Monday Morning Critic – 2.28.2011 – The King’s Speech, Oscars, Charlie Sheen and The Social Network

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.

The big story in television this week has been Charlie Sheen’s self-destruction and apparently trying to take Two and a Half Men with him. From some anti-Semitism, a tell all book he’s allegedly writing to an HBO show in the works, as well as an amusing interview that airs Tuesday, leaves Charlie Sheen in an odd place career wise. While we’ve seen stars self-destruct this quickly and publicly fairly regularly now, to the point where it’s now a TMZ staple, Sheen’s just the latest celebrity to implode in this news cycle as opposed to a cautionary tale. Heck I think this might be his third implosion of the last year so it’s not exactly new hat. But this one appears to be serious, or at least more serious than his prior coke-fueled binges and domestic abuse have been before, which leaves Sheen in an interesting place career wise.

Two and a Half Men is now on hiatus and done filming for the season, as four episode of the backorder have been cancelled, and it’s future is legitimately up in the air. While it would be one thing to speculate on where that show would go (which is far less interesting), what I’m more curious about is where he is going to go. Why? Because that’s a lot more random and bizarre, which means it could be interesting to see where a guy who’s been a star for three decades will go.

Sheen is one of those rare actors that have somehow managed to remain a fairly big star since the 1980s despite being a train wreck of a human being. Look at his resume as an actor: Platoon, Wall Street, Lucas, Major League, Red Dawn and Eight Men Out are all classics and he has a lot of good (but not great) films on his resume. Throw in a great turn that saved Spin City, his work on Two and a Half Men coupled with an awesome cameo that nearly steals the film in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and you have an actor who has a creative legacy that is rather remarkable. He is a punch line to jokes about hookers, Russian roulette and cocaine jokes nowadays but he does have a fairly good acting resume.

In other words, Charlie manages to be such a phenomenal screw-up that it almost eclipses the fact that he’s been in some of the best films of their time.

This is why where Charlie goes from here kind of fascinates me in the same way that Alec Baldwin or Kevin Costner fascinates me, oddly enough. They’ve done just enough great in the past that the sheer volume of suck that comprises their resume kind of gets washed away in the tide. You can laugh at most of Costner’s films but he also did Bull Durham, Field of Dreams and Dances with Wolves. That’s a triple threat of awesome that cancels out Open Range, The Postman and the like in the same way Alec Baldwin can crush it in The Departed. Everyone will forget several decades of stink because of that film, or on 30 Rock, and I think that’s where Sheen’s heading career wise. So what’s the next step for him? He has a number out there:

Two and a Half Men gets back into production
This is his best path as he makes the most and it is a massively successful show. Has he Chappelle’d his way out? Not quite yet, as Chappelle left his show midway through taping and this was just a back order. It hasn’t been cancelled, yet, and CBS does know they could probably replace him with another charismatic actor ala Bewitched without harming the show that much (and would end up being cheaper).

Major League 4
This is in the pre-production phase and Sheen still has some good will left in the character. It’s been 22 years since Major League and this could be an epic comeback vehicle. Ricky Vaughn was young Sheen and this could be a great way to come back, as Vaughn has grown and matured. It could be a great moment where life meets art and gives Sheen that one shining moment again as a film star.

Reality television
Who wouldn’t want to see a day in the life of Charlie Sheen? While it may become the point where it’s more pathetic, like when ex-wife Denise Richards went from untalented actress with a great set of funbags to a crazy woman with a great set of funbags via Denise Richards: It’s Complicated, so maybe the sheer lunacy of Charlie Sheen: Cocaine is a Helluva Drug could be interesting viewing.

What else? I don’t know. But it certainly will be interesting.

Random Thoughts of the Week

In the aftermath of the Oscars, The King’s Speech has something rather interesting happen to it: it’s being released as a more family centered film as opposed to a harder drama. How so? Because it’s getting a PG-13 release with a pivotal scene containing profanities being toned down so that the MPAA could give it a PG-13 rating as opposed to the current R it holds. Considering it just won an Oscar for Best Picture, as well as a handful of them across the board including Colin Firth in Best Actor in a Leading Role, there’s been some talk about whether it’s good or bad. And the common thread seems to be that this is a bad thing and the wrong thing to do, that it’s the MPAA who needs to change their standards. And where I do think the latter is needed, or at least some common sense that gave Slumdog Millionaire the same rating as Saw V, I do think Harvey Weinstein’s decision to scale back the rating with some selective censorship (if you can call it that) is really smart.

Listen to me now and believe me later.

Part of releasing any film is getting a PG-13 rating. It’s usually a box office killer for any film with it looking to make a huge return at the box office; R-rated films are tougher to sell at the box office. The King’s Speech has already hit the $114 million domestically and another $130 overseas, thus making it a massive hit based off the film’s $15 million budget already. So it’s not as if getting a profit off this is the issue; the Weinsteins have already made back everything and from here on out is pure profit. If anything they could pull the film from theatres now for DVD release and make further pad that bottom line. But here’s the rub, or more accurately, the bottom line: a PG-13 release will get more people out than an R-rated one after last night.

Why? Because more theatre chains will book screenings of a PG-13 film than a R-rated one because PG-13 films by and large sell more tickets. It’s no coincidence that Avatar, the highest grossing film of all time, and The Dark Knight (which is #3) both sought that rating because it meant more people watching the finished product. Despite dark, adult themes that could get an R without profanity, the PG-13 probably boosted their box office returns substantially. And a film like Slumdog Millionaire probably missed out on a ton of box office revenue because it had an R-rating. That $140 million in the U.S could’ve been double with a PG-13 rating, I think.

This may be purely calculated for profit but I think it’s a great move. You can book more theatres and get more screens with a PG-13 rating. Plus you have the added ability to release it in two different formats on DVD, one with the profanity intact and one with it toned down to the PG-13 level, thus giving you that allure to teenagers in the same way the Parental Advisory sticker on music albums in the 80s and 90s made it look cool and dangerous to buy.

In reality it’s some foul language in relatively small doses, nothing that isn’t all that bad, but the real problem is the MPAA and their ridiculous standards for rating a film. Really this should’ve been a PG-13 film to start, regardless of the language, but that’s a different discussion for a different time. This is a film that needs to be seen and should be on more screens than it currently is. If some slight modifications from the Weinstein Company are used to get this I don’t see the big deal in the long run. Films are cut for content all the time, with “uncut,” “unrated” or “director’s cut” versions coming out on DVD en masse to bulk up the DVD sales stream to make up the difference. That’s something you can count on for The King’s Speech in that both versions come out on DVD, one with the uncensored cut and one for those who would rather not hear all the profanity. They do exist, after all, and going after that market isn’t a horrible idea.

The real problem is with the MPAA and their rating standards, as this shouldn’t have happened in the first place, but if this one slight change to a film means that the Weinsteins can bring more and better films to theatres I’m all for it.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – The Social Network

The big loser from last night was The Social Network, a film I didn’t enjoy significantly in theatres for a lot of reasons actually. But it was good enough to sneak into to kill a couple hours a month into its theatrical run and I ended up picking it up on DVD because Best Buy had an insanely good deal on it. I’m a sucker for a deal on a film like this; I won’t pay full price but I will pick it up for half off. Plus my parents hadn’t seen it and we rarely are able to see films together nowadays, thus I got to kill two birds with three stones or something. That and my father has a massive television with a great sound system that is almost as good as being in a theatre. Not quite as good, but watching sports on it makes it so worth it.

Billed as the origin story of Face Book, based off the book “The Accidental Billionaires,” it follows Harvard undergrad Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) as a drunk taunt to an ex-girlfriend via his personal blog turns into a website dedicated to comparing Harvard women. From there he creates The Facebook, a website dedicated to bringing the college experience (and eventually the whole “life” experience) into one dedicated page. What follows is the too crazy to be true tale as he screws pretty much everyone in his life in his quest.

This isn’t really a film about the Facebook origin in complete truth; large chunks of it are given poetic and dramatic license by Aaron Sorkin. If you want to really know the origin of the Facebook, there are better stories and books to find it from. If you want a tale of the price of success, this is a good place to start.

While my opinion didn’t change radically, I do think this is a film like No Country for Old Men was in that it takes a couple viewings to really work through the material as opposed to being able to get everything in one gulp. Is it a good film? Yes. Is it eminently watchable with some great lines? Yes. Is it the most brilliant, generation-defining masterpiece of masterpieces ever? No. Was it robbed of an Oscar? No. There were better films on the docket, including the winner, but not winning an Oscar isn’t the end of the world for a film. Steven Spielberg rightfully pointed out when announcing the Best Picture that plenty of films we consider the best films of all-time never got close to sniffing Oscar gold, much less winning it, so an Oscar “snub” isn’t the end of the world. Great films aren’t about winners and losers when it comes to awards. If that was the case then Martin Scorsese wouldn’t be one of the handful of directors you can call the greatest to have lived.

Film lives on; in a year from now we’ll probably have forgotten The King’s Speech in the same way we’ve forgotten Crash, Slumdog Millionaire, Ordinary People and others. Will we remember The Social Network? Maybe. We’ll probably be wondering how on Earth Inception didn’t win, though, at least that’s what I think.

The Social Network is a good film, though, and definitely worth watching. Mild recommendation.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

The Adjustment Bureau – Matt Damon loves Emily Blunt. But the powers that keep the world turning don’t want that.

See It – With the exception of Next, adaptations of Philip K. Dick have usually been in my top 10 of the year. I’ll give Matt Damon the benefit of the doubt, especially considering he has my new favorite actress that isn’t Anne Hathaway with him.

Beastly – Alex Pettyfer gets another film in a three week period, this time in a quirky retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Neil Patrick Harris shows up too as a blind guy.

Skip ItBeauty and the Beast has been done to death so often that the Grim Reaper is tired of collecting the corpses.

Rango – Johnny Depp is a chameleon who becomes sheriff in a whacky adventure in the desert.

See It – Gore Verbinski is a director definitely gets me interested when he goes to animation.

Take Me Home Tonight – Dan Fogler and Topher Grace are back in the ‘80s as recent college graduates looking for their path.

See It – It is an R-rated comedy in the ‘80s. At a minimum it’s another Hot Tub Time Machine, which was enjoyable but not brilliant. I could see this film hitting that benchmark, especially considering it’s been in post-production hell for four years.

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.

Tags: , , , ,