Thursday, June 30, 2011

Midpoint 2011: What's worth remembering?

To get yet another pet peeve out of the way, it is never appropriate to write in a review of any film, no matter how great it is, that it's the best film of the year thus far. After a time, it becomes far too redundant and honestly irritating. I don't like revealing my cards before they're played, and for that reason it seem ridiculous to remark on the best films of the year thus far. We're six months in and we haven't really gotten much to show for it. The first three months were a depressing slog through the gutters, and April was only refreshing in the most carnal of fashion.

How do I believe that? Well, you look at the standouts of the month, such as Hanna and Source Code, and while they are entertaining mainstream efforts, they offer little more than basic thrills and stylish conceits. Then May came along and the onslaught of fire, explosions, and death began, but not without a few small achievements. Thor proved to be a solid fantasy blockbuster adventure, Bridesmaids was a fascinating introspective comedy that succeeded where most failed, and Kung Fu Panda 2 is commendable for bringing us another fantastic performance from Gary Oldman.

June is where things got decidedly dicey, with anticipated films like X-Men: First Class, Super 8, and Cars 2 leaving this viewers infinitely disappointed. Even Transformers: Dark of the Moon, a film I was honestly ready to enjoy for what it was, managed to fail on a few levels that Revenge of the Fallen just didn't. I know! I really need to stop being so dead inside. I'll get my review for the film up by tomorrow, but the fact of the matter is that this year has thus far been largely a disappointment. I'd write it off as irrelevant when it comes to what I remember at the close of the year, but there are things worthy of mention.

"Tinker Tailor Solider Spy" International Trailer

As the 2011 Oscar season started to take a vague shape with yesterday's news, today's proved much more consequential and intriguing. When I think of how far Gary Oldman has gone without a nomination, it serves as proof that there's something wrong with the Oscar competition. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy hopes to remedy that with something intense and riveting. Tom Hardy, John Hurt, and Colin Firth surround Oldman in this cast, and if you're still fawning over how pretty yesterday's trailer for War Horse was, for shame. And after some thinking, the score used as this trailer's backdrop is none other than Danny Elfman's for The Wolfman. I guess something good came of that after all.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"War Horse" Teaser Trailer

Certainly looks to me like Spielberg has got an Oscar in the bag on this one, and you can take that as either a compliment or a rejection. This film looks to have pretty much everything that the Academy looks for, with all the sentimentality that sold them on The King's Speech. If we're going off of what they recently did, War Horse is a lock for a nomination. Yes, you could say that I'm making the call a bit early, but this is the sort of phony prestige that they fawn over. Yes, it's pretty, but I can't imagine there being much more to it. I know it's Spielberg, but he hasn't made anything really great, or that good, for nearly the past decade.

For Your Anticipation: I Promise You, It's a False Alarm

You know, I'm really glad that Selena Gomez is now given ample room to spread out her entire acting talent with Monte Carlo, taking on not just one, but two roles. One is an ungrateful little brat from Suburbia, and the other is... an ungrateful little brat from England. And there's Leighton Meester, fresh off her breakthrough role in The Roommate. You know, the more I try to explain this film, the more I can't take it seriously. Sure, it may be more logical fare than Transformers, but that's not saying much. It's still not a good idea.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" Teaser Trailer

Really, of all the ways they could've gone, they put Eminem as the musical backdrop of this trailer? More than a tad unorthodox, but I expect the marketing is trying to lure in the Transformers crowd that will be seeing it before Dark of the Moon. Yes, they vault a car in the air that Tom Cruise just barely misses, and he does, once again, vault off the side of a building, but how can you not expect that from a Mission Impossible film? Honestly, Ghost Protocol looks to be an exciting sort of film, but the teaser obviously wouldn't show that. It's a showcase of the action on display in the film. Don't pass judgment just yet. And honestly, when Tom Wilkinson surprisingly shows up in your film, how can you complain?

Films to See in 2011: July

So June went by with a deafening whimper, and as for how a whimper can be deafening, it's because you can't really hear anything. As May provided an excess of revitalizing filmmaking, not so much stunning as it was refreshing, June was the inevitable hangover. July is a spring of steady euphoria as we get back to some sense of sanity and stable thought. Transformers: Dark of the Moon switched months just after I posted my most anticipated films of June, so I'm tempted to rule July as an utterly depressing wreck starting out. Still, it will have that transforming robot heat going forward a few days ahead of time.

There are films that I am somewhat looking forward to, but don't quite break the top three. Horrible Bosses and Crazy, Stupid, Love both seem to go for the same sort of comedic demographic, with the latter having some sort of edge going for it, but both being general degradable. Friends with Benefits has more certain comedic spark, but I remain quietly skeptical. Captain America: The First Avenger seems to be on the same level of entertainment as Thor, so that's perhaps promising, but possibly disastrous. The biggest surprise omission is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, because even though I really loved Part 1, I expect a disappointing conclusion to the saga. That being said, I'm still very excited. So here are my picks, and you can comment below to tell me yours.

3. Tabloid
Directed by Errol Morris

The biggest barrier that modern moviegoers need to overcome is documentaries, because they're not always as depressing as Waiting for "Superman". Sometimes they're incredibly revealing and intense (The Cove), or spryly entertaining with a unique touch (Exit Through the Gift Shop). Tabloid looks like it's setting itself up in the ranks of the latter, looking at the true story of a woman who is either a monster or a victim, and I tend to believe the former. Then again, so little is told by the trailer that it's impossible to tell the eventual outcome of this film. I'm impressed when a doc tackles a little told and narrow subject only to reveal how fascinating it is.

For Your Anticipation: Is This Some Kind of Date?

Michael Bay, oh how we've so missed you. Or how I so have, because I'm apparently still the only soul alive who finds some mindless enjoyment from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. I'm sorry, but I'd sit through that one 12 times before sitting down for Green Lantern, Cars 2, X-Men: First Class, or Super 8 again. I greet the third film as an old friend returning to the fold, with some stylish spectacle wrapped around illogical plot manipulations. Michael Bay seems to have done quite a bit to make the latest one mildly legitimate, casting Alan Tudyk, Frances McDormand, and John Malkovich in roles that could've gone to lesser men. I'm excited to see this in all its 3D stench. Take it for what it is.

Monday, June 27, 2011

"Brave" Teaser Trailer

On a lighter note, once everyone has finally gotten Cars 2 out of their system, they'll be delighted to see that Pixar is setting a return course to their usual spark of greatness. The teaser trailer for their next film, Brave, doesn't really let the audience know too much of where the plot is headed, nor should it. It introduces the audience to the world of the film in a visually lush and intriguing manner. I'm glad to know little to nothing about this film's plot. It's a nice change of pace from the overt predictability of their latest release.

My Beef With "Cars 2"

Rather than put forth a typical review for Cars 2, I'm opting for something a little different. Mostly because I don't feel like going into extreme detail about the film, but I still wanted to let out my anger at why it's such a horrific failure. I'm no huge fan of Cars, but it does have its considerable moments, and I hoped that that might be the stem that John Lasseter was drawing from for the sequel. The thing is, this is a complete and total betrayal of what the first film meant, and perhaps of what this particular series is about.

They could've gone a considerable amount of routes for this sequel, continuing the story from the first film with an emotional tie to continuing the arc of these characters. Unfortunately, Cars 2 wasn't a continuation of anything so much as a rehash of characters and situations. As is the foil of a great many Pixar films, it does a complete 180 and makes it an action spectacle. This isn't just placing an action plot at the end of the film to enhance the already laid out story, much like WALL-E or Up. This is a full fledged action spy film.

Every line that is delivered drops like a ton of bricks, being too obvious and self-indulgent to take seriously. I didn't care about the characters of McQueen or Mater, and I still don't. If I were to make a list of the absolutely worst Pixar characters, they'd land somewhere on that list. Paul Newman's death was bound to make an impression on the plot, but it's a side note rather than an emotionally resonating plot point that enhances the characters' viewpoints on the world. Wasted potential is a word I use quite often in these cases.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Box Office Update: "2" Fast. Not Furious.

Seriously, what the hell is wrong with this summer? We've gone on so far without anything being truly exceptional, that I'm honestly playing quite the pessimist. I'm honestly kind of excited for Transformers: Dark of the Moon to lift me out of this rut I've been stuck in. That's not to say that films haven't been mildly successful. Green Lantern looks to be the only unmitigated failure of the blockbuster summer thus far. Things have been on a downward slope for Cars 2 all week, and yet it still displays an honorable total for this weekend.

I'm not surprised, as kids were greatly pleased with Hop a few months back, so why on earth would they not be even more pleased with Cars 2? The film beat low expectations to take the top spot with $8 million more than the previous film's opening. It's still to be determined how well the film plays in the long term, but there isn't much to draw away the kid crowd in the next month, so I'd say the film's prospects are strong. Now, the other new releases would usually be a non-factor, but Bad Teacher put up a fantastic opening north of $30 million, which is spectacular for a comedic venture like that.

Aside from that, there's not much to this weekend's box office. Green Lantern took a nosedive of nearly 65%, and looks like it's going to be a total failure. Super 8 is currently en route to doubling its budget of $50 million. Overall, the weekend was up a good 8% from last year, so things might be taking a turn for the better after Green Lantern's failure.

1. Cars 2 (First Weekend; $68 million)
2. Bad Teacher (First Weekend; $31 million)
3. Green Lantern (Second Weekend; $18.4 million)
4. Super 8 (Third Weekend; $12.1 million)
5. Mr. Popper's Penguins (Second Weekend; $10.3 million)
6. X-Men: First Class (Fourth Weekend; $6.6 million)
7. The Hangover: Part II (Fifth Weekend; $5.9 million)
8. Bridesmaids (Seventh Weekend; $5.4 million)
9. Pirates 4 (Sixth Weekend; $4.7 million)
10. Midnight in Paris (Sixth Weekend; $4.5 million)

Friday, June 24, 2011

THE LISTS: Best Pixar Characters

It feels overdone to the regular ranking of Pixar's many films, because I feel there's often only a few films that stand at the head of the pack. The Toy Story trilogy seems to be in their own individual class, more outstanding as a whole than in their separate pieces. Cars and A Bugs Life instantly land at the back of the pack, and Cars 2 looks to set a new standard as the worst of Pixar's catalog. For me, WALL-E, Ratatouile, and Finding Nemo are the biggest true winners. However, as Cars 2 seems to be the Pixar film most lacking in well rounded characters, I feel it's worth looking over the best of those.

Pixar is less known for outstanding films than they are for outstanding characters, and it's the cling to those characters that make the films so effective. Quite obviously enough, no characters from A Bug's Life and Cars make it in. On the other hand, neither did The Incredibles, but that's ensemble a piece with Pixar as you can get. True, they could've rounded those characters a little better than just the simple family dynamic. However, as I started to give certain characters passes on to the top ten, I couldn't help but notice some rather big ones being left out.

First of all, Buzz from the Toy Story franchise was left out of the pot, despite having such a compelling arc in the first film. There were also a few smaller characters that didn't make it in because they didn't have enough screentime. I love Ken in Toy Story 3, but he barely missed the cut, and for the sake of specificity, Ellie of Up is more of a driving force than a character. Remy from Ratatouille was the closest to a number 11 pick as I could find, but he would have never been so wonderful without Patton Oswalt's surprisingly strong performance. So now I give you my picks for the top ten Pixar characters, after the jump!

The Weekend Report: Running on Empty

We're now just about at the mid point of the summer box office season, and I can say that things aren't entirely that spectacular from what we've seen. The fact that Thor is thus far the highlight of my blockbuster summer speaks volumes of how deeply disappointed I am. New installments in the Pirates, X-Men, and Hangover franchises have proved dismal, and just as dismal were films like Green Lantern, for which there was no hope heading in. At this point, I'm in deep need of a healthy jolt of optimism. Something to make me say, "Things are finally getting better!" I usually expect Pixar to supply me that, but this sadly isn't their year.

It was never going to be their year, as they were always going to turn out their sequel to Cars this year, and we all knew precisely what that meant. It meant the return of a bunch of characters that we honestly couldn't care less about the first time, only this time John Lasseter is upping the action to the level of spy film. From an audience's perspective, one could be optimistic about the opportunities of this one. Still, reviews have been mixed to negative, which is as much I expected from the start of the project, so why is everyone all that surprised? The film should still do good business this weekend, with kids eagerly heading in to see absolutely anything, but they'll be much more enthused to see Cars 2. Why? Because every kid plays with cars.

It's sad that the favorable option of this weekend is something like Bad Teacher, which made my Dread Locks list where Cars 2 did not. I never expected the film to get good reviews, and I always knew I'd see it anyway. Why? Because it's the sort of film that doesn't rely on favorable reviews. You couldn't watch the trailer and say that it looks like a good film. It looks like a really entertaining comedy in the most basic of ways. I'm not looking for art. I'm not looking for quality. I'm looking to shut my brain off for an hour and a half and chuckle like a doofus. So what are you looking to see this weekend? What did you think of whatever you did see? What's your favorite summer film so far? I'd like to know the sort of people who read my words.

"Captain America: The First Avenger" Trailer 2

When a film's teaser trailer and final trailer are equal in length, one can be forgiven for some trepidation. I've been against Captain America: The First Avenger from the start, based solely and surely on the promise of director Joe Johnston. There was a point of optimistic denial in which I had hope for this film, but the trailer honestly looks somewhat foul. It looks like the sort of film that will make me gag in the same way G.I. Joe did, or Johnston's own The Wolfman. There should be those who support this film, but I'm just going to stick to my usual snobbery and put it down.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Said & Dunn

There are deaths that come as a shock and add melancholic textured to any day, and then there are deaths that simply come as side-notes. And then there's Ryan Dunn, prominent member of the Jackass team, and he went out in such a way as you'd likely expect. Still, it came as something of a shock when I saw on twitter that his car flew through the air into a tree, at which moment it exploded. When I first read it, I was so sure that it was some kind of joke, because it just sounded so appropriate. Some things just sound too convenient to be true.

Of course, there is absolutely nothing convenient about Ryan Dunn's passing. I always thought that if one of the Jackass troop were to go out, they'd do it in dedication to their trade. In any case, in the aftermath of his death, there has been quite a bit of anger going back and forth twixt people. It started somewhere around the point where Roger Ebert tweeted "Friends don't let Jackass' drink and drive." That's easily the sort of statement that can cause an onslaught of anger from the twitter-verse, regardless of his intent in saying it.

It's hard to tell if people were angered by the insinuation that Dunn had been drunk driving, or the crass way in which he seemed to say it. It has since been confirmed that his blood toxicity level was above the permitted level, so any denial is foolish at this point. Still, what's the point in chastising somebody who lost their life in a fashion that could be seen as truly horrific. What's the point in blaming somebody for it? These things happen, and it's horrible, but I suppose it's just a reminder of how reality always dictates rules.

For Your Anticipation: A Little Too Much Chatter

Remember when I was being optimistic about Cars 2? I think the time for that has passed entirely, as the film has been receiving a surprising critical bashing. The problem is that it's impossible to tell at this point if all these pans have been from mere disappointment, or if the film is just really bad. While I'd like to think the former, it's probably the latter. I thought Pixar had the sense to always worry about the story first and foremost, but this seems like a simple action cash-grab. If you're going to make a sequel, at least be loyal to what made the first one a success.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pixar's "Brave" Poster

For Your Anticipation: Justin Timberlake's in a Band!

I'm not sure if it was a good or bad decision to place Bad Teacher as a film likely to be bad, but clips like these make me think it will be. Maybe it's the fact that the school atmosphere makes it feel a little too much Boy Meets World. Maybe it's my natural disgust of Cameron Diaz as, no offense to Diaz herself, anyone else can do any role she takes better. Still, I suppose Justin Timberlake and Jason Segal will make the experience a tad worthwhile.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"A Dangerous Method" UK Trailer

I doubt that anyone is truly as oblivious to David Cronenberg as his awards history might lead one to believe. Films like Spider, A History of Violence, and Eastern Promises have put him on the map over the past decade. This year brings us his latest, A Dangerous Method, based on the true story of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, played by Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen, respectively. The new trailer puts thing further in Jung's corner than Freud's, and it paints things far more operatic than one should expect of Cronenberg. Blame the marketing department, because this is a misleading trailer for a possibly great film.

For Your Anticipation: I Don't Want to Go Home

I won't just avoid hitting the topic head on, because I just plain hate Chris Weitz and what he has done to cripple pop-culture already. I'm not talking about his hack job of Twilight: New Moon, which was amusing on a pure unintentionally comedic level. I'm referring to how he botched The Golden Compass, straying away from the controversial elements instead of taking them on for all they could be. Now Weitz has A Better Life coming out, and some are hailing it as a "return to form" with ties to the classic Italian Neo-Realist piece The Bicycle Thief. Weitz's hand is far to deliberate and straightforward to truly deliver anything with deep emotional impact.

Monday, June 20, 2011

So who won the spring television battle?

As far as I'm concerned, this late spring television season has been a battle between AMC and HBO for their own respective new series. Not a one-on-one fight to death, as the two are juxtaposed at slightly different timeslots, with Game of Thrones on at 9 p.m. at HBO, and The Killing placed in the typical AMC slot of 10 p.m. Still, it seems like there's been something of a quarrel between the two shows. Throughout the entire season, I've been slowing switching from show's side to the other's, and I am surprisingly left bashing an AMC show.

When The Killing started off, I was very reluctant to give it a pass, because not only did it lack any hint of the subtlety in Mad Men or Breaking Bad, but it was just plain boring. Then, as the season progressed, it just continued on the same dull slope of absolutely nothing happening. There was one gem late in the season which was pretty much just one-on-one between Holder and Linden. Then the show seemingly started to pick up speed towards the finale, and we got an idea of who we thought was Rosie Larsen's killer? Then what? It was proved false, and the season ended with no real shock, horror, or satisfaction.

Where did this series go so terribly wrong in its depiction of a crime drama? For one thing, I doubt that there'd be only one significant murder in a 13 day period. Somebody dies, and the world just keeps on turning. We didn't get that sort of feeling. Furthermore, it felt like there weren't enough legitimate revelations in the case to make it worth watching beyond six or seven episodes. It wasn't even that much of a tragic loss. And the finale gave us nothing to goad us into continuing on with the series next season. Nothing truly shocking happened. I thought that it might have been a wonderful move to have Mitch drown her remaining children. That would've been awesome and redeeming of this series. It just never happened.

So where does my allegiance go? Right over to HBO which has been really hitting it out of the park with Game of Thrones this season. If you're looking for powerful shock value, look no further than the final few episodes of the season. The tides turn against our main characters, there are betrayals of enormous strength, and the man who many assumed to be the lead was killed off in the penultimate episode. Of course, being based on the book series will give you that sort of thing. People will die, and cruelty will happen a plenty, and you haven't a clue when it will happen.

Happy (Late) Father's Day

I know I'm a day late on this, but I couldn't help putting up this fond little piece of The Lion King in celebration of Father's Day.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Box Office Update: Green Means Stop

Sorry there wasn't any "Weekend Report", but from time to time my actual job tends to come in the way of me getting things up on time. On to the actual news, Green Lantern's opening was a mix of the good and the bad, opening modestly to $21.6 million on Friday only to decline greatly with the next two days. I have absolutely no intention of seeing it and adding to its now depressing total. It still managed to hold onto the top spot, but that's no huge feat going up against the second weekend of Super 8. Talking of which, J.J. Abrams' new film slipped only 40% from last weekend, which is pretty spectacular for a film built on a budget of $50 million.

Then there's the bastard second new release that finds its place lower down the list at number 3, this week being Mr. Popper's Penguins. The film fared less favorably than imagined given its kid friendly premise, but it was expected to land somewhere just below $20 million. Don't expect further kindness with Cars 2 coming in next week to snatch the kid crowd, and Bad Teacher picking up the comedic circuit. X-Men: First Class continued on a downward trend, falling another 50% to fourth place. Filling out the top five was The Hangover: Part II, which is finally bottoming out, and should end its run at about $250 million, far more than it deserves. This weekend ultimately was a gargantuan 23.8% down from last year, but that's understandable against the opening of Toy Story 3.

1. Green Lantern (First Weekend; $52.7 million)
2. Super 8 (Second Weekend; $21.3 million)
3. Mr. Popper's Penguins (First Weekend; $18.2 million)
4. X-Men: First Class (Third Weekend; $11.5 million)
5. The Hangover: Part II (Fourth Weekend; $9.6 million)
6. Kung Fu Panda 2 (Fourth Weekend; $8.7 million)
7. Bridesmaids (Sixth Weekend; $7.5 million)
8. Pirates of the Caribbean 4 (Fifth Weekend; $6.2 million)
9. Midnight in Paris (Fifth Weekend; $5 million)
10. Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer (Second Weekend; $2.2 million)

Dread Locks: July 2011

It's usually at this point that I get a substantial amount of dread for just how many horrible films are on their way in the coming month. I had a tough time narrowing it down to three films for July, because there are many that are likely to disappoint, and others that truly have no hope for the slightest quality. I ended up settling upon the current three based on just how juvenile they are, and therefore how much mass appeal they're likely to have. Monte Carlo barely missed the cut, but don't take that as anything close to a recommendation.

First up is Larry Crowne, which is sadly enough Tom Hanks' directorial debut, placing him amongst the ranks of Ron Howard. I know there's only a few ways you can go with this sort of material, but Hanks could have picked something more ambitious than a dumb comedy like this. I'm sick of people defending it, because there isn't a single bad joke that you've heard better somewhere else. I won't even talk about the good jokes, because there aren't really any. Then, a week later, there's Zookeeper, which I have a high level of disdain for. It exceeds being simply disappointing, and is genuinely painful just to sit through a piece of marketing for it. Talking animals have never looked more self-indulgently stupid.

Finally, capping off the month of July is The Smurfs, which I kind of wish I wasn't even slightly interested in seeing. It has Neil Patrick Harris from How I Met Your Mother and Jayma Mays from Glee, so you automatically get the idea of a purely comedic venture. Don't look for any heart, because you won't really find it. The sort of thing that Disney did with Underdog and its ilk is exactly what is happening to The Smurfs. If the writers have no real ideas, they send their characters to New York, because what's not funny about that? Any of these three films seems potentially harmful to my sanity, so vote in the sidebar for which one I should see next month. There's no clear frontrunner yet, so it's really anyone's game.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Can I talk about "Fringe" again?

What can I say? Once you're hooked, you're hooked. More than any other show on television, and in fact more than any film releasing this year, I love talking about Fringe. It's such a shame that I rarely get the chance to actually have a one-on-one conversation with somebody about it, because so few people watch it. It's a shame, and the show is, sadly, probably about to have its last season before cancellation. If that doesn't come to pass, then I am extremely grateful. However, I'm not here to plead for the mercy of my favorite show on television. I'm here to take guesses and make suggestions on next season.

Since that mystifying final scene of Season 3, people have settled on what those moments actually mean. It doesn't mean a season of obsessive time-traveling to find Peter, but instead means telling their story in a new light. If last season was about the choices we make, this season is about the experiences we have. The question is no longer "Where is Peter?", but instead is "What is life like without Peter?" Honestly, that's a much more interesting and fascinating question. Taking guesses as to what will happen is difficult, and almost pointless, but I'm doing it anyway.

In respects to Walter, it's still to be seen whether his life is better or worse without Peter. His son was the light of his life, and his legal guardian that kept him from being sent back to St. Claire's. One theory, and in fact my only theory at the present time, is that he's been looked over by his wife, Elizabeth, who never committed suicide because she didn't feel the guilt of Peter's kidnapping. It would certainly give him a whole new dynamic to play off of emotionally, and I'd be more than happy to see Orla Brady return to the series in a more evident fashion.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" Final Trailer

It's almost over? Such a shame. I was kind of hoping the series would bounce back. I've gone down on my appreciation for Harry Potter, as I just realized that it could have been so much more than it is. Every new poster that came out further validated my disgust, as they all pretty much sucked. So I was more than a tad pessimistic going into this trailer. I actually thought it was kind of awesome. Yes, there are some really stale visual effects, and I really hate those. Still, there was just too much awesome in this trailer to hate it. I know that I'm going to be firing gripes here and there when the film finally comes out, but for now I'm more excited than I was before.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Moneyball" Trailer

I don't really appreciate sports, and as such I don't often appreciate such inspirational sports films as this, but Moneyball does have a great deal going for it. Placing Brad Pitt in the leading role is a nice start, and his character seems to be more than just your typical aggressive inspirational coach figure, as he's not even a coach. Pairing him up with Jonah Hill is another interesting move. Having a touch up on the script done by Aaron Sorkin helps. Probably the most obviously successful move is Wally Pfister as cinematographer. If nothing else, this looks like the best looking sports film in years.

"The Muppets" Trailer Parody #3 - "Green Lantern"

Having effused about my reluctance to see Green Lantern this weekend, this comes as the most welcome surprise of the day. Completely aware of how repetitive their trailers have become, this is simply a delightful teaser, and it gives us our first look at antagonist Chris Cooper.

Fincher and Nolan on the genius of Malick

It's nice to see that there's a very obvious line of succession through certain filmmakers and their influences. Since he's only really made five films, it's easy to downsize Terrence Malick's influence, but his films are still such massive achievements going back as far as the 1970s. Malick takes his time on his films, as made evident from the long gap between each individual venture. So it's not all that surprising that he served as influence towards such mainstream magnates as David Fincher and Christopher Nolan. It almost seems like an insult to the two to call them "mainstream". All the same, if you look at the aesthetic of Malick's films, you can see a bit of that trickle down into the works Fincher and Nolan.

For Your Anticipation: We're Going to Fly Now

Seriously? What kind of irritating, self-evident line is that? "We're going to fly now?" AHHHHHH!!!!! I'm sorry, but this latest superhero film is just pushing all the needlessly wrong buttons, with visual effects and performances so obvious that it makes me gag. I pray that I don't actually get put in a position to see this film, because I imagine no other outcome than extreme and excruciating pain. So no, I don't care about Green Lantern.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

AMPAS' Fantastic New Oscar Rules

I'm not used to hearing logic and reason from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, so when they actually make a good and intriguing decision then it makes a big difference. The AMPAS has just released a plethora of new rules and regulations regarding this coming Oscar season, many of the small, but one of them being a major game changer. As far as nominations go, next year there could be anywhere between 5 and 10 nominees for Best Picture. It all depends on how many films exceed 5% of the number one votes on the ballots. I, for one, am absolutely for this new rule, as it adds more difficulty to the game of prediction, and a bit of mystery as to how things unfold on the morning nominations are announced.

Personally, I'm not at all a fan of placing predictions, because quite often the Academy overlooks the more deserving films in each year, instead deciding to play things on the safe side. I won't start placing bets until late September at the earliest, and I don't feel confident placing much stock in films I haven't had the opportunity to see myself. So that's all I'll say as far as my Oscar predictions for the Summer, in that they will not happen. I learned this past year not to care about who wins and who does not.

As far as the other rules go, they're pretty basic. In the animated feature race, if there are 13 to 15 films that qualify, there will be four nominees. Anything higher goes to 5, and anything lower goes to 3, so there's a solid middle ground. They've also expanded the list of finalists for visual effects from 7 to 10, making it a tad more difficult to make predictions. And the documentary branch has adjusted its dates for qualification. All proper changes to make the nominations make more sense.

For Your Anticipation: Who's Responsible for This?

I'm really tired of using the same reasons why I don't care about Mr. Popper's Penguins. It's got Jim Carrey selling out once again on kid friendly films with no actual reason. It warps a childhood story into something completely stereotypical. It has Agent Coulson from Marvel films half convincing me this is actually part of their setup for The Avengers, which it isn't. There just isn't anything worth seeing about it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Something for the Road

The Licensing International Expo is far from a momentous occasion of any sort, only offering us promo art of sorts for upcoming releases. I usually wouldn't care in the slightest, but this Summer continues to be a crop of uninspiring "entertainment", so it's nice to have some validation that major films like The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol are indeed still on their way. Then again, I couldn't care less for Footloose or G.I. Joe 2.

For Your Anticipation: I Don't Get What Happened

This is exactly what happens to a child actor like Freddie Highmore when they finally start growing up. They appear in wannabe indie comedies and aren't able to be taken seriously. In all inescapable honesty, The Art of Getting By confirms that not all indie comedies are worth it. Sometimes they are just as horrible and clunky as mainstream comedies, and this certainly seems to be the case with this film. The chemistry between Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts just doesn't work, and who could really care from such a boring straightforward script?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Film Review: "Midnight in Paris" (***1/2)

Please take a look at the film ratings I've given out recently, and you'll see they've been scaled back, because exceptional work deserves to be seen as just that. I thought I might be kind enough to give Super 8 a complete three stars, but still chipped off 1/2. I thought 1/2 more might be deserving of Kung Fu Panda 2, but it was ultimately not too special. Midnight in Paris was just the right film to knock me back into reality, as it was the first film this year that truly defied my expectations going in. We set such specific standards going into films, and without seeing them it is entirely too easy to make calls on certain features.

It starts out with a series of images documenting modern day Paris from morning to nighttime, and the immediate impact is as something hollow. People walking idly by, shelling out cash in stores, rushing through rain under cover of umbrella, and ultimately not taking advantage of the beauty of the place around them. Wasted potential is a good way of putting it. Then the credits roll, and we hear Gil Pender, played earnestly by Owen Wilson, raving about the beauty of Paris, and how much he wishes he could live there. His fiance Inez, played by Rachel McAdams, is not as convinced.

Gil is a former Hollywood screenwriter trying to punch out his first novel, and he has a decidedly more idealist view of the world than Inez and her parents. Inez comes from the viewpoint of survival rather than passion, much like most of us. She's fascinated with Paul Bates, portrayed by Michael Sheen, a cynical and pedantic pseudo-intellectual who tries his utmost to best anyone else, even to the point of factual disconnect. After a day of sightseeing and wine tasting, Gil walks home drunk on his own and ends up being picked up by an old style car that takes him to the Paris of his dreams.

"Tabloid" Trailer

The trailer for Tabloid appeared a few days ago, and I've only just caught up with it now. It turns out that Tabloid is spilling out of last year's massive bout of exemplary documentaries, having made its premiere at Telluride last year. It definitely looks like an interesting and utterly dumbfounding sort of documentary, as it could be seen to obscure truth in some specific way. It's strange subject matter, and I'd be delighted to see it.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Box Office Update: Super Eight Figures

I didn't think I'd be saying this at the start of this weekend, but what an astounding weekend it was. It should probably be a bit more clear why once I make my next post much later this evening, but I had a genuinely wonderful experience at the movies this weekend. That's what I've been complaining so much about this year lacking concerning the films released. None of them have seemed like real events, or moments when the world stops its nonsense and gives you its focus. Out of context, this must be rather confusing and strange, so here's hoping it lures you back to find out why I'm so smitten.

On to the matter at hand, this weekend had a great deal going against it, and it was clear that it wasn't going to match up with last year when The Karate Kid and The A-Team brought in their own massive heap. Well what better way to combat vintage 80's cash grab than late 70's nostalgia? Super 8 was able to put up a truly admirable figure of $37 million, which is exceptional because the film has a cast of unknowns and cost only $50 million to make. My hat's off to Abrams, who barely made the film's budget evident. It looked much better than any of the blockbusters ripping people off right now.

X-Men: First Class held on moderately well, not dipping further than 54.6%, but that may be due to the lesser impact of Super 8 as opposed to more gargantuan blockbusters. The prequel should clear the $100 million mark by Tuesday at the latest. Hangover 2 and Pirates 4 both joined the ranks of Fast Five in passing the $200 million mark, yet undeservedly so. The reason for Pirates should be obvious, but Hangover 2 is en route to be considered an equal success as the first film. What made the first one so outstanding in box office terms was how it held on over the course of the summer, despite humble beginnings. It never completely left memory at the box office. I think we just want to forget Part II.

Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer met an inglorious seventh place opening, which makes me glad that people didn't waste quite as much time with it as I worried they would. One of the real standouts this weekend was Midnight in Paris, which expanded to 944 theaters and added to its exceptional total given the indie nature of the film. In summation, the film was only a 4.1% decrease from last year, which is totally understandable and nothing to scoff at.

1. Super 8 (First Weekend; $37 million)
2. X-Men: First Class (Second Weekend; $25 million)
3. The Hangover: Part II (Third Weekend; $18.5 million)
4. Kung Fu Panda 2 (Third Weekend; $16.6 million)
5. Pirates of the Caribbean 4 (Fourth Weekend; $10.8 million)
6. Bridesmaids (Fifth Weekend; $10.2 million)
7. Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer (First Weekend; $6.2 million)
8. Midnight in Paris (Fourth Weekend; $6.1 million)
9. Thor (Sixth Weekend; $2.4 million)
10. Fast Five (Seventh Weekend; $1.7 million)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Film Review: "Super 8" (**1/2)

Looking back on the triad of decades from the 1970s to the 1990s, many people do call to mind Steven Spielberg amongst the more defining directors. He's made a great many high impact films such as E.T., Jaws, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but he's had a bit of a dry spell recently. Films like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and War of the Worlds have given him something of a negative  reputation lately. So much can go right with a film like Super 8, and it does its best to be its own thing. While it doesn't hurt to have such a great director as inspiration, the films is a homage to the wrong sort of Spielberg.

The film opens on a sign listing days gone by since the last accident at a mill, and before the fact, I knew they were going to set it back to one. So no, the film gets no points for subtlety on this one. It then cuts to the wake for young Joe Lamb's mother, and we get the idea through dialogue that she did not go out well. It's at this point, with Joe sitting alone on the swing outside, I got the idea that Abrams was crafting a sibling to Matt Reeves' film adaptation Let Me In. In fact, I was beginning to expect the film to be something more than I expected.

Then the stray plot strand invades the film, and it is of course the main thing that has drawn audiences in to see this film. The main group of kids, working to make their own zombie film, shoot at a train station one evening just in time for a truck to derail an oncoming train. This particular sequence is where the film reaches its experiential high, because even if they don't build up the event quite as much as they should, the train wreck is a beauty to behold. It's an immediate onslaught of fire and terror, and while we know that the train has to stop blowing up at some point, we really wish it wouldn't.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Weekend Report: A Lot Like Summer

Taking a look at the films releasing this weekend, it certainly feels a hell of a lot like summer. Forget the fact that one of the films releasing is titled Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer. I know I'd certainly like to forget that one. If you're a parent this weekend, I do certainly feel sorry for you. You're either going to be subjected to insurmountable portions of pain and misery through one film, or you're going to be slowly realizing that Super 8 isn't really a kids film. That is, it's not a kids film in the typical sense as the film releasing opposite it.

Parents will realize in a matter of the first half hour that the kids in the film are unbelievably realistic, and therefore not good role models for their children. They say words like "shit" and "asshole" on numerous occasions in the film, which I'm sure parents will frown upon quite a bit. If it feels like a bit of my Super 8 review is gleaning into this post, prepare to be a tad disappointed. It's a film that I'm sure a lot of people are going to like a lot more than I did, but it's not a massive popcorn action film, nor should it be. (P.S. I actually didn't hate this film.)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

"Pariah" Trailer

One of the films that premiered at Sundance that caught my eye vaguely enough before dissipating slightly was Pariah. Many people drew immediate parallels to Precious, but Pariah looks to be a different sort of film. It immediately sets itself apart as something interesting and worth watching. I'm not sure when it's coming, but I'm excited enough for it. In the drought of the summer, it's easy to forget that most of the memorable films are on their way for the fall.

Film Review: Certified Copy (****)

I tell you, I've wanted nothing more than to honestly type out those four stars. It figures that it would come from a film that many saw last year, most saw before me, and has been in theaters for a few months. Spending such a long time away from intelligent cinema can be supremely alienating in a way, with nothing really to base reviews of other films off of. It's great practice in terms of forming your own identity as a film critic, away from the cattle of viewers who have no individual opinions because they try to think the way they believe they're supposed to think. Peer pressure and nonsense like that.

Wonderfully enough, the topic of impression and interpretation is entirely fitting for Certified Copy, a film whose plot can be read a multitude of ways. To give a bare bones plot description based on what trailers and such lead incoming viewers to believe, it all transpires across a lovely afternoon in Tuscany. A writer named James Miller, played by William Shimell, spends the day with a female French antiques dealer, played by Juliette Binoche. That's as empty and bare a plot as you can get, but Miller's latest book, which shares the same title as the film, speaks of how a copy of a work of art holds as much value as the original.

The film could just be these two individuals speaking on the topics of originality in art and within life, as well as other philosophical musings, and it still would've been a great film. However, writer-director Abbas Kiarostami does us one better, and has the two main characters play a game of sorts. As they travel throughout the day, people on the street begin to mistake them for a married couple, and as they play along with the insinuations, they seem to create a history and a dynamic between each other. This is where things become a bit tricky and far more captivating.

For Your Anticipation: I Think You Should Look at This First

J.J.'s back in town with another film of his, and I know by now to stop and pay attention when Abrams has something to say. His influence has brought us fantastic films like Star Trek and Cloverfield, as well as lasting television epics like Lost, Fringe, and a few coming this fall. His latest film is an "original" effort, but it's really Abrams' encapsulation of his childhood more than anything. That includes inspiration from the films that he grew up with, not just Spielberg but mostly Spielberg. I can rely on Abrams delivering an authentic feeling 1970s atmosphere, but I have some narrative fears going into Super 8. I'm excited, but I can't help but expect something a tad bit disappointing.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Now on DVD & Bluray: "Another Year", "True Grit", & More

I don't always get the chance to catch films while they're in theaters, either by choice or by unfortunate circumstance. The ignorance of today's modern culture scorning the theatrical experience as something lesser is something I've commented on numerous times. Yet there is merit in the home viewing experience as well, because it's the ultimate test for any film. While blockbusters are usually better suited to the big screen, they often are diminished by the transition to the small, as Inception fell most victim to this past year. So, I introduce this weekly segment where I bring in the DVD/Bluray releases that are most worth checking out.

On the top of my list is Another Year, which is one that I had the unbelievable good fortune of seeing before it came to home video. However, I still feel a stroke of bad luck for having not seen it in time to slide it into my "Best of 2010" list, because the way things are stacking up, it would've landed somewhere near the top. It's a film that devastated me in the theater, and that continues to affect me upon renewed viewings. This is something you should make an effort to see.

A film that did make it on my end of year list for 2010, much higher than it should have been in retrospect, is True Grit. Joel and Ethan Coen are two of the best working directors out there right now, and they're work as a duo has been immaculate thus far, for all I know. I haven't seen Ladykillers, so that's probably the biggest gap in my knowledge of the two. This one, after months of recall, sits proudly below A Serious Man in terms of excellence. That may sound bad since I like Burn After Reading and No Country for Old Men better, but it's still a badge of honor, and an aesthetically pleasing film I'd gladly see again.

For Your Anticipation: Go! Go! Go! (Away)

I admit to some hasty ignorance in slapping Judy Moody and the NOT Bummer Summer onto the "Dread Locks" poll without seeing any material from the film. Who am I to judge something without seeing the slightest bit of it? Then, just before seeing Kung Fu Panda 2 a third time, the unthinkable happened. I actually saw a trailer for this film. How is it? Let's just say that I'm really happy it didn't end up winning the poll. It was atrociously painful, and that annoying nature of it rubbed off on the experience of the film I was about to watch. Avoid at all costs.

Monday, June 6, 2011

"The Guard" Trailer

I'm really tired of calling something a mildly good film, because it's a sign of how little greatness we've received so far this year. It's not necessarily a bad thing, as some films only set out to be moderately good. The Guard is one of those films without high aspirations. It's not looking to blow away anything else in the market, like many of the films that have failed this year. It's taking what it is for what it is, and that's something redeemable enough.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Box Office Update: Second Class Treatment

My personal prejudice aside, it makes perfectly good sense why X-Men: First Class performed the way it did this weekend. I understand why people liked it as much as they did, even though I feel like they shouldn't have. It makes sense that the film would thrive off of the male audience, because they are the core demographic of people who would like it. The film didn't open as massively as some believed because of the negative energy after X-Men Origins: Wolverine failed so badly. It picked up from positive word of mouth, and is likely to survive over the coming weeks. All things considered, this is a solid opening for the reboot/prequel.

As for second week holdovers, Hangover: Part II fell to second with a massive drop of 62.2%, as one could have expected of an opening as massive as it had and a reception as mild as it received. Kung Fu Panda 2 fell just under 50%, proving to be the better holdover of the two. The fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film continued its descent with a 54.8% drop, and Bridesmaids continued to perform exceptionally well with another small drop of 26.7%. In summation, the weekend was a vast improvement from last year, when Get Him to the Greek and Killers were the top new releases. It's that comparison that almost makes me think we're doing pretty well this year.

1. X-Men: First Class (First Weekend; $56 million)
2. The Hangover: Part II (Second Weekend; $32.4 million)
3. Kung Fu Panda 2 (Second Weekend; $24.3 million)
4. Pirates of the Caribbean 4 (Third Weekendl $18 million)
5. Bridesmaids (Fourth Weekend; $12.1 million)
6. Thor (Fifth Weekend; $4.2 million)
7. Fast Five (Sixth Weekend; $3.2 million)
8. Midnight in Paris (Third Weekend; $2.9 million)
9. Jumping the Broom (Fifth Weekend; $0.8 million)
10. Something Borrowed (Fifth Weekend; $0.8 million)

What's Wrong With Me?

I'm completely convinced at this point that there is something psychologically wrong with me. Of course, you have be somewhat deformed in the brain in order to get into the business of film criticism, because nobody wants to judge movies. People want to enjoy movies, and that's their primary goal. I wish I was stupid enough to do that, and that's not a put-down of anybody who goes to see movies to enjoy them. Being stupid is rarely a bad thing. It shields you from harm in a sort of way. You'll notice that no sociopaths or serial killers are complete idiots. Then again, that may be because they don't make for pretty great movies.

The catharsis behind this all is X-Men: First Class, the latest blockbuster on the block that has everyone buzzing. It makes me feel so bad about not enjoying it, because everywhere I go, I find people raving about it. My friends and family love it, and I just did not, and I feel I need further explanation of why. People don't step into a movie with a necessary idea of how it was esthetically composed, other than critics who intend for such. People don't realize that nearly every shot in a film has to have a desired purpose or reason. With that in mind, X-Men: First Class is clunky as all hell in intention.

Take one of the early scenes, for instance, where Charles Xavier meets Raven Darkholme. It starts out abrupt cutting of Charles heading downstairs, and it raises absolutely no suspense or unease. Then, when he finally reaches the kitchen, he jumps so oddly into accusation of Raven in the form of his mother. There is no sense of discovery, with the exception of a giddy look on his face when he sees Raven's blue form. It all flows too smoothly and unrealistically. The next scene depicts Sebastian Shaw murdering Erik's mother in front of him, and there's absolutely no emotional pit at that moment. No grieving for the dead woman. Just an emotional outburst of over-the-top visual effects, and Erik crushing two guards' skulls with their own helmets. That's the sort of scene you'd expect of some low-class horror flick.