Watch: Russell Crowe Looks to Make a Splash with Directorial Debut, The Water Diviner

poster, Russell Crowe, The Water Diviner, movie, trailer
I can’t seem to finish the discussions of films I have actually seen because I’m constantly being distracted by teasers of what’s yet to come. *ooo shiny!*

The latest cinematic bauble to catch my eye is the first trailer for Russell Crowe’s directorial debut, The Water Diviner.

The actor has been hard at work on the film for more than a year, but has managed to keep it pretty well under wraps, which makes this look at the some actual footage all the more enticing and exciting.

Crowe not only directs, but stars in the film as Connor, an Australian farmer who has sent three sons off to fight in “The Great War”. The film begins in 1919, almost three years since the Battle Of Gallipoli (the mere mention of which brings to mind images of a young Mel Gibson in Peter Weir’s fantastic film. It’s probably safe to assume that Crowe learned a thing or two from Weir). All three of his sons fought there, none of them came home. So Connor makes the trek to Turkey to find his missing boys.

The trailer leads us to believe that we’ll get flashbacks that will give us insight into Connor’s past relationships with his sons and why he’s compelled to make this trip. We also get flashes of their mother, Connor’s wife, played by Jacqueline McKenzie. It appears their relationship was a bit rocky, but it also appears that she was the final impetus for Connor’s journey. Which begs the question, is she alive or dead? Because it also seems like there will be some canoodling between Connor and whomever it is that is played by Olga Kurylenko. It’s obvious she figures into his quest in some way.

But enough of me, take a look at this:

JMHO, but based on this first trailer, Crowe has shown a surer hand on the tiller than a lot of his hyphenated peers *coughRyanGoslingcoughNicolasCagecoughMadonnacoughalthoughevencallingheranactorisastretch*. If the film is half as good as this self-assured trailer would suggest, it will be a lot closer to a Dances with Wolves or Braveheart than a W.E. or Lost River.

I love that Crowe decided his first time behind the camera should be a home-grown affair. It’s an Australian story, filmed primarily in Australia with an Australian cast and crew.

The screenplay was written by Andrew Knight, known primarily for Australian tv and Andrew Anastasios, a first-time scriptwriter. The cinematography, which the trailer teases exceptionally well, particularly with the shots of the sand storms, is by Andrew Lesnie, who has worked extensively with Peter Jackson, including all six of the Hobbit/Lord of the Rings films. I expect great things. The score was composed by David Hirschfelder (Australia, The Railway Man, Elizabeth). The film costars Aussies Isabel Lucas, Ryan Corr and Jai Courtney.

The Water Diviner opens in Australian and New Zealand on December 26, and the UK on 23rd January, but no US dates yet. I have no doubt one will be forthcoming.

This featurette goes further to show Crowe’s ties to the material and what it means to him, and the Australian people as a whole.

 

Christian Bale Has Come to Warn Joel Edgerton in 1st Trailer for Exodus: Gods and Kings!

Exodus: Gods and Kings, movie, poster, Sir Ridley Scott, Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton

Poster #1 for Exodus: Gods and Kings

There have been a number of Bible-inspired films this year, most of them Christian themed. The two “blockbusters”, and the ones with any hope for post-season glory however, take their inspiration from the Old Testament: Darren Aronofsky’s Noah and now Sir Ridley Scott‘s Exodus: Gods and Kings.
In true Hollywood twist, Aronofsky originally wanted Christian Bale to play the title role in Noah, but Bale had to decline due to scheduling conflicts. As we know, Russell Crowe, a frequent Ridley Scott collaborator, got that part and Bale was cast as Moses, in this Scott’s own biblical epic.
Ramses II is played by Joel Edgerton after Oscar Isaac (swiftly becoming a Sir Ridley regular) and Javier Bardem reportedly turned down the role.

As usual, I digress. 20th Century Fox has revealed three new posters for, starring Bale, Edgerton, Aaron Paul, John Turturro, Sigourney Weaver, Indira Varma, Ben Mendelsohn, Golshifteh Farahani and Ben Kingsley. You can see the other two, as well as a few stills from the film, below.
Even more exciting, however, is the release of the first teaser trailer! The movie itself doesn’t come out until December, so this is but our first taste. Still, it’s a good one!

No disrespect to Mr. Aronofsky intended, but this is how I like my biblical epics – grand and glorious, not grubby with hyper-realistic dirt. THIS looks positively Cecil B. DeMille-esque!

Scott started this century by breathing new life into the tired swords and sandals genre with Gladiator, and then brought us a quasi-religious/historical action film with Kingdom of Heaven. The latter squandered the promise of a great story and (mostly) terrific cast and was hamstrung by a weak lead (I don’t think Orlando Bloom will be joining Scott’s merry band of players again soon), but the director seems to be back on form here. The clash between Moses and Ramses as played by Bale and Edgerton should be epic in the truest sense. (Not for nothin’ but does that battle charge across the sand remind anyone else of the final clash in Scott’s Robin Hood?)

Ridley Scott tackles the Biblical epic story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt into the Sinai desert and eventually to their Promised Land

With a script by the great Steve Zallian (Schindler’s List), along with Adam Cooper and Bill Collage (the pair responsible for the script for the upcoming Assassin’s Creed), Exodus: Gods and Kings opens in the US on December 12. Prime awards season turf, as well as just before the start of Hanukkah. It opens on Boxing Day, 26th December, in the UK.

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.