THE WEEKEND MARQUEE: Less Than ‘Extraordinary’ New Releases Pave The Way For Another ‘Avatar’ Victory
Extraordinary Measures, starring Harrison Ford, Brendan Fraser and Kerri Russell, is the first big screen venture for CBS Films, the newly formed film division of the longstanding television network, which unlike ailing NBC, has come out on top in the ratings race thanks to hit shows like Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory. That connection might help to explain why the plot sounds like a TV movie you’d find on cable outlets like The Hallmark Channel or Lifetime. Then again, so did the plot of The Blind Side which has ended up as a $200M phenomenon. It’s based on the true story of husband and wife, Aileen and John Crowley and their search for a cure for a rare genetic disorder that afflicts their two children.
Ford, who’s as notoriously private as an iconic movie star can get, has been grimacing through the press junket for Extraordinary Measures making appearances with all the enthusiasm of someone serving jury duty. He was on the David Letterman show last night to tell the audience that seeing the movie was:
a worthy experience.
If that doesn’t sell it, CBS is trying to convince audiences that it’s the next The Blind Side. The TV and print ads have been prominently featuring a quote from Parade’s Jeanne Wolf touting that the movie is:
As inspirational and uplifting as The Blind Side.
Very subtle. They may as well add, “The Blind Side. The Blind Side. Did we mention that this movie is just like The Blind Side?”
The big confrontations between Fraser and Ford, with Stonehill raging against “the bean counters” and Crowley trying to keep his loose cannon from misfiring, feel strangely rote as well. They don’t lack feeling; they are, in fact, written and performed at Emmy-highlights-reel pitch. The movie’s a tough sell. It plays like a passable two-hour prime-time TV movie. Now: Is that good enough?
USA Today‘s Claudia Puig writes:
There might be a poignant movie based on the true story of a father’s devoted efforts to help his ailing children, à la Lorenzo’s Oil. But this tediously told tale is not that movie. Director Tom Vaughn made a much more enjoyable, and unfortunately too-little-seen, British film called Starter for Ten, starring James Mcavoy and Rebecca Hall. Discerning audiences would be better served checking that out.
In Legion, a group of people stranded in a small town diner become humankind’s only chance at survival when God sends a legion of angels to destroy the earth. The humans band together with an Archangel, who is played by Paul Bettany.
Bettany, is starting to become an old hand at religious themed blockbusters, after this role and others, such as the albino monk he portrayed in The Davinci Code. In an interview with Vanity Fair, he says one of the reasons that he’s chosen them is because audiences are eager to see movies with that type of subject matter these days. He said:
I think apocalypse movies and religious movies are very much in the Zeitgeist at the moment. It’s nice to go to the cinema and see the world destroyed and then the lights go up and your like, [pats himself as if to make sure he’s intact] “Phew!” Know what I mean?
In another interview with Fearnet.com, the actor explained that getting his body into Angel ready shape, wasn’t as hard as it seems. He said:
They make it very easy for you. The movie pays for your trainer, and your job becomes going to the gym for two hours a day and being paid a lot of money. Anybody can do that – just focus on the money, and eat cake after.
The Buzz: Bad. Legion wasn’t screened for critics, which is always a bad sign. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t make money at the box office as movies like G.I. Joe and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen have proven in the past. With Avatar still going strong though Legion will have to generate serious audience interest, considering the reviews that have come out so far, haven’t been positive about the film.
Entertainment Weekly‘s Clark Collis didn’t buy the film’s apocolyptic scenario. He writes:
Alas, after a brisk start, the script turns out to be a rough and humorless beast slouching its way towards utter ludicrousness. ‘The future has been unwritten!’ intones Bettany at one point. But there are times when Legion barely seems to have been written at all.
Dwayne Johnson has had a successful second career since he ditched his alter ego The Rock a few years ago. He’s segued from small bit part in movies like Be Cool and Get Smart to starring roles in family movies like Disney’s The Game Plan and Escape To Witch Mountain. If you’ve seen any of those it may seem like Rock will take any movie he’s offered, but the actor says that’s not case. In an interview with MTV, he says:
Yeah, when this came across my desk, I wasn’t gonna let it go. Sometimes scripts come across, and you’re like, ‘You know, I could let that one go; maybe someone else could do it.’ But not this. It’s special. A funny, funny, funny movie. And also, we had the great opportunity of creating the first onscreen manifestation of an iconic figure that’s been around forever.
There’s no way I can recommend this movie to anyone much beyond the Tooth Fairy Believement Age, but I must testify it’s pleasant and inoffensive, although the violence in the hockey games seems out of place. It must be said in closing that given his nickname and reputation, it’s a miracle the Tooth Fairy has been allowed to survive with such a dazzling row of pearlys.
The New York Times‘ Stephen Holden says:
Watching the first half-hour of Tooth Fairy is like reaching into a grab bag of novelties, as the movie unveils its tricks. The liveliest scene is a nonsensical verbal joust in fairyland between Derek and an uncredited Billy Crystal that recalls the giddier verbal effusions found in a Danny Kaye movie. After that, the wit more or less evaporates, replaced by bloated sentimentality and clumsy plot exposition.
The second movie starring Paul Bettany, that also happens to be opening this week, is Creation, in which he stars as Charles Darwin. The movie depicts the trials and tribulations the celebrated scientist went through while creating his masterwork The Origin of the Species, which was first published in 1859.
Bettany’s costar, his real life wife, Jennifer Connelly plays Darwin’s wife Emma. She’s certainly no stranger to playing the wife of a mad scientist and the part has shades of her role in A Beautiful Mind.
Connelly compared her own marriage to that of their onscreen character’s in an interview with MTV. She said:
The Darwins had a fundamental philosophical conflict, an ideological crisis. Our biggest problem is working out the logistics of travel
The Buzz: Bad. Bettany is 0 for 2 and this week, since most critics weren’t charmed by Creation‘s earnest depiction of the story of how Darwin formed and published his groundbreaking theories. Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers says:
This one means well, a kiss-of-death review if there ever was one. Paul Bettany takes an earnest shot at playing Charles Darwin, a 19th-century man obsessed with monkeys, the origin of the species, the death of his favorite daughter and the disapproval of his religious wife (Jennifer Connelly). In other words, director Jon Amiel has reduced a crucial moment in science to a Lifetime weepie about a workaholic who needs personal tragedy to wake him up to his wife’s virtues. The fact that Bettany and Connelly are married in real life adds surprisingly little zest.
The New Yorker‘s Anthony Lane also found little to like about the movie. He writes:
As a journey through Darwin’s discoveries, Creation fails, although, given the intricacy and the patience of his working methods, it is hard to imagine how such a film might succeed. There is intensity here, but no impetus; if you want to see Paul Bettany fizzing with the drama of scientific findings, watch him instead as Maturin, the pre-Darwinian surgeon and sidekick to Russell Crowe, clambering around the Galápagos in Master and Commander, a tale with a strand of Beagle in its genes.