Wednesday, October 10, 2012

It's Argo versus Sinister versus Here Comes the Boom in John Gosling's weekend movie preview (10-12-12)

 Our first new release on this busy week is the latest directorial effort from Ben Affleck. Argo is based on the real life story of the audacious rescue of six U.S diplomats during the Iran hostage crisis in 1979/80. The basis for the screenplay is in part based on the memoirs of CIA Agent Tony Mendez (who orchestrated the rescue) and a 2007 Wired magazine article entitled 'How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans from Tehran' written by Joshuah Bearman. The film follows true events, though as Affleck has been quick to note, Argo is based on a true story, as opposed to being a true story and thus a certain amount of dramatic license has been used to bring the events to life. After students and militants swarm the American embassy in Iran, which results in 52 people being taken hostage, a group of six people manage to evade capture and ultimately seek sanctuary at the Canadian Embassy. In order to get them out of Iran safely, the CIA enlist the skills of their agent Tony Mendez, a specialist in covert and clandestine work. Mendez comes up with the idea of a fake film (the Argo of the title), with the idea of passing off the six diplomats as members of the Canadian film crew, who are in Iran to scout locations. To further cement the cover story, the CIA set up and staffed an office in Los Angeles for the fake picture and even produced posters for inclusion in Hollywood publications. With the help of the Canadian government (who granted the U.S citizens Canadian passports), the plan was put into place. 

The rights to produce a film based around Bearman's article were secured in its years of publication by George Clooney, David Klawans and Grant Heslov, but it would not be until 2011 that the project moved forward. Ben Affleck made his directorial debut on missing child film, Gone Baby Gone in 2007, which he followed up three years later with crime drama The Town. He officially signed up to direct Argo in February 2011, with casting commencing in June. First on board the project was Alan Arkin, who was joined by Bryan Cranston, John Goodman and Affleck himself, taking on the role of Tony Mendez. Shooting took place in California, Washington and Istanbul, with the first trailer debuting in May. Argo debuted at the Telluride Film Festival in August and screened at the Toronto Film Festival back in September, to great acclaim. But controversy also raised its head due to the film downplaying the role of the Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor, who was instrumental in getting the Canadian government to grant the fake passports. The director responded by altering the final text in the film to better credit the ambassador's contributions. With such strong notices and a subject matter a little way from the mainstream, it was initially assumed that Argo would open in a limited capacity, building up word of mouth before it expanded wide. However, Warner Bros. have opted to open the picture as the widest of all releases this weekend, taking in an estimate 3,250 theatres. But with such a busy weekend, along with second and third frames of Taken 2 and Looper respectively, Argomay struggle to get itself noticed. Is the lack of a limited platform release likely to hurt the film in the long run?

Here Comes The Boom stars Kevin James as biology teacher Scott Voss. When his school is faced with budget cuts, which would see extra curricular activities scrapped, Voss comes up with a scheme to raise the money himself. Having been something of an amateur wrestler in college, he decides to become a mixed martial artist as way to earn the $48,000 the school would need to keep its extra-curricular programs running. Here Comes The Boom also stars Salma Hayek as fellow teacher Bella Flores and Henry Winkler as Marty, a colleague who will lose his job if music classes are cut. Taking on the directorial role is Frank Coraci, who worked with James on the 2011 release, The Zookeeper, and also directed the Adam Sandler comediesThe Wedding SingerClick and The Waterboy. James too has a history with the comedy actor, having played opposite him in Chuck and LarryGrown Ups (and its upcoming sequel) and current release, Hotel Transylvania. Boom is also produced through Sandler's Happy Madison production company. Kevin James shot to fame as Doug Heffernan in King of Queens, before breaking into film opposite Will Smith in Hitch. He also saw solo success with his lead role in Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which made a staggering $145M in January 2009. Shooting on Here Comes The Boom ran from March until May of 2011 in Boston. Initial reports pegged the film as costing just $10M to produce, but these have since been denied and at the time of writing, no actual budget data was available. Only Pitch Perfect will offer direct competition this frame, but Boom may find it one tough competitor.

The Paranormal Activity franchise gets its yearly airing next weekend but for this week, we have Sinister, a brand new scare flick starring Ethan Hawke. Hawke plays true crime writer Ellison Osbourne, who along with his wife and two children move into a house which was witness to a family slaying. Hoping to use the murders for the basis of his latest book (with a view to solving the crime) he is intrigued when he comes across a collection of 8mm film reels that depict not only the deaths of the previous residents, but a number of other families. Osbourne becomes obsessed with the footage and starts to notice a strange character appearing in the background of them. When odd things begin to occur around the house, he realizes that he may have put his family and himself in terrible danger. Sinister was written by Ain't It Cool News contributor C.Robert Cargill , with assistance from Scott Derrickson, writer and director of The Exorcism of Emily Rose. The horror flick shot around this time last year with Hawke being joined by Juliet Rylance and Vincent D'Onofrio. Early buzz began to build after its debut at the SXSW festival in March, and continued to rise thanks to strong summer screenings (including a showing at Frightfest). While the standard teaser hinted at the possible frights on offer, it was Sinister's red band trailer that revealed its more disturbing side. Hawke dabbled in the genre in 2010's Daybreakers but Sinister is his first out and out horror film. While it will inevitably get crushed by Paranormal Activity 4 next week (which incidentally shares a producer with Sinister), its word of mouth and strong reviews could see it open very well. Summit must  already be looking at franchise potential.  

Our final film in over 1,000 locations this weekend is Martin McDonagh's follow up to In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths. It stars Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken and Woody Harrelson. Farrell plays Marty, a wannabe writer attempting to finish his 'Seven Psychopaths' screenplay. Rockwell plays Marty's best friend Billy, a part-time dog thief, while Walken plays Billy's partner in crime, Hans. Serious problems arise for the trio when Billy and Hans mistakenly kidnap a dog belonging to a very violent gangster named Charlie (Harrelson), who will do anything to see its return. Seven Psychopaths also co-stars Tom Waits, Abbie Cornish and Olga Kurylenko. Director McDonagh, an acclaimed playwright, made his feature debut with the well received In Bruges back in 2008. While promoting the film, McDonagh talked about a couple of other potential scripts (at that point he wasn't even sure he would direct another film despite the success of In Bruges) one of which turned out to be Seven Psychopaths. However things didn't move forward on the project until 2011, with the first casting taking place in May of that year. Harrelson was actually a late replacement for Mickey Rourke, who left the film after disagreements with McDonagh (Rourke had also turned down a role inThe Expendables 2 to work on Seven Psychopaths).  Shooting took place in late 2011 with an October 2012 release date set by CBS Films. The picture had its world premiere at the Toronto Film Festival in September and received some very strong notices, especially for Walken. In Bruges had a very long, but limited release, never seeing more than 232 theatres during its 20 week run. Seven Psychopaths is going out somewhat wider (around 1,475 locations at the time of writing) and will need to rely on those strong reviews and word of mouth if it is break out and stay ahead in a crowded weekend. 

Finally this week we have Atlas Shrugged: Part 2, the sequel to the 2011 film. Atlas Shrugged is based on the book of the same name by author Ayn Rand, and is set in a dystopian future in which all of North America's most productive workers have gone on strike. Critically maligned upon its release in 1957, it has remained consistently popular in the ensuing decades. A film adaptation had been in the works since the early 1970s but it wasn't until producer John Aglialoro secured the rights in 1992 that things began to move forward. However, it would take Aglialoro a further 18 years before production would began on the first film. Critical reaction to the original picture was overwhelming negative and from a $20M production budget, Atlas Shrugged (Part:1 of a planned trilogy) made just $4.6M. Despite the failure, the producers managed to secure funding for the sequel, hiring an all new cast in the process. Whether the film will manage to win over critics remains to be seen (Aglialoro directly blamed critics for the failure of the first film). At the time of writing, Atlas Shrugged: Part 2 is set to open at 850 theatres, roughly double that of its predecessor.

John Gosling

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