ALLIGATORS IN A HELICOPTER

a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Monday, October 29, 2007

Wallowing In Movies

When I lived in Manhattan, in my bachelor days, I used to have days in which I'd do nothing but see movies, knocking off two or three at a clip. One day I saw 6 -- in 6 different theaters -- still a personal record.

Now that I'm married, and always have stuff to do, such days rarely happen.

But yesterday I took most of the day off. After checking out possible areas worth renting an apartment in in the Studio City area (we're out of our current apartment at the end of the year, because they are renovating all the apartments in the complex), we headed over to the multiplex.

And saw two movies. Not only that, but two very different, very good movies.

*** No Spoilers ***

"Dan In Real Life" is being sold as a family comedy; the commercials all seem to feature the scene in which Steve Carell is freaking out because his teenage daughter is driving badly.

Not only has this scene been cut from the movie, it makes no sense that it was in the movie in the first place, given when the story between Carell and his older daughter boils down to. But I digress.

The movie is more of a comedy for grown-ups, and I'm not even going to talk about the main storyline (since none of the ads bother to). Suffice it to say that Carell is put in an impossible romantic situation in the middle of a shore weekend involving his whole family, and how he deals with it is full of humor and pain and a lot of satisfying moments.

Writer-director Peter Hedges (who wrote What's Eating Gilbert Grape and About a Boy, and if you like those two movies you'll undoubtedly like this one) has a perfect feel for awkward moments between people, and for breathing life into characters and relationships -- even minor ones -- in just a few strokes. Tonally, this is pitch perfect throughout, and worth seeing.

Then we wandered into (okay, we snuck into, but we dropped $10 on the concession stand, so win-win for everyone except the studio that released it, but since I do work for them I should be seeing this for free anyway) Michael Clayton, which is also a good movie, though an odd one to pair up with Dan in Real Life, because it's hard to imagine the character of Michael Clayton and the character Steve Carell plays even having a conversation in real life.

But George Clooney inhabits Clayton well, and the story, which essentially explores people who do shitty things because they get paid well for it, is involving throughout. The plot falls a little short here and there (the ending in particularly feels a little rushed), but the performances are dead-on, and writer-director Tony Gilroy nails most of it.

Both films are the kind of movie that Hollywood should be making more of.

********

Over the weekend, SAW IV made an impressive estimated $32.1 million, while DAN IN REAL LIFE did a solid $12 million.

MICHAEL CLAYTON is hanging in, dropping only 24% while making another $5 million, though its per-screen average is under $2000 now.

THE DARJEELING LIMITED expanded, but didn't do all that well; the $1.7 million it made was only an average of about $2400 per screen. LARS AND THE REAL GIRL did almost a million, but it only averaged $3200 per screen, not that great.

The Kevin Bacon-starring RAILS AND TIES only made about $10,000 total in 5 theaters, while the Anthony Hopkins-directed SLIPSTREAM made only about $6000 in 6 theaters. So they won't be coming soon to a theater near you.

BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD made a very solid $73,000 in two Manhattan theaters.

11 Comments:

At 11:45 AM, Blogger Julie O. said...

I second everything you said about DAN IN REAL LIFE. I assume the reviews are split because people assume Steve Carrell only does Apatow-esque movies, which this certainly is not.

I loved the film and hate that it probably won't do what it should -- it's wonderful, but the marketing just sucks.

 
At 2:18 PM, Anonymous Eddie said...

I was bored to tears by Michael Clayton. I thought it should have started the way it did, and then not gone backwards.

The movie should have been called George Clooney Talks On The Phone For Two Hours.

I wanted to like this movie.

 
At 2:41 PM, Anonymous One Who Knows said...

Scott,

re: Dan In Real Life.

Pierce Gardner came up with the idea, wrote the script, sold it to Brad Epstein at Disney, rewrote it and executed Hedges notes. So please tell me how this is suddenly Peter Hedges movie? Frankly, I'm surprised at you.

 
At 3:26 PM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

I should have mentioned that Pierce Gardner co-wrote Dan In Real Life. My bad.

But Peter Hedges got co-writing credit, and for that to happen (because the WGA has pretty firm rules), if he was second-writer-in, it means that he provided a lot more to the script than just notes to be executed.

I don't know the backstory of the script and film. But it's hard to believe that Hedges, who has spent most of his career writing scripts for others to direct, would have turned the tables and stolen partial credit on a script he had little to do with.

 
At 4:54 PM, Blogger suzbays said...

While I agree with what you said re: DiRL, I have to add that I think the plot had some obvious moments, moments that might as well have been painted on a billboard b/c they were that obvious. That aside, I enjoyed the movie.

 
At 6:38 PM, Blogger E.C. Henry said...

Julie O, don't you like commercial ads that DON'T giveaway the whole movie? Contrast the marketing done for "The Heartbreak Kid" v.s. that for "Dan in Real Life." "The Heartbreak Kid's" commercials gave away its best moments. But "Dan in Real Life" concealed it's best moments so that when you saw them there was SOME suprice; you were expeciencing them for the first time. THAT'S what Hollywood needs: movies where the audience GETS to be pleasantly SURPRISED by what they just saw.

I saw "Dan in Real Life" yesterday and I LOVED it. One of the best movies I've seen this year.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

 
At 7:55 PM, Blogger Julie O. said...

EC - I'm with you -- I despise marketing that gives away all the good stuff. I just got the feeling that the marketing folks didn't quite know what to do with DAN -- it was scarcely a blip on my radar and I'm exactly the demographic they were going for.

 
At 11:36 PM, Anonymous one who knows said...

"But Peter Hedges got co-writing credit, and for that to happen (because the WGA has pretty firm rules), if he was second-writer-in, it means that he provided a lot more to the script than just notes to be executed.

I don't know the backstory of the script and film. But it's hard to believe that Hedges, who has spent most of his career writing scripts for others to direct, would have turned the tables and stolen partial credit on a script he had little to do with."

You're right, Scott. I'll take a my bad on that one. My point is simply to give Pierce some credit for doing the initial heavy lifting.

 
At 1:03 PM, Anonymous Matt said...

Honestly, I don't know how any adult could be bored by Michael Clayton. That's not meant to be a knock on anyone, I just found it to be riveting. It reminded me of the great films of the seventies I grew up watching.

Just saw Into The Wild and this is my pick (so far) for the best movie of the year. It may not be as slick as some, but the last movie that had such an emotional impact on me (albeit of a different type) was SAving Private Ryan.

 
At 9:20 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said...

Loved, loved, loved Clayton. I hung on every word.

"We're good."

Jesus Christ.

 
At 8:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: Apartments. Have you checked out Catalina Apts on Laurel Canyon? Very Hollywood friendly (actors and writers), good location, etc. etc. etc.

 

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