This Week In Movies: ‘Hereafter,’ ‘Paranormal Activity 2’

By Pete Hammond Halloween must be around the corner. It was clearly a supernatural week at the movies led by Paranormal Activity 2 (more on that below) and highlighted by the national release of Clint Eastwood’s masterful new drama, Hereafter, a multi-story formatted film in which three unrelated main characters search for meaning after experiencing death – or near-death- episodes that have a profound effect on their lives. The film opened on a limited basis last weekend in LA and NY to a very good $36,000 per screen and this week expanded to 2181 theatres and a $12 million plus gross which is slightly above par for Eastwood openings. Its Rotten Tomatoes rating though is a rather uninspired 51% although top critics give it a much higher 64% which seems more appropriate considering the ambition and the achievement of this intriguing film written by Peter Morgan (The Queen, Last King Of Scotland). Warner Bros has done an extensive marketing campaign supported by Eastwood appearances on several TV shows including Ellen, Jimmy Kimmel and others. Eastwood also has done the Q&A circuit to drum up word of mouth including sessions in front of the Directors Guild, BAFTA-LA and the Screen Actors Guild.

When I caught up with him at the latter in North Hollywood last week he waxed nostalgic about the Lankershim neighborhood where the screening took place at the TV Academy. He recalled going into a local theater in the area to see one of his early films , Ambush At Cimarron Pass (1958), a miserable enough experience that he said it almost made his quit movies altogether. Fortunately he didn’t and now at 80(!) he is cooking on all burners, still producing significant works of meaning and quality most directors half his age couldn’t even begin to create. The film stars Matt Damon who won a Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for another Eastwood fllm , Invictus last year and is terrific again here in an understated and moving performance as a psychic haunted by his own powers and looking to get out.

Co-star Cecile de France, the Belgian actress who has her biggest opportunity in American films as a French journalist whose near-death experience in a tsunami causes her to rethink her life, was also in LA last week after a whirlwind tour of New York , Chicago and San Francisco. She charmed audiences at a series of Q&As including one in front of the French Consulate who ate up every minute. De France is really very funny and belies the impression one might get from her uber serious resume. She should do more comedy judging by the laughs she got from the Q&A crowds. Nearly stealing the film is Frankie and George McLaren who both play Marcus and Jason , the twin boys who are featured in another segment of the film and nearly steal it all even though this is their first professional gig. Eastwood can wrangle great performances from just about anybody. He told me he honed his uniquely quiet and restrained directing style in which he never yells ‘action’ or ‘cut’ from working with overzealous directors on his 50’s TV series, Rawhide. He says they just loved hearing the sound of their own voices when a simple wave of the hand would have done the trick. Currently he’s casting his next film on the life of FBI director J. Edger Hoover with Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role. Go Clint.

The OTHER supernatural flick of the week is actually the number one movie, Paranormal Activity 2 which blasted through the box office to the tune of $41 million, a record opening for an October movie and miles beyond the opening of the original last year. That of course was the little visceral shocker made for $11,000 that grossed over $100,000,000 and is certain to spawn numerous sequels beyond this one. For Paramount which scored big time with Jackass 3D, they are finding you can get a lot more with less. In other words never underestimate the penchant of the audience for low-brow entertainment. PA2 isn’t necessarily bad – it actually outdoes its predecessor in the scares department – it’s just so formulaic already. Oddly the Rotten Tomatoes score here is just about the opposite of Hereafter. It received an impressive 67% overall fresh rating but only a miserable 53% fresh from top critics indicating the flyover boys liked it better than the big city gang. This one reportedly costs a whopping $3 million which is not even the cost of a trailer for Brad Pitt on most major movies so the return will just be enormous. Paranormal Activity 3D anyone? You bet they have GOT to be greenlighting that before the week is over.

Photo credit: Ken Regan

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About Pete Hammond

Pete Hammond is a writer, producer, movie critic and film expert whose commentary on the entertainment industry has appeared in numerous publications and on air interviews including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, OK Magazine, NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw, Evening News With Brian Williams on MSNBC, the CBC, BBC, Bravo, E!, AMC, Canada AM and the KTLA Morning Show.

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