Sunday, February 28, 2010

Shutter Island retains the top spot while Cop Out and Crazies over-perform and Avatar breaks another record. Weekend box office in review (02/28/10).

This will be shorter than usual. First of all, there isn't all that much news to report and second of all, I spent the day at Disneyland which was far-more crowded than usual. Curse you, "Captain EO"! You marred my Sunday in three dimensions! Point being, I'm quite pooped. So... "Shutter Island" pulled a repeat at number one this weekend, dropping just 44% for a $22.6 million-second weekend and a new total of $75.5 million. Despite the mixed reviews and word of mouth, the Scorsese thriller is still the only real event movie out there for people who don't need a return trip to Pandora.

While I didn't care for "Shutter Island" one bit, I am heartened that a moody, complicated, 2.25-hour, non-sequel, R-rated thriller from Martin Scorsese is a genuine smash hit. In this day and age, it's always refreshing for an adult-driven genre picture to reach heights only usually accorded to franchises and animated films. The picture is Scorsese's fifth-biggest domestic grosser and will be number 03 by next weekend. Whether or not it can surpass the $132 million earned by "The Departed" is an open question, but it won't have any demo competition until "The Green Zone". Said 'Bourne goes to Baghdad' thriller opens March 12th (I have no idea if that's accurate, but it's sure how the Paul Greengrass/Matt Damon film is being sold by Universal).

Friday, February 26, 2010

Still holds up...

The film is still a rock-solid, ice-cold action thriller. It's still brutally violent and meaner than hell. And yes, the second major car chase is still one of the finest ever put on film. Random trivia: Ronin, John Frankenheimer's last great theatrical, contains three actors (Sean Bean, Jonathan Pryce, Michael Lonsdale) who have played 007 villains.

Scott Mendelson

As Breck Eisner returns with The Crazies, a moment to remember Sahara.

I have not seen The Crazies, and I probably will wait for DVD since it's just the sort of thing my wife would enjoy. In fact, Blockbuster should be sending me a Blu Ray copy of the 1973 George Romero original this very day. But I'm not here to discuss a remake that I haven't seen or the original which I will probably watch this evening, but rather to once again give props to Eisner's prior film, one that I feel is arguably one of the most underrated films of the just-finished decade: Sahara.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Nightmare on Elm Street remake gets a second trailer.

To put it bluntly, this is a much better trailer than the initial teaser released in October. Granted, the picture still feels remarkably like a shot-for-shot remake, but the footage looks stylish and occasionally jolting (and the acting certainly looks superior). For the first time, we get a genuine sense of how Jackie Earle Haley walks and talks as Fred Kruger. Having said that, I do wish this had been more of a generalized reboot and less of a strict remake. I do love the one original idea teased in the first trailer, that Fred Kruger may have been an innocent man wrongly accused of molesting the children of Elm Street (perhaps caught up in the wave of 80s child sex crime-witch-hunts). But, visually, every-time I see a major shot from the original film, it just reminds me of what worked so well the first time around. I understand the trap: Make a reboot and it's just another Nightmare on Elm Street sequel (ala Friday the 13th), use the same characters but radically alter the mythology and you get Rob Zombie's Halloween. Of course, that's what you deal with when you insist on remaking incredibly popular horror franchises, as opposed to little-known cult oddities and/or bad films that could be improved. None the less, I sincerely hope this turns out closer in quality to Dawn of the Dead or Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning as opposed to Friday the 13th or The Hitcher. As always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

It's about time...

As far as only including the theatrical cuts, we can expect a mega-box set sometime in 2011, in time for the tenth anniversary of Fellowship of the Ring. The only extended version that I vastly prefer is The Two Towers, which adds character detail and a more epic canvas to the most conventional film of the trilogy. Heck, the theatrical cut of The Return of the King is actually superior to the bloated extended edition (unlike the prior two films, the third picture's longer version had footage cut not for time but for quality). Regardless of which versions you prefer, Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings is the finest trilogy of all-time, the best film(s) of the last decade, and a monumental achievement. Blockbuster-backlash has long ago diminished the reputation of this astounding hat-trick, but maybe revisiting the pictures on Blu Ray will remind people why they loved this trilogy in the first place.

Scott Mendelson

Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Regarding Kick-Ass red-band trailers...

My take is the whole manufactured controversy over Lionsgate's red-band Kick-Ass trailers is pretty simple. At the end of the day, trailers are supposed to give you an accurate look at what kind of movie you're going to be seeing. Granted, not every trailer accomplishes this, and many are quite deceptive, but that's the general idea. At the end of the day, red-band trailers for R-rated movies are more likely to be accurate in regards to tone and content than an all-ages green-band trailer. So, one could argue, that studios make red-band trailers to best advertise the kind of movie that they are selling. And, they do take certain steps to make sure that said previews are not easily viewed by those who otherwise wouldn't be allowed to see such films. Of course kids will invariably get around these barriers, but that's the nature of childhood.

Guest Review - Cop Out (2010)

Friend and fellow critic R.L. Shaffer of DVD Future generously shares his review of Kevin Smith's Cop Out. It looks like he took a bullet for us.

Cop Out
112 minutes
Rated R

by R.L. Shaffer

Cop Out wants to be Beverly Hills Cop in the worst way. The producers followed the formula (with a dash of Lethal Weapon). They brought on a rising black comedian as the star (Tracy Morgan). Paired him with a hard-ass detective (Bruce Willis). And gave him a mystery filled with drug lords, action, intrigue, and goofy set pieces. Director Kevin Smith (Clerks II) even brought on composer Harold Faltermeyer, who's electronic beats in Beverly Hills Cop earned him recognition in the form of several prestigious awards, not to mention a stream of steady work throughout the 80s. But Cop Out is not Beverly Hills Cop. Rather, it's Beverly Hills Cop III -- a misguided, painfully mundane, unfunny, dreary reflection of a much better film.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Nightmare on Elm Street remake gets a new poster.

There's an alleged review over at Ain't It Cool News, but it was quite spoiler-heavy, so I barely glanced it. However, like everything else I've heard or read, it doesn't look too promising. I saw a brief TV spot during the Olympics this evening which stated that 'this film has not yet been rated'. Considering everything I've read, I'm starting to think that Warner Bros. is trying to wiggle their way into a PG-13. Frankly, if the movie is as bad as the buzz indicates, then the tag-line 'welcome to your new nightmare' is almost like rubbing salt on an open wound. I'll take Wes Craven's New Nightmare thank you much. We'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Monday, February 22, 2010

Blu-Ray Review: Justice League Crisis on Two Earths (2010)

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths
75 minutes
rated PG-13
Available from Warner Home Video on DVD, Blu Ray, OnDemand, and iTunes on February 23rd.

by Scott Mendelson

Despite my decades-long interest in the DC Universe, I've never been a fan of the whole multi-verse concept. Of course, I don't like the use of alternate dimensions in general, and it's a big reason why I wasn't super crazy about the last Star Trek picture. At the end of the day, infinite parallel universes create the same problem in fiction as predestination creates as a real-life philosophy. Both remove the meaning from one's actions. With the existence of countless alternate Earths, the question becomes why should I, as a reader or a viewer, become emotionally invested in this one story about this one set of characters? After all, this said world is just one version amongst billions and is of little consequence in the broad scheme of things. What makes our version of Superman or Batman so special amongst the countless other versions of the same characters in any number of alternate timelines?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Shutter Island scores massive $40 million, holdovers plummet. Weekend box office review (02/21/10)

The infamously delayed Shutter Island debuted to smashing business over its initial weekend, as the Martin Scorsese thriller debuted to $41 million. That's a personal best for both director Scorsese and star Leonardo DiCaprio. Scorsese's previous best opening was the $26.8 million debut of The Departed in October 2006 (also starring Leonardo DiCaprio), while this was DiCaprio's second $30 million+ debut, following the $30 million opening of Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can back in December 2002. Since both the star and director have rarely opened anything over $10 million based on their respective names alone, credit should go to the marketing and the general concept of the story. As I've often said, adult thrillers are in rare supply these days and the few that make through the pipeline have a pretty decent track record (you think Vantage Point or Law-Abiding Citizen opened to around $22 million apiece due to critical acclaim?). Mix a genuinely intriguing concept (1950's lawman trapped in a scary mental hospital), mix the pedigree involved, plus add a compelling and pervasive trailer that has been running in every theater nonstop since August, and you had the recipe for a breakout weekend. Most promisingly, the $80 million pot-boiler improved over the weekend, going from a $14.1 million Friday to a to $16.3 million Saturday. In this day and age, a 2.92x weekend multiplier is pretty solid for any opening weekend this big, even for an R-rated adult-driven thriller.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Review: Shutter Island (2010)

Shutter Island
138 minutes
Rated R

by Scott Mendelson

Note - while I've avoided explicit plot details, I cannot guarantee that you, dear reader, will not deduce the film's secrets from the review below via context and insinuation. Thus - SPOILER WARNING.

In any good twist-and-turn thriller, there needs to be something for the audience to grasp onto other than said twists and turns. If the story and characters are merely clotheslines on which to hang periodic plot twists or a climactic reveal, the film basically descends into a waiting game. Why bother becoming emotionally invested or even paying attention to the onscreen events when anything and everything is just a series of clues or red herrings to a mystery that will be explained in the third act anyway? Shutter Island is a film that fails to exist outside of its puzzles. From the opening frame onward, you can sense that it's all about a lead up to a big reveal of some kind. Worse yet, it telegraphs its twists (big and small) so early that you immediately realize that, regardless of your theories, you really can't trust your own lying eyes.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Kick-Ass gets another red-band trailer.

I'm sorry, I know all the geeks love this thing. But it really looks like the lowest sort of pandering to adolescent fantasy. Maybe Lionsgate is hiding something incredibly smart and/or deconstructive behind the cheese and 'wow, it's a bunch of kids swearing and killing people' silliness, but so far this looks really stupid.

Scott Mendelson

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse trailer premiere date set for March 12th (don't pretend this isn't a major franchise).

For those who care (and there are quite a few that treat this franchise as their Batman or Star Wars), the first trailer for the Twilight Saga: Eclipse will premiere on March 12th, attached to prints for Robert Pattinson/Pierce Brosnan drama Remember Me. It was obviously a no-brainer for Summit, and Pattinson owes the studio a favor since attaching the trailer will only help this somewhat important project (it's arguably his first test of non-Twilight drawing power). Anyway, we can mock all we want, but the cast for the family-in-turmoil melodrama is pretty solid, with Emilie de Ravin, Lena Olin, and Chris Cooper joining the aforementioned duo. Anyway, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse will be released in 35mm and IMAX on June 30th. And if you want to snicker and pretend that the picture isn't going to be one the heavyweights of the summer alongside Iron Man 2 and Toy Story 3, you can keep on deluding yourself.

Scott Mendelson

Brian Michael Bendis brought on as 'consult' for Spider-Man reboot.

Confirming what was long suspected, Sony and Marvel have officially hired the current king of Marvel Comics, Brian Michael Bendis, as a consultant for the upcoming Spider-Man reboot. Without explicitly stating as much, Bendis pretty much acknowledged that the new 'younger, edgier, teen-friendly' Spider-Man picture will be pretty much an adaptation of Bendis's (and artist Mark Bagley's) acclaimed Ultimate Spider-Man comic book which has run since 2000. Considering the script is already written by James Vanderbilt (Zodiac), it will be interesting to see where Vanderbilt's script and Bendis's initial story-arcs end up merging. Whatever issues I have with the reboot on principle, at least Sony is bringing the right person aboard. Now how about cutting a check to Greg Weisman too. He was one of the brains behind the fantastic cartoon, Spectacular Spider-Man, which deals with the same general time-line in intelligent, character-driven fashion. Anyway, if you want a general idea of what the new movie will feel like, take a gander at the first thirteen issues of Ultimate Spider-Man or pick up the first season DVD set of The Spectacular Spider-Man. Both are top-quality Spidey stories.

Scott Mendelson

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mars Attacks! - Secret right-wing, warmongering satire?

Having watched Mars Attacks! again recently, I noticed two things. First off, while it hasn't aged incredibly well, it still works as an all-encompassing satire of the blockbuster itself. Secondly, it actually seems on the surface to be one of the most biting right-wing, pro-war comedies ever released in mainstream theaters.

A former Tim Burton fanatic accepts that he is now merely a casual fan.

I grew up as the biggest Tim Burton nut around. I worshiped his Batman pictures and they turned me into the Bat-fanatic I am today. For most of my life, the original Batman was my all-time favorite film. I adored Pee-Wee's Big Adventure and Beetlejuice as much as any other like-minded film nerd. I saw Ed Wood, his career-peak, on opening night and took it personally when Mars Attacks! flopped. But, with not a little sadness, I must admit I'm not the least bit excited about Alice in Wonderland. Oh, I'll see it in IMAX 3D, and hopefully the film will be better than it looks. Part of it is the advertising campaign, which seems to be mixing inexplicable Lord of the Rings type adventure with Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter mugging like Mike Myer's The Cat in the Hat. Frankly, this is the first Tim Burton film that just doesn't look all that interesting to me. But I think that I realize that part of the problem is the realization that Tim Burton is basically going to spend the rest of his career doing 'Tim Burton's version of... (insert famous property)'. One of the most original visual artists in the business now seems content to piggyback on the genius of others.

Avatar laps the competition.

Wow.... just wow. This probably happened last week while I was busy with work and family obligations, but it bares stating none the less. If you look at the all-time worldwide box office chart, the third-highest grossing film of all time is The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King with $1.1191 billion. Avatar's current worldwide take is $2.3892 billion. That means that sometime last week, Avatar doubled the worldwide take of every other respective movie ever made, save for Titanic. It has currently tripled the worldwide take of every other movie outside the top-24 grossers worldwide (when it gets to $2.39 billion, it will have tripled #25 Shrek the Third). It has quadrupled the worldwide takes of every movie not in the top-50 all-time global gross list. Let me repeat that, in the 100+ years of cinema, there are only forty-nine movies that have grossed even a quarter of what Avatar has made in just 62 days. Click on the picture to watch the relatively engaging and intelligent interview that James Cameron gave with Charlie Rose last night. It's fun watching Cameron take on criticisms of Avatar point by point and render them more or less impotent. As for his comments regarding the Oscars, it's what I've been saying all along. Cameron's no dummy, he knows that he wins more if Bigelow wins Best Director for The Hurt Locker and Avatar wins Best Picture than if Cameron picks up both prizes. Or, we can just take him at his word that he genuinely wants Bigelow to win.

Scott Mendelson

Review: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
118 minutes
rated PG

by Scott Mendelson

Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is a checklist of everything that could have gone wrong with the Harry Potter series but didn't. The Harry Potter franchise, which was also started by Chris Columbus, was set firmly in a world of fantasy. The initial chapter had a cast filled with notable character actors and actually gave them a chance to shine. It had three relatively unknown lead actors who rose to the occasion and approached the material as if it was Shakespeare or Tolstoy. It contained no pop-culture references, no dated musical soundtrack choices, and no forced romance. It was a real movie, written and performed at an adult level that just happened to be aimed at children. Percy Jackson desperately wants to be Harry Potter in the same way Eragon wanted to be Star Wars. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was a film. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is simply a condescending kiddie flick.

Look out... it's a Mirror!

Once again, someone has way too much time on their hands.  But this is an undeniably fun little montage.  Enjoy.

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Esquire profiles "Roger Ebert: The Essential Man"

This Chris Jones piece is a devastating article, but it's absolutely a must read.  I won't deny that there is something incredibly disheartening about watching one of your professional idols, someone who represents the inarguable pinnacle of a given profession, soldering on after his body has long since betrayed him.  It's not the first time we've bared witness to such a thing, as fans of Richard Pryor and Muhammad Ali can attest.  But it's a sobering reminder that no matter what you achieve and how much you accumulate, we're all going out pretty much the same way and arguably to the same place.   

Scott Mendelson

So much for leading with your best foot forward. Summit releases inexplicably funny still grab for Twilight Saga: Eclipse.

Granted, Summit is not the first studio to release god-awful production stills from a major franchise (the first static shots of the first X-Men were fear-inducing), but this is still a pretty hilarious photo, especially for what is only the second major photo released from the third Twilight picture. For those who enjoy this sort of thing, feel free to add your own caption below. Enjoy.

Scott Mendelson

Wondering about The Wolfman? Well, remember The Alamo.

I admit my dislike of the finished Wolfman film colors my perceptions regarding its delays, but this is not the first time that studios have tried to go cheap only to end up getting financially burned. If you recall, Disney refused to greenlight an R-rated, $200-million, 3-hour version of The Alamo starring Russell Crowe and directed by Ron Howard (both fresh off A Beautiful Mind). Fair enough, such a movie would have been too costly to reasonably make its money back. Instead, they wanted to go cheaper and PG-13, so they hired John Lee Hancock (fresh off The Rookie) and cast solid but unbankable names (Billy Bob Thorton, Dennis Quaid, Jason Patrick). Alas, delays caused the budget to balloon from the original $95 million price-tag to $140 million. So, instead of just demanding that Howard and company simply reduce their budget, Disney was left with a compromised (if decent) 137-minute, PG-13 picture that cost $140 million and starred absolutely no one who could open a movie. And, sure enough, The Alamo grossed just $22 million in the US and John Lee Hancock didn't work for five years until The Blind Side ('living well is the best revenge'). All of this just to save $60 million and win a commercially useless PG-13. Nice work...

Scott Mendelson

Money well spent? How exactly Universal spent an extra 14 months and $60 million on The Wolfman and why it was likely a waste of both.

There is a nice article in Time Out London concerning the cause and effect of the years of delays, expensive reshoots, and countless re-edits that proceeded the actual release of The Wolfman over the weekend. As I mentioned yesterday, the film's budget ballooned from $90 million to $150 million as a result of the various behind the scenes turmoils, yet it ended up opening with the same $31 million that it likely would have opened with back in November 2008.  

Are Batman Begins and Iron Man the same movie?

See more funny videos and funny pictures at CollegeHumor.
Of course, this hugely simplifies the narratives of both pictures, but it made me laugh anyway. Besides, most comic nerds know that Iron Man was at least partially created as a Marvel Comics variation on Batman, so the similarities shouldn't be too surprising. Still, it does remind me why Batman Begins was such a favorite of mine while Iron Man left me relatively unmoved. The biggest difference is the momentum of the second act of each respective picture. Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham with a specific plan and specific goals, while Tony Stark just builds a suit and twiddles his thumbs until circumstance demands action. Plus, the two characters are polar opposites. Bruce Wayne is a morally decent man who pretends who be an obnoxious, entitled jackass. Tony Stark is an actual obnoxious, entitled jackass who tries to convince himself that he's a good man without really changing. To be fair, there are hints that Iron Man 2 will deal with this specific character flaw head-on, which will go a long way in redeeming what I've always felt was a vastly overrated male escapist fantasy. Or you could just ignore all my rantings and just enjoy the video.

Scott Mendelson

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Day (the movie) sets record over Valentine's Day (the long weekend). Weekend box office review for 02/15/10.

It wasn't terribly difficult to predict that a star-studded romantic comedy would rule over the long Valentine's Day weekend, especially one conveniently titled Valentine's Day. But the Gary Marshall mega-mush fest still impressed over the four-day weekend (Monday was of course Presidents' Day). Pulling in $56.2 million over three days and $63.1 million over four, the film scored the biggest Presidents' Day weekend in history and the second-biggest three-day opening ever for a romantic comedy (Sex and the City opened with $57 million in late May 2008). Even with the benefit of a Monday holiday, the $56.2 million picture's 3.8x multiplier for the Fri-Sun portion is still quite impressive (it pulled in $23.3 million on Valentine's Day Sunday). Even more impressive for the genre is the $35 million that the picture racked up overseas, giving the film a $98 million worldwide debut weekend. The film faces no real demographic competition (the film played to 68% females) until March 19th, when the Jennifer Aniston/Gerad Butler romantic comedy The Bounty Hunter is released. So even if next weekend sees a moderate fall-off from the massive opening, business should be steady throughout the season as the film becomes the second choice for general moviegoers. $150 million is a certainty at this point and $200 million isn't out of the question.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Review: The Wolfman (2010)

The Wolfman
102 minutes
Rated R

by Scott Mendelson

It is a rare thing when a big-budget genre picture can be accused of attempting to be too high-brow.  Generally speaking, an emphasis on character and plot over special effects usually results in a superior film.  But with a horror picture, you occasionally do have to deliver the horror goods.  Joe Johnston's The Wolfman fails on both grounds.  It feels hopelessly rushed in its initial acts, only to stop dead in its tracks in the final third.  The characters are barely sketched and most of their motivations are non-existent.  But, most importantly, the picture spends far more time watching cardboard characters walking in place, at the expense of the very thing we came to see: big-budget werewolf action.  It is one thing to leave them wanting more.  The Wolfman will have audiences leaving the theater wondering if they got anything at all.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A director's sandbox: In praise of the Mission: Impossible franchise.

As was announced a few days ago, Paramount is fast-tracking a new Mission: Impossible picture for a May 27th, 2011 release date (literally one day after the release of The Hangover 2). And I thought summer 2011 couldn't get any more crowded. Anyway, the new picture will of course star and be produced by Tom Cruise, and JJ Abrams will have some kind of creative hand. I'm certainly hoping that neither he nor one of his minions (Drew Goddard or Matt Reaves) ends up helming the picture. I have nothing against them or their talents. I liked Cloverfield and Matt Reaves wrote some terrific late-season episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Lost, and Alias respectively. But what I love about the series is that it's really the only ongoing franchise that is absolutely a director's sandbox through and through. For three films so far, we've gotten the chance to see distinctive filmmaker take a crack at the IMF playbook and craft an action thriller that both stays within the 'this mission, if you choose to except it' realm and exists as a definitive piece of work from that director. Come what may, Mission: Impossible is very much a DePalma picture, just as Mission: Impossible 2 was the ultimate John Woo film. And the third picture, while slightly overrated, remains a thesis study for the strengths and flaws of JJ Abrams.

Toy Story 3D gets a (happier) second trailer.

If the embed goes offline, go here for the official version.
This full-length trailer is not nearly as dark and morose as the teaser (which had my wife in tears in the first ten seconds).  While the first trailer stressed abandonment and survival, this one deals with comparatively painless adaptation and assimilation.  I'm a little annoyed about the fact that the trailer seemingly gives away a third-act twist, along with perhaps the climactic moments of the picture.  This is extra odd as Pixar trailers generally avoid revealing major plot twists and character reveals.  I'm hoping the film doesn't go the route that the trailer seems to hint at, as frankly it would be a little dishonest and not in tune with the Pixar philosophy (sorry for the vagueness, go to 1:51 to be spoiled).  Still, I understand the idea.  A certain segment of the audience is going to pay to see Cast Away, they want to know for sure that the film isn't going to end with Tom Hanks dying on the island.  Other than that major quibble, this looks to be every bit as funny and exciting and intelligent as anyone would hope.  I missed the December 18th press release about the IMAX release, but this one comes out in 2D, Disney Digital 3D, and IMAX 3D on June 18th. 

Scott Mendelson 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender gets a full trailer.

As I mentioned last week, I know very little about the source material.  Unfortunately, this full-length trailer doesn't seem to illuminate much.  Sure the visuals are gorgeous, there is a true sense of scope, and there are a few nice action beats, but I'm not entirely sure what I'm watching and that's not a good thing.  After a pretty terrific Super Bowl spot, this full-length peak is more than a little underwhelming.  And, because it needs to be said, if you're currently dealing with a controversy involving white actors being used to play Asian characters in an Asian story, maybe it's not a great idea to highlight a white guy and a white, blond girl as your primary romantic subplot.  Just a thought...

Scott Mendelson

To the shock of two (possibly three) people, Spider Man reboot to go 3D.

Yes, yes, Spider-Man 2.0 (or whatever it's going to be called) will be coming to 3D.  I can't say anyone didn't see that coming, but I suppose Sony confirming it is slightly newsworthy.  Frankly by the time The Amazing Spider-Man (or whatever it's going to be called) comes out, few will care about the novelty factor of 3D anymore.  More noteworthy is that Sony has picked a release date, Tuesday July 3rd, 2012.  Sony has made an early play for a piece of prime real-estate.  Opening on the same day as the first Transformers, Spidey's Tuesday release (with likely Monday-night advance showings) will allow the Marc Webb reboot to play out over a full week of Independence Day holiday-infused weekdays.  Ironically, the July 3rd date puts it smack dab in the line of fire from the summer's most anticipated pure sequel, Star Trek 2: Attack of the Klingons (or whatever it's going to be called).  Can I just say that I'm amused by the fact that two of the major films of summer 2012 have selected release dates before they've even selected titles?   

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Does the world need a Superman (movie)?

Today's big news was of course the announcement that Warner Bros is in fact going ahead with yet another Superman reboot. That's not terribly surprising, as various litigation involving the heirs of Superman creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel has made it of paramount importance that Warner Bros gets a new Superman film off the ground by 2011. But what is genuinely shocking is that Chris Nolan has been brought on to apparently 'oversee' the film. He's not (as of yet) directing it, and I'm not even sure at this point that he's producing it, but apparently Warner wants his name on the project in one form or another. And yes, buried in this information is the fact that John Nolan and David Goyer have begun writing a third Batman film. Good for them and best of luck.

Wait a minute... which movie was the 'chick flick' again?

Further lending credence to the fallacy of the whole 'boys vs. girls' narrative regarding the weekend box office?  Avatar actually out-grossed Dear John on Super Bowl Sunday.  Dear John crashed 61% from Saturday to Sunday, going from $12.4 million to $4.2 million.  Comparatively, Avatar went from $11 million to $5.1 million (down 55%).  Plus, Dear John only bested Avatar by $940,000 on Saturday, after a $7.6 million lead on Friday night.

Scott Mendelson

Monday, February 8, 2010

All of the Super Bowl movie trailers in one place...

Oddly enough, there were no spots for any of the major summer contenders (Iron Man 2, Toy Story 3, Eclipse, Sex and the City 2, etc). Instead, the two summer spots went to mediocre also-rans (Robin Hood and Prince of Persia) and a major question mark (The Last Airbender). But, I digress, if you want to see what you didn't see on Sunday, here you go, courtesy of Movie-List.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dear John scores $32.4 million opening weekend. Avatar falls to second place. Why it's not a 'girls vs. boys' story. Weekend box office review (02/07/10)

Dear John opened at number one this weekend, with a stellar $30.4 million debut weekend. That gives the picture a mediocre 2.2x weekend multiplier, but the first three days alone puts the picture well ahead of its $25 million budget. Ironically, it was actually hit pretty hard by Super Bowl Sunday, as it dropped 61% from Saturday ($12.4 million) to Sunday (just $4.2 million).  Regardless, this is the biggest weekend in Super Bowl weekend history, as well as the biggest opening weekend of all-time for a pure romantic drama. The film played to an 84% female crowd, and 64% of the audience was under 21. This is the first real test of opening weekend mettle for Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum, and both passed with flying colors. Of course, this number raises new questions about how much credit Tatum deserved for the $54.7 million debut of GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Conversely, as I alluded to last September, one wonders how much better Jennifer's Body could have opened with had the marketing focused even a little on co-star Seyfried and not just Megan Fox.   This also makes Nicholas Sparks the first brand-name author since the mid-90s heyday of Michael Crichton, Stephen King, and John Grisham.  Regardless, this is a smashing debut and should weather the storm of Valentine's Day: The Movie as this far more serious love story will prove solid counter-programming to the overtly comedic all-star mush-fest (or as I've heard the film called: Gary Marshall Calls In All of His Favors Before He Dies: The Movie).

Saturday, February 6, 2010

OMG!! Dear John's opening weekend may be bigger than Avatar's eighth weekend!

We'll see tomorrow whether Dear John actually succeeds in dethroning Avatar from the top of the weekend box office, but the Nicolas Sparks adaptation would need a sub-2.0 weekend multiplier coupled with a over 4x multiplier for Avatar to fall short.  For now, Dear John has grossed a stunning opening day gross of $13.8 million, while Avatar again dropped just 16% for a $6.2 million Friday gross.  For the record, even if Avatar falls, let's not forget that we're dealing with a film's opening weekend versus another film's seventh weekend of business. I'm sure we'll see no end to the story that 'Avatar got beaten by a chick flick' which completely ignores how female-friendly Avatar really was.  Among other fem-friendly elements, it had a genuinely compelling romantic subplot and (most importantly) a dynamic female action lead that is every bit as bad-ass and as important to the story as the male lead. Female interest was a big reason why Avatar has done so well, and male interest both in the apolitical 'traveling soldier' storyline and the appeal of Amanda Seyfried (both professional and prurient) is a big part of why Dear John is opening so well. Just like the 'Cameron vs. Bigelow' nonsense, not everything can be simplified into 'boys vs. girls'.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender gets a Super Bowl commercial.

I've often said that agree with most of the moral reasons that causes people to become vegetarians, but I just like meat too much.  On the same grounds, I'm completely sympathetic to the angry feelings regarding the 'whitewashing' of the film's cast (IE - casting white actors as Asian characters in this specifically Asian mythology), but I can't bring myself to turn against M. Night Shyamalan.  He was my favorite director following the one-two-three punch of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, and I still contend that his worst films are more interesting than any number of unremarkable 'good films'.  I wrote at the end of my review of The Happening that I haven't given up on him yet, and nothing would make me happier than to see him knock this out of the park.  If The Village was his Batman Returns (a deeply unpopular and misunderstood picture that made tons of money anyway) and The Happening was M Night's Mars Attacks (a big-budget, high profile disappointment that was savaged by critics), then The Last Airbender is basically his Sleepy Hollow (his last chance to prove that he can make a major studio genre picture that can make a real profit). At a glance, this footage looks pretty terrific.  And, in his first real action picture, M. Night Shyamalan seems to understand that action works best with wide, fluid takes and keen sense of geography.  Of course, I wasn't too worried about Shyamalan (whose Unbreakable contained several lengthy one-take scenes) going the Paul Greengrass route.

Having put it off for one reason or another, I'm going to watch the three seasons of the original Nickelodeon show before July, 2010.  So while I can't say whether the visuals or the character designs are accurate to the original cartoon, I can say that this looks like a big, colorful, and epic adventure story.  Ironically, the preview goes out of the way to show the actual face of lead actor Noah Ranger, perhaps trying to hide the controversial ethnicity of the actor.  And, on that note, the music is simply a pretty standard hard-rock score rather than something more epic and/or ethnic.  Intentional or not, the teaser gives off a very confused vibe about its racial issues.  It's a pretty weird sell, showing off a film that looks very Asian in tone and visuals and hiding the face of their very Caucasian lead actor, but using an American hard-rock piece of background music.  Paramount is in a very tricky situation (arguably of their own making) with this one and it'll be interesting to see how their marketing campaign shapes up.  But for now, it's good to see M. Night Shyamalan directing a picture that looks so promising after a few real stumbles.  As far as accusations of 'yellowface', I can only hope that Shyamalan simply picked the best possible actor and didn't bow towards any kind of studio pressure.  With the ironic exception of Mark Wahlberg in The Happening, Shyamalan's casting instincts have always been dead-on, so I'll simply choose to trust him for the time being.  But social issues aside, so far so good.

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The most satisfying Oscar nominations in recent history?

Sure, everyone and their brother is going to have opinions about this morning's Oscar nominations, but you clicked on this link, so you presumably care about my thoughts...

First off, the new Best Picture Category, with ten nominees, did exactly what it was supposed to do. The ten nominees represent a wide selection of genre, audience taste, and popular appeal vs. critical niche. While some may complain about popular entertainments like The Blind Side or District 9, both films were better received by critics than The Reader or Babel. I had been rooting for The Blind Side and predicting its inclusion since Thanksgiving weekend. First of all, it's a damn good movie and second of all, it's just the kind of old-school big-studio drama that we don't get nearly enough of. It's popular and critical success can only be a good thing for those who want an occasional break from big-budget franchise pictures.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The in-house commercial that should be shown in front of every movie.

I'm not exactly sure what this is (Aqua Teen Hunger Force?), but it made me laugh out loud.  Enjoy.

Scott Mendelson


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