January 18, 2017

Hollywood Movie Roundup: “Hood” — #2 with an Arrow, not a Bullet

BY KEVIN CRUST

Hollywoodnews.com: A return to Sherwood Forest doesn’t herald any type of rich-to-poor stimulus package so the Man in the Iron Suit will continue to control the box-office lucre. In more modest offerings, the new princess of romance is back and the Queen indulges in some romantic comedy hoop dreams of her own.

ROBIN HOOD

Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott re-team for this origin story of how the Prince of Thieves came to be. Cate Blanchett as Marian and Matthew Macfadyen as the Sheriff of Nottingham are also onboard. Oscar-winner Brian Helgeland wrote the screenplay with Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris also receiving story credit.

The historical epic, marketed as “Gladiator” meets Medieval Times, is getting mixed reviews from critics after debuting at Cannes. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times finds it “simultaneously simplistic and over-plotted, revisionist and predictable.” For the Chicago Sun-Times’ Roger Ebert, the film is not enough like the Robins he has come to cherish (Flynn, Connery, the Disney fox) to justify dusting off the brand. A.O. Scott of the New York Times is even less enthused, declaring the movie “long, bloody, self-serious” and, perhaps, most damning of all, “lumbering.” Several critics. including Peter Travers of Rolling Stone and Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune were able to mine some popcorn entertainment from the film’s action.

Scott and Crowe are on a bit of a losing streak and pundits are all over the map, pegging RH to gross anywhere from the mid-$20 millions to as much as $45M. Regardless, the big-budget epic will fall far short of “Iron Man 2,” which should earn  at least $60M in its second week of domestic release bliss. Universal faces a tough path to earn back the rumored $155-200M it has spent on the project.

LETTERS TO JULIET

Amanda Seyfried, following her successful turns in “Mamma Mia” and “Dear John,” now stands as the poster girl for young love at the movies. Here, she acts as a facilitator of the heart, playing a young woman who visits Italy and sets out to find two long ago lovers mentioned in the title missive. The cast also includes Gael García Bernal, Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero. Written by Jose Rivera and Tim Sullivan. Directed by Gary Winick.

Predictably, critical response is tepid, but there is some grudging admiration for the film’s straightforwardness and special appreciation for the presence of Redgrave and Nero. Betsy Sharkey of the LA Times sums it up as “a sugary paean to quixotic clichés,” while copping to the pull of its guilty pleasures. The NYT’s Scott is disappointed by the film’s blandness and the fact that it fails to deliver the one thing it promises, love.

Seyfried is red-hot, but without a male counterpart such as Channing Tatum to help sell the film to young women, it figures to underperform “Dear John.” Nevertheless, it’s projected $15-20M against a modest budget should lead to healthy return for Summit Entertainment.

JUST WRIGHT

Queen Latifah stars as a no-nonsense physical therapist who falls for the NBA star (Common) she is helping rehab from a serious injury. Paula Patton (the teacher from “Precious”) plays Latifah’s friend and romantic rival. Written by Michael Elliot and directed by Sanaa Hamri (“Something New”).

A surprising number of critics overlook the filmmakers’ formulaic approach to give it a thumbs up. Ebert admits it follows a forumla, but writes that “a formula that works reminds us of why it became a formula.” The dissenters, including Claudia Puig of USA Today, cite a lack of chemistry between the stars — as well as Common’s inability to transition as smoothly from rap to acting as his co-star, Latifah — for the film’s failings.

Despite the terrible title, the film figures to gross a demographically specific $9-10M this weekend, but don’t expect it to stick around long.



About Kevin Crust

KEVIN CRUST is a Southern California-based writer and editor of the Eclectic Odeon Review, an online guide to seeing movies in Los Angeles, launching in March 2010. In 18 years at the Los Angeles Times, he worked as a copy editor, senior researcher and staff writer. For most of the past decade, he was a key part of the Times' award-winning film department, coordinating the Calendar section's popular Sneaks issues, writing columns on alternative cinema and DVDs, and reviewing hundreds of movies. His work has also appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle.

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