rupert Sanders is visually sumptuous, with a splendid mix of natural landscapes and computer graphics. From the ambitious battle scenes to the grandiose monsters, Sanders is aiming for a scale of fantasy reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings. And he’s certainly in that ballpark. His Enchanted Forest is truly enchanting, a theme park of flora and fauna reminiscent of Avatar‘s Pandora (with hallucinogenic overtones that are alluded to in a joke about magic mushrooms_. The digital effects, meanwhile, range from dark soldiers that explode into obsidian shards to the molten gold of the Queen’s mirror, which flows right off the wall as a Terminator pool of quicksilver and rises into a cloaked spectre. Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 9:44 AM - 0 Comments
Much of the international press corps in Cannes was mystified this morning when a grinning Viggo Mortensen unveiled a large Montreal Canadiens banner, something he tends to do at every photo opportunity—the star who wants to be a fan. It was one of the few cavalier moments at an ultra serious press conference, where Brazilian director Walter Salles held court with a phalanx of seven actors and three producers from On the Road, his adaptation of the Jack Kerouac classic, which premieres here tonight. Studiously researched for eight years, and faithfully rendered onscreen, this loving ode to On the Road must be one of the most mature, responsible films ever made about drugs, drink and debauchery. The press conference was infused by a similar reverence as moderator Henri Behar dutifully asked everyone on the dais how their research into Kerouac’s real-life characters had affected their work.
Many of the journalists just wanted to hear Kristen Stewart talk about braving her first nude scene, and sharing the Cannes spotlight with her Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson (Cosmopolis). But by the time everyone had reported on their homework, and both Salles and Mortensen had given long, earnest discourses on the fidelity of the film, there was time for just a few quick questions from the media horde. Fortunately, someone did ask Stewart how it felt to to bare her body for the camera as a sexually liberated woman after being restrained by the abstinence of Twilight—although the moderator cut off the questioner as he dared to mention Pattinson. Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 3:16 PM - 0 Comments
CANNES — It’s quiet today in this town on the French Riviera. But on Wednesday, in a country where cinema is a virtual religion, thousands of fans will line barricades along the Croisette for the gala opening of the 65th annual Cannes Film Festival. The event kicks off with Moonrise Kingdom, the latest picture from the idiosyncratic Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums). It stars Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Ed Norton and Tilda Swinton, but the movie’s romantic leads are a couple of kids, playing 12-year-olds in 1965 New England who fall in love and run off together into the wilderness.
Cannes, world cinema’s high altar for auteurs, worships age almost as much as beauty. And this year’s program honours old masters ranging from Bernardo Bertolucci, 72, to Alain Resnais, who turns 90 next month. But many of the most buzzed about films awaiting festival-goers feature considerably younger talent. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Hollywood’s de facto royal couple, will grace the red carpet, but so will twentysomething sweethearts Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.
The Twilight kids are both coming of age in Cannes, starring in movies that look more risqué than the vampire romance that made them famous. Stewart plays a nude scene in Walter Salles’ On the Road, adapted from the Jack Kerouac novel, and Pattinson takes a sex-and-death limo odyssey through Manhattan in David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, adapted from the Don DeLillo novel. Meanwhile Cronenberg’s 32-year-old son, Brandon, makes his feature directing debut in the festival’s sidebar program Un Certain Regard with Antiviral, a sci-fi story about a clinic that sells live pathogens from sick celebrities to obsessed fans. (Clearly the worm-riddled apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.)
Also screening in Un Certain Regard, is 23-year-old Quebec wunderkind Xavier Dolan’s third feature, Laurence Anyways. The nearly three hour opus is about a romance that is complicated when a man reveals to his fiancée that he wants to become a woman. Dolan has expressed disappointment that, on his third Cannes outing, he hasn’t made it into the main competition. But he’s still very young; there’s lots of time to play with the big boys. This, by the way, is an unusually strong year in Cannes for Canadian directors; there are six of them with films spread across every official program—the Competition, Un Certain Regard, the Palme D’or shorts competition, the Critics’ Week, and the Directors’ Fortnight.
By Brian D. Johnson - Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 5:21 PM - 0 Comments
Last week I posted a blog titled ‘Celebrity à la carte’ that broke news about an unprecedented “opportunity” for Canadian journalists visiting Cannes—a price list for interviews with stars such as Brad Pitt and Kristen Stewart. That menu was relayed to us by Alliance Films, the Canadian distributor of the two films in question, On the Road and Killing Them Softly. Since then, there’s been a fair bit of consternation about this bizarre new protocol, including a thoughtful piece by Liam Lacey in today’s Globe and Mail. Now I’ve received an email from Carmite Cohen, vice-president of publicity and promotions for Alliance, claiming that my blog is “inaccurate and distorts the truth.” I see absolutely no evidence of that; in fact, I took pains to quote Cohen as she distanced Alliance from the sale of interviews to journalists in Cannes. But for the sake of full clarity, here is what Cohen wishes to add to the record:
“Junkets for the press are typically organized by a film’s producers. Distributors (like Alliance) are charged for access to those junkets. The journalists and their employers never see these charges as the distributors absorb them. In this case, Alliance decided not to contribute to the costs of the Cannes junket, which we found to be exorbitant. We decided, instead, to participate in the upcoming North American junket, which will happen later this year. It will be more cost effective and more relevant to Alliance given that it will happen in proximity to the film’s release date in Canada. That being said, we didn’t want to prevent Canadian journalists from having access to the Cannes junkets for these films if they wanted to participate and gain earlier access. It was on this basis that you were provided with the price list. There is absolutely no economic benefit derived by Alliance from this opportunity.”
By Brian D. Johnson - Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 5:24 PM - 0 Comments
Here’s something I’ve never seen in two decades of covering the Cannes Film Festival—an à la carte menu of celebrity interviews, with steep prices. This week a publicist at Alliance Films notified a number of Canadian journalists coming to Cannes that their outlets could purchase interview slots for two movies that will premiere in Cannes, On the Road and Killing Them Softly, which Alliance will distribute in Canada. Last year we heard complaints from Canadian distributors about the cost of finding space for Canadians in Cannes press junkets. But this is first time we’ve been handed a price list. The “participation fees” range from from €750 ($975) for an On the Road roundtable interview that would include Kristen Stewart to €3,000 ($3,900) for a TV interview with Brad Pitt.
But Carmite Cohen, vice-president of publicity and promotions at Alliance Films Inc, insists “we are not selling interview slots.” In a phone interview today, she explained that Alliance decided not to contribute to the high cost of Cannes publicity for On the Road and Killing Them Softly, preferring to support a domestic opportunity closer to release. (Typically, many high-profile films that premiere in Cannes later come to TIFF). “I’ve never seen such high costs,” Cohen told Maclean’s. “Wow— €3,000 for an interview is high. I want to be able to take care of our journalists here instead of spending $20,000 in Cannes.” (Since this blog was posted, Cohen has charged that it is “inaccurate and distorted.” Click here for her full explanation of Alliance’s position on this matter.)
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, November 18, 2011 at 8:21 AM - 4 Comments
Much faster than the Harry Potter series, the Twilight franchise is grinding to a close. Stephenie Meyer wrote just four books in her series, and her final tome, like the climactic Potter book, has been split into two movies—better to suck more blood from the box office. This weekend brings us The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part One. Or, to put it more simply, the Beginning of the End. But Stephenie Meyer is no J.K. Rowling, and the narrative in this penultimate movie is so diluted it’s anemic. More like Breaking Down than Breaking Dawn. (If you’re a Twilight fan, you may want to stop reading right now. You already know what happens, and you’re going to see this baby no matter what I, or anyone else, has to say. For the rest of you, who may simply be twi-curious, bear with me.)
In Breaking Dawn: Part 1, the tortured love affair is consummated. The ancient Byronic vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) finally weds Bella (Kristen Stewart), his 18-year old human sweetheart. This Twilight panders to the junior chick-flick fan base so abjectly it makes the last Sex and the City movie look like Mean Streets. That’s clear from the first few seconds of the film: upon receiving the wedding invitation, Edward’s romantic rival, Jacob (Taylor Lautner), draws a collective scream from the audience by ripping off his shirt in rage and flashing his now notorious abs. Edward and Bella have a picture-perfect wedding-in-white, a staged by the Cullen family outside their mountaintop home, then fly down to Rio for the picture-perfect honeymoon. Edward spirits his bride by speedboat to a beachfront villa off the Brazilian coast, where the newlyweds luxuriate in the simple pleasures of paradise: chess on the terrace, moonlit skinny dipping, and vampire-powered plunges down a giant waterfall. The wedding and the honeymoon both seem endless. The scenes are dragged out as sheer Harlequin fantasy, padded with a wall-to-wall soundtrack of piano shmaltz. I suppose there’s an ironic subtext. Who knows? Mix in the real-life romance of Pattinson and Stewart, who appear to be on the verge of engagement (just like their characters, who are forever on the verge of something), and it all gets very meta.
By Brian D. Johnson - Thursday, April 2, 2009 at 3:37 PM - 1 Comment
If you’re not craving a fix of fuel-injected testosterone this weekend—and can resist the lure of Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Michelle Rodriguez re-igniting the Fast and Furious franchise—you can choose between two decidedly less macho alternatives that tap an altogether different vein of nostalgia. Adventureland and Fanboys are both are geek coming-of-age stories set in a pre-9/11 world. And the one I’m recommending, heartily, is Adventureland, a delightful romantic comedy about a shy college grad who puts his virginity on the line while working as a carnie in the summer of 1987. Fanboys is more sophmoric fare—a cute but underwhelming road movie, featuring a whole posse of geeks on a quixotic mission to invade George Lucas’s Skywalker Ranch in 1998.
This sweet midway ride through the ageless carnival of post-teen angst comes from filmmaker Greg Motolla, who directed the priceless high school hijinks of Superbad. While still blessed with a healthy measure of adolescent naïveté, Adventureland is Motolla’s own script and it’s more mature piece of work, a romantic comedy that’s tilted toward romance. It’s a smart, believable and genuinely touching movie—the tale of a young man staring into the chasm that lies between him and adulthood. And it’s one of those rare films that lives up to the gold standard set by The Graduate over four decades ago. Motolla’s script is semi-autobiographical, and it shows. He conjures a world, both physical and emotional, with the kind of telling details that cannot be made up. Balancing rough-edged realism with tender sentiment, it rides the rom com formula without succumbing to it. Continue…
By Brian D. Johnson - Friday, November 21, 2008 at 12:08 AM - 15 Comments
Most of the people flocking to Twilight this weekend won’t be seeing it through my eyes—the jaded, undead eyes of a fiftysomething male. The overwhelming majority of them will be young teenage girls. They belong to a captive audience of readers around the world who have bought 17 million copies of Stephenie Meyer’s novels, and who are now hopelessly smitten with Robert Pattinson, the smouldering hunk who plays Edward, its pale, rouge-lipped vampire hero.
I hadn’t read the book, so I came to the movie cold, as a viewer light years removed from its target audience. But although I found the film too long, too slow and too soft, I enjoyed myself. Twilight is not just a cult phenomenon; it’s a pretty good movie in its own right, even if it may not go far beyond its target audience. Girls are going to love it way more than anyone else, and the boys who get dragged along—or check it out expecting action-packed fantasy—may be bored senseless. But for such a conventional movie, Twilight is rather unusual. A rare example of a teenage chick flick that doesn’t surrender to the usual formula, it’s an unconditional romance from an unapologetically female viewpoint.
Twilight avoids or inverts all the tropes of a classic vampire movie. Its vampires are a close-knit family possessed by wholesome values. They’re a clan of “vegetarian” blood-suckers, who’ve vowed to feast only on animals, not people. And they don’t sleep in coffins. Edward and his undead dynasty occupies an architectural dream house, a mountaintop aerie that’s flooded with light and filled with art. Sunlight doesn’t make these chalk-faced carnivores recoil; it makes their skin shine like diamonds, like love. Continue…