The Gift -- A Gift for Fans of 'Real' Movies

What is it about a good movie that makes some of us sit and watch a classic like Goodfellas on T.V. for the 68th time, even with the extra hour of commercials, even when we own the DVD and even with all the profanity and blood edited out? Who knows? But I'm definitely a member of that group, and proud of it.

I take my love of movies so seriously that , occasionally, I wind up lambasting a kids' flick that perhaps, didn't deserve it. Yet, I simply can't help it. When I see a filmmaker go out of his/her way to ignore the fundamental ingredients that make up any great movie, no matter the genre, I go nuts. Especially, when the flying turd does well at the box office. Makes absolutely no sense, and makes me want to leap off a bridge.

If you know what I'm talking about, then the past few years of having to endure superhero mania have probably made you feel like jumping off a bridge, too. It's not just the fans, either. Acclaimed director, Billy Ray (Captain Phillips, Hunger Games), recently echoed the same sentiments when he stated to Variety, "as a film-goer, there are weekends where there is nothing in theaters for me."

I couldn't agree more. Nowadays, I hardly go to the movies any more, as there seems to be three new summer blockbusters released each month, no matter the season. Instead, I spend most of my time surfing Netflix, watching Caddyshack for the 800th time, or waiting until my folks recommend something they think is halfway decent.

I still love going to the movies, but, let's face it, 90% of what's out there usually sucks.

Besides, it's simply not fair that we have megaplexes with 20 theaters, all of which only show the same five movies, each playing in four theaters at once; one in 3-D, one in IMAX, one in IMAX 3-D and one in 3-D IMAX.

Each made for a bajillion dollars. Each giving virtually zero thought to plot, characters, story line, etc. Each only interested in special effects. And each only made for the sole purpose of "raking it in over a single weekend."

Then, along comes a movie like The Gift, starring Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall, made for just $5 million (One day of shooting Chris Hemsworth climbing out of a pile of rubble costs about that), and done without the blood, without the gore, without the violence and without exploding buildings and car chases. Yet, this low-budget underdog manages to keep you on the edge of your seat in suspense better than any of the previously mentioned blockbusters could ever hope to do.

What's even more amazing is it's the directorial debut of Joel Edgerton. Yes, the Joel Edgerton! (FYI, he also wrote and co-stars in the thing -- #underachiever). And although some reviews have called the movie predictable, the thing to keep in mind here is, even if you think you know the ending, you don't. It still leaves you guessing.

Beyond that, even if you manage to figure it out, The Gift is, in my opinion, a terrifically well-made thriller that provides much more bang for your buck than 99 percent of the empty-headed 3-D mania bunch. Why? Because it has a great story, characters, and script, duh! Of course, I'm talking to the adults here. If you're partial to the Ninja Turtles, it must feel like X-mas every day.

Behind Edgerton and The Gift, is STX Entertainment. A newly formed studio that boasts the ability to produce, market, as well as distribute (through several high-profile partnerships) its own films. I know what you're thinking, but this one's different.

Founded by producer Robert Simonds and venture capitalist Bill McGlashan, STX is backed by massive hedge fund capital, and, having pilfered several experienced exec's, i.e. former Universal chief, Adam Fogelson (Ted, Bridesmaids, etc.), this "Little Engine That Could" might just well be able to.

Why? First of all, there are very few studios that exist today (translation: "none") that can say their main focus is making 'good' character/plot driven films, as opposed to ones which, if you've seen the trailer, you've seen all you need to see.

Second, rumor has it, the entire marketing budget for The Gift was only $25 million, total. "How is that enough to ship 100 million Gift glow-in-the-dark, Burger King compass rings," you ask? Guess what, it's not! Can I get an Amen?!

While $25 million may still sound like a lot to us DIY folks, when you realize Universal spent $550 million on marketing Minions alone, you can see, by studio standards, it's peanuts. So far it seems to be working, as The Gift's already grossed over $30 million after less than three weeks in theaters.

Variety recently published a piece on STX wondering if it will be able to weather the storm of studios that came before it, i.e. Dreamworks, Relativity, etc., and who are now barely breathing or whose parts/catalogs have been sold to the highest bidder.

In my opinion, the reason STX will succeed where others have failed is that they're not looking to reinvent the wheel by spending half a billion dollars on rebooting a franchise from 30 years ago, or trying to forcibly start one of their own by green-lighting the sequel before the original's even released.

Their sole focus, at least from the outside, seems to be the pursuit of quality scripts, quality talent, and quality directors -- all within the $20-$60 million range. Something that Dreamworks and their compadres would never have even considered.

Put simply, it seems STX is the "Bernie Sanders" of studios.

This is one movie goer who hopes this little studio, and others like it, end up making their presents known for a long time to come.