Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The once and future king of independant movies

I don't know what happened with director Edward Burns. He, along with Tarantino and others represented the new wave of independant film directors.

His 1995 debut film The Brothers McMullen won the grand jury prize at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival. It ended up being released by 20th Century Fox and grossed over $20 million at the box office making it one of the most profitable independant films of all time.

The film about three Irish American brothers struggling between adolescence and growing up. Sure, it is well worn territory, but the script was brilliant. When one of the brothers' girlfriend tells him that she wants them to break up so they can have some new experiences and new ideas...the brother's reply is "I don't need any new ideas, I am confused enough already".

Like John Cassavetes, Burns started getting work in larger films in order to finance the films he was directing. Some were good (Saving Private Ryan), some were bad (Life Or Something Like It) and some were ugly (A Sound Of Thunder).

Top 5 John Cassavetes Films that he did not direct
1. The Dirty Dozen
2. Rosemary's Baby
3. Whose Life Is It Anyways?
4. Two Minute Warning
5. Brass Target

The thing is, after the release of MacMullen and its bigger budget follow up She's The One, Burns really fell off the radar. The thing is, he has continued to direct but his films do not get the press. Some of them I have never heard of. I will spend the next couple of weeks catching up on these films.

The Brothers McMullen (1995)

She's The One (1996)

No Looking Back (1998)

Sidewalks Of New York (2001)

Ash Wednesday (2002)

Looking For Kitty (2004)

The Groomsmen (2006)

Purple Violets (2007)


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The beginning of the end

Not this is news, but it is fair to say that Tom Cruise did not have a good weekend. His new movie Lions For Lambs is getting lambasted by critics (according to the website Rotten Tomatoes-26% of film critics gave this movie a positive review).

In its opening weekend, it finished as the fourth highest grossing film, just ahead of Dan In Real Life, a film which had been released two weeks earlier than Lions For Lambs.

The blame for Lions For Lambs is probably not solely Cruise'. According to Philadelphia Weekly film critic Sean Burns, he seems to blame director Robert Redford. The opening paragraph of his review spells it out,

"Robert Redford has directed a great movie about a nation losing its sense of purpose, a savage indictment of our increasingly bought-and-paid-for mass media, and a cutting depiction of our country’s core values ebbing away while a curiously indifferent American public remains too lazy and distracted to even bother noticing. Unfortunately, the movie I’m talking about was called Quiz Show, and Redford made it 13 years ago."

However, the film's lack of success shows that Mr. Cruise is no longer bulletproof. A film is not going to open well just because of Cruise's presence.

As Lambs tanked at the box office, the trailer for Cruise's next film Valkyrie. Instead of me analyzing it for you, take a look for yourself.

So let me understand. This is a film about a group of Germans attempting to assassinate Adolf Hitler. The first problem is a lack of drama...let me skip to the ending for you...the plot doesn't succeed. Secondly, what is with the accents. Tom Cruise has an accent that makes me think he thinks he is filming Mission Impossible 4 and he is surrounded by british actors, mostly speaking with their natural accents which makes it even more confusing. I am not saying the film should be in german with subtitles...but at least attempt to help me suspend my disbelief by having everyone have german accents. Or have everyone use British Accents. At least make it consistent. This could end up being the best example of dueling accents since the Hunt For Red October where Sean Connery had a Scottish-Russian accent, Tim Curry had a British-Russian accent and Sam Neil had a Australian-Russian accent. That film was a mess!

Top 5 Worst Accents in a movie
1. Richard Gere in Sommersby (I don't think he actually is trying an accent here but since co-stars Jodie Foster, Bill Pullman et al are speaking with slight english accents, Gere's fresh-off-the-New-York-subway sounds jarring)
2. Richard Gere in The Jackal (Okay, here he attempted an accent and it is god awful)
3. Keanu Reeves in Bram Stoker's Dracula (Bad actor in a movie way out of his element)
4. Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves (Some people may say this should be #1 but I disagree. Clearly he gave up on the accent halfway through filming as some scenes he attempts it, while others, he doesn't even try. The bigger issue with this film is that co-stars Morgan Freeman and Christian Slater think the film is a drama, Alan Rickman thinks it is a comedy and Costner thinks it is an action film. Bad directing is the biggest issue with this film)
5. Chris O'Donnell in Circle of Friends (Apparently there were no Irish actors for this part. They tried to hide the fact that O'Donnell couldn't do the accent by making all of his sentences really short. That way he only needed to keep the accent for 2 or 3 words. Any longer, he would have lost it)

Cruise has seemed to have the perfect film career. He was lucky to have an iconic film moment in Risky Business (dancing in his underwear to Bob Seger's Old Time Rock 'n Roll). He then parlayed that into a film career that made him look like a serious actor without having to do any of the lifting. His filmography is filled with movies co-starring much better actors such as The Color Of Money, Rainman and Magnolia. With Valkyrie, he has no one to lean on...hopefully this will be enough to peel back the curtain for film fans and help them realize Cruise does not deserve to be one of the most popular film stars of all time.