Monday, December 15, 2008

Delgo Has the Worst Opening in Box Office History

Remember a few posts ago when I said that I couldn't imagine anyone looking forward to Delgo? Well, apparently I was right, because according to Yahoo News it just had the worst opening ever for a movie in wide release. The article says:
"Delgo" earned a measly $511,920 this weekend on 2,160 screens, not even breaking the top ten. That's an average of $237 per screen for the three days. If you figure there were five screenings a day, and assume ticket prices are about $8, that comes out to two people in the theater per showing.
That's pretty rough. But here's the line from the article that really gets me:

By comparison, the Golden Globe-nominated drama "Doubt" earned roughly the same amount of money, but it was only in 15 theaters.
Ouch. I almost feel bad considering the story behind the making of Delgo (see the link), but then I remember how painful the trailer was and I have to wonder how anyone ever thought this movie was a good idea.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Good Trailer

No, I don't mean "Good Trailer" as in this trailer looks good (although it does). The movie is actually called "Good," and it stars Viggo Mortensen as a college professor in Nazi Germany.

I'm always a little skeptical of movies where the characters speak English in places that very obviously don't speak English in real life, but I think this one could turn out all right. It opens in limited release on December 31.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Academy Changed Its Mind

About a month ago, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences disqualified The Dark Knight's score from eligibility for its Best Original Score award. However, it seems they have now decided to reverse that decision. Here's what Yahoo News has to say:
The executive committee of the academy's music branch initially ruled November 10 that there were too many composers involved in the score; the Academy generally considers only scores that are the work of one or at most two composers.

But after reviewing the submission, it concluded that Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard were the main composers and deemed the duo's work for Warner Bros.' Batman blockbuster as eligible.
Gee, do you think? As I said in a previous post on this topic, Zimmer and Howard had already been acknowledged by their collaborators as the score's primary composers well before any of this controversy ever took place.

I'd like to say this move has restored my faith in the Academy, but it's going to take a lot more than their correcting of one mistake for that to happen. Besides, my guess is that Warner Bros. basically strongarmed the Academy into this decision, so it's hard to give the Academy all the credit.

That said, though, this does make me hopeful that the Academy could finally be turning things around this year. There's no reason why we shouldn't be able to have movie awards that actually mean something again, and this is a step in the right direction.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The 5 Worst-Looking Movies of the End of 2008

First of all, my sincere apologies for the lack of updates over the last week. I had meant to get this post up last weekend, but schoolwork and then Thanksgiving plans interfered and I had to put it off. But here it is now, just in time (I hope!) for you to check out these trailers and save yourself from spending any money on the worst-looking movies coming out before 2009. I’ve ranked them from best to worst, but rest assured – none of them look good at all, so it doesn’t really matter all that much.

5. The Tale of Despereaux

The first of two computer-animated movies to make this list, the only reason The Tale of Despereaux is rated better is because its animation looks significantly prettier. But unfortunately for Despereaux, looks aren’t everything, and this movie just seems like a boring Dumbo rip-off. Others may find something to like here, but I certainly won’t be going out of my way to see it.

4. Punisher: War Zone

Punisher: War Zone has had a long and troubled history, which actually makes me a bit sorry to say that I think it will end up being terrible. Thomas Jane, the star of the 2004 Punisher movie (which had its flaws, but was still enjoyable), was incredibly excited to make this sequel. He was probably more dedicated to the movie than anyone, and he spent hours working out each day for months to make his portrayal of the character even better this time around. But when he found out what direction the filmmakers intended to go with the project, he dropped out, and very publicly at that.

Since then everything related to War Zone has only contributed to its downward spiral, from its casting of Ray Stevenson as the main character to the the abysmal trailer above (complete with spinning-in-circles-upside-down machine gun firing). I’ll honestly be sad to see what could have been a great franchise crash and burn this holiday season.

3. Four Christmases

The problem with a lot of comedies is that they give away their best jokes in the trailer. However, the problem with Four Christmases is slightly different. The jokes in the trailer are not the least bit funny, and the fact that it’s reduced to showing us a puking baby in a last-ditch effort to make us laugh is really pretty pathetic. Vince Vaughn has proven he can do better, so there’s no reason why he should still be making movies like this.

2. Delgo

I watched this trailer three times in an effort to determine what Delgo is about, and I still have no idea. I might have given it a fourth shot too, if not for the fear that seeing it one more time would induce me to jump off a tall building. Delgo honestly looks so bad that I can’t imagine anyone at all is looking forward to seeing it. I say that not only because the plot is absolutely incoherent – it’s also just an ugly film to look at. And if the trailer itself isn’t bad enough, just take a look at voice “talent” listed at the end. Seriously, Burt Reynolds and Kelly Ripa? Boy, I can’t wait.

1. Will Eisner’s The Spirit

If you’ve seen the trailer, I don’t think the sheer awfulness of The Spirit requires any explanation on my part. But my main problem with this movie isn’t just that it looks bad, it’s that they tacked Will Eisner’s name onto the front of it (they didn't do it in this trailer, but it's in virtually every other trailer or advertisement for the movie).

Will Eisner was the main pioneer of serialized comic stories in the 1940s and 1950s, and in many ways Eisner is to comic books as Walt Disney is to animated movies. However, the Spirit character in this movie has nothing to do with the classic character created by Eisner (save for his appearance). Instead, director Frank Miller has opted to make a pseudo-sequel to Sin City starring a guy with a mask and a red tie. Please, whatever you do, say no to stupidity and avoid this movie at all costs.

And with that, we've reached the end of what I think are the five worst-looking movies coming out in the last month or so of 2008. If by some freak occurrence any of them turn out to not be utter trash, I’ll be more than happy to acknowledge that when I’ve seen them for myself. From what I’ve seen, though, I really doubt that is going to happen.

So what do you think? Do these movies look bad, or am I being overly critical? And, more to the overall point of this post – are there any movies coming out this year that you think look worse?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Clint Eastwood Retires From Acting

My fears have now been confirmed by Britain's Sunday Express: Gran Torino will be the last time we see Clint Eastwood on the big screen. Here's what the article has to say.

Clint, 78, says he has no plans to appear in films again after starring in Gran Torino, a drama about a racist veteran of the Korean War.

"That will probably do it for me as far as acting is concerned," said Clint, whose iconic roles include Dirty Harry, the cop with .44 Magnum revolver, the most powerful handgun in the world.

"You always want to quit while you are ahead. You don’t want to be like a fighter who stays too long in the ring until you’re not performing at your best."
This isn't entirely surprising, but it's still somewhat saddening. At least Eastwood will continue to direct, though, so it's not as if we're losing his cinematic voice completely. If anything, this just makes me that much more excited to see his performance in Gran Torino.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The 5 Best-Looking Movies of the End of 2008

The year itself may be winding down, but there are still a handful of good-looking movies coming out before January 1, 2009. Here are my picks for the best-looking films that haven’t come out yet – so, in other words, they all still have the potential to turn out really well or really poorly. I’ve included the theatrical trailers for all of them so you can see for yourself whether they look interesting. Enjoy!

5. Revolutionary Road

Revolutionary Road reunites Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet for the first time since the highly overrated Titanic, but unlike that movie I think RR stands a chance at being a really good drama. Both Winslet and DiCaprio have grown significantly as actors since their last outing together, and having a story with real character drama rather than straight-up sappiness will hopefully help this movie to stand out.

4. Milk

Movies about people struggling for their rights are almost a dime a dozen these days, but Milk seems like it will rise above the crowd. By focusing on a different community than the ones we usually see in these types of movies, as well as by having an excellent cast, I think Milk is bound to make waves, win some awards, and hopefully, find itself a decent audience.

3. Defiance

Defiance was almost pushed back to 2009, but at the last minute the studio decided to put it on track for a December 31 release. I’m glad they did, because this movie looks great. Daniel Craig’s accent is perfect, and I don’t think I’ll have any problem buying into his character – unlike the protagonists in other WWII-themed movies coming out this year (read: Valkyrie). The film’s subject matter may be serious, but there is one thing I find rather funny about it: Craig has about as much dialogue in the trailer as he does in the entirety of Quantum of Solace.

2. The Wrestler

This movie has come seemingly out of nowhere and impressed a whole lot of people, myself included. A few days ago, who would have thought that Mickey Rourke, of all people, would be on the verge of staging a major career comeback? Whether or not you’re a fan of professional wrestling (I, for one, am not), this movie looks like it could be something truly great.

1. Gran Torino

I’ve posted this trailer before, but it’s so good that I think it bears watching again. It’s hard for me to pin down exactly what has me so fired up about this movie, but I think it has mostly to do with Clint Eastwood’s character, who is gruff and temperamental but somehow still seems endearing. There’s also something to be said for the fact that I haven’t seen Eastwood in a movie I’ve enjoyed in a really long time, and I’d like to see him in at least one more good role before he retires from filmmaking.

Well, those are my top five, but there are still other movies that look worthwhile as well. Honorable mentions for the list include Doubt, Last Chance Harvey, and Seven Pounds (click the titles to watch their respective trailers). So what movies are you looking forward to seeing before the year ends? Are they the movies in this list, or are there other ones you think will be worth your time and money?

Leave a comment below, and don’t forget to come back later this weekend, when I’ll have my picks for the worst-looking movies for the rest of this year!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hold On There, Disney

I was just browsing a list of upcoming DVD releases to see what would be coming out soon, and stumbled across this - a box set collecting the "Little Mermaid trilogy." Puzzled, since I only remembered there ever being one Little Mermaid movie, my confusion turned to extreme annoyance when I read the following:

The Little Mermaid (1989)
Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (2000), MPAA Rating: G
The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning (2008), MPAA Rating: G

Now for years, I've sat by and said relatively little as Disney has defiled some of its most beloved movies time and time again by releasing these cheap direct-to-video cash-ins. But never before has it bothered me quite like this. At least before, I could always sort of pretend that these awful sequels never happened. I was content with the fact that most people would realize that the sequels were garbage and they would leave them well enough alone.

But this is a different story. I can understand the desire to make quick, easy money when the opportunity presents itself, and to tell you the truth, if a film company wants to run its franchise into the ground with one poorly made sequel after another, I really couldn't care less. The only time there's ever a problem is when a sequel somehow diminishes what made the original a great movie in the first place. So in that sense, to package two cash-in sequels with the original and imply they're on the same level of cinematic quality by calling it a trilogy? Come on, Disney, that's low, even for you.

Monday, November 17, 2008

New Star Trek Trailer

Sorry for having so little in the way of updates over the last week, but I've been really, really busy. Posts may continue to be a little sporadic over the next week or so, but I'm hoping to get back to at least one a day as soon as possible. Hopefully Movie of the Week will be back next week as well.

Anyway, the biggest movie news today is that the trailer for the new Star Trek movie has been released online. You can watch it below:

I saw this trailer before Quantum of Solace last week, and to be honest, I wasn't all that impressed by it. It just looks to me like a bunch of stuff blowing up in outer space, which reminds me of Star Wars Episode III and what a disappointment that movie was. The whole "Kirk driving a hot rod" part was kind of lame too. I'll certainly give the trailer this, though: the special effects look very well done.

As I've said before, I have never been a big Star Trek fan. But still, that doesn't mean I shouldn't be able to look forward to this movie along with all the other non-Trekkies of the world. A franchise reboot should be all about bringing in new viewers, not just catering to the already-converted.

So what do all of you think? Does this trailer get you excited for the movie, or are you as indifferent as I am?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Quantum of Solace Review

If Casino Royale was two steps forward for the James Bond franchise, Quantum of Solace is one step back. While it tries desperately to reach the same level of quality that its predecessor did two years ago, it falls short in a number of respects.

But first, the good. Quantum of Solace may have problems, but Daniel Craig is certainly not one of them. He proves once again that he is perfect in the role of 007, even if screenwriters Paul Haggis and Neal Purvis don’t give him nearly enough to say. (In fact, I’m quite confident that he has the least lines of any of the main characters in the film.) Even in silence, Craig’s ferocity hints at an emotional turmoil more painful than Bond can admit, even to himself. Try as he might, he simply can’t escape the events of Casino Royale and how deeply they have affected him. The only way he can express himself is through violence, whether it comes coldly and decisively or in the form of unthinking, bone-breaking brutality.

The entire cast does a good job, actually, especially Judi Dench as M, in what is surely her most prominent role in a Bond film to date. Ukrainian model/actress Olga Kurylenko is surprisingly convincing as Camille, Bond’s main ally in Quantum of Solace. I call her an “ally” rather than a “Bond girl” because, unlike virtually every woman in every other James Bond movie, she is not an object of desire for Bond. In fact, through the lens of vengeance, Bond comes to see her as something of an equal. Her quest for revenge (against the man who murdered her family) mirrors Bond’s, and makes her character all the more effective as a physical manifestation of Bond’s unspoken rage.

However, such simple, primal emotions tend to make a story’s inconsistencies that much more noticeable, and this is undoubtedly the case with Quantum of Solace. A scene in which Bond seduces a fellow MI6 agent comes off as especially disruptive to the movie’s serious tone, as well as the general arc of Bond’s brooding pathos throughout the film. The point, I think, is to show Bond’s willingness to use his charm not merely to gain personal pleasure (as he would have in the Sean Connery and Roger Moore eras), but as a means to a greater end. This idea is hinted at in an exchange between Bond and M, but ultimately it goes nowhere. Unfortunately, the entire subplot culminates in a heavy-handed (even downright stupid) “homage” to the classic Bond movie Goldfinger, eliminating any inclination I might have had to take the scene in question seriously.

Plot hiccups like this one are almost irrelevant in the face of Quantum of Solace’s larger issues, though. Whereas Casino Royale was a truly engaging experience, the cinematic seams are visible in Quantum of Solace – the movie reminds us, again and again, that what we are seeing is indeed only a movie. One of the main problems is that director Marc Forster clearly does not get action. Every single action scene – whether it’s a rooftop chase, a car chase, a boat chase, or an airplane chase (are you noticing a pattern?) – is composed of enough quick cuts and changes in camera angle to almost completely eliminate any sense of continuity between shots.

Part of the blame can be laid at the feet of second unit director Dan Bradley, who worked on the second and third Bourne films, and who brings a similar style to the action sequences in Quantum of Solace. However, most of the responsibility lies with Forster, who doesn’t seem to have the sense to just let the movie’s action be. Twice in Quantum of Solace he intercuts heavy action sequences with completely unrelated (and uninteresting) events: a horse race and an opera. The effect is disorienting and uncomfortable, and only serves to confuse the audience in the end. Even the movie’s more traditional action sequences suffer from poor editing and a general lack of fluidity. Halfway through the movie’s big boat chase, I literally had no idea who was chasing who or in what direction anyone was going.

Above all, the movie’s biggest problem is that in many ways it represents a return to convention for the series. While Casino Royale broke new ground in terms of changing our perceptions of what a Bond movie could be, Quantum of Solace settles for far less and seems content to do so. I’ve already mentioned the movie’s absurd reference to Goldfinger, as well as Bond’s ill-fitting (albeit brief) return to his pre-Casino womanizing ways. But more generally, Quantum of Solace promotes action over plot and style over substance in a way that reminds me all too much of the direction the franchise was headed before Casino Royale came along.

Overall, Quantum of Solace works best as a companion piece to Casino Royale – but, to be honest, Casino Royale works much better as a standalone film. It doesn’t need Quantum, and neither do we. But as it is with so many things that we don’t necessarily need, it’s hard to say no to James Bond – especially this James Bond. Daniel Craig’s performance alone will justify the price of admission for most, and viewers can for the most part expect a fun, if not entirely comprehensible, experience. My only hope is that next time around, we’ll be in for a much smoother ride.

Rating: *** (out of ****)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Dark Knight Score Disqualified From the Academy Awards

According to Variety, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has disqualified the score of The Dark Knight from consideration in the Academy Awards. Here's why:
Sources inside the committee said that the big issue was the fact that five names were listed as composers on the music cue sheet, the official studio document that specifies every piece of music (along with its duration and copyright owner) in the film.
This is absolutely infuriating. It was bad enough when they disqualified the score of There Will Be Blood last year for using eight minutes of preexisting material (thirty-five minutes were original). But this isn't even a matter of whether or not the music is original – The Dark Knight's score is being disqualified because the Academy thinks too many people are credited for it.

Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, who collaborated on the score, gave credit to the three other people as "a way of financially rewarding parts of the music team who helped make the overall work successful" (as Zimmer stated in a recent interview). These people were the music editor, ambient music designer and ambient music composer. All three of them signed an affidavit saying that Howard and Zimmer were the primary composers.

I don't see what the Academy's problem is here. Thinking back to The Dark Knight, it's almost impossible to imagine how completely different the movie would have been without the work of those three individuals. There is no way to argue that their contributions weren't integral to the effectiveness of the score, and the fact that the Academy refuses to acknowledge credit where credit is due is absurd.

The Academy has been hanging from my high opinion by a loose thread for the last few years, and this certainly doesn't help its case. It's about time for the Academy to get off its high horse and start addressing some of the ridiculous hypocrisies and double standards that have been bringing it down for so long.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Jaden Smith is the Kung Fu Kid

Now here’s a remake that actually doesn’t sound like a complete disaster. About a year ago, a rumor went around that Will Smith would be directing a remake of The Karate Kid, except that he would be retooling it as The Kung Fu Kid. One year later, the movie seems to have its star – Smith’s son Jaden. ComingSoon has this to say:

Columbia Pictures has refashioned its new version of the 1984 hit The Karate Kid as a star vehicle for Jaden Smith, reports Variety. The film will be produced by Jerry Weintraub (who launched the original franchise) and Overbrook Entertainment's James Lassiter, Jaden's father Will Smith and Ken Stovitz.

The announcement doesn’t say whether Will Smith is still attached to direct, but I think we can assume that to be the case. If The Pursuit of Happyness is any indication, he and Jaden seem to have a real synergy when it comes to working together, so I’m interested to see how this turns out.

I think the fact that they’re not essentially trying to “redo” the original Karate Kid movie is a good thing, and will ultimately work in its favor. Casting a younger actor as the star and changing up the martial arts style actually seem to make this a spiritual sequel more than anything else.

So now, the only real question is: who will play Mr. Miyagi?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Marvel News > DC News

The big comic book movie news today is that Joe Johnston will be directing the Captain America movie, which comes out in 2011. Johnston’s career has been relatively hit (The Rocketeer, October Sky) or miss (Jurassic Park III, Hidalgo), but I’m fairly happy with this news.

To be honest, I was worried Marvel would pick someone absolutely terrible to helm this movie, and the fact that they picked someone with a 50/50 track record gives me at least some hope. Besides, what’s really going to make or break this movie is who they pick to play Captain America. Personally, I’m hoping for Matt Damon. No, seriously.

So DC must have had some pretty good news today to counter this announcement, right? Sure, if you consider the fact that Beyoncé wants to play Wonder Woman to be “good.” But wait, that’s not all! IESB is also reporting that McG is interested in directing said Wonder Woman project.

You know, it never ceases to amaze me how poorly Warner Bros. has managed to handle all of DC’s comic book franchises, other than the last two Batman movies. Marvel has the right idea: introduce several major characters in their own movies, and then bring them together in one big movie (Avengers). For years, DC’s plan has been to start with a team movie, Justice League, and then spin each character off into his or her own franchise from there. That plan has obviously gone nowhere, and the Justice League movie itself was actually cancelled just a few months ago.

It’s a shame, really. DC’s characters could be just as viable as Marvel’s if WB put some effort behind it, the way they did with Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. But really – Beyoncé and McG? There is no way that’s the best they can do.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Movie of the Week - Casino Royale

With a new James Bond movie opening in the US this week, could there really be a better time to take a look back at what made its spiritual predecessor so great? It’s been two years now since Casino Royale injected new life into the Bond franchise – both in terms of casting, with Daniel Craig stepping into the role, and in terms of overall cinematic quality. It’s almost hard now to remember all of the anxiety that surrounded the film before its release. Many fans were convinced that Craig would be the worst Bond ever and, consequently, that Casino Royale would mark a new low for the series. Today, it’s quite obvious how that dilemma played out: the pessimists were wrong.

My own interest in the James Bond character dates back to elementary school. By the sixth grade I had seen every Bond film made up to that point (there were nearly twenty), and I could have easily recited the entire list in chronological order. My personal favorites have changed a number of times over the years, but as I became able to recognize the objective quality (or lack thereof) of each film, my top picks have become basically stabilized. I was more hopeful than most in the days and weeks before Casino Royale came out, but I did not expect it to crack the top five, much less the top two. As of today, I consider the title of “Best Bond Film” a toss-up between Casino Royale and From Russia with Love (the second movie, which came out in 1963).

In the summer before Casino Royale’s release, I decided to read the 1953 novel by Ian Fleming – the first one in the series, and James Bond’s first appearance to the world. I was happy to find that the Bond in Casino Royale was the version I enjoyed most in the films. Bond was distant, cruel, uncompromising, and violent, just as a secret agent with a “license to kill” should be. His sense of humor was pitch-black, but at the same time he was sympathetic and human.

Not having seen Daniel Craig’s performance as Bond at that point, I tried to hit upon which Bond actor I would use to visualize the character in the novel. After a few pages, though, I could tell that something wasn’t working – Fleming’s Bond was not quite like any of the Bond actors. He wasn’t bumbling, flippant or snarky like Roger Moore, nor was he the emotional wreck George Lazenby had made Bond out to be. In the end, I settled on alternating my visualization of Bond between Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights and Pierce Brosnan in Goldeneye. But even then, the match wasn’t quite perfect.

Anyhow, I loved the novel. When I finally saw Casino Royale at the movie theater, it not only met the high expectations I had formed after reading the book – it exceeded them. It kept everything that was great about the novel intact (particularly its portrayal of the character) and expanded the story’s scope, modernizing it. Daniel Craig brought an intensity to the role that elevated him above every actor who had come before him. Yes, even Sean Connery. Craig wasn’t an actor playing James Bond. He was James Bond.

Casino Royale also succeeds in that it tells a story that, unlike many other Bond movies, actually makes sense. And I don’t mean that simply on the level of “the story is understandable,” although there are certainly several Bond movies where that isn’t entirely the case. What I mean is that it makes sense emotionally, which is a first for the franchise. The James Bond of Casino Royale is not just a tough-guy ladies’ man who puts a few bullets in the bad guy and calls it a day. If anything, Bond is too emotionally invested, and it comes back to hurt him in the end.

I could belabor the issue further, but I think I’ve made my point. Casino Royale stands as one of the best James Bond movies because it is essentially different from the twenty that preceded it. That isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with the old movies, of course, because they can be a lot of fun. But in the end, Casino Royale is the only one that can resonate with us emotionally because it is the only one in which Bond is truly human. His struggles, for once, are not self-obsessed, chauvinistic, or incomprehensible – instead, they are ours.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Remembering Bernie Mac

Yahoo has posted a video interview with several of the people who worked with Benie Mac on his new movie Soul Men, which opened today. Some of the interviewees include Samuel L. Jackon (Mac's costar in the movie) as well as the film's director, Malcolm D. Lee. It's definitely worth a watch and made made me much more interested in seeing the movie as well. You can check it out below.

James Bond vs. Vampires

USA Today is reporting that the teen vampire movie Twilight is absolutely dominating the competition in terms of online ticket sales, including the new James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. Here's what the article has to say:

According to online movie ticket seller Fandango, Twilight is accounting for nearly two-thirds of ticket sales, and more than 100 shows have sold out for the movie's Nov. 21 premiere. Solace, meanwhile, is accounting for only 6%, even though the movie comes out in eight days.

That doesn't mean Solace won't still win the box office battle when all is said and done, but those are the kinds of numbers that can leave even steel-nerved spies a little shaken and stirred.

My guess (and my sincere hope) is that Quantum of Solace will destroy Twilight at the box office regardless. Twilight looks awful, and there's no way it will attract many viewers from outside of its already-established fanbase, the way the Harry Potter movies have. Most people hadn't even heard of Twilight two months ago, and I imagine bad reviews will kill the interest of everyone other than the most rabid fans of the series. So you can rest easy, Mr. Bond – you have nothing to fear.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Three Stooges Are Getting a Remake

I've done my best so far on this blog to make sure that my opinion on remakes is clear: in general, I don't like them. They turn out well sometimes, but for the most part, remakes these days are cheap cash-ins on the original. The people who make these movies never seem to realize that a good remake is almost always the result of some combination of luck, talent, and most importantly, reverence for the source material.

This brings me to the news which led me to bring all of this up in the first place:
according to, the Farrelly Brothers are remaking The Three Stooges. The movie has been fast-tracked for release in 2009, and will be an origin story for Larry, Curly, and Moe, set in the modern day.

Now, there are certain things that I've always considered "untouchable" when it comes to being remade. Star Wars, The Godfather, and Casablanca come to mind as some of the first and foremost examples, but another one for me has always been The Three Stooges. For all of the examples that I mentioned, though, there is just something about the specific way in which these stories were originally told that, in my mind, has always made them unique and unreplicable. The form, the style, and the historical moment they were made in are absolutely integral to our understanding of their stories and subject matter.

But to discuss The Three Stooges more specifically, I think it would be a real disservice to the memories of the original actors and filmmakers to bring the Stooges back. What's worse is that most young and even middle-aged people who watch movies these days have never seen The Three Stooges, and this new movie will be their first (and possibly only) exposure to them.

Furthermore, The Three Stooges was never based in some sort of continuity, nor should it be. We need an "origin" story for the Stooges as much as we need a movie about Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck meeting for the first time. There's just no point, especially when you consider the fact that Larry, Curly, and Moe were never real characters – they were caricatures. They were larger-than-life goofballs who poked, slapped, and kicked one another to slapstick effect, often while parodying real-life events. Many of their WWII-era short films, for example, were brilliant parodies of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. Turning Larry, Curly, and Moe into "real" people by having them meet one another for the first time changes what they are about and takes away everything that made them fun in the first place.

So now I'll open it up to you. Is this news as appalling to you as it is to me, or am I just overreacting? (And if you're interested in watching The Three Stooges but have never seen them before, I would recommend the 1940 short "You Nazty Spy" as a good starting point. You can watch it

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Michael Crichton Dies

CNN is reporting that best-selling author Michael Crichton has died at the age of 66. Crichton was best known as the author of Jurassic Park and the creator of ER, although he also directed a number of films. Several of his other novels, including The Andromeda Strain, Congo, and Sphere were made into movies at one point or another as well. The cause was cancer.

The only book of Crichton's I ever read was Jurassic Park (it was better than the movie, although I like both), but I have seen a fair number of films based on his works. I would attempt to explain what appealed to me about his stories, but I think Steven Spielberg does him better justice than I could in this quote from CNN:

"Michael's talent out-scaled even his own dinosaurs of 'Jurassic Park,' " said Spielberg, a friend of Crichton's for 40 years, according to The Associated Press.

"He was the greatest at blending science with big theatrical concepts, which is what gave credibility to dinosaurs again walking the Earth. ... Michael was a gentle soul who reserved his flamboyant side for his novels. There is no one in the wings that will ever take his place."

He will be missed. Rest in peace, Michael.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Obama Wins

Congratulations to President Elect Barack Obama! Thanks to Cinematical for both of today's pictures.

Election Day

Go on, vote already! The Internet will still be here when you get back.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Why Terrence Howard Was Dumped From Iron Man 2

Entertainment Weekly has finally spilled the beans on why Terrence Howard lost the role of Jim Rhodes to Don Cheadle for the Iron Man sequel. One of the main reasons is that Howard was the highest-paid actor in the movie. Yes, that’s right – he was paid more than Robert Downey Jr., even though his part was much smaller. Marvel was apparently not sure how bankable Downey would be when they initially signed him, and they were counting on Howard’s star power more than anyone else’s.

On top of that, it seems that Iron Man director Jon Favreau felt working with Howard was a bad experience. The Entertainment Weekly article says that Howard was difficult on the set and Favreau was unhappy with his performance overall – so much so that he spent a good deal of time cutting and reshooting Howard’s scenes.

I didn’t think Terrence Howard did a bad job in the first Iron Man movie, but if the director felt that way and thinks he would be able to make a better sequel without Howard, then the casting change was probably for the best. I would have to agree, in addition to that, that Howard being the highest-paid actor in Iron Man is ridiculous. The supporting cast certainly added to the film’s success, but I think everyone can agree that Downey is the one who truly carried the movie.

So unless new information comes out refuting what Entertainment Weekly said, you’ve heard me complain about Howard losing the role for the last time. It sounds like the sequel will be all the better for it, and having Don Cheadle in the role instead certainly can’t be a bad thing.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Oscars Are Up For Grabs

I’ve tried to think of a nicer way of saying this, but there really isn’t one: 2008 hasn’t been the best year for movies. The end of the year is traditionally the time when the movies that get nominated for Oscars are released, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that the movies of late 2008 are not living up to expectations. Films like Body of Lies, Changeling, The Duchess, and Synecdoche, New York in particular were billed as major Oscar contenders, but they all opened to mixed reviews.

To be honest, I can’t say that upcoming movies like Milk, Australia, or Frost/Nixon look like they’re going to curb the trend either. And it is a trend – there’s an almost indescribable blandness that seems to permeate the marketing campaigns for all of these films. They all seem to be mining the same “surefire Oscar” well, and the effect is that they all run together and become lost in the crowd.

On top of that, some of the movies that were assumed to be the biggest Oscar contenders this year, including The Soloist and The Road, were pushed back to 2009. What we’re left with for the remainder of the year are a very small handful of potentially great films. But if these movies continue to fall short of our expectations, we’ll be left without any end-of-the-year movies that are truly Oscar-worthy.

So what does this mean? It means that, for better or for worse, we could be looking at a potential Dark Knight Oscar sweep – best picture, director, the whole works. After all, the last time a movie made as much money as The Dark Knight did (Titanic in 1997) it swept the Oscars quite handily. But while there’s no question that The Dark Knight was a great movie, I can’t help but feel that there’s something a little off about the whole situation. Had TDK come out last year, it would have had no business winning more than one or two awards aside from the “craft” awards – editing, sound, sound editing, and visual effects. You could have made a case for the movie being nominated for best picture (over the highly overrated Atonement), perhaps best cinematography, and maybe a handful of other awards, but it wouldn’t have deserved to win any of them.

My point here is that one of the most satisfying things about seeing a movie you love win an award is the sense of competition that justifies having awards in the first place. Without any real competitors, though, I think I would find a TDK best picture win to be pretty hollow.

On the other hand, if the Academy isn’t enthusiastic about handing The Dark Knight every award it’s eligible for, the current cinematic vacuum could give way to a free-for-all the likes of which haven’t been seen in four or five years. I think this is a more likely scenario than the TDK sweep – the Academy has shown over the last few years that, much like the Golden Globes, they’ve become overly fond of distributing the awards to as many films as possible. It’s also the best scenario, because while TDK was a good movie, it wasn’t so good that it put every other movie this year to shame.

If the Oscars go this route, the winners will be next to impossible to predict. The Academy will put all its focus into the nominations, making sure all of the movies that were hyped up before they came out get their recognition, deserved or not. Brad Pitt will get an acting nomination for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Nicole Kidman will get a best actress nomination for Australia. Charlie Kaufman will get a screenplay nomination for Synecdoche, New York. You don’t even have to have seen any of the movies in question to know who will get nominated. When there aren’t a plethora of truly outstanding movies to choose from, the Academy will “spread the wealth” to the same people it’s recognized countless times before.

Even the studios have recognized the cinematic void of 2008’s fourth quarter, and they’re doing all they can to push for Oscars in places that wouldn’t get a second glance in any other year. Paramount is currently promoting Robert Downey Jr. as best supporting actor for his role in Tropic Thunder. Marvel Enterprises is considering an Oscar push for Iron Man, which could lead to a best actor nomination for Downey as well. The extent to which the Oscars are beginning to mirror the MTV Awards is frightening. The only studio effort that I can really get behind is Disney’s push for WALL-E to get a nomination for best picture. As the best-reviewed movie of 2007, Ratatouille was absolutely robbed of a nomination last year and it’s high time for the Academy to recognize animated films as being worthy of more than just their own award subcategory.

Unfortunately, the real casualties in this whole situation are the good movies. The Dark Knight, as I mentioned before, could be robbed of a real victory by the fact that it has so little competition. Clint Eastwood will almost surely win an Oscar for his acting in Gran Torino, which looks fantastic, but the Academy won’t choose him for the reasons they should. They’ll do it because Eastwood has yet to receive an Oscar for his acting and the Academy has been trying to give him one for years. Is an award even still meaningful when it’s given away like that? Since it’s never entirely possible to explain exactly why people in a group vote one way or another, I guess it’s up for debate.

I’ve taken the long road in getting to this point, but here it is: the Oscars are completely up for grabs at this point. You might as well start making your predictions now, because I doubt it will get any easier in the next few months.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Movie of the Week - Halloween

Thirty years after its original release, John Carpenter’s Halloween still stands, in my opinion, as the pinnacle of cinematic horror. From slow-building, heart-pounding tension to sheer, open-mouthed terror, the movie plays on the emotions central to the genre in a way that shapes every aspect of horror into razor-sharp perfection.

Most people are familiar with the plot, in which the psychotic Michael Myers escapes from a mental institution and embarks on a killing spree in small-town America. His victims: a group of helpless, unlucky teenagers, led by Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis, in her first major role). Meanwhile, Myers’ psychiatrist Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) works desperately throughout the night to find Myers and put an end to his rampage. Loomis acts as an earnest but ultimately flawed compass when it comes to our understanding of Myers, who acts as a force that Loomis refers to as “purely and simply…evil.”

All of the devices that would become known as the conventions of modern horror are here. The teenagers are killed off, one by one, with the most promiscuous being the first to go; first-person camera shots from Myers’ point of view heighten the sense of the teens’ vulnerability; and a character is killed after speaking that most infamous of horror movie lines: “I’ll be back.” But somehow, these elements don’t seem the least bit cliché. Perhaps it’s because of the relative purity of these tropes in the late 1970s – Halloween was the first film to ever use them in the way that it did.

Unfortunately, the slasher movies that began to rise from the wake of Halloween’s success in the 1980s mistook these aspects of the movie for substance rather than style. Even Halloween’s sequels (there have been seven so far, as well as a remake – none of which were directed by John Carpenter) have fallen trap to this error, replacing the suspense and terror of the original movie with increasing amounts of violence and gore. The first film is not overly violent in comparison, though, relying instead on the viewer’s ability to sympathize with the teens’ desperation. Halloween may have created a formula for later horror movies to follow, but it did so unwittingly and in a way that has yet to be replicated to better effect.

Most importantly, and in stark contrast to nearly every horror movie that has been released since, Halloween reaches back to a time before popular culture ruled our lives – to a time when folklore and urban legend constituted the heart of the small community. The movie’s structure and plot even parallel the themes of a number of oft-repeated urban myths, making the experience at once familiar and frightening. Halloween reminds us of a time, perhaps even a real time that we experienced when we were younger, when good and evil were palpable entities and when terror seemed to lurk around every unknown corner.

Unlike most modern horror movies, there is no guilt to be found in being frightened by Halloween. It earns its scares by reincorporating folk culture into something new and terrifying, by becoming something more than the sum of its parts – and due to its familiarity with and mastery over our own subconscious, we have little choice but to follow it into the darkness of our own fears. For fans of the genre there are few films that can compete with Halloween’s particular brand of horror, and even less that can lay similar claim to being one of the best horror movies ever made.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Revenge of the Remakes

Sometimes it seems like every other movie that comes out these days is a remake. That’s not a trend that’s about to die out anytime soon, unfortunately, as there’s been an incredible amount of news concerning remakes over the last few days – none of it very good. So in honor of that, I’ve assembled the five most appalling pieces of recent remake news and ranked them from bad to absolute worst. Prepare to cringe.

5. George Clooney may be making an appearance in the upcoming remake of The Birds. Now, it’s not the George Clooney part that I think makes this bad news. In fact, I’ll see pretty much anything with his name on it – probably even this movie, unfortunately. But does the world really need a remake of The Birds? People have tried remaking the movies of Alfred Hitchcock before, and it never goes well for them (case in point: Psycho). And here’s the worst part – what if this movie ends up being successful? Will we get a Vertigo remake then? A new version of North by Northwest, perhaps? The very thought makes me shudder.

4. Sam Raimi is developing an ongoing TV show for Starz based on Spartacus. This may not actually be a movie, but I think since it’s based on one it should still be eligible for this list. I just can’t see this being a good idea. Remember when they turned Spartacus into a miniseries a few years ago? More importantly, remember how bad it was? I think this is just one of those cases where the original is such a classic that it will never be outdone, no matter how hard people try. I suppose this series could turn out all right, considering Starz generally has pretty good programming, but for now I’m not sold. I have a lot of respect for Sam Raimi as a filmmaker, but I think he should stick to what he does best – superheroes and campy horror movies.

3. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is getting a remake. According to MTV the new movie will “stay true” to the original, but I think that’s really missing the point. When it comes to movies that have a strong cult following, especially movies as funny as this one, it’s impossible for remakes to live up to the original. What often ends up happening in these situations (for example, with the recent remakes Death Race, The Invasion, Halloween, and The Wicker Man) is the new movie ends up being catered to an audience completely different from the people who liked the original. The result: unhappy fans and an indifferent general audience. Could you see The Rocky Horror Picture Show being remade? Or Blazing Saddles? I didn’t think so. This just sounds like a bad idea from the start.

2. The Star Trek remake is still happening. There’s no real concrete news to discuss concerning Star Trek, but it seems like new stills from the movie are released on an almost daily basis. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the pictures were in any way interesting, but the truth is that they’re downright boring. Who cares about a bunch of people standing around in Enterprise uniforms?

But there’s a bigger issue that I have with the Star Trek remake: I have no idea who the target audience is for this movie. Personally, I have never seen any of the Star Trek movies or even a full episode of any of the TV shows. From the standpoint of someone with no prior interest in the franchise, nothing I’ve seen or heard about the new movie excites me. It isn’t that I’m not open to liking or being interested in it, it’s just that everything released so far has been incredibly bland, to the point of being forgettable.

But while it may not be targeted toward people who are new to Stark Trek, the movie doesn’t seem to be aimed directly at hardcore Trekkies, either. The plot seems to revolve around one of the characters from the original series going back in time and changing something, which then leads to the events of this new movie happening. As a result of this change, all of the previously-made movies and TV shows technically “never happened” within the context of Star Trek canon. I’m not sure whether this is a good or bad thing, but regardless, it has a lot of older Star Trek fans upset. Maybe I’ll eat my words if the movie ends up being a success, but I’m just not feeling it right now.

1. Paramount has fast-tracked a Footloose remake starring High School Musical’s Zac Efron. This terrible information comes courtesy of IESB. Honestly, there’s not a whole lot I can say about this one to make it sound worse than it is. Instead, just imagine the entire cast of HSM performing an “exciting” new version of “Let’s Hear It for the Boy.” Then, have fun trying to expel that horrible image from your mind.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Joaquin Phoenix Retires From Acting

Bad news: Joaquin Phoenix has told E! that he's retiring from acting in order to pursue a career in music. The interviewer seems to think he’s joking at first, but I think he sounds pretty serious. Plus, Phoenix has never really been the joking type and this seems like a pretty dumb thing to joke about anyway. You can watch the brief interview below.

This would be an absolute disaster for the world of film if it turns out to be true. Phoenix is a wonderful actor and his onscreen presence would surely be missed. Let's hope he has a change of heart.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More Iron Man and Doctor Strange News

In an announcement that should come as no surprise to anyone, Robert Downey Jr. and Don Cheadle have both been officially confirmed as being in Iron Man 2, with Downey also confirmed for Marvel’s upcoming superhero team-up movie, The Avengers.

Marvel also said that Iron Man director Jon Favreau would be back for Iron Man 2, and that he’ll be an executive producer on The Avengers. That still leaves the director’s chair for the movie up in the air, though. I had hoped they would go with Favreau, to be honest, so Marvel will really have to impress me with its choice if it’s going to be someone else.

On the rumor side of things, remember that Doctor Strange movie I mentioned last week? Well, according to Livenews, it sounds like Marvel has its eyes on Christian Bale for the role:
A source said: "Christian is hot property right now, courtesy of Batman.“Doctor Strange is a very different kind of hero to Batman and it’s felt Christian is the sort of actor who can make the part work on screen.“It is understood a deal could be struck in the coming weeks."
I can’t even begin to express how much I want this rumor to be true. Doctor Strange and Christian Bale…it just sounds like a match made in heaven. There are a few problems I can foresee with that casting, though.

One is that Bale is already identified with one major superhero – and he happens to belong to Marvel’s primary competition. Warner Bros. (which owns DC Comics) distributed both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, and will be distributing the upcoming Terminator Salvation (also starring Bale). With Bale being such a hot commodity for them these days, I doubt the company would be willing to let him get away anytime in the near future.

If anything, talks with Marvel Studios would probably only accelerate WB getting to work on another Batman sequel, since Bale has expressed interest in doing a third movie. So, if you think about it...this Doctor Strange business could be a win no matter which way it goes.

What do you think – would you like to see Christian Bale play Doctor Strange, or is one superhero role enough for him?


Sorry for the brief hiatus, folks. I've been trying to post at least once a day but yesterday I just didn't get around to it. To make up for it here are a few pictures of some cool movie-themed pumpkins, courtesy of Walyou and Slashfilm. I was originally going to post all Star Wars pumpkins, but I just couldn't resist that last one.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Two New Trailers

Below is the first trailer for Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino:

After seeing the trailer, I think Gran Torino will be an Oscar contender this year for sure. This has become my most anticipated movie of the year, right after Quantum of Solace.

A new trailer for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was also released today:

I find it interesting that the trailer says the movie is coming out “this year.” It’s obvious that this trailer was either intended to come out next year, since the movie was pushed back to 2009, or it was made before the delay became official.

I gave up on the Harry Potter film franchise after Goblet of Fire, which was also the last book I read in the series. If I hear the new movie has returned the series to its Prisoner of Azkaban glory, it might rekindle my interest, but I won’t be holding out too much hope. The only other significant film credit director David Yates has is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, which I never saw, but I heard it wasn’t anything exceptional.

Harry Potter fans, what do you think of the new trailer? How do you think Half-Blood Prince will stack up to the other movies in the series?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Movie of the Week - Young Frankenstein

More than thirty years after its original release, Young Frankenstein is still one of the greatest, if not the best, horror movie spoofs ever made. Shot in black and white, the film weaves a tale that parallels the classic Frankenstein movies of the 1930s while adding an almost constant stream of twists and gags to the formula.

Gene Wilder plays Frederick Frankenstein, the grandson of the original mad scientist. Frederick is a surgeon who inherits his predecessor’s Transylvanian castle, where he meets his servant Igor (Marty Feldman) and beautiful lab assistant Inga (Teri Garr). It isn’t long before, after finding his ancestor’s private journal, Frankenstein becomes similarly obsessed with re-animating the dead.

Frankenstein’s eccentricities are bizarre and yet strangely endearing. “It’s pronounced Fronkensteen,” he insists over and over in his first meeting with Igor. When Frankenstein finally says Igor’s name, the hunchback is quick to reply: “No, it’s pronounced Eye-gor.” The way Wilder and Feldman quip and bicker at one another throughout the movie is a constant source of entertainment. Even their facial expressions as they bumble about their experiments are comedy gold.

Inevitably, Frankenstein bestows life to the Monster (Peter Boyle) when he digs up an enormous body in a graveyard and places in it a stolen brain. Things go wrong, of course, and writer/director Mel Brooks goes on to parody several scenes from the original Boris Karloff Frankenstein movie perfectly. Gene Hackman is particularly funny as a blind, bumbling priest the Monster meets as he roams the countryside.

What makes the humor in Young Frankenstein so enduring, though, is that Brooks and the actors play it straight rather than trying too hard to amuse. It doesn’t hurt that there’s barely a throwaway line in the entire film – the jokes are frequent, funny, and memorable. If you’re looking for a movie in the Halloween spirit that’s comic rather than scary, Young Frankenstein is sure to please.

Jack Ryan Returns?

The latest movie in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan series has been in development hell for years now, but it seems Paramount is finally making some progress. According to Moviehole, the studio has hired two producers for the franchise and given them a mandate “to come up with a Jack Ryan original ASAP.” No director and no star are attached yet.

Moviehole adds that there's “a possibility that the film may feature an 'older' Ryan, as opposed to a younger version.” The last Jack Ryan movie, The Sum of All Fears, featured a younger version of the character (played by Ben Affleck), and it ended up being a pretty big fumble on the parts of everyone involved. I think an older Jack Ryan might be what the series needs to get back on track at this point, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt to bring Harrison Ford back into the fold.

It’s my understanding that Ryan eventually becomes president of the United States in Clancy’s novels, which sounds like it could be an interesting way to progress the film series as well. With so many reemerging franchises today starring older characters, from Indiana Jones to Rocky to Die Hard, I don’t see why it wouldn’t work.

Friday, October 24, 2008

In Defense of Roger Ebert

A lot of people are making a fuss today over Roger Ebert’s review of the movie Tru Loved, which he wrote having seen only the film’s first eight minutes. From IMDb:
In the Los Angeles Times, media columnist Patrick Goldstein writes today (Thursday): "If there were ever an act that indelibly painted critics as elitist snobs, it would be America's best-known critic reviewing a movie after only bothering to watch for eight minutes."

Orlando Sentinel critic Roger Moore says that writing a review of a movie based on its first eight minutes is "not cricket." He then concludes, "If we're going to start writing reviews of movies we haven't suffered all the way, or at least most of the way through, the way most people who shell out $10-12 do after they've spent the cash, we're all doomed."
There are more comments, from movie critics and readers alike, in the remainder of IMDb’s article as well as on Roger Ebert’s blog. In response, Ebert has posted a review of the entirety of the movie and voiced his regret over writing the eight-minute review. Both versions of the review can be read on Ebert’s website.

If you ask me, though, Ebert has nothing to apologize for. First of all, it’s not as if he pretended he had seen the entire movie in his original review. He very clearly states that he walked out after the first eight minutes.

As for whether or not a person can determine a movie’s quality in that short an amount of time – well, it’s hard to say. But if anyone can do it, then I have no doubt that Roger Ebert is that person. He’s been in the business longer than some critics today have been alive, and I think he of all people knows what he’s doing.

I’ve always had a great deal of respect for Ebert and his reviews, and this doesn’t affect my opinion of him in the least. I don’t see why it should affect anyone else’s either.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

New Gran Torino Poster

Today Warner Bros. released this poster for the upcoming movie Gran Torino, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood.

It’s a bit humbling when you realize that even after all these years, Clint Eastwood has still got it. The man’s 78 years old, but he’s still scarier than a grizzly bear. This is a great poster, and it's really sparked my interest in the movie. I actually hadn’t heard of it before the poster came out, so I decided to find out a little about the plot. Here's what IMDb has to say:

Disgruntled Korean War vet Walt Kowalski (Eastwood) sets out to reform his neighbor, a young Hmong teenager, who tried to steal Kowalski's prized possesion: his 1972 Gran Torino.

Sounds pretty cool to me. Gran Torino comes out on December 17, and USA Today has an excellent first look at it, which includes an interview with Eastwood. Could we be on the cusp of Hollywood’s greatest actor-turned-director nabbing yet another Oscar? Here’s hoping.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Judge Says We Are Marshall Is Not a Ripoff

This is one of the most ridiculous pieces of movie news I have seen in a long time. Apparently, the makers of a documentary about the 1970 plane crash that killed Marshall University’s football team decided to sue Warner Bros. for making We Are Marshall, a 2006 movie based on the same events. WB won the case yesterday, and the judge had this to say (from Variety):
"Though the two works tell the story of the Nov. 14, 1970, airplane crash, that event, and the events that preceded and followed, are all matters of public record which cannot be copyrighted."
Is it just me, or is this a no-brainer? Of course a movie based on real-life events is going to have something in common with a documentary on the same subject. The documentary-makers didn’t invent the story, so there’s no “copying” involved here. The judge must have had a good laugh at this case.

On the other hand, though, it might not have been such a bad thing if the makers of We Are Marshall had lost. At least then those of us who suffered through that awful movie might have been able to feel a sense of just compensation.

Hulk Will Return…But Not In a Sequel

If it seems like there’s been a lot of comic book movie news recently…well, that’s because there has been. The latest is that Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige has confirmed that Hulk will be back. From Feige's interview with MTV News:

"The truth is that Hulk has had two films in the past five years, and it's time to give some of the other guys a turn," Feige said of why there was no scheduled "Hulk 2." "But certainly what we are doing is suggesting and cross-pollinating the characters between films, and like reading a comic, I'd like to set that expectation that anything can happen — and anyone can pop up — in anybody else's story.

"I would expect that people may see the Hulk again soon before he is again carrying his own film," he concluded, shouting out "The Avengers" as a possibility.

Personally, I’m fine with having to wait a while for another Hulk movie. I thought The Incredible Hulk was a pretty solid effort by all parties involved, and I would hate for them to burn themselves out by releasing a sequel too soon. And if the Hulk’s going to show up somewhere else first, then so much the better. (Would it be too much to hope for an appearance in Iron Man 2?) My only request is that they keep Edward Norton on board, since he did such a great job with the Bruce Banner aspect of the character.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Quantum of Solace Footage, Anyone?

Movieweb has been kind enough to post several clips from Quantum of Solace, as well as a couple of featurettes about the movie. I’ve posted my favorite ones below. Head over to Movieweb to see the rest!

I'm anticipating this movie even more after seeing these clips. I found the one with Mathis especially interesting. I had already seen him in several trailers for the movie, and I was wondering how they were going to reincorporate him into the story after his seeming betrayal in Casino Royale. Now it seems we have a couple of clues.

Also, you might have noticed that I didn't post any of the clips involving the movie's theme song, by Jack White and Alicia Keys. That's because I think it's complete and utter garbage. If you really must see it, though, you can find the music video at the link above.

So what do you think? Based on these clips, will Quantum of Solace live up to the bar set by Casino Royale? Personally, I'm going with yes.

Doctor Strange: Coming Soon to a Theater Near You?

The president of Marvel Studios told MTV today that Doctor Strange is very likely to be the next Marvel character receiving the film treatment, right after they finish up with Avengers. People who are unfamiliar with the character may not think this is all too exciting, but trust me when I say that he is one of Marvel’s best characters that has so far gone untapped in the movie world (other than a straight-to-DVD animated movie released last year). Unlike some of the more "realistic" or technology-based superheroes we've seen in film lately, Doctor Strange is a magic-based character who I think would make for a very different kind of movie (in a good way). I will definitely be looking forward to more announcements about this movie.

In other comic book movie news, it seems there will be more Nick Fury in Iron Man 2, and that Daniel Craig turned down the role of Thor. I think we can all agree that both of those things are good news. Craig may be a good Bond, but a flying, helmeted, hammer-toting god of thunder he is not.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Being Left Out of Iron Man 2 is a Mystery to Terrence Howard

I was sad when I heard the initial rumors of Terrence Howard being replaced by Don Cheadle in the next Iron Man movie. I think Cheadle is the better actor of the two, but Howard is still great and I enjoyed his performance in the first Iron Man. It was basically assumed that Howard got axed because he couldn’t reach a financial agreement with the studio, but apparently that isn’t the case.

In an interview with NPR, Howard said that he has no idea why he was dropped from Iron Man 2. Chud provides a transcript of part of the interview:
"It was the surprise of a lifetime. There was no explanation. [The contract] just...up and vanished. I read something in the trades implicating that it was about money or something, but apparently the contracts that we write and sign aren't worth the paper that they're printed on, sometimes. Promises aren't kept, and good faith negotiations aren't always held up."
This is really disappointing. I’m never a fan of actors getting replaced in a film series, unless the original actor was just wrong for the part, but that’s not the case here at all. Maybe I shouldn’t complain, since Cheadle is one of my favorite actors – after all, this recasting could have gone much, much worse. But with possible casting changes in other upcoming sequels, including rumblings of Ed Norton being out of the Incredible Hulk follow-up, you have to wonder: would it hurt the people who cast these movies to just make a decision and stick with it?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

W. Review

While it doesn’t quite live up to the controversy surrounding it, Oliver Stone’s W. is still a fairly good film. It marks a departure from much of Stone’s previous historically based movies, in that it’s a mostly accurate depiction of events that really did happen. The film alternates in perspective between George W. Bush’s formative years, starting when he’s in college, and his first term in office as president. Stone, whose other presidential films JFK and Nixon were rather long-winded (both clock in at over three hours), shows considerably more restraint in W. by only focusing on specific moments of emotional upheaval for the young Bush.

Stone’s portrayal of Bush is surprisingly sympathetic. Bush has real, human motivations in this movie, and they’re not quite what the more cynical among us might expect. Josh Brolin plays the part extremely well, and you can’t help but like the character even when he’s acting out of utter ignorance. This may be the first time ever that someone has actually played the part of Bush, rather than simply playing a caricature of him.

Although Stone tries to boil down Bush’s life into a quest for the approval of his father (James Cromwell) a few times too many, he makes it clear that Bush (or, at least, his version of Bush) truly does believe in the ideology he claims to stand for. This can be seen no better than in a gripping war room scene – my favorite scene in the film, actually – in which the president and his cabinet discuss their plans for Iraq. While Vice President Cheney (Richard Dreyfuss, in a brilliant performance) rambles on about needing to gain control of the Middle East’s oil reserves, Bush is concerned only with “freedom” and the spread of democracy. W.’s supporting cast really shines in this scene, with the rivalry between Cheney and Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright) being especially interesting to watch.

In fact, most of the cast give excellent performances throughout the entire movie, and I would not be surprised to see Cromwell, Wright, and especially Dreyfuss receive award nominations next year. It’s not all perfect, though. Thandie Newton’s grating portrayal of Condoleezza Rice is easily the worst part of the movie, and most of the time it seems as though she’s just walked out of a bad SNL skit. She doesn’t have many lines, thankfully, but she’s terrible enough that her presence in and of itself was enough to damage my overall opinion of the movie.

W. functions well overall, though, partly because Stone doesn’t gum up the works with a bunch of far-out, unsubstantiated conspiracy theories – in fact, most of the events in the movie are pretty well documented in real life. Some have complained that the movie glosses over such notable events as the 2000 presidential election and the specifics of Bush’s conversion to evangelical Christianity, but the fact is that they’re largely unimportant to the story being told. Stone’s sympathetic representation of Bush makes it clear that W. isn’t meant to be just a historical chronicle of Bush’s life; it’s Stone’s attempt at rationalizing what has happened to America in the last eight years.

In this light, the claims of some critics that the film was made “too early” or even “too late” seem ridiculous. W. relies on its audience being of the time when it takes place – the present – for its rhetorical message to function most effectively. It’s hard to tell whether W. will stand the test of time, as it seems doubtful that it will elicit the same emotional response from audiences viewing it ten or twenty years from now. For now, however, it is a fitting answer to nearly eight years’ worth of war, economic failure, and wasted frustration with what will surely go down in history as one of the worst American presidencies ever.

Rating: ***