Avi Lerner: the new Big Picture movie critic
Avi Lerner is my favorite producer in Hollywood because while everyone else makes such a big show about how much they care about art while busily doing whatever dirty deeds they have to do to get a movie made, Avi is up front about his point of view: If the money is right, he's ready to pull the trigger. Maybe that's why he makes more movies in a year than most producers do in a lifetime. Full of Israeli immigrant energy and salesmanship, he's produced more than 200 films in the past 20 years, including everything from low-low-budget efforts like "Shark Attack" and "Octopus" to the Iraq war film "Home of the Brave" and the recent "Rambo."
But what impressed me when we had lunch the other day was that he goes to the movies every weekend like a regular moviegoer, paying his $11 to see whatever new Hollywood film has popped up in the local multiplex. Sometimes he'll see as many as five films in a weekend. Since today's critics are famously out of touch with the common taste, I decided to recruit Avi as my own personal multiplex movie critic. He doesn't use as many five-dollar words as Manohla Dargis and he doesn't have quite as firm a grasp on the auteur theory as Kenny Turan, but he knows what he likes--and why he likes it--which is always a good starting point for any critic.
Here's Avi's blunt take on some recent studio releases:
"Wanted": "I loved it. It's original. The plot was a little unbelievable, but it has a great twist for the audience. And I have to say--it had some of the best action scenes I've seen all year. You really believe James McAvoy in the part and Angelina Jolie plays such a cool character. At first you think she's on your side and then you're not so sure. It really worked."
"The Love Guru": "The worst movie I've seen in my life. It was so stupid I wanted to cry. Do I really have to say more?"
"Get Smart": "Well, it was much better than 'Love Guru,' but it's not that funny. It's very predictable so there's nothing special about it. I don't like a comedy where you know all the jokes that are coming."
"Sex and the City": "Boring! All these women talking about sex. I've heard that 1,000 times. I don't need to go see a movie to hear a bunch of women talk about sex. But then what do I know--the film made a lot of money."
"The Happening": "I hated it. You know that guy [M. Night Shyamalan] is trying to trick you, which is fine, but there's no target, no frame to it. He just decided that all of Pennsylvania is being wiped out, but he doesn't explain why. And if you don't explain why to the audience, then the audience feels betrayed. Spielberg would never do that. He'd give his characters some motivation, some character development. I mean, why does everyone get killed? I never understood. It just made me feel stupid!"
Avi Lerner photo by Patrick Goldstein / Los Angeles Times