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.