Thursday, June 30, 2011

Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Last word on Sucker Punch, as the director's cut comes to Blu Ray. It's what we claim we want, but we couldn't see past the surface.

Zach Snyder made perhaps the ultimate thesis project on the wholesale objectification of women in popular culture, especially in modern geek culture, and how women feel the need to use those tools of objectification in order to achieve some semblance of would-be independence.  Sucker Punch smashed open the absurd notions that girls wearing short-shorts and arbitrarily doing violence is somehow empowering, when in fact those images are almost designed to be titillating to the male gaze.  It was (and is even more so in the longer, more fluid director's cut which restores the original Jon Hamm finale) a sad, mournful, borderline hopeless saga of five young girls who are imprisoned against their will, exploited for their sexuality, and then forced to use the tools of that exploitation in a feeble attempt to escape the clutches of male oppression.  It is about exploitation and it is about titillation.  Yet our nation's critics and audience members couldn't see past the very tools that Snyder was mocking (the mini-skirts, the pigtails, the larger-than-life CGI-infused action) to see what was a borderline art film.

Trailer: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy showcases old-school thrills with character actors (Gary Oldman! John Hurt!) galore!

I have not read the John le Carre novel that this film is based on.  But just the cast (Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Thomas Hardy, Mark Strong, Colin Firth, etc!), the director (Tomas Alfredson, who helmed the original Let the Right One In), and genre (old-school spy thriller!) puts this one near the top of the must-see list.  We can all decry the unending parade of remakes, sequels, and fantasy films, especially in the summer time.  But as long as stuff like this is still being made and being given a wide release, then the game is not lost.  Let us hope that John Hurt provides the exposition, while Gary Oldman again plays with low-key anguish, which has become his strength of late.  And since I have not read the novel or seen the 1979 miniseries, I do not know if the film continues the classic Gary Oldman tradition.  Ironically, Focus Features is putting it out on November 18th, against Happy Feet 2 and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn part I.  So while it won't win its opening weekend, it will likely far outpace its rivals on the Tomato-Meter.  

Scott Mendelson

Is Richard Lester available? Disney and Marvel press ahead with Thor 2 for summer 2013, without director Kenneth Branagh.

Well, it looks like summer 2013 is the one where we find out how much the Marvel franchises truly depend on their would-be auteurs.  The summer will kick off with Iron Man 3 (directed not by Jon Favreau but by Shane Black) opens on the same first-weekend in May slot the previous two have debuted in.  And Disney announced today that Thor 2 is scheduled for July 26th, 2013.  The big news is that while star Chris Hemsworth will be back, original helmer Kenneth Branagh will not (Natalie Portman is contracted for a sequel, but we'll see if she makes the choice to return).  This is a surprise to say the least.  This is not a case like the Iron Man franchise, where Jon Favreau butted heads with Marvel throughout the sequel and decided to quit at two.  This isn't a case like Green Lantern, where Martin Campbell found himself a bit over his head with the whole green-screen/CGI action department and will probably fall on the sword for the movie's poor box office (Warner Bros' new habit of micromanaging didn't help either).  Thor withstood a weak marketing campaign and ended up with a rock-solid $437 million worldwide, earning relatively solid reviews in the process.  I don't wish to speculate and will only say that I hope that Branagh's choice to move on was merely a case of not wanting to get tied to the franchise, and not another case of penny-pinching by Marvel or some kind of corporate decision by Disney (which takes over the previously-Paramount owned Marvel films after Captain America).  Anyone want to offer suggestions or guess the release date?  As for replacement directors, it's the same list I always have: Sophia Coppola, Werner Herzog, and Terrence Malick.

Scott Mendelson      

New (and slightly silly) international Captain America poster again sells Steve Rogers unmasked, highlights supporting ensemble.

This time around, it's the supporting cast that merits notice.  They are (roll call!): J.J. Feild as James Montgomery Farnsworth, Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes, Tommy Lee Jones as Col. Chester Phillips, Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, and Neal McDonough as Dum Dum Dugan. I didn't even realize McDonough was in this picture.  Obviously that big red head watching them is Hugo Weaving as The Red Skull.  And oddly missing from this ensemble is Stanley Tucci.  As for the art itself, it's a bit goofy, but A) it captures the gee-wiz adventure that's been a cornerstone of the ad campaign thus far and B) it's still better than the awful Batman-centric Dark Knight posters from three years back (where the main poster art had a giant wheel as its center of attention).  Anyway, Captain America drops on July 22nd, so expect to start seeing long-lead screenings sometime towards the end of next week, with resulting reviews to start leaking just in time to try to steal geek press away from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II.  I'm sure I'll see it at the All-Media on the Monday or Tuesday before opening, like all the other 'regular critics'.

Scott Mendelson

Cheap but funny: Ben Churchill mashes up No Strings Attached, Friends With Benefits into a single trailer.

This may be cheap (I'm sure you can do this with any number of movies that happen to have a similar premise), but the result is a genuine hoot.  No Strings Attached was relatively okay, a C+ picture that merits a DVD rental and at least tried to have something worthwhile on its mind.  Here's hoping the seemingly bawdier Friends With Benefits at least reaches those heights.  The latter comes out July 22nd.

Scott Mendelson

Box Office (06/29/11): With 60% sold in 3D, Transformers: Dark of the Moon nets $42.7m first day (including Tues-sneaks). It's looks like a $180m 6-day weekend.

Okay, so my arbitrary predictions stemming from yesterday's $13.5 million worth of advance-night and midnight screenings was off by about $10 million.  The third Transformers picture grossed $37.2 million on its first full day, which accounts for $8 million worth of midnight shows but not $5.5 million worth of 9pm advance screenings the evening before.  So the official 'first day' total for Transformers: Dark of the Moon is $42.7 million.  By itself, the $37.2 million number is the sixth-biggest Wednesday of all-time, and the biggest single day of 2011 so far.  That is about $24 million behind the $62 million opening day (with $16 million worth of midnight grosses) for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.  And it is about $6 million ahead of the first day ($27.8 million opening Tuesday plus $8.8 million worth of advance-night sneaks) of the first Transformers back over this same long holiday in 2007.  The first Transformers had a six day opening weekend of sorts, opening on Monday at 8pm and plowing through the whole Fourth of July week with about $155 million in the can by the time Sunday night rolled around.  Dark of the Moon has a similar situation, opening on a Wednesday, but having that holiday Monday that Transformers apparently did not have (I say apparently because the Monday gross plummeted 55% from Sunday, which is unusual for a holiday Monday).  The film scored an A from Cinemascore, with 55% of the audience being under 25. It also played 62% male.  With audience satisfaction higher this time around (Revenge of the Fallen had a B+) and those IMAX (more in number than for Revenge of the Fallen) and 3D screens (which made up a whopping 60% of the tickets yesterday) factored in, we should see a similar long-weekend multiplier to the first Transformers (4.3x its opening 1.25 days).  So offhand, we're looking like a six-day weekend total of about $180 million.  Although Paramount would love to get it over the $183.6 million six-day mark, so as to become the third-biggest six-day total ever (behind Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen with $214 million and The Dark Knight with $224 million).

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Transformers: Dark of the Moon scores $13.5 million in Tuesday night and midnight sneaks. What does it mean for the long weekend?

Oh boy, it's time for more midnight math! The Frances McDormand/John Malkovich/John Turturro epic  Transformers: Dark of the Moon grossed $13.5 million last night.  That includes $5.5 million worth of advance-night (9pm) screenings and $8 million worth of midnight showings.  That number is just a bit under the $16 million that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen grossed in pure midnight screenings two years ago.  And it's about 50% larger than the $8.8 million that the original Transformers earned with its advance night + midnight screenings over this same uber-long weekend back in 2007.  There is actually quite a bit of comparison calculations possible, since both prior films opened over a six day weekend of sorts (the second film did the normal Wed-Sun non-holiday weekend, but with massive midnight totals that basically are equal to the third film's advance-night performance).  So, the first film opened with $8.8 million in Monday-night sneaks, then made $27 million on its first full day and ended its official Tuesday-to-Sunday six-day weekend with $155.4 million (5.6% of that came from advance-night screenings).  The sequel earned $62 million on its first full day, with $16 million of that coming from midnight showings, and went on to earn $200 million over its Wednesday-to-Monday five-day sprint (8% of that came from midnight screenings).  So where does this leave Transformers: Dark of the Moon?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

First look at Anne Hathaway as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises? No, but this 2004 pic offers a preview of an Ed Brubaker/Darwyn Cooke-inspired design.

If the interview over at Hollywood Life is to be believed, it looks like Christopher Nolan is once again taking his cues from Ed Brubaker, at least visually.  Batman Begins took a healthy mix of Ed Brubaker (the overriding decency of Bruce Wayne), Greg Rucka (the police procedural viewpoint), and Frank Miller (the Batman/Gordon relationship from Batman: Year One), while The Dark Knight borrowed from pretty much the same sources, but more overtly using the work of Ed Brubaker (The Man Who Laughs) and the Ed Brubaker/Greg Rucka story "Soft Targets" from the Gotham Central book back in 2003.  Since Chris Nolan is including Selina Kyle this time around, it is only natural that he again use the template instigated by Ed Brubaker's relaunch of the character back in 2001.  The costume itself was designed by Darwyn Cooke.  As I've stated many times before, Brubaker's 37-issue run on Catwoman remains some of the best stuff DC Comics published over the last decade.  That Nolan may agree with this sentiment makes me that much more excited about whatever Nolan has in store for the series finale.

Scott Mendelson

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol trailer looks visually dynamite, but desperately needs that classic M:I theme music.

The visuals are dynamite, the action looks terrific (and mostly practical), and everyone looks glad to be there (Tom Cruise looks positively charged being back in familiar territory).  But oh goodness, that Eminem song has no business being in a Mission: Impossible trailer.  If anyone has the time to remix the trailer with the old-school music, I'll post it in a heartbeat.  I do wonder how the plot will tie in with Ethan Hunt's status as a married retiree at the end of Mission: Impossible III, but for now the plot (the team goes into action after the head of IMF is accused of raping a... oh wait, wrong IMF) seems compelling and the stunts feel relatively old-school.  There's a bit more fisticuffs than we're used to from this series, but then the reason I like the franchise is that they get a new and distinctive director every time out of the gate.  This time, it's Brad Bird.  He gave us the best non-Disney cartoon of the 1990s (The Iron Giant), the best superhero action picture of the 2000s (The Incredibles) and one of the best Pixar films of the 2000s (Ratatouille) to boot.  So yeah, he has our trust.  This one comes out December 16th, 2011, although I sincerely expect it to move to summer 2012 as Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is opening on the exact same day.  But whenever this one is released, mission is most definitely accepted.

Scott Mendelson    

REVIEW: Transformers: Dark of the Moon (3D) is the Transformers movie you've always wanted (for better or worse), complete with political subtext.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
154 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

On a relative scale, the third time is the charm for the Michael Bay robot-smashing series.  This second sequel  basically gives us the apocalyptic Transformers epic we've been waiting for since 2007.  That which was annoying about the previous two films is still present here, but in more sensible doses.  We still have needlessly campy humor.  We still have Shia LeBeouf trying to wring sympathy from a genuinely obnoxiously-written lead character.  We still have a needless female lead who exists purely to be ogled.  But this time we get a story that takes itself seriously.  We get a narrative that makes a token amount of sense and shows something almost resembling discipline.  And when the action comes, it does deliver the goods.  At long last, Michael Bay gives us a healthy helping of robot-on-robot smackdowns.  The problems with the previous two films are still there, but they are that much easier to forgive because we finally get what we actually came for in a Transformers movie.

Monday, June 27, 2011

For 2.5 hours, Transformers was my favorite film of 2007...

I kinda hated the first Transformers.  Yes, it was a more disciplined and coherent picture than the Revenge of the Fallen, but it had many of the same problems that critics and fans only seemed to notice two years later.  It was chock-full not with robot-smashing action, but with half-hearted attempts at character development, first-grade humor, and ungodly of 'plot' that had no pay off and never really mattered by the time the third act rolled around.  I didn't care about whether or not Sam Witwicky would 'man up' and win the heart/vagina of Mikaela Banes (the same 'Can the nerd get the hot girl next door?' plot was frankly done far better in LeBeouf's Disturbia just two months earlier).  I didn't care about the campy antics of hackers Glen Whitmman (Anthony Anderson again proving that he's a good dramatic actor but a terrible comic one) and Maggie Madsen.  And most importantly, I was stunned by the lack of actual robot-on-robot action sequences.  Optimus Prime doesn't show up until 70 minutes into the film, Megatron doesn't appear until about 100 minutes in, and the first Optimus Prime action scene goes down a full 110 minutes into the 140 minute picture.  I spent most of the film waiting for the actual Autobots vs. Decepticons action.  And even when it came in act three, the film spent more time showing Jon Voight blasting bugs with a shotgun than showing Optimus Prime and Megatron going at it.  But then, I had my first child...

Trailer: Pixar's Brave looks gorgeous, announces 'Don't give up on us!"

Unless my daughter wants to see it (so far, she does not), I doubt I'll be seeing Cars 2 in theaters.  Having said that, I have a tough time believing it is THAT bad.  I'm wondering if the reviews would have been quite as harsh if A) it weren't a sequel, B) it didn't star Larry the Cable Guy, and C) it wasn't being released on the tail-end of a four-year Pixar masterpiece streak.  Whatever the case, John Lasseter wanted to make Cars 2, and now he has that out of his system.  This gorgeous and moody teaser basically announces in the same breath: "No no, we're still in this for real."  Not much to say, as this is allegedly Pixar's attempt to play in the Lord of the Rings sandbox.  Yes, it's the first Pixar film with a female lead.  Yes, the film's first (female) director, Brenda Chapman, was replaced by Mark Andrews.  The film as it stands looks like a visual marvel, and we'll see when it drops on June 22nd, 2012.

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Weekend Box Office (06/26/11): Cars 2 soars, Bad Teacher sets Diaz record, Green Lantern collapses.

To the surprise of no one, a Pixar picture topped the box office in its debut weekend, making it 12/12 since 1995.  Cars 2 (or as I like to call it: "Finally, a Pixar movie that won't make you violently sob in front of your children!") weathered some surprisingly savage reviews to still debut with $66.1 million over the weekend.  The opening is the fifth biggest in the studio's history, behind the $68.1 million debut of Up (it's at $109 million worldwide thus far).  The film had a low (for animation) 2.64x weekend multiplier (it opened with $25 million on Friday), but that means little more than that it was a sequel with a certain 'want-to-see' factor.  Heck, Toy Story 3 had a 2.6x weekend multiplier last year, causing me to (needlessly) wonder if the film was going to end up front-loaded overall.  Regardless, there has never been a Pixar movie to end up with less than 3.5x its opening weekend (Wall-E: $63m opening/$223m total).  So even if the critically trashed and more-or-less kid-targeted Cars 2 somehow sinks to a 'new low' of just 3.3x this weekend's number, it still ends up with $218 million.  If it merely does the 3.77x weekend-to-final number of Toy Story 3 ($110m/$415m), Cars 2 ends up with $249 million.

Friday, June 24, 2011

REVIEW: Bad Teacher doesn't deserve tenure, lacks focus and narrative drive.

Bad Teacher
89 minutes
rated R

by Scott Mendelson

I didn't laugh all that much at Bad Teacher.  I wasn't offended by Bad Teacher, nor did I find Diaz's scheming protagonist particularly unlikable.  But the film suffers from the same malady as last summer's The Other Guys.  Like that film, Bad Teacher is filled with solid comedic character actors doing occasionally amusing broad turns. But like the Will Ferrell/Mark Wahlberg caper, the Jake Kasdan-directed picture feels like a handful of strung-together sketch moments, often disconnected from each other and failing to exist as a whole narrative.  Of course, comedies that exist purely to patch together one comedic sketch after another can work if those sketches stand on their own two feet.  But this is not the case, and Bad Teacher fails as a comedy and as a story.

WARNING! Tree of Life may be too didactically existential for YOU! NO REFUNDS!

I've never seen THIS.  I've seen warnings to moviegoers that the dogs in Snow Dogs do not actually talk.  I've seen warnings explain, in detail, that South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut is indeed an R-rated film despite the fact that it's a cartoon.  I've seen signs warning that anyone buying a ticket to Thirteen Days just to watch the attached teaser to Lord of the Rings would not receive a refund after said trailer.  But I've never seen a movie theater warning that a given movie may be too artsy-fartsy for them, and warning that unsuspecting ticket buyers would be out of luck.  As the film goes wider, I expect this kind of thing to happen more and more often.  Still, buyer beware.  In this day and age, anyone who walks into The Tree of Life just because "Hey, Brad Pitt is in it!" deserves to either have their mind blown or put to sleep.  And no, they don't deserve refunds either way.

Scott Mendelson  

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Captain America gets a terrific trailer, selling old-school patriotism and adventure.

First of all, the tagline ('heroes are made in America') is a nice touch, showing that Paramount is unafraid of actually selling the fact that the lead character is indeed code-named Captain 'America'.  As for the footage, it frankly looks spectacular.  This is the first big-scale comic book adaptation in a good-long while that actually feels like an actual adventure.  While I'm sure there is plenty of CGI-enhanced material throughout (and as long as it works, why not?), the feeling is predominantly old-school.  With Steve Rogers ziplining into battle, racing aboard a snow-covered train, and swinging into harm's way, Joe Johnston seems to remember that super heroes should generally engage in super heroics.  It is also the first of the Marvel movies that doesn't look kinda cheap thus far.  This one drops July 22nd so, as always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Captain America gets another Steve Rogers-centric poster. Paramount and Marvel are smartly selling the man, not the myth.

Only two real thoughts here (other than it's a nice colorful poster).  A) It's nice that, at least in America, they are playing down that whole 'the first avenger' silliness.  B) It's worth noting that Marvel and Paramount has been so far selling this less as a 'Captain America adventure' than as a 'Steve Rogers adventure'.  It's a smart move, as we all know that once you have the audience caring about the man behind the mask, they'll care all the more about the larger-than-life theatrics that take place.  This one allegedly screened last week to rapturous buzz, so we'll see if Paramount plans to truly long-lead this one, and if I can sneak into anything sooner than the All Media.  And yes, even my wife is wondering why the hell Paramount isn't opening this thing next weekend.  Why indeed... Share your thoughts below.

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Waited for DVD: The Adjustment Bureau - Free will is terrific, except when it's really destiny in disguise.

The Adjustment Bureau
105 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

There are any number of movies that make less sense after you think about them then they did as you were watching them.  But The Adjustment Bureau is not only a movie that makes little sense as your watching it, but basically betrays its own philosophy in the process.  Since this is a DVD review, I'm going to be more spoilery than I otherwise would be for a pre-theatrical glance.  There are three major problems with the picture that render the well-intentioned romantic thriller relatively useless as both an emotional entertainment and as an intellectual exercise.  So, if I may forgo the usual plot synopsis, let me cut to the chase...

Review: Conan O'Brien Can't Stop a revealing, sometimes awkward backstage peek.

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop
89 minutes
rated R

by Scott Mendelson

Any number of great rock n' rollers, from Elton John to Bob Seger, have written classic ditties about the less glamorous parts of being a touring musician.  Heck, anyone who wonders why Steve Perry will probably never ever reunite with Journey need only listen to "Faithfully".  No matter how much you enjoy the stage or how much you are driven to entertain the masses, the daily grind of actually going from one city to another, being away from loved ones for months at a time, is something that not everyone can endure.  So one can only imagine the stress that it puts on someone who has spent the prior twenty years entertaining as a day job, commuting from home to a single office building and putting on a show on the same stage night after night.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Apparently domestic audiences don't like aliens or armed women... A tale of two Cowboys and Aliens posters.


The poster on the left is domestic and the one on the right is international.  For what it's worth, the domestic poster is a better piece of art.  It is moodier, with more natural looking photo-shopping for the two leads.  However, the international poster is interesting for two reasons.  First of all, the international poster actually has alien imagery on the poster while the domestic one does not.  Is this mere artistic choice, a choice to not reveal certain visual elements a month prior to release, or is Universal concerned that casual moviegoers will be turned off by explicit outer-space imagery in their western poster art?  Second of all, most obviously, the international poster actually features (and bills) Olivia Wilde, while the domestic one leaves her off.  So the question is, was the domestic omission a matter of trying to sell a more arch-typical 'two men against the world' western iconography, or is Universal somehow under the impression that putting Wilde on the poster (armed and ready no less) will turn off certain traditionalist segments of the audience?  You make the call, but there you have it.  Cowboys and Aliens opens on July 29th.  Expect the phrase 'in glorious 2D' to be thrown around quite a bit in junkets.

Scott Mendelson

Trailer: Puss In Boots goes for easy jokes, mimics The Mask of Zorro in a most unexpected fashion.

I remember walking out of Monsters Vs. Aliens with basically a single thought: this movie really could have been something if they were willing to play it real.  Yes, the 3D was dynamite and the IMAX screen only added depth and scope, but at the end of the day, it was still a jokey 1950s spoof aimed at very young kids.  What a great movie it could have been if it had the courage to be a real science-fiction adventure about monsters fighting off invading alien forces...  Dreamworks has proven they can play for keeps since then, with Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon, and Megamind.  But Puss in Boots seems to be going the Monsters and Aliens route.  Yes, this is just a trailer, but how wonderful would it be to see a full-blown and red-blooded Zorro adventure in animated form where our Zorro happened to be an animated feline?  Speaking of The Mask of Zorro, I fully expected Dreamworks to use the James Horner score for Martin Campbell's masterpiece in this new trailer.  But instead, they used the same piece of music from Drop Zone that Sony used in the original Mask of Zorro trailers back in 1998.  Weird... Anyway, this one comes out on November 4th.  As always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson    

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Muppets gets a real trailer. "This is their movie!", promises Disney.

After three satirical teasers over the last month, Disney finally unleashes a real trailer of sorts from this Thanksgiving's The Muppets.  The most effective portion is actually the opening bit, where Jason Segel basically acknowledges that the Muppets have not been a true pop culture force since Jim Henson died in 1990.  Yes, I enjoyed Muppets Tonight, and two of my favorite Muppet movies (Muppet Treasure Island and A Very Muppet Christmas) all dropped in the last fifteen years, but they've been mainly feeding on nostalgia since the early 1990s.  Anyway, the trailer itself is amusing, and it still avoids revealing any real plot.  Statler and Waldorf do make an appearance, so that's encouraging, and this new trailer is explicitly Muppet-centric.  In fact, the text at 0:41 - "This is their movie!" - seems to be a reassurance to those worried that Jason Segel and Amy Adams will dominate the proceedings. So far, so good.

Scott Mendelson  

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Weekend Box Office (06/19/11): Green Lantern pulls a Van Helsing, opens with $53m, endangers entire DC Comics film franchise.

When is a $52 million three-day opening a genuine disappointment?  Well, in the world of box office, all things are relative.  And when it comes to opening weekend, the quality and estimated staying power has to be taken into account.  Green Lantern debuted at number one this weekend with $53.1 million.  On the surface, that's the third-biggest DC Comics opening ever, and the second-biggest non-sequel DC Comics film (behind Watchmen's $55.2 million).  But like Watchmen, a seemingly glorious opening (a $55 million debut for a 2.5 hour R-rated superhero drama based on a cult property) is considered troubling due to fears about its staying power and overspending.  Green Lantern cost about $200 million to produce, with another $150 million going towards marketing efforts.  The film had a poor 2.45x weekend multiplier and earned only a B from Cinemascore.  This does not guarantee that Green Lantern will follow Watchmen's lightning-fast downward trajectory (the film didn't even double its opening weekend, ending with $107 million).  But with mediocre word of mouth, generally poor reviews, and brutal competition coming just down the pike (Cars 2 next weekend, Transformers: Dark of the Moon a few days after that), the best that Warner can hope for domestically is an around 3x multiplier for a $155 million finish.  Warner and DC Comics will have to be counting on overseas numbers to carry the day.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Midnight Box Office (06/16/11): Green Lantern grosses $3.35m in 12:01 showings, heading for probable $61 million opening weekend.

The midnight money is apparently tallied already.  So once again, we have a decent idea of what a major film's opening weekend will be before the first Friday shows on the West Coast even begin.  Fascinating... Anyway, Green Lantern grossed $3.35 million in midnight screenings last night.  That's ahead of the $3.25 million earned by Thor at midnight, and just under the $3.4 million midnight gross earned by X-Men: First Class two weeks ago.  So at this point, it's just a matter of anticipating just how anticipated Martin Campbell's superhero saga is.  It is an original property, so it won't be as front-loaded as X-Men: First Class (which pulled in 6% of its weekend at midnight).  Reviews are pretty lousy (unfairly so in my opinion), which may or may not make a difference (remember, audiences for movies like this generally don't care about reviews).  So basically the question is whether it pulls 5% of its money at 12:01am (like Thor) or 6% of its money at 12:01am like X-Men: First Class.  For the moment, Green Lantern is apparently heading for an opening weekend between $55 million and $67 million.  Let's split the difference, give it a 5.5% midnight take and call it for $61 million.

Scott Mendelson

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II gets another (insert twelve superlatives HERE) trailer.

What else more is there to say?  This thing looks astonishing, action-packing, and moving as hell.  There's just one month to go (hopefully sooner if I can sneak into an earlier screening), and I frankly haven't felt this kind of 'giddy' since The Dark Knight three years ago.  This may be the last time I feel this way about a movie.  But if the fandom of my official youth is to end with Harry Potter (or perhaps next year with The Dark Knight Rises), than so be it.  One does not have to be a foaming at the mouth fan to write about a subject in question.  But it sure makes it a little more fun.  God this looks fantastic...

Scott Mendelson

The Muppets gets a Green Lantern-inspired teaser, with Statler and Waldorf!!

This is easily the best teaser so far, with what appears to be actual scenes from the movie, including an appearance (thank god) by Statler and Waldorf!!  All that, plus a witty self-acknowledgment from Jason Segel about the seemingly unending 'parody trailers' makes this the best spot yet.  Frankly, if Disney does nothing but parody trailers up until the film's release, they'll be able to market the movie without revealing anything resembling plot.  Imagine that... walking into a major studio movie not knowing at all what to expect behind the bare-bones synopsis.

Scott Mendelson  

Review: Green Lantern (3D) is not as great as we had all hoped, but it's not nearly as bad as we had all feared.

Green Lantern
105 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

I kept waiting... I had read the earlier reviews, which seemed to confirm all of the worst fears stretching back to last November.  But the hate never came.  Martin Campbell's Green Lantern is a deeply problematic comic book adventure, with structural and character development issues that should damn-well have felled the film.  But like its title character, it overcomes its own weaknesses and embraces its inherent flaws.  The picture has signs of tinkering and studio interference.  But it also has several fine action scenes, a strong visual style that feels like a living comic book, and arguably the best 3D conversion yet achieved in live-action.  Oh, and it also has Peter Skarsgaard, but more on that later.  I have no idea how Green Lantern purists will react, but the film as it is  remains a weird combination of ghee-whiz kid-friendly superhero antics and truly disturbing horror elements.  That the film is not quite the triumph we wanted may be tragic.  That the film as it stands works at all may qualify as a miracle.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why I'm not as excited for The Dark Knight Rises as you are...

While the rest of movie fandom hyperventilates over every bit of rumor and every bit of random casting ("Wow! The dad from Make It Or Break It will be in The Dark Knight Rises!"), I just can't quite find the passion that everyone else seems to be feeling.  Yes, I know I dealt with this a little back in December, but I don't think it's the whole 'getting old and cynical' thing this time around.  I have little doubt that The Dark Knight Rises will be a rock-solid Batman film and that it will contain fine acting, top-notch production values, and hopefully a dollop of social relevance.  I am even heartened by hints that seem to imply that it will indeed be a Bruce Wayne-centric story that will perhaps confront that whole 'Bruce Wayne acts like a selfish idiot so no one suspects he's Batman' shtick that the comics have forced on us for decades.  But, as good as it may be, The Dark Knight Rises will just be another Batman film.  Its predecessor was the culmination of pretty much everything I wanted to see in a Batman movie.  With The Dark Knight, Chris Nolan gave us exactly what we craved in a near-perfect concoction.  The Dark Knight was THE Batman film.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

From beginning to end: a Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II retrospective trailer.

For what it's worth, I saw the jaw-dropping trailer for this one before the IMAX screening of Super 8 last week.  My wife had never actually seen the trailer and was quite impressed. How we both wished that we could see this in IMAX 2D.  Me?  I got the chills again... Ya know, the 'I can't wait to see this and want to see it right now!' vibe that I frankly haven't had since The Dark Knight.  Alas, this series finale to this most special of franchises may very well be the last movie on the horizon that will give me such a high.  Sure, I'm interested and intrigued by The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers but... I'm not getting anywhere near the same excitement level as I had for the second Chris Nolan Batman picture.  As far as me feeling breathless anticipation well, perhaps the tagline above is accurate.  Come what may, this better be good...

Scott Mendelson  

More posters for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II as battle lines are drawn.

More great posters for what I can only hope will be the best film of the summer.  Just one month away...

Scott Mendelson

Yes, this new retro Captain America poster (a gift for cast/crew) sure is swell!

This probably won't sell a single ticket to the younger audiences, but it's a shame that Marvel/Paramount didn't take a chance using art like this to rope in older moviegoers.  Anyway, there is allegedly a new trailer debuting sometime next week.

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Weekend Box Office (06/12/11): Super 8 opens with $35m, X-Men: First Class performs JUST like X-Men, Midnight In Paris nears $15m.

I've written about this before (here and here), but box office pundits and film bloggers generally seem to want it both ways.  They whine about the onslaught of remakes, reboots, sequels, and kid-centric animated films, yet they also DEMAND that the total weekend box office stay at a level that necessitates such a steady diet.  So when Paramount's Super 8 was tracking in the $25-30 million range over the last couple weeks, the various pundits were up in arms about how this original, star-less, $50 million period-set thriller was somehow an automatic flop because it wasn't going to open to $50 million over its first three days.  But now that it HAS opened to a relatively solid $35 million, the line is that total box office is down from this weekend last year.  Well, last year saw the release of a remake of The Karate Kid and a movie-adaptation of The A-Team, which opened with a combined take of $80 million.  Surprising quality of the Karate Kid remake aside, isn't that the kind of slate we all say we don't want?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides crosses $200 million in 22 days. It won't match its budget domestically, but it may hit $1 billion worldwide.

Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is the poster child for the overwhelming strength of overseas box office over the last couple years.  Here is a movie that is poised to become one of the fifteen biggest grossing movies of all time worldwide, yet it will likely not surpass its $250 million production budget in domestic grosses. But the film did cross the $200 million mark in 22 days, or merely three days faster than the first Pirates of the Caribbean back in 2003.  The prior sequels did it in nine days and eight days respectively, so this is indeed a franchise comedown on the domestic front.  Worldwide however, the film has already passed the $654 million grossed by Curse of the Black Pearl, with its sights set on the $963 million grossed by At World's End and the $1.066 billion grossed by Dead Man's Chest.  In terms of just foreign grosses, On Stranger Tides has grossed $615 million (the fourteenth largest total ever), and it's bearing down on the $642 million overseas total for Dead Man's Chest and the $654 million overseas cum for At World's End.  Obviously, we'll know in a week or so whether Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides becomes the first franchise to have two films reach $1 billion worldwide and/or becomes the first film to hit $900 million $1 billion while grossing less than $250 million in the US.  Fascinating...

Scott Mendelson

The Hangover part II crosses the $200 million mark, setting another R-rated record. Soon, it will be the top-grossing R-rated franchise ever.

Despite or because of the fact that it's merely a retread of the first film, The Hangover part II has crossed the $200 million mark on its 16th day of domestic release.  It's already past $350 million worldwide and looks like a sure bet for a $450 million worldwide gross, which would put it near the top ten of the R-rated record books.  If it makes it to $500 million worldwide, it will be just the fourth R-rated film in history to accomplish that feat.  Heck, there are only sixteen films R-rated films that have ever grossed $400 million worldwide, which explains why studios are so hesitant to greenlight uber-expensive R-rated films.  Anyway, with $200 million as of yesterday, The Hangover part II becomes just the third R-rated sequel in history to top $200 million, and part of the only R-rated franchise in history to have two films joining the $200 million club.  With The Hangover at $276 million and The Hangover part II at $204 million today and just days away from besting Saving Private Ryan ($216 million) to become the seventh-biggest R-rated film ever, the Wolfpack adventures officially becomes the most successful R-rated franchise in cinema history on a film-by-film basis. Heck, it's near the top for total dollars for pure R-rated franchises already.  By weekend's end, the two Hangover films will have surpassed the $487 million gross of all four Lethal Weapon pictures, with the $592 million total gross of The Matrix trilogy next up.  Heck, barring a complete collapse over the next month (always possible with screen bleed and competition from Bad Teacher), there is little chance that The Hangover 2 will fail to best Beverly Hills Cop's $234 million take, which would allow the Hangover franchise to occupy the #3 and #4 slots on the all-time list for R-rated films.  So yeah, there will definitely be a The Hangover part III in the next few years.

Scott Mendelson

Friday, June 10, 2011

Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy is one of the best comic book films ever made. But even I have no need for Dick Tracy 2.

Warren Beatty set tongues wagging last night with offhand comments regarding the oft-promised Dick Tracy 2.  After speaking on the subject at an LA Times Hero Complex Film Festival screening of the original 1990 Dick Tracy, the various film sites were treating the off-the-cuff discussion as if the film were already green-lit.  It's not, and it probably never will be.  Warren Beatty has been threatening to make a sequel to his much-debated comic book adaptation ever since the original film became the world's first $100 million-grossing box office disappointment in the summer of 1990.  As you may recall, the Disney film cost around $50 million and was expected to be the PG-rated, Mouse-House answer to Batman.  But the film opened to $21 million (less than R-rated films from that summer such as Total Recall and Die Hard 2) and limped to $100 million.  It became the vocal point for Jeffrey Katzenberg's famous 'expensive and mindless movies are going to kill Hollywood' memo that rocked the industry in 1990 and is all the more relevant today.  It is ironic that the film that once stood as an example of Hollywood's excess remains a finely-aged comic book adventure that plays today more like a bitter and dark adult drama that happens to be shot in primary colors.

Yet more Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II character posters, this time in action pose. Collect all eleven!

Thank you to Yahoo Movies for releasing all of these at the same time.  Anyway, what's most impressive is that they accurately capture the emotional arcs of the respective characters, even in the heat of battle. Enjoy the rest after the jump.

Scott Mendelson

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Review: Super 8: An IMAX Experience trips over its nostalgia-fueled ambition.

Super 8  
112 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

I have written several times over the last few years about various filmmakers basically spending time, money, and imagination basically recreating film genres of the past.  While they may succeed as technical assignments and/or loving forgeries, they need to have some other reason to exist other than to just remind moviegoers of the films of a long-ago era (at least Machete was an angry pro-immigration polemic).   J.J. Abrams's Super 8 is a technically proficient and superbly-acted homage to the theoretical first-wave (1974-1982) films of Steven Spielberg.  It operates on several different levels of viewer nostalgia but struggles to truly work as an emotionally potent work on its own accord.  It still barely passes for quality entertainment for most of its running time until it absolutely collapses in its third act.  Whatever my issues with the film as an impressionistic copy, Super 8 would have gotten away with it if it wasn't for that meddling climax!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Won't be SPOILED again... Why I no longer read a Roger Ebert review prior to seeing the movie.

He is arguably the father of modern film criticism and the most recognizable and well-renowned film critic on the planet.  He is the only movie reviewer to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize.  He is the man who introduced countless young readers such as myself to such filmmakers as Martin Scorsese and Sam Peckinpah.  His prose and insights have formed the foundation on which pretty much all of today's critics operate.  Yet I find myself in a position today where I am afraid to read Roger Ebert's film reviews.  It is not due to any downturn in quality or any continual difference of opinion.  It is not due to the notion that Ebert somehow has nothing more to offer the world of film criticism, as anyone who reads his journal will laugh at such an idea.  I no longer read Ebert's reviews (prior to seeing a given movie) out of fear, the fear that he will randomly and arbitrarily reveal plot twists and climactic elements of a given movie without a warning or even a second thought.  While it has always been an occasional issue, Roger Ebert has, in the last few years, turned into a full-blown spoiler. 

Thanks to dirty, stinking, good-for-nothing foreigners, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides becomes second-fastest movie to gross $800 million worldwide.

This is one problem for which you cannot blame America.  As of yesterday, Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides sailed past the $800 million mark in just over 3 weeks.  That's the second fastest such sprint, behind James Cameron's Avatar.  Sadly this means that the really lazy and really terrible sequel will likely cross the $1 billion mark, if not surpass Lord of the Rings: Return of the King ($1.119 billion) to become the biggest-grossing film not directed by James Cameron.  Since $614 million of that is from overseas grosses, just who is to blame?  Well, the biggest offenders are Japan ($62 million), Russia ($49 million), and Germany ($46 million), and the United Kingdom ($43 million).  Oh, and don't forget France!  I've long defended France's reputation, since the French people fought off the Nazis long after their government surrendered (and they were pretty right about that whole 'stay out of Vietnam and don't go into Iraq' stuff).  But those 'cheese-eating surrender monkeys' have surrendered $36 million to this soulless monstrosity so J'accuse!  But of course, I cannot ignore the biggest contributor.  With a contribution of $192 million thus far, the biggest worldwide offender for this particular film is... oh wait... damn.  Scratch that first sentence.

Scott Mendelson    

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A diamond amongst diamonds: How JJ Abrams's Super 8 got screwed by an uncommonly strong summer movie season.

It's not the 'secretive' marketing campaign that Paramount is waging for J.J. Abrams's Super 8 (which I will see in Friday, having had to decline the available IMAX press screenings) that is affecting the want-to-see factor leading into its opening weekend this Friday.  Paramount has been keeping a pretty tight leash on plot details for the various trailers, posters, and TV spots, and for that they should be commended.  But instead, they are being criticized in certain circles because the film's tracking data is pointing towards an opening weekend in the $25-30 million range, which is a bit below the standard blockbuster opening weekend in this day and age.  For the record, if the film indeed only cost $50 million as Paramount is claiming, then the 70s/80s Spielberg homage will be sitting more than pretty with a $25 million opening.  A $25 million opening would, barring complete collapse, give the film $70 million in domestic grosses and it could be expected to do at least that much overseas. So with those figures, you've got a $140 million worldwide take on a $50 million budget, which is a pretty big win even before the DVD/Blu Ray figures pour in.  So before I go any further, let us acknowledge that Super 8 does not have a blockbuster-level budget attached to it, so it does not necessarily have to open to blockbuster levels.

A montage of movie characters just not getting it...

"You Just Don't Get It, Do You?" - A Montage of Cinema's Worst Writing Cliche from Jeff Smith on Vimeo.

Monday, June 6, 2011

3D by the numbers. Are we really being flooded with 3D movies? Which studios are the biggest offenders?

This is merely the results of a casual data pull, using the information available from Box Office Mojo related to 3D cinema before and after Avatar.  As the 3D fad seems on the precipice of leveling out, I wanted to take a look at the numbers.  The question I wanted to answer is: Is the reason there are so many 3D movies because the studios are releasing a whole bunch of 3D product, or because there are enough studios releasing pictures that every studio releasing a few per year leads to a perceived glut?  And just which studios are releasing the bulk of these 3D movies, and is there any pattern to be construed?  I can't pretend that I discovered any astonishing connections or correlations, but there is enough information here to make it worth a gander.  Here's what I came up with...

Box Office Mojo lists 86 3D films that have been released between 1982 and 2011 up through Kung Fu Panda 2.  By the time 2011 has ended, there will be 108 films shot in or converted to 3D format.  Of those films, 35 of them were released prior to 2003.  2003 saw the release of the IMAX James Cameron documentary Ghosts of the Abyss as well as Robert Rodriguez's Spy Kids 3D: Game Over.  The latter picture, which opened with $33 million and ended with $111 million in the late summer of 2003.  It's notable because it was the first wide-release 3D feature since Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare, which was released in late 1991 with a climax that required 3D glasses (for the purposes of this article, I am not counting traditionally released films that had small segments show in 3D in IMAX theaters such as Superman Returns, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince).  If you're talking full-length 3D features, you have to go back to 1985 with Starchaser: The Legend of Orin.  Of course, for all intents and purposes, the modern 3D era began in November of 2004, with Robert Zemeckis's The Polar Express.  I cannot quite explain the thrill that I had watching that film in IMAX 3D nearly seven years ago.  It really was a technological breakthrough and the best way I can summarize my feelings back then is to quote Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park: "He (Robert Zemeckis) did it... the crazy son of a bitch did it!"

Trailers: Fright Night remake = Distburbia with VAMPIRES (in 3D)!

Conan the Barbarian character posters... because they are there.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Trailer: Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part I teaser shows off the Edward/Bella sex scene and makes you weep for Billy Burke.

First of all, this is the kind of confident and stylish teaser that you only get when you've got a track record behind you.  It feels so minimalist that you don't realize until the end that the brief clips pretty much reveal most of the story of the first picture.  The other thing of note is that the trailer actually shows Bella and Edward having sex.  Yes, the Twilight series is not overtly family-friendly, but it's still pretty daring of Summit to show off the fornication right there in the green-band clip.  And yes, that shot of the heartbroken and disappointed Billy Burke is far more potent than the extended Jacob whining session.  I have not read the books, but I will say that Billy Burke has brought such a level-headed humanity and sympathy to Bella's dad that he is the one I relate to throughout the films.  Yes, I do have a daughter and I'd be rather upset if she basically pissed away her future to marry a vampire right out of high school, but Burke's ongoing disillusionment is the kind of stuff that would have worked on me well before I became a dad.  So I guess I'm asking my readers who have read the books: are we supposed to feel bad for Charlie Swan, or is Billy Burke just too good of an actor for the material?

Scott Mendelson 

Credit where credit is due: Summit chooses not to bleed Twilight fans dry. Breaking Dawn still set to forgo 3D conversion.

I've seen the teaser trailer for Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn part I, but I won't be posting it until I'm sure its a legit copy that won't get yanked offline.  But for the moment, I'd like to acknowledge that Summit Entertainment has taken the higher road as it seeks to close out the blockbuster Twilight Saga over the next two years.  Yes, they have indeed split up the final book into two films, so their hands are not completely clean.  But it is surprising that Summit has (thus far) decided to forgo the 3D conversion gimmick that seems to be all the rage.  And frankly, it's an act of pure artistic restraint.  Twilight fans are arguably amongst the most rabid and fanatical in all of geekdom.  So no matter how much they might dislike 3D or don't want to pay the extra upcharge, they damn-well will pay whatever they have to pay to see the next two films in theaters.  The same goes I suppose for Harry Potter fans, which is why Warner earned kudos last year for releasing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I in 2D only.  The 'Twi-Hards' are perfect prey for a pointless and needless 3D conversion, which exist only to pump an extra 33% from 45-60% of the screens over the first two weekends or so from fans who were planning on seeing it anyway.  So Summit Entertainment deserves a moment of recognition for not going that route.

Scott Mendelson

Weekend Box Office (06/05/11): X-Men First Class pulls a Batman Begins, grosses $55 million, Bridesmaids and Kung Fu Panda 2 cross $100m, Fast Five crosses $200m.

For better or worse, X-Men: First Class performed like an X-Men picture in its debut weekend, at least in terms of staying power.  Like X-Men parts 1, 2, and 4, it had just over a 2.5x weekend multiplier (X-Men: The Last Stand had a mere 2.2x weekend multiplier).  Actually, this film film had the second-highest weekend multiplier of the series, with a rock-solid 2.62x just behind the 2.7x multiplier for X2: X-Men United back in 2003.  The 60s-set, character actor-filled, and critically acclaimed prequel/reboot opened to $55.1 million, which is almost identical to what the first X-Men opened to back in 2000.  Of course, adjusted for inflation, the original X-Men's $54 million opening is about $79 million, so obviously there were far fewer tickets sold this time around.  And that should be no surprise and no defeat.  Unlike the previous trilogy, the film is filled not with fan-favorite mutants that even the general audiences know, but more 'inside baseball' characters.  There was no Wolverine, no Cyclops, no Storm.  The tone of the marketing was low-key and emphasized setting and character over spectacle.  Fox did not advertise a thrilling action adventure with Wolverine and his pals, but rather a morose and contemplative science-fiction character drama set in the 1960s, filled with unknowns and respected actors who are not box office draws (the biggest name in the film was arguably Kevin Bacon).  This was never going to replicate the massive openings of the previous entries in the series.  

Friday, June 3, 2011

Box Office Midnight Math: X-Men: First Class grosses $3.4 million at 12:01am. It looks like a $62 million weekend.

Here we go again.  The first West-Coast shows have barely let out and we already have solid numbers from last night's midnight screenings.  For the record, 20th Century Fox's X-Men: First Class has pulled in $3.4 million in 12:01 showings.  As we all know if you've been reading over the last month or so, most big-studio pictures that play the midnight game can expect to gross between 4.5-6.5% of their weekend take in the midnight showings.  I only have midnight numbers for the last two entries in the series.  X-Men: The Last Stand opened with $5.9 million worth of midnight screenings, which kick-started a $102 million Fri-Sun Memorial day weekend and a $122 million holiday four-day stretch.  Using just the three-day numbers, X-Men: The Last Stand had a 5.7% midnight multiplier. X-Men Origins: Wolverine grossed $5 million worth of midnight tickets, which led to an $85 million opening weekend (a 5.8% midnight multiplier).

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II gets character posters (updated with Draco, Snape, and Voldermort).

Well, at least these aren't ripping off the Enemy Mine poster. I'm still pegging this to be the best film of the summer, although the uncommonly strong slate thus far (Fast Five, Bridesmaids, Kung Fu Panda 2, and X-Men: First Class) gives it heavy competition.

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Review: X-Men: First Class is (pick one) eXcellent, eXquisite, eXceptional!

X-Men: First Class
132 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

I have no idea how 20th Century Fox plans to fit X-Men: First Class into the mythology of the previous X-Men pictures.  It theoretically works as a prequel to the first three films, even as it plays fast and loose with continuity. The vibe I'm getting is that Fox is hedging its bets.  If the film under-performs at the box office, it will simply be considered a prequel to the Bryan Singer/Brett Ratner trilogy.  But if it becomes a genuine smash hit, Fox will likely use it as a standalone reboot to shepherd a whole new batch of X-Men adventures.  Whatever the case may be, as a singular motion picture, Matthew Vaughn's X-Men: First Class is a genuine triumph, a glorious piece of popcorn entertainment that contains nearly everything that should be expected of big budget genre entertainment.


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