Dec 31, 2012

The top 10 movies for the weekend of December 28 - December 30, 2012

1) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey $31.9 Million
2) Django Unchained $30.1 Million
3) Les Miserables $27.2 Million
4) Parental Guidance $14.5 Million
5) Jack Reacher $14 Million
6) This is 40 $12.5 Million
7) Lincoln $7.3 Million
8) The Guild Trip $6.7 Million
9) Monsters Inc. $6.4 Million
10) Rise of the Guardians $4.9 Million

The number one movie a year ago this week was Paramount's "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" which dropped a miniscule .5% and held on to the top spot for a second week with $29.4 million in ticket sales.

(Green indicates new release)

The 10 best major motion pictures of 2012

1) "Skyfall" - Sam Mendes, Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem et al create a Bond film for the ages. One that looks itself squarely in the mirror and sees the crow's feet yet still finds plenty to smile about. Skyfall [Blu-ray]

2) "The Avengers" - Uber nerd Joss Whedon generates significant movement in the cargo pants of fanboys the world over with his deft handling of the superhero teamup of the century. Marvel's The Avengers (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo in Blu-ray Packaging)

3) "The Grey" - Liam Neeson's most heartfelt performance in years. Maybe ever. The Grey (Two-Disc Combo Pack: Blu-ray + DVD)

4) "Lincoln" - Hard for me to pick a movie that has "Important" stamped on it before anyone's even seen it but Spielberg's late career embrace and exploration of history hits what may be it's highpoint with this reverential but riveting film. Lincoln [Blu-ray]

5) "Zero Dark Thirty" - Absolutely no disrepect intented to anyone who had a hand in airing out bin-whats-his-name but I suspect that Kathryn Bigelow could make a gripping movie about taking out the trash. Never has the world of policy wonks and intelligence analysts seemed so damned sexy.

6) "The Woman in Black" - Daniel Radcliffe lands squarely on his post-Potter feet with this, the best horror film of the year. Literally spine-tingling. The Woman in Black (+ UltraViolet Digital Copy) [Blu-ray]

7) "Total Recall" - Simultaneously one of the best sci-fi and best action films of the year. The rare badly needed and successful remake. Total Recall (Two Discs: Blu-ray + UltraViolet Digital Copy) [Blu-ray]

8) "Get the Gringo" - Mel Gibson rises from Hollywood purgatory to deliver the snazziest action/comedy in years. "But wait!" you say "How can it be a major motion picture if it went straight to VOD?" Answer: see the part about Mel rising out of purgatory. Get the Gringo [Blu-ray]

9) "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" - Peter Jackson returns to middle earth and, in spite of a few minor missteps, manages to pull a Rhosgobel rabbit out of his hat. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

10) "Prometheus" - It wouldn't have taken much to make this the movie of the year. But it's shortcomings were significant enough that it only gets the last rung on the ladder here. Hopefully Ridley and Co won't be deaf to the criticism and will iron out the wrinkles in the sequel. Prometheus (Blu-ray/ DVD + Digital Copy)

That's it! Farewell 2012, we hardly knew ye.

Dec 30, 2012

"Skyfall" reaches $1 billion at the worldwide box office

Sam Mendes and company hit all the right buttons with their peerless "Skyfall" and audiences around the globe have been demonstrating their approval of Bond 23 with their wallets since its release. Today the film crossed a major milestone when it became just the 14th film in history to register a cool billion dollars at the global box office. Congratulations all around and I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that Mr Mendes returns for 24.

The cast of "Skyfall" with director Sam Mendes (3rd from left). Photo: Getty images.

Dec 28, 2012

First six minutes of "Maniac" starring Elijah Wood

Warner Brothers has released the first six minutes of the upcoming Elijah Wood serial killer flick "Maniac" and it's safe to say that the title isn't misleading. Here's part of the studio's official blurb:

"A 21st century Jack the Ripper set in present-day LA, MANIAC is a re-boot of the cult film considered by many to be the most suspenseful slasher movie ever made - an intimate, visually daring, psychologically complex and profoundly horrific trip into the downward spiralling nightmare of a killer and his victims."

As of this writing the film still doesn't have a US theatrical release date, though it's set to bow overseas in the coming days and weeks.

Why do movies cost so much to make?

If you've ever spent any time pondering the question why any movie should cost $200 million to make maybe spending a few minutes viewing this promotional video from Marvel will help answer that question for you. It focuses squarely on one of the most complex tracking shots you'll ever see as the camera follows various members of the team engaging the intergalactic enemy on the ground and in the air over the streets of Manhattan.

Dec 27, 2012

"Jack Reacher" - 2012 - movie review

A taut, intelligent whodoneit "Jack Reacher" is the most fun I've had at a Tom Cruise movie in years. Written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie the film plays to Cruise's strengths (good guy with a sprinkling of anti-hero in his DNA who's on a mission) and in doing so prevents him from becoming the kind of distraction to the story he all-too-often is.

That story begins with a horrific crime wherein a sniper sets up in a parking garage and rains bloodshed down upon the populace of a midwestern city. Evidence quickly comes to light that implicates a former army sniper and Iraq veteran and when police raid his home they find enough additional evidence that links him to the crime to send him to the chair. As they try to get a confession out of him however he scribbles 3 words that have everyone involved scratching their heads: Get Jack Reacher.

Reacher, as it turns out, is also an Iraq veteran only he was a military policeman and the man accused of being the sniper was someone Reacher had tried desperately to send to the firing squad for killing 4 Iraqis in cold blood. At first he doesn't understand why the suspect would ask for him since he's clearly not an ally. In time it's discovered that he wanted Reacher involved because he knew Reacher would do the kind of thorough investigation that the case required.

Reacher's ally is the suspect's attorney Helen played by Rosamund Pike. While there's nothing wrong with her performance per se her character did seem to spend an inordinate amount of time with ample bosoms heaving generously astride their tectonic cleft for all to see. Not that I'm complaining, though it did get me to wondering exactly which midwestern city it is where the female attorneys dress thusly. Anyway, Helen's only thought in hooking up with Reacher is to gather enough evidence that her client was unhinged that she can keep him off death row. As Reacher digs deeper though it becomes apparent that there is more going on here than either initially suspected. A lot more.

Jack Reacher contains two of the years more intriguing supporting performances. One by Robert Duvall and the second by, of all people, the great Werner Herzog who plays the Eastern European head of a shadowy construction firm that has a history of getting what it wants. Duvall has lost none of his spunk and Herzog's Zec is every bit as unsettling and foreboding a character as you'd expect Herzog himself to be in real life.

While there are times when Cruise's dialogue sets the eyes to rolling (and to be sure the notion of him as a master of hand to hand kickassery is pretty funny too) for the most part the story unfolds in smart and unpredictable ways and holds your attention right up to the end, where I halfway expected Commissioner Gordon to pop up and say "He gave us a sign!"

While the similarities to "Taken" are pretty obvious Jack Reacher manages to stand on its own, mostly due to its middle American setting, it's occassional humor, and its post Iraq War topicality. If you're in the mood for a good, solid thriller/mystery/action flick Jack Reacher won't let you down.

2012 - The year in review - A good year at the box office

Perhaps it's a good omen for the future, perhaps it's just a one off but 2012 has officially become the most lucrative year in the history of the domestic box office.

For the first time since 2009 gross receipts actually increased this year to $10.8 billion. That's up $600 million over last year (though the total number of admissions is still down from 2002's all time high).

With nothing like "The Avengers" or "The Dark Knight Rises" on the slate for 2013 it may be asking a lot to hope that next year will see a continuation of the upward trend but we'll keep our fingers crossed.

Dec 25, 2012

Off the beaten track trailer of the day - "Kiss of Vengeance"

In the true spirit of Christmas we bring you this trailer for "Atrocious" director Fernando Barreda Luna's planned kill-em-all-and-let-god-sort-em-out feature "Kiss of Vengeance". What better way to celebrate the holiday than with some righteous wrath. Merry Christmas!

Watch for "Kiss of Vengeance" in 2013.

The top 10 movies for the weekend of December 21 - December 23, 2012

1) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey $36.7 Million
2) Jack Reacher $15.6 Million
3) This is 40 $12 Million
4) Rise of the Guardians $5.9 Million
5) Lincoln $5.6 Million
6) Guilt Trip $5.3 Million
7) Monsters Inc 3D $5 Million
8) Skyfall $4.7 Million
9) Life of Pi $3.8 Million
10) Twilight: Breaking Dawn 2 $2.6 Million
The number one movie a year ago this week was Paramount's "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" which took over the top spot in its third week of release with receipts of $29.5 million.

(Green indicates new release)

Dec 24, 2012

2012 - The year in review - The 5 worst major motion pictures of 2012

It was the best of times and - for the purposes of this list - it was the worst of times. That pretty much explains 2012 in movies. For every "Skyfall" there was a "Hunger Games", for every "Avengers" there was an "Iron Sky" to leave you muttering at the screen. The following is my personal list of the 5 worst films 2012 numbered 1-5 but in no actual order. I could easily fill out a worst 25 list but who wants to spend that much time recalling a bunch of cinematic duck farts? So 5 it is and here they are. 

1) John Carter: Misguided adaptation of the year easily becomes one of the worst major motion pictures of the year.

2) Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance: What do you say about a movie that makes the original "Ghost Rider" seem like "Lawrence of Arabia"? Not much.

3) The Hunger Games: If there was a more completely worthless media darling of a movie this year I'm not aware of it. The Disney post-apocalypse meets "Saw". Somewhere Donald Sutherland is quietly kicking himself for stooping this low.

4) Men in Black III - The first real indication that Will Smith is officially 'waning'. The film's shameless profiteering was almost as shameless as...

5) The Expendables II - Dear Diary: Today was a typical day on the Expendables II set. First the guys talked about lifting weights for 30 minutes. Then they reported to the set. After lots of manly Hollywood-style horsing around the camera guy said the camera would start rolling and the guys were told to act like they were killing bad guys and stuff. There were real Hollywood lights and cables and stuff. It was manrific! Then we had lunch. Then Chuck Norris stopped by so we got him a gun and and he moved it back and forth for a few minutes. He had to leave to get back to the bingo tournament but he's so great. You could feel you were in the presence of a real icon and stuff. After Chuck left, Ahnuld took a break to bang the cleaning lady and Sly ran out to get some more HGH. He didn't get back until it was dark so we turned on the camera and shot some footage of things blowing up at night. Awe-man-some! Sly's pretty confident he'll be able to exhume John Wayne for #3!

Dec 23, 2012

Tom Hardy as "Mad Max"

After allowing a couple of days for the worst of the Armageddon-esque effects to blow over we emerged from our pathetic survivalist hole today expecting to be greeted by naught but fiery embers but alas, the Mayans messed the bed big time and the world, warts and all, was still here. So it's back to work.

For our first non-post-apocalypse post we a an autographed photo of Tom Hardy as Max that leaked from the Fury Road set/production and found its way online via aintitcool. Granted its not a hell of a lot to work with but it gives some indication of the direction that costume design will take, which in this case seems more slanted toward the catastrophe that was "Thunderdome" and away from the genius of "Road Warrior". Of course it could also be that Max was just having a bad day and both costume design and the film in general will exceed our wildest expectations. Let's hope so. Here's the pic.

Dec 20, 2012

Damon Lindelof not returning for "Prometheus" sequel

In an interview with Collider the "Lost" writer confirmed the rumor that's been floating around that he won't be involved with the sequel to Ridley Scott's uneven sci-fi sorta-hit.

“I don’t see myself being involved...Lindelof says he told Scott; ‘I really don’t think I could start working on this movie until I do this other stuff. And I don’t know when the other stuff is going to be done.’  And he was like, “Well, okay, it’s not like I asked you anyways.”

So the sequel is at least moving in the right direction. For me another big drag was the score so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we'll hear something similar in the days ahead from composer Marc Streitenfeld.

Dec 19, 2012

Post apocalyptic Thursday

Since we're not supposed to make it to Sunday I thought we'd better wrap up our Post apocalyptic series today with five more visions of the other side. And since we're heading over the cliff tomorrow we thought "what's the harm in opening things up to some slightly older flicks?" So, since time is short here are the last five in our PA series.

The Matrix: One of my personal favorite films. The world ended but the survivors were never told. For those willing to peel themselves away from the TV and/or the monitor and peer outside it might seem like the Wachowski's were simply telling it like it is.

Le Jette: Chris Marker's short but monumental expression of what film could be uses still photography to present an obtuse narrative about scientists trying to undo the apocalypse by sending a man back through time to kill the responsible party. In lieu of a trailer here are 6 1/2 minutes of the film.

The Road Warrior: Consumer thirst for petroleum products induces a cataclysm that leaves naught but S&M afficianados wandering the wasteland in search of the precious juice. They pretty much have their way; until they run into Max.

The Quiet Earth: Scientist seeking the unobtainable "answer to all things" accidentally cause "the end of all things" and reality as we know it slips through cracks opened in the spacetime continuum.

Reign of Fire: Construction workers in London stumble upon a hive/nest of dragons awakening them and triggering the end of civilization. The unwashed survivors must learn how to harvest their meager tomato crops without becoming barbecue.

That's about it from us. Have a good apocalypse.

Dec 18, 2012

2012 - The year in review - The top 10 worldwide box office hits of 2012

While the final numbers aren't in yet this has been a real roller coaster of a year at the box office with everything from the runaway success of "The Avengers" to the Wachowski's DOA "Cloud Atlas". Appalling events like the Colorado theater shooting sent domestic box office results reeling for a couple of weeks while the number of movie goers in places like totalitarian China continues to grow by the day. While overall numbers will likely show a modest increase this year over last the fact is that the number of movies being produced by studios continues to dwindle as the focus on humungous, tent-pole productions continues to grow.

So without further ado here are the 10 biggest global box office successes of 2012.

1) The Avengers - $1.5 billion

2) The Dark Knight Rises - $1.08 billion

3) Skyfall* - $952 million

4) Ice Age: Continental Drift* - $875 million

5) Twilight Breaking Dawn 2* - $778 million

6) The Amazing Spider-Man - $752 million

7) Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted - $742 million

8) The Hunger Games - $686 million

9) Men in Black 3 - $624 million

10) Brave - $535 million

* Still in theaters as of this writing.

"Star Trek Into Darkness" - trailer 2

This new trailer expands on the dark mood of the first and places the weight of events (and the blame for them?) squarely onto Kirk's shoulders as we hear Admiral Pike's admonition "'re going to get yourself and everyone under your command killed!" And again with the "Wrath of Khan" echos at the end. What's up with that?

"Star Trek Into Darkness" opens May 13, 2013.

The top 10 movies for the weekend of December 14 - December 16, 2012

1) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey $84.6 Million
2) Rise of the Guardians $7.1 Million
3) Lincoln $7 Million
4) Skyfall $6.5 Million
5) Life of Pi $5.4 Million
6) Twilight: Breaking Dawn 2 $5.1 Million
7) Wreck-It Ralph $3.2 Million
8) Playing for Keeps $3.1 Million
9) Red Dawn $2.4 Million
10) Silver Linings Playbook $2.1 Million

The number one movie a year ago this week was Warner Brother's "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" which debuted in the top spot with a $39.6 million haul.

(Green indicates new release)

Dec 17, 2012

"Mad Max: Fury Road" wraps up principle photography

Well, it's been a good long time that folks have been waiting to hear this news; Mad Max 4 has wrapped up principle photography and now it's back to Australia for George Miller and Company for post production. The film was snake-bitten for years but finally seems to be on track, though it's still a film in search of a release date. A few months ago Warner's, concerned that the production was running over budget, sent a watchdog to oversea things in Africa and since then there's been nary a discouraging word coming out of Kennedy-Miller Productions or the studio. Let's hope there'll be no more delays and we'll hear about that release date soon.

Goin' home. Fury Road moves back to the land down under after a 6 month shoot in Namibia.

Dec 16, 2012

Post-apocalyptic Sunday II

With five days remaining until the end of all things we're continuing our exploration of the best post-apocalyptic films of recent years, in no particular order. The hope is that, should anyone still be around on Saturday, they'll be able to take their lead from what they've seen here. So here goes...

"Dredd 3D". The human population of Earth has been confined to a few megacities following a calamity of uncertain origin. We live in ginormous mega-block buildings where hope seems the rarest of elements. But take heart, if you're a heavily armed policeman you might be able to secure some rights!

Next up "28 Days Later". In a word "RUN!"

Next is "The Day After Tomorrow". Moral of the story here? Forget about that multi million dollar penthouse in midtown. Only those who currently supply the world with cheap labor shall survive the revenge of the North Atlantic current.

And finally we give you Frank Darabout's "The Mist". Better be sure!

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" - 2012 - movie review

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is, on the whole, a delightful film. Though it hits many of the same beats as its Lord of the Rings predecessors, occasionally lapses into flat out nostalgia for said earlier trilogy, suffers in spots from second rate CG (see: the wargs) and lacks a true climax it nonetheless manages to succeed in spite of itself.

The film starts slowly with Bilbo (played by Ian Holm as he prepares for the party at the beginning of "Fellowship of the Ring") narrating the mandatory prologue. The purpose of this prologue though is different than the one on Fellowship. That prologue's job was mainly historical while the prologue here serves to present us a more fully realized picture of the Dwarves than Tolkien himself gave us in the book. Consequently by the time they arrive at Bilbo's door their zany antics are no longer just the cuddly wuddly shenanigans of a bunch of munchkin clones but instead can be seen almost as a kind of defense mechanism the Dwarves employ to deal with their time in the wilderness. So, right off the bat Jackson diffuses an aspect of the original story that could have potentially kept a lot of adult butts out of theater seats and actually makes it a kind of dramatic ally in the process.

After the prologue we flash back 60 years and Gandalf arrives at Bag End to coerce a much younger Bilbo (Martin Freeman) into joining the company of Thorin Oakenshield as the Dwarf leader and his band of a dozen compatriots set out on a quest to reclaim their historical home Erebor (The Lonely Mountain) from the dragon Smaug. Smaug - as we learned in the prologue - crashed the Dwarf party decades earlier and laid claim to the Dwarf king Thror's accumulated treasure. Bilbo is reluctant to go but Gandalf eggs him on by reminding him of his earlier, apparently more adventurous days. Ultimately, faced with the fact that the company has left without him Bilbo is bitten by wanderlust and catches up to them.

As they head out on their way the company is beset by Orcs who seek to capture and/or kill Thorin for his having cut off the arm of the Orc leader, the Pale Orc, during an earlier battle. We're also presented with the wizard Radagrast the Brown who lives a solitary life in the forest. He's become aware of a dark force at work but can't put his finger on exactly what it might be. We see the Stone Giants duking it out in perhaps the movie's only truly pointless scene and we visit the underground kingdom of the Goblins, which is connected to the same cave where Gollum is holed up with the ring of power and where Bilbo engages him in the world's most famous riddle game.

Jackson and company go to extraordinary lengths to retrofit The Hobbit into the LOTR narrative (Tolkien of course never intended The Hobbit to be anything but a stand alone children's book). The introduction and handling of all things "ring of power" are given waaaaayyy more weight than they had in the original story, Sauruman (Christopher Lee) is given a steady stream of dialogue hinting that he's already at work to undermine the good people of Middle Earth and that shadowy figure Radagrast is dealing with is built up until his/her identity - though unspoken in the movie - becomes crystal clear to everyone in the audience who hasn't been living under a rock. (At the time he wrote The Hobbit Tolkien had no idea who this character would morph into.) It's a narrative sub thread that was present in the book to be sure but is used here in a wink wink fashion intended to bolster the prequel trilogy's prequel-cred (say that 5 times fast). It's during these moments - when the film makers motivations are on full display - that the movie stumbles a bit.

Still, while An Unexpected Journey does occasionally stumble it never careens entirely off the track and through most of the film I sat drooling at the spectacle like the obedient 21st century entertainment consumer I can be. There is plenty of wonder, joy, intrigue and pathos on display as well as physical humor that had little place in the earlier trilogy but which works here because it's both character appropriate and isn't overused. If there is a genuine "problem" dogging the production it's the same narrative one that popped up in the earlier trilogy: the eagles. Is there a person alive today who doesn't see them and think "why don't they just fly all the way to your location of choice here?" Damn good question that...

As far as the cast is concerned Martin Freeman is fine as Bilbo but perhaps just a bit too much the everyman to be perfect for that character. Frodo, in the form of Elijah Wood, makes an appearance at the start of the film but was gone before everyone in the theater had taken their seats. Richard Armitage as Thorin brings tremendous range and authority to his role while the rest of the Dwarf actors are neither problematic nor memorable, which is probably the best you can ask. The one-man distraction machine that is Andy Serkis has his time here blissfully limited and isn't the anchor weighing down the proceedings he was in "Two Towers" and "Return of the King". Many of the other returning veterans though were decidedly worse for wear and whenever the likes of Christopher Lee or Ian Holm were on screen you could almost see the hands of the assistants reaching out prepared to catch them should they keel over. Ian McKellen as well looks exceedingly ashen at the beginning of the film but miraculously seems to get younger and more vivacious as the film goes along.

Though three hours long I didn't feel at any time that the film was dragging. Some scenes - like the whole Goblin kingdom under the Misty Mountain sequence - could have been cut and I wouldn't have missed them at all but they didn't (with the exception of the rock giants scene) feel like they'd just been dropped into the story from another planet. They fit. They just weren't needed.

Film making is like painting: sometimes you need to mix yellow and blue right on the canvas to get the green you want and sometimes you can just use the green that's in the tube. In Jackson's world, where he's the editor in chief who believes everything he does is right, what you get is lots of mixing on the canvas that isn't really necessary. The Goblin scene is one such example. It wasn't bad per se, it just didn't add anything to the story. It smacked of content for an extended DVD release.

I entered the theater to see "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" last night with my mid-drift bulge quivering in nervous anticipation. Would it be a garden of cinematic delights ala "Fellowship of the Ring", a tortuous epic that largely got lost on the way to The End ala "Return of the King" or pretty good ala "The Two Towers"? The answer is "yes". There's a garden of cinematic delights clanking around inside a pretty good movie that bears little resemblance scale-wise to the source material and is padded with narrative moments it doesn't really need. But it's only when you get to the end of the film and begin to think back upon it that you realize that not much actually happened here, that much of the action in the film has taken place in flashback or on the sidelines. In three hours Bilbo and the Dwarves basically went down the street and around the corner where they spied their destination a hundred miles hence. It's a testament to Tolkien's book, the astonishing New Zealand locations (both natural and CG enhanced) and Peter Jackson as well that so little could be made to feel like so much. Hopefully though, in subsequent installments, what I feel I'm getting will match what is actually delivered.

Note: I saw the film in 2D on a standard screen at 24 fps, unconvinced by any arguments I'd heard explaining why I should see this movie in 48 fps, 3D IMAX. As it turns out I made the right choice. It looked great in the traditional format.

Dec 15, 2012

Final "Hobbit" production video

Chris and I are headed out tonight to see "The Hobbit" so this represents the final piece of buildup, which is pretty amazing when I think about it. Can't believe the movie actually goes wide this weekend.

So anyway this final production video covers the hours and days leading up to the big Wellington premiere. Also, Chris should have his review up in a day or two so be sure to check back for that.

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" hits theaters... NOW!

Dec 14, 2012

New trailer for "Zero Dark Thirty"

This new trailer for Kathryn Bigelow's Osama bin Laden flick finally spends some time fleshing out Jessica Chastain's shadowy CIA analyst. It seems fairly apparent that she will be the at (or at the very least near) the center of the narrative.

James Gandolfini, Mark Strong and Kyle Chandler also star. Zero Dark Thirty is due in theaters January 11, 2013.

Dec 13, 2012

"Pacific Rim" - full trailer

The trailer doesn't stray too far from the montage that was released recently but that's okay. The movie looks like a straight-up giant monster flick and I always enjoy a straight-up giant monster flick if it's done right. A big part of me hopes Pacific Rim will be everything Roland Emmerich's "Godzilla" was not. So far so good.

"Pacific Rim" hits theaters July 12, 2013.

Dec 12, 2012

"Man of Steel" full trailer

The full trailer for Zack Snyder's Superman reboot "Man of Steel" is finally here. Looks moody mournful with lots of sunlight at low angles, snow, open ocean and important words spoken with gravity and and heartfelt earnestness. Snyder and producer Christopher Nolan are demonstrating all due respect for the source material which is great (love him or hate him Superman does stand apart from the rest of the superhero universe), but Superman isn't supposed to be ALL sturm und drang, is he? And am I the only one flashing back to "Gladiator" when I watch this?

"Man of Steel" opens June 14th 2013.

Dec 10, 2012

The top 10 movies for the weekend of December 7 - December 9, 2012

1) Skyfall $10.7 Million
2) Rise of the Guardians $10.4 Million
3) Twilight: Breaking Dawn 2 $9.1 Million
4) Lincoln $8.9 Million
5) Life of Pi $8.3 Million
6) Playing for Keeps $5.7 Million
7) Wreck-It Ralph $4.8 Million
8) Red Dawn $4.2 Million
9) Flight $3.1 Million
10) Killing Them Softly $2.8 Million

The number one movie a year ago this week was Warner Brother's "New Year's Eve" which debuted in the top spot with a $13 million haul.

(Green indicates new release)

Dec 9, 2012

"Iron Man 3" Japanese trailer

"Nothing's been the same since New York." muses Tony Stark. And in this new Japanese trailer for "Iron Man 3" we get a more complete glimpse of what he means than we got in the previously released US trailers as Ben Kingsley's 'Mandarin' brings his argument right to Tony's cliffside door. That shot of the saucer section plummeting into the sea is devastating and makes me wonder if the Enterprise and her crew will... oh. Wait. Nevermind.

2012 - The year in review 1 - Prometheus

This piece contains plot spoilers. You have been warned.

Of all the disappointing movies in 2012 none were more so for me than Ridley Scott's "Prometheus" which arrived brimming with promise and stumbled across the finish line leaving me feeling like I'd just had a great dinner and then got food poisoning from the desert. Back in May I saw it several times in the theater and was of a mind that it was a very good movie that could have been a great one.

With the end of the year (and the world?) staring us in the face now seemed like a good time to begin my year end reviews by revisiting the one movie I had truly high hopes for. I'm going to expand on some of the things I mentioned in my initial review and try and touch on other things I either didn't have space to discuss originally or which only became apparent to me on repeat viewings. To aid me in my quest I watched the DVD a couple of times this past week. 

Let's start at the beginning shall we? It's 2089 right? Are you telling me they don't have some sort of communication device Shaw can use to notify Holloway that she found something in the cave? Here we are 77 years behind them and I think most grammar school kids today would know to simply send him an SMS. Not these future folks though. They stand on the mountainside and scream.

Moving on we come to the matter of one Fifield. The most poorly conceived, poorly written character in major motion pictures this year. All those responsible for this character seeing the light of the big screen should get a special Oscar for "WTF of the year". Every second this nasty clown is on the screen the film is substantially diminished. Fifield is the kind of character that might work for a week or two on "Survivor" or "Lost" but has absolutely no place in a serious sci-fi motion picture. You can get away with things on TV you simply cannot get away with in the theater. If "Lost: featuring Fifield" comes on the tube a viewer can just turn the station and watch a Simpsons rerun. In the theater though that same viewer has only 2 choices: either put up with it or leave, and no one wants to walk out of a movie after just plopping down hard earned cash for their seat.

Next we come to Vickers. Right up front I should say I like Charlize Theron. She's a damn fine actor. Here however she's wasted; told to stand in the shadows and sneer or stand in the foreground and sneer. Her character has not a single redeeming quality. Even the revelation that she's Weyland's long ignored daughter (a fact which is apparently at the heart of her loathsomeness) lands flat because it comes out at the same time she's making a public pitch for the old man to die so that she can get her hands on his money. The scene made modest allusion to the confrontation in Scott's "Gladiator" where Commodus vents at his Emperor father for his years of neglect yet it carries none of that scene's power. Imagine if Commodus had said his famous "I'd slaughter the world, if you would just love me!" and then let slip "Oh, and will you hurry up and die so I can have your sandals?"

There are myriad other problems with the film and they almost all come down to writing. More specifically characterization(s). Among these problems are: trained scientists who repeatedly do the most bone-headed things imaginable. Crew members who decide on the spot to sacrifice their lives with little more than a light-hearted chuckle. Janek and Vickers who go from adversaries to lovers to adversaries without even a "how could you?" There's the engineers who, for absolutely no apparent reason are filled with naught but seething hostility for their progeny. Charlie Holloway who goes from excited kid to depressed boozer in a matter of minutes without even a quick shot of him frowning in between. And Janek, who spontaneously changes from disinterested skipper of the Minnow to an analyst for Jane's Defense Weekly.

Here's a few other things that don't add up for me:
Exactly how did the homocidal engineer know that Shaw had left his ship and gone to the lifeboat?
How is it that the xenomorph at the very end is born full-size?
How did the union of Shaw and Holloway produce a land-based carnivorous octopus? The goo by itself is not life but a kind of steroid. Holloway ingested the goo which should have changed him into something more aggressive, (like it did with the worms) then when he mated with Shaw they should have produced some kind of mean-spirited hyper offspring. But a room-sized, Octobaby-facesucker? Where did the DNA for that come from?
Let's not even talk about Shaw's winning the Olympic decathlon minutes after having her mid-section sliced open and stapled back together.

I honestly cannot think of another film where the disconnect between the pictures and the words are so pronounced. Prometheus is both a stunning visual achievement and a narrative mess. The picture people knew how to utilize every square inch of the movie screen to breathtaking advantage. The sound people (writers and composer Marc Streitenfeld) thought they were writing for TV where mistakes can be glossed over or buried in an avalanche of episodes and insipid scores are de rigueur. The score, in fact, is so cheesy, small and inappropriate that, even if the writers hadn't suffered from their extended brain cramps, Prometheus might have failed to get off the launch pad because of it.

Prometheus had no business being as confusing and inexplicable as it was but it was a modest financial success and plans for a sequel are well under way. As such it is my most heartfelt wish that Ridley Scott purge his sequel crew of anyone that had anything to do with the script for this film - as well as the composer - and start fresh. Restraining orders should be taken out on Damon Lindelof and Marc Streitenfeld ordering them to have no contact of any kind with anyone involved in the production of the sequel and all the reality show castoffs who died in Prometheus must stay dead. The last thing a sequel needs is a Vickers clone.

There were enough things afoot at the end of Prometheus to provide for a rich and satisfying sequel that could make us forget about film 1's shortcomings. For that to happen though Ridley Scott will have to leave many of his crew from Prometheus on LV-223 as he follows Shaw and David into the unknown and focus on storytelling - not just ass-kicking visuals - next time around.

Dec 8, 2012

Post-apocalyptic Sunday

With the end of the world looming on December 21st we thought this would be a good time to serve up some visions of what the coming post apocalypse will look like. Of course all of the works below are predicated on the notion that something survives the apocalypse because, well, if the earth is simply smashed into a quadrillion little pieces and everyone's scarred carcases are scattered throughout the void what's the fun in that? So here's hoping somebody survives and here's our first glimpse of what the world of 2013 might look like.

First up is "Epoch", an independent work from director Anthony Scott Burns.

Next up is "Oblivion" starring Tom Cruise and directed by "Tron: Legacy" director Joseph Kosinski.

Next we have "Total Recall" with Colin Ferrell, one of my favorite sci-fi films of this last year of life as we know it.

And finally (for this week) we have "Rosa" an animated short from Jesus Orellana.

So there you have it. 4 future visions an enterprising survivor might use as a guide for navigating the coming wasteland. Enjoy and don't forget to stock up on Spam before its too late.

Dec 7, 2012

13 minute preview of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

With 2 weeks to go until the film opens anticipation is peaking. To give true fanatics that little push over the edge into complete hysteria Peter Jackson and Co have released this 13 minute preview. There is a LOT of footage in here that never made it into any of the trailers or already released TV clips and that alone makes this something worth watching. Not only that but Christopher Lee makes his first appearance during this go 'round in Middle Earth. While he's certainly showing his age physically it's great to see that he retains his unbridled enthusiasm for the material.

Dec 6, 2012

"Star Trek Into Darkness" trailer is here and it's not messing around


Can you say "Wrath of Khan"?

UPDATE: The Japanese version can be found over at apple trailers and contains a very direct allusion to the aforementioned WoK that is missing in the American version. Check it out here.

Dec 4, 2012

Off the beaten track trailer of the day - "Kin Dza Dza"

An odd couple mess with an alien transportation device and get teleported to another planet. This is an animated remake of a 1986 Soviet-era sci-fi flick. Though the lack of subtitles makes it near impossible (for me anyway) to decipher what I'm told are subtle sociological critiques I have to say I'm loving the animation.

The top 10 movies for the weekend of November 30 - December 2, 2012

1) Twilight: Breaking Dawn 2 $17.4 Million
2) Skyfall $16.5 Million
3) Rise of the Guardians $13.38 Million
4) Lincoln $13.37 Million
5) Life of Pi $12.1 Million
6) Wreck-It Ralph $6.9 Million
7) Killing Them Softly $6.8 Million
8) Red Dawn $6.5 Million
9) Flight $4.4 Million
10) The Collection $3.1 Million

The number one movie a year ago this week was Summit's "Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1" which held on to the top spot for a sthird week with $16.5 million.

(Green indicates new release)

Dec 3, 2012

"Star Trek Into Darkness" poster

Paramount has released the first poster for J.J. Abrams' Star Trek sequel (below) and it paints a pretty grim picture. In keeping with the recently released synopsis it appears that earth has come out on the losing end of a knock-down-drag-out and Kirk (if that is Kirk in the poster) has decided to channel Neo as part of his revenge scenario. Sounds good to me. As long as it's the Neo from the original Matrix.

Look for "Star Trek Into Darkness" in theaters May 13, 2013.

Dec 2, 2012

Smaug crashes the party in "Hobbit" TV spot 10

The marketing department is working overtime in the buildup to the December 14th release of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey". This newest TV spot boasts a cameo by the big baddie of the trilogy himself, Smaug. Don't blink or you'll miss it.

Dec 1, 2012

TV spot #9 for "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

12 days to go until we find out if Peter Jackson's return to Middle Earth was worth the wait or if it'll drown in dwarf-clowns and disappear into 48 fps hyperspace. Fingers officially crossed.

Nov 30, 2012

"Skyfall" tops $800 million in global box office

"Skyfall" is one of the feel good movie stories of the year. After the mis-step that was "Quantum of Solace" and after the prolonged delay caused by studio financial troubles, Sam Mendes, Daniel Craig et al delivered what, in my opinion, is the best movie of the year. Skyfall has shown remarkable legs at theaters worldwide and Thursday surpassed $800 million in global box office reciepts. That's a full $200 million more than the previous franchise record holder, the equally excellent "Casino Royale". With China and Japan still to open it now seems likely "Skyfall" will top $900 million in global receipts. It's particularly good to see a thoughtful adult movie reach such lofty numbers. The results also bode well for those who'd like to see Sam Mendes return for Bond 24.

"That's right. I'm bad." - Daniel Craig in "Skyfall"

Nov 29, 2012

Teaser for Del Toro's "Pacific Rim"

Guillermo Del Toro channels "Cloverfield" in this teaser montage for "Pacific Rim" which purports to follow the first attack by the monstrously big "Kaiju" who inexplicably rise from the Pacific one day and move to take over the earth. In response, mankind constructs equally gigantic robots called "Jaegers" and the battle is joined.

"Pacific Rim" hits theaters July 12, 2013.

New TV spot for "The Hobbit"

2 weeks and counting down until the US release. This is the first spot I've seen that has Frodo front and center. It also demonstrates pretty clearly that the great Ian Holm is too old to have played the younger Bilbo as many fans were hoping he would when the film was being cast. Still, it's good to see both him and Elijah Wood in Middle Earth again.

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" opens December 14th.

"Avatar 2" to begin filming in 2013

While attending the New Zealand premiere of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" James Cameron had a few things to say about his own long-awaited sequel.

Speaking to the press on the red carpet Cameron stated: “I want to get these scripts nailed down. I don't want to be writing the movie in post production. We kind of did that on the first picture, I ended up cutting out a lot of scenes and I don't want to do that again.”

He also indicated that he'd be open to 48 FPS for his return to Pandora if the public accepts its use in Peter Jackson's new epic and that he's been working on the Avatar 2 and 3 scripts on his New Zealand farm but "Unfortunately it's too damn distracting because it's so beautiful". Still, he believes he'll have both scripts finished by February and begin filming before 2013 is out.

Source: The West Australian

Nov 28, 2012

"Star Trek Into Darkness" has a new official synopsis

J.J. Abrams super-secret Star Trek sequel now has an official story line trekkers can dissect with a fine tooth comb for the next six months and here it is:

"When the crew of the Enterprise is called back home, they find an unstoppable force of terror from within their own organization has detonated the fleet and everything it stands for, leaving our world in a state of crisis. With a personal score to settle, Captain Kirk leads a manhunt to a war-zone world to capture a one man weapon of mass destruction. As our heroes are propelled into an epic chess game of life and death, love will be challenged, friendships will be torn apart, and sacrifices must be made for the only family Kirk has left: his crew.”

While I'm not sure how one "detonates" a fleet the story in general sounds like a blast (so to speak).

Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine in Paramount's "Star Trek"
 "Star Trek Into Darkness" hits theaters May 17, 2013.

Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen return to the X-Men universe

Brian Singer has announced via twitter that both Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart will be reprising their roles as Magneto and Professor X respectively in the upcoming "X-Men: Days of Future Past". This seems to confirm that the storyline for the new film will more or less follow the 1981 comic book which alternated between a future where mutants lived in internment camps and a "present" where they were fighting the good fight to achieve basic rights. I for one welcome the return of these iconic stars to the cinematic world they helped create and can't wait to see the final product (which is due in theaters in December 2014).

Ian McKellen with Patrick Stewart. Photo: Tim Whitby/Getty Images Europe

Nov 26, 2012

The top 10 movies for the weekend of November 23 - November 25, 2012

1) Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 $43.6 Million
2) Skyfall $35.5 Million
3) Lincoln $25.6 Million
4) Rise of the Guardians $23.7 Million
5) Life of Pi $22.4 Million
6) Wreck-It Ralph $16.5 Million
7) Red Dawn $14.2 Million
8) Flight $8.4 Million
9) Silver Linings Playbook $4.3 Million
10) Argo $3.8 Million

The number one movie a year ago this week was Summit's "Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1" which held on to the top spot for a second week with $41.6 million.

(Green indicates new release)

First TV spot for "Zero Dark Thirty"

Kathryn Bigelow's real-world thriller is due for wide release January 13th and the first TV spot is finally here. Some of this material was already used in the trailer but there's some new stuff too. Just for the record "Zero Dark Thirty" is a military term for late at night.

Nov 24, 2012

Production video #9 for "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

It's hard to believe there's less than 3 weeks to go until the big premiere of "The Hobbit" but it's true. After years of legal wrangling with fans having their hopes repeatedly raised and dashed the hour is nearly upon us when we can sit down in a dark room with a bunch of strangers and indulge in some first rate fantasy!

Just to add fuel to the anticipatory fire Peter Jackson et al have released what will probably be the final production video which takes us through some of the madness as deadlines loom in Kiwi country and folks are living on coffee and fear. Let's have a look.

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" opens December 14th.

Nov 23, 2012

First footage from horror sequel "The Host 2"

The good folks at Twitch have posted a first look at the upcoming monster sequel "The Host 2". At the end of this short clip (which actually looks pretty cool) is what's being touted as a "visual effects breakdown" but is really just an incredibly insipid imitation of a breakdown whose big reveal is that the-fish-from-Raccoon-City was actually added digitally after the car footage was shot. Who would have thought they could do such a thing in this day and age? What will they think of next? Wireless telephones?!

Nov 22, 2012

Thanksgiving treat - deleted scene from "Thor"

I'm of the opinion that Kenneth Branagh's "Thor" is the best superhero movie out there. It confidently occupies both the real and mythic worlds with grace and humor, is perfectly cast, full of compelling action and at its heart is a story strong enough to spin "The Avengers" off of. I've seen it perhaps 20 times and never tire of it.

Though the movie works just fine as is it's still interesting to see what wound up on the cutting room floor and now Marvel has released a scene from the end of the film that has Natalie Portman attempting to send a signal to the big guy in the sky, just in case he forgot where she lived. It's a nice scene though I don't think it adds anything to the story really. But view it and decide for yourself.

Off the beaten track trailer of the day - "Valley of Saints"

This Thanksgiving I'm thankful there are still beautiful places like Kashmir in the world and that there are people out there dedicated to capturing these beautiful places on film. So for nothing more than purely aesthetic reasons I present to you the gorgeous trailer for "Valley of Saints". Enjoy and happy Thanksgiving.

Nov 21, 2012

Sam Mendes to direct Bond 24?

Sam Mendes - Getty images
Not too long ago (less than a month ago actually) Sam Mendes seemed to take  himself out of the director's chair for the next installment in the adventures of 007. He claimed exhaustion and talked about how the second time around you don't have the luxury of an untapped well of ideas. Now, however, he seems to be inching back toward Bond in comments he made to Time Out:

“I’ve enjoyed it enough to do it again. I think the choice is in the audience’s hands. If people love the movie and they want to see another one from the same people who brought you ‘Skyfall,’ then that would mean a lot to me.”

You'd have to have spent the past couple of weeks under a rock not to know how positive the reception has been for "Skyfall" both critically and commercially. So does this mean Mendes will indeed be returning? Honestly only time will tell but it's looking better all the time.

December 14th: Trailer day

With 9 minutes of "Star Trek Into Darkness" set to premier before IMAX 3D showings of "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" and the first real trailer from said Star Trek flick set to premier before non-IMAX showings of said "Hobbit" film December 14th was already shaping up to be a pretty good day from coming attractions. Now you can add to that a new trailer for Zack Snyder's "Man of Steel" which the director implies will also be attached to Peter Jackson's "Hobbit".

Snyder broke the news to MTV: "I can't wait for The Hobbit, so it will be fun to see our crazy Man of Steel trailer and then enjoy the Hobbit because that's going to be great. It just feels like a fun Christmas thing to do, drag the whole family out for that action."

"Man of Steel" bows in cinemas June 14, 2013.

Nov 19, 2012

Interesting clip from upcoming sci-fi project "2088"

It's just another night on the beat in the year 2088 for LA's finest... until the attack bots arrive! I hate when that happens!

Here's a promotional blurb from SMI-Entertainment which attempts to put into context what we're looking at here.

The challenge: To produce, direct and write a transmedia sci-fi/drama property that will entice audiences from all around the world, allowing people to experience this story through multi-platform touch points.

The top 10 movies for the weekend of November 16 - November 18, 2012

1) Twilight: Breaking Dawn 2 $141 Million
2) Skyfall $41.1 Million
3) Lincoln $21 Million
4) Wreck-It Ralph $18.5 Million
5) Flight $8.8 Million
6) Argo $4 Million
7) Taken 2 $2.1 Million
8) Jab Tak Hai Jaan $1.2 Million
9) Pitch Perfect $1.2 Million
10) Here Comes The Boom $1.1 Million

The number one movie a year ago this week was Summit's "Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1" which debuted in the top spot with $138.1 million.

 (Green indicates new release)

Another one bites the dust - Brad Bird rules himself O.U.T.

Well another day means another big name director taking themselves out of the picture; the "Star Wars Episode VII" picture that is. Today's director-who'll-be-the-first-in-line-to-see-Ep7 is Brad Bird. “The science fiction film I AM doing, is gonna be cool,” he said via a fan hookup on Twitter. That cool film he's referring to is "1952", a film about which little is known at this point.

Correct me if I'm wrong but this Star Wars thing is supposed to be a coveted gig isn't it?

May the force be with you 'cause I'm outa here.

Nov 17, 2012

"Star Trek Into Darkness" trailer coming December 14

J.J. Abrams already revealed that the first 9 minutes of his new Trek film will preview before "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" on 500 IMAX screens December 14th. Now it's been learned that a full trailer for "Into Darkness" will play before non-IMAX showings of the Hobbit. Trekmovie claims multiple confirmed sources for this information and states in their story that this will not be a condensed version of the 9 minute IMAX preview, nor will it be merely a short teaser trailer. So something for every Trek fan coming December 14th, as well as a little something for Hobbit fans too.

One of 3 frames from "Star Trek Into Darkness" previously released by Paramount.

"Star Trek Into Darkness" warps into theaters May 13, 2013.

Bilbo takes center stage in new "Hobbit" TV spot

The latest TV spot for "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" has hit the small screen and it's all Bilbo all the (30 second) time. Lot's of previously unseen shots. Check it out.

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" opens December 14th.

Nov 16, 2012

Tarantino thinks old directors should go away

Steve dude! Time to hit quitsville road man!
In an interview with Playboy a soon-to-be 50 Quentin Tarantino offered his opinion of aging directors and, to quote QT himself "it's not pretty". Here's what he had to say.

"Who knows what I’ll do? I just don’t want to be an old-man filmmaker... I want to stop at a certain point. Directors don’t get better as they get older. Usually the worst films in their filmography are those last four at the end. I am all about my filmography, and one bad film f---s up three good ones. I don’t want that bad, out-of-touch comedy in my filmography, the movie that makes people think, 'Oh man, he still thinks it’s 20 years ago.' When directors get out-of-date, it’s not pretty."

Coming from a guy who hasn't directed a decent movie since 2004's "Kill Bill Vol 2" he certainly knows what he's talking about with that last statement.

Nov 15, 2012

"Star Trek Into Darkness" to preview before "The Hobbit"

Paramount and IMAX® Filmed Entertainment have announced that the first 9 minutes of J.J. Abrams "Star Trek Into Darkness" will preview before Peter Jackson's long awaited "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" in 500 IMAX 3D theaters starting December 14th. The second installment in Abram's re-imagining of the Trek universe opens May 19th of next year.

Here's a portion of the announcement.

 “Our longtime partners J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk and the Bad Robot team have really hit it out of the park – the footage is absolutely incredible... Their use of the IMAX Camera and canvas is sure to impress current and future Star Trek fans alike, and we’re thrilled to once again work with our friends at Paramount Pictures to offer this extended ‘first look’ at this highly anticipated summer blockbuster.”

A first look at Star Trek Into Darkness is coming December 14th.

"The ABCs of Death" - trailer

Bring together 26 directors of varying reputation, give them each a letter and task them with making a short film that has to do with dying by way of some means that starts with their assigned letter and what do you get? Why "The ABCs of Death" of course. Most definitely Not Safe For Work.

The ABCs of Death will be available on demand January 31, 2013.

Nov 14, 2012

New trailer for "Oz: The Great and Powerful"

I still want to know why you need an origin story for someone who was a character in Dorothy's dream. That said it looks like it could be decent afternoon at the movies for the young-uns.

"Oz: The Great and Powerful" opens March 8, 2013.

Frank Marshall dishes about Indy, Bourne and more

MTV news caught up to mega-producer Frank Marshall at the LA premier of the latest "Twilight" movie and asked him some pointed questions about the future of the Bourne franchise, the identity of the director for "Episode 7" and whether the LucasFilm sale to Disney had any impact on the future of the long talked about "Indy 5" movie. That film had pretty much slipped into the development underworld a while ago but there were some diehard Indy fanatics who'd hoped that recent events might have breathed some life into the corpse. Unfortunately instead of breathing life into Indy Marshall seems to toss dirt onto the Jones casket. Listen to the whole thing.

Nov 13, 2012

Entire early version of "Prometheus" script available online

If you're like me you thought Ridley Scott's "Prometheus" was a film that got lost somewhere in the writing process. Brimming with potential and visually stunning with a great cast the film seemed to suffer from too many cooks in the kitchen. It's been well documented that Jon Spaihts' original story was subjected to revision and embellishment at the hands of Damon Lindelof and many, including me, feel the film suffered mightily for it.

Now a pre-Lindelof version of the script has surfaced online and anyone willing to take a trip over to here is welcome to read it. (If you're willing to sign up to scribd you can even download it.) While I'm not sure this script would have been everything I wanted as it is, I do think it has a much more cohesive feel to it start to finish than "Prometheus" wound up having. Read it yourself and decide.

Nov 12, 2012

The top 10 movies for the weekend of November 9 - November 11, 2012

1) Skyfall $88.3 Million
2) Wreck-It Ralph $33 Million
3) Flight $14.7 Million
4) Argo $6.6 Million
5) Taken 2 $4 Million
6) Cloud Atlas $2.6 Million
7) The Man with the Iron Fists $2.59 Million
8) Pitch Perfect $2.57 Million
9) Here Comes The Boom $2.52 Million
10) Hotel Transylvania $2.4 Million

The number one movie a year ago this week was Relativity's "Immortals" which debuted in the top spot with $32.2 million.

(Green indicates new release)

"Skyfall" rewrites the Bond box office record books

There was only one story at the box office this weekend and it's name was Bond, James Bond. "Skyfall" smashed the previous opening weekend record for a 007 film by hauling in an estimated $87.8 million at the North Amerian box office. Add to that another $95 million it pulled in overseas during the weekend and Daniel Craig's 3rd run in Bond's shoes has already captured an estimated $518 million in global treasure. The film is poised to become the first Bond film to shatter the $600 million mark worldwide and with Japan and Australia still to open and a long run ahead in North America is probably looking at a final global take that's north of $750 million. Amazing and well deserved.

Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris, Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Director Sam Mendes and Bernice Marlohe of "Skyfall"

Nov 10, 2012

Off the beaten track trailer of the day - "Tragedi Penerbangan 574"

Take a corpse and load it into the cargo hold of an airplane full of superstitious types and what d'ya get? "Tragedi Penerbangan 574" which I'm thinking means something like "We couldn't afford a continuity guy". First the trailer:

Not that it really matters but I couldn't help noticing they placed that corpse on a rear-engine Fokker F28...

but once it headed down the runway it took on the distinctive profile of a Boeing 737 with flat-bottomed engines out on the wings.

What's more, the poster for the film shows a jet with yet another engine type: out on the wings and perfectly round.

I think that ghost is trying to mess with my mind!

Nov 9, 2012

Michael Arndt confirmed to write "Star Wars Episode 7"

Michael Arndt with his bling
Who'da thought Star Wars would be back in the forefront of tentpole talk as we wind down 2012? Not anyone I know. But here we are and here it is with the latest piece of news coming out of the marriage of LucasFilm and Disney being that Michael Arndt is officially confirmed to be writing the screenplay for Episode 7.

Arndt, well known for his work on "Toy Story 3" and "Little Miss Sunshine" (for which he won an Oscar), is said to have already completed a 40 - 50 page treatment for the saga as it moves forward. Said treatment is reported to call for appearances by cast members from the original trilogy playing older incarnations of their beloved characters.

Now all we need is a director. To that end the name Brad Bird keeps popping up though no one will go on the record at this time to either confirm or categorically deny that rumor. It shouldn't take long, though, to fill the chair with a summer 2015 release date looming a mere (in blockbuster terms) 2 1/2 years away.

Mark Walhberg joins "Transformers 4"

In a move that shocked the hell out of me Michael Bay has announced that Mark Walhberg has joined the cast of "Transformers 4". The move certainly lends some gravitas to the upcoming installment (if a Transformers movie can be said to have gravitas) - the first without series anchor Shia LaBeouf. From Bay's official announcement:

“Mark is awesome... and I’m so fired up to be back working with him. An actor of his calibre is the perfect guy to re-invigorate the franchise and carry on the Transformers legacy.”

Bay also credited internet "chatter" for giving him the idea to cast Walhberg:

"...let's say that very internet chatter gave me some ideas. We are at the inception of our story process right now on T4. Let's say some ideas are gaining traction with me and my writer – so I'm here to say thanks internet chatter."

Just how many films Walhberg has signed up for is unknown. Transformers 4 is due in theaters June 27, 2014.

"World War Z" - trailer

The whole zombie thing got old for me about, oh, 10 years ago so I was uber-skeptical about the upcoming "World War Z" with Brad Pitt. But I have to say this trailer is an absolute hoot! Check it out.

"World War Z" is due in theaters next June.

Nov 7, 2012

Oh my! Elijah Wood goes that extra bloody mile in new "Maniac" trailer

Maybe something about his role in 2005's "Sin City" gave him a taste for blood. Or maybe he felt that that particular cannibal just wasn't far enough out on the edge for his taste. Then again maybe he just felt that in order to truly and effectively avoid being typecast the rest of his career (for playing you-know-who) that he had to go out and try and one up Norman Bates. But whatever. At this point the reasons aren't as important as the work itself and so without further ado here is Elijah Wood in the new international red band trailer (and I mean RED) for Franck Khalfoun's "Maniac".

Definitely Not Safe For Work and not for the squeamish. You have been warned.

As of this writing there is no American theatrical release date for "Maniac". It opens in France on December 26th.

Nov 6, 2012

The top 10 movies for the weekend of November 2 - November 4, 2012

1) Wreck-It Ralph $49 Million
2) Flight $24.9 Million
3) Argo $10.2 Million
4) The Man with the Iron Fists $7.9 Million
5) Taken 2 $5.9 Million
6) Cloud Atlas $5.3 Million
7) Hotel Transylvania $4.4 Million
8) Paranormal Activity 4 $4.2 Million
9) Here Comes The Boom $3.5 Million
10) Silent Hill: Revelation 3D $3.2 Million
The number one movie a year ago this week was Paramount's "Puss in Boots" which held onto the top spot for a second week with $33 million (a remarkable drop of only 3% from it's debut weekend).

Nov 5, 2012

Off the beaten track trailer of the day - "Tau"

Starring the son of legendary cinematic visionary/cult figure/loose cannon Alejandro Jodorowsky "Tau" apparently tells the tale of a man carrying a water cooler bottle across Joshua Tree National Park before putting it down and setting up his tent. "Tau" apparently means "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree".

But seriously, I'm all for experimental cinema even when the experiment yields little in the way of response other than "WTF?" This seems like the kind of piece that, upon the 200th viewing, you'll either say "Oh! I get it!" or "Did I really view this f*#*king thing 200 times!?!"

Nov 4, 2012

"Skyfall" - 2012 - movie review

Where "Quantum of Solace" started off with an ear-splitting symphony of red lining engines, metal screeching against tunnel walls and relentless machine gun fire "Skyfall"s opening returns to the more nuanced environs of "Casino Royale"s exhilarating physical action and death defying stunts. Indeed in most every way "Skyfall" - and not the regrettable "QoS" - is the legitimate heir to Casino Royale and every bit that wonderful movie's equal.

The film opens with Bond coming across a badly wounded MI6 agent who's apparently been double crossed. Bond tracks the perp out into the streets of Istanbul where he's joined by Eve (Naomi Harris) and all hell breaks loose in the form of the most exhilarating chase you'll see at the movies this year. The chase moves from car to motorbikes atop the Grand Bazaar to the interior of said bazaar back to the streets and finally to the top of a moving train where Bond turns an ordinary back hoe into the most unlikely action prop imaginable.

All this action is prompted by the fact that the wounded agent had on him a hard drive containing a list of all NATO agents around the world who have infiltrated major "terrorist" organizations. Being that Britain's NATO allies didn't know such a list existed, nevermind that someone was carrying it around with him on his laptop, M (Judi Dench) is very interested in making sure whoever took the list doesn't get to keep it. In her zeal to kill the list thief M tells Eve to take a risky shot at the thief while he wrestles with Bond on the roof of the train. Eve, however, misses her mark and Bond plummets into the river below presumeably KIA.

So Bond is dead and the list is gone and M has to go to the principal's office where she's notified that she'll be voluntarily retiring in 2 months. On her way back to her own office her car becomes stuck in traffic and while she's arguing with a traffic cop a huge bomb goes off in nearby MI6 headquarters, taking out nearly an entire floor. Had M not been stuck in traffic, well...

Meantime it seems reports of Bond's death have been somewhat premature (whew!) as we see him cavorting on some tropical island with the local talent and in self-destructive games involving hard liquor and scorpions. (I have to say that as he slammed his shot glass down onto the bar I almost expected him to cry out "Pistore!") On the heels of another all-nighter he's lurched over a seaside bar at sunrise when on the TV comes a report of the MI6 explosion. A half dozen MI6 personnel were killed in the attack and this gets Bond's dander up. He returns to London but since he was declared dead he must re-qualify for active service and that means taking a range of tests. These tests reveal that time may be catching up to him. M clears him for service anyway much to the chagrin of Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) the new MP overseeing all things clandestine for the government. Mallory wants Bond to go away. M, though, identifies with his struggles and insists he stay.

Things then move on to Shanghai which in 20 short years has gone from overstuffed backwater to the prototypical 21st century city. Unelected totalitarian "government"? Check. Gross imbalance in income distribution? Check. 2000 foot skyscrapers? Check. Lots of multinational corporations fleeing Western pay scales and benefit packages? Check. All right then! Where London is all stone and wood Shanghai is all glass and neon light. Which brings me to another point. This film looks great. Roger Deakins' photography and Chris Lowe's art direction bring the film into the real world while maintaining an air of the mysterious and exotic. A shadow-puppet-like dance of death between Bond and one of his quarry in a Shanghai high-rise with the electronic billboard curtain wall of an adjacent building as backdrop is one of the most breathtaking sequences I've seen at the movies in years.

That man Bond was "dancing" with turns out to be a dead end but he inadvertently leads Bond to Severine (Berenice Marlohe) and through her he's introduced to the man behind the curtain of the recent chaos; former MI6 agent and malcontent extraordinaire, Silva (Javier Bardem). Bardem takes Silva in bold and unexpected directions that are sure to make some in the audience squirm a bit uncomfortably in their seats while imbuing him with the kind of dark self-certainty that made his otherwise very different Anton Chigur the walking black hole that he was. Bardem proves once and for all that his "No Country For Old Men" performance was no fluke and I'd be shocked if he wasn't nominated for his performance here.

Skyfall is a self conscious film but not in a cheesy wink-wink kind of way. More in the sense the film makers are aware the character has been around the block a few times and and may have outlived his usefulness in both a fictional and movie-business sense. After all, in a world where you can see and hear nearly everything everywhere in real time, where someone can hack into one of the most secure computer systems in the world and reek havoc and where unmanned drones are sent by unseen techies to kill the enemy continents away what the hell do you need boots on the ground for? That's certainly the topic of the back and forth between Ben Winshaw's Q and Bond when they first meet. Their terse dialogue concludes with Winshaw dismissively stating that "sometimes you need someone there to pull the trigger." and Bond replying "Or not to." Touche.

Importantly, Skyfall represents a step back from the influence of the Bourne films. If any recent movies could be seen as influencing it I would site Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" as well as Martin Campbell's aforementioned "Casino Royale", the film in which James Bond finally grew up. To be sure, though, Skyfall stands confidently on its own.

This Bond is no consumer wet-dream with all the emphasis on the externals, this Bond demands we pay attention to what's going on inside the characters. To my thinking this is where Bond has been heading since Pierce Brosnan inherited the role 15 years ago and with Skyfall the journey from cheeky consumer fantasy to smart, intense action/drama is now complete. From the outset Skyfall asks the question "Does Bond have a place in the 21st century?" By the time the final credits roll it has answered that question with a resounding "Yes!"

Beautifully filmed, intelligently written, deeply satisfying, with first-rate performances from all the main players - capped off by an Oscar worthy performance from Javier Bardem - "Skyfall" is the best movie of the year.