“…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!


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!

Vroom, Vroom… edited

 …I believe that’s the distant sound of a lone Harley Davidson that I hear, revving its engine somewhere in preparation for the long ride ahead.


…or maybe it was the publicity machine finally roaring to life. Sunday, July 24, was just sixty days ahead of the September 23rd release for Marc Forster’s Machine Gun Preacher, and it would seem we got our first little tickle from the team at Relativity and/or Virgin Produced.

A short little blurb of an interview was posted in USAToday and online at their website, featuring a few words from Gerard Butler who stars as Rev. Sam Childers and it was picked up by movie sites and blogs all over the web. I think I personally got news alerts from about ten different sources. This is fantastic!

What is disturbing however, is how many of them are using the release of this film not to discuss the good works of an actual living, breathing human being, who travels to the most dangerous parts of war ravaged Africa: The Sudan and now the new country of The Republic of South Sudan, in order to try to affect change in the lives of the people that live there one child at a time, but rather that this is another in a historical line of films/books that feature the white man coming to the rescue of the downtrodden "other".

I have to say I don’t understand the argument, or rather, what it has to do with this film. We’re not talking about a white colonial Bwana sitting on his porch and sipping gin & tonics at his coffee plantation who thinks he’s benevolent because he taught the child fanning him with palmetto leaves to read. This is a man who gets his hands dirty and risks his own life, who does what other people are afraid to even think about. Does it even matter why he’s doing it? 

And don’t get me started on those that are already complaining that the title is deceptive and that there won’t be nearly enough machine guns and far too much preaching for their tastes, all of which is based on one blurb and one set photo…

However, having said all of that, I am very aware that there is no such thing as bad publicity and if it gets people talking about the film at all, so be it. I will now step down off of my soapbox to do the fabled *demented poodle dance* of joy that the games have officially begun! Woot!

This will, of course, not be by any means, my final word on this subject

****Machine Gun Preacher and Coriolanus will both screen at the Toronto International Film Festival. This demented poodle is very happy indeed!

Release Date for MGP is Announced!!

 Relativity Media today announced that it will release Marc Forster’s Machine Gun Preacher on September 23, 2011 in New York and LA and expand it to other cities in the following weeks. 

You all know how long I’ve been waiting for this.  I could say that my bff Ryan Kavanaugh has been toying with me, but really I just think he’s been busy. (Actually,  producing for Relativity is Robbie Brenner, along with Safady Entertainment’s Gary Safady and Craig Chapman, and GG Filmz’s Deborah Giarratana.)

Given the advance buzz on this film, I think the rolling release is a good idea; keep building momentum so that it’s enough to carry through to awards season.

Now can we get a trailer??


 After months of waiting with bated breath to find out when we’re going to get to see Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus, the Weinstein Company has finally given us a date! *doing the demented poodle dance!*

The film will be released Friday December 2, 2011, which says to me that Harvey sees it as a definite award contender. Ralph Fiennes has certainly gotten good buzz from the festivals that he’s already taken the film to, both as a director and for his performance in the title role. Vanessa Redgrave has also already gotten excellent notices. I’m hoping they make the trip to Venice if not Toronto. As of this writing, there is nothing else scheduled for that weekend either, so it will have no major competition, certainly not Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which was my fear.

Given that we’ve already learned that Relativity Media is planning to campaign for awards season recognition for Machine Gun Preacher, is it too much of a stretch to imagine that MGP and Coriolanus will end up in competition? (Is anyone else getting the vapors just thinking about that possibility??)


“Thanks Harvey, I really appreciate it!”

“Now can we talk about a trailer??”

Ryan Kavanaugh, I Love You

I have to say, when it was first announced last June that Lionsgate had its hands on Marc Forster’s Machine Gun Preacher, I was less than thrilled. Lionsgate has dropped the ball in the past, JMHO, on some other films that I’ve had high hopes for. Just as an example, they bought a well written, intelligent little thriller called Butterfly on a Wheel, changed the title to something more “marketable”, Shattered*, and then buried it on basic cable instead of giving it the theatrical release and the attendant publicity it deserved. They did, however, see fit to release Good Luck Chuck the same month and year. I’ve been wary of seeing Lionsgate on anything I’m interested in ever since, and this is one film I did not want to see mishandled.

The film is a fact-based drama about the Reverend Sam Childers, a reformed biker slash drug dealer who found religion, established an orphanage in war-torn Sudan and to this day still supervises a militia to protect the children who were and are being abducted to become soldiers. 

Gerard Butler plays Childers, and Michelle Monaghan his wife Lynn.  Michael Shannon, Kathy Baker and Souleymane Sy Savane also star. Jason Keller wrote the script that was based on the book, Another Man‘s War: The True Story of One Man‘s Battle to Save Children in the Sudan.

It’s no secret how I feel about Gerard Butler, but regardless of how I feel about him as an example of male perfection, I’ve always believed in his talent as an actor and that he hadn’t been given the opportunity (perhaps due to the fact that he is so damn good looking, perhaps not) to showcase his abilities with a really meaty dramatic role. Admirers of Butler have been pinning their hopes for such an opportunity on Machine Gun Preacher and Ralph Fiennes’ adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, since they were announced.

When MGP filmed in Detroit last summer, the initial word coming off the set had high praise for Butler’s performance (if not for his mullet), and now industry insiders who’ve seen the film are starting to whisper things like Oscar-caliber. This in and of itself is enough to have me calling for Uncle Peter and the smelling salts.

Now I find out that The King of All-Hollywood, as I’ve been referring to Renaissance man Ryan Kavanaugh for quite some time, and his Relativity Media have taken over domestic distribution for MGP and I’m almost beside myself .  Supposedly Lionsgate’s packed fall release schedule, and Relativity’s lean one, led the companies to the arrangement.  Lionsgate will still handle international rights on the film, but this, if it’s as good as people are saying will give Relativity a stake in the Oscar race. They did well last year with The Fighter so they have a taste for it now and I can imagine they wouldn’t mind going to the big dance again. I don’t care why they’re doing it, I’m just glad that they are.

Per Mike Fleming at deadline.com "Relativity Media will set a fall release {for MGP} and is expected to platform the picture for Oscar season. Early word is that Forster might have pulled a performance out of Gerard Butler akin to the one Halle Berry turned in for Monster’s Ball."

Of course, I have yet to see a single frame of this movie. It’s entirely possible that this is all Hollywood hype and the movie is total crap. But I don’t think so. I’ve had a really good feeling about this one from the moment I heard Marc Forster was directing. He’s a talented and versatile director who manages to pull the best out of his actors. Monster’s Ball was brilliant and he not only got an Oscar -worthy performance out of Berry, but he got amazing performances out of Heath Ledger and Billy Bob Thornton as well.A nomination for Johnny Depp was among the seven earned by  Finding Neverland. Hell, Will Ferrell was nominated for a Golden Globe for Stranger Than Fiction. I’m a fan of all three of these films. I’m also a fan of Forster’s much-maligned Quantum of Solace.

So there’s Forster directing and, in addition to Butler and Monaghan, the cast boasts Kathy Baker and Michael Shannon, actors whose names alone tend to lend gravitas to the idea. The wild card here is Jason Keller, but he’s just done the screenplay for one of the Snow White movies, (the one with Julia Roberts) a very hot property right now, so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. All of this has given me hope that they’ve done justice to the material and created something worthwhile.  The addition of Ryan Kavanaugh takes my expectations to the next level, just as the interest of Harvey and The Weinstein Company did for Coriolanus.

If The Great Ginger Hope has chosen Machine Gun Preacher to be his date for Awards Season, I’m all for it. Just give me a release date and I’ll buy the corsage.

*I understand that this title does fit the plot, but it’s a little too simplistic for my taste and “tv movie-of-the-week-ish”. JMHO, but the original title was much less obvious. Maybe it’s just me but I like a good literary reference. Changing the title, yet leaving in a key scene that referenced the original title, lessened the dramatic impact of that scene. Again, JMHO.