Not coming soon to a theater near you

wingedcreaturesmovieposterWant to see the latest film starring Oscar winners Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Hudson, as well as Oscar nominee Jackie Earle Haley, Guy Pearce, Dakota Fanning, Kate Beckinsale, and Jeanne Tripplehorn? Or how about the newest thriller starring Diane Lane, Rosario Dawson, and Oscar nominee Mickey Rourke, directed by Oscar-nominated director writer John Madden?

Well, just put them on your Netflix queue.

Winged Creatures is one of the latest direct-to-DVD casualties, and Killshot got only a limited US release, fates that have befallen many a motion picture these days. After viewing, one may decide that some of these direct-to-DVD and limited release movies may have deserved a theater bypass, but it does make one wonder just exactly where the wheels came off the bus. After all, Slumdog Millionaire almost made its debut in the exact same way

 as Winged Creatures before Warner rescued it and placed it in a handful of theaters, and that film went on to great success.

Creatures is not Whitaker’s first trip directly to video store shelves after grabbing Oscar gold. Other A-list celebs such as Michelle Pfeiffer (Personal Effects, I Could Never Be Your Woman), Morgan Freeman (Thick as Thieves, The Contract), John Cusack (The Contract, War, Inc.), Uma Thurman (The Life Before Her Eyes, The Accidental Husband) will all star in films that most likely will make their premier in your living room.

While it’s typically not uncommon for a studio to release sequels with lesser talent directly to DVD to ride the coattails of a studio hit – Universal has gotten direct-to-video mileage out of its American Pie pictures, releasing three straight-to-the-shelf sequels – when films crammed with top-billing stars can’t cut a path to the box office, does that say more about the film’s quality, or the politics of motion picture industry?

These pieces are not to be confused with little indie projects that many stars take to stretch their resume and accept at a fraction of their usual paycheck. Rather, these films seem to grasp for mass-market appeal, and to be produced with the full intention of playing across the country.

Here’s a look at two of the latest films that will not be coming to a theater near you.

Winged CreaturesWinged Creatures is perhaps the more commercially viable of the two films. Featuring one of those sprawling, interwoven storylines that revolve around one particular event (in this case a shooting in a local diner).

After its premier at the 2008 Los Angeles Film Festival, it languished for some time and will make its debut on DVD next month.

It is easy to see how this rather protracted piece that ruminates on fate, chance, God, etc., would not duplicate the success of it’s similarly plotted cinematic cousin Crash, but it’s polished enough, with flashes of good performances (most notably Pearce, Tripplehorn and Haley) to at least guarantee a few weeks of modest seat-filling.

Winged is guilty of reaching far beyond it’s meager means, and perhaps following any one of the character’s plotlines may have made for an interesting diversion (Pearce’s desperate attempts to be a savior is the most bizarrely entertaining). But too often the film stretches until it’s almost threadbare, with characters speaking straight from a writer’s keyboard rather than as actual fleshed-out humans (Fanning’s change into a Jesus freak has her delivering lines that would cause the most well-versed preacher to go back to the source and check his notes).

With a cast this expansive (and talented) it’s hard for the film to not hit some of the right chords in dealing with grief and trauma, and it has moments of honest intensity scattered throughout.

But, as a whole, Winged Creatures remains in a cage gilded with melodrama.


killshot_movie_posterKillshot is a little more tricky. Completed before Rourke’s triumphant performance in The Wrestler, the film was made at the tail end of his cash-grab days, which included Shades, Out in Fifty and Get Carter.

Based on an Elmore Leonard novel of the same name, he plays a Native American (from the sound of his voice, he once belonged to the little-known Brooklyn Tribe), who serves as a “cleaner.”

When Lane and her estranged hubby (played by Thomas Jane) cross paths with Rourke’s Blackbird, they are sent to witness protection where they successfully live a life of worry-free bliss.

Yeah, right.

Tonally scattered like a spider web, the film, directed by Shakespeare in Love’s John Madden, has a helluva time trying to decide exactly what it wants to be when it grows up. In the end, it settles for a mixture of levity and brutality, but never the twain do mix.

Some characters, such as Joe Gordon-Levitt’s would-be thug and Johnny Knoxville’s… well, best not ruminate too much on his addition, seem as though they’ve screen tested for completely different films. Other actors, such as Lane and Jane, spend most of their screen time looking off into the distance, perhaps to find their agent to get them out of this mess.

In the center, though, is Rourke. Bronzed to shades of orange that would make pumpkins jealous, speaking with a strangely hypnotic accent all his own, and generally flipping the switch between hushed line reads and brute physicality, he owns the picture though perhaps not for all the right reasons.

Neither Killshot nor Winged Creatures would achieve blockbuster status at the box office, even riding a big crest of their stars’ popularity. Creatures, in particular seems as though it is plotted just right for commercial breaks during an airing on the Lifetime Network. Even so, I will take Winged Creatures stab at humanity over the completely synthetic He’s Not That Into You, and Killshot‘s junky fun over Paul Blart‘s antics on the big screen any day.



~ by usesoapfilm on March 24, 2009.

One Response to “Not coming soon to a theater near you”

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