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Tag: The Runaways (1-4 of 4)

Tales from the box office: The unbearable profitability of bad chick flicks, and does the 'Oscar bump' still exist?

bounty-hunterImage Credit: Barry WetcherThis weekend, children ruled at the box office, as they so often do. Alice in Wonderland continued to prove that its boisterous, overstuffed, clattery fairy-tale landscape is a giant hit with audiences, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, with a very impressive opening, made good on its feisty promise of a socially awkward, quick-brained nerd’s dreams of acceptance. Right now, though, I’d like to take note of a few of the other stories that the box office told this weekend. Stories that aren’t necessarily pretty, but that take the temperature of today’s moviegoers in revealing, and even fascinating, ways. So here goes:

If you build a bad romantic comedy, they will come (sort of). We’re obsessed in this culture with “winners” and “losers,” so the big news about The Bounty Hunter is that it was “beaten” by Diary of a Wimpy Kid (i.e., it happened to make four-fifths of a million dollars less). To me, however, the real news is that another cookie-cutter synthetic-screwball dud, with the charming Jennifer Aniston being abused by the charmless Gerard Butler, the two of them skulking through the rituals of romcom banter like grim soldiers being put through a drill, managed to withstand a fusilade of lousy reviews to do — big surprise — just fine in the marketplace. The point? That when moviegoers, like so many of you on this site, complain, “Why can’t the studios make a romantic comedy that isn’t a borderline insult?” the answer is: “Because the romantic comedies that are insults have no trouble finding an audience.” That said, I do buy the argument (or, at least, I would like to believe) that if The Bounty Hunter had actually been a good movie, it might have done even more business. Does anyone remember Jennifer Aniston’s very first romantic comedy, Picture Perfect (co-starring Jay Mohr), from 1997? It was terrific! I’ve been waiting for her to make a romantic comedy that good ever since, but if The Bounty Hunter holds on (which, of course, it may not), she’ll have that much less motivation to break out of the ghetto of ersatz chemistry and plastic squabbling. READ FULL STORY

In 'Foxes' and 'Light of Day,' the real Cherie Currie and Joan Jett revealed more about themselves than 'The Runaways' does

currie-jettImage Credit: Everett CollectionA number of readers have ripped me for writing an entire review of The Runaways in which I somehow failed to include a single word about Dakota Fanning’s performance. You’re right, point taken, I should have. All right, here goes: She was perfectly okay. Actually, when I realized that I’d written the review that way, I just figured that I’d let my lack of comment on Fanning’s performance stand as an implicit statement that there wasn’t all that much to say about it. She’s quite the critics’ darling these days — always has been, really — but to me, Dakota Fanning, as she’s grown up, has turned into a slightly odd actress, luminous and emotionally delicate but also passive and a bit spaced. She’s gifted, but as a presence she’s not all there.

In The Runaways, she plays Cherie Currie as a put-upon nice girl who worships David Bowie (and gets pelted with wads of paper at school for it!), then learns how to snarl and cock her body on stage like a real punk she-devil. Yet somehow, through all the drugs and girl fights and bleary, sleepless tour dates and leering of the boys in the audience and abuse piled upon her by the group’s domineering packager-producer-manager-Svengali-tormenter, Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon), Cherie manages to retain the wispy essence of her wayward-ingenue innocence. Fanning has one good scene near the end where Cherie is blasted on drugs and tries, without any luck, to purchase a bottle of liquor; her slovenly, impotent fury at the sales people is startling. But up until then, Fanning’s competent, rather wan acting fits all too neatly into the film’s pious, slightly sanitized vision of Cherie Currie as a sweetly alienated, emotionally neglected Los Angeles girl who got put through a pop-culture meat grinder.

Yes, that’s kind of what happened, but if we really want to be progressive (and truthful) about it, let’s also give the members of the Runaways credit for being the young women they chose to be, even if they were just babe-in-the-urban-woods teenagers. From all the sources I’ve encountered (including the memoir on which the movie is based), the real Cherie Currie was, and still is, a pistol, a girl who got herself into heaps of trouble because she eagerly sought it out. READ FULL STORY

Sundance: Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning rock out in 'The Runaways,' but the movie itself is no knockout

From the moment I arrived at Sundance, the movie that more or less everyone, including me, wanted to see most was The Runaways — and not just because it offered the chance to see whether Kristen Stewart, as Joan Jett, could leave her swoony Twilight mopiness behind her and play a rock & roll princess with down-and-dirty spunk. (Verdict: She can.) It’s also because the Runaways, a packaged group of choppy-haired teen-glam feline punkettes from L.A. who, in 1976, did for girls playing power chords what the Sex Pistols did for beer-spewing anarchy, may seem cooler now than they did then. In hindsight, they blazed quite a trail, but they didn’t have many good songs — and even their best one, “Cherry Bomb,” never quite broke free of their jailbait novelty-act image.

The most entertaining thing about the movie is that its writer-director, music-video veteran Floria Sigismondi (making her feature debut), has a sixth sense for how the Runaways were an image first and a rock & roll band second. READ FULL STORY

Where have all the biopics gone?

A few years ago, the Hollywood biopic finally seemed to be coming of age. It was the fall of 2004 — a season that gave us not one but two of the most thrilling biographical dramas ever made, the jumpin’ and impassioned Ray and the bold and brilliant Kinsey. (No, that’s not Kinsey at left — it’s Woody Harrelson as Larry Flynt — though it’s probably a ménage he would have approved of.) The fact that these two movies came out within one month of each other was a coincidence, yet I marveled, at the time, at what they had in common: They were warts-and-all portraits that understood, in different ways, that they didn’t need to tidy up their heroes, didn’t need to soft-pedal their quirks and peccadilloes and, yes, their complex human failings. The flaws — like, say, Ray Charles’ promiscuity, his compulsion to juggle relationships as if they were simultaneous marriages — weren’t just part of what made these men fascinating; the flaws were part of what made them great. (Without Ray Charles’ outsize appetites, he would never have had the fearlessness to alchemize the godliness of gospel into the earthy fervor of rock & roll.)

One year later, Walk the Line, a solid if not quite as inspired movie, gave Johnny Cash the same open-eyed, scarred-soul, addiction-is-the-fuel-of-creativity treatment, and Capote created high drama out of the merciless, nearly spooky manipulation of his subjects that Truman Capote was willing to stoop to to create the world’s first nonfiction novel. And once again, audiences responded. The door to a freshly candid and exciting age of biopics had been swung, and propped, wide open. And then? Then, just about as quickly as it had arrived, the trend began to fizzle. Yes, in 2007, there was La Vie en Rose, and there are other examples here and there, but really: Where have all the biopics gone? By which I mean, the great ones. READ FULL STORY

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