Monday Morning Critic – Will Smith, Django Unchained and Men In Black 3 – Before Sunrise

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.

One of the interesting things about this weekend was seeing the box office for Men in Black 3 and the general reaction to it. Going into it I like reading other people’s reviews if only to get a good vibe for what to expect; I like knowing enough to see what I’m getting into. Certain plot points, etc, as well as you can tell a lot by what people like and don’t like about a film. It’s like doing a preview for a game or a sport: I like knowing what to expect going in and what potentially could happen. And the general consensus seemed to be “Wow, this didn’t seem to suck as much as I thought it would.”

I hated it, of course, and you can read my review here.

But there’s something to be explored, I think, as to why Smith would do a perfunctory sequel that no one demanded. And considering he was attached to Tarantino’s Django Unchained for a short while before turning it down, and Jamie Foxx ultimately winning the part over what was rumored to be an interesting field (Idris Elba and Chris Tucker, amongst others, were up for the part), MiB 3 becomes that much more of a curiosity in his career.

It’ll be even more curious if Foxx wins another Oscar for the film and so far everyone’s been dazzled by the footage shown off by Tarantino. But really one film directly influenced why Smith didn’t do Django and instead put his muscle behind a third MiB: Seven Pounds.

Considering Smith’s cinematic resume it was his biggest risk since he played a gay con man in Six Degrees of Separation, of course, and the fact that he took a risk and didn’t pay off as well as it normally does for him I think has him scared of taking any role that could potentially damage the “brand” that is Will Smith. Let’s think about it this for a moment.

It was the first film in quite some time for the star that didn’t cross $100 million domestically and didn’t garner any sort of prestige either. Smith did Ali, which wasn’t a box office sensation but was respectable, and garnered all sorts of prestige for him including his first Oscar nomination. It was the same for The Pursuit of Happyness, which did better in the box office business and got him his second nomination. They weren’t his usual roles of saving the world but they did well enough to give the acting bonafide a film like Bad Boys doesn’t give you.

The fact that it too international grosses to make this a hit, and that he got odes of respect but no Oscar nomination, was something that was shocking at the time then and explains a lot now. Smith is generally like clockwork in his ability to bring nine figures in the box office game. MiB 3 is a safe film for him to take because there’s going to be an audience in the summer that wants to see Will Smith do the Will Smith thing. People are more discriminating in their dollar these days when it comes to film but Smith still can open a film at $50 million every time.

Which is why Seven Pounds is such an oddity in his career; it was a good film and he was good in it, got a lot of buzz and whatnot and yet it didn’t bring people in to actually see it. And I can see why Smith would be leery of doing anything that isn’t in his usual “Will Smith” role wheelhouse again; Seven Pounds would be a success for any other actor but is a letdown for Smith. And it’s why we won’t see him take any other role unlike the ones he takes now because of that film’s lack of success.

It was a risky role for him because of the nature of the way Smith takes roles. He swings for the summer blockbusters and the near guarantee of success they bring because he sticks to a formula. Nothing insulting to any potential ticket buyer, enough to appeal to the whole family and just slick enough to entertain people without causing them to think all that much. Smith just has to stay in shape, keep that smile sharp and stay out of trouble. Playing that part of the All-American guy in his real life gives him that credibility as a family film action star that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson could only wish he had.

Seven Pounds was a dramatic role that required more of the average viewer than a Men in Black film does because it requires you to accept Smith as any other part than the “Will Smith” role which puts asses in seats. And Will Smith as Django, a former slave who curses like a sailor and drops racial slurs like a gangsta rapper, would require a lot out of an audience.

And I’m not sure if Smith was ready to have his family act dropped for a film which’ll win him some awards, get critical acclaim and somehow wind up as something that’ll also pop up in YouTube parodies for years to come.

The fact that his star power couldn’t bring in the usual audience for one of his films was something and it explains why he’d take on the black suit and sunglasses of J once more when the franchise was on fumes in the sequel. It’s also why he’ll be staring at the podium when Jamie Foxx wins another Oscar next year.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – Before Sunrise

When it comes to chemistry, the standard for romantic dramas in the modern era is one couple: Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. Everyone and everything else is just … secondary in comparison. How so? Because they’ve done two beautiful films together with such magnificent chemistry that a third would be welcome by anyone who loves film.

The film follows an American named Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and a French woman named Celine (Julie Delpy) who meet on a train. Getting off it in Vienna, the two spend one fateful night together wandering the city and falling in love. Jesse only has 12 hours before he has to head back to America, though, and Celine is due to have been back in Paris as well sometime in the near future. They have essentially one night to spend together and they do so all across Vienna and all its glory.

I’ve always likened this to the first part of an incomplete trilogy because it’s a perspective on love in differing decades. In this film they’re in their 20s, most likely, and young. Young love is always the most intoxicating; it’s all about the grand moments and the future is ahead of you. It’s why Sunrise is so profound, even almost 20 years after its release. We all know what it’s like to be in love and be young, like Jesse and Celine, and remember the promise of it all back then. Before Sunset is a decade later and now they’re both a bit more worldly in that regard; they’re still in love, albeit having moved on with their lives, but the spark is there. But there isn’t the grand moment that love makes you feel like you can have in your 20s a decade later; maturity’s a bitch sometimes.

I’d love to see a third film with the two in their 40s; there’s more to be told about their story as we didn’t get a real conclusion in Sunset. Sunrise is the sort of film every young love type of romantic genre aims to be at this point because of how intoxicatingly wonderful it is.

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

Battlefield America – Another dance film that emulates Breakin’.

Skip It – No advertising and whatnot … and let’s be honest. Dance films always stink.

For Greater Glory- A chronicle of the Cristeros War (1926-1929), which was touched off by a rebellion against the Mexican government’s attempt to secularize the country? At least that’s what IMDB says.

Skip It – Get every major Hispanic actor of note into a film, it seems, but there isn’t any advertising or buzz to the film. Not a good sign.

Snow White and the Huntsman – Charlize Theron has to kill Kristen Stewart to stay hot. Like that’s a bad thing?

See It – It can’t be worse than Mirror Mirror, right?

Piranha 3DD – Piranhas attack. Again. In Limited Release

Skip It – It was supposed to be a big fall release last year and wound up being shuttled to a smaller release in the summer with tons of screen being taken up by bigger films. Not a good sign.

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

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