Opening August 31st: Is Shia LaBeouf A Movie Star?

What Constitutes A Movie Star Now Anyway?

Search “the last movie star” and you will see a bunch of articles written in the last couple of years claiming everyone from Denzel Washington to Will Smith or Brad Pitt is the last movie star on the planet. This June illustrated perfectly why many are decreeing the death of the movie star when Tom Cruise and Adam Sandler both crashed and burned at the box office on the same weekend. “Movie stars don’t have small opening weekends” the argument goes and if that is THE criteria than it is hard to find a “movie star”, Will Smith and Denzel might be the only two, everyone else has a dud or a flop or a stink-bomb, that is except for Shia LaBeouf. 
Since 2007 when Shia (if he might be a movie star I can just use his first name, right?) followed up the surprisingly good Rear Window remake (Disturbia) with the first Transformers Mr. LaBeouf (that doesn’t feel quite right either) has made the following movies: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($786 million world-wide), Eagle Eye (a $100 million dollar domestic hit), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ($836 million world-wide), Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps ($134 million world-wide) and Transformers: Dark of the Moon ($1.1 billion world-wide). Five movies and over $3 billion in world-wide box office. Five movies and the closest thing to a dud was the “performed as expected” Wall Street sequel. That run looks an awful lot like Harrison Ford’s 1980’s run when he alternated Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies to become the biggest box office star of his time. But we all considered Harrison Ford to be a movie star, does anyone think of Shia that way (except for Shia himself of course)? The short answer is no.
Maybe the reasons we don’t think of good old Shia as a movie star aren’t really fair. I mean, is it his fault that he has been the star of the three most horribly reviewed blockbusters of all time? Well, maybe a little (although I actually think he is pretty good in the Transformers movies doing what he is asked to do). Is it his fault that he is producing blockbusters within a generation where true fame is found more on reality TV and the Disney channel than in making movies? Is it his fault that he has only made one movie (Eagle Eye) in the last five years that wasn’t a remake or a sequel? And that is the rub, but it is a rub that Mr. Labeouf is changing starting this weekend with a movie about a prohibition era moonshine family that is being pitched as much as a Tom Hardy vehicle as a Shia LaBeouf one. Maybe this will do for Shia what Witness did for Harrison, prove he can be more than the kid that knows Optimus Prime and owns Bumblebee. Maybe, but I kind of doubt it.

Lawless
Interest Level: 6
Whose the draw for you: Guy Pearce looks kind of creepy-cool as the crooked cop
Larry Eillison (you know, the guy that is not quite Bill Gates) has a daughter who decided to get into the movie producing business, and it looks like she may be good at it. Her production company has three movies coming to theaters over the next couple of months and they all look interesting. Killing Them Softly (Brad Pitt as a hit man) is proceeded by The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson’s take on the birth of Scientology) which is proceeded by LawlessLawless is the least interesting of the three. Don’t get me wrong, Lawless is sure to be good, not great, and find itself eventually next to Public Enemies and Road to Perdition in your movie memory banks. The thing is, being released in box office no man’s land, on a weekend where most of us will be enjoying our last “summer day” outside or even better in the water, Lawless faces an uphill climb. This is the same weekend The Debt came out last summer, which was also good, not great, but probably a little better than Lawless (and each had Jessica Chastain) and you probably didn’t see it because you were out by the pool. 
The Possession
Interest Level: 4
Does a new horror movie have to come out every week: Yup
Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick star in the latest “based on a true story” movie that has designs to be this generations The Exorcist (or, at least The Omen). You know if this is your kind of movie (clearly there is a market because they keep making them), all I can tell you is that it isn’t good enough to transcend it’s core audience and gain any mainstream play. Having said that, if this is your cup of tea, you wont be disappointed.
For A Good Time, Call…
Interest Level: 4
Isn’t This Just The B in Apartment 23: Pretty Close
Think The Odd Couple meets Sex in the City meets Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo. Got it? OK, that’s this movie.
The Ambassador
Interest Level: 8
Is this the only movie you are really interested in this week: Yup, well, this and Lawless
Documentary filmmaker Mads Brugger goes undercover as a European Ambassador to uncover the truth about the blood diamond trade in Africa. I know what you’re thinking, “I saw Leo in Blood Diamond, I already know everything about it.” Well, shocking as it may be to here there is more to the story than Leo and Jennifer Connelly were able to show you. Want to know something even more surprising, this movie is pretty funny. Tragic and disturbing in many ways at its core, but really funny.
Little Birds
Interest Level: 0
Let Me Guess, another festival circuit flick finally getting “released”: Yup
Those of you who read my previews every week know how much I tend to love the festival circuit movies that bounce around for a couple of years and then get “released” in preparation for DVD sales and the vain hope for some kind of oscar buzz for some thing. I give you Little Birds. This beauty got more press for the life of its writer/director Elgin James, who was incarcerated after he finished this movie for extortion charges that stemmed from the gang ties of his youth. I’m sure it is a fine little movie just as I am sure I will never cut two hours out of my life to see it.
The Tall Man
Interest Level: 4
Really: No, its probably a 0 too, but I want to root for Jessica Biel for some reason
I don’t know why, but Jessica Biel is one of those actors that I find myself rooting for. Not personally, she does need any help in that area, but I feel like she could be good in the right role, she’s just never found the right role. This is not the right role. This is another one of those throw away horror/supernatural flicks where a mom (Biel) has to understand a legend in order to find her daughter. I know, it sounds stupid. Still, I believe Jessica Biel could be good in something, I’m not sure what that something is, but something.
The Good Doctor
Interest Level: 3
Did you know Elvis’ grand daughter was old enough to star opposite Orlando Bloom: Nope
Shia LaBeouf, meet your future self, Orlando Bloom. Good looking young actor lands big roles in two franchises but can never seem to break out of either of their shadows. Here Orlando gets to play a creepy and obsessed doctor who keeps trying to make his patient sick so she can’t leave the hospital. How awesome is that? Oh well, at least poor Orlando has more money than he will ever know what to do with and he married a supermodel so I suppose it doesn’t matter if he keeps making strange little movie choices.
Atmen (Breathing)
Interest Level: 4
Same problem as Little Birds: Exactly, except this one is in German
Hooray! Another movie that is over a year old that has been bouncing through festivals around the world. This is an Austrian movie (like a German movie, just a little less weird, but still as dark and depressing) about a convict working in a morgue who comes to grips with his crimes. Like I say, it’s from Austria. By the way, the trailer is in German.
The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure
Interest Level: 2
What was your least favorite kids show your son liked: Barney, fortunately he didn’t love it
A lot of my friends were worried about what sports teams their sons were going to get into even when their sons were infants, not me. Don’t get me wrong, I love sports, but the only thing I really wanted to accomplish when my son was an infant was to keep him away from the kids shows that I can’t stand. If my son were an infant now Oogieloves would be #1 on that list (for me it was Barney, and we were able to steer mostly clear of that darn purple dino). Maybe your kid loves this stuff, and if so you have my sympathy.
Chicken with Plums
Interest Level: 4
Are you going to keep ranting about “bouncing through festivals”: Yes I Am
OK, no I won’t. Just read what I wrote about Atmen. This one is French, but their were German’s and Belgian’s involved. It is about a violinist who looses his violin and decides nothing can replace that instrument so he, as anyone would in that situation, decides to curl up in his bed and await death. Man, I love to write plot summaries for foreign film (no sarcasm intended, they are awesome to write about).
Conclusion
Frankly, this slate of movies is about what you would expect for Labor Day weekend. Hollywood is taking one swing for some success (Lawless) and dumping a bunch of other stuff into the multiplexes (most of which wont get any screens because the theaters wont bother).
But hey, what do I know? I’m fat.