Home > Vulture News > THE WEEKEND MARQUEE: ‘Valentine’s Day’ No Holiday Treat; ‘Wolfman’ Lacks Bite; ‘Percy Jackson’ Tries To Capture ‘Harry Potter’ Lightning In A Bottle

THE WEEKEND MARQUEE: ‘Valentine’s Day’ No Holiday Treat; ‘Wolfman’ Lacks Bite; ‘Percy Jackson’ Tries To Capture ‘Harry Potter’ Lightning In A Bottle

February 12th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Thanks to Pope Gelasius I, who declared that February 14th was Valentine’s Day way back 498 B.C., around this time every year, couples are obligated to shell out big money for heart shaped boxes of candy, hallmark cards and the prerequisite romantic dinner. Hollywood studios are also hoping the holiday spirit will extend to the multiplex with three major releases vying for attention. The most overtly themed tie-in of the bunch is the ensemble comedy Valentine’s Day, which aims to please just about everyone with a Robert Altman-esque cast of characters unified by the holiday that single men and women across the nation love to hate.

The movie reunites director Garry Marshall with Julia Roberts. Their first collaboration, Pretty Woman, became one of the biggest hits of the 1990s and turned Roberts into a bonafide star overnight. They later reteamed for Runaway Bride in 1999. In an interview with LA Times Roberts says working with Marshall has become a recurring motif in her movie career. She said:

We do this every 10 years. When I was 21, 31 and now 41. I guess I’m guaranteed a job at 51.

Once Roberts signed on, the movie quickly came together. For the rest of the cast, which includes everyone from veterans like Roberts to the two Taylors: Swift and Lautner, Marshall says he got help, deciding who to choose, from magazines like People:

You have to read People magazine. You have to keep up, especially with the young kids. You got to know who can get along with who. It’s touchy if they’ve dated. In the old days, you didn’t know who had a broken heart, and now you know everybody who has a broken heart, and you have to tread lightly.

valentines_dayTHE BUZZ: Really bad. According to New York Magazine, Julia Roberts $3M salary amounts to $500,000/minute of screen time (since her role only lasts about six minutes). Based on the reviews, that’s what the audience should be paid to see it. It will most likely take the top spot for the weekend, thanks to its timely release, after which it will most certainly be quickly forgotten.

Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers says:

Will this movie be a hit? Bet on it. Marshall is also prepping a sort of sequel set on New Year’s Eve. No holiday will be safe from his touch — Flag Day, Purim. A lot of people think Valentine’s Day is an excuse for greedy marketeers to exploit romantic fools for cold cash. Wait till they see this movie. It’s worse.

Salon‘s Andrew O’Hier enjoyed it about as much, or as little, more like it. He writes:

But the problem with Valentine’s Day is not just that it’s mawkishly sentimental and highly predictable — it’s supposed to be those things — or that Katherine Fugate‘s screenplay is too ambitious by half, and certainly too complicated for Marshall to grasp in his leathery but lovable mitts. (Once in a while Fugate will get off a good line, and it gets swallowed: ‘Valentine’s Day is like a cosmic bitch-slap from the universe,’ says Jessica Biel, in a rapid monologue apparently delivered to her wall.) I’m saying that a Garry Marshall movie has to be funny in order to be anything at all, and this one is so deeply involved with its pseudo-meaningful roundelay of beautiful but inexplicably lovelorn people as to be teeth-grindingly, mind-warpingly boring.

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After its release date was shuffled twice (it was originally slated to open in November as competition for The Twilight Saga: New Moon), Universal’s big budget horror remake The Wolfman, is finally being released. According to WENN, Benicio Del Toro who plays the title role, said he didn’t have any trouble getting into the mindset of the iconic character famously portrayed by Lon Chaney in the 1941 original:

Anger is not a hard emotion to get to as a male actor. Where does it come from? Life, I guess. I remember the anger I felt when my mother died of hepatitis when I was nine. It was a terrible time in my life and I still feel it. I guess it helped make me something of a rebel when I was in school. And I did get into some trouble. I didn’t get good grades, and a lot of teachers turned their backs on me.

The acting part may have come easy, but for Del Toro, who also produced the movie, the actual shooting would be a challenge. After the movie was greenlit, it quickly became one of the most troubled productions in recent Hollywood history. The original director, Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo) dropped out the production after budget disagreements and was replaced by Joe Johnston (Jurassic Park III). When filming had completed, Universal insisted on reshoots after the first cut was screened.

In an interview with Shocktilyoudrop.com, legendary makeup artist Rick Baker talked about the decision to reshoot some of the key sequences. He said:

We came back and did six weeks of re-shoots. They cut the film and decided the film needed some more work, this happens. The main thing wasn’t so much transformation stuff I was involved with, none of the quadruped stuff was in the film initially. They decided to speed up some stuff. The transformation I would have loved to have been more involved with. They utilized some of my design sculpts and skin. Made models from that. I was intentionally left out of it which, to me, is stupid. I pour my heart and soul into it when I do a movie like this. I think they did some terrific stuff though. Steve Begg, who’s the visual effects supervisor who should be here, had a really hard job.

Due to all of the unforeseen problems, including an escalating budget, it became one of the many reasons (along with the hugely expensive box office flop Land of the Lost) that led to Universal chairmen Marc Schmuger and David Linde being let go from a recently singed long term contract.

wolfman_ver4THE BUZZ: So-So. The Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert says it’s a better date movie than Valentines Day, but he takes issue with the use of CGI. He says:

The film has one flaw, and faithful readers will not be surprised to find it involves the CGI special effects. No doubt there are whole scenes done so well in CGI that I didn’t even spot them, but when the werewolf bounds through the forest, he does so with too much speed. He would be more convincing if he moved like a creature of considerable weight.

The movie’s release may have been changed to avoid the Twilight sequel, but the New York Times A.O. Scott says the comparison still lingers. He writes:

And it is hard to shake the suspicion that this “Wolfman” is haunted, above all, by those teenage vampires, who generate such frenzy (and such profit) from their sexless passions. If Lawrence Talbot had only stayed in America, he could have joined Team Jacob, stripped off his shirt and found some solace for his divided soul. In the Twilight world his predicament —animal hunger in perpetual conflict with human feeling — might have made a little more sense. But in this shaggy-dog version the wolfman’s story is both gratuitously bloody and, finally, bloodless.

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Comparisons between Percy Jackson & the Olympians, which is based on a series of hugely popular children’s books and tells the story of a young boy who discovers that he is descended from a Greek god, and the Harry Potter series, are inevitable. In an interview with the LA Times, director Chris Columbus, who also directed the first two films in the Potter series said:

I know, I know, it’s the inevitable question on this picture. We obviously would be fools not to hope for the same type of audience.

Columbus will be lucky if his new movie manages to do nearly as well as those films, which have accumulated over $5.3 billion in ticket sales.

percy_jackson_and_the_olympians_the_lightning_thief_ver3THE BUZZ: So-so. The Hollywood Reporter‘s Ethan Alter says:

What’s really lacking in The Lightning Thief is a genuine sense of wonder, the same thing that brings viewers back to Hogwarts over and over again. Percy’s world seems like a decent place to visit, but it’s just not magical enough to make you want to live there.

Variety‘s Peter Debruge says:

Action movies of this scale often start off strong and wind down to forgettable finales, but Percy Jackson is the opposite, overcoming a clunky setup to deliver nearly all its thrills in the last half-hour. With competition from Tim Burton‘s Alice in Wonderland just weeks away at the box office, the pic will have to score fast to generate any hopes of a bigscreen sequel, though as potential franchise starters go, the film stands on its own, and should sustain repeat viewing on homevid.

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