1. Kick-Ass 2 (Universal, 2,940 Theaters, 103 Minutes, Rated R): If it wasn’t for Jim Carrey, we’d be talking about how the first Kick-Ass‘ lackluster performance at the domestic box office but decent performance overseas was an early example of how overseas receipts are vital for today’s blockbuster or we’d be talking about how that film’s director, Matthew Vaughn, backed out to take a producer role or we’d be talking about how the “real world” take on the superhero the movie claims to present isn’t really real world after all..
But Jim Carrey quite publicly withdrew his support from the film over its violent content. The Sandy Hook shootings sent Carrey on a journey of self-discovery and examination, and he came out of the process as vehemently anti-gun and, apparently, anti-violence.
As I mentioned in the above article, the controversy surrounding Carrey’s announcement did something he probably didn’t intend–it gave a bunch of publicity to the film. Whether the curiosity created by Carrey’s crisis of conscience of a month ago will bring people into theaters this weekend remains to be seen.
The plot this time around involves Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) teams with a group of heroes he inspired to take on a vengeance seeking Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, whose character is renamed into something that guaranteed the film an R rating) and a band of villains he inspired.
2. Lee Daniels’ The Butler (The Weinstein Company, 2,933 Theaters, 132 Minutes, Rated PG-13): Let me start off by commenting on the trend of directors putting their names in front of the official title of their movies. Normally, I don’t like it. But, in this case, there is a reason, Warner Brothers was being an idiot and causing trouble for The Weinstein Company. See, Warners put out a silent short film back in 1916 called The Butler, While there have been plenty of films released that had the same name as another film (The Fast and the Furious, The Avengers, Gladiator, and Twilight), the original studio can file a protest with the MPAA over rights to the name. That’s what Warners did. Odds are that they didn’t think there would be confusion between Lee Daniels’ film and their silent film no one had really heard of, they are most likely just causing trouble due to a continuing earnings squabble related to The Hobbit franchise. In other words, Warners is being petty, and I have lost a lot of respect for them. After all, they didn’t go after Marvel and Disney over The Avengers, did they? I expect their version of The Butler won’t be on Blu-Ray any time soon and this kerfuffle is all over nothing. Dirty pool, Warners.
Anyway, I am a Presidential history buff. One of my favorite shows as a kid was the similarly themed Backstairs at the White House miniseries from the 70s. So I had an interest in the film even before the all-star cast was announced and the intriguing casting decisions came to light (Robin Williams as Dwight D. Eisenhower? John Cusack as Richard Nixon?). The film focuses on the story of a man who acted as a butler for eight presidents (a fictionalized account of a real servant in the White House) and actually acts as a counterpart to that miniseries as it pretty much takes up where that one left off.
But the trailer kind of scared me away. While it does show that the film takes the commendable path of trying to describe what it would have been like to be an African-American working as a servant during the Civil Rights era, it does so in the most melodramatic fashion. By the time JFK (James Marsden) apparently tells Cecil Gaines (Forrest Whitaker) that the servant has “touched his heart”, the trailer lost me entirely.
3. Paranoia (Relativity, 2,459 Theaters, 106 Minutes, Rated PG-13): It took me a while to remember that this is the second film Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman starred together in. I’m kicking myself for forgetting that 1997 masterpiece, Air Force One. One day we might have a film that showcase the actors prominently in roles that play up to their talents. Somehow, I don’t think this is the one.
The film seems to be more like The Firm but with an emphasis on the world of industrial espionage instead of mob lawyerdom. Liam Hemsworth plays the Tom Cruise part, as a young technological wizard who takes on a Faustian bargain from Oldman’s character. He is promised riches and opportunity if he only infiltrates Ford’s company and reports back on a revolutionary product it is developing. However, when Hemsworth’s character wants out of the deal, his life becomes endangeredand he must take matters into his own hands to get out alive.
It’s not that I don’t think tech company billionaires can’t be dangerous or bad-ass, but having lethal enforcers as a corporate perk seems a little bit outlandish to me. Also outlandish is how a Brooklyn kid who can unlock cell phones can enter the upper echelons of corporate America simply by putting on a fancy suit and driving an expensive car. That added to a 3% Fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes means I’ll pass.
4. Jobs (Open Road Films, 2,381 Theaters, 122 Minutes, Rated PG-13): Steve Jobs always had an air of grandeur to him. His genius was reveled, his products worshiped and the mystique around him caused people to be fascinated by him. This is why a lot of people have a hard time wrapping their minds around the fact that Kelso from That 70s Show is playing him.
Granted, Ashton Kutcher is a trained actor with a fifteen year career under his belt. But he’s also the guy who created Punk’d a TV show where they play amateurish tricks on celebrities. You can’t blame people for feeling that he doesn’t have the gravitas to pull of the role.
Of course, he isn’t helped by the fact that passage of time is portrayed by putting actors in wigs that look like they were bought at the local Party City. It just seems like the film is a TV-movie that somehow got released to theaters.