Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Jeff Goldblum rises from the grave on The Colbert Report...

For reasons unknown the embedding code isn't working, so the best I can do is provide a direct link. Regardless, this is a gem.

Scott Mendelson

Monday, June 29, 2009

Paramount finds $2 million under a mattress, so Transformers 2 gets its $200 million five-day gross after all.

Well, the final numbers are out, and Transformers 2's three-day take was only $109 million. Yet they are still claiming that the five-day total was $200 million. How say you? Well, since he sums it up so well, I'll just borrow Brandon Gray's exposition from Box Office Mojo.

* Note: Revenge of the Fallen's weekend gross fell $3 million short of Paramount's Sunday estimate, which would have put the five-day opening at $198.2 million. Though shy of $200 million, it would have still ranked second among the all time five-day starts. However, Paramount revised its grosses from Wednesday and Thursday upward, and that's what pushed the total past $200 million. Wednesday went from $60.6 million to $62.0 million, and Thursday went from $28.6 million to $29.1 million. Paramount reported that the differences came from unreported showings from the movie's midnight openings on Wednesday night, which went from the previously reported $16 million at around 3,000 theaters to $16.8 million at close to 3,300 theaters, as well as late reports from institutional IMAX locations and theaters in Puerto Rico and some Caribbean islands (which the studio counts in its domestic numbers), which accounted for $1.1 million of the difference.

Uh... right. I'm sure that's EXACTLY what happened. I'm sure there's um, 'more than meets the eye' to this would-be box office correction.

Scott Mendelson

Yes, box office write-ups are easier/better when the news is good...

Random thought for the morning: At the end of yesterday's weekend box office roundup, I decided to link to my previous Dark Knight box office columns that were tangentially related to the Transformers 2 five-day box office blowout. As I usually do when I link to an old column, I decided to read them. I discovered something amusing. The Dark Knight pieces are better written, wittier, livelier, more info-packed, and just plain more fun to read. It's obvious in retrospect, but I'm a lot happier, and thus the words and trivia flow easier, when I'm writing about the box office triumph of something I love (The Dark Knight and the Batman franchise in general) than when I'm writing about the box office triumph of something I hate (Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen). Heck, even though I didn't care much for the new Star Trek, I was enough of a fan of the franchise to be happy for its success.

Yes, box office analysis is supposed to be a subjective medium, with writers like myself making subjective conclusions based on objective numbers. But it's interesting to note how much my own feelings about a given box office champion seeps through in a given column.

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Because girls only go to movies with romance in them...?

Apparently, once again, women are being told that they only go to movies for the mushy stuff. Check out this quote from David Germain's AP box office rundown:

"The sequel broadened the franchise's fan base. Females accounted for just 40 percent of the audience for the first "Transformers" but 46 percent for the sequel, (Paramount vice chairman Rob) Moore said. Much of that was due to the on-screen romance for the characters played by Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox, who were relative unknowns when the first movie came out.

Really? You really think that any more than a handful of women went to see Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen because of the thirty-seconds of romantic bantering between Megan Fox and Shia LeBeouf? Right, just like the only reason women saw 300 was because of the five-minute subplot involving the queen's attempts to rally support for her husband's army. And, don't forget Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace, which drew females only because of a female-friendly subplot involving Anakin having to say goodbye to his mother in order to run off to become a Jedi. And of course, the only reason any girl would ever go to a horror film like Scream is because they enjoy the ten-minute finale where the 'last victim' empowers herself, escapes certain death and slays/stops the murderer. No, it's not that women like getting scared and/or they enjoy blood and gore too, it's purely about female empowerment fantasy if you're a female.

All the examples above were actually punditry offered in the wake of those movies' successful box office runs (all but Scream were offered on opening weekend). God forbid we acknowledge that women often see loud, violent action adventure films and intense, gruesome horror films for the same reason that guys stereotypically see them. Some women like watching stuff get blown up. Some women like laser guns, space ships, and lightsaber sword fighting. Some women like getting scared and/or watching teenagers getting hacked to death. And yes, some women love the idea of hundreds of ripped, half-naked warriors hacking each other to pieces with swords. Some women of course like that for prurient reasons, but others still just enjoy the hack/slash carnage. On that note, just as many guys saw Transformers 2 partiallyto ogle Megan Fox, I'm sure more than a few women, young and old, went to Revenge of the Fallen in part to stare at Shia LeBeouf.

It's long since time to retire the sexist notion that women only go to movies that have 'womens' issues' or have 'feminine-friendly' subplots. Women go to movies for all kinds of reasons, many of them gender-neutral. True, some women go to movies like Transformers 2 or X-Men Origins: Wolverine because their romantic partner wants to go. And yes, some women go to such movies because they find the lead actors attractive. But it should be all-too obvious that many, if not most women who go to such movies go because they like them. They go to action films for the action, scary films for the scares, and science fiction fantasy for the science fiction fantasies. It's a pretty simple idea, but the pundits and executives still haven't figured that out.

Scott Mendelson

For more essays involving gender and the movies, try "Sex and the City and the differences between male and female escapist fantasy", "Yes, Twilight is sexist, but...", and "Chick Flicks that aren't" at Mendelson's Memos.

Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen does $112 million for the weekend, $201 million for the five-day opening. Second-biggest five-day of all time.

It's close, but no cigar. Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen ended up $2 million behind The Dark Knight for that much-desired five-day box office record. While I'd wager that Paramount may try to bump up that 'estimate' for tomorrow's finals, the estimate itself implies that Transformers 2 only dropped 14% from Saturday to Sunday, which is a bit optimistic. The finals were be interesting, as if the number is up $2 million, Paramount gets that five-day record, but if it drops by about $2 million, it'll lose the bragging rights for the $200 million five-day gross.

Anyway, the days for Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen -
Wed - $60.6 million (biggest Wednesday ever)
Thurs - $28.6 million (biggest non-opening Thursday ever)
Friday - $36.8 million (biggest non-opening Friday ever)
Saturday - $40.6 million (awfully swell, but no records here)
Sunday - $34.6 million (also terrific, but no records broken)
Three day opening - $112 million; five-day opening - $201 million.

For the record, that makes a five-day multiplier of 3.32x. This puts it in the lower-rungs of five-day opening weekends, but it's nothing to panic about quite yet (it's smack-dab in between Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and The Matrix Revolutions). Regardless of the long-term playability, the Michael Bay sequel is the second film in history to cross $200 million in five-days. It has the second-largest five-day, six-day, and seven-day totals in history after five days. It has three days to make it to $250 million to match The Dark Knight and five days to match Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Can they tie The Dark Knight's eight-day sprint? To paraphrase the immortal words of Barack Obama and/or Bob the Builder, "No, they can't!". The Dark Knight's eighth-day was the Friday of its second opening weekend, while Transformers 2's eight-day will be July 1st, where it will face the double-whammy of Public Enemies and Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if Ice Age 3 supplants Revenge of the Fallen as number one over the long Fourth-of-July weekend.

Despite my distaste for the movie, and the somewhat predictable nature of its performance, this is a truly huge set of numbers we're dealing with here. And, make no mistake, this is exactly the kind of opening sprint that Paramount is praying for when their eventual Star Trek sequel hits theaters in a few years. We have a solid-opening original that ends up being better-liked than expected by audiences and critics, then has a sequel that EXPLODES out of the gate over its opening weekend. Sound familiar? That's the Batman/Pirates/Bourne/Transformers pattern and Paramount can settle for nothing less as it follows up the successful but way over budget Star Trek film. Of course, the word of mouth on this sequel has been less than stunning, but even the loathed Spider-Man 3 avoided anything larger than a 62% drop (although that was partially due to a complete lack of second-weekend competition). The sheer size of the five-day figure means it'll play better than Spider-Man 3 and/or X-Men: The Last Stand (domestic totals about 2.2x the 3-day opening, which Transformers 2 will equal with a mere $45 million more). We won't know the long-term picture until next weekend is complete, but pay close attention to the earliest weekday numbers. Anything below 10% of the three-day figure for Monday and Tuesday respectively is troubling. Anything approaching 5% or below is a recipe for disaster.

Meanwhile, the rest of the top ten did about as expected. The other opener, My Sister's Keeper ended up being shockingly frontloaded, as it could only parlay a $5 million opening Friday into a $12 million weekend gross (2.35x multiplier). Still, considering the super low profile and withering competition, Warner Bros should be thankful that it opened at all. The Proposal dropped a large, but not fatal, 45% and ended weekend two with a solid $69 million, guaranteeing that this will be Bullock's fifth $100 million grossing picture (and Ryan Reynold's second and second-consecutive $100 million+ grosser after X-Men Origins: Wolverine). The Hangover dropped only 35% in the face of Transformers 2, which pretty much guarantees that the popular comedy will end up in the top ranks of all-time grossing comedies (as well as the front runner at next year's MTV Movie Awards). At $183 million, it's already the 10th highest grossing R-rated film of all time, just $4 million below Gladiator (for R-rated comedies, it's at number 3 behind The Wedding Crashers and Beverly Hills Cop). In less pleasant news, Year One dropped a shocking 70% for a second weekend gross of $5.8 million. In ten days, the critically reviled Harold Ramis 'comedy' has earned only $32 million against a cost of $60 million.

In other news, Pixar's Up passed Star Trek for the (temporary) title of 2009's highest grossing film. It crossed the $250 million mark and will be Pixar's second-highest grossing title by next weekend's end. Of course, it will lose most if not all of its 3D screens to Ice Age 3 on Wednesday (if you recall, this loss was a fatal blow to the still popular Coraline earlier this year). So next weekend will be the one to decide if it's a near $300 million grosser, or a legitimate contender for Finding Nemo's $339 million all-time animated runner-up box office crown (behind Shrek 2's $441 million). Finally, the critically acclaimed Iraq-War action thriller The Hurt Locker opened with $144,000 on four screens ($36,000 per screen). It's a scorching limited-release debut, which is meaningless unless Summit has the money and skill to sell this to a national audience. It's awfully good, but it's not as easily marketable as The Kingdom, and even that only opened to $18 million. Of course, the new ten-Best Picture nominees Oscar ruling means that Summit might just want to save its money for the Oscar campaign.

That's the main news that's fit to print. Tune in next time for the box office fate of Ice Age 3 and Public Enemies, as well as the long-term prognosis for the rock-em sock-em robots sequel (time to be determined since I'm moving during the week and I'll be with in-laws over the holiday weekend). For a recap of The Dark Knight's record three day run (and a general history of the record breaking opening weekend), go here. For a recap of The Dark Knight's $203 million five-day sprint, go here. For previous Transformers 2 box office columns, read about Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday in Mendelson's Memos.

Scott Mendelson

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Inglorious Bastards gets an official trailer...

On the surface, this looks like an absolute blast. It appears to be a violent, mean-spirited, wish-fullfillment fantasy that has several big stars (Brad Pitt, Mike Myers) relishing the campy, B-movie cocktail that is Quentin Tarantino's current game plan. While I wish that Tarantino would go back to making movies with character and thematic content (Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown), I cannot deny that this looks like a whacked-out little pleasure. Having said all that, Death Proof looked terrific too, and that turned out to be one of the dullest cinematic experiences of recent years.

I've avoided most reviews coming out of Cannes, especially as the theatrical cut will likely be shorter anyway (the festival cut was 165 minutes). I'm sincerely hoping that this will not be another case of Tarantino making another picture that's 80% verbal masturbation and 20% actual exciting action and/or character development. Whatever the case, this film is The Weinstein Company's last hope to stay in business. So it figures that they'd open it just one week before their other remaining big-money-picture, Rob Zombie's Halloween II.

Scott Mendelson

Transformers does $36 million for Friday...

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen got a solid 28% Friday bump, starting out the Fri-Sun portion of its opening weekend with $36.7 million. In just three days (Wed-Fri), the truly terrible robot sequel has amassed a whopping $125.9 million. This will sadly place the movie at number four for the biggest three-days in history. Ahead of it are only The Dark Knight ($158.4 million), Spider-Man 3 ($151.1 million), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest ($135.6 million), and just ahead of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith ($124.2 million).

It's increasingly likely that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen will come frighteningly close to the $200 million five-day total that it's been chasing. If it can pull in $36 million today, it will beat out Spider-Man 3's $161 million four-day gross for the second-highest four-day total of all time. Word of mouth is seemingly having little effect, even as everyone I've talked to seems to hate it as much as I did. Heck, the word is so lousy that Paramount has seemingly taken to sending out mass fake-Twitter blurbs raving about the film. At the very least, it will all but certainly end Sunday as the third of fourth-highest grossing film of 2009, behind Up and Star Trek, and possibly Monsters Vs. Aliens.

As front loading became more and more prevalent over the years, we've seen the 'quick kill blockbuster' reach bigger and bigger heights. We've gone, in 1994, from a $100 million+ blockbuster that no one liked (The Flintstones) to now, a likely $400 million+ blockbuster that no one actually enjoyed. What this means is that, as big as these numbers are, this really isn't much of a story in the grand scheme of things. When summer 2009 ends, people will be talking about Star Trek, Up, The Hangover, and a few others that open in the next two months (Bruno, Funny People, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, etc). This is not the first time that the summer champ was not the most-liked film. At the end of summer 2000, people were remembering not the box office champion Mission: Impossible 2, but rather Gladiator, Scary Movie, and X-Men.

Her Sister's Keeper, the official counter programming for the weekend, opened with about $5 million, so that's somewhat good news for the Nicholas Sparks-written, Cameron Diaz-starring weepie. Anyway, I'll talk about the other movies when the weekend numbers roll in. By tomorrow (if not today), Up will have surpassed Star Trek as the year's highest grossing movie (a title it will keep until Wednesday at the latest), and The Hangover will have surpassed There's Something About Mary. So there's that going for us. Sigh...

For a detailed analysis of the previous box office days for Transformers 2, go to the Wednesday report and the Thursday report at Mendelson's Memos.

Scott Mendelson

Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter gets a poster all for himself...

It looks like we'll be seeing character-centric posters for all of the main characters in this Tim Burton-directed Alice In Wonderland quasi-sequel (think Return To Oz). I'm assuming we'll see an official high-res version soon enough. Enjoy...

Scott Mendelson

Richard Kelly's The Box gets a trailer...

Warning, this trailer appears more spoilerish than I appreciated. View at your own risk...

This looks like a trashy, B-movie good time. The premise is a simple and compelling one, although I wonder how they'll maintain a full-length feature from what I'm betting had its origins as a short story. I've always been a James Marsden fan, and the idea of Frank Langella as the evil dude who controls everything is all-but irresistible (dig that half-missing face). All that, plus my favorite untrustworthy character actor, James Rebhorn. Cameron Diaz's southern accent is a bit distracting at first, but if the movie is any good, that will pass almost immediately. I was never a hardcore Donny Darko fan and I never saw Southland Tales, but this clearly looks like Richard Kelly's attempt to break out with a more mainstream, star-driven potboiler. It should be fun.

Scott Mendelson

Friday, June 26, 2009

Daybreakers get a trailer...

Intriguingly, the plot looks like it used a giant deleted subplot from the first Blade movie as a taking off point. If you recall, Stephen Dorff's evil plot involved turning the whole world's humans into vampires. A deleted scene answered the puzzling plot hole, 'what will the vampires eat if everyone is a vampire?'. In that moment (which I cannot find on YouTube), we are shown a gigantic tank of imprisoned humans who will be continuously harvested for a permanent blood supply. Other than that interesting nugget, I know nothing about this movie, but the cast (Sam Neill, Ethan Hawke, and Willem Dafoe) inspires a token amount of confidence. I never saw the Spierig Brothers' previous film, Undead, but I've heard good things about it. The trailer certainly looks ambitious and artistically inclined. We'll see...

Tranformers 2 does $28.6 million on Thursday...

Before today, the current record-holder for a non-opening Thursday was $23 million, for Spider-Man 2 (the biggest opening Thursday is Revenge of the Sith's $50 million). Transformers 2 seems to have pasted that one with $28.6 million (down 53%), just as it crushed the previous Wednesday record the day before. It's still hard to tell where the film is going by weekend's end. It seems to be playing a little better than Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. That one dipped 59% from $44 million on Wednesday to $18 million on Thursday. Granted, that was a hardcore fanbase franchise where the die-hards had to see it right away, while the rest could just wait until Friday. That picture had a Wednesday to full-five day multiplier of 3.15x. That's easily the lowest multiplier of recent Wednesday tentpole openers. For example, the 'disappointing' opening of The Matrix Revolutions had a 3.44x ($24m opening day and $83m five-day total). Just for fun, if Transformers 2 followed the five-day path of Shrek 2's opening weekend ($11.7 million opening, $128.9 million finish), it would have ended Sunday with $698 million.

So, heading into the weekend, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen has already amassed $89 million, earning in two days a bigger gross than the year's highest three-day opening weekend (X-Men Origins: Wolverine's $85 million). This is the fourth-biggest two-day total in history, behind The Dark Knight ($114 million), Spider-Man 3 ($111 million), and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest ($100 million). The Dark Knight's five-day record ($203.7 million) may be in jeopardy, and the five-day opening weekend record (Spider-Man 2's $152 million) is likely as good as dead. Yes, the word of mouth could be so poisonous as to affect the weekend traffic (see - Superman Returns). The death of Michael Jackson could cause people to stay home and watch the news (not likely, but Eyes Wide Shut did take a hit when JFK Jr's plane went down over the Kubrick film's opening weekend). But in all likelihood, a near-$200 million five-day figure is a pretty sure thing at this point. Obviously, the tea leaves will be easier to read on Saturday morning, once the Friday numbers come in.

Scott Mendelson

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Invention of Lying trailer.

This looks like an uncommonly clever concept, although the plot strands seem to become a bit generic. Still, what a cast... I might see this one just for the countless worthwhile people in it. On the plus side, the 'everyone tells the truth' premise means that even the women (Jennifer Garner, Tina Fey, and Stephanie March) will be allowed to be just as funny as the men, which is occasionally a problem in mainstream comedies. And, at some point, I really do need to see Ricky Gervais's last picture, the allegedly charming Ghost Town. Come what may, this looks like quite a bit of stupid fun.

Scott Mendelson

RIP - Michael Jackson (August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009)

I have no great obituary, no epic essay on his career. There are other places for that. I was just a fan as a young child of the 1980s, like so many others. I have no profound words other than the sad sting of inevitability (the speed in which the feature articles went up implies that the news magazines and newspapers have been planning this for awhile). Obvious condolences to his friends and his children. So here's to one of the greatest albums of all time, Thriller (still and likely always to be the biggest selling original album of all time). Here's to Bad, a vastly underrated effort that's almost as good. And here's to the great comeback album that will never be. You have no idea how much I wanted one last good album from the King of Pop...

The thing that comes to mind is that famous Elton John refrain, sung about another living icon who died suddenly and prematurely. "Your candle blew out long before. Your legend never did."

Scott Mendelson

Hilary Swank plays Amelia Earhart in Amelia...

As always, if the YouTube video goes dead, go here for the official version.
I'm not sure if this seemingly straightforward biopic will have any original insights to it, but it is certainly well-cast and looks handsome as all hell. Swank is one of those actresses who is still hungry, so she'll take any real role and knock it out of the park (I even liked her in the goofy B-movie blast The Core). I do like how a seemingly unbilled Ewan McGregor shows up in several key moments, and it's always good to see Richard Gere playing his age. I've heard good things about director Mira Nair's previous picture, The Namesake, so as always, we'll see.

Scott Mendelson

Transformers 2 does $60 million on opening Wednesday...

The official numbers are in, and it appears that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen did $16 million in midnight showings (behind only The Dark Knight and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith), and then an additional $44 million during normal Wednesday business hours. That's a second-best day of all-time $60.6 million. First of all, unless the film completely collapses today (ie - does less than $25 million, a 59% drop from the inflated Wednesday total), it will have passed the year's highest three-day opening (X-Men Origins: Wolverine's $85 million) before it even gets to the Fri-Sun portion.

Of course, we'll see if the Godzilla Rule applies in this situation, and the general word of mouth is not good in the least. Will the poor audience reception make an impact by Friday? We'll know soon enough. For the record, the previous Wednesday record was the $44 million that Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix grossed two years ago. Since Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will not have the IMAX advantage that Harry Potter 5 and Transformers 2 have, it's doubtful this record will be broken anytime soon.

On a final note, we've only had five $50 million+ opening days, all since May 2005 (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Spider-Man 3, The Dark Knight, and now Transformers 2). And now we have two $60 million days (number one is The Dark Knight, which opened to $67 million last year). Remember when $50 million in a weekend was astounding? Ah, the good old days...

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

M Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender gets a teaser...

There is next to no footage in this one, but that's why they call it a teaser. I really ought to try and watch the three seasons of the original cartoon sometime in the next year. I hear it's terrific and I'm usually a sucker for anything that Andrea Romano does voice casting for. The film comes out on July 2nd, 2010, so it has more than a year to explain away the controversy involving the 'whitewashing' of its cast (ie - casting white actors to play Asian heroes). Granted, Mark Wahlberg aside, M. Night's casting is second to none, but it almost seems like the producers went out of their way to inflame racial animosity and/or piss off the hardcore fan base that this film will need to survive. We'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo gets a trailer...

This looks oddly like a distillation of DC Comic's Aquaman. I'm assuming there's more to this, but this looks like visually gorgeous fun regardless. Spirited Away and Princess Mononokeke are undisputed masterpieces, so Miyazaki's earned the benefit of the doubt. The English-dubbed version will be released by Disney on August 14th. It actually closes the Los Angeles Film Festival, so we should be hearing some official word pretty soon. Although it's getting a decent US release (Disney apparently handles overseas distribution as well), it's already racked up $182 million worldwide.

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Review: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: IMAX Experience (2009)

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: The IMAX Experience
150 minutes
Rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

There's a little fast-food chicken joint called Star Chicken right next to the Bridge Theater in the Howard Hughes Promenade. I had never been there before, but for less than ten bucks I got a decent baked potato, a soda, and a rather large chicken Caesar wrap. It was a hell of a sandwich... tons of tasty white meat chicken, rich Caesar dressing, large tomato chunks, plenty of real romaine lettuce, fresh cheese, and yes, actual croutons. Should you decide to see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, I suggest you make a point to either try a new restaurant or eat at a beloved favorite. That way, your evening won't be a total loss.

A token amount of plot - The Autobots have spent the last two years working side by side with the US military to track down remaining Decepticon forces that got away after Megatron perished. But an increased number of Decepticon attacks, plus an ominous warning, has Optimous Prime (Peter Cullen) and the military worried about a coming invasion. Meanwhile, human savior Sam Witwicky (Shia Lebeouf) is off to college, but he immediately stumbles upon a lost sliver of the 'AllSpark'. Contact with the artifact causes a flood of Earth and Cybertron knowledge into his head, once again making Sam a target for the Decepticons.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen represents a shocking amount of effort and skill going into a product of little entertainment value and even less significance. The plot is both insanely complicated and absolutely beside the point. The film is as long as The Dark Knight or Sex and the City but contains a full middle act where nothing of consequence occurs. Director Michael Bay once again, possibly out of budgetary constraints, keeps the focus on the human characters while giving them almost nothing interesting to say. While there is a token amount of increased robot on robot fighting this time around, it is so randomly edited and the characters are so poorly defined, that we never know who is fighting who and who is winning.

Ironically, the three most annoying characters in the first film, John Tuturro, Kevin Dunn and Jule White (the latter two as Shia LeBeouf's parents), provide the sole entertainment this time around. Sam's climactic scenes with his parents provide the only genuine emotional content in the film. Megan Fox returns as Shia's girlfriend, bringing new meaning to the term 'token love interest'. She plays absolutely no role in the story and is there only because the target demo thinks she's the hottest thing since Marilyn Monroe. The army is relatively bland, existing only to get massacred at every given opportunity. For someone who rants about how much he loves the military and how good he makes them look onscreen, Michael Bay sure loves showing our fighting men and women getting slaughtered wholesale.

Barack Obama is seemingly slandered as well, as he is name checked as the current president and the appointer of the wrongheaded bureaucrat who shows up, questions everyone, and then interferes whenever possible (yes, Bush was gently mocked in the first film, but he wasn't named and his underlings were shown as competent). Obama is also indirectly blamed for a second-act executive action that hinders the heroes' ability to save the world. Most inexplicable is the first-act debate that the evil Theodore Galloway (John Benjamin Hickey) and Optimus Prime engage in, which ends up becoming a justification for why the US should stay in Iraq forever. Though to be fair, despite resembling his cartoon counterpart (who was a good guy), Galloway ends up closely resembling a young Donald Rumsfeld.

And the only remotely interesting robot, Optimus Prime, has far less screen time than you'd think, giving the spotlight instead to Mudflap and Skids (both voiced by Tom Kenny), two bickering robots who look like monkeys, talk in the most stereotypical Ebonics jive possible, and apparently can't read. To say that these two are the most astonishingly racist caricatures that I've ever seen in a mainstream motion picture would be an understatement. The rest of the robots make little impression. Starscream is once again a vehicle for abuse. The Devestator is a speechless giant of a robot, whose sound effects are apparently voiced by Frank Welker (the cartoon voice of Megatron). Ah, poor Frank Welker. Not only did he lose out on voicing Megatron to Hugo Weaving, but Tony Todd was hired to voice the new villain, The Fallen, and apparently instructed to do his very best Frank Welker as Dr. Claw impression.

What of the robot action? Well, there are two genuinely stunning bits, both shot on IMAX film (fair warning, there are about ten minutes of IMAX scenes in this film, compared with over 40 minutes in The Dark Knight). The highlight of the film occurs at the hour mark, as Optimus Prime faces off against a pointlessly resurrected Megatron and two other Decepticons in a forest. In IMAX, the fighting robots are apparently shown to scale, and the richness of the visuals, plus the overall coherency of the fight, makes this a tour de force sequence. The only other action scene of note is the arrival of the Devastator, as he shows up in Egypt during the finale and proceeds to suck everything in sight into his giant robot mouth (much of this is also shot in IMAX film). The rest of the action suffers from the same problems as the first film. It's either impossible to follow and comprehend, or the action is overly comprised of military men shooting at off-screen targets.

Other minor and major problems abound in this mess of a movie. Sam is saddled with a completely unnecessary college roommate, who inexplicably tags along until the end of the film. The comparative absence of Optimus Prime leaves the film hollow at its core, since he was the only robot who had any kind of dramatic impact and/or character (think of it as a Batman film where Batman was sidelined and the film then showcases Robin and Batgirl). To be fair, the humans are much less campy and overtly comical this time around, but now the robots are completely 'off the wall zany', which again robs the film of any drama. And what little IMAX footage the film contains is so stunningly rich and visually gorgeous that it makes the surrounding moments look cheap and ugly in comparison.

I don't know why I thought this film would be any better than the original Transformers. My false hope was akin to investigating a murder and failing to notice the burglar standing over the body with a smoking gun. I'd imagine that the many critics who inexplicably gave the original Transformers a pass will now question their tolerance of that equally terrible film. We may not have gotten the Transformers sequel we wanted, but we got the one we deserved. But, hey, the evening wasn't a total loss. That chicken Caesar wrap was fantastic.

Grade: D+

Monday, June 22, 2009

Trasnformers 2 - Less than Meets the Eye...

A full review will be coming soon. It is quite clear that Michael Bay has violated the 'Godzilla Rule'.

Scott Mendelson

Yet another Halloween II trailer...

Nothing much to say here, there is certainly an effort to differenciate this sequel from the original film, as well as the original franchise itself. I hated the original, and even my wife is hesitant on this one. Is it just me, or is that about-to-be murdered cop (at 32 seconds in) noted character actor Jeff Kober? Just curious, as I'm always happy to see him getting a paycheck (he was recently on Burn Notice). The biggest question is which horror film, this or The Final Destination, will blink first and move away from the mutual August 28th release date. I'm guessing the cash-strapped Weinstein Company sequel will flinch, and use a new release date that's closer to Halloween as an excuse. We'll see.

Scott Mendelson

June 23rd, 1989 - twenty years later, how Batman changed the movie business.

Believe it or not, Tim Burton's Batman turns twenty-years old tomorrow. First of all, the sheer number of 'I can't believe this movie is twenty-years old' conversations only reminds us what a gloriously good year for movies that 1989 really was. A sampling of 'important' movies celebrating their twentieth anniversary - Field of Dreams, Do the Right Thing, Glory, Lonesome Dove, The Little Mermaid, When Harry Met Sally, and The Killer. The year's highest grossing film was arguably the most important. Not in terms of quality of course; it remains one of my favorite films but I'm not going to pretend that it was robbed at the Oscars. It left an indelible mark on the industry for the next twenty-years, in ways both very good and very bad. In the truest sense, Batman was a game-changer.

1) It made opening weekend king.
Most people don't realize this, but the opening weekend record was actually broken three times in a single month in the summer of 1989. The summer kicked off over Memorial Day weekend with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which grossed $29.3 million over the Fri-Sun portion of its five-day opening. Just three weeks later, Ghostbusters II just barely edged past with $29.4 million over its maiden days. But it was one week after that where Batman all but redefined just how much money a film could make over its first three days. It ended the weekend with a $40.4 million. It was the first mega-opening weekend for an industry that would eventually concentrate almost exclusively on those first three days as the cornerstone for a movie's success. Pure opening Fri-Sun insanity didn't completely take hold until summer 2001 (where three only somewhat anticipated movies - The Mummy Returns, Planet of the Apes, and Rush Hour 2 - opened north of $60 million), but Batman was the first to already be an unqualified smash hit after those first days. It surpassed its $35 million budget by Sunday. It crossed $100 million in ten days, crossed $150 million in nineteen days, and told Hollywood that short-term profitability was a possibility. Eventually, it would become the only goal.

2) It shortened the theater-to-video window.
The shocking record-breaking opening weekend had pundits predicting that it would overtake ET: The Extra Terrestrial ($399 million before the 2002 rerelease) as the highest-grossing movie of all time. But it was not to be, as it ended its run with $251 million - good enough for number 5. While the film had what today would be considered a leggy run (it dropped an average of 25% over its first six weekends), the film was played out quickly enough for Warner Bros. to announce its home video release for November 18th, 1989 (less than five months after the theatrical release). In an age where sell-through cassette tapes were still somewhat of a rarity, Warner Bros. made a point to rush out its theatrical champion onto the home video market well in time for the Christmas blitz. This set a pattern for the ever shortening window, which has been a key factor in declining theater attendance, a pattern that also effectively killed the second-run market less than a decade later. Ironically, this trend-setting experiment was a failure in this case. The videotape of Batman actually sold below expectations, and even the R-rated Lethal Weapon 2 (another Warner title, and possibly the first R-rated priced to buy VHS tape) outsold it. But the damage was done, and the theatrical release would eventually become a glorified marketing tool for the DVD release. That became even more of a problem when DVDs became so cheap to rent that consumers stopped buying them, leaving studios desperately in search of a new revenue stream.

3) It redefined the modern screen villain.
This honor must be shared with Die Hard, as they both helped rescue the screen villain from decades of general blandness. While there were exceptions here and there (Robocop, Star Wars), most onscreen antagonists were relatively generic punching bags and/or target practice for our stalwart heroes. Quick - name the villains from Lethal Weapon, The French Connection, or Beverly Hills Cop. But Die Hard and Batman made the iconic screen villain all the rage. Alan Rickman's Hans Gruber was every bit the superior of Bruce Willis's John McClane, and for the first time since Goldfinger, the modern-day villain was arguably cooler than the hero. A year later, Batman took the next logical step and crafted a villain who was more memorable than the hero, and one who got top-billing above the protagonist and exceeded him in screen time. Jack Nicholson's Joker made it cool for major actors to take villain roles in popcorn genre adventures.

As I wrote in a prior piece on comic book movie villains, Jack Nicholson broke the mold. Some may carp that it was just Jack being Jack in makeup, but we forgot how shocking this performance really was. There had never been a true comic book villain that was this over-the-top in cinema before. The nonstop cackling, the completely random and wholesale slaughter, and the genuinely perverse pathology, this was all new terrain for cinema. While his campier moments recall The Shining or The Witches of Eastwick, his quieter, subtler scenes actually resemble the work he did as Eugene O'Neil in Warren Beatty's Reds. Unlike Heath Ledger's deliberate, proselytizing anarchist, Jack Nicholson's Joker just committed mass murder purely for the hell of it. The success of Batman and the critical raves/popularity of Jack Nicholson's Joker ushered in a whole slew of scene-stealing villains, sometimes portrayed by actors who theoretically wouldn't be caught dead in a comic book or action adventure film. These days, when high-profile genre pictures are green lit, audiences expect, nay demand, that high-caliber actors like Jeff Bridges (Iron Man) and Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man) be on hand to attempt to steal the film away from our stalwart heroes.

4. Against type-casting is now cool.
It seems like an insane argument today, but the casting of Michael Keaton lit a firestorm of controversy that lasted right up until opening day. Hardcore Bat-fans, afraid that the film would be more like the 1960s Adam West TV show, howled in protest at the idea of Mr. Mom/Beetlejuice being cast as the Caped Crusader. Of course, Michael Keaton was also a capable dramatic actor, having just wrapped Clean and Sober. Once the first preview premiered (January 12th, 1989 on Entertainment Tonight), most fears were allayed as the 90-second clip showed both a viciously brutal Batman and a wantonly murderous Joker doing battle in a pitch-black Gotham landscape. Tim Burton's reasoning, that he wanted an ordinary-looking Bruce Wayne to become an extraordinary Batman, makes sense in hindsight and now is the norm for comic book casting (see - Toby McGuire as Peter Parker and Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark). Thanks to Batman (and yes, Die Hard), modern-day action heroism was no longer reserved for tree-trunk muscle men and monosyllabic bodybuilders. By the time the 90s were in full-swing, it was cool for 'serious actors' like Nicolas Cage to try their hand in action/adventure properties. By the 2000s, it was absolutely commonplace for Matt Damon to be a razor-sharp CIA assassin or for Keanu Reeves to save the bus and then the world with his understated wit and befuddled exacerbation.

5. Merchandise and Hype rules the day.
Not since Star Wars had we seen such an avalanche of merchandising tie-ins for a single film (and much of the Star Wars merchandise came after the film's release). For about sixth months prior to the release, Bat-Mania was in full swing. Hundreds of T-shirts, action figures, collectors’ cups, and the like were on every shelf in every store. One cannot overestimate the sheer amount of tie-in merchandise or free media that this movie received prior to the release date. In many ways, it was the first preordained non-sequel blockbuster. It was the first modern film that everyone was told that they should see and that they would like. That's the norm today, with pre-sold concepts are arguably the only thing being made by Hollywood for much of the year. Although, to be fair, that's as much to blame on the corporatization of studios and the growing importance of overseas box office. Jaws and Star Wars were the first modern blockbusters by any plausible standard. But Batman was the first film that was absolutely expected to become a blockbuster.

6. It made the PG-13 into the must-have rating.
The PG-13 was only four years old in 1989, and summer 89 was its first test. License to Kill was the first James Bond film not to be rated PG. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade ended up with a PG-13, which was appropriate since the gruesome, but PG-rated Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was primarily responsible for creating the rating in the first place. But Batman was the movie whose PG-13 received the most scrutiny. Why should a film based on a beloved superhero be so dark and violent as to not be appropriate for young children? Pundits wondered whether the violence and darkness would affect the movie's take, or whether its 'hardcore' content would actually help it overcome the stigma attached to the campy television show. In the end, Batman became the highest-grossing PG-13 movie of all time, a ranking it kept for four-years until Jurassic Park in 1993. In the years that followed, the all-inclusive rating became so popular over the next twenty years that the R-rated and/or PG-rated genre picture have since become an endangered species. Of course, the FCC rule changes in 2001 (spearheaded by Joe Lieberman) didn't help, mandating that R-rated films could only be advertised at certain times on television and certain ways online and on billboards. Today, alas, every studio all but forces filmmakers to squeeze into that PG-13 bracket whenever possible.

7. Finally, it made strip-mining the way to go.
Unfortunately, the last twenty-years have climaxed with an avalanche of adaptations of every conceivable preexisting property. Batman was one of the first presold properties that turned into a full-on franchise (Superman had tried it ten years earlier, to mixed success). Batman made it cool and theoretically profitable to adapt preexisting comic books for feature-film adaptation. The genie was out of the bottle and studios were soon digging for treasure in their archives. Classic TV shows (The Addams Family, The Fugitive), classic video games (Tomb Raider, Mortal Kombat), and even actions figures (Transformers) were all the rage. Recycling became and now remains the dominant form of big screen entertainment. Now, thanks to a lack of imagination, as well as the sheer expense of making and marketing single feature film, studios are all but completely averse to anything that isn't theoretically presold. It's not Tim Burton's fault, anymore than Spielberg and Lucas are to blame for starting the blockbuster rush. But the 'so much money in so little time' performance of the first Batman created a whole new mentality that today grips the industry. The lessons learned included the ability to make money quickly, the ability to cash in on a presold property, and the importance of the opening weekend. Originality in Hollywood is all but dead, consumed by the allure of the preexisting franchise and the convenience of the presold product and preordained blockbusterdom that Batman first delivered. For better or for worse, Tim Burton's Batman changed the movie business forever.

Scott Mendelson

For more Batman-related essays of this nature, including a detailed character analysis of Bruce Wayne in the first four Batman pictures, an artistic defense of the 1960s TV show, and a debunking of the 'Dark Knight endorses Bush/Cheney' myth, go to Batman at the Movies at Mendelson's Memos.

Moneyball strikes out

I'd comment at length on the Moneyball fiasco, but much of what I'm thinking has already been said by David Poland over at The Hot Blog. I still think that adult dramas would be fine and dandy if studios would stop spending $60-80 million on them. But the idea that the recession/strike/shrinking DVD market is leading studios to gut anything that isn't a preordained event film is a scary concept. Gee, a preordained blockbuster based on an existing property... that sounds an awful lot like... something that will celebrate its twentieth anniverary tomorrow. Regardless, any healthy studio would be foolish not to snap this project up. Worst case scenario, you have a $60 million Brad Pitt baseball movie (even if it should cost no more than $45 million). The film may be more about statistics and less about the glory of the game, but audiences won't know that until after opening weekend. Pitt is one of the true absolute movie stars, and even his domestic underperformers make it up overseas. This is a tiny bet, as opposed to the huge tentpole bets that studios seem so much more confident in making.

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Proposal opens with $33.6 million, Year One opens with $20 million. Hangover and Up still going strong. Weekend box office for 06/20/09.

Not much new to report here. The Proposal had a decent 2.65x multiplier, ending the weekend with $33.6 million. That makes this film the ninth-biggest romantic comedy opening of all time. This nearly doubles the previous opening weekend peak for Sandra Bullock, as her prior record holder, Premonition, opened to $17.5 million. Bullock has always been less of a sprinter and more of a marathon runner, so it'll be interesting to see how this fast out of the gate film holds up over the long haul. On the plus side, the word of mouth is solid and there is little competition until The Ugly Truth arrives on July 24th.

Just how much credit Ryan Reynolds deserves for this opening is certainly worth discussing, but for now I'll simply chalk it up to putting two popular stars in a winning concept. Reynolds certainly gains more than Bullock, since he has been quietly doing solid work in films as varied as The Amityville Horror, The Nine, and Definitely Maybe. I still think that the Deadpool spin off is a terrible idea (especially if it's expensive), and a waste of his talent, but an opening like this is just the thing to get it on the fast track. The ads highlighting a foul-mouthed Betty White didn't hurt either, although she's been doing that shtick since Lake Placid ten years prior.

In second place was The Hangover, which fell just 18% for a $26.7 million. This is starting to play like The Sixth Sense of R-rated comedies. I can only guess that the film is continuing to expand beyond the frat-boy core, a theory which will be tested when Transformers 2 steals each and every frat boy away next weekend. The film has already reached $152 million, and it should surpass the $175 million gross of There's Something About Mary by the end of next weekend. If it can weather the onslaught of Revenge of the Fallen, the R-rated comedy champ (Beverly Hills Cop at $234 million) is in serious peril. It's too early to predict whether or not the film will threaten Home Alone's $281 million for the all-time comedy crown, but it is definitely going to be the second-choice for moviegoers for the rest of the summer. Random question... how much is an R-rated phenomenon like this a boon to all the other non-R rated films in the marketplace? IE - how much of the grosses of the competition is just kids buying tickets to other stuff and sneaking into The Hangover?

Third place went to Pixar's Up, which lived up to its name as it powered up the all-time animated chart. Now at $226 million, it has surpassed Wall-E and Ratatouille and now sits at #10 on the top-grossing toons list. It's still dragging just a bit behind Finding Nemo (which had $228 million at this point), and it will lose many of its 3D screens when Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs opens on July 1st, but this one is so far playing like a $300 million+ earner. I must say, if it does make it to $300 million, it'll be the quietest such earner in memory. No one I know is really talking all that much about it. The excellence of Pixar is so taken for granted that no one needs to go out of their way to rave about it. Fourth place goes to the new comedy Year One. Despite the prevalence of well-reviewed films succeeding (Star Trek) and poorly reviewed films tanking (Terminator: Salvation), it bares well to remember that critics usually don't have much of an impact on opening weekend. Hence the solid $19.6 million opening for the Jack Black and Michael Cera vehicle shouldn't be that much of a surprise. Yes, the reviews were putrid, but the core Jack Black fans and general fans of stupid comedy didn't care less. Nothing to see here folks.

In other news, The Taking of Pelham 123 dropped a poor 48.5%, meaning that the core older audience is either drawn to other fare (The Proposal, The Hangover, etc) or they already saw the original in 1974 and had no interest in this redo. Just a thought, maybe they should have just tinkered with the script just enough so that they could call it something else and sell it as an original Denzel Washington/John Travolta action vehicle. Star Trek is now at $240 million, while Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian has surpassed its $150 million budget. Globally, domestic underperformers Terminator Salvation and Angels & Demons are (as expected) making up for it overseas. T4 is approaching $300 million global sales while Da Vinci Code 2 is just below $450 million (still far and away the year's highest grossing film overall). Land of the Lost has out grossed Speed Racer, and Drag Me to Hell is just below $40 million.

That's all that's fit to print. I'll do periodic updates for the Wednesday debut of Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen (barring the variables of life, a review will arrive on Monday night or Tuesday morning). We'll know a lot more about the long term end points of several major titles (Up, The Hangover, etc) once we see how hard the robots hit and how the holdovers react. Cue the dramatic Hans Zimmer music... now.

Scott Mendelson

Saturday, June 20, 2009

New GI Joe: Rise of Cobra trailer...

Or...they could have shown THIS on the MTV Movie Awards a couple weeks ago... just saying. It still looks insanely dumb, but this actually looks like a decent amount of fun. Of course, there's a bare minimum of dialogue, and quite a bit of the action cuts is stuff we've seen before. But this still looks almost old school with its emphasis on human to human combat and (CGI-enhanced) stunt work right alongside the newfangled vehicles (and such planes and cars were always a part of the GI Joe terrain). The new trailer (to premiere with Transformers 2 on Wednesday) basically seems like a direct response to those rumors from early last week involving turmoil on the set (allegedly, director Stephen Summers was fired and locked out of the editing room, with famous re-editor Stuart Baird called in to save the day).

This has the kind of stuff I want to see in such a film - ninjas flying out of planes and sword fighting with other ninjas, mortal combat over a vast chasm in an evil lair, etc. I still think its stupid to have your end-trailer button be a scene where the Joes basically endanger innocent bystanders to save their own butts, but that's just me. I'm not saying the movie isn't going to be garbage (after all, the second trailer for The Avengers is still an action-film classic), but this does look like harmless fun. We'll know the score in a few weeks when Paramount decides how soon to start screening this thing. If they end up waiting till the last minute (like Transformers 2, which I'll be seeing Monday night), then we'll all walk onward in fear. Either way, like X-Men Origins: Wolverine, there remains potential for a wonderfully entertaining commentary track.

Scott Mendelson

Sandra Bullock doubles her best? Proposal defeats Hangover, but Year One hangs on. Friday box office in review...

I wrote last week that, while Sandra Bullock's movies often show solid long-term playability, that they don't have boffo opening weekends. Up until today, her biggest opening weekend was Premonition, which opened with $17.5 million back in March, 2007. In general, Bullock's pictures just stuck around for awhile, which is how The Lake House opened to $13 million and made it to $53 million, or Two Weeks Notice opened with $14 million and made it to $94 million. I'll have to wonder what kind of legs The Proposal will display, since it's about to become Bullock's first boffo opening weekend.

Armed with a national sneak preview, a lack of romantic comedies, and an easy-to-explain premise, The Proposal opened with $12.5 million last night. That nearly doubles her previous opening day-best, the $6.5 million that Premonition opened to two years ago. Whether or not The Proposal can make it to a weekend total of $34 million+, hence doubling her previous opening weekend best, is an open question. I can't imagine much front loading on this one, so we'll see. Either way, this is a massive win for Disney, for Sandra Bullock, and for continually rising star Ryan Reynolds. Anything over $31 million will put it in the top-ten romantic comedy openings of all time, and it should clear its $40 million budget by the start of next weekend at worst. More to come when the weekend figures roll in.

Bruised but not beaten was The Hangover. While it will likely not three-peat at the top of the box office, it still did another $8.4 million for its third Friday. That's a mere decline of 17% and follows a full week of $5 million+ days. Among other achievements, it will have likely outgrossed Knocked Up by the weekend's end. It's getting a little redundant to again praise both the movie and its box office performance, so let's just pat it on the back, wait for it climb further up the all-time R-rated list, and move on.

Shocking pretty much everyone with taste, Harold Ramis's critically ravaged Year One pulled in $8.5 million on opening night. Apparently the star-driven marketing campaign offset the dreadful buzz and hideous reviews (I know, that's business as usual...). I'm guessing that The Hangover will end up number two by weekend's end regardless. This is a serious blow to box office analyst Scott Mendelson, who expected to take advantage of the empty early afternoon theaters to take his daughter Allison to a movie, expecting the film to be just the thing to put her to sleep. I can only assume that it's playing to pure Jack Black fans and/or very young audiences, which may actually allow said film blogger to take advantage of the noisy children and thus blend in with his blabbermouth toddler.

Pixar's Up dropped a mere 30% from last Friday, for $6.1 million. It crossed the $200 million mark on Thursday and it passed Ratatouille today. Now it's just a question of how quickly it can surpass the rest of the non-Nemo Pixar films (second place is The Incredibles with $261 million). It's still pacing at about $5 million behind Finding Nemo, so it might just have to settle for merely grossing $300 million. Oh, and at this pace, it will surpass Star Trek by mid-July, if not July 4th weekend to take the 'top film of 2009' crown, which will only be threatened by Transformers 2 and Harry Potter 6.

Speaking of Star Trek, it just surpassed the adjusted-for-inflation figure for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. At $235.9 million, it today sits as the most successful Star Trek film of all time, no matter how you slice it. In other news, The Taking Of Pelham 123 dropped a stunning 61%, for a Friday gross of $3.2 million. It opened just fine last weekend, but it seems that the core adult audience has been siphoned off by The Hangover, Up, and The Proposal. Oh well, it will rent like gangbusters and both stars will be just fine in the long run.

That's pretty much all that's fit to print. I'll try to update tomorrow or Monday when the weekend numbers come in.

Scott Mendelson

Friday, June 19, 2009

The trailer for the remake of The Stepfather...

Warning, DO NOT WATCH this trailer if you have not seen the original version of The Stepfather. It gives away one of the best moments of that Terry O'Quinn classic.

The original film was more than a slasher film, it was a character driven satire of the longing for the 1950s Father Knows Best idealized patriarchal family structure (Terry O'Quinn should have gotten an Oscar nomination). Since said nostalgia rears its head every twenty-five years or so, I suppose now is as good a time as any for an update. Whether it not it retains the social commentary of the original, this seems like a serviceable PG-13 variation of a film that just barely earned its R-rating back in 1987. I'm thrilled to death about this film. Not because I think it will be any good, but rather there's a good chance that this remake will cause whomever owns the rights to the original film to put out a decent special edition DVD in order to tie into this new version.

Scott Mendelson

The trailer for the remake of Fame...

The adult cast, Kelsey Grammar, Bebe Neuwirth, Charles S. Dutton, and Megan Mullally, is surprisingly promising. Still, with that 'there is a school' opening, didn't you wish that this turned into a remake of Suspiria halfway through?

Scott Mendelson

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Roland Emmerich's next, 2012, gets a trailer...

If you were thrilled by Independence Day... if you were terrified by The Day After Tomorrow... then you will be scared shitless by... 2012!

Did Roland just take out the White House again? I'm pretty sure the USS John F. Kennedy takes out the Oval Office in the closing moments of this apparent feature-film adaptation of "That's Armageddon!". This is a rare trailer that is almost completely composed of 'money shots'. From the narrative, I'm willing to guess that most of the worldwide carnage takes place in the first half, with the bulk of the second half comprised of whatever airplane John Cusack and his family find themselves in and/or the would-be survivors trying not to drown after said airplane crashes into the sea.

Amanda Peet appears along for the ride, and it's nice to see a Martian Child reunion with her, Cusack, and favored character actor Oliver Platt. Heck, Mr. Cusack apparently again plays a science-fiction novelist in this one too. Also onboard are Woody Harrelson, Thandie Newton, George Segal, and another beloved character actor, the unpronounceable Chiwetel Ejiofor (he apparently plays the 'empathetic minority in middle management'). Last but not least, we have Danny Glover as The President. Between The Fifth Element, Deep Impact, and now this, must the president be black every time the world is about to end? On a related note, is it too much to ask to hope that Mr. Glover delivers his grim speeches and platitudes with the same ill-fitting dentures that he apparently used in Shooter?

I will admit that the onscreen destruction on display is quite impressive, so I suppose this is worth seeing once on a big screen (if Sony has a brain, they would have already secured at least a limited IMAX release for this). Despite that, I'm not particularly thrilled to see this sure-to-be epically stupid Irwin Allen throwback (I love Independence Day, but I've been burned by Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow, and the unwatchable 10,000 BC). But, if you've read my blog or know me well enough by now, you know darn well that I'll be there opening night regardless. Because, of course, this is the movie that my wife most wants to see this fall. Sigh... I'm sure 'it'll be great!'

Scott Mendelson

David Scott: the man behind those 'Literal Translation' 80s music videos.

If you got a kick out of that 'literal version' of the music video for "Total Eclipse of the Heart", you might want to check out this brief interview by Simon Owens with David Scott, the man behind the cult phenomenon. It's a bit short, but well, it's been a pretty hectic work week and I wanted something up here for those that check this column on a daily basis.

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Michael Moore - Save the CEOs...

As I mentioned the other day, after the teaser for Michael Moore's untitled financial crisis film aired, theater ushers walked around the auditorium with donation cans. Needless to say, audiences were amused. Here's a sample of what went down.

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

"Optimus... be my victim." Tony Todd to voice 'The Fallen' in Transformers 2.

Apparently this was a big secret on the fan sites, but Variety's review just let it out of the bag. Tony Todd, long ago cast as 'the voice of a robot' in Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, will actually be voicing the title villain of the piece. Not a major deal, but I've always been a fan of his and am always happy when he's able to snag mainstream work (I actually started watching Chuck because I saw him in commercials for the pilot). Anyway, I suppose it was either going to be him or Keith David. Gosh how I'd love to see the two of them in some kind of dueling-banjos-type Dr. Seuss reading contest. And, on that note, I'd love to see some kind of (possibly horror-centric) variation on Grumpy Old Men, with Tony Todd costarring with Robert Englund. Both are better actors than their filmography suggests and both are almost old enough to try such an offbeat concept (Englund just turned 62 and Todd is 54).

Scott Mendelson

Monday, June 15, 2009

The most amazing invention since the Snuggie - The Comfort Wipe!

The main draw for Transformers 2: Megan Fox?

Has anyone else noticed that pretty much every piece about Transformers 2 is basically about Megan Fox? The film premiered in various places around the world. People have seen it and only a token amount of reviews have just today popped up on Rotten Tomatoes. We've had a bit from Michael Bay himself discussing the IMAX version of the picture, as well as a feature interview of Shia Lebouf in Parade Magazine. Pretty much everything else is Megan Fox-related.

We get vague stories about the red-carpet events, which are all basically excuses to show a picture of whatever outfit Ms. Fox is wearing. We get stories about her bouts with depression over her looks, and we get articles that are both creepy and stupid concerning the hormonal urges of the actor playing her father in the second film (I'm pretty sure that's a normal reaction of many actors who play fathers to attractive young women). While she certainly is a worthwhile interview, as she's remarkably blunt about her career and the role of the actress in Hollywood, it's fascinating that the public relations push for a $200 million+ summer tentpole film is centered around the token love interest.

Could it be that the main variable of interest for the young-male demographic is not the whole 'giant robots beating each other up'? Could we have one of the, if not the, biggest movies of the summer where the main draw is the lure of oogling a particular actress for 140 minutes? I've always said that women will see a mainstream film just because a guy in it is cute, but that men rarely did the same for actresses. Ms. Fox, in the right project, could be the exception that proves the rule. And if indeed she ends up being one of the main draws for this second film, how much does she dare ask for to appear in the inevitable third picture?

Scott Mendelson


Related Posts with Thumbnails