Mar 30, 2013

"Dredd" producer says sequel "Highly unlikely"

"Dredd" was a much-needed and well-executed remake of 1985's dreadful Sylvester Stallone vehicle. It reclaimed the property's dark, dystopian lineage and seemed as though it might set the stage for further adventures in Mega City One.

However, despite generally positive word of mouth the film was only able to conjure up some $35 million in global box office and now producer Adi Shankar is on record stating that a sequel is "Highly unlikely". He also chimes in on the shoddy way Lionsgate marketed the film, especially their insistence on adding "3D" to the theatrical title and how that saddled the production with B-movie overtones. Said Shankar in a Q and A on reddit;

Shankar: Ugh sooooooooooooooooooo agree with you RE adding 3D to the title. Ewww [...] It also screams gimmick which is sad because the 3D in Dredd was so not a gimmick.

Still Shankar had a wee bit of good news as he announced his intention to do a Dredd short as a 'love note' to the fans ala last year's "Punisher" short; "Dirty Laundry" which starred Thomas Jane and seemed to come out of nowhere.

If the "Dredd" short measures up to the "Dirty Laundry" I, for one, will be a happy guy.

Mar 29, 2013

Richard Griffiths dies at 65

Probably best known as Uncle Vernon in the "Harry Potter" films Griffiths died of complications following heart surgery. A versatile and lauded actor Griffiths had a long and distinguished stage career that ran parallel to his hi-profile movie work which, besides "Potter", included such films as "The Naked Gun 2 1/2", "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" and "Hugo".

Mar 28, 2013

"Prometheus 2" - the (development) saga continues

"Prometheus" while a narrative mixed bag was a visual feast and actually wound up taking in some $400 million at the global box office. Add to that some fat revenue checks from TV rights and the money the pic hauled in from DVD/BluRay sales and you've got a film that actually generated a decent profit, even by contemporary Hollywood standards. Talk of a sequel began just weeks after the film hit theaters but lately there's been almost no news regarding the state of the sequel. Until now.

The good people at slashfilm have posted a back and forth one of their writers recently had with Damon Lindelof that perhaps sheds some light on, not only the state of the sequel, but how he came to be disassociated from it.

The slashfilm article sources another article from bloodydisgusting that states Fox execs are "freaking out" over the fact that no one seems to know where to take the narrative and they're apparently blaming the situation on Lindelof; the thinking being that it was his rewrite of Jon Spaihts' original script that left so many unanswered questions and that by leaving the franchise he's left everyone in the lurch as to how to tie up what they consider to be his loose ends.

Lindelof comes to his own defense in the slashfilm article stating his reasons for withdrawing from the project.

After the movie came out and discussions began about a possible sequel, I was already neck deep in writing and producing TOMORROWLAND with Brad Bird. I have found, unfortunately, that if I take on too many projects at one time, there is a higher probability of those projects sucking. And contrary to popular belief, I do not want anything I work on to suck. I really don’t. I care about these stories deeply — not just as a writer, but as a fan. It might not always feel that way to the audience, but I swear to God it is true. It also so happens that Ridley was about to embark on directing his next movie, THE COUNSELOR, and had another one, CHILD 44 lined up right behind it. The conclusion was obvious — In the best interest of the franchise, it was best to take myself out of the running before I had to suffer the embarrassment of potentially not even being offered it.

So where does all this leave the sequel? Not really sure but the general feeling I'm left with after reading both articles is that the road to "P2" could turn out to be a long and winding one. I hope not. If it is the execs at Fox have no one to blame but themselves. It was, after all, the studio's idea to create a new trilogy. Since you can bet they'll take the credit if everything works out hunky-dory they should also be willing to accept the blame if things go belly up.

Nobody wants to see a sequel more than me (with the possible exception of David).

Mar 27, 2013

TV spot for "The Great Gatsby"

Here's the first TV spot for "The Great Gatsby". Leonardo DiCaprio stars along with Toby Maguire and Carey Mulligan in Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel of excess and obsession.

Mar 25, 2013

The top 10 movies for the weekend of March 22 - March 24, 2013

1) The Croods $43.6 Million
2) Olympus Has Fallen $30.3 Million
3) Oz the Great and Powerful $21.5 Million
4) The Call $8.9 Million
5) Admission $6.1 Million
6) Spring Breakers $4.8 Million
7) The Incredible Burt Wonderstone $4.3 Million
8) Jack the Giant Slayer $2.9 Million
9) Identity Thief $2.5 Million
10) Snitch $1.8 Million

The number one movie a year ago this week was Lionsgate's "The Hunger Games" which debuted in the top spot with a robust total of $152.5 million.

(Green indicates new release)

Mar 24, 2013

"Hummingbird" starring Jason Statham - trailer

After his appearance in the atrocious "Expendables 2" and the fact that the one franchise that he could really call "his" (that would be "Transporter") was turned into a boring TV series it seemed that maybe Jason Statham's days as a movie lead were waning. But, wait! "Parker" starring JS and JLo actually turned out to be a pretty good movie (though to be sure it wasn't a box office juggernaut) and now he-who-never-laughs is set to have a go in Steven Knight's latest: "Hummingbird". Knight was the writer director behind the excellent "Eastern Promises" from a few years back and this movie seems right in keeping with that film's vision of a dark, gritty world underpinned by barely controlled mayhem.

"Hummingbird" will open in the UK on May 10th. No word yet on a US release date, though one is anticipated.

Mar 23, 2013

My "Must See" movies for the rest of 2013

I mentioned my "must see" list in the previous post and here it is: my list of "must see" films for the remainder of 2013 by release date. The dirty dozen listed here are films I'll be seeing come hell, high water or global zombie pandemic on the scale of WWZ.
1) "Trance" April 5
2) "Oblivion" April 19
3) "Iron Man 3" May 3
4) "Star Trek Into Darkness" May 17
5) "Man of Steel" June 14
6) "World War Z" June 21
7) "Byzantium" June 28
8) "Pacific Rim" July 12
9) "300: Rise of an Empire" August 2
10) "Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" October 4
11) "Thor: The Dark World" November 8
12) "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" December 13

Just missing the list: "Simon Killer" - April 5, "Elysium" - August 9 and "Machete Kills" - September 13. I'll still see 'em but I might wait until the zombie pandemic dies down a bit.

New trailer for "World War Z" starring Brad Pitt

WWZ is near the top of my list for 'must sees' in 2013. I normally fall asleep during anything zombie but this looks like a horse of a different color. On a side note: it seems Paramount has been a little touchy about who shows this with several sites having posted it only to remove it following the studio's objections. So watch it while you can.

"World War Z" opens June 21st.

"The Call" - 2013 - movie review

"The Call" could have been a prolonged snoozefest ala "Phone Booth". That's certainly what I was expecting. What I got however was something entirely different: an intense, edge-of-your-seat experience that's the most pure fun I've had at the movies in some time.

Halle Berry is a 911 operator in LA. One day she takes a call from a young lady whose house is under seige from an intruder. Berry makes a fundamental mistake that leads to the situation going bad and winds up being taken off live calls and given the job of instructor for new 911 operator wannabes. After being on the job 6 months she's present in the call center when a woman calls in. The particulars of this call hark back to the call 6 months earlier that went bad and the newbie operator is quickly overwhelmed by the situation. Berry is forced to replace her and the story takes off from there.

Many of the situations that occur within "The Call" strain credulity but they're never enough to sink the ship which is kept upright by the brisk pacing, the writing and the intensity of the action. Care was also taken in setting up the characters before thrusting them into hell so I'm less concerned with whether or not a guy could actually drive around in LA with an arm hanging out of his trunk while the entire LAPD is looking for him and not get stopped than I am with what happens to the girl whose arm it is. And that is as it should be: strong characters played well trumping ancillary tidbits of questionable nature.

Halle Berry gives a strong steady performance as operator Jordan Turner. She's never less than believable and occasionally even outstanding in a role that probably would have left a lessor actor scratching their head. Abigail Breslin does a fine job as the damsel in distress and Michael Eklund is creepily effective as the guy with serious issues and a place to act them out in.

Michael Imperioli makes another of his unusual appearences (where he shows up for a few minutes, I begin thinking he's going to become part of the narrative and then he's gone) and TV veteran Brad Anderson makes an effective leap to the big leagues in his feature film directorial debut. I assume this is going to lead to bigger and better things for him, if he wants them.

The Call is not a complex movie that requires a lot of analysis. Endless dissection of characters won't really lead anywhere useful. It's a straight forward sicko-on-the-loose story but it's executed with a level of skill and passion that leaves the competition in the dust. Oh yeah, and make sure you stay to the end which contains a nice little twist.

"The Call" represents the most pleasant surprise I've had at the multiplex in a long time. It's not a great or important film but it left me walking out of the theater glad I went in. I love when that happens!

Verdict: ★★★☆☆

Mar 22, 2013

First teaser trailer for "Riddick"

While I personally would have preferred that they call this "Pitch Black III" Universal didn't ask for my input so "Riddick" it is. Looks a lot like a (welcome) throwback to the original sci-fi almost-classic that launched the franchise but in truth it's too early to tell at this point. What little we do know is that the story has Riddick stranded on some wasteland or another beset by nasty creatures who haven't had a decent meal in a while.

"Riddick" starring Vin Diesel and directed by "Pitch Black" director David Twohy opens September 6th.

Mar 21, 2013

New trailer for "Star Trek Into Darkness" brings the rain

The earlier trailers teased a level of intensity that I for one wasn't sure the movie would be able to deliver. Now I'm beginning to think I was wrong. The new trailer for "Star Trek Into Darkness" ratchets everything up to 11 from the get go and holds the pedal jammed to the floor right through to the final frame. This is not your father's Star Trek and it's definitely not your older brother's TNG. Star Trek movies have never been in the same box office league with their Star Wars cousins but something tells me that could change this summer.

Oh, and it's great to see Peter Weller back on the big screen.

"Star Trek Into Darkness" opens May 17th. Can't wait.

Mar 20, 2013

A couple of more "Pacific Rim" images

A couple of more viral images have surfaced for Guillermo del Toro's "Pacific Rim" that hint at the toxic nature of the foe from beyond. The first image, from Warners twitter feed, shows a gloved hand and comes with the studio-approved caption "This is as close as you want to get to Kaiju blood."

The second image shows people on a beach in hazmat suits cleaning something up. Judging by the blue gloves the hazmat crew is wearing it seems logical to assume that the first image and this are taken from the same scene - perhaps the aftermath of a Kaiju/Jaeger confrontation.

This last image is not a still image from the film but a piece of concept art. It shows human shore defenses with a Jaeger standing guard in the distance. Very cool image.

"Pacific Rim" opens July 12 and looks like it'll be a ton o' fun.

New trailer for Danny Boyle's "Trance"

James McAvoy is in some deep doo doo in this latest trailer for "Trance". He's forgotten, you see, where he put a stolen painting and his boss (Vincent Cassel) is none too happy about it. Cassel hires hypnotist Rosario Dawson to try and recover the memory but that doesn't look like it's working out too well either.

"Trance" has a limited opening stateside on April 5th.

Mar 19, 2013

They bombed but they're back

The kids spy foreign gold
The reception for "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" at the US box office was tepid at best with the wanna-be blockbuster earning a decidedly un-blockbuster-esque $54 million. Thing is overseas audiences were much more forgiving of the film's many shortcomings and dropped something in the neighborhood of $150 million of their hard-earned on the film. That means that with a budget of $50 million H&G actually made money. Enough money to warrant a sequel, which Paramount intends to deliver, domestic indifference or not.

Mar 18, 2013

The top 10 movies for the weekend of March 15 - March 17, 2013

1) Oz the Great and Powerful $41.2 Million
2) The Call $17.1 Million
3) Incredible Burt Wonderstone $10.1 Million
4) Jack the Giant Slayer $6.3 Million
5) Identity Thief $4.4 Million
6) Snitch $3.5 Million
7) 21 and Over $2.6 Million
8) Silver Linings Playbook $2.5 Million
9) Safe Haven $2.4 Million
10) Escape From Planet Earth $2.3 Million

The number one movie a year ago this week was Sony's "21 Jump Street" which debuted in the top spot with a total of $36.3 million.

(Green indicates new release)

Mar 17, 2013

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

As horror films are the bread and butter of the Southeast Asian film industry it comes as no surprise that Laotian film makers would want to claim a seat at the table. And with "Chanthaly" director Mattie Do does just that, becoming at that same time the country's first female feature film director.

New image from "Pacific Rim"

Guillermo del Toro's upcoming "Pacific Rim" seems equal parts "Transformers" and "Godzilla" with elements of "Avatar"s remote controlled giants thrown in. But despite utilizing some well worn narrative devices it still manages to look like it's going to be an overturned-boatload of fun anyway. In this new image from the movie beach goers come across a footprint that is sure to keep them awake over the next few nights; if they live that long.

"Pacific Rim" opens July 12th.

"Jupiter Ascending" release date set

The release date for the Wachowski's newest film "Jupiter Ascending" - the follow up to the sincere but ponderous "Cloud Atlas" - has been set for July 25, 2014. This was originally when Warner Bros. had planned to release "The Hobbit: There and Back Again" but the slot became open when WB moved Peter Jackson's film to a more traditional (for Jackson) December release. Whether or not the summer slot will boost Jupiter into orbit remains to be seen. "Cloud Atlas" made back less than half its estimated production cost (plus marketing) and some are sure that the financial boondoggle was at least partly because of the film's October 26th release date.

Mar 14, 2013

"Jurassic Park 4" will be directed by Colin Trevorrow

The news that Universal was going back to Jurassic Park was big news when it hit some months ago and lately there's been speculation about whether or not Spielberg himself would take the helm of the newest installment in Michael Crichton's dinosaur saga. Rather than going for the biggest name in Hollywood however, Universal has decided to go with one of the least known: Colin Trevorrow. To this date Trevorrow has a grand total of 1 feature under his belt, that being the independent film "Safety Not Guaranteed". I haven't seen that particular film myself so I can't comment on it one way or the other - and it could be that Trevorrow will deliver an incredible film - but I would like to know Universal's thought process on this one. You can usually tell a studio's level of commitment to a project by who they get to occupy the director's chair. So what's the message here?

Mar 13, 2013

New Japanese trailer for "The Lone Ranger"

I don't understand what the narrator is saying but the trailer looks super-slick. What would Hollywood be without Monument Valley?

"The Lone Ranger" opens July 3rd.

Mar 12, 2013

Neil Jordan's "Byzantium" set for June 28th release

While it's not the most high profile release of the year there's something about this film that intrigues me. Moody, dark and just so slightly other-worldly it seems to occupy a place carved out of time. Starring Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan "Byzantium" has finally received a release date from distributor IFC films. The movie will hit theaters June 28th.

Mar 11, 2013

Oh yeah! That's a big-ass spider alright

A few weeks ago we presented you the trailer for "Big Ass Spider" another in the long history of "There's an pissed-off, oversized creature loose in the city" flicks. It looked pretty cool then and it looks even cooler in this clip just released through SXSW. (Somebody get that boy some spider block!)

The top 10 movies for the weekend of March 8 - March 10, 2013

1) Oz the Great and Powerful $79.1 Million
2) Jack the Giant Slayer $9.8 Million
3) Identity Thief $6.3 Million
4) Dead Man Down $5.3 Million
5) Snitch $5.098 Million
6) 21 and Over $5.091 Million
7) Safe Haven $3.7 Million
8) Silver Linings Playbook $3.6 Million
9) Escape From Planet Earth $3.2 Million
10) The Last Exorcism II $3.1 Million

The number one movie a year ago this week was Universal's "Dr. Suess' The Lorax" which held on to the top spot for a second week with a $38.8 million haul.

(Green indicates new release)

Mar 10, 2013

New "Star Trek Into Darkness" TV spot

I'm calling it a TV spot because it ends like a TV spot, though it starts like a trailer. So who knows? All I really know is that it's all action all the time in this new whatever-it-is for JJ Abrams sci-fi sequel. The villain (that would be Benedict Cumberbatch's character) gets shoved to the side in favor of Kirk getting lectured by Pike on what a PITA he is while various crew members push the pedal to the medal on anything that's available. Looks good.

"Star Trek Into Darkness" opens stateside May 17th.

Mar 7, 2013

New "Machete Kills" poster serves up D-cup mayhem

Robert Rodriguez pulls no punches in the new "Machete Kills" poster. If you thought seeing Rose McGowan attaching a machine gun to her stump and blowing away baddies in Rodriguez's "Planet Terror" was a hoot check out Sofia Vergara's weapons of choice in this new poster for the "Machete" sequel. Oh mama!

As the poster says "Machete Kills" opens September 13th.

Lucas: "We... already signed Mark and Carrie and Harrison"

In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek George Lucas let slip what a lot of people have already suspected: that the Big Three of the "Star Wars" universe were already under contract to appear in "Episode VII" before LucasFilm was bought by Disney several months ago. Lucas didn't seem to remember that he was supposed to keep it under wraps and allow Disney to make their own announcement at a later date when he said:

“We had already signed Mark and Carrie and Harrison—or we were pretty much in final stages of negotiation. So I called them to say, ‘Look, this is what’s going on.’ Maybe I’m not supposed to say that. I think they want to announce that with some big whoop-de-do, but we were negotiating with them. I won’t say whether the negotiations were successful or not.”

Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford
While Lucas doesn't have any direct role in the production of the upcoming third trilogy he is acting as a kind of cultural advisor and describes his role this way:

“I mostly say, ‘You can’t do this. You can do that,’ You know, ‘The cars don’t have wheels. They fly with antigravity.’ There’s a million little pieces. Or I can say, ‘He doesn’t have the power to do that, or he has to do this.’ I know all that stuff.”

While its exciting to contemplate the return of Luke, Leia and Han to the franchise there's one more bit of advice I'd like to hear Lucas deliver to Disney: "You can't make another crappy trilogy like I did with I, II and III." Now that's advice worth heading.

Read the interview with Lucas here.

Sam Mendes will not return for Bond 24

"Skyfall" director Sam Mendes
Speculation was rife that Mendes would be back to helm the next installment in the Bond franchise after the record-setting results of "Skyfall" (more than S1.1 billion at the global box office). Unfortunately he has taken himself out of the running with this announcement on the official James Bond facebook page. Mendes cited theatrical commitments as his main reason for turning down Bond 24.

In a statement that followed Mendes producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli acknowledged Mendes announcement and added: "We would have loved to have made the next film with him but completely respect his decision to focus on other projects and hope to have the opportunity to collaborate with him again.”

Mar 6, 2013

"Oz the Great and Powerful" - 2013 - movie review

Like the classic film whose coattails it hopes to ride to fortune "Oz the Great and Powerful" begins life in black and white. Oscar Diggs (James Franco) is scouring the Kansas farm country for suckers trying, in that great American tradition, to hustle a living through sheer force of personality. He's a man of few actual talents and practically no means but he spends time in the spotlight and that is enough to attract the dust bowl equivelant of groupies. When he winds up with the strong man's girl however the gig is up and he beats a hasty retreat in the the state fair's hot air balloon.

Any idea what happens next? Well if you said his balloon ride goes horribly wrong thanks to a twister and he winds up in Oz, you win. Or lose. Depending on whether or not you like your movies to surprise you now and then. Sadly "Oz the Great and Powerful" is largely bereft of surprise, which in my mind, should go hand in hand with wonder. No surprise, no wonder. No wonder with a story like this and the kids are going to be playing games on their iPhone before the movie is half over.

The film is more remake than prequel hitting most of the same story beats the 1939 film established and never veering too far outside the lines. While the (occasionally) wonderful eye candy (and I don't mean Mila Kunis - okay, I don't only mean Mila Kunis) is enough to make you suspend your dissatisfaction from time to time it isn't enough to carry the whole film. You need characters for that: well-written characters occupied by well-cast actors.

And that last point touches on the other problem with the film because it turns out that the casting of James Franco in the title role is what winds up the movie's undoing. He's a fine actor and all, but his presence here reminds me of Robert DeNiro's in "Stardust". It's a paycheck too many. Robert Downey Jr was originally cast in the role before backing out and a few minutes into the picture you realize that the producers probably should have offered him a percentage of gross if that's what it took to snag him because a film like this - with very little that's new or wonderful to offer in the story department - needs a central persona who can carry it. Franco is not that man, not for this movie anyway.

Because Franco looks so fish-out-of-water for much of his time on the screen the movie is never able to gain traction and the theme of an ordinary man rising to confront extraordinary circumstances with the help of others is largely lost. To make matters worse the lack of iconic, easily understood secondary characters like the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion leaves no one for the audience to fall back on once they disconnect from the Wizard.

On the upside the aforementioned Ms Kunis along with Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams do a fine job with what they're given and some scenes (like those in the dark forest) are visually strong enough to make you believe again. The art direction as a whole is excellent even though the effects occassionally veer into cartoonland. Ironically, Kunis herself plays out an origin story that turns out to be far more compelling than the title character's. Unfortunately for the movie it's a case of too little too late.

On the whole, Oz the Great and Powerful is a movie undone by poor casting, a lack of sympathetic characters and a too-familiar story line. It's possible that the kiddies just won't care about such things but if you're gonna take the kids I'd advise you to confiscate the iPhones before the curtain rises.

Verdict: ★★☆☆☆

Mar 5, 2013

New "Iron Man 3" trailer

Tony is in a world of hot water in this new trailer which fleshes out the parameters of the story a bit more and gives up lots of delicious new footage. It looks several notches above the cumbersome "Iron Man 2" and, as Mr Stark says "This is about good old-fashioned revenge." Well alright!

"Iron Man 3" opens May 3rd.

Joss Whedon rains on the Hulk's parade

"Sorry pal. The boss says no deal on the Planet Hulk thing."
A lot of rumors had been swirling around lately regarding the big green guy's role in the larger Avenger's narrative going forward. After Dr Banner's alter ego was such a smashing success in last year's "The Avengers" Hulk fans the world over hoped that he'd get an expanded role in Phase 2 as it moved forward, with the hottest rumor being that Marvel was considering basing part of the Avengers II narrative on the Planet Hulk comic book story.

Well Joss Whedon has heard the rumors as well and his response? "... that's nonsense." Not a lot of ways you can read that other than "Not gonna happen." Still maybe it's for the best. After all, two Hulk films have come and gone and barely caused a ripple in the cinematic pond during their runs. Could be that, for whatever reason, audiences prefer the big guy in little doses.

The top 10 movies for the weekend of March 1 - March 3, 2013

1) Jack the Giant Slayer $27.2 Million
2) Identity Thief $9.7 Million
3) 21 and Over $8.7 Million
4) Snitch $7.76 Million
5) The Last Exorcism II $7.72 Million
6) Escape From Planet Earth $6.6 Million
7) Safe Haven $6.2 Million
8) Silver Linings Playbook $5.7 Million
9) A Good Day to Die Hard $4.5 Million
10) Dark Skies $3.4 Million

The number one movie a year ago this week was Universal's "Dr. Suess' The Lorax" which debuted in the top spot with an impressive $70.2 million.

(Green indicates new release)

Mar 3, 2013

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" pass $1 billion in global box office

While it's domestic take of just over $301 million is the smallest of any of Peter Jackson's Tolkien adaptations the global marketplace has come through in a big way for "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey". The first film in the new trilogy topped the much coveted $1 billion mark this past weekend following its recent opening in communist China to become just the 15th movie in history to reach that lofty plateau.

Mar 1, 2013

Vin Diesel gets all classical Greek in new "Riddick" image

A new still has arrived online from the upcoming release of "Riddick" the third installment in the outer space adventure series that began with the excellent "Pitch Black". The minute I saw this image I thought "I've seen that before" in the form of the classical Greek sculpture "Laocoon and his sons".

I've put the color image from the film on the left here and then below I've put a side by side comparison with both images in black and white. While it's not a perfect match to be sure I think it's fairly obvious where the inspiration for the Riddick still came from and that's great. It means the film makers are thinking about their work.

"Riddick" opens September 6th.

Poster for "The Great Gatsby" starring Leonardo DiCaprio

This poster for Baz Luhrmann's take on the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel is all about the art deco. The film starring Leonardo DiCaprio is due in theaters May 10th and co-stars Toby Maguire and Carrie Mulligan.