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David Poland

By David Poland

Friday Estimates by Red Spare Ol’ Klady

Friday Estimates 2018-03-03 at 10.38.21 AM

Black Panther… still cruising. Floating with the other five phenomena that have done similar numbers (four, really, as The Force Awakens dwarfs them all). There have been six $600-million domestic grossers. Avatar and SW:TFA are the only two that have a 7 or better in the front of their ultimate number. Will Panther beat Avengers? Who cares? #1 or #2 all-time Marvel movie is an indistinct distinction. The success is profound either way.

Jennifer Lawrence is a true movie star. She is a lovable figure with an undeniable kind of power who draws a crowd to watch. The question is, how does she navigate what has undeniably become her Eddie Murphy problem? Which is to say, she is a powerful underdog figure who now has power. How many times can characters in movies underestimate her? Yet it is that underestimation and her ability to overcome that draws us to her. You can drink too much and fall up the stairs and say outrageous things in real life and be charming, but in a movie, that feels contrived. And at $20 million a movie, it’s hard to hide in plain sight.

The problem with Red Sparrow is not that Jennifer Lawrence isn’t good in the movie. And Francis Lawrence did a great job behind the camera. The problem is that 90 minutes of Jennifer Lawrence being abused and passive is not the $20 million Jennifer Lawrence. And really, neither was the one in Passengers. Nor the one in mother! (for which she didn’t get paid the big bucks, but you get my drift). It’s almost as though, in making choices, Ms. Lawrence is digging deeper and deeper to be vulnerable enough that she can come back.

She is 27 years old.

She is rich beyond a lifetime of need.

I believe in this actress. I believe in that person. And I look forward to seeing new work from her for the rest of my life. Taking a year to get a breath and consider what she really wants to do moving forward is the smartest move possible. No one is going to forget her. And no one is going to pay her $20 million for her next film. (Don’t weep to much for her. $10 million-$15 million is still likely.)

Bruce Willis has insight into the problem of becoming a huge movie star and no one really wanting to see anything but the same trick as you get older. I haven’t see Death Wish, but I guarantee that Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan – on Netflix – is a better version. But only Wes Anderson has been insightful enough to find the other Bruce Willis, around whom there is no mayhem, these days.

Game Night is not being resurrected by word of mouth. The bottom line, in this could-be-a-remake-of-the-failed-Rough-Night, is that while you can see many wonderful ideas in this film, John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein are not competent film directors. They can become competent. And they have the other esthetic skills to be better than that. But until they can stage a scene around a table, none of the trick shots are going to matter and the amazing cast they had will not get all the comic wins they earned on the soundstage.

28 Responses to “Friday Estimates by Red Spare Ol’ Klady”

  1. Sideshow Bill says:

    ANNIHILATION was astonishing. I enjoyed the book but this was just something else. I don’t know what it all means yet but I was engrossed the whole time. Also, had one of the scariest sequences I’ve seen in years. Holy crap.

  2. Stella's Boy says:

    I am fascinated by Death Wish and the discourse surrounding it, the timing and the white vigilante and what not. It’s also been more than five years since Willis starred in a wide release as the lone star and not part of an ensemble (Rock the Kasbah, Sin City 2, Red 2, and G.I. Joe 2). One thing that strikes me when reading reviews and other stories about it: everyone’s referring to it as the vision of Eli Roth and Joe Carnahan. Isn’t that a little unfair to the latter? I thought his script had been entirely overhauled and that he has distanced himself from the finished product.

    Box office wise, that’s a lot of R-rated movies in the top 6. Are they eating into each other’s audience?

    Agreed re: Annihilation. It is quite something. Sorry to see it tanking but not surprised.

  3. Sideshow Bill says:

    I’m a horror fan but I have never really liked anything Roth has made. Cabin Fever had it’s moments but the rest has just been completely ineffective to me. Green Inferno was awful, but I also hate the jungle cannibal sub-genre. Clown is pretty great but he just put his name on that. I had zero interest in Death Wish and I have even less now.

    I really can’t put my finger on what it is about Roth that doesn’t connect. His films seem very disingenuous to me.

  4. Ray Pride says:

    People referring to Roth’s rendition as somehow still the work of Carnahan are being willfully naive.

  5. Ray Pride says:

    Check A. J. Bastien’s take on Annihilation, linked on the front page.

  6. Stella's Boy says:

    That’s what I thought Ray, and I’ve been really surprised by how many critics and writers have said the film is the work of Roth and Carnahan. What’s on the screen is being attributed to both, not just Roth, but I guess in fairness Carnahan is the credited screenwriter.

    I agree Bill. I like this AV Club summary of Roth in their Death Wish review: “He’s the genre maverick as bomb-throwing Reddit troll, pissing off the libs one sneering, self-plagiaristic shocker at a time.”

  7. Sideshow Bill says:

    Thanks for pointing me to that link on Annihilation, Ray. All I can say to it, as someone living with mental illness for 30 years, is yes yes yes yes yes.

  8. YancySkancy says:

    I love Jennifer Lawrence to death, and I’ll see Red Sparrow, but for me the most frustrating thing about her career is the lack of great directors casting her in great roles (or perhaps her turning down same, though I’m guessing that’s less likely). With the exception of the X-Men movies, I’ve thought she was great in pretty much every thing I’ve seen her in, but only a couple of her films have matched her talent. The overall problem is probably an industry problem — the studios rarely make the kind of films that allow an actress to truly shine in a great story from a great filmmaker. I like Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and even Joy to a certain extent, but David O. Russell isn’t exactly Capra to her Stanwyck or Cassavetes to her Rowlands. And it would be nice if she could do even one comedy that captures her real-life appeal without, as David says, feeling contrived. She could be another Carole Lombard if we had another Lubitsch, La Cava or Hawks to give her a hand.

  9. JSPartisan says:

    Let’s just remember, that Death Wish was moved because of one previous mass shooting. Now it’s here, and no one wants a white guy savior with a gun. It’s the same stuff that effected the Punisher TV show, and why that character should be A LOT MORE COMIC BOOKY. Nevertheless, it’s just never going to be the right time for a movie like Death Wish. Until the NRA is taken down 500 pegs, and there are a lot less mass murders in this country.

    ETA: Lawrence isn’t relatable anymore. She also picked the wrong side of Marvel to star in, and it’s not like there aren’t small movies to make. Emma Stone finds them. Brie Larson really finds them. She has priced herself out, and she’s in the fun “Mary Reilly,” part of her career. Where she’s going to fail a lot before she finds her footing.

    Footing that would be easy to find. If she didn’t have to be JENNIFER LAWRENCE… MOVIE STAR. Sure. She could use the right director, or what not. Guess what? She’s playing the MOVIE STAR game, and that’s leading to what’s happening. She should go small, or make a prestige TV show. Otherwise, people are moving on without her.

  10. Ray Pride says:

    Screen credit likely adjudicated by WGA. Especially with a replacement writer who is also a director displacing original writer. Adaptation also monkeys with the credit.

  11. Bulldog68 says:

    Completely random thought triggered by the fact that Jumanji passes GotG2 this weekend, but GotG2 was kind of a Tango and Cash reunion and a Cliffhanger reunion too.

  12. JSPartisan says:

    BD, right on both parts.

  13. spassky says:

    My opinion about Jennifer Lawrence is that she brings no nuance to her roles. It’s either big or small. The best work she has done, by a wide margin, is in winter’s bone. she shows very little expression in her face (used to great effect in WB), and otherwise she is totally untrained, unmannered, and a bore to watch if you’ve seen it before. She has no new tricks, and I’ll be glad to see her become this generation’s theresa russell. just my opinion.

  14. YancySkancy says:

    JS: I’m not sure she’s feeling the need to be JENNIFER LAWRENCE…MOVIE STAR. Toplining two big franchises ate up too much of her time, and not all of her choices have seemed designed to maintain her box office cred. JOY was a great role for her in a commercially dubious story; SERENA probably seemed like a good idea on paper — Oscar-winning international director and another team-up with Bradley Cooper — but again didn’t seem overtly commercial; and I don’t think anyone could call “mother!” a cynical ploy to pander to her fan base. So I’d say she does use her stardom to make some interesting choices; they just haven’t paid off in the same way. Brie Larson and Emma Stone are like any other actors: they take the best of what’s offered to them. Brie wasn’t “finding” small films; until her Oscar for ROOM, that’s mostly all she could get. Now she’s Captain Marvel, and we’ll see how that goes. Emma Stone’s career has been a bit of a grab-bag of indies, auteurs, and paydays. All three women have earned Oscars at a young age, so I’m not really weeping for any of them. But I wish the system and the market allowed for more consistent opportunities for them to showcase their talents, even if there are plenty of other fine actresses who would kill for their careers, as-is.

  15. movieman says:

    Did anyone else chuckle at Jennifer Lawrence and Matthias Schoenaerts’ resemblance to Ivanka and Putin in “Red Sparrow”?
    Definitely added an amusing meta layer for me.
    Liked, but didn’t love the film. Felt a tad plodding–maybe it was the Russian setting; maybe because it was 20 minutes too long–and wasn’t nearly as entertaining as, say, “Atomic Blonde” last summer. (No kickass action setpieces like that movie had in spades either.)
    But the cast is uniformly strong (Charlotte Rampling and Jeremy Irons!), and I was never bored.
    I’d gladly follow J-Law anywhere. Along w/ Kristen Stewart and Brie Larson she’s my favorite under-30 actress working today.

  16. Stella's Boy says:

    Yes there’s never a good time for something like Death Wish, but we sure love movies where good guys with guns take matters into their own hands and distribute their own brand of justice.

  17. Sideshow Bill says:

    Stella, that is a perfect description of Roth. He is a Reddit troll who thinks he has something deep to say but doesn’t have the guts really show himself. He’s a lunkhead.

    I agree JL’s best work was in Winter’s Bone. God, that’s a fantastic film. But I’m a big supporter of mother! and I think she was rather remarkable there. She seems kind of directionless now. Returning to the X-Men franchise seems like desperation on her part and Fox’s (assuming she’s still doing it).

  18. JSPartisan says:

    SB, I am not sure the movie going nation as a whole, wants that from a white protagonist. I am not even sure that the Movie going nation wants it from anyone not named Denzel, because he’s the only one who does those movies with any proficiency. I am not sure Death Wish ever worked, because the first movie is racist as hell. While this new one, tries to make a white guy in the hood, killing people, something the hood would respond to favorably. That’s hot garbage.

  19. Bulldog68 says:

    Now if this Death Wish was a father with a murdered child going after the NRA executive, that would sell like hot cakes right now. A father who has never picked up a gun in his life gets training and begins to hunt them one by one and an ambivalent police force who morally think he is doing some good. That’s the new spin Death Wish 2018 should’ve taken.

  20. Stella's Boy says:

    Many reviews talk about the original like it’s nuanced in comparison to the new one, and having seen it recently, yikes, it’s really repugnant. I wonder if people just haven’t seen it in a long time or something. It’s hard to imagine the new one being that much more problematic than the original. I like that Bulldog.

  21. brack says:

    An interesting article, if you think starting WWIII is “sympathetic.”

  22. David Poland says:

    The thing about this Death Wish… he keeps killing white guys. There is no real ethnic position being taken. What made the original interesting is that it took – however racist – a position.

    This one works really hard to take race and even class out of the equation. All that is left is the violence and a performance by Vincent D that is actually interesting.

  23. Stella's Boy says:

    That’s interesting as so many of the reviews I’ve read mention the killing of the black “Ice Cream Man” or whatever he’s called and make no mention of the fact that he kills a lot of white guys.

  24. Joe Leydon says:

    Some folks forget that the first Death Wish was so enormously popular in 1974, and continued to be so popular well into the era of cable and home video, it actually spawned four sequels over 20 years — all of them starring Charles Bronson — ending with Death Wish V: The Face of Death in 1994 (which, I admit, wasn’t terribly popular). To be honest, I am a little surprised there hasn’t been a remake of the 1974 film a long time ago. Heck, people still want to see the MAD Magazine parody.

  25. YancySkancy says:

    Bulldog 68 should have written the Death Wish remake. That’s a provocative take.

  26. leahnz says:

    one could argue that Jordan’s ‘the brave one’ is a ‘death wish’ remake

  27. Stella's Boy says:

    The Brave One is so much better than the original Death Wish. Yeah Joe adjusted for inflation it made over $100 million.

  28. brack says:

    Being popular has nothing to do with whether Death Wish should exist or not.

    Joe – I’d say Shoot ‘Em Up is pretty darn close to that movie.

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