Monday Morning Critic – 4.4.2011 – Charlie Sheen Tour, Le Cercle Rouge, DirecTV and VOD

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.

This weekend Charlie Sheen started off his world tour with near disastrous results. While people went in expecting an epic meltdown, and it happened, I think people are missing one important lesson in all of this. It’s not like what Joe Rogan tweeted in that eventually cocaine abuse catches up with you. It’s not that Chuck Lorre was probably right all along. And not even as my buddy Nick the Stand Up thinks in that Emilio Estevez will end up coming in to teach the Flying V at some point. If anything in this fiasco it’s a warning sign to any film actor who thinks they can take their talents outside of the camera without any training. In other words, you can’t pull off a stage show if you’re not a veteran stage performer.

Or at least be damn well prepared if this is going to be a big to do about something.

The one thing I kept noticing throughout the whole “Charlie Sheen Torpedo of Truth” bit was that you never heard a lot about Sheen prepping for anything. You didn’t hear about rumors of him mounting a stage show or anything along those lines. The one thing that I picked up on was that you never heard ANYTHING about his show outside of what could be on it. That was interesting to me because Hollywood is a sieve of information. Something is bound to get out, without exception, and the fact that not even disinformation came out was a sign of bad things. It was a show that was put together by Sheen on the fly and it blew up as horribly as expected. I don’t feel sorry for anyone who spent money on it hoping for a train wreck and then got disappointed that it was one. It was never going to be anything more than a train wreck because Sheen never prepped for anything and just sort of “winged it.”

It’s actually kind of sad because Sheen is really talented behind a camera but a stage show is a lot different. There are no second takes and we shouldn’t be shocked that this happened. Sheen has never been known for his improvisational talents nor has he ever been a stalwart of stage acting. He’s been a film actor who transitioned to television. Nothing more and nothing less, unfortunately, and as such one can imagine his acting background isn’t quite suited for nailing it on the first take every time. That’s the mentality of a stage actor. On the stage you have to get it right because you can’t just re-do it every time you mess something up or want it to change.

Stage acting is considerably tougher than film acting, I believe, because of it. You can afford an off day or two on the set because there’s ways of getting around it in post production. Not on the stage where you have to be on every night. It’s why I respect an actor more who regularly works in the theatre as opposed to merely in front of a camera. It’s the truest test of ability.

If we want to be honest this is another case where a celebrity is trying to do something that’s more provocative than creative without really thinking it all the way through. It was like when Joaquim Phoenix and Casey Affleck opted to try and destroy the former’s career as an actor so he could try his hand at becoming a rapper as a stunt. There was no thought process, just “do something weird and let’s film it,” and it seems like this same mentality was adopted by Charlie Sheen. He just said “hey, I’m doing a stage show” and no one ever bothered to say “Hey Charlie, what the hell are you going to be doing so you don’t mount an epic train wreck that’ll kill your career?”

Now … now he’ll be known for one of the most epic and sustaining meltdowns of all time. It’s a shame because he has a fine body of work to pull from. We’ll forget about Major League and Wall Street, probably Platoon too, and just remember the stupid catchphrases and the presumed volumes of cocaine abuse still going on. But if anything hopefully he’ll plan something better next time.

Random Thought of the Week

One of the more under reported stories of this week was that DirecTV is starting their own premium channel for first release films. With a 60 day window from the theatre to Video on Demand (VOD), you can avoid the rush and pay $30 to see a film in the comfort of your own home two months after being released into theatres. And everywhere people are beginning to freak out about and a pointed bit from Bill Mechanic popped up on Bloomberg television. Embedded below for your comfort:

Now here’s the thing that everyone’s forgetting about: it’s not like it’s that much of a difference between $30 in two months or the $20 plus you’d spend on two tickets right now. If anything it might be a better experience than the theatre is right now purely on cost.

One of the downsides of seeing films in the theatre is cost. It’s always going up, no matter what, but lately the costs have been rising quite rapidly. Why? Because not as many people are going to theatres as they used to and as such theatre chains have to do two things: cut costs and raise prices. It’s how they stay in business and it’s making something like VOD seem almost like a reasonable cost now.

The first is mainly seen in how there are less workers at a movie theatre now than ever. You cut back on workers everywhere in the multiplex and focus them up front, which is why people are so much douchier in the theatre than they used to be. There’s no threat or illusion of authority from the theatre worker. The usher is a thing of the past and thus people are going to do things like answer their phone and talk loudly, et al. Theatre etiquette isn’t quite what it used to be.

It’s also why it’s much easier to sneak into films now than it ever was. With no one manning the gates, anyone can walk through. It’s a calculated risk theatres make, relying on the inherent decency of people to regulate themselves as opposed to enforcing the rules. That and they make less on tickets than they do on concessions and they’d rather let people pay for one film, then take 100% of the profit from the popcorn or hot dog they buy, as opposed to multiple tickets.

Ticket prices get raised because, like anything, costs aren’t at a fixed price forever. But here’s the thing: ticket sales are dropping quickly enough that even the tricks of inflating box office grosses like 3D aren’t working anymore. The increase in prices has helped level off a similar fall in box office grosses, but it leaves us with a pure economic point than anything else. It’s not “Why would I pay $30 to see a film two months after?” as Jim Nolte would want us to think. It’s “Why not?”

Listen to me now and believe me later.

I think of it like this. A couple weeks ago a friend of mine and I went to go see a film in theatres. Two tickets combined cost $21 for Limitless during its opening weekend. When it gets released onto DVD late this spring it’ll probably cost that much as well. Economically there’s no real reason to see the film in theatre unless you absolutely love that experience. I do, which is why I paid it. Considering all the usual hassles of seeing a film in theatres, from the usual unruly people and teenagers dry humping to issues with the a/v quality of the picture itself, it makes sense in a way that one would spend that kind of cash to stay home and watch the film on a television and in the comfort of your own home.

Especially considering how tremendous home theatre equipment has become in the last decade, a question comes to mind. Why would I want to give a theatre chain a bit less in cash and put up with their cost-cutting attempts that have nearly ruined the theatre-going experience?

As much as the theatre chains are complaining that this is ruining their business, and pointing to studios as destroying their revenue chain this way, it seems like no one has forgotten that the reason why people are staying away en masse is from efforts on both ends. Not just Hollywood schlock or a recession.

Studio quality is down, everyone will admit. Hollywood still comes out with gems every now and again but it panders more often than not. Everyone wants to point to Hollywood for its films not meeting up expectations, for not looking at the American theatrical market as much as it does international markets (which account for 70% of its theatrical grosses) and DVD/VOD sales but no one wants to point out that the price of admission is almost equivalent to a Blu-Ray disc for a couple. Especially when the hassle of being in a theatre exceeds the cost of waiting and it reflects in that DVD sales of direct to video can be rather impressive on some films that failed in theatres. When you don’t have as many good films out there and you rush to get it out on DVD quickly, you train your audience that it’s almost as good to wait for NetFlix as opposed to see it in theatres.

But the theatrical experience also is down. It’s the one thing no one wants to say and that theatre owners never admit. When you make the experience of sitting in a theatre the economic equivalent to buying the DVD and don’t care enough to make it a good experience in the seats or on the screen, one thing happens. You train your audience to stay away and invest in a good home theatre instead. There are tons of people out there who sparingly go to a movie in a theatre nowadays because the picture is out of focus or dark, the seat is tore up or the people around them are acting like primates.

Why go through that for the “privilege” of seeing a film on its opening weekend? For me it’s always been because there’s nothing like watching a film on a big screen with surround sound, et al. But not for everyone, as if this proves successful we’re looking at the start of a revolution on how we watch film.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – Le Cercle Rouge

There’s nothing like a heist flick to make you feel better. And since this is the last Melville flick I have yet to view, why not eh?

Le Cercle Rouge, also known as The Red Circle (which it’ll be called for its American remake, which has been gestating for some time) is a heist film and was Melville’s second to last film. It’s also pointed out as perhaps his greatest, which is a bit difficult to do because he made an armful of great films. However you rank it, Le Cercle Rouge is a brilliant film.

Corey (Alain Delon) is given a heist to pull off almost immediately after he’s released from prison. Picking up escaped convict Vogel (Gian Maria Volonte) along the way in a chance encounter, and pursued by a relentless police inspector (Andre Bourvil), the two combine their talents with a washed up retired police officer (Yves Montand) to pull off a heist of immense proportions. This is the film’s signature piece, as the heist itself lasts about 30 minutes and is a modicum of efficiency. With minimal dialogue, it’s been copied from many times. But the problems come afterwards, when they have to try and fence the goods. And, like in any Melville film, no way one walks away unharmed.

Melville is in his element here and the thing that stands out is just how everyone expects one another to be good at their job. This isn’t the clichéd cop or crook being smarter than everyone but crooks and cops being very good at what they do. When Corey is pulled over by some mobsters he ripped off, and Vogel is in his trunk, he trusts Vogel to know exactly how to handle the situation. It’s a case where we expect cops and crooks to be workmen, to be good at their jobs and not fumbling along, but in a way it’s almost refreshing because we don’t see it all too often.

But the thing that stands out about this flick is just how cool it is. There’s something about France in that era, with everyone in trench coats and smoking cigarettes, that just oozes cool in a way that’s hard to match. Melville has a way of just making it seem effortless and it’s easy to see why he’s been copied so many times by so many directors since.

Strongest 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

Arthur (2011) – Russell Brand steps in for a remake of the Dudley Moore classic, but with less booze and more Helen Mirren.

See It – I think this is the make or break for Russell Brand as an actor. Yeah he crushes it as Aldous Snow, but everything else hasn’t been so good. It’s had a lot of hype and Helen Mirren does elevate everything she’s in.

Hanna – The blonde girl from Atonement is a little assassin trying to kill Cate Blanchett, who works for the CIA.

See It – A spy thriller with children that isn’t a Spy Kids film could be interesting. If they can turn Chloe Moretz into something awesome in Kick Ass than maybe they can do the same with Saiorse Ronan.

Soul Surfer – A girl loses her arm and then overcomes it to become a pro surfer.

Skip It – Surfing films always suck. Don’t expect this one to buck the trend.

Your Highness – Danny McBride is the worthless brother of James Franco and they have to rescue the latter’s bride in between staring at Natalie Portman’s butt.

Skip It – You had me until you inserted James Franco in the mix. Loved him in 127 Hours but otherwise not a huge fan; I just see this not being good for some impossible to explain reason.

Born to be Wild – An IMAX nature film about the wild or something.

Skip It – Is it Earth Day already?

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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