Friday, April 25, 2008

Disneynature's First Production Trailer.

Just a quick follow-up to Wednesday's piece about the new production banner at Disney, Disneynature. The trailer for the very first release under the new production branch has been released. The film is a spinoff of the acclaimed Discovery Channel series Planet Earth, apparently cut from much of the footage used for the series. Under the title Earth, the new release is due out on April 22, Earth Day, next year.


Thanks to for the trailer footage.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Disney's 2nd Nature.

A little more than nine months ago, July 6th of 2007, we published a Screening Room article at titled "Has National Geographic Grabbed a Piece of Walt's Legacy?". The subtitle was "Arctic Tale may teach Disney that there's still a market for educational entertainment." Perhaps it has. With Disney's announcement, timed for Earth Day this past Tuesday, the Mouse will be returning to the business of presenting nature with a Disney flair, and with Disney's marketing machine in full gear behind it. The curtain has officially been opened on Disneynature.

The first new production banner to include the Disney name in some 60 years, Disneynature is a return to what was once a passion and a masterstroke of Walt himself. Almost as indelible as his artistry in presenting feature length animation, Walt also saw the potential for framing nature through the lens of a motion picture camera. The result back in 1949 was an Oscar win for Disney's first live action nature film, Seal Island. Today, thanks in part to Walt's nephew Roy Disney, Disney's classic True Life Adventures series can be experienced through four superb DVD volumes that bring many of the most famous and most unforgettable films back for repeated viewings. Roy, it seems, cut his teeth on production and writing on these films and shares the passion of his Uncle for the subject matter. The blueprint had been drawn for a genre´of filmmaking that would find an enormous resurgence decades later.

Perhaps the film that finally broke the ice on reintroducing audiences to the wonders of nature as witnessed from a cinema seat, was March of the Penguins, directed by Luc Jacquet. That film not only garnered an Oscar win for Best Documentary in 2006, but raked in some very serious box-office. Interestingly, all the major players who might potentially be interested in marketing nature movies, were already participating - including Disney who had a small piece of foreign distribution. But it would be National Geographic who would surge forward and understand best, that nature as a topic would attract movie theater audiences. When Nat-Geo (don't you hate the urbanization of names) released last year's Arctic Tale, which followed the story of a mother polar bear and her cubs along with a couple of walruses, we were compelled to write this in our article - "So why has it fallen to National Geographic to pick up on reproducing the experience of theatrical nature films? Since documentaries have found themselves back in our theaters as mainstream entertainment, it seems, pardon the pun, only natural that an old Disney expertise be in line for a dust-off." (You can click here to jump over to Moviedozer and read the full article.)

Apparently Disney was paying attention. (And, we suspect, with a keener focus than the company had while led by Robert Iger's predecessor). So, in step with one of it's proudest legacies, Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook announced Disneynature. The new division, based in France and headed by a Disney veteran, Jean-Francois Camilleri, will offer it's first feature, Earth, appropriately on Earth Day next year. And should you think that Disney is merely snatching back some of it's old creative territory, well, can you say "synergy"? With Disney theme parks like Walt Disney World's Animal Kingdom, animation and theatrical properties like Lion King, television interests like the Discovery Channel and conservation projects like The Nature Conservancy's Disney Wilderness Preserve (just south of the Walt Disney World theme park complex in Orlando), Disney could not be better positioned for taking a leading role in creating the next generation of nature films. The output of these projects will propagate across Disney's many entertainment stages for decades, and generations of potential Disney devotees will be the audience.

Even the timing seems right. With a worldwide consciousness beginning to focus through the blur of global climate change, the impact of irresponsible environmental policies, the failure of international cooperation in addressing environmental and humanitarian issues, and the shocking impact of unstable economies on the world food supply, a high profile and broad effort to educate with entertainment can have and will have immense impact. This is one of the most noble and commendable purposes of entertainment and a purpose uniquely served by a world made so much smaller by modern technology and advanced communication.

At Moviedozer, we closed our piece about National Geographic's Arctic Tale with this thought - "If you're looking for a little hope, a sign that our kids can find motivation in our dreams, look no further in the past than 1960. Before that frenetic decade had even begun, our televisions, magazines, movie theaters and our kid's toys took a child's imagination to one place - space. By the end of the tumultuous sixties, a man stood on the moon and a world stood along side. If you want to change the world, fill a child's mind with excitement about what can be."

We applaud Disney's CEO Robert Iger and all of those at Disney who have and will play a part in nurturing Disney's new endeavor. And to all of those who participate in the creation of the many projects that will fall under the new banner, safe travels. We will be anxious to join in all of the adventures you bring to us.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Nutty Uncle George

The man created a galaxy. And though it was far, far away, it was plenty profitable. A whole Galaxy for God's sake. Peopled with unforgettable characters (from human to droid), extraordinary places, amazing machines and epic struggles. Through six movies and billions of dollars in merchandise, including a revolution in the toy industry, this is the guy who found the way to spin creative instinct into a marketing supernova. In the history of pop culture, his efforts have only been eclipsed by that british lady who wrote those cute stories about the kid wizard. At least Ms. Rowling appears to be showing some restraint, (and good taste) or we might already be seeing a badly animated Harry pointing his wand at our kids from the screens of the Cartoon Network

Which is exactly where you'll be finding the most recent denizens of the Star Wars galaxy. It seems George Lucas has embraced television as the new golden media outlet for his creative output. Here's George's take as reported in Broadcasting & Cable magazine: "...(television shows) are repeated and repeated...  They also allow more room for experimentation... If you make a few mistakes or something, the end of the world isn't going to happen, you can get away with it and no one notices, because of the nature of the fact that it comes out every week, and it moves so fast...". That quote was referring to George's Clone Wars project he is developing at the Cartoon Network, where he has expressed his feeling that working on the animated series has been more rewarding than having made the original movies.

George has also been, apparently, working on a new live-action TV series set in the Star Wars universe, but not including any of the original characters from the movies. The live action series concept reportedly has a "gangster" feel to it. Last month, The New York Post described the idea as being "Deadwood meets the Sopranos in outer space." Not exactly boldly going where no man has gone before. Anyone out there a fan of Firefly? Star Trek? The report also mentioned that so far there has been no real interest in the series, and it's been being pitched since last fall. Lucas' response? "Well yeah, but it's Star Wars."

So what's a filmmaker to do when the mother load is being perceived as a wee bit spent? Move to another mine and another vein of gold. Say for instance... Indiana Jones. And so, one of the most highly anticipated, perhaps THE most highly anticipated movie this summer, will be Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Everyone at Moviedozer will be buying a ticket and we'll be rooting like crazy for our long lost hero to triumph. So George must be ecstatic right? George? Let's go to the quotes... here's what George told USA Today: "When you do a movie like this, a sequel that's very, very anticipated, people anticipate ultimately that it's going to be the Second Coming. And it's not. It's just a movie. Just like the other movies. You probably have fond memories of the other movies. But if you went back and looked at them, they might not hold up the same way your memory holds up." 

WHAT? Wait, we've all been watching these things again and again. They're plastered across our cable channels, we've got the DVDs, the special edition DVDs, we went to the enhanced and digitally remastered rereleases, we bought the boxed sets... if memory serves... we've all spent a fortune keeping these movies fresh as hell in our memories. For proof George, go check you're bank account. And last we heard, we'll be doing it all over again in 3D. If the movies suck compared to our memories, you're doing one hell of a good job not letting us notice.

George's last word on the topic of the new Indiana Jones movie? "You're (the filmmakers) not going to get a  lot of accolades, all you can do is lose." Hey Mr. Spielberg, what's you're take on that one? 

So has George Lucas just been in the business too long? Is he burnt out and tired of it all? Is he such a restless genius that nothing can stimulate new creative sparks? Has he lost it? Is this what comes from the excesses of massive success? We'd like to think it's more like going to the Spring family reunion. There's nutty Uncle George sitting alone under the oak tree gnawing on an ear of corn with a plate full of potato salad and baked beans. He's smiling, kind of to himself, and he's seems a bit daydreamy. He looks up and waves at us as we arrive. But, just as we're about to run over to say hello, mom pulls us back by the shirt sleeve and marches over to our much more boring relatives. No playing with nutty Uncle George without close supervision. Somehow you get the feeling he really doesn't notice.

In the interest of full disclosure, no, no one associated with or Moviedozer Dailies is related to Mr.Lucas. We really do respect this guy's accomplishments and we'd bet he'd be a hoot at a family reunion potato sack race.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Monday Movie Musings.

We're taking a break today from prepared articles and research to touch on the topics that have popped up in our weekend news crawls. 

We we're sad to see the passing of Charlton Heston over the weekend. As much as Mr. Heston's body of work was impressive, our first reflection was of him playing Robert Neville in 1971's The Omega Man, the first adaptation of Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend. The novel, now having seen it's third adaptation to film with Will Smith's blockbuster last year, was typical of the kind of post apocalyptic science fiction that saw popularity in the seventies and spawned the tremendous and enduring success of Planet of the Apes and it's subsequent sequels.

The online movie database lists over one hundred entries in Mr. Heston's acting resume and includes some of the most iconic roles of the 50's, 60's and 70's. An extraordinary legacy that includes Moses, Judah Ben Hur, Michelangelo, Marc Antony and Henry VIII. Heston's mark in science fiction included not only the role of Robert Neville, but also Detective Robert Thorn in the '73 classic, Soylent Green. As George Taylor, he provided the human eyes, that opened to the upside down evolution of the first Planet of the Apes (1968),  reprising the role once with Beneath the Planet of the Apes in 1970. Finally, with the release of the Planet of the Apes remake in 2001, he got to see things from the "ape" point of view, with his uncredited cameo, playing Zaius, in a single scene with Zaius' son Thade, played, I'm sure with much delight, by Tim Roth. With much respect, we wish the family and friends of Charlton Heston great comfort and warmth in the memories of an actor's life well lived. For a brief CBS retrospective of Charlton Heston's life, click over to Moviedozer's Video News Feed.

Moving on with our Monday... we we're taken, but not surprised by box-office numbers that flattened the resurgence of screwball 40's-style sports comedies attempted by George Clooney's Leatherheads. It's easy to dismiss George's efforts but the truth is, Clooney has been behind some of our absolute favorite films. There hasn't been much better than Good Night, and Good Luck (2005) for contemporary history based screenwriting (for which Clooney and writer Grant Heslov received Academy Award nominations). His performance in Three Kings (1999) and Syriana (2005) showed appealing grit and his penchant for comic timing are best showcased in O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) and the near perfect Intolerable Cruelty (2003) opposite Catherine Zeta Jones. Speaking for Moviedozer, we put last year's Michael Clayton, as the the best picture of 2007, with Clooney anchoring positively brilliant performances from virtually every other member of the cast. With two new films already in the wings, we'll count Leatherheads as a blip, not unlike the throughly lost effort that was Ocean's Twelve. One more thing of note... a special and sincere nod to Clooney, for choosing to honor his hometown and their support for his movie, by holding the movie's full-fanfare premiere back home in Maysville, KY. For a glimpse at the premiere, click the video in our Moviedozer Videos feature on the right.

Remember the weekend Alvin and the Chipmunks went CGI? That was back last December. The makers of the film sure as hell remember, they raked in more than 44 mil. that weekend, with three rodents that started as cartoons some 40 years ago. After it's initial run, Alvin and Co. had taken in more than 350 million worldwide. A few weeks ago, an elephant and some imaginary creatures from the mind of children's story genius Theodore Seuss Geisel, went CGI and Horton Hears a Who! grabbed the number one slot at the box-office for two weeks running. With an opening north of 45 mil. and worldwide numbers already climbing past the 200 million mark, Hollywood will be absolutely furious to find more chestnut animation to squeeze through the magic CGI machine.

Horton is only past his third week as a movie star but Disney and Pixar must be taking note. For everyone trying to crank out computer animation and litter their production floors with deep layers of cash, it seems that enduring characters in richly textured stories are still key. Funny how that should seem obvious.

Finally, we'll take a shot at plugging a little of what's new over at our home site, We've been in the midst of lots of redesign & refurbishment and some of the results are starting to surface.

If you haven't been lately, go check out our refreshed Trailer Takes page. You can click posters to watch lots of new movie trailers and also read our quick takes and feature trailer reviews. Thanks to the folks at Trailer Addict, you can also watch our Spotlight Trailer right on our site (with great sound and picture resolution) and start planning you're blockbuster summer trips to the movies. Our current Spotlight is on Ben Stiller's upcoming comedy Tropic Thunder, and the trailer is the funniest we've seen in years.

We've also added a Movie News feed to our front page Previews and a companion Moviedozer Video News feed on the Pulling Focus page. There's lots of new technology hitting our pages and we'd love to hear what you think. Drop us an email or add a comment here and we'll do our best to please.

Thanks as always for stopping by at Dailies. Next up, we'll be taking a look at one of our favorite Hollywood Hucksters, George Lucas. We've said it before... we love George but he's really starting to feel like our nutty Uncle in the movie business. We'll tell you what's up with George (and his ever present Star Wars projects) next at Moviedozer Dailies.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

What kind of wine goes well with buttered popcorn?

Think about all of the things you hate about going out to the movies. Well, that is except for the ticket price because what I'm about to suggest isn't going to help you on that score one bit. Going to the movies can be a lot like using public transportation: no choice about who you're sitting with, no defense against rude patrons, cramped and often uncomfortable seating and generally indifferent employees. Compare a movie theater hotdog and those infamous airline "snack" sandwiches and you've got a pretty good picture. Consider that solving these problems on a plane can more than quadruple your airfare, and maybe bailing yourself out of the same situation at your local movie theater for just an extra 25 bucks could seem like a bargain.

Enter Gold Class Cinemas, the brainstorm idea from Village Roadshow Ltd.. As a movie fan, you all ready know the famous "V" logo of Village Roadshow. They are one of the production companies responsible for last years Will Smith mega-hit I Am Legend that pulled  in half a billion in worldwide box-office. This summer's projects include Get Smart and Speed Racer. No, we're not talking about some futuristic concept in development. This is one of those times when the US market wasn't first and foremost in the minds of the parent company but an inevitable step in it's growth. Village Roadshow's Gold Class Cinemas found their start in Australia and can currently be found in places like New Zealand, Greece and Singapore. The US is about to enter the market with theaters being built in Illinois, Arizona, Texas and Washington. Also on the rollout schedule: California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Nevada and New York.

So what's the big deal and why would anyone cough up more than three times an average ticket price to go to the movies? Let's start here:

This is where you're moviegoing experience would begin. That is after valet parking your car. Kind of like a frequent flyer's Captains' Club lounge, you'll want to arrive a bit early for cocktails and small talk with other like-minded moviegoers. You may also want to partake in some light appetizers. The sample menu is a far throw from Rasinets and flat fountain soda. Personally, I'm kind of anxious to try the "mini barbeque beef turkish rolls". And there's no need to rush through your selections, as you're welcome to take them to your seat when your invited in for the start of the movie. In fact, you're welcome to order from your seat as well, simply by pressing your "call" button and having your personal waiter serve you. Worried about holding all of that food on your lap... don't, here's where you'll be sitting...

When the lights go out, you'll be treated to state of the art sound and digital images and enough distance between seats to completely eliminate any annoyance from those around you. And here's perhaps the most interesting aspect of the whole idea, when the movie's over and the credits disappear above the screen (and we're thinking that most people won't be getting up out of those chairs in any big hurry) there's no rush to go have the car brought around. Instead, grab a chair and share your thoughts about the movie with all of your like-minded compatriots. It's a really good bet that this whole mingling thing, before and after the movie, will make moviegoing more of a social opportunity than ever. I'm envisioning groups of friends forming, who plan evenings out together to catch the latest releases much as they might meet for golf, tennis or live theater. At the core of this is a certain brilliance that may become very seductive to those looking for a new environment to add to their social calendars.

So is it all worth the $35 price of admission? Take into account that the present locations in the Gold Class Cinemas chain make unlimited popcorn and soda part of the ticket price, and now the premium is really only about 15 bucks. I'd call that reasonable. Add the guarantee that the presentation will be first class (I'm sorry, GOLD class), the food (food prices are separate from admission) however gourmet you choose to go, will be fresh and the staff pleasant and helpful, and the word "value" definitely becomes part of the conversation. When it gets down to it, that value is subjective and many may find the price beyond comprehension for trekking out to see a movie. I can hear the "but I can buy the damn DVD for under 20 bucks and watch it as many times as I like" comments. In my mind, there's the point. Gold Class Cinemas will have their particular appeal and for the people drawn to the idea, that's part of the appeal in itself. Not so much as a status night out or a pompous way to enjoy a movie, but a way to get away from all of those things we hate about going out to the movies.

You can check out the Gold Class experience for yourself by visiting the Village Roadshow Gold Cinemas website here.