The one thing about partying with 22-year-olds is that you may have to do a Jager-bomb. At least I didn’t have an oatmeal cookie or a sex on the beach. At least a Jager-bomb is vaguely masculine. Men shouldn’t do shots with whipped cream. Sorry.
ON SETH ROGEN
I am one of the people that love and respect Observe and Report like it’s manna from heaven. Jody Hill’s sensibility is such that it’s found a better home at HBO for the time being, but I find that unfortunate, and telling of the era of cinema we’re in. Filmmakers like Arthur Penn, John Frankenheimer, Steven Spielberg and Richard Donner emerged from television to become some of most important and interesting filmmakers of their eras. Now some of the most important filmmakers of our era – like Frank Darabont, Hill and Todd Haynes – have pursued pay cable as a better way to make their art. I find few things more telling.
The other route is to do what Michel Gondry did with The Green Hornet, which I reviewed here. That is to try and work within the system making a blockbuster. The reviews (like mine) are mostly mixed. Even the people who like it will admit it’s got some problems. Gondry’s voice pops in and out, but if this film is reasonably successful, perhaps someone will give him another opportunity to work within the system, and perhaps – if they get to a second film – some of these problems will be resolved, but that’s a tall order for a film that might open to $30 Million and not clear $100 domestic. Maybe international will be better, but that’s unprecedented for a Seth Rogen vehicle – perhaps the presence of Cameron Diaz, Christoph Waltz and Jay Chou will boost its international take. The film seems such that even if it makes money it will be good for no one’s career.
2007 was the summer of Rogen. Between his lead role in Knocked Up and writing and costarring in Superbad, he was in front of and behind two films that had hundred million dollar grosses, and suggested a new wave of comedy. 2008 brought The Pineapple Express, which did well enough, but didn’t do the same sort of business (as a pot comedy, it had some marketing difficulties) Simply put it wasn’t going to plays as well as Superbad, which had a heart under all that filth. Pineapple has heart too, but it also stars two characters who are stoned much of the time.
He could take a failure like Zack and Miri make a Porno. It was a Kevin Smith film, and a Weinstein release. It wasn’t his to own. But Observe and Report, which has done nothing but get better over time (and now I feel forced to put on) was on his shoulders and it was an odd film, one that would either find an audience or die. It had the bad fortune to follow a similarly themed movie (Paul Blart: Mall Cop) which also managed to be a January blockbuster. Is it then ironic Rogen is now chasing a similar time-frame success against Blart-star Kevin James? Between Report and Judd Apatow’s attempt at James L. Brooksery with Funny People, the man had two high profile misses in one year.
And then there was the troubles getting The Green Hornet together. Kevin Smith had tried and failed to crack it (after Cop Out, that seems for the best), and the project had floated around for a while. Rogen said (when I interviewed him for Collider on the set of The Green Hornet) that they had to write Kato about a hundred different ways, for Jay Chou, for Stephen Chow and – at one point – for a surfer type. Nicholas Cage came in and came close to playing the bad guy as a Jamaican. The film was a product of compromise. Made with producer Neal Moritz, it’s hard to say how much give and take went into the production, and how many creative battles were lost and won. Having been on set, I know that the opening sequence was completely reshot, and when the film was announced to be retrofitted to 3-D and bumped from a Christmas release to January, it suggested that Sony was afraid they made a pile of shit. The late Sally Menke was brought in – along with others – to help cut the film to shape. I like the film; it’s shaggy, but it works well enough. Rogen has Paul and Kung Fu Panda 2 – voice work – and Live with It and Take This Waltz coming up later this year (possibly). The latter two are smallish art films that may find their way into theaters through the dependant branches of mainstream distribution, and may be the summer alternative titles of the year, but neither suggest that Rogen is a star.
Rogen lost some comic mileage when he got skinny in some ways – it’s healthier for him, but he’s no longer the roundish man-child of his earlier works, which has played to many of his roles. But he is still a talented comedic performer in an industry that only respects success. He wants to separate himself from the Judd Apatow production house. This is good and bad. It makes sense to develop his stocks without the person who has been responsible for both putting him on TV and in movies, but their partnership has been mostly successful. I’m 100% rooting for him as a talent. What Green Hornet needs to do is break a hundred domestic. The film surely cost more, but the problem he’s going to face is that a lot of people don’t like what he chose to do with his performance. It was a bold choice and fits with Gondry’s sensibilities (he’s playing the role as an overgrown child), but has already proven to be alienating. Even if the film is successful, it may not be good for him. I hope for the best, all things. My guess is that he and his cohort Evan Goldberg have been doing some script doctoring on the side. And – given a break – a reunion with Apatow could give both some traction. Perhaps (to go full circle) Rogen may find he’s most comfortable on an HBO or Showtime show.
DROP IT LIKE IT’S PREDICTED
The Green Hornet and The Dilemma come at a point where the December wide releases are old hat. It’s a holiday weekend, so that might help, but it’s not a great holiday for movie titles. The Dilemma seems ruined by Universal’s lack of confidence. With the stars involved and talent behind the camera, it’s hard not to see this as a dump. Will they be happy with a $60-$80 cume? Unknown. Sony’s had a couple of big misfires, though The Tourist has made a very quiet $60 domestic, and may be saved by international. If the film crosses $200 worldwide, then it’s likely in a good place to return a profit, considering Sony’s skimpy advertising attitudes (seriously, it starred two of the biggest movies stars in the world, and it felt dumped). The Green Hornet has Carl’s Jr. tie-ins. This is good for the film – it will defer some costs and has cross-promotional advertising. The film should open, but I am curious if word of mouth will sink it. I liked the picture, but like many only so much. Perhaps it will find a life on cable, but the best thing it has going for it is 3-D screens until Sanctum on 2/4 and then Gnomeo and Juliet on 2/11. Green Hornet should effectively kill Tron Legacy domestically. Both Black Swan and The King’s Speech expand this week. Expect top five placements.
And your momma:
1. The Green Hornet – $28 Million
2. The Dilemma – $22 Million
3. Black Swan – $8.9 Million
4. The King’s Speech – $8.5 Million
5. True Grit – $7.7 Million
And then Sunday, I’ll be tired.