Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Expendables gets a (generic) official trailer.

Well, that looks every bit as underwhelming as the leaked 'bootleg trailer' from a couple months ago. This has been tested a couple times and the word has been generally unimpressive. The film certainly feels like an 80s throwback, right down to the cheesy theme song that inexplicably shares its title with the film in question. The film also feels very 80s in that it's mainly just planning for action with a major action blow-out coming only at the finale (think Commando). I'm still beyond shocked that Lionsgate gave away what should have been a applause-garnering surprise cameo (the scene at 0:51). This trailer at least looks polished and clean and the cast rundown does a better job of highlighting which big action stars are actually in the picture. If Lionsgate has any brains (who knows these days?), they'll cut a second clip later this summer highlighting the bad guys (Eric Roberts and Danny Trejo) and the women in peril (Charisma Carpenter and Giselle Itié) and emphasizing hard action over 'the bonds of brotherhood'. This is a pick-up for Lionsgate, so their exposure shouldn't be too bad. At this point, The Expendables looks every bit as disappointing as that other 'dream team-up' Freddy Vs. Jason.

Scott Mendelson

Guest Review - Clash of the Titans in 3D (2010)

Friend and fellow film critic R.L. Shaffer has begun doing audio reviews on his movie/Blu Ray review site DVD Future. It's something I've considered doing now and then, but frankly I'm a better writer than an off-the-cuff speaker. If you think I ramble and go into a dozen random digressions when I write... Anyway, back on point, Mr. Shaffer just posted his (very sharp and occasionally funny) audio review of Clash of the Titans. I, alas, was stuck at work (boo!) and/or Passover Seder with relatives (yay!) over the past two days, so I was unable to attend the press screenings. In all likelihood, I'll be attending a showing sometime over the weekend at my convenience. Said showing will be in glorious 2D. Anyway, please enjoy.

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Review: How to Train Your Dragon: an IMAX 3D Experience (2010)

How to Train Your Dragon: an IMAX 3D Experience
98 minutes
rated PG (sequences of intense action, some scary images, brief mild language)

by Scott Mendelson

I often talk about how certain directors are actually two different filmmakers who share the same name. Surely the Wes Craven who directed Vampire in Brooklyn and Deadly Friend couldn't be the same guy who directed A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream, or Red Eye. And could the same Chris Columbus have helmed both Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief? By that token, the folks at Dreamworks Animation seem to suffer from a sort of split personality disorder as well. Sometimes they give us A Shark Tale and Monsters Vs. Aliens and sometimes they give us Over the Hedge and Kung Fu Panda. Which Dreamworks showed up for work this time? Well, I spent $16.50 on my IMAX 3D ticket and I don't feel the least bit ripped off.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

No shock here... Iron Man 2 wins summer movie hype poll.

For the past couple months, I've had a poll up basically tracking anticipation levels of the (likely) biggest hits of summer 2010. None of this is the least bit scientific, but here you go, if you cared enough to vote...

What was your most anticipated film of summer 2010?

Iron Man 2 - 38%
Inception - 20%
Toy Story 3D - 16%
Twilight Saga: Eclipse - 14%
Sex and the City 2 - 7%
Shrek Forever After - 3%

There you have it. No real surprises, so make of it what you will. For what it's worth, Inception spent the first month with a huge lead before the Tony Stark fans apparently came out in force. Obviously the readers on this site tend towards the nerdy, but the fact that Inception is solidly in number two based purely on the marquee value of director Chris Nolan is impressive. As always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Weekend box office in review (03/28/10).

Maybe it really is a case of 'it's the movie, stupid'. After Avatar opened to $77 million and ended up the most successful movie ever by a huge margin, and after Alice in Wonderland opened with $116 million and ended up as one of the highest-grossing non-summer releases of all-time, the studios at large seemed to think that the answer was '3D'. In the last months, every studio has rushed to proclaim that pretty much all of their upcoming tent-poles will be released in 3D prints alongside the traditional 2D ones. Some will be shot with 3D in mind (the stunning-looking Tron Legacy), while others will be converted after the fact (next weekend's Clash of the Titans). Surely the reason that these films broke out was purely because they were being offered in 3D, not because of the innate appeal of the films themselves (a big-budget Tim Burton adaption of Alice in Wonderland with Johnny Depp and Anne Hathaway - who would want to see that?), or the top-flight marketing jobs performed by (respectively) 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney. No, it had to have been merely the 3D. Right? Well, maybe not so much...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

On the eve of cancellation, a look back at 24's first groundbreaking season.

As most of you know, it was officially announced yesterday that Fox's 24 would be ending its run at the conclusion of its eighth season. I'll have more to say about that later, but for now I'm publishing this college essay I wrote at the conclusion of the show's first (and still best) year. Looking back over this piece, I am again amused by those (on both sides of the political isle) who were shocked... SHOCKED in the middle years to discover the moral gray zone that this show operated in. Not only has the show always dealt with moral characters making immoral decisions to preserve morality, that has been what the show was about since day one. Enjoy this nearly eight-year old piece of film-school writing. And yes, this covers the WHOLE first season, so a big fat SPOILER WARNING...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Blu Ray review: Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Sherlock Holmes
128 minutes
rated PG-13
Available April 30th from Warner on DVD, Blu Ray, OnDemand, and iTunes download.

by Scott Mendelson

It's a rare thing to get generally decent reviews, open to $62 million, slowly but surely cross $200 million domestic and $500 million worldwide, win a Golden Globe for lead actor and still end up with no respect. But that is the fate that faces Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes as it makes its way to home video. Completely overshadowed by Avatar, this relatively successful franchise starter had to deal with constantly being referred to as 'the other movie' in a holiday season that it expected to dominate. Oversold as a slam-bang action adventure that retrofitted the world's greatest detective as a Playstation 3/Twitter/Facebook friendly action star, the film reveals itself as a relatively character driven detective story that has only a token amount of gratuitous action.

Review: The Runaways (2010)

The Runaways
109 minutes
Rated R

by Scott Mendelson

The Runaways tells a story so old that director/writer Floria Sigismondi barely sees fit to tell it at all. The film, purporting to chronicle the quick rise and fall of the first popular American all-girl rock band, has little to say and little to justify its existence. Knowing next to nothing about the real history being presented, I couldn't tell whether I was seeing a cliff notes version or a relatively small story stretched out to feature length. Nothing much happens in The Runaways. Take out the classic rock biopic journey and all you're left with is a few decent musical numbers and a whole lot of confused sexual politics.

Transformers 3 now worth seeing?

When I was a freshman in college, a close friend of mine had this dream project of doing a big-budget Friday the 13th movie (part 10 at the time), with a real budget and a real cast. His two dream co-stars were Kurt Russell and John Malkovich. I distinctly remember giving him hell over the likelihood of two big stars and/or respected thespians taking part in such an obvious blow-off gig, as well as the desire to hear a trailer guy gravelly intoning: "John Malkovich and Kurt Russell in... Friday the 13th part 10.

Well, that was ten years ago. As most of you already know, Michael Bay has somehow convinced Frances McDormand and (yes) John Malkovich to come on board for the next Transformers picture. Comic god Ken Jeong has also signed up, but that doesn't mean anything other than that Jeong will be in the movie and will likely be funny in it. As for the other two, Malkovich will be playing Shia LeBeouf's boss (not a jewel thief, alas) and Francis McDormand will be playing the head of the NSA or something to that effect. While Malkovich has been known to ever-so-occasionally play in the genre pool (Eragon, Jonah Hex, Mutant Chronicles), McDormand has more or less stayed out of the action/adventure sandbox since her damsel-in-distress turn in Sam Raimi's Darkman back in 1990. So while Malkovich will likely dive head-first into the cheese (like John Turturro), expect Frances McDormand to simply make like Glenn Morshower or Michael O'Neal (both 24 vets) and just pretend like hell that she's in a real movie and exit stage right with her head held high.

While we can all randomly guess just how and why two uber-respected actors were convinced to appear in the least-respected major franchise currently going (I'm guessing Malkovich wanted/needed a quick payday after Spider-Man 4 fell through), it does seem to confirm that Malkovich is reaching the self-parody second-act of his career, where he just wants to enjoy himself and occasionally mock his image (in Hollywood, you either die a villain, or live long enough to see yourself become the punchline). As for McDormand, maybe she and Malkovich got along on Burn After Reading and she just wanted to cash in for once. It is fascinating that, come next summer, many people will be discussing Transformers 3 because of the inexplicably high-caliber cast. Weird...

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

For those who care - Iron Man 2 gets an international poster.

As I mentioned last night, the opening weekend competition basically comes down to Iron Man 2 vs. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, with Toy Story 3 possibly playing the spoiler. The one-sheet above is a solid piece of work, clearly emulating the core design of the first film's poster. Like the last picture, you have a collage of floating half-bodies, with the superhero designs in the back ground hovering behind them. While the first poster pretended not to reveal who the key villain was, there is no mystery in this sequel, hence the bottom action shot of Whiplash. What I do find amusing is that both posters have Tony Stark and James Rhodes looking away from us, while Pepper Potts and the big bad stare us directly in the face. The outlier is of course Black Widow, who also refuses to look us in the eye. Oddly enough, Both Stark and Rhodes are both looking up at the sky, but in the respective opposite directions that they were looking in the first poster. Point being, I do adore when marketing attempts to create a sort of continuity for franchise pictures and this one fits the bill to a tee. Nice work at Paramount marketing.

Scott Mendelson

For those who care - The Twilight Saga: Eclipse gets a poster.

Laugh all you want, but choke on your mockery when Team Not--You pulls in one of the biggest opening weekends of the summer, if not the year. Only Iron Man 2, Toy Story 3, and Shrek Forever After will come close to the first three days on this one in summer 2010. Iron Man 2 is a serious threat to the $158 million scored by The Dark Knight, and Eclipse is a threat to the five-day $203 million record. Toy Story 3 will likely open just below those two but do a slower-but-mightier run as the top-grosser of summer of 2010. As for the poster itself, it's a nice minimalist image, but I am amused with the tagline. "It all begins... with a choice". Fair enough, but we're halfway through this series, so I think it's a little late to 'begin' anything. Who does David Slade think he is, a writer on Lost ('gee, we've got 18 episodes left, let's invent a whole new conflict that will confuse the hell out of everyone!')?

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Titanic: Two the Surface trailer.

This is a pretty terrific fake trailer, done with minimal tricks and simply a collection of completely appropriate film clips that really do merge into one coherent preview. Double points for the priceless use of an infamous dance mix of 'that song'. Like most things like this, it's about twice as long as it should be, but I chuckled several times throughout.

Scott Mendelson

Dilemma of the token actress. Poor female roles or no female roles?

As everyone who reads this site probably already knows, Chris Evans was officially, finally cast yesterday as Steve Rogers in Joe Johnston's The First Avenger: Captain America. With Evans donning the shield and Hugo Weaving apparently The Red Skull, the next step is to locate the 'female lead/love interest'. Among the leading contenders are Alice Eve, Emily Blunt, and Keira Knightley, with Blunt in the lead due to her having to turn down the role of Black Widow in Iron Man 2 due to prior commitments. None of the articles concerning these actresses bother to name the character in question.

Neat. Scott Mendelson quoted in Time Magazine.

That's last week's Time Magazine, dated March 22nd, 2010, on page 19. You can click on the image to see a version large enough to actually read, but it's quoting from the Huffington Post version of my post-Oscar Kathryn Bigelow article published on March 8th. How nice that I'm featured right next to both Sarah Palin and Chief Justice John Roberts. I can only hope that it's a coincidence. You can see the original article here, or the Huffington Post version here. I know it's not a huge deal, but it's a nice moment of validation and something neat to show the kids/grand-kids when they are old enough/young enough to be impressed by such trivialities.

Scott Mendelson

Monday, March 22, 2010

Blu Ray review: The Lord of the Rings: the motion picture trilogy (2001-2003)

The Lord of the Rings trilogy
The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King
2001, 2002, 2003
178 minutes, 179 minutes, and 202 minutes
Rated PG-13 (for intense epic battle scenes and frighting images)
Available for Download, Blu Ray, OnDemand, from Warner on Tuesday, April 6th.

by Scott Mendelson

They are the finest fantasy films ever made. The best trilogy of all-time. Winner of seventeen Oscars. With worldwide box office totals of $2.9 billion, with $1 billion of that from the US alone. Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings is truly a one-of-a-kind accomplishment. They opened to rave reviews and captured the hearts of audiences worldwide, leading to unheard-of box office and awards for the genre. Yet when the time came to tally up the cinematic achievements of the past decade, the one trilogy to rule them all was strangely missing from many of the lists. Salon asked why there was not more love for this epic adventure series, and I'll reprint here what I wrote back in December of last year.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Weekend Box Office Review (03/21/10): Alice three-peats, Diary of A Wimpy Kid and The Bounty Hunter open well, Repo Men flops.

There was a multitude of new wide and limited releases this weekend, but the top of the box office remained the same, if only for one more weekend. Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland again claimed the top spot, grossing $34.1 million with a somewhat reasonable 45% drop. That's the sixth-biggest third weekend of all-time. It's also Disney's first three-peat since Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest back in July 2006. Faced with genuine demo competition (see spots two and three below), the 3D fable still held its ground. In just seventeen days, Tim Burton has a new top domestic grosser, as Alice in Wonderland ends today with $265.4 million, putting it $14 million over the $251.2 million gross of the original Batman. Yes, inflation and 3D ticket prices can be taken into account, but that's a personal best record that has held for nearly twenty-two years. How ironic that in the days that Disney is panicking over the relative box office disappointment of The Princess and the Frog by attempting to man-up its future cartoons, that we have a female-driven, genuinely feminist adventure film that will likely out-gross every Disney cartoon ever made save for (possibly) The Lion King and Finding Nemo. Yes, the film was sold as a Johnny Depp vehicle and emphasized action and adventure (not that those are male-only domains), but that only explains the opening weekend. Right or wrong, the film's female-empowerment angle is clearly appealing to the wide swath of moviegoers.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Nikki Finke wrong yet again on box office. Jennifer Aniston/Gerard Butler rom-com Bounty Hunter grosses $7.6 million in one day, called a failure.

"This is an embarrassingly soft opening considering the tabloid celebpower (Jennifer Aniston, Gerard Butler) and the wide release and omnipresent marketing. Maybe audiences are tiring of these imbecilic romantic comedies? Or these flack-phonied romances between stars leading up to the films' opening? Stop the stupidity, Hollywood."

Nikki Finke was referring to the opening day gross for The Bounty Hunter, which pulled in $7.65 million for second place, with a likely weekend take of $21-23 million. Embarrassingly soft opening? Based on what? $21 million will be just fine for a romantic caper picture, especially one that cost just under $50 million. This will easily be Jeniffer Aniston's sixth-biggest opening weekend, and her biggest that didn't feature more famous co-stars and/or cute puppies. If the film gets even to $22 million by tomorrow, it will be Gerard Butler's third-biggest opening weekend, fourth if you count his cameo appearance in Tomorrow Never Dies. It will also be his third of four $21 million+ opening in the last eight months (The Ugly Truth at $27.6 million and Law-Abiding Citizen at $21 million and next weekend's How to Train Your Dragon, which will probably top $21 million in one day). This is easily Finke's biggest 'pull random expectations out of my ass to make the stars look bad' bit since she kept hammering at Michael Jackson's This is It for merely making $100 million worldwide in five days.

Friday, March 19, 2010

All Warner Bros tentpoles to be in 3D...

Not good news. Alan Horn announced at Show West that 3D would be the standard for all future franchise pictures from Warner in the near future. Why is this bad news? Well, as a paying customer, I will always have the choice on whether or not to indulge in the 3D gimmick or simply watch a given picture in 2D. But as a critic, I know full well that these films are going to be offered to the press only in their 3D formats. Alice In Wonderland was genuinely marred by the format, and I'm considering waiting to see Clash of the Titans until its opening weekend so that I might view it in its intended 2D format. Alas, Alan Horn confirmed that some of these films will be shot in 3D while some will be converted after the fact.

Life gets in the way... (here's a Predators trailer for your patience)

Sorry for the lack of posts this week. Allison was sick on Monday, while Tues-Thurs were brutal workdays. Ironically, the load is pretty light today, which means I likely would have seen/written about The Runaways and/or Repo Men if not for that pesky fever I picked up yesterday. Point being, I'm still around and things should return to normal in time for Sunday's usual box office review. Anyway, while you patiently wait for my return, here's that trailer for Predators. I don't have much to offer as I was never that big of a fan of the franchise, but the cast seems solid.

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Jack McCoy and the case of the lousy Smarch weather. (Thunk-thunk).

Thanks to Kelly Oxford for snapping this pic from tonight's Law and Order. To be fair, since the cast change-up in January 08, the show has been on a quality roll not seen since the late 1990s. But still... this is too precious. I expect these kind of screw-ups from Benson and Stabler (or as my wife affectionately refers to them, the 'special f&^-ups unit'), but not the original recipe team. As Steven Hill would so eloquently say back in the day, Hmph.

Scott Mendelson

Monday, March 15, 2010

Rapunzel becomes more boy-friendly 'Tangled', Disney ditches their 'princess' label, and you really ought to rent The Princess and the Frog tomorrow.

As the LA Times reported about a week ago, Disney's upcoming Rapunzel (see the teaser) cartoon has undergone a gender-neutral makeover in response to the (comparatively) disappointing box office take of The Princess and the Frog. In short, they are changing the title to the gender non-specific name Tangled and beefing up the role of the male romantic interest, who is now a swashbuckling heartthrob who will no doubt engage in several gratuitous action sequences. Don't worry, I'm sure our heroine will get to throw a condescending 'girl-power' punch or two. Apparently the bosses at Burbank have concluded that the sole reason for the underwhelming box office haul of The Princess and the Frog was that it had the word 'princess' in its title and thus scared away the boys. Of course, that might very well be true. While Disney has had countless female-driven cartoons over their lifetime, most of the recent ones where not marketed as 'princess fantasies'.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Double Vision...

Hmm... looks familiar. It gets worse. You'd think this would have caught the attention of more than just a few horror sites. Considering that Universal sued Lionsgate two years ago over Witless Protection casting Yaphet Katto as the same character he played in Midnight Run, you'd think Lionsgate would be itching for payback.

Scott Mendelson

The statute of limitations has long-since passed on the 'crimes' of George Lucas.

"No! Everyone will tell you to let it go and move on, but don't! Instead, let it fester and boil inside of you! Take these feelings and lock them away. Let them fuel your actions. Let hate be your ally, and you will be capable of wonderful, horrid things. Heed my words: don't let it go."

Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace opened eleven years ago this May 19th. Judging by the trailer above, some people have never recovered. The prequels were never intended to reach the grown men who grew up thinking that the Star Wars trilogy was the greatest piece of art ever created. They were intended to induct new, younger fans, the children of the original fans. If anything, I (among others) would argue that The Empire Strikes Back hit a note of such high quality and character-driven pathos that it may have just been incompatible with what was intended to be a series of highly-polished, technologically-advanced, occasionally political, B-movie space adventures. I love the first trilogy for what it was, and I love the prequel trilogy for what it is. I like the great Star Wars video games (Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy, The Force Unleashed, Super Star Wars, Lego Star Wars, etc) and ignore the rest. Even The Clone Wars series turned out to be a relatively smart and exciting action cartoon. And I even treasure the Star Wars Jedi Training Academy show at Disneyland, which is the perfect distraction for my two-year old as my wife holds our place in the long-ass line for the Finding Nemo ride (she's bored by the Jedi, but gets excited when Darth Vader and Darth Maul show up). Point being, there is a whole world of Star Wars entertainment, and everyone can find a part of it that they enjoy best.

It's time to forgive George Lucas for not making the Star Wars prequels that you wanted to see when you were kids. Don't do it for him, do it for yourselves.

Weekend Box Office Review (03/14/10): Alice in Wonderland retains top spot, newbies open soft, Avatar will not die.

As expected, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland retained the top spot over the weekend. What was not as likely was that the film would drop just 46% in its second weekend, grossing $62.7 million in its second weekend and ending its tenth day with $208.5 million. Now a 46% drop isn't small potatoes, but for a film that opened to over $100 million, it's the third-smallest second weekend drop ever. Shrek 2 dropped 33% in its second three-day weekend and Spider-Man dropped 37%. Now when you merely count stand-alone three-day opening weekends that lead to stand-alone three-day second weekends, only Spider-Man had a smaller drop amongst $100 million+ openers. The movie followed the sixth-biggest opening of all-time with the sixth-biggest second weekend of all-time, as well as the second-biggest non-summer second-weekend of all-time (behind Avatar). Point being, while I didn't care for the film, it seems to be doing superb amongst casual moviegoers and kid-friendly demographics.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ed Schultz: 51 Senators willing to vote YES on 'Public Option' if House votes first?

The crux seems to be that there are many senators who are willing to vote 'yes' on a public option (a government-run variation on Medicare to compete with private insurance companies) being inserted into the final health care reform bill if such a thing passes first in the House of Representatives. We've been jerked along so much that we're all starting to feel like Charlie Brown attempting to once again kick that football. But the math seems solid and the reasoning seems notable (no one wants to the 'one' senator who killed the public option). Of course, just what kind of public option we're talking about (and just who is eligible to buy into it) is not terribly clear. But let's cross that bridge when we come to it...

Scott Mendelson

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Green Zone: When right vs. wrong becomes tagged as liberal propaganda.

Today sees the long-delayed opening of Paul Greengrass's Iraq-war thriller The Green Zone. Why it did not open this Friday, which is the seventh anniversary of the start of the Iraq campaign, I do not know. As expected, Paul Greengrass uses his Bourne-tricks to craft a thrill-infused version of just what went down during the earliest days of 'Operation Iraqi Freedom'. For those who want the same discourse without the somewhat generic thriller elements, just rent the fantastic documentary No End In Sight, which deals (as objectively as possible) with the hopelessly bungled occupation which led to the protracted post-invasion conflict. Or, if you've got five hours to kill, rent the PBS/Frontline documentary Bush's War.

Joke's on you...

The idea first sprang up when Leonardo DiCaprio first flirted with the idea of playing Patrick Bateman in Mary Harron's American Psycho. At the time, DiCaprio had just come off of Titanic and he was the absolute top-heartthrob in the universe to countless preteen and teenage girls. The idea of millions of young girls walking into American Psycho knowing only that it was just another Leonardo DiCaprio star vehicle and then being shocked at the onscreen content was too hilarious a prospect to disregard. Anyway, I always had the idea of crafting some kind of 'prank movie', which basically involved casting the hot heartthrob of the moment (be it DiCaprio or Freddie Prinze Jr.) and selling the film as a warm and fuzzy romantic comedy, only to have it turn into a 'social issues' picture at the very end. IE - Unsuspecting moviegoers pay to see a variation on She's All That, they end up with a completely out-of-left field climax resembling the finale of Requiem For A Dream.

I'm not sure why that came up this morning, must have been the weather. Oh, Robert Pattinson's new romantic vehicle Remember Me comes out today. I wonder how it ends...

Scott Mendelson

Shrek Forever After gets a second trailer.

I'm not thrilled about having to basically relive the character introductions of the first picture. Frankly spending a whole film with the characters having to restart their friendships or romances instead of enriching or developing them further seems like a waste of time. After all, it was never the dated music or pop-culture references that kept this series fresh, but rather the mature character interaction and surprisingly honest look at how relationships work, be they romantic or platonic. The first two Shrek films especially were two of the most honest and sophisticated romantic comedies of the last decade or so. The third was a comedown, but it at least dealt with the logical progression of these characters and their lives together (preparing to start a family, learning to deal with responsibility). Yes, I'm hopeful that this picture will deal with Shrek's apparent mid-life crisis, but it's a shame they felt the need to do a whole It's A Wonderful Life rip-off rather than just deal with the issues at play. As always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Scott Mendelson

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Funny of Die: Presidential Reunion.

The politics are sound and the idea is undeniably clever, I just wish this Ron Howard sketch was a little funnier. Ironically, the one non-Saturday Night Live cast member, Jim Carrey, steals the show as Ronald Reagan. His last line is a winner. Of course, if you're wondering why Carrey (who of course got his start on In Living Color) is playing Reagan, alas the answer is because it was Phil Hartman who played 'the Gipper' for much of the 80s and 90s. None the less, financial regulatory reform is the one issue that could bring together the 'racist, reactionary' tea-baggers and the 'brain-dead, terrorist-loving' socialists, if only they could stop demonizing each other long enough to realize as much. Enjoy...

Scott Mendelson

Twilight Saga: Eclipse gets a trailer.

Here's a brilliant idea, Summit. Next time you try to build hype for a new release by attaching a trailer for your biggest franchise to the prints, how about you try to keep the trailer off the Internet until after opening weekend? Yeesh...

This is very much a teaser, with only the core plot element tossed out. There is no reference to whatever else might be going on in the world of vampires, only the idea that Bella must choose between the lover who's customs demand she leave all she knows behind and the platonic best buddy who loves her just the way she is. I haven't seen the second film yet (my wife was curious, so we're waiting for the Blu Ray), so I can't comment on why the return of Victoria (now played by Bryce Dallas Howard) is bad news beyond the climactic events of the first film. As the law demands, there is at least one shot of a shirtless Taylor Lautner. As I've said before, arguably the most refreshing thing about this series is that it objectifies the boys rather than the girls. I've been told that the third book is pretty action-packed, and I imagine that Summit wouldn't have sprung for IMAX screens if it was just three young heartthrobs brooding in a dark forest. So I expect we'll see a second trailer around May that shows off whatever spectacle that David Slade (30 Days of Night) has in store this time around. As always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ridley Scott's Robin Hood gets a second trailer. Still bored.

Sorry folks, this looks really uninteresting. We already had a 'serious, historically relevant' take on Robin Hood back in 1991, and quite a few critics attacked it for its violence, grimness, and overall darkness. Wanna bet this version gets praised for exactly those things? Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves may have been a tonally awkward and occasionally absurd movie, but it had a cast to die for and several colorful characters to prop up its revisionist story of 'Robin of the hood'. This new version has a few worthwhile actors hidden around the fringes (William Hurt, Mark Strong, Danny Huston, and Max von Sydow), but nothing about the footage pops in any way. It just feels like nameless, faceless extras going into battle alongside Russel Crowe against a relatively bland Prince John (Oscar Issac). Ridley Scott is hit or miss for me, and I'll gladly eat crow(e) if this turns out to be closer to Kingdom of Heaven than Hannibal, but this feels like a director and star both desperate for a hit by making an unofficial sequel to their biggest hit.

Scott Mendelson

Wall Street 2 moves to September. MPAA updates, release date musical chairs...

As always, thanks to Box Office Mojo for being up-to-the-minute on this stuff. There isn't too much to report on the ratings front. As expected, Shrek Forever After has received a PG (for mild action, some rude humor and brief language) while Robin Hood has snagged a mandatory PG-13 (for violence including intense sequences of warfare, and some sexual content), which means it will likely be at least as violent as the Kevin Reynolds version that caused such an uproar over its darkness and violence back in 1991. The Amanda Seyfried romantic dramedy Letters From Juliet has received a rare (for a live-action picture) PG rating, which is for "brief rude behavior and sensual images, some language and incidental smoking". Both live-action films open on May 14th, so which is the most promising depends on which directors brought their A-game. Gary Winick helmed the shockingly good 13 Going On 30, but also the ghastly Bride Wars. Meanwhile, Ridley Scott is pretty much 50/50 these days, with a Hannibal for every Kingdom of Heaven.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Academy Award Winning Movie: The Trailer.

It's about a minute or so too long (most trailers are 150 seconds), but this thing is pretty brilliant anyway.

Scott Mendelson

Monday, March 8, 2010

Tron Legacy gets a teaser.

I can't say I was looking forward to this one. Despite my professional adoration of both Jeff Bridges and David Warner, the original Tron is just one of those geek movies that I just can't get into. Still, I'm actually intrigued by the opening moments, the promise of mystery and the inherent drama of a long-ago vanished father figure. The opening two acts of the preview feels genuinely noirish, and the acting feels real-world glum. Plus the teaser is surprisingly restrained and takes its time reintroducing viewers back into the video game world of Tron. Even Jeff Bridges's one line works wonders as a tease regarding just what kind of life he has lived since 1982. I'm not expecting high art, but this will hopefully be more than just a 3D light show.

Scott Mendelson

About Monique's Oscar acceptance speech...

"First I would like to thank the Academy for showing it can be about the performance and not the politics."

For those who hadn't been closely following the Oscar season, Best Supporting Actress winner Monique's speech must have seemed a little presumptuous, even combative. Since I knew what she was referring to in her opening remarks, I figured everyone else did too. But, since that's clearly not the case, allow me to take a moment to give a little background. For the record, there has been much written over the last several months over Mo’nique’s unwillingness to actively campaign for the Academy Award. Many a pundit had claimed that she didn't truly deserve the Oscar because she was unwilling to engage in the glad-handling that is often part and parcel with the awards season. She has a daily talk show to host, a successful career as a stand-up comedian, and a family to spend time with, so the idea that she didn't want to be out and about shaking hands and kissing babies is an understandable one. And that's her right to engage in the process or not. She has repeatedly said that her performance, for better or worse, speaks for itself. And she's right. While this is very rarely the case, the Oscar should be about the work, rather than the behind-the-scenes machinations that goes towards deciding the winners. And the fact that she won anyway is a wonderful thing, a sign that sometimes the work can be so overpowering that the creator of said art has nothing left to add. You want to know why Mo’nique won last night? Rent Precious. That's all you should need to do. So congrats to Mo’nique on winning despite the politics and for the incredible performance that she delivered in an awfully good movie. Oh, and great speech too...

Scott Mendelson

Why Kathryn Bigelow's big Oscar win might not be a real victory for women.

"Where did we go right?" - Zero Mostel in The Producers

After botching the theatrical release and nearly shooting themselves in the foot in the final lap of the Oscar season, Summit Entertainment still managed to stumble their way into their first Best Picture winner at a relatively early age. Congrats to The Hurt Locker. It wasn't my favorite of the ten and it's a little overrated, but that's not the fault of the filmmakers or the film. This is the second year in a row that the Best Picture winner was a movie that almost went directly to DVD due to studio disinterest or regime politics. The irony is that had Avatar not become a true phenomenon and The Hurt Locker just been another movie in the running, it probably would not have won (Precious probably would have won out). But because the $11 million little indie-war drama was positioned as the antithesis of the 'biggest movie of all time', it kept the momentum completely on the strength of its fabricated David vs. Goliath narrative. The movie's quality and those who have loved it since the beginning of last year is what got it to the nomination stage, but it was the perceived 'big film vs. little film' and 'girls vs. boys' that propelled it over the top.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Iron Man 2 gets a second, lighter trailer.

This second trailer seems to be selling comedy and light action, as opposed to the introspective, darker tones of the first trailer that was released back in December. I can't say I relish the idea of Tony Stark doing battle with a bunch of robots, but that's my problem for the moment. Robot smashing should generally be reserved for video games and media aimed at audiences too young to watch humans bloodily beating the stuffing out of other humans. As I noted upon viewing the first trailer, the majority of the film certainly seems to be trying for a smaller-scale, more personal story, more akin to Spider-Man 2 than X2: X-Men United (most of the action beats come from the race-track attack and a mass-robot fight/chase that feels like climactic material). Of course, Tony Stark isn't the sort of superhero who generally puts on his suit every night and looks for trouble, so the opportunities for action are somewhat limited. Regardless, if this means that the film will be a more honest look at the contradictory nature of Tony Stark's character-arc, then I'm all for it. But the footage on display seems to be avoiding any kind of gravitas or introspection, with the whole 'let's team up and destroy Iron Man' bit feeling like something out of Batman Forever. Granted, different trailers are cut for different moods, but I much prefer the character-driven moodiness of the first preview versus the overly peppy second one. I'm not saying that every comic book adaption should be as grim as The Dark Knight or Batman Returns (I'm the guy who more or less likes the Fantastic Four series). But there is something off-putting about seemingly flaunting just how little is at stake. As always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Weekend Box Office in review (03/07/10): Alice scores $116m, Avatar still lives on.

Despite his reputation as the mainstream representation of the outcast, Tim Burton is no stranger to box office records. He more or less invented the modern opening weekend when Batman shattered all short-term records with $40.4 million in its opening sprint. He broke his own record three years later with Batman Returns, which opened with $45.6 million. At the time of its release (November 1999), Sleepy Hollow's $30 million debut was one of the largest R-rated openings on record. Two and a half years later, he would score $68.5 million with Planet of the Apes, which was the second-highest opening weekend at the time. Oh, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory opened with $56.1 million in summer 2005. No records were broken, but at the time it was the fourth-biggest July debut and the second-biggest non-Harry Potter debut in Warner Bros history, behind The Matrix Reloaded ($91.7 million). Point being, when Burton makes something that people want to see, he's the most bankable director outside of the holy trinity of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and James Cameron.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Alice in Wonderland opens with $41 million Friday.

I'll keep this brief, as I'll otherwise just end up repeating myself tomorrow. But Disney's Alice in Wonderland 3D opened with $41 million over its initial Friday, setting the stage for Tim Burton's first $100 million+ opening of his career. It's all but guaranteed, barring complete collapse, to be the second-biggest non-summer opening of all time. If it can muster a kid-friendly 3.4x multiplier, it will surpass New Moon's $142 million take, but that's unlikely at this point (family film or no, films that make $40 million in one day tend to be a little frontloaded). Regardless, this is the nineteenth-biggest single-day gross, the eleventh-biggest opening day, and the seventh-biggest Friday gross of all time. It certainly seems that, post-Sleepy Hallow, Tim Burton's opening weekends are inversely proportional to the quality of the respective film. I'll go into the rest of this when the weekend estimates come in tomorrow morning (or afternoon, depending on when my daughter naps). But mazel tov to Disney on a massive marketing success, and congrats on Dick Cook, who greenlit the picture and supervised its production and marketing before getting canned late last year. As always, the new team will get to reap the successes of the slate that their predecessors set up.

Overture scored another solid double with Brooklyn's Finest, as the cop-drama ensemble opened with $4.7 million. The only other major news was the not-quite-crash of Avatar. Despite facing direct 3D competition and losing all of its IMAX venues and many of its 3D screens, the James Cameron opus dropped just 35% from last Friday with $1.97 million. All that stuff I've written about March 5th being the probable end of Avatar as a major money-maker? Never mind. Amusingly, Avatar was actually number one on Thursday ($1.62 million), with many moviegoers likely seizing what they thought might be their last chance to see the film in IMAX or the largest 3D theaters.

Scott Mendelson

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Review: Alice in Wonderland: The 3D IMAX Experience (2010)

Alice in Wonderland
109 minutes
Rated PG

by Scott Mendelson

Expectations are a funny thing. Alice in Wonderland is not a good movie. It is, quite simply, a very bad and fatally misguided picture. But since I was not the first critic to see the film, I had the luxury of knowing that a director who I once worshiped had possibly out-and-out whiffed. Had I entered the theater expecting a picture equal to Sweeney Todd, I would have walked out devastated. But, expectations in check, I was able to appreciate the few things that went right with Burton's latest adventure, while being fully aware of how shallow and empty this latest exercise really is. But make no mistake, Alice in Wonderland is easily Tim Burton's worst film since Planet of the Apes, and its failures bring into question just what kind of filmmaker he wants to be in the next phase of his career.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Roger Ebert regains his voice...

It's slightly out of sync, but here is the Roger Ebert segment from Tuesday's Oprah Winfrey Show. The second portion is where Ebert debuts his new computer voice.

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time gets a second terrible trailer.

Pretty much what I said last time around. This still looks like a jumbled, confused, and oddly lifeless mess of a picture. Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton are still hopelessly miscast, and the film seems to be lacking any real swashbuckling. I'll be the first to eat crow if I'm wrong, but this looks like an absolute disaster. Besides, I find it amusing that they are playing up the romance/sex-appeal of the project, when Disney knows full well that they are opening this thing against Sex and the City 2. I'm not the first to suggest this, but perhaps this film and its theoretical quality issues are the real reason that Disney is in such a rush to get Alice in Wonderland out on DVD/Blu Ray during the third quarter of 2010. Hmm...

Scott Mendelson

Walt Disney's Tangled (formally Rapunzel) gets a teaser.

This teaser will presumably be included with DVD/Blu Ray release of The Princess and the Frog, which comes out on March 16th. It comes out November 24th, 2011. Hopefully that means it will actually open wide over Thanksgiving weekend, instead of playing in two theaters until a mid-December wide-release, by which point everyone has moved onto the next big movie. Although, if Disney chooses the same release pattern, Tangled will open wide on December 10th, where it will go head to head with The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Trader. If you recall, Chronicles of Narnia used to be a Disney franchise, until they chickened out over the comparatively underwhelming box office ($419 million worldwide on a $225 million budget) of Prince Capsian. Fox then snapped up the rights from Walden Media, setting the stage for a potential showdown between the past and present keepers of Narnia. It seems that I find myself becoming more entertained by the politics than by the movies themselves.

Scott Mendelson

Yet another round of Release-Date Musical Chairs: Macgruber, Sex and the City 2, Fast/Furious, and more.

Lots of scrambling around the calendar in the last few weeks, as several high-profile pictures are bouncing around the release schedule. The biggest movie gets the least significant release change, as Sex and the City 2 moves from its Friday, May 28th opening all the way back to Thursday, May 27th. I presume that this is for the same reason that films open on Thursday, to combat international piracy as Thursday is often the day that films open in various foreign countries. This would seem to imply that Warner/New Line is going for a worldwide saturation opening for the sequel (and perhaps preparing for a massively front-loaded theatrical run?). The Joan Jett biopic has moved from its March 19th opening to April 9th, where it will face the opening of the Tina Fey/Steve Carell farce, Date Night. I can only presume that Apparition expects a pretty big gender gap for the Kristen Stewart/Dakota Fanning rock flick, so they are perhaps afraid of the Jennifer Aniston/Gerald Butler farce, The Bounty Hunter. Still, the demo-pleasing combo of Carell and Fey may be just as stiff in terms of competition.


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