Monday Morning Critic – Charlie Hunnam, Sons of Anarchy and The Perils of Fifty Shades of GreyDon’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey

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The big news this week was Charlie Hunnam, best known as Jax in Sons of Anarchy and generic hero in Pacific Rim, dropping out of the much heralded Fifty Shades of Grey. Grey is a novel that proves while women may not talk about watching pornography en masse they certainly will read the ever loving snot out of it. It’s about a guy named Grey who’s some sort of billionaire type but also happens to be young and insanely handsome. He’s also into some kinky sex stuff and that’s where we meet generic vessel, the girl with whom he’ll have a torrid love affair.

It’s a typical high profile novel aimed at a female audience: put in the unattainable, super attractive man with everything a woman could want and give him a generic, bland woman to fall in love with that the target audience can insert themselves as. It worked for Twilight, among others, and it’s the new formula for trying to garner a massive female audience. It’s nothing new, as plenty of male protagonists have been bland enough to allow the reader to insert themselves into the equation, but it’s resulting in enough female-centered books and films that it’s nice to see.

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As much as I crap on Twilight, et al, I think it’s good that female writers and female centered franchises are being brought to the begin screen. Even if they’re trash it’s not a bad thing; Hollywood is so male-centric at times that getting women in starring roles other than as a generic love interest or a damsel to be rescued is a good thing. Eventually the quality projects will come but sometimes you have to wade through a lot of crap to get there. You can see in the indie film market that there’s a wave of good female roles (and actresses) about to come.

Which is why Grey interests me on a certain level, I’ll admit. It’s potentially a career maker for anyone who stars in it because of it’s Twilight level appeal. But that’s the exact reason why I can see someone like Hunnam passing on a role like this. No one wants to be Robert Pattinson … or at least the tabloid version.

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It’s the reason, when all is said and done, that Hunnam didn’t want to be Christian Grey. Becoming a star in a franchise like that doesn’t make you a star in any real degree; Robert Pattinson doesn’t have much capital as an actor now because Twilight is over and nothing he’s done has been able to draw the same size crowds.

Being Christian Grey is the same as being Captain America it seems. No matter who plays the character the actor isn’t the one who’s going to become a draw. People won’t be buying their tickets to see Jax Teller put on some S&M gear and get all kinky with generic actress #4. They’ll be paying a ticket to see a tamed down version of the book on the big screen and nothing more.

Outside of a handful of larger paychecks for the franchise films he made I’d imagine Robert Pattinson probably dislikes the sort of tabloid star he’s become in the wake of Twilight. He’s actually a talented actor, all things considered, but being Eddie Cullen will hang over his career so profoundly that he’ll always be remembered for it. It’s not like he was that good at it, either. It was a terrible film franchise, of which he was equally terrible, but it was so successful he was typecast for it anyway.

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When Hannum looked at what his career after SOA ends he probably thought moving into a successful franchise could be sustaining on a number of levels. There’s something to be said about being the star of a hit show and leaving for an equally lucrative franchise. Even a crappy franchise beats competing with the same crop of actors in your field for the same roles; no one wants to watch their generation’s Leonardo DiCaprio get the prime roles and have to settle for the Tobey Maguire level scraps early on.

Choosing the right role counts for more than just taking the first big role that’s offered for a career and Grey could’ve taken him in a different path than the one he wants to go down. Sometimes it’s about the role and Hunnam, who is also a screenwriter, wanted to make some changes to the script that weren’t well received by those involved. For him I imagine he wants to make this a breakout role for all the right reasons, not just because it was a popular novel that’ll probably draw at the box office.

I think the experience of doing a film like Pacific Rim mattered more than we think when it come to passing on Grey for the young Brit. If that film had hit much bigger than it did he’d have been able to write a much bigger ticket than he did since it was much less of a hit than expected. That first taste of fame may have been nice … but the next stab has to be the right one.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

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This Week’s DVD – Don’t’ Stop Beleivin’: Everyman’s Journey

Journey is the ultimate karaoke band. It doesn’t matter if you’re awful, or you’re great, but if you pick a Journey song and put any real effort into it the crowd will carry you the rest of the way. You can pick a number of Journey songs and the result is the same: a good experience. Granted you have to have an audience filled with people who are incredibly drunk, of course, but there’s nothing like a bunch of drunks singing to Journey.

This is the tale of how they found a new lead singer from the internet.

I wish I was joking about that but Arnel Pineda was discovered after Neal Schon saw him on YouTube singing Journey covers. Pineda was part of a cover band based out of the Philippines and had a rough life growing up. Dude could sing, though, and a random fluke got him an audition with the band. This is the video in question.

He managed to win the job and the documentary follows the first year Pineda toured with Journey as its lead singer. There are ups, and downs, as Pineda has to adapt from playing bars to arenas while being the lead singer of Journey instead of just aping him for a song or two. It’s a real life version of Rock Star, the Marky Mark film about a tribute band singer becoming the lead singer of the actual band.

The film is profoundly interesting because we get to see aging rockers trying to adjust with someone who’s been nothing but a cover band singer in a foreign country. There’s a remarkable amount of candor from everyone involved, as well. This is a film that doesn’t pull any punches in regards to everything involved. This is the sort of candor you get from people so entrenched in their position, and having experienced the full gamut of fame & stardom, that the truth is the only thing that matters. The band doesn’t need to establish any sort of image, or have canned answers, because they’re Journey and everyone knows what they do and who they are.

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They’re not far from being a pure nostalgia act … but they’re not in the pure creative phase of their career. A new Journey album is there to tour but people show up to hear the hits. It’s like when I saw Metallica years ago; yeah they were touring for “Death Magnetic” but people wanted to hear everything from the Black Album back. That’s Journey right now; they mix in a couple of the new songs but people show up because hearing “Faithfully” and “Don’t Stop Believing” are the standards. It’s that part of a career in music well after you’re at your peak but well before you’re touring exclusively on the old material like The Rolling Stones do.

Throw in someone like Arnel Pineda and it makes it that much more interesting. How do you add in a new piece when everything you do is fairly established? That’s what makes the documentary so interesting. We’re seeing an established act that’s an album or two away from stopping altogether with new music and touring exclusively try to integrate a new, major piece into the act.

One of my favorite films of the year and definitely worth the viewing … totally recommended.

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 Counselor – Michael Fassbender tries to arrange a massive drug deal. Things don’t work out so well, including Cameron Diaz acting sexy.

See It – Ridley Scott is madly frustrating but this looks like a hit and not a miss.

Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa – Johnny Knoxville and company are back as Knoxville dresses up as the titular grandpa and they do live action shenanigans.

See It – Jackass films are always good for a laugh, even if all you need to see them is just once.

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

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