“It’s Good to Be George Clooney”

If they gave out Oscars for being a bon vivant, the best raconteur or guy-you'd-most-like-to-have-at-your-next-dinner party, then George Clooney would be a shoo-in. I could listen to him talk for hours. He's intelligent, charming, self-effacing and very, very funny. He's also not hard on the eyes. I enjoy his films immensely. He makes smart choices and if he can't find a movie from someone else that he wants to do, he and his producing partner, Grant Heslov, will write their own. Then he gets his friends to help out.I've never heard or read a single negative anecdote told by actors who've worked with him and his private life and behavior don't make the tabloids for anything other than the fact that he's a serial monogamist.
 
He also puts his celebrity to good use, which is a better reason to admire the man  than the way he looks in a tux. There is no question his interest in the crisis in Darfur has shone a light on a region of the world that no one was paying attention to, despite the fact that another holocaust was happening under our noses. He's by no means the only activist to highlight what's happening in the Sudan (Sam Childers aka "The Machine Gun Preacher" may have been there longer and is more hands on, but until recently not many had ever heard of Sam or his work) nor is he the only celebrity attempting to put their fame to good use (ie Angelina Jolie or Madonna) but, I think the fact that he's so well regarded in general means attention will be paid.   

He's a great guy and everyone loves him.

The problem I have is with George Clooney, Academy Award nominee for Best Actor. I enjoyed The Descendants both times I saw it, but when I walked out the second time, my opinion hadn't changed from the first. It's a good movie. It's well written and it's well acted, which is what we should expect when we buy a ticket. We should not be so surprised when we come upon quality that it's immediately given front runner status for Awards Season. There is a lot to like in that film, most notably, in my opinion is the discovery of Shailene Woodley. She's just twenty years old and has a great career ahead of her if she continues to make smart choices. (For the record I don't consider her performance awards worthy either, even though she was touted for Best Supporting Actress early on.) Nor do I think this was Clooney's best work, a phrase being bandied about more and more as we get into the final stretch before Oscar night.

I would suggest that he was better in Michael Clayton (for which he was nominated but lost out to Daniel Day Lewis for There Will Be Blood). I suggest that he was better as Archie Gates in Three Kings, Jack Foley in Out of Sight or even as Everett in O Brother, Where Art Thou? all of which were made when it was still possible for him to disappear into a character. Now, whenever I see him on screen, I rarely see anything other than George Clooney. He's too famous to completely disappear into a role. (Something I dread happening to all of my favorite actors, the ones the world has suddenly caught on to like Michael Fassbender and Tom Hardy. It's already happened to a large extent to Gerard Butler.) In the clip below, Clooney mentions how, in his later years, Spencer Tracy always played some version of Spencer Tracy, but "you couldn't take your eyes off of him." That's how I feel about Clooney. 

I am very happy his script for Ides of March was nominated. More than the performances (and Clooney was very good, make no mistake. So were Gosling, Wood, Tomei, Hoffman and Giamatti for that matter), the words were the star, just as they were when it was a play. I love the story he told "The Hollywood Reporter about how restless he is and how he wakes up five times a night and it was during one of these sleepless nights that he wrote a particularly memorable line of dialogue from Ides of March. (Arguably the most memorable) "I woke up and sat down and wrote the whole scene in the kitchen between Ryan and myself: 'You want to be president…You can start a war, you can lie, you can cheat, you can bankrupt the country, but you can't fuck the interns.'" 
Speaking of that venerable publication, Gorgeous George is on the cover of The Hollywood Reporter next week and he invited the photographer and journalist into his home for the interview.  Below is a video clip of the photo shoot. (This is by the way, the 2nd time this awards season that Clooney has allowed cameras to film him in his private domain. The first was for CBS News' "Person to Person" with Charlie Rose and Lara Logan. The seventeen minute video can be found at the link. If he were anyone other than George Clooney, one might say he was lobbying hard for that Oscar. But because he IS George Clooney, it's easier to give him the benefit of the doubt. He just wanted to invite us all in for a chat.

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An Open Letter to Ryan Kavanaugh

It’s not me, it’s you.

It’s over, Mr. Kavanaugh, I’m breaking up with you.

It was great while it lasted, but it's over. Our six month stint as BFFs has come to an end.

I was loyal. I sang your praises. I believed, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that you knew best.

When Relativity Media took Machine Gun Preacher off of Lionsgate’s hands at the behest of director Marc Forster, you told the world it was for the express purpose of releasing it in 2011, with an eye toward award season*. This comes directly from your press release at the time and no one (arguably) was more thrilled than I was. (I did the “demented poodle dance” on this blog for you!) So what happened? Were you just placating Forster? Or was it for your good friend (and the film’s star as well as one of the producers) Gerard Butler? Does one of them have incriminating photos or literally know where the bodies are buried? Was it always your intention to just open the door and let the film wander through it rather than shepherd it lovingly along its path to public awareness and hoped-for butts in the seats?

After having witnessed the almost complete lack of support you’ve shown the film, I have to ask, “why?” Why bother? Did you lose faith somewhere along the line? Did you lose your wallet? There was no trailer, no poster, no advance word of any kind until about a month before release. Then came the Toronto International Film Festival. Those of us who follow such things breathed a sigh of relief because we thought, “Okay, now it will begin. The film received a standing ovation at its world premiere. Surely the great minds in charge will build on this momentum and we will see a show of support.” Butler, along with his costar Michelle Monaghan and even the real Machine Gun Preacher, Sam Childers, crisscrossed the country stumping for this movie. No matter how many times they were asked the same questions, they responded with enthusiasm and a visible pride in their product. The problem is, I know all of that because I’ve been following the journey of this film since it was announced that Forster would direct and Gerard Butler would star, which was nearly two years ago. If I hadn’t been, it is entirely possible that I still would not know anything about this film.

(Lionsgate, which is still the international distributor of Machine Gun Preacher, has just released two new television spots for the European market, looking toward the film's November 2 launch.)

You’ve relied almost entirely on word of mouth and a grass-roots internet campaign by Gerard Butler fans to publicize this movie. And we have tried. We have done everything that has been asked of us and more and we’ve been doing it for weeks. Supposedly you’ve been listening, but where’s the proof? Now that it is slinking out of theaters in the larger markets, even before it’s had a chance to slip into the smaller ones, I, for one, am left to wonder what the hell was the point? Do you have any idea how hollow it feels to have talked this movie up to anyone who’d listen and have nearly every single one of them say, “I’ve never heard of it”? Now that they have, what difference does it make since it’s no longer available to them? I’ve gone so far as to buy tickets for other people because it was a physical impossibility for me to be in the theater any more than I already had been and yet I wanted to continue to show my support. I felt an obligation to show my support because I believed so strongly in the film and in Butler’s performance. Why didn’t you?

Well, apparently it’s all about the money. If Machine Gun Preacher does well, you’re afraid it might queer your deal with JP Morgan**, that your current financial partner, Elliot Investments, might not go gently into that good night and might stick around like a burr under your saddle. But, if MGP tanks and you can close with Morgan by the time your next release, Immortals, comes out, you’re golden and that movie’s success will prove it.

So, you took Machine Gun Preacher off of Lionsgate’s hands and appeared to all the world like a savior. I’m reminded of Leo Bloom and Max Bialystock (Mel Brooks' The Producers). In this case, when you (and whomever you’re in cahoots with) realized MGP might be a success you decided to blow up the theater, but you forgot to tell Gerard Butler, Sam Childers… and the fans. You let everyone think that Relativity’s involvement with Machine Gun Preacher was a show of faith in the movie, the director and the star’s incredible-enough-to-be-a-personal-game-changer of a performance. (Business aside, you’d think you’d want to support a friend. For God’s sake, Gerard Butler was in your wedding party!) Instead, it looks like you tanked your good friend’s movie…on purpose.

PS: Unless Hunter Killer is the mother of all submarine movies, with a role as meaty and exceptional as that of Sam Childers, it will not make up for the torpedoing of Machine Gun Preacher.

******************************

PPS: Box Office Mojo reports that as of 10/11*** MGP has made $325,65.00. That is a disgrace. At this point, it will have to work to catch up to the domestic take of Beowulf & Grendel, a little seen, barely released retelling of the epic poem, although it might catch Game of Their Lives (Miracle Match), a little seen, barely released movie about the 1950 US Men's Nat'l Team & the World Cup, both of which were released in 2005. Dear Frankie, which had almost no domestic distribution made nearly 1.5 million. WTF is wrong with this picture??

Even Gamer, which incidentally was released by Lionsgate, had a lot more PR and made a lot more money. Love 'em or hate 'em, Gerard Butler movies make money, especially those released after 2007. While I realize that this won't be the first film to have been scuttled by a lack of studio support or publicity, it is, just maybe, the first one that I care about this deeply.

 *
http://www.virginproduced.com/talk/2011-07-07_machine_gun_preacher_in_theaters_september_2011.html
http://http//latimesblogs.latimes.com/movies/2011/07/machine-gun-preacher-leaves-lionsgate-for-relativity.html

** http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/10/12/us-ryankavanaugh-idUSTRE79B80720111012

*** The last date for which Box Office Mojo is currently, publicly, reporting figures for MGP

“…Discussing Machine Gun Preacher”

“Free Your Mind…

…and the rest will follow."

If I wrote about every movie I saw, I’d have no time to watch a movie, you feel me? I'm incapable of banging out a review half an hour after watching a film, I have to ruminate and I choose my words very carefully. (Frankly, it’s a good thing I have a day job.)

That said, there is a film that I really do need to write about. I’ve been thinking about Machine Gun Preacher for the past few days, okay a week actually, trying to find a fresh way to talk about this film, but I’ve decided that I just need to sit down, free my mind and start typing; that by waiting, my silence could be misconstrued . I need to write about Machine Gun Preacher and I need to write about it for a lot of reasons, but let’s start with the most immediate.

I need to do my small part to get the word out. I want my friends to be able to see this movie. I’m lucky that I live in a large metropolitan area so my city was part of the 2nd wave. After the first “soft” open in NY and LA, Boston was one of the places that got it next. I’ve now seen it four times and I have no doubt I’ll see it again. In order for the distributors to be able to take it to more theaters, it needs to make some dough, some clams, some smackers, some somoleans. So I bought four tickets. I’ll buy more.

I’m not lining anyone’s pockets. The producers of this movie (of which there are many) didn’t make it for the money. They’ll be lucky if they see a dime. But today’s receipts have to pay for tomorrow’s release.

This brings me to my next reason.

It’s just that good.

Machine Gun Preacher is intense and it will haunt you. Gerard Butler is nothing short of phenomenal. For the first time since I became aware of him, I stopped seeing G, despite the fact that I know what Sam Childers looks like. He just became the character.

The movie depicts violence with unflinching candor. It weighs the good religion can do against the bad that men can do and leaves the final judgment to viewers (and gives them credit for their intelligence and ability to do so.) And because I've been following all of this so closely, by the time the pics of the real Sam, (along with Lynn, Paige, Deng and the kids) came up with the credits, it felt like I was seeing a friend. I love the way the camera pulls up and away for the parting shot, leaving Sam standing amid the children on the desolate African plain until he ultimately becomes a speck on the landscape. It reminds us to keep the big picture in mind.

I know you’re shocked that I liked it, (she typed sarcastically). I’ll concede that I’d be hard pressed to truly dislike a Gerard Butler movie (including The Bounty Hunter. We’ve talked about this. I have my reasons), but I don’t think I was prepared to be as affected by Machine Gun Preacher as I was, as I am, as I will continue to be.

The first time I saw it, despite the fact that I was looking forward to it so much that I had purchased my ticket a full month ahead of time, my head was swirling with all of the negativity that I’d been reading in the week or so before it was released in Boston. Whenever there was a scene I'd read something about, all I could do was compare what I’d read to what I was seeing. It distracted me from fully experiencing the movie, not to mention left me wondering where the derision was coming from.

The second time I was able to just let it wash over me so that I could absorb it. I think it affected me even more that time, despite the fact that I knew what was coming. It's not something one (or at least I ) can shake off easily.

Without taking every dismissive remark I’ve read one by one or line by line, let me just tell you what I thought. I love the look of the film. It's got this grainy 70s quality to it that at times, coupled with the hand-held camera work, makes it seem almost like a documentary (more on that later) or a home movie. (There is one shot that I am completely enamored of, that comes about 2/3 in. It's a scene in Sam's church, after he's gone around the bend and there is a combined camera/sound effect that reflects the tension and the chaos inside of the man.)

The film opens with a scene of incomprehensible brutality and then quickly cuts to the seemingly more mundane life of a reprobate getting out of prison. Even as we bear witness to the brutal thug that is Sam Childers as he interacts with his family and wastes his life in a drug fueled haze, the specter of that other scene hangs over everything and we wonder where and how the two will intersect.

Sam’s life very quickly (in movie time) spirals downward to rock bottom.The majority of reviews I've read can't, or won't, even keep the timeline straight. Sam did not find religion and start his church. He found religion, a number of years passed and he went to Africa on a service mission and when he came back from his first trip he made plans to build a church and build his orphanage.

It needed to happen quickly. Did we really need to watch Sam shoot up in the bathroom of a biker bar more than once to understand who and what he is? By the time the catalytic encounter with the drifter occurs, we understand how bad he is. It is a testament to Sam Childers that he has the strength to reach out to his wife at that point and a testament to Gerard Butler’s abilities as an actor that we feel his pain.
We also feel his confusion and trepidation as he sits in church, debating whether or not he’s worthy of baptism and accepting Jesus into his life as his savior. The phrase “nervous as a whore in church” came immediately to mind.

Time passes and it becomes evident that Sam has turned his life around and has devoted himself to making a better one for his family. Whether or not this is because of God is almost irrelevant. It is certainly because he’s kicked his drug habit and changed his ways. Anything that helped him with that is a good thing, no matter what you believe. Sam believes it was God. He also believes that God wants him to help others and he starts with his best friend Donnie. (Much has been made over the fact that “Donnie” is not an actual person. Let’s not forget that it is a movie. Some things are embellished for dramatic effect, time is compressed, real people become composites.I think there’s a lot of Sam and Lynn’s unseen son in Donnie- a brilliant Michael Shannon-, who suffered a similar fate.) If you’re watching a movie about the 100 Years War, it’s not made in real time. Sam Childers is painted in broad strokes because otherwise it would have been a six hour movie.The quest to build the orphanage threatens to consume him. He neglects his own family, including daughter Paige (Madeline Carroll. It is to her credit that she manages to deliver the film’s most predictable and ridiculous line with enough real emotion and depth of feeling that we buy it), and remains as difficult and self-destructive as he ever was. I don't think it was ever his intention for the African part of his life to overshadow his life at home. When he returned from that first missionary trip, he had enough energy and zeal for both.

With the orphanage, and his desire to save “those kids”, Sam now has a new focus, or a new addiction. He believes he’s found his purpose and he pursues it with blinders on. He’s “made it {his} struggle…{He’s} the one that’s gonna do it.” As Butler has said when describing the character he plays, “It’s about a man who fought his demons, but never banished them entirely.” It’s easy to see why Sam latched on to those kids the way he did, aside from the fact that he has an addictive personality (much like the actor who plays him. And make no mistake, anyone who becomes an addict has an addictive personality, whether it’s cigarettes, alcohol, drugs or sex. Addiction isn’t about the thing that the addict is addicted to; it’s about the high that the addict achieves from the addiction that hides or suppresses deeper issues. It fills a void.)

In truth, I think that there is probably another movie that was left on the cutting room floor and a lot of the problems that a lot of people had with the film could be fixed with better editing. There were some aspects that I would have liked to have seen more fleshed out, such as Lynn’s struggle back home. We’re asked to take her acceptance of Sam and his mission on as much faith as she apparently was. The scene with the phone call where Lynn is in the pristine grocery store at home while Sam wanders amid the chaos of a Sudanese town, after the LRA has burned down his newly built orphanage, says a lot about their relationship. Presumably Lynn hasn’t been to Africa yet, she has no real idea of the conditions there or what Sam is actually going through, but she knows he needs it, needs to be there and needs to rebuild as much as the children do. That makes her fears and her despair for what it eventually does to him all the more poignant.

It’s tempting to say that some of the scenes in Africa could have been tightened up or ask if we needed that many to understand the struggle. Ultimately I have to say, yes we did. Every one of them propels Sam along his road.

But I also feel that the majority of the people that didn't like the movie are all sounding like broken records. They are like a rock skipping over the surface of a lake (to REALLY mix my metaphors) refusing to go deeper and refusing to see what's really there. They all read like they made up their minds before they saw the thing. Even the responses to the review on the NY Times website called out the critic for trying to pigeon-hole the film (as well as trying to be clever) by reviewing it based on their expectations as opposed to what's on the screen*.

One of the movie’s greatest strengths in my eyes is what is being called a weakness by many others and that's that it does not take you by the hand and lead you to conclusions. It lets you make up your own mind.

Like I said in my last blog post, any critic’s opinion is still only their opinion and everyone is entitled to their own. The problem is that there are a lot of people who read these opinions and then their minds are already shaped before they’ve seen the film.

I don't think that I'm giving anything away when I tell you that there are a couple of lines in the film that, to me, sum up Sam’s arc, at least in terms of the movie. Deng asks him what he’s “looking for in this place”. At the time, Sam either doesn’t know or isn’t able to articulate what we as an audience can guess, but Sam answers “I ain’t lookin’ for nothin’.” Later, after he’s opened himself up to his purpose, he tells William, probably because he thinks William doesn’t speak English, “I’m scared that one day I’ll close my eyes to all a’ this and let it be someone else’s problem”.

William, by the way, played by Junior Magale, is just the most beautiful little boy with the most expressive eyes. His awe of “the white preacher” is writ large on his face, which makes his discovery that he can be of help to this man, that he is needed, so powerful. After four viewings, I still sob at their ultimate scene together.

A number of people have asked me, considering all of the talk surrounding this movie, whether I think this actually has awards potential. My answer is that the movie itself is too flawed. G’s performance, however, is definitely worthy.

Gerard Butler plays Sam as complicated as well as courageous. He’s forceful and maybe even a little crazy. G is in virtually every scene and there is always something interesting going on. We have only to watch his face or look into his eyes to know where he is at any given moment. He takes Sam from humility to protectiveness to raging, out of control hostility and borderline psychosis and back again. This is G’s movie all the way. If you don’t buy his performance, you don’t buy the movie.

I predict that he will be nominated for a Golden Globe. (As much as I would love to say otherwise, I think an Academy Award is unrealistic. No one will be happier if I’m wrong.) There is more room with the Golden Globes for this performance because they divide up drama from musical/comedy. Also the Hollywood Foreign Press Association likes G, as was evidenced by their asking him to present an award a couple of months ago (and they are notoriously easily influenced. The Tourist anyone?)

I have to say, I love the score for the film as well. I was already a fan of Asche & Spencer and their soundtracks for two other Forster films, Monster's Ball and Stay. The music for Machine Gun Preacher is, for the most part spare and lean, acting as a thread that weaves in and out of the narrative without being intrusive (just as a good score should do), but it's also got some memorable themes and when it swells during the final shot, it moves me to the point that I have to remember to breathe.

There is a documentary in the final stages of post production on the life of Sam Childers. While many have suggested that that format would have better suited the life story of so complex a character, the irony is that without this film and the publicity generated by it, the documentary probably would not have the chance to be seen by anything resembling a wide audience.

The real Sam has said that he's not afraid of dying, but he wants it to be 'for' something. I get that. Right this minute, I feel like I need a purpose. Maybe it’ll pass. I hope not.

A Few Thoughts While I Wait…

I have to wonder if Relativity Media and the producers of Machine Gun Preacher realize just how much those us who are looking forward to the film, are in fact looking forward to it.

While I’m sure they’d rather that everyone were in that number, it is a testament to not only Gerard Butler’s popularity and his abilities as an actor, but to our faith in his abilities. Let’s face it, he hasn’t given us a lot of reason to hope the past few years. While I personally am as supportive as I can be, and try to look beyond the surface and see the reasons behind some of his choices lately, I’m not the norm. I’m not one of those who found him with 300 and expected that’s what I was going to get from then on. Nor was I among those who could only see him as Gerry Kennedy etc etc.

No, there is a contingent – a strong core of his fanbase that have been waiting for something meaty, something to showcase his dramatic abilities that we’ve known were there since at least “The Jury” or Dear Frankie.

Much like the man himself (I suspect), we want him to be seen as something more than a pretty face or a slab of beefcake. We want him to be considered for the same types of roles as a Russell Crowe or a Clive Owen, not just the Jason Stathams.

We are all literally chomping at the bit to see Machine Gun Preacher, and Coriolanus, ready and willing to support these fims in any way we can, not just with a single ticket purchase. This is what we’ve been waiting for. It’s finally happening: the recognition, the critical acclaim, etc.

In a way, all of that is as much for us, as it is for G and the film makers whether they know it or not. We’re being vindicated and rewarded for our faith.

So, if the producers don’t know how much those of us who are looking forward to the film, are in fact looking forward to it, they’re about to find out. As I type this, fans all over the country are petitioning, via emails and phone calls, their local theaters in order to get them to bring in Machine Gun Preacher. I have no doubt that on some level it will work. It worked (to a degree) five years ago when fans of Gerard Butler secured a limited US release for Beowulf and Grendel. This time around, there’s a much bigger machine running in the background.

Okay, all of that is well and good, but what exactly are we to do about the perception of the press and so called critics?

Can someone please explain this to me? Machine Gun Preacher, a movie I have admittedly and obviously been looking forward to seeing, on the morning of its release in only two markets, LA and NY, is sitting at a “rotten” 19% from the critics (of 32 submitted reviews, only 6 were favorable, and I’m betting the consensus from their peers has already started to make them rethink their positions), but it stood at 78% with audience members. As of this writing it has moved up to 22% with critics and 80% with audiences. Moviefone stood at 90% with the audience and 47% with critics. What. The. Hell?!?

In case you think my bias toward this movie is too strong, let me give another example. Killer Elite is a film that boasts a cast that includes Robert DeNiro, Jason Statham and Clive Owen. It is just as much fun as you would expect a movie version of 'spy vs spy' to be and the opinions of others should not be allowed to suck the fun out of it for anyone. One critic, who has a considerable reputation and has been at this for a number of years said that the climactic fight scene between Statham and Owen “happened so fast” that she couldn’t tell “who was doing what to whom”. How could a critic of her standing so totally miss the point? It didn't matter who was “doing what to whom” because there would be no ‘winner’ nor no clear ‘loser’, just like it is never clearly defined who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. My point in mentioning all of this is that Rotten Tomatoes had this movie at 26% with critics and 80% with the audience.

How can the pendulum of opinion between a film’s audience and the critics swing so widely for the same movie? I know I’ve talked about this before, but come on, there has to be a reason and I’m going to keep looking for it until I find it.

Does buying a ticket to a movie and sitting in the theater with fellow paying members of the audience predispose one to more favorably view a movie and forgive its flaws?

Or does assuming the mantle of “critic” and having a movie screened for you, perhaps make you feel it necessary to be more harsh; because the ticket is free, is there an obligation to try to avoid the appearance of pandering?

What we need to bear in mind here, whenever we come upon a review, is that any review, I don’t care whose name is on it, is one person’s opinion and we’re all entitled to have one.

So called professional critics are paid (and I don’t care if you’ve got a day job or not, if you write a review and are given any sort of compensation for it, be it a ticket to a screening or that mousepad with a film’s logo on it that you got in the mail from Warner Brothers, that makes you a paid professional) to give you theirs and some may be better than others at articulating why they feel as they do about a certain film, but ultimately it is their opinion.

The internet has created a new breed of movie critic and allowed them to proliferate. Everyone and their brother, myself included, has a movie blog and is willing to offer their opinions to the world. Some have been at it for a long time, some are more widely read than others but it is amazing to me, how many people out there are willing to give them all equal weight.

When did we stop thinking for ourselves? Am I a dinosaur because I remember the days before the internet when we let the previews before a movie in the theater or an ad on tv give us a taste of what was out there and we based our decisions on what to see accordingly? I don’t recall seeing a greater percentage of ‘bad’ movies before I had access to this deluge of information and opinion. The good news is that the majority of those people who have been thinking for themselves seem to have been enjoying themselves at the movies. 

While I realize this is teetering on the verge of becoming a full on rant, there is one more issue I want to vent my spleen about. (To be honest I’ve been doing it all weekend by leaving comments on sites and by tweeting the facts.)

Machine Gun Preacher opened in New York and Los Angeles on two screens in each city. That’s a total of FOUR. You don't compare its earnings to Moneyball or Killer Elite or A Dolphin's Tale all of which got releases so wide their screens number in the thousands. Each. You can legitimately compare it to Puncture, starring Capt. America Chris Evans which also opened on 4 screens and made $35,700 or $8,952 per screen.

MGP had a higher per screen total than all of the top 5 grossing films. That actually makes it the number one movie in the country by percentage. Do you think it was reported that way? No it was not.

BOTH of the following ridiculous comments came from "Entertainment Weekly", from two different posted articles by two different writers:

This one came from John Young, posted Saturday September 24: “In limited release, the Gerard Butler action film Machine Gun Preacher mustered only $10,000 at four theaters. ”

As I asked them at their site, I’m wondering exactly how much money the author of this article thinks Machine Gun Preacher should have made on FOUR screens in one day?

This one was posted on Sunday September 25. The numbers are correct. It’s the interpretation that I have a problem with.

“In limited release, the action biopic Machine Gun Preacher — starring Gerard Butler as real-life biker-turned-defender-of-Sudanese-orphans Sam Childers — underwhelmed with $44,000 at four theaters.”

How exactly is $11,000 per screen UNDERwhelming? Again I asked the writer, “What would, in your estimation, constitute a successful weekend on four screens?”

This, JMHO, is blatant bias. I just don’t know toward whom. Is it Gerard Butler? Is it the director, Marc Forster? Surely it’s not the King of All Hollywood, my bff Ryan Kavanaugh or Relativity Media? Is it Virgin Produced? Oh I know! It’s Sam Childers and his foundation, Angels of East Africa! These people are all on the payroll of Joseph Kony and the LRA!

No?

You explain it then. Me, I’m just counting down until Friday when I can see it for myself.

I Take It All Back!

It's obvious that it is Relativity Media's intention to give us a little nibble nearly every day until the release of Marc Forster's Machine Gun Preacher on September 23. If I ever doubted the wisdom of waiting, it was only out of frustration because I personally had been waiting for a look at this movie since it was announced in early 2010. If I had been thinking clearly, I would have realized that waiting until only a month before the release to do a big push generates curiosity and creates a buzz, the kind of buzz that is enveloping this film going into tonight's gala presentation in Toronto.

If the producers had given us what we thought we wanted, the rest of the film-going public very well might have grown tired of hearing about MGP and Gerard Butler and Sam Childers. The public is fickle like that. If I know that, you can be damn sure that the wizards behind the curtain working the gears of the publicity machine know it.  (There are a lot of actors/film makers with more than one movie screening at TIFF this year, most getting a big end-of-the-year push. "Saturation Syndrome" could happen to any one of them.) 

I never really doubted you Mr. Kavanaugh…

Here's our first look at Michael Shannon as Donnie (I'm thinking he's probably not going to be very supportive of Sam's new lifestyle)…

Here's a B-Roll of Behind-the-Scenes footage…

I think after TIFF, Machine Gun Preacher is going to be on the map BIG TIME. I can’t wait to hear about tonight's event (and see the pics, who’m I kidding?) In the meantime, enjoy this collection of soundbites as Gerard Butler talks about the film:

Of course, all of the above is merely an excuse to post these pics. Blue Boy Redux…







Thanks to http://www.gerardbutlergals.com/ for the pics!

If Gainsborough Were Painting Today…

…he might have a new muse.





Of course, the point of this post isn't solely to marvel over the cerulean-covered consummation of male perfection (not solely). Oh no, my friends, the point of this post is to continue, in my own small (and perhaps insignificant) way, to talk up Marc Forster's Machine Gun Preacher.

I find it difficult to believe that anyone reading this blog wouldn't know what the film was about, but on the off chance that someone stumbled in here from the Tardis or is just back from an extended vacation in outer Mongolia, I'll tell you. Machine Gun Preacher is based on the life of the Rev. Sam Childers (Butler), one bad-ass sonofabitch, who experiences a religious conversion, and feels called by God to go to Africa to help build houses and ends up building orphanages and rescuing children forced to become soldiers for the Sudanese rebels.

While G may have (probably does have, given all of the pre-release buzz) a role that will finally give him the recognition and respect he deserves as a dramatic actor, let's not forget he's also a producer. Without him, this story may not have been told. JMHO, but if the film does nothing else but shine a light on a struggling and war-ravaged part of the world that could really use some attention from the rest of it, then the whole thing will have been worth it.

The cast is in Toronto as we speak, gearing up for the gala screening on Sunday night, September 11 at Roy Thomson Hall as an official selection of the Toronto International Film Festival. Today, fulfilling the first of many obligations I'm sure, they posed for some pictures. Present and accounted for were Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Shannon, director Marc Forster and oddly, Chris Cornell. (I know he recorded the "official" song for the soundtrack. Don't get me started on THAT, but I'm surprised he's at the Festival in support of the film. Good for him.)



This clip is called “Build It Again”. Any thoughts I had that Michelle Monaghan wouldn’t be tough enough to play Lynne Childers (Vera Farmiga was originally cast, but her pregnancy would have prevented her from travelling to Africa) have fallen by the wayside with the stills and clips we’re getting.

Machine Gun Preacher opens in NY and LA on September 23 and will open wider on September 30. It's been well over a year and a half that I've been looking forward to this. I already have my (first) ticket!

Thanks for reading and your indulgence. Here's some pics of ‘our’ "blue boy". You know you want 'em.


“Don’t Tell Me to Calm Down!” (See what I did there?)

You'll notice that there are two versions of the poster above. One has been labeled secular and the other "Christian". You may recall, I had some less than enthusiastic words to say about the first poster for Machine Gun Preacher that was released. (And I wasn't alone, but that's neither here nor there.) Well, much to my surprise, I like the so-called "Christian" one better. Despite the presence of the cross, it's less stylized than the other version. There's much less obvious photoshop and manipulation of images. Mainly though, while there is no machine gun present in the "Christian" version, it doesn't pull its religious punches either and I like that. Let's not be coy about this: Sam Childers is an ordained minister who felt called by God to go to Africa and save those children. God and religion are at the heart of his story. It doesn't matter what you or I believe, it's what Sam believes. This is Sam's story and if you're going to tell it or watch it being told, God is going to be a big part of it. Having said all of that, I do understand that having the two posters was a business decision, an effort to appeal to the widest audience possible and I don't care whether it's the cross or the gun that gets the butts in the seats.

Okay, I've gone off on another tangent. (And I know you're shocked!) The good news is that I can hear the diesel engine of the publicity machine cranking to life for this movie, Marc Forster's Machine Gun Preacher starring Gerard Butler (don't pretend you didn't know that already), Michelle Monaghan, Michael Shannon and Kathy Baker. Thank you, Mr. Kavanaugh! (*waves* Hope the honeymoon was swell!)

There's a first clip from the film out there on the wide world of web.  Entertainment Weekly has it at their site. It's an exclusive and they mean to keep it that way (for now.) But you really should see it so, by all means, go over there: http://insidemovies.ew.com/2011/08/30/machine-gun-preacher-gerard-butler-exclusive-clip/ and watch it. In it, Gerard Butler's Sam Childers is having a rather heated discussion with his friendly neighborhood banker, trying to get him to come around to the notion that he really needs to give Sam the money for a truck. I don't think I'd argue with Sam or Gerard Butler when they get that angry. I can almost hear the mouths of the critics starting to slam shut every time I watch it. And those hating on Butler's American accent need to accept that our boy's been putting in the work. His accent is pure heartland in this clip, with nary a trace of the Highlands.

This new clip, I can (finally) show you. It has Sam coming face to face with the problem of the orphaned and refuge children for the first time. (It's powerful stuff, but I do confess to getting a little frisson of delight watching the Patented Butler Pimp Stride. It's been too long, ya know?). 

Relativity released a song from the soundtrack, an original by Chris Cornell called "The Keeper." I really like the song and I especially like that they released it one day early before it went to iTunes and the proceeds from any purchase made on that day went to help Sam Childers' "Angels of East Africa" foundation. If you haven't heard it, take a listen:

Asche & Spencer, who scored most of Marc Forster's other films, is responsible for the soundtrack. Here's a bit from Stay (with Ryan Gosling and Ewan MacGregor)It's pretty cool stuff.  

I can't wait to hear the Machine Gun Preacher soundtrack in its entirety. By the way, just so you know, If this next song,"One Man's War" by Australian singer-songwriter Aaron Hendra, makes it onto the soundtrack, I am starting, here and now, a campaign to get it nominated for both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Original Song from a Motion Picture. Watch this video, listen to this song and I defy you not to be moved:

.

..and here's an accoustic version:

Who's with me?

Machine Gun Preacher opens in limited release in the US on September 23.