Sunday, November 6, 2011

Are these the same movie?

Thursday afternoon I was out with my son, pushing him around in one of those plastic blue cars with the big handle coming off the back. You know, so you don't have to stoop down to push, but so he also gets that thrilling close-to-the-sidewalk experience you just can't replicate elsewhere.

On this walk I saw -- not for the first time -- both of the posters above. But it was the first time I saw them in such close proximity, one on the back of a city bus, one on its side.

Only by seeing them together could I be sure that they were not the same movie.

Sure, the actual composition of the posters is very similar. You've got a bunch of glum looking faces on top, then a scene at the bottom involving a girl in some kind of pastoral, woodsy setting near a lake -- probably indicating some kind of past tragedy, possibly involving a drowning, that all the glum faces are trying to overcome.

But what they really have in common is the fact that neither of them belongs anywhere near a theater near you.

When was the last time you saw such lo-fidelity casts in movies destined for a theatrical release? How destined they are is questionable. While I found a December 2nd release date for Flying Lessons, the Saving Grace B. Jones release date is considerably more nebulous. The film actually played festivals way back in 2009, and the only apparent theatrical release date I could find was back in September. But another website also still lists it as "coming soon" -- a status confirmed by the fact that it's currently being advertised on this bus.

Coming soon to the Hallmark Channel, maybe. To a theater? It's hard to even conceive of it.

But back to those casts ... Maggie Grace? Tatum O'Neal? Michael Biehn? Penelope Ann Miller? Hal Holbrook? Cary Elwes? Jonathan Tucker? Christine Lahti? Let's take them one by one.

Maggie Grace is best known as a character on Lost ... a character who died in like the second season. Tatum O'Neal was on her way to a really big career ... in the 1970s. Michael Biehn was excellent in ... the original Terminator. You may remember Penelope Ann Miller from such places as ... Kindergarten Cop. Hal Holbrook is and always has been a talented actor, as he proved not long ago in Into the Wild ... but he is also 86 years old. Cary Elwes is nearly 25 years removed from playing Wesley in The Princess Bride, and has most recently been found in ... Saw movies. Jonathan Tucker is an anonymous twentysomething ... having shown up in films like The Ruins and The Next Three Days. And Christine Lahti ... well, she's the name you might know least. I think she's quite good. But she's 61 years old, which means Hollywood hasn't really come a-callin' in something like 20 years.

Yet somehow, these two movies with these two casts are coming to some theater, somewhere in Los Angeles, sometime relatively soon.

I, for one, am glad -- much as I appear to be dismissing them out of hand. It goes to show that there is, still, the occasional anomaly when it comes to theatrical distribution, some desperate voice within some studio or some distribution company somewhere, a voice with enough influence to champion a Lifetime Original Movie weepie like these two movies appear to be.

It's nice to see that in a world where the much safer bet is Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.


Travis McClain said...

Posters, generic, blah, blah, blah... What I really want to address is Cary Elwes. That guy is woefully underrated. Not only was in Saw, but he's had a terrific recurring role on the TV show Psych playing a suave super-thief.

Even if all he ever did was play Westley in The Princess Bride,that would be good enough for me. But he was also in Glory (an all-time favorite of mine) and let's not forget he was the only Robin Hood to speak with an English accent. He's also done a lot of small movies.

Elwes is a great example of the kind of talent that chooses to be an actor over being a movie star. Here's a recent, overlooked gem for the geek set: C.B.D.: Comic Book Diaries, about the rivalry between two comic book shops.

Vancetastic said...

Travis, I'm definitely an Elwes fan. I'm speaking more about his general viability as a commodity that would put asses in the seats, from the perspective of a studio. But where we can agree we are both fans, I must disagree with you on something else, if you are going to say a single good thing about Robin Hood: Men in Tights. I saw that for the first time in the last month, and I thought it might be one of the worst 100 movies I have ever seen. (In case you think I turn up my nose at all late-era Brooks movies, I actually kind of like Dracula: Dead and Loving It.)

Travis McClain said...

On the whole, I agree that Men in Tights was disappointing (though I liked enough of it that I generally think favorably of it). Regardless of the movie itself, though, I thought Elwes was a terrific Robin Hood and I've always wished he had been in a straight production instead of the parody.

Also, I'm with you on Dracula: Dead and Loving It. The writers did a great job hitting on various elements of the mythology, from Bram Stoker's original novel through the Francis Ford Coppola movie.

Vancetastic said...

I can summarize the primary difference between those two films as follows, and I think it relates directly to their effectiveness:

One (Robin Hood) throws literally any pun or marginally "clever" observation out there in the interest of trying to get a laugh, failing to stick to the time period of the film, and in fact, almost pathologically destroying any idea that it could have occurred during that time period with its modern references. The other (Dracula) is slightly less concerned with the joke-a-minute pace, and therefore lets most of the jokes -- even the ones that would have a secondary meaning in a modern context -- spring organically from the material and basically be limited to that.

Obviously, you can tell which approach I find more successful. I see Robin Hood: Men in Tights as the kind of movie that made possible the careers of the guys who made Epic Movie, Date Movie, etc., and that is certainly NOT a good thing.