Monday, May 18, 2015

The Movie Breakdown Ep. 90: 'Mad Max' Proves Wall to Wall Action Can Be Wonderful and Glorious


Scott and I have been waiting weeks and weeks for Mad Max: Fury Road and we finally got to witness one of the best action movies ever. Along with our gushing over the movie, we also look at several trailers including Jem and the Holograms and Crimson Peak. As well we discuss the ACLU seeking a possible civil suit against the major Hollywood movie studios and what the implications could mean for future movies. If you love the show then please spread the word.



Podcast Outline:

00:00 - 1:09 Intro
1:10 - 16:17 The Human Centipede review (quick Hostel discussion)
16:18 - 51:21 Mad Max: Fury Road review (and looking back at prior Mad Max pictures)
51:22 - 58:28 Pitch Perfect 2 review (and delving into our Summer Box Office game score)
58:27 - 1:05:09 ACLU civil suit against top 6 movie studios and the state of women directors.
1:05:10 - 1:10:20 Jem and the Holograms trailer
1:10:21 - 1:14:14 Crimson Peak trailer
1:14:15 - 1:20:57 The Yes Men Are Revolting trailer
1:20:58 -1:24:46  The Intern trailer
1:24:47 - Review rundown and Closing

Ratings Rundown:

Mad Max: Fury Road **** (CS) & **** (SM)
Pitch Perfect 2 *** (CS)

Sunday, May 17, 2015

'Steve Jobs' Trailer Shows Little but Promises Plenty


It feels like it has been years since the Aaron Sorkin written script to the Steve Jobs biopic first started being discussed, and maybe the wait seems that long due to getting the Ashton Kutcher starring Jobs tossed in (I remember some confusion over that picture being the Sorkin scripted one). Luckily for this Danny Boyle directed feature that the Kutcher one played to empty cinemas and poor reviews so the momentum and anticipation for this hasn't been derailed.



How much anticipation is there really for this? The Fifth Estate proved that pictures about major figures in social media and technology don't always cause the crowds to come flocking. Though that also was an awful movie and this one is being scripted by the same guy who wrote the last brilliant movie about a social media icon in The Social Network.

Steve Jobs is an influential and groundbreaking innovator who was also a very polarizing and at times eccentric figure. His life is one that could be very fascinating for the biopic treatment. Also this movie isn't planning to be a straight-forward story about Jobs' life but rather just contain three scenes that are set during three major product launches. So it is a pretty ambitious and intriguing idea. Boyle is up to the challenge with a portfolio of acclaimed movies he's helmed like Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, and 127 Hours. He has experience making rather intimate stories feel grand, and he likely has a script with punchy and whip-smart dialogue.

I also love the cast here as Michael Fassbender looks pretty spot-on as Jobs and Seth Rogen looks like a solid casting choice in Steve Wozniak. Maybe this will be Rogen's chance to follow Jonah Hill's in moving from comedy and landing a coveted Oscar nomination. They're supported by immense talents like Kate Winslet and Jeff Daniels. So, this at least sounds like a pretty strong contender for a Best Picture nomination and a prestige picture worth getting excited about.

I can't really say much about the actual trailer as this is pure definition of a teaser. It just provides some dialogue and a few snap shots of the cast. It has effectively whetted my appetite and it is right alongside Suffragette, The Revenant, and Snowden as end of the year heavy hitters that should be worth watching.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A.C.L.U. Ready to Shake Up the Male Stuffed Director Scene

 Michelle MacLaren

In the last few years, some of the biggest surprise box office hits have been those that drew in large female crowds. Many of these have been big budget action-oriented pictures or raunchy comedies that happen to contain strong female characters. It has proven that the typical "chick flick" isn't the only thing to lure out women to spend money. Despite the evidence women are becoming the most active and consistent movie goers, Hollywood still doesn't provide them with the best opportunities.

There is a problem with many of the major releases by the big six studios (Warner Brothers, Universal, Paramount Picture, 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, and Walt Disney). Most of the big budget movies and especially the summertime tentpoles have male characters in the crucial and exciting roles. Women are cast as afterthoughts by being stuck with such enticing roles as "wife stranded in a place of intense danger forced to wait for her husband to save her" or "girlfriend trapped in deadly location needing her boyfriend to rescue her." Sometimes to show the outside the box thinking of some filmmakers and writers you get a daughter needing her heroic father to save the day. Soak in that complexity.

A big part of the problem is that the majority of screenwriters and directors for major movies are men. Actually, a rather disturbing infographic put together by Indiewire's Women and Hollywood showed that in the last 5 years there were only 4.7 percent of the major studios movies that had female directors.

It isn't all doom and gloom. Recent hits like Maleficent and Lucy have made most studios want to make some female focused blockbusters. Marvel has finally announced their first female led movie in Captain Marvel and have already promised a women director for it. Word started surfacing this week that Marvel is trying to land Ava Duvernay to helm one of their features (the best guess is Black Panther). Warner Brothers will have Wonder Woman, which will be directed by Patty Jenkins.  Sony Pictures will have two major franchises with female leads in both Ghostbusters and a revamped 21 Jump Street (and there was once talk of a female superhero movie set in the Spider-Man universe). Many comedies now are starring females with Spy and Trainwreck being two big summer hopefuls (let's all forget about Hot Pursuit).

The problem is that despite this move towards stronger female characters in big budget movies, many of these pictures are still being directed by men. If a female is given a chance to direct it is often still a "female-centric" picture rather than the summer's big tentpole. Patty Jenkins might finally be getting Wonder Woman, but she was supposed to direct Thor: Dark World before the dreaded "creative differences" struck again. Several weeks ago Wonder Woman was initially supposed to be directed by Michelle MacLaren who was also hit by the nasty "creative differences." It was later revealed there were some fears over her inability to direct big action sequences (since against studio wishes, she wanted to do a Braveheart-like origin action picture rather than a character-driven story). Warner Brothers for some reason couldn't trust the director who has done some of the most critically acclaimed episodes of Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad to do big action and manage special effects. Yet I haven't ready any hesitation or concern with Colin Trevorrow directing the massive tentpole Jurassic World, despite his past feature was the small indy comedy Safety Not Guaranteed. 

There seems to be a belief women either don't want or can't do tentpoles since their previous work is smaller budget and intimate. Yet many of the current big budget powerhouse male directors got their start from smaller indy fare, but have the advantage of a penis between their legs thus naturally must be able to handle bigger movies.

This is all clearly unfair, but is there actually discrimination and is it a civil right issue? The American Civil Liberties Union is ready to answer that question. New York Times recently reported the A.C.L.U is requesting state and federal agencies to investigate the hiring practices of Hollywood's major studios, networks and agencies with the potential to bring charges against them for blatant discrimination in hiring female directors.

This wouldn't be the first time such a charge has been put against Hollywood. Times mentions in the article that in the 1960s the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission got a settlement against the Association of Motion Pictures and Television Producers that required measure be taken for better employment for minorities (not just women) though it was never properly enforced. The hope of the A.C.L.U. is for this time to have it stick and enforce real change.

Even if A.C.L.U is unsuccessful with the charges, hopefully the accusation are enough to scare a few studio heads into being more focused in allowing female directors to helm a massive tentpole rather than just a niche "female" feature. The box office is also becoming a place that is forcing studios to pay attentions to movies with strong female characters. Hopefully, movie goers realize it is just as crucial to support the rare big movie by talented female director to prove audience trust them with tentpoles.

It will allow the cinematic landscape to truly become diverse. Then by 2035 my daughter Danika will get a fair shot at directing and can fulfill my dream of a special effect-laden, female starring Scarface musical set in space.

'Jem and the Holograms' Trailer is Another Example of Movie Studios Missing the Point of Adaptations


I've long accepted that movie studios will continue to mine popular or even vaguely remembered properties from the past in the hopes of "hey, I saw that on a lunchbox 30 years ago" reactions will suddenly trick someone into thinking they want to pay to see a modern movie adaptation. An original idea hasn't really ever existed in Hollywood, despite what many may moan or like to believe. The more annoying trend is taking a somewhat remembered movie or TV series or book and turning it into a movie that has shoved out almost everything that would appeal to its fanbase in an often misguided attempt to grasp the cherished 'broad appeal.' Thus I present to you the first Jem and the Holograms trailer.



Jem is a very distinct 1980s artifact that thrives on the trends and fads of that decade. So of course, this movie adaptation is set in modern times, likely for the same reason last year's Annie was: studios don't have faith their target demographic would pay to see something set in the past. This ignores the fact that their target demographic may not have ever even heard of Jem and so adapting the cartoon would be pointless for them. The demographic that would be nostalgic for Jem is at the same age that has made 1980s set series like The Americans, The Goldberg and Halt and Catch Fire popular.

Clearly, this movie is geared towards those who discovered Jem when their parents uttered it as an answer to a Trivial Pursuit question and then the parents wasted 3 minutes reminiscing about the cartoon. There is almost no attempt to make this feel or look like the animated series.

Where is the magical holographic computer Synergy?

What happened to the earrings that transform Jerrica into Jem?

Are we really going to have a movie without the Holograms rivals, The Misfits?

Did director Jon Chu or writer Ryan Landels ever see an episode of the series that was essentially a globe-trotting adventure about a female superhero who just happened to be a rock star?

Why am I spending time and words on something I never would have been interested to see?

Some of these major absences come from it being a micro-budget picture. This is one of the major reasons this was an odd movie to be backed by the deep-pocketed Blumhouse Productions. Instead of some zany rock star adventure, we get an independent feeling and looking feature with a standard story about poor kid gets discovered and needs to wrestle with new found fame. A movie that has been done about thousand times with clichés like the evil record producer (this time in the well-cast Juliette Lewis) whispering in the protagonist ear or the boyfriend that is there to ground and protect. It is pure formula that must even look tiresome to the teenage girls this trailer is trying to excite.

The heart seems to be in the right place. Chu stated earlier in the week the movie's themes and messages will be about the search to find your true self and staying loyal to your family and ideals. Those themes work great within the tale of finding rock star fame, but that is likely why it is has been used in every single small town musician strikes it big as the hottest new music act movie. 

All the charm and distinctness of that campy series has been successfully rung out of this trailer. Okay sorry, we have the face paint and the glorious hair (and what looks like a keytar) but it lacks a high energy hair metal original song performed by the band or luscious candy-coated colours splashed all over it or any sense of zaniness or camp. An intimate and grainy story of a rocker dealing with fame is fine, but it sure as hell shouldn't be called Jem and the Holograms.

I know that Josie and Pussycats wasn't a financial or critical hit, but it at least had a sense of fun and was aware of its source material. This looks completely tone deaf to the reason and purpose of adapting a goofy and gloriously '80s animated series. Unfortunately, this is trailer is not truly outrageous.

Monday, May 11, 2015

'The Movie Breakdown' Podcast Episode 88 & 89: Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon Inspire Us to Serve Up a Double Shot this Week


Scott and I break our movie reviewing record this week with seven movie reviews, because we felt you deserved one for every day of the week. We have a variety of different movies to discuss including the new release, Hot Pursuit, one of the original slashers in Black Christmas, and the very unsettling real life drama in Compliance. The show was so crammed with movie goodness that we decide to do a second show this week that will cover the latest Marvel news, several trailer reviews, and a discussion on the modern obsession with pre-release movie news.

As always if you love the show, then please spread the word.

The Movie Breakdown Episode 88:


Outline:
00:00 - 2:55 Intro
2:56 - 13:27 Hot Pursuit review
13:28 - 25:59 Compliance review
26:00 - 38:38 Black Christmas review
38:39 - 43:22 Re-Animators review
43:23 - 53:10 I, Frankenstein review
53:11 - 1:00:45 Legally Blonde review
1:00:46 - 1:11:12 Tom and Jerry: The Movie review
1:11:13 - 1:14:34 Review rundown
1:14:35 - Closing

Reviews:

Hot Pursuit: * (CS) & * (SM)
Compliance: **** (CS) & **** (SM)
Black Christmas: ***½ (CS) & ***½ (SM)
Re-Animators: *** (CS) & *** (SM)
I, Frankenstein: * (CS) & */*** (SM)
Legally Blonde: *** (CS) & *** (SM)
Tom and Jerry: The Movie: *(CS) & * (SM)
 
Movie Breakdown Episode 89:


Outline:
0:00 - 00:57 Intro
00:58 - 14:42 Marvel is getting bloated and ready to burst
14:43 - 27:22 Problem with serializing movies
27:23 - 32:27 Questioning if Human Centipede is really a groundbreaking series
32:28 - 40:04 Ricki and the Flash trailer
40:05 - 44:48 Vacation trailer
44:49 - 47:06 Summer box office game discussion
47:07 - 56:09 Look of Silence trailer
56:10 - 59:50 Downton Abbey series review
59:51 - 1:00:55 Dope trailer
1:00:56 - 1:01:45 Mr. Holmes trailer
1:01:46 - 1:13:12 Discussing modern obsessions with pre-release reporting and analysis
1:13:13 - Closing

Thursday, May 07, 2015

'Vacation' Trailer Happily Embraces Deja Vu


I started doubting Vacation was a real thing but rather just a feverish dream that was haunting Ed Helms. Since almost every summer movie has dropped at least one trailer, I was waiting for the "been pushed into release date abyss" announcement. Instead, we've got a red band trailer to show that Vacation is oh-so-much a very real thing.



It is absolutely a waste of time to complain about anything being remade at this point, because every movie ever will have its own reboot by 2022 (as I sure was predicted in some Ray Bradbury short story). Vacation was a bit of a surprising choice since I thought its destiny was to eternally churn out a VOD release every few years so Chevy Chase can remain happy he isn't slumming it on Community anymore but rather doing top-notch Oscar fare. We never even got the sure to be Best Picture Moon Vacation, which seems like a major missed opportunity.

No fears, because Chase gets work here even though it will likely be a one scene cameo based on the trailer. Nobody should be too disappointed since Vacation looks to be intent on reworking every single memorable Chevy Chase scene from the original (so we can play them alongside each other and take notes). I trust Helms to totally be able to pull the scenes off and even make some of the regurgitated material seem fresh and funny, but it can be tedious to sit through 90 minutes of self-aware winking that makes it clear they know this is a remake and it didn't need to be made.

I actually did like the joke where Helms mentions that nobody remembers the first vacation but this one will still be totally different. For the most part, the trailer was amusing and I really like the casting. Chris Hemsworth was great as the well-endowed boyfriend and I'm always happy to see Leslie Mann.

But it isn't bust a gut funny, which could mean saving stuff for the next 80 trailers to get unrolled. I'm still not convinced this trip is worth taking.

This is Definitely No 'Gone Girl'


Rosamund Pike has been a stand-out actor for a long while now, but Gone Girl was her big break-out role and easily one of the best performances of 2014. The hope was that it was an eye opening role that would cause many studios and filmmakers to come calling and give her some really juicy parts worthy of her talents. Pike was more than just a disturbed and sadistic wife in the David Fincher thriller and brought several dimensions and layers to the role. She was both a villain and a victim, and somehow pulled you into wanting to root for her until she plunged into the dark side.

It makes it all the more disappointing that her next role is the rather generic-looking "woman has been wronged and seeks revenge" thriller, Return to Sender, that seems plucked right out of the 1990s and actually visually looks like it too. This is pure straight-to-video-on-demand type direction and cinematography that will have a comfy endless cycle on Lifetime.

Pike looks to risk being typecasted as slightly deranged lady out to ruin a man's life. The difference this time is we're supposed to cheer for her. The other difference is the script doesn't look like it will attempt any depth or complexity, and just have Pike widen her eyes and lick her lips so we know she isn't to be messed with.

It is unfortunate this is what gets served up a freshly nominated Best Actress. Shows that the state of cinema for females still isn't all roses, and even top stars are forced to do some Nicolas Cage level slumming.


'Ricki and the Flash' Trailer is Yet Another Reminder That Meryl Streep can Act


Is there any conceivable way that Ricki and the Flash could possibly not at least be good? Though anything not awesome would be a disappointment. Meryl Streep starring as a washed-up 1980s rocker that is forced to be a mother after her daughter is left by her partner. She is supported with top notch talent like Audra McDonald, Kevin Kline, and Charlotte Rae (FACTS OF LIFE!!!). Helmed by Oscar winner and critically acclaimed director Jonathan Demme who has proven adept at various genres like psychological thrillers, heart-pulling character driven dramas (Philadelphia), and slice of life family stories (Rachel Getting Married). On top of that the script should be witty and sharp with Diablo Cody scribing it (I love both Juno and Young Adult).



Some have been apprehensive about this due to getting an August release with the misguided belief that prestige pictures only come out in the fall. Claiming if it was Oscar worthy it would come out near the end of year will only work if you ignore past Oscar nominees like Blue Jasmine, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Boyhood.

Admittedly, the trailer reveals a pretty well-worn plot of the estranged parent being forced to grow up and prove themselves to their emotionally distant family. But surprise, surprise, Streep looks amazing here and has completely transformed herself into the immature and irresponsible rock star. At this point I shouldn't be surprised by any role she can pull off, but after years of gaining credibility as a wise and powerful presence, it is impressive how comfortable she fits in as the reckless rocker. Rick Springfield as her bandmate and lover is a pretty awesome choice if you want to capture the vibe of a woman trapped in another decade.

Even if the story isn't breaking any new ground, there are signs of the pedigree behind this with the vivid images and well constructed shots along with dialogue that zips and zings. A familiar story can still be a fascinating movie when there is a strong attention to detail and fascinating characters to push along the plot.

The best part is that this is an adult drama that is currently lined up to be a wide release. Though it is at the moment competing for multiplex space on its opening weekend with Fantastic Four, Shaun the Sheep and Masterminds and you know what movie will get lopped if your multiplex decides four new releases is too much (and it usually is). If this ends up living up to its potential then hopefully it can grow an audience and eventually make its way to most cinemas through the month of August. A generic trailer and August date isn't enough to deter me from getting excited about Streep rocking out.

'Magic Mike XXL' Trailer is a Giant Dick Joke


Sexy is totally coming back to cinema, This year we've had Fifty Shades of Grey's delicate foray into bondage and Focus actually had a love story with real life bare bodies intimately wrapping around each other. Magic Mike XXL now wants do its part steaming up the big screen with a bevy of prancing and gyrating beefcakes.



The trailer seems to have been composed after some marketing intern was challenged to cram as many sexual innuendos as possible and see if they can get away with showcasing a 2 minute dick joke. Not that anyone who actually willingly clicked on a trailer about aging male strippers getting ready for a big strip competition should be floored by copious references to male private parts. There is no doubt that legendary filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick, Orson Welles, and Sidney Lumet deep down always dreamed pulling off a masterful scene of a guy using a shaken up can of pop to simulate ejaculations that this trailer unleashes.

Amongst those washboard abs and miraculous pecs, this trailer also was really helpful in giving me several reminders. A Donald Glover appearance reminded me that I really need to catch up on Community and that he is a heck of an underrated comedian (hopefully, he gets to flex his muscles and his comic chops). I was also reminded that Andie MacDowell was seemingly in every single movie in the early 1990s and I waited too long to compose my "Actors Trapped in the Forbidden Zone" article.

Most importantly, I'm reminded that I still need to see the original. I say need because I don't feel like a proper modern film writer without being able to say that I've seen Steven Soderbergh's entire film canon (well, I can say that now, but not honestly). The original was supposed to be a really smart and funny movie, and was the breakout role that proved Channing Tatum is more than just a dancing piece of gorgeous meat by playing. . . well, that.

Without seeing the original, I can't tell if this picture is trying to go all meta and self-aware by throwing the characters into one of the most cliché of sequels. Or if it is just a case of "damn, we made a lot of money on the first but we don't have a script, let just adapt this Pitch Perfect 2 screenplay by substituting all the singing with sexy dancing and barely disguised references to hard penises."  In the era where forty five sequels are mapped out before the original is filmed, there is something comforting about a studio daring to do a thrown together sequel to an unexpected hit that is a blatant cash grab. Of course, I may just be missing all the subtext and brilliance that is contained in the 433 dick jokes crammed in this trailer

'Mr. Holmes' Trailer Proves Not All Famous Literary Characters Need CGI


Considering there are currently six separate studios eager to bring their own riveting and sure-to-be-life-changing versions of Robin Hood, it only seems appropriate we start flooding the marketplace with Sherlock Holmes features. It isn't like poor Holmes has been left in the cold though, there currently is only the Guy Ritchie directed and Robert Downey Jr. starring steampunk action Sherlock Holmes franchise in the movie realm, but for TV we have Sherlock, the Benedict Cumberbatch starrer with Holmes solving crime in modern London and then also Elementary with Holmes solving crime in modern New York. In order to meet the entertainment criteria of a famous literary adaptation needing at least four different versions, we now have Ian McKellan playing the iconic detective set in the much less modern and very un-steampunkish 1947.



Mr. Holmes is an adaptation of Mitch Cullin's 2005 novel, A Slight Trick of the Mind. The first thing I noticed is that it isn't "similar to Pirates of the Caribbean" or "set in a Fast & Furious like world" or seeming to build to a Avengers-like event movie, which means it already is a thousand times better than everything being pitched in all the threatened Robin Hood movies. It is a well-known property that has actually proven to be popular in the last few years (unlike you know. . . Robin Hood) that is completely eschewing the blockbuster formula. This is a delightfully smaller budget, limited release character-driven drama that seems to be made because there was a good story to tell rather than the potential to show it in 3-D and have a theme park ride to commemorate it next year.

I'm a sucker for "breaking the myth" type movies where the narrative reveals an iconic character who wasn't what had been recorded and documented. It seems that pesky Watson embellished several details about the world's most famous detective and now Holmes wants to try to write his own memoirs to correct it. Holmes now lives on a remote farmhouse with his housekeeper and her son Roger who is clearly a fan of his literary version. The trailer reveals McKellan in several warm scenes with Milo Parker who plays Roger and also has some biting wit to prevent it from becoming too gooey.

This is the first American trailer and it does promise a lot more suspense and "action" than the UK trailer, which just seems to be a sign marketing trying to appeal to what they think each country wants to see. Every trailer has promised a charming period drama that takes its time to develop the character of Holmes who is coming to terms with his legend and past.  McKellan is perfectly cast as he brings both a poise and strength but also a sense of magic and whismy. The trailer feels literary and a sense of blending reality with fantasy.

Director Bill Condon and crew take the time to really craft the time period and make it feel authentic rather than just tossing in some pop culture references. The settings are absolutely gorgeous and the trailer is rich in atmosphere. It feels like a movie I want to settle down with for several hours and soak everything up.

The trailer seems to be selling it as Holmes last big case, but the theme of him fearing he is disconnecting from his past hints it may be something different. Is the case just a way to humour Roger or allow Holmes a way to entertain himself for a few hours? Is it really an unsolvable case that the master detective can prove he still has the intellect and power to crack? Is it a delusional and broken down Holmes who is tampering in innocent people's affairs? Or is the trailer completely deceptive and everything shown is just flashbacks and stories that he is telling Roger? None of that really matters since the movie is going to be about the characters and working through themes of legacy and moving on.

This looks absolutely wonderful. There aren't any crashing cars or robotic spiders. It is story over sizzle. It has a chance to be just as thrilling and riveting as any of the big tentpoles this summer. Hopefully, it finds an audience and can gain some expansion to make it to more cinemas this summer.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

'Star Wars' Force Chokes 'Monster Trucks' Out of Christmas Release


The force will be strong with Disney this December and many other studios are retreating from its power. The very bulky Christmas Day movie slate is slowly thinning down thanks to the hulking presence of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens that will be wielding unimaginable box office power even after being released the week prior.

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation was the first to scramble away and doing the rare act of actually moving up on the schedule (especially for a big budget spectacle that probably could use the extra months of post-production special effects touch-up). The picture had to wave the white flag early by recognizing many fans will choose a fourth straight Star Wars viewing over watching Tom Cruise dangling on the side of a plane this Christmas. At least, MI gets some solace in knowing that they've won the coveted right to use the precious "Rogue" in their marketing materials

It is a small victory for Paramount because it is now a two time Christmas retreater with its CGI/Animated/Live-action hybrid, Monster Trucks fleeing to March. The studios is recognizing that its biggest tentpole of the year and an original animated property were no true match-up against a highly anticipate new chapter to a franchise that is deeply embedded into our culture and appeals to almost every possible demographic. Their biggest chance for recouping costs was being the movie people resigned themselves to seeing after three simultaneous screenings of Luke Skywalker and the gang were sold out. This now allows the adventures of Ethan Hawk to regain its spot as a "Big Event" picture for July and original animated features have proven to draw with the families in March giving Monsters Trucks a new hope.


The Christmas wide release slate is still bloated and would be even for a year that doesn't have a still fresh juggernaut threatening to topple all in its path. Monster Trucks was likely in the most trouble as Star Wars will be drawing in an army of families and there is already an animation mixed live-action feature in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip. The Chipmunks most notable (and only?) contribution to cinema is its seemingly endless stream of pun titles, but it is an established brand that somehow garnered itself a strong following (families must love the sly wit of chipmunk inspired puns). The heavily family-focused holiday probably means the singing rodents have a shot at pulling in a decent haul while I shake my fist at what parents willingly subject their children to watching (says the guy who just allowed his son to see 1992's Tom and Jerry: The Movie).

Paramount is now completely left out in the blizzard this Christmas season as it last movie of the year is released in mid-November with the horror reboot, Rings. Considering the history of that genre at the box office, it will be long gone before most start their gift shopping. I'm expected some other movies to lose this game of chicken or risk making the list of the biggest box office bombs of the year.

Oliver Stone's Snowden will likely be a very small wide release (or just be sliced down to a New York and LA opening) with eyes on a January expansion if it does well. Point Break seems destined to be a disaster as younger audiences will see it as Fast & Furious with surfboards and older audiences will only vaguely remember they may have kind of liked the original. Both Concussion and Joy have the weight of being counter programming to those not into epic space operas, but the two may end up battling for that specific audience and in 2015 Jennifer Lawrence is the bigger star (the Will Smith movie may just be too "serious" during a time that people are hankering for something light and digestible).

Obvious counter programming will also be arriving from the week before to muddy the waters as the Tina Fey and Amy Poehler starring Sisters opens alongside Force Awakens. I'm both impressed and shocked the comedy hasn't budged from that release date. I realize not everyone wants to see Star Wars or is buying into the exorbitant hype, but Avengers: Age of Ultron scared all wide release challengers away from the prestigious May 1st and I'd consider the story set in a galaxy far, far, far away to be the bigger box office titan. Sisters may still relocate a week, but that would only make it an even more crammed and potentially disastrous situation for the non sci-fi movies.

It may be a record breaking end-of-the-year with Star Wars getting many out to the cinemas and then several being enticed by some of the other pictures. It could also just as easily be one movie scrooging all the money then sending the rest into a dark oblivion. Before the holiday season hits, I predict more "held back for retooling" announcements or a movie being shunted down into limited release security with hopes of expanding after the hype cools. Right now, Star Wars stands as the franchise that makes all others shake and Disney is reveling in its spot as the king of the tentpoles.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Buildings Crumble and Tidal Waves Crash in the 'San Andreas' Trailer While the Sun Also Rises this Morning


I'd complain that San Andreas is rocking us with an endless tidal wave of trailers except that apparently this is "only" the third and a movie I really want to see in Mad Max: Fury Road had about 8 billion trailers, teasers, and sneak peaks. It is how the game is played now with more attention, discussion, and coverage for a movie happening before the release then when people can actually watch the whole thing.



This trailer is the attempt to reel in those that dismissed the movie as a pure symphony of CGIed catastrophes by slopping a few scenes at the start that show such high drama as the Rock making a phone call to his wife or the Rock driving his daughter to university. As riveting and profound as those scenes will surely be, it isn't likely to be an Avengers: Age of Ultron situation where Joss Whedon was earnestly trying to make the movie mean something and infuse his personality into the CGI tentpole spectacle. I'm predicting any scenes that aren't containing boats smashing through window walls or crumbling buildings chasing a helicopter will just be filler scenes designed either to establish this is indeed a movie or act as breathers between the disasters.

To be fair the crumbling of California looks pretty spectacular and this is top of the line special effects that may actually dazzle on the big screen, While Avengers: Age of Ultron will win hands down for actual substance, the action sequences appear to be crisper and creating a chaos that is easy to soak up opposed to the indecipherable light show that was many Avengers sequences. The recent trend with upcoming tentpoles like Mad Max: Fury Road, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, and Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is blending CGI with practical effects and stunts. That seems to also be the case here or the special effects have advanced enough that it doesn't look like a video game (which is hard to believe considering Avengers' first half had a string of disconnecting action sequences that very much felt like it was birthed entirely on a computer).

This is mindless action from the disaster genre that has always put spectacle over drama and character. It is presented from the director that unearthed gems like Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. It also has the Rock with his charisma and screen presence that often make even the most ridiculous pictures have some personality and charm (he is the best part of the Furious 7). San Andreas is fast food cinema, but sometimes you're just craving Wendy's.