Saturday, March 31, 2012

Review: Mirror Mirror (2012) is lifeless and drab, a poor-man's Ella Enchanted.

Mirror Mirror
106 minutes
rated PG

by Scott Mendelson

The good news is that Tarsem Singh's Mirror Mirror is nowhere near as obnoxiously zany and aggressively annoying as the trailers seem to suggest.  Frankly, the most eye-rolling moments of the marketing campaign aren't even in the movie, and I'd be hard-pressed to name more than a few pop-culture references over modern-anachronisms.  And the film is surprisingly nonchalant about gender, presenting a heroine and  female villain whose respective strengths and flaws have little to do with their gender.  But the film is strangely immobile throughout, feeling less like a cinematic experience than an overlong stage-play with expensive costumes and occasionally well-constructed sets.  Every scene goes on too long and every performer seems too tired to give it their all.  When the first trailer dropped, I derisively compared its apparent tone to the live-action Cat in the Hat.  As horrible as that film is, Mirror Mirror could have used some of its boundless energy.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Life after Batman. Ten movies worth anticipating after The Dark Knight Rises.

I've opined here and there about how, to put it bluntly, there isn't much left on the immediate horizon that gives me the kind of anticipation that can remotely equal the kind of 'must-see chills' that I felt for The Dark Knight and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II.  With Chris Nolan's Batman saga ending in July, it brings a certain moment of reflection in regards to my would-be fandom.  To paraphrase LA Confidential, my would-be film fanaticism started with Batman.  Perhaps that's as good a place as any for it to end.  But for the moment, and in the name of eternal optimism, here are a list of ten films that are scheduled for release after the July 20th debut of The Dark Knight Rises that have most peaked my interest.  They don't include every major release that I'm remotely interested in, but these stuck out as ones that I'm genuinely eager to sample for one reason or another.  In order of release date:

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dreamworks' Rise of the Guardians gets a generic trailer.

It's no secret that Dreamworks films often turn out to be far more complicated than their marketing campaigns might imply.  For example, Megamind's marketing didn't even hint at the jaw-dropping plot twist in the first twenty minutes, nor did it detail any of the major narrative turns in the third act or the 'must there be evil to co-exist with good?' subtext that made the movie more than just a gimmick.  And Kung Fu Panda 2's marketing sold easy-going comedy and stress-free action without hinting at the emotionally draining story at its core while Puss In Boots sold bawdy gags instead of trippy fairy-tale adventure.  So when I say this preview looks painfully generic, take it with a grain of salt.  But judging just what's on display, it's a little disheartening to see a fascinating idea (a look into the lives of the various holiday-themed creatures of our modern American mythology) and use them purely as a springboard for a conventional action picture (uh-oh, Santa Clause, Tooth Fairy, and the gang have to stop a random villain!).  Again, I'm hoping there is more to the story, even while I'll try to avoid as much spoiler information as possible.  It's no secret I hold Dreamworks Animation in very high regard, so I can only presume that they have something more up their sleave.  Rise of the Guardians opens on November 21st, which is a new release date (Thanksgiving weekend) for a Dreamworks cartoon.  As always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Review: Wrath of the Titans (2012) mostly delivers the big-scale, cheesy matinee goods, in genuinely glorious 3D to boot.

Wrath of the Titans
99 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

Jonathan Liebesman's Wrath of the Titans is arguably about as 'good' as a movie called Wrath of the Titans can be expected to be.  It is convincingly acted by its principals, has a story that mostly makes sense, and has at least a few scenes of genuine visual enchantment.  I could complain that I wish it had more of what it does right (epic battles of humans versus gods, some wonderful set designs, Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes having a full-blown 'camp-out') and less of what it does wrong (an almost beside-the-point narrative, a relatively blank-slate supporting cast, generally useless attempts at character development), and clever readers will notice that I just did in an offhand fashion.  But the picture delivers the goods in ways that the Louis Leterrier original did not two years ago.  It is also clear that Warner Bros learned its lesson regarding cheap 3D-conversions.  While Clash of the Titans became the poster child for the evils of 3D-cash ins, Wrath of the Titans features some of the most impressive live-action 3D seen to date.  If you're actually going to spend money on something called Wrath of the Titans, it is honestly worth seeing in its 3D glory.  Of course, there is irony in me recommending something that works best as a cheap Saturday matinee in a format that makes it noticeably less cheap, but that's your conundrum.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Question of the day: Why *isn't* Twilight's Bella Swan a feminist creation?

In a classical sense, FEMINISM is defined as believing that women should have the same rights, freedoms, choices, privileges, and benefits as men in a civilized society.  Under that relatively general definition, I would argue most rational people, men and women, would classify themselves as 'feminist'.  In my eye, the feminist ideal is not one where women constantly make the 'correct' moral and/or professional decisions or choices that further their own independence, but merely that they have the freedom to do so if they so desire.  So I ask the question, why exactly is the Twilight Saga inherently anti-feminist?  I'm speaking merely to the movies and not the books, but as the series has unfolded, it's primarily been about one thing: Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) relentlessly pursuing a singular goal, to be in a long-term relationship with Edward Cullen, no matter what obstacle or constructive criticism is hurled her way.  We may not agree with Bella's choice in men, but as I've written before (HERE), I'm not entirely sure the films agree with her either.  Moreover, if feminism is about having the choice to, as a woman, live your life as you see fit, isn't her dogged pursuit of Mr. Cullen inherently feminist by virtue of it being absolutely Bella's choice?

Monday, March 26, 2012

Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn part II gets a bare-minimalist teaser.

I'm sure there will be whining about how little this teaser reveals about this November's series finale of the Twilight Saga, but why carp?  Kudos for Summit/Lionsgate for not giving away the store, since there is absolutely no need to do so.  This is the fifth entry in a remarkably consistent series, so obviously those who don't care now won't care in November.  And those who already care either read the books or might want to walk into the theater unaware.  So yay for the marketing campaign seeing fit to not give away a gosh-darned thing a mere eight months prior to release.  Anyway, Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn part II concludes the franchise on November 16th, 2012, eleven years to the day when the Harry Potter saga began.

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Weekend Box Office: (03/25/12): The Hunger Games debuts with $152 million.

Besting any number of opening weekend records, The Hunger Games (review HERE) opened this weekend with a scorching $152.5 million.  That's the third-biggest opening weekend of all-time, behind The Dark Knight ($158 million) and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II ($169 million).  Obviously by virtue of being number 03 on the list, it's also the biggest opening weekend for a non-summer movie, a non-sequel.  It's of course the biggest debut in history for a film not released by Warner Bros. during the third weekend in July, for those keeping release-date score.  It's also Lionsgate's highest-grossing film ever after just three days, besting the $119 million domestic total of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11.  While it's Lionsgate's most expensive movie, it's still an example of smart budgeting as it came it at $90 million before tax credits which brought the total exposure to just $78 million.  Even if you factor in the hardcore marketing campaign over the last month, Lionsgate is surely in the black or will be by Friday, making everything after this pure profit.  There isn't too much to say because this record debut has been prognosticated to the point of tedium over the last two months, as one tracking report after another continually upped the predicted opening weekend number, to the point where the film would have been called a 'flop' if it hadn't opened with at least $100 million (not by me, mind you).  But yeah, Lionsgate pulled some of the best marketing in modern history (teaser/trailer01/trailer02), turning a relatively popular young adult book series into a mainstream media 'event', which in turn made the film adaptation into a must-sample event even for audiences who only had token knowledge of the series.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A safely sanitized celebration of state-sponsored child murder. The disturbingly crowd-pleasing immorality of The Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games: an IMAX Experience
142 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

Note - this is not a conventional review and there will be far more spoilers than usual.  So warned...

The Hunger Games, as it exists as a film, is caught between two worlds.  One on hand, it wants to be a dramatic thriller about a totalitarian regime that picks children at random and forces them to fight each other to the death for the entertainment of the wealthy masses.  On the other hand, it wants to be a series that appeals to mass audiences in order to rack up massive box office grosses and become 'the next big franchise'.  As a direct result of this conundrum, the picture not only fails as a social/political commentary but becomes an ugly celebration of the very narrative that it should be condemning.  By refusing to look directly at its own story and by instead fashioning a convenient morality out of its murderous sporting event, it lets the audience off the hook and even encourages them to enjoy the blood-sport as 'entertainment'.  The film may appear to be mocking reality show conventions and the tendency to emphasize simplistic narratives to alleviate discomfort, but by virtue of what it omits and what it emphasizes, The Hunger Games is a prime example of what it claims to criticize. The film is so afraid to confront the horror of its premise that, in its need to create a mass-audience PG-13 franchise, it makes the cheering audience culpable and every bit as guilty as those who would watch such a thing in real life.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Midnight Box Office (03/23/12): Hunger Games scores $19.75m at 12:01am.

First and foremost, The Hunger Games earned a robust $19.75 million at midnight screenings alone, besting a record for a non-sequel and the seventh-biggest midnight haul of all-time.  It earned more than the $18 million midnight gross of The Dark Knight back in 2008 and the $17 million midnight haul of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith back in 2005. It is the biggest midnight gross for any movie not called Harry Potter or Twilight (Harry Potter 6: $22m, Harry Potter 7.1: $24m, Twilight: New Moon: $26m, Twilight: Eclipse and Breaking Dawn I: $30m, Harry Potter 7.2: $43m).  If this film were like any normal picture (between 4.5% and 6.5% of its weekend at midnight), we'd be looking at a $300-$400million+ opening weekend.  So let's presume that it's a bit front-loaded, but the question is how much so?  The last two Paranormal Activity films earned about 15% of their respective opening weekends at midnight ($6.3m and $8m respectively), while The Dark Knight earned just 11% of its then-record $158 million opening at 12:01am.  The difference between those two figures is the difference between a massive $132 million debut and a record $179 million opening weekend.  On the other hand, if the film really does play like a Harry Potter or Twilight sequel (which would seem to be the likely case), then we should compare it to those openings.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Coolest casting news of the year: Michael Wincott to join Fox Searchlight's Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho as Ed Gein! Dare we hope for a comeback?

Variety broke the story, but since they have a pay-wall, I'll link to The Playlist.  I'm not one to comment on every bit of casting news as it happens, but this one is personally exciting so I'll share.  Most of the hub-bub about Fox Searchlight's Alfred Hitcock and the Making of Psycho has focused on the casting of Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh and Jessica Biel as Vera Miles, with Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren as Mr. Hitchcock and his wife.  But buried in the flurry of casting news is what I can only pray is a comeback role for one of my favorite character actors.  Among those joining the cast is none-other than Michael Wincott, who will be playing real-life serial-murderer Ed Gein, who allegedly served as the inspiration for Norman Bates (arguably more-so in the original Robert Bloch novel than the Hitchcock movie).  Anyway, I won't go into Gein's sordid history here (although he's only confirmed to have murdered a few people), but I will say that if you feel like spending $9 to buy the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre  on blu-ray, there is a fine documentary about the man.  He is the loose inspiration for Norman Bates, Leatherface, and Buffalo Bill from The Silence of the Lambs, so I suppose it makes sense that he would play a role in this making-of-a-movie story.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review: ATM (2012) is a lean genre exercise that does its business and sprints.

90 minutes
rated R

by Scott Mendelson

ATM isn't high art and it's not even great trash.  But it has a clever set-up, somewhat relatable characters, and a lean efficiency that I frankly admired.  This is a movie that does exactly what it sets out to do and then gets the hell outta Dodge.  It is too short to wear out its welcome, and director David Brooks gets a surprising scope out what is basically a single-location horror picture.  While the main characters are not quite as smart as they should be, the film operates less on watching how they react to the core conflict but more on making we, the audience, ask what we would do if confronted by the specific situation.  On that note, it is a moderate success.

A whole bunch (9) o' character posters for Tim Burton's Dark Shadows...

I think Empire got these posters first, but thank you to Bohemea for making all nine into one easily-pasted image (Blogger is terrible with trying to line-up multiple pictures in an orderly fashion).  Anyway, above is the final theatrical one-sheet and below are the nine visually-striking character posters.  With just six weeks to go, Warner Bros has finally started the marketing campaign.  And I say good on them for waiting!  Now all they need to do is not release another trailer and not saturate the Internet with clips two weeks prior to May 11th and they can prove that studios don't have to spend a gazillion dollars on a year-long ad campaign for major releases.  Anyway, enjoy.

Scott Mendelson

Review: Goon (2012) earns our respect by respecting itself.

92 minutes
rated R

by Scott Mendelson

On the surface, Goon is an assembly-line underdog sports movie.  And yes the film hits a handful of familiar story beats along the way.  But there is a subtle intelligence to the picture, with characters that are far less broad than you'd expect and a screenplay that feels authentic.  I don't know hockey well enough to judge its accuracy, but I can say that the film feels like it intimately understands the sport as well as the people who play it.  Hockey is not a sport that has inspired very many movies, so when I say that Goon is one of the best films about the sport I've ever seen that may seem like a backhanded compliment.  But it is easily the best hockey movie since Miracle, for whatever that's worth.

Monday, March 19, 2012

R.I.P., John Carter. What its failure means and why it matters...

With ten days down and $53 million in the domestic kitty and $179 million worldwide, it's pretty much time to call 'time of death' for John Carter.  Disney is announcing that the picture will lose them $200 million, and it's almost fitting. The film serves as a shining example of everything that can go wrong when crafting a franchise film in big-studio Hollywood.  Not only was it a case where everything went wrong, it was a film where everything absolutely had to go right on a record level in order to have any hope of making its investment back.  To be frank, they should have seen it coming from a mile away.   

Snow White and the Huntsman gets a second (and very expensive) trailer.

This is certainly an improvement over the first teaser, if only in that it actually highlights Kristen Stewart's Snow White over the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth).  Whatever my thoughts on what this film represents (the rush to stick promising young actresses in the fairy tale princess box, the trend of giving completely green young filmmakers the reins to insanely expensive tentpoles, the creative bankruptcy that has spawned two competing Snow White films), this does look awfully compelling, at least on a visual level.  While I still think it's insane, I now can see why Universal spent $175 million on this picture, as at least the money looks somewhat on the screen.  There are certain special effects (the shattering soldiers for example) that are 'new', which is always a plus for your marketing campaign.  And while the young leads seem quite boring, Charlize Theron appears to be having the time of her life as the 'wicked queen'.  But at the end of the day, this still a Snow White meets Lord of the Rings hybrid, and thus there are only so many narrative paths the story can take.  Still, whatever my issues with the project in principal, this doesn't look like a lazy thoughtless effort (that it's going out as 2D theoretically implies a certain amount of care).  Universal drops this one on June 1st.  As always, we'll see.

Scott Mendelson       

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter gets a second silly trailer.

I never got around to posting the first teaser because I couldn't bring myself to care, so I'm posting both here.  Yes, I've heard that the novel is somewhat clever and that it's somewhat political (vampires are basically Confederates who were draining the life from the nation by continuing slavery) as well as a genre mash-up.  But in film form, especially by the brain-dead razzle-dazzle idiot who gave us Night Watch and Wanted (not a Timur Bekmambetov fan, folks), I can't imagine this actually being a 'real movie' as opposed to some wanky absurdity.  Am I being unfair?  Perhaps. But there is something disheartening about a concept that basically amounts to three seven year old boys exclaiming 'gee, wouldn't it be cool if...' not only becoming a bestselling novel but a big budget would-be franchise film.  On the plus side, the film allegedly cost just $69 million so it doesn't have to break box office records to make a profit (which in turn leaves more room for eccentricity).  Anyway, star Benjamin Walker allegedly kicked ass on Broadway in Bloody Andrew Jackson, so this isn't too much of a stretch for him, and the rest of the cast (Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jimmi Simpson, Robin McLeavy, Alan Tudyk, and Rufus Sewell),  is solid.  20th Century Fox debuts Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter on June 22nd.  As always, we'll see, and I'll be the first to gladly eat crow if this turns out to be a thing of substance.

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Weekend Box Office (03/18/12) 21 Jump Street tops, John Carter crashes, Case de Mi Padre scores in limited release.

There isn't anything too surprising about a well-marketed and well-reviewed mainstream comedy opening well on its debut weekend, especially when there are no new releases to compete against.  Still, 21 Jump Street (review) topped the box office this weekend with a whopping estimated $35 million.  If that number holds up, it will be the seventh-biggest debut for an R-rated comedy ever, as well as the fifth-biggest R-rated comedy debut for a non-sequel and the largest such debut outside of summer.  Sony knew they had a winner on their hands, as the $42 million-budgeted film was as much a commentary on the current trend of recycling brand names as an example of such.  They've been screening it out the wazoo, building solid buzz and strong word-of-mouth, for months on end.  Oddly enough, the film earned just a 'B' from Cinemascore, and I'm frankly puzzled by that.  Yes, audiences under 25 gave it an A, but it's such a winning film that I'm shocked it's not playing well across the board (my 61-year old father-in-law laughed his butt off at the press screening).  It's a terrifically funny and uncommonly warm and sweet (for an R-rated action comedy) picture, so one would presume that it will have legs in the coming weeks.  Hopefully Sony will focus its second round of advertising on getting females into the theater (although it played 47% female and 50% over/under 25 years old) by emphasizing how  *not* sexist and/or homophobic the picture is. It faces no direct competition (aside from the all-consuming hurricane that is The Hunger Games next weekend) until April 6th, when Universal debuts American Reunion.  This is another big win for Channing Tatum.  This is his third-biggest debut behind The Vow ($40 million) and GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra ($54 million).  He also has a second GI Joe movie as well as a Steven Soderbergh reunion in Magic Mike both opening on June 29th.  This is Jonah Hill's second biggest live-action debut behind the $54 million opening of Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Alien prequel/spin-off Prometheus gets two very Alien-like trailers.

This looks entertaining, it's well-cast, and yes there are moments that suggest a pretty large scale, but at the end of the day, it still looks like an Alien-type horror film.  Which means it will seemingly follow a certain template and hit specific plot beats along the way.  That's okay, but I have to wonder if this film weren't actually directed by Ridley Scott if all the hyperventilating geeks wouldn't be screaming 'Dude, it's an Alien rip-off!'.  Anyway, feel free to disagree, but I'm certainly hoping it will be a winner come June 8th.  Moreover, the first teaser played much better on a big screen (which partially inspired by rant about that last two weeks ago), so I'll presume the same is true about this IMAX-specific teaser.  This one drops in 2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D.  As always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Friday, March 16, 2012

Review: Davis Guggenheim's Barack Obama documentary The Road We've Traveled (2012) alternates between patronizing simplicity and creepy propaganda.

Maybe I'm just too cynical.  But even while I agree with about 90% of the content of this 17-minute documentary, I can't help but be creeped out by the context.  With Tom Hanks's narration, generically swelling music, and various stills of Barack Obama looking 'presidential' while various Americans smile or cheer approvingly, this is the kind of thing that bugs me on a number of levels.  First of all, I cannot help but be repulsed by the idea that a president ordering a military execution, even one on Osama Bin Laden, is seen as a crowning example of 'leadership'. Putting aside the issue of how much Obama's foreign policy has resembled Dick Cheney on steroids (Obama doesn't torture, but he will hold you in indefinite detention and/or order your due process-free execution while randomly bombing the crap out of civilians with unmanned drones), there is something deeply wrong with a nation that puts the ability to order the killing of another person, even a sworn enemy under just cause, as paramount example of 'leadership'.  Aaron Sorkin of course rebutted the idea in both several episodes of The West Wing and during a key first-act juncture in The American President, where Michael Douglas explains in detail why ordering military action that will take human lives is perhaps 'the least presidential thing I do'.  No, President Barack Obama never donned a flight suit and gave a presidential address from an aircraft carrier, but the idea that the (perhaps lawful/justified) killing of another person should be among the crowning accomplishments of any person, let alone a leader, is distasteful.  It was distasteful when Bush played cowboy while other people's sons and daughters bled out in the Middle East, and its only a little less distasteful when Obama claims this single military action as a shining example of 'leadership'.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Summer 2012 is the unofficial summer of IMAX domination...

Simply put, during the first twelve weeks of summer (May 4th to July 20th), there are six, maybe seven major movies all debuting in IMAX for at least the first week of their respective theatrical runs.  Three of them are in May, one is in June, and two or three are in July.  What are they you ask?  Well...

Weird summer 2013 release date silliness leaves two summer events in the wrong slot. Why Jurassic Park 3D and Man of Steel should play musical chairs.

As somewhat expected, Universal announced today (via Jeff Snyder of Variety) that they would be releasing Jurassic Park in 3D next summer, in time for the film's 20th anniversary.  Fine, whatever, I'm sure it will look just as 'eye-poppingly' cool as The Phantom Menace did earlier this year (read - not at all from reliable sources).  The 20th anniversary of Jurassic Park is indeed somewhat of a milestone, as it was one of the last old-school blockbusters, a genuine word-of-mouth sensation that played in theaters for over a year and whose domestic and international dominance paved the way for the modern four-quadrant tentpole.  It was also the last notable hit film to actually play for longer than six months or so (Titanic played for around six months), as it came around just as the second run theater business was dying.  But this isn't about waxing nostalgic for Steven Spielberg's epic dinosaur horror adventure.  This is about the beyond weird release date.  The film is not opening on June 14th, 2013, which would approximate the 20th anniversary of its June 11th, 1993 theatrical debut (when it became the first film to score $50 million on its opening weekend).  Instead it's opening on July 19th, 2013.  So what's opening on June 14th, 2013?  Well Zack Snyder's Man of Steel, of course!  So let me get this straight.  Jurassic Park can't open on its actual 20th anniversary because that slot is taken with Warner Bros' Superman reboot.  So instead Universal is opening on an empty weekend that was once Warner Bros' prime summer opening weekend slot for six straight years.

Tim Burton's Dark Shadows gets a quirky and goofy trailer.

Well, this looks like somewhat of a return to a smaller scale for Tim Burton.  Yes there are stars galore, period decor, and various vampire/witch-related special effects, but this is a lighter and smaller picture that feels more like Beetlejuice than Sleepy Hollow.  Most of the 'fish out of water' humor falls flat, although Chloë Moretz earns the biggest laugh with her deadpan reaction to the climactic drug joke.  I could carp about a somewhat generic 'evil woman scorned' narrative, but I don't know enough about the original television show to protest what may be a faithful plotline.  Besides, if I may speak pruriently, Eva Green looks absolutely drop-dead gorgeous (pun intended I suppose), even if I prefer brunettes.  Frankly, the idea of a single and unattached bachelor spending an entire movie trying *not* to have sex with Eva Green verges on the ridiculous, but the movie does seem to have a goofy offbeat charm.  The best news is that this looks like less of a studio product and more of a somewhat idiosyncratic little flick.  It's still Tim Burton playing in someone else's sandbox, but it feels far-less mechanical than Alice in Wonderland (or Planet of the Apes for that matter).  Warner Bros. opens this one on May 11th.  Cursed release date aside, we'll see.

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Review: Seeking Justice (2012) evokes nostalgia for fear of street crime.

Seeking Justice
105 minutes
rated R

by Scott Mendelson

The strangest thing about Nicolas Cage's Seeking Justice is how painfully old-fashioned it feels.  It is a B-movie through-and-through, yet it resembles the sort of thing that arguably would have been an A-picture just 10 years ago.  It has someone who is technically a major movie star, an up-and-coming television star as the token love interest, a prestigious 'slumming' thespian as the villain who indeed gives more credibility to the picture than it deserves, and it has just enough character actors filling in the gaps to keep us almost entertained.  Moreover, even its plot and moral philosophy feels out-of-step with today's pressing issues.  Seeking Justice literally feels like a movie that was shot and edited in 1995 and magically sent into the future for our enjoyment today.  Of course, how much enjoyment you will might get from a creaky old relic is open to debate, but it if Hobo With a Shotgun was a homage-via-recreation of 1970s grindhouse, then Seeking Justice does the same trick for the 1990s crime thriller.

Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton aren't to blame for a culture that promotes and idealizes female stupidity. YOU are.

I'm as big of a Jon Hamm fan as the next film critic.  But he's wrong when he posits or even implies that Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton are to blame for a cultural that promotes stupidity.  Even if we agree that the careers of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian are a sign of a nationwide dumbing-down of our culture at large, they are merely the symptom.  They are only guilty of taking advantage of the opportunities afforded to them.  If we were offered television shows, fashion lines, the chance to write memoirs, the opportunity to record music, and millions of dollars thrown at our feet merely for being ourselves, would any of us turn it down?  The phrase 'stupid like a fox' comes to mind, as they have created brands worth tens-of-millions of dollars despite seemingly possessing no extraordinary talents or abilities.  But they are not to blame for a culture that has allowed them to become rich and famous (or more rich and exceedingly famous).  In short, YOU are to blame.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Updated! The Avengers gets (surprisingly not terrible) character posters.

As you can see, Geek Tyrant snagged a full banner comprised of the posters below (individuals after the jump).  Maybe it's because the focus on each hero doesn't necessitate cramming six of them into a single one-sheet.  Maybe it's because the tight imagery makes the threat just outside the frame look genuinely world-threatening.  But for whatever reason, this is the first official piece of Avengers movie art in a while that I actually like.  Anyway, share your thoughts below, and kudos for finally getting Cobie Smulders on a poster.

Scott Mendelson

Review: No cheap pop-culture knock-off, 21 Jump Street (2012) is a surprisingly winning character comedy that travels its own inspired path.

21 Jump Street
109 minutes
rated R

by Scott Mendelson

By all rights, this film should be a disaster.  On paper, a comedic reboot of a half-forgotten gritty 1980s crime drama that even its breakout star decried as fascist is the epitome of lazy pop-culture recycling.  But by God, this is a real movie, a genuinely clever and often inspired comedy rooted in character and with a token amount of real intelligence.  Like Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, 21 Jump Street uses its property as a mere jumping off point in order to do its own thing and tell its own tale. Written by Michael Bacall and Jonah Hill, directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, it's almost good enough to actually ennoble the current trend of random 1980s/1990s remakes, reboots, and reinventions.

Third Battleship trailer sells scale and non-stop explosions, but leaves me bored.

I made a comment the other day on a radio podcast I guested on, basically stating that there are at least a few 'big summer movies' that I'm not only not very excited about. I basically feel like if I end up seeing films like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Men in Black 3, or Battleship, it will be out of some kind of obligation or because there is something specific about them I may want to write about (for example, how well Snow White and the Huntsmen plays as a feminist adventure).  As for Battleship, I can see no societal value or social relevance that would merit an essay (I've already said my peace regarding the casting of Rihanna) and my only real curiosity involves whether or not the climax involves Liam Neeson muttering "You sunk my battleship!" right before he dies.  I will say that unlike a certain insanely expensive movie that came out last weekend, you can clearly see the money onscreen this time around.  The film looks pretty huge, perhaps the 'biggest' movie of summer 2012 in terms of large-scale action and worldwide scope.  But yeah, this film looks like a perfectly-blended hybrid of Transformers, Armageddon, and The Guardian.  But since the action is going to be personality-free robots attacking personality-free ships, I can't imagine any emotional investment will be found.  Maybe I'm too old for this kind of thing, or maybe Battleship really is the definitive personality-free/humanity-free blockbuster that we've been leading up to all these decades.  Maybe I'll see it, maybe I won't, but I don't expect to have too much to say about it.  This one opens on May 18th in the US but April 11th elsewhere, so we'll see...

Scott Mendelson      

Monday, March 12, 2012

The 'real' Eddie Murphy is gone, because Sherman Klump killed him. How The Nutty Professor explains Eddie Murphy's entire film career.

Pretty much every time Eddie Murphy releases a film like A Thousand Words, Imagine That, Meet Dave, or even Daddy Daycare, the critical world at large starts wondering out-loud about whether we'll ever see the 'return of funny Eddie', which is of course code for 'R-rated Eddie Murphy'.  The implication is of course that Murphy's more family friendly work isn't funny, which is true (Meet Dave, The Haunted Mansion) about as often as it's false (Shrek, Dr. Doolittle).  But what these pundits fail to realize is two-fold.  First of all, we've been wondering when the Eddie Murphy of old will return longer than he was around in the first place.  Second of all, that persona is dead.  Dead and buried, and Mr. Murphy killed it himself right onscreen in front of us 16 years ago.  The very film that launched his most recent 'comeback' is the film that revolved around the condemnation and destruction of the very image that the critics have been clamoring for.  I'm talking of course about Murphy's The Nutty Professor.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Weekend Box Office (03/11/12): John Carter bombs in America but is somewhat saved by overseas grosses... for now.

It was judgment day for the much-debated John Carter (review HERE) as Disney's $250-300 million sci-fi adventure finally was unleashed on paying audiences this weekend.  And the judgment was mostly grim with a possible silver lining.  With a terrible marketing campaign that didn't know what to sell, and mixed word of mouth and reviews that emphasized its convoluted story and mediocre action sequences, the film debuted with just $30.1 million.  For a cheaper picture, this would be a fine debut, but for a massively expensive would-be franchise tentpole with little chance of maintaining legs, this is a pretty disastrous result.  As I've written about from time to time (like HERE), Disney has been dead-set on creating a boy-friendly franchise while all but openly insulting the female-friendly films that have long been its bread-and-butter.  In the last few years, we've seen Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Tron: Legacy, I Am Number Four, Real Steel, and now John Carter.  Only I Am Number Four and Real Steel were remotely profitable, and only because they were both budgeted well-under $100 million. John Carter is the end-result, with a film that was sold as the ultimate generic boys action fantasy to such an extent that it was arguably insulting to boys. With no stars, source material that barely known outside the hardcore geek crowd, stunningly indecisive marketing that teased not a single 'money shot', a budget more suited to the third entry in an established blockbuster franchise, and a release period that had yielded only a single $300 million+ grosser ever (Disney's Tim Burton-helmed/Johnny Depp-starring Alice In Wonderland two years ago), the stage was set for an epic domestic crash-and-burn.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Midnight Box Office (03/08/11): John Carter earns a grim $500,000 at 12:01am.

It's been awhile since we had a movie that justified running the 'midnight math', so let's make this quick.  John Carter grossed $500,000 worth of 12:01am shows last night.  That's quite a bit under the $3-5 million that most of last summer's tent-pole films were pulling in.  Moreover, it's $3.1 million less than the midnight gross for Tron: Legacy just over a year ago.  While one may argue that school is in session so it may not be fair to compare, any number of major summer releases that debut in May or early June have to worry about kids still in school, to say nothing of the boffo $3.7 million midnight debut for Fast Five last April.  But, in the name of mercy, let's give a bit of leeway.  Generally speaking, unless the film has hugely positive word of mouth (not likely),  the amped-up audience just doesn't *need* to see it at midnight (probable), or is insanely front-loaded (let's hope not...) a genre film like this usually pulls in between 4.5% and 6.5% of its money via midnight shows.  So under those circumstances, we'd be looking at a probable opening weekend for John Carter of between $7.7 million and $11.1 million.  I honestly don't think that the opening weekend is going to be that bad, so let's play absolute best case scenario and assume that only the absolute hard-cores went last night.  If we presume that the midnight showings made up between 1.5% and 2.5% of the weekend total, then that leaves John Carter between $20 million and $33 million for its opening weekend (or, optimistically, about what Prince of Persia did with its $500,000 midnight opening and $30 million Fri-Sun weekend back in May 2010).  Still, if the midnight figures mean anything at all in calculating the opening weekend, and if John Carter's midnight scores are in any way 'normal' for a big-budget fantasy tentpole, then Disney is in deep trouble...

Scott Mendelson

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Audiences seeing film trailers in THEATERS first? Ye speak SORCERY! Lionsgate to debut Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn part II trailer with The Hunger Games.

Yes, as expected by everyone and their cat, Lionsgate will indeed unleash the first trailer for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn part II two weeks from tomorrow, attached exclusively to prints of The Hunger Games.  It's an obvious move, using one massively popular franchise to prop up a new franchise that shares at least some core demographics.  But what is most heartening about the move is that Lionsgate will in fact be keeping the trailer offline that entire opening weekend.  That's right, Twi-hards, there may be crummy YouTube bootlegs popping up online on Friday morning, but if you want to see a quality copy before Monday, March 26th (at 3:00am PST... really guys?), you actually have to buy a ticket to The Hunger Games over its opening weekend.  What a novel concept!    

Why The Lone Ranger was always a smarter bet than John Carter...

Well, um, this does look like Arnie Hammer a The Lone Ranger and Johnny Depp as Tonto.  Here is your first official look (congrats on getting it online before cell-phone photos were leaked) at Gore Verbinski's The Lone Ranger.  If you recall, the film was almost shelved last year over budgetary concerns.  Disney only put the project back on the table when costs were trimmed from $250 million to $215 million.  Ironically, it was this story that first brought to light the insanely high price tag for Andrew Stanton's John Carter, which (barring a miracle) is set to open to pretty lukewarm numbers tomorrow.  I've long argued against the ever-rising budgets of big-scale would-be blockbusters, arguing that studios shouldn't "spend Return of the King money on Fellowship of the Ring".  But it is beyond odd that this film was the one to make Disney finally come down hard on budgets.  Even if $215 million is still a bit much to spend on a Lone Ranger film, it is surely a far-safer bet than a complete unknown entity like John Carter (which has no stars, cult-level source material, an untested live-action director at the helm, and - in hindsight - isn't a good movie).

Community, TV's best show, returns next week. If you trust me, you'll watch it...

If you don't watch this show, you're an idiot.  Really, there is no excuse not to check this out... It's as laugh-out-loud funny as The Simpsons in its prime (seasons 5-9, although the last two seasons have been pretty terrific too), and often almost as moving as Scrubs in its prime (seasons 1-4, plus 8).  Yes geeks will obsess over the various pop-culture satire, but what makes the show work is how it works all of its genre deconstruction into real stories that constantly develop their core characters and always make sure every single moment has consequences for the long story.  Creator Dan Harmon has done something tricky here... he has taken the sitcom format and built a show that plays like an operatic drama, with season-long arcs, heroes and villains, and actors who play the serious moments every bit as raw and real as if they were on Mad Men (which of course, Alison Brie also co-stars in).  Community returns next Thursday.  If you value my opinion at all when it comes to art (and if you don't why the heck are you reading my site?), then you'll tune in on March 15th.

Scott Mendelson  

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

She can sing, but can she act? Why exactly is Rihanna starring in Battleship instead of any number of actual black actresses?

I am not the first person to bring this up.  Heck, Samuel L. Jackson went on a mini-tirade about this a decade ago, regards to male actors.  But in a day-and-age where meaty roles for black actresses are incredibly scarce, especially in big-budget studio films, it has to be a little grating for the many underemployed African American actresses to see one of the bigger female-minority roles in a major summer tent-pole this year going to not a trained thespian, but a media-friendly musician of thus-far unknown acting capabilities.  Rihanna (full name: Robyn Rihanna Fenty) may indeed have the chops to convincingly play battle-ready Petty Officer Raikes who helps Taylor Kitsch fend off an alien invasion in Peter Berg's Battleship.  But one has to ask why a popular musician with absolutely no acting experience whatsoever got the prime gig ahead of any number of African American actresses who have struggled with the glass ceiling that exists in the industry.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Rush Limbaugh's advertiser desertion feels good, but why doesn't it feel right?

About a week after Rush Limbaugh's (insert negative adjective HERE) comments about Sandra Fluke, a law student who testified before Congress regarding the ongoing 'debate' about contraception, the longtime right-wing talk-radio host has lost 30 sponsors from his show as a result of public outcry and calls for advertiser boycott.  As someone who has followed politics for the last twenty years, a practice that inevitably involves hearing or reading about any number of god-awful things Limbaugh has uttered over the decades, I suppose I have to wonder what took so many of his sponsors so long?  As a political liberal who has witnessed not only the sheer absurdity of many of Limbaugh's often fact-less rants, as well as the incredible power he holds over Republican office holders, it fills me with no little good cheer to see him getting his ass kicked over his misogynistic tirade against a private citizen who exercised her right to testify before Congress over a matter of personal concern to her (and her friend, who needed contraception for the treatment of ovarian cysts).  But I have to admit that it's a little disarming, scary even, to see the blinding speed and brutal effectiveness with which this activism took place.  It feels good because I happen to be on the same side of the political (and moral) fence as the activists.  But what happens next time when we get targeted... again?

Review: Friends With Kids (2012) sacrifices unconventional family drama for conventional romantic comedy cliches.

Friends With Kids
110 minutes
rated R

by Scott Mendelson

There are few things more dispiriting than an engaging and thoughtful film slowly ditching that which made it unique and instead traveling down the road of convention.  Yet such is the case for writer/director Jennifer Westfeldt's Friends With Kids.  What starts as a strong and painfully honest look at how adult relationships are affected when said adults start having children gives way to a somewhat conventional romantic comedy set-up where two leads spend the movie looking for love everywhere but with each other.  That the film still maintains its entertainment value is due to is strong cast and slice-of-life details.  But while the film is mostly engaging and occasionally thoughtful, it loses points for ditching the very components that made it stand out among the pack in order to trade on genre conventions.    

Fantasy exposition done right: I had never read Lord of the Rings, but this explained everything I needed to know...

I knew I was probably going to love The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring right around the seven minute mark.  I had half-heartedly read The Hobbit in middle-school (and watched the musical cartoon version) and wasn't crazy about it, causing me to never get around to reading Lord of the Rings.  But as I sat there on opening night just over ten years ago watching the above prologue unspool before me, not only was I utterly captivated and entertained, but I was left with a complete understanding of the fantastical world that these films would be set in, as well as exactly what was at stake.  It was completely coherent and utterly comprehensible, even to a relative Tolkien newbie.  In all 10-11 hours of the three-film Lord of the Rings saga, I was never once confused by the character names, geographic locations, or the broad plot movements.  So when I tell you that John Carter confused the hell out of me, it's not because I'm some grumpy old man who can't handle his fantasy alongside his comic book adventures.  It's because I'm pretty sure that everyone involved at the highest levels of production had either read the original books or was familiar enough with them to not even question whether a newbie could follow the film version.  Peter Jackson never made that mistake...

Scott Mendelson          

A comeback to where? Even at her peak, Lindsay Lohan was not yet a 'movie star' or a box office draw. So don't expect her to become one now.

Come what may, last weekend's Saturday Night Live was memorable if only for the uncommonly creative "Real Housewives of Disney" sketch (embedded above).  The not good/not bad hosting job by Ms. Lohan is beside the point, as the whole gimmick was intended to show off that Ms. Lohan is apparently sober, sane, and ready to work again.  And if for no other reason than I don't want to see the gossip industry 'win', I am certainly hopeful that Lohan is indeed back on the 'straight and narrow' (or at least to whatever extent allows her to work in the profession of her choice, plenty of actors engage in vices while maintaining artistic careers).  But the meme that Lindsay Lohan is trying to 'reclaim her stardom' is a false one.  Lindsay Lohan, at her career peak, was never a movie star.  She was, like a lot of actors and actresses at a given point in their career, on the brink of true stardom.  She was ready to capitalize on a few years of popular films (Freaky Friday, The Parent Trap) and just coming off of a massive critical and commercial success (Mean Girls) which had her poised to truly break out.  But she was not yet a star.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Men in Black 3 gets a surprisingly 'okay' full trailer.

After the somewhat overly cryptic first teaser, this full trailer does a solid job of explaining the premise without overtly spoiling much of the plot.  Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones, now 65 years old) is apparently dead due to a ripple in time, and Agent J (Will Smith, now 43 but still looking not a day older than 28, which is how he was when the first Men In Black came out in 1997) must travel in time to the 1960s to discover some world-changing secret that apparently only K knows.  The weirdness of the ages is fully accounted for, as the post-title joke openly acknowledges the weirdness of 44-year old Josh Brolin playing a 29-year old Tommy Lee Jones.  Kudos to Sony for not revealing much more than that.

So we're getting a Muppets sequel! Why part of me wishes we weren't...

I'm actually a little surprised.  Yes the The Muppets opened with $42 million over five days and yes the film cost only $45 million to produce, but it wasn't exactly a box office firestorm.  The Muppets ended up with $88 million in the US (not even a 3.0x multiplier off its $29 million Fri-Sun opening) and $156 million worldwide.  That's a strong result, but considering the advance press and the solid opening, I think we were all expecting something a little bigger in the end, especially considering how good the movie turned out.  In truth, I'd argue that the reason it didn't truly break out is that it was more for the adults that loved the Muppets than kids who Disney was trying to hook on the property.  It is a bittersweet and often somber drama, filled with just as many lumps in the throat as belly laughs.  I've seen the film twice, and both times it was the grownups who were captivated while the kids squirmed in their seats.  Still, Disney's not one to turn away any would-be franchise that didn't lose tons of money, so they are indeed pressing ahead with a film sequel to The Muppets, with the key caveat being that Jason Segel won't be co-writing it this time.  Director James Bobin and original co-writer Nicholas Stoller are returning, but Segel is apparently too busy to commit to anything right now.  Come what may, he may have the right idea.  

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Weekend Box Office (03/04/12): The Lorax opens to $70 million, setting an animation record, while Project X opens to $20 million.

The full weekend chart HERE.  See this is what happens when you have just two major cartoon during the Winter/Spring season instead of six.  Last year, February, March, and April saw an onslaught on high-profile animated features, five of which opened just in March and April.  Gnomeo and Juliet ($25 million opening/$99 million domestic total), Rango ($38 million/$123 million) Hop ($37 million/$103 million), and Rio ($39 million/$143 million) all did well, but were burdened by directly competing with each other.  Mars Needs Moms ($6.9 million/$21 million) was one of the biggest box office bombs in modern history while the never-had-a-chance Hoodwinked: Hood vs. Evil ($4 million/$10 million) was DOA.  This time around, it's The Lorax or nothing (that second cartoon I mentioned doesn't open until April 27th), which coupled with the absolute lack of truly new kid-friendly product and the relative disinterest in domestic audiences in Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (which was still leggy enough to gross $130 million domestic) and The Adventures of Tintin (which is no flop with $372 million worldwide), left a very large gap in the marketplace.  No you can see how its $70 million opening is not *that* surprising.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Déjà vu all over again. Warner Bros hides Tim Burton's Dark Shadows just as they hid Tim Burton's Mars Attacks!. And why it's a good thing...

There's a new Tim Burton coming out from Warner Bros. in just over two months.  Aside from a couple stills and some half-hearted interview statements from the cast and Mr. Burton, we haven't heard or seen a thing from it.  No posters, no trailers, no TV spots, nothing.  It's October of 1996, and I'm of course referring to Mars Attacks!.  Many of my readers are too young to remember way-back-when, but the near-absence of marketing materials for Tim Burton's $80 million private-joke (which today plays like half-blockbuster deconstruction and half-right wing political fantasy) was a source of frustration for a 16-year old Tim Burton fan who was eagerly awaiting that first preview.  Today we stand in the same boat with another Warner Bros-funded Tim Burton 'comedy'.  But just over fifteen years later, what was a source of frustration is now a pleasant surprise.  Nine weeks to go, and I really don't need to see an onslaught of spoiler-filled marketing materials for the upcoming Dark Shadows.  Ten weeks to go, and I have absolutely no idea what kind of film Tim Burton and his merry band have delivered.  I don't know what it looks like, what the tone is, or all-that much about the plot.  And in this era of 'spoil the movie a year in advance', that's a special thing indeed.

"Second star to the right, and straight on till morning." No better end for our stalwart heroes, no better goodbye for Star Trek.

By the time J.J. Abrams's Star Trek 2 (or whatever it's called) debuts in the summer of 2013, it will have been just under 21 years since the release of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, which was supposed to be the final Star Trek film.  Since that time in December, 1991, we've had (counting the upcoming sequel) an additional six films, meaning that just half the Star Trek films explicitly involved the original cast and crew of the Starship Enterprise.  Star Trek: Generations had cameos from several members of the crew, and Spock showed up in the third act of Star Trek, but we will soon reach a point where we've spent more cinematic time in the company of the Next Generation crew and these alternate-universe youngins than we have with the original icons.  I have no criticism or commentary about that, other than to say that it's not a little ironic that Kirk, Spock, and the rest of the crew have slowly been put out to pasture by younger replacements.  After all, the first six Star Trek films were all about the now-elderly crew coming to terms with their own mortality, their eventual retirement, and whether or not the lives that they had dedicated to exploring that final frontier really made a damn bit of difference.  All of this is just a silly essay to justify posting this scene, the climax from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  It is the best film in the Star Trek series, one where the two-fisted swashbuckler Captain Kirk comes to terms with his own rage and his own eventual irrelevance, forgives his mortal enemies, and becomes a broker of peace rather than a weapon of war. This final bittersweet moment never fails to move me.  I can think of no better goodbye than this moment, and there is a part of me, my enjoyment of the next six films aside, that wished they had let this final grace note be the true and undisputed finale.

Scott Mendelson

Review: Confusing and unengaging, John Carter (2012) is sci-fi fantasy done wrong, making Avatar look like, well... Avatar.

John Carter: An IMAX 3D Experience
132 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

I understood Brian DePalma's Mission: Impossible the first time I saw it in theaters.  I had no trouble following Chris Nolan's brain-twister thrillers (Memento, The Prestige, Inception).  It was work, but I more-or-less 'got' the core narrative beats of LA Confidential and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  But by golly John Carter is a confusing muddle of a movie.  There has been all kinds of hand-wringing about the film's rather large budget and its lousy marketing campaign.  I've taken the film to task for representing Disney's obsessive desire to ditch their core female audience while spending untold millions on boy-friendly franchises that don't pay off (HERE).  But putting all of that aside, Andrew Stanton's visually ambitious and cheerfully innocent boys' adventure film does indeed have a few moments of visual splendor and gee-whiz action.  But it is saddled by a needlessly convoluted narrative that goes nowhere slowly, and that further strains patience by telling its story through cryptic exposition as well as inexplicable casting and costuming choices that renders a large chunk of the supporting cast indistinguishable from each other at key junctures.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Classic Marketing: Universal teases The Flintstones a year in advance...

It was no secret that Universal was planning a big-screen adaptation of The Flintstones for the summer of 1994.  I remember actually being on the Universal lot while visiting a cousin in the winter of 1993 so I could shoot portions of a Bar Mitzvah movie (long story... another time) and being told by the Universal guy that if we got caught to say "We're here working on stuff for The Flintstones... nobody knows what the plot is yet anyway."  But a six months later, as my dad and I watched the lights go down for our advance-night 10:00pm screening of Jurassic Park (arguably the best single movie going experience of my life... ask me about it next summer), we were stunned that Universal had already cooked up a teaser for the seemingly un-shot and certainly unfinished Flintstones feature.  As you can see, it was basically just a bouncing ball version of the theme song, climaxing with an in-costume John Goodman screaming 'Yabba-dabba-doo!' at the top of his lungs.  Let me tell you, the entire audience roared with applause and I admit I was caught up in the infectious excitement for a project I couldn't really care less about.  That was the start of something new.

Despicable Me 2 gets a teaser, despite having nothing really to tease.

I've whined before about the inexplicable need to spend countless millions of dollars on marketing campaigns so far in advance of the film's release that only the hardcore fans are paying attention anyway.  So here we have a teaser for Despicable Me 2, just over a year from its release date (July 3rd, 2013), with no known plot to tease.  Universal is merely going with what it knows sells - the minions.  The first film was smart enough to hold those characters somewhat in reserve despite their obvious appeal, and here's hoping that the sequel will muster the same restraint.  I'm presuming that Universal didn't spend too much cash putting together this minimalist teaser, so I won't hold it against them.

Scott Mendelson 

Tim Burton's stop-motion Frankenweenie remake gets a trailer.

It's beyond ironic that Disney is giving Tim Burton money to make a stop-motion animated feature based on a live-action short film that he helmed back in the early 1980s that more-or-less got him canned from Disney.  For those who don't remember, Burton made a 25-minute black-and-white feature about a young boy who brings his dead dog back to life.  It was intended to be shown before the 1984 re-issue of Pinocchio, but was pulled after Frankenweenie got slapped with a PG rating.  After that, Burton left Disney, ended up getting a shot at Warner Bros directing Pee-Wee's Big Adventure the next year and the rest is history.  


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