Monday, February 28, 2011

Oscar 2011: Don't blame James Franco and Anne Hathaway, blame the writers.

Last year, I wrote a post-Oscar essay that got me quoted in Time Magazine. This year I have no such profundities to offer. But let me simply say that while this truly was the worst Oscar telecast in at least as long as I've been watching (since I was just short of 12-years old in 1992), the blame lies not with the hosts, but with the material. Many have commented that James Franco all-but started the show with a stunning display of apathy and disinterest. While we can all joke about whether he was stoned, or whether he was thinking about one of the 6,000 other activities he is currently involved in, the truth may be much simpler: Franco probably saw the material that had been written for him and Ms. Hathaway, and he damn-well knew he was in for a rough ride. So while Franco seemingly tuned out, Hathaway did the opposite, going absolutely for-broke, refusing to go down without a fight. But while Anne Hathaway and James Franco are excellent actors (and their hosting last night does not change that), not everyone can make lemonade out of lemons.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Weekend Box Office (02/27/11): Hall Pass edges out Gnomeo and Juliet while Drive Angry crashes.

Hall Pass opened with a modest $13.5 million on its debut weekend, giving the Farrelly Brothers their first chart-topper since Me, Myself, and Irene back in June of 2000. The critically-mixed comedy starring Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fischer, Christina Applegate, and Richard Jenkins was their sixth-largest debut, coming in just at the $13.5 million (fourth-place) opening of There's Something About Mary back in July of 1998. The picture was heralded as a return to form for the once-kings of their genre who had seen their audience move on to the likes of Will Farrell and Judd Apatow. Alas, it was not quite to be. The Farrelly Brothers were the arguable kings of comedy in the mid-to-late 1990s, with crowd-pleasing smashes like Dumb and Dumber ($116 million) and There's Something About Mary, which spent months in the top ten and actually topped the box office in its eighth week of release. The latter ended up with $175 million, a huge number for a comedy, let alone an R-rated one. It's still the twelve biggest-grossing R-rated film of all time, and the fifth-biggest R-rated comedy ever.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hope Allison never gets into this...

If you can't get through this whole clip, I don't blame you. For what it's worth, Smallville creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar are set to script a film adaptation of Monster High for Universal Pictures. It will apparently come out sometime in 2012. Why am I posting this? Well, a few reasons. First of all, a big video booth of this doll/action figure series was set up at the local Toys R Us while I had Allison with me, and she seemed somewhat intrigued by the concept but annoyed at the obviously pandering execution. Second of all, I had never even heard of this property, and I'm genuinely shocked that Mattel is skipping the whole 'animated series' route and going straight for the live-action movie. Yes, because the feature-film adaptation of Bratz brought endless cash for Lionsgate back in 2007. Lastly, and this is something that has occurred to me many times: I cannot wait until Tim Burton and Helen Bonham Carter's children are old enough to 'go Goth' as a form of youthful rebellion. Would there be anything more ironic?

Scott Mendelson

Friday, February 25, 2011

Review: Drive Angry 3D (2011)

Drive Angry 3D
104 minutes
rated R

by Scott Mendelson

The problem with a film like Drive Angry is that it doesn't entirely trust the audience to get the joke. Oh sure, most of the people walking into the theater will understand that it is an homage to the drive-in exploitation fare of a generation or two ago. Yet director Patrick Lussier and writer Todd Farmer aren't quite willing to simply let the events play out onscreen without commentary. There is a periodic 'nudge-nudge/wink-wink' effect in play, a need to acknowledge the rule-breaking which transpires, that robs the film of its edge. The overly ironic approach only highlights that Drive Angry is not a genuine piece of filmmaking so much as a film school exercise in grindstone homage. At least Machete had something to say about the anti-immigration hysteria and/or national identity while (the admittedly inferior) Jonah Hex worked as a chilling parable to the fear of Tea Party-fueld domestic terrorism. Drive Angry is merely about itself.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

When the MPAA spoils the movie: Rated 'Annoying' for overly descriptive ratings explanations.

While The Adjustment Bureau looks like a pretty mediocre movie on its own, there is now yet another reason it may not be worth checking out. Judging from the trailer, much of the film seems to involve Matt Damon dragging Emily Blunt by the hand as they outrun a bunch of black-suited men who basically want to tune their fates. Yes, it's another movie where the girl is apparently incapable of running away from danger by herself, even when she's a professional ballet dancer. But I digress... the film is theoretically a suspense picture, so we're theoretically supposed to be in suspense when Damon and Blunt attempt to escape their nefarious pursuers. But I won't be. Not because I do or don't care whether or not Damon screws over the ambitions and dreams of a girl he barely knows because he thinks she's pretty. No, it's because, thanks to the MPAA, I know that no harm will actually befall them. The Adjustment Bureau is rated PG-13 for "for brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image". Yes, just one violent image in the whole movie. So cheer up Damon and Blunt, you're probably going to be just fine.

Bad Teacher gets a red-band trailer.

Cameron Diaz has always an obvious urge to play around in the R-rated comedy sandbox. The Sweetest Thing may not be a great movie, but it's a game attempt at fashioning a fem-driven comedy that was just as filthy and profane as the typical male road-trip farce. So it's good to see her returning to the raunch pool yet again. Director Jake Kasdan has an unfortunate habit of making fine films (Walk Hard, Zero Effect, The TV Set) that absolutely no one sees, so hopefully this could have his shot at mainstream exposure. As for the film itself, it looks pleasantly amusing, with the always winning conceit of a foul and relatively horrible adult being put in charge of kids. I'm sure the film will get some flack over Diaz's profane and generally unpleasant (and her desire to find a man to take care of her), but it's a little refreshing to see a mainstream comedy where the men are mainly saintly pieces of background scenery while the women get to be center-stage assholes. If this and Bridesmaids both become solid hits, we could (hopefully) see a more consistent output of female-driven comedies. And more importantly, they will be prevalent enough where we won't have to analyze every one of them within an inch of their lives in regards to their gender politics. Bad Teacher comes out June 24th. As always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

RIP Dwayne McDuffie... the man who saved the DC Animated Universe.

Dwayne McDuffie died this morning of complications from a surgerical procedure performed last night. He was 49 years old. He was the writer and producer of All-Star Superman, which streets today. McDuffie is known for many things: creating Static Shock, forming Milestone Media in 1992, and various runs on various successful DC and Marvel comic books. But for me, McDuffie was the savior of the DC Animated Universe. His first official project in that capacity was writing the two-part episode of Justice League entitled 'The Brave and the Bold'. The Flash and Green Lantern vs. Gorilla Grodd caper stood out by being, quite frankly, the first season one episode of Justice League that was any good. The quippy writing, exciting and zippy action and genuinely engaging humor stood out in a sea of self-serious and overly bland and dull adventures that littered the mediocre first season. It wasn't the only good episode that year (the Justice Society epic 'Legends' was terrific as well), but it was indeed a diamond in the rough. By season two, Dwayne McDuffie was a producer and the show was indeed roaring back to life, and the rest of the five-year run was every bit as good as we expect from the people who gave us Batman: the Animated Series. Point being, if Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski created the DC Animated Universe and Paul Dini and Alan Burnett expanded and improved it, then it was Dwayne McDuffie who kept it infused it with fresh blood. He kept it alive when Paul Dini, Michael Reaves, Boyd Kirkland, and others went on to other pastures. Rest in peace Mr. McDuffie, I can think of no better tribute than the climactic roll call of a universe that you more-or-less saved.

Scott Mendelson

Explaining the allegedly slow start to 2011 box office: A fluke is not a trend.

It's the movies stupid. Stephen Zeitchick is proclaiming that a somewhat slow start to 2011 is a sign of doom to come for the box office. I can make this one really easy for you. January/February 2009 had perhaps the mightiest block of new releases for the first two months of the year in recent memory, if ever. January/February 2010 was boosted by the biggest movie of all-time, plus some awfully strong holdovers from 2009. Would you like to know more? brief look back:

Monday, February 21, 2011

Review: Unknown (2011)

110 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

Jaume Collet-Serra's Unknown is an honest-to-goodness Hitchcockian thriller, a variation on the classic 'innocent man on the run' template. Like William Shakespeare, we discuss Alfred Hitchcock in hushed and overly reverent tones, forgetting that the man made pulpy entertainment for the masses. Hitchcock films, by-and-large, were crowd-pleasing pot-boilers that were intended to thrill, startle, and often amuse. In lesser hands, the filmography of Hitchcock could easily be discounted as a bunch of B-movies. I don't think even Jaume Collet-Serra would argue that his are comparably lesser hands, but the awkward and uneven picture shines brightest when he's willing to engage the audience as a merry prankster.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Weekend Box Office (02/21/11): Unknown leads jam-packed President's Day holiday

It was a crowded weekend at the box office for the second weekend in a row, as three major openers squared off against a surprisingly resilient animated feature from the week before. The top flick of the weekend was the Liam Neeson thriller Unknown (review). The film opened with $21.7 million over three-days and $25.6 million over four days, which is about on par with the $24 million debut of Taken (review) two-years ago over Super Bowl weekend. From a marketing point of view, Taken did have some advantages over this new thriller. The concept of Unknown ("I got into a car wreck and when I woke up someone had replaced me and no one knows who I am") isn't quite as relatible or compelling as Taken ("bad guys kidnapped my kid overseas, and I have to get her back"). While Warner Bros tried to sell Unknown as Taken 2, complete with the ridiculous 'take back your life' tagline and a trailer that climaxed with what little ass-kicking the film has to offer, anyone with a brain could tell that this was more of a goofy Hitchcockian thriller from the guy who directed the cheeky Orphan (review) than a hard action picture (there is a climactic moment of violence that is laugh-out-loud hilarious). Still, the film cost just $30 million, and this again proves Liam Neeson's worth as an action lead. He, Jason Statham, Denzel Washington, and Angelina Jolie really need to make a movie together.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Because this never, ever gets old...

To be fair... Masters of the Universe was pretty awesome when I was seven.

I know I've been beating up on Thor for quite awhile, and one of the complaints is that it resembles a big-budget version of Masters of the Universe, which is of course the 1987 He-Man movie that starred Dolph Lundrgen, Frank Langella, Courtney Cox, and Billy Barty. But one thing I've been perhaps forgetting is that when I was seven years old, I kinda loved Masters of the Universe.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Review: I Am Number Four (2011)

I Am Number Four
110 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

I Am Number Four is a film that seems to want to be better than it is, but feels hamstrung by the hopelessly generic narrative at its core. Based on a novel by James Frey and Jobie Hughes, the film basically tells a variation on the Rosewell/Smallville/Twilight formula, with all of the reverence that seemingly goes hand-in-hand with such soulful teen outcast stories. But director D.J. Caruso refrains from playing around with the formula for most of the picture, either too lazy or too afraid to put a unique spin on the contrivance at play. After all, Catherine Hardwicke inserted a knowing snark and self-mocking humor into the first Twilight picture, and was fired from the franchise for her troubles. Up until the last act, I Am Number Four is all-too content to merely 'go with the flow'.

As Arnold Schwarzenegger plans his comeback, here is a brief look back at his very best films.

Now that Arnold Schwarzenegger has officially announced that he is returning to acting, it is perhaps as good a time as any to look back at some of his better works of would-be art. Since even his most recent picture (the underrated Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines) is nearly eight-years old, the entire filmography of Mr. Schwarzenegger can almost be considered something of a relic worthy of study. What is worth noting is how succinctly his career can be divided up into three chapters. You've got the B-movie phase which goes from 1982 (Conan the Barbarian) to 1988 (Twins). You've got the Arnold Schwarzenegger: world's biggest movie star phase, which was from 1990 (Total Recall) to 1997 (Batman & Robin). Then, following a nearly three-year break due to heart surgery, you have the last act of Schwarzenegger's career. This lasts from 1999 (End of Days) to 2003 (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines) where he attempted to remain relevant in an era where respected young actors (Nicolas Cage, Matt Damon, etc) were becoming action stars. There are hits and misses in each era, as the B-movie phase gave us The Terminator while the 'world's mightiest hero' middle-act gave us Jingle All the Way. Let us take a moment to remember the very best that 'Ah-nuld' had to offer, even if he doesn't have the sense to quit while he is somewhat ahead.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Thor gets a final, more Earthbound theatrical trailer

This second Thor trailer (the third if you count the Comic-Con footage) seems like a whole different movie from the previous sells. Call this the 'general sell', but it basically tells the film from the point-of-view of the Earthlings as they discover this muscle-bound Australian who seems to have fantastical powers. The good news is that there is more screen-time for Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings (who seems to be the only one having fun) and less screen time for the flat Chris Hemsworth and the terribly-bored Anthony Hopkins. It still makes the picture look awfully small-scale, but it's more narratively-coherent than the prior trailers.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Burying the lead: Justin Bieber is against abortion, but he may not be 'anti-choice'.

This is the first, and hopefully last article I'll be writing about Mr. Bieber that doesn't involve his present and future film projects. I have nothing against the kid, but I have no more business discussing Bieber's worth as a musician than I do discussing LeBron James's first year on the Miami Heat. But there is much huffing and/or puffing about released excerpts of his Rolling Stone interview, including one bit that deserves a bit of analysis. First off, kudos for him for his defense of Canada's single-payer government-run health-care system. It's what we damn-well should have gotten last year, as it's the right moral thing to do (health should be classified under 'commons') and it would have solved the unemployment crisis in a heartbeat (quick, how many older people do you know who are still working purely for the health insurance?). But his thoughts on abortion are a little trickier, and the condemnation that followed is yet another example of how hard it is to express a nuanced opinion in the era of the one-sentence soundbite.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Curveball admits lies that led to Iraq war. Yet those who doubted back in 2002 are still marginalized as less credible than those who believed.

In this article in The Guardian, Iraqi defector Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, nicknamed 'Curveball' admits that he made it all up. By 'all', he is referring to the various stories of Saddam Hussein's Weapons of Mass Destruction program that was the primary reason that the Bush/Cheney administration used as justification for invading and occupying Iraq in 2002 and 2003. Over 100,000 Iraqi civilians and nearly 5,000 American soldiers are now dead. The war will end up costing American taxpayers $3 trillion when all is said and done. Whenever the GOP blabs on about the insanely high national debt, we never hear about the two wars fought on a credit card. But the Iraqi occupation is a big reason why the country is going broke, deprived of blood and treasure on a damned crusade that was founded on the falsehoods of a now-admitted liar. Which is what many of us, those you ridiculed and mocked, have known for the last nine years.

Blu Ray review: All-Star Superman (2011)

All-Star Superman
75 minutes
rated PG (violence, action, sensuality, language, and brief innuendo)
Available from WHV on February 22nd on DVD, Blu Ray, iTunes, and OnDemand

by Scott Mendelson

If you ask most casual comic book fans to name their favorite Superman story, they are likely to choose one of the countless origin stories (A Superman For All Seasons, Superman: Birthright, Superman: Red Son, etc) or the handful of stories that deal with 'the end of Superman' (The Death of Superman, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, etc). Frank Miller would tell you that it's because Superman is such a godlike character, that the only story worth telling is his origin, since most other tales inevitably deal with how a god deals with the puny problems of mankind. But, without knocking many of the fine stories that take place in the middle of Superman's career (Superman: Peace On Earth, Lost Souls, etc), the character is such a primal piece of American myth-making that it makes sense that the most powerful narratives would be the two distinctive Campellian archetypes: the hero's journey and the old man coming to terms with death. All-Star Superman is a solid example of the latter, even if it loses much of the impact of the original source material.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Yes, Marc Webb's reboot will indeed be titled The Amazing Spider-Man.

I guess this means that the inevitable sequel in summer 2014 will be titled The Spectacular Spider-Man. Sony made official what had been reasonable speculation since the reboot project was announced last year. They also released a nice new photo of Peter Parker in full Spidey gear. Nothing to stop the presses over, but it's a nice photo (yes, those do appear to be mechanical web-shooters). Now only the Star Trek sequel remains untitled amongst the mega-pictures of summer 2012 (Star Trek 2, Amazing Spider-Man, The Avengers, and The Dark Knight Rises).

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Weekend Box Office (02/13/11): Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston face off against Justin Bieber over Valentine's Day weekend.

It was a close call this weekend, and the rankings may end up being switched when the finals come in. But for the moment, the Adam Sandler/Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy Just Go With It has topped the charts with $31 million. Sandler scored previously on this weekend in 1998 with The Wedding Singer (which was a surprise break-out hit with $18 million) and in 2004 with 50 First Dates (which scored $39 million by re-uniting Wedding Singer co-stars Sandler and Drew Barrymore). This is actually one of the very lowest opening weekends for a broad male-driven farce for Mr. Sandler, which shows just what a powerhouse opener he has been since his 1998 mainstream break-out. For thirteen years, Adam Sandler has been the most consistent opener in the business, bar none. His movies may often be terrible, and his fans seem to sniff out and avoid his quality fare as a matter of principle, but Sandler is without question the biggest comedy star of his generation and the biggest movie star to emerge from Saturday Night Live.

Sorry for the slowdown...

As occasionally happens, real life got in the way. Nothing bad (family bonding, other responsibilities, etc), but we'll be back to semi-regular postings soon enough. The weekend box office is slowly being tapped out (hopefully up tonight), and we'll have a review of the new DCAU animated film All-Star Superman (it's pretty darn good) in the next few days. If you're a regular reader, feel free to either add your own thoughts, ask questions, or toss out ideas for essays and what not. Until I return, take care.

Scott Mendelson

Thursday, February 10, 2011

X-Men: First Class gets a classy and low-key teaser.

In contrast to the pomp and circumstance that made up the first teasers for Thor, Green Lantern, and Captain America, X-Men: First Class comes out looking like... a prestige picture? Well not really, but the mood is low-key and the goal is establishing the tone (somber and fearful) and the time (1960s). There is a distinct lack of razzle-dazzle in Matthew Vaugn's high-toned compositions, and the few 'money shots' (the floating ship at the end, the glimpse of young Nightcrawler) feel integrated into the story. I'd argue that the trailer will likely leave casual fans feeling a bit confused, especially those without a token grasp of world history, but this is obviously a piece for the hardcores, the ones who have already bought their tickets. On the surface, we're basically getting not a rip-roaring action-adventure, but a character-driven drama that doubles as an acting duel between James MacAvoy (young Professor Xavier) and Michael Fassbinder (young Magneto). Despite being an origin story, X-Men: First Class seems to have the most chance of the major comic book adaptations this summer of breaking out of the mold, of telling a genuinely original story within the comic book trappings. This one comes out June 3rd and, as always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

X-Men: First Class gets an official logo, which is basically the teaser poster.

If this looks familiar, it's because the official logo is merely a non-cropped version of the teaser poster from last month. The trailer will premiere tomorrow, apparently on Facebook. Not that you come to this sight for 'instant news as it breaks', but I may be a little tardy on commentary for said trailer, so patience will be appreciated. With the arguable exception of The Hangover 2, X-Men: First Class is the last of the big summer movies to get a teaser this season.

Scott Mendelson

Press Release: Summit Entertainment aqquires domestic rights to Amanda Seyfried thriller Gone.


Summit Entertainment Acquires US Rights to Thriller Lakeshore Entertainment Group and Sierra / Affinity to Commence Sales of Worldwide Rights at the 2011 European Film Market in Berlin

Los Angeles, CA February 9, 2011 – Summit Entertainment, Lakeshore Entertainment Group and Sidney Kimmel Entertainment jointly announced today that Amanda Seyfried will star in thriller Gone, a film to be directed by Heitor Dhalia from a script penned by Allison Burnett. Lakeshore’s Tom Rosenberg and Gary Lucchesi are producing the project alongside Sidney Kimmel. Chris Salvaterra and Dan Abrams will also produce. Summit has acquired U.S. distribution rights and Lakeshore and Sierra / Affinity are handling sales of worldwide rights to the film which commence at the 2011 European Film Market in Berlin. Principal photography is set to begin in April of this year.

Credit where Credit is Due: David Schwimmer's Trust gets a tasteful, low-key domestic trailer from Millennium Entertainment.

I wrote a piece last December about the MPAA granted an R-rating to the David Schwimmer-directed drama Trust, which involved a teenage girl attacked by a predator she met online. The US distribution company, Millennium Entertainment, appealed the rating arguing that kids should see the film because it was a cautionary tale. I responded that the film, based on the international trailer and the poster, seemed to be a piece of exploitation that took an unlikely situation and tried to pass it off as a 'this WILL happen to you' fable. Alas, I did not realize that Millennium Films (the international distributor) and Millennium Entertainment (the US distributor) were two different companies, so basically I was faulting one distribution company for the sensationalist marketing campaign of another. Anyway, now that the US theatrical trailer has been released, I can say that I genuinely owe Millennium Entertainment an apology.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"The Enemy of my enemy is my friend." House Dems, joined by 26 Republicans (many of them Tea Party members), vote down Patriot Act extension.

Today, Dennis Kucinich and the Tea Partiers were on the same side. If Obama wants to be on the wrong side of this issue (as he seems to be on the wrong side in nearly every aspect of the 'War on Terror'), then so be it. But the House of Representatives has shot down a measure to extend the three most grievous portions of the Patriot Act from 2001 (the 'lone wolf' provision, the roving wiretaps, and the unchecked powers to seize records with little-to-no probable cause). It has been beyond disheartening to watch Barack Obama more or less carry the mantle of unchecked police powers and indefinite detention that highlighted George W. Bush's reckless and counterproductive 'War on Terror' strategy. More importantly, the apparent approval and continuation of such policies by the Obama administration has turned what was once a bitterly divided series of issues into something resembling bi-partisan consensus. Quite frankly, there is much that the likes of Rand Paul and Dennis Kucinich can indeed agree on. Perhaps this may be the start of the genuine liberals in Congress joining with the genuine conservatives in order to attempt to stop much of the genuinely un-American activities that have occurred post-9/11 on our watch and in our name. It is a pipe dream, but it is a goal worth advocating none-the-less.

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fast Five gets a Super Bowl ad that makes me nostalgic for a franchise where I have yet to see a single installment.

Universal did a bang-up job two years ago with Fast & Furious, selling the return of the primary cast members as cause for celebration rather than desperation. They are pulling the same trick yet again, and this spot highlight the new player, Dwayne Johnson. Irony of ironies, these teasers are making me nostalgic for the series. I say 'irony of ironies' because I've never actually seen one. Ever. Never saw the first four, may or may not see this one. I do enjoy the ending tag, proclaiming that 'Summer starts April 29th'. That's a pretty bold gambit, and one that Marvel and Paramount might disagree with. Point being, one of Thor's primary trump cards is the idea that it's the summer kick-off film for 2011. If Fast Five steals Thor's thunder (pardon the pun), then Marvel might be in serious trouble a week later. But please, Universal, you simply must title one of these things 'Faster and Furiouser'.

Scott Mendelson

Cowboys and Aliens gets a terrific Super Bowl teaser.

I'm not going to do a rundown of every single Super Bowl movie ad, primarily because there were just too many of them. One of the better spots of the night was another stellar showing by Universal for Jon Favreau's cult-comic book adaptation. Like the fantastic teaser, this one is selling the reality of its premise first (it's a real western, that happens to involve aliens), and holding off on the money shots until later. I've heard that much of the two teasers is mainly comprised of material from the first 40 minutes of the movie, so that's a promising sign. The nerds will already show up for this in droves. The key is convincing the general moviegoers who rediscovered their love of westerns through True Grit to buy a ticket on July 29th. So far, so good.

Scott Mendelson

Thor fails to bring the thunder (again) with a bland Super Bowl teaser.

I'm not going to do a rundown of every single Super Bowl movie ad, primarily because there were just too many of them. I know I've been bagging on Thor since last year's Comic Con, but the problems remain the same. The Asgard footage looks stilted and artificial, while the Earthbound stuff looks like something out of the first Universal Soldier. Having said that, I don't have any desire to see Kenneth Branagh fail. Hell, I'm the guy who loves Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. If Marvel is somehow hiding all of the knock-out footage, or if the film plays better as a whole than it does in 30-300 second chunks, then so be it. But this just doesn't look like the kind of epic tale that is going to get people excited about Thor or his place in The Avengers.

Scott Mendelson

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides gets a Super Bowl ad, another mediocre tease for an unnecessary franchise continuation..

I'm not going to do a rundown of every single Super Bowl movie ad, primarily because there were just too many of them. I'm trying not to walk into this with my nose held, but this just doesn't look like very much fun. It lacks the surprise of the first picture, and the dense plotting of the underrated sequels. What it contains is forced whimsy and the unnatural sight of supporting foil Jack Sparrow somehow becoming a leading man. At least we get a reveal of how 'not Will Turner' and 'not Elizabeth Swan' fit into the picture. I just don't get why everyone thinks that the director of Memoirs Of a Geisha and Nine is somehow going to revamp the franchise. I'll be the first to eat crow if it's at least as good as the third picture, but as always, we'll see.

Scott Mendelson

Transformers: Dark of the Moon gets a dynamite Super Bowl teaser, every bit as good as the 2009 Transformers 2 Super Bowl spot. Fool me once...

I'm not going to do a rundown of every single Super Bowl movie ad, primarily because there were just too many of them. Next up is the fantastic teaser for Transformers: Dark of the Moon. If you recall, I was stunned by the sheer scope and intensity on display in the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen teaser that aired during the 2009 Super Bowl. I exclaimed that it looked so epic and violent and almost frightening. Obviously, the teaser was a lie. Yet I feel the exact same way about this teaser, and the final extended shot of Optimus Prime tearing into his opponents with a long sword is a beauty. I'm sure 90% of what we see is from the third act, and we've been down this road before. So it is with extremely cautious optimism that I say that this looks like a terrific bit of science-fiction fantasy. Maybe the third time will be the charm, and we'll finally get the 'Godzilla, but with robots' carnage fest that I've always wanted. This one comes out on July 1st. We'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Kung Fu Panda 2 gets an action-packed Super Bowl commercial.

It's good to know that the makers have not forgotten what made the first film so unique. Jack Black humor aside, the original film succeeded because it was indeed a pretty terrific action picture. And extra kudos for keeping the 'furious five' front and center in the mayhem. There's a good chance that the best action set-pieces of the summer will not be found in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Thor, Captain America, or Green Lantern, but in Kung Fu Panda 2. This one comes out May 26th.

Scott Mendelson

JJ Abrams's Super 8 gets the best Super Bowl teaser of the night.

I'm not going to do a rundown of every single Super Bowl movie ad, primarily because there were just too many of them. But the best spot of the night was easily the 30-second teaser for JJ Abrams's Super 8. It's no secret that Abrams is aping the arch-typical late-70s/early-80s Steven Spielberg pictures (Spielberg is a producer), but a great teaser is a great teaser. No need to spoil what little is revealed, but this clip is rich in atmosphere, intensity, and just old-fashioned craftsmanship. This one opens on June 10th, and I have a sneaking suspicion that it's going to be a massive smash-hit, a bit of originality in a sea of sequels and comic book adaptations.

Scott Mendelson

Captain America gets an exciting, but poorly targeted Super Bowl teaser.

I'm not going to do a rundown of every single Super Bowl movie ad, primarily because there were just too many of them. But let's start with what was easily the most-anticipated preview of the night, Captain America: The First Avenger. Unfortunately, due to the way Marvel is selling this thing, we have to discuss the trailer on two levels. As far as the actual visual footage, it was pretty impressive. The battle footage looks real, with the exception of the 'flying into the sky' shot at 0:18, and the opening narration lent a tone of gravity to the proceedings (thank you Stanley Tucci). Aside from actually seeing Cap in action, the big tease was the reveal of Red Skull at 0:24. Technically the make-up looks better than that worn by Scott Paulin back in 1990, but it's still a guy with a red skull (my first thought was Tim Curry in Legend). The clip was exciting, even if there was no attempt made to establish the tone of this particular Marvel adventure.

Weekend Box Office (02/06/11): Roomate tops slow Super Bowl weekend, Sanctum slightly underwhelms, Oscar films continue to soar.

The Super Bowl weekend is not what anyone would consider prime movie-going real-estate, so it stands to reason that there wouldn't be much on the wide-release circuit this weekend. Screen Gems scored their biggest opening weekend ever last Super Bowl Sunday with the romantic drama Dear John, which opened to $30 million and knocked Avatar off the top spot. But generally speaking, Screen Gems's has had pretty decent success opening teen girl-friendly PG-13 horror pictures, often remakes of R-rated 70s and 80s slasher pics, over the last several years, so they went that route again this year. This year's entry, The Roommate, a film so obviously copied from Single White Female that complaints/summons are probably being drafted as we speak.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Free tip bad guys: Jason Statham is not the guy you kill, he's the guy you buy.

I saw The Mechanic earlier this week, and as you can surmise from the lack of review, it's not particularly worth commenting on. It's not a bad movie, per-se. It's relatively well-acted and the first two-thirds are more character-driven drama that action thriller. It's always nice to see Donald Sutherland, even if once again, he barely makes it past the first reel. And, in this day and age, it is always nice to see a violent R-rated action picture that isn't afraid to BE R-rated. That's actually one of my only real complaints, regarding the CGI blood. Yes, like a lot of action films of late, the blood is almost entirely CGI. Unlike some, I don't have a problem with that on principle. My theory is that if you know you can digitally remove the blood at a later date should the MPAA cry foul, then you can toss in that much more initially. Centurion uses the convenience of CGI blood to be a genuine gorefest. Alas, The Mechanic does not take advantage of this tool. Point being, it earns its R-rating, but it's not what you'd call blood drenched. A minor quibble, but worth noting none the less. But what we have here is another movie where the bad guys don't know when to walk away.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger gets a moody, dour poster, apparently inspired by Ed Brubaker's terrific story arc.

Just two days until the teaser premieres during this Sunday's Super Bowl, Paramount has released this genuinely compelling teaser poster. The tagline 'Avenge' is a bit silly, since the plot elements relating to The Avengers are theoretically not going to come into play until the last act of the picture. Yes, we know that Marvel is desperately trying to tie in Thor and Captain America with The Avengers (and Captain America: The First Avenger will indeed be called merely 'The First Avenger' in several foreign markets), but I think most US moviegoers won't care about the six degrees of separation. They'll either line up to see a Captain America movie or they won't. Regardless, this poster is indeed modeled after the cover-art from the fourth issue of Ed Brubaker's dynamite Captain America run. The more I hear about the film using Brubaker's arc as the primary tonal basis for the picture, the more excited I get about the Joe Johnston picture. It's no secret that I'm a hardcore fan of Ed Brubaker, and let's all remember that the tone for Nolan's Batman Begins was based on the post-"No Man's Land" work from Ed Brubaker (Batman), Greg Rucka (Detective Comics), and Devin Grayson (Batman: Gotham Knights) as much as it was based on Frank Miller's Batman: Year One or Jeph Loeb's The Long Halloween. And as for his "uncredited work" on The Dark Knight, I dealt with that three years ago.

Scott Mendelson

Thursday, February 3, 2011

When we all were stoked for... The Time Machine?

Another weekend, another three days with nothing worth seeing at the multiplex. Who amongst us is truly psyched to see The Roommate or Sanctum? And who will be lining up at midnight for the first chance to see such winners as Justin Beiber: Never Say Never Again, Gnomeo and Juliet, or The Eagle? Sure, the Adam Sandler/Jennifer Aniston rom-com Just Go With It will make the usual $40 million opening weekend required by law for broad Sandler farces, but is anyone genuinely anticipating it? Sure, the first two months of the year are occasionally a bit devoid of genuinely exciting releases, but the sheer drought of major studio pictures brings to mind the great dust bowl of 2002.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Why Wonder Woman belongs on television, where female superheroes thrive.

I have written a couple times about the David E. Kelly Wonder Woman reboot that is apparently scheduled for this fall on NBC. The show will allegedly involve a somewhat 'realistic' take on the Amazon warrior, with Diana being a CEO by day and a vigilante at night. The pilot is allegedly going to be directed by McG, best known for the Charlie's Angels movies but also one of the creative forces behind the popular spy-comedy Chuck (he directed the pilot for that one too). Much of the discussion over the last few months has revolved around 'why television and not a movie?'. Warner Bros. has struggled to get a big screen Wonder Woman feature off the ground for nearly a decade or so, with Joss Whedon giving over three years of his life to make it a reality. But the cold hard truth is that a character like Wonder Woman is frankly a better fit for television. I say this not because the lower budgets for television action shows won't hurt (they will), or that superheroes in television have always been huge successes (catch The Cape before it's gone...), but because television has been a gold mine for three-dimensional female characters for the last twenty years.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Yesterday's News Today: Idris Elba replaced as Alex Cross by Tyler Perry(!?)

See, this is another reason why it's so hard to write about real news. Even when something is absolutely confirmed as factual, it can still end up being wholly changed or retracted a few months later. I went into my whole spiel about the Alex Cross series back in August of 2010, so I'll try not to repeat myself. Short version: Idris Elba will make a great Alex Cross, and the James Patterson detective-superhero novels are the very kind of pulp fiction that should be made into a franchise. Oh, and the kind of star-driven mid-budget thrillers that the Morgan Freeman two-film franchise (Kiss the Girls and Along Came A Spider) represented the sort of adult-skewing genre picture that rarely gets made anymore now that so many studios are 'all tentpoles, all the time'. Well, the new story is that Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious, Dragonheart, XXX, etc) is directing, and Idris Elba has been replaced by none-other than Tyler Perry. Yes, THAT Tyler Perry.

Bridesmaids gets a trailer.

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Put simply, this looks pretty amusing. The cast is terrific, and there theoretically is a market for a bawdy screwball comedy that happens to involve female comedians. The question is, will the same pundits who decried The Hangover and Hot Tub Time Machine for being all-boys-club affairs now decry this film for daring to portray female characters who are just as obnoxious as the boys? I sincerely hope not, but Judd Apatow as a producer puts this one squarely in the bullseye for the likes of Jezebel (the director is Paul Feig). Remember, the guy had the decency to write three-dimensional characters in The Forty Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up (especially Leslie Mann as a frazzled mother) and was still attacked because those characters weren't has devil-may-care fun as the immature men. It will be interesting to see how this fares commercially and critically against The Hangover 2, which opens just two weeks later. Come what may, Bridesmaids opens on May 12th.

Scott Mendelson


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