Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Christmas in July.

With all of the hot days of summer still upon us and the biggest blockbuster of the year, The Dark Knight, saturating cinema screens with box-office heat, we thought a cool wind and a glimpse of the near future might be fun. And just so you don't think big action flicks are history after the temperatures begin to drop, there are a couple here that should keep the masses in check as they await the return of blockbuster season in 2009. (Which will boast movies titles like Terminator: Salvation, Star Trek (XI), Watchmen, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Transformers 2, Up 3D (Pixar) and Night at the Museum 2.)
So here are the trailers that should put an extra shake in your snow globe. (Bet you'll use that somewhere.)

First up, a look at the remake of one of 1950's Science Fiction classics, The Day the Earth Stood Still starring Jennifer Connelly and Keanu Reeves. This trailer has the spotlight pick over on Moviedozer.com's Trailer Takes page in case you'd like to do some follow-up.



Next is one of the more unusual trailers we've been watching. This is the new Brad Pitt project that has lots of buzz and more than a bit of fantasy. This is a David Fincher project, the director behind Seven, The Fight Club and Zodiac. Throw in major support from the likes of Cate Blanchett,  Tilda Swinton and Julia Ormond and this film is set to dominate it's opening, just one week before Christmas. Here's the trailer for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.



For Christmas Day, the movie industry's gift goes to comic book fans. That's the release date for the much anticipated The Spirit (or Will Eisner's The Spirit). Looking a lot like the movie adaptation of Frank Miller's Sin City but with perhaps a blast of even more atmospheric backgrounds, The Spirit has a lot to prove if it's going to edge it's way into blockbuster territory. This may be a look that grew old with only one flick. See what you think. Here's the most recent trailer:



We've just pitted The Spirit trailer against the Spring 2009 release of Watchmen over at Moviedozer in our Stacking the Odds feature. Click here to check it out.

To wrap things up, a few of you may be familiar with a story about a boy wizard that is about to conjure up it's 6th movie. Opening on screens all over the place the weekend before Thanksgiving is Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.



In the meantime, there's still more summer ahead and though we're certain we've see the biggest film of the year with The Dark Knight, we're still expecting that the biggest comedy blockbuster is still waiting in the wings. That one hits like a misdirected smart bomb on August 13 with the release of Ben Stiller's Tropic Thunder.

To check out larger and HD versions of these trailers you can check out the official movie sites at these links:





Special thanks to the folks at TrailerAddict.com for their trailer embed services.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Dark Knight ignites the summer box-office.

We're back from vacation and we'll be catching up with Dailies over the next few days but the performance over the last ten days of Chris Nolan's The Dark Knight had to have  quick follow-up to the piece we wrote ten days. Most significant of the history set with The Dark Knight's release was it's stunning opening weekend piling up over 155 million in it's first three days. That beat out last year's performance of Spiderman 3 to become the largest opening ever at the American box-office. Other records that are falling by the way side: largest second weekend take (more than 75 mil.), a worldwide haul over opening weekend of 254 mil. was the largest ever and the fastest sprint to 300 mil. with The Dark Knight reaching the coveted mark in just ten days, beating the previous record of 16 days set by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.

The Dark Knight has also become the highest grossing US box-office film of the summer (and so likely the year) topping Iron Man's 314 million in just 11 days. A feat that Indiana Jones has been trying to do for the last two months, still without success.

We saw The Dark Knight in a unique setting, the Valley Brook Drive-in in Lyons Falls, NY. (A must-do part of our annual trek to the edge of the Adirondack State Park). Though a drive-in setting doesn't quite deliver state of the art screenings, it was still one hell of a ride and one which we'll be looking to repeat in a higher tech setting later this week.

We'll sum up with this. The Dark Knight is the best superhero based film (it seems a disservice to simply call this a superhero movie) we've ever seen. It's also one of the best action films we've ever seen and it's by far the best sequel. If you have even the slightest interest, go. You will be throughly entertained.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Dark Knight will enter movie history tomorrow.


Warner Bros. had to be looking at Paramount back in May thinking, yeah, just wait 'til July. That wait is over tonight at midnight. As the clock strikes twelve The Dark Knight will open its doors to its first public screenings and enter into movie history. If that sounds grandiose or somewhat like the hype we love to skewer, we can't say it clearly enough. The Dark Knight, will become one of the most successful movies of the summer, of the year and, for all of the superhero action flicks, one of the most successful ever. Even with the likes of Iron Man, Indiana Jones and Hancock, we'll bet on this weekend for being the single most successful opening of the year.

Is it all because a cult like following has built the usual fanboy and popcorn summer crowds into a frenzy? Is it really the death of Heath Ledger, who by all accounts has given a riveting, award-level performance in his take on the Joker, that this Batman will soar beyond all others? The role Ledger's death plays in the anxiousness of fans to witness his performance is undeniable but there's a lot more going on here. To use the cliche that is getting close to being as worn as "let's cut to the chase", there seems to be a "perfect storm" forming around this Batman which may have been only slightly less frenetic had Ledger lived to see its premiere.

On the very surface of things, this second film will cement for all time that as Sean Connery is to 007, Christian Bale will be to Batman. He's simply the best and most nuanced that the role has seen and arguably the best cast superhero so far. (Though we'll give points to Marvel for casting Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man earlier this summer.) Nuance in the role of a comic book hero? Enter another element of that perfect storm, director Christopher Nolan. Nolan shined with the wonderfully clever and artful Memento in 2000 but turned in a masterwork with 2006's The Prestige (using both Bale and Michael Caine for effect). His sense for nuance and story detail is superb and his timing as impeccable as a stage magician. Combine that with the sense for the Batman story line and characters he's picked up as a writer on both films, and he is in the perfect position at the perfect time.


And then comes the support. The last Batman supervillain to remain memorable was Nicholson as the Joker in Tim Burton's 1989 Batman.  Even the glimpses of Heath Ledger's performance from the earliest trailers last year were enough to make you realize that he would own the role from this summer forward. Then tragically he died and like so many bittersweet hollywood stories, this performance will take on an almost mythic aura for fans of the Batman franchise and fans of the actor. But adding to Ledger's tour de force is a supporting cast that is as "A" list as these lists can get.

Everywhere the camera wanders, it will find first class talent. And as it often is in legendary films, these are actors thrilled to be part of the production. With Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy  and Morgan Freeman all reprising roles, and Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Eric Roberts and Anthony Michael Hall coming on board, the reviews of the supporting cast have been as glowing as the leads. Some critics are calling Aaron Eckhart's performance in the dual role of Harvey Dent / Two-Face as perhaps the best of his career.

And then there's this character called Batman. One of the most complicated and textured superheroes ever to catapult off the page of a comic book, Batman may be the quintessential movie superhero. He's perfect for the movies. Strikingly visual (in his latest evolution of badass rubber), dark and brooding yet noble and heroic. Immensely troubled and broken, yet incredibly resilient and driven. Take everything we've learned about Peter Parker in the Spiderman movies and tweak it up a notch, then add serious acting chops and you're getting close. 

The last piece is the indefinable, the magical element that swirls into the storm and sets off the lightening. The combustibility. That is where this storm truly gathers and unleashes its energy. That's the magic of multiple pieces coming together in a seamless whole and spinning into a tale so well told as to be new and original while being familiar and exciting, clever and funny while staying surprising. The movie experience that defines a summer for so many summers after. That will be The Dark Knight.

Making predictions is a losing proposition but we'll be startled if there's anything less than 100 million in Warner's Batman bank account on Monday. There most certainly will be another Batman movie chapter in our futures and we'll be looking forward to what's ahead while sorry to know that some of what could have been is forever lost to us. But as of midnight tonight, what is now is The Dark Knight, this summer's last and possibly best blockbuster movie event. We're kicking off our vacation with this release. Wherever you are, we hope you'll have a blast at the movies this weekend. See you back here soon.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

3D or not, this weekend it's all about vision.

Whether you're lucky enough to have found a theater showing Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D actually in 3D, complete with the black "Real D" glasses and higher ticket price, or heading out to see director Guillermo del Toro's HellBoy II: The Golden Army, you'll be seeing a movie that is all about visuals. Since moviemaking is an art form based on telling stories with pictures, this weekend's releases may help bring the movie industry back to an old adage, don't say it if you can show it. It's interesting that these two films follow the release two weeks ago of Disney Pixar's Wall•e, an animated future classic that has been referred to as being a nearly silent movie, recalling the finest work of Charlie Chaplin. Interesting too that this weekend's films share the release date of a movie based on a singular visual joke, an alien ship in the form of a human being carrying aliens who look inexplicably like tiny human beings in the embarrassingly shallow Eddie Murphy comedy (attempt) Meet Dave.

Getting back to the headliners, both Journey and HellBoy offer a reason to part with some summer dollars and once again get out to the movies. 
Journey should only be seen, and I can't stress this enough, ONLY be seen in 3D. For two reasons. First, Journey to the Center of the Earth 3D was meant to be seen in 3D. The clue is the use of "3D" in the title. That "3D" was actually added to the title to convince the public that it was the 3D experience (the new advanced digital 3D experience) that is key. This is in fact the first live action film ever to be shot using this advanced process and for the big six studios, this was supposed to be the film that set the stage for a veritable onslaught of 3D films, both live action and animated, that is just over the cinematic horizon. Unfortunately for Warner Brothers and Walden Media, 3D ready theaters are lagging far behind in their readiness and Journey, expected to see a wide release 3D opening in some 1500 or so 3D venues, instead open in less than 850. In terms of a summertime wide release, a number far too small to generate the big opening marketing departments bleed for during the blockbuster summer release schedule.

And that would be the second reason to only see Journey in a 3D theater. You have the opportunity to let theater owners and movie studios know that they'll lose profits if they don't advance the state of the art of their theaters and that studios will suffer for making promises they can't deliver. Once again, as we've said so many times in these columns, if you haven't seen digital 3D yet, you really need to. If you are near a theater showing Journey, complete with 3D shades, go.

If you're nowhere near 3D, there's HellBoy. And here's the visual pitch: Pan's Labyrinth. Guillermo del Toro, a talented and capable storyteller in film, has become a top tier hot property because of his unique, sometimes arresting and always fascinating visuals. Intricately connected to his projects through his passion and diverse talents (that go far beyond the work of directing the film), Guillermo del Toro brings a vision to his work that is so confident and fully realized as to truly create an immersive world. The story and characters of HellBoy provide the perfect canvas for such a bold talent.

The journey through HellBoy II: The Golden Army is as much a trip through a fantastic adventure as it is through a riveting imagination, a showcase of an impassioned artist who revels in his task as a storyteller. As a director, Guillermo del Toro's talents are perfectly suited to his medium and the results are compelling and fascinating. Fans of HellBoy and fantasy films should be joined by fans of the visual arts, action adventure and big summer popcorn movies, to find themselves together in one group this weekend - fans of a visionary director who, like them, delights in visual storytelling.

Have a great weekend at the movies.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

It's official, Will Smith is Mr. July, again.

The man can sell movies. Slam dunk, pack up your arguments and move along. The jury is in and Will Smith is officially the man to beat, maybe forever, for July movie openings. With the success of Hancock, Mr. Smith is also Mr. Number One. With only Pixar holding a better (and only slightly better) track record for successful movie openings, last weekend Will Smith became the first actor in history to open 8 consecutive films in the number one slot for their premiere weekends. That's hard to argue with and damned impressive in the fickle marketing driven world of Hollywood movies.

To put things in perspective, here's a list of Will's July outings: Independence Day ('96), Men in Black ('97), Wild Wild West ('99), Men in Black II ('02), Bad Boys II ('03), I Robot ('04), and Hancock just this past weekend. That's all with the reminder that Will's last movie, I Am Legend was the big hit at the end of last year, pulling in a worldwide box-office take of $583 million. Just for a little extra respect, I am Legend has also sold nearly $110 million more in DVDs. Nice.

So just what is it about Will Smith that makes fans make plans to see his movies on opening weekends? We think it's pretty straight forward and we think it's a lesson for Hollywood, though we're not entirely sure if it's a good or a bad thing. The guy is very simply likeable. He's certainly a competent actor and he's chosen projects that show-off expert production values, strong supporting casts and typically decent scripts, but more than all of that he's just fun to hang with. Going to see a Will Smith movie seems like it must be a lot like hanging out with Will himself for two hours. It wouldn't be our recipe for making great movies, but it beats the current trend of relying  on moronic situations and idiot humor. Deferring to Will Smith to sell tickets also beats relying on "hot" trending directors who set up cookie cutter concept productions to trot out without thought, talent or quality.

Within the marketing happy and artistically vacant movie studio businesses that control Hollywood's cinematic output, corporate executives who have a better handle on soda bottle packaging than something as challenging as a feature film script, seem to choose the path of least resistance in seeking out boldly black bottom lines. They are after all, answering to stockholders and caught up in a competition of executive compensation bonus bragging rights with their peers. So in a world where the big six studios seem to do as little as possible while hoping for enormous profits, sending another project Will's way isn't such a bad thing. In fact, it's become almost comforting to know that at least there's a Will Smith movie release just around the corner.

So in our effort to give credit when credit is due, congratulations to the cast and filmmakers of Hancock, Sony Studios, director Peter Berg and particularly to Will Smith. Happy July. We'll look forward to seeing more (from all of you) next summer.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Rooting for the Super Heroes.


It's summer in the cinema and the good guys are taking on the bad guys in droves. For us at Moviedozer, the battle is as much fun off the screen as on. The great movies, the fun directors, the cool actors, the sentimental favorites, we root for them all and we root against the evildoers who pump out recycled shlock and moronic comedies. We love to see the good guys score big openings and we love to see the jerks fall flat on their inflated budgets. So sue us, that's always been part of the fun of showbiz.

It is interesting though, that we can find such arbitrary things to get excited about. Like some newcomer to a big city or a freshman getting settled in at college, we are immediately fans of the home team, though we don't know their names and don't ever to expect to make anyone's future acquaintance. In this case, we don't even have a home team, but still we have definite favorites and we've been rooting for them all summer.

Among the favorites this year is Stan Lee. Mr. Lee has been a personal favorite for a long time, but particularly this year as he's launched Marvel Studios and taken control of his own properties, assuming all of the risk and, happily by the summer's results, benefitting tremendously from the success. I've never met Stan Lee, never written him a letter or an email, never gotten an autograph and he assuredly has absolutely no idea who I am. That's OK, I just like the guy. Or maybe more to the point, I admire him. And frankly, while sitting in the dark waiting for The Incredible Hulk to take the screen, I found myself wondering why. By the time credits were rolling, I was pretty sure I had figured it out.

Two of the best superhero movies in some time came back to back this summer and they both are branded Marvel. Not that that's really such a surprise, lots of other fun and successful superhero flicks have been, but even against arguably the best superhero franchise out there, Spiderman, there's something different about this summer's outings. True of the May 2nd release of Iron Man, already past the 300 million mark in the US, and also true of The Incredible Hulk, already well past the 115 million mark in the it's first ten days, is the fact that each of these films feels smarter, more cohesive and more true to story than most all of the others. And there's the key, they have stayed true to their creator's vision. Stan Lee simply knows his material. And beyond knowing his material, he believes in it, passionately. Who better to shepherd and nurture a creative project than someone who has lived and breathed it for his entire adult life. And done so successfully with consistency and integrity.

As Walt Disney saw the artistry of animation and transformed popular family entertainment, as Jim Henson understood the magic of storytelling, believing that the warmth of a performer inhabiting a character could somehow be conveyed through a cloth puppet with ping pong ball eyes, or as George Lucas believed in the fantasy adventures of his youth and the timelessness of action serials, good against evil and triumph against all odds, Stan Lee believes in the medium he helped to create. He sees truth in fables set against backdrops of excitement and fantasy. He feels the heart of characters who are alienated by their differences yet struggle for common purpose. My memories of reading Marvel comic books through youthful summers are as treasured as watching Walt Disney sit on the corner of his desk to set the stage for a full color Sunday night television adventure. Walt and Stan were part of the fabric of my growing up. With the success of Marvel Studio's new crop of movies, those memories are wonderfully refreshed and a bit more resistant to ever fading away.

We have mentioned Mr. Lee in these columns before. Both Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk made the Moviedozer.com "The List" feature in May and June for films we were most looking forward to. The casting of Robert Downey Jr. and Edward Norton (with a special nod to Edward Norton's script work for The Incredible Hulk), as well as the A-list supporting casts, was not only an indication of the confidence Marvel has in it's stable of characters but also of their great faith in the ability of the material to hold up to the most serious and accomplished abilities of it's storytellers. Marvel's choice of directors, in both Jon Favreau and Louis Leterrier, not only shows an eye for top breaking talent but an instinct to focus on the process, trusting that dedicated talent will deliver top notch results. Impressive is only the first word that comes to mind.

Though superhero movies may not be your particular choice when weighing summer movie options, the summer of '08 will be cemented in movie history and box-office charts as the summer of Marvel Studios' premiere as a fully fledged production studio. With the success of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, it will also be remembered as a wonderful summer for Mr. Stan Lee and for all of his fans. As a fan, I'll be rooting for many more.