Tuesday, May 31, 2011

3D isn't dying, it's just leveling out. Why consumers choosing 2D is a good for the 3D format and good for the industry.

The sky is not falling in the realm of 3D films.  There has been much handwringing over the last couple weeks as moviegoers have embraced their right to choose to see the latest summer tentpoles in 2D over the higher-priced 3D venues.  For the record, over the last two weekends, audiences purchased tickets to Kung Fu Panda 2 and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides in their respective 2D formats at a rate of 55/45.  So, despite those films playing in majority 3D theaters (around 65%), 3D ticket sales made up only 45% of the box office for their respective opening weekends.  This is not a new issue and it is not cause for panic or rebuttal.  Rather, it is a healthy sign that audiences are making an informed choice and that studios are offering a wide swath of moviegoers a genuine option when it comes to their 3D franchise pictures.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Weekend Box Office (05/30/11): Hangover 2 scores $135m, Kung Fu Panda 2 nets $66m over Thurs-Mon. Woody Allen and Terence Malick kill in limited release.

The Three Day weekend and the Four Day weekend totals.  It was close, but no cigar, as The Hangover 2 (review) made a run for the R-rated opening three-day weekend record.  As it stands, the film pulled in $85.6 million over the Friday-Sunday frame, falling just $6 million short of the $91.7 million mark set by The Matrix Reloaded back in 2003.  That film, like The Hangover 2, opened on a Thursday and also bested The Hangover 2 in terms of R-rated 4-day numbers ($118 million Thursday-to-Sunday for Hangover 2 versus $134 million Thursday-to-Sunday for Matrix Reloaded) and likely R-rated 5-day totals (The Matrix Reloaded grossed $144 million in its first five days, while The Hangover 2 ended Monday with 'just' $135 million).  Still, this is no defeat of any plausible kind for the $80 million sequel.  As it is, both films were from Warner Bros so there is little reason for the studio to not rejoice.  As it is, the film is set to take down the five-day opening weekend record for an R-rated film, which was the $125 million Wednesday-to-Sunday opening of 20th Century Fox's The Passion of the Christ back in 2004 (the Mel Gibson epic took in $83 million over the Friday-Sunday portion).  In terms of pure Fri-Sun numbers, it was the second-biggest opening of the year, coming in just $300,000 ahead of Fast Five and about $4 million behind Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.  It's the 25th biggest opening weekend of all time, and easily the biggest opening weekend for a pure live-action comedy (the next closest is Jim Carrey's Bruce Almighty, which made $67 million on this same weekend back in 2003).  It's also the seventh-biggest Fri-Sun gross for a film that didn't open on a Friday.  It's $117.6 million Thurs-Sun total is the 20th biggest four-day gross in history.  Its $135 million five-day total is the eighteenth-biggest ever.  It's Fri-Mon $103 million Memorial Day weekend take was the fourth-biggest on record.  So it missed the R-rated record book, but it's doing just fine.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Why I'm unimpressed by that 'bootleg' teaser for David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo remake.

I didn't post this yesterday because I was under the impression that it was an illegally copied bootleg.  But now I'm hearing word that it was a PR-stunt from Sony pictures, so we'll see what develops.  Anyway, the two core problems with the teaser have nothing to do with its low quality embed.  First of all, the teaser is scored to a piece of music (Immigrants' Song, I believe), and it is merely a quick, context-less cut every time there is a beat in the music.  Quite frankly, this is freshman filmschool trailer editing plain and simple.  It may be painstaking, but there is little to no actual skill involved in merely cutting every time there is a 'beat' in a song, especially when using footage that has no dialogue and no connective tissue.  It's not a trailer so much as an extended music video, one that required much time but little artistic talent or imagination.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Friday Box Office: Hangover 2 grosses $30m, Kung Fu Panda 2 takes in $13.5m, Tree of Life grosses $115,000 on four screens.

For the moment, The Hangover 2 seems to be even stronger than I anticipated, while Kung Fu Panda 2 may not be breaking out as large as I hoped.  Anyway, The Hangover 2 scored another $30 million on Friday night, showing almost no decline from its $31 million opening day.  In fact, when you factor in the $10 million in midnight screenings that made up 1/3 of the opening day, the Friday performance is even more impressive.  Point being, there is a chance that The Hangover 2 will have consistent business all weekend long, as opposed to a heavily-front-loaded opening day.  The two models that may apply are Sex and the City 2 and Terminator: Salvation.  Last year's TV sequel grossed $51 million in five days, earning $26 of that in the first two.  Obviously that film was frontloaded in its first two days, and there is a risk that Hangover 2 may suffer the same fate if it gets harder to do the whole 'guy's night out' thing over the family-friendly holiday (which is a problem that Sex and the City 2 faced last year, with 'girls' night out' being hard to arrange while taking care of the kids and setting up the family events).  Under that model, The Hangover 2 will gross $115 million by Monday night, which is still a solid take.  Under the Terminator: Salvation model, the film will play all weekend long at a consistent pace, giving The Hangover 2 a stunning $141 million over five days.  Obviously, Saturday numbers will tell the tale.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Kung Fu Panda 2 plays the Shrek 2 game, scores $5.8 million opening day. Come what may, we should see a record weekend multiplier.

Paramount and Dreamworks took a big risk opening Kung Fu Panda 2 (review) on a Thursday.  The family-friendly action comedy was guaranteed to have a somewhat soft opening day due to the majority of kids being in school until this evening.  And so it is the case that the terrific sequel took in a moderate $5.8 million on its first day.  Of course, Dreamworks has some history with this kind of thing.  If you recall, Dreamworks opened Shrek 2 on a Wednesday back in May 2004.  It had two relatively soft days $11.7 million and $9.1 million heading into the Fri-Sun weekend (I remember thinking the film was doomed as it was opening about on the level of Pokemon: The First Movie).  It absolutely exploded over the normal weekend, earning an eye-popping $28 million on Friday, $44 million on Saturday (the biggest single day in history at the time), and $34 million on Sunday (the biggest Sunday gross ever at the time).  So it was a $129 million five-day weekend, with $108 million of that just over Friday through Sunday.  That's also an 11x five-day weekend multiplier. In  research, that's called 'that outlier that you throw out'... until today.  Anyway, Dreamworks is obviously hoping for an even larger multiplier, as yesterday is sure to be the film's lowest box office day by a healthy margin.  Just for fun, let's say the film does an average of $20 million per day over the next four days (a reasonable assumption, the first film opened to $60 million over three days).  That gives the film a $86 million five-day opening and a 14x weekend multiplier.  This one is an even bigger question mark than The Hangover II, but it can be presumed that Dreamworks bet that most of the audience (IE - families) were just waiting for the weekend to check out the animated sequel.  Which, considering the lesson of Shrek 2 (which would have easily crushed the 3-day opening weekend record had it opened on a Friday), makes one wonder why they went for the Thursday opening at all?

Scott Mendelson        

The Hangover II scores $31.7 million on opening day. It looks like a $102-127 million five-day weekend.

The Hangover part II (review) grossed $31.7 million yesterday, scoring the third-biggest Thursday numbers in history.  The only bigger Thursday grosses were The Matrix Reloaded ($42 million, including $5 million in Wednesday evening sneaks) and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith ($50 million).  It's also the third-biggest R-rated single day, behind that $42 million opening day for The Matrix Reloaded and the $34 million Saturday for The Matrix Reloaded.  The picture did 32% of its total first day business at midnight.  The closest comparison of late indeed Paranormal Activity 2, which did 31% of its first day total ($20.1 million) in midnight screenings.  As far as the rest of the five-day weekend, it will arguably fall somewhere between the 3.2x multiplier of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (which would give The Hangover 2 $102 million over five-days) and the 6x weekend multiplier of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (which would give the sequel an unlikely $186 million five-day total).  Relative disaster would be a multiplier equal to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2.72x = $86 million). The more likely result will be something similar to The Matrix Revolutions's 3.44x weekend multiplier (which would give The Hangover II $109 million) and the 4.02x multiplier for Superman Returns (which would equal $127 million over the holiday weekend).  This is all just fun with math for the moment, and we'll have a pretty good idea of the end result by this evening or tomorrow.

Scott Mendelson  

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Muppets gets a Hangover-inspired second teaser.

As excited as I am for this film in theory, I am a little disconcerted by how Jason Segal and Amy Adams seem to be dominating the footage thus far.  Point being, it's a MUPPET MOVIE, not a Segal/Adams vehicle.  Anyway, this is an obvious but amusing riff on The Hangover, and the cameo at 0:50 merits a solid laugh.

Scott Mendelson  

The Hangover part II scores $10.4 million in midnight screenings. What does it mean for the long weekend?

Well, The Hangover part II has smashed at least one record.  With $10.4 million in midnight screenings alone, it nearly doubled the $6.3 million earned in midnight screenings for Paranormal Activity 2 last October, breaking the record for R-rated midnight showings.  But as with that horror sequel, midnight front-loading may be a little higher than usual, since the film is arguably more suited for a midnight screening environment than something more mainstream like Thor.  The Hangover part II is also a heavily-anticipated sequel, so it may play like a front-loaded genre sequel more than a general-audiences smash.  So, with that being said, let's use what little math we have in this area.  The closest precedent is the five-day opening weekend of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.  That film pulled in $16 million worth of midnight tickets and ended up with a $200 million five-day total.  Thus, the film did 8% of its five-day business at midnight and 25% of its opening day at 12:01am.  A similar pattern would yield a $41 million opening day and a $130 million five-day total.  That's the likely best case scenario, but Hangover II won't have the benefit of family-friendly matinée business, especially with Kung Fu Panda 2 also opening today.  The worst case scenario would be something resembling the uber-front-loaded performance Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The sixth Harry Potter film scored $22 million worth of midnight showings (a record at the time) and ended its five-day opening with $158 million.  That means the film did nearly 14% of its entire five-day weekend on Wednesday at 12:01am showings.  Such a scenario would give The Hangover II a $28 million opening day and a $75 million five-day total.  We'll know more once the Thursday numbers come in.

Scott Mendelson

Alan Rickman says goodbye to the world of Harry Potter...

This kinda speaks for itself (we'll forgive the massive run-on sentence in the middle).  I will merely add that it's amazing that Alan Rickman eventually found himself with a role more iconic than Hans Gruber.

Review: The Hangover part II (2011) teases darkness before reverting to formula.

The Hangover part II
102 minutes
rated R

by Scott Mendelson

The biggest problem with The Hangover part II is not that it is a general retread of the first film.  After all, while we might have been spoiled by a decade full of part 2s that were not so much a sequel as a second chapter to a large continuing story, prior to 2001 (IE - Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings), it was not uncommon for a sequel to merely be a glorified remake of the first picture.  Sometimes it worked (Terminator 2: Judgment Day), sometimes it did not (Home Alone 2: Lost in New York).  The problem with The Hangover part II is that it's an EXPLICIT retread of the first film, hitting most of the same comic bits and character interactions but with neither the inventiveness of the first film nor the guts to go further with the premise.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Wrap gets it wrong (more than once) regarding R-rated box office with its Memorial Day weekend preview.

First and foremost, the headline blares "Hangover 2 set for record-breaking $125m 5day start".    Wrong.  The Passion of the Christ, also an R-rated film, also opened with $125.1 million over its five-day opening.  And the biggest 5-day total for an R-rated film remains The Matrix Reloaded, with $144 million.  Speaking of The Matrix Reloaded, author Daniel Frankel acknowledges that film's record (for an R-rated film) Fri-Sun opening of $91 million, but refers to the film as "critically despised".  That's funny, since the film has a 74% on Rotten Tomatoes (it's a classic example of a well-reviewed smash that is now inexplicably considered a critically-panned flop).  It also refers to the three-day record as being set 'over a standard three-day weekend'.  Also wrong, The Matrix Reloaded opened on a Thursday (with $42 million, including $5 million worth of advance-night Wednesday showings), meaning that the $91 million Fri-Sun number was part of a longer opening weekend.  This arguably makes the $91 million figure all the more impressive, and the Thurs-Sat three-day total was a staggering $108 million.

The Smurfs gets a smurf-smurf second trailer. Yes, it still looks like a mother-smurfing piece of rotten smurf.

This still looks smurfing terrible, and I have nothing but pity for Jayma Mays who surely deserves better than this.  Sadly, there is a good chance that this will merely be her second or third worst movie, as she actually was the lead in Epic Movie and the token love interest in Paul Blart: Mall Cop.  She has a small supporting role on Glee, of course, but I suppose she's still in the position of having to take whatever is offered to her.  Neil Patrick Harris has no excuse.  He has a starring role in How I Met Your Mother and hosts any number of awards shows in any given year.  Ironically, the film actually looks somewhat fun for the first 1/2 minute or so, until it leaves the Smurf Village landscape and plops our blue heroes on boring old Earth.  Yes, it's Masters of the Universe all over again.  Still, come what may, Allison wants to see this one.  It opens July 29th, which actually operates as a test of sorts.  Are you a man (Cowboys and Aliens), are you a woman (Stupid, Crazy Love), or are you a parent (The Smurfs)?  On second thought, stereotypical gender assignments aside, why are all three of these potentially breakout movies opening on the same weekend anyway?  Anyway, hopefully Allison will enjoy herself and maybe I can trick her into watching Spirited Away later.  Oh, the things I do that for that smurfing little brat...

Scott Mendelson     

Thoughts on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit as Meloni and Hargitay step down.

For about six years, from season 2 to season 8, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit was a pretty terrific procedural drama.  While people are understandably skittish about the subject matter, the show is generally less graphically violent than any of the CSI shows, let alone something like Criminal Minds.  But somewhere around season 9-ish, the show started getting silly... really silly.  The show went from a somewhat restrained 'just the facts, mam' procedural to a nonstop barrage of 'This isn't just any other case!!"  John Munch (Richard Belzer) was more-or-less written out of the show, Fin' Tutuola (Ice-T) became relatively scarce, and the series went from being a genuine ensemble cop show to the Benson and Stabler show, complete with 'will they or won't they?' teases and oodles of needlessly personal subplots.  Every season had at least one 'PLEASE give Mariska Hargitay an Emmy!' episode, which usually resulted in a season-low point (SEE Benson get raped in jail!)  that actually snagged her that Emmy nomination.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How 2001 was a film game-changer II: When international box office exploded and America became just another territory.

This is one of a handful of essays that will be dealing with the various trends that were kicked off during the 2001 calendar year, and how they still resonate today.

Over the weekend, something curious happened.  The box office pundits were hand-wringing over the alleged box office failure of Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.  Its crime (aside from being terrible) was failing to open above $100 million over its three-day Fri-Sun opening.  As I discussed two weeks ago, the opening weekends of 'major' movies have skyrocketed over the last decade, in both quantity (how many movies opening $60 million or more) and quality (the sheer amount of those massive weekends).  So we have reached a point, just nine years since the first $100 million opening ever, where a $90 million haul is considering 'disappointing'.  But what most box office pundits weren't paying attention to was the international number.  In just five days, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides grossed $346 million worldwide, far surpassing its alleged $250 million budget and setting the film on the course for massive profitably.  It is just another example of how, when it comes to tent pole franchise pictures, the domestic market is merely that: just another market.  It was a slow crawl that started in 2001 that climaxed this year, a summer movie season where the domestic market is all-but irrelevant for the big summer blockbusters.      

Batman Live (the stage show) gets a trailer. This is NOT a trailer for Chris Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises!

First of all, I'm SHOCKED at the number of people who think this thing has anything whatsoever to do with Chris Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises.  Sample comment elsewhere: "Chris Nolan: from Memento to... this??!"  It makes you realize why it was so easy to convince us that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks.  Anyway, this looks like loads of silly fun, with hopefully a solid-enough script to make it matter beyond the visual and technical elements (it's written by comic/cartoon vets Stan Berkowitz, Alan Burnett, and Allan Heinberg).  The show opens in July in the United Kingdom, and I have no idea if/when it will show up in Los Angeles, California.  But I suppose it will be just the kind of thing I will let my wife get me for my birthday.  I say 'let' because I've gotten to that age where I don't really want presents for special occasions, especially as I don't want/need a lot of material items anymore (at least not the kind of 'fun' items that make appropriate 'gifts').  Anyway, if this show manages to make it to our shores... well, we'll see how the reviews are overseas in a few months.  On the plus side, the combined health insurance deductibles of all cast and crew involved in this show have thus far remained at $0.00.

Scott Mendelson  

Blu Ray Review: Green Lantern: Emerald Knights

Green Lantern: Emerald Knights
84 minutes
rated PG-13
Available from Warner Home Video on June 7th, via DVD, Blu Ray, OnDemand, and Download

by Scott Mendelson

The interesting thing about the Green Lantern mythology is that it is full of characters who are equal to, if not superior to, our hero in any given story.  Sure, Batman may have (or once had re current continuity) the likes of Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, Spoiler, Azrael, Huntress, and any number of others, everyone knows that Batman is the top dog in the Gotham vigilante scene.  But Green Lantern, whichever one we happen to be following at the moment (be it Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, Guy Gardner etc), is just one of a gigantic interplanetary police force.  Point being, the Green Lantern corps is a vast army that makes for rich storytelling potential, as you can pick anyone of those countless galactic cops and fashion a compelling narrative.  And that's just what this latest DCAU film happens to be.  Yes it technically stars Hal Jordan, but it is more about the deep and vast mythology within the Green Lantern corps itself, and the various heroes within.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Hollywood Reporter thinks no R-rated film has opened to $100 million, can't quite recall, can't be bothered to check.

Yes, The Hangover 2 is tracking to perhaps be the first R-rated film to open at or above $100 million in a Fri-Sun 3-day weekend.  Of course, the film is opening on a Thursday and has a Memorial Day Monday, so we'll see how that impacts the numbers soon enough.  But The Hollywood Reporter can't be bothered to check if any R-rated film has ever opened to $100 million before (nor can they be bothered to state whether the proposed $110 million number is from the Fri-Sun portion, or the whole five-day opening).  Quote: "No R-rated film has ever opened to $100 million or greater at least none that anyone can remember."  Yes, the great and illustrious Hollywood Reporter couldn't spend 30 seconds on Box Office Mojo to look into the accuracy of that statement.  For the record, it is true.  The biggest 3-day R-rated opening was The Matrix Reloaded with $91.7 million.  That film also opened on a Thursday, which gave the film a $134 million four-day opening weekend.  The only other R-rated opening weekend to approach $100 million was the five-day opening weekend of The Passion of the Christ.  It opened on a Wednesday and grossed $125 million by Sunday, with $83 million of that coming from the traditional Fri-Sun weekend. I knew those box office numbers off the top of my head.  Call it a gift or a curse, but I have an uncanny knack for remembering box office numbers. But you know what, Hollywood Reporter, I LOOKED IT UP.  Ya know, just to be safe.  You damn-well should have too.  Oh, and the fact that we haven't had a $100 million opener since November doesn't mean we're in a slump!  It just means that $100 million openers are still rare enough for them to be newsworthy.

Scott Mendelson

The Muppets gets a teaser.

I'm genuinely impressed that Disney kept this offline the whole weekend.  I didn't even see a cruddy bootleg on YouTube, although I didn't look for one.  Obviously this trailer is a big tease, with the first 2/3 advertising a pretty terrible-looking romantic comedy before getting to the punchline.  I certainly hope the apparent absence of Statler and Waldorf doesn't portend to their absence in the film (they should have been the ones to reveal the gag), but otherwise this is an amusing tease.

Scott Mendelson

Review: Kung Fu Panda 2 (3D)

Kung Fu Panda 2
90 minutes
rated PG

by Scott Mendelson

Kung Fu Panda 2 is a textbook example of how to do a sequel right.  It remembers that it is a second chapter and allows the characters to grow and change accordingly.  It does not make the main characters learn the same lesson for the second time, but rather gives them new obstacles and arcs to overcome.  It goes bigger but remembers to be better at the same time, and it carefully lays the groundwork for whatever might come next while succeeding as a stand-alone picture.  It is a laugh-out loud comedy, a thoughtful character drama, and a spectacular adventure.  Regardless of genre and regardless of its aspirations as kid-friendly entertainment, it isn't just a great cartoon, but a great film.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Weekend Box Office (05/22/11): Pirates 4 grosses $90m, Bridesmaids holds strong, Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris astonishes in limited bow

Just ten years ago next weekend, we saw pundits studio executives hand-wringing over the 'mere' $75 million four-day gross of Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor.  For some reason (oh, it's a three-hour period love story... it's EXACTLY like Titanic!!), studio executives were expecting a $100 million four-day total.  Nevermind that such a number had never been achieved before.  As I've written elsewhere, 2001 was the year that opening weekends went crazy, where $50 million became the new $35 million and $60 million became the new $40 million.  In the last nine years (starting in May 2002 of course), we've had 25 films with $100 million+ four-day totals and 18 films with $100 million+ three-day totals.  I bring this up because once again we are faced with a Disney blockbuster that is fighting off the assumption of failure because its opening weekend didn't approach record levels.  For the record, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides opened with $90 million this weekend.  That may not be as huge as the last two sequels, but it's a fine haul for a franchise that pretty much everyone agrees is washed up.  Let this be a lesson to Disney's Chuck Viane (who actually predicted a $100 million+ weekend): it's your job to LOWER expectations, not inflate them!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides opening day collects $35 million, looks on course to $86 million weekend.

It's a $35 million opening Friday for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.  That's expectedly below the opening Fridays for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest ($55 million - a record at the time) and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End ($42 million, despite $13 million in Thursday night sneaks).  The film pulled in about 13% of its Friday total in midnight screenings ($4.7 million), which is slightly less than the 16% midnight haul of Dead Man's Chest ($9 million of its $55 million Friday), even though Dead Man's Chest obviously pulled in more midnight cash overall.  Considering inflation and 3D/IMAX ticket price bumps, it stands to reason that attendance was way down compared to the prior sequels.  As it is, the second film (the only prior entry up to now with a pure Fri-Sun opening weekend) had a 2.4x weekend multiplier, which led to a then-record $135 million opening weekend.  If the sequel follows suit, we get the predicted $86 million opening haul.  The third film is a more difficult comparison.  If you purely count Fri-Sun, it had a 2.7 weekend multiplier ($114 million for Fri-Sun), which would give the fourth film $96 million for the weekend.  But At World's End made $13 million on those Thursday night sneaks, meaning that it basically made $56 million on its first 1.25 days.  Using that, it means that the film pulled in over 1/2 its opening weekend in just the first 1.25 days (and then it did another $25 million on Memorial Day Monday).  So the safest bet is to split the pure Fri-Sun difference, hope for strong kiddie-driven matinée attendance (poor kids...), and guess a 2.55 weekend multiplier, which will give the film $89 million for the weekend, good enough for 2011's top opening haul thus far.  In better news for humanity, Bridesmaids only dropped about 18% from last weekend (about $6 million), setting it on course for a $20 million second weekend.

Scott Mendelson    

Friday, May 20, 2011

Another week, another Green Lantern trailer: this one in 3D. Well in theaters it's 3D, here it's just 2D (but with a decent amount of new footage).

Apparently the 3D effects for this trailer looked pretty spectacular in theaters.  That makes me awfully happy, as I really want to see this early but don't want to settle for an inferior presentation.  There is actually quite a bit of new footage here, even if we seem to be seeing much of the finale (including the apparent death of a major villain) right there in the trailer.  There are a few new bits of Reynolds actually doing the whole superhero thing in costume, so that's a relief.  Still, the actual 'Hal makes a glowing green car or a glowing green machine gun' scenes are going to be where dramatic credibility is lost (or absolutely affirmed).  This one has just under a month to go, which means Warner has time for at least a half dozen more trailers.  As always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Transformers: Dark of the Moon gets a 3D trailer (in 2D here of course).

So much for a new Transformers 3 trailer giving us a reason to see Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides in 3D.  There is only a smattering of new footage here, but it still looks pretty spectacular.  I still love the music that plays over the last half of the footage, I still laughed out loud that the trailer seemingly gives away the last scene in the film, as well as the conclusion to the series.  Anyway, there is not much else to say other than 'enjoy' and anyone know where I can find that Muppet Movie trailer that was supposed to be debut this morning?

Scott Mendelson

Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - A 2D 35mm Experience

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
137 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

Rob Marshall's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is arguably the movie most of us thought we were getting back in summer 2003 with Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl.  It is a weightless, thoughtless, undisciplined, and juvenile bore.  It replaces plot and character with non-stop frantic action that provides little entertainment value because there are no clear stakes.  Unlike the first picture, it gives us no characters worth caring about and no story worth following.  Unlike the bloated but surreal, challenging, and ambitious sequels, it lacks any kind of cinematic life, feeling less like a big-screen extension of the mythology than a made-for-TV pilot reboot.  It is the very definition of half-assed cash-in.  Eight summers ago, the initial exploits of Will Turner, Elizabeth Swann, and Jack Sparrow surprised us by being a real film that happened to be based on a Disney theme-park ride.  This fourth installment can't even hold a candle to The Haunted Mansion or The Country Bears.

Midnight Box Office (05/19/11): Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides pulls in $4.7million in 12:01am showings. Weekend total $72-104 million.

It's time to do that pesky midnight math yet again.  Before the first matinees even start on the west coast, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides has pulled in $4.7 million in midnight screenings.  So, using the math that we've been playing around with for the last few weeks, let's see where we stand.  As I've written previously, midnight grosses generally make up around 4.5%-6.5% of the total weekend take.  So the best case scenario is a weekend take of $105 million.  But the question becomes just how anticipated and/or front loaded is this fourth installment of the series?  It stands to reason that the film is more front loaded than Fast Five (which pulled in about 4.5% of its take from midnights) being that its a sequel, but certainly less front loaded than The Dark Knight  (which pulled in 11% of its $158 million debut at 12:01am Thursday).  However, this number is less than the $7.5 million that Iron Man 2 pulled down in its midnight debut, totaling about 5.8% of its $128 million opening.  So let's say that Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is about as front loaded as Thor (it's a sequel, but it's a less geek-skewing property than the Marvel Comics adventure), which puts the number at about 5%.  So, if the fourth film has already scored 5.5% of its weekend figure (word of mouth will likely be far worse than Thor or Fast Five), then the pirate adventure will pull down $85 million for the weekend.  So, the variable is between $72 and $104 million, with $85 million looking like the probable figure.  Okay, now I'm off to actually see the film in glorious 2D and review it.  Never thought I'd be able to accurately predict weekend box office before the opening day actually began...

Scott Mendelson

Game On! The Dark Knight Rises viral campaign reveals Tom Hardy as Bane.

Four years ago around this time, I actually was one of the many who did whatever it was you had to do (I don't remember) in order to get that first reveal of Health Ledger as The Joker.  This time around, I'm letting other people do the hard labor and merely reaping the rewards after the fact.  Anyway, some kind of puzzle involving weird noises on The Dark Knight Rises website and the Twitter hashtag "#thefirerises" brought us the above photo of Tom Hardy as Bane.  Not much to say other than Hardy looks pretty huge and it's nice to see that Nolan is still keeping something vaguely resembling the comic book version.  It's a nice start to what likely will be a long and twisty viral campaign for the third Batman film.   We'll probably get a bare-bones teaser debuting in July with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II, and a full on trailer in December (attached to Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows no doubt), with a second trailer attached to The Avengers on May 4th, 2012.  So, with that said, game on.

Scott Mendelson

Remember that piece I wrote about Transformers 3 opening on a Friday? Yeah, never mind. Transformers: Dark of the Moon to go for the six-day box office record instead of the four-day record.

As of last night, Paramount announced that Transformers: Dark of the Moon will be opening on Wednesday June 29th, as opposed to the previously scheduled Friday July 1st.  This is slightly newsworthy for two reasons.  First of all, it means that once again a major sci-fi franchise will go its entire lifetime without ever opening on a Friday, let alone a standard three-day weekend.  Second of all, it does theoretically show confidence in the product as it exists, as this week's Jim Cameron/Michael Bay chit-chat went off like gangbusters.  There will apparently be a 3D trailer for Transformers: Dark of the Moon attached to 3D prints of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which is frankly almost enough for me to consider forging my 2D pledge and taking the IMAX plunge (or perhaps sampling Pacific Winnetka's new 79' "Immersion 3D" set-up).  I've said before that Transformers: Dark of the Moon is perhaps the only major live-action movie this year that I actually want to see in 3D, because I cannot imagine a technical pro like Michael Bay half-assing the 3D work (come what may, his movies and sound look great).  If anyone can equal the 3D proficiency shown by James Cameron, it's Michael Bay.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Um... aren't studios supposed to LOWER expectations? Disney exec expects $100 million+ opening for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

Paramount had the right idea two weeks ago.  Amid rampant speculation regarding the opening weekend potential for Thor, Paramount (pardon the pun) hammered home the studio line that anything over $60 million would be a massive success.  While other pundits and rival studio executives crowed about the potential for $75-85 million, Paramount continually stuck to the line that Thor was not Iron Man and that anything over the $55 million plateau set by Fantastic Four and The Incredible Hulk would be considered a solid play.  Thus, when the film opened with $65 million, Paramount was able to spin the number as a win with little backpedaling.  But Disney theatrical distribution chief Chuck Viane doesn't get that simple idea.  In an article for The Wrap, he says, ""If it starts with a '1' in front of it, I'll be happy with the number.  If it doesn't, I won't be."  So unless Chuck Viane is predicting that Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides will open to between $10 and $19 million over the weekend, he seems to be selling the notion that the studio is expecting a $100 million+ opening weekend.  Um.... that's not quite how it works, Chuck.  

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Three mediocre human actors kill time before the robot attacks in new Transformers: Dark of the Moon clip.

Not much to offer here.  The only reason this clip is noteworthy is because it is the first time we've seen Rosie Hunginton-Whiteley do anything other than cower in fear and/or stand and look sultry.  She even speaks one or two expositional lines! Of course, the big question remains: Will critics automatically assume that Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is a better actress than Megan Fox because of her British accent?  Either way, Patrick Dempsey is at his Scream 3 worst, leaving us to hope that John Malkovich and Frances McDormand pick up the pre-robot invasion slack for the first 2/3 of the movie.

Scott Mendelson

When it comes to using Wilson Phillips' "Hold On", Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle did it first, and better...

My only real carp with Bridesmaids is that well, Wilson Phillips's "Hold On" has been used relatively recently, and to arguably better comic effect.  If you recall, the first punchline is that the truck belonging to a group of racist, xenophobic bullies in fact contains a CD collection of female power anthems (which goes along with the whole 'don't judge a book by its cover' theme of the film).  But the film raises that bit as the undeniably catchy "Hold On" becomes both a metaphor for the journey and a tool to heal the leads' damaged friendship.   That Bridesmaids uses the same song for similar reasons (as a cheer-up power anthem) is a minor quibble.  But I still wonder if anyone in the production actually mentioned the scene above.  Surely the action climax of Undercover Brother, set to Michael Jackson's "Beat It" would have been that much funnier if Ben Stiller's Zoolander hadn't used the same song just six months earlier to superior comic effect.  Of course, comparing Harold and Kumar Go to While Castle to Bridesmaids is no slam against the latter.  I happen to think that Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle is the best comedy of 2000s and one of the best films ever made about race relations, ethnic identity, and the melting pot that is modern-day America.  As for the sequel?  Well, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle remains the best comedy of, well... you get the idea.

Scott Mendelson

Update - DVD Talk's Tyler Foster unearthed a clip from the end of the 2009 direct-to-DVD comedy Spring Breakdown which also climaxes with a group performance of "Hold On".  I saw the movie once and wrote a brief mixed-negative review and have completely forgotten about it since then.  Anyway, credit where credit is due (thanks for the tip, Mr. Foster, and thanks for reading), here is the (played pretty straight) clip.  

Random footnote as we head into the opening weekend for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

For what it's worth, the $114.7 million Fri-Sun opening for the Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End still holds the record for the biggest Fri-Sun opening for a film with a long weekend. It did $25 million on Memorial Day Monday and $13 million worth of 8pm-12am Thursday sneaks.  It actually did $153 million in its first 4.25 days.  Out of eighteen the films that have pulled down $100m Fri-Sun weekends (seventeen if you don't count Iron Man, which had $3.5 million worth of advance-night Thursday screenings for its $102 million 3.25 day total), only eleven of them actually came from standalone Fri-Sun three day weekends.  Six of them (a third) pulled in $100 million despite having extra opened days to pull moviegoers away from the Fri-Sun prime real estate.  For the record, they are the above-mentioned Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End ($114.7m Fri-Sun/$153m 4.25 day total), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ($108.9m/$200m 5-day total), Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith ($108.4m/$158.4m 4-day total), Shrek 2 ($108m/$128.9 5-day total), X-Men: The Last Stand ($102.7m/$122.8m 4-day total), and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($100.1m/$151.9m 5-day total).  I have no real wisdom to offer here, I just wanted to play around with the numbers.

Scott Mendelson

J.J. Abrams's Alcatraz TV pilot gets a trailer. Because when Sam Neill wants you to travel with him, JUST SAY NO!

Tip of the hat to Brandon Peters for pointing out a key detail I had missed in the whole network upfronts presentations last week.  Yes, JJ Abrams's Alcatraz has been picked up for midseason.  One bit I missed is that it will star none other than Hollywood's worst travel agent: Sam Neil.  In this preview, Sam Neill wants you to take a trip with him to Alcatraz, the infamous and long-closed San Francisco prison.  Nevermind that it's unwise to trust a man whose first major American starring role was playing the Anti Christ (The Omen III: The Final Conflict).  The fact stands that, to put it bluntly, when Sam Neill asks you go to somewhere with him, you just say "No".  Does Sam Neill want to take you on a pleasant boat trip?  "No, thank you."  Does Sam Neill want you to come with him to go to an island filled with dinosaurs?  Just say no!  Does Sam Neill want you to travel to a spaceship that vanished to places unknown seven years ago?  Just say no! Actually, "Hell, no!" would be appropriate in this case. Does Sam Neill want you to go BACK to that dinosaur island?  Just roll your eyes and say no!  Does Sam Neill want you to take a jolly trip into the Bermuda Triangle? "No, no, no!"  So ladies and gentlemen, when Sam Neill asks you if you'd like to come to Alcatraz, the only proper response is a polite, but firm, decline.  Practice with me.  no.  No.  No!  NO!  NO! NO, but thank you for the offer.    

Scott Mendelson  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Blu Ray Review: The Rite (2011)

The Rite
114 minutes
rated PG-13
Available on DVD, Blu Ray, onDemand, and iTunes on May 17th from Warner Home Video

by Scott Mendelson

The theatrical review can be found HERE.

The Blu Ray:

Well, this won't take long.  The film looks relatively sharp, although the muted palate won't make this demo material.  But the details are rich and the film seems an accurate representation of its theatrical presentation.  A standard-def DVD is also included, but like most Warner DVDs, it is an overly saturated, yellow-tinged presentation with heavy macro-blocking.  The film sounds pretty solid on my English 2.0 set-up, as dialogue is always audible and cleanly seperated from the sound effects and the score.  As for extras?  Uh... well, you get a DVD of the feature, as well as a digital copy.  Other than that, you get an alternate ending (it's more 'scary' but less credible), twelve minutes of deleted scenes (I wish Rutger Hauer's scenes had made the theatrical cut, as he underrepresented in the feature), and a seven-minute EPK about the exorcism school that I wish the film itself had focused on.

So, mediocre film, great video and audio, but a near-complete absence of extras.  This is the very definition of a 'rental-only' release.   

Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson's The Adventures of Tintin gets two posters and a teaser trailer.

I may be in the minority, but I rather enjoy the look and feel of motion-capture animation.  I loved The Polar Express and Beowulf and rather liked A Christmas Carol (I have not seen Mars Needs Moms).  And, let's be honest, few things look better in 3D than motion-capture animation.  So the idea of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson playing in what was once primarily Robert Zemeckis's sandbox is a tantalizing concept.  And while the teaser is just that, it does show off a splendidly vivid and real looking environment with the promise of old-school adventure.  Spielberg is about to embark on 'act three' of his remarkable career, capping a stellar 1993-2008 run that brought us such modern classics as Jurassic Park, Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, and Munich, to say nothing of rock-solid entertainments such as Minority Report and Catch Me If You Can.  I can somewhat defend Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,  The Lost World: Jurassic Park and War of the Worlds if need be, but only The Terminal and maybe Amistad count as pure-whiffs.  Anyway, it may be fashionable to bash Spielberg because of his popularity and his role in bringing about more populist mainstream entertainment, but I can think of no other director aside from perhaps Alfred Hitchcock who has so successfully entertained the masses with filmmaking of such high quality.  As for Peter Jackson, he only created the single best live-action trilogy in cinema history, and followed it up with a ripping King Kong remake, so this is certainly an interesting partnership. The Adventures of Tintin comes out on December 23rd, and I shall be there with bells on in IMAX 3D.  The dynamic posters (domestic then international) are after the jump.

Scott Mendelson

Monday, May 16, 2011

Comparing Bridesmaids to The Hangover isn't sexist, just inaccurate and lazy.

With the solid $26.2 million opening weekend of Bridesmaids officially cementing the film as a genuine hit, let us take a moment to examine one of the more consistent bits of absurdity that has surrounded the film's release, that the film was some kind of female version of The Hangover.  Of course, any one who has seen the film knows that to be a load of crap.  The Hangover is about plot, while Bridesmaids is about character.  One is a genuinely funny mystery film whose greatest asset is its tightly plotted narrative that plays out like a comic version of Memento.  One is a genuinely funny character piece whose greatest strength is its insights into its characters and the willingness to be uncomfortably honest with its emotions.  Other than the fact that they are both technically comedies, they have absolutely nothing in common whatsoever.  And while some may chalk up the comparisons as a form of sexism, that you have to find something male-oriented to compare it too in order to have it be relatable,  it really is just another example of the lazy tendency to compare any film to some other popular film even when they have nothing in common other than perhaps sharing the same genre.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Weekend Box Office (05/15/11): Bridesmaids scores, Thor repeats on top, Priest survives.

There was an undue amount of pressure for Bridesmaids (review) this weekend, as the Judd Apatow-produced film had to shoulder the burden of being a test case for the bankability of female-ensemble comedies.  Not merely able to get solid reviews and open with enough to be profitable, the film basically had to send a message to Hollywood that audiences would pay to see female-driven comedies that weren't squarely in the romantic comedy genre.  Whether or not Hollywood will actually take any heed is subject to debate (doubtful, any success that doesn't fit in the 'boy-centric fantasy/comedy' box is usually written off as a fluke), the film performed quite well in its debut weekend, grossing $26.2 million in its first three days.  Just as importantly, the film scored a big 3.34x weekend multiplier, meaning that its word of mouth matched its reviews and that it worked as a date-night choice for Friday and Saturday night.  The film rose 34% on Saturday and made almost as much on Sunday as it did on Friday.  The film scored a solid B+ from Cinemascore and  it played 67% female and 63% over-30.  That gives the film solid room to grow as the younger folks check it out over the next couple weekends, although the coming tsunami that is The Hangover II  (opening May 26th) won't help matters.  Still, the film cost just $32 million, so it's another win for Universal, a studio that has done best in the comedy arena over the last few years.  Point being, you can write up Bridesmaids as a triumph for female-driven comedies or just the triumph of a terrific movie opening well (in a just world, Kristen Wiig would be getting Oscar talk).  You pick.  Win/win.  And it will be Win/Win/WIN! is Nikki Finke makes good on her promise to retire from box office punditry (she swore to leave the field if Bridesmaids opened to over $20 million).

Review: Bridesmaids (2011)

125 minutes
rated R

by Scott Mendelson

The highest compliment I can pay to Paul Feig's Bridesmaids is that it is a triumph regardless of its alleged social importance.  I'm not going to get into the hand-wringing about its importance as a feminist statement or 'proof that women can be funny' (does ANYONE in the film industry watch TV?) because I'm not going to insult those who wrote and directed this picture.  It is merely a very sharp and observant comedy that happens to contain a primarily female cast of comedians and actresses.  It is arguably the best Apatow-produced picture so far, easily the best comedy of the year and one of the best films of the year, and a genuinely thoughtful and moving bit of comic cinema.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Smallville finale shocker: no actual shots of Tom Welling as Superman!

Obvious spoiler warning: I'm not going to get into every plot detail of last night's Smallville finale.  The big climactic moments were disappointing for two reasons.  First, as usual with television superhero shows, the big action climax was painfully puny, especially for the payoff of ten years of mythology.   Basically, Clark flies through a possessed Lionel Luther (does that count as murder?) and then a CGI blue thing that is supposed to be Superman quickly flies into Apokolips and quickly moves it about three inches to the left, saving Earth.  The most emotionally potent moment of the finale was its opening and closing bookends, which had Allison Mack reading a comic book to her young child seven years into the future, a four-color tale of how Clark Kent became Superman and saved the world.  It's a weird breaking the fourth wall moment, but it served as a reminder of just how potent, primal, and powerful the Superman mythology really is.  

Transformers: Dark of the Moon gets a poster. Plus a word about science fiction and holiday weekends.

Not much to add here, but it is a little unusual that Transformers is three films in and had yet to have a normal, stand-alone three-day weekend.  Even this picture, the first to open on a Friday, still has the Fourth of July for its holiday Monday.  It's not a complete separation, in fact it's actually a pretty common pattern for big sci-fi franchises.  The Matrix films opened on a Wednesday, a Thursday, and then on a Wednesday.  The Lord of the Rings pictures of course all opened on the same pre-Christmas Wednesday.  Raiders of the Lost Ark is the only Indiana Jones picture to open on a Friday (a non-Holiday no-less).  And the Star Wars franchise had three Wendesday openings (Star Wars, Return of the Jedi, and The Phantom Menace) and three Thursday openings (The Empire Strikes Back, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith).  So hmm... maybe it's the Friday opening that's unusual after all. Although, out of nine Star Trek films, only Star Trek IV: the Voyage Home opened on a non-Friday (it was the Wednesday of Thanksgiving day weekend).  Anyway, enjoy the poster and the random trivia.

Scott Mendelson

The next Muppet Movie gets a poster...

Straight from the lobby of the AMC Promenade 16.  I can only hope this means we'll be seeing a trailer attached to Cars 2 on June 24th.  And I most certainly will be seeing this with Allison come next Thanksgiving.  Really, she has no choice in the matter.  She doesn't have to be the kind of kid who likes Star Wars or Looney Tunes, in fact the main reason I haven't yet reviewed the new Looney Tunes Show is that she has absolutely no interest in it.  So far, she's been ambivalent about both properties (she does enjoy Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons, so that's a start), but I have to draw a line somewhere.  So come November 23rd (or hopefully an earlier press screening), it will be a trip to "The Greatest Muppet Movie Ever Made" (working title) or it will be a trip to the nearest Safe Surrender.

Scott Mendelson     

Friday, May 13, 2011

Random thoughts (RIP: Smallville, Better With You, but burn in Hell L&O:LA).

Blogger was down for most of yesterday and much of today, but all seems well.  I took in Everything Must Go and Bridesmaids, so I'll try to have reviews of both in the coming days (both are absolutely worth seeing, natch).  I was going to grab a showing of Priest 2D, but I decided against breaking the winning streak. As you may have noticed, I've added the Disqus commenting system below, which will hopefully allow for easier and greater quantity of comments for the various posts.  Anyway, here's hoping the series finale of Smallville lives up to ten years of anticipation, or at least rewards viewership loyalty more than Lost.  I was a loyal viewer right up until the craptastic season seven (which I only watched because it was the kind of thing I could DVR and pay half-attention to while playing with my newborn daughter), although I now hear that seasons 8-10 were a marked improvement over 5-7.  Pity...   I will eventually get around to watching the first two episodes of The Looney Tunes Show and commenting accordingly.   I can't decide whether I'm angry or heartily amused at the cancellation of Law and Order: Los Angeles.  First NBC cancels the mothership during a huge upswing in quality, one year away from setting the season record for a primetime drama.  Then they premiere the mediocre Law and Order: Los Angeles and then, right when the show is finding its footing, they yank it off the air and return with a dumbed-down and sensationalistic version that eventually gets put out of its misery.  As Adam Schiff would say back in the day, "Heh...".   But please enjoy the retooled title sequence above, which is the most unintentionally hilarious television credits intro in modern times. Until next time, take care and keep reading.

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Expendables II gets generic poster, hilarious plot synopsis which reveals just who is 'expendable'.

The film doesn't even have a director (I hear Sophia Coppola is available), but it does have a release date: August 17th, 2012.  It now also has a poster and plot synopsis courtesy of Nu Image.  The poster pretty much speaks for itself.  But the plot synopsis is a spoiler-filled hoot.

“The Expendables are back and this time it’s personal! After Tool (Mickey Rourke), the heart and soul of the Expendables, is brutally murdered on a mission, his comrades swear to avenge him. They’re not the only ones who want blood. Tool’s beautiful young and wild daughter Fiona embarks on her own revenge mission, complicating matters when she is captured and ransomed by a ruthless dictator plotting to destroy a resistance movement. Now Barney and the Expendables must risk everything to save her and humanity.”

It does seem that Mr. Can't-Play-Well-With-Others is indeed being written out of the series, and it's the least surprising choice all-things considered.  It also works as a rebuttal to those who justifiably complained that a film called The Expendables didn't actually 'expend' any of its heroic mercenaries, even absurdly keeping Lundgren alive despite his apparent second-act demise (not saying I'm not glad that Dolph won't be around in part II, but...).  So, poor Rourke bites it in the opening act, but that's okay, because he's got a daughter who of course is "young",  "beautiful", and "wild".  But that doesn't mean  Fiona is "competent", as she also ends up spending (at least) the third act as a hostage.  The first film played into the whole 'macho he-men save helpless babe-in-peril' cliche, and alas the sequel seeks to play the same game.  But my favorite part of this plot summary is the final sentence, where we're told that the Expendables are not only trying to save 'insert hostage-babe here', but HUMANITY!  The first film merely concerned a fictional Latin American country that was being oppressed by a dictator (who in turn was being manipulated by a corporate villain), but the sequel puts the entire planet in peril.  Which leads me to ask, just who is this despot that threatens the entire world?  Will this be The Expendables versus. Darkseid?  The Expendables versus Cobra (no, not Stallone's Corba, the OTHER Cobra)?  Which world-threatening foes do you want to see our 80s/90s heroes facing off against in the sequel?  Oh wait... I got it!  The Expendables versus Dr. Claw!        

Scott Mendelson

Hector Hammond added to ongoing Green Lantern poster collection.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sophie's Choice of the modern film critic - See it early in 3D or see it later in 2D?

I am actually attending my second press screening with Allison in a couple weeks. I was invited to the All-Media for Kung Fu Panda 2 that will take place in downtown Hollywood on Saturday the 21st at 10:00am. I wasn't even seeking out said press screening, as I figured that we would just take Allison to a 2D showing sometime over Memorial Day weekend. But the ability to take my kid to a press screening of something my wife an I actually wanted to see, on a Saturday morning where I could then take them out to lunch and/or ice cream downtown, was too much to resist. Yes, Allison probably won't care two wits about the 3D, but it won't affect her enjoyment one way or another (she handled the god-awful 3D in The Nutcracker, she can handle Kung Fu Panda 2). Dreamworks has been doing top-notch 3D work in their films long before it was the 'cool' thing to do. How To Train Your Dragon remains up there with Coraline and The Polar Express as some of the most impressive and immersive 3D yet attempted in animation. But for other films coming this summer, the choice is not so clear...

Monday, May 9, 2011

How 2001 was a film game-changer I: When Opening Weekends Attack! (or How the Mummy Returns kick started the modern blockbuster!)

This is one of a handful of essays that will be dealing with the various trends that were kicked off during the 2001 calendar year, and how they still resonate today.

When 2001 started, there had been exactly one $70 million+ opening (The Lost World: Jurassic Park, with $72 million over the Fri-Sun portion of the Memorial Day 1997 weekend), and one $60 million+ opening (Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, with a $64 million Fri-Sun weekend take). There had only been a handful of $50 million weekends, and they were pretty much all from the biggest of big franchise pictures. Jurassic Park ($50 million, including Thurs-night sneaks), Batman Forever ($53 million), Independence Day ($50 million), Men in Black ($51 million), Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me ($54 million), Toy Story 2 ($57 million), X-Men ($54 million), Mission: Impossible 2 ($57 million), and How The Grinch Stole Christmas ($55 million). Of those nine weekends, three of them had occurred in 2000. So getting to $50 million was a reasonable objective if you were one of the biggest franchises around. But 2001 was the year when everything went nuts. Back in the day, I still talked with my father about box office with him on a somewhat regular basis. That slowed down over the years, as we found arguably more important things to talk about and he started just reading my blog. I distinctly remember the phone call to my father on Saturday morning, May 5th of 2001. The Mummy Returns had just opened with $24 million on its first Friday, and I knew right then that, in terms of box office, nothing was going to be the same.

Stating the obvious: photo-shopping Hillary Clinton and Audrey Tomason out of an historical photograph is sexism, no matter who does it.

Certain sects of Christianity disenfranchise women because 'they are too vulnerable and fragile'. Certain sects of Islam disenfranchise women because 'they are wicked, morally dangerous creatures'. Certain sects of Judaism disenfranchise women because they think they are 'putting women on a pedestal, as a sign of respect'. Different excuses, same result: women are marginalized and not allowed to fully participate in the society in which they exist. It is no more anti-semitic to criticize such practices and attitudes as when it appears in those representing Judaism than it would be unpatriotic to criticize the actions of your country's government. It's sexism when people we don't like do it, and it's sexism when people we like do it as well.

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Weekend Box Office (05/08/11): Thor grosses $65.7m, Fast Five crashes, and other debuts perform well.

It's a $65.7 million weekend for Thor (review), giving the Marvel adventure pic a solid 2.6x weekend multiplier. It's kinda scary how accurately we can now predict opening weekend grosses just based on the midnight number, but the math once again worked (Thor did 5% of its weekend gross via Thursday midnight sneaks, per usual). Anyway, Marvel was successful at keeping expectations low, saying that anything over $60 million would be a win. And it more-or-less is. The film played heavily 3D, which meant higher ticket prices and the like. I heard plenty of anecdotal stories about moviegoers unable to find a convenient 2D location, which may be part of a depressing trend as the 'summer of 3D' unfolds. But the film had a solid weekend multiplier (if you discount the $3.25 million worth of midnight sneaks, the film's Friday and Saturday figures were pretty even) and decent word of mouth. It earned a B+ from Cinemascore, with an A from those under 18.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Thor grosses $25.7 million on opening Friday, looks headed for $65-72 million debut weekend.

It was pretty much a foregone conclusion once the midnight numbers were released, but Marvel's Thor has opened with a rock-solid $25.7 million for its first Friday. The film is polling at a 'B+' from Cinemascore, with an 'A' from audiences under 18. The film did about 12% of that from midnight showings, which is normal for such fare. Where it goes from here is an open question of course. Non-sequels that did the 12% of their Friday grosses on midnight or Thursday night (Avatar and Inception for example) had weekend multipliers of about 2.8x, which would give Thor a hearty $72 million. But even a slightly front-loaded 2.6x would give the picture $65 million, which still feels like the likely end result for the Fri-Sun period. The other two major openers, Something Borrowed and Jumping the Broom, opened with $4.8 million and $4.1 million respectively, so both should gross around $12 million for the weekend. More to come once the weekend numbers roll in (although my analysis may be a little later than usual, due to the whole Mother's Day celebrations and what-not).

Scott Mendelson

Friday, May 6, 2011

Thor grosses $3.25 million in midnight sneaks, appears headed towards $43-72 million for the weekend ($65 million sounds about right).

With pretty much every major summer tentpole doing the whole 'midnight screening' thing this season, it's going to be that much easier to predict the weekend even earlier. So with that, we can report that Marvel's Thor (review) has opened with $3.25 million in midnight sneaks last night. As I've written before, a film that goes wide at 12:01am generally makes between 5% and 6% of its opening-weekend take in midnight screenings. There are exceptions (Avatar and Fast Five pulled in around 4.5% of their Fri-Sun grosses in 12:01am screenings), but 5-7% seems to be a healthy average. So with that in mind, assuming that Thor is inexplicably front-loaded (unlikely as its not a sequel) and/or suffers from poor word of mouth (also unlikely, as the film is pretty fun and satisfying), let's assume that Thor does about 5% of its opening weekend grosses at midnight. That would give Thor a $65 million opening weekend take. Playing the averages, Thor could gross anywhere from $43 million (7.5% in midnight sneaks, or a likely worst-case scenario) to $72 million (a best-case scenario 4.5% in midnight sneaks). We'll know more when the Friday numbers come in, but for now, it looks like Paramount has pulled off another massive opening for a challenging franchise. For those who want a detailed look at the math regarding midnight screenings, go here.

Scott Mendelson

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Review: Passion Play

Passion Play
94 minutes
rated R

by Scott Mendelson

Passion Play is a film that asks you to watch its lead character make one terrible decision after another and sympathize with him anyway. From the first frame of the film until the last, Nate (Mickey Rourke) exhibits atrocious judgment and a painful selfish streak, yet we are supposed to be on his side for the entirety of the picture. The opening scene of the picture has him about to be shot dead in a desert for sleeping with the wife of a known mob boss. As Passion Play unfolds, one can't help but wonder if everyone involved would have been better off if Nate had just taken two in the head.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Press Release: Star Wars: the Complete Saga on Blu Ray

Bring home the adventure and share Star Wars™ with your whole family – when STAR WARS: THE COMPLETE SAGA comes to Blu-ray Disc from Lucasfilm Ltd. and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment! To be released beginning on September 12 internationally and on September 16 in North America, the nine-disc collection brings the wonder of the entire Saga direct to your living room, where you can revisit all of your favorite Star Wars moments – in gorgeous high definition and with pristine, 6.1 DTS Surround Sound. Dive deeper into the universe with an unprecedented 40+ hours of special features, highlighted by never-before-seen content sourced from the Lucasfilm archives.

The specs after the jump:

Green Lantern gets a second (this time plot and character-centric) trailer.

This is almost anticlimactic after a month that saw a four-minute Wondercon clip and two extended TV spots, but here is the official second trailer for Green Lantern. This clip is obviously much less jokey than the infamous teaser, and it clearly lays out the intergalactic scale and the world-threatening scope of the picture. It also gives some badly needed face time to the human supporting cast, notably Peter Sarsgaard as primary villain Hector Hammand, Tim Robbins as his father, and Angela Bassett as Dr. Amanda Walker. Blake Lively is still being hidden from view as much as possible, which can't be a good sign. The key issue remains the same as the other released footage: next to no actual scenes of Ryan Reynolds in action as the Green Lantern. It's still the same helicopter rescue, gattling-gun scenes that we've seen before. Of course, there's still six weeks to go, with the special effects burden adding $9 million to the budget, but you'd think Warner would want to show off footage of Hal Jordan kicking butt? And I'm frankly a little shocked that we haven't seen what should be the money shot (if it exists): countless Green Lanterns flying through space and/or doing battle with Parallax. As always, we'll see.

Scott Mendelson

Review: Thor: A 3D IMAX Experience

115 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

Despite Marvel and Paramount's best marketing efforts to convince otherwise, Kenneth Branagh's Thor is a perfectly satisfactory piece of popcorn entertainment. It is cheerfully silly and openly operatic, but played out with absolute conviction. It is no great landmark in the realm of comic book films, but it is easily the best of the Marvel-financed films thus far released. It has larger than life action with human-scale emotions, and Branagh directs with an unexpected confidence that seeps through the finish product. It is no great piece of art nor defining statement of our times, but its good-natured pomp makes its obvious flaws almost endearing.


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