Monday, January 31, 2011

For those who care: Scream 4 gets a new poster.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Best news: He'll be almost 30! Henry Cavill is Clark Kent in Zack Snyder's Superman: Man of Steel!

By Hollywood standards, the newest last son of Krypton is actually kinda old. By the time Zack Snyder's Superman: Man of Steel (or whatever its called) comes out in December 2012, Mr. Henry Cavill will be 29 years old. If, as I predict, the film gets pushed back to July 19th, 2013, then the newest Clark Kent will be a whopping 30 years old when the film is released. I jest a little of course (obviously 39-year old Jon Hamm never had a chance), but Christopher Reeve and Brandon Routh were both 26 years old when Superman: the Movie and Superman Returns went wide in America in December 1978 and June 2006 respectively. Dean Cain was 27 years old when Lois and Clark: the New Adventures of Superman debuted on ABC back in September 1993. Other than that, I have little to add on this one. Cavill is a fine actor who has impressed on The Tudors, Stardust, and elsewhere. He auditioned to play Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins back in the day, was among the front-runners for what eventually became Superman Returns when McG was set to helm the picture, and was actually author Stephanie Meyers's first choice to play Edward Cullen in Twilight, but he was 25 years old by the time casting began. Hopefully this will be a case of the right person being cast in the role the second time around, ala Pierce Brosnan's belated run as James Bond (no offense to Timothy Dalton and Brandon Routh, as they both did their respective franchises proud). And that's all I really have to offer on this one at the moment. I'm certainly glad they didn't go with a teenager, or someone who looked barely out of high school.

Scott Mendelson

Weekend Box Office (01/30/11): The Rite tops, The Mechanic opens well, and Oscar nominees continue to soar.

While there were two major openers over the weekend and both of them opened within expectations, the real news was the performance of the various Oscar nominees that were in a position to capitalize on last week's nominations. Generally speaking, the news was good all around. Topping the weekend was The Rite, as the heavily-advertised religious thriller opened with $15 million. As far as religious horror pictures go, it pales to the $30 million scored by The Exorcism of Emily Rose in 2005, the $19 million earned by The Exorcist: The Beginning in 2004, the $20 million earned in the opening jaunt of The Last Exorcism several months ago (a surprisingly terrific little movie, by the way), and even the $19 million opening weekend of Stigmata from way back in September 1999. Still, The Rite had less overtly horror-ific moments to highlight in the ad campaign, as it mainly had a few fleeting shots of supernatural terror plus Anthony Hopkins to sell. The $35 million Warner Bros/New Line Cinema release will do just fine in the long run, and the film (for what it's worth) is Anthony Hopkins's biggest opening weekend for a top-billed star vehicle where he doesn't play Hannibal Lecter.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bad Marketing 101: movie posters that tell me what to do.

You're a movie poster. Your job is to advertise a film and make that film look enticing to me, the ticket buyer. You are not a parent, teacher, advisor, or self-help guru. Therefore, it is not your job to tell me how to live my life. It is not your job to offer theoretically empowering suggestions about how I choose to lead my existence. A moment of scorn for obnoxious movie posters of the last decade or so that saw themselves fit to tell me (and you) what to do. You're a movie poster. You are not the boss of me and I don't need your advice. Your only advice/order should be 'buy a ticket for this movie' and/or 'buy some popcorn and a soda'. Period. Enjoy some examples after the jump.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Alana De Garza to join Law & Order: Los Angeles in part of casting overhaul. Other casting suggestions: ditch Molina, Howard, Stoll, and Coyote.

To the surprise of few who were paying attention, a regular of Law & Order has indeed been added to Law & Order: Los Angeles, in the form of Alana De Garza. She joined the original show as A.D.A. Connie Rubirosa in its sixteenth-year. She stuck around for four seasons, including the final three seasons that made up the creative comeback of what fans refer to as 'the mothership'. She felt completely out of place sparring with by-then grandfatherly Sam Watterson in her first season, but was a perfect fit with Linus Roache once Watterston's Jack McCoy got promoted to DA during season 17.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The 24 Hour News Cycle of Movie-News part II: Obsessing on the Unknown.

In a continuing feature of sorts on how the 24-hour news cycle hurts the world of film news (part I), we'll be briefly (I hope) discussing the weird phenomenon whereby countless column inches are spent dissecting and analyzing that which is either not-yet known or painfully obvious. Would you have guessed that Warner Bros. wanted a young male heartthrob to play Clark Kent in Zack Snyder's Superman picture? Most of us would have, yet Nikki Finke reported this obvious fact as some kind of shocking new development. I don't mean to pick on Finke (her main sins come in the realm of box office analysis... come back next week), and the real problem is that every other blogger to just repeats the rumor/speculation/lie, complete with their own personal casting list or counter-point commentary ("Why Taylor Lautner shouldn't play Spider-Man!").

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Review: The Rite (2011)

The Rite
114 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

Mikael Håfström's The Rite is a case where the true story that the film is seemingly based on seems far more interesting than the movie that got made.  The opening act of the picture seems to be setting up a story set in a relatively new Vatican program to teach modern-day priests how to perform exorcisms.  Sounds neat, right?  But the film quickly discards that idea to focus on a couple token case studies that, while interesting, too often feel like toned-down variations of any number of exorcism genre entries.  To its credit, the film is far more of a drama than an outright horror picture.  The third-act dovetail into the overtly 'scary' feels more like a test screening demand than an organic filmmaking choice.  But the film is creditably performed, looks polished throughout, and contains worthwhile insights about maintaining faith in an era of intellectual doubt.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Best Picture nominees: doing the box office math.

By Oscar night, at least five of the ten Best Picture nominees will have crossed $100 million, with The Fighter possibly being the sixth. Ironically, much of The Social Network's momentum was based on how much it had made ($95 million) and how that gross for a purely character-driven drama was a testiment to how well it connected to the public. What will the argument be when it enters Oscar night as the fourth or fifth lowest-grossing nominee in the pack? The ten-nominee thing is new enough to affect the math, and The Hurt Locker was a fluke, as the lowest-grossing Best Picture winner in modern history (had Avatar not been set up by the media as the Goliath of the nominees, The Hurt Locker could not have so easily slid in as the proverbial David). Generally speaking, one of the two highest-grossing nominees amongst the traditional five nominees ends up winning.

Random commentary/analysis on the Oscar nominations.

Is Chris Nolan the new Steven Spielberg? Inception received eight nominations, including Best Picture, but Nolan failed to receive a directing nod this morning. That is arguably the biggest surprise in the otherwise predictable batch of Oscar nominations today. Even as someone who doesn't think it was the greatest genre entry of all-time, it IS a director's picture through-and-through. Of course, since we now have ten Best Picture nominees and only five Best Director slots, there are arguably five other directors who might be a little annoyed this morning. I'm personally saddened (as much as one can be 'saddened' by stuff like this) by the omission of Debra Granik for her direction of Best Picture nominee Winter's Bone. I know we all like the Coen Brothers, but True Grit is a pretty normal western. If True Grit is Oscar-worthy, then so was 3:10 to Yuma and Open Range. There will be much handwringing over Lisa Cholodenko not getting a Best Director nomination for The Kids Are All Right. But since I kinda hate the film, I'm not too personally annoyed by the omission. At least Mark Ruffalo pulled out a Best Supporting Actor nod out of the deal, since he was the best thing about the film (of course, Ruffalo is usually the best thing about every film he's in).

Monday, January 24, 2011

How Kevin Smith's Red State could have been the new face of Video On Demand.

There are people with stronger feelings one way or another about Kevin Smith than I. I loved Clerks II and Dogma, hated Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, liked Clerks and Chasing Amy, and I have yet to see Mallrats, Zack and Miri Make A Porno, Jersey Girl or Cop Out. So I'm not going to get terribly worked up over the hurt feelings allegedly inspired by Smith's decision to distribute Red State in the classic Road Show style (sometimes called 'four-walling'), taking the film around the country as if it were a traveling circus attraction. It would seem that Smith is, if anything, guilty of announcing a perfectly-okay personal choice in a manner that put him in a most negative light. Similar to James's press-conference last summer, Smith basically failed at that whole 'tact' thing. James had every right to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers after seven years, but the self-aggrandizing press-conference probably wasn't the best way to go about it. Same thing here: if Smith wanted to turn his film into some kind of sideshow exhibit, then more power to him. But perhaps the Sundance Film Festival wasn't the best place to criticize the various means of distribution for smaller films (while showing a token amount of ignorance about how smaller films are marketed), especially after (allegedly) implying that the film was going to be put up for sale following the first screening last night. More importantly, even if much of the fanboy criticism of Smith was truly overblown, Kevin Smith doesn't realize that he missed out on the chance to truly be a pioneer.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Weekend Box Office (01/23/11): Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher top chart with No Strings Attached, Way Back and Company Men under-perform.

As the lone new wide-release of the weekend, the Ivan Reitman romantic-comedy, No Strings Attached, debuted with $20.3 million. The $25 million picture was a solid win for both Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher. Portman probably deserves credit, as this was the first mainstream project to capitalize on her Black Swan press, as well as her new unfortunate role as a tabloid darling (re: surprise engagement + pregnancy = no escape). But the $20 million opening falls right in Ashton Kutcher’s median average when dealing with commercial fare such as this (What Happens in Vegas, Guess Who, etc). Out of fifteen wide-release openers, seven of them opened between $17 and $23 million. Killers, with $15 million, was just as much an anomaly on his box office filmography as Valentine’s Day (where, ensemble cast aside, he and Jennifer Garner were the leads) opening with $56 million. Journalists may unfairly tag him as a flop machine, and audiences may say they hate him, but as he’s not making a $70 million spy comedy, Kutcher is a reliable draw for reasonably-budgeted pictures such as this one

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Catherine Hardwicke's Red Riding Hood (with Amanda Seyfried) gets a terrible second trailer, with a stunningly stupid musical choice.

On one level, this second look at Hardwicke's Red Riding Hood is a pretty generic trailer, a plot-centric piece that basically gives away the majority of the film in chronological order. It also achieves the impossible, as it makes Gary Oldman boring, as his endless narration explicitly spells out the plot of the film in bland generalities. Two trailers in, and the film doesn't feel the least bit original or inspired behind the all-star cast and a hope for some of the self-depreciating humor that made Twilight so much more fun than its morose sequels. Sleepy Hollow had the visual brilliance of a re-energized Tim Burton, the kooky lead performance of Johnny Depp (back when that was still a bit fresh), and a cavalcade of British all-stars. The Wolfman at least had the promise of grown-up horror fare for adults with adult actors at the helm. Both prior films also had the allure of R-rated violence and gore. The film comes out in just under two months, so we'll see as always.

Friday Box Office (01-22-11): No Strings Attached opens with $7.3 million, but Nikki Finke falsely calls Ashton Kutcher a flop-machine anyway.

"...any movie starring Ashton Kutcher is probably a bomb..." - Nikki Finke discussing Paramount's unwillingness to personally send her a press briefing on No Strings Attached

An absolute falsehood. She bases her assertion on a single film, Killers, which opened with $15 million and grossed $93 million worldwide (which would have been fine had the film not cost $70 million). Valentine's Day (an ensemble film where he had the lead role) opened to $56 million just last year. What Happened In Vegas opened to $20 million and ended up with $219 million worldwide (his biggest grosser ever) just under three years ago. Sure, he occasionally out-and-out whiffs (A Thing Like Love, My Boss's Daughter), but Kutcher is a relatively consistent opener.

Friday, January 21, 2011

NBC picks up David E. Kelly's Wonder Woman pilot.

According to Nellie Andreeva over at Deadline Hollywood, NBC has indeed picked up David E. Kelly's Wonder Woman reboot for next season. The project was announced late last year, and then was initially passed on by the major networks for reasons ranging from cost to brand loyalty (IE - ABC is owned by Disney who now owns Marvel Comics). NBC was apparently interested from the beginning (what else do they have going for them?), but was reluctant to commit due to the regime transition. New NBC entertainment president Bob Greenblatt decided to make the pick up after officially taking over his new position. This is good news for fans of David E. Kelly, fans of Wonder Woman, and parents of Allison Mendelson, who now stand a much better chance of finding Wonder Woman-related party favors for said child's fourth birthday at summer's end. Alison Elizabeth Mendelson's parents are still less-than-optimistic about procuring the oft-requested 'magic lasso' and/or 'invisible jet'. For my personal thoughts on the project, read my initial reactions from last October. And once again I ask you loyal readers, who do you think should play Wonder Woman this time around?

Scott Mendelson

What may keep me out of theaters in 2011 part II: Movies out of theaters in a flash.

Tonight is 'Babysitting Night'. One Friday a month, our daughter's preschool hosts a pizza/movie/pajama party after school hours from 6:00-10:00pm, meaning we overworked and overstressed parents get a guilt-free night off. So tonight, my wife and I were planning on catching an evening screening of Season of the Witch. Why Season of the Witch? Well, um... sometimes we enjoy schlock. And we had no interest in No Strings Attached, I've seen the other Oscar bait pictures, and there's no way in hell I'm convincing my wife to blow a date night on Blue Valentine or The Way Back. So Season of the Witch it was to be. Except it's not. Because Season of the Witch is only playing at our local cineplex at 9:50pm tonight. At the AMC Promenade 16, Season of the Witch, currently entering its fifteenth day of release, is now only playing at one late-night show.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The 24 Hour News Cycle of Movie-News part I: Reporting the Rumor as Fact.

For the second time in just under a week, film studios basically revealed that they had duped the entire Internet for a period of several months. The first blow came last Friday, when Fox announced that Ridley Scott's Alien prequel was being dumped and reconfigured into an original project entitled Prometheus. It was revealed that Scott and writer Damon Lindelof had been constructing this original story for at least the last couple months. That means that movie news sites spend the last two months breathlessly speculating about the project that did not exist. But the biggest con was still to come... Did you hear that rumor about Tom Hardy playing Dr. Hugo Strange in the next Batman picture?

X-Men: First Class releases a teaser poster (plus several images). Look familiar?

Obviously Fox is again going the minimalist route, while also selling the idea that this new X-Men prequel will be less about science-fiction and more about the ideologies behind the respective characters who would shape the world we have come to know. There have been several stills released in the last few days, including that cast photo that was apparently leaked early, photo-shopped, etc (it's real, but no one wanted it out there yet for whatever reason). Anyway, the rest of the photos thus far, including two new ones released just today, are after the jump. Since we now know that Captain America has a trailer debuting during the Super Bowl, X-Men: First Class is the last major summer tentpole to not yet release a teaser. Expect one any day now, but who knows what it will be attached to (if they can wait, I'm betting the February 18th releases of Big Mama's House: Like Father, Like Son and I Am Number Four.

Scott Mendelson

Yup, Captain America trailer to premiere at Super Bowl. Selling Captain America to the political Right and the political Left.

Not to brag and/or scream "Toldja!", but at least Paramount is making the right call. Let's be honest, the best hope of making Captain America: The First Avenger into a crossover hit is to appeal to the... um.... overly nationalist audience members. It worked pretty well for GI Joe: the Rise of Cobra, where Paramount subtly sold an international and relatively apolitical action fantasy as some kind of 'action movie for us regular Americans'. It's a balancing act, as the film needs to make major international coin in order to turn any kind of profit, and the Marvel movie universe cannot survive on Robert Downey Jr. alone. On the plus side, the film is a 1940s World War II period piece. So it won't be hard trumpeting up an overly sentimental view of American might and righteousness during a period where, give or take an atom bomb or two, we actually were in the absolute moral right. Paramount will have to juggle marketing this 1940s American fable to both those on the Right (many of whom seem to forget or don't realize that the Nazis were defeated by a bunch of quasi-socialist liberals) and the Left (many of whom have been so turned off by the decades of Might = Right politics that even the suggestion of America's absolute moral authority in the realm of armed combat brings to mind Fox News banners). Of all the marketing campaigns being waged this summer, this will be the most interesting one to watch, if only for the theoretical political implications. And of course, all of this chat once again makes one wonder: why is Paramount not opening this thing over July 4th weekend?!?!

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Actual Batman 3 news! Warner Bros confirms: Anne Hathaway to play Selina Kyle, Tom Hardy to play Bane.

Well, chalk it up to one part 'duh', another part 'huh?'. After months of obnoxious speculation, Warner has onfirmed that Anne Hathaway will indeed be playing Selina Kyle in The Dark Knight Rises. It's a pretty no-brainer casting decision, as she is one of the bigger and more respected stars of her generation, and she amongst the various alleged front-runners had the least amount of tentpole, genre film experience. Nolan had stated months ago that it was indeed his intent to have a female antagonist, and really there are only three major baddies to choose from: Catwoman, Talia Al Ghul, and Poison Ivy. Of those, Catwoman is by far the most recognizable and/or popular. Of course, the press release makes no mention of 'Catwoman', so it's completely possible that Hathaway will merely be playing Ms. Kyle with no appearance by her costumed alter-ego.

Wow! A new Green Lantern still that isn't just a screen-capture from the trailer!!

Nothing much here from Cineheroes, just a clear look at Peter Sarsgaard as Hector Hammond before he turns all big-headed and uber-villanious. Still, it's nice that this a real image and not just someone pulling a still from the trailer and passing it off as an 'exclusive first look!'. Are we really that lazy and/or desperate for hits? I guess so. Anyway, enjoy.

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

True What? - Or why True Grit didn't make my best-of-2010 list.

When the entire second act of your movie is basically Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon sitting around a campfire sharing law-enforcement war stories, it helps when one of those characters is not completely incomprehensible. I sat in the very front row, wearing my (recreational) hearing aids, and I still couldn't tell what Cogburn was saying half the darn time.

Scott Mendelson

Monday, January 17, 2011

Summit commissions a script for a Red sequel. Who should be added to the cast?

Collider is reporting that Summit Entertainment has hired Jon and Erich Hoeber to pen a sequel to their hit comic book adaptation Red. As you recall, the film opened to around $22 million in mid-October and stuck around seemingly forever, ending up with $90 million in domestic grosses and $164 million worldwide. In an age where every film seems targeted younger and younger, Red was a diamond in the rough, a spy-comedy that was all about the older generation. It was, at its core, an action comedy/romantic caper starring Bruce Willis and Mary Louise-Parker, but it had scene-stealing supporting turns for Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Brian Cox, Morgan Freeman, Richard Dreyfuss, and Earnest Borgnine. It's easily the studio's biggest hit outside of the Twilight Saga and ripe for sequel potential as most of the main cast members are still alive by the time the credits roll. Alas, news of this sequel makes it all the more unfortunate that a certain major actor was killed off around the halfway mark, as he was shockingly underused considering his genuine popularity and star power (no spoilers, but Space Cowboys). Still, one of the key pleasures of Red was the sheer delight of seeing one beloved character actor after another pop up. On that note, the best thing a sequel can accomplish (aside from giving Mary Louise-Parker more to do this time around) is bring another set of beloved vets a chance to play in the action-comedy sandbox. A few random picks:

You know you were a Melissa Leo fan long before it was cool if... can name the episodes these scenes are from. I thought it was a miracle back in 2008 when Melissa Leo became an Oscar nominee. Now, two years later, she's on the cusp of being an Oscar winner. As someone who believed that Homicide: Life of the Street died when she was forced off the show at the end of season five ('not pretty enough' and 'reports of your ex-husband John Heard stalking you is making bad press for us'), this is a genuine piece of vindication.

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Weekend Box Office (01/16/11): Green Hornet, The Dilemma face off over MLK holiday.

As I wrote yesterday, expectations are a funny thing. For months, if not a year, The Green Hornet (review) was pegged as a costly sure-fire flop. Plagued by alleged reshoots, a date change from December 2010 to January 2011, and a seemingly desperate quick-conversion to 3D. But the film started screening for the geek crowd to mostly positive responses, and the buzz started building. The tracking estimated around $40 million for the four-day opening weekend. Yet when the film opened on Friday to $11.1 million, the pundits shouted 'disappointment!', 'failure!', and/or 'under-performer!' for daring to actually meet but not exceed expectations. So yes, the Michael Gondry superhero action-comedy The Green Hornet debuted at number one over the long Martin Luther King day holiday, with $34 million over three days and a projected $40 million for the four-day weekend. In my book, meeting positive expectations puts you in the 'win' column.

Neville Longbottom bloodied and battered in first Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II image.

One of the most exciting moments of any of the Harry Potter books was in the final pages of the otherwise lackluster Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. There was about a paragraph where it was teased that Neville Longbottom, NOT Harry Potter was the 'chosen one' who would eventually confront and destroy Lord Voldermort. The idea that Harry Potter would end up a supporting character in his own adventure, that the somewhat marginalized Longbottom was to be the true hero... that would have been an unexpected and daring narrative choice. But after tossing out the idea, Dumbledore quickly pooh-poohs the notion and once again asserts that Harry Potter is the would-be chosen one. It was the second time in just the last act of Order of the Pheonix, following the Voldermort vs. Dumbledore battle where I was hoping that Albus would finish off Tom Riddle right then and there, that JK Rowling had the chance to surprise us and take the stories in an unexpected direction I have no qualms about how the books turned out (books 6 and 7 were much better than 5), but it would have been a wonderful plot twist, leading into the 'third act' of the series, to completely turn the tables likes that. Alas, it was not to be. The above image originated at Cinemablend.

Scott Mendelson

Scream 4 officially gets a longer, slightly less mediocre trailer.

Shouldn't there be a regulation in Woodsboro against Sydney Prescott returning to town around or on the anniversary of the original 1996 massacre? Oh, and most people don't buzz in before before the entire question is read off on Family Feud, let alone when a psychotic killer is quizzing you over the phone. This is a slightly more stylish and entertaining trailer than the generic teaser that was released late last year. There is a token amount of witty dialogue, everyone looks awfully pretty, and the film seems to be advertising a healthy body count. But, in the end, this doesn't look any less like the desperate cash-in that it probably is. And BOO on the seemingly major spoiler at 1:15, although said performer was obviously far too busy with a lead role on the best comedy on TV and a supporting role on the best drama on TV to join the Scream franchise on a regular basis.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Green Hornet opens with $11.1m Friday: When meeting expectations is still a 'failure'.

So let me get this straight. A couple of months ago, The Green Hornet was that surefire flop that had switched release dates, been converted to 3D, and had survived an avalanche of bad press and rampantly negative speculation. A month ago, the tide started turning, due to some secret screenings for the hardcore nerd film bloggers and the realization that there wasn't anything of note coming out in the month of January. Two weeks ago, tracking started swinging upwards and the studio was optimistically discussing an opening weekend of around $35-40 million for the four day holiday weekend. So come Saturday morning, the picture has opened with $11.1 million on its first day, which puts it track to score around $30-35 million over three days and $35-40 million in four days. So, expectations met, mission accomplished, right? Ha!

Friday, January 14, 2011

I love Closed Captions...

Hmm... perhaps I'll keep Allison at home tomorrow then (not for her protection... for theirs). Thanks to Jordan at The Film Stage for snapping this.

Scott Mendelson

Oh, so THAT'S why Sony released the first Spider-Man image yesterday...

I don't think it's a coincidence that Sony released the first image from their Spider-Man reboot right before this New Yorker cover hit the stands. I wrote this elsewhere last night, but Sony must be a little pissed at all the horrible press that Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is getting. So no, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they released the official still this week, since they don’t want people exclusively talking about Spider-Man in the same breath as Springtime For Hitler.

Scott Mendelson

Thor is angry because...?

Thor just read the script?
Thor just watched the trailer?
Thor just watched a rough cut?
You pick...

Scott Mendelson

Roger Ebert: Act Three begins...

Shocker! Major movie news story reported only when confirmed as fact, not endlessly teased as rumor/speculation!

The most telling thing about the whole Alien prequel becomes Prometheus news is the fact that this new story was apparently being developed by Ridley Scott and Damon Lindelof for some time. Which means while the movie bloggers of the world were endlessly speculating about random details of the now non-existent Alien prequel, the actual filmmakers were doing something completely different. This is just another example of the complete absurdity of the film news community reporting every little bit of rumor and speculation as genuine news. Wasn't it just a little refreshing to hear this news first from the filmmakers and the studio, in an official press release? Wasn't it just a little refreshing to actually be surprised by a major piece of film news for once? Maybe, just maybe, we can take this to heart and stop randomly debating non-existent story details for The Dark Knight Rises and just wait for casting and character details to actually be announced. Maybe we can just allow ourselves to be surprised by the identity of the villains in The Avengers when they are revealed on the poster or in the first teaser. Because, admit it, it felt good to actually read a major piece of film news that you could actually trust, as opposed to being endlessly mislead or teased by one bit of speculative rumor mongering after another.

Scott Mendelson

Ridley Scott scraps Alien prequel, goes ahead with original Prometheus.

Fascinating stuff, this is. Just days ago, we heard reports that Fox and Ridley Scott were butting heads over whom to cast as the female lead in the upcoming Alien prequel(s). Ridley Scott wanted Noomi Pace (Elizabeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), while 20th Century Fox wanted that box office dynamo Charlize Theron. Well, nevermind to all of that, because Ridley Scott and writer Damon Lindelof are instead going with an original story instead, apparently based on a script by Jon Spaihts. Prometheus will be released on March 9th, 2012. Little is known about the project, except that it will have bits and pieces of what might have been the Alien prequel at an earlier point in time. Noomi Pace has been cast as the main character, with bigger-name actresses (Charlize Theron, Angelina Jolie, etc) circling around a major supporting role. Fascinating...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

But wait, there's more! Entertainment Weekly debuts full shot of Chris Evans as Captain America.

On one hand, I cannot argue per se with the more realistic look of this World War II-era costume. On the other hand, there is a certain thrill with seeing your favorite comic book characters on the big screen looking exactly like their four-color counterparts. So I can only hope that the epilogue for the Joe Johnston period adventure, which will likely serve as a cliffhanger for The Avengers, will have Steve Rogers debuting his more traditional costume once the film shifts to present day, ala the first run of Ultimate Avengers. Still, as the X-Men series and Batman Begins proved, costume fidelity is a moot point if the film works. The big question now is when we're going to see a trailer for this thing. Word of mouth on the footage has been mixed, and there is no word on a Super Bowl spot, which would be the most appropriate venue. As of this time, Captain America is, along with X-Men: First Class and Rise of the Apes, among the only major summer tent-poles that hasn't debuted a teaser of some kind. I still cannot believe that Paramount isn't opening this one over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, but I can only presume that Michael Bay called dibs for Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon and wouldn't budge.

Scott Mendelson

First look at Andrew Garfield as Spider-Man reveals that... Peter Parker is indeed Spider-Man!

The net has been buzzing with all kinds of speculative silliness regarding 'clues' that can be deduced from this first official image from Marc Webb's Spider-Man reboot. Here's what we know: Andrew Garfield plays Peter Parker. Peter Parker is secretly Spider-Man. Andrew Garfield's Spider-Man wears a costume that's pretty similar to the comics and/or Tobey Maguire's suit from the Ram Raimi trilogy, but with a darker red/blue color scheme. Peter Parker apparently carries his backpack around with him at one point in the film, or perhaps only in this photo. Other than that, stop the speculation, people. It's a terrifically moody photo, and the blood on his face is a nice touch.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Gore Verbinksi's The Lone Ranger gets a logo.

I like Gore Verbinski quite a bit. I certainly like Johnny Depp when he's in 'I give a damn' mode, and Jerry Bruckheimer now has something to prove after whiffing with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. So count me as intrigued for The Lone Ranger. Anyway, for those who care, here's the official logo. It looks appropriately cheery, implying that this reinvention will be closer in tone to Iron Man than Batman Begins. As always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Catherine Hardwicke's Red Riding Hood (with Amanda Seyfried) gets a visually dynamic, but needlessly wordy poster.

I rather liked the first moody, low-key poster for this Twilight by way of Sleepy Hallow variation on Little Red Riding Hood. So while this new poster is also visually appealing, and it gives a full cast roll call (always a plus in my book), I must acknowledge that it is a poster for the unthinking masses. It has a contrived image of Amanda Seyfried running for her life, with about a paragraph worth of needless text to go with it (even more than the double-tagline first poster). I much prefer the first tagline, which merely read 'Who's afraid?'. As it is, the film actually test-screened in Woodland Hills on Sunday, so if anyone wants to chime in, feel free. This one comes out March 11th, meaning that two of the more interesting movies of the spring, Red Riding Hood and Battle: Los Angeles, open on the same day. Nice move...

Scott Mendelson

Rooney Mara as Elizabeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

It's no secret that I think the original Millennium Trilogy is vastly overrated, and basically a bit of (literally, it appears) made-for-TV hokum that was elevated to masterpiece status by subtitles, extra kinkiness, and a desperate desire for heroines a bit outside the mainstream. And it's also no secret that I think David Fincher's The Social Network is the most overrated film of 2010. So it is with cautious optimism at best that I await Fincher's adaptation of the first film in the series, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Still, for those more interested than I, here's your first official look at Rooney Mara as the title character. It certainly is a striking transformation, but that's part of the fun of playing a part like this.

Scott Mendelson

I Am Jack's Calvin and Hobbes.

The idea that Fight Club is a skewed variation on Calvin and Hobbes is not a new idea, but someone finally did the obvious and put together a trailer. It's not great, but it's fun to see our old pals again.

Scott Mendelson

Battle: Los Angeles gets a terrific trailer.

For what it's worth, this is the first film of 2011 that my wife truly wants to see. And frankly, I can't blame her. This looks like a terrifying and intense bit of science-fiction. Compare it to Independence Day if you must, but this is one of the rare Earth-set blockbusters that seems to have the sheer scale of that 1996 popcorn classic. And yes, I love any genre trailer that uses seemingly inappropriate music to increase the creepiness, as this trailer does at the very end. In this case, like the first teaser, the music choice is "Sun's Gone Dim and the Sky's Black" by Jóhann Jóhannsson. I've said this a million times, but the right song or music choice can turn a trailer into a piece of stand-alone art (see: Inception, Where the Wild Things Are, the True Grit teaser, and the second Star Trek trailer). Anyway, this one comes out March 11, 2011.

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review: The Green Hornet: An IMAX 3D Experience (2011)

The Green Hornet
119 minutes
Rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

There is a refreshing quaintness to Michel Gondry's The Green Hornet. In an age where every comic book adaptation and/or superhero adventure story sets out to be the biggest, most explosive, most fx-filled, most fantastical epic ever made, this new adventure (an adaptation of a classic radio serial) keeps the proceedings down to earth. It is, at its core, a character comedy rooted in an unexpected friendship that just happens to have the occasional car chase and action set piece. It brings to mind the 1990s superhero films, in that theoretical dead zone between Batman and X-Men, when the few super hero pictures weren't afraid to have just a little charm and a touch of knowing panache.

Monday, January 10, 2011

When a film 'flops', always blame the actress. If a film doesn't flop, call it a flop and blame the actress. If a film is a hit, blame the actor.

The Huffington Post linked to the AP box office analysis piece yesterday with their own headline, titled simply 'Gwyneth flops'. It wasn't a surprise, as Huff Post (which I of course contribute to) and other entertainment websites and publications never miss a chance to trash any given actress for anything whatsoever. Never mind that Country Strong was a $15 million picture that opened with $7.3 million in the first three days, guaranteeing long-term profitability. Never mind that the opening weekend of Country Strong was nearly double the single-largest weekend ($4.2 million) for last year's Crazy Heart. It's no fun to merely report that Paltrow's small picture had a modest opening that was relatively successful in regards to its budget and Paltrow's long untested drawing power. It's so much easier (and more fun) to just proclaim the film a flop and take the bitch down a peg or two. Because it's always the girl's fault, even when there is no fault to be had.

Jim Carrey's best sketch in a relatively strong Saturday Night Live: Amusement Park Ride

Yes yes, Carrey was quite amusing in the Black Swan sketch, and I laughed out loud at Bill Hader's constant 'white swan = good/black swan = bad' pronouncements, but the best sketch of the evening, and one of the best of the season, was this quick and brilliant little piece of creepiness. We all know that Saturday Night Live gets most of its press from its political sketches and film parodies. But the best stuff is always the off-beat, completely out-of-left field sketches that simply spring from a good idea. Be it a police procedural written by a class of elementary school Spanish students, or a game show based on how little we know about the people we interact with on a daily basis, the truly sharp stuff simply springs from genuinely simple idea.

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Weekend Box Office (01/09/11): True Grit takes the lead, while Season of the Witch, Country Strong lead off 2011.

The crowd-pleasing, critically-acclaimed Coen brothers western remake/adaptation True Grit took the box office crown in its third weekend of release, setting itself up as a major Oscar contender. The Jeff Bridges/Hailee Steinfeld vehicle grossed $14.6 million in its third weekend, dropping a reasonable 40%. The post-holiday weekends usually see hefty drops, so this isn't anything to be concerned about. What is impressive is that, in its third weekend, True Grit has a Fri-Sun amount right on par with the opening weekends of recent (justifiably) acclaimed westerns such as 3:10 to Yuma and Open Range, both of which opened with $14 million within the last seven years. The (slightly overrated) film crossed the $100 million mark on Saturday, and ended day 19 with $110 million. That makes it the third-biggest grossing western in domestic history, behind the sci-fi tinged Wild Wild West ($113 million) and the revisionist epic Dances with Wolves ($184 million). It is also now the highest-grossing picture amongst the Oscar-bait contenders this year, although probably nominees Inception ($292 million) and Toy Story 3 ($415 million) are obviously out of reach. Alas, unless you only count pure traditional westerns, most of these genre-related box office records will likely fall when Jon Favreau's Cowboys and Aliens (trailer) is released this summer.

Friday, January 7, 2011

It's about time... The Incredibles arrives on Blu Ray on April 12th.

I'm not going to get into which Pixar film is 'the best', but I've watched The Incredibles more than any other thus far. And, quite frankly, when you're dealing with superhero films that aren't based on a comic book (and really, most that are), you've got Unbreakable, The Mask of Zorro, and The Incredibles, and then you've got everything else...

Scott Mendelson

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Horrors! Star Wars series is indeed coming to Blu Ray in September of 2011. Will someone please think of the children?!

Yes, yes, I know... Lucas raped your childhood, the original versions of the first trilogy aren't included, Jar Jar sucks, Ewoks are lame, Jake Lloyd can't act, Natalie Portman is kinda stiff, Greedo shoots first, midichlorians are dumb, blah blah blah. Don't want it? Don't buy it. I'll be at home, showing my (then) four-year old the Star Wars series for the first time. I'm still debating on what order to screen them. I'd love to watch them ala Stephen King's It: The Phantom Menace, A New Hope, Attack of the Clones, The Empire Strikes Back, Revenge of the Sith, Return of the Jedi. But I'm not sure that a four year old would get the emotional coherency (it allows for chronological order while preserving the big plot twist for as long as possible). I'll probably just play it safe and do it the old-fashioned way (VI, V, and VI, then I, II, and III). The most promising idea behind the Blu Ray set can be seen in the trailer above. Even as a prequel defender, I've always wished that Lucas made more of an effort to make the new films look more similar to the original trilogy. That seems to be the goal this time around, with the older films looking as shiny and new as the prequel trilogy. Anyway, read the official press release after the jump.

Scott Mendelson

Ice Age 4: Continental Drift gets a teaser.

Believe it or not, but Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is the fourth-biggest overseas money-maker of all-time, behind only Avatar, Titanic, and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. And it's the third-biggest animated film in worldwide history, behind only Shrek 2 and Toy Story 3. With $640 million in overseas grosses, plus the usual $196 million in domestic dollars, it's only natural that Fox would prolong extinction just a little while longer. This was apparently shown before Gulliver's Travels, under the guise of a stand-alone Scrat short film entitled "Scrat's Continental Crack-Up". This is a frankly dazzling little teaser, and one that theoretically sets up the plot for the actual feature. By the time this fourth Ice Age film is released in July 2012, Scrat will have been chasing that acorn for just over ten years.

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

If we do it to plays and movies, why not books? Thoughts on the re-edited Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

It's a touchy subject, and it may even be a very slippery slope. But on the surface, the decision by New South to release a new edition of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn without its 219 utterances of the word 'nigger' shouldn't be that shocking. We constantly alter our movies and plays for different audiences. Any high school who has put on Grease over the last thirty years has dealt with how to get around "Greased Lightning", with its references to creaming chicks and pussy-wagons (Christopher Walken had a witty skit based around just this issue on his last Saturday Night Live hosting gig in April 2008). We have no objection to countless movies being edited for television or edited for airplane viewing. The key concept is that no matter what is done to a film or a play for whatever reason, the original film and the play in its original form, remains available for mass consumption. We have always treated books as a somewhat holier art form than the performing arts, but what New South is doing is no different than watching Blazing Saddles on network television.

Monday, January 3, 2011

2011: the year 3D kills mainstream movie-going?

I've talked about this here and there over the last year, but we are now officially in 2011. Two things of note: 2011 will have the most packed summer schedule in recent memory. 2011 will have an obscene number of films being shown in 3D at multiplexes near you.

The Green Hornet, Sanctum, Gnomeo and Juliet, Drive Angry, Justin Beiber: Never Say Never, Mars Needs Moms, Thor, Priest, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Kung Fu Panda 2, Green Lantern, Cars 2, Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II, Captain America, The Smurfs, Conan the Barbarian, Fright Night, Spy Kids 4, Final Destination 5, Piranha 3DD, Dolphin Tale, The Three Musketeers, Contagion, Puss in Boots, Immortals, Happy Feet 2, Arthur Christmas, Hugo Cabret, Sherlock Holmes 2, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, and The Adventures of Tin-Tin. That's 32 titles in 2011.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Weekend Box Office (01/02/11): Little Fockers, True Grit dominate New Year's weekend, family films stay above water.

As is usually the case for New Year's weekend, there are no new wide releases, leaving the field for holdover domination and a couple smaller pictures to make a last-minute Oscar-qualifying limited opening. Little Fockers once again topped the box office over the weekend, although it was much closer than expected. The big news was the incredible staying power of True Grit, which dropped just 1.7% from last weekend's terrific opening sprint. The critically-acclaimed Coen brothers western grossed another $24.4 million, compared to last weekend's $24.8 million opening three-day haul. Drops like that are generally reserved for the likes of Avatar and The Sixth Sense. With $86.6 million in twelve days, the film is easily the highest-grossing picture for the Coens. The film is obviously playing like a general audiences smash and has become a front-runner at this year's Oscars. It is also on track to crack $100 million in the next week or so, and it will easily surpass the $113 million gross of Wild, Wild West to become the second-highest grossing western in US history, behind the $184 million haul of Dances with Wolves. Oscar win or no Oscar win, this is a huge and genre-reviving triumph for everyone involved.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

24 movie nixed? The final season and series finale of 24 was sabotaged for nothing...

Entertainment Weekly broke the news yesterday that 20th Century Fox has rejected the screenplay for the 24 movie that had been on top for the last year or so. Written by Billy Ray (who also wrote the terrific adaptation of State of Play from 2009), the script would have apparently continued the storyline from last season's quite unsatisfying series ender. So basically, the series shot itself in the narrative foot last year so as to properly set up a bigscreen version that could continue from the series. And now there is a good chance that said big-screen movie might not even happen in the first place. Thanks... really.

Calvin and Hobbes said goodbye fifteen years ago today...

The strip lasted for just ten years, meaning it has been gone for five years longer than it actually existed. I still miss those two like hell every day. I hope Bill Watterson is happy doing whatever it is he does with his time. Anyway, happy new year. Off to go exploring.

Scott Mendelson


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