Thursday, May 31, 2012

Watch/Discuss: The Bourne Legacy depressingly casts Rachel Weisz as neither hero or villain, but 'the girl'.

The most annoying thing about noticing gender issues in films and television is that you can't *not* notice them when its inconvenient.  So while this second trailer for The Bourne Redundancy, err The Bourne Legacy, has a crap-load of great actors, some solid stunt-work, and a time-twisty narrative that seemingly takes place at the same time as The Bourne Ultimatum.  But couldn't the screenwriters think of something more original than "Jeremy Renner rescues his hot doctor from bad guys and takes her on the run with him"?  Rachel Weisz is an Oscar winner and one of the better actresses of her generation, but whenever she treads into big-studio productions she almost always finds herself as the 'tag-along girl'.  Whether in Chain Reaction (one of her first films back in 1996), Constantine (ironically both with Keanu Reeves), and now in this production, she's the pretty face who gets caught up in the hero's peril and gets dragged along and periodically rescued from scary bad guys.  Yes the first film had a 'drag-along girl' (Franka Potente), but the film went out of its way to emphasize just how much danger Jason Bourne was putting her and her family in by virtue of his intrusion.  It's a big difference: potential menace versus lily-white savior.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Review: Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) is a dull, drab, and aggressively passive chore.

Snow White and the Huntsman
127 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

Strange is a movie that immediately establishes its dramatic stakes but spends the rest of the film waiting for the main characters to actually take seemingly obvious action.  But such is the case with Rupert Sander's big-budget Snow White reinvention.  While the idea of retelling Snow White on a more epic scale with bits and pieces from Lord of the Rings thrown in isn't the most inspired idea (Snow White: A Tale of Terror went the Gothic horror route over a decade ago), there remain elements for a primal hero's adventure with a dash of feminist subtext thrown in for good measure.  But the picture seems to go out of its way to dismiss or ignore what shows promise while aimlessly wandering around in a literal and metaphorical dark forest waiting for its inevitable action climax to occur.  It fails at least partially because it strands its lead characters with nowhere to go while stranding its lead heroine with nothing to do.

Watch/Discuss: Les Miserables teaser delivers the awesome, shoots the film to the top of my 2012 must-see list.

Holy shit. I got goosebumps just watching this thing.  It's no secret that Les Miserables is my favorite stage musical, however unoriginal a choice that may be.  So the source material is golden, you've got an all-star cast of actors who damn-well can sing, plus an Oscar-winning director who A) has complete artistic freedom and B) arguably has to prove that his Best Director Oscar win wasn't merely a bunch of older voters screwing over David Fincher.  And if I may offer a note of cautious optimism, it's all-too easy to craft a winning teaser for a popular Broadway show.  This follows the same template as the first Rent teaser, where you take the most iconic song of the show and set a visual montage to it for 90-150 seconds.  But we know that Anne Hathaway kills her big number (like that was ever in doubt) and that everyone else at least looks authentic while Tom Hooper seems to be emphasizing the period-specific poverty and squalor in a way that's a little tough to do on stage.  It's no secret that the film will feature live on-set recordings rather than lip-syncing to pre-recorded studio sessions, and it's too early to know if that intriguing gamble paid off.  Although that heart-wrenching closeup and vocal break-up at 1:05 suggests it did.  But yeah, this is probably the film I most want to see after The Dark Knight Rises opens.  Hell, if given the choice to see one of them right now, I'm not sure which I'd pick (okay, I'd pick Dark Knight Rises simply because I don't have the script memorized by heart).  One minor marketing nitpick, the onscreen text 'The Dream Lives' is borderline tasteless considering both the obvious text of the song in question and Fantine's character arc.  Anyway, Tom Hopper's Les Miserables opens on December 14th.  If my wife doesn't like it, she can stay home with the kids while I take whichever of her family members wins the straw game to the press screening.  If Universal has truly pulled this off, then Battleship is completely forgiven.   But, for the sake of cautious optimism, I'm including the dynamite first teasers to Rent and The Phantom of the Opera after the jump.

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Guest Essay: "The Part-Time Critic" Kyle Leaman pontificates on Jackie Chan's action-film retirement.

From time to time, I'm able to offer a guest essay to my readers.  Today's guest author is Kyle Leaman.  Those who have been reading this site since the very beginning may remember Mr. Leaman and his work at The Part-Time Critic.  He was one of my first regular readers and someone who I linked to from time-to-time as his work was often both insightful and insanely comprehensive.  A couple years back (just before he retired from writing) he compiled a list, complete with mini-essays and YouTube excerpts, of the 100 greatest fights in Jackie Chan's action career.  It's so exhaustive that you may need a stunt man to get through it all in one sitting.  So when I read that Jackie Chan had announced that he was officially retiring from action films, Mr. Leaman was the first person I thought of.  I asked him if he had anything to say about it and he thankfully obliged.  So here is, unabridged and unedited save for token formatting, Kyle Leaman's "The Punctuation of an Action Career".      

The Punctuation Point of an Action Career
by Kyle Leaman

In 1978, a film by the name Snake in the Eagle's Shadow became a breakout action hit in Hong Kong and the star of the film, a 24-year-old Jackie Chan, followed it up with the equally successful Drunken Master. Chan then went on to release a major action film in every single decade since, an unprecedented and unequaled 30-year run. To put that into perspective, Jason Statham would need to keep making action films until the year 2032 just to draw even with Chan's run. Even I don't think I could stomach that many Cranks and Transporters.

While promoting his newest film at the Cannes film festival, Jackie declared that Chinese Zodiac would be his last action film. The following day Jackie clarified the comments on his Facebook page, saying that the film would be his last "big action movie."  What exactly does Chan mean by "big action movie," and does this mean we should start writing eulogies for his action career? Is this the end of drunken boxing, super cops, and big stunts? Will everyday objects like ladders and clothes racks now cease to become props of mass destruction? If we are to understand what Chan means to do with Chinese Zodiac, the punctuation that he is trying to put on his career, we really have to understand the story he has been writing over the last four decades. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Weekend Box Office: (05/27/12): Men In Black 3 tops Memorial Day while The Moonrise Kingdom slays in limited release.

The Men In Black franchise returned to theaters this weekend after a ten year hiatus and, for better or worse, performed exactly the same as the prior Men In Black films. The first Men In Black debuted with $51 million over the Fri-Sun portion of its July 4th weekend back in 1997 while Men In Black 2 earned $52 million over the same portion in 2002.  To wit, Men In Black 3 earned an estimated $55 million over the Fri-Sun portion of the weekend with a projected $70 million Fri-Mon holiday gross. 3D-bumps and ten years worth of inflation puts a damper on the numbers (in today's respective dollars, the original's debut would be about $88 million while the sequel would be about $71 million), but the consistency is arguably a little remarkable.  It's arguably only a 'dissappointment' due to the unexpectedly high budget of the threequel, which shut down production for six weeks in the middle of filming in order to work out script kinks.  At a cost of anywhere from $220 million to $300 million, Sony was in the unenviable position of needing an 'out of this world' debut (sorry) to justify the expense, and this otherwise hearty haul wasn't it.   Having said that, it's still Will Smith's third-biggest Fri-Sun debut behind his last two blockbusters from 2007 (I Am Legend's $77 million opening) and 2008 (Hancock's $62 million Fri-Sun debut over July 4th 2008).

Friday, May 25, 2012

Review: Men In Black 3 (2012) is the best film in the series.

Men In Black 3 (2D)
103 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

I don't know how much Men In Black 3 actually cost.  I don't know the details of the behind-the-scenes turmoil that shut the film down for a period so the filmmakers could frantically rewrite the screenplay.  I don't know what got removed and what got added or changed along the way.  But the highest compliment that I can pay this third installment in the series is that none of the backstage drama shows.  The story makes sense, there are few real plot holes, and the actors exude confidence and charm in a screenplay that balances trailer-friendly set pieces and gags with genuine storytelling and character growth.  The world may not have needed another Men In Black picture, but director Barry Sonnenfeld and writers Etan Cohen, David Koepp, Jeff Nathanson, and Michael Soccio have crafted a shockingly good one, arguably the best in the series.  This is accomplished and polished popcorn entertainment that is refreshingly light on its feet.  For what it's worth, I thought the first Men In Black was somewhat overrated while Men In Black 2 was *slightly* underrated.  Men In Black 3 is the first in the series that I would call almost-great.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Once again, Garrison Dean fashions a terrific fanmade Expendables trailer, this time with a 'Made in the USA' Expendables II preview.

I happen to think that the New York Times article that is used as the basis for this wonderful fan trailer is full of crap (cough-Fast Five, Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol-cough), but I still laughed my ass off at this pretty much the entire running time.  And yes, just like two years ago, this Garrison Dean trailer is superior to the official Lionsgate one, although the official Expendables II trailer is indeed a better piece of work than the official Expendables trailer from summer 2010.  Just enjoy this thing and wonder why Mr. Dean hasn't gotten a job from any of the trailer houses yet.  I'm sure he would have had some choice words about the John Carter campaign.

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Summer movie musical chairs: Ted moves to June 29th.

Universal has announced that Seth McFarlane's Ted (which my wife wants to see) will now open on June 29th, 2012 in the 'vacated' slot (by vacated, that means its also opening against Tatum's Magic MikeTyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection, and People Like Us).  Oddly enough, Universal is opening Oliver Stone's Savages just a week later on July 6th.  So if Universal ends up moving Savages to July 13th, don't be too surprised.  I'm genuinely surprised that Universal didn't take the opportunity to move The Bourne Legacy from its August 3rd slot where it would be opening head-to-head with Total Recall.  Of course, considering July 13th will now have only Ice Age: Continental Drift, expect some studio to move one of their bigger movies to the now nearly-empty slot.  That leaves just six titles opening in wide release this July (The Amazing Spider-Man, Savages, Ice Age 4, The Dark Knight Rises, Step Up 4, and The Watch).  If I were Sony, I'd move the Meryl Streep/Tommy Lee Jones/Steve Carell drama Hope Springs into the July 13th slot, as it will provide solid counter-programming against both Ice Age 4 and The Dark Knight Rises and allow Sony to move Total Recall to August 10th.  August has 14 movies opening over five weeks.  I expect that number to drop by at least one while July's total increases to seven before too long. What do you think will go down with this latest round of musical chairs?  Share below.

Scott Mendelson

Money for nothing: A commercial (not artistic) defense of Paramount's decision to convert GI Joe Retaliation to 3D.

As most of you know, Paramount has announced that it is moving one of its three major summer releases, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, from June 29th, 2012 to March 29th, 2013.  The official reason for this date change is not quality issues with the film, the need for reshoots, problems with the marketing, or the desire to 'unkill Channing Tatum due to his increased visibility/profile. but purely because they want to take the extra nine months to convert the film to 3D for theatrical release.  Obviously most of the film punditry world is crying foul over this decision and as someone who was looking forward to the film I sympathize.  But putting aside the "I want to see it *now*!" and the "I hate needless and/or post-converted 3D!" arguments, it's tough in this current box office climate to argue that Paramount didn't make the right call.  Since Avatar kick-started the 3D trend 2.5 years ago, there has been a flurry of would-be tentpole films going the 3D route and an equal number of would-be blockbusters choosing to renounce the gimmick and go out as 2D only.  While we can all appreciate the filmmakers who stuck to their artistic guns in the face of box office pressure, the truth of the matter is that in today's marketplace, where a big-budget film's financial fate is often decided by overseas dollars, it's almost fiscal self-injury not to make the call.  For anywhere from $10 million to $20 million extra, you can add around 15-20% to your opening weekend grosses and around 15% to your total domestic box office, with an un-quantifiable upshot for foreign grosses.  For numbers like that, why *wouldn't* you convert your purely commercial popcorn adventure film to 3D?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby gets a truly hilarious trailer.

Back in 2004, I cut a series of fake trailers for my personal amusement.  My favorite of these was a trailer I cut for Pay It Forward which sold the film as a tense and violent thriller ("On October 18th... no good deed goes unpunished!").  I used the music from the film and footage completely from the movie, only cheating by using the Backdraft theme for a closing action montage.  If I can find a copy of the thing, I'll put it on the site eventually.  It's choppy by today's standards, but this was before the whole 'satirical trailer mash' was a thing.   This Great Gatsby trailer feels like the same kind of thing, attempting to sell a somewhat reserved adult romantic drama as an uber-glitzy and action-packed melodrama.  Of course, since Baz Luhrmann's at the helm, that's probably not a false sell.  Depending on your feelings regarding the original novel and/or your thoughts about Luhrmann, that may be a good or a bad thing.  I liked the novel when I read it once in twelve grade, finding it a fine deconstruction of the whole 'girl who got away' myth that still dominates romantic melodrama.  But if Luhrmann wants to play around with it, have at it.  

Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes looks to be the perfect Father's Day gift. Especially if Allison plays too...

This may be among the last video games I buy as an adult until my kids are old enough to actively play them with me.  I bought Lego Pirates of the Caribbean a few months ago for $20 and have played it only a few times since then.  I'm possibly getting to that 'old man' stage where I am consciously aware of what a waste of time it is to play video games even when the time does present itself (I've been tempted to pick up Max Payne 3, but will probably wait until it's cheap).  Of course, once Allison and/or Ethan are old enough to play along (Allison should be within the next year), then I'll have an alibi.  And I can't imagine Allison won't get a huge kick out of this one if it's not too difficult, as she's a pretty big superhero fan, something I didn't exactly force upon her but have certainly not discouraged.  She quite enjoys The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes and Young Justice and the only reason I haven't agreed to take her to see The Avengers is because its 140 minutes long.  So yeah, this looks like an obscene amount of fun.  And yes, I'll probably ask for this one for a Father's Day gift.  Because even if I don't have the time to dive headfirst into such a video game, Allison will be able and willing soon enough.  And when she and I are kicking ass across Gotham City as Batman and Wonder Woman respectively (or whomever she wants to be), it won't be a waste of time at all, will it?

Scott Mendelson      

Review: The Intouchables (2012) is a broad and simplistic 'American' race/class comedy, but in French.

The Intouchables
112 minutes
rated R
This film opens in limited release on May 25th.

by Scott Mendelson

I've written about this from time-to-time, but there is occasionally an odd effect that comes from labeling a film 'arthouse' or 'foreign' that gives it a certain critical allure. If Sucker Punch had been French, would critics have been more willing to plumb the film's social critiques?  If Drive had been released as is but as a major studio release with Hugh Jackman instead of a mid-level release with Ryan Gosling, would the critics have swooned to the same degree? Robert Rodriguez remarked nearly twenty years ago that the Spanish subtitles found in El Mariachi led critics to find copious symbolism in what was intended as a cheap exploitation picture.  And so it is that The Intouchables has become an international sensation, grossing $339 million overseas and becoming (I believe...) the most successful French export of all-time.  The mystique of subtitles and its obvious 'foreignness' has caused many to give a pass to what is as conventional, generic, and contrived a comedy as anything released by Adam Sandler or Eddie Murphy in these United States.

Sony apparently plans to reveal all 120-minutes of The Amazing Spider-Man via clips and previews before July 3rd.

The press release is after the jump, but the short version is that Sony is taking a page from Warner Bros. and showing off six more minutes of The Amazing Spider-Man in select theaters before Men In Black 3, which opens this Friday (had life not gotten in the way, I would be currently writing a review of just that film).  I don't know if this is a six minute scene (ala the Dark Knight/Dark Knight Rises IMAX prologues) or yet another extended preview.  With The Avengers basically taking the wind out of the sails of every other major blockbuster and The Dark Knight Rises looking to dominate the second half of summer 2012 while Prometheus takes up the adult-skewing geek-nirvana slot, Sony is in a jam with their Spider-Man reboot. Fair or not (I'd argue fair), The Amazing Spider-Man is contributing exactly zero to the hype and/or cultural conversation.  Toss in rumblings of dissatisfaction which seems to coincide with two new writers (Transformers/Star Trek scribes Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci) being hired to pen the theoretical sequel and you can literally see the sweat on Sony's brow.  I will say that the action sequences look quite impressive, and that may be enough to justify an IMAX 3D viewing when the time comes.  But for now, those seeing Men In Black 3 in 'IMAX 3D and select theaters' will be treated to six more minutes of "The Completely New and Totally Different Peter Parker Becomes Spider-Man Origin Story".  As always, share your thoughts below.

Scott Mendelson      

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises gets a pretty solid theatrical one-sheet and six rain or snow-soaked character posters..

I seem to be in the minority, but I rather like this poster.  Unlike the two key posters for The Dark Knight, there are no nonsensical tag-lines ("Welcome to a City Without Rules"), no odd imagery of Batman standing in front of a burning building as if he's claiming credit for said explosion, and no odd placement where the point of visual focus is a giant wheel from that silly Bat-Pod.  It's just Batman himself, appropriately brooding with the unofficial logo for the film (the buildings of Gotham collapsing into a bat-symbol) and a variation on the "The Fire Rises" would-be catchphrase (doesn't quite have the same ring to it as "Why So Serious?").  Of note, Anne Hathaway gets billing above Tom Hardy implying either Hathaway is the obvious bigger star or Bane's role is smaller than has been let on.  I remember being shocked when Tommy Lee Jones got billing ahead of red-hot Jim Carrey in Batman Forever only to realize that Two-Face was actually the primary villain as opposed to The Riddler.  UPDATE - Warner Bros. dropped three moody and rain-soaked character posters and three less impressive snow-drenched character posters this morning, so I'm adding them below the jump.  Anyway, there isn't much left to do but speculate until this starts screening toward the very end of June, with junket screenings likely falling before July 4th weekend and regular press screenings starting about 1.5-2 weeks before July 20th.  Am I as excited for this as I was for The Dark Knight four years ago?  Not even close, but I have no reason thus-far to believe that The Dark Knight Rises won't be an awfully good action-drama.  As always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master gets a teaser.

P.T. Anderson's long-awaited follow-up to There Will Be Blood is allegedly a fictionalized version of the origins of Scientology (with Philip Seymour Hoffman playing an L. Ron Hubbard-esque figure), but this teaser has nothing of that nature to tease.  Instead all we get is a jittery Joaquin Phoenix nervously being interrogated by an authority figure about an unseen incident.  Obviously this is an exceedingly cryptic little clip, but for die-hard fans (I've liked all of his four of his previous films but only loved Magnolia) it will have to do.  The Master opens on October 12th.  As always, we'll see.

Scott Mendelson

Watch/Discuss: Skyfall gets a sparse but imposing teaser.

This is a teaser in the best sense of the word, sharing absolutely no real plot details and barely intruding any major characters.  All you need to know is that Daniel Craig and Judy Dench are back in their respective roles and that something called 'skyfall' is the cause of some genuine trouble.  The film looks lush and colorful with a handful of scenes suggesting not just Bond attempting to prevent a cataclysm but dealing with the aftermath of one.  The footage suggests an intimacy that befits the Craig 007 pictures with a slightly larger scope this time around.  As someone who loved Casino Royale and damn-well liked Quantum of Solace, I hope they haven't altered the formula too much in response to the latter film's inexplicable critical rejection.  I know I say this a lot, but part of me hopes that Sony has the guts to let this stand as the primary marketing tool for the picture, without the need to release a 150-second plot-centric trailer sometime in August.  Still, this looks like both a solid James Bond picture and a declarative 'up yours' to The Bourne Legacy.  Skyfall drops on November 9th in America in 35mm and IMAX.  As always, we'll see.

Scott Mendelson   

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Weekend Box Office (05/20/12): Battleship sinks, The Dictator and What To Expect When You're Expecting stumble, while The Avengers charges on.

Most box office write-ups written today or tomorrow will exclaim that 'The Avengers sunk Battleship!'.  The truth is that Battleship (review) sunk itself.  The film was terrible, a mishmash of a thousand prior blockbuster films all meshed into a generic template that seemed like producers checking off a list of ingredients on a sciencitic formula.  More importantly, the marketing accurately conveyed this and audiences decided to either stay home or see something else.  The assumption of global success, based on an arbitrary connection to a board game and $220 million worth of special effects surrounded by a stale concoction of used parts, was cynicism of the highest order.  The fact domestic audiences soundly rejected it has to be cause for optimism.  With John Carter and now Battleship (pity Taylor Kitsch, who stars in both but bears little responsibility), it appears that movie studios run the risk of indeed going broke underestimating the taste of the American public.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A situation oddly similar to the current Community debacle.

After this weekend, with show creator Dan Harmon fired from Community by Sony Television and with much of writing staff exiting, one wonders why NBC bothered to renew the show at all.  The abbreviated 13-episode renewal was clearly meant to be a sort of 'we'll give you time to wrap up' olive branch extended towards 30 Rock and Fringe, but the last episode of this season served as such a fitting series finale that the show as we know it could arguably be done.  And that's a good thing in light of this news.  Come what may, the things that made Community special generally came from the mind of Mr. Harmon and at least some of the departing writers, of course aided by what appears to be a fully-returning cast.  So if the fourth and presumably final season of Community, without the behind-the-scenes people who made it worthwhile, ends up being lackluster and/or a shell of its former self, then we should be grateful that the Greendale gang saw fit to so explicitly tie up the show several days ago.  Point being, if the fourth season of Community is terrible, we can just pretend it never happened, or at least that it existed in some alternate timeline ("darkest timeline" perhaps?).  If this all seems familiar, it's because the pattern followed by Community was also set forth in the late 1990s by, of all things, an afternoon animated action drama.  Whatever Dan Harmon is feeling right now, I'm sure Greg Weisman is quite sympathetic.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The summer blockbuster no one sees coming...

By the time Madagascar 3 is released in America on June 8th, it will have been just over three months since the last major family-friendly film.  Mirror Mirror ($159 million and counting off an $85 million budget) and Pirates: Band of Misfits ($23 million here and $85 million overseas off a $55 million budget) certainly weren't flops, but we've seen what amounts to a dearth of family fare over 2012.  Surely that's due to the epic traffic jam that was pre-summer 2011, which saw six major animated features (Gnomeo and Juliet, Rango, Mars Needs Moms, Hop, Rio, and Hoodwinked 2) debuting between February and April, all of which were somewhat handicapped by the sheer volume of concurrent product.  This year we didn't have a single major *new* kid-friendly feature until March 2nd, as as a result Universal's The Lorax powered to an eye-popping $70 million in its opening weekend before ending up with $209 million domestic.  We are currently in the middle of another similar drought.

Press Release: Disney/Pixar's Brave to premiere on June 18th at grand opening of the new Dolby Theatre.

June 18, 2012

World Premiere of Disney•Pixar’s “Brave” Heads to Hollywood
for Grand Opening of the Dolby Theatre

Epic Action Adventure Joins 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival Lineup

BURBANK, Calif. and SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (May 18, 2012) – Disney•Pixar’s “Brave,” a groundbreaking adventure full of humor, heart and breathtaking action, extends its pioneering spirit to its world premiere on June 18, 2012, marking the Grand Opening of Hollywood’s Dolby® TheatreSM. The red-carpet event is a special presentation for Film Independent’s 2012 Los Angeles Film Festival. Premiering in Dolby 3D, a state-of-the-art imaging solution providing audiences with a superior 3D experience, “Brave” is an epic tale set in the mystical Scottish Highlands where the film’s headstrong protagonist, Merida, is forced to discover the meaning of true bravery. The film hits theatres nationwide on June 22, 2012.

“With a spirited heroine and enchanting setting in the ancient Scottish Highlands, ‘Brave’ represents some exciting firsts for Pixar,” said Ricky Strauss, president, marketing, The Walt Disney Studios. “We are proud that the world premiere of ‘Brave’ will serve as the inaugural premiere at the new Dolby Theatre as part of the LA Film Festival, a fitting way to launch Merida’s extraordinary adventure.”

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The next 007 film, Skyfall, gets a minimalist new poster.

The trailer is set to premiere next Friday alongside Men in Black 3D. I'm seeing Men In Black 3 on Monday evening (I'm genuinely curious, but my mother-in-law is genuinely thrilled), so hopefully they'll tack on the trailer like they did with that The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo eight-minute clip back in September (alongside selected press screenings of Straw Dogs and Moneyball).  Anyway, this is a sharp and stylish poster, hearkening back to Sam Mendes's promise to take James Bond back to his roots, whatever that means (the 'true James Bond' means something different for everyone, but I digress).  Anyway, I won't harp forever nor will I try to discern clues from the one-sheet.  It's a lovely poster and that's all I've got.  Feel free to share your own thoughts.  Oh... here's one, what does 'the real James Bond' mean to you?

Scott Mendelson

Review: Battleship (2012) is 'Battlesh*t', representing the culmination of corporate-minded test-tube filmmaking.

130 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

Maybe it's all led up to this.  Ten years of big-budget spectacle film-making that seemed ever-more geared toward the theoretical fourteen-year old boy who doesn't necessarily know how to read his native language have brought us Peter Berg's Battleship. This is the very definition of empty spectacle, devoid of a single interesting character and (with one token exception) any interesting plot turns.  It is not so much a film as a prepackaged product, so intent on appealing to as many people as possible that it is completely devoid of any real appeal.  Battleship is the kind of movie that makes it so hard to defend the industry, and so hard to actually praise mainstream films when they do get it right.  If you're the kind of person who presumes that all movies stink and that the films being made today are by-nature inferior than the ones that were made in some by-gone era, Battleship is exactly the kind of alleged popcorn entertainment that you're probably thinking of.  If we often discuss big-budget franchise pictures in terms of food (The Dark Knight is a filet minion, Transformers 2 is a Big Mac, etc), then Battleship is basically a jar of baby food.  There is technically food inside the jar, but it is stripped of all sugar, all salt, and all taste beyond whatever natural flavors the jar might possess.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

CBS's Elementary gets a trailer. It's not Sherlock, it's Monk!

By familiar, I don't mean that it looks like a carbon-copy of the BBC modern day Sherlock Holmes drama Sherlock.  The good news is that this looks and feels quite different from the currently airing series.  The bad news is that everything about this feels like a concerted effort to water-down the original and make it 'more palpable' to alleged audience sensibilities.  The tinkering seems primarily intended to make Johnny Lee Miller's Holmes more 'sympathetic'.  This Holmes actually gives a damn about the dastardly doings that villains do, rather than treating the 'great game' as just that.  He lashes out at suspects and expresses regret at having to witness violence.  And of course, because Watson is now played by a woman, Lucy Lu is seen looking away at the gore, because all women are inherently squeamish.  The core difference between the two shows appears to be an attempt to make Jonny Lee Miller's Holmes less cold, clinical, and stand off-ish than Benedict Cumberbatch.  In short, CBS is trying for a more 'relatable' Sherlock Holmes.  

When death is expected, life is the best plot twist. Why I hope Bruce Wayne survives The Dark Knight Rises.

With two months to go before Chris Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, much of the summer will focus on rampant speculation.  This speculation will mostly focus on two would-be plot turns.  A) Is Miranda Tate (Marion Cottilard) Talia Al Ghul in disguise? and B) Does Bruce Wayne die at the end of the picture?  I don't pretend to know the answer to either of these questions, although Cottilard recently gave an interview swearing that her character was not Ra's Al Ghul's daughter in disguise.  Personally, I hope neither of those things are true.  First of all, there has been so much assured presumption among fans and pundits over the last two years concerning these matters that it would be lovely for all of the guessers to be wrong.  At this point, it is almost taken for granted that Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) will perish by the end credits.  Thus at this point, it would actually be more daring, 'ballsier' if you will, for Nolan to leave Bruce Wayne alive at the end of his three-part Batman saga.  Second of all, the 'shocking death' has slowly morphed over the decade from an unlikely plot twist into a writer's crutch.  Does anyone here remember the last time they were truly surprised by a last-minute fatality on their favorite television show or a major new movie?  What was once rare became occasional in the era of The X-Files, inevitable in the era of The Sopranos, and absolutely expected as the likes of Lost and 24 wrapped up their series runs.  What was shocking is now painfully predictable.  And the 'shocking fatality' is now seemingly the primary mode of surprise and plot-twisting in contemporary pop entertainment.

Watch/Enjoy: Alan Rickman makes tea in slow-motion set to Zack Hemsey's Inception trailer music.

I have no idea what the point of this is, other than some kind of Andy Kaufman-esque gag, but it's well worth at least a scan-through.  Oh, and once again this shows that Zack Hemsey's Inception trailer music can make anything sound epic/powerful/profound.  So yeah, do enjoy and I'll have something more substantive later.  This first popped up over at Time.

Scott Mendelson

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Monday, May 14, 2012

Watch/Discuss: J.J. Abrams's new series, Revolution, gets a trailer. Or the inherent peril of close-ended television.

The premise is genuinely chilling, and the opening moments have a real kick to them.  But once the show starts up its real storyline, we quickly see the problem with this kind of seemingly short-term narrative storytelling.  By the end of this four-minute clip, we already know that there is some amulet that apparently makes electricity work again.  So it appears that the core arc of the show will be a journey to find this amulet and theoretically use it to restore power to a world that currently has none.  Fine, but does that not presume that the show will in-effect be a long waiting game as we (im)patiently wait for the core problem to be solved.  Yes we can hopefully become invested in certain characters and enjoy the two decent actors on display (Gincarlo Esposito and Billy Burke), but won't every would-be goal post be a false alarm, every climactic reveal be the equivalent of 'Your princess is in another castle'?  

Watch/Enjoy: A pretty terrific Batman: The Animated Series/The Dark Knight Rises trailer mash-up.

By virtue of available technology, the best trailer mash-ups are done through animated films and TV shows.  Four years ago, we got a number of Dark Knight trailer-mash-ups using clips from Batman: The Animated Series, and thus it is so again with The Dark Knight Rises.  What's most impressive about this mash is the sheer variety of footage it uses, as this came from someone who owns a box set of the series and scoured through all 85 original Batman: TAS episodes (plus a few bits from the redesigned New Batman Adventures, mostly from the Batman/Superman vs. Joker/Luthor epic "World's Finest").  Sad to say, I could probably tell you where each and every moment in the above trailer comes from, down to the episode title and general plot outline of each episode in question.  If you want to see how it matches up with the actual trailer, check out a comparison after the jump.

Scott Mendelson

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Weekend Box Office (05/13/12): Dark Shadows no match for The Avengers as the Marvel pic earns $103m in weekend two.

I've long said that, generally speaking, any would-be blockbusters slotted for the second major weekend of summer are doomed to somewhat under-perform, unable to break out of the spotlight hogged by whatever film kicks off the summer.  Since 1996 (when Warner Bros. officially kicked off summer with Twister in the first weekend in May), only two times has a film debuting on this very weekend actually topped the box office, and both times were due to a Hugh Jackman franchise film so disappointing audiences that moviegoers were more-than-ready to lap up whatever came next.  In 2004, Troy opened with $44 million against the second weekend of Van Helsing while Star Trek rode a wave of good publicity to $79 million against the crash-and-burn second weekend of X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  Other than that, the second weekend of summer is littered with either smaller films that didn't need to reach blockbuster status (The Horse WhispererDaddy Daycare, Monster-In-Law, Bridesmaids, etc) or would-be blockbusters that crashed hard on opening weekend (Dragonheart, Battleship EarthPoseidon, Speed Racer, etc).  Falling into the 'close-but-no cigar' category would be Robin Hood from 2010 (which opened with a solid $37 million but still needed massive overseas dollars to recoup its $200 million budget) and this weekend's Dark Shadows.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Without comment or emphasis: Why The Avengers may end up this summer's most progressively-feminist blockbuster.

I wasn't going to write about The Avengers again for awhile (other than box office) both because I didn't have much more to offer and because I didn't want this blog to turn into 'all Avengers all the time'.  But I would like to take a moment to single-out a specific element that the film does quite well.  There has been much hand-wringing this week about whether or not The Avengers (and specifically its two major female characters) qualifies as 'feminist'.  Pundits are understandably upset about the lack of more female lead characters, and the fact that the film fails the Bechdel Test.  Merely presenting a couple strong female characters doesn't automatically make your product feminist in nature nor does creating a sausage-fest with a token love interest make your film inherently misogynistic, although the latter does make me roll my eyes a bit more often than not.  But the way Joss Whedon and company present their female superheros merits acknowledgment primarily because of what they don't do. In short, they don't draw one damn bit of attention to it.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Gangster Squad gets an awful trailer, looks like L.A. Confidential performed by and for children.

You'll find few who enjoyed Zombieland more than I did.  I put it on my best-of-2009 list and called it perhaps the best zombie film ever made.  But Ruben Fleischer's third film (following the underwhelming but interesting 30 Minutes Or Less) looks frankly idiotic.  Sean Penn is overacting to the point of obnoxiousness.  Ryan Gosling is once again presented as God's gift to women.  Emma Stone is once again paraded around as a piece of ass.  And the film feels like a rehash of any number of 1940s LA crime pictures.  Anthony "I'd be a big star if I wasn't black" Mackie can't even get billing in the trailer, but his presence is appreciated amid the admittedly terrific cast (Josh Brolin, Nick Nolte, Giovanni Ribisi, Robert Patrick, Michael Pena, etc).  Stone's apparent role as the forbidden fruit highlights a certain sausage fest mentality ('manly men doing manly business while hot women wait on call'), while Mireille Enos's seemingly token appearance highlights the 'TV is better for women than movies' cliche.  On television, Enos is the lead in AMC's The Killing.  In movies, she plays Josh Brolin's wife.  The use of contemporary hip-hop song (Jay-Z's "Oh My God") to sell a 1940s period crime drama reeks of demographic pandering while the trailer sells the film as a slightly more adult-skewing version of the 1991 flop Mobsters (L.A. Confidential for kids?).  I'm all in favor of all-star ensemble films and/or period crime dramas.  But putting aside the 'cool cast' factor, this frankly looks awfully silly.  As of now, Warner Bros. has not given The Gangster Squad a release date, so it's likely that the reception for this trailer will be used as a measuring stick of sorts.  Anyway, as always, we'll see...

Scott Mendelson

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Review: Confused, rambling Dark Shadows (2012) sucks the life out of longtime Tim Burton/Johnny Depp fans.

Dark Shadows
113 minutes
rated PG-13

by Scott Mendelson

Dark Shadows is a movie with pretty much nothing to say.  It uses its culture-clash and fish-out-of-water narrative not for any kind of social meaning or parable, but purely for cheap offhand laughs.  It is filled with wonderful actors who all look spectacular but have little or nothing to do.  The film tries to play around with mixing supernatural horror, cheap comedy, and genuine soap opera theatrics, but nothing really meshes as it should.  It looks gorgeous as most Burton films do, the actors do what they can with very little, and the 70s soundtrack is filled with a mix of well-known classics and lesser-known hits.  Whether it is better or worse than Planet of the Apes or Alice In Wonderland is a moot point, it's simply yet another very bad Tim Burton film.  In short, Tim Burton's Dark Shadows can best be described in the same manner in which Alfred Hitchcock derogatorily referred to Ingrid Bergman: So beautiful... so stupid.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Unconventional Wisdom: So Chris Nolan's Batman films inspired a trend of dark/gritty blockbusters? Such as?

I've discussed this a few times over the years, so while debunking the concept in question I must accept guilt for believing it uncritically on prior occasions. If you've been reading reviews and general commentary for The Avengers, you've probably read at least a few pundits talk about how Joss Whedon's The Avengers is a welcome respite from the grim/gritty blockbusters that were born from the massive success of Chris Nolan's Batman movies (the second of which is still falsely held up as a NeoCon propaganda fantasy).  It's an easy sell, as the bright, colorful, and larger-than-life super-heroics found in The Avengers are worlds away from the street-level fights and chases in the Nolan-verse.  But in the seven years since Batman Begins debuted, where exactly are all of these grim/gritty blockbusters that Nolan is constantly credited with inspiring?  In short, they basically don't exist.  Whether it be comic book films or unrelated fantasy blockbusters, the films that soared highest are still the biggest, most colorful, most larger-than-life, and arguably the most 'fun'.  Four years after The Dark Knight, Chris Nolan's second Batman epic remains not a template for blockbuster success but somewhat of an anomaly.

Ben Affleck's Argo gets a trailer that goes one act too long.

I haven't read the true story that this film is based on (if you want to, here's the WIRED story).  But the general idea seems like just the sort of great story that lends itself to a fun movie.  And the film is filled to the gills with terrific character actors (John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, Victor Garber, Kyle Chandler, Tate Donovan, Phillip, Adrienne Barbeau, and my personal favorite, Zeljko Ivanek, etc).  And while I'm among those who didn't care for The Town, I'm a big fan of Affleck's Gone Baby Gone so he's still batting a solid 0.500 so far.  My only carp is with the trailer itself.  It's a 150-second spot that clearly divided into three acts.  The first 45-seconds or so explains the time, setting, and political crisis that kicks the story into gear, while the middle 45-seconds goes into the actual scheme that made this story worth telling.  Instead of ending at the 90-second mark, with the story fully explained and the stakes completely established, Warner Bros. felt the need to tack on an additional 45-seconds of montage footage, set to 'Dream On' that serves no purpose other than to reestablish the seriousness of the situation and spoil various bits of character and plot that likely goes down in the second or third acts.  The film looks fine, and kudos to Warner Bros for letting this clearly adult-skewing drama go out with an R-rating.  But the trailer is 2/3 terrific and 1/3 pure needless spoilers. If you feel like watching purely out of curiosity, I suggest you stop right at the 90-second mark.  Okay, your turn to share.

Scott Mendelson

Avengers box office: $18.9m on Monday, for a $226m four-day US total. Oh, and $700m worldwide thus far.

There is little doubt that The Avengers will join the $1 billion mark at the global box office, the only question being whether it will do so this weekend or next weekend.  With $700 million in the global can in 13 days, the film is the second-fastest grossing blockbuster of all-time so far (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II earned $700 million in ten days of global release and $800 million in 12 days).  It's way too soon to start tossing off comparisons invoking James Cameron, although I'd argue that a final global tally above Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II ($1.3 billion) is a sure thing at this point.  So for the moment, let's concentrate on the domestic front.  After a stunning $207 million over its first three days, The Avengers grossed $18.9 million on Monday.  That brings the film to a four-day total of $226 million, which is not only the highest four-day tally of all-time but exceeds the record six-day $224 million gross of The Dark Knight four years ago.  The film has the eighth-biggest Monday gross of all-time (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II earned $18.1 million on its first Monday, natch).  The higher numbers were Spider-Man 2 ($27 million), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($26 million), Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End ($25 million), The Dark Knight ($24 million), Shrek 2 ($23 million), X-Men: The Last Stand ($20 million), and Avatar ($19 million). Most of the other films higher on the list had first or (in the case of Avatar and Shrek 2) second Mondays that were part of a holiday weekend, be it Memorial Day, Independence Day, or the Christmas/New Year portion where everyone is off of school.  Among Mondays where nobody gets off school or work, it *is* the biggest Monday gross of all-time. Among non-holiday Mondays, The Dark Knight had a better fourth day of $24 million, but that was in the middle of the summer.  But what this does mean is that The Avengers may have to settle for a $270-275 million full-week total (horrors, I know) as opposed to the pie-in-the-sky $300 million Friday-to-Thursday gross had it pulled in Dark Knight-level weekday grosses.  That's all for now.

Scott Mendelson    

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Weekend Box Office (05/06/12): The Avengers does the impossible, scoring $207 million in a single weekend. Why the numbers are even more impressive than you think...

Ten years ago, Spider-Man shocked the industry by grossing more than $100 million in a single weekend.  Five years ago, Spider-Man 3 broke the $150 million weekend barrier.  This weekend, The Avengers has blown through the $200 million barrier, delivering a record opening weekend of $207.1 million in high style.  Yes, the number is beyond huge, besting Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II by $38 million.  But the total weekend number only tells part of the story.  Arguably as important as the massive three-day figure is the manner in which it was earned.  First of all, The Avengers is the first film in modern times (going back to Batman 23 years ago) to break the opening weekend record without shattering the opening day record.  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II still holds the record for the biggest single day, biggest opening day, and biggest Friday with $91 million.  The Avengers earned a massive $80 million on its first Friday, good for the second-highest single day of all time.  But for the last several years, massive opening weekends of this nature have been predicated on overly front-loaded opening days, in turn predicated on frontloaded midnight showings.  Harry Potter 7.2 made $43 million at midnight alone, or 25% of its $169 weekend total.  The Hunger Games did 12% of its $152 million debut at midnight.  Twilight Saga: New Moon did 18% of its $142 million debut at midnight alone.  The Avengers did just 9% of its gross, or $18.7 million, at midnight. This means that the film played obscenely well all weekend, not just on opening day for frenzied fans.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Friday box office: The Avengers grosses $80 million on Friday. Why we may be looking at a $200 million opening weekend!

Ten years ago we had the first $100 million opening weekend.  Five years ago we had the first $150 million opening weekend.  This weekend, we may be looking at the first $200 million Fri-Sun opening weekend.  The Avengers followed up its $18.7 million midnight haul with a $80.5 million gross for its first full day.  That's the  second-biggest single day on record, behind the $92 million opening sprint for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II.  It's also by far the largest single-day gross not counting midnight screenings.  Even if you negate the midnight haul, The Avengers still grossed $61 million during 'regular business hours'.  For example, The Dark Knight earned $18.5 million at midnight and $67 million for its first full Friday, giving it a $49 million 'normal day' Friday figure.  Among the various single day champions in recent years: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II ($92m - $43m = $49 million), Spider-Man 3 ($59m - $10m = $48m), The Hunger Games ($67m - $19.75m = $48m), and The Twilight Saga: New Moon ($72m - $26m = $46m).  As you can see, The Avengers is so-far actually far less front-loaded than all of them, meaning it is playing less like a heavily-anticipated geek-centric smash and more like a general audiences mega-hit. Point being, the three-day opening weekend record ($169 million for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II) is still very much in jeopardy.

Thoughts on the big (inevitable) Avengers plot twist...

There is really only one genuine plot twist in The Avengers.  Sure there are visual moments that will shock or delight, clever lines of dialogue that one wouldn't want ruined, and/or certain narrative choices that merit discussion.  But there was only one truly 'shocking' moment in the 140-minute picture.  And now I'm going to discuss it.  Right after this first paragraph, so you've got plenty of warning, folks.  If you haven't seen it yet and don't want to know, don't read any further.  I'm giving you plenty of space between the start of this post and the actual discussion of the matter at hand.  SPOILER WARNING staring in  5...4...3...2...1...

Friday, May 4, 2012

God I love these things...

I really should do a better job keeping up with these videos, and it's hard to believe it's been four years since I first posted the 'Iron Man vs. The Dark Knight' which pretty accurately summed up the DC/Marvel war of summer 2008.  Anyway, this clip, aside from being funny (because it actually pays attention to movie news), points out pretty succinctly why The Amazing Spider-Man is in a little bit of trouble.

Scott Mendelson  

Midnight box office math: The Avengers earns $18.7m at 12:01am. Weekend gross between $93m and $283m!

The unofficial midnight gross for Marvel's The Avengers is $18.7 million.  That's the eighth-biggest such midnight haul on record.  The seven ahead of it are The Hunger Games ($19.7 million), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince ($22 million), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part I ($24 million), The Twilight Saga: New Moon ($26 million), The Twilight Saga: Eclipse ($30 million), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn part I ($30 million), and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II ($43 million).  Obviously The Avengers was never going to top the midnight-grossers list, and its worth noting that the film earned more on its midnight debut that pretty much every prior Marvel Studios movie combined (Offhand, Thor earned $3.5 million, Captain America earned $4 million, and Iron Man 2 earned $7.5 million in their respective midnight debuts).  It's a larger midnight, just barely and likely due to inflation and the 3D-price bump, then The Dark Knight, which broke a midnight record four years ago with $18.5 million on its way to a $67 million opening day and a $158 million opening weekend (both records at the time).  Unless the film is front-loaded on the level of a Harry Potter sequel or a Twilight sequel, we're looking at a $140-160 million debut here.  But is the three-day record still in play?  Let's whip out the calculator!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

For those who wish to rant: The Avengers spoilers thread...

It's just about 11:00pm, meaning that folks on the east coast will soon be getting out of the midnight screenings of The Avengers.  Anyway, I've never done this before, but I'm officially opening the floor to those who comment regularly.  I'm guessing 90% of my readers will have seen The Avengers by Sunday evening, so this is the spot to discuss the film in all its spoiler-filled glory over what may be a record-setting weekend.  I may come back in the morning and add a few spoiler-y thoughts, but for now, it's your turn.  Obviously if nobody comments I won't do this kind of thing again, so please don't be shy.  What worked, what didn't?  How was the theatrical experience, in terms of projection quality and the crowds?  Anyone in costume?  Any anecdotes?  You get the idea.  And with that, I hope you all had a good time and I'm off to bed...

Scott Mendelson

The Amazing Spider-Man gets one last trailer. In summer 2012, it clearly suffers from the 'middle-child syndrome'.

This frankly isn't nearly as impressive as the first teaser, mainly because it doesn't add much other than to reveal some pretty big third-act spoilers (including two massive hints about the film's finale).  The interplay between Garfield and Stone is still pretty solid, and it's nice that the film A) has them get together pretty early on and B) apparently has her learn his secret at least by act three (again, why spoil that?).  Dennis Leary barely gets any dialogue this time around, which is good since he seems to be giving the film's worst performance.  The focus this time around is on the official super-villain, The Lizard (Rhys Ifans), with plenty of meaty shots of the green-skinned menace.  The web-slinging action still looks pretty terrific and the film looks visually dynamic (it has a richer and crisper picture than the relatively flat The Avengers).  At its core, the problem with The Amazing Spider-Man at this point in the game is two-fold.  First of all, it still doesn't look different enough from the Sam Raimi trilogy to justify a corporate-mandated reboot.  Second of all, it is sandwiched between what is arguably the 'ultimate comic book movie' (The Avengers) and the 'ultimate comic book film' (The Dark Knight Rises).  In comparison, the Marc Webb picture just seems like a kids' flick in comparison, a young do-gooder not fit to play with the grown-ups in tights.  Anyway, The Amazing Spider-Man opens on July 3rd.  As always, we'll see.

Scott Mendelson

The Expendables 2 trailer looks fun, but will a slumming Schwarzenegger sink the movie?

This looks like more of the same, which is just fine by me.  The first film was just a little better than I expected, offering a fantasy of American warriors who could save the day with no collateral damage and with their morality intact by the time the credits rolled.  This one of course brings a bunch of new cast members, although my biggest fear is that Arnold Schwarzenegger may sink the whole thing.  His cameo in the first film was the worst scene of the picture, as he was basically refusing to take it seriously while Stallone and Willis respectively played it straight.  His performance here seems to be approaching Batman & Robin-level camp, which could prove fatal depending on how much screentime he has.  The rest of the gang looks fine, and considering Jean-Claude Van Damme's best pure-action film over the last 15 years involved him playing a villain (and that villain's clone... rent Replicant), it's so surprise that he seems to be having fun playing the super-villain this time around.  Anyway, this won't reinvent the wheel, but that's kind of the point.  The Expendables 2 looks like pretty solid B-movie action trash, and that's more-than-enough for me.  It drops August 17th.  As always, we'll see.  Thanks to IGN for the 'get'.

Scott Mendelson  

Thoughts on Sam Raimi's Spider-Man, ten years after its surprising and record-setting $100m+ debut.

Ten years ago, we had our first $100 million opening weekend.   Ten years ago, feeding off twenty years of anticipation, positive reviews, and a post-9/11 atmosphere that craved distinctly American heroism, Sam Raimi's Spider-Man pulled off the unthinkable.  And really, looking back on that fabled three-day weekend in May 2002, that's the thing that sticks out.  In these days of heavily-publicized box office tracking reports, with every blogger with a website playing box office pundit, with studios having mastered the art of saturation-level opening weekends down to a science, Spider-Man's record Fri-Sun debut was a complete surprise.  Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone had just broken the three-day record six months ago with $92 million.  Spider-Man wasn't even supposed to be the biggest movie of summer 2002, with that honor theoretically going to Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones.  Spider-Man was supposed to be the warm-up play, the summer kick-off picture that wetted the appetite for the big guns coming down the pike.  It was The Mummy, the Deep Impact, or the Twister of the summer movie season.  But as I discussed four years ago, sometimes the summer kick-off films surprise you.  Even so, with buzz building and free press galore coming from mainstream entertainment sources, pundits like myself were optimistically predicting an $80 million debut, followed by a somewhat quick plunge once Attack of the Clones brought the thunder 1.5 weeks later.  But as we all know, something very different happened.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

In a spoiler culture, the biggest offenders are the studios.

If there is one 'trend' in film marketing this year that has raised the ire of pundits and bloggers around the web, it is the practice of studios cutting what amounts to a 'teaser for a trailer'.  Summit has done this for the last couple Twilight films, but the would-be trend reached an apex with two major science-fiction summer tentpoles.  First, Fox has been cutting teasers for nearly all of its 7,000 trailers for Ridley Scott's Prometheus.  Second of all, Sony cut a 30-second teaser for its first trailer of the Total Recall remake which was to debut during a Sunday afternoon basketball game at the beginning of last month.  Everyone complains about it, but pretty much all of the movie news sits post the embeds of these 'trailer-teasers' as quickly as they are released. This week Warner Bros. unleashed an online viral game of some kind which apparently unlocked specific shots of the new Dark Knight Rises trailer.  By mid-day, someone had combined all of the shots into a video file and basically was able to present what amounted to the first half of the trailer.  Thus Warner Bros. ended up releasing the whole thing online Monday night rather than (as I presume was intended) waiting to premiere the 140-second preview in theaters attached to The Avengers on Friday.   We've now reached the point where Lionsgate released this Terry Crews-hosted 'teaser' for the upcoming Expendables 2 trailer where Crews openly admits that 'trailer-teasers' are now a mandatory marketing tool (from JoBlo).


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