Home > Vulture News > THE WEEKEND MARQUEE: ‘Dragon’ Competing With ‘Alice’ In A Crowded Post ‘Avatar’ 3-D Landscape; ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ Hopes To Score With Nostalgic Gen X-ers; ‘Chloe’ = An Erotic Dud

THE WEEKEND MARQUEE: ‘Dragon’ Competing With ‘Alice’ In A Crowded Post ‘Avatar’ 3-D Landscape; ‘Hot Tub Time Machine’ Hopes To Score With Nostalgic Gen X-ers; ‘Chloe’ = An Erotic Dud

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Dreamworks’ kids pic How To Train Your Dragon is the latest movie to stake a claim for 3-D box office that has been dominated by Avatar and more recently, Alice in Wonderland. If there was any Hollywood executive who saw the 3-D revolution revolution coming, it was Dreamworks Animation Chief Jeffrey Katzenberg. As early as 2007 he predicted that the format would be commonplace with 12-18 titles released by 2009.

Avatar was the make or break release that would determine the future of the format and it’s success has kicked 3-D production into high gear, leaving the studios scrambling to flood the market with more titles. It’s ironic that Katzenberg, despite his early adoption of 3-D, hasn’t had much luck with the movies he’s released. Monsters vs. Aliens was only modestly successful, despite a hugely expensive marketing campaign that included distributing free 3-D glasses for a televised ad that aired during the Superbowl last year.

While the 3-D revolution he helped to set up has finally arrived, he was off when he predicted that 6,000 of the nation’s theaters would be equipped with the technology by now. The current number is closer to 3,500, which means that How to Train Your Dragon will have to fight for 3-D theaters with Avatar, Alice in Wonderland and Clash of the Titans, which opens next week.

how_to_train_your_dragon_xlgTHE BUZZ: Great. Critics are hailing, not only the movie’s thrilling 3-D effects, but also (and this is a real shock) the story and character development. The movie needs the reviews since it has not been tracking well and isn’t expected to do anywhere near the level of business it needs to recoup costs. Monsters vs. Aliens only had a budget of $54M. How to Train Your Dragon is an even bigger gamble, with a budget of over $165 million. Audience dollars will be divided between this and Alice in Wonderland, which is still expected to do a good amount of business this weekend.

The Chicago Tribune‘s Michael Phillips thought the movie is much more than an excuse for 3-D gimmickry. He writes:

Like DreamWorks’ own Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon creates a world and revels in the details and wraps it all in a rich, lush storybook ambience. The superb cinematographer Roger Deakins served as a visual consultant, pushing the palette to an unusually burnished and sophisticated level. Kids may not notice the visual texture consciously, but adults will. Or should.

The excitement of the movie’s flying sequences, inspired USA Today‘s Claudia Puig to write:

How to Train Your Dragon fires on all cylinders. It’s a thrilling action-adventure saga with exhilarating 3-D animation, a clever comedy with witty dialogue, a coming-of-age tale with surprising depth and a sweetly poignant tale of friendship between man and animal.

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John Cusack got his start in 1980s teen comedies like Class and Sixteen Candles and more recently, he’s starred in high concept blockbuster 2012. His knack for appearing in hit high concept Hollywood drivel along with his connection to the 1980s makes Hot Tub Time Machine, a gross out comedy in which he is transported back to the 80s via a magical hot tub, a natural choice. During the promotional junket for the movie, Cusack has had to answer pressing questions, such as this one posed by a reporter for the Associated Press:

AP: If you had a real hot tub time machine that worked, where would you go and why?

Cusack: It would be pretty fun if you could go back to when your favorite bands were first playing. Like if you were a drummer, you could go back to Liverpool right when the Beatles fired Pete Best and they’re looking for a drummer and replace Ringo Starr. There could be a couple historic opportunities there. Or you could go see the Rolling Stones’ first American tour or something, or see David Bowie or see the Sex Pistols when they first came to America at CBGBs. You could do an awesome rock ‘n’ roll tour and see bands’ first explosions.

hot_tub_time_machineTHE BUZZ: Pretty Good. Is it possible that a movie with the title Hot Tub Time Machine could actually be worth seeing? The Chicago Sun-TimesRoger Ebert writes that despite his low expectations, he enjoyed the movie on its own terms:

The bottom line is, gross-out guy comedies open twice a month, and many of them are wretched excesses. Hot Tub Time Machine, which wants nothing more than to be a screwball farce, succeeds beyond any expectations suggested by the title and extends John Cusack‘s remarkable run: Since 1983, in 55 films, he’s hardly ever made a bad one. Well, I never saw Grandview, USA.

Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers wasn’t as charmed and takes aim at the wretched state of Hollywood comedies in his review. He writes:

I’m all for dumb fun. But the warmed-over Hot Tub Time Machine forgets it takes smarts to do stupid right. Just look at the comic roadkill so far this year: The Bounty Hunter, Valentine’s Day, Cop Out, Tooth Fairy, When in Rome, The Spy Next Door and Our Family Wedding. And ahead is MacGruber (from an already threadbare SNL skit), Date Night (an Out-of-Towners retread Tina Fey and Steve Carell squeezed in on hiatus from their sitcoms), The Back-Up Plan (J. Lo does Knocked Up) and Death at a Funeral (a Brit farce re-spun in black by Chris Rock and Tracy Morgan). The lack of comic imagination is obvious just from the trailers.

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Indie filmmaker Atom Egoyan‘s latest movie, Chloe, is an erotic thriller that tells the story of a middle aged woman (played by Julianne Moore) whose suspicion of her husband’s fidelity leads her to hire a young woman to act as a n escort (played by Amanda Seyfried, who is showing a knack for offbeat choices like this and Jennifer’s Body) to tempt her husband into having an extramarital affair. It’s an erotic thriller of the kind that the French have specialized in for years. It makes sense then, that the movie is loosely based on the French film Nathalie which was directed by Anne Fontaine. She also collaborated on Chloe.

chloe_ver2THE BUZZ: Bad. The subject matter should have been a perfect fit for Egoyan whose career took off on the basis of the erotically charged 1994 film Exotica, about a man’s obsession with a young stripper. Most critics, however, found the movie to be a big letdown; a puzzling self serious thriller. Although the movie is Egoyan’s most commercial film to date, it’s an adult drama of the kind that usually relies on good reviews to add to its box office. Unfortunately, Chloe won’t be helped by most critic’s reactions.

In her review for the L.A. Times Betsy Sharkey laments Egoyan’s disappointing recent output. She writes:

The real riddle here is why the filmmaker has struggled so in recent years (Adoration, Where the Truth Lies), as if he’s forgotten quite how, and when, to play the emotional cards he usually handles so deftly. When Egoyan is on point, as he was in his 1997 breakthrough, The Sweet Hereafter, he turns the machinations of all manner of human connections into something rare and too easily shattered.

The New Yorker‘s Anthony Lane thought it was a small step above a late night cable offering:

The movie—directed by Atom Egoyan, who should know better—is closely adapted from Nathalie, a French film of 2004, with Gérard Depardieu and Emmanuelle Béart, but what seemed like standard practice for Parisians comes across here as unsmiling porno-farce. Even the throbbing score, by Mychael Danna, sounds unwittingly risible, and there were times—I refer you to David’s first, salivating gaze at Chloe across a coffee shop—when I felt that we could be watching one of those soft-core cable dramas starring the redoubtable Shannon Tweed, with titles like Night Raptures IV or Executive Sensations.


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