Sunday, July 31, 2011

Film Review: "Cold Weather" (***1/2)

It doesn't surprise me that the most entertaining and rewarding cinematic experience I've had since The Tree of Life (which I don't want anyone to believe that I hated) came from an almost unknown source. You can spend so much time away from greatness such as this and begin to blow it out of proportion, so a level head is more than a little bit useful in circumstances such as these. Oddly enough, I find myself having difficulty cracking into this review, because with a film so mundane in its objectives and purpose, what exactly are you supposed to talk about?

Cold Weather is a title that really only has anything to do with one moment in the film, and it's a small moment. That's really what the bulk of Cold Weather is is these small moments, but something that director Aaron Katz manages to do is put a mystery plot in the center of this film. Doug is a former forensic science major who has that typical slacker attitude and is now living his sister in Oregon. This film doesn't wallow in a slacker finding resolve to follow his dreams, nor is it about an awkward living situation with his sister. It's not about the problems of working in an ice factory, and it's certainly not about the weather.

Box Office Update: "Cowboys" Gets "Smurf"ed

I'm sorry Damon Lindelof, but you really shouldn't have brought it up in the first place. While some will gripe that both films opened about equally, Cowboys and Aliens had more potential and expectation going into this weekend, so the adequate opening weekend gross just doesn't match up. The Smurfs, on the other hand, played higher than it was expected or deserved to, so it's kind of the champion of this weekend, regardless of what Monday's numbers say. In other news, completely unrelated to the colossal debuts this weekend, Captain America dove 61% from last weekend, showing that it doesn't have quite the same staying power as Thor did in May.

Deathly Hallows: Part 2 continues to do really well despite the expected massive drop in its second weekend. Sadly, you can tell my disposition about the film from how I only refer to it as Deathly Hallows: Part 2, and not Harry Potter. Crazy, Stupid, Love is faring as you'd expect a standard rom-com to nowadays. The superior Friends with Benefits dipped precisely 50%, and should hopefully hold up better than the former. So expect the box office to hit a massive slump after this weekend, much like it did last year.

1. The Smurfs (First Weekend; $36.2 million)
2. Cowboys and Aliens (First Weekend; $36.2 million)
3. Captain America: The First Avenger (Second Weekend; $24.9 million)
4. Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Third Weekend; $21.9 million)
5. Crazy, Stupid, Love (First Weekend; $19.3 million)
6. Friends with Benefits (Second Weekend; $9.3 million)
7. Horrible Bosses (Fourth Weekend; $7.1 million)
8. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Fifth Weekend; $6 million)
9. Zookeeper (Fourth Weekend; $4.2 million)
10. Cars 2 (Sixth Weekend; $2.3 million)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Film Review: "Crazy, Stupid, Love" (**)

In a summer where I'm simply begging for a romantic-comedy that takes things seriously, Crazy, Stupid, Love was the biggest opportunity I could have wished for. I often wonder how things that seem so clearly easy to make wonderful take a turn for the worst for no reason. Earlier this week I spoke of how Friends with Benefits managed to be about more than just its title, and that's made it so worthwhile. The problem with this film is that it's entirely too much about its title, and sadly not just the "Love" part.

The film has many different branching subplots, but it starts out with Cal Weaver, a divorced man who is trying to establish himself after his marriage. He ends up forming an unlikely friendship with Jacob, a smooth-talking womanizer who tries to reform Cal to being a more functioning human being. In the meantime, Jacob is falling for beautiful and sassy red-head Hannah, which raises complications late in the game. Also, Cal's son Robbie has a crush on his babysitter Jessica, who coincidentally has a crush on Cal. If this all sounds so predictable and sad, that's because it is.

Film to See in 2011: August

This will be a bit of an unorthodox edition of this monthly column, mostly due to the fact that I can't say I'm truly ecstatic about any of the films releasing this August. In any case, I'll be busy this month catching up on films I've missed out on over the past couple months. Meek's Cutoff and Tabloid are two films I'm eagerly waiting to see, and I'll be sitting down this afternoon for Crazy, Stupid, Love, so it's very much a reserved time of the year. In my opinion, it's a month too many in a Summer that has long since become redundant. Still, there are a few films probably worth checking out.

I can't say I feel anything but contempt for The Change-Up, which stacks together the repetitive Jason Bateman and the much maligned Ryan Reynolds. Rise of the Planet of the Apes has been artificially cold on the radar for quite some time. The Help honestly looks insipid, and sadly what you'd expect to see from it. 30 Minutes or Less could be fun, but it lacks the emotional core that made Zombieland enjoyable in the first place. No comment on Final Destination 5, Glee's concert film, Spy Kids 4, or Columbiana, and that's for good reason.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Weekend Report: Craziness and Insanity

I've got one foot out the door on my way to my legitimate job, as in the one that pays for me to see films every week, so I'm going to have to make this short. I'm not so sure about the box office prospects for Cowboys and Aliens, because I imagine many have the same trepidation about it that I have. I'm not going to see it in theaters, but I oddly hope it does well. God forbid the western genre die from another blockbuster hit. I can see Crazy, Stupid, Love doing really well this weekend, and it could give Ryan Gosling the heat he needs to escalate his career in the coming weeks with Drive and The Ides of March. I don't want anyone to see The Smurfs, because that's just child cruelty. Who would do that?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Venice stacks favorites big and small

Toronto is a massive canvas, but you do suffer sensory overload with all those films playing against one another. I prefer the smaller and more tightly knit atmosphere around Cannes and Venice, because it just seems so much more homely. Festivals are best suited to beautiful cities, and Venice is putting together what seems like a perfect list of competitors. Of course there will be quite a few that don't stack up, and I'm getting ready for that bitter sting of disappointment. Many are making their sophomore attempts, which is usually when the one hit wonders are cut apart from rest.

Of course there's the debut film of the festival, George Clooney's The Ides of March, but that trailer seems a bit too clean for a tale of hubris. It looks like the sort of sophisticated film that will get Academy attention more than most. I'm obviously not looking for the films that will play better with the Academy. I'm looking for quality, and it's better found in other places. Tomas Alfredson's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy has been gaining interest over the past month, and it still looks pretty intense and visually dynamic like Alfredson's last film. Maybe not a huge awards play, but definitely one I'm willing to follow.

"The Ides of March" Trailer

I've got a slightly bad feeling about George Clooney's latest directorial feat, but not an overpoweringly bad one. I guess opening up the Venice Film Festival does leave very much to be desired, especially considering what premiered last year. It's a factor of crowd appeal and reliability, and at first sight The Ides of March looks like that. I'll admit to not entirely having an idea what the change of title was about, but this trailer makes that pretty clear. It's uncertain if this will be Gosling's major awards play, but it is certain that he's in leading actor territory once again. I'm interested, but cautious, which is usually not a good thing.

For Your Anticipation: Leading the Witness

I wouldn't have guessed that Crazy, Stupid, Love would be the film I'd be most looking forward to see at the end of the month. I guess you could chalk that up to expectations not being met elsewhere. Or you could attribute it to the presence of a nicely assembled cast, not to mention a stylistic integrity. In a year so entirely about place and setting, this one isn't so much about broad landscapes or cities as it is about rooms. It adds another layer of interpretation onto the film, and the fact that people are taking these things so seriously this year impresses me. Also, Ryan Gosling looks fantastic in everything.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Film Review: "Friends with Benefits" (***)

I guess you could factor this film as checking off another item on the list of this year, although not quite as pessimistically as other films over the past couple of months. I realize that many of the films this year have been moderately okay by different standards, but I they mostly left me unmoved and unimpressed. I guess Friends with Benefits earns itself some brownie points for being slightly better than most films I've seen this summer. It's clearly nowhere close to Will Gluck's previous film, Easy A, a cliche masterwork in my own opinion. I guess this film lacks because of why most films lack this summer, and that's the lack of time spent on them.

You can't go through the first few minutes of the film without saying that it feels rushed. You have to catch up with it, and it's only a minute in. The film's plot is a little more difficult to explain than one might think. Dylan is an art director who is sought out by Jaime, a headhunter, for a job at GQ in New York. Dylan uproots his LA lifestyle for the job, and starts out an interesting friendship with Jaime. Eventually they get the drunken idea that if they could set emotions aside, they could start having casual sex with each other. In any lesser film, like its counterpart No Strings Attached, that'd probably be just it.

"Shame" Poster

I'm not going to publish a piece on the films that are appearing at Toronto International Film Festival, because it really seems somewhat superfluous and wasteful. I'll be commenting tomorrow on the films playing at Venice, where all the real action should be. I'll also be talking about Telluride, because that's the one that most affects me. For now, I'd like to drop this poster for one of my more anticipated films of the festival circuit. I'm still not entirely sure about Shame, because how can it possibly match up to Steve McQueen's masterful debut, Hunger. Still holds my interest.

For Your Anticipation: I Figure You Owe Me

I guess that Joe Favreau was a little too fixated on making a fusion of the western and science fiction genres, and not enough on placing a science fiction concept inside of a western. Something that Friends with Benefits taught me is that your film can't be all about one thing. There are usually several different cogs working around in the best of westerns, and I don't see a single one moving here. It took a chance to pay attention, but this just doesn't seem to have what it takes to hold my interest. Films like these are what's killing the western genre.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Let "Fringe" Be "Fringe"!

Comic Con is now come and gone, and I didn't go as crazy with it as I expected to. I'm not there, so who am I to comment on it? Nevertheless, the Con did give me an excuse to return to my favorite show on television, Fringe. The show has had quite a rough going for the longest of times, with some critical difficulty in Season 1, which is undeniable, and an unsteady transition to mythology based television in Season 2. That had quite a negative effect on the ratings, and that has continued through Season 3, to the point where the ratings on Thursday tanked, the show moved to Fridays, and it's gotten even worst since then.

Not the show, mind you, but the ratings. Through all this struggle, and every trial thrown at the producers and cast, they have performed exceptionally well. Season 3 was a very exciting story, dealing with quite a few moral qualms and difficulties, some of which should be carried into Season 4. There were several great episodes, but my favorite, and this is still a trigger point, is the still mindblowing season finale. Why is that? Because it's probably the first time Jeff Pinkner and Joel Wyman have truly 100% grasped what their show was, which is a subversive, potentially avante garde, uncompromising piece of genre television.

For Your Anticipation: You're Gonna Need A Weapon

I wonder how many people are going to hand Attack the Block spots on their Top Ten of 2011 list, much like they did for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. That's not to say there's already something so massively wrong with the film, but you might have noticed that my interests aren't as lenient as other moviegoers. I'm still looking for an action film that surpasses Thor in quality, and we're clearly not getting it this Summer. Aside from the fact that this is playing in limited release, it looks like the exact sort of overtly hip genre trash you'd expect from Edgar Wright, and I don't have much intention from seeing this one.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Box Office Update: Victory for "America"

I'm still getting a weird sense of polarization after giving Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 a pan last weekend, and I almost gave Captain America: The First Avenger a decent review this weekend. Then I thought, "Did I really enjoy it more than Harry Potter?" Thank heavens I didn't, because this weekend is lining things up rather agreeably for most films. Captain America came in first, which was a tad surprising, but it's income was exactly as expected. Deathly Hallows: Part 2 was the one that took a pretty big tumble. It fell all the way down to $48 million from it's highest opening weekend ever.

So it looks like The Dark Knight is still moderately safe, and I'd attribute Potter's massive success to opening day madness. The films in that franchise always were a bit front-loaded in terms of income, but still pretty successful. Other than that, I'm not quite sure what else is big about this weekend. Friends with Benefits opened to third place, just below $20 million. That is a tad lower than its counterpart No Strings Attached, but that released during the most depressing time of the year in box office terms. People were looking for something mildly good, and it was only that.

1. Captain America (First Weekend; $65.8 million)
2. Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Second Weekend; $48 million)
3. Friends with Benefits (First Weekend; $18.5 million)
4. Transformers 3 (Fourth Weekend; $12 million)
5. Horrible Bosses (Third Weekend; $11.7 million)
6. Zookeeper (Third Weekend; $8.7 million)
7. Cars 2 (Fifth Weekend; $5.7 million)
8. Winnie the Pooh (Second Weekend; $5.1 million)
9. Bad Teacher (Fifth Weekend; $2.6 million)
10. Midnight in Paris (Tenth Weekend; $1.9 million)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Film Review: "Captain America: The First Avenger" (**1/2)

I'd very much like to hate what I want to hate, but occasionally I have to give credit where credit is due, and credit is very much due to key member involved in creating Captain America: The First Avenger. Probably the most key members in this film are Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, the two men who created the original comic, which is the building blocks for what makes this film mildly successful. You have to give them credit for inventing one of the more original superhero origin stories, as well as one of the more tragic.

This fifth film in Marvel Studios' superhero chronicle follows Steve Rogers, a 90 pound asthmatic who is desperate to serve his country, not on brutality but on principle. He's not one of those gung-ho attitude military types, but mostly a man who wants to serve his country, and as cliche as that sounds, it kind of works. That is, it works until he's given a serum that gives him "amazing superhuman abilities"... which are that he's suddenly gorgeous and can leap long distances and punch stuff? As much as it fits the 1940s mentality, that is still a lame power to have.

Friday, July 22, 2011

"In Time" Comic-Con Trailer

I often have a bit of trouble buying into science fiction films about Dystopian futures, such as Surrogates and its ilk, because they are too often about that sci-fi hook. They very rarely go into character, and as such are usually quite lacking. In Time, a film from Gattaca director Andrew Niccol, currently looks to be that sort of film, but it has the makings of something more, and the premise is very intriguing. The future depicted here is as massively alluring as it is dangerous, and that's kind of an exciting possibility. Provided the film doesn't get stuck in a narrative rut with a stereotypical happy ending, I might really like this film.

The Weekend Report:: Red, White, and Bland

It might be a bit unfair to call Captain America: The First Avenger bland, but heading into seeing the film, I can't imagine it being pretty. With a man like Joe Johnston at the helm, how can it be? Some say that he's a successful genre director, but I just prefer to say that he's awful. That's the simple and truthful way of putting it. Even at his least gruesome, the word schlocky comes to mind to describe his work. While I have faith in the cast of the film to bring some life to it, it's already looking like something of a dead affair. I'd write it off entirely if it weren't so likely to bring in money this weekend.

Of course it is going to have to fend off the sophomore weekend of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, whose income continues to be just as colossal as its name. Winnie the Pooh failed to make a dent in as the only other new competitor, and with Captain America also in the market this week, one wonders if Friends with Benefits will attract enough of a crowd. I won't be seeing it until Monday, but since it's the only comedy to crop up since Horrible Bosses I imagine it faring well enough. It's a light counterbalance to the depression of Potter and America.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

"Drive" Red Band Trailer

This is quite possibly the only film that was on my radar after Cannes Film Festival, even if I was interested in some other films. Nicholas Winding Refn has a certain way about delivering something fantastic in an unexpected way. I didn't warm to Bronson as much as I wanted, but it still shook me in a way most films don't. Refn looks to be controlled as harshly as ever this time, with a film that rings of those old gritty action films of the past, as well as recent television hit Breaking Bad. I can't tell everything from this trailer, but when September rolls around, I'll be damned if I'm not in line to see Drive.

For Your Anticipation: You Feelin' Me Felix?

This film was always going to be on a collision course to be something less than what it could have been. It's pretty much the same exact plot of No Strings Attached, but it seems to know it. Yes, it is destined to succumb to the cliche trappings of its plot, because it's not quite above it. Still, it looks like the best chance we're going to get for something genuinely hilarious in the back half of this summer. Crazy, Stupid, Love is on the rise, but for now Friends with Benefits is a more solid bet.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"The Amazing Spiderman" Teaser Trailer

Okay, I'm officially done being angry at the reboot of the Spiderman franchise, because it looks like director Marc Webb has done quite a lot to distance it creatively from Sam Raimi's trilogy. Something that Raimi really glossed over was Peter Parker's childhood life. His polarization from the social community of school, and his relationship with his deceased parents were never really delved into. I find it really interesting that this film is looking into that, and I find Emma Stone's Gwen Stacy to be infinitely more likable than Kirsten Dunst's Mary Jane. There's a slight feeling of it being just another once-over, but I'm being optimistic with The Amazing Spiderman. I like it.

For Your Anticipation: You Win Wars with Guts

I'm still of the opinion that Captain America: The First Avenger is going to be, for the most part, an unattractive and overly patriotic fluke. It's painting America as it was perceived during it's most righteous of time periods, which was when it was fighting the Nazis. The best thing that Captain America: The First Avenger can be is a superhero iteration of Forrest Gump. I highly doubt that it will, but there's a sprinkle of hope. However, I won't be watching to finding out until next weekend, so please feel free to let me know how it is.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" Poster

It matters not to me if you spend the hours of laborious geek-work to decode the numbers displayed in this poster. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy remains one of my more anticipated films of this fall, and I can't imagine it failing.

Television Review: "Breaking Bad: Box Cutter" (***1/2)

It's been a long wait since the third season of Breaking Bad ended, though I haven't really noticed it at all. That's mostly due to the fact that I hardly knew about the series until last December. No, it is not the brutish equivalent to Mad Men, as it's weighed down by slight flaws like any other series. I love Fringe, but you're never going to hear me call it subtle. Now Breaking Bad hasn't always been the most subtle of dramas, usually spelling out episodic themes at the start of each installment. Box Cutter proved to be a powerful, intense, silent, and condensed treat for those who knew exactly what was coming.

The series has often done a sickening turn from episode to episode, so it's not a surprise that the things we thought we knew going into the premiere were dismissed brutally. At the start, while we were horrified by what Jesse and Walt had done, we knew that it kept them alive a little longer. Or at least we thought it did. As the episode progressed, we got the impression more and more that Walter's actions were misguided and oblivious. It turns out that Gale was merely a sheep, pulled in front of Walter to make him believe he had one option. And the Victor started cooking.

For Your Anticipation: Are you Going to Space?

My tone on upcoming indie fantasy project Another Earth turned somewhat sour the moment I saw the trailer in front of The Tree of Life. It suddenly hit like a ton of bricks how much of a laborious and self indulgent premise it is. It looks more like a failed indie than a successful one, and it lacks the relatively fantastic psychology of my favorite iteration of an alternate universe. I'm talking about Fringe. I love it. Get over it. I thought that perhaps the emotionality could bring it home, but the most emotional thing about the trailer was that music that played in the background. Anyway, count me out on Another Earth.

Monday, July 18, 2011

"The Dark Knight Rises" Teaser Trailer

I honestly haven't a damn clue why people are so damn disappointed about the new teaser for The Dark Knight Rises. The film is an entire year away from release, so what more could you have been expecting? I'd say we get a great deal more than we received from the teaser for The Dark Knight. It's clear that the stakes are raised, and Nolan's trilogy is effectively concluding. I'm hoping that he doesn't hold back on this one. I want massive hell to be unleashed upon Gotham, and this trailer hints at about as much as that. With luck, this could be the perfect joining of the pulp excitement of Batman Begins with the realistic tension of The Dark Knight.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mischief Managed: Epilogue to "Potter"

Well, I guess this is quite effectively, and permanently, it for the Harry Potter phenomenon that has been going on for more than a decade now. If I haven't made it clear already, I'd like to say how severely sorry I am that I didn't love Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2. However, the feeling I have, more than anything at this very moment, is utter disbelief. I start to wonder exactly what it was that people saw in this film that 97% of critics, according to Rotten Tomatoes, gave it the go ahead. I know Rotten Tomatoes isn't a very reliable source for how good a film is, and I learned to disregard them a while back.

Still, the movie that I saw was rather sloppy, stiff, silly, and unrefined in most aspects. Yes, it tied up the story, but it didn't take time and effort to make it the best it could be. And it seems like they're completely fine with what they made, as the final shot of the film features our main characters grinning so self-righteously. The film is, as we speak, demolishing box office records left and right, so what I have to say doesn't really matter. I'm not pretending that it does. It gets to the point where I can't be held accountable for what you are likely to like or dislike. The best and worst decision I ever made was to review films honestly from my own point of view. That does polarize you from quite a few of your readers.

Box Office Update: "Hallows" Kills It

Well you can't say that the highest grossing motion picture franchise in history wasn't going to go out without making a huge dent in our wallets. This was inevitable since Friday, but Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 has broken The Dark Knight's opening weekend record by a clear $13 million. The film did earn most of that from the gargantuan Friday debut, but despite the fall from Friday to Saturday, it held on rather respectfully from Saturday to Sunday. It's to be seen how off that estimate is when the final numbers hit on Monday, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's a couple million up or down.

It's a massive accomplishment, but there were other milestones to be had this weekend. For starters, Transformers: Dark of the Moon became the first film of 2011 to bust past that pesky $300 million mark. I'll admit to playing a slight hand in that, as I saw the film a second time last evening. Both Horrible Bosses and Zookeeper held on honestly, as no threatening new comedies entered the market. That'll change when Friends with Benefits swings around the corner next weekend.

The most shocking failure of this weekend was poor Winnie the Pooh, which landed in sixth place with only $8 million. People complaining that their childhood was over after Potter debuted were clearly looking in the wrong place. My favorite success of the weekend, however, was Midnight in Paris, reentering the top ten this week just in time to blow past Hannah and Her Sisters to become the highest grossing Woody Allen film to date. So obviously this weekend at the box office was an improvement (a 46.4% improvement at that) upon last year, when Inception opened to the top spot.

1. Harry Potter...Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (First Weekend; $168.5 million)
2. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Third Weekend; $21.2 million)
3. Horrible Bosses (Second Weekend; $17.6 million)
4. Zookeeper (Second Weekend; $12.3 million)
5. Cars 2 (Fourth Weekend; $8.3 million)
6. Winnie the Pooh (First weekend; $8 million)
7. Bad Teacher (Fourth Weekend; $5.2 million)
8. Larry Crowne (Third Weekend; $2.5 million)
9. Super 8 (Sixth Weekend; $1.9 million)
10. Midnight in Paris (Ninth Weekend; $1.8 million)

Saturday, July 16, 2011


SPOILER ALERT in case you haven't seen Airborne, Caravaggio, Clarissa, Equilibrium, Don't Say A Word, Essex Boys, Far North, The Field, Golden Eye, Henry VIII, The Island, Six-Echo, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Lorna Doone, Outlaw, Patriot Games, Scarlett, Tell Me That You Love Me, The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, The Hitcher, War Requiem, or the first season of Game of Thrones.

Film Review: "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" (**1/2)

Within minutes of returning home from seeing the eighth and final Harry Potter film, I started tweeting away my untarnished thoughts on the event. I only got out three slight jabs, as I realized how many people on the receiving end of them were probably massive fans of the books and the films. I was suspended in disbelief when all the positive reviews came flowing in, because it does seem curious for a film series that's garnered quite a bit of critical recoil in the past to suddenly get all this buzz. It goes to show how the weight of hype and expectation can forcibly change an experience. Oddly enough, it didn't change mine. How I saw the film the first time is how I'll always see it, and trying to deny that is foolhardy.

The proudest jab, and somehow compliment, that I laid out on Twitter early this morning was "I feel like 'Deathly Hallows: Part 2' is the perfect companion piece for 'Transformers: Dark of the Moon'." I meant that in the best respect to "Transformers" and the worst respect to "Potter". That's largely because both films are so completely obsessed with that final battle, where everything blows up and the ultimate stakes are at risk. After taking care of that final mission in Gringotts, which is surprisingly one of the more favorable parts of the film, they just rush on over to Hogwarts, and then everything goes off like clockwork,

By "clockwork", I mean unyielding and extremely flawed if you throw in the wrong cog. The thing with the Transformers comparison is that while both go into the final battle with urgency, we never get a sense of exactly what we have to lose in Potter. Yes, it's the final war of the wizarding world, and in fact the muggle world as well, but we never once get any sense of extreme danger. In fact, in David Yates' intention to move things along quickly, the battle feels way too small and glossed over. We barely even see the full extent of it. He instead decides to dwell too long on plot details that could've been given a little less time and devotion. Occasionally the film moves too rapidly, and then it just slows to a sluggish crawl.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Weekend Report: "Hallows" Breaking Records Already... Again...

It feels like the insanity caused by the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is almost unsubstantiated, because a month ago I felt like this was going to be a critical and (to some degree) financial failure. Yes, it has gotten nary a bad review, but it seems unorthodox for something like this to call forth such excitement. Maybe I'm just underestimating it, but the film is destined to break box office records this weekend regardless. As a matter of fact, it already has. The finale managed to draw in epic scale crowds for the midnight opening, burgeoning the profit to $43.5 million, and effectively shattering the previously laid record.

I'd say that the film has a more than decent chance of breaking the opening day record as well. Some are currently saying it could be as much as $80 million, but I testify that it could go on to nearly $90 million. It's to be seen how much of a drop it takes on Saturday and Sunday, but it will nevertheless be the biggest opening weekend of the year by far. The only competition, and it's still to be seen how poorly it will play, is Winnie the Pooh. It's clearly playing to the kid crowd, whereas Potter is geared towards the teen demographic. The kids honestly won't care that it's only an hour long, and they'll drag their parents in easily. The optimist in me says the film could go to $20 million, but I realize how unlikely that is.

"Hugo" Trailer

I know we all just got finished bashing Andrew Stanton's decision to shorten John Carter of Mars to simply John Carter, but I think that the shortening of Martin Scorcese's The Invention of Hugo CabretHugo to actually works. Yes, it is less elaborate, but I feel it's more appropriate. It's about Hugo, and less the invention. This being Martin Scorcese's first 3D film, it's bound to be high on stylistic bursts. People are lashing out at it for being mere kiddie fare, but ignoring the "30 Seconds to Mars" song, it is actually something of a tribute to the earliest style of filmmaking, such as in A Trip to the Moon. Scorcese is going all out with this, and it's bound to snag some craft nods.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Prologue to "Potter"

If you haven't already noticed, and I'm not sure what kind of hole you have to be in for that to be the case, the decade in the making Harry Potter film franchise is about to come to an end. There was a pit in your gut to watching Deathly Hallows: Part 1, because even if you weren't saying goodbye, you knew the end was coming. That's not to overlook the film's many numerous pitfalls. It moved at a glacial pace in the second half, overlooked a few key deaths that would have emotionally compounded the experience (Mad-Eye, we barely knew ye'), and it placed us outside of the comfort zone of Hogwarts without matching that spectacle. I put the film in my top ten last year, but six months later, I cannot believe how wrong I was.

So now we're heading into Part 2, which is offering a lot more blockbuster excitement than the first half of the film. At this point, I'm not even sure if it's appropriate to call it the first half, rather than a film that exists perfectly on its own. I keep trying to watch Part 1 again, and I simply can't get past the Death Eater discussion scene without losing interest. Then going back over the entire series, I wonder what ultimately was the point of it all? There's so much that could have been done better and wasn't, but it's too late to go back. To be honest, I don't even think I want to. The excitement was there, but it was a child's excitement.

The somewhat amazing thing about the series is that it does perfectly carry you through your own childhood journey. Each film is built to appeal to the age of the characters it's portraying. Deathly Hallows: Part 1 speaks to college idea of leaving home and being somewhere strange and unfamiliar. In the same way, Part 2 is about returning home to a feeling of nostalgia, yet feeling oddly misplaced after so long, and finally moving on past it to a new life. I won't have my review up until Saturday, but many will obviously be shelling out the cash to go to the midnight showing. Best of wishes to all of you, but know that the magic can't and won't last forever.

"John Carter" Teaser Trailer

Of all the films of 2012, I was most looking forward to John Carter, until now. Mind you, I'm still feverishly looking forward to the adaptation by director Andrew Stanton, but less so. I guess if you feed expectations, they're bound to fail. Mostly the problem is how the trailer is put together. There's barely a pause to breathe, or an explanation of what's happening. I forgot that we were on Mars for a second. I forgot these were aliens until one showed up on screen. Lynn Collins doesn't look too good, nor does Daryl Sabara, and it all feels a bit too much like Conan the Barbarian, but I'll give it time. Maybe they're keeping the good stuff from us until later this year. I hope they are.

For Your Anticipation: Come to Die

How can I still be preparing for disappointment at this point? Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 has the backing of nearly the entire critical mass, which I find more than a bit surprising. They've long been difficult to praise the series, without necessarily denouncing it. Now, it seems like they've been cast a spell upon, forgive the pun if you will. No, I most certainly will not be checking in with the midnight showing tonight. Tickets were sold out a while back anyway. I'll be gracing a late Friday showing with a friend or two, kicking back a diet coke, and waiting reserved anticipation for it all to be over.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Contagion" Trailer

I know this film has been building up with one of the greatest ensemble star casts I've seen in a while, not to mention a director like Steven Soderbergh, but I was still surprised by just how intense it all was. Like any virus, it keeps escalating to a terrifying and almost disturbing conclusion. This summer has seen very little excitement, so this fall is shaping up to be the intense roller-coaster I always hope for at the start of each year. Contagion is just another impressive piece of it all.

For Your Anticipation: Cuz I'm the only one.

I'm more than a little hung up on the latest Winnie the Pooh film, and it's a lot more than just the short 65 minute running time that, with prices what they are this day, feels like some kind of robbery. It's also that it seems to lack some sort of overarching storyline that compounds our emotional attachment to our characters. Nobody ever seems to take charge of the psychological aspects of a boy living in a fantasy world with his stuffed animals. This just seems like simple fun, which is nice but not necessary.

Monday, July 11, 2011

"The Dark Knight Rises" teaser poster goes gray!

"Dark Knight", "John Carter", "Sherlock Holmes", and "Contagion" trailers playing in front of "Potter" finale

If that title is too insanely long for you, know that it's in service of fantastic news. On the heels of discussion about fantastic film trailers of the past, the final film in the Harry Potter series has just received an extra bump of anticipation. With everybody already in line for the midnight showing, it seems that every studio out there is trying to feed off the event by premiering trailers for their high profile projects. It seems that way, but in actuality Warner Bros. is trying to fuel most of its upcoming hits, with one particular hits standing above the rest.

There's no reason to beat around the bush. The first trailer for The Dark Knight Rises, capping off Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, is set to make its debut. Of course, I don't expect much more than a simple tease, because the teaser for The Dark Knight was purely dialogue driven, and the Inception teaser did nothing to answer questions about Nolan's mystery project. Still, expect it to get people talking until another trailer comes around sometime between December and January. Nolan knows better than to blow his wad a year in advance.

On a less massive point, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is also expected to throw a trailer into the ring. They already placed a few posters online, showing off a once more bearded Jared Harris as Moriarty. Here's hoping they do all they can to make his character as fascinating as possible. Steven Soderberg's Contagion is finally getting a trailer, which could work the same way The Town did last year. However, the trailer I'm most anticipating is outside of Warner Bros., and instead from Disney. Andrew Stanton's John Carter gets a teaser, and just in time. I was nervous that we wouldn't get a first look until November. I'm just glad that it's actually been happening. There's also word on a trailer for Martin Scorcese's Hugo, but we'll wait to see if that's any more than just rumor. In any case, the trailers are enough reason to shell out $10 at the theater.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of The Unicorn" Trailer

I guess it was silly to get my hopes up for this one based on that teaser. Yes, there were a few overtly evident lines, but it looked pretty exciting. This more entire look is still pretty, but it's drowned out by the murky and all too self-important dialogue. I guess this one is playing to the kiddie crowd first and foremost, and that leaves me dissatisfied. So it was fun while it lasted, but The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn is now largely dismissive. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Box Office Update: "Bosses" Rise Against "Moon"

Forgive me if things have been too silent for your liking lately. Balancing my work online and an actual job is a bit of a chore, and some things rightly take a back seat. I promise that things will pick up considerably after the summer, but you can expect things to be slow around this time of year. Obviously the box office is not one of such things, so that's something I'll always comment on. As for this particular weekend, nothing is truly changed or different. Transformers: Dark of the Moon remains the one to beat for the year, though that could certainly change very soon.

Michael Bay's trilogy capper fell a heavy 52% from its giant debut, and it raises a question of how much higher than $300 million it will reach domestically. Still, the film is performing quite admirably given the constant assault of critical backlash. I realize I never did weigh in on the film, so I'll take just a moment to give my thoughts. It's perhaps the worst film of the entire series, but it's also the most enjoyable, stupidly hilarious, and just plain fun films I've seen in a long time. I enjoyed Revenge of the Fallen more than Transformers, and I enjoyed Dark of the Moon even more. Call me insane, but that's my standing on the matter.

In the meantime, comedic films tried to add an inch of levity to the summer, and somewhat successfully if you look at the money charts. Horrible Bosses, which I hear has received a handful of good reviews, would've reigned champion this weekend if it weren't for Bay's machines. Zookeeper, was the weaker of the two, but give it credit for inching just above the $20 million mark this weekend. Cars 2 is taking smaller drops now, but I'd expect it to end below even Ratatouille, one of Pixar's toughest sells. Rounding out the top five is Bad Teacher, which I saw and was somewhat appalled by on Thursday. Still, it's been holding on well, and could make it to $100 million if all continues as it is. Sure, the weekend was down from last year when Despicable Me placed first, but expect an uptick in good time.

1. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Second Weekend; $47 million)
2. Horrible Bosses (First Weekend; $28.1 million)
3. Zookeeper (First Weekend; $21 million)
4. Cars 2 (Third Weekend; $15.2 million)
5. Bad Teacher (Third Weekend; $9 million)
6. Larry Crowne (Second Weekend; $6.3 million)
7. Super 8 (Fifth Weekend; $4.8 million)
8. Monte Carlo (Second Weekend; $3.8 million)
9. Green Lantern (Fourth Weekend; $3.1 million)
10. Mr. Popper's Penguins (Fourth Weekend; $2.9 million)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

"The Iron Lady" Teaser Trailer

I'm not sure how I got to the point where Meryl Streep fails to really impress me. This trailer for her next Oscar vehicle, The Iron Lady, doesn't offer much, as teasers usually don't. Still, I get the impression that we could have gotten something better. And yes. She certainly needs to get rid of that hat. I'm also sick and tired of seeing Roger Allem in anything. He's one of those guys, along with Mark Strong, that just needs to go.

For Your Anticipation: Doing All the Extra Work

Can somebody explain to me how Kevin Spacey ended up working on a film like Horrible Bosses? I understand Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, and even Colin Farrell, but you can tell that Spacey is the main antagonist. Apparently Tom Cruise, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Jeff Bridges were all considered for the role, and while I feel like Cruise may have been a better fit, I'm glad they chose Spacey. I understand that none of this weighs on the quality of the film, but I really couldn't care that much. I suppose it could've been a lot worse, but it's still just lower tier fare.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Trailers I Adore

Well they missed the cut for the Oscar, but at least The Social Network got in on the Golden Trailer Awards and finished off awards season on a late note of positivity. So with the awards come and gone, talk and discussion have broken out on personal picks of favorite trailers, as instigated by Ryan Adams of Awards Daily. Being mildly new to the game, I don't have the experience of years upon years of trailer hunting. We have gotten our share of really well made trailers recently with Tinker Tailor Solider Spy and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, both of which keep sticking out as similar starts to adult oriented film franchises. Still, I felt obligated to look further back at trailers which really impressed me.

I was really impressed with the first teaser trailer for WALL-E, as it made it clear that this was going to be a very special and important film. The first trailer for Cloverfield was clearly a clever WTF piece of surprise marketing, and it was the main thing people were talking about after seeing the first Transformers. Perhaps my favorite piece of trailer marketing is the first trailer for Up in the Air. It's a trailer that established itself as the main thing of 2009. I'll let it speak for itself. Just ignore the stupid logo of the YouTuber who uploaded it.

For Your Anticipation: Look Like A Hero

This is exactly the sort of film that's made when people are running out of ideas. They revert back to stupidity and talking animals. I am so glad that nobody voted for me to see this film, because then I would be so completely depressed. Every time I see a trailer for it, it strikes me as the Grown Ups of this year, and that disgusts me. It makes Horrible Bosses look glorified, which should just not happen. Don't see Zookeeper.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Your point being?

I haven't a clue why this is suddenly adding fuel to people's bashing of Michael Bay. All I can see this as is an interesting easter egg. I have problems with Michael Bay, like anyone else, but people are just making up unsubstantiated reasons to disapprove.

Box Office Update: Under Light of "Moon"

It seems like the box office is thriving, with another major hit having taken a huge chunk of the earnings this weekend, be it one that we expected. To be honest, I would have expected bigger numbers from Transformers: Dark of the Moon, but I guess the weak(er) start had to do with the general anger towards the second film. As most know, I quite enjoyed the second film, and I quite enjoyed the third film for the same basic reasons. It's big, loud, stupid, hilarious, honest, and quite obviously beautiful. Every artist has a certain style, and Bay's is with the degenerate and flashy. You can't simply watch this film and lump it in with the crowd of failing blockbusters.

Cars 2 took a massive drop from last weekend, by far the largest drop of any Pixar film, but there's no surprise there. Larry Crowne failed on impact, not making a huge dent with the opposite demographic of Transformers. Monte Carlo also didn't make a big impact, but it did well for what was expected of it. That's the main thing you can say about it, is that it did exactly what it was expected to do, and that's fine. In the scheme of total grosses, Bridesmaids passed the $150 million point, which I'm quite happy about. Pirates 4 passed $1 billion worldwide, which I'm not at all happy about. It certainly puts Alice in Wonderland in perspective in terms of quality.

1. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (First Weekend; $116.4 million)
2. Cars 2 (Second Weekend; $32.1 million)
3. Bad Teacher (Second Weekend; $17.6 million)
4. Larry Crowne (First Weekend; $15.7 million)
5. Super 8 (Fourth Weekend; $9.5 million)
6. Monte Carlo (First Wekend; $8.8 million)
7. Green Lantern (Third Weekend; $8 million)
8. Mr. Popper's Penguins (Third Weekend; $6.9 million)
9. Bridesmaids (Eighth Weekend; $4.4 million)
10. Midnight in Paris (Seventh Weekend; $4.3 million)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

What A Piece of Work is "A.I."

It came upon me, completely by accident, that this weekend celebrates the 10th anniversary of Steven Spielberg's 2001 science-fiction feature A.I. Artificial Intelligence. As the years have come and gone, many have talked about the film's numerous merits and pitfalls, and I admit to trepidation of my own. To this day, I still can't quite embrace what Spielberg and the late great Stanley Kubrick have come together to create, but that's not to say that I can't appreciate it. An earnest supporter of creative and outstanding science-fiction, as evidenced by my constant backing of Fringe, A.I. still maintains a sort of heightened excitement for me.

What pushes me back is the central discomfort of the fusion of robot and child, as the two have time and time again proved a lethal combination. I fear to reference recent science-fiction short Blinky, as it still is fighting its way into my nightmares. To that affect, A.I. is something of a sweet refresher, but still greatly disturbing. In the first forty minutes of the film, David, played by Haley Joel Osment, is as stale, creepy, and uncomfortable a child as possible. In truth, that's by complete intention. The real standout is the eighty minutes that follow, and the journey David undergoes.

There is quite a bit of this film that is kind of ridiculous and over-the-top, but doesn't that usually come of even the best science-fiction? The world painted in the film is a deeply cynical one, and while many would like to contribute that as Kubrick's last brilliant move, much of that came from Spielberg. At the turn of the millennium, Spielberg was at the top of his game. He contains a near seamless array of science-fiction ideas, whilst most films buckle under the rules of their own sci-fi concept. I may never be able to embrace this as a work of true genius, but I am able to acknowledge it. Janusz Kaminski's beautiful cinematography help aid Spielberg in his most expressionistic and ambitious of works.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Weekend Report: The Ol' Flash and Bang

I almost entirely forgot to give this a proper write-up, but figured that it's better late than never. This week has been an exercise in leisure and relaxation, but it's time to get back to business. The box office isn't showing many signs of decay or slowing down, but after seeing so many films go by without passing $100 million in the first three days, I can't help but be a little pessimistic. I hold out hope that that will change with Transformers: Dark of the Moon, but there's never any real guarantee. Audiences are naturally still pissed after being so disappointed with Revenge of the Fallen, but I didn't think the effects would be so adverse.

The film has only managed to pull in nearly $65 million in the first two days, which its predecessor pulled off in just a day. It'll be interesting to see how the film plays over the long weekend, but it's apparently been playing really well with audiences. It may have some sort of unexpected staying power in the coming weeks, but rest assured that it will die quickly upon Harry Potter's arrival. So what of the other two releases? Well I had completely forgotten that Larry Crowne even existed, so much as to miss posting a clip from it earlier this week. I didn't forget Monte Carlo, but then again, how could you? It's the sort of thing that demands attention, but not for the better.