Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 in Review: Favorite Films of the Year.

At last, we're down to the probable grand finale. I'd love to toss in a couple more essays (best trailers/posters, the year in review, etc), but that depends on whether or not my daughter takes a nap on any given afternoon. But should this be the final major entry of 2010, so be it. Below is a list of fourteen of my favorite pictures that were released in theaters or DVD in 2010, plus a final nod to my favorite film of 2010 (no surprise if you've been reading me with any regularity). They are not necessarily 'the best', as there are plenty of allegedly great films that I missed (likely contenders: Inside Job, Blue Valentine, Animal Kingdom, Tiny Furniture), but they are all pretty great. As usual, the first fourteen are in alphabetical order.

127 Hours
First and foremost, that 'incident' that occurs at the third act isn't nearly as hard to watch as you've heard. If you're staying away out of fear, buck it up, because James Franco's grandmother thinks you're a 'p***y'. Danny Boyle's dazzlingly compelling and sharply edited character study about a young climber trapped in a cave is about so much more than its climax. It's a shockingly unsentimental yet genuinely moving look at the choice that we all have to make to truly live. James Franco, Hollywood's most versatile entertainer (he's the equivalent of that kid in high school who wanted to be on every page of the yearbook), gives the performance of his career. And you know what? If you want to close your eyes and ears at the end, I won't hold it against you. The movie works whether you keep your eyes open or not.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 in Review: The 'Worst' Films of the Year.

I use the term 'worst' subjectively, both because I'm stating subjective opinions and because there are plenty of allegedly terrible films that I did not see this year (Yogi Bear, Gulliver's Travels, Sex and the City 2, Little Fockers, Grown Ups, etc). Sadly, this was the first year in as long as I've been doing this where it was easier to make up a 'worst of year' than a 'best of year'. Not because there were so few good films, but because there were so many astonishing failures from some of my favorite filmmakers. So, without further ado, and in alphabetical order, I give you my personal picks for the ten worst films of 2010.

Alice in Wonderland
It is a strange thing to see a director that you worshiped in your youth score by-far the biggest hit of his life from one of the worst films of his career. Yet Alice in Wonderland is easily Burton's worst film, give-or-take Planet of the Apes (the latter is duller, but I love the 'up yours' ending). The screenplay turns Alice into a passive character defined by predestination and what other people expect from her and then expects us to find the film a rousing piece of female-empowerment. The result is an equally passive film that contains no suspense and no driving force. The film is inexplicably ugly to look at, and the 3D only muddies the image that much more. This was an assembly-line paycheck job for all involved, and a sign that, traumatized by the box office failure of (the secretly right-wing?) Mars Attacks and the outrage over Batman Returns back in the 1990s, Burton may have given up any attempt to be a visual or narrative original. If this were any one else's artistic failure, it would simply be a very dull and uninspiring film. But coming from Tim Burton, it was just one of the heartbreaking failures of the year.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Funny or Die: James Franco's grandmother reviews 127 Hours.

Who are these people who keep fainting at the climax? Did they also pass out during the action climax of The Empire Strikes Back? Do they feel ill while watching the first Aquaman episode from Justice League? Did they leave the theater 25 minutes into Robocop? Sorry, there's just no excuse. 127 Hours: Yes you can take it!

Scott Mendelson

Monday, December 27, 2010

Goodbye to You: Franchises That Left Us This Year.

While every year brings its share of would-be franchise starters, 2010 marked the would-be finale for a surprisingly large number of ongoing series. Here is a rundown, in alphabetical order, of the film franchises that were either officially cancelled, fittingly finished out their arc, or likely will not return based on lackluster box office numbers. I have no idea how to make music play when you click on a blog entry, but feel free to boot up your favorite farewell song. Me? I'm currently playing Elton John's Candle in the Wind (the original, not that wet-fart 1997 remake).

The Chronicles of Narnia (12/09/2005-12/12/2010)
In the aftermath of the one-two punch of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Fellowship of the Ring in late 2001, studios all went digging for various fantasy-lit series to turn into their own long-running franchises. Of the many would-be contenders, only two of them received a sequel. The Twilight Saga will be ending in 2012, but this year we likely said goodbye to the only other notable contender, The Chronicles of Narnia. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe debuted in December 2005 to an earth-shattering $65 million, completely knocking the wind out of King Kong, which debuted a week later. Spurred by a major Disney ad blitz that highlighted major big-budget fantasy spectacle which was based on a book that pretty much everyone read in elementary school, plus an 'on the side' ad campaign based on the book's (and author C.S. Lewis's) well-known Christianity, the film was the first fantasy-lit film post-2001 to really hit it big. It ended its leggy run with $290 million domestic and $745 million worldwide. But the first book was really the only popular one in the series.

2010 in Review: Good Movies You Missed.

Let us continue our look back at the year in film with a token acknowledgement of eleven good if-not great films that flew by the radar without much acknowledgment from audiences and/or the critical community. For the record, not all of the films below are great pictures, but they are all worth a look and deserve a bigger audience than they received. The following are in alphabetical order.

This expensive and lavish period piece came and went without a peep, but it remains a thoughtful and socially relevant piece of history. Rachel Weisz gives a solid star turn as Hypatia of Alexandria. As a rare educated female who holds esteem over many of her male colleagues, Hypatia's gender is refreshingly irrelevant, until it's all that matters. The film concerns the rise of Christianity in Roman Egypt, and it deals rather objectively with the dangers of fanaticism and extremism in all faiths. It eerily draws parallels to modern day religious fundamentalism while acknowledging that the East and the West have a nasty habit of inciting those who would lash out in retribution. It's a piece of forgotten history and a darn good movie to boot. R-rating aside, this would be just the kind of film to be shown in classrooms, be it for would-be historians (better to pick out whatever factual inaccuracies that I didn't notice) or future mathematicians.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Weekend Box Office (12/26/10): Little Fockers opens soft, True Grit opens strong, Tron: Legacy flounders.

I remember being genuinely shocked at the success of Meet the Fockers back in Christmas 2004. It had been well over four years since the original and, box office aside, it wasn't a film that cried out for a sequel. I figured that no one cared, that it had been too long since the original, and that the sequel would do token business but no more. For the second time in 2004, I was dead-wrong. Twice that year, sequels that didn't have all that much pre-release buzz around them exploded out of the gate and kept going for the next few months. The other was Shrek 2, which opened out of nowhere on the pre-Memorial Day weekend to $108 million over three days and $128 million over five, to end up winning the year with an astonishing $441 million. Meet the Fockers grossed $46 million over the three-day portion of Christmas 2004 and a stunning $70 million in its five-day opening weekend. The film kept on rolling, ending up with $279 million domestic and $516 million worldwide. That makes Meet the Fockers the second-biggest live-action comedy in US history (behind Home Alone with $281 million) and the world's highest-grossing live-action comedy ever. So when I say that there wasn't all that much buzz for Little Fockers, that really didn't mean much in theory. Except this time, when it did.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

2010 in Review: The Underrated

Let us continue our look back at the year in film with a token acknowledgement of ten films that were not quite as bad as their critical reputations. For the record, not all of the films below are good pictures. In a film criticism world that follows the sensationalized political landscape more and more, films are often judged as either unqualified masterpieces or pure failures. We have lost the ability to acknowledge that some films are just 'good', 'okay', or 'not that bad'. The following are in alphabetical order.

Death at a Funeral
This Neil LaBute comedy got hammered for daring to remake a seemingly untouchable 2007 Frank Oz picture, all while critics couldn't decide if said original was any good in the first place. I have not seen the original, but this American variation works as a genuinely funny family comedy. Chris Rock makes an excellent and sympathetic straight man, James Mardsen is a fine clown, Zoe Saldana looks dynamite while getting to be funny, and the cast is filled with notable character actors (Loretta Devine, Keith David, Danny Glover) who just happen to be African-American. The first third is sharper than the rest, but it's a consistently entertaining piece of filmmaking.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010 in Review: The Overrated.

Let us begin our look back at the year in film with a token acknowledgement of ten films whose reputations did not proceed them. For the record, not all of the films below are bad pictures. But they all generated critical and/or audience esteem that they perhaps did not entirely earn. There is nothing wrong with overpraising a good film. It often emanates from a hunger for quality that often causes we the critics to look at a merely solid and/or competent piece of cinema and hail it as a groundbreaking work of art. The following are in alphabetical order.

The Ghost Writer
The release of this film timed so conveniently with the arrest of director Roman Polanski that the reception of this film seemed to fall into two categories: 'a triumphant thriller from a master artist' and/or 'the new movie by that kiddie-rapist'. Truth be told, the film is a well acted and genuinely old-fashioned would-be thriller. But far too much time is spent on the dull romance between Ewan McGregor and Olivia Williams, at the expense of Pierce Brosnan's terrific turn as 'not Tony Blair'. Furthermore, the climactic revelations are not bone-chilling, but rather silly and comforting. Like most conspiracy theories, it provided a more melodramatic and reassuring explanation behind the last ten years of British politics. Tony Blair wasn't really deceived/tricked/cajoled into following George W. Bush down the post-9/11 rabbit hole, was he? No, there is a far more sinister explanation afoot... right? The ideas offered are far more comforting than the notion that maybe, just maybe, Tony Blair agreed with George W. Bush. If you want a great thriller with Pierce Brosnan, check out The Tailor of Panama.

Kevin Smith's Red State gets a trailer.

This looks pretty sharp, and the cast (John Goodman, Melissa Leo, Kevin Pollack, Stephen Root, Kyle Gallner, Michael Angarano, and Kerry Bishé) demands our attention. Still, and this is based off of a 60 second teaser and a brief plot blurb from IMDB, the film seems to be treading the same ground as From Within, with a dash of a more serious 2001 Maniacs tossed in for good measure. The film screens at Sundance in under a month, so we'll have a pretty good idea of what we're in for soon enough. Say what you will about Kevin Smith, but never bet against him when he's dealing with material that he gives a damn about (Dogma, Clerks II).

Scott Mendelson

A tale of two trailers: Season of the Witch gets new cheap mass-battle scene(s).

Notice anything different around 1:45 of the new trailer? Notice any brightly-lit mass battle scenes that were inexplicably missing from the earlier Lionsgate trailer? And yes, they all look like they are from the same scene (perhaps the prologue or a new ending), and they all look like cheap reshoots that don't match the color scheme of the rest of the movie. Fascinating...

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday Box Office: Little Fockers opens soft(ish), True Grit and Tron: Legacy battle for number two.

Little Fockers was number one at the box office over the first day of the five-day Christmas holiday. But it was a much tighter race than expected, as True Grit held its own and Tron: Legacy remained steady. Little Fockers, the much-unanticipated finale to Fockers trilogy ('This Christmas... the journey ends.'), debuted with $7.2 million. By any normal standards, this would be a solid Wednesday debut for a comedy. But Meet the Fockers (a film that wasn't insanely anticipated either six long years ago) opened its Christmas long-weekend with $12.2 million. That film, which had much better reviews, ended up with $70 million by the end of the long weekend, or a 5.7x weekend multiplier. Should Little Fockers follow suit, it will end the long-weekend with $41 million, or about $5 million less that Meet the Fockers made in the Fri-Sun portion of its opening weekend.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What may keep me out of theaters in 2011? Instant 'Extended' DVD versions.

The Wolfman, Salt, Knight and Day, The A-Team, and The Town. What do these films have in common? Not too much, except I saw all of them in theaters, all on my own dime and (more importantly) on my own time. I enjoyed The A-Team and kinda-sorta liked Knight and Day and Salt. But the one constant is that they all came to DVD/Blu Ray with extensive 'Extended Edition/Director's Cut' versions. The whole 'unrated/extended cut' thing has been around since the beginning of DVD. Usually it amounts to an R-rated comedy (Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, The Hangover, Role Models, etc) or horror film (every single Saw picture) tossing in three minutes of 'extreme' material that could have allegedly gotten the film an NC-17. But this recent wave is different. These are old-fashioned action pictures and star-vehicles, the kind that are allegedly struggling to find an audience, yet they are consistently mocking their theatrical audiences by unleashing more substantial versions on the home video platform just months after theatrical release.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hanna gets a trailer.

Well, doesn't this look like deliciously trashy fun? If I may speak pruriently for a moment, I'd forgotten how hot Cate Blanchett looks as a redhead. Otherwise, this looks like a somewhat generic premise, but with a pretty solid cast. Saoirse Ronan was pretty terrific in the otherwise quite flawed The Lovely Bones, and Eric Bana is always watchable when he plays something other than a brooding hero. We've got Olivia Williams and Tom Hallander for seasoning. Toss in Blanchett as a somewhat more devious 'Pamela Landey'-type character, and this Joe Wright-helmed thriller looks quite amusing. It opens on April 8th, 2011. As always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Weekend Box Office (12/18/10): Tron: Legacy opens just okay, Yogi Bear and How Do You Know underperform, Black Swan and The Fighter expand.

Opening following a flurry of advance press and geek-frenzy spanning back three years, Tron: Legacy scored an okay $43 million in its opening weekend. Regardless of my feelings on the film (REVIEW), this is a good but not great for a film that was a big question mark. Would the film play to general audiences, or would it become a super-budgeted version of Kick-Ass or Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, playing only to the hardcore geek audience? Tracking had the film opening as low as $30 million, which for the allegedly $200 million+ production would have been a disaster. But at least approaching the $45 million mark allows Disney to save some face. Yes that includes the usual 3D/IMAX ticket-price bump, but it also has a disadvantage of being the kind of film that few would willingly see in a 2D theater (the film played 71% 3D and a whopping 24% IMAX). The film opened with $3.6 million in midnight screenings and a $18 million opening day, before dropping to $15 million on Saturday and $10 million on Sunday. That gives the film a mediocre 2.39x weekend multiplier, implying that it's playing just slightly more like a general audiences genre picture than a hardcore nerd niche-picture that many feared. On most normal weekends, this kind of opening would have been very bad news. But this is the weekend before Christmas...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Why I love The Fifth Element: It's the future as I hope it will be.

- The world has not been wiped out by a devastating war, plague, or natural disaster.
- No melting ice caps, no Judgment Day, no twelve monkeys.
- The inhabitants do not exist in a shell-shocked fight for survival, making their way across a barren terrain to find essential items like food and weapons.
- Freedom has not been horribly curtailed, nor is society ruled by tyrannical overlords.
- The people continue to make scientific advances, thus improving society.
- Inhabitants do not have to take shelter to escape marauding cannibals or mutant monsters.
- The residents are free to indulge in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
- The sky is still blue, having NOT been turned into acid-grey by an unknown calamity.
- There is more than one attractive female in all of known civilization.
- While cigarettes and weapons survived, so too did entertainment, culture, and primary colors.
- Finally, the last reason I love The Fifth Element is that it's the only movie set in the future (aside from the Star Trek franchises) where the future actually looks like a fun place to live.

Scott Mendelson

So what's the lesson of The Social Network? DON'T DATE ROBOTS!

What annoys me most about the flurry of 'best of the year' prizes for The Social Network is the discussion of the seemingly 'revolutionary' idea that much of human progress stems from the desire to impress the opposite sex (or same sex) in an effort to appear sexually desirable. Sorry folks, it's probably a somewhat correct notion, but Matt Groening and the gang hashed this one out way back in May of 2001. The Social Network is a fun and entertaining bit of fiction helped immeasurably by the clever penmanship of Aaron Sorkin. But it's 'groundbreaking' idea isn't as original as the pundits seem to think. Futurama had the right idea nearly ten years earlier.

Scott Mendelson

"The weekend before Christmas is a terrible time for movies". It's apparently opposite-day yet again over at Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood.

Here's a not-so dirty secret: the weekend before Christmas weekend is the very best weekend to open a film, bar none. With a full two weeks of 'weekend days' and families spending much of that time together and looking towards a movie theater, anything that can open on this weekend has a decent shot at huge legs. Sure, you've got the obvious smash hits like Avatar ($77 million opening/$750 million domestic), Fellowship of the Ring ($47m/$313m), The Two Towers($65m/$341m), Return of the King ($83m/$373m), Titanic ($28m/$600m), Tomorrow Never Dies ($25m/$125m), The Pursuit of Happyness ($26m/$163m), Jerry Macguire($17m/$153m), and I Am Legend ($77m/$256m). But you also have the films that maybe didn't open as well as they could, but used the holiday period to make up for it with insanely leggy runs. I'm talking about King Kong ($50m opening weekend/$218 million domestic total), The Prince of Egypt ($14m/$101m), Mouse Hunt ($6m/$61m), Sabrina ($5m/$53m), and The Emperor's New Groove($10m/$89m) among many others.

So when Nikki Finke claims that "the last full weekend before Christmas is traditionally a lousy time for North American grosses", she obviously has no idea what she's talking about. And that 'unnamed studio mogul who exclaims: "They're not rushing out to see movies. What you tend to forget, going into this weekend, is that the pool of people who are available, and don’t have a lot of commitments on their time in terms of parties and presents and vacations, is small", well he obviously has no recollection of the oh-so-recent past either (or he's just covering for the under-performances of Yogi Bear and How Do You Know). How vexing it is when the people who get paid to know this stuff get it so obviously wrong.

Scott Mendelson

Tron: Legacy grosses $18 million in first day.

Not much to report that can't wait for tomorrow when the weekend numbers are announced, but Tron: Legacy opened with $18 million on its first full day. That's a bit above the $14 million opening Fridays for Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring and King Kong, slightly below the $19 million opening Friday of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, but far below the $21 million Friday of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Of course, all the noted films opened on Wednesday. In terms of films that opened on this weekend on a Friday, it's well below the $26 million scored by Avatar and the $30 million snagged by I Am Legend, but it's above the $10 million opening-day gross of Lemony Snicket: A Serious of Unfortunate Events. 20% of its first-day take came from midnight screenings. That's a bit high, as 15% is the norm, but it's not anywhere near the sky-high midnight grabs for Paranormal Activity 2 ($6.3m/$19m - 33%), Twilight Saga: New Moon ($26m/$72m - 36%), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince ($22m/$58m - 37%), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I ($24m/$61m - 39%), or Twilight Saga: Eclipse ($30m/$68m - 44%). So unless the world at large hates the movie as much as I do (who knows... I thought Transformers 2 would get kneecapped over the long weekend), give the film a 2.5x multiplier and a $45 million opening weekend.

Scott Mendelson

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Brothers Mario gets a funny fake trailer.

This thing is way too long, and the last two minutes drag a bit. But this is awfully clever and laugh-out-loud funny for the first two-and-a-half minutes or so. Great, cheeky fun.

Scott Mendelson

Tron: Legacy nets $3.6 million in midnight sneaks. Could open with as little as $19 million, as much as $80 million for the weekend.

Tron: Legacy has grossed $3.5 million in midnight showings. That slightly exceeds the $3.6 million earned by Avatar's midnight sneaks last year on this weekend and actually exceeds the $3 million earned by respective late-night Inception screenings. The film grossed 25% of its midnight numbers in IMAX screens, which is a record for the large-screen format. What does this mean for the opening weekend? Well, generally speaking, recent midnight screenings have accounted for about 5-6% of a film's overall weekend take, which would put a weekend estimate between and $58 million and $70 million. Think Iron Man 2 ($7.5m/$128m), Jackass 3D ($2.5m/$50m), and Inception ($3m/$62m). But more front-loaded films have seen their midnight takes make up 11-19% of their total. Examples: The Dark Knight ($18m/$158m), Paranormal Activity 2 ($6.3m/$41m), Twilight Saga: New Moon ($26m/$142m) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I ($24m/$125m).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Yesterday's News Today: Jon Favreau off Iron Man 3.

We all saw this coming from as far back as mid-summer 2008, when Marvel basically played hardball with Jon Favreau in regards to financial compensation for Iron Man 2. Favreau wanted more money and a 3-year gap between films. He got the raise, but he only got two years between films. By all accounts, Marvel micromanaged the sequel into the aimless, pointless, glorified backdoor pilot that it now remains (Mickey Rourke allegedly acting like Marlon Brando on set probably didn't help either). So with Favreau having enjoyed general creative freedom with Cowboys and Aliens and now all set to tackle a fantasy film based on the Disney World theme park entitled The Magic Kingdom, it was only a matter of time before it was confirmed that yes, Favreau would not be finishing up his would-be Iron Man trilogy. What does it mean? Does it mean anything at all?

David Schwimmer's Trust to appeal R-rating, wants kids to see sensationalist view of online predators.

Millennium Entertainment has announced today that they are appealing the R-rating that was handed down to the David Schwimmer-directed thriller Trust. The film was rated R for 'the assault of a teenage girl, language, sexual content and some violence'. The gist of the appeal is that the film, which concerns parents (Clive Owen and Catherine Keener) reactions when their teenage daughter is sexually assaulted by someone she met online, should serve as a cautionary tale about the dangers of kids playing around online. First of all, if this is the kind of film that kids should see and discuss with their parents, would the film not benefit from an 'R' rating, which would in fact require parents to see it with their kids? More importantly, we should be asking if the film (which of course none of us have seen) or at least the prior marketing of said film (from Millennium Films, not Millennium Entertainment) was perhaps overstating the case. Point being, it's easy to imagine your kid being tricked online into meeting a stranger at the mall and getting attacked. But how often does that actually happen? Not as much as you think.

Weinstein Company, Miramax team up to pillage their past glories.

It's not a little sad and a lot ironic. Say what you will about Bob and Harvey Weinsten and Miramax, but they made their fortune and glory in the 1990s by making or distributing quirky and offbeat material, original stories with often original ideas. They gave us The Crying Game, Pulp Fiction, Shakespeare in Love, From Dusk Till Dawn, Clerks, The English Patient, and many more. And they sold them to a mass audience, earning genuine box office returns and a parade of awards in the bargain. But the Weinsteins are now but a shadow of their former selves, and Miramax is now just another distribution arm of Disney. So, in an attempt to return to past glory, to once again put the Weinstein brothers at the top of the film world, they are teaming up with Miramax to... loot their library for sequels, sequels, and more sequels. Nice.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The year in movies, in just six minutes.

Impressive, most impressive...

Scott Mendelson

For one last second, I was 12 years old again. The Dark Knight teaser debuted three years ago yesterday. A moment of reflection as life changes...

Yesterday marked the third anniversary of the theatrical release of I Am Legend. While the film was a surprisingly compelling science-fiction drama that worked primarily as a character-study, its release date is not by itself noteworthy. But the day also marked the debut of the first real teaser for The Dark Knight. As I've written elsewhere, we all knew about the bank-robbery prologue that was attached to IMAX prints of I Am Legend, but absolutely nobody knew about the traditional trailer that was premiering with the regular prints. In this age where everyone knows everything ahead of time, it was perhaps one last studio sneak attack. Warner shipped the trailer without anyone jotting down a description, and they kept the thing offline for the whole weekend. Except for a mediocre bootleg of course. I was home that day, tending to my three-month old daughter. By god, I must have watched that crummy bootleg two dozen times that day.

Terrance Mallik's The Tree of Life gets a stunning, gorgeous trailer.

The editing and emotional impact of this trailer is breathtaking. And here I thought Inception was going to end up as the best trailer of 2010.

Scott Mendelson

Blu Ray review: The Town (2010)

The Town
125 minutes - theatrical cut
153 minutes - extended cut
rated R
Available from WHV on DVD and Blu Ray December 14th.

by Scott Mendelson

For a review of the theatrical cut of The Town, go here. The extended cut really gives fans their money's worth, with nearly a half-hour of extra character development and a bit more action during the major set-pieces. On the plus side, this isn't a case of consumers being ripped off by three minutes of 'extreme unrated material!'. On the other hand, as someone who paid to see this film in theaters, I'm feeling a bit soured at having paid and taken the time to see and review what now appears to be an arbitrary version of the film. This has been an issue for years, but rarely has it been so apparent as here. If you haven't seen The Town, then you're in luck, as you can view it in this extended cut (I still didn't like the movie overall, for the same reasons noted in the theatrical review). It's a better version by default of having more character scenes, but it also makes a conventional heist picture into a 2.5 hour drag. If you really liked The Town, you have to decide if you want to spend the time and money to basically see The Town 1.5. It's good of Warner Bros and director/star Ben Affleck to give us a genuine 'director's cut' of the heist romance. But it's going to make me think twice before I see another movie of this nature in theaters.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Review: Tron: Legacy: an IMAX 3D Experience (2010)

Tron: Legacy
125 minutes
rated PG

by Scott Mendelson

Tron: Legacy almost operates as a litmus test for how much we will tolerate in our tent-pole film making. Just how much bad dialogue, poor acting, inexplicable plotting, and emotionally-vapid characterizations will we accept as long as we've been convinced that the film is 'cool'? How little actual content will we demand in exchange for $300 million light shows disguised as motion pictures? We casually accept seemingly intentional mediocrity in our franchise films, from The Flintstones to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, holding our nose but making these films into smash hits. I am reminded of Patrick Stewart's monologue towards the end of Star Trek: First Contact. "The line must be drawn here. This far, and no further." If we as moviegoers accept this artless, soulless confection as a suitable example of big-budget filmmaking, then we deserve everything we get in the following years. The apparent absence of any attempt at quality renders even the (only occasionally) pretty pictures impotent and dull. And make no mistake; Tron: Legacy is a stunningly dull would-be movie.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides gets a mediocre teaser.

Alas, my timbers remain unshivered. While it's nice that the film seems to be returning to the lighter tone of Curse of the Black Pearl, the film is desperately missing interesting leading characters. I've said this a thousand times, but Jack Sparrow is not a leading man, he's a colorful supporting character. The dramatic weight of the original trilogy fell on Will Turner and Elizabeth Swan, which allowed Johnny Depp to do his devil-may-care shtick without harming the seriousness of the overriding narrative. Alas, since Sparrow is in the lead this time around, why should we care about the outcome if he so obviously doesn't? The obvious comparison is a Shrek sequel which makes Donkey the lead character and writes Shrek and Fiona out of the story. Penelope Cruz seems entirely defined by her romantic entanglements with Sparrow, although making Geoffrey Rush's Barbosa into a servant of the British army is an interesting idea. There seems to be a token young couple in danger, glimpsed at 1:23 and 1:59 (Sam Cleflin and Gemma Ward, I believe), but I frankly have no idea who they are in terms of the story. Some of the action beats are neat (1:14 and 1:38), but this feels like a completely unnecessary cash grab. This one comes out May 20th, in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D. As always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson

The Assassination of Yogi Bear by the Coward Boo Boo.

This isn't quite the R-rated monster movie that I was hoping for, but it's still pretty brilliant.

Scott Mendelson

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time: the eternal debate over pizza.

I've said this before, but Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the most groundbreaking arcade game of our generation, outside of Street Fighter II. So this riff (based around the sequel, Turtles in Time) brings back all kinds of warm and fuzzy memories.

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, December 12, 2010

"What's the Name?" Hands-down, the best Saturday Night Live sketch of the season.

Batman: Arkham City video game gets a trailer.

Wouldn't it be hilarious if everything we've been hearing about The Dark Knight Rises was actually information about this upcoming video game? That would be beyond precious...

Scott Mendelson

Weekend Box Office (12/11/10): Voyage of the Dawn Treader crashes, Tourist underwhelms, The Fighter and Black Swan shine in limited release.

It was a gruesome weekend for wide releases, as two sure-fire openers underperformed, which frankly ought to make Disney very nervous for next weekend. Debuting at a somewhat soft number one was The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader. The picture is the third in the Chronicles of Narnia series, and likely the last. The first two films in the series were financed in a joint venture between Walden Entertainment and Walt Disney. But after the (comparatively) underwhelming domestic performance of the second film in the series, Prince Caspian, Disney cut its losses and 20th Century Fox picked up the popular fantasy franchise. With a $24.5 million opening weekend for a $140 million venture, Fox will likely do the same cutting and running unless overseas numbers astound. This opening weekend is nearly identical to The Golden Compass, which opened with $25 million on this weekend in December 2007. That infamous 'flop' cost $180 million and ended up with just $70 million in the US. Of course, the film grossed $302 million overseas, so Fox has to be praying for a similar result (the worldwide opening was a promising $81 million).

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Blu Ray review: Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole 2D (2010)

Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole (2D version)
97 minutes
rated PG
Available December 17th on DVD, Blu Ray, 3D Blu Ray, iTunes, and Download

by Scott Mendelson

I missed this one in theaters, and seeing it now on this stunning Blu Ray makes me wish I took the time to sample the IMAX 3D version. The film is a pretty generic hero's journey, Lord of the Rings mixed with The Dark Crystal, but it is a visual marvel that never talks down to its young audience. While the locations are striking and the film is occasionally intense, the film reserves most of its overt violence for the final act of the picture, and even then most of the carnage is suggested rather than shown. What is notable is how openly it deals with the glorification of combat. Time and time again, we are told that war is an ugly and terrifying pursuit. Fighting and killing for the side of righteousness is not considered noble or heroic, but simply doing the right thing. There is no glory in battle to be found here, and even the heroic triumphs are viewed as tragic, either in terms of lives lost or having to kill another creature in order to win.

Conan O'Brien riffs on the lower-ranks of DC Comics superheroes.

Dig the cameo at the end by Bruce Timm.

Scott Mendelson

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thor gets a bland theatrical trailer, which is the Cliff Notes version of the bland Comic Con footage.

If you've seen the Comic Con footage, there is precious little new here. I can't say if this trailer will debut in theaters this weekend with The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader or next weekend with Tron: Legacy. The pace is still slower than dirt, the acting still is overly arch, and the film still looks like a $200 million redo of the Masters of the Universe movie. As always, we'll see.

Scott Mendelson

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dear god... they finally made Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots the Movie. Real Steel gets a teaser.

I suppose this is one way that The Fighter could have been better. Although I cannot even imagine what kind of horrors Christian Bale would have inflicted on himself in order to play a robot... And it's kind of astounding that Dreamworks/Touchtone isn't even trying to hide the fact that they seem to be ripping off the Transformers robot designs for this thing. Other than that... yeah, I got nothing. Sometimes, there are no words. The 2011 Oscar race begins on October 7th, in IMAX no less.

Scott Mendelson

Thor gets a poster. Joy.

The trailer will apparently be screened with Tron: Legacy next weekend. It's allegedly just a slimmed-down version of the terrible Comic-Con footage that debuted last July. You'd think Paramount would wait and debut the Thor trailer with True Grit, unless they already have a Captain America teaser all set to go... We'll know soon enough.

Scott Mendelson

For those are care: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides gets first-look photos from Yahoo and USA Today.

These all came from USA Today and Yahoo. Enjoy. The trailer debuts on Monday.

It's not the rating, it's the implementation: Random thoughts on the Blue Valentine MPAA mess, as the film wins an R rating on appeal.

So, first off, the good news. After about a month of appeals, the Weinstein Company drama Blue Valentine has won its appeal and received an R rating. As most of you probably know, the Ryan Gosling/Michelle Williams marital drama had original received an NC-17 primarily for a scene involving oral sex between the emotionally damaged married couple. Much of the discussion over the last month has centered on the usual canards: that the MPAA treats mainstream fare lighter than big studio fare, that sex is treated harsher than violence, and that sex presented in a serious context is treated harsher than sex treated as comedic or overtly prurient in nature. All of these clichés seem to apply in this particular case. But the problem is not the rating system. The problem is how said system is implemented.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Transformers: Dark of the Moon gets a teaser.

This is a pure tease, with only a token amount of Transformers footage at the very end. Ironically, as I've mentioned before, when I saw the first Transformers on opening night, I was sure that what turned out to be the Cloverfield teaser was in fact an early tease for Star Trek. This teaser uses a similar 'we're in the real world until we're not' ploy, and it's usually pretty effective. Up until the onscreen credits appear for Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg, the only hint is the low-key version of the franchise theme music (which I rarely like). Michael Bay swears that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was a victim of the writer's strike and he arguably has something to prove for the first time in awhile. We can likely expect a teaser with actual giant robots to premiere with the Super Bowl like last time. For now, we can enjoy this little bit of tease, with only the oddly F. Murray Abraham-looking robot at the end offering any evidence that this is in fact a Transformers film. This will premiere in theaters this weekend with The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Scott Mendelson

Cowboys and Aliens gets a blue-tinted international poster

I'm always partial to posters that actually gives all of the major cast members star billing, so this gets brownie points accordingly. It's good to see that Universal is going low-key on the sell, as the first poster and the initial teaser seem to imply that this is just a pure western that happens to have extra-terrestrials in it. So far, so good. Thanks to Empire for the poster.

Scott Mendelson

I Am Number Four gets painfully assembly-line trailer.

While the plot seems to resemble the old WB show Roswell, the sell is hardcore Twilight. I don't need to point out the obvious similarities, but there are moments on inexplicable humor to be found. Dianna Agron's scrapbook looks like a lost volume of Se7en's John Doe while Theresa Palmer (as 'number 6' of nine alien survivors) ends up looking exactly like Agron. I honestly couldn't tell them apart in several key moments in the end montage. Aside from how bland and conventional this picture looks, it's just another piece of evidence that, for the last fifteen years frankly, actresses have much more opportunities on television than in mainstream features. On television's Glee, Dianna Agron gets to play a three-dimensional character with a subtly changing personality. In I Am Number Four, she's the token love interest who exists only to look pretty, swoon, and be captured by the villains. Oh well, for what it's worth, I rather liked Disturbia and kinda enjoy Eagle Eye, so hopefully DJ Caruso can find a better use of his talents if this continues his hit streak. I Am Number Four comes out in regular theaters and IMAX screens on February 11th, 2011.

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Review: The Fighter (2010)

The Fighter
116 minutes
Rated R
Opens in select theaters on Friday, December 10th

By Scott Mendelson

The Fighter is a solid example of the old cliché: "It's not what it's about, but how it's about it." The story is a relatively standard underdog sports fable, about a decent guy who attempts to get his shot at glory. The difference is that David O. Russell chooses to focus not on the triumphs and defeats of the sporting events, but on the surrounding family that proved to be Mickey Ward's greatest challenge. The film is based on a true story, and while not every story beat is factual, it is a fleshed-out portrait of a family so unwilling to admit failure that they stand in the way of anything resembling success. The unique viewpoint combined with a few terrific performances makes The Fighter a genuine credit to its genre.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Yet another cool thing that should have been on the Inception Blu Ray: all the dream levels, in real time.

The entire second half of Inception, boiled down to about four minutes. Yeah, this should have been on the Blu Ray.

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, December 5, 2010

If The Dark Knight Rises ends up being based on 'Prey', which lucky leading lady will get this choice role?

Who should get this plum role? Anne Hathaway? Blake Lively? Rachel Weisz? Keira Knightly? Naomi Watts? Or how about Natalie Portman, fresh off her Oscar win for Black Swan? Her name is Catherine and she's the mayor's daughter. She has two or three scenes in the first two (of five) chapters of "Prey" where she engages in debate regarding the usefulness of Batman in Gotham City. Then she gets abducted in chapter three, as part of a plot by Hugo Strange to frame Batman and turn the city against him. Catherine spends literally the entire remainder of the five-part saga stripped to her bra and panties, gagged, and chained to a bed. Oh, and as for Catwoman, she's barely in it. And we wonder why it's so hard to get females to start reading mainstream superhero comic books...

Scott Mendelson

Oooh... Exciting. Will Batman and Spider-Man face off, in their next respective films, against the unforgettable what's-his-name?

"Who the hell is that?" - My wife, upon hearing that the villain for The Dark Knight Rises might be Dr. Hugo Strange.

"Huh? Who is that, exactly?" - My friend and ex-roommate, Mike Hahn, upon hearing that the villain for The Dark Knight Rises might be Dr. Hugo Strange.

"Whaaa? Who the f... better look that up." - Me, upon reading that some guy called the Proto-Goblin may be the villain in Marc Webb's upcoming Spider-Man reboot.

"The Proto-what?" - Most of my readers, upon reading that some guy called the Proto-Goblin may be the villain in Marc Webb's upcoming Spider-Man reboot.

Batman and Spider-Man have two of the deepest, most recognizable, and just-plain best rogues galleries in comic books. Obviously both rumors could be malarkey. But playing devil's advocate for a minute, could it have killed Nolan and Webb to pick villains that anyone actually wanted to see onscreen?

Scott Mendelson

Guest Review: LexG reviews The Warrior's Way (2010)

The Warrior's Way
100 minutes
Rated R

by Lex Gilbert

As happens from time to time, today we have a guest critic sharing their take on a given new release. Reviewing this weekend's lone new wide-release, The Warrior's Way our guest critic for this particular bit of hybrid B-cinema is Lex Gilbert, better known by his online nickname 'LexG'. Enjoy.

Preceded by an appropriately insane trailer scored to some riotous canned Nu-metal, an apparent two-plus-year delay, and a title change (from “Laundry Warrior”), The Warrior's Way is either most accurately described as Jonah Hex by way of Zu Warriors plus Shane… or as the ultimate movie that was meant *only* to be seen at the 11:40am matinee by lone male attendees. Most others can probably safely steer clear, though fanboys and Western buffs (spaghetti and classical American variety) who can get into its quirky mix of classic genre film tropes, bad comedy, and stylized violence might have a blast.

Weekend Box Office (12/05/10): Black Swan soars in limited release, while holdovers tumble and Warrior's Way fumbles.

There was but a single new wide-release this weekend, as the weekend after Thanksgiving is a scary time for Hollywood. Few studios are willing to risk dealing with the post-holiday hangover, so this weekend brings just The Warrior's Way. But we'll get to that in a minute. First off, Tangled took the box office crown in its second weekend, dropping just a bit less than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I, which was enough to score the number one slot. The Disney animated fairy tale grossed $21.6 million, which accounts for a somewhat troubling 55% drop in weekend two. With $96.5 million in twelve days, getting to $200 million is no longer the sure-thing that I pegged last weekend. Still, the film is Disney's biggest non-Pixar hit in quite a long time. It's about $13 million ahead of Chicken Little at the end of its respective weekend, about $26 million ahead of Enchanted at the end of its post-Thanksgiving weekend twelfth day, and it's nearly $31 million ahead of Bolt at the same interval. It will outgross Princess and the Frog next weekend and has pretty much passed Meet the Robinsons as of today. So by any rational standard, the film is a big win for the Mouse House, even if the film did cost (allegedly) $260 million to make. If that's true, then it will still be a very long time before Tangled gets in the black, although the likely trillions of dollars in merchandise sold will likely help ease the over-budgeting.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

First look at Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Friends don't let friends debut the first footage of their movie on Entertainment Tonight.

If you watch this on 'MUTE', it actually looks okay. There seems to be a token amount of real stunt work and it feels a bit more earthbound than the sequels. The trailer premieres on Monday, December 13th after which it will be attached to Tron: Legacy (which I will be seeing on December 13th; waiting for the IMAX screening). Anyway, you know my feelings on Entertainment Tonight, but if you want it, here you go.

Scott Mendelson

Blu Ray Review: Inception (2010)

148 minutes
rated PG-13
Available from WHV on Tuesday, Decmber 7th on DVD, Blu Ray, OnDemand, and Download.

By Scott Mendelson

For the original theatrical review, go HERE.
For thoughts on the second viewing of the film, go HERE.

If it needs to be said, Inception looks and sounds splendid on Blu Ray (and it looks pretty sharp on DVD too, since said Blu Ray package comes with a DVD/Digital Copy third disc). The audio sounded razor-sharp even on my non-existent audio set-up (when you have a three-year old sleeping in the next room over, surround sound is a waste of money and space). So the big question regards the supplemental package. As has been the case with most new releases from Warner Bros. over the last few years, it's a case of 'the least you can do'. There's shockingly little meat to what's on the disc, and shockingly little documentary/behind the scenes material. And, similarly to The Dark Knight Blu Ray, the making-of material plays less like a genuine 'here's how we made the movie' than a glorified 'for your consideration' Oscar highlight reel.

Dreaming a little dream: thoughts on the second viewing of Inception.

Seeing Inception for the second time, the line that keeps coming back to me is the one that caps the trailer, where Tom Hardy admonishes Joseph Gorden-Levitt and tells him "One mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling" before whipping out a rocket launcher. As great as much of Inception is, how I wish that Chris Nolan hadn't been afraid to really explore the nature of dreaming for more than just superior action sequences and overly-complicated heist-film plot mechanics. There is a fantastic documentary on the Blu Ray set, arguably the only feature in the slim supplemental package worth a damn, that deals with the science and speculation of dreams and how they work. Watching this before viewing the second viewing of said feature, one realizes how Nolan barely scratched the surface of the rich storytelling possibilities that the dream world has to offer. It may not be fair to criticize Inception for not being the definitive action-thriller about the dreamworld, but one cannot deny that the dreamworld envisioned by Chris Nolan (car chases, gunfights, explosions!) lacks a certain amount of imagination.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Jodie Foster: "She did not live to earn approval stickers."

Jodie Foster and Mel Gibson's The Beaver gets a trailer.

Oddly enough, I had been paying so little attention to the specific details of this picture that I didn't even realize that Jodie Foster was actually co-starring as well as directing. And I certainly didn't realize that Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Laurence were in this one too. The trailer certainly tries to sell a somewhat generic and uplifting 'triumph over mental illness' story (the voice over is beyond patronizing), but there does seem to be some honest quirk in there. Point being, this certainly looks like something worth checking out. Jodie Foster hasn't directed a film in fifteen years (the superb Home For the Holidays), and she remains an icon in her field and someone who always demands our attention. And, whatever we may think of Mel Gibson the human being, Mel Gibson the actor is someone who rarely missteps, especially when he's trying to make a 'real' movie. Summit Entertainment will be opening this picture sometime in early 2011.

Scott Mendelson

As Pirates of the Caribbean 5 and 6 are more-or-less confirmed, a moment of appreciation for Gore Verbinski's original trilogy.

About a week before the debut of the first real trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, work has come out from the always dependable HitFix that Disney plans to build a whole new trilogy around Rob Marshall's fourth Jack Sparrow adventure. No word on details (Depp's schedule is awfully crowded these days), but at the very least it is a sign that the Mouse House is pleased with Marshall's upcoming entry in the long-running franchise. And yes, the plan is to shoot parts 5 and 6 back-to-back, because that went over so well with the cast and crew of the original series. Having said that, let me step up and defend Dead Man's Chest and At World's End. While they lacked the simplicity and whimsy of Curse of the Black Pearl, they were heavily character-driven, pleasantly complicated, and weirdly amoral tales of piracy.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A theoretical Catch 22: You have to have seen Tron to understand Tron: Legacy, but Disney won't let you seen Tron.

I generally don't do the whole 'look what this critic wrote', as it's awfully close to just stealing someone else's work for the sake of content. However, now that Tron: Legacy reviews are slowly coming in (pretty positive so far, but I suspect that will even out when the traditional critics see it), there is something that is worth noting. In one of two reviews now up at Rotten Tomatoes, Jenna Busch of makes the following comment:

"I just think that all of the things they put in are not going to be understood by people who haven't seen the first film. And there it is. I've spoken to a bunch of people who were at the screening who hadn't. They were bored. Not because it wasn't shiny. Not because they don't like sci-fi. Because they got tired of trying to figure out what the hell was happening. There is a reveal at the end of the film that not one of these people understood. I almost missed it myself, since it was bogged down in other ideas and events."

Jodie Foster's The Beaver gets a synopsis, theoretical release date.

Say what you will about Mel Gibson, but the guy makes good films and works with good people (Richard Donner, Martin Campbell, etc). More importantly, I support Jodie Foster. Anyway, Summit Entertainment announced that they would indeed be releasing The Beaver this coming spring, along with this brief official synopsis:

Two-time Academy Award® winner Jodie Foster directs and co-stars with two-time Academy Award® winner Mel Gibson in THE BEAVER – an emotional story about a man on a journey to re-discover his family and re-start his life. Plagued by his own demons, Walter Black was once a successful toy executive and family man who now suffers from depression. No matter what he tries, Walter can’t seem to get himself back on track…until a beaver hand puppet enters his life.

There will apparently be a trailer released online tomorrow.

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Review: Black Swan (2010)

Black Swan
110 minutes
Rated R
Opens December 3rd in select theaters

By Scott Mendelson

Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan is a dazzling and often intoxicating horror story. No, it's not a body count slasher picture or a supernatural spook story, but it is every bit as unnerving as the best in traditional horror. It is at the core a character study of one woman striving for perfection in a severely competitive field and the various people around her who may or may not be looking out for her best interests. But the film is told in such a dazzling fashion that it often resembles a fever dream. It is scrumptious entertainment and a remarkable bit of cinema. It also contains a remarkably full-throttle performance by Natalie Portman, one that will likely win her an Oscar next year.

Winter's Bone wins Best Feature at the Gotham Awards, starting the awards derby on the right note.

The first major awards show of the year started the season on just the right note. Winter's Bone, easily the best live-action picture of the year so far, scored the Best Feature Award, while also winning Best Ensemble Performance (yay for John Hawkes). Somewhat surprisingly, Jennifer Laurence did not win the Best Breakthrough Performance award (she lost to Ronald Bronstein), but she'll have to make due with a surefire Oscar nomination in a month or so (if I had my way, she and Natalie Portman would just both win the Best Actress Oscar and call it a night). The film and its cast and crew landed seven Film Independent Spirit Award nominations this morning, including Best Picture, Best Female Lead (Jennifer Laurence), Best Director (Debra Granik), Best Screenplay (Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini), Best Supporting Male (John Hawkes, who damn-well better win), Best Supporting Female (Dale Dickey), and Best Cinematography (Michael McDonough). Winter's Bone is the best film of the year that isn't Toy Story 3. Glad to see the awards season on the right track from the get-go.

Scott Mendelson

The Adjustment Bureau gets two awful posters.

These may be two of the lamest pieces of poster art in a long time. Aside from the fact that Emily Blunt apparently cannot run without the help of Matt Damon (she plays a ballet dancer, which means she's probably in much better shape than he is), the entire layout looks poorly photoshopped and not the least bit serious. If this movie is somekind of jokey nod to Hitchcock's man-on-the-run thrillers, then so be it. But the trailer seems to be selling this as a serious thriller. I don't think anyone can look at these posters, especially the tall one with its 'okay, pose for the camera and pretend to run... now!' character shots, and do anything but giggle. Poster fail.

Scott Mendelson

Smoke, but no fire: Bosnian activist group 'Women Victims of War' attacks Angelina Jolie over made-up concerns of her new film.

The headlines scream "Jolie called insensitive to Bosnian rape victims!" and "Angelina Jolie called ignorant by Womens Victims of War". But if you read the story, and read their statement, it becomes quite clear that this group (however noble their work is up to this point) has used the media's obsession with smacking down big celebrities as a way to get their name in the newspapers. The gist is that Jolie is directing a drama set during the Bosnian war, around 1992-1995. It concerns a romantic plot involving a Serbian prison guard and a Bosnian captive, a woman who was once his girlfriend (sounds like the plot of the first 'Sayid episode' in the first season of Lost). This tidbit has been tossed about as 'proof' that Angelina Jolie is making a film about a rape victim who falls in love with her rapist. They have not seen the script and prior attempts by Jolie to set up a meeting with the group have been unsuccessful.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

RIP: Leslie Nielsen (1926-2010)

On the opening night of Scary Movie 3, when Leslie Nielsen paid homage to his 'want want to tell you all good luck, we're all counting on you' bit from Airplane!, my friend and I were only ones in the theater who laughed. I cannot describe to you how old I felt in that moment on October 24th, 2003. Rest in piece Leslie Nielsen. We'll try not to call you Shirley. Most of tonight's obituaries will (justifiably) focus on his legendary deadpan comic work in Airplane!, The Naked Gun, and non-Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker spoofs like Repossessed, Spy Hard, and Superhero Movie. But for those who only know Mr. Nielson as 'that guy from all of those spoofs', take a moment to relish Leslie Nielsen: horror film villain. After the jump, go about 5 minutes into the first clip for this second segment in the 1982 horror anthology Creepshow. Farewell Mr. Nielsen, you'll always be Shirley to us.

Scott Mendelson

Weekend Box Office (11/28/10): Tangled and Harry Potter 7 face off over crowded Thanksgiving. Burlesque, Faster, Love and Other Drugs open soft.

Like a combination of Thanksgiving holidays past, it was a combination of Harry Potter holding down the fort against all newcomers, while a Disney animated property broke out of the gate. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I still won the three-day and five-day weekend derby, but Disney's Tangled had a smashing debut that set a record for a three-day opening weekend for a standard Disney cartoon (IE - not Pixar). The Disney fairy-tale scored $48.7 million over the Fri-Sun portion of the weekend and amassed a whopping $68.7 million since opening on Wednesday. Inflation and 3D price-bump aside, this best the $42 million opening of The Lion King way back in summer 1994 (which was one of the top-five opening weekends ever at the time). It's also the second-largest Thanksgiving opening weekend in history, behind the $80 million five-day and $59 million three-day opening weekend of Toy Story 2 back in 1999 (that $57 million debut was the third-biggest ever at the time). The lesson here is a simple one: Disney REALLY should have opened The Princess and the Frog in wide release over Thanksgiving last year.


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