Monday, August 30, 2010

Kyle Leaman finally finishes his HUGE list of Jackie Chan's 100 best fight scenes...

When 'the Part-Time Critic' gets into a project, he doesn't do it half-assed. He's been slowly compiling a list of his picks for the 100 best fight scenes featuring Mr. Jackie Chan. He started at the end of June, and he finally posted the final top-ten list this afternoon, thus allowing me to link to it. 100 fight scenes, each with a solid paragraph of context and a You Tube embed of pretty much every single one. Allison didn't have preschool today and I'll likely be at work all day tomorrow, thus that alleged '2010 summer box office analysis' might be a bit delayed. I'm seeing Machete on Wednesday night, but the review won't drop until 12:01am on Friday (embargo). So until I get a chance to bang out something more relevant than a random trailer or a bit on a rumor that gets debunked a week later, here's Kyle Leaman's rundown of Jackie Chan's Top 100 Action Scenes. Enjoy...

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bill O'Reilly's straw-man argument: Of course The Expendables is (slightly) patriotic, but it's not 'NATIONALISTIC'. Altough he has one good point...


It's a common tactic brandished on the Right, and occasionally used by the Left, to create a straw-man argument and then bring on someone to validate or combat said viewpoint. Bill O'Reilly himself has been famous for his annual 'War on Christmas' series that seems to crop up every December. I know of no one who has discussed The Expendables in anything but the broadest social terms (it has no real agenda other than to entertain and make money), and certainly not a single critic has vilified Stallone for the film's content aside from its worth as an action drama. The film is subtly patriotic, but it's not NATIONALISTIC, which is what O'Reilly is defending it against. For what it's worth, the film's villain is an American imperialist tycoon, and the bad guys use water-boarding to torture a damsel in distress, and righteous Americans do battle to put a stop to it. In other words, heroic Americans do battle with evil Americans and save an indigenous populace for outside invaders because they basically want to do a 'mitzvah' for once in their greedy, soulless lives (yes, it's the same broad idea as The Wild Bunch).

Last Exorcism, Takers overperform and Avatar returns as summer 2010 ends on a solid note. Weekend box office (08/29/10).

Despite my offhand comments last week about summer being over, two new openers delivered better-than-expected results as summer officially came to a close. It was a tight race for first place this weekend, as Lionsgate's The Last Exorcism took the runner-up spot with $20.3 million. The fake exorcism documentary was a bit frontloaded (2.1x weekend multiplier) and received a 'D' from CinemaScore. However, that audience distaste was more a result of fraudulent marketing, as the socially relevant, relatively realistic and gore-less fauxomentary was sold as a thrill-a-minute horror film from the mind of Eli Roth and a religious thriller in the vein of The Exorcism of Emily Rose. In other words, audiences hated it for the same reasons that critics generally enjoyed it (it's at 71% on Rotten Tomatoes), it's just that critics hadn't felt that they had been sold a bill of goods.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

2010 Summer Movie Review part I: The Moments That Mattered.

We'll see if my schedule allows me to do a compressive 'end of summer' box office wrap-up, but since summer 2010 doesn't officially end until September 3rd, I figure I've got time. But for now, here is a rundown of the various scenes, performances, moments, and miscues that defined the summer just past. Because sometimes, discussing the 'parts' is more fun than discussing the 'whole'. I'll try to avoid divulging plot twists and the like, but consider this a SPOILER WARNING.

Dumb idea of the week: Pairing Tom Cruise with an unknown to boost box office? Fourth Mission: Impossible film to not be titled 'Mission: Impossible'?

Long story short, Paramount is doing all kinds of tinkering with the fourth Mission: Impossible picture, in a bid to cut down costs (yes, Randy, I know...), and/or 'reboot the series'. As Variety reported the other day, the two big change is that co-star Jeremy Renner will now be a co-lead with Tom Cruise, in a theoretical passing of the torch should Paramount or Tom Cruise decide to continue the series without Tom Cruise. Also of note is that the studio is considering calling the film something other than 'Mission: Impossible'. Brad Bird is (thankfully) still directing and the film is still set for December 2011.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Empire Strikes Back as a silent movie.


This is clever and amusing, and the piano version of the Emperor's March at 0:55 is a nice tough. Even in somewhat goofy silent movie-style, that shot of Vader and Luke battling it out on that thin extension over the chasm (mostly cropped out here but visible at 0:22) is still the definitive moment of the whole six films for me.

Scott Mendelson

Hatchet II to open nationally in wide-release in its unrated glory.

Dark Sky just sent out a press release, basically stating that the horror sequel Hatchet II will actually be released nationwide through AMC in its unrated 'director's cut'. I never saw the original Hatchet, ironically because Blockbuster never carried the unrated DVD for rent and I just forgot about it over the years. Since the unrated Blu Ray will be released on September 9th, I'm going to try to rectify that soon enough. Anyway, this is actually pretty big news. Although it will probably be a limited-time release, we have a horror picture being given a wide, national release (in twenty markets) through a major theater chain without having been rated by the MPAA. I'm not one who thinks that the MPAA is the root of all evil, especially considering how prevalent these unrated or director's cuts have become on the DVD market (IE - everyone gets to see the intended vision within a few months anyway). But the issue has never been the MPAA, but rather the national theater chains refusing to screen unrated pictures and the hesitancy of newspapers and television stations to allow advertising for unrated (or NC-17-rated) pictures. If the theatrical release of Hatchet II is in any way a success, it could very well open the floodgates for this kind of niche national release, especially regarding documentaries and independent cinema. This is good news all around. The press release and trailer is below.

Scott Mendelson

"Ice to meet you!" 68 seconds that killed a franchise.


Another entry in the 'someone has too much time on his hands' category. To think, Batman & Robin could have been a somewhat OK film with just 70 seconds trimmed out. Also, I posted this because my wife actually likes the sheer stupidity of Arnold's non-stop punning. Yes, that's right, I married a woman who prefers Batman & Robin to The Dark Knight. She also loves Grease 2.

DVD Review: Harry Brown (2010)

Harry Brown
2010
103 minutes
rated R
Available August 31st from Sony Home Entertainment on DVD and Blu Ray

by Scott Mendelson

The film's theatrical review can be found here.

The DVD:
The film is shot on high-definition video and presented in 2.35:1. This is a dark and gray picture, and it probably looks better on DVD and Blu Ray than it did in most theaters (since so many auditoriums project films at low light levels). This is certainly not a show-off transfer, but the film looks relatively fine. As for the audio, the English 5.1 plays as a 2.0 mix on my non-existent audio set-up. I will say that the audio for the feature was lower than I'm used to, in that I had to turn up the 'volume' on my HDTV several notches higher than normal. The film comes with several subtitle selections, and I didn't notice any glaring issues with the English subtitle stream. The DVD and Blu Ray share the same bonus material. There is an insightful and detailed commentary with Michael Caine, director Daniel Barber, and producer Kris Thykier. There are also 17 minutes worth of deleted scenes, all of which are worth watching, but none of which desperately needed to be in the film. The first one, which fleshes out the disconnect between the police and the victims, is good but makes Mortimer's partner unconsciously unsympathetic right off the bat. Also included are several previews for other Sony releases.

Film: B+
Video: A-
Audio: B-
Extras: B-

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Guest Review: Piranha 3D (2010)

Here is another guest review from friend and colleague R.L. Shaffer of DVD Future. This is not a case of him seeing a press screening that I had to miss, merely a case of him writing a review pretty much identical to the one I was going to write just this morning. So enjoy R.L. Shaffer's take on Piranha 3D. Fortunately, there will be only one piranha monster movie on my ten-best list this year, and it will be Mega Piranha.

Piranha 3D
2010
89 minutes
rated R

by R.L. Shaffer

There's about 15, maybe 20 minutes of Piranha 3D that's salvageable. The rest of the film is total junk, and not in an inventive, enjoyable, campy sort of way. Rather, this is garbage -- a direct-to-video mess that just happened to have a somewhat decent budget, and enough top class performers to garner a theatrical release -- in crummy up-converted 3D no less.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Expendables tops Vampires Suck, Piranha, Switch, Nanny McPhee 2, Lottery Ticket. Eclipses tops New Moon, Pilgrim dies. Weekend box office (8/22/10)

It was a rare 'everybody loses' weekend at the box office, with the only silver lining existing in low budgets and/or strong foreign business. Five new wide releases were dumped on the movie-going populace, and not a single one grossed more than $12 million over the weekend. In number one was not a new film, but last weekend's champion. Sylvester Stallone enjoyed his second weekend at number one with The Expendables, which dropped a reasonable 51% in weekend two. Comparatively, Freddy vs. Jason dropped 63% in its second weekend while Alien vs. Predator dropped 67%. The picture grossed $16.9 million and ended its tenth day with $65.3 million. This makes the film a solid bet to surpass the $90 million gross of Madea Goes to Jail and become Lionsgate's second-highest grossing film in its history (first is Fahrenheit 9/11, with $123 million). That the film didn't collapse after its first weekend is again a testament to the strong appeal of old-fashioned meat and potatoes entertainment aimed at audiences who don't necessarily race out to see a movie on opening weekend. We film nerds discussed the film as a sort of 'Action All Stars to the Rescue', but general audiences simply took the film as a big-budget action picture starring Stallone and a handful of other notable action stars. They didn't care about discussing the film's politics or what its success represented for society at large. The film has major issues, but at the end of the day, it delivers what it promises, which has been an all-too rare thing this summer.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Question of the day: Would Piranha 2D have performed better than Piranha 3D?

Piranha, with $3.5 million on its opening day, is a textbook example of how 3D could end up killing theater-going. Piranha is the very definition of something that could be enjoyed as a cheap afternoon matinée. However, thanks to the 3D surcharge, there is no available cheap matinée, with the cheapest tickets in LA running around $10, those being AMC's before-noon screenings. Anything after noon anywhere runs you at least $13. In all of the LA/Hollywood area, I found two theaters showing Piranha in 2D (the Universal Citywalk 19 and the Pacific Winnetka 21). Once a large majority of big (or small) genre films exist only in 3D, then you lose a large chunk of the casual moviegoers who either don't like 3D or just don't want to pay $30 to take their date to an afternoon showing of something like Piranha. Theaters can charge whatever they want for 3D as long as audiences have a viable 2D option. Take away that, and it becomes that much easier to just spend $20 to buy the DVD/Blu Ray in four months.

Scott Mendelson

Friday, August 20, 2010

Iron Man writers brought in by Paramount and Platinum Dunes to write Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot, coming in 2012.

Amusingly, Nikki Finke reported this news by exclaiming "(Paramount) is looking at (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) as its next huge franchise, like Transformers, a source told me." That's shocking news, as I thought Nickelodeon paid $60 million for the property last October so they could make a low-budget mumblecore. "Cow... a, um... well, bunga?" Anyway, snark aside, writers Matt Holloway and Art Marcum have been brought on board by Platinum Dunes to revamp the 26-year old comic book franchise. Amusingly enough, these are two of the four writers who were NOT brought along to write Jon Favreau's upcoming Cowboys Vs. Aliens. These two instead followed up their Iron Man script with Punisher: War Zone, which is not a promising sign (did no one notice that, had Frank Castle just stayed in bed, every single bad guy would have arrested on capital charges within 48 hours anyway?). On the other hand, they are currently developing a Justin Lin-directed reboot of Highlander for Summit Entertainment, which is the rare 80s geek property that could actually use a makeover (five movies, a cartoon series, a six-year television series, an ongoing comic book or two, and the TV series was the only thing close to being good).

Credit where credit is due: Ashley Tisdale does have a new gig after all.


Three weeks ago, when discussing the film career of Zac Efron, I made references to how the rest of the High School Musical cast wasn't doing nearly as well as he was after the principals left the franchise. I specifically mentioned Ashley Tisdale, and basically implied that she was having trouble finding work outside of the franchise because she was returning to the fourth film and playing Sharpay in a spin-off film. Well, in all fairness, she has a co-starring role in a new television series premiering just next month. It's called Hellcats, it airs on the CW, and it's about cheerleaders. Anything other than that I'll leave to you (although it's nice that Sharon Leal of Boston Public, Dreamgirls, and Why Did I Get Married? will get a steady paycheck), I just thought I owed Ms. Tisdale a mea culpa.

Scott Mendelson

As the search narrows down to just five actresses, just how 'token' will Spider-Man's girlfriend be in the new reboot?

Melissa Silverstein over at Women and Hollywood took understandable umbrage at the flurry of articles discussing just which young actress would be playing Peter Parker's girlfriend (who apparently might not be Mary Jane) in the upcoming Spider-Man reboot. The finalists are apparently Emma Roberts, Teresa Palmer, Lilly Collins, and Imogen Poots, and Ophelia Lovibond. Her annoyance stems from the phrasing of these articles, which basically amounts to 'which promising young actress gets to play the quasi jail-bait piece of meat that Spidey rescues and then makes out with?' I wrote about this back in March. It’s the dilemma of most working actresses, forced to choose either no mainstream work or be stuck playing the ‘token female character/love interest’. I’m less offended in this case because we’re talking about Spider-Man here. If we knew which one of Parker’s comic book girlfriends was in the reboot, the articles simply would have read ‘who’s playing Mary Jane Watson/Gwen Stacey/Betty Brant/etc', and they would likely contain a token amount of comic book backstory. But the obstacle that actresses face, being cast only in relation to the male lead, is a fair charge and one worth repeating.

'Rumors from the crazy guy on the corner': David Slade to helm X-Men Origins: Wolverine 2? But what of the video game spin-off?

Vulture has reported that the top contender to direct the sequel to X-Men Origins: Wolverine (which itself was a prequel to X-Men) is none other than David Slade. Following his success on Twilight Saga: Eclipse, which likely surpassed the domestic gross of New Moon just today, Slade is being courted by Hugh Jackman himself to do the 'Wolverine goes to Japan' story-arc promised in the post-credit cookie of the last film. While the first Wolverine spin-off was pretty much detested by critics and audiences alike, the $150 million film still opened with $85 million and pulled in $373 million worldwide despite being bootlegged online by Fox Studios -I mean by scary foreigners- a full month prior to the film's theatrical release. Since original director Gavin Hood (Tsotsi, Rendition) apparently had all kinds of behind the scenes turmoil with Fox studios, it's no surprise that he won't be back. This would be David Slade's fourth film, following the critically-acclaimed Hard Candy, the vampire comic book adaptation 30 Days of Night (both solid genre pictures), and the aforementioned Eclipse (slightly overrated, I still prefer Hardwicke's quirky humor). Why, do you ask, am I reporting on this generally unwanted sequel to an original film that I detested? Well, because while X-Men Origins: Wolverine the movie was pretty god-awful, X-Men Origins: Wolverine the video game was one of the most flat-out entertaining and enjoyable action games I've played in years. Yes, I'm excited about a big-budget tentpole picture because I'm looking forward to the video game spin off.

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It's about damn time: Alex Cross returns to the big screen as Idris Elba takes over from Morgan Freeman.

Whenever I blather on about the death of the mainstream, mid-budget, star-driven thriller, the prime example that comes to mind is the Alex Cross franchise. Paramount used to thrive on said pot-boilers, and two of the more successful entries were adaptations of two books in James Patterson's long-running Alex Cross series. I can't count the number of times my wife has casually asked me why Paramount didn't make more. Aside from whether or not star Morgan Freeman was interested, the best I could figure is that a regime change took hold at Paramount, and the new bosses wanted in on the mega-blockbuster game. After all, why spend $50 million and hope to gross $100 million worldwide, when you could spend $150 million, and hope to God that you made at least $300 million worldwide? Well, it appears that saner heads have prevailed, as psychologist/detective/federal agent/super hero Alex Cross is returning to the big screen. And taking over for Morgan Freeman is Idris Elba, a respected character actor from The Wire, The Office, and several film turns (Daddy's Little Girls, The Losers, 28 Weeks Later, etc) who is about to become a superstar.

Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan gets a trailer.


While the first 2/3 of this trailer plays out like a variation on All About Eve, the final act goes hardcore weird, hinting at some kind of third-act revelation that I may or may not have figured out already. For what it's worth, this film may in fact be a remake of Perfect Blue, which Aronofsky purchased the remake rights to in order to borrow a few shots for Requiem For A Dream. Oddly enough, Winona Ryder gets fifth billing in this film, yet is barely featured for 1/2 a second in this trailer 1:24. Pretty much anything Aronofsky does at this point is exciting, as Requiem For A Dream was one of the best films of the prior decade, and The Fountain was a flawed, but emotionally-devastating little experiment (The Wrestler didn't impress me all that much, but it was certainly a good character study). This newest entry opens on December 1st.

Scott Mendelson

Press Release: Batman Beyond Complete Series boxset to street November 23rd, completing the DC Animated Universe Collection.

BATMAN BEYOND: THE COMPLETE SERIES

LIMITED EDITION COMPILATION SET! INCLUDES ALL 52 ACTION-PACKED EPISODES PLUS THREE NEW BONUS FEATURETTES

WARNER HOME VIDEO TO DISTRIBUTE DVD SET NOV. 23

BURBANK, CA (August 18, 2010) – Warner Bros. Animation’s breakthrough series Batman Beyond comes to DVD for the first time in its entirety. Featuring DC Comics’ iconic hero, Batman, Batman Beyond: The Complete Series presents nearly 20 hours of animated action spread over 52 episodes, as well as all-new bonus featurettes and a 24-page, 8”x 12” collectible booklet. Batman Beyond: The Complete Series will be distributed by Warner Home Video on November 23, 2010 as a nine-disc limited edition DVD set for $99.98 (SRP).


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Oscar pitch for Piranha 3D...


The best line comes tat 0:54. It's something I've said for years, so I'm glad to know I'm not the only one... As it is, I do love when movie-based humor pieces actually contain bits of inside-baseball movie humor. This really should air on cable TV this week.

Scott Mendelson

Wes Craven's My Soul to Take gets a trailer.

Usually when I see a trailer for an upcoming movie, I discuss how the film looks, how it might play out, and the stylistic choices that went into the construction of said trailer in terms of what the studio is trying to sell. However, here presents an odd case where I've actually seen the film in question. Way back in April 2009, when this Wes Craven picture was called 25/8, my wife and I attended a test screening purely out of our fandom for the man who gave us Wes Craven's New Nightmare and Scream 2.. After said test screening, the film allegedly went back to the drawing board with massive reshoots and what not. Aside from a few supernatural images and some obvious 3-D gags, this looks to be the same film I saw a year and a half ago. The redone version is set to open on October 8th. How was the movie back when I first saw it? Well, one hint: I actually wrote about it at the end of the year...

Scott Mendelson

Monday, August 16, 2010

Joaquin Phoenix documentary I'm Still Here gets a trailer.

What is a complete nervous breakdown, the second coming of Andy Kaufman, or something in between? Will this Casey Affleck-directed documentary have any answers? The film will premiere in theaters on September 10th, and then Video On Demand on September 24th. Like most Magnolia titles, expect it to make about $50 in theaters and make the bulk of its money in VOD and the eventual DVD/Blu Ray release.

Scott Mendelson

Oliver Platt cast in X-Men: First Class. X-Men: First Class is now a must-see movie.


He is one of my favorite character actors. His verbal spars with Chiwetel Ejiofor turned 2012 into a piece of art. His turn as White House Counsel Oliver Babbish single-handedly made the whole 'President Bartlett reveals he has Multiple Sclerosis' plot-line of The West Wing not only watchable, but tremendously exciting and engaging. He has taken parts big and small in any number of commercial and independent productions both good and bad (Indecent Proposal, The Three Musketeers, Executive Decision, Simon Birch, Kinsey, Frost/Nixon, Please Give, etc) and made them memorable. I have no idea who 'the Man in Black' is in Martin Vaughn's upcoming X-Men reboot/prequel, but X-Men: First Class just earned by interest. To be fair, casting Kevin Bacon and future Oscar nominee Jennifer Laurence (Winter's Bone) didn't hurt either. Wouldn't it be grand if the fifth X-Men picture was a triumph not as an action picture, but as a genuine acting treat?

Scott Mendelson

Rooney Mara cast in star-making role for David Fincher-helmed, American remake of overrated, over-analyzed B-movie thriller.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was a B-movie that played like a 2.5 hour episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit (not even peak seasons 3-7). It was elevated to something considered high art because it had subtitles and had a somewhat more overt sexuality than most American cinema. We are so starved for interesting female characters that we elevated Lisbeth Salander to some kind of fem-super hero/empowerment figure purely because she was a little more interesting and had more back story than the stock female love interest. To paraphrase Aaron Sorkin, we are so thirsty for water than we'll drink the sand. Take away the overt sexual content, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo remains a perfectly entertaining, if overlong and plodding, diversion for an evening rental, the kind of thing that Paramount used to toss out with regularity in the mid-to-late 1990s. So what does it mean that David Fincher has cast Rooney Mara to portray the iconic character in the American remake?

Press Release: Rooney Mara cast as Lisbeth Salander in David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo remake.

cid:image001.png@01CB3D2C.41276FB0

DANIEL CRAIG AND ROONEY MARA

TO STAR IN THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO

(Culver City, August 16, 2010) -- Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara have been cast in the lead roles of Columbia Pictures’ three-picture adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s literary blockbuster The Millennium Trilogy under the direction of David Fincher. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – the first film of the series, which also includes The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest – begins shooting next month in Sweden. The screenplay is written by Steve Zaillian and the film is being produced by Scott Rudin, Cean Chaffin, Ole Sondberg and Søren Stærmose. Mikael Wallen and Anni Fernandez are executive producers. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is set for worldwide release December 21, 2011.


The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson has been published in 44 countries and has sold more than 40 million copies worldwide thus far. In the U.S. alone, the series has sold over 10 million copies, and the sales were recently calculated at the remarkable rate of one book per second. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo has broken sales records in virtually every country in which it has been published. It has sold over 5 million copies in the U.S. and has out-sold any other e-book in that rapidly expanding market. A literary phenomenon, all three books currently sit atop the New York Times Best Seller lists. In describing the scale of Larsson’s achievement,The Economist said: “Stieg Larsson’s vivid characters, the depth of the detail across the three books, the powerfully imaginative plot, and the sheer verve of the writing make the trilogy a masterpiece of its genre.” Michiko Kakutani, of The New York Times, described the Lisbeth character: “Lisbeth Salander, Stieg Larsson’s fierce pixie of a heroine, is one of the most original characters in a thriller to come along in a while – a gamin, Audrey Hepburn look-alike but with tattoos and piercings, the take-no-prisoners attitude of Lara Croft and the cool, unsentimental intellect of Mr. Spock. She is the vulnerable victim turned vigilante; a willfully antisocial girl . . . who has proved herself to be as incandescently proficient as any video game warrior.” The three novels have all become #1 worldwide bestsellers, an achievement unrivaled in trade book publishing.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Also neat: long-lost alternate ending to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles...


The first two minutes is the long-discussed alternate ending, and the rest is the "ramboraph4life" discussing the content of the Blu Ray in Germany, where actual special features are contained, and complaining about a lack of such a disc in the US. It's no secret that I was less than impressed with the 25th anniversary DVD/Blu Ray TMNT film set from last year, so it's a shame that Germany got the feature-packed special edition that us Americans so crave.

Scott Mendelson

Neat: Long-lost deleted scene from Return of the Jedi...

Weekend box office: Expendables explodes, Eat Pray Love is bountiful, while Scott Pilgrim vs. the World lacks Game Genie.

Proving once again that films aimed at older audiences have theoretically stronger legs than those aimed at teens, The Expendables and Eat Pray Love both had strong weekend multipliers and both performed at or above realistic expectations. With all the hub-bub regarding 'the guy movie vs. the chick flick', both films posted exceptional opening weekends and both respective marketing teams should be commended. As for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, its frontloaded and underwhelming debut proves that geek cultures is not mainstream culture, and that hardcore geek interest should not be mistaken for mainstream interest. With films like that, the only real victory should be the fact that it got made and released. Anyway, here we go... The Expendables ended the weekend with $34.8 million, giving it a decent 2.6x weekend multiplier. As mentioned yesterday, this is the massive win that Lionsgate needed to prove that they could open something other than Saw sequels and Tyler Perry dramas to anything resembling blockbuster numbers. As I've written any number of times, if you take away the Saw sequels and the Tyler Perry pictures, the studio's biggest opening weekend was Fahrenheit 9/11 with $23.9 million and The Haunting In Connecticut with $23 million. Be it Rambo ($18.2 million), Kick Ass ($19.8 million), 3:10 to Yuma ($14 million), or Killers ($15.8 million), Lionsgate has had a problem opening seemingly break-out pictures above their $15-19 million ceiling.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Friday box office - The Expendables outdraws a strong Eat Pray Love while Scott Pilgrim vs. the World does cult geek business. (08/13/10).

The Expendables was number one in its first day of release, taking in $13.3 million. The Sly Stallone and friends ensemble looks heading for an opening weekend of around $35 million. Although the picture cost $82 million, distributor Lionsgate is only on the hook for a $20 million distribution fee and a chunk of the (likely abundant) marketing costs. This is a massive win for the beleaguered House that Jigsaw Built, as Lionsgate absolutely had to open this above their $23 million peak if they wanted to prove they could play in the big leagues. As I've written any number of times, if you take away the Saw sequels and the Tyler Perry pictures, the studio's biggest opening weekend was Fahrenheit 9/11 with $23.9 million and The Haunting In Connecticut with $23 million. Be it Rambo ($18.2 million), Kick Ass ($19.8 million), 3:10 to Yuma ($14 million), or Killers ($15.8 million), Lionsgate has had a problem opening seemingly break-out pictures above their $15-19 million ceiling.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The action films didn't get smaller, we just got older.

I liked The Expendables as what it was: a B-movie action picture that wouldn't be under nearly this much scrutiny if the genre weren't such an endangered species. Is it an action classic that restores the macho he-man action film as a viable genre? Not in the least. But it's good dumb violent fun that's worth the $6 for a couple hours, which is all these movies ever were. We lionize the action pictures of our youth while neglecting to realize that they weren't all that good back in the day. Viewed without nostalgia, was Commando really all that good? We may pine for the 'glory days' of Red Heat, Cobra, Toy Soldiers, or The Delta Force, but we're simply trying to recapture our lost youth. We love those movies because we loved being young enough to enjoy them without irony.

Review: The Expendables (2010)

The Expendables
2010
103 minutes
rated R


by Scott Mendelson

The Expendables
is not the be all-end all action picture of our time. It is not the film that will revitalize the genre, turning a B-movie genre into A-level material once again. But it is 103 minutes of macho men killing bad guys and blowing stuff up for a good, apolitical cause (the main villain is an American tycoon, and he actually water-boards one of the heroic characters). The film is better than some of the lesser 80s/90s efforts (Red Heat, The Specialist, Hard to Kill), but not as good as the very best the genre has to offer (Eraser, Demolition Man, Under Siege, and Under Siege 2). It is fun to see the bigger names (Stallone, Statham, Li, and Lundgren) play off of and beat the crap out of each other. I dearly wish that Eric Roberts had been a more larger-than-life adversary. Of course, in the pre-Die Hard/Batman world, most of those 80s action films had pretty bland villains (quick, who was the villain in Cobra?). As far as the 'meeting of the classic action stars' talking point, this is really just a star vehicle for Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham, with meaty glorified cameos for everyone else.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics gets a trailer.

This comes out on DVD on November 9th. It apparently screened at the Comic Con last month, and I haven't heard any real word of mouth either way. It's narrated by Ryan Reynolds, and I can only hope it's as good as the delightful Kevin Burns documentary Look, Up in the Sky: The Amazing Story of Superman that was released in June 2009 to coincide with the summer theatrical release of Superman Returns (Kevin Spacey narrated that one). The only flaw in that otherwise exhaustive piece is that it gave barely a mention to the entire Timm/Burnett/Dini/Radomski DC Animated Universe. I'm guessing this new piece won't make the same mistake.

Scott Mendelson

The Tillman Story gets an R-rating from the MPAA. Why it's not an outrage, and how it can be easily fixed for a more teen-friendly PG-13 rating.

Distributor Harvey Weinstein, director Amir Bav Lev, and producer John Battsek is up in arms today because their upcoming documentary, The Tillman Story, has been slapped with an R-rating for 'excessive language'. Apparently, the critically-acclaimed look into the death of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan and subsequent cover-up of the friendly-fire incident, contains three uses of the 'F'-word. I get the outrage, but it's a pretty simple idea. This isn't the MPAA giving an R for intensity or overwhelming violence or a certain amount of sexuality. This is too many uses of the F-word, period, end of story. Everyone and their brother knows that at best you can have two of them and get a PG-13. The makers broke one of the MPAA's few iron-clad rules for a PG-13 and are now complaining about it. If Weinstein and company want the PG-13, then just bleep one or two of them out.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Avengers movie trailer... if it were made in the 1950s.


I can't even comprehend the amount of time and work that went into this, but the result is downright brilliant. This is a lovely homage both to the Marvel Universe and to the classic B-movie serials that have been more or less forgotten over time. Well worth a watch. As for what went into it and which Marvel heroes and villains made the cut, I'll let the author speak for himself:

What if... the Avengers movie was created years before the actual comic book?

Lost in the annals of time and space, comes this magnificent motion picture of epic proportions. Taking a page from such horror classics as "Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman" and "House of Frankenstein," Timely Atlas Studios (the precursor to Marvel Studios), created the first superhero movie team-up. "The Avengers" featured an awesome array of characters such as Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man in a larger-than-life battle against evil aliens from the planet Skrull. Face front true believers, this one is for the funny books!

Editor's note: I have always wanted to work with Marvel characters... in any capacity. Maybe I will someday. For now though, enjoy my little tribute to works of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and the heroes of the Marvel Universe. Oh, here's a fun thing to do... try and count all the characters and locations that are hidden within this trailer. Did anyone spot the Stan Lee cameo yet? I have a listing of all the Easter eggs in my next video. Excelsior!

Here's the recipe for this trailer: Man and the Moon, Flash Gordon (Deadline at Noon), The Phantom Planet, Rocketship X-M, Star Trek (The Cage), Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, The Flying Saucer, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, The 27th Day, Superboy, The Wasp Woman, Outer Limits (Demon with the Glass Hand, The Monsters are Due on Maple Street, The Invisibles, Chameleon, Zzzzzz), Anastasia, Underworld USA, The Amazing Colossal Man, War of the Worlds, The Avengers, Captain America, It Came From Outer Space, Invasion USA, King of the Rocketmen, Zombies of the Stratosphere, Radar Men from the Moon, Die Nibelungen (Siegfried, Kriemhild's Revenge), The Man with Nine Lives, The Thing from Another World, Dr. Cyclops, The Marvel Superheroes (Hulk), Der grüne Bogenschütze, William Tell, Batman (Shoot a Crooked Arrow), The Eagle, The War of the Colossal Beast, The Gnome Mobile, Thunderball, The Dirty Dozen, Captain Scarlet, Fantastic Four (The Phantom of Film City), Our Man Higgins, Attack of the Puppet People, Land of the Giants (The Clones), Yilmayan Seytan, Tales of Frankenstein, Love Finds Andy Hardy, Das Rheingold, Fireball XL5, Stingray, Airport, Demetrius and the Gladiators


Scott Mendelson

Fail...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Review: Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World (2010)

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
2010
113 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

In many ways, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is the equivalent of the Twilight Saga for boys. It is deeply rooted in pubescent romantic fantasy, albeit this time from the male's point of view. It is foolish and shallow about the ways of relationships, pandering to the basest instincts of the target audience. Like the Twilight Saga, one could argue that the lessons imparted from this film could be almost dangerous if applied to the real world, although I will again remark that it's only an escapist fantasy. And like that blockbuster series, I genuinely enjoyed nearly everything about it except for the core love triangle. The film is visually dazzling, often stunningly imaginative and playful. It is bright and colorful and filled to the brim with delightful and intelligent supporting characters. I just couldn't stand to spend any real time with Bella, Edward, and Jacob... I mean Scott Pilgrim, Romona Flowers, and Knives Chou.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Other Guys dethrones Inception, while Step Up 3D underwhelms and indie films flop. Weekend box office (08/08/10).

Just as it was in 2008, Chris Nolan's blockbuster ended its reign at number one at the hands of a big-budget all-star action comedy. Just as The Dark Knight fell to the Ben Stiller/Robert Downey Jr./Jack Black comedy Tropic Thunder, so too did Inception fall out of first place to the Will Ferrell/Mark Wahlberg buddy-cop spoof The Other Guys (albeit a week earlier than The Dark Knight). Opening at $35.5 million, the fourth Will Ferrell vehicle to be helmed by Adam McKay was right in line with the prior debuts. For those keeping track at home, the prior comedies were Anchorman ($28 million opening weekend in summer 2004), Talladega Nights ($47 million opening in late July 2006), and Step Brothers ($30 million opening in July 2008). The Other Guys represents Will Ferrell's second-largest debut ever, behind the above-noted NASCAR comedy.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Expendables: It's the ultimate team-up of all your favorite action stars, except it's missing nearly all of your favorite action stars.

This was originally published as a comment in David Poland's Hot Blog, but it's something that I've been meaning to hash out for awhile, so pardon the recycling.

This is not a review of The Expendables, as I have not seen the picture yet. But the biggest problem with The Expendables as a concept (trailers here, here, and here) is that it promises to be 'all your favorite action stars in one place!' yet lacks some of the prime contenders. If you grew up as an action nerd in the 80s and 90s, you're worshiping one or more amongst Sly Stallone (present), Bruce Willis (cameo), Arnold Schwarzenegger (cameo), Harrison Ford (absent), Mel Gibson (absent) Chuck Norris (absent) Jean Claude Van Damme (absent), and Steven Seagal (absent). Truth be told, if you were a child of the 80s and early 90s, when it came to pure action, it was all about Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Willis. Since most of the 'A-team' didn't show up, who exactly did Stallone corral?

Yogi Bear: the movie gets an unintentionally(?) smutty poster.

There are few things more amusing than accidental vulgarity, especially where it concerns products aimed at kids. It's the best of both worlds, as the kids won't get the joke, so there is no real harm to their allegedly fragile psyches, but adults (and overgrown children) can have a decent chuckle. I'm not sure how no one at the normally crack Warner Bros marketing department didn't notice how disconcerting this poster looked, especially when combined with the 'Great things come in bears' tagline. While we may not get that R-rated horror film version of Yogi Bear that I desperately crave, we're apparently getting a poster advertising the R-rated sex comedy version, a poster than only a member of LAMBLA could love. For more goodies of this nature, check out this Cracked article from April of this year concerning '15 Unintentionally Perverted Toys For Children'.

Scott Mendelson

Burlesque (Cher, Aguilera, and Bell do All About Eve) gets a trailer.

The biggest question of this trailer is how Kristen Bell got screwed out of billing. Bell apparently plays the older, more experienced dancer who gets the spotlight stolen by the younger Christina Aguilera (IE - she's the Gina Gershon/Bette Davis to Aguilera's Elizabeth Berkley/Anne Baxter). Considering she just opened a terrible-looking rom-com (When In Rome) to $12 million all-by-herself, she probably should have been billed. Also missing from the roll-call is respected and Academy Award-nominated Stanley Tucci, who will inevitably bring class to this potential camp-fest. As for the movie, well it looks like another variation on the All About Eve/Showgirls template, although it will likely be less cynical and more in the 'follow your dreams' vein of Fame or Center Stage (Peter Gallagher shows up here too). It could be a camp classic, or it could be a complete disaster (the dialogue is pretty atrocious). The interesting cast also includes Alan Cumming, in his first notable big-screen appearance since Son of the Mask in 2003 (he's been very busy on television, including a major supporting role on The Good Wife). Good or bad, this one looks like it may be a must-see.

Scott Mendelson

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Old news packaged as new news: Tom Cruise to get less upfront cash for Mission: Impossible IV. He may have to settle for $40m instead of $90m.

Vulture is reporting today that Tom Cruise is receiving slightly less upfront money for his acting work in Mission: Impossible IV than he did in Mission: Impossible III. Does this mean that Paramount and Hollywood at large is so disenchanted with Cruise that he can no longer command mega-dollars for a seemingly safe project like Mission: Impossible IV? Of course not. As usual, Tom Cruise will get paid for his duties as a producer, and he will take a large chunk of back-end points. Cruise has played this way for nearly two decades, and this is simply a case of old news being reported as new news. Let's face it, the era of the $20-25 million upfront fee per picture is pretty much over. This has been a slow but steady process, as big stars have bargained away their fat paychecks in exchange for larger shares of the profits or grosses.

The things you find: Hunter Davis does Ian McKellen doing Duck Tales.


I stumbled upon this while scanning the comments section on that Video Gum article concerning whether or not Chris Nolan ripped off the 2004 Duck Tales comic book issue "Uncle Scrooge’s The Dream Of A Lifetime" for Inception. For the record, I would love for Nolan to admit to such thievery, mainly because it would mean that Christopher Nolan was in fact an avid reader of the Duck Tales comic book. Anyway, this is Hunter Davis doing a hilariously dead-on impression of Sir Ian McKellen. He has about half a dozen of these, the best of which is 'Ian McKellen as Popeye the Sailor Man'. I don't generally post random You Tube videos, but this was damn funny and worth a notice. Enjoy.

Scott Mendelson

Inception bests domestic and worldwide box office take of Batman Begins. Inception is now Chris Nolan's number two earner in just twenty days.

As of yesterday, Inception has earned $205.5 million in domestic grosses and $377 million in worldwide box office. That puts the film just above the domestic ($205.3 million) and worldwide ($371 million) gross of Batman Begins. It has absolutely no chance in hell of catching up to The Dark Knight ($533 million domestic and $1 billion worldwide), but it's somewhat newsworthy none-the-less. Truth be told, I mainly wrote this so I could post this terrific Calvin and Hobbes cartoon. You have no idea how much I miss Bill Watterson's classic comic strip. While I certainly admired Watterson's refusal to license his characters, I wonder how he feels about an entire generation or two of kids who know Calvin only as that spiky-haired kid who pees on stuff. Considering that he's become the comic-strip equivalent of JD Salinger, I doubt he cares all too much. Anyway, carry on.

Scott Mendelson

One of the best trailer mash-ups in years: Upception

I posted a few bits of Inception humor last week, but this one is a wonderful trailer mash that bests them all. It's not as laugh-out-loud hysterical as the Dora the Explorer clip, but it's a shockingly potent trailer mash. If I may, the one amazing thing about these trailers is that, no matter what footage they're using, the emotionally-sweeping music that kicks in at 1:12 actually makes the 'fake' footage every bit as compelling as the respective Inception trailer portions. Come what may, that music just kills every time.

Scott Mendelson

Review: The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2010)

The Disappearance of Alice Creed
2010
100 minutes
rated R

There is nothing particularly wrong about J Blakeson's The Disappearance of Alice Creed, but there is next to nothing interesting or special about it. It's basically a glorified stage play, a tense crime drama about a kidnap victim and her two captors. Set in a single location and mostly played out in two rooms, the film purports to be a psychological thriller that attempts to subvert the cliches of a standard kidnap-thriller. Yet upon closer examination, the film contains no real surprises and ends up hewing much closer to formula than you might have initially presumed.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The biggest winner in the Marvel Movie universe? Character actor Clark Gregg.

Ironically, when the Marvel movie tapestry is said and done, the actor who's going to get the biggest boost from this whole Marvel quilt is character actor Clark Gregg, who has turned a glorified cameo as Shield agent Phil Coulson in Iron Man into a character who is quickly becoming the connective tissue of this whole enterprise. Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L. Jackson, Don Cheadle, and Scarlett Johansson have already achieved a certain amount of geek cred and stardom. Jeremy Renner has an Oscar nomination and Chris Hemsworth still has to prove himself. But Clark Gregg is an everyday character actor, a guy best known for a supporting role on The New Adventures of Old Christine and a reacquiring gig on The West Wing. Now, he is going to become a geek god purely by showing up and not embarrassing himself. Not a bad gig if you can get it. Oddly enough, he and I share the same birthday (April 2nd). He'll be turning 50 exactly one month and two days before The Avengers arrives in theaters.

Scott Mendelson

The Avengers Comic Con trailer goes online.


Obviously there isn't much here as the film has barely been cast, let alone started shooting. But if Samuel L. Jackson narrating the origin of the Avengers gives you a nerd-boner, then by all means dive on in.

Scott Mendelson

Nikki Finke breaks news for the first time in awhile, but doesn't even notice: Dustin Hoffman returning for Little Fockers?

Finke wrote a piece on Monday detailing apparent pick-ups that were taking place on Universal's Little Fockers. Nothing too out of the ordinary, but of course Finke tried to spin it as signs that the film is a disaster waiting to happen. Because that's pretty much all she's capable of. Ironically, this was one of the first bits of hard news to come from Finke herself in awhile, as the actual news portion of her site has been given over to the likes of Mike Fleming and Nellie Andreeva (which has made the site a much more enjoyable read). Most of Finke's blog entries over the last few months are box office numbers, press releases, and occasionally putting up a trailer or a viral video we've all already seen on YouTube. What's doubly ironic is that Finke's post mentioned a list of cast members coming back which included Dustin Hoffman. The odd thing is, everyone knows that Dustin Hoffman was not reprising his role as Ben Stiller's father in Little Fockers. Nikki Finke dropped a major piece of news into our laps and didn't even realize it.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Zac Efron, Robert Pattinson, and Miley Cryus ARE genuine movie stars. Because true stardom is opening a movie with just your face on the poster.

Brent Lang of The Wrap just doesn't get it. Plain and simple. In his provocatively-titled piece 'Zac Efron and the Incredible Shrinking Teen Idol Stars', Land submits that the newest generation of young stars (Zac Efron, Robert Pattinson, Miley Cyrus, etc) have disappointed at the box office even as the numbers he uses fail to bear that out. Once again, a pundit has fallen into the classic trap: Because a movie star's latest movie has failed to match up with his or her all-time best performances, said actor's star must be fading. But it fails to take into account two obvious factors: not every film an actor makes is identical in appeal and marketability, and a star cannot be expected to top their previous best every time out of the gate.

Oregon Trail: the movie gets a great fake trailer.


Well, that takes me back a good twenty years or so. Frankly, I'm kind of amazed that studios haven't already mined this property, since it's an older video game (nostalgia!) that nonetheless has a built-in narrative. But then again, you know how execs feel about westerns. On the other hand, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? is an absolute goldmine of a property.

Scott Mendelson

Inception to cross $200 million today, on its nineteenth day.

As of Monday, the film had grossed $197 million, so Chris Nolan's Inception will cross $200 million today, on its nineteenth day of release (same amount of time as I Am Legend and The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring). By Wednesday or Thursday, it will surpass the $205 million domestic gross and the $372 million worldwide gross of Batman Begins to become Chris Nolan's second-highest grossing earner of all time. Just passing along the information... Oh, and click to read the entire comic that the above image comes from (thanks to Video Gum).

Scott Mendelson

Monday, August 2, 2010

RIP: Tom Mankiewicz (1942-2010) Want to read a 27-year old Batman screenplay from the man who helped save Superman: The Movie?

The great Tom Mankiewicz has died at the age of 68. He is not a household name to the geek community, but he should be. Aside from writing three James Bond pictures (Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die, and The Man With the Golden Gun), he is the man who more or less created the modern comic book film. He, along with Richard Donner, salvaged the first Superman picture back in 1978. As Donner and Mankiewicz discuss at length on the DVD commentary for the 'director's cut', the original Superman screenplay by Mario Puzo (author of The Godfather) was campy, jokey, and not terribly respectful of the legendary character known as the Man of Steel. It was Donner and 'creative consultant' Mankiewicz who revamped the project, bringing pathos, drama, reverence, and a tone of solemn importance to the first modern comic book epic. Without the work of Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz, there likely would have been no Batman, X-Men, Spider-Man, Iron Man, or The Dark Knight, to say nothing of the various comic book-influenced projects that followed (The Incredibles, Unbreakable, The Matrix, etc).

Sony releases a two-second teaser for Battle: Los Angeles.


This is older news (last week), but it didn't catch my eye until this morning. Two seconds. Two whole seconds, with an extra two seconds for the fade-in and fade-out. We've seen a number of 'teaser for the trailer' releases in the last few years (Summit likes doing that for the Twilight Saga sequels), but this is a first. Two whole seconds. And the shocking thing? Those two seconds look pretty darn impressive.

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Inception three-peats as Dinner For Schmucks opens well, but Cats and Dogs 2 tanks. Weekend box office (08/01/10).

Inception was number one for the third straight weekend, as it fended off three challengers and neared the $200 million mark. Dropping just 35%, the Chris Nolan thriller grossed another $27.4 million for a new total of $193.3 million. It will likely cross the $200 million mark on Tuesday, its nineteenth day of release. By Wednesday, it will surpass the $205 million gross of Batman Begins to become Nolan's second-highest grossing domestic grosser, behind the $533 million earned by The Dark Knight. At this point, Inception is having a slightly leggier run than Star Trek, with smaller drops to compensate for a lower opening weekend (it too ended weekend three with $191 million). So it would appear that the audience-pleasing mind-bender should finished between $260-300 million, depending on how well it handles the direct demo competition in the next few weekends. Ironically, it will lose at least some of its IMAX screens a little earlier than expected, as Avatar has a planned re-release on August 27th in IMAX and 3-D theaters. There's not really much more to say aside from repeating the fact that the film has already recouped its budget in domestic numbers and is slowly expanding overseas (it's worldwide total is now $363 million). So of course, in order to cash in on this audience-pleasing original, Sony is now set to remake Total Recall. Brilliant.

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