Friday, November 30, 2007

Pity for Tom Cruise? I think not

To anyone who bothered to see the simply wretched "Lions for Lambs," please accept my most sincere apology, even if i didn't have anything to do with the making of it. Luckily, it seems almost no one made that mistake.

It seems that the flick, the first for Mr. Cruise and producing partner Paula Wagner, will not even hit $20 million at the domestic box office, and less than $60 million worldwide. Here are the hard numbers from through last weekend, according to the great Box Office Mojo site: Still playing on 1,527 screens, the flick had managed to take in just a meager $13,795,571 domestically. For a bit of perspective, the Coen brothers' "No Country for Old Men" has already taken in $16,313,580 playing on only 860 screens (though that is expanding further this weekend, with it even playing at one theater in Macon, the Regal Rivergate 14, so go see it if you're here!)

Cruise's rather embarrassing debut as company runner might not have looked so bad if "Lions for Lambs" weren't such an extreme act of hubris. Playing the senator supposedly selling a new front in the war on terror, Cruise was unable to for even one second hide the smugness he felt in knowing it was all hogwash. And I'm certain that if Robert Redford, who wrote and directed this mess, takes a second to more properly channel his still righteous anger he will be able to come up with a much better movie than one in which he spends the whole affair yelling at a slacker student who just doesn't "get it."

One thing you shouldn't take away from this epic failure is that there isn't a hunger out there for bold movies that take on the war in Iraq and its many consequences, but is it too much to ask that at the same time these flicks be entertaining? In Cruise's case, clearly yes, but I had a slightly better time watching Tommy Lee Jones mope his way through Paul Haggis' "In the Valley of Elah" (But Mr. Jones, like me, definitely had a lot more fun with the Coen brothers.)

Will Cruise recover? Judging from what's up next at United Artists, the answer is yes. There's a lot of cool stuff in the pipeline for next summer, but I think Bryan Singer's "Valkyrie," starring Cruise (natch) as the German colonel who launched a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler may be among the best. It's being co-written by Christopher McQuarrie, who penned Singer's sublime "The Usual Suspects," and has a tremendous supporting cast that includes Bill Nighy, Carice Van Houten, Kenneth Branagh, Stephen Fry, Terrence Stamp and Tom Wilkinson.

After that he's clearly landed a titan in convincing Guillermo del Toro to direct "Champions," based on an old British TV show I've never heard of. The original series apparently starred Stuart Damon, Alexandra Bastedo and William Gaunt as members of a United Nations-affiliated organization called Nemesis. After a plane crash in the Himalayas, all three are saved and given supernatural powers including ESP and precognition.

In more bad news, however, UA was forced to postpone Oliver Stone's next Vietnam flick, "Pinkville," because of the writers' strike, and then star Bruce Willis pulled out.

And in case you were wondering when a Tom Cruise movie last managed to take in less than $20 million domestic, it was a heck of a long time ago. Released in 1986, the fantasy/adventure "Legend" (which does have some charms) grossed $15.5 million domestically, but of course expectations were much lower way back then.

Please, if you take nothing else from this admitted screed, at least promise me this: When "Lions for Lambs" comes out on DVD, please, please, please do not even bother to give it a rental. It's just that bad.

Actors on actors

Faced with little actual news to report thanks to the ongoing strike, Variety this morning published a series of predictably self-congratulatory pieces in which some of Hollywood biggest stars talked about their co-workers. If you can cut through the cheese, it's actually not a bad way to waste a few minutes at work. Here are two snippets that didn't make me just hurl, Julia Roberts talking about the great Paul Rudd and Matt Damon talking about rising star Amy Ryan, and you can read the rest here.

"Paul is the most unexpected movie star. For his facial hair in 'Anchorman' he probably walked around like that for months. The people at the grocery store don't know why he looks like that. They think he's nuts. He's not scared to do those things. ... At a dinner party, if you're seated next to Paul, you'll leave thinking, I'm so funny. I always want to be seated next to Paul."

"I sat dumbfounded watching this performance in 'Gone Baby Gone.' Every moment, every detail in Amy Ryan's performance is spot-on. In fact, I've never seen an actor from outside Boston come to our city and be this convincing - and a lot of great actors have come here and given award-worthy performances. This is at another level, though. It's that place actors hope to get to at least once in their career, where they completely disappear into someone else -- that place that made me ask, 'Who the hell is she and why hasn't she worked more on film before this?'

New pictures of Iron Man

The more I see from Jon Favreau's first foray into superhero flicks, the more I'm convinced he's gonna deliver a real winner next summer with "Iron Man." After all, I don't think you can go wrong with Robert Downey Jr. as our hero Tony Stark, and the supporting cast of Terrence Howard (who seems to work a heck of a lot), Jeff Bridges (huzzah!), Gwyneth Paltrow, Samuel L. Jackson and even Ghostface Killah ain't shabby either. Anyways, has managed to get its hands on several new pics, of which I swiped just one. You can see the rest here, and have an entirely enjoyable weekend. Peace out.


Chalupa said...

I was kind of dumbfounded by Lions for Lambs as well. It seems that while watching I just kept waiting for things to come together at some climax point in the script, but nothing ever really happened.

Valkyrie looks pretty promising and Pinkville has sounded cool. Hopefully Willis pulling out doesn't ruin anything.

Sill haven't seen No Country but I'm really hoping to remedy that very soon.

Reel Fanatic said...

You really do need to go see it asap, Chalupa .. Though the competition is certainly heating up now with the end of the year, but I still don't think I've seen a better movie for a long while than this one

Ashok said...

Surprisingly, I liked "Lions for Lambs" :-). I liked the way it transgressed from one situation to another and quite well articulated various instances. True there is some self righteous stuff but there needs to be some one who needs to say these. I know that many might not agree but it did the job for me. It was fast, crisp and to the target.

Reel Fanatic said...

I can see what you mean, Ashok, and I too am glad that Robert Redford is still making noise, but I just couldn't find much to enjoy in listening to him this time

Mercurie said...

It is hard for me to pity Cruise at all, but I think he will recover from Lions for Lambs. Valkyrie looks like it could be good. And as a devoted fan of British television I may be biased, but I think The Champions will rock.

You know, the more I see of Iron Man, the more excited I am to see it.

Ian said...

I'm intrigued to read your condemnation of "Lions for Lambs". Critics in the UK have almost universally condemned the film, but in a way that smacks too much of personal attacks on Redford and Cruise which makes me suspicious. Mark Kermode, an interesting critic who does the BBC's weekly film review podcast, said he thought such critics were wrong and complaining about the politics rather than the film, which he thought was flawed but good. And "Empire" have positioned it at no. 16 in the annual "Top 25 Films of the Year" so clearly some people have appreciated it. (Mind you, Empire makes no sense to me having totally dissed the wonderful "Golden Door" and put the likes of "Hot Fuzz" and "Superbad" in the Top 10!) I'm definitely going to check it out when available on shiny disc because I really can't believe with the talent involved it really is as bad as some are saying it is.

Reel Fanatic said...

I have no beef at all with the politics of the movie, Ian, so that wasn't my motivation in opposing it at all ... What's astoundingly bad about "Lions for Lambs" is that, especially with all the talent here and the good intentions, is how they managed to make a movie that's much less sophisticated than a high school civics class taught by your wrestling coach (an actual example from my past)

Chalupa said...

Dude - I finally saw No Country over the weekend. I've been shocked and awed. It's SO AMAZING. I haven't written a review yet, but we recorded a quick 10 min review on my podcast. I have to go see this again.

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm gonna look now and see if you have the podcase linked from your blog, Chalupa, so I can give it a listen ... I'm glad you liked this one as much as I did!

Chalupa said...

Oh sorry -

We talk about all things Lebowski and Coen related. We bring in guest speakers, talk about film genres, actors, etc.

Reel Fanatic said...

Cool .. I'm checking it out now

Fletch said...

Like ashok, I too enjoyed Lions for Lambs, and for many of the same reasons (I enjoyed it more for the statement than for the film). There's really not much of a plot and (outside of Cruise) there isn't much acting going on, but it still struck me as a powerful and important film. For that, I'm more than willing to forgive its weaknesses as a film.

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm with you that it had a powerful message, Fletch, but it still has to have enough entertainment value for me to enjoy it, which this one clearly did not ... I am happy that Robert Redford's still around, so maybe he can be a little more subtle (but probably just as angry) with whatever he comes up with next

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