Thursday, September 30, 2010

Behold: the last Saw poster we'll ever see...

Click here for a 3D-spinning version (the embed code that Lionsgate sends me never seems to work on Blogger). You certainly can't say that Lionsgate isn't going hogwild with the promotion for this alleged series finale...

Scott Mendelson

Ssshh... don't tell boys it's about Supergirl! Andrea Romano confirms sexism in Superman/Batman Apocalypse title change.

Confirming what I've long suspected, Andrea Romano commented to Newsarama's Jill Pantozzi that the reason the recently-released Superman/Batman Apocalypse was not called 'Supergirl' was that Warner marketing put the kibosh on female-driven projects at DCAU after the comparability poor sales of the Wonder Woman DVD.

“I think the main reason why they didn’t call this piece Supergirl is because for some reason theWonder Woman home video that we made, which was very, very good and filled with (fe)male* characters, didn’t sell well,” she told us. “And so marketing people said, female titled pieces don’t sell well. So this is a female piece, it’s got a very strong feminine character in it but they called it Superman/Batman: Apocalypse just to get people to come into the video stores and buy them.”

So yes, Warner's DCAU marketing department is so frightened of marketing to girls and/or getting boys to see a movie primarily about a female super hero, that they removed any trace of Supergirl both from the film's title and the film's trailer. The sad thing is, aside from the principal of this kind of thinking, is that Wonder Woman (still the best film in this ongoing series) was not a poor seller in the long run, it just didn't sell quite as many copies quite as quickly as Batman: Gotham Knights or Superman: Doomsday. So newsflash young women of the world: not only does Disney no longer market to you, but the DC Animated Universe is no longer allowed to make movies that are marketed to you. And if they have the nerve to make a female-driven picture, then they have to disguise it as a testosterone-filled sausage-fest. Just fantastic.

Scott Mendelson

* Romano said that Wonder Woman was 'filled with many male characters', which was likely a typo. I presume she meant 'female characters', as there were only a few men in Wonder Woman.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Skyline gets a full-length trailer.

Looks pretty terrific, especially for the alleged $20 million cost. We'll see how much of the big effects shots have already been revealed in the trailer, but this looks like an exciting little sci-fi thriller. Plus, anything that nets Donald Faison a solid payday is alright by me. This one comes out November 12th.

Scott Mendelson

Critics didn't kill the Sex and the City franchise. It wasn't really dead.

“It's over. The franchise is dead. The press killed it. Your magazine f------ killed it. New York Magazine. It's like all the critics got together and said, 'this franchise must die.' Because they all had the exact same review. It's like they didn't see the movie."

That was Chris Noth discussing the apparent demise of the Sex and the City franchise in an interview with New York Magazine. If the franchise is truly finished, it is surely not the fault of magazines and critics. Not that critics are blameless, as they pounced on the film with a vicious campaign of vitriol that likely would have been tempered for a more male-driven franchise (how much worse could it have been than Iron Man 2?). It is also not the fault of the second film itself. Yes, it was allegedly terrible, and many fans were turned off just as much as the critics, but it still passed the primary test for a franchise picture: it made lots of money. If the series is no more, then it is purely the fault of Warner Bros. By that I mean, they have prematurely snuffed out a genuinely-profitable franchise.

Oh no! George Lucas to offer us the choice to watch the Star Wars series in 3D?!

Oh wait... we can choose to see them in 3D theaters or not? We don't HAVE to give him and 20th Century Fox our money if we don't want to? Oh... nevermind. Anyway, starting in winter 2012, Lucas will be releasing one Star Wars film per year into theaters with a 3D conversion, starting with The Phantom Menace and ending with Return of the Jedi in 2017. As usual, this is less about George Lucas's greed (he's already worth $3 billion, and he's pledged to give half his estate to charity upon his death) and more about him using his Star Wars films to play around with new technology, in this case perfecting the much-maligned art of 3D conversion. Finding time to see all six of them in a theater at one time would be a bit much, but revisiting them in 3D at one per year during the dead-zone of January/February is perfectly fine. First of all, it will have been 15 years since these things were in theaters in any form, so it's not like he's milking the cow every couple years (nearly 14 years after the Special Edition releases in 1997, Star Wars: Special Edition still has the second-biggest January opening in history). Second of all, and this is a biggie to those who accuse George Lucas of being purely out for financial gain, Lucas was among those who signed 'The Giving Pledge' amongst billionaires to give half their estates to charity. So a ticket for The Phantom Menace 3D is a partially charitable donation to whatever foundation Lucas bestows his billions (probably education-related). Of course, if you're one of those overgrown children who still has a temper-tantrum every time George Lucas mentions Star Wars, here's some free advice: don't see the 3D converted versions in theaters. See, feel better? Sometimes the simplest solution is the best.

Scott Mendelson

Monday, September 27, 2010

Coen Brothers True Grit remake gets a powerful teaser.

It's amazing what the right music can do. As I've said any number of times, sometimes it's all about the soundtrack choices for a trailer. Like Star Trek, Where the Wild Things Are, and Inception, this is a trailer where the music does 90% of the work. Without that, we just have a series of quick shots establishing the core plot and the four main characters. But mixed in with the Peasall sisters singing a moody and almost creepy cover of 'Where No One Stands Alone', the 75-second piece establishes this Coen Brothers remake as a genuine bit of western myth-making. This is a powerful piece of stand-alone editing, which makes it a remarkable teaser for what should be a major player over the holiday season. True Grit, with Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper, and Hailee Steinfeld, opens wide on Christmas Day. Between this and Tron Legacy a week prior, Jeff Bridges is going to have a very, very merry Christmas indeed.

Scott Mendelson

There is no such thing as a 3D movie. 3D is not a genre, it's a tool.

There's a new article out from Anne Thompson, who I usually enjoy, regarding the alleged downturn of 3D. Basically the gist is that 3D is in peril, and the big savior of the format will be Tron: Legacy. The piece itself is harmless, and to be fair it's more of an advertisement for Tron: Legacy than a real discussion about 3D. But it's just another notch in the 'dear god, the 3D sky is falling' bit that forgets the most important part of this whole mess... I'm going to try really hard not to turn this into another endless rant, so bear with me. It's the movie. It's the movie. It's the movie, stupid...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Weekend box office (09/26/10): Wall Street 2 is number 01, while Legend of the Guardians cost too much.

The funny thing about long-delayed sequels is that it's generally pretty easy for them to top the opening weekends of their predecessors purely due to inflation. So while Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps is a genuine mainstream hit with $19 million on 3,565 screens ($5,330 per screen) over its debut weekend, it's basically just double the figures as the original Wall Street posted back in 1987, despite opening with 5x the dollar amount. The original film opened with $4.3 million in 730 theaters ($5,622 per screen). Adjusted for relative inflation, that would give the original Oliver Stone cautionary tale around $10 million in 2010 dollars. But outside of its context from the 23-year old original film, this sequel performed well on its own accord.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Blu Ray Review: Superman/Batman Apocalypse (2010)

Superman/Batman Apocalypse
78 minutes
rated PG-13
Available September 28th on DVD, Blu Ray, iTunes, and On Demand from WHV.

by Scott Mendelson

It is perhaps unfair for me to be overly critical of Superman/Batman Apocalypse, as I was not a fan of the comic book story arc from which it is adapted from. The early Jeph Loeb issues of the Superman/Batman comic were full of fan-friendly moments and epic smackdowns, but they lacked a genuine emotional drive and anything resembling complex storytelling. And so was the case with the 'Supergirl' arc, which ran in issues 8-13 back in 2004. The story existed to reintroduce the character of Supergirl, who had been killed off in Crisis on Infinite Earths back in 1985. But the movie version has its own sins to account for, as (like Superman/Batman Public Enemies), it actually alters a rousing climax that robs the story of what geek-pleasing moments it initially contained.

David O. Russell's The Fighter gets a trailer. Why are Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale starring in a Tapout movie?

My issue with The Fighter is that it looks like the kind of low-end MMA fight melodrama that Tapout puts out a few times a year. Take away the big stars and director David O.Russell, and it's just another movie from the people who brought you Circle of Pain, Unrivaled, or Beatdown (I have to watch this stuff for work related reasons). For that matter, Mark Wahlberg isn't that much better of an actor than the likes of Hector Echavarria or Tony Schiena. I've long believed that Donnie Wahlberg is the far superior, far more natural and credible performer of the two. It might be worth it to see Christian Bale go crazy, but this looks as contrived and as cliched as can be. And the trailer loses huge points by not giving billing to Oscar nominee Melissa Leo.

Scott Mendelson

Friday, September 24, 2010

Review: Let Me In (2010)

Let Me In
115 minutes
rated R
Opens nationwide from Overture on October 1st.

by Scott Mendelson

Let Me In is a fine motion picture, a moody and character-driven horror film that shows a patience and intelligence rare in the genre. It is visually gorgeous, subtly acted, and genuinely unnerving in several key moments. It is surely one of the better genre pictures of the year, and it heralds director Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) as a genuine talent, having succeeded with two very different horror pictures in just over two years. Yes, it is a remake of the equally fine Swedish horror film Let the Right One In, and it is nearly identical in structure and narrative to the earlier picture. But, this remake is just different enough, in both character choices and focus, to stand beside the original with pride and on its own as a remarkable horror film.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I didn't see Elmo complaining. Katy Perry segment forced off Sesame Street due to complaints about her... um... looking like Katy Perry.

She's not exposing any actual flesh, other than a bit of leg. None of her lyrics are profane. There is not a hint of sexuality or any lust in Elmo's eyes. She's singing a song about opposites (hot/cold, up/down, etc). Yet, for the apparent crime of, well, being genetically gifted, Perry's music duet with Elmo will not be airing on television as intended. The video debuted on Monday, and apparently parents (or perhaps one social values group typing out countless complaints) have bemoaned the token amount of cleavage that Perry's dress allows us to view. It's a green and yellow summer dress. Either the whole world is filled with sexually-frustrated Oscar the Grouches, or some conservative group spent Monday and Tuesday hammering out letters of protest.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I gets a full trailer.

I'm running out of superlatives, so I'll make this quick. I am amused by how the first portion of the trailer seems to mirror the opening half of the final trailer for Lord of the Rings: Return of the King seven years ago. Similar mood, similar glum prognostications of doom, similar moody montages of peril and suffering. I half expected to see Hugo Weaving ordering Harry Potter to 'become who you were born to be'. If it needs to be said, the Harry Potter series has long shed its reputation as the lesser fantasy cousin of the Lord of the Rings films. It is now a towering achievement on its own, and I cannot believe it's already been nine years since it started. The board is set, the pieces are moving. We come to it at last... the grand finale of the definitive film franchise of our generation.

Scott Mendelson

Monday, September 20, 2010

Review: The Town (2010)

The Town
125 minutes
rated R

by Scott Mendelson

The Town is a film that is crippled by its own fairytale desires. While the picture pertains to be a character-driven drama about a Boston bank robber and his desire to go straight, it is undone by a refusal to even acknowledge that its lead character has anything to truly atone for. It is one thing to have a sympathetic portrait of an anti-hero as he struggles to be decent in a world that values his indecency. But it is another to take a straight-up criminal and convince us that he is actually some kind of hero. As a result, the key relationships don't work, the action scenes lack suspense, and the audience is left with no reason to care about the outcome.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Review: Devil (2010)

80 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

Devil is a deliciously old-fashioned throwback of a horror film. It is a myth, a ghost story told around a campfire, and a deliciously entertaining piece of pop entertainment. It is overly moralistic and quite heavy-handed in spots, but it succeeds in its very limited ambitions. It will not gross you out or send you to bed deeply disturbed. But it will make you jump out of your seat, nervously giggle to yourself, and send you out of the theater with a big goofy grin on your face. It's not high art, but it's quite a bit of fun.

Weekend box office: The Town wins crowded weekend, Easy A breaks out, Devil and Alpha & Omega open OK. (09/19/10).

In a stupidly crowded weekend at the box office, we had four major wide releases and at least two major limited debuts. Without further ado, let's dive in. Coming in at number 01 was Ben Affleck's crime thriller The Town. With $23.8 million, the Affleck-directed picture out-grossed the entire domestic take of Affleck's directorial debut, the obscenely good Gone Baby Gone. This second Affleck-directed thriller is a more conventional story, involving a Boston bank robber who wants to get out of the life and finds a possible escape with a new romance. It also boasts a more marketable cast, with Ben Affleck starring this time around, along with Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, and Blake Lively. Warner Bros sold this one as 'from the studio that brought you The Departed', which usually makes me roll my eyes (it's also the studio that brought you Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Lethal Weapon, and Casablanca). The picture opened a bit below the $28.6 million debut of The Departed, but the Scorsese picture cost $90 million while the Affleck one cost only $40 million.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

As Yom Kippur approaches, it's time to forgive some infamous sins of cinema.

Yom Kippur starts this Saturday. As one of the two highest-of-high holy days in the Jewish religion, Yom Kippur basically involves asking forgiveness for the past transgressions against God over the previous year. But arguably as important is Erev Yom Kippur, which is the day before the high holy day, which involves asking the actual people you've transgressed against for atonement. In that spirit, let us take a few moments to finally let go of a few alleged transgressions in recent cinema history. Don't do it for them, do it for yourself.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Walt Disney's Tangled (formally Rapunzel) gets yet another obnoxiously boy-friendly trailer.

Rapunzel is apparently a helpless and useless supporting character in her own movie. She gets maybe three lines of dialogue in the 150 second trailer, with the bulk of screentime going to her dashing and adventurous suitor. At least Rapunzel is uber-pretty, because that's all girls are good for in the post-Princess and the Frog Disney regime, right? I concede that this may not be the movie as it is, but rather what they are selling in a panic over the alleged under-performance of The Princess and the Frog (Oh no! Only $267 million worldwide and the hundreds of millions over the next decade in Princess Tiana merchandise!). But the sour aftertaste that this marketing campaign has left in its wake will be tough to shake. Because even if the movie is more evenhanded (and better) than the marketing, a major opening weekend based off of this campaign will signal to Disney that this kind of gender-blackballing works, and that they shouldn't actually chase the female audience with any vigor.

Scott Mendelson

Angelina Jolie/Johnny Depp caper The Tourist gets a terrific trailer.

I haven't been following this one at all, knowing its existence only from the occasional paparazzi photos that popped up here and there. But this is a stunningly effective trailer, selling a generally unknown entity smashingly well. Depp seems to relish playing a normal schlub for the first time since, I dunno, Nick of Time in 1995. Jolie is doing her usual vixen shtick, which is effective per usual. The dialogue is quippy and amusing, and Paul Bettany is exuding several kinds of bad-ass. While it may just be canned trailer music, the pulsating dance music that kicks in at 1:26 is surprisingly effective when contrasted with the amusing bit of Depp reporting a crime. The only fault? I didn't spot Rufus Sewell or Timothy Dalton (any film that casts the severely under-appreciated Timothy Dalton gets bonus points). This one comes out on December 10th, and it officially has my interest.

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls adaptation gets a trailer.

This looks about right. The trailer sells the tone, the atmosphere, and the huge cast, rather than the plot. Although attentive viewers may notice a spoiler shot or two so be forewarned. The only problem is that there is no reference to the play that this film is based on, or its original author Ntozake Shange. It's understandable that Lionsgate would highlight their biggest asset, but the trailer falsely implies that the film is another Tyler Perry original feature, rather than his first adaptation of someone else's material. Obviously we won't know if this is an actual Oscar contender (hence the date change) until the week of November 5th, although I can't imagine a cast this impressive not garnering at least one acting nod (Loretta Devine?) unless the film is genuinely mediocre. A hopeful sign will be if this one actually screens for press ahead of time, as most of Tyler Perry's films went out blind following the critical drubbing of Diary of a Mad Black Woman back in spring 2005. As always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Irony of the day: Video game movies a safe haven for female action stars.

I'm not going to turn this into a long essay about gender roles in genre pictures, but I think it's worth pointing out an oddity. In an era where mainstream blockbusters often shunt women to the sidelines or give them poorly written roles awkwardly inserted into the narrative so that it won't be an all-boys club, there is one genre where women thrive: video game films. While the video game industry has been making inroads with female gamers over the last decade (as of 2009, 40% of gamers are female and 34% are women over 18), the fact remains that video games are inherently geared towards young males and their stereotypical interests. Yet, by accident or by design, quite a few notable video game adaptations, including three full-blown franchises, feature female action leads.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Weekend Box Office: Lone new release, Resident Evil: Afterlife shockingly performs just like every other Resident Evil film (09/12/10).

I honestly can't figure out for the life of me why there was only one new release this weekend, especially when there are four wide releases next weekend. But be it fear of opening a film on the weekend of September 11th, concerns about getting your press stolen by the Toronto and Venice Film Festivals, or sheer stupidity on the part of the studios, Resident Evil: Afterlife was left with a wide-open field this weekend, and it took advantage of it accordingly. The fourth Resident Evil picture, this time shot in 3D (not converted), took in $26.5 million for an obvious first-place finish.

Clint Eastwood's Herafter gets a trailer.

Despite a trailer that sells this as a Matt Damon star vehicle, this is actually a three-part story dealing equally with Damon's reluctant psychic, a French journalist (Cecilia de France) who survived the 2004 Tsunami and a boy coping with the accidental death of his twin brother (Frankie & George McClaren). Point being, this looks like a relatively engaging drama, the kind of thing that Eastwood excels at. Weirdly enough, this picture dealing with the afterlife opens on October 22nd, the same day as Paranormal Activity 2.

Scott Mendelson

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls gets eight character posters.

Click to 'embiggen'.

Saw VII 3D gets a silly trailer.

I'm sorry, but this just reeks of desperation. It's no secret that I have a soft spot for this franchise, and three out of the six prior chapters (II, III, and VI) were darn good horror films. But this is just a stupid, silly, pandering trailer. Say what you will about the Saw series, but it always took itself seriously. This trailer makes it look like a Final Destination sequel, and it implies that this seventh and allegedly final chapter will have nothing to offer except for its 3D gimmickry. Of course, that may very well be true, as the exceptional Saw VI pretty much wrapped up every conceivable loose end, dispatching most of its supporting cast and giving a sense of finality to John Kramer's epic game. We'll know soon enough, as the film opens on October 29th. I've made it this far, hell I met my eventual wife on a date to see Saw II (her choice, luckily I had already seen The Legend of Zorro at a test screening months earlier), so we'll be there with bells on... one last time.

Scott Mendelson

Another action icon returns: John McTiernan to helm Shrapnel.

Just a few days after Jan De Bont inked a deal to end his seven-year sabbatical, now fellow action god John McTiernan is apparently back in the saddle as well. McTiernan, best known as 'that guy who directed Die Hard', is set to direct an original picture entitled Shrapnel, which will apparently involve two war veterans who hunt each other in some kind of game. Unbeknownst to me until today, he also has a project apparently in production called The Camel Wars, which involves an Iraqi-American being sent to fight in the Iraq War. According to IMDB, said action-drama will be released on June 1st, 2011.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Rutger Hauer's Hobo With A Shotgun gets a trailer.

Well, this looks interesting. I sure hope the trailer didn't give away every money shot in the film, which is possible as there are a few bits that we see twice. I suppose the only question is whether it will actually rise above its grimy exploitation trappings and emerge as a real movie and/or a worthwhile social critique. As always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Batman spells out the obvious...

2010 Summer Movie Review part III: A word about Independent Cinema and 3D.

These two paragraphs originally ended the Summer Movie Preview: Box Office Review article, but after some prodding, I've decided to highlight them in their own post, as they deal with two specific issues worthy of note.

2010 Summer Movie Review part II: The Box Office Review.

The biggest surprise of summer 2010 is how few surprises there really were. Most of the expected smash hits were smash hits, the expected under-performers underperformed, and the bigger films without studio support tanked. The more mainstream art-house cinema made money, while more challenging studio fare struggled. It surely wasn't the best summer in recent years (that would probably be 2002 or 2008), but it wasn't the worst either (2001 gets my vote). It was a summer just like any other summer, so let's dive right in. You might want to take a bathroom break first...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Jan De Bont returns, will direct live-action Mulan with Zhang Ziyi.

Good news for those nostalgic for 1990s action. After a seven year absence, action icon Jan De Bont is returning to the director's chair. He has signed to helm an English-language, live-action version of the Chinese myth Mulan. Independently financed, the alleged $100 million-budgeted project will star Zhang Ziyi as the icon made popular to US audiences by the 1998 Disney animated musical. It's a pleasant return of someone who really had it all for a few years.

Monday, September 6, 2010

American, Machete, Going the Distance square off over Labor Day Weekend. Weekend Box Office (09/04/010).

Despite stupidly opening on a Wednesday (and siphoning off $3 million before the traditional opening weekend), The American grossed a completely predictable $13.1 million over three days and $16.6 million over the four-day holiday. This is no less than the ninth George Clooney vehicle to open to around $11-13 million since The Peacemaker in 1997. And, as I've written before, every time this happens, the pundits jump up and down about how Clooney may not be a real movie star. As I've also said before, true stardom is when it's just your face on the poster, especially when you're selling a somewhat uncommercial bit of cinema. That was certainly the case with The American, which is a slow and ponderous European-style thriller, with only just enough action to fill up the third act of a trailer (film-goers felt duped, as the film received a D- from Cinemascore). The fact that it will end up with $19.6 million between Wednesday and Monday is a testament to Clooney's sheer constancy as an opener for relatively cheap (the film cost Focus Features just $20 million) and arty projects. For what it's worth, if you know what you're getting into, the film is a relatively satisfying character-driven tone poem. It's a B-movie classed up and pruned down to resemble an art film.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

At long last. The Lethal Weapon series gets special-edition Blu Rays.

This is the kind of thing I would have snapped up in a heartbeat just a couple years ago. Of course, part of being a father to an insanely energetic toddler is that you no longer have the time to watch your favorite movies multiple times, so I have found myself buying fewer and fewer DVDs and Blu Rays in the last couple years, especially of stuff that I already own on DVD. The Lethal Weapon films have never gotten real special editions, although the first three films are available in slightly-longer director's cuts and Lethal Weapon 4 got a special edition DVD that came with pretty much every DVD player sold in the first few years of the format. There is no price or release date yet, but it will contain commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes, and a fifth bonus disc with two hours of documentary material (Psycho Pension: The Genesis of Lethal Weapon Lethal Weapon and the Hollywood Monster It Created, A Family Affair: Bringing Lethal Weapon to Life, Pulling the Trigger: Expanding the World of Lethal Weapon, and Maximum Impact: The Legacy of Lethal Weapon). If you're still a fan of the series (the first two are pretty much action masterpieces), and you can still divorce Mel Gibson the actor from Mel Gibson the human being (just think of it as supporting Danny Glover, Rene Russo, Joe Pesci, and director Richard Donner), this set will likely be a welcome part of your holiday gift list.

Scott Mendelson

Friday, September 3, 2010

Tyler Perry Oscar Bait? For Colored Girls moved to November 5th.

As David Poland correctly predicted just a week ago, Lionsgate has moved the newest Tyler Perry film, For Colored Girls, from its original January 14th, 2011 slot into the heart of the awards season. It will now open wide on November 5th, which is incidentally the same weekend that Precious (which Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey put their names on after the fact to insure a Lionsgate distribution) debuted in limited release, wracking up a record $108,000 per each of its eighteen screens. The film is a change of pace for Perry, as it is the first time that he is directing a film based on a prior source, the 1975 Ntozake Shange play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf. The play itself is a collection of twenty poems dealing with various social issues (rape, abortion, etc) that are performed by seven women known only by a color ('Lady in Blue', etc). The cast is pretty huge, and includes a handful of Perry veterans (Kimberly Elise, Janet Jackson, etc), along with Whoopi Goldberg, Kerry Washington, Loretta Devine, Phylicia Rashad, and Thandie Newton making their debut in the Tyler Perry sandbox. To be blunt, nothing would make me happier than seeing a Perry film as a possible Oscar contender.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Review: Machete (2010)

105 minutes
rated R

by Scott Mendelson

It is easy to dismiss the angry political threads running through Robert Rodriguez's Machete. While it's easy to simply say that 'it's just a comedic throwback to the exploitation films of the 1970s', one must remember that those films did indeed tackle the political and social issues of the day. Whether by coincidence or design, the film ends up being an uncommonly timely glance at one of the major political hot-button topics of the day. Because it is a violent action picture, it resolves its specific issues with confrontation and carnage, and it eventually becomes a form of wish-fulfillment fantasy. But in an age where we constantly complain of empty-headed mainstream entertainment, it is a disservice to both the film and to our own desire for relevant mainstream film-making to ignore the fiery conscience at the heart of this over-the-top piece of Mexican myth-making.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Jonathan Liebesman to direct Clash of the Titans 2. Why that's good news...

Normally I couldn't care less about a sequel to this year's Clash of the Titans remake. The film wasn't very good, and it was most notable for a stunningly awful 3D conversion. I was lucky/smart enough to see the film in 2D (I later sampled the 3D so I could confirm its inadequacy), but the film is still a botched bore, although this seems to be yet another case where poor Louis Leterrier had his movie radically altered in the editing room. But if there must be a sequel, at least Jonathan Liebseman will be directing it. Why is that good news? Well, because first of all, Liebseman has some history with studio interference, as his debut feature, Darkness Falls, underwent massive studio tinkering, so hopefully he can stand up to the newly hands-on Warner execs (the formally hands-off studio apparently tinkered with Clash of the Titans, Terminator: Salvation, and Edge of Darkness). Second of all, his short film Rings, which was shot to coincide with The Ring Two in 2005, is the best American variation on the Ring mythology yet made, better than the rock-solid American remake of The Ring and quite a bit better than the terrible Ring Two. Third of all, this means that his upcoming alien invasion picture, Battle: Los Angeles, is obviously making some studio execs very happy, implying that it may live up to its clever teaser.

James Cameron (Avatar) Vs. Mark Canton (Piranha). That's an easy one...

I could complain that James Cameron is criticizing a movie that he apparently did not see. But I have seen both films being discussed. Piranha was a terrible, an unforgivably hypocritical and misogynistic piece of boring garbage that was made that much worse by the mediocre 3D conversion that turned this trashy matinee picture into a $15-a-ticket eyesore. Avatar was one of the best films of last year and is by-far the highest-grossing film of all time at least partially due to its pure storytelling quality. I don't agree with James Cameron in principal that only certain-level films should be in 3D, but I'll give the win to the man who knows how to actually make 3D work in live-action. Until someone, anyone, can make a live-action picture that looks as good in 3D as Avatar did, Cameron gets to whine all he wants about others cheapening 3D technology.

Scott Mendelson


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