Entertainment behind the scenes
A movie about the Los Angeles Times just got a big thumbs-down from the Los Angeles Times.
“The Soloist,” the fact-based saga of an unlikely friendship between one of the paper’s columnists and a troubled street musician, is “trite and contrived,” according to critic Kenneth Turan.
“I can’t help being mightily frustrated by ‘The Soloist,’” Turan added in his review published on Thursday, the day before the feel-good drama was scheduled to open across the United States and Canada.
“I can’t help resenting that it suffered the death of a thousand cuts and, more frustrating still, that all this happened in the name of doing good in the world, of making the story’s powerful lessons more palatable to a wider audience.”
Robert Downey, Jr. plays Turan’s colleague, Steve Lopez, a columnist who dedicates himself to improving the life of a paranoid schizophrenic cellist played by Jamie Foxx.
Turan was troubled that the film’s British director Joe Wright (“Atonement”) and Oscar-winning writer Susannah Grant (“Erin Brockovich”) overplayed the story, “settling for standard easy emotions when singular and heartfelt was called for.”
Other reviews were generally mixed. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times said the film “has all the elements of an uplifting drama, except for the uplift.” But Peter Travers at Rolling Stone said Downey and Foxx delivered “two of the year’s best performances.”
The $40 million-plus film was originally supposed to come out late last year with grand award-season hopes. But Paramount hastily pulled the DreamWorks production from the release schedule. Its new slot is something of a dead zone, coming a week before “Wolverine” kicks off the lucrative summer moviegoing season.
Box office prospects for “The Soloist” are unclear. The Hollywood Reporter said a three-day haul in the teen millions was “certainly doable but not quite guaranteed.” Prognosticators believe the weekend’s top slot will go to another new release, “Obsessed,” a thriller starring R&B singer Beyonce Knowles.
Batman movie “The Dark Knight” has been a box office behemoth with four straight weekends atop ticket sales charts, but some industry watchers expect the new comedy adventure “Tropic Thunder“ could knock it off its No. 1 perch this weekend.
“Tropic Thunder,” which stars Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey, Jr., opened in theaters on Wednesday with a healthy $6.5 million for the one night, slightly above expectations, said the DreamWorks movie studio which is behind the movie.
That was about half the $12.15 million first-day total of stoner comedy “Pineapple Express” last Wednesday, and ”Express” failed to beat ”Dark Knight” this past weekend when ticket sales were tallied. “Express” had $23 million for the weekend to $26 million for “Dark Knight.”
Hollywood has long been populated by egocentric actors, actresses, directors, writers, producers and other narcissists who are easy to poke fun at. This week “Tropic Thunder,” directed by Ben Stiller and starring him, Jack Black and Robert Downey, Jr., is the latest film to take a satirical look at high-profile stars. But is there any joke that goes too far when Hollywood insiders are making fun of Hollywood?
Not really, said Justin Theroux, a co-writer with Stiller on the movie. ”The good thing about Hollywood is that I don’t think you’d be able to show this to anyone and have them go, ‘God that’s so me,’ They’ll all go, ‘That’s that guy,’” Theroux, 37, told reporters in recent interviews.
With “Iron Man” out wide in theaters — and out in a huge, $101 million opening box office way — it’s time to reflect around the water cooler on what the movie means and what, if anything, its makers were trying to say.
The war question: Is ”Iron Man” anti-war? Does Tony Stark (aka comic book superhero Iron Man, played by Robert Downey, Jr.) create his suit of hi-tech armor to stop a military arms maker run amok and tame an evil-doer?