Sunday, May 30, 2010

Shrek Forever After wins Memorial Day box office derby, while Sex and the City 2 and Prince of Persia crash. Weekend box office review (05/31/10).

Usually the above picture would make me sad, but Allison is actually napping again! As expected, Shrek: The Final Chapter was able to easily surpass Sex and the City 2 to take the three-day weekend crown and the four-day weekend crown over Memorial Day weekend. The contest on Friday was close enough that Shrek: Forever After was able to capitalize on strong family matinee business as well as the HBO sequel's downward plunge. In the end, the three day total is $43.3 million and the five-day total is $55.7 million. That's a drop of 38% from last weekend's disappointing three-day $70 million opening sprint. Since every single Shrek picture opened on the same weekend, the comparisons are easy to make. For reference, the first Shrek actually increased 0.4% over its second weekend, grossing $42.4 million in its second, holiday-inflated frame. The second picture set a record for the largest non-opening weekend of all-time, grossing $72.1 million and dropping just 33% (it's still the third-biggest second weekend, behind The Dark Knight's $75 million and Avatar's $77 million second-weekends). The third picture was beset by poor word of mouth and the monstrous opening weekend of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End ($114 million over Fri-Sun), plunging 56% from $121 million to $53 million in its second frame.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sex and the City 2 drops from Thursday opening day, while Prince of Persia plummits into a bed of spikes. Friday box office (05/28/10).

Well, as expected, Sex and the City 2 has pulled in about the same amount of money in its first two days that the original film pulled in on its opening day. On its first Friday, the film actually dropped 8.5% from its Thursday take, meaning that the film may in fact be frighteningly front-loaded. Even Terminator: Salvation increased 10% on its first Friday and second respective day of release. And Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull increased 22% on its second day, and the Thursday opening day turned out to be the lowest-grossing day of its five-day weekend. While the 8.5% drop is smaller than the respective Thurs-to-Fri drops for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (-33%), Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (-19%), and The Matrx Reloaded (-26%), those film has much larger opening-day tallies from which to plummet accordingly with upfront demand ($50 million, $30 million, and $42 million respectively). With a $13 million-grossing Friday, the critically-trashed sequel has now grossed $27.2 million in two days, or just a touch more than the $26.7 million earned by the original picture on its first day of release two years ago.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Equal rights means equal responsibility. Why Glee's 'breakthrough gay scene' succeeds as drama but fails as a teachable moment.

It may be a doozy of a stand-alone dramatic scene, but last week's verbal tongue-lashing on Glee from Kurt's father to Finn was not the proud moment in gay/straight relations that it has been sold as. The scene in question has been heralded elsewhere as some kind of wonderful teaching moment about the hidden prejudice in all of us. Frankly, the scene is more about how a relatively reasonable person lashes out at the stunning manipulations of a sexually-aggressive asshole. Yes Finn (Cory Monteith) lost his temper and lashed out (he uses the term 'faggy' to describe the decorations purchased by Kurt for their new living quarters), but Kurt (Chris Colfer) bears responsibility as well. The clip below (after the jump... blame formatting issues) ironically removes much of the context that explains the outbursts in question.

Sex and the City 2 pulls in $14.2 million on opening Thursday.

With $3 million in midnight screenings, the opening day tally for Sex and the City 2 is $14.2 million. At first glance, it would appear that Warner Bros has again hurt themselves by splitting their proverbial opening day over Thursday and Friday, as opposed to getting one massive opening day total on Friday that can be bragged about. There really isn't much to compare this to, as there have only been a handful of movies that have chosen the 'worldwide all-at-once' Thursday release date. Films generally open on Thursdays in other parts of the world, so studios have occasionally tried simultaneous worldwide releases to combat international piracy. Nine films have previously chosen to open on Thursday in the last eight years. Four of them were on Christmas Day, 2008. They were Marley and Me ($14.3 million on Christmas Day), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button ($11.8 million), Bedtime Stories ($10.7 million), and Valkyrie ($8.4 million). Taking into account this anomaly, let's simply concentrate on the other five pictures that used the Thursday jump over Memorial Day weekend or pre-Memorial Day weekend.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland crosses $1 billion worldwide.

As of yesterday, Disney's Alice in Wonderland is the 6th-biggest global grosser of all-time. At just over $1 billion in worldwide revenue, film is the third-biggest non-sequel grosser of all-time, behind only the James Cameron double-whammy (Titanic and Avatar). As is regularly the case these days, the film made around 67% of its cash ($667.7 million) from overseas dollars, with 'just' $332.4 million coming from domestic ticket sales. It is $1.8 million away from overtaking The Dark Knight on the all-time list, and $66 million away from Disney's biggest grosser, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. It's a bit of a slog for a film that comes out on DVD/Blu Ray next week, but the film is a mere $119 million away from surpassing Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King as the third-biggest film of all time. Not bad for a film that many expected to crash after its (record-setting) opening weekend due to poor reviews and lousy pre-release buzz.

Jonah Hex gets a second trailer.

Considering how long it took Warner Bros to put out an initial trailer, I'm a little shocked that we already have a second preview less than a month later. Still, they trailers are different enough to perhaps justify each other. The first trailer for the famously troubled production emphasized plot and the ensemble cast. This new trailer, which is forty-seconds shorter, has a lot less Megan Fox, almost no John Malkovich, and a whole lot of Josh Brolin. Point being, this one is about explaining who or what Jonah Hex actually is. Fair enough, but I still think the first trailer was a better marketing tool. In emphasizing action and random spectacle, the new trailer makes Jonah Hex look like a run-of-the-mill action picture. Yes, that probably sums it up the final film pretty well, but if you're going to get anyone outside of action nerds, comic geeks, and western-buffs to buy tickets, the film has to look like something better. The film opens on June 18th, and I don't expect to see many press screenings until two or three days prior to opening. As always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mendelson's Memos Flashback - As Sex and the City 2 opens, a look at female escapist fantasy and how it differs from male escapist fantasy.

I have a heck of a lot more readers now than I did in September 2008, when I first published this massive essay on gender and escapism. Since Sex and the City 2 is facing (fairly or not) the same kind of scrutiny that the first did, I thought it was worth a re-look. This is not about whether the films are good or not, but whether critics properly understand the genre that said franchise represents. If you've been reading me from the beginning, this is pretty much as it was with a few minor tweaks...

The Bechdel Test - a test most films do not pass.

I've brought up 'the Bedchdel Rule' several times in the past, but this is an amusing look at just how many mainstream films fail what should be a pretty basic standard.

Scott Mendelson

Monday, May 24, 2010

A few minor loose ends left over from the Lost finale...

Post-Lost fun, all more fun than the Lost finale.

Much of this comes from last night's Jimmy Kimmel show, which I did not stay up to watch. The first alternate ending is pretty funny (Naveen Andrews is hysterical), the other two slightly less so. The Q&A is better than the norm for these kind of things (the audience members actually ask amusing questions). And the two 'homemade' clips are pretty terrific. Anyway, enjoy these several goodies after the jump.

What they died for? Not much. How the Lost finale negates the series.

Well, that was a fantastic two-hour epic, completely redeeming the first act of weak, claustrophobic entries that started the season. It was an intelligent, soaring adventure story, rich with excitement, character-development, crowd-pleasing pay-offs, heartbreaking sacrifices, and a final twist that cast the series in a whole new wonderful light. That's what I would be saying if this were a review of "Through the Looking Glass", the season three finale which aired three years ago. Alas, this is not a review of the series-high midpoint, although after last night, I'm of the opinion that Lost only ran for three glorious seasons. Last night's finale was a tragedy, a genuinely uninvolving and downright dull botch that not only fails as a stand-alone episode and fails as a finale, but it lessens the profound dramatic impact of what came before over the last six years. It was the worst major series finale since Ally McBeal, but at least the 'Ally leaves Boston because the daughter that showed up on her doorstep just months prior is fainting' wrap-up didn't wreck the storytelling of the previous five seasons.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Can Sex & the City 2 overcome the TV-sequels curse? Is it Star Trek: the Wrath of Khan or X-Files: I Want to Believe?

As most of you know, Sex & the City 2 opens worldwide on Thursday, May 27th. Expectations are running high, with the general consensus that it will perform in a similar fashion to the first picture ($57 million opening weekend, $152 million domestic total). But the odds are indeed stacked against it. There are two major issues at play. First, and more obviously, the $95 million picture (costing $30 million more than the first film) will have to overcome the infamous Tomb Raider trap. For those new to this site, the Tomb Raider trap (named for the enjoyable adventure yarn that is Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life) is the phenomenon in which a generally-disliked film becomes a smash hit based purely on marketing and hype. But the arguably superior sequel flops or under-performs because even though it is a better movie, audiences aren't willing to take the chance again (other instances of this phenomenon include Addams Family Values and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian). Unless you were a die-hard fan of the original show, you probably didn't care much for the original Sex and the City movie. So theoretically only the hardcore fans will check this one out this time, right? But the real danger is the fact that it is a sequel to a film that was itself based on a television series. It's a tiny genre, one that is made up of either out-of-the-park smash hits or out and out flops. If it ends up as an example of the latter, the Carrie Bradshaw sequel should be thrilled to gross 1/2 of what the original made.

Shrek: The Final Chapter opens with $71 million, while MacGruber crawls to $4.1 million. Weekend box office review (05/23/10).

By any normal standards, a movie opening with $70.8 million in three days would be a pretty big success. So, before we get into what this means for the Shrek franchise, let's talk that number in cold detail for a minute. First of all, it gives the fourth Shrek picture a pretty solid 3.4x weekend multiplier, which was superior to the 3.1x scored by Shrek the Third over its opening weekend. Second of all, in the grand scheme of animated films, it is still the fourth-biggest opening weekend for a cartoon, behind only Shrek 3 ($121 million), Shrek 2 ($108 million), and The Simpsons ($74 million). Also, for what it's worth, it's the fifth-biggest opening weekend for a 'fourth chapter' in box office history, behind Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ($102 million), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($101 million), X-Men Origins: Wolverine ($85 million), and Fast and Furious ($71 million). Of course, if you glance at the numbers posted by the previous two Shrek sequels, you start to see the reason for concern. Come what may, anytime a sequel opens with $50 million less than the prior installment, that's generally a bad thing. Shrek Forever After just made less on its opening weekend than Shrek 2 made on its second weekend ($72.1 million).

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Shrek 4, MacGruber crash and burn in Friday box office (05/21/10).

It's tough to call anything grossing $20.7 million in a single day a disaster, but expectations and precedence tell the tale. The first Shrek film grossed $11.5 million on its first day, while Shrek 2 grossed $28.3 million on its first Friday (it had already grossed around $20 million on Wednesday and Thursday before exploding over the traditional weekend). Shrek the Third grossed $38.4 million on its opening day, also a Friday. So, even if we acknowledge that the Shrek franchise isn't the titan that it once once, and even if we admit that the marketing campaign for this unwanted fourth film was all over the place (is the film called Shrek Forever After or Shrek: The Final Chapter?), expectations were in order for something a bit under the three-day $121 million take of Shrek the Third. The $108 million Fri-Sun gross for Shrek 2 would have been reasonable, over even a low $90 million gross. But, as things stand now, Shrek Forever After is looking less like Shrek the Third and more like A Shark Tale.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Why do we care about, let alone hate, Megan Fox?

News broke yesterday that Megan Fox would in fact not be a part of Transformers 3, which is set to be released on July 3rd, 2011. Before any real details could be articulated, the media at large jumped on the idea that Fox had been fired by Michael Bay in relation for various statements that Fox had made over the last several months that appeared to criticize Mr. Bay. Needless to say, word soon spread, via HitFlix and People, that Fox had actually chosen not to return to the rampaging-robots franchise of her own accord. I have no idea which version is true, and I imagine we'll know in the coming weeks. But the sheer outpouring of joy that greeted the allegation that Fox had been canned for trashing Michael Bay in public was more than a bit obnoxious. The same geeks and entertainment columnists who called co-star Shia LeBeouf honest and gutsy for criticizing Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) were basically applauding the idea that Fox had been fired for basically doing the same thing. Why do so many people hate Megan Fox? Who do they even care?

The Looney Tunes return!

Well, it's about time! The New York Times reports that Warner Bros. is launching a serious effort to reintroduce the classic Looney Tunes characters to a generation of kids raised on Dora the Explorer and Yo Gabba Gabba. Not that there is anything wrong with the educational merits of Wonder Pets (What's gonna work? Procrastination! Diego could have saved an entire rain forest in the time it takes the Wonder Pets to save one upside-down turtle). And there is much to enjoy in the epic lust-hate relationship between Dora and Swiper the Fox (my wife is definitively a 'shipper'). But when it comes to animated anarchy, nothing beats the Tunes.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

So many ways to Shrek it. Comparing ticket prices for 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D.

Let's say I want to go see Shrek: The Final Chapter over the opening weekend, perhaps with my two-year old daughter in tow.  But, do I see it in 2D 35mm, 3D, or IMAX 3D?  Barring whether or not Allison is able and willing to watch a movie while wearing 3D glasses, what's the best option for my movie-going dollar?  Well, fortunately, most of the larger multiplexes seem to be offering the film on at least one 2D screen, for the economically inclined amongst us.  Taking just my local Woodlands Hills AMC theater, let's compare the prices for the various Shrek Forever After options that will be available on Friday the 21st.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

NBC's The Cape = CBS's Now and Again?

Fair enough. The cheese is laid on pretty thick, and one wonders if NBC will actually spend the money to actually pay for big-budget super-heroics promised in later episodes. And the show seems to quickly settle into a Mantis pattern, with Summer Glau filling in for Roger Rees as the faithful sidekick sitting at a computer screen. But if Keith David sticks around longer than the pilot, I might casually check it out on that basis alone. I first started watching Chuck because I spotted Tony Todd in the commercials and hoped he would have a decent supporting part. Still, I wish the writing were sharper and the melodrama less mawkish. Besides, if the trailer above looks a little familiar, that's because you were among the few to remember the unfortunately short-lived classic, Now and Again.

Running only a single season on CBS in 1999/2000, this wonderfully-written adventure story was about... well... same thing really. Just trade David Lyons for Eric Close and swap out Keith David for a creepy/funny Dennis Haysbert (two years prior to 24). Alas, despite decent ratings for a Friday night at 9pm show, CBS pulled the plug after a single season. It was so unexpected that the would-be season finale ended on a major cliffhanger, one that has yet to be resolved ten years later (almost to the day... the finale aired May 5th, 2000). Tragic as it may be (it was a rare showcase for Heather Matarazzo), you can't really fault the thinking at CBS, since the show that replaced it next season was some fictionalized Forensic Files knock-off called CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. I wish I could tell you to buy the DVD set, or let you know when the show is currently airing in syndication. But there is no DVD set and the show ran only briefly on the Sci-Fi Channel several years ago. Oh well...

Scott Mendelson

Monday, May 17, 2010

DVD Review: Never Sleep Again- The Elm Street Legacy (2010)

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy
239 minutes
not rated
Available on DVD May 5th, 2010.

by Scott Mendelson

Nearly eight hours on two discs. With a four hour documentary on disc one, and three hours and forty minutes of supplemental features on disc two, this absolutely mammoth collection is an absolute treasure trove of goodies for anyone even remotely intrigued by the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. Yes, especially where the first film is concerned, there is plenty of crossover information from the content found on the recent Plantinum Line DVD/Blu Ray release of the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, as well as the Nightmare Series Encyclopedia supplemental disc released in late 1999 (the latter containing three-and-a half hours of documentary content). But the sheer number of participants (around ninety) that agreed to be interviewed for this epic documentary makes it a lovely gift for the fans still nursing wounds from the misguided remake. Aside from a few obvious absences (Johnny Depp, Craig Wasson, Laurence Fishburne, Patricia Arquette, etc.), every plausible person of note from the eight A Nightmare On Elm Street pictures makes several appearances at the appropriate intervals. All of the usual cliches are discussed (New Line's troubled start and tragic finale, the gay subtext in Freddy's Revenge, Craven's initial inspiration for Freddy Krueger, the descent into camp with the later sequels), but there are plenty of new tidbits and revelations that will likely surprise even the most die-hard Freddy fan.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Don't F&^&% with the Fanning. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse tickets on sale now.

Neat clip, with a mood and scope completely new to this series, as well as a return to the genuine humor of the first picture. I'm pretty sure that the climactic punishment is completely due to the stunningly bad acting exhibited by the chatter-mouthed vampire on the left, but that just makes it that much more entertaining. This is just the kind of thing that needs to be teased to get the non-fans on board for this more action-heavy installment. Oh, and tickets are already on sale, nearly seven weeks prior to go-time. Even The Dark Knight waited until three weeks out, with the IMAX tickets going on sale about a month early. So check any online ticket broker (Fandango, Movewatcher, etc) and have at it.

Scott Mendelson

Iron Man 2 retains top spot. Robin Hood, Letters to Juliet open to expectations. Weekend box office review (05/16/10).

I've said this countless times, but it remains true. If studios budget a film so that said film basically has to set records in some capacity (be it personal bests for the director or star), they are always setting themselves up for disaster. You can't count on every Jim Carrey comedy to pull in Bruce Almighty numbers anymore than you can expect every Russell Crowe movie to play like Gladiator. So if you're looking to budget a Ridley Scott movie starring Russell Crowe, you might want to notice that their personal best is indeed Gladiator, which grossed $187 million in the US and $457 million worldwide. Thus, you might not want to spend so much that said new movie absolutely has to gross around those figures in order to break even. But, accidentally or otherwise, that is just what Universal has done with Robin Hood. So what should have been a fine opening weekend of turns into a sigh of relief.

Friday, May 14, 2010

NBC cancels Law & Order just shy of record-breaking 21st season.

It would appear that Law & Order will not be getting that record breaking 21st season after all. The legendary crime drama will end at the end of this season, its twentieth, with 456 episodes in the can. It will end its run tied with Gunsmoke as the longest-running prime-time drama in network television history. After assurances from NBC brass that they would not want to deny Dick Wolf his shot at the record books, a strong pilot slate and middling ratings for the warhorse has singled the end for television's best network drama. Yes, you heard that right. Following a creative resurgence three seasons ago, the show had been in rare form not seen since the Steven Hill left the show in 2000.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The fate of Law & Order is still up in the air.

News broke around 2:00pm that Law & Order had been canceled just one season shy of beating Gunsmoke as primtime's longest-running drama. I just spent the last hour writing up an angry eulogy of sorts, only to find out that its not a done deal (that's what I get for writing anything based on news from Deadline Hollywood). At this point, rumors and inuendo are running wild. But the basic situation is that maybe the show is finished, maybe it will end up on NBC for another 13-16 episode season to finish its run, or maybe it will end up on TNT like Southland Tales (why not USA ala Criminal Intent?). I have the original essay saved. Hopefully, I won't have to publish it in its current form.

Scott Mendelson

Lost finale as a sitcom, plus quick thoughts on "Across the Sea".

This is slightly amusing, and arguably more entertaining than Tuesday night's episode. The kicker is the very end, which basically plays off an idea that I've had for years regarding potential Lost spin-offs (it would be the best sitcom ever). Speaking of the most recent episode ("Across the Sea"), I have no problem with various elements of the mythology being left unexplained. I've always watched the show for the character interaction, not the clues and mysteries and what-have you. But if you're going to devote one of your very last episodes to full-on back-story, it helps if you actually explain how your science fiction works rather than have characters make cryptic pronouncements of things we already knew or presumed that are supposed to serve as 'answers'. For example, if the writers want to explain why the Man in Black can never leave the island, having Allison Janney simply intone that 'you can't leave the island' doesn't count as an explanation. Tuesday's dreadfully boring outing was the equivalent of watching three characters defining various words but using the given word in the definition each time. And let's not get started on the climax, which had to be the lamest super villain origin ever ('tossed into a magical glowing river of piss, only to have his soul sucked out and turn into smoke'). On a lighter note, god help any poor soul in the future who stumbles upon "Across the Sea" while randomly channel surfing to the SyFy Channel or what have you to catch a random episode of that "Lost" show that his parents used to blab about.

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Losing for winning: Famous box office 'flops' that were actually financial hits.

With a mere $145 million in domestic grosses for the five days, many pundits are already calling Iron Man 2 a disappointment. For the crime of not breaking the three-day, $158.4 million record set by The Dark Knight over its three-day opening, the Marvel sequel has been tagged as an under-performer right out of the gate. Once the label of 'flop' is placed on a given film, it's darn-well impossible to remove the stench of alleged failure, even when the numbers clearly say the opposite. Whether due to unrealistic expectations or a press eager to bring famous actors or filmmakers down a peg, the entertainment media often sinks their teeth into these films at the first possible moment, sometimes labeling a film as a flop before the receipts are even counted. Even if Iron Man 2 completely collapses due to word of mouth, it's already amassed well over $341 million globally. Sure, the movie isn't very good, and there are other films on the horizon that may best it for the summer 2010 crown (Toy Story 3, Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Shrek: The Final Chapter, Inception). But Iron Man 2 is a hit by any reasonable standards. So, as we watch Tony Stark limp to a 'pathetic' $600-800 million worldwide take, let's take a gander at several other famous box office hits that were unfairly labeled as disappointments if not outright disasters. Good or bad, none of the films below deserve the title of 'box office bomb'.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

J.J. Abrams's Super 8 gets a teaser.

There are two bad things about attending press screenings. First of all, they are often held on weeknights in the heart of downtown Hollywood or Beverly Hills. Trekking from Woodland Hills to the theater in question is often more trouble than it's worth, especially if it's just a few days before opening day, unless it's something I desperately want to see (hence, I've decided to pass on tonight's Robin Hood screening). The second disadvantage is that I don't get to see whatever brand-new trailers the studio intends to attach to said theatrical print. In this case, we've finally got an official version of Super 8, the top-secret J.J. Abrams project that recently stole the summer 2011 release slot from Mission: Impossible IV. No offense to Drew McWeeny of HitFlix, but it's a shame that the cat was let out of the bag just a few days prior to the opening of Iron Man 2. I still remember the genuine shock of seeing the first teaser to Cloverfield before Transformers, wrongly assuming right up to the Statue of Liberty shot that it was some whacked-out teaser to the Star Trek reboot (there were rumors that said teaser would be attached to Transformers prints). Anyway, Super 8 has been described as some kind of homage to the early films of Steven Spielberg, and this teaser certainly seems to fit. Now the film hasn't even been cast yet. so this footage may not even make it into the final movie. Still, purely by virtue of not being a sequel, remake, or genre adaptation, J.J. Abrams has turned Super 8 into one of the more anticipated films of 2011. As always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Blu Ray review: Edge of Darkness (2010)

Edge of Darkness
118 minutes
rated R
Available on DVD, Blu Ray, OnDemand, and iTunes download

The original theatrical review can be found here.

The Blu Ray looks and sounds pretty terrific. Obviously this is not a reference-quality transfer, but the 2.40:1 picture is an accurate representation of how the film looked in theaters. The colors are bright and accurate, with proper black levels and clear distinctions between light images and dark ones. For better or worse, the razor-sharp picture shows every bit of Mel Gibson's age (he turned 54 about three weeks before this film opened in theaters). The English 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio mix sounds perfectly fine on my non-existent set-up. Sound effects and dialogue are evenly balanced and every line is perfectly audible. The extras are pretty sparse. The set comes with a second disc, which contains a standard-definition DVD copy of the film which also doubles as a digital copy for those so inclined. There are about five minutes worth of deleted scenes. Nothing terribly important, but it wouldn't have killed the pacing to toss them into the under-two hour-picture anyway. The only other feature is a series of 'Focus Points' featurettes (the return of Mel Gibson, the original miniseries, writing the new screenplay, etc). Available separately or as 'PLAY ALL', they run a combined length of about 30 minutes, comprising a relatively solid talking-heads documentary.

Good film, great transfer, all-too few extras. Unless you're a big fan of the film or anyone involved (Martin Campbell, Mel Gibson, etc), this is strictly a rental.

Scott Mendelson

Monday, May 10, 2010

As Betty White leads classic Saturday Night Live episode, the absence of female-driven funny is all the more apparent.

There has already been much talk about whether Betty White's kick-ass performance on an instant-classic edition of Saturday Night Live might boost opportunities for older women in the entertainment industry. But what crossed my mind as I watched the show last night is how absolutely invisible the current female cast is. Seeing past leading ladies such as Tina Fey, Molly Shannon, Rachel Dratch, and Maya Rudolph return and dominate the Mother's Day edition was just a cold reminder of how underutilized the current female cast really is. Sure Kristen Wiig still does her goofy characters and if anything she occasionally hogs the sketches she appears in (as did Will Ferrell back in the day). But the other three females currently on the show (Nasim Pedrad, Abby Elliott, and Jenny Slate) are generally relegated to appearing as window dressing, whether figuratively (appearing as the token female half of a couple in a male-dominated sketch), or literally (as glammed-up singers in the background of a Kenan Thompson game-show parody). Considering the events of last year, when Michaela Watkins was fired from the show for apparently being too gorgeous to be considered funny, while Casey Wilson was allegedly canned for apparently being too 'overweight' to be a female comedy performer, it's an ominous thing that the show currently seems to all-but hide its female talent. It would seem that the female-dominated mid-2000s, when Fey, Poehler, Rudolph, and Dratch were on equal playing field with the male cast members, was not a step in the right direction but a random fluke.

Scott Mendelson

Inception gets a plot-centric trailer.

After a year of being shrouded in mystery, the storyline of Chris Nolan's Inception is blown open with this third trailer. The plot makes a fair amount of sense, and Nolan has promised that this won't be as objectively puzzling as Memento or The Prestige. I'm still concerned about the apparent absence of Tom Berenger, as I hope that Nolan didn't drop a massive spoiler just by casting him and keeping him in the shadows for much of the marketing campaign. Aside from the obviously dazzling imagery on display, the most striking aspect is the absolutely gorgeous musical score. Although the cut feels very much like a Hans Zimmer tune (he's the composer for the film), the music actually comes from Zack Hemsey and it's created especially for the film. Frankly, it's a dangerous thing when you have such powerful music in your marketing materials that does not appear in the film itself. Whether it's Where the Wild Things Are, Star Trek, or the trailer to the upcoming Legend of the Guardians (cut to the lovely "Kings and Queens" sung by 30 Seconds To Mars), you never want a situation where audiences associate the movie with music that will not actually appear in the film. Still, it's a small issue if Inception is anywhere near as good as we all want it to be.

Scott Mendelson

Robin Hood gets a last-minute, action-packed third trailer.

This last-minute trailer kinda feels a little desperate. With no hint of plot, the 78-second trailer sells pure action and sells the idea that the film is wall-to-wall battle scenes and/or violence. Ironically, as the film makes no mention of the villainy at play, Robin Hood comes off as a murderous bandit who runs mad through England hacking and shooting arrows at any unlucky soldier or bystander in his way. In other words, this looks like the trailer for the original idea for this project (first called Nottingham), which was the Robin Hood legend told from the point of view of the sympathetic Sheriff of Nottingham. Weird... Anyway, I have an invite for a screening of this one tomorrow night, so if I am able to attend, I'll let you know if it's as good as we hope, or at least better than we fear.

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Déjà vu on Saturday Night Live...

Iron Man 2 grosses $128 million in debut weekend to kick off summer 2010. Weekend box office review (05/09/10).

Iron Man 2 has grossed $128.1 million for the Fri-Sun period. That gives the sequel a relatively reasonable 2.5x weekend multiplier. It is currently the fifth-largest opening weekend on record, behind Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest ($135m), Twilight Saga: New Moon ($142m), Spider-Man 3 ($151m), and The Dark Knight ($158m). The film scored $10.2 million in IMAX theaters alone, breaking a record for a 2D IMAX debut (Star Trek's opening weekend grossed $8.2 million in IMAX over the same weekend last year). The gender split was 60% male and 40% female. The age demos were 60% over 25 and 40% under 25. As mentioned yesterday, the film scored an 'A' from Cinema Score audience polling.

Official Paramount estimate for Iron Man 2: $133.6 million.

The box office column will be up later today, but Paramount was nice enough to send the official numbers. Iron Man 2 grossed $52.4 million on Friday and $46.5 million on Sunday. The current weekend estimate is $133.6 million for the Fri-Sun period. That gives the sequel a relatively reasonable 2.54x weekend multiplier. If it holds, it will be the fifth-largest opening weekend on record, behind Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest ($135m), Twilight Saga: New Moon ($142m), Spider-Man 3 ($151m), and The Dark Knight ($158m). Full analysis will be up later this evening, or this afternoon if my daughter actually takes a nap.

Scott Mendelson

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Friday box office - Paramount and Marvel weep as Iron Man 2 grosses 'just' $52.4 million for pathetic, shameful, non-record opening Friday.

Fifteen years ago today, $52.4 million would have been a record opening weekend. Ten years ago, $52.4 million would have been the sixth-biggest opening weekend of all-time. Five years ago today, $52.4 million would have been a record for an opening day and single day. Today, Iron Man 2 has grossed $52.4 million on its first day of national release, which includes $7.5 million in midnight showings. That's the seventh-biggest single day of all-time, the fifth-biggest Friday take, and the second-largest day in May and thus also the second-largest summer kick-off day in history, behind Spider-Man 3's $59.8 million Friday haul three years ago. Sure, the film has absolutely no chance of breaking the three-day opening weekend record (The Dark Knight, at $158.4 million). But the film rose 49% from the opening day take of the first Iron Man, which grossed $35.2 million two years prior (the first picture had $3.5 million worth of Thursday screenings, for what it's worth). That's close to the 50% rise from X-Men ($20.7 million first day) to X2: X-Men United ($31.2 million first day). It's also superior to the 44% rise from The Fellowship of the Ring ($18.2 million opening Wednesday) to The Two Towers ($26.1 million opening Wednesday). The final weekend will likely fall somewhere between $118 million (2.25x weekend multiplier) to $144 million (2.75x weekend multiplier). So let's split the difference, call 2.5x (it inexplicably got an 'A' from CinemaScore audience polls) and say $131 million for the fifth-biggest opening weekend of all time. I don't care what arbitrary tracking polls indicated, the first person to scream 'disappointment' or 'failure' because it didn't break any concrete records gets punched in the face... hard (not by me, I abhor violence, I'll have Allison kick your ass). More tomorrow or Monday morning when the final numbers come in.

Scott Mendelson

Friday, May 7, 2010

Iron Man 2 grosses $7.5 million in midnight screenings.

Iron Man 2 pulled in $7.5 million in midnight showings last night. The original Iron Man pulled in about $3.5 million in advance-evening show-times (starting at around 8:00pm), and another $1.7 million in post-12:01am screenings. So while the $7.5 million gross more than doubles the previous entry in the series, the number is far smaller than the $16-$26 million pulled in by midnight shows of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith ($16.9 million), The Dark Knight ($18.5 million), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ($16 million), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince ($22.2 million), and The Twilight Saga: New Moon ($26.3 million). Spider-Man 3 pulled in $10 million in midnight showings over the same weekend back in 2007, and it ended up with a then-record $151 million by three-day take. Off the cuff, using Spider-Man 3 and X-Men Origins: Wolverine ($5 million in midnight grosses) as relevant examples, the Iron Man 2 midnight grosses seem to imply something closer to $125 million than $160 million (I know... the tragedy!). We'll know soon enough...

Scott Mendelson

As Iron Man 2 takes its shot at the record books...

I've been saying for two years that Iron Man 2 has a solid shot of knocking The Dark Knight off the top of the opening-weekend record books. I still feel that way, even if my thoughts are colored by the fact that I didn't care much for the film. Of course, The Dark Knight was the rare universally-beloved such record breaker since. In the post-Batman era, only Jurassic Park and Spider-Man would qualify as overall audience favorites. The later opening-weekend champs, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, The Lost World, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, and Spider-Man 3, were not exactly word of mouth sensations (that I love Batman Returns and rather like Harry Potter 1 and Pirates of the Caribbean 2 does not negate the fact that many did not). As always, opening weekends are about marketing while the second weekends are about quality. Furthermore, when it comes to sequels, the biggest weapon you can have is audience goodwill from the prior installment, which Iron Man 2 has in spades. And, with the exception of the somewhat surprising debut 2.06x comparative increase of Twilight Saga: New Moon, it's also the first plausible contender to actually open on a Friday since July 08 (which in turn would have made Twilight Saga: Eclipse a genuine contender for the crown if it weren't opening on a Wednesday).

One of the finest pieces of television aired all year...

As two of television's finest thrillers prepare to depart in the coming weeks, let us take a moment to welcome two astonishingly witty comedies that are every bit as exciting as Lost and 24 at their respective peaks. Community doesn't have the overt warmth and slamming door farce of Modern Family, but it has a genuinely post-modern wit, constantly commenting on its own conventions while simultaneously rising above them. Both shows, like the legendary Scrubs (which, ahem, ended last season), are willing to forsake laughs for the sake of drama and character development just the same. Last night was not one of those times, as this absurdly pinpoint action-film parody represents the students of Greendale at their very best. NBC was smart enough to immediately post the whole episode online immediately. If you haven't checked out this wonderfully funny new show, you're missing out on a genuine new classic.

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Credit where credit is due: Glenn Beck defends constitutional due process.

As the saying goes, even a broken clock is right twice a day. Like a lot of the right-wing media personalities (Mike Savage, Lars Larson, etc), Glenn Beck can be perfectly lucid and reasonable-sounding even when I don't agree with a darn thing he's saying. It's the occasional need to play to the audience with the raving-lunatic theatrics that kills their credibility (it annoys me when liberal firebrands like Randi Rhodes or Mike Malloy do the same thing to their detriment). In this case, he's simply and succinctly defending our constitutional rights to Miranda warnings. "We don't shred the constitution when it's popular." Glad to see one famous conservative leader willing to defend Faisal Shahzad's rights as American citizen (and thus, by proxy our civil liberties as Americans) in a time of fear and paranoia.

Scott Mendelson

Machete gets another bootleg trailer...

Cute, but the original 'fake' trailer was actually far more entertaining. Sure the stunt casting is amusing, but it's a little painful watching various actors give intentionally bad performances and deliver intentionally horrible dialogue (they really should have switched out Robert De Niro for Chris Walken). The obvious good sport award goes to Steven Seagal, who probably should have been playing villains ten years ago. Oddly enough, the first couple shots of Lindsey Lohan had me excited, but only because I mistakenly thought that Julianne Moore was playing the gun-toting nun (I didn't realize it was Lohan until I saw the onscreen credit). The surprising topicality of the picture is interesting, but it may possibly rob the film of its trashy novelty. Point being, despite the attempts at grindhouse-type visuals, the movie looks too clean, too polished, and too much like what it is, big-name actors goofing off for their own amusement. Besides, the trailer omits my favorite bit of narration from the original trailer: "If you're gonna hire Machette to kill the bad guy, you better make damn sure the bad guy isn't you!"

The original trailer:

Matthew Vaughn signs to direct X-Men: First Class. Opening June 3rd, 2011, the prequel joining already insanely crowded 2011 summer season.

As if the summer 2011 season wasn't already crowded enough, June 3rd will now see a face-off between Kung Fu Panda 2: The Kaboom of Doom and X-Men: First Class. After a few days of rumors, Matthew Vaughn has officially signed to direct the Bryan Singer-produced prequel to the current X-Men series. As most of you know, Matthew Vaughn was slated to direct X-Men: The Last Stand before bolting due to issues with creative control and scheduling. Mainly as a result of the amped-up schedule (intended to beat Bryan Singer's Superman Returns to theaters), Brett Ratner's X-Men: The Last Stand ended up costing around $215 million, or nearly $100 million more than X2: X-Men United. Considering that Vaughn now has just over a year to make a new X-Men film from scratch, we can only wonder what kind of promises (monetary and otherwise) were made to get him back in the fold. We can certainly assume that the perceived under-performance of Kick-Ass certainly made it all the more tempting to hold his nose, dive back into the X-Men pool, and hope for the best.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Review: Iron Man 2 - The IMAX Experience (2010)

Iron Man 2: The IMAX Experience
125 minutes
Rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

Moderate Spoiler Warning...

I wasn't the world's biggest fan of the first Iron Man picture, but I admired its intentions. Warts and all, it was an attempt to set a comic book action film in the real world, with adult characters acting somewhat like grownups and engaging in behavior that had semi-plausible political and social consequences. Male escapist fantasy or not, the picture was anchored by a terrific performance by Robert Downey Jr. and seemed to have a genuine point of view regarding the military-industrial complex. Sure Tony Stark didn't change all that much by the end of the picture, and the third act basically tossed aside the ideas at play for a rock-em sock-em robots finale, but at least the first picture has made by grownups with adult sensibilities at its core. Alas, Iron Man 2 has abandoned all pretenses of social relevance, as it strips its characters and its world of all real-world renascence for the sake of crowd-pleasing gee-whiz adventure. It's not a boring film, and it certainly has moments of amusement and charm, but it's not a smart picture, and it seems aimed squarely at adolescents and their younger siblings.

Monday, May 3, 2010

So, just what IS the official title of the fourth Shrek film anyway?

Nightmare on Elm Street easily tops box office in 'the calm before the storm' weekend. Weekend box office review (05/02/10).

Apologies for the delay. Taking family to Disneyland > weekend box office report. Anyway, to surprise of no one, the heavily advertised and much-buzzed about A Nightmare on Elm Street debuted with $32.9 million to crush any and all weekend rivals. This is the second-biggest debut for a Freddy Kruger picture, behind the $36 million debut of Freddy Vs. Jason back in 2003. Counting only pure Elm Street pictures, this opening is nearly 2.5 times larger than the closest competitor, the $12.9 million debut of Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare. The picture outgrossed the entire domestic totals for Elm Street parts 1, 2, 5, and 7. Demographically speaking, the picture played to 40% 18-24 year-olds and 20% under 18. The gender split was about even. Debuting with a powerful $15.8 million Friday gross (the third biggest opening day for R-rated horror, behind Hannibal with $18 million and last year's Friday the 13th with $19 million), the picture fell victim to a massive front-loading, ending the weekend with a pathetic 2.08x weekend multiplier. That's the sixth-lowest weekend multipliers on record. Heck, it's actually lower than the 2.1x multiplier from Friday the 13th, which actually opened on Friday the 13th over Valentine's Day weekend 2009. Chalk it up to heavy audience curiosity leading to a mad dash to the theaters on Friday night, and the fact that the film is completely unsatisfying on nearly every level (short review - rent Wes Craven's New Nightmare and/or watch the Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror" spoof from 1995 instead), and you have the recipe for a one-and-done picture.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Conan O'Brien does 60 Minutes...

The embed isn't working for whatever reason, so you'll just have to click above to go to the CBS site. I don't think the situation is as simple as good vs. evil or David vs. Goliath. But few can argue that Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno both got screwed by the NBC brass, and that O'Brien won the PR war while Leno got what he wanted in the first place, which was not to be forced out of The Tonight Show. I'm still aghast that NBC managed to mess up the late night situation more than they did back in 1993, when Johnny Carson retired without an heir to the throne. Even more amazing that this all came about because NBC specifically announced an heir five years in advance this time around. Anyway, it's a good chat and well-worth watching if you've been following the mess.

Scott Mendelson

Saturday, May 1, 2010

To the surprise of absolutely no one who reads this site, Chris Nolan's Batman 3 claims July 20th, 2012 release date.

"If it can be accomplished, expect Warner Bros to announce the release of Nolan's third Batman film on July 20th, 2012." - Feb 10th, 2010

Sure enough, Warner announced yesterday that Chris Nolan's third Batman picture will be released on July 20th, 2012. Am I psychic? Nope, I just pay attention to the release date calendar. Continuing a trend that started almost by accident in 2007, Warner Bros. is continuing to put its big summer tent-pole on that mid-July weekend. It was a foregone conclusion that the third Batman movie would open on the same weekend as The Dark Knight, as well as the same weekend that has been pay-dirt for Warner over the last three years running. Until Warner runs out of mega-movies to open during the summer, count on Warner absolutely owning said weekend. A brief history of Warner's favorite weekend:


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