Monday, December 31, 2012

2013: the best movie bets from January thru June.

As years go, 2012 had its problems, many of which were manifested by a group of ineffectual politicians who collectively call themselves the United States House of Congress. But that's a story for our sister blog at

If you were in the the movie business, things weren't so bleak. In fact, Hollywood saw a record breaking year with more than 10.7 billion in ticket sales and five of the six major studios posting earnings of better than a billion dollars each.

All of this means it was a good year for movie fans too. With lots of green flooding studio vaults and healthy economic prospects ahead (despite those morons in congress), studios should be much less shy about tackling ambitious projects.

Some of those projects, as is the case for our January pick, are already in limited release, while the movies scheduled for later in the year may still be in post production. But as studio marketing machines are cranking up efforts to sell you a ticket in 2013, I've put together a two-part list of the most promising releases currently scheduled for the new year.

With just hours to go, here's part one of my list for the movies I'm most looking forward to, from January through June of 2013.

January: Zero Dark Thirty. Already circulating in limited release and hot on the list for possible Academy Award nods, this Kathryn Bigelow directed drama centers on the ten year hunt to find and kill Osama bin Laden. Drawing as much controversy as awards talk, Zero Dark Thirty is the movie you'll want to have seen by Oscar night. Scheduled for wide release on the 11th.

Alternatives: Promised Land with Matt Damon and Francis McDormand, directed by Gus Van Sant, expanding to wide release on January 4th. Broken City with Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe opening on the 18th.

February: A Good Day to Die Hard. The self proclaimed "007 from Plainfield New Jersey" is back for a fifth run, as John McClain finds himself on foreign ground in Moscow. At this point audiences are watching Bruce Willis as Bruce Willis, which is really what this franchise is all about. If things get notched up a bit, ala James Bond in last year's Skyfall, it's a guaranteed action flick in the middle of February's usual horror glut. Appropriately for those with broken hearts, Valentines Day is A Good Day to Die Hard.

Alternatives: If you're more of a Stallone fan, you're in luck; Bullet to the Head opens on the 1st. If it's old school bad guys you're looking for, it may be worth checking out Christopher Walken and Al Pacino in Stand Up Guys, scheduled to expand to wide release on the 1st as well.

March: The Great and Powerful Oz. Disney kicks off its year by tackling classic literature again, this time with a 3D trip to Oz that takes flight on the 8th and promises to dazzle. A promise I'm betting will mean box-office success and sequels. It's the first big event movie of the year and should put 2012's February release John Carter well into the dustiest corners of the Disney Archives.

Alternatives: If donning 3D glasses isin't your thing, check out the taught, soviet submarine based action thriller Phantom, starring Ed Harris and David Duchovny. Scheduled for release on the 1st.

April: Oblivion. While I'm expecting greatness, popping for an IMAX seat will certainly put you in the mood for what lies ahead as the 2013 blockbusters begin rolling out in May. If you didn't buy Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher in 2012, seeing him back in the middle of a big budget sci-fi adventure may be a welcome change up. I'm also interested in seeing what Tron Legacy director Joseph Kosinski has been up to since creating one of the most cutting edge fantasy landscapes on film. In theaters on the 19th, IMAX one week earlier.

Alternatives: Mark Wahlberg and  Dwayne Johnson go for action and laughs with Pain & Gain on the 26th.

May: Star Trek Into Darkness. Director J.J. Abrams returns with writers and cast intact from 2009's spectacular reboot of the Star Trek franchise, and the results look nothing short of stellar. What's sure to be one of the top three grossing movies of 2013, Star Trek Into Darkness is one of two 2013 movies I'm recommending for the full screening treatment (the other comes in December). That means, IMAX 3D and lots of popcorn. Releases on the 17th.

Alternatives: The big dogs of blockbuster season are upon us, so forget limited releases this month and just go for it. Iron Man 3 comes out on the 3rd. Nothing from Marvel has failed so far and Robert Downey Jr. is the perfect guy to anchor the follow-up to 2012's $1.5 billion grossing, The Avengers.

June: World War Z. Brad Pitt in a Zombie movie. Just go. This is the zombie movie that will change the genre and set a new production standard for everything that follows (at least for the major studios). Brad Pitt is the only big star I can imagine going this far out on a limb in a genre that owns the b-world of moviemaking. If the movie lives up to its trailers, Paramount execs will be seeing dead men walking - right to the bank on the 21st.

Alternatives: Disney launches the most anticipated sequel in its pixar stable with Monsters University, in a nice piece of counter-programming on the 21st. And there's something intriguing about the advance peeks at Now You See Me, that has me curious to see if a strong cast and an original concept can deliver magic on the 7th.

Release information from and Poster art curtesy of their studios. Release dates are based on North American distribution.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Some more Great and Powerful poster art from Oz.

Oz, the Great and Powerful continues to dazzle, at least for its fantastic poster art. The latest example creates a menacing presence backed by a twister of scattered debris and flying monkeys.

If director Sam Raimi and Disney get this thing right, and from the posters and trailers so far it looks promising, this will be on our list of the top ten movies I'll be looking forward to in 2013. A list, by the way, I'll be publishing in the last week of December.

Click on the poster for a high resolution image.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Art of the Trailer: Pacific Rim

My first thought when I saw the feature trailer for Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim was that this is the movie a twelve year old kid sees in his head as he's scribbling out a monster vs. robots battle in his school notebook during biology class.

I think that probably suggests the director has conveyed his vision perfectly. Pacific Rim is an inarguable stamp on the movie industry that this is what a monster movie looks like in 2013.

Pacific Rim's story is as simple as every mega-monster movie before it. Horrendously destructive creatures emerging from a portal in the planet's crust will do battle with gigantic robots, built and operated by man in his determined fight to win back his home.

The new trailer only needs to convey tone and scale. If you buy into what you see, you buy a ticket.

On that front, Warner Brothers marketing has nothing to worry about. Guillermo del Toro has conveyed the scale of the battle without question. A hulking monstrous cadaver sails into port strapped to the deck of an aircraft carrier. A single claw rips across a car-filled suspension bridge. Robots are dropped into a bay that barely rises above their knees. There's no mystery to just how big this battle will be.

Of course, there's all of the sic-fi falderal that will follow. The monsters have funny names (Kaiju) as do the giant robots (Jaegers). There's a crazy futuristic way for two operators inside a Jaeger to sync their actions through a "neural bridge", using spine clamps.

But none of that is anything more than a suggestion in the trailer. And for now, who cares? For now, it's all about, please somebody thrill me with giant robots that don't turn into passenger cars. For now, it's dazzle me with the promise of a big time summer popcorn movie.

In terms of the first trailer for Pacific Rim, consider job one accomplished.

Director Guillermo del Toro on the set.
As for cast, there's only a single moment of recognition for a famous actor and that's to deliver a signature line of dialogue. Idris Elba (fresh from summer's Prometheus and fantastic performances in the BBC's superlative Luther) gets the only star moment. The line is already one of my favorites, "Today we are canceling the apocalypse."

One caveat to all of this praise. And if you are a movie fan, it's hard to miss; you can see it with your eyes closed. It's something I call the "Inception effect" and it's rampant in movie trailers this fall. It's that ominous, bellowing, warning siren of a sound track trick that's been showing up everywhere. That sound has become an unfortunate staple of the current sate-of-the-art of the trailer, and it's one I'll be talking about again in a future post.

Until then, here's the first feature trailer for Pacific Rim.

Images courtesy of Warner Brothers.

The Hobbit's journey sets off with a golden ring.

There must have been a lot of you who were as curious as Bilbo Baggins to go off on a weekend journey. Peter Jackson's first Hobbit adventure, The Hobbit, An Unintended Journey had a decidedly golden beginning.

According to box-office website, the new film set records for largest single day North American box-office in December with $37.5 million and the largest 3-day weekend in December at $84.8 million (pushing Will Smith's I Am Legend to second place at $77.2).

In addition to those domestic numbers, The Hobbit also took in $138 million in international markets to make for the most successful opening of any of Peter Jackson's previous Tolkien films.

Even allowing for increased ticket pricing for 3D and Imax screenings, the numbers are more than impressive. In the coming weeks we'll be watching for word-of-mouth effect on sales and repeat customers.

And of course, the "experiment" of HFR or 48 frames/second screenings is now well underway. Though some critics have been harsh regarding the high frame rate perception of hyper-reality diminishing the fantasy qualities of the film, fans seem more accepting of the new technology. We'll give our own impressions of HFR in a future post.

Drop back later today for our feature post, The Art of the Trailer: Pacific Rim.

Photo by Mark Tantrum © WireImage, courtesy of

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Hobbit Production Diaries, Pt. 9

Just when you thought it was over, they pull you into post.

The world of movie making isn't all makeup, wardrobe, big stars and bright lights. After the last day of principal photography comes the first day of post production. Well, at least officially. There's actually been tons of work going on outside of the sound stages and far away from the location shoots. And all of that ratchets up in intensity when the actors go home.

Welcome to the last segment of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit production diaries. The director opens the doors to the post production suites and offices at The Hobbit's production facilities at Stone Street Studios in New Zealand to give you a look at the immense amount of work to be completed between the end of filming and premiere night. And it may surprise some, just how little time is allowed to get a completed film to its premiere.

The pace is frenetic, the work is precise and challenging and the array of expertise aligned toward the goal of completing a project of this magnitude, is at the very least, daunting. Magnify the challenges with a 3D release, a 3D Imax release and a Imax release in "HFR" or High Frame Rate, the new technology Peter Jackson is using to allow the film, shot at 48 frames per second, twice the normal rate, to be shown in selected theaters at that same increased speed. All in all, you can understand that post production people don't get a lot of time off during the final weeks and months of a production cycle.

I hope you've thoroughly enjoyed the journey through each of the nine segments of these diaries. Regardless of the box-office success of a movie, or of critical response, behind-the-scenes production glimpses like these have enormous value for students of film and interested fans alike. I'm grateful to Peter Jackson and Warner Brothers for making them available so readily. I hope you agree with me, that they are also tremendously entertaining in their own right.

Thanks for following along on the pages of Moviedozer for the last nine days. If you venture out this opening weekend to see The Hobbit, An Unintended Journey, feel free to stop back and give us your opinions.

Here now is the final installment. Enjoy.

Wait, there's a Bonus!

Here's the video Peter mentioned. A look at the premiere of The Hobbit, An Unintended Journey in Wellington, New Zealand. Quite a production in itself.

Thanks again for watching. There's always more ahead on Moviedozer. Have a great weekend and drop back in to see us on Monday.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The art of the movie poster: Pacific Rim

In the feature column tomorrow, Moviedozer will be celebrating the release of The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey by offering the final segment of director Peter Jackson's The Hobbit production diaries.

In the meantime, I thought I'd offer some incentive for you to come back, after the weekend, for a close look at the first feature trailer for Guillermo del Toro's July 2013 release Pacific Rim.

As you may know, Guillermo del Toro was the original director scheduled to do the adaptation for The Hobbit. As that project passed back to Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro moved on - to Pacific Rim. The result of that change looks to have produced two great movies, each perfectly suited to its director.

So just as a way to get you interested in stopping by Moviedozer on Monday, here's a taste of the gorgeous poster art being produced to support Warner Brothers summer release of Pacific Rim.

As always, you can click on any poster to go to a gallery of larger images.

On screen Monday at Moviedozer: The art of the Trailer, Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim. See you tomorrow for Part 9 of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit production diaries.

The Hobbit Production Diaries, Pt. 8

With production winding down, the Warner Brothers marketing machine begins to kick in. The beginning of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit production Dairies today lets us follow the director (and lots of Cast members), to one of the largest fan conventions of any kind, San Diego's Comic-Con.

Jackson let's you walk out on stage with him, courtesy of his iPhone camera, and share in what's it like to be greeted by a hall full of screaming fans anxious for a very first glimpse at The Hobbit, An Unintended Journey. You'll even get to see the video shown that day during the panel discussion.

Then it's back to New Zealand to watch the final few days of shooting as production, on likely the last Tolkien novel to see production through the eyes and talents of Peter Jackson, draws to a close.

But don't despair, there's still tomorrow, and tomorrow brings both the U.S. release of the first film in the Hobbit trilogy as well as an introduction into the post production process. If you thought all of the hard work was over, a glimpse at the myriad of departments and personnel called onto to complete things is nothing less than astonishing.

Thanks for following along with Moviedozer throughout these last 8 days. We hope you'll be with us tomorrow as we call it a wrap along with the director and head out the door to buy tickets for the movie.

So if you have a bit of champagne (or lemonade) about, lift a toast with cast and crew at the end of today's segment. Here's pt. 8 of The Hobbit production diaries. See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Hobbit Production Diaries, Pt. 7

The Hobbit officially opens today in its home production country of New Zealand. For those in the US, it's just two days away. And for fans who are looking forward to heading out on their own Hobbit journeys this weekend, Moviedozer has another behind the scenes look to help heighten the excitement.

Today, in Part 7 of The Hobbit production diaries, director Peter Jackson gets to showoff Stone Street Studios, the New Zealand movie studio that sprung up from an old paint factory for the filming of 2001's Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

Nestled into an 8 acre site, the studio was completely dedicated to film production on The Hobbit's three part trilogy. It becomes easy to understand that a cast and crew working this closely for so many months (and for many, years) can indeed become a close knit family.

Again, the scale of the production and the absolute command the director must maintain over so many diverse production requirements, speaks to the professionalism and skilled personnel needed to succeed at the levels expected by Warner Brothers Studios in justifying production budgets.

Though costs for filming the Hobbit trilogy have been kept under wraps, each of the three films in the original Lord of the Rings trilogy are reported to have cost near $100 million. Collectively, ticket sales for the three are in the range of $3 billion. And that's without counting a dime from home video distribution. As you can see, those original budgets were money well spent.

To put things in perspective for The Hobbit, An Unintended Journey's Friday release, The Lord of the Rings, the Fellowship of the Ring was released in the U.S. on December 21, 2001. According to, over its 5 day opening weekend, the film generated 74.3 million, commanding the number 1spot. The Hobbit will almost certainly break that original debut with most expecting the new film to score well over 300 million in its initial run.

And much of that will be up to you. If you've been following each part of our presentation of The Hobbit production diaries, you're a fan. And if you love the new film or hate the 3D or new technologies Jackson used for filming, your word of mouth will help determine just how far The Hobbit will travel in its journey up box-office charts. The movie business is a democracy and your ticket purchase is your vote.

But enough business, let's get back to the production. And as always, thanks for making Moviedozer a daily stop.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

New Trailer Tuesday continues. Get ready for Man of Steel.

Remember what I said about this being a great time of year for movie fans? (see The Fall Push for Awards and Blockbusters. Hollywood Hype season is in full swing.) All of those award contenders in release and an onslaught of blockbuster trailers? Let the onslaught continue.

This morning's release of the first feature trailer for Disney's The Lone Ranger is being followed up tonight by the release of the first feature trailer for Warner Borthers' Superman reboot Man of Steel.

The new movie, directed by Zach Snyder, famous for directing the bold strokes of 2006's 300 and a bit infamous for directing 2009's entirely quirky Watchmen and 2011's entirely forgotten Sucker Punch, is scheduled to be released in the US on June 14th next summer.

For my taste, I could leave both the heavy music and serious tone at the door. On the flip side, the film does have an impressive cast surrounding Henry Cavill's Clark Kent. Lending star presence is Amy Adams as Lois Lane, Diane Lane and Kevin Costner as Clark's parents Martha and Jonathan Kent, Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, Russell Crowe as Superman's father Jor-El and Michael Shannon as General Zod. But so far, nothing from trailers or posters is selling me on Cavill as Superman. What do you think?

It's shaping up to be a busy trailer season.

The Lone Ranger has a new trailer!

It's Tuesday and just because I can find no other reason other than the fact that today was the day that Disney Studios picked, it being Tuesday is enough for me to add a special bonus to our posts today.

There are a few of those blockbusters I mention on these pages that I'm truly looking forward to next summer. One of them is The Lone Ranger.

Starring Johnny Depp and Armi Hammer and directed by long time Depp collaborator, Gore Verbinski, The Lone Ranger promises to be a thrill ride that mixes Butch and Sundance with a touch of Roy Rogers for good measure.

It looks like perfect summer blockbuster material and to prove my point, Disney's new feature trailer was released in the wee hours this morning.

Decide for yourself - is this one of 2013's top 3 summer hits? The Lone Ranger had a reported 250 million dollar budget and is scheduled for a fourth of July weekend release. Saddle up. And happy Tuesday.

Thanks to Disney Studios and Apple Trailers.

The Hobbit Production Dairies, Pt. 6

Yesterday's production diary detailed some of the effort in rebuilding the Shire sets of Hobbiton in permanent materials so that the sets could remain an attraction in the New Zealand countryside. The shire was originally built for filming the Lord of the Rings trilogy released in 2001 through 2003. That effort seems far less daunting then what lay ahead.

In part 6 of The Hobbit production diaries, Peter Jackson and his intrepid band of actors, crew and support staff wander throughout New Zealand's more rigorous terrain, often returning to more of the locations used in those original films.

From magnificent mountain back drops to a tumbling river, the locations are each extraordinary and give clear testament to why Peter Jackson's home country of New Zealand was the perfect choice for filming. That river, by the way, elevated so much with rain water at the end of shooting that it would have been impossible to use the very next day. And note too, the work that must be done to protect another remote and environmentally sensitive area of landscape from the tons of equipment that must be transported across it.

This second look at locations for The Hobbit, An Unintended Journey and further insight into the production process only adds to the fascination of seeing Jackson's work emerge on screen. The new film will be released in New Zealand and eight other countries tomorrow and in the US just this Friday (as Moviedozer completes the diaries with episode 9).

By the way, you may notice that in this segment, Jackson mentions the Hobbit will be told in two films.  As you've already read in these columns, that decision was expanded to three films, set to release each December through 2014.

For today, enjoy a New Zealand fimlmaker's travelogue in Part 6 of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit production diaries.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Hobbit Production Diaries, Pt. 5

Another day, another glimpse inside the production of The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey. And some more personal insight from the Writer/ Producer/Director of the three film project, Peter Jackson.

As Peter mentioned at the end of the Pt. 4, this segment of the diaries focuses on location shooting. If you caught Pt. 2, you got a feel for what it took to get the required folks out around New Zealand for location scouting. No less than 5 helicopters transporting an on site logistics planning team that looked like a contingent of generals planning an invasion.

The Green Dragon Inn, a working country Inn and part of
the official Hobbiton Movie Set Tour.
As you will see from today's installment, that description may be a bit of an understatement. The scale of the production remains immense and the amount of set work constructed in these remote locations dazzles. In fact, some sets of the Shire locations have found a permanent home in the New Zealand countryside and an official Hobbiton Movie Set Tour is now part of the New Zealand cultural and tourist landscape.

If you've been hungering for a more challenging and stress filled career path, you may want to consider adding Movie Location Manager to your list.

You'll also note at the end of this segment that up until now, you've been watching production that was underway throughout 2011. At the close, Mr. Jackson and crew will be wishing you a Merry Christmas - for last year. I'm sure if he knew you were watching he'd happily extend that wish to this year as well. As do I.

Moviedozer will of course be back tomorrow with Part 6. If you've missed any of the previous segments, please take a look through the blog archive in the right side column and navigate to any post you like. (Every post ever written for Moviedozer is still online and readily available.)

For now, sit back and watch other people do the work in Part 5 of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit production diaries.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Hobbit Production Diaries, Pt. 4

Welcome back to another installment of Peter Jackson's production diaries documenting the making of The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey.

Part 4 of the dairies features director Peter Jackson taking us through the considerations and logistics of making the film in 3D. As you can imagine, making films on this scale is a challenge in more ways than most of us could ever wish to deal with on a day to day job. Choosing to add in the challenge of filming in native 3D likely qualifies Mr. Jackson for long years of professional counseling. But then, so would expanding a relatively modest book into a three film trilogy.

Nonetheless, the insight into 3D filming helps broaden our understanding of the effort that went into creating another step in immersing theater goers into the story.

With James Cameron's Avatar, Martin Scorsese's Hugo and Ang Lee's Life of Pi all advancing the state -of-the-art of 3D, this new segment of the Hobbit Production Diaries bumps up the anticipation for seeing what Peter Jackson's contribution will be with his first 3D feature.

Thanks for joining us on our continuing journey through the production of the The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey. Stop by again tomorrow for part 5.

Oblivion has a trailer. Here's your first look at Tom Cruise as Jack Harper.

You got your first look at the poster art yesterday. This morning, here's your first look at the just released teaser trailer for Universal's Oblivion.

The first film directed by Joseph Kosinski since 2010's Tron Legacy, Oblivion stars Cruise as a court-martialed soldier working as a drone repair man on a post-war ravaged and evacuated planet Earth. The film also stars Morgan Freeman, Olga Kurylenko and Melissa Leo.

Cruise is still sporting his Jack Reacher, less boyish, tough guy look. Surrounded by the trappings of reported 140 million dollar budget, I like seeing Cruise back in a full out sic-fi setting. But then again, I thought Wall•e looked amazing wandering a desolated planet Earth, and that remains the only Pixar film I still can't forgive. If in the next trailer Cruise starts playing songs from Hello Dolly on an old iPod, all bets are off.

Oblivion will debut in Imax theaters for an exclusive Imax only 1 week run on April 12, followed by wide release on April 19th.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Hobbit Production Diaries, Part 3

Welcome back to our Hobbit expedition as we continue following Peter Jackson's on set and on location videos shot during the making of The Hobbit, An Unintended Journey.

Part three finds Peter wandering around unfamiliar terrain as the series flashes back to cast memories of their first "block" of shooting back in Middle Earth. The highlights recalled by the various cast and crew, along with some insight from the director, help lend a personal perspective on what life is like while working in and around a production of such epic scale.

While watching, keep in mind what these had people signed on for. The comments being made reflect experiences during just the first block of filming, the final count of actual filming days is reported to have been 266. Then magnify the scale of the undertaking of any single film this ambitious and times it by 3. (Yes, The Hobbit adaptation is a trilogy with 2nd and 3rd films being released in 2013 and 2014 respectively.)

Consider too, that this is Peter Jackson's 2nd time around this material, yet his personal enthusiasm still energizes everyone involved.

And btw, watch for a famous face at the very end of the video. The actor who closes the segment (along with actor Ian Holm, who played Bilbo in The Lord of the Rings trilogy), requested to shoot in England while the bulk of the production was shot in New Zealand.

Here is part 3 of Peter Jackson's The Hobbit production diaries. Our journey continues tomorrow.

Friday, December 7, 2012

G.I. Joe, the Man of Steel and a peek into Oblivion. A blockbuster poster quick fix.

Thought you might like to get a quick look at what's headed into theaters in 2013. Here's the latest taste of poster art for three hopefuls looking to grab early blockbuster status.

G.I. Joe has finally learned to put their box-office star front and center.  They've also pulled an early release date out of the hat with very little to get in their way before the big guns start firing in April and May. Whatever your taste, it may be a fun distraction just for Willis' now patented smart-ass hard-ass you can't help but root for.
Paramount gets out of the gate early with a March 29th release.

Personally, I'm not feeling this first true taste of Henry Cavill as Superman, but then I wasn't drawn in by Zack Snyder's first trailer teaser either. And what's with the burst of light behind the neck and all of the soft focus? Last time out, Snyder's Sucker Punch felt like exactly that, so Zach's got something to prove. Sounds like a job for... sorry, couldn't resist.
Set for a Warner Brothers release on June 14th.

And finally I'm intrigued. Yes, the graphics feel a little too familiar, but the last time we saw futuristic vehicles and Tom Cruise's name together we went on a sic-fi ride called Minority Report. And the last alien landscape director Joseph Kosinski splashed across a movie screen was the dazzling game grid (and not so dazzling story) in 2010's Tron Legacy. It's happening in April which means it's the perfect precursor to all of the Blockbuster Summer hype. I'm all in.
Releasing from Universal on April 19th.

Thanks to the studios and the folks at for the artwork.

The Hobbit Production Diaries, Part 2

Today we're off on the second day of our Hobbit journey and part two of Peter Jackson's production diaries chronicling the pre-production, production and post-production of his movie adaptation of The Hobbit. If you're not quite sure how those three phases of getting a movie made differ, no worries. Mr. Jackson will be giving you a guided tour throughout this series.

Here are some points of interest in today's post to take note of along the way. Yes, that's Andy Serkis, the motion capture expert and the man who brings life into the character of Gollum, directing 2nd Unit sequences for the new films. Think scouting locations are just a trivial part of planning? For The Hobbit, scouting the rivers and mountains of New Zealand required five helicopters and planning befit a battlefield general. And in case you think Directors are overpaid, take a listen to how Peter Jackson will be spending his time while just about everyone else in Cast and Crew will be taking a break between "shooting blocks".

I've also taken this opportunity to present different poster art from the marketing campaign in each one of these posts. You can see the posters full size simply by clicking on them.

I hope you'll enjoy part two and that you'll join us each day through The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey's American release on December 14th.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Peter Jackson's The Hobbit Production Diaries. A master at work in the art of film production.

Just a week ago (Life of Pi & a pretty convincing argument for 3D), I mentioned that the video production shorts that were once strictly the domain of DVD extras, have come into their own as both effective and entertaining marketing tools. Particularly when they are produced for films that gather the kind of fan expectations and anticipation that Peter Jackson can summon with all things Tolkien.

Director Jackson has filmed a series of production diaries documenting his trip back to Middle Earth (imagined throughout production borrows and location landscapes all over New Zealand), and posted them in a video blog for fans of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Tolkien readers and fans of filmmaking everywhere. With just a week before the official release of The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey, Moviedozer is about to set out on a nine day journey of our own.

Starting today, and each day through December 14th's theatrical release, I'll be posting the nine production dairies, in sequence, one per day.

These video blogs are a fascinating glimpse into big scale, special effects film production and the enormity of an undertaking that is literally years in planning and years more in execution. An undertaking that easily overwhelms the imagination. Yet, considering Peter Jackson's Oscar worthy Lord of the Rings, this new production follows one of the most critically lauded and commercially successful trilogies ever put on film. In fact, each of the three Lord of the Rings films earned Academy Award nominations, with 2003's Lord of the Rings: Return of the King winning Oscars for Adapted Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture.

This is a production dairy of a master at his craft, working from a legendary piece of classic literature, while working with top drawer talent throughout cast and crew. Here then is a glimpse into the world of Peter Jackson and the making of The Hobbit, An Unexpected Journey.

Please join me each day through December 14th to see all nine installments. Thanks for dropping by.

Star Trek Into Darkness has an official teaser.

Here's a quick follow-up to the release of next year's Star Trek Into Darkness poster release- the brand new official trailer titled "Announcement". As Sherlock Holmes might say, the game is afoot.

The trailer will be widely available on the 17th - and it's available in a ton of languages at Apple's terrific quicktime trailer site. But since no one likes to wait, I've posted it below. Please note that this version may not play nicely with some mobile devices so you may want to get some screen time in front of your computer.

Besides, I think you may want to see this on as big a screen as possible. And with the volume pushed as much as you dare.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Star Trek journeys Into Darkness... and the Batman marketing playbook.

The first poster for the much anticipated followup to 2009's J.J. Abrams reboot of Star Trek was released today. And it seems there's more evident than a touch of familiarity to the first film or its legendary television heritage. There's also not a star ship or crew member to be found.

What there is, is an undeniable hint at the villain based thrills that await through a rather obvious nod to the original teaser posted for this past summer's The Dark Knight Rises. A case, as it were, of logo building through building destruction.

The Dark Knight Rises centered on a brutal and violent criminal in the form of Bane, played for big points by a terrifyingly sadistic Tom Hardy. Star Trek, Into Darkness casts Benedict Cumberbatch (everyone's favorite current TV Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series Sherlock), playing Captain Kirk's  foe, rumored to be the franchise's quintessential bad guy, the villainously vengeful, Kahn.

Is the teaser design homage to the Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy or is it simply Paramount's marketing department using what works? Let us know what you think with a comment below.

In any case, the big dog battle that kicks off the summer blockbuster season is set. Are you more anxious to see Robert Downey Jr get back into the metal suit as Iron Man 3 (on May 3rd), or are you feeling anxious to punch your ticket and go where every Star Trek fan has gone before, back into Starfleet with perhaps the best movie crew ever assembled to lead the way?

Star Trek Into Darkness returns Director/Producer J.J. Abrams to the helm, directing the same cast that so nailed the first film back to its original television cast roots, including Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, as Kirk and Spock respectively, Zoe Saldana (Uhura), Karl Urban (Bones), Simon Pegg (Scotty) and Anton Yelchin (Chekov). Scheduled release is May 17th from Paramount Pictures.

The Dark Knight Rises teaser poster designed by Ignition Print. Into Darkness teaser design unknown. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Last chance to see Brad Pitt before the end of the world.

Well, the last chance if that whole Mayan Calendar thing holds any water. Otherwise, at least according to and the 30 or so projects they say Pitt has in his production pipeline, the guy's going to be around for awhile.

Mayan apocalypse notwithstanding, there's no need to worry as Pitt's last release of 2012 is our weekend pick for a chance to get out and see great performances and a great story.

Killing Them Softly, an adaptation of a novel by George V. Higgins, is set in New Orleans. A town Brad Pitt has taken into his heart since Hurricane Katrina ravaged its parishes and its people. In addition to personally jumping into the long rebuilding process, Pitt has also made a point of bringing work to the area through his film projects. In this case, the locations he loves are a perfectly suited cinematic canvas.

The man knows movie producing as well as he knows acting. As a co-Producer he's helped to assemble some of my favorite actors in this ensemble cast. James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, Sam Shepard, and Richard Jenkins all provide loads of personality and talent to their roles.

Killing them Softly, directed and written by Andrew Dominik (who also wrote and directed 2007's masterful The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford ) opened on Friday and is in wide release this weekend.

Here's the feature trailer curtesy of The Weinstein Company.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Life of Pi & a pretty convincing argument for 3D.

One of my favorite things about the proliferation of movie trailers on the internet is that so many studios are releasing production diaries and interview clips as part of their online marketing campaigns.

Previously only available as extras on DVD releases, these behind the scenes snippets and on camera comments from filmmakers are now readily available without purchasing a thing. By glimpsing a portion of what the key creative contributors saw from the inception of the project through its release, you can go along for the free ride and gain a bit of insight on the journey.

Life of Pi is a fascinating and curious film to look at this way. A quiet novel that earned global best seller attention, but was widely deemed an impossible task for cinema. The movie not only got made, but made by an Oscar winning director. And in 3D.

This video features both Ang Lee and James Cameron, who's 3D camera systems were used in filming, offering a very solid argument for seeing Life of Pi in 3 dimensions.

After you watch the video, let us know if you donned 3D shades to see the film.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Three on the Outside. Limiting long shots outside of Hollywood.

There are a couple of tastes every movie lover should work to acquire, subtitled foreign films and Independent limited releases. Both categories present their own unique challenge.

Foreign films deserve to be heard in their native language. Aside from the fact that you won't get distracted by voices that don't match facial movement or a vocal tone that seems to be resonating from a different body (which it is), there is a rhythm and cadence to speech that, in any language, adds meaning.

Though you don't understand the words, you'll find yourself grasping intent, need, desire and any number of nuances from delivery. Then consider that these are trained actors you are watching, and give credit to their performances to adjust pronunciation, pitch and tonality to add meaning to their words. All elements that are doomed to be mismatched in a dubbed film. Trust me, you'll get used to reading the text and not miss anything in the story far more quickly than you may think.

Future posts on Moviedozer will feature new foreign films and documentaries. The category we'll spotlight today is Independent limited releases.

A constantly blurring and evolving label, "Independent" reflects films that may be made by a band of renegade film students, a scrappy shoe-string budget start-up, or a billionaire's vanity project in a portfolio of content ownership investments (we're talking about you Mark Cuban). The commonality to all of these sources of Independent films is that they can be hard to see. Seems crazy that entertainment media designed for consumption, and judged as successful or unsuccessful by the numbers of tickets it sells, can be so damn difficult to find in a theater. But unless you have access to LA's or NYC's streets on a regular basis (or a small handful of other international cities), seeking out and appreciating independent film on a real movie theater screen is at best a challenging scavenger hunt. Be forever thankful for the proliferation of home video and digital downloads.

Now and then on the pages of Moviedozer, I'll feature a few independents on the horizon that may or may not be worth finding. Whether at your favorite independent movie house or a more sophisticated multiplex, finding independent releases can also be a true treasure hunt. This will be the first of a series of posts called "Three on the Outside", highlighting three current films that aren't in the mainstream of Hollywood, but offer a hint of potential or stir a bit of curiosity. Here are three that have my attention...

Hitchcock (Fox Searchlight Pictures, directed by Sacha Gervasi) An inside glimpse at the famous director seems like a movie that should have already been made. The interesting angle employed here is to focus on Hitchcock while he was making, and fighting to get made, one of his legendary classics, Psycho. Independent films often tread the line of being big hollywood films without the benefit of mega budgets and splashy ad campaigns. The benefit to the film maker is the small "art film" appeal for the actors. Thus Hitchcock boasts an A-list roster of talent including Danny Huston, Toni Collette, Jessica Biel, Scarlett Johansson, Helen Mirren (as Mrs. Hitchcock), and Anthony Hopkins in the title role. Big studios likely thought box-office appeal might be limited to fans of the director and his films, but this release also has awards consideration written all over it. Currently in limited release.

In Our Nature (Cinedigm, directed by Brian Savelson) Independent films often pull together casts that feel more like a repertory company than a one-shot group of movie actors. When the chemistry is right, simple stories can be elevated to storytelling art. Limited shooting locations, small scale sets and a focus on dialogue rather than action become assets rather than limitations. These modest productions can also become a place for directors, writers and actors to stretch. Subsequently, the moviegoer may be treated to a group of artists in exactly the right environment to hone their craft. The trailer for In Our Nature suggests that those elements are used to great effect. A charged story presents itself in a confined location that forces confrontation. The cast is free to work with pointed, yet natural dialogue toward revelations about each of their characters. Led here by the very appealing John Slattery (of Mad Men fame) with support from Jena Malone, Zach Gilford and Gabrielle Union, In Our Nature points out the inherent nature of Independent film to present the potential for great ensemble performances. Scheduled limited release on December 7th.

Any Day Now (Music Box Films, directed by Travis Fine) A hallmark of Independent films is often a great story that, because of its subject, may limit its broad appeal. Some of the best are inspired by real life, as is the case with Any Day Now. These are often small, personal stories that are emotionally gripping and sometimes controversial. That combination can add up to a real strength in independent film, a stellar star performance by a lead or supporting actor. In this case, that performance looks to be coming from Alan Cummings who plays one half of a gay couple fighting to adopt an abandoned teen with Down syndrome. Supporting roles feel strong in the trailer sequences as well, particularly Garret Dillahunt and Isaac Leyva as the Down syndrome teen. Fortunately, these are perfect films to catch on video if first run theaters aren't nearby. They also are often the films that will stay with you long after watching, and that you may find yourself recommending to other movie loving friends. Scheduled limited release on December 14th.

Broadening your exposure to movies you might not usually see can add immensely to understanding and enjoying cinematic art. As in discovering a favorite wine, a willingness to sample the unfamiliar and the hard to find may open doors to movies you might have otherwise missed completely. A shame as there may very well be a few true treasures out there. Let us know if you find one.

All release dates are for the US. Poster art is curtesy of their respective studios with thanks to

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Larry Hagman 1931-2012

I grew up in the sixties, so of course there was a time when I wanted to be Larry Hagman. It was a time when I was captivated by NASA and the space program, and on NBC television, Larry Hagman was playing astronaut Anthony Nelson. Along with total access to rockets and space capsules, Nelson was constantly in the arms of a  gorgeous blonde genie in a bottle, played by Barbara Eden, who Hagman once called "the most beautiful girl in the world". Now that's what I call a role model.

But as much as I was enthralled by I Dream of Jeannie, it would be a late night showing of a hollywood classic political thriller that I would come to appreciate, elevating my respect for Larry Hagman, the actor. In that film, Hagman played Buck, the President's translator, called in to interpret the meaning and nuances of a conversation between the US President and his Russian counterpart during a series of hotline calls that would be the last chance at tipping the two countries away from nuclear war. The film was 1964's Fail Safe and Hagman held his own beautifully in the intense scenes he shared with a brilliant performance by Henry Fonda playing the President.

Larry Hagman as Presidential Interpreter Buck in 1964's Fail Safe
from Columbia Pictures.

Fail Safe, directed by Sidney Lumet, made the most of big stars and included unforgettable performances from Fonda, Walter Matthau, Dan O'Herlihy and others. Yet it would be Larry Hagman that would be stamped into my memory. I never watched an I Dream of Jeannie rerun, or the series that would create a genre of primetime soaps, Dallas, without thinking of the measured and staccato performance in Fail Safe that made the tension of those hotline calls so realistically plausible.

Larry Hagman did other Hollywood films as well. 1964's Ensign Pulver and 1965's In Harms Way were standouts and a funny turn in 1976's comedy Mother, Juggs and Speed, stay with me. With a long and storied television career, Larry Hagman made a working actor's life look like a noble profession.

To his fans, his friends and his family, we wish all peace and comfort in this time of loss.

Top photo by Peter Larsen for WireImage, courtesy of

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The fall push for Awards and Blockbusters. Hollywood hype season is in full swing.

It's the middle of November, so while the political world unwinds from a Presidential election and the retail world gears up for the last surge of holiday shopping, the movie marketing world is knee deep in a double barrel marketing push that studios engage in every autumn.

From the first barrel are the self-aggrandizing multi-million dollar campaigns to win over Academy Awards voters. Like it or not, the Oscar is still the only movie award that really matters, regardless of its near meaninglessness among average moviegoers. The second barrel fires off the monumental marketing effort to launch first strike trailers designed to lay claim to summer blockbuster fortunes. An endeavor that has come to have far more financial impact than printing gold statuettes on re-release and DVD posters.

For movie fans around the world, the result is a not entirely unwelcome barrage of advertising and hype that will likely set our ticket buying expectations through the end of the year, and well into next summer. In that spirit, here's a look at what's being heavily hyped for Oscar and what's already being banked on for next Summer. Though everyone has their opinions and predictions, Moviedozer is keeping it to personal expectations.

Here's a random sample of three major releases I expect to see on Oscar night. For those already counting days, will be presented on February 24, 2013, with announcements for nominations on January 15. Then three more I expect will set the summer ticket sales bar. Blockbuster season, for all intents and purposes, kicks off on May 3 with Iron Man 3 from Disney's Marvel Studios.

The Academy will likely be brushing Oscar gold on...

Steven Spielberg's Lincoln (Touchstone/DreamWorks Pictures). There's no surer bet that in the ungodly hour of the morning that these things are announced, Oscar's nomination announcements will include the names Lincoln and Daniel Day Lewis. If not, I'll close up shop here and start writing a scrapbooking blog. This was a film shelved by Spielberg specifically because his one and only choice for the lead, Daniel Day Lewis, said no the first time. And even after some convincing, the all powerful director was willing to wait an extra year for the actor to get comfortable with the role. Making this film wouldn't be an easy task on anyone's to do list, but you have to believe that kind of commitment pays off. Everything about this movie is about what makes a great movie immortal. Meaning, if they got this right, they've got the big awards in the bag. It's that kind of project and likely the one movie you should absolutely see before February 24th.

Ang Lee's Life of Pi (Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp). In 2011 Martin Scorsese furthered the legitimization of 3D as a tool for cinematic storytelling with Academy Award winner and best picture nominee Hugo. That legitimacy as a storytelling tool may again be refined (and defined) by Ang Lee's much talked about adaptation of the Yann Martel novel. The story of Life of Pi swirls around a young man named Pi Patel and a tiger named Richard Parker, who may or may not be a manifestation of young Pi's fears and imagination. That particular aspect of the book created an opportunity to tell a story through spectacular and fantastic visuals, perfectly and naturally suited to 3D. Having James Cameron's company, PACE, as technical consultants surely won't hurt. Though I wouldn't throw any chips on the table for best picture or acting honors, I expect to see Life of Pi dominate those technical award categories and perhaps even net Mr. Lee a nod as Pi's director.

Katherine Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty (Columbia Pictures). Just to go a little off the already beaten path, I'm expecting Oscar winning director Katherine Bigelow (honored in 2010 for The Hurt Locker), to be recognized for director with her historically accurate telling of the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Rather than focus on the overnight raid itself, the film spans ten years of intelligence work that led to the final Seal Team Six mission. With solid casting and a perspective that hasn't already been exhausted by cable channel specials, there's a chance to unwind a sharp, smart narrative. Though Zero Dark Thirty doesn't promise to be a favorite, or even an eventual winner, I'll be surprised if it doesn't claim a presence. The most interesting story that follows may be what Katherine Bigelow does next, after exhaustively researching two high profile, military themed projects.

And as for those blockbusters? Seems far easier to pick money winners than award winners. Where I'd caveat the picks above as educated guesses, the three films below are all but guaranteed to score major box-office worldwide. If Vegas had a movie betting window, these three would be booking at even money...

Iron Man 3 (Marvel Studios). Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man suit may as well be made of solid gold. The third outing of this franchise will build on last summer's Avengers success and may well become the most successful of the series.

Oz the Great and Powerful (Disney). While I think this one is a little bit more of a gamble, the incredibly wide demographic this film could appeal to is undeniably an enormous target audience. I may not be the first to point this out, but I promise that if Disney feels they've gotten this right, they're also betting that they've grabbed a property that could become a franchise. A take anywhere in the range of $200 million domestic and $300 foreign will pave the yellow brick road with a least a sequel or two.

World War Z (Paramount). The first trailer for this film so impressed me that it spurred the resurgence of this very blog. Brad Pitt is going to ride this film to action hero status and zombie movies are about to get "Twilighted". That's to say that what the Twilight series did for vampire movie production values is about to happen to Zombie movies. World War Z's effect on the genre will be as cataclysmic as the title of the movie suggests. A change I look forward to, and one that will welcome in a new caliber of talent and story quality to a genre previously mostly known for "B" level productions.

Fall's a great time to be heading to your local movie theaters. The bonus for movie fans is the avalanche of advertising and promotion that has turned Awards Season into Hype Season. Just more fun for us. Have a great weekend at the movies.

Poster art courtesy of their respective studios with thanks to

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Art of the Trailer: Treading on classic territory in the land of Oz.

The road to Oz. Treacherous ground for Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Lion and the Scarecrow. But forget the yellow brick road, the road to the Emerald City has an even more dangerous route - the silver screen. And any studio crazy enough to venture into the classic territory of the land of Oz has to be very certain of where its spinning house (or in this case, the wizard's infamous hot air balloon), is going to land.

Disney is that studio. The studio has decided its success with Pixar, Marvel, and its recent acquisition of Lucasfilm, along with its film franchise empire, Star Wars, has emboldened it to go where most studios with any sense would steer a course wide and clear. To be fair, Disney isn't trying to pull off a remake of The Wizard of OZ, but rather an origins story of sorts, drawn from Frank L. Baum's literary classics. And remember, this is the studio who is about to bring you Johnny Depp as Tonto in The Lone Ranger. What's a few munchkins and witches to worry about?

Which brings us to admitting our admiration for what is increasingly rare in a risk averse Hollywood these days, the guts to trust both your instincts and the creative assets you can bring to bear on a very risky project. Made obvious by the teaser trailer released in the summer, and evident even in the poster art (a sample of which we showcased on these pages just days ago), is a creative sense of reinvention, while still paying homage to the original source material and one of the truly timeless classics of movie making. To greatly understate the risks, not an easy task.

Yet, with yesterday's release of the new full length feature trailer, Disney is looking more and more like a studio who's ability to bet large piles of money on their movie projects can be matched equally to their confidence in their ability to tell great stories. It is that confidence that may be their latest and greatest resource.

I'm definitely taken by what I see here. More impressive than images of Johnny Depp made up as the Mad Hatter for a bold retelling of Alice in Wonderland a couple of years ago. Here, there is both foreboding and a gentle charm that hints at a true sense of wonderment in what this Oz may hold.

The art of the trailer is here best described in terms of the art of the moviemakers. Through the eyes of director Sam Raimi, a cast that includes James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams, music by Danny Elfman and a slew of first class production personnel, Oz the Great and Powerful shows off Disney as masters of some of the finest technical and production wizards of the day. (Does a scene showing Franco's wizard mending a broken toy doll suggest some oversight by John Lasseter?) And they also show themselves off as one of the most daring and risk embracing studios in the business. If there is, indeed, real magic in this OZ, we will definitely be paying attention to the studio behind the curtain.

Here then, the latest trailer for Oz, the Great and Powerful. Let us know what you think by sharing a comment below.

Title graphic: