Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Review: Black Swan (2010)

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

By Scott Mendelson

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

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

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

Scott Mendelson

The Adjustment Bureau gets two awful posters.

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

Scott Mendelson

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

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

Sunday, November 28, 2010

RIP: Leslie Nielsen (1926-2010)

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

Scott Mendelson

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

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

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Review: Tangled: the 2D 35mm Experience (2010)

100 minutes
Rated PG (for 'brief mild violence' - this one really should have been a G)

by Scott Mendelson

The most impressive thing about Walt Disney's Tangled is that it manages to incorporate nearly every standard element of the classic Disney fairy-tale/90s cartoon without being about any of those things. It is, at heart, a rollicking buddy picture. It works as a comedy because it never tries too hard for laughs. It works as an occasional action picture because it doesn't go out of its way to be 'action-packed'. And it works as a romance because it makes no effort to tell 'the greatest love story every told'. It is a clever and charming adventure that just happens to be the 50th animated feature from Walt Disney Studios. And, quite frankly, they make it look easy this time around, fashioned an genuine chick-flick fairy tale that effortlessly fixes many of the creepy gender undertones found in both the old films (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty) and the more recent animated fables (The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast). It's a shame that this is allegedly to be Disney's final fairy tale adaptation
(we'll see...)
, because they've finally perfected the formula.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Explaining the fates of Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: Alternative/cult films are, by definition, not mainstream.

There has been much discussion over the last few months over the relative box office failures of more cult-ish genre properties. But, the fact remains that films based on cult properties or inherently aimed at cult audiences are almost designed not to break out beyond the pre-established audience. In the end, the real victories for (among others) Watchmen, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and Kick-Ass is that they got made and were released to a wide audience. Expectations were out of whack for all three, but those that wanted to see them had ample opportunity and will enjoy them accordingly. The problem is, at heart, an entertainment media that treats the niche as mainstream.

If you're wavering on seeing 127 Hours, you CAN handle it.

There has been much discussion regarding the slow expansion of Danny Boyle's dynamite drama 127 Hours. Much of it has revolved around a certain moment that occurs towards the end of the picture. Sure, the film is based on a somewhat publicized true story, so this might not count as a spoiler, but I'll try to be vague for those not in the know. Anyway, in the same way that The Cove had to deal with people who were generally interested in its content (an expose on the practice of dolphin slaughter in Japanese waters) but didn't particularly want to sit through images of dolphins being graphically killed onscreen, 127 Hours has a major handicap in regards to both its mainstream box office success and its Oscar hopes. In a just world, the film will end up scoring at least a Best Actor nomination (if not win) for James Franco, who dominates the film in no less a potent manner than Natalie Portman owns every moment of Black Swan (review for that one coming after the holiday). But there is a genuine concern that enough people will pass on the terrifically engaging and intense character study because they know what happens and are not sure they can handle it. So for those on the fence, here's the scoop:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Review: Faster (2010)

95 minutes
rated R

by Scott Mendelson

The most surprising thing about Faster is that it's not. It's not a thrill-a-minute action romp, nor does it even qualify as trashy exploitation fare. It's a genuine drama and a thoughtful, occasionally moving character study. It is, at its core, a look at three damaged souls who must choose whether to cling to their convictions or let it go for the sake of their humanity. Faster may not satisfy hardcore action junkies and/or gore hounds, but it earns points for being a real movie with a token amount of substance.

Yep, Gore Verbinski is directing The Lone Ranger, with Johnny Depp as Tonto.

Confirming something that has been rumored for literally years, Disney announced that Gore Verbinksi will be helming a feature-film retelling of The Lone Ranger. And yes, Johnny Depp will be playing Tonto. For what it's worth, Johnny Depp does have is 1/4 Native American, with a Cherokee maternal grandmother and a partial-Cherokee father. As to who will be playing the actual Lone Ranger, that is still up in the air, although I'm pretty sure that perennial favorite George Clooney has outgrown the part. Jerry Bruckheimer will be producing for a planned 2012 release.

For those who care: The Hangover 2 gets first image, synopsis.

In the follow-up to the record-breaking hit comedy The Hangover, Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), Alan (Zach Galifianakis) and Doug (Justin Bartha) travel to exotic Thailand for Stu's wedding. After the unforgettable bachelor party in Las Vegas, Stu is taking no chances and has opted for a safe, subdued pre-wedding brunch. However, things don't always go as planned. What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but what happens in Bangkok can't even be imagined.

On the plus side, the above synopsis is not what you'd call spoiler-heavy. On the other hand, it does appear that this sequel feels like a globe-trotting remake of the first film. I adored the first picture, finding it to be a sharply written mystery with humor that flowed organically from the twisty narrative. But I'm not sure the world needs a Hangover II. Regardless, expect a record opening weekend for a comedy when the film debuts on November 26th, 2011.

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Review: The Nutcracker 3D (2010)

The Nutcracker 3D
105 minutes
rated PG
Opens Wednesday, November 24th in select theaters.

by Scott Mendelson

The Nutcracker 3D is one of the strangest cocktails I've seen in a long time. It's technically a kids adventure story, yet it eventually becomes, of all things, a striking Holocaust parable. Yet during the shockingly vivid second act, the film still finds time to deal with a Peter Pan-like subplot about how adults eventually outgrow their childish pursuits. The problem with the film is not-so-much that it's bad (it's not), but that I have no idea what audience it was made for.

Because it IS the best film of the year. Disney aims for Infinity and Beyond with Toy Story 3 Best Picture Oscar win.

With the Oscar-bait not exactly setting the world on fire, and with no real front-runner yet anointed, Disney is taking a serious shot at making sure that Toy Story 3 becomes the first animated film in history to win the Best Picture award at this year's Academy Awards. The campaign will center on a serious of mock posters, with the cast of Toy Story 3 emulating Oscar-winning films that were somewhat unique (IE - The Godfather part II - the first sequel to win, The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King - the first fantasy film to win, Silence of the Lambs - the first horror film to win, etc). Since they likely already have the Best Animated Film award more or less locked, why not go for the big prize? And, quite frankly, it damn well deserves to win. Not because it would be a groundbreaking achievement, the first animated film to win Best Picture, but because it is, with just a few weeks to go, the best film of the year... period.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Weekend Box Office (11/21/10): Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I scores $125 million. Next Three Days tanks.

I don't generally like to brag, but my math yesterday concerning a likely poor weekend multiplier for the seventh Harry Potter film was dead-on. After opening with $24 million in midnight showings, the film pulled in $61 million on its first day, and just $38 million on its second, which was a 39% drop. In other words, it pulled in on Saturday almost EXACTLY what it pulled in on Friday without those midnight screenings. Said Friday-to-Saturday drop will put it squarely in the top-ten for the biggest such plunges. The actual weekend estimate is $125 million, which gives the series both its biggest three-day opening weekend and its lowest weekend-multiplier ever (2.04x). It also makes Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I the most front-loaded midnight movie ever for its opening weekend, as it did 19% of its weekend business on 12:01am showings (go here for a rundown of notable midnight numbers). The good news is that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I scored the sixth-biggest opening weekend of all time. The bad news is that it also scored the sixth most front-loaded opening weekends in history as well. Is that a box office equivalent of a palindrome?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Friday Box Office (11/19/10): Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I scores $61.2 million on first day.

It's a $61.2 million Friday for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I. That's the fifth-biggest single day of all time, behind the opening days of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ($62 million), The Dark Knight ($67 million), Twilight Saga: Eclipse ($68 million), and Twilight Saga: New Moon ($72 million). It's the third biggest Friday of all, as Transformers 2 and Twilight Saga: Eclipse both opened on a Wednesday. The number surpasses the $58 million that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince earned on its first day (a Wednesday), and it clobbers the $40 million that Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire earned on its first Friday in November 2005 (the last time one of these films opened on a Friday). For a bit of perspective, nine years ago this weekend, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone broke the record for a single day gross with $32 million on its first Friday (it would break that record again with $33 million the next day). Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I nearly doubled that.

Friday, November 19, 2010

"How to talk to your kids about Star Wars."

She already enjoys the Jedi Academy stage show at Disney Land, and she already has an unhealthy preference for the Dark Side (she perks up when Darth Maul and Darth Vader show up). As for what order to best introduce her to the movies when the time comes, I'm thinking doing it in the vein of Stephen King's It. In other words, it'll be The Phantom Menace, A New Hope, Attack of the Clones, The Empire Strikes Back, Revenge of the Sith, and then Return of the Jedi.

Scott Mendelson

Deleted scene from The Last Airbender even more racially-incorrect than the film.

Yeah, I can see why they cut this one... Of course, the fact that the movie was so lousy just makes it easy for me to play "Mr. Racebending is wrong!". Had the film been really good, I'm not so sure I would have cared all that much about the cultural issues.

Scott Mendelson

First look at Karl Urban as Judge Dredd.

This one comes out from Lionsgate in 2012, and this still comes from Aint It Cool News. Looks pretty convincing to me. I've always had a soft spot for the original Sylvester Stallone Judge Dredd from 1995. Sure, it's kinda terrible, but it's amusingly progressive for an action picture (Dredd learns that compassion and due process are pretty cool), and it's insanely violent. I'm pretty sure that, save our three heroic leads, every single character with a speaking part dies onscreen. I love that Stallone apparently thought that it had a shot at a PG-13 at the time, but then Harrison Ford thought the same thing about the blood-soaked Air Force One.

Scott Mendelson

The Tourist introduces Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie with a witty, knowing clip.

'The Tourist' Exclusive Clip

Trailer Park Movies | Myspace Video

I don't generally view clips, let alone post them, but this relatively spoiler-free introduction for The Tourist made me chuckle. For what it's worth, I've had similar conversations with my wife when we discussed traveling by, or sleeping in, trains. Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp both seem to be having fun, and this looks like a pleasantly old-fashioned little caper.

Scott Mendelson

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I scores $24 million in midnight showings.

It looks like when it comes to midnight fan frenzy, there's Harry Potter and the Twilight Saga, and then there's everyone else. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I scored $24 million in midnight shows last night, which puts it number three on the all-time midnight list. Ahead of it for 12:01am screenings sits only the last two Twilight films. New Moon pulled in $26 million for a $72 million day (still a record for a single day) while Eclipse scored $30 million towards an eventual $68 million first day (still number two for single days). Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince previously scored $22 million in its midnight showings, which means Deathly Hallows part I set a record for the series. It does appear likely that the seventh Harry Potter film (and, yes, the best one so far) will surpass the $58 million that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince grossed in its first and biggest single day. We'll know in twelve hours whether or not Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I can surpass Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and its respective $62 million single-day mark (likely) or even The Dark Knight's $67 million opening day tally (quite possibly). More as we get the word...

Scott Mendelson

First Looks: From X-Men to Green Lantern, ten years of comic book-film trailers.

It's hard to believe that it's been ten years since the modern comic book movie revival kicked off with X-Men and (kinda-sorta) Unbreakable. With the lukewarm response to the trailers to Thor and Green Lantern, and the Nolan Batman franchise wrapping up, we may just be on the tail-end of this particular run. For the sake of my own amusement, let us take a quick trip down memory lane with the most memorable trailers in the current comic book explosion. After all, in many ways, getting that first glimpse was often more exciting than seeing the actual film. For the record, this list will only include originals; no sequels (with one exception that I'll point out). And away we go...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Review: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I: The IMAX Experience (2010)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I
145 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

I've talked quite a bit over the last couple years about the sheer consistency of the Harry Potter series. With its top-notch adult cast and younger stars who improved each film, the franchise was remarkable in its reliable quality, its solid but-not overpowering technical attributes, and its character-driven approach. There has never been a bad Harry Potter film. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I breaks the pattern in a most unexpected way. This seventh and penultimate chapter stands proud as the very first out-and-out great Harry Potter picture. It's easily the best of the series, one of the best films of the year, and a towering achievement.

Harry Potter kids speak 'American'.

Batman Live on Stage to open in the UK next summer.

Oddly enough, my daughter has become enough of a Superfriends junkie (somewhat by accident) that she'd probably gladly tag along if/when this show ever reaches Southern California. I mean, I did buy her tickets to Yo Gabba Gabba Live for next Saturday, so she kinda owes me. The site (click on the image) is pretty jam-packed, with character bios and games galore. This thing opens in the UK summer 2011, and it will allegedly expand into North America the following summer (just in time to cash in on The Dark Knight Rises, natch). So yes, unless the reviews are truly horrendous, I will be dragging Allison to this thing in a couple years. If I'm nice, I might let Wendy stay home. The official press release and a video clip with interviews are both after the jump.

Scott Mendelson

Clown to become a real movie after all.

It looks like this will be a real movie. Eli Roth announced that he has agreed to produce a feature film 'inspired' by this fake trailer that made the rounds in October, with the creators of said trailer (Jon Watts and Christopher Ford) on board to write and direct. I'm kinda shocked that people thought it was real. It opens with the Lionsgate and Screen Gems (an extension of Sony) logos and closes with a credits page that lists Raw Nerve (an outlet for Warner to deliver direct-to-DVD horror films) and New Line Cinemas as the respective production companies, but I tend to notice stuff like that. Regardless, it was a great little trailer back in October, and I'm kind of shocked that no one thought of this relatively primal idea beforehand.

Scott Mendelson

Nobody did it better: Goldeneye, still my favorite 007 adventure, turns 15 years old.

15 years after the fact, it's still my favorite James Bond film. Yes, you read that right. I like most of the Connery pictures (especially From Russia With Love and Thunderball), and I've learned to appreciate some of the Roger Moore entries (even Moonraker is a fast-paced action picture before that final reel set in space). And it's no secret that both Timothy Dalton entries are pretty high on the list. But Goldeneye is still my personal favorite.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Now THAT's a teaser! Jon Favreau's Cowboys and Aliens gets a trailer.

Knowing nothing about the source material, I'm kinda shocked at how tense and creepy the whole thing looks. Obviously there will be action and adventure, but the prevailing mood seems to be dread and horror. It's obviously a kick to see Harrison Ford playing a grizzled character role, and he certainly seems to have a pretty large part. It's nice to see Jon Favreau get his name on the trailer, as the poster merely said 'from the director of Iron Man'. This is obviously a pretty thorough tease, but it certainly gets the job done. The film feels like a genuine western that happens to involve aliens from outer space. After the last few days of kinda terrible trailers, this one stands out as a genuine triumph, both as a piece of marketing and as a stand-alone piece of art. So far, so good.

Scott Mendelson

Your Highness gets a red-band trailer.

I know the nerds have been going crazy over this one over the last 24 hours, but I'm not quite as impressed. Yes, the film looks pretty solid, arguably presenting a fantasy comedy (that may or may not pay homage to hack-n'-slashers like Dragonslayer and The Beastmaster) that feels more authentic than straight fantasy films like Eragon or Percy Jackson and the Olympians. But it just really isn't all that funny. Honestly, most of the would-be humor comes from characters using profanity in a medieval setting, which gets old pretty fast. Plus, while it's nice to see Natalie Portman in something a little different, would it kill the editors of this trailer to allow her to do or say anything funny at all in the whole 210 seconds? Fairing even worse is Zooey Deschanel, who spends the whole trailer as a damsel in distress. Yes, that's the archetype, but we know Deshanel can be highly amusing, so not give her a single funny line? It's no wonder Portman ended up writing a comedy script of her own. Still, it's kind of shocking that David Gorden Green, the man responsible for George Washington, All the Real Girls, Undertow, and Snow Angels (each one a masterpiece) is now making a go as the helmer of broad comedies such as this. I'm not sure if that's progress, but oh well.

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Martin Campbell's Green Lantern gets a shoddy, choppy, awkward trailer.

Go here for a high-quality HD version. That was shockingly bad. I don't just mean that the tone was juvenile, the acting overly broad, and the action relatively earth-bound. I mean that this is one of the worst-edited trailers I've seen from a major release in years. The only bits of genuine visual 'wow' is at 1:25, as we see a glimpse of Oa with a token cameo by (I assume) Sinestro. The whole thing feels disjointed and choppy, without any real flow or narrative logic. Hell, for people not familiar with the mythology, the clip is pretty darn confusing to boot. It would be one thing if this were a brief teaser that highlighted the visual 'money shots'. But this is a full 2.5 minute trailer that's mostly set on Earth, and there's not even a token attempt to explain the universe or any of the characters. The effects seem okay, and even the much-derided CGI costume looks okay to me. The action seems a bit larger than Thor, for whatever that's worth. What's most striking about this initial tease is how generic it is. Yet another cocky arrogant young man is tempered by supernatural powers and the awesome responsibility that it brings, but he's secretly afraid of failing. Again, I believe in Martin Campbell. He made two of the very best James Bond films of all-time (Goldeneye and Casino Royale) as well as one of the finest superhero adventures ever (The Mask of Zorro). I'm just not sure how much I believe in Green Lantern. This one touches down on June 16th, 2011 (ironically the spot usually reserved for Batman pictures in 1992, 1995, 1997, and 2005).

Scott Mendelson

Catherine Hardwicke's Red Riding Hood (with Amanda Seyfried) gets an underwhelming trailer and a snazzy poster.

While most pundits have razzed on this trailer for its similarities to the first Twilight film, the immediate comparison I got was Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow. It's an ages-old fairy-tale, redone as an adult horror story with a bit of gothic romance thrown in. Alas, Catherine Hardwicke is no Tim Burton when it comes to visuals, and the initial tease lacks the knowing humor that made the Johnny Depp vehicle such a kick and a half. Still, the conventional sell is not necessarily the movie. Hardwicke has lined up an impressive cast (Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, Shiloh Fernandez, Virginia Madsen, Lukas Haas, Julie Christie and Billy Burke) and even said first Twilight film had a gentle self-mockery that the sequels lacked. I do like the sparse and moody poster, along with the low-key tagline 'Who's afraid?'. Click on the poster to enlarge. This one comes out March 11th, 2011.

Scott Mendelson

Black Swan gets a new poster.

I had to miss out on the LA press screenings last week (on a Friday night... really?), so I may have to wait until opening day to check this one out. Still, this is a very snazzy poster, if slightly more conventional than the creepier first one-sheet.

And the pre-Harry Potter trailer deluge begins with... Cars 2.

I'm not going rehash my feelings about the first Cars, but I will say that this sequel seems to suffer from the same problem, in that it feels more like a C-level Dreamworks (Shark Tale) or F-level Lionsgate (Happily N'Ever After) cartoon than something from the people who brought us Wall-E. Still, Pixar has earned the right to goof off when they want to, and I suppose there was no place to go after the relentless seriousness-of-purpose found in Wall-E, Up, and Toy Story 3 than back to something frothier. Obviously, this is a brief tease, and I had no idea Michael Caine was going to be in this (I didn't recognize the foreign female voice). This one comes out June 24, 2011. I will likely have other plans that day, but I'll discuss that in a later post. As always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Monday, November 15, 2010

Jon Favreau's Cowboys and Aliens gets a poster.

Obviously, this is as much of a tease as the Pirates of the Caribbean 4 poster. We can assume that the mysterious gunslinger is Daniel Craig. Apparently directing Iron Man is enough to get you a credit on the poster, but not enough to have your name on said poster. The big question marks for this one are A) how will one of the biggest 2D-only films fare in summer 2011 amidst a flurry of 3D and IMAX blockbusters, B) can Jon Favreau prove that Iron Man 2 was more Marvel's fault that his own, and C) how will Harrison Ford fare in basically playing the 'Kris Kristofferson role'. The last one is of most interest to me. Colorful supporting turns like this is exactly how Ford should be spending the last act of his fabled career. And, most amazingly, I'm pretty sure this is his first western since The Frisco Kid with Gene Wilder back in 1979. We'll apparently see a teaser trailer on Wednesday. I'm guessing that in the run-up to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I, we will likely be a deluge of geek-friendly trailers (Green Lantern, Cowboys and Aliens, etc).

Scott Mendelson

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides gets a strangely metallic poster. Please no robot pirates...

I'll refrain from any 'kingdom of the Crystal Skull' jokes. I merely hope that the metallic sheen is merely an artistic choice and not a hint that the film involves robot pirates. Because no live-action PG-13 picture should have battles with robots. Robots are for kid-friendly films and cartoons that have to split the difference between being action-packed without being overtly violent. I'm willing to give this film a fair shake, as I genuinely liked all three of the previous ones and Rob Marshall seems to be making some interesting decisions. But seriously... no robots allowed.

Scott Mendelson

Finally, a Pixar film that won't make you cry: Cars 2 gets photo, synopsis.

I was not a fan of the first Cars (it was a remake of Doc Hollywood with the sensibility of something like A Shark Tale), but the merchandise still sells like gangbusters and a sequel was inevitable. I'm attending the birthday party of a cousin down in Yucca Valley and I assure you that Cars 2 is the most heavily anticipated film in their household. Anyway, in case the Kirshmans are reading this, here's the first official still and an official synopsis. Sounds like one long car chase, but I'm sure it will look nice. And, frankly, I'm sure my wife will be relieved at being able to watch a Pixar film without getting depressed and/or becoming a teary mess. Thanks to heyyouguys.co.uk.

"Synopsis: Star racecar Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) and the incomparable tow truck Mater (voice of Larry the Cable Guy) take their friendship to exciting new places in “Cars 2” when they head overseas to compete in the first-ever World Grand Prix to determine the world’s fastest car. But the road to the championship is filled with plenty of potholes, detours and hilarious surprises when Mater gets caught up in an intriguing adventure of his own: international espionage. Torn between assisting Lightning McQueen in the high-profile race and towing the line in a top-secret spy mission, Mater’s action-packed journey leads him on an explosive chase through the streets of Japan and Europe, trailed by his friends and watched by the whole world. Adding to the fast-paced fun is a colorful new all-car cast that includes secret agents, menacing villains and international racing competitors."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Weekend Box Office Review (11/14/10): Megamind repeats, Unstoppable opens strong, Morning Glory underwhelms.

Megamind was at the top of the box office for the second (and final) time this weekend. The second super-villain animated film the year took in another $29.1 million. The 36% drop was less than the 41% drop for Despicable Me's second weekend (which was $32 million), but the latter had $118 million by day ten while Megamind has grossed $88.8 million at the end of its second weekend. Among other Dreamworks titles, Megamind had a slightly higher second weekend than How to Train Your Dragon ($29 million), but it lags $3 million behind in ten-day totals thus far. Megamind is chasing the $198 million total of Monsters Vs. Aliens. It's $15 million behind after two weekends. Whether it approaches the $180 million gross of Madagascar 2 or the $155 million final take of Over the Hedge is a matter of how well it can withstand the blinding white heat of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Warner Bros shoots self in the foot by offering Green Lantern preview on Entertainment Tonight.

Studios really have to stop premiering footage of their movies on Entertainment Tonight. They can make any movie look cheap and sound stupid. Just stop doing it, people. Either release the thing online a few days before the weekend or just let people sample your first trailer in a theater. I'll offer actual commentary when the actual trailer premieres on Tuesday. Until proven otherwise, I believe in Martin Campbell...

Scott Mendelson

Friday, November 12, 2010

Battle: Los Angeles gets a teaser.

There is apparently a lawsuit going on right now between Sony and the makers of Skyline, as apparently the Strause Brothers and company did special effects work flirting with directing the upcoming alien invasion saga, before going off and making their own low-budget version (think the lawsuit that drives the narrative of The Social Network). So it's an unsurprising bit of 'up-yours' that Sony has this shiny and impressive new teaser to debut on the very day Skyline opens. Sony seems to be saying: "Skyline was the cheap $20 million version, Battle: Los Angeles is the real deal." As for the trailer itself, it certainly seems to have an impressive scale, and I'm a fan of director Jonathan Liebesman. He was on the shortlist to direct Chris Nolan's Superman and he eventually got the gig directing Wrath of the Titans on the alleged strength of this picture. The only recognizable cast member is Michelle Rodriguez, and the soft and haunting soundtrack gives the teaser a weight that generic action music would have denied it. So far so good. This one comes out March 11, 2011.

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader gets one last trailer.

Considering this one comes out in just over a month, I'm kind of shocked at the lack of any real attention that this third Chronicles of Narnia film is getting. Yes, right now the heat is on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I, but I'd imagine that few but outside of the film world even know that this is coming out, let alone on December 10th. Alas, that gives the Fox production (Fox took over the series after the 'disappointing' Prince Caspian) just one week before Disney debuts the much-buzzed about Tron: Legacy. Ironically, this could give way to reverse déjà vu. If you recall, Fox debuted Avatar for the press on December 11th, completely stealing the media attention away from the wide-release opening weekend of Disney's The Princess and the Frog. If Tron: Legacy is anywhere near as good as the nerds want it to be, Disney could easily play the same trick on Fox. As for the trailer... well, it looks like a Narnia picture for better or worse. I kinda liked The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and felt that Prince Caspian was a notable improvement. But I can't help wondering if Fox should have waited a year, so they could position The Chronicles of Narnia in December 2011 as the only remaining general-audiences fantasy franchise left. As always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Tron: Legacy gets a third trailer.

This is an improvement on the second plotless trailer, but it still lacks the film noir menace of the initial teaser. Is it just me, or is the throbbing music (0:49, 1:30, 2:25, etc) trying to deliberately ape the theme from Inception? The third act of this trailer gives away a huge chunk of plot, something that many had already guessed. I'm still on the fence about the project, as frankly I was never a big fan of the first Tron. For what it's worth, my wife is impressed enough by the laser-show visuals that actually she wants to see this (she didn't care for the first Tron either). I assume that Disney will start screening this one after Thanksgiving, unless they follow the Avatar strategy of just having two big screenings the week before the opening. As always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Blu Ray review: Avatar: Three-Disc Blu-Ray Extended Collector's Edition

Avatar: 3 Disc Extended Collection
160 min (theatrical), 168 min (special edition re-release), 179 min (extended)
rated PG-13
Available from Fox on Blu Ray on November 16th

My original review of the theatrical cut can be found here. For this review, I watched the 179 minute extended cut. It's still the same movie. Most of the new footage is just little bits and pieces, a bit more action here, a longer flight there. There is a six minute prologue that takes place on Earth, which establishes the environmental damage that the planet has sustained, while also establishing Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) as someone who cannot walk away from someone in peril. It's a bit broad, but it gives us a rooting interest in Sully beyond him simply being the lead character. There are extra moments for Grace (Sigourney Weaver), including a more detailed explanation of why her precious school for Na'vi ended up closing. There is a very brief (and non-explicit) sex scene between Jake and Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). The other big change is a very different finale for Tsu'tey (Laz Alonso). Oh, he still gets his powerful final stand and subsequent death plunge, but... well, you'll have to see for yourself what happens afterward. It's an interesting addition, but I kinda liked the haunting original demise.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Weekend Box Office Review (11/07/10): Megamind, Due Date, For Colored Girls open well, 127 Hours explodes in limited release.

There weren't a lot of surprises at the box office this weekend. Megamind opened right in line with most Dreamworks animated originals, with $46 million. The standard for non-sequels in the Dreamworks cartoon library is $43-47 million. Opening just below A Shark Tale ($47.6 million) and Madagascar ($47.2 million), the supervillain epic has the fifth biggest opening for a non-sequel in the Dreamworks animation catalogue, also behind Monsters Vs. Aliens ($59.3 million) and Kung Fu Panda ($60.2 million). It was their ninth-biggest animated opening overall. More impressive was the 3.68x weekend multiplier, which is one of their biggest weekend multiplier in recent memory.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Review: Megamind: the 2D 35mm Experience (2010)

95 minutes
rated PG

I wrote in 2006 that, while both were fine films involving magic in the 1800s, The Prestige was superior to The Illusionist. The Ed Norton vehicle used magic to tell a more conventional and crowdpleasing period romance story. While the Chris Nolan puzzler was a more complicated, colder, more aloof picture that was actually about magic. So now we have the second animated fable involving the trials and tribulations of a supervillain. And a similar comparison can be made. Despicable Me is a terrific entertainment, and an emotionally-engaging little cartoon. Megamind is also solid entertainment and while it may not be as heartwarming, it has more beneath-the-surface pleasures than the former. That there can be legitimate debate over which supervillain's arc cartoon is the most terrific is a testament to how good a year it's been for animation.

Review: For Colored Girls (2010)

For Colored Girls
130 minutes
Rated R

by Scott Mendelson

For the record, I have not seen the original play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf. This is my first exposure to this material and should be treated as such. Anyway, as a film, For Colored Girls represents only a token departure for Mr. Perry. The film is basically the classic Perry melodrama. Again we are treated to African-American women who have been beaten down by life, but like most Perry stories, these tales have little to do with race and only a token amount to do with class. But this one is stripped down to its bare essentials. There is no real comic relief of any kind. There are no religious overtones and reassuring gospel music. There are no knights in shining armor to save the proverbial day. In fact, there isn't really much of a narrative beyond the establishment of each woman's respective crisis and whether or not there is any resolution at the end. It is a tone poem, and thus works best as a piece of performance art.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

James Bond Will Return... in November 2012!

Despite several months where it appeared that 007 would be defeated by the mess that is MGM's finances, it appears that the return of James Bond is again a likelihood. Buried in this Bloomberg article detailing MGM's bankruptcy filings following a rejection of a takeover by Lionsgate, there is a nugget that states that MGM intends to have another James Bond film in theaters by November 2012. It was halfheartedly reported back in September that MGM wanted to have the next film in front of the cameras in the fall of next year, and this new development brings that just a little closer to reality. There was a great fear that a deceleration of bankruptcy would tie up the rights to the 007 franchise for years amongst different creditors. I don't pretend to understand the details of how MGM was able to file for Chapter 11 and keep the series intact. Any financial experts who want to explain in the comments section are welcome.

Blu Ray Review: Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam (2010)

Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam
25 minutes
rated PG-13
Available on DVD and Blu Ray from Warner Home Video on November 9th.

by Scott Mendelson

There's not too much to say about a 24 minute slugfest. The story is pretty simple: Black Adam shows up, Billy Batson becomes Captain Marvel, action and thematic elements occur. Most of the entire second and third acts of this extended short film is basically a smackdown between Captain Marvel and Black Adam, with the occasional assist from Superman. There is just enough substance (what makes a hero, the difference between being good and doing good, etc) between the fistcuffs to make it a worthwhile endeavor. The animation is bright and gorgeous, and the vocals are solid per usual. James Garner brings the same warm authority as Shazam that he did in Battle For Terra. Arnold Vosloo makes a fine Black Adam, and he works well off of Jerry O'Connell's virtuous but questioning Captain Marvel. But the best part of this little mini-movie is the return of George Newbern as Superman.

Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch gets a full trailer.

This is obviously a longer, more plot-specific trailer. There's nothing wrong with what's here (more Scott Glenn is a plus), but the original teaser was more enticing, with snazzier music that created an oddly haunting bit of marketing. Still, this is a visually dazzling bit of business. What's nice about the campaigns is the somewhat 'no big deal' nature. In that, I mean that the idea of five young women embarking on an epic and violent adventure is not seen as anything revolutionary, and the women in question are not presented as sexual objects per-se. It's a small thing, but its appreciated. Anyway, this one looks like just the kind of movie that IMAX was made for, so that's the ideal way to see it on March 25th.

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

DVD Review: Secret Origin: the Story of DC Comics (2010)

Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics
90 minutes
Not Rated
Available on DVD from Warner Home Video on November 9th

by Scott Mendelson

Secret Origin is, at best, a cliff-notes version of the 75-year history of DC Comics. Running just 90 minutes, the film barely scratches the surface of the illustrious publishing house that literary changed the country. Narrated by Ryan Reynolds, the film is a primer of sorts for the casual superhero fan, perhaps younger audiences who have just discovered the four-color legends. But considering that anyone who would purchase this $20 barebones disc (there's not even a scene index) is likely already a knowledgeable fan of the DC universe, it is disappointing that this entertaining piece of history doesn't dig a little deeper, or linger a little longer in the less-reported annals of comic book history. It is swiftly paced and never boring, but it feels truncated. It is less a genuine documentary than a piece of marketing that probably should have been included as a supplemental feature on a future DC Comics film or cartoon.

Review: Four Lions (2010)

Four Lions
97 minutes
Rated R
Opens in limited release on November 5th

by Scott Mendelson

At the beginning of 2009, the online magazine Slate did a comprehensive series basically asking the question "Why haven't we been attacked by terrorists again since 9/11?". It was a series of eight essays running down eight specific theories, ranging on the scale of 'worry a little' to 'worry a lot'. At the head of the 'worry a lot' scale was the idea that it was merely a matter of time before we took another 9/11-size hit on American soil. On the polar opposite was the idea that well, terrorists has a whole are not very bright. Sure, 19 hijackers got past several layers of security and took over planes with common box cutters (and then took advantage of the prevailing wisdom that hijackings usually ended with minimal bloodshed and eventual surrender), but that was more about American intelligence falling short than Al Qaeda being made up of master criminals. Chris Morris's Four Lions plays off this idea for its inherent comic potential. It works surprisingly well, because it dares to not obsess over the inherently daunting idea of laughing at those who wish to kill us.


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