Monday Morning Critic 12.27.2010 – Rex Ryan, Red State and Leap Year

Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

You know what I thought was hilarious this week? Rex Ryan and his wild-ass marriage dominating the headlines, first and foremost, followed by the Jets promptly losing to my beloved Bears on a last second interception by their crappy QB. But this isn’t about Chris Harris picking off Mark Sanchez like it was nothing. Sexy Rexy’s marriage antics are hilarious. How wild is his marriage? They have a thing for feet and swing, too.

Dead Spin broke the story about this and with some investigative reporting done by others it’s confirmed. Rex went on to say that this was a “personal matter,” remarkably funny itself because he posted it on You Tube for the whole world to see, but it got me thinking. Given Rex’s nature of freakiness, other NFL coaches probably have similar quirks. So the best thing to do would be to speculate on them. Why? Because NFL coaches are control freaks by nature.

Listen to me now and believe me later.

I’ve always thought that with people that are control freaks like your average NFL coach isn’t going to have a normal brain makeup. They’re hard-wired to be hard-asses and frankly I’ve always thought that must do weird things to your hobbies and interests. When your brained is wired like that some connections have to be altered or routed differently, like when you’re wiring up your television to your cable box, DVD player and surround sound it’s not all neat.

Sometimes you have to be creative in how you get wires to and fro certain places; I think the brain has to do that when you become an NFL coach. It also explains the burnout rate, etc, as being an NFL coach seems like it would be equal parts obsession and compulsion. Stories of guys working 80-100 hour works are kind of common and accepted; it’s rare to see the Steve Spurrier, non-workaholic type. So for some coaches, like Rex Ryan, the wire that would normally connect tab x to slot y has to do some rerouting to get there, thus screwing other things up.

It makes sense that Rex would be into feet as much as he apparently is and it got me thinking: What other coaches in the NFL have something as bizarre as a foot fetish? Call this the:

Top Five Dead Spin NFL Personal Life Coaching Sex Scandals in Waiting

5. Brad Childress likes little boys

This is an easy shot, I admit, but when you look at the former Vikings coach looks like the only kind of feet he’s into are that of a nine year old boy. If he decides to leave coaching he has a career in Hollywood lined up in Made for TV films as a pedophile.

4. Lovie Smith: Peeping Tom

The one thing I always enjoy about the Bears under Lovie is that they always play hard, no matter what. It’s what you look to see if a team has quit on a coach. If they’re doing just enough to not look bad, they’ve quit. The Bears, no matter how bad we’ve been under Lovie at times, always play hard. But Lovie is just way too calm and collected for him to have a normal life. Why do I think he has a secret condo in the Loop where he spies on young couples in love, etc, like he’s in an updated version of Rear Window set in Chicago?

3. Tom Coughlin’s Dungeon … OF DOOM

Tom Coughlin is such a crazy guy that part of me thinks he’s the kind of cat that’s going to get caught with a ball gag in his mouth by the cops as they arrest “Mistress Cleo” on drug trafficking charges.

2. John Fox’s Junk Is All over Charlotte

Brett Favre might not be the only member of the NFL with a sex scandal involving his cell phone usage. Maybe there’s a reason why he’s not getting a contract extension with the Panthers after all.

1. Bill Belichick pulls a Steven Seagal

Why do I have this feeling that sometime down the road that if any NFL coach were to have sex slaves like Steven Seagal, it’d be him?

Random Thoughts of the Week

One of the more interesting things I’ve been following the past week has been the trailer for Red State, as well as Smith’s Twitter Feed. It’s not the film that is fascinating me; I have never been a fan of horror films and don’t understand the fascination with zombies, blood, guts and the like. It’s how Smith is proceeding with his promotion and production, especially in light of how Cop Out was treated before release, which has made me curious about this film.

Smith apparently won’t be doing any critic screenings beforehand, nor doing any press junkets and the like, because of the critical lashings he received from the Bruce Willis topped buddy-cop film. I thought it was a bit excessive, mainly because I agreed with Travis’s review of the film. It was a solid effort from Smith but he’s a character guy, not an action guy, and it kind of showed. Cop Out wasn’t noxiously bad, nor was it brilliant, it was just another movie. With the talent assembled there was a better film waiting to come out and this is Warner, after all. Considering the history Warner Bros has when it comes to the genre it’s kind of surprising that this wasn’t as good as it has been. I wasn’t expecting another Lethal Weapon, but this was the equivalent to Lethal Weapon 3. Nice pedigree in theory but not so nice in reality.

Which makes Red State an interesting proposition to think about in my usual intellectual masturbation that passes for deep thought. Smith raised the funds himself with a do it yourself effort and is currently shopping the film around for a distributor, the trailer marking the film with a March 2011 release date. How he releases it is one thing, but Smith has said that he wants his film in a theatre first so I can see him going a more traditional route instead of doing something like Magnolia does and go with Video on Demand release simultaneously as a limited theatrical run.

What does this mean? I’m not sure. A couple of things pop in to my mind.

— By not screening the film, et al, he’s getting rid of any potential word of mouth outside of the select few Smith feels entitled to see the film beforehand.

Many films succeed without pre-screenings but there is the feeling that people get that if critics aren’t seeing (regardless the reason) that the film is probably awful. While that is open for debate, as a handful of strong films have been withheld and sent direct to theatres without word of mouth brewed from the professionals, people on the cusp of whether or not to see it usually check newspapers, etc, to see if it’s good or not.

I get why he did it but it’s a massive gamble to throw it out there and see what happens. So many films have caught fire over the past couple years purely based on early reviews, and early word of mouth, that it’s hard to list them all. But it elevated Slumdog Millionaire from a fringe indie that threatened to go straight to video to an Oscar winner. Word of mouth means so much more than ever now. You can’t have a couple of names and just expect a film to be successful. Killers boasted a great cast but had no buzz behind it, leading to one of the biggest flops of the year. Black Swan is going to make an insane amount of money against its budget in part because it’s had the best word of mouth of any film in the past couple months.

— He picked a great month for a horror film as counter programming.

If he’s able to pull it off, a March 2011 release date, he’ll be the lone horror film in theatres for at least a couple weeks. But it’s a tough sell for tickets, though, because of what’s been done in the past. R-rated horror films are a tough proposition outside of the slasher film / torture porn genres. Especially with a film about a crazy preacher ala Fred Phelps, this isn’t exactly going to be an easy sell outside of hardcore horror film fans. There will still be an audience, and if it’s good it’ll grow by word of mouth, but getting people to see it is probably going to be tough.

If it has great reviews and a good marketing campaign, this film could become like The Last Exorcism and find an audience that way. I can see that, and Exorcism also had strong word of mouth and great reviews too. So it’s not impossible, but R-rated horror tends to stray towards the Saw variety nowadays. It’s a bit rare to see a film go that hard that isn’t a franchise, or a potential shot at one, but it’s not impossible. Crazier things happen at a box office starved for great horror films; if you make it they will come. And he has one thing going too, based on the potential release date: People will still flock to a genre film as counter programming.

March 2011 is a month that has more thrillers and action subset genre films than anything else, and if he can get a March release he can have that territory all to himself. The first four months of the year don’t have a horror film until Scream 4 so he has the time to be the horror film in theatres for anyone who is a hardcore fan of the genre.

— His usual audience is normally enough to make his budget back.

But that comes with a caveat: so far they’ll come out for his comedies. Will they come out for a horror film? That’s going to be tough, I think, because people are a bit more discriminating with their movie money nowadays. As much as I want to think that Smith’s hardcore fans will come out en masse, there is the Apatow/Sandler precedent to consider. Adam Sandler and Judd Apatow combining for an R-rated film about a stand-up comic would seem great in theory. You could see a studio green-lighting $80 million between the two, knowing that it’s almost a guaranteed return on investment.

But people stayed away from Funny People en masse and it’s something that Red State might run into. There’s something applicable here. To me that’s potentially going to be the difference between this film being as profitable as his other films have been, as he hasn’t yet had a film lose money (Cop Out may not have set the world on fire but Warner Bros. allegedly is in the black on that one), or it being the first to be a loser when year-end accounting balances are reconciled. Smith always brags about his films never losing money, if only because he has such a rabid audience that DVD revenues are always insanely strong no matter how his films perform at the box office.

People came out for Cop Out but that the film was never hyped as a Kevin Smith film. It was always “Warner presents a Bruce Willis action flick … and Tracy Morgan’s his wacky partner,” so you really can’t count that as Smith drawing in his usual fare. When you’re a director for hire you don’t get as much credit for pulling in an audience because you tend to get viewed as a mercenary. You are there to do a job that a number of others could do; it’s you presenting something that’s already been established. It’s not your creative vision, per se; you’re just the man holding the pencil.

Cop Out a paycheck, thus it kind of goes into the “doesn’t count” category like Spielberg directing Jurassic Park 2 or De Niro in any of the Meet the Parents trilogy. We don’t downgrade De Niro’s career because he took an ass-load of money to be in a Ben Stiller film but we don’t upgrade him for it either. We just go “Can you go back to acting again after you pay your mortgage?” after throwing on Raging Bull and be done with it.

Unless the next trailer has John Goodman making Star Wars references between kills, this isn’t going to appeal to all of his normal audience. How much of them come out because it’s a Kevin Smith film becomes a much more complicated question then.

What can I see happening?

— I don’t see this getting a wide release at first, probably a platform release in a handful of the major markets. Considering the film’s cost, the marketing and P&A costs for a wide release will end up costing as much or more than the film potentially. So I can see whoever picking this up to go with a hundred screens at most for its release then slowly build from there. It’ll either build strongly like Black Swan did, albeit on a much smaller scale, or fail miserably like I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell did with the same sort of projections.

— The film was made cheaply enough that turning a profit won’t be as difficult as if he had spent five times that amount. If he can clear the $20-25 million in worldwide box office receipts, accounting for $6 million in marketing-related costs on top of his $4 million budgets, the film is in the black. Is this possible? If his usual audience comes out en masse, then yes. But if they stay home and want a Kevin Smith comedy, throwing in Clerks instead of paying to see Red State, then it’ll make for an interesting view of the fallout on Smith’s Twitter.

What will happen with Red State once it finally gets its grand unveiling? I don’t know. But I’m infinitely curious as to what happens.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – Leap Year

How do you turn a clichéd romantic comedy into something good?

Cast Amy Adams.

I’ve been yammering on about how much of a wonderful actress she is since Junebug and people started paying attention shortly thereafter. If you’ve cast Ms. Adams odds are you have a good film, or she’s going to be the best thing in it by far. She’s one of those actresses who may never hit home runs at the plate every single time up, she hits a triple nearly every time. Thus explains Leap Year somehow being a good film, despite its tendency toward clichéd garbage.

Anna (Adams) has been in a long time relationship with Jeremy (Adam Scott) but hasn’t quite gotten to the marriage part yet. He’s a successful surgeon, she works in real estate and they’re about to move into a beautiful apartment. When he takes off for a conference in Ireland she happens to fall onto a bit of information. In a leap year, Irish women can propose marriage to their men. Sounds a bit silly but stay with me; it isn’t the silliest part of the film.

So she decides to head over there and take matters into her own hands but the weather derails her into Wales where she meets a tavern owner (Matthew Goode) who agrees to get her to Dublin for a lot of money. At first they mix like oil and water, as her uptight behavior meets his lackadaisical musings in spectacularly fiery ways. As they go through misadventures, she discovers that perhaps Jeremy might not be the best fit for her after all.

Cue clichés, et al, but this film succeeds because Amy Adams is enchanting in nearly everything she does. There’s no exception in this and I’m becoming convinced she just can’t have a bad performance. You could have her in the title role of Spider-Man and she’d crush it, for sure. She’s not at her best but she’s very damn good in this film; she doesn’t have to be, either, which makes it all the better. She and Goode have a great chemistry with one another. It’s the most fun hatred since Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner in War of the Roses; when they get to the point where they’re supposed to be falling in love it gets a little boring because their fighting is so much fun.

Why does it end? Because this is a rom-com with all the plot points lined up, ready to be knocked down, and everyone knows it. This is about being aesthetically pleasing, predictable and showing off how beautiful Ireland is. Probably in that order, I think. It’s a solid film but is the sort of clichéd romantic comedy that doesn’t do anything brilliantly or nothing really good either. It has a great Amy Adams performance, so it’s worth a rental at worst or a buy if you’re an Amy Adams fan like I am.

Mild recommendation.

Do you have questions about movies, life, love, or Branigan’s Law? Shoot me an e-mail at Kubryk@Insidepulse.com and you could be featured in the next “Monday Morning Critic.” Include your name and hometown to improve your odds.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @MMCritic_Kubryk.

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