Tuesday, March 31, 2009

X-Men Origins: Wolverine leaked online...

Alas, this is no April Fool's Joke...

I wasn't going to name names, but it's pointless now. Someone at 20th Century Fox is in big, big trouble. An apparently full-length DVD quality work print of one of their biggest summer pictures, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, has been leaked to the internet a full month before release. Since the film isn't out yet and no one in the know has commented, we cannot say how recent the cut of this film is. The film is allegedly pretty much complete, save for certain unfinished special effects shots and what not. Reviews (which I have not read) are popping up all over the internet as we speak.

While I have not watched the print, I did take a twenty-second gander (for confirmation) at a streaming video site (after updating my anti-virus software) and I can say that the image and sound are pretty much low-grade DVD quality. Rumors are sure to begin regarding how in the hell this happened and who is responsible. With a copy this (allegedly) good, it's pretty obvious that someone high up the food chain is responsible. Could it be a general annoyed and/or glory seeking Fox employee? Could it be someone upset over the supposed behind the scenes tinkering of Gavin Hood's original concept? Which begs the question, if the finished film ends up being different, is this the cut that existed prior to the meddling? If this cut is not the final cut, then the only plausible reason to leak it (aside from just creating chaos) would be if it was a prior version that represented director Gavin Hood's preferred version. That would be the best case scenario for Fox, as if it really is a 'director's cut', then the geeks will now still have to see the final product in theaters for comparison. My advice to Fox - spend the next month emphasizing how different the leaked cut is to the final print, regardless of whether that's true.

Two years ago, a perfect print of Sicko was leaked online about a week before release, with blame being assigned to everyone from political opponents of Michael Moore to Michael Moore himself. Regardless of who is responsible, this is the rare case where piracy is a genuine news story. This isn't a work print of Hostel 2 released a week or so before release. This isn't a radically different cut of Rob Zombie's Halloween leaking days before release. This is an apparently 90% complete DVD-quality copy of one of the summer's biggest films being leaked online a full month before its theatrical release. This is relatively virgin territory and everyone will be watching the box office for tea leaves.

The only thing I can remember approaching this is the leak of a very early work print of Ang Lee's Hulk a few weeks before the theatrical release back in June, 2003. Some viewers ripped on the film online, complaining of poor (uncompleted) special effects, but most people who cared knew that the film was not as it would be seen in theaters (yes, the film was a financial failure, but remember that it still broke the June opening weekend record with $62 million). If Hulk is the precedent, then the effect on the box office should be minimal. Even if this is as almost perfect as claimed, the vast majority of people do not know how and do not care to download movies and watch them on their computer.

Although, playing devil's advocate, this is not Taken or Gran Torino. This is a $100 million+ tent pole picture that is specifically targeting the very demographic that knows how to download movies. This may be the first real test of the effects of piracy on tent-pole movie going. Plus, you have countless fan boys who still blame Fox for the Watchmen debacle and would theoretically see this as their revenge. If the box office takes a hit, you can be sure you'll hear Jeffrey Katzenberg again trumpeting 3D as the savior of the industry. And, among the major summer spectacles, Wolverine is indeed vulnerable as it is not being goosed in any way (no 3D, no IMAX), that would theoretically demand a trip to the theater.

On the plus side, if the film ends up under performing, 20th Century Fox now has an airtight, media-friendly excuse that cannot truly be challenged or refuted (which, if the film is lousy, will lead to goofy conspiracy theories that Fox leaked it intentionally to give the film an excuse to fail). Come what may, this is just another reminder that the real piracy threat comes from within the studio, not from some movie critic who just wants to keep his cell phone on his person in case of an emergency.

Scott Mendelson

Monday, March 30, 2009

Mother behind Megan's Law speaks out against charging 'sexting' children with child pornography

The current insane trend of charging young people (usually girls) with various forms of child pornography for posting or texting sexual images of themselves has reached such a nadir that the very woman who brought about Megan's Law (which forces convicted sex offenders to register their address with the state every ninety days) is now against it. The case that has caused such outcry involves a fourteen-year old girl who is being charged with 'distribution of child pornography' for posting 30 explicit images of herself on My Space.

Quoted from The Associated Press -
Maureen Kanka -- whose daughter, Megan, became the law's namesake after she was raped and killed at age 7 in 1994 by a twice-convicted sex offender -- blasted authorities for charging the 14-year-old girl.

The teen needs help, not legal trouble, she said. "This shouldn't fall under Megan's Law in any way, shape or form. She should have an intervention and counseling, because the only person she exploited was herself." If convicted, the unlucky teenager could face seventeen years in jail and/or be forced to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life.

Yeah, that'll teach her. I wrote about this just over a month ago. I'll say now what I said then. Here's the simple version of why this is stupid beyond belief. I have a 19-month old daughter. I certainly would prefer she not send sexually explicit photos of herself to her boyfriend (or to a social networking site) when she's fourteen. But, I'm far more afraid of her being branded as a sex offender, with all the goodies that go along with that (having to register, being forced to live in designated areas, being stigmatized, basically being removed from the fabric of society) for engaging in said adolescent sexual misbehavior. And going after kids for being dumb kids in the name of protecting kids is the pinnacle of illogical.

I've never been a fan of Megan's Law. I feel that it amounts to punishment after incarceration and it makes it almost impossible for a convicted sex offender to make any kind of fresh start (thus making recidivism more likely, in my opinion). But it's nice to know that even Maureen Kanka knows that there should be a line between actual sex crime and juvenile misbehavior. As a father, things like this and that Connecticut school that just outlawed touching between students terrify me far more than peer pressure, drugs, or teen bullying. I can do all I can to teach my child to deal with irrational children, but what the hell do I tell them about dealing with irrational, authoritarian adults who can wreck their lives without a second thought?

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Wolverine spin-off to feature comic book costumes? Plus the hilarious new poster.

It's a rare thing when the summer movie season starts with such a big question mark. But the behind the scenes drama regarding X-Men Origins: Wolverine has left the film in serious danger of playing more like Van Helsing than X2: X-Men United. Still, I did notice these action figures while out and about today. The odd thing is that these figures seem to be closer to the comic book counterparts than how the characters allegedly appear in the film. Especially interesting is this pic below, which again seems to suggest that Logan will be donning his comic-book 'yellow tights and spandex' costume. I certainly have not read that anywhere, but then specifics on this movie are pleasantly scarce. At least this figure set actually gives you a few villains (Sabretooth, Deadpool, Gambit, and uh... Agent Zero?) to go along with the standard five versions of Wolverine.

As for this new international poster, is Fox even trying anymore? At best, this brings back not-so-fond memories of Darth Vader's Frankenstein bit at the climax of Revenge Of The Sith. At worst well, am I the only one who thinks it looks like Logan is really trying to hold his bladder? Or, judging by the bulge, it kind of looks like he's popped a most painful adamantium erection of some kind. Either way, the somewhat bright and sunny day plus that not exactly terrifying action pose - not exactly something to inspire confidence from geeks. And unless it's better than the buzz and advertising would suggest, Fox must be insane to release it in France two days prior to the release date (Les critiques d'accord: Wolverine, le film est très mauvais!). Having said that, my expectations for this one are so low that I might just enjoy it by default. Paramount must be jumping for joy. Star Trek may end up being the 'kick off' film of summer after all.

Scott Mendelson

Mendelson's Memos' Weekend Box Office Rundown (03/29/09)

Well, it's 3.55x for Monsters Vs. Aliens. The much hyped 3D toon from Dreamworks took in a best-of-2009 opening weekend of $59.3 million. This includes $16.8 million on Friday, $24.3 million on Saturday (an uptick of 45%), and a $18.2 million Sunday. So, yes, it played like a family film through and through. This is the biggest opening for any kind of 3D film, besting the $40 million that Chicken Little scored in November 2005. Of course, Chicken Little didn't have nearly as many 3D screens as Monsters Vs. Aliens. Plus, today's 3D screens for the Dreamworks feature are charging a $2-3 premium on tickets. For the record, 56% (about $32 million) of its weekend total came from the 28% of its screens with 3D capabilities and 9% of the gross (about $5.2 million) came from the 143 IMAX theaters. Whether the grosses of such 3D hits as Coraline, Monsters Vs. Aliens, and My Bloody Valentine deserve a Roger Maris astrix is open to debate. For now, until any major records are broken, we'll just let it be. But rest assured, as soon as a 3D movie breaks a major record like biggest opening weekend, you'll be sure to hear complaining from the studio of the prior record holder (unless of course, the new record holder is from the same studio as the prior record holder, in which case every other studio will carp).

As for legs, let's review similar films. Chicken Little had mediocre reviews and word of mouth, but it held on through 2005 anyway to gross $135 million (which was and still is Disney's highest grossing non-Pixar toon since Lilo and Stitch in summer 2002). The recent 3D toon Bolt opened with a softer $26 million (against the $69 million debut of Twilight), but it held its ground over the holidays and crossed $114 million. Two years ago this weekend, Disney's Meet The Robinsons debuted in 2D and 3D theaters to about $25 million. Alas, because you people are soulless monsters who don't deserve Meet The Robinsons, it petered out at $96 million (I'd turn you all into ducks, except I don't know how and I don't need a duck). So, like any other type of movie, there is no real pattern to discern. But, since the reviews are similar and the debut is probably similar in terms of tickets sold, I'll go with the Chicken Little multiplier. That one had a 3.4x weekend-to-total multiplier. So a similar final gross is $197.2 million. Let's toss in the holiday weeks coming up (various schools have Spring Break during the next month) and Dreamworks' bragging necessities, and we'll give it $210 million by closing time. However, if it performs like the quick-kill 2.8 multiplier Madagascar 2: Escape To Africa (which is much better than I expected, by the way), it'll end its run with $166 million.

Coming in second with a shockingly large debut is Lionsgate's The Haunting In Connecticut. That one had a decent for a horror film multiplier of 2.4x. So it ended the weekend with $23 million. It comes in just under the $23.9 million debut of Lionsgate's Fahrenheit 9/11 on the list of non-Saw/non Tyler Perry films from Lionsgate. In fact, this opening tops all of the various Screen Gems/Sony horror films that have been raking in over the last three years. That 'end of 2008 blitz' may have been a mixed blessing for Lionsgate, but 2009 has been one whammy after another (save the low-budget New In Town). My Bloody Valentine, Madea Goes To Jail and now The Haunting In Connecticut have all opened north of $20 million. And next month brings Crank 2, which should deliver a solid improvement on the much liked original. The 3D action cartoon Battle For Terra is a riskier gamble (in which mankind is the villain, invading the home of a race of peace loving aliens... subtle), but we'll see how it fares about X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

The holdovers more or less held their own, with two notable exceptions. Disney's Race To Witch Mountain plunged 55% in weekend three, ending its 17th day with $54 million. They had to know that they would get pounded by Monsters Vs. Aliens, but this will single-handedly prevent the film from coming anywhere near $80 million. And Duplicity dropped a disturbing 46%, which is high for an adult comedy/drama. But, once again, had this thing cost $30 or $40 million, the current gross of $26 million would be just fine. But its apparent $80 million budget means that this one is going to hurt Universal badly. This has nothing to do with Julia Roberts' and Clive Owens' box office draw. They both opened the movie at a completely acceptable for its genre level. But the problem is with the budget, which is out of whack with logical box office expectations, and the movie itself. It's a very good, very entertaining movie, but it benefited not one iota from being seen in a theater. Plus, the nature of the film pretty much kills the potential for repeat business (in terms of rewatchability only... possible spoilers... the ending is closer to The Others than The Sixth Sense). It's a darn good movie that should be seen once, but it sure as heck should not have cost $80 million.

I Love You Man dropped a reasonable 28.9%, for a ten day total of $37 million. It's now $2 million ahead of Forgetting Sarah Marshall at the same point. Last week's box office champ Knowing avoided being a one-weekend wonder and dropped a surprisingly solid (for a genre picture) 40%. It's ten day total is $46 million. This is a great sales job from Summit, as the Nic Cage prophecy pic will be the 'second choice' for general moviegoers until the summer season heats up. That it's a better movie than I expected didn't hurt either.

In other news, the Fox dump 12 Rounds opened with $5.3 million. The sad part is that this is a Renny Harlin picture. Yep, the guy who made Die Hard 2: Die Harder and Cliffhanger has now released his second blink-and-you-miss it crap fest in three years (following The Covenant). And that's not counting the stuff that went straight to DVD, like the dumb but entertaining Mindhunters, and the star-studded Cleaner. Seriously, you make one mega-flop, studio-killing pirate-movie and your career is over like that. Yes, Cutthroat Island may have destroyed Carolco Pictures, but it wasn't all that bad (it was actually more entertaining than Waterworld).

Watchmen is now at $102 million, and Coraline lost 1,071 out of 1,431 of its screens (despite dropping just 21% the weekend before). Coraline dropped 85% this weekend and will now limp to $75 million. While this is a fine result, this wonderful film could have easily made it to $100 million if it hadn't been so abused by other 3D projects (Jonas Brothers, Monsters Vs. Aliens) during its run. If you look at its performance, it held its weekend drops well below 25% each weekend when it wasn't getting its 3D screens swiped out from under it. And both He's Just Not That Into You and Madea Goes To Jail are struggling like mad to get to $100 million. Neither of them will make it and both of them would have done so quite easily with a healthy second-run marketplace (for that matter, under such conditions Twilight would have crossed $200 million before its DVD debut).

Next week we get the class-reunion-ish Fast and Furious (why won't Universal embrace the madness and just title one of these 'Faster and Furiouser'?) and Greg Mottola's Adventureland.

Scott Mendelson

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Mendelon Memos' Friday night box office rundown (03/27/09)

This will be shorter than usual because so much is up in the air due to the nature of the two big openers. I will say that there was a major surprise and it's not what you're thinking.

Yes, the Paramount/Dreamworks animated spectacle Monsters Vs. Aliens opened to number one with a rock-solid $16.7 million. But we do not yet know if this will play like a family film (3.5x multiplier gives it $58 million for the weekend) or a mainstream hit (3x gives it $50 million) or a front loaded franchise picture (2.5x gives it $41 million). As it is, the under $20 million opening day suggests a solid Saturday and Sunday bump (since Friday is still a school day in March). Regardless, it needs to do at least $50 million to justify the (self-imposed) hype. Amusingly, Dreamworks was bragging about a $60 million opening weekend, while Paramount was trying to temper the buzz, claiming they only expected $50 million. When the studio itself is raising expectations and calling it the dawn of a new age, it better at least meet those studio expectations. We'll see tomorrow. I'm quite curious to see what the percentage is in regards to 2D vs 3D vs IMAX 3D ticket sales.

But the big surprise for me this weekend is the knockout $9.5 million opening day for The Haunting In Connecticut. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I'm pretty sure that this is the biggest opening day for any Lionsgate movie that isn't a Saw film or a Tyler Perry production (that previous record I believe belonged to the $8.5 million opening day for Fahrenheit 9/11). This looked more like a Sony horror picture, with its PG-13 rating and emphasis on kids and family strife (think Prom Night or The Messengers). And it opened at the high end of that studio's horror properties. Prom Night opened to a $9.5 million Friday and When A Stranger Calls opened to $9.1 million.

Lionsgate had one truly scary image to sell (the mysterious 'something' coming out of young boy's mouth) that they used it on the poster and every piece of print advertising, and they also ended every trailer and TV spot with it. That single shot is responsible for I'd guess 70% of the money that the movie makes this weekend. But, once again, its weekend is up in the air due to the front loaded nature of the horror genre. While one expects a low multiplier, the reviews are better than expected (never have I read so many two-star reviews with so many good things to say) and the film could theoretically skew more adult with its old fashioned haunted house storyline, its PG-13 rating, and its emphasis (in the trailer) on grown up actors Virginia Madsen and Tate Donovan.

The holdovers performed about as expected, with one mild exception. Knowing dropped a pretty solid 48%, which means it'll end the weekend with about a 45% drop (these days, especially for a science fiction picture, that's considered legs). I Love You Man will drop the usual 1/3 that Judd Apatow films usually do, meaning that it'll play into the beginning of summer. Duplicity dropped a disturbing 50%. Usually adult-themed pictures compensate for their less than huge opening weekends with stronger legs. The theory is that adults don't need to rush out and see a movie on opening weekend. But this way too expensive caper picture is now likely to struggle to even make it to $40 million. That's a shame, as it's a good, fun, twisty little movie that allowed Julia Roberts and Clive Owen to shine. It deserved better. But then, had Tony Gilroy and company kept the budget in check (how on earth did this no frills character-driven comedy thriller cost $80 million?), this wouldn't have been an issue.

That's pretty much all of the news that's fit to print. I'll discuss weekend figures tomorrow or Monday.

Scott Mendelson

Friday, March 27, 2009

Watchmen finally crosses $100 million...

I come not to gloat, but to mourn. It took a shockingly long 21 days, and it's pretty much finished at the domestic box office, but Watchmen has passed the $100 million mark as of Thursday. Truth be told, this will struggle to reach $110 million total, which means it will be by far the worst weekend-to-total multiplier for any movie to open at $50 million or more. Ironically, it will only be the third worst high-profile 'opening-weekend to total domestic gross' multiplier this season. Both Friday The 13th and The Jonas Brothers 3D Concert Experience will end their run having made well over 60% of their totals on opening weekend.

Had Watchmen kept its budget at $100 million (and had WB made sure that it actually owned the rights to make the movie), then this figure would be embarrassing on the surface level, but something that could be eventually profitable. But the apparent $150 million cost, plus the Fox lawsuit, means that this flawed but ambitious film is going to lose quite a bit of money. This also puts far more pressure on Terminator: Salvation than it deserves. Plus, I'm sure Warner Bros is thanking the stars that they decided to move Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince into July, 2009. I will say, that the only thing more surprising than Watchmen actually opening to $75 million (as certain parties had predicted) was its final gross coming in at barely $100 million. I don't think anyone thought it would collapse so quickly and so brutally.

Scott Mendelson

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Review: The Education Of Charlie Banks (2009)

The Education Of Charlie Banks
101 minutes
rated R

by Scott Mendelson

The Education Of Charlie Banks is a film that succeeds at being good without really succeeding in being worthwhile. This directorial debut from Fred Durst (his second feature, The Longshots, was released late last year) is handsomely produced, exquisitely acted, and relatively well-paced. It works well-enough as a character study and a tone poem. But it is not terribly potent and lacks deeper meaning beyond surface thoughts regarding nature vs. nurture and whether or not people can change.

A token amount of plot: Charlie Banks (Jesse Eisenberg) witnesses an acquaintance brutally beating two students at a high school party. Stung by pangs of conscience, Charlie goes to the police, resulting in the arrest of one Mick Leary (Jason Ritter). However, he later changes his mind and recants his testimony. Flash forward three years, and Charlie is now in college, making new friends and exploring the opposite sex. Out of the blue, Mick pops up in his dorm room, wanting to hang out with Charlie and his roommate. Why is Mick here? Does he know that it was Charlie who ratted him out? And is Mic's sudden interest in the books, classes, and lifestyle of secondary education a ruse, or is this once violent thug trying to assimilate himself into a better person?

First and foremost, Jason Ritter delivers a revelatory performance as a lower-class street punk who is seemingly injecting himself into a higher social class. Ritter maintains a charismatic charm even as he remains always on edge, always seemingly about to lash out. The slow burn suspense is one of the highlights of the film. The rest of the acting is acceptable, and Jesse Eisenberg plays a vastly different young man than he does in Adventureland (this film was shot two years ago, so it's presumably a coincidence that it opens just a week before the higher-profile Greg Mottela project). I appreciated that Charlie's crush, and Mic's romantic conquest (Eva Amurri), is a real human being, rather than an idealized dream girl.

Although the finale skirts with that hoariest of climactic cliches, there is nothing particularly wrong with The Education Of Charlie Banks. It's a solid and surprisingly subtle directorial effort from the musician turned filmmaker. But it's also almost aggressively unremarkable. It is not a bad film, and it may even be a good film. But failed to make much of an impression and the best I can muster is half-hearted respect.

Grade: B-

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spike Jonze's Where The Wild Things Are trailer goes online...

With the possible exception of Watchmen, no movie this year comes with more 'what the hell are they thinking?' baggage than Spike Jonze's live-action adaptation of Where The Wild Things Are. This allegedly wildly over budget ($115 million thus far), but refreshingly old-school fantasy (note the actual costumes rather than CGI) opens from Warner Bros on October 16th, 2009. I don't have the deep emotional connection to the original storybook as others do, but this is just the kind of artistic gamble that has made Warner Bros. my favorite major studio. I'll let the trailer speak for itself. While I'm always suspicious when there is almost no dialogue, this teaser is certainly an attention grabber.

Scott Mendelson

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs trailer...

This one is for my wife. I think the trailer looks about as boring as unbuttered toast. Frankly, the mad scientist set-up seems to suggest that most of the movie is the sort of invented and contrived back story and padding that marred such feature-length adaptations of such short stories as The Grinch. Besides, the set-up also seems to be directly cribbing from Meet The Robinsons. Still, my wife loves this book, and she'll likely drag me to this one come September 18th (hopefully Allison will be able to join us). Anyway, enjoy the trailer for Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs.

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

If you loved The Go-Getter, then you must see The Dirty Garage!

The only thing that's missing is a cameo by (pick your favorites) Zooey Deschanel, Patrick Fugit, Jena Malone and/or Lou Taylor Pucci.

Scott Mendelson

Monday, March 23, 2009

Review: Adventureland (2009)

107 minutes
Rated R

by Scott Mendelson

In Hollywood, political capital often comes in the form of a one-time free pass to make whatever movie you want to make. If you're Paul Thomas Anderson, you capitalize on Boogie Nights by getting New Line Cinema to fund Magnolia. If you're Darren Lynn Bousman, you use your hundreds of millions that you've made for Lionsgate over Saw parts II, III, and IV to get them to finance that horror rock-opera you've always wanted to make: Repo: The Genetic Opera. And, of course, most famously, if you're Cameron Crowe, you use the huge financial and critical success of Jerry Maguire to get funding for an autobiographical coming of age story that eventually becomes Almost Famous. All of these films were deeply personal passion projects, and each of them were financial under performers. After that one freebie, each of the directors went back to making movies that would theoretically turn a profit.

Now it's Greg Mottola's turn. After scoring a major commercial and critical hit in August, 2007 with Superbad (and then watching as producer Judd Apatow got all of the credit), Mottola has gone the Cameron Crowe route, using his limited capitol to fund a deeply personal, autobiographical saga that fictionalizes the writer/director's coming of age. The end result is Adventureland, a down to earth, almost gritty variation on the cliched 'young man comes of age with the help of a hot girl' sub-genre that is ripe for satire in the wake of Almost Famous, Napolean Dynamite, Garden State, Thumbsucker, and Charlie Bartlett. Some of these are better than others (Almost Famous is one of the best movies of this decade and Thumbsucker is insanely well acted), but they almost all fall into the trap of adolescent fantasy. What separates Adventureland from something like Garden State is a commitment to realism and plausibility. In fact, at times, it is almost too realistic given the location's inherent value as a comic prop. For a film set primarily in an amusement park, the film isn't terribly amusing.

Some plot: It's 1987, and James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) was fully expecting to spend his post-college, pre-grad school summer touring Europe with friends. Alas, economic woes have crippled his family, and he is forced to spend the summer working as a minimum wage-earning games operator at a local amusement park. Things perk up when he runs into Em Lewin (Kirsten Stewart), a fellow employee who catches his fancy. As James attempts a potential romance with Em and navigates his way through friends and foes at the park, life lessons are learned, mistakes are made, and James has the opportunity to find out what kind of person he wants to be for the rest of his life.

There are almost no plot developments in Adventureland that will surprise anyone in the audience. But the picture does have a shaggy charm, and that is due to the down-to-earth acting and Mottola's refusal to paint any of his characters as completely good or completely evil. While certain supporting actors (including Ryan Reynolds, Bill Hader, and Kristen Wiig) threaten to fall into stock types, the dialogue keeps them individualized. And the film never passes judgment on the actions of its inhabitants, and everyone comes off as mostly sympathetic, even while we may disagree on their choices. Like Thumbsucker, this is a coming of age tale that makes sure its characters are people first and eccentric types second. And, frankly, this is the rare variation on this story where the female lead is given as much of a story arc as the male lead. Kirsten Stewart's Em is not merely a prize to be won, but a flesh and blood human being with her own issues to resolve.

As admirable as its intentions are, the fact stands that Adventureland just isn't all that funny. While the film is never intended to be as broad as Superbad, it also fails to take advantage of the amusement park setting that should be its calling card. I can't recall another comedy that took place in a theme park, so there is certainly material to be mined. But the rides and games of Adventureland barely make an impact. Frankly, the park could be switched out for any other workplace (such as a bowling alley) without affecting the somewhat rote romantic comedy storyline one iota. None the less, I am aware that I am coming close to critiquing the movie I wanted to see, rather than the film that was made. Taking that into account, I will acknowledge that the film works in the arenas that it chooses to play in. The dialogue is sharp and authentic, the acting is spot-on, and there is a refreshing lack of artificial whimsy. I appreciated the cliches that are avoided (such as a second-act romantic dilemma that really isn't), and I acknowledge that the film is a better than average version of its sub-genre. Adventureland is a good, solid little film, and I suppose that is enough for its makers.

But the novelty of setting a comedy at an amusement park is as underutilized here as it was in Beverly Hills Cop III. The opening act has fun with the setting, but the film then quickly forgets its novelty. It's the rare movie that is almost too realistic and too down-to-earth. Adventureland brings to mind that climactic line from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence; "When truth becomes legend, print the legend". The movie may be a relatively authentic account of Greg Mottola's summer of love, but there is a part of me that wishes he embellished just a little bit.

Grade: B

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Review: Knowing (2009)

120 minutes
Rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

Knowing is an awfully odd duck of a movie. It is also unexpectedly brave, going in directions that the trailers barely hint at and that audiences surely will not expect. I was lucky enough to see this relatively blind. If you have any intention of seeing this film, I heartily recommend you do the same. This is a severely flawed, but also a fascinating and engrossing science fiction film, a picture that offers far more than surface thrills.

A token amount of plot - John Koestler (Nicolas Cage, in a mostly low-key, in the service of the story performance) is a college science teacher who is still mourning the death of his wife. Left to raise his partially deaf son alone, he is obviously on edge and perhaps all too susceptible to mathematical coincidence. When his son is given a letter from a fifty-year old time capsule, a letter which is nothing but numbers from head to toe, John inexplicably realizes that the numbers seem to be pointing out the dates and body counts of every major disaster of the last fifty years. Is this just bizarre coincidence? If not, then what about the several would-be disasters that have yet to happen?

Yes, the film starts out as a moodier variation on the superior first act of Jim Carrey's The Number 23 (the rest of the movie... not so much). But it eventually progresses into something far different, something that deals with predestination, free will, and the terrible burden of foreknowledge in a fashion that will be familiar to fans of director Alex Proyas's previous genre films (The Crow, Dark City, I Robot). Like Dark City (although this film isn't nearly as good as that genre-defining masterpiece), Knowing asks just what is the point of our lives and our actions if everything is mapped out for us by forces beyond our control. On the other hand, if there is no fate, no great plan, then why bother to excel, to build lives for ourselves, if it can all be rendered moot by random chance? Does either ideology negate both the consequences of our choices and actions and the concept of personal responsibility?

Nicolas Cage's journey eventually brings him in contact with the grown daughter (Rose Byrne of TV's Damages) of the young girl who wrote the original time capsule number sheet, as well as pale-skinned, dark-suited strangers who seem to be in tune with what is really going on (sorry, couldn't resist). While the third act falters with too many repetitious scenes of meaningless action and incident (avoiding spoilers here), the film eventually builds up a Stephen King-type dread, the fear of inevitability. Like many of King's stories, the theoretical end-game of Knowing is revealed just soon enough for us to wonder if the tragedies can actually be prevented. But like Dark City (and Hancock for that matter), this is a film that still has story to tell right up until the final scenes. And the finale goes for emotional impact rather than pure technical merits, which makes the climax surprisingly potent all around (like Dark City, there is at least one image that is completely unexpected and will take your breath away).

This is not a perfect film. The characters occasionally do dumb things (the leads leave their cars with the engine turned on and the keys in the ignition at least three times) and the third act drags between some major reveals and the climax of the picture. But this is a much darker, more somber, and far more meaningful picture than I was expecting. The supporting characters bring a refreshing intelligence to the proceedings, and the relationships between friends and family feels worn in and authentic. Nicolas Cage is certainly put to better use here than in Bangkok Dangerous, although those who yearn for the return of 'wild and crazy Cage' will be disappointed.

Knowing is a solid science fiction picture with much on its mind. By daring to not explicitly answer its many questions regarding predestination and free will, it allows for debate and discussion. It may not be a great film, but it is a genuinely good film that is genuinely haunting.

Grade: B

For a spoiler-filled, but intellectually stimulating essay on Knowing, try Roger Ebert's 'A Roll Of Whose Dice?'

Saturday, March 21, 2009

In defense of Nicolas Cage...

As seems to happen whenever Nicolas Cage releases a commercial movie such as Knowing, the critics and pundits are bitterly asking just what happened to this once brilliant, artistically inclined thespian and why oh why has he sold out? Guess what folks? Nicolas Cage is still Nicolas Cage and he's always been the same quirky, half-insane goofball who would eventually name his son Kal El (yeah, I love Batman, but I didn't name my daughter Selina, Pamela, or Talia). The difference is one of expectations and selective memory.

Nic Cage was making movies for about thirteen years before he won the 1995 Best Actor Oscar and became a mainstream player. In between Fast Times At Ridgemont High and Leaving Las Vegas, this allegedly fallen star made such high-brow, intellectually simulating entertainments as Trapped In Paradise, Valley Girl, and Amos and Andrew. Yes, he also made such movies as Red Rock West, Raising Arizona, and Peggy Sue Got Married. He was a working actor who alternated between occasionally lousy studio movies and often artistically superior low profile entertainments. Some of these movies made money, many of them did not. What we forget was that, prior to Leaving Las Vegas, Nic Cage was never all that respected as an actor. He was an offbeat performer, someone who often added a little color to the films he appeared in. Every time he gave a solid dramatic performance in something like Red Rock West, critics acted a little surprised. When he stole the show with his manic villain in Kiss Of Death, critics raved about a new high for this cult actor.

Leaving Las Vegas was a revelation for many, but in retrospect, it was partially just Nicolas Cage doing his shtick in a toned down version, for a film of genuine quality and morose contemplation. It was Nic Cage being Nic Cage, but with an entire film worth of back story and context to give his antics 'deeper meaning'. After he won the Oscar, he did three big-budget action films in a row. Why? Because he was a geek at heart and he wanted to do action films dammit! It helped that all three films were of a respectable quality. More importantly, it wasn't 'action star Nicolas Cage'. It was 'Nicolas Cage... in a big budget action film'. The Rock is still Michael Bay's only great film, Con Air was a terrifically entertaining acting treat and quasi genre spoof, and John Woo's Face/Off was and is a masterpiece, and it contains what I still feel is Nic Cage's finest performance. I've always said that Face/Off's acting and dramatic scenes were so good that it would still be a great film without the shoot outs.

After Face/Off, Nicolas Cage got serious. And it's here that critics started to gang up on him. City Of Angels, a pretentious and overly somber remake of Wings Of Desire, was arguably the turning point. The film was a hit, but it contained an unusually gloomy Nicolas Cage performance. Personally, I feel that it's main offense was casting then-TV super cops Andre Braugher and Dennis Franz and failing to give them any scenes together. Super serious films with super glum Nic Cage performances would alternate with the quirky, goofy vibrating-head Cage or ole. He was nutso in the ambitious but mediocre Snake Eyes, but he was sober in the disappointing 8MM (great first half, terrible second half). He was a little of both in Martin Scorsese's vastly underrated Bringing Out The Dead, which closed out the 1990s. After getting panned for palling around with Martin Scorsese, is it any wonder that Cage retreated to the safety net of producer Jerry Bruckheimer? Cage started out 2000 with one of his very worst films, Gone In 60 Seconds (or as I like to call it... 'the action film with no action scenes'). It is this decade that detractors claim that Nicolas Cage 'sold out'. They point to admittedly terrible films like Captain Corelli's Mandolin and The Wicker Man as signs of crossing over to the dark side. There are two problems with this argument.

First of all, if you look at Cage's filmography in this decade, you'll notice that he actually has a somewhat decent batting average. You have studio garbage like Ghost Rider, Next, and Bangkok Dangerous. But you also have genuine art like Adaptation, Matchstick Men, Lord Of War, and The Weather Man. If critics and audiences ignore Lord Of War and then take notice of Ghost Rider (a terrible film with plenty of Nic Cage quirk), they can't then say that Cage is a sell-out who only does big studio confections. As it is, if you recall, many of the reviews for The Weather Man seemed to criticize Paramount for releasing such a character-driven, small scale drama (how dare they release an intelligent drama for adults, instead of passing it off to Paramount Vantage!).

As for the uber-successful National Treasure series (by far his highest grossing films), I kinda like them. They are, if I may, incredibly stupid but genuinely fun, with lots of good actors (Sean Benn, Ed Harris, Jon Voight, Helen Mirren, Harvey Keitel) getting paid a solid sum to engage in historically-based PG-rated, family friendly adventure. I wouldn't want every film to be National Treasure (just like not every home should have a bowl of freshly cut lemons in the refrigerator), but I'm glad there is one series that fills that void. Random anecdote: I took a private school principal on a first date to see the first National Treasure (somehow Kinsey didn't seem appropriate) and I'm convinced the reason I didn't get a second date was that she was offended that I had taken her to an education-based movie that was so willfully dumb.

Nicolas Cage has made sixteen live-action films in this present decade (counting Knowing and not counting his ten-second Grindhouse cameo). About half of them have been big studio genre pictures that haven't been well received. The other half have been either well-received studio films (I hated World Trade Center, but I'm in the minority), or artistically inclined pictures that mostly flopped. So, for all the huff and puff, Nicolas Cage still seems to operate on the 'one for them, one for me' principle. He is a working actor who is undeniably past his prime, but still makes interesting choices regardless of whether the films work out in the end. And, for those who think that Cage has gotten dull... answer me this... could any other actor have made a film as awesomely terrible as The Wicker Man?

In the end, Nicolas Cage suffers from a very simple problem. He alternates between big budget studio genre pictures and smaller, more artistically inclined films. The issue is that critics and pundits inexplicably choose to ignore the smaller stuff and then use the mainstream tripe to nail him to the wall as the poster boy of an 'actor who became a performer'. They ignore Lord Of War and focus only on Next. They call him a sell-out because National Treasure was a smash hit, forgetting that Adaptation was not. They forget that Nicolas Cage will always do whatever film Nicolas Cage wants to do. Maybe, just maybe, Nicolas Cage always wanted to be a movie star, as opposed to a 'serious actor' (why else do you think Cage followed up an Oscar with three slam-bang action films?). And really, what's wrong with that as long as he does what he wants to do? We should all be so lucky.

Nicolas Cage is not the best actor in Hollywood nor is he the worst. He doesn't have the worst track record of any major star nor does he have the best. He has a varied filmography, with various genres, many interesting directors, and far more smaller-scale pictures than you'd think from all the hand-wringing. He may not be worth idolizing, but he is not the poster boy for anything wrong with Hollywood or the movies in general.

Scott Mendelson

Friday, March 20, 2009

Blu Ray Review: Tales Of The Black Freighter and Under The Hood (2009)

Watchmen: Tales Of The Black Freighter and Under The Hood
Available of DVD and Blu Ray on March 24th from Warner Home Video.

by Scott Mendelson

I mentioned a few weeks back that, as I watched the theatrical adaptation of Watchmen, I found myself going back to the original source material, and using my memory of it to fill in the contextual blanks that the film, by virtue of its length, had to leave out. Even at 161 minutes, the film seemed to occasionally only skim the surface of the rich tapestry that Moore and Gibbons laid out back in 1987. Warner Bros. seemed to sense this even before the film was screened and released. Because they have now released two separate spin-off DVD/Blu Ray releases to coincide with the film. The first, reviewed a few weeks ago, was a animated audio book version of the entire Watchmen comic book text. This second bit, released on Tuesday, is something a bit different. This direct-to-DVD release is comprised of two short features, both of which replicate large chunks of the contextual material that was (understandably) edited out of the Watchmen feature.

Tales Of The Black Freighter
24 minutes
Rated R

Tales Of The Black Freighter
was originally a comic book pirate adventure entitled 'Marooned', the narrative of which was spliced into several Watchmen chapters as a form of running commentary to coincide with the present tense storyline. The story was by itself relatively unessential, so its absence from the feature is logical. It works only as a counterpoint to the story that we are already following. Thus, as a stand-alone animated short, its potency as a story is limited.

The tale simply involves the single surviving mariner captain (voiced by Gerald Butler) who struggles to return home to warn his family of an oncoming attack by seemingly supernatural pirates who wrecked his ship and slaughtered every one of his men. The plot unfolds with rich animation and some genuinely shocking violence and gore (the feature film, which was attacked for amping up the grisly imagery, pales in comparison to the icky carnage on display here).

But, in the end, it lacks context on its own, since its primary purpose was originally to provide context to another, longer narrative. I won't say much more than that, because to divulge the 'deeper meaning' behind this story would be to reveal climactic plot spoilers in the Watchmen comic and feature film. It is visually gorgeous and it's well worth watching at least once, but it lacks a stand-alone purpose that would justify its (for now) stand-alone purchase.

Grade: C+

Under The Hood
38 minutes
Rated PG

The other major exclusion from the Watchmen feature comprised of plain text pages from the autobiography of Hollis Mason, the original Nite Owl who roamed the streets meting out justice in the 1940s. Around this narrative the filmmakers have fashioned a surprisingly entertaining faux documentary. This is shot in full-screen and looking every bit as worn and faded as something that was aired on television in 1985. It fills in all kinds of contextual blanks and allows actors who appeared in mere cameos in the feature to take starring roles as they pontificate on their earlier glory days. Stephen McHattie (Hollis Mason/Nite Owl) and Carla Gugino (Sally Jupiter/Silk Spectre) are the main interview subjects and they wax in depth about subjects of the past that were hinted at in the film's lovely opening credit sequence.

As I mentioned in my review of the live-action feature, the most potent elements of the film were the sad, mournful ruminations on past glory days and times gone by, highlighted by Patrick Wilson and Carla Gugino. These painful memories take the spotlight and thus this fake television program is more effective than you'd expect. All of the characters who appear in the film are played by the same actors here (even Jeffrey Dean Morgan appears briefly). This also looks and feels far more genuine and authentic than the countless fake documentaries that litter the supplemental sections of various DVDs (think Saw II). Again, this may not warrant repeat viewing, but this featurette of sorts actually exists as its own thing, outside of the context of the original work that it supplements.

Grade: B

The Blu Ray -
The image for Tales Of The Black Freighter is stunning and vivid, with bold, dark colors and detailed animation (the red stains of blood are especially potent). Due to its nature, Under The Hood looks much less impressive, but its worn, scratched up appearance only adds to its appeal. Due to my mere English 2.0 DLP television, I can only vouch for the clarity and crispness of the audio tracks and cannot make any claims about the surround. The few extras are a 25-minute making of documentary, a ten-minute preview of Green Lantern (the next DCAU animated feature), a digital copy of the main two features, and the first chapter (25-minutes) of Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic.

Kudos to Warner Bros. for taking the time and money to make these supplemental features to add further context and depth to the theatrical world of Watchmen. Whether these features, which are short enough to merit inclusion on an eventual DVD/Blu Ray set, are worth paying full price for is an open question. Die-hard fans will want to watch these as soon as possible. All others can wait until their inevitable inclusion on the various DVD/Blu Ray sets of the feature film.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Natasha Richardson dies at 45 - and People Magazine is there (with 3D glasses!)

As most of you know by now, Natasha Richardson died yesterday after a skiing accident. Obvious sympathies go out to husband Liam Neeson, their two sons, and surviving friends and family. What astonished me yesterday was the sheer speed in People Magazine already having a cover story out on the same day as her death, trumpeting an inside look at 'her tragic accident' (the photo is from Jeff Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere). I haven't read the article because I frankly don't care. It's not really my business, and I usually don't comment on stuff like this. But what is worthy of commentary is the tasteless banner headline 'with 3D photo glasses inside'. I have no idea what those glasses are actually for (a Monsters Vs. Aliens ad?), but the combination of the two headlines is both tactless and (unintentionally?) creepy, with the magazine implying that this issue has 3D photos of the skiing accident and/or a family grieving. I don't have any grand thesis here, it just gave me uncomfortable pause.

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ron Silver - 1946-2009 (RIP)

Because of my heavy workload this week, I neglected to comment on the passing of actor/activist Ron Silver. He had been battling esophageal cancer for two years, and the disease had crippled his vocals before it claimed his life. I remember driving home several months ago and listening to him speak on the Larry King show on the radio. As I heard his once precise and articulate voice now sound raspy, hoarse, and fragile, I immediately knew he was sick.

Much has been made in the various obituaries over his post 9/11 political transformation from liberal activist to Iraq war cheerleader. Like Dennis Miller, he was a Democrat who remained social liberal, but became a national security hawk after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks in 2001. Whether or not this change cost him jobs over the last eight years I cannot say (I'd argue that he simply fell out of favor, like so many 'oh that guy' actors who worked just enough to not worry about money). If his political beliefs did cost him work, I'd say it's our loss.

He was one of my favorite character actors, a man who excelled at playing ruthlessly intelligent men, who sounded correct even if their logic was faulty. He was, along with Oliver Platt, my favorite reoccurring guest star on The West Wing, the kind of actor who could make Aaron Sorkin's rat-tat-tat dialogue transcend poetry and become musical theater. He made schlock like Time Cop and Blue Steel feel like art, and he made a good genre film like The Arrival feel genuinely great. Speaking of which, Lionsgate is putting The Arrival on Blu Ray in a bare bones, but gorgeous looking disc on April 21st. I heartily recommend a rental for this forgotten gem.

For a deluge of famous entertainers and political activists (Alec Baldwin, Ben Stiller, Paul Begala, Franl Luntz, Laurence O'Donnell, Robert Greenwald) eulogizing one of their own, go to The Huffington Post and scroll down to the bottom. I can think of no better testament than posting this little ditty. It's the trailer and opening credits for an unaired pilot called Heat Vision And Jack. It stars Jack Black, Christine Taylor, and Owen Wilson as a talking motorcycle. It also features Ron Silver as murderous secret government operative Ron Silver.

Scott Mendelson

Monday, March 16, 2009

Watchmen continues to bleed, Witch Mountain races to #1, and Taken will not die (weekend box office rundown for 03-15-09)

Well, the bleeding clotted somewhat on Watchmen, with a 'mere' 68% drop in weekend two, ending with $17.7 million. It's ten-day take is now at a troubling $85.7 million. It will limp to $100 million by next weekend. As it is, it will be somewhat protected via IMAX until Monsters Vs. Aliens takes every IMAX and 3D screen on Earth on March 27th. I've said much about this film's box office over the last ten days, so I'll simply state that at this point, the blame goes not to the 'challenging material' or lack of stars or overly long running time. The problem was that the movie (in the opinion of myself and a surprising number of 'geeks') wasn't all that good, and certainly not good enough to bring in the non-converts. I'm glad it was made, and I'm glad it was allowed to be the movie it was. But I wish it was a better, more disciplined picture. Maybe Watchmen really was an unfilmable property. Oh well, for what it's worth, I'm looking forward to the super-long director's cut (I imagine it'll make a great laundry folding movie).

As for the number one entry this weekend, most people expected Race To Witch Mountain to open at number 01, and myself and others expected about a $25 million haul. It pulled in a 3.6 opening day to weekend multiplier. Even for a family film, that's impressive in this front loaded day and age. It opened to $6.734 million on Friday, shot to $10.898 million on Saturday, then barely passed its Friday gross on Sunday (also a rare feat) with $6.769 million. So the weekend total is $24.4 million and if it displays anything like the legs we've been seeing on such populist entertainments like Taken, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, and He's Just Not That Into You, Race To Witch Mountain will easily pass $100 million and become his highest-grossing star vehicle (The Scorpion King and The Game Plan both grossed around $91 million). Also of note was the statistic that 18% of the audience comprised of adults without children.

Coming in third place was the Wes Craven-produced remake of Wes Craven's The Last House On The Left. It brought in $14.1 million, which is comparable with the $15.7 million opening weekend for the Wes Craven-produced remake of Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes. The Hills Have Eyes remake collapsed pretty quickly, ending with $41 million. I expect a similar fate for this one. I suppose if Craven and company are going to mine his filmography for 2.0 versions, he might as well start remaking his bad films as well as his good ones. I for one eagerly await the remake of Wes Craven's Shocker (who will replace Mitch Pileggi)? But Deadly Friend and Vampire In Brookyln probably ought to be left where they are.

Coming in fourth is the unstoppable Taken with another $6.6 million (off a mere 10.4%). Fox must be laughing its ass off right about now. Not only will this acquisition that almost didn't get released in the US soon surpass Watchmen on the weekend top-ten list, but it will probably out gross Watchmen in the final domestic tally. The Liam Neeson (sure-as-hell ought to be) franchise starter has now grossed $127 million. That's (so far) a whopping 5.12x opening weekend to final gross multiplier, which is unheard of these days for anything but platform releases. I haven't seen legs like this since The Sixth Sense, There's Something About Mary, and Titanic. Ironically, I imagine this will only start cashing out when summer starts, which means that Taken might end up losing its screens to Fox's X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

In other news, Coralane has just about passed $70 million, He's Just Not That Into You has just about reached $90 million, and Madea Goes Go To Jail has reached $83 million. The first will limp to $80 million, the second will make it to $100 million, and last will try its damnedest to reach $100 million and might just get there (again, if second run theaters were still a factor, this wouldn't even be in question). Oh, and Slumdog Millionaire is now the 10th-highest grossing Best Picture Oscar winner of all time with $132 million.

More box office fun next weekend when Alex Proyas (the guy who made Dark City) directs Nicolas Cage in Knowing, and Julia Roberts 'makes a comeback' (IE - returns to making films after choosing to take a break to raise her kids) by teaming with Clive Owen in the allegedly quite good Duplicity. Just remember folks, Julia Roberts has only had $30 million+ three day opening weekends with Runaway Bride, American Sweethearts, Ocean's 11, and Ocean's 12 (a Pretty Woman reunion and large ensemble films). So don't go all 'Julia Roberts is finished as a leading lady!!' if Duplicity 'only' opens to $20 million.

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Blu Ray Review: Winged Migration (2003)

Winged Migration
90 minutes
Rated G
Available on Blu Ray from Sony Pictures on April 7th

by Scott Mendelson

Winged Migration is basically 90 minutes of birds flying from left to right, and then from right to left. I simplify a touch of course, but this exhaustive nature documentary is a travelogue of sorts, as we watch countless species of birds fly all over the world, in a journey spanning forty countries. There is almost no narration, and certainly no spoken word of note, it is simply what it is - birds flying all around the world.

But, to be fair, this is a visually stunning and genuinely watchable travelogue. Unlike March Of The Penguins, which anthropomorphosized its penguin stars and attributed human emotions and thoughts to what was likely instinctual behavior, Winged Migration simply lets the images speak for themselves. While there was certainly a token amount of manipulation behind the scenes (a scene of a goose getting stuck in industrial sludge was staged by the producers, with the bird being freed after shooting), the vast quantity of gorgeous vistas and educational glances at avian behavior makes this worth watching at least once for the imagery. But, again, be forewarned, it's basically just birds flying from point A to point B.

The Blu Ray -

The Video - Needless to say, the image quality on this one is stunning, and arguably the main reason to buy this film in its high-def incarnation. The print is relatively clean and sparkling, and there are moments that look frighteningly three-dimensional (23:44 is worth sampling, and go to around 56:20 for a stunningly 3D shot of birds flying past a castle). The film is a visual wonder, and this disc is too.

The Audio - The 'True HD 5.1' option is offered in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Since I have but a mere 2.0 DLP television, I can only state that this nearly dialogue-free film has crisp audio and the many sounds of nature are always crystal clear. The subtitle options are English, English SDH (which has that annoying Sony habit of actually looking like closed captioning, black box and all), Portuguese, Spanish, Danish, Finnish, Hindi, Norwegian, and Swedish. Frankly, that's a bit exhaustive for a film with hardly any dialogue.

The Extras - With the exception of two trailers (for Open Season 2 and Surf's Up), all of the extras are unfortunately still in standard definition. But they are copious in quantity. There is filmmaker commentary for both the feature and the 13-minutes of still photographs. There are about 25 minutes of filmmaker interviews and a 17-minute featurette on the music. The big extra is an exhaustive 52-minute making of documentary. There are no amazing revelations, but this is solid material that is a boon for fans of the film. All of the bonus materials have English, Spanish, and Portuguese subtitles.

The Film - B+
The Image - A
The Audio - NA
The Subtitles - A
The Extras - B+

With occasionally stunning imagery, and the picture quality that it deserves, this is a worthwhile peak at nature and an engaging documentary. The copious extras enhance the replay value and the Blu Ray makes a terrific must-own release for fans of this Oscar-nominated documentary.


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