THE WEEKEND MARQUEE: ‘This’ Isn’t It: Slow Ticket Sales Predicted for for MJ Doc Halloween Weekend
Randy Phillips, the CEO of AEG Live, which produced Michael Jackson‘s London shows, famously said to the Associated Press, following his death,
He was our partner in life and now he’s our partner in death.
Phillips wasn’t kidding. The surge in album sales of Jackson’s music following his death, has made the late pop icon the highest selling recording artist of 2009.
Add to that, several unreleased albums worth of music the singer left behind, which Sony hopes to eventually release, and an all star tribute tribute concert in London next June, being put together by his brother, Jermaine, and it’s clear that This is It will certainly not be the last we’ve seen from the iconic performer. With Sony suffering its fourth quarterly loss in a row, chances are even more likely the company will look to profit from Jackson for the forseeable future.
Since it opened on Wednesday, the highly anticipated documentary, made up of footage of Jackson’s final rehearsals, has grossed over $20M worldwide. Although, according to Nikki Finke, the numbers are much less than Sony anticipated, and, with a busy Halloween weekend on the horizon, the movie’s five day total will probably not add up to the $50M the studio originally projected. Undoubtedly, the movie is a tough sell, coming after months of Jackson related media coverage. Many would-be viewers are probably experiencing Jackson fatigue at this point.
Reaction to the movie has been mixed, with the best review coming from Jackson’s longtime friend, Elizabeth Taylor, who tweeted, after seeing the film, that it was,
the single most brilliant piece of filmmaking I have ever seen.
Time‘s Richard Corliss wrote,
So what is This Is It? A concert film without the concert. A backstage musical that takes place almost entirely onstage. A no-warts hagiography that still gets the audience closer to the real Michael Jackson — MJ the performer, that is — than anything in the man’s avidly documented history.
Entertainment Weekly‘s Owen Glieberman was equally perplexed:
What’s missing — what the film gives you only a tantalizing glimpse of — is his ferocity. When he does a tamped-down version of his solo whirligig in ”Billie Jean,” playing air guitar on his crotch (a gesture that elicits a round of cheers from the dancers in the Staples Center), you feel him sketching in the heat without quite committing himself. ‘At least we get a feel of it,’ he says. This Is It is fun, but it’s a slightly airless experience.
The movie has also spawned detractors such as the protest group This Is Not It, who say, in the mission statement on their website:
We believe we can inform people and help them see the movie with different eyes. We can tell you this did not have to be IT and you could be watching Michael Jackson alive on a stage instead of a celluloid picture.
According to the LA Times, Kenny Ortega, the musical director of the London concerts responded to the group’s statements, saying,
It’s just not true that he didn’t want to do it or was being forced to do it or expected to do it. This was something he truly wanted to do. This Is It never did anything other than nourish and excite him.
Gentlemen Broncos is the latest film from Jared and Jeruscha Hess, the Mormon, husband and wife, writing-directing team, behind the self-consciously quirky, low brow comedies Napolean Dynamite and Nacho Libre.
In a recent interview with Cinematical Jared Hess said,
To me, to be able to make the kind of films that I have wanted to make, it is important to have that creative control and liberty to cast who you want and do the types of things that I like to do in my films. And often times, I think sometimes the bigger the budget, the bigger the scope of the film is, sometimes you end up losing a little bit of that control and freedom to do what you want to do. It is just a balancing act. A story may came along that requires that kind of a thing that I really want to do with that kind of a budget, but right now the things that have interested me thus far are simple stories like this.
Like their previous movies, Gentlemen Broncos centers around a misfit, who, this time around, is a teenage loner and aspiring writer, named Benjamin, played by Michael Angarano. The story revolves around the boy discovering that, after attending a science-fiction writers convention, one of his stories has been ripped off by an established novelist, played by Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement.
New York Magazine‘s David Edelstein writes,
The best part is Jemaine Clement as Benjamin’s grandiose genre hero, Dr. Ronald Chevalier. Even if you love him on Flight of the Conchords, you’ll be unprepared for his genius—and charisma. Gazing on his young fans, he intones, “So many juvenescent, ripe minds,” looking and sounding under his dark, heavy beard like James Mason’s Captain Nemo on the verge of a titanic belch.
Entertainment Weekly‘s Lisa Schwarzbaum was nowhere near as charmed:
As they did in Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre, the Hesses claim to celebrate the amusing qualities of misshapen people and their misshapen dreams, insisting that amateurism and bad taste (both in filmmaking and in life) are intentional artistic choices. The audience may have bought the act in Napoleon Dynamite. But this time, the act bombs.”
The best bet for horror fans this Halloween weekend may be writer-director Ti West‘s horror-comedy The House of the Devil. The expertly designed retro-80s poster for the movie, which sports the tagline, “Talk on the phone. Finish your homework. Watch TV. Die.” should be a clue as to the tone of the movie.
Set in the 1980s, the film is about a young woman named Samantha, who, after moving into a new apartment, takes a babysitting job that proves to be more than she bargained for.
The New York Time‘s Manohla Dargis, writes,
For his nifty, creepy new film, Mr. West, a genre savant versed in classic fright and its self-conscious permutations, has dusted off several durable motifs — Satanists, the spooky house and solitary baby sitter — but ditched the now often tedious sardonic attitude. Instead of another homage (like Cabin Fever) or glossy remake (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre), he has come up with a period pastiche that mimics the low-res vibe and look of early-1980s horror, along with the same bad hair and clothes. And he’s done so with more shiver than splat.”
Opening in extremely limited release, is 21 and a Wake-Up, a Vietnam-era tale set in an army hospital. A synopsis on the movie’s official website, boasts that it’s,
the first American motion picture about the Vietnam War ever allowed by the communist government in Hanoi to film on the real locations where the war took place.
That may be its only claim to fame. The only major critic to review the movie was the Chicago-Sun Times Roger Ebert, who wrote, “I learn that (director) Chris McIntyre served in Vietnam and that 21 and A Wake-up set in an Army hospital in the waning days of the war, is based on events that he experienced and heard about. I’m sure his motivations were heartfelt, but his film is awkward and disjointed, and outstays its welcome.”
The movie’s other crime is apparently, the miscasting of Faye Dunaway in the role of an army major:
Dunway is a fine actress and has been miscast in a badly written role. Amy Acker and other leading characters have been well-cast in equally badly written roles. In contrast to the energy and life that Robert Altman brought to his combat hospital in MASH, this film plays like a series of fond anecdotes trundled onstage without much relationship to one another.
Unfortunately the trailer for the movie, which uses newsreel clips of the late Walter Cronkite and President Kennedy, was pulled from the web for copyright violation. It is available for download at JC-Chasez.net , the website of former Backstreet Boy, JC Chasez, who also stars in the movie, although I wouldn’t recommend it.