Friday, July 30, 2010

2010 is the worst year for movies ever, just like every year before it.

Yes, yes, 2010 is the worst year for movies EVER, screams Joe Queenan of The Wall Street Journal. There have been plenty of years where I felt 'this is the worst year/summer ever', especially as, yes, I've gotten older. Part of it is nostalgia, as I remember the years past through rose-colored glasses. I remember the great moviegoing experiences (my dad taking me to a jampacked advance-night screening of Jurassic Park... best moviegoing experience of my life) more than the bad ones (my dad taking me to see an afternoon matinee of Airheads that had me feeling guilty that it turned out to be such a stinker). But looking back at years that I didn't care for, there are still more than a few movies that are so good that they all-but redeem the year. We forget about the bad movies and only remember the good ones. When people discuss 1972, they discuss The Godfather, Deliverance, Sleuth, and Sounder. They do not mention Horror at Snape Island, The Revengers, or The Last of the Red Hot Lovers. When we think of 1996, we remember (depending on our taste) Fargo, Independence Day, Paradise Lost: The Child Murders At Robin Hood Hills, Get on the Bus, Mission: Impossible, Big Night, or Star Trek: First Contact. But I'm betting most of us haven't given a second thought to Sargent Bilko, Eddie, or Striptease in fourteen years.

Does Hollywood really think that the world is going to end in 2012?

A friend and I were discussing the glut of major releases over the next two years, and he mentioned something a little disconcerting. There are almost no releases yet slated for 2013. In 2011 we have (among others) The Green Hornet, Thor, Captain America, Kung Fu Panda 2, Cars 2, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II, Transformers 3, Green Lantern, The Hangover 2, Mission: Impossible IV, Sherlock Holmes 2, The Smurfs, Rise of the Apes, X-Men: First Class, Winnie the Pooh, Cowboys Vs. Aliens, the new Muppet movie, and Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn part I. In 2012, we have The Avengers, Madagascar 3, Battleship, Men in Black 3, Star Trek 2, Spider-Man 2.0, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Batman 3, and Monsters Inc 2. What's already scheduled for 2013? In an era when studios lay claim to prime release dates years and years in advance, there is but a single release slotted for 2013: Disney's Reboot Ralph, slated for March 23rd, 2013. No official word for Jonathan Nolan's Superman, Iron Man 3, or David Goyer's Wonder Woman. No word on Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn part II. Does Hollywood know something we don't?

Scott Mendelson

Inception humor...

All three of these clips will be after the jump, as the last one basically spoils the end of the picture. The first two are trailer mash-ups, one using Toy Story 3 and the other one, well it's called Bill and Ted's Excellent Inception. As always, trailer mash-ups work best with animation, as you can almost make the lips match up, as this Toy Story 2/Requiem For a Dream is probably the best such mash-up ever created. What's amusing about these new fake trailers is that the music in the Inception trailer, the stuff that kicks in at 1:12, is so powerful that these joke trailers actually work as the real thing. The third is an 'extended ending', which I'll leave you to discover. Enjoy...

NY Rep Anthony Weiner says what we've all been thinking.

In case you're wondering, here is the specific issue which brought about the above fiery condemnation.

Scott Mendelson

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Learning the wrong lesson: Columbia hires Len Wiseman to remake Total Recall.

Avatar made nearly $3 billion worldwide because it was a good movie, something that tapped into a worldwide cultural zeitgeist, engaged in true non-denominational spirituality, created a compelling romantic spectacle, and delivered incredible action sequences in breathtaking 3-D, right? No, apparently the only reason that Avatar made any money at all is because it was in 3-D. So, over the last year, studios everywhere have been rushing like mad to convert each and every single tent-pole picture into some form of 3-D. Because obviously Alice in Wonderland and Toy Story 3 would have been complete flops had they been presented in 2-D, right? Well, once again proving that Hollywood can always be counted on to learn the wrong lesson, the first major blowback from the success of Inception is a remake. Yep, Inception didn't become a word of mouth sensation because it was an original, intelligent, and thoughtful action picture in an era of remakes and reboots. No, Inception is a hit because it's about dreams. So the smartest way to cash in on its success is to remake Total Recall?

Like they never left: Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote still got it.

Yes, I laughed out loud, which is the biggest compliment I could pay. I couldn't care less about Cats and Dogs 2: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, but it may be worth checking out purely for "Coyote Falls": the Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote short that proceeds it, the first of three to be released in theaters over the next few months. We may be taking Allison to a 2-D showing of said sequel, so hopefully the short will be available in 2-D as well as 3-D. Point being, if it's there and she doesn't laugh, it may be grounds for adoption.

Scott Mendelson

Thor Comic Con trailer is leaked online. Coming to the CW in Fall 2011...

This movie probably cost $200 million. This thing is five minutes of seemingly finished footage, much of it from major sequences, and with the intent to appease the core audience that will help build the 'buzz' for this very expensive adventure. The cast they've lined up is pretty impressive. And yet, the best thing I can say about the footage above is that Kat Dennings looks even hotter with nerd glasses. The action feels generic (ooh, exploding cars and black-suited men being beaten up!'), the acting is pretty bland (even Hopkins, who usually relishes scenery-chewing pulp fiction, appears asleep at the wheel), and the whole film still feels like a very expensive CW TV pilot. And let's face it, most of the Asgard stuff, with Thor in full suit and/or all the various gods and goddesses playing Shakespeare in space will probably just be in the first and last reels. This movie will likely play out like the 1990 Captain America movie and the 1987 Masters of the Universe picture: 10% Thor in costume kicking ass against the Loki and his goons, 90% Chris Hemsworth in plain clothes running around a city or small town trying to solve his own issues. It's a good thing Thor opens the summer next year, because that's the only reason it will open relatively well, unless of course Marvel is intentionally trying to make the movie look worse than it is. As always, we'll see.

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Saw VII 3D debuts a 3-D poster.

Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch gets a Comic Con teaser.

Well this looks like something that will actually be worth the IMAX admission ticket. I have no idea if this will have any value beyond the razzle dazzle visuals, although Zack Snyder generally doesn't set out to make soulless creations. Dawn of the Dead was a character-driven and emotionally engaging horror remake, and Watchmen had at least some of the emotional pull of the original Alan Moore graphic novel (especially in the first act). Sure, 300 was pretty thin stuff, but it certainly tapped into a zeitgeist. Even his upcoming cartoon, Legend of the Guardians, looks to aim for more than visceral thrills. Still, even if Sucker Punch plays like Alice in Wonderland meets 300, the cast alone will be worth it. We've got Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgsens, Jamie Chung, Abbie Cornhesh, and the vastly underrated Jena Malone. In the grown ups corner, we have Carla Gugino, Jon Hamm, and the equally under appreciated Scott Glenn. Here's hoping that Sucker Punch gives both underloved thespians a chance to shine.

Scott Mendelson

Yogi Bear gets a poster.

This actually screened this week somewhere in LA (don't remember the location), but since my daughter is not between the ages of four and ten, attending wasn't really an option. Not that this one is high on my interest list anyway. I've said this for years, but I still think that Warner Bros is missing a golden opportunity. There's only one Yogi Bear movie I want to see, and it's something more appropriate for Lionsgate or Screen Gems. If you're going to do Yogi Bear, do an R-rated horror picture, involving the seemingly quaint Jellystone Park being terrorized by an apparent father-son team of murderous bears. Ranger Rick is brought in to deal with the bloodshed, as no one wants to close the park during prime tourist season. But Rick soon learns that this murderous duo is in fact smarter than the average bear. "This Christmas... pray he only steals your pic-a-nic basket."

Scott Mendelson

Monday, July 26, 2010

Four new Green Lantern character posters spell out not-so secret message.

Click on either of those two to enlarge them. I'd be lying if I told you that I was excited for this film on any level other than my fandom for director Martin Campbell, but this is an absolutely key project if Warner Bros. wants to truly expand the DC Comics film universe beyond Batman and the occasional Superman picture. I assume that we'll see a trailer pretty darn soon, be it with this weekend's Cats and Dogs 2: the Revenge of Kitty Galore or perhaps attached to Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World in three weeks. The 90 second clip shown at Comic Con did not inspire the levels of press ink afforded to Marvel's Thor trailer and Captain America teaser, so Warner has its work cut out for it at this point. On the other hand, my wife watched Green Lantern: First Flight last year and inexplicably became a Green Lantern fan, so it should be pretty easy to drag her to this one when the time comes.

Scott Mendelson

Michelle Rodriguez says NO to the 'token female role'.

Interviewed by Drew Morton at The Playlist over the weekend while promoting Battle: Los Angeles at Comic Con, Michelle Rodriguez was asked how she felt regarding her being typecast as the 'tough chick'.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A sign that Salt was butchered in post production? Andre Braugher is fifth-billed in nearly wordless cameo in a pointless role.

Andre Braugher is doing okay these days. He may not be a multi-millionaire, but he's been working quite steadily since his star-making role in Homicide: Life on the Street ended in May of 1999. He's been a lead in a handful of TV series (Gideon's Crossing, Hack, Thief, Men of a Certain Age, Miami Medical), and he's had supporting roles in several movies (Frequency, Poseidon, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, The Mist). He may not have an Oscar nomination like Melissa Leo, but he has several Emmys and a consistent flow of featured roles. Point being, he is not so desperate for work that he would intentionally sign on for nearly wordless cameo at the end of a random summer action picture. Yet that's Detective Frank Pembleton himself as the Secretary of Defense in the last reel of Salt.

In the 'what were they thinking?' department: the Salt soundtrack.

Salt is pretty much what it is advertised as, a mid-to-late 90s throwback, a star-driven action thriller that uses its alleged real-world narratives (including an accidentally topical plot involving Russian spies) to obfuscate its patented absurdity. The picture shines in its first half, but plummets in its second when its plot goes from almost plausible to completely nuts. Simply put, the film would have been far more effective if the stakes were not so 'the whole world is at stake' high. When the plot centers around an attempted assassination of a foreign dignitary and the possible revelation of Russian spies in the CIA, there is a certain real-world plausibility that also helps create suspense. Point being, said foreign national might actually get killed during the course of the picture, but we're pretty sure that (being vague to avoid spoilers) the entire world is not going to be thrown into irreversible chaos, especially at the apparent hands of some pretty big movie stars. This isn't Dr. Strangelove or Fail Safe, it's a $75 million popcorn genre thriller starring one of the last remaining bankable action stars on the planet. But, warts and all, the film remains a pleasantly diverting B-movie. I imagine it will play smashingly on TNT for a Sunday afternoon matinee. But that doesn't excuse one of the most boneheaded soundtracks I've heard in a long time.

Inception holds strong, Salt opens well, Kids are All Right excels in wider release. Weekend box office (07/25/10).

It was another 'everybody wins!' weekend at the box office, as holdovers held well and openers opened to reasonable expectation-levels. Inception was again number one, with $42.7 million in its second weekend. That's a borderline-shocking drop of just 32%, which is almost unheard of in this day and age of mega-openers. At $142.8 million at the end of day ten, the film is far exceeding the ten-day totals of other huge-opening original films (Bruce Almighty, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012, and Signs). Only Avatar ($212 million) and Hancock ($167 million) had more at the end of their second weekends, and Hancock had a Wednesday holiday opening (its actual ten day total was just ahead of Inception, with $143.2 million).

Avengers assemble! Why Mark Ruffalo is a great choice (for any role).

I assume anyone reading this will be enough of a nerd to know all or most of the people in that photo, so I'm not going to list them. Well, it looks like Ed Norton is out and Mark Ruffalo is in. Now that it's official, I will simply say that Mark Ruffalo is one of my absolute favorite actors. Not only does he shine in indie material (You Can Count On Me, What Doesn't Kill You, The Kids are All Right), but he brings a believability and gravitas to the romantic comedies (13 Going On 30, Just Like Heaven, Rumor Has It), he occasionally appears in. Like Jason Bateman, he's seemingly incapable of giving a bad performance and incapable of not making his character appear absolutely human and three-dimensional now matter how thin the material might be. So yeah, I think Norton getting sacked was a lousy bit of insider business, but I'm all for Ruffalo getting some true mainstream exposure in a small supporting role (even if Hulk is the villain, I can't imagine that Bruce Banner will get much screentime). As for director Joss Whedon finally confirming his involvement, yay. I'm as much a fan of his Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel/Firefly stuff as anyone, and the man has shown that he can juggle ensemble casts and make cheap stuff look expensive. As the guy who made Serenity look like $150 million on a $40 million budget, it's obvious that Marvel wanted someone who could stretch their $300 million (?) budget as far as possible. Will the movie be good? I have no idea, but it's certainly the kind of thing that should be tried, if only once (I have no interest in a Justice League movie).

Scott Mendelson

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Inception holds off strong-smelling Salt in Friday box office (07/24/10).

Inception was number one at the Friday box office yesterday, pulling in $13.2 million on its second Friday. That's a moderate drop of 39% from last Friday's $21.6 million opening day. The film has capitalized on strong word of mouth and the mydrid multiple interpretations that merited repeated viewings for those with that kind of time (I've seen just eight films in a theater twice since 2005, none since May 2008 when I took my dad to see Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull). The Chris Nolan mindbender posted solid weekday numbers that propelled it over $100 million on Thursday (that's just seven days, which is pretty impressive for a movie that opened with $62 million). The second weekend drop should be somewhere around 35%, or a second weekend total of $40 million, which is incredibly impressive in this frontloaded box office age.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides gets a Jack Sparrow-centric teaser.

This is a relatively useless teaser, making me afraid yet again that the fourth picture is going to a non-stop Jack Sparrow-mugging show (think a Shrek sequel starring Donkey). Come what may, the original trtilogy made good use of Sparrow as a showy supporting character, with only Dead Man's Chest suffering from a bit too much Sparrow-sillyness. Obviously Disney will sell this film however they please, and their Depp-centric Alice in Wonderland campaign obviously worked wonders. The first three pictures are vastly underrated, shockingly complicated, character-driven, and ammoral for mainstream popcorn munchers (each picture has only two or three major set pieces per film). As I'm not a fan of Rob Marshall in the least, this gets a big fat 'we'll see'.

Scott Mendelson

Friday, July 23, 2010

Machete gets a red-band trailer...

Sorry for all the trailer stuff, it IS Comic Con this weekend after all. Anyway, I still don't get why Fox and/or Rodriguez is insisting on hiding Lindsey Lohan's appearance in this thing. It's not like her tabloid troubles of late are going to besmirch the reputation of this Oscar bait costume drama. We're talking about an exploitation action picture that's being sold as a throwback to the 1970s grindhouse era. I still think Robert De Niro is all wrong for this kind of comedy, and he's too big of a star to genuinely find himself in such a piece of schlock. It's a shame that Don Johnson doesn't get his 'introducing' credit this time around. This is at least more entertaining than the boring trailer that was attached to Predators two weeks ago, if not as amusing as the 'up yours Arizona' teaser that debuted back in May. I'm still on the fence, as the best trailer for this picture is still the original fake trailer that debuted with the Grindhouse double feature three years ago.

Scott Mendelson

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Red gets another terrific trailer.

My goodness this looks like an astounding amount of fun. I love that John Malkovich is riffing on his low-key nutcase persona, I love that Helen Mirren has a machine gun or two, I love that Morgan Freeman is physically assaulting Richard Dreyfuss. I love that Ernest Borgnine and Brian Cox are in this thing too. My only complaint is that it appears that Bruce Willis gets most of the pure action setpieces, but that could just be marketing. Either way, this is another great trailer for what is now the film I'm most looking forward to this fall.

Scott Mendelson

Saw VII 3D, the apparent series finale, gets a teaser, and a new release date.

Nothing too unusual about this teaser, save for the fact that Jill Scott (John Kramer's wife) is in apparent peril this time around and there appears to be a trap rigged in public. Lionsgate has officially stated that this will be the final film in the Saw series, and here's hoping it's anywhere near as good as the stunningly good sixth installment. In bigger news, Lionsgate has apparently cried 'uncle', moving the film from its October 22nd release date to October 29th. The Saw franchise has operated out of the pre-Halloween weekend date since the second film, but it was apparently scared away by Paramount's Paranormal Activity 2. Those hoping for a rematch between the two properties are in for a disappointment. We can expect Universal to quickly announce the release date change of Wes Craven's My Soul to Take, which is currently occupying the Halloween weekend spot (where, ironically, the first Saw film opened back in 2004). Otherwise, moviegoers will have to choose between witnessing the finale of the most successful horror franchise in history, or discovering firsthand why Wes Craven was so willing to get screwed over by the Weinsteins yet again with Scream 4 (I'll give you a hint - 'blind item').

Scott Mendelson

Tron Legacy gets a theatrical trailer.

This looks pretty dazzling, but I can't help but wish that Disney would have just quit while they were ahead, with the gloriously moody and enticing teaser they released back in March. That looked like a teaser for a real movie, this looks more like a trailer for a film that eventually degenerates into a pointless light-and-magic show in the later acts. Still, if eye candy is all you want, I'm pretty sure this will be worth the IMAX 3-D admission price.

Scott Mendelson

That's Outrageous! Batman: The Brave and the Bold video game gets a trailer.

This wonderful looking side-scroller is coming out for the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo Wii on September 24th. Imagine, a Batman game that is actually fun to play, that doesn't require me to have an online strategy guide at my disposal at all times. Even cooler, imagine a Batman video game that my daughter (whose quickly becoming a fan of the new Super Friends storybooks) can actually play alongside me. To all those who complain that I'm impossible to buy gifts for (Endy-wa, Arcus-ma), take heed. Batman: The Brave and the Bold on Wii. Coming September 24th. That's a Friday.

Scott Mendelson

Dora the Explorer in Inception

It's been awhile since I laughed out loud at a viral video. I wish this were longer, as you could easily do even more with this concept (for example, Mal = Swiper the Fox), but this is a short and sweat little gem anyway. Enjoy.

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ben Affleck's The Town gets a trailer.

I know, I'm a little tardy on this one, but life has been a bit hectic of late. I've defended Ben Affleck the actor for years, pointing out his good-to-great work in films like Changing Lanes (his best performance), State of Play, Boiler Room, and the director's cut of Daredevil. But his directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, needs no defense, as it is one of the very best directorial debuts by a name actor in my lifetime. So, ironically, despite years being mocked as an actor, director Ben Affleck is being treated like royalty, with his next project considered one of the must-see events of the fall movie season. The Town certainly looks like a rock-solid genre picture. The cast (Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Blake Lively, Jeremy Renner, Chris Cooper), is sparkling, while the action scenes look engaging and intense. So why don't I feel more excited about it? Well, frankly, the story (about a bank robber who romances a traumatized hostage from a prior heist) feels a bit contrived. The second half of the trailer seems to degenerate into yet another 'but he cries at opera' type fantasy, where a murderous bank robber is really an okay guy because he tries to protect his new girlfriend from his criminal cohorts. I'll be the first to admit error if the film is less cliche than Warner's sell is indicating, but for now this gets a big, fat 'we'll see...'.

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Inception grosses $62 million opening weekend, while Sorcerer's Apprentice really shouldn't have opened on Wednesday. Weekend box office (07/18/10).

Playing like an old-fashioned general-audiences blockbuster, Chris Nolan's Inception opened at the higher end of realistic expectations with $62.8 million over the weekend. That's a 2.89x weekend multiplier, which means that front-loading was moderate but not severe (the film actually rose a token amount from Friday to Saturday). Word of mouth is relatively positive, as the film earned a B+ from Cinema Score but an A from the under-25 crowd (73% of the audience was under 34 years old and 54% was male). In a world filled with remakes, reboots, and franchise-intended adaptations (many retrofitted for 3-D), Inception stood out as an original 2-D would-be tent-pole not based on any existing property. It was, to paraphrase Nolan's last film, attempting to be an original film in an unoriginal time. As such, it scored the fifth-largest opening weekend ever for a completely original live-action picture, behind Avatar ($77 million), The Day After Tomorrow ($68.7 million), Bruce Almighty ($67.9 million), and 2012 ($65.2 million). If you take away holiday weekend-infused openings, then Inception is the third-such opening behind Avatar and 2012.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Inception opens with $21 million, Sorcerer's Apprentice grosses $5 million (that's what you get for opening on Wed!). Friday box office for 07/16/10.

Right in line with the highest expectations, Chris Nolan's Inception pulled in $21.6 million on its first full day, including $3 million in midnight sneaks. Depending on whether it plays like a general-audiences hit or a frontloaded genre picture, it could do anywhere from $55 million to $65 million over the weekend. In the realm of live-action films that are completely original and not based on any other prior property, Inception's opening day ranks fourth , behind Avatar ($26.7 million), The Day After Tomorrow ($23.5 million) and 2012 ($23.4 million), while ranking just above M. Night Shyamalan's Signs ($20.8 million) and The Village ($20.3 million). It's a doozy of a start, and it will be absolutely fascinating to see just what drew audiences to this epic puzzler (the concept, Leonardo DiCaprio, or Chris Nolan). It looks like Chris Nolan has joined the exclusive club of marquee directors (James Cameron, M. Night Shyamalan, Tim Burton, Steven Spielberg) who can open a high-concept picture partially on their name in the ad campaign.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Review: Inception: An IMAX Experience (2010)

148 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

I have never understood the idea that Chris Nolan is a cold man who makes cold films. While he is a brilliant craftsman and a technical genius, his films have always had a vibrant heartbeat at the center. Whether it's amnesiac Leonard struggling to retain his humanity, rival magicians Robert and Alfred slowly wrecking their lives in a pointless game of one-upmanship, or James Gordon trying to fight corruption in a city that runs on graft, Nolan's films generally remember to put the human element above the spectacle or gimmickry. But, for the first time, Christopher Nolan has made a film that embodies the Chris Nolan stereotype. Inception is a visually dazzling, exceedingly intelligent, and possibly ingenious puzzle box. But the human element takes a backseat to the visual wonderland and the plot mechanics. For the first time in a Chris Nolan film, I didn't have any real emotional investment in the characters.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

M. Night Shyamalan-produced Devil gets a trailer.

Devil is the first film from 'the Night Chronicles', which will hopefully be an ongoing series of M. Night Shyamalan-produced horror pictures. This is frankly just the sort of thing M. Night Shyamalan should be doing with his free time. Say what you will about his output in the latter half of the decade, but he has worthwhile ideas and tells stories worth telling. So, if he's not going to go full-Hitchcock and do a weekly TV series, why not use his name to give other filmmakers a boost and the chance to make an M. Night Shyamalan movie better than M. Night himself? It's not exactly Stephen King selling the movie rights to his short stories for $1, but it's worth celebrating. As for the preview itself, it looks like a sharp and satisfying little horror tale. And since my wife is terribly frightened of elevators, I'll be sure to drag her to this one.

Scott Mendelson

Green Lantern images leak from Entertainment Weekly.

Tomorrow's Entertainment Weekly is all about next week's Comic-Con, so the lead-off article concerns Martin Campbell's Green Lantern film. As such, we've got the first real photos of the film and its cast. As for the cover image, I can't really understand what some geeks are complaining about. It's Hal Jordan Green Lantern, for better or worse. We all knew that the suit itself was going to be a combination of motion capture and CGI, so it's basically a light-and-magic show atop Ryan Reynold's frame. This is no different than the complaining that occurred after the first teaser for Hulk premiered over the 2003 Super Bowl. It was a giant green monster-man with purple pants, what exactly were you expecting? Anyway, more earthbound images were released as well for those who care after the jump. The verdict? The cast looks solid, Blake Lively looks terrific as a brunette, and the tone seems to be relatively solemn at the moment. Expect to see a trailer either at the actual Comic Con next week, or attached to either Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore on July 30th or (if they can wait that long), Zack Snyder's Legend of the Guardians on September 24th.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Guest Review: Inception (2010)

Once again, DVD Future critic R.L. Shaffer offers a guest critique of an upcoming release. In this case, it's Chris Nolan's Inception. The All-Media screening in LA isn't until Thursday night, which is also the same day as my daughter's field trip. If I can make said IMAX screening, I'll have a review on Friday morning. But until then, enjoy...

148 minutes
rated PG-13

by R.L. Shaffer

I have very mixed emotions regarding Christopher Nolan's latest opus, a mind warping adventure about dream thieves. On some level, Inception is a brutally imaginative spectacle -- an amazing achievement on nearly every level, from cinematography to visual effects to story, performances -- you name it. It also seems to complete an informal trilogy for Nolan which started with the mind-bending thriller, Memento, and continued in the equally twisted 2006 film, The Prestige.

But, on another level, the film simply isn't emotionally satisfying. Sure, we like the motley crew of heroes and villains, who all seem borrowed from a Mission: Impossible episode. Sure, we like our confused anti-hero lead (DiCaprio). He plays like a sci-fi variant of James Bond. And yes, the story provides enough layers of complexity for the hardcore geeks to chew on all while relating that material to the mainstream in a very accessible way, which is no easy feat.

That said, Inception still feels empty, much like a dream. Or rather, like Blade Runner, the beloved cult classic (and allegedly Nolan's favorite film) that questions the fabric of reality and also happens to have an oddly emotionless core. It seems Nolan's desire to create his very own Blade Runner has forced him to copy the film's structure, from it's procedural narrative, to it's moody melodramatic score and tortured, underdeveloped characters.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Review: The Sorcerer's Apprentice (2010)

The Sorcerer's Apprentice
110 minutes
rated PG

by Scott Mendelson

For what it's worth; The Sorcerer's Apprentice is a lot closer to Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl than The Haunted Mansion. Like the two above examples, the film takes a small portion of Disney culture and makes a movie out of it. But while The Haunted Mansion attempted to graft an Eddie Murphy family-comedy template into a standard haunted house comedy that contained various portions of the famous Disneyland ride, Pirates of the Caribbean took bits and pieces of their respective theme park attraction and then created an entirely original world and a completely original picture. Director Jon Turteltaub tries the same trick this time around, taking a brief cartoon from Fantasia and using it as a jumping off point to create original characters and an original narrative. While the film tells a plainly generic story, the picture works because of, shockingly enough, the witty writing and knowing performances.

A fan-made trailer for The Expendables that puts the Lionsgate efforts to shame.

Even if you choose to take offense at the whole gender wars thing concept (you shouldn't, it's funny), the actual editing in this trailer makes the film seem far more exciting than it looks in any of the 'real' trailers released thus far. Yes this absolutely should be sold as a hardcore 'guy movie to end all guy movies'. This is as much a project fueled on nostalgia as Freddy Vs. Jason. This is about nostalgia both for the 80s/90s action heroes that are showcased as well as the kind of unapologetically hard-R action vehicles (violence, nudity, vulgarity!) that used to be the backbone of genre filmmaking. Oh, and the anti-torrent message is a nice touch too. A wonderful piece of effective marketing that also happens to be a joke. Even better than the real thing indeed.

Scott Mendelson

Monday, July 12, 2010

Blu Ray review: Batman: Under the Hood (2010)

Batman: Under the Hood
76 minutes
rated PG-13 (violent content and some drug references)
Available from Warner on DVD, Blu Ray, OnDemand, and iTunes on July 27th

by Scott Mendelson

When approaching a comic book arc, one must critique both the story being told and the manner in which it is presented. Judd Winick's "Under the Hood", which ran in Batman from February 2005 until April 2006 is a fast-paced, exciting, and wittily-written crime story that suffers from a single fatal flaw: its narrative basically undoes a good sixteen years of continuity purely on the whims of Mr. Winick's personal fandom. However, this DC Animated Universe feature does not have the burden of its comic book heritage. Since it is not connected to any particular continuity and has no bearing on future stories, it can stand on its own as a sharply plotted and entertaining little Batman story.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Despicable Me, Predators, Kids Are All Right open well as holdovers thrive. Weekend box office (07/11/10).

It was an 'everybody wins!' weekend at the box office, as the openers all performed at or above expectations and the holdovers didn't quite crash as badly as expected. First off, Universal scored its first probable domestic blockbuster since The Bourne Ultimatum three years ago, and its first animation smash since, I dunno, An American Tail: Fievel Goes West, with Despicable Me. Opening with $56.3 million, the film had the sixteenth-largest opening weekend for an animated feature ever. It is the tenth-largest opening for a non-sequel cartoon, with six of those openings coming from Pixar alone. Say what you will about the 3-D price-bump, but this is nearly double the opening of Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and about four times the opening weekend of Coraline. It is a case of almost instant profitability for the $69 million production.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

So what was the point of that again? Marvel to not hire Edward Nortion as Bruce Banner in Joss Whedon's The Avengers.

Two summers ago, Marvel rebooted a franchise that grossed $245 million on a $130 million budget (funded by Universal). Said reboot, intended to be a more audience-pleasing (ie - dumbed down) variation on a the Incredible Hulk, ended up grossing just $263 million worldwide on a $160 million budget (this time funded by Marvel itself). But that was ok, because now we had a Hulk cast that could seamlessly blend into the new Marvel movie universe and could fit right in with the eventual Avengers film, right? Right? Oh... right.

Friday, July 9, 2010

"Mr. Feeny, did we die?"

"To me it seemed like that finale could have been the finale to any TV show ever. The final season of Friends could have been had an alternate reality in which they didn't know each other and then when they touch hands they remember good times at Central Perk. And then die happy. Blah." - Dana Shaffer

Does the final scene of Boy Meets World look a little familiar to anyone? Watching that final scene last night, only having sampled the first few seasons of the show this week (for work-related reasons), I could have sworn that Cory, Shawn, Topanga, and Eric were dead, and that Mr. Feeny was their guide to the great beyond. It actually plays pretty much the same whether you think that they are alive or dead. And at least it explains why Shawn apologizes to Eric for strangling him to death in a misbegotten scheme to get back to the trailer park ('We have to go back!').

Scott Mendelson

Mano-A-Mano? Why the Predators are complete morons.

I don't hunt. I've never hunted with any weapon of any kind. Hell, I've never even fired a real gun before. But, to those who have hunted, I pose this question. Say you're out in the woods, hunting a larger animal (a bear, a deer, etc). Have you ever been in a situation where you realized that said animal was putting up a better fight and/or evading your rifle scope a bit better than you expected? Let's say said animal even fought back just a little, providing a real challenge. Did you up your game a little bit, perhaps concentrate less on the 'thrill of the kill' and just make sure you shot said animal before said animal escaped and/or attacked you? Or, realizing that that big bear was a worthy opponent who had won your respect/honor, did you decide to throw down your weapons, strip off your camouflage and engage in a good old-fashioned fistfight with said beast? If so, how did that turn out for you? Just asking...

Scott Mendelson

Avatar, set for IMAX/3D re-release on August 27th, nets James Cameron $350 million. As the first theatrical run ends, why he deserves it.

I've been meaning to run the numbers, and today is as good a day as any. First of all, news broke over the last two days that A) Avatar would be returning to IMAX and 3D theaters in an eight-minute-longer special edition on August 27th and B) the film's success has netted writer/director James Cameron $350 million in personal income. The re-release was mainly fueled by the not-unlikely theory that Avatar would have kept pulling it in had it not been forced to surrender the IMAX and 3D screens to Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland in March. But, for all intents and purposes, Avatar's groundbreaking initial theatrical run is pretty much over. So, let's see how it did...

Not Necessarily the News: Chris Nolan is not directing a James Bond film.

The internet is all aflutter today with various posts asking whether or not Chris Nolan will direct a James Bond film in the near-future. No. Heck, considering MGM's current financial woes, it may be a long time before we see anyone direct a new James Bond picture. All Chris Nolan has said is that he would like to make a 007 adventure and that Inception is partially inspired by Her Majesty's Secret Service. None of this is news. Nolan has expressed his admiration for the series many times over the last decade. Heck, in many ways, the last two-thirds of Batman Begins is a Caped Crusader picture filtered through the constructs of a James Bond template (Batman/Alfred/Lucius/Gordon/Rachel = Bond/M/Q/Leiter/Moneypenny). Point being, all Nolan said is that he'd like to theoretically direct a Bond film sometime down the road. So please stop foaming at the mouth and waiting for poor Sam Mendes to get fired.

Scott Mendelson

He is not your parent, your role model, or economic savior: It is not LeBron James's responsibility to save Cleveland, Ohio from economic collapse.

It is said that you should never make important decisions while you're upset, and it certainly holds that you shouldn't write rambling diatribes intended for a national audience well, ever, but certainly not when you're upset. But Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert did just that and came up the a priceless super villain rant. I can certainly sympathize, and LeBron arguably could have handled the situation with a little less pomp and circumstance. But the NBA is a business plain and simple. Countless winning coaches have been canned over the years just because they failed to acquire a Super Bowl ring, a World Series trophy, or an NBA Championship. And had James been injured over the course of his Cleveland career, he would have likely been cut just as quickly as he was drafted. This is no different, except this time the player is firing the team.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Twilight Saga: Eclipse leads Independence Day weekend as Last Airbender opens strong, Toy Story 3 crosses $300m. Weekend box office (07/05/10).

To the surprise of no one with a pulse, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse dominated the July 4th holiday weekend, as the third installment of the popular teen-lit romantic soap opera series (IE - Moody with a Chance of Vampires) debuted with $64.8 million over the Fri-Sun portion and $83.6 million over the four-day holiday weekend. That's the third-biggest Independence Day opening weekend in history, behind Spider-Man 2 ($88 million) and Transformers ($70 million), and War of the Worlds ($64.9 million). Now, while one might argue that the number is a few hundred-thousand dollars less than the opening weekend of the first Twilight, and it's actually three million less than what New Moon scored on its first day, let's not forget that this Twilight picture was opening on a Wednesday, not Friday. So for its first six days, the film has amassed a scorching $176 million (the fifth-biggest on record, just $2 million behind the first five days of New Moon). The picture is the eighth-fastest sprinter to $150 million. If you recall, Spider-Man 2 opened over the same period in 2004, and it amassed $88 million on its Fri-Sun weekend, with $151 million in the first five days and $180 million in the first six days. What Spider-Man 2 and Transformers didn't have was a mammoth $68.5 million opening day, the second biggest on record behind the $72 million Friday gross of New Moon last November.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Modern movie marketing campaigns that didn't know when to stop.

While any number of reasons and/or excuses have been tossed out for why Fox's The A-Team didn't perform better over the last month, one thing that sticks out is the general blandness of the theatrical trailer. As I wrote back in January, the first teaser did a remarkable job of knowing how to re-explain the concept, establish the new cast, and get out while the audience still wanted to know more. The second trailer, released in April, was a bland, overlong, and generally disappointing affair, seeming to highlight just how generic the film was outside of the inherent appeal of the original television show. Fox's campaign for The A-Team was just another example of not knowing when to leave well-enough alone. They had a fun and entertaining teaser that sold the movie perfectly, yet they had to go and blow their goodwill with a trailer that made the movie look worse than it actually was (it's a perfectly amusing, if sloppy, B-movie genre picture). For a moment, let's have a look back at some classic 'shoulda quit while you're ahead' marketing campaigns.

Back to the Future turned 25 today. A look at the trilogy's finest moment.

"Did you say seventy years?"

Has there ever been a cooler cliffhanger in modern film history? The idea of splitting a long film into two pieces and releasing them relative closely to each other was a new idea back in 1989. But of all the split-in-two franchise pictures, Back to the Future II has by-far the most satisfying finale of them all. To this day, I still get chills when the Western Union guy drives in from the torrential rainstorm. The wonderful logic of it, the way it bridges the way from part II to part III while completely closing the book on the narrative of the first two films; it's just perfect. The modern 'split in two' franchises (Pirates of the Caribbean, The Matrix, Harry Potter and Twilight) are basically one film split into two parts. The Matrix Revolutions and the Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End may be different in tone and structure from their respective predecessors, but both are primarily concerned with wrapping up unfinished business from the first sequels. Back to the Future II and Back to the Future III, like the earlier Richard Lester accidents (Superman, The Three Musketeers, and their respective sequels) completely stand on their own as complete adventures. And, really, has their ever been a cooler cliffhanger?

Scott Mendelson

How to introduce your kid to Star Wars and The Muppets at the same time.

While this is not her first exposure to the world of Star Wars (she likes the Star Wars Jedi Academy show at Disney Land) or The Muppets (she's seen the Muppet Vision 3-D show, also at Disney Land), this was a perfect way to combine both universes. Allison chuckled, she wanted more, there may be hope for her yet.

Scott Mendelson

Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Last Airbender hold steady in Friday box office (07/02/10).

The Twilight sequel, Eclipse pulled in $28.6 million, which is a 18% uptick from the $24.2 million that the film pulled in on Thursday. Said Friday gross is the twenty-ninth biggest Friday ever, and the sixth-biggest non-opening Friday ever. While we can all bemoan the fact that the film is still pulling in less than half of its opening day total of $68.5 million, the romantic drama has still grossed $121.3 million in three days, which is the ninth-biggest three-day total ever. As it is, the Thursday and Friday numbers ($52.8 million) are within a few million of the first two days ofIndiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($55.6 million). Said Indy sequel pulled in $150 million in its first five days (Thurs-Mon). So if Eclipse performs accordingly for the rest of the holiday, we're looking at around $142 million for the Thursday-Monday portion (or whatNew Moon pulled in on its opening Fri-Sun opening weekend), with that extra $68 million opening-day tagged on just for fun for the six day haul. In other words, $200 million for six days should be a cake walk at this point unless the film completely collapses over the holiday.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows gets a one-sheet.

"A lot of bad stuff happened here. It's as good a place as any for it to end."

Thursday box office (07/01/10) - The Last Airbender: $16.35 million. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse: $24 million, Toy Story 3: $7.4 million

The Last Airbender parlayed its devout fanbase, the marquee value of M. Night Shyamalan, and a pretty solid marketing campaign into a $16.35 million-grossing opening day, which includes $3 million in midnight showings. That's the fifth-biggest opening Thursday of all time, and the fifteenth-biggest Thursday on record. Yes, the 3-D ticket prices helped a bit, but if the product doesn't entice audiences, it won't matter how much the tickets cost. Of course, it's no secret that the film is abysmal, so it's a little disheartening to see M. Night Shyamalan rewarded with such a massive opening day (only Signs and The Village opened better, with $20 million on their respective opening days). Where it goes from here is anybody's guess.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The amazingly funny and astonishingly interactive Twilight Saga: Eclipse 8-bit role-playing video game.

Believe it or not, this thing goes on for a long time, depending on which decision you make. Fashioned like an 8-bit Nintendo role-playing game, this is arguably the first interactive game I've seen on YouTube. Check it out because it's funny, stay because it's brilliant.

Scott Mendelson

Press Release - Sony casts Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spider-Man


CULVER CITY, Calif., July 1, 2010 – After a comprehensive worldwide casting search, Andrew Garfield has been chosen to portray Peter Parker when Spider-Man swings back onto the screen in 3D on July 3, 2012. The new film will begin production in early December directed by Marc Webb from a screenplay by James Vanderbilt. Laura Ziskin and Avi Arad will produce the film from Columbia Pictures and Marvel Studios.

The Last Airbender bends $3 million worth of midnight ticket sales.

I've of two minds about The Last Airbinder's box office run. On one hand, it's a ghastly film. M. Night Shyamalan will learn few lessons if the film becomes a hit anyway, and he desperately needs some tough love right now. On the other hand, I don't want to see him tank at the box office, as that by itself will do major damage to his career, to the point where his allegedly-excellent new script might not end up as a feature (me-thinks he leaked the info about the new script when he realized what a disaster Last Airbender had turned into). I strongly disliked Alice in Wonderland, but I did get small amounts of pleasure at watching Tim Burton rule the box office in a manner not seen since Batman twenty-one years ago. That's the nature of fandom - we don't want the artists we respect and admire to fail, even when they probably deserve to. So it is with mixed feelings that I report that The Last Airbender scored $3 million in midnight showings. That may seem like small potatoes compared to the $30 million scored by The Twilight Saga: Eclipse or the $18 million snared by The Dark Knight two years ago, but it's still the biggest midnight haul for a non-sequel this summer, if not this year (did Alice in Wonderland even have notable midnight screenings back in March?). Heck, it's almost half of what Iron Man 2 grossed in its midnight run ($7.5 million), which means that we could be in for a much higher opening-day ($20 million?) than we were expecting. Of course, I don't expect the fans of the original television show to be anymore forgiving than the nation's critics, so the front-loading on this one may rival the Twilight series. The numbers should be out by early tomorrow morning, so we'll see soon enough.

Scott Mendelson

Let Me In (the US-remake of Let the Right One In) gets a teaser.

For better or worse, this looks like an almost shot-for-shot remake of the original film, with most of the visual highlights on display in this teaser. On the plus side, the cast is top-notch (Chloe Mortz from Kick-Ass, Kodi Smit-McPhee from The Road, plus Richard Jenkins and Elias Koteas) and the original material is so strong that simply connecting the dots will result in a pretty solid film. Of course, that just leaves the question as to what the point of the remake was in the first place. After all, the same film, with subtitles or dubbed into English, is available right here. The Matt Reeves-helmed redo opens on October 1st, 2010.

Scott Mendelson

Twilight Saga: Eclipse grosses $68.5 million in its first full day.

The numbers are in, and it's $68.5 million for The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, with $30 million of that coming just from midnight showings. That's the second-best day of all time, behind the $72.7 million scored on the opening day of The Twilight Saga: New Moon last November ($26 million in midnight showings). It's just ahead of the $67.1 million single-day take of The Dark Knight just under two years ago ($18 million in midnight screenings). It's the biggest Wednesday opening, ahead of the $62 million opening-day numbers of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ($16 million in midnight screenings). It is telling that the film ended up just a bit ahead of those last two opening day marks, despite nearly doubling their midnight tallies (and having the added boost of higher-priced IMAX tickets this time around). It would appear for the moment that this third chapter will be even more frontloaded than the prior entries, but the long holiday puts even that into question. Point being, while the films have by-far the worst opening weekend multipliers of any ongoing franchise (the first two films merely doubled their opening-day take over the first three-days), the long weekend could allow the film to regain momentum as the hardcore fans see the film for a second time after their respective Fourth of July activities.


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