Friday, February 27, 2015

New release roundup for February '15

- Still Alice. Honestly, it's difficult to make affliction/disease movies distinctive anymore since, by necessity, they have to follow a similar pattern: normal life, discovery of affliction, cycling through the Kubler-Ross stages until we get to the misty-eyed slow death, or something close to it, at the end. Still Alice doesn't pave any new ground in this genre, but it is well done, and Julianne Moore makes it totally watchable and believable. Moore has always been a favorite of mine, from as far back as her Paul Thomas Anderson movies Boogie Nights and Magnolia, and then discovering her older work like Safe, and enjoying her in later movies like Far From Heaven, Children of Men and The Kids are All Right. She has deserved an Oscar for a long, long time and it's wonderful to finally see her with one at last. Kudos also to Kristen Stewart. It's good to know she's still doing indie movies now that she's through with you-know-what.

Since I didn't see many new movies this month, I thought I'd use this space to address this Variety article about the Wachowski Brothers Siblings and Jupiter Ascending. The belief expressed here is that the failure of the movie to catch on with a wide audience despite its original premise somehow signals the Death Knell for Original Movies in Hollywood, and that we're just gonna get more and more sequels and comic book/video game/TV show/YA novel adaptations, forever and ever amen, and that WE DESERVE IT.

First of all, that ship has sailed years ago. Take your pick where it began: with the first Avengers movie, the first Spider-Man movie, the first X-Men movie, or maybe The Phantom Menace - doesn't matter. People have been singing this song for a long time, and the sky still has not fallen (yet).

More importantly: you wanna talk about truly original movies at the box office? Okay, let's talk about that. (All figures to follow via Box Office Mojo.) Let's talk about Neighbors and Ride Along, the top two comedies of 2014, with approximately $150 million and $134 million, respectively, on budgets of approximately $18 million and $25 million, also respectively. Let's talk about The Grand Budapest Hotel, a quirky independent film that opened on only four US screens before expansion, and went on to make $59 million domestic and $174 million worldwide.

Oh, I'm sorry, you meant sci-fi movies, didn't you? Okay, how about Lucy? Last year, it made $126 million domestic and $458 million worldwide. Or better yet, Interstellar: $187 million domestic, $671 million worldwide. No one denies that the odds are more against original material than ever these days, but they're still being made and they do still succeed (regardless of quality).

Beyond the numbers, though, the point I really wanna make is this: sometimes good directors make bad movies, or at the very least, movies that underachieve. It happens. Spielberg made 1941. Coppola made One From the Heart. Bigelow made U-571. Linklater remade The Bad News Bears! They all got it out of their systems and moved on in their careers, and the Wachowskis will, too. Granted, their post-Matrix careers haven't been quite as dominant, but I'd be willing to wager that the changes in the marketplace and the industry have as much to do with that as anything else. And personally, I think they could stand to go back to their Bound days and make something smaller for a change. Might be just what they need.

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