Over the course of a week, Troy Phillips and new Poor Scholars staffer Ryan Fleig exchanged a few emails about the number of highly acclaimed releases set to hit the big screen this over the next month and a half. Among topics discussed were the makings of a classic sports movie, The Great Gatsby and which films are can’t miss in theaters.
Troy: Welcome to the staff Ryan- I’m looking forward to seeing you add your own flavor to the creatively obscure world here at Poor Scholars, particularly regarding the film world. Speaking of which, to say that there is a lot to be excited about on the big screen right now would be an understatement. 42 has been a home run with audiences, Evil Dead remake has lived up to the heart pumping standards of the original, and hell, even the Scary Movie series has been resurrected to provide a fallback comedy option for movie goers, albeit an unspectacular one per Rotten Tomatoes. The fact that I’ve heard/read absolutely nothing on Scary Movie 5 is already a bad sign, but I can’t say that I didn’t see it coming. The previews made the movie feel like a rapid order sequel to Haunted House, the movie that thought “I kicked you in your ghost balls!” was the perfect line to excite viewers at the end of their preview commercials. The cast also sounds more like a collective comeback tour than a cohesive unit; Ashley Tisdale and Charlie Sheen are cast in the two biggest roles, with appearances by Katt Williams, Mike Tyson and Lindsay Lohan. Even with all of the obvious red flags, I will probably get roped into witnessing this train wreck out of respect to the past success of the series. Are you planning to see Scary Movie 5 in theaters, on demand, at all?
As I’ve been writing this, I’ve seen multiple clips from 42 that are really making me lament missing it on opening weekend. You got the feeling from get go that this was a can’t miss kind of production, but I wonder where the 42’s ceiling might lie. The blessing and the curse of historical dramas is that there are limitations on how much molding can be done to the script in order to make the leap from above average to extraordinary. The movie should deliver on accuracy and heartfelt heroism, but keeping audiences engaged during the climax when they already know the end result will be the key to making 42 a classic. What are your expectations for Jackie Robinson’s story? Am I being too cynical? It wouldn’t be the first time.
Ryan: I don’t believe you are being too cynical at all. You can be assured that I am telling the truth about that because I am a highly cynical person when it comes to viewing films based on historical sport figures or even many films revolving around sports in general. I think with the Jackie Robinson film, if the people behind the film have a clear idea of what they want this film to be, 42 can be a good movie. Within the sports genre, there are many different types of films. Sports films in particular have pitfalls that hurt the overall value of the film. They have to establish what they want out of this movie. Is it to be more light hearted with a hopeful theme? Is it going to be a straightforward historical account? In which case, then 42 may indeed be limited in how effective it is, as you mentioned. If it is light-hearted and hopeful, I can see 42 being similar to Remember the Titans in that it appealed to a wide range of audiences. This method also allows it to become more than just a sports movie. What made Remember the Titans a great film (in my opinion atleast) was that football was not the main theme of the film. It was a fight against racism, a fight against oppression and a fight to achieve anything you want. 42 has a similar message in the fight against racism and I imagine that it will embody many of the same themes previously mentioned. As for keeping people engaged in the climax, I think that if the film has established itself by then and has already kept audiences’ interest, the same will hold true at the end. Sports films can ruin themselves by being cheesy and cliche, especially true at the climax. However, since 42 is a historical account, it can avoid these things. It has to stick to what happened. It doesn’t need to create an ending that shoves its message in the viewers face and is ridiculously bad (re:cliched). Take for example, Lincoln. We all know how Abe’s story ends, but this film kept many an audiences’ interest. It wasn’t so much about the ending, as the lead up to it. It was a very effective method. Once the credits rolled, the film left a very emotional after taste. Finally, as for what 42 needs to do to be a classic, I just ask, does it need to be a classic? Why should that be the penultimate goal for a sports film centered around a great figure in history? I think this film can be a simple and heartfelt movie that delivers by not necessarily striving to be too much, but by staying true to what it is. It has a strong message and a great person that embodies that message. Not to strangle the Lincoln comparisons to death, but that film had a simple message and never strove to be dramatic and emphasize the heroism of Abe. Yet it is widely accepted, critically and by fans, and is considered one of the best historical films around. I hope 42 can do something similar and be just as satisfying. In the end, I just want 42 to be heartfelt and caring for its subject matter, some think I think it will achieve. When you mentioned that 42 has a challenge in keeping audiences engaged through the climax, how do you picture the film being able to do so? What specific things are you looking for that will qualify 42 as a thumbs up film in your book? What can 42 do to prove that it is a sports film that is better than others?
Troy: I think that for 42 to be a success, it only has to accurately portray the struggle that Jackie Robinson faced as a lone outlier among millions of close minded fans during the 1940’s. But for the film to be a classic, there needs to be those moments that intersects with the viewer’s world and makes the story seem like an emotionally trying experience. Those moments when you step back and wonder why your own life isn’t more like that of Rocky Balboa or Roy Hobbs, and how things would be better if it was. How you go about doing that is far beyond my producing abilities, but the character/viewer connection is where good sports films add value and become transcendent.
Looking forward a bit, the month of May looks to be absolutely loaded with big name value in terms of titles. Iron Man 3 kicks things off on the first Friday of the May while the third installment of The Hangover and the sixth edition in the (staff favorite) Fast and Furious series round things out at the end of the month. But the movie that really has me excited is coming in between these sequel bookends, and it goes by the name of The Great Gatsby. For those that have read the book like you and I, we already know that Gatsby is an entertaining tale of privilege and deceit, and after reading the cast list you can’t help but feel pangs of elation. Tobey Maguire may as well have been named Nick Carraway with the way he fits the role, and Leonardo DiCaprio is going to get an opportunity to shine as the eccentric millionaire Jay Gatsby. Leo is coming his performance as Calvin Candie in Django Unchained as, you guessed it, an eccentric millionaire (or millionaire equivalent in the 19th century). DiCaprio’s part of Django was by far my favorite, so I can’t wait to see what he has in store for what is essentially a 20’s era encore performance. Is Gatsby circled as emphatically on your calendar as it is mine, or is there another release that will take first priority?
Ryan: Well, as you mentioned, May really is a heavy hitting month in terms of how many big name titles it boasts. There are a multitude of big movies that are coming that could be critically acclaimed and more than hotly received at the box office. For this reason, it is hard to decide which movie(or movies) to circle on my calendar.
That being said, I agree with you that The Great Gatsby is a very exciting upcoming movie. I loved the book (which is surprising since it was read for school) and to see it put on the big screen is highly enticing. The only qualms I have about the movie though is that the story in the book is complex. It has many a subtle and underlying themes/motifs. Can the movie portray these correctly? Also, in order for the movie to hit a home run, atleast for me, is that The Great Gatsby needs to balance out the extravagant, over-the-top parties with the moral depravity and corruptness that made the book so great. I don’t know if it will and I’m not overly psyched about Baz Luhrman as the director trying to do this. He has potential for his style of filmmaking to make this film great. But his style also has potential to be a serious disappointment. Granted this, I most definately have The Great Gatsby circled on my calendar and will be in line to see it when it opens on May 10.
However, the best film coming in May for me is Star Trek Into Darkness. This film looks to bring a satisfying mix of action, suspense, thrills and emotional story to the audience. I liked the original Startrek in 2009 and this sequel looks even better so far. Into Darkness seems(as the title suggests) even darker and grittier than the first. Benedict Cumberbatch plays the baddie this time around and that alone has me just about hooked. He is a great actor and I am excited as hell to see him unleash his acting chops in this role. The rest of the cast is fantastic and J.J. Abrams is a great, original director. Even for people who are not trekkies(i.e. me) this film should be a great ride and definately one to see in theaters.
My list of films to see in May includes many films overall and I hope to see them all in theaters(money, albeit, an issue. Seriously, $10.50 for a single ticket? Ridiculous). As you said, May will see the return of the Wolfpack and the Fast and Furious crew. Also, a badass Tony Stark in Iron Man 3. These films are all on my list to see. Though some may prove to be a disappointment(I’m looking at you Wolfpack), each film brings its own flavor and movie going experience.
Also, keep an eye out for The Purge and Now You See Me. The first is a horror film about an America where all crime is legal for one night a year and a families struggles to get through one years purge. The second is about a crew of magicians who rob banks as their act. The first should be scary fun from the same people who brought us Sinister. Now You See Me could be an intriguing heist movie that is supported by a great cast.
May has a lot of movies coming out in theaters. How will you choose which ones to see in theaters and which ones to relegate to DVD? Would you be willing to see some of the movies I have listed in theaters? What are your thoughts on Startrek Into Darkness and The Purge?
Troy: I’m glad you brought up The Purge, because it already looks like a seat gripping horror fest for the ages. I mean, just look at this thing. I can tell you one thing- if I can’t drag along anyone to go with me on opening night, I may just be heading to the theater on a solo mission. The scariest movies are the ones that are plausible on some level and still terrifying to witness, and based on what I’ve seen The Purge has placed checks in both boxes.
My wishlist for May movies includes Gatsby, Hangover 3 (for nostalgia’s sake if nothing else), and a third to be determined by what other people I’m with want to see provided it’s one of the films that we’ve already discussed. In reality, I will probably end up making two trips to the theater at most next month, but one thing is for sure- the showtimes at AMC will be factoring into my schedule more than usual over the next handful of weeks. And yeah, part of that is because tickets cost about at much as a plane ticket to Costa Rica nowadays and I can’t justify a $35 dollar movie tab for a single month.
Star Trek is the kind of experience that satisfies galactic sci-fi fans, but I’ve always had trouble jumping on the stars and battleships ideology since the Star Wars films of my youth. Of course, no one can dispute the directing acumen of J.J. Abrams or success of the first installment, but Star Trek Into Darkness is definitely on the back burner for me right now with all of the this other firepower. As is Fast and Furious 6, for that matter. Sometimes there are just too many good options jockeying for too few spots.
In all, the the theaters should be packed with a surplus of high expectations and household name value over the next few months, and I can’t wait to see which meet or exceed our predictions.