Friday, March 29, 2013

Go Big, Go Small: The Place Beyond the Pines.

If you're a Stephanie Meyer fan, you're already hopelessly committed to seeing The Host this weekend with a pack of your Twilight readers club members. On the other hand, if you're convinced there are secret messages being conveyed within the frames of Stanley Kubrick's film adaptation of "The Shining", you're likely heading off to find a screening of Room 237 ( Is Stanley Kubrick's The Shining a Masterpiece..." ).


But if you're a movie fan looking for a little practical advice, Moviedozer's pick this weekend is to...

Go small.
Go small with The Place Beyond the Pines.

The Place Beyond the Pines stars Ryan Gossling, Ray Liotta and Eva Mendez, in roles that feel a touch too familiar for these actors. But the surprise comes about 40 seconds into the trailer when Bradley Cooper appears in a not so typical role as a rookie police officer. Cooper's character quickly finds himself in pursuit of Gossling speeding away from his first bank job and... well, that's about the time to decide to go see the movie.

Though The Place Beyond the Pines is a small movie that will earn small box-office numbers, unfortunately ham stringed by the bane of all movie fans living outside of major cities, a "limited release", it's a title that may be worth remembering when scouring rental and subscription queues next year.

The Place Beyond the Pines is released by Focus Features and was directed by Derek Cianfrance.





If a small scale crime spree wrapped in an emotional personal drama just doesn't feel like a fun way to spend an evening in a movie theater seat - and you absolutely have to see something go up in a ball of flames to feel like you've had an emotional moment at the movies...


GO BIG!
You can get an early summer popcorn movie fix in the first few weeks of Spring with G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Yeah, it's dumb and it's completely predictable but it still looks better than 2009's G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

And it borrows - the trailer will make you think of everything from James Bond to X-Men to Transformers. But the point is to push you back in your seat and not relent until the credit crawl begins. And for that, its got some cred.

Going BIG this weekend means seeing G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and checking your brain at the door. The best reason to go - Bruce Willis making you feel like you're not a complete nerd for being there.



This is the second movie in as many weekends that portrays a takeover of the White House. Have Republicans taken over Hollywood? Moviedozer is picking a big weekend box-office for G.I. Joe, with a fast drop off in just a few weeks.

Are you going big or going small this weekend? We'll be there to try to sway you every week as Moviedozer rides the wave of new releases every weekend during Blockbuster Summer.

Thanks to Paramount, Focus Features and Apple Movie Trailers.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

WORLD. WAR. Z!

A new poster, a new trailer. World War Z will set a new standard for what movie fans will expect from a zombie flick. You can see the proof for yourself on June 21st.

Based on the novel by Max Brooks (World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War), adapted to the screen by Matthew Michael Carnahan (State of Play, The Kingdom) and directed by Marc Forster (Monster's Ball, Quantum of Solace), all you really need to know is that on Monday, June 24th, this is the movie everyone will be talking about.


Here's the newest trailer from Paramount.




Thanks to Paramount Pictures.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Art of the Poster: Does "White House Down" go too far?

Moviedozer has been featuring a lot of poster art lately,  but then it is a busy time of year for movie marketing. What's interesting is when someone does something a little different and in doing so, makes their work stand out that much more.

On Monday I showcased three posters, released well into their respective marketing campaigns, that I felt had done an exceptional job of telegraphing their characters and story lines in an effort to continue building anticipation for their pending releases (Great new poster designs for three May movies.).

Today I wanted to showcase three teaser posters, all for the same movie: White House Down.

Last weekend saw the release, with a more potent box-office take than had been expected, of Olympus Has Fallen. That film's teaser poster, depicting the explosive destruction of the White House and a tattered American flag in vivid comic book tones, is pictured here. What's obvious is that the Olympus Has Fallen poster looks like a movie poster - an ad for a piece of fiction.

The first teaser poster from
Olympus Has Fallen
White House Down takes a different tack. The first three teaser posters give us three points of view of Washington DC, seat of our nation's government. Stately, serene, peaceful. The deceptive calm before the storm, as an unexpected event is about to rip apart these images and lives along with them.

In a post 911 society, the eeriness and foreboding that linger outside the frame of these images seems palpable and frightening. The tagline: "It will start like any other day" acts as the story cue that bumps up our anxiety.

As the job of teaser posters is to instill a sense of curiosity and expectation, and in this case, trepidation, these posters nail it. But do they go too far? Do they play too much off of post 911 fears? Are they simply too evocative of that blue sky Tuesday morning in 2001? Is putting a child in the third poster over the top?

I'm torn by both vivid recollections of a day that should never be exploited for commerce and my sense that this is excellent marketing. But does it matter that the story is fiction if the images evoke real-life tragedy? What's your first impression? Do you have a visceral or an intellectual reaction to these posters? Or, are they just great ads for a movie?




The producers and Columbia Pictures have smartly kept White House Down in the wings until Olympus Has Fallen got its opening weekend out of the way. Though that film looks to have at least a few weeks ahead of steady business, White House Down should be well positioned for its June 28th release date.

Directed and Produced by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, 2012), the film stars Channing Tatum, Jason Clarke, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James Woods and Richard Jenkins.

Clicking on any poster will open an image gallery.

Thanks to Columbia pictures for poster art. IMPAwards.com lists Bemis Balkind as designer for the first two posters. There is no designer credit listed for the bottom image.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Great new poster designs for three May movies.

In the world of movie marketing, posters aren't just wallpaper for theater lobbies. They have become fixtures of online internet marketing, background art for movie websites and, in their best form, become graphic fingerprints for the tone and character of their respective movies. And, as readers of Moviedozer know, they can be potent pieces of popular artwork in their own right.

Occasionally, I discover that a current crop of great posters are designed by the same studio. That's the case today with new posters promoting a string of promising movies all scheduled for May releases and all designed by BLT Communications, LLC. One of which has become my new favorite for a superhero movie.


Now You See Me   (right) A Summit Entertainment release scheduled for May 31st.

Now You See Me might be the most original popcorn movie you see this season. The movie boasts both an impressive ensemble cast and producer credits by the action/adventure heavyweight team of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci (who also serve as writer/producers on Star Trek: Into Darkness featured below). It also boasts a very cool new poster.

Instead of a cast glamor shot, the actors are shown in full figure looking up with serious faces, perhaps as if casing out security cameras. Striding through a slight-of-hand title graphic where some characters appear on and some appear under the surface of the poster. The trick makes you look twice,  giving the cast an air of having something up their sleeves  - which is exactly why we're curious to see just what that might be. The double take you may have done takes you right to the lesson in the tagline: "The closer you look, the less you'll see."


Star Trek: Into Darkness    A Paramount release scheduled for May 17th.


If this weren't a famous franchise, you can easily imagine this might be the poster for an action crime movie. But for the debris field the obvious villain is walking through, the tone is clearly future terrorism and the choice of depicting the three heroes as a bit beaten up and scanning their surroundings, weapons drawn, emphasizes the peril they are facing.

By forgoing a more futuristic setting and taking away the starships and laser cannons, the odds seem more dire for the good guys and the story about to unfold takes on a far more personal feeling, an unusual take for a mega-budget summer sci-fi outing. Bold and effective, the designer's confidence in the basic elements of the story carry the day.


Iron Man 3   Coming from Marvel Studios on May 3rd.


The latest series of posters for Iron Man 3 have focused on character. Nothing unusual there as this is when a movie about 5 weeks away from theaters starts narrowing in on its cast. When not done well, the posters feel more like ego stroking or contract fulfillment. When done well, it's a glimpse into character and plot hints.

When done as well as the poster above, the art can tell a story without words. Once again, the choice is to focus in on a personal story rather than big budget effects, leaving the scale of the battle far in the background.

The sum of the peril of the entire story shows clearly on the faces of its heroes. It helps when those faces belong to Robert Downy Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow. Downey in particular looks out of breath, exhausted, vigilante, determined and unbeatable - all at once.

Everything about this image works to increase expectations for the movie's release, from the expressions to the body language to the color palette. If you're thinking about seeing Iron Man 3, this is art that will cement that idea in your head and have you circling the release date on your calendar. It's a great example of movie poster marketing and a new favorite at Moviedozer.


Does poster art impact your decision to see a movie? Where do you find yourself most commonly exposed to the posters for upcoming releases? Have you ever purchased a movie poster as artwork for your home? More than just marketing, Moviedozer will continue to spotlight great movie posters. Let us know if you've seen something you think is special and we'll feature it in a column.

The art of the poster by BLT Communications, LLC. Thanks for adding to our expectations for these three May movies.

Thanks too to the studios. Marvel Studios/Disney, Paramount Pictures and Summit Entertainment.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Blockbuster Summer: Go Big, Go Small.

With the release of Oz the Great and Powerful two weekends ago, 2013 entered into Blockbuster Summer season with a hit. Grossing more than $150 million in domestic ticket sales, Oz enters its third weekend with nearly $300 million in global box-office. Not a bad start for a season of ticket sales that used to wait until May to get its presence felt.

More big movie releases bring the potential for more big money hits. And that means more months are needed in the release schedule. But while it's the big budget "tentpole" releases that grab the headlines and splashy ad campaigns, this can be a great time to get smaller, more personal stories told. The very nature of being up against the studio behemoths means getting noticed by audiences gets you noticed by the major studios as well. So this is also a great time to make reputations and open doors to future projects.

And that's another reason why this is such a great time of year for movie fans.

In a series of posts that will continue through August, Moviedozer will take Fridays to showcase the big movies that have the potential to deliver on the blockbuster potential of their marketing as well as the small movies that will be battling for screen space at your local multiplex. So long as there are releases in the wings that show promise, Moviedozer will highlight a trailer or two to be sure they don't slip past your notice.

Welcome to our first Friday of Go Big, Go Small. As it turns out, this is a great weekend to start.

Note: In addition to the movies showcased here, there's also The Croods, this weekend's animated release from DreamWorks Animation that got our attention in a post this past Wednesday (Summer Animation, Pt. 1: Dreamworks).

GO BIG!
If you're thinking Go Big this weekend, you might consider a movie taking its best shot to deliver the year's first big budget action adventure mega-hit, though I'd say its prospects are not quite as grandiose as its plot line.

It's actually the first of three movies being released this year with the idea that the White House makes a more interesting movie prop when it's completely under siege. This one's called Olympus Has Fallen and stars Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Melissa Leo, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Rick Yune and Dylan McDermott.

Like each of the films showcased here, Olympus Has Fallen opened today.




GO (not quite so) BIG!
If you're inclined to go comedy rather than action, you can go big with comedy stars by seeing Admission starring Paul Rudd and Tina Fey in their first film together. This Paul Weitz directed film looks to deliver a lightweight storyline that luckily seems secondary to the chemistry Fey and Rudd connect with on screen. Throw in the support work (and some spot on comic delivery) by veteran Lily Tomlin and Admission could be a pleasant, easy going way to laugh yourself into the weekend.

This is also Moviedozer's pick for the safest date night flick of the weekend.





GO small.
This weekend's pick.
Looking for a less crowded theater without any explosions?

Look for a screening of The Weinstein Company's The Sapphires in your local listings. Based on a true story and starring a nicely rounded performance by Chris O'Dowd, The Sapphires is exactly the kind of movie that picks up word of mouth and subsequently surfaces in the wake of the blockbusters, taking theater owners and major studios by surprise.

Happily, for the people who discover films like this, that surprise is one of the true joys of loving movies. And as an added bonus, you get to say you saw it first.



Moviedozer's recommendation this weekend: The Sapphires. The trailer charms with sparkling acting and standout period musical performances. With a script based on real life events, this looks to be a great weekend to go small. Be assured, there are lots of BIG weekends ahead.

An Animated Summer, Pt. 3: Fox, Sony & Universal.

While DreamWorks Animation is focused on reestablishing itself as an animation franchise powerhouse and Disney establishes one of its key Pixar properties as franchise material, the other major studios are seeing value in offering at least an occasional contender for animated box-office profits.

This summer, three of those studios have players in the game. Here's a quick glimpse at each.

Universal Pictures may have their hands on a franchise that could generate one of this summer's big box-office hits. The first sequel to its original hit, Despicable Me 2 is a return of one of the most successful challenges ever to Pixar's rule as digital animation kings.

Despicable Me, released in July of 2010 earned more than a half billion worldwide and added another 150 million in home video sales. Add in a major theme park attraction for Universal Studios Orlando and a serious flood of merchandise revenue, and the perspective on building animation franchises becomes crystal clear.

Universal also has the Disney-like clout needed to bring an original Cast back into the studio. The roster of returning voice talent is led by Steve Carell and includes Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Russell Brand, Elsie Fisher and Dana Gaier. Throw in Al Pacino and Steve Coogan and you have a power cast even where you likely don't need one.

With one more power play in its pocket, Despicable Me 2 has a July Fourth Weekend holiday release date. If Disney's Monsters University underperforms, "Universal" will once again be a word heard only in quiet whispers through the halls of the Mouse House. Here's a peak...




The partnership of Twentieth Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios produced an over-performing success in Animation back in 2011 with Rio, the story of a macaw from a small town in Minnesota that suddenly finds itself in the tropics of Rio de Janeiro. That partnership is back this summer with Epic, a story short on originality but high on gorgeous artwork. Kids (and parents) will recognize the worn storyline of little creatures defending the forest with the help of a miniaturized kid, but if the art can immerse them in a world of wonder it may not matter.

Epic's voice cast is predictably filled with celebrities who may or may not lend anything to the production besides needlessly costly talent contracts and sequel agreements. The Oscar-cred heavy voice cast here is headed by Jason Sudeikis, Amanda Seyfried, Beyoncé Knowles, Colin Farrell, Aziz Ansari, Christoph Waltz and Steven Tyler. Epic has a scheduled May 24th release.




Last on the Animated Summer list is, wait for it, another sequel. This time the animation is served up with a mix of live action and a smart-alecky, blue tinted smirk. The Smurfs 2 differs from the pack with a decidedly edgier approach, and an appeal for pre-teens and adolescence-inclined adults; a reliably large demographic.

In the mix of onscreen and voice talent are returning cast members Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris and Sofia Vergara with the notable additions of Anton Yelchin, Christina Ricci, Alan Cummings, Brendan Gleeson, Katy Perry, Fred Armisen, George Lopez and the venerable Jonathan Winters (as Papa Smurf).

You'll have to hold your breath until you can turn blue, The Smurfs 2 doesn't open in the U.S. until July 31st.


It's clearly another animated summer with several of the seven movies highlighted in these last three columns being sure bets for the summer's top ten box-office list. My bet is at least one of them will land in the top 3.

Check back with us later today for a new look at Blockbuster Season weekends with a new feature called Go Big, Go Small. Thanks for reading Moviedozer.com.

Thanks to Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox for trailers and poster art.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

An Animated Summer, Pt. 2: Disney.

While DreamWorks Animation's summer releases boast new characters and new stories, Disney is releasing two animated sequels, sort of.

The first of Disney's summer animation movies is a monster, literally. Monsters University is the long awaited sequel of Monsters, Inc. and is arguably the most aniticpated Pixar based sequel since Toy Story 2 (and 3). The story actually takes the prequel path as we follow character favorites Sculley (John Goodman) and Mike (Billy Crystal) back to the days when they met as college roomates at old MU.

Disney has a true talent and the necessary creds to easily regroup original voice casts and they've been successful here as well. In addition to Goodman and Crystal, returning vocal cast also includes Steve Buscemi and Frank Oz along with new cast voices Helen Mirren, Charlie Day, Alfred Molina, Sean P. Hayes, Julia Sweeney and Dave Foley.

Monsters University promises to be one of summer's genuine blockbusters, hitting theaters on June 21st. Here's a peak...



Disney's second animated summer movie release is a hybrid of sorts. Taking it's flight instructions from the charming and very successful Cars and its less effective sequel Cars 2, Planes is an obvious concept. Though populated with new characters, settings and story, you have to wonder just how much of Planes is simply Cars with wings?

Even on first glance, the character look and personailities will seem like you've known them for years  - a likely advantage in appealing to young audience members but a bit of a letdown in Disney originailty for the adults who accompany them. Planes looks and feels like an easy shot at bulking up Disney's summer box-office take without expending very much energy. If the story isn't a standout, that impression will get talked about and Disney will face the challenge of overcoming a growing reputation for over exploiting its creative assets.

A possible sign of its "second tier" feel may be that Planes is being released under the Disneytoon Studios banner rather than Pixar Animation Studios (which may also have something to do with where it was produced). The release is also planned for relatively late in the summer season, on August 9th; a time when Disney hopes to be bragging about the success of Monsters University as well as a likely trio of high profile live action hits led by Marvel's Iron Man 3.

Though much of the production details are yet to be released, Planes' vocal cast is lead by Dane Cook.  Here's the teaser trailer.


There's more Disney animation, of an original variety, headed to theaters late in the year so don't dismay if Planes leaves you up in the air (sorry, couldn't resist). Original Disney animation in the form of Frozen and King of the Elves are currently scheduled for November and December releases.

Tomorrow Moviedozer wraps up its Animated Summer coverage with new movies from Fox, Sony and Universal. See you then.

Thanks to Disney Studios for trailers and poster art.




Wednesday, March 20, 2013

An Animated Summer, Pt. 1, DreamWorks.

Once upon a time, back when people actually drew frames of animated movies using pencil and paper, a studio called Disney could create something truly special - an animated movie that would charm your kids with magic for an hour and a half, and then for a lifetime. An experience for the those with kids (or kids still rummaging around inside them), that didn't come more than once a year.

That was then, this is now. For "now" read - computer animated, marketing hyped, theme park blasted, celebrity voice shellacked, throw-it-against-the-silver-screen to see if it dazzles... not kids so much as stockholders - "now".

So it is, that as summer approaches there are five major animation studios fielding seven digitally animated movies in competition for hundreds of millions of kid flick, parent friendly, summer box-office dollars. And Disney is no longer the only magic kingdom of money minting.

The first of the crowd hits screens this weekend so it seems a good time to give interested parties a little preview of animated releases through the end of August. DreamWorks Animation is first up in the summer lineup. In posts over the next two days Moviedozer will also bring you the trailers for Disney, Fox, Sony and Universal.

DreamWorks is actually doing something novel this summer, it's taking a shot at launching two new animated franchises. Yes franchises, nobody things a one shot hit is good enough anymore. For parents, that's good and bad - good, because it means new stories and new characters to keep things interesting, bad, because it means a whole slew of new movies and merchandise to buy if one's a hit.

Judging from the trailers below, there's at least a pretty good shot that there will be a brightly colored stuffed monkeys and a racing striped snail laying around the house by fall.

Friday's release is The Croods starring the vocal talents of Nicholas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman and Clark Duke. Moviedozer's favorite scene? The invention of shoes.




A little later in the year, July 19th to be exact, DreamWorks will strike again with a snail who feels the need for speed in Turbo. Once again Ryan Reynolds is in a vocal cast that also includes Paul Giamatti, Michael Peña, Luis Guzmán, Bill Hader, Richard Jenkins, Ken Jeong, Michelle Rodriguez, Maya Rudolph, Snoop Dog and Samuel L. Jackson.

Here's Turbo's teaser trailer...



Stop back tomorrow for a look at what Disney Studios has animated for summer and again on Friday for a wrap of of summer animation from Fox, Sony and Universal.

Thanks to DreamWorks Animation for posters and trailers.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Art of Movie Marketing: After Earth finds its strengths.

Back in January Moviedozer took a close look at the first trailer for M. Night Shyamalan's new sci-fi film After Earth, starring Will Smith and his son Jaden. It was the first post in the return of Moviedozer's series "Will you pay to see this movie?". Simply put, the columns explore movies that are intriguing in some respects but questionable in others. In these days of home video, Netflix and iTunes downloads, just what does it take to make you decide to pay to see a movie in its first run?

Since that column (found here), Columbia Pictures has released a new trailer and new poster art - revealing a confident marketing campaign that poses a slightly revised version of the question I posed more than two months ago - Now will you pay to see this movie?

As a movie moves toward its release date, particularly major, big budget movies, marketing usually goes in one of two directions.

When things are going right, marketing typically follows a well designed plan of teases, small revelations and plot/set/tone reveals. An escalating effort to convince you to make opening weekend plans but not enough to make seeing the movie a secondary experience. When things don't look so strong, look for marketing to press the strengths and insure the weaknesses that are making the execs cringe don't come anywhere near the trailer editing table.

The mission is simple: get audiences into theater seats on opening weekend hit or miss. By Monday morning word of mouth can render even the best posters and trailers meaningless.

Here's the latest trailer for After Earth. From the looks of things, I think Columbia Pictures' marketing department is following plan - in other words, they think they've got something.



Columbia clearly isn't shying (or to coin a term "Shy-amalaning") away from revealing previously unseen plot cues and more story and character depth. No sense of lurking plot twists and no hype about the director who has far outlasted his best (and first) movie.

Where the original trailer focused on Jaden Smith's character, making it feel as if it were his movie with a cameo by Dad to kick things off, this trailer presents Will Smith's role with greater clarity and an assurance that his character has a continuing presence throughout the plot line. Viewers are also given a sense of greater odds to overcome for Jaden's character and sense that the challenges ahead may be far too overwhelming for him to succeed.

There aren't any real surprises here but the new information certainly helps define what's ahead for a ticket buyer. And there just maybe more of those after this new round of hype. At least the studio appears confident in their product and that's usually a good sign, though not one that is infallible.

Back in that first column I pointed out that Jaden Smith's name preceded Dad's on the early release poster - that's been changed (read corrected) here. Will Smith is a summer box-office staple and to not headline a project with that in mind would be a mistake. I also made note then of a line of dialogue from the first trailer that was a perfect distillation of the tone and plot of the movie: "danger is very real but fear is a choice", that line now appears as the poster tagline.

So what do you think? NOW will you pay to see this movie? I'm betting Columbia Pictures has nailed at least a few of you with some solid marketing. You've got time to decide, After Earth is still building up thrust for its June 7th release date.


Thanks to Sony/Columbia for posters and trailers.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Is Stanley Kubrick's The Shining a masterpiece? Room 237 thinks it's worth exploring.

In 1980, Stanley Kubrick, Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers and Danny Lloyd were responsible for injecting a piece of movie horror into the main stream of pop culture. A new documentary, Room 237, now takes a deeper look into the film's meaning and mysteries and its growing reputation as a cinematic classic.

Based on the novel by Stephen King, Director Stanley Kubrick used the tools of his craft to spin King's novel The Shining into a sensation. With a May 1980 opening in just 10 theaters (a wide opening would come a month later), The Shining pulled in more than $62,000.00 per theater in 3 days. Its entire original run scored just over $44 million. Moderate by current standards but still nicely profitable on a reported production budget of just $19 million.

But this is a case where numbers don't begin to tell the story. In a great movie, it should be scenes of the movie itself that live on to become unforgettable. Kubrick's The Shining is packed frame to frame with them.

The most memorable for me is the following shot of 7-year old Danny Lloyd, as Danny Torrence, furiously peddling a plastic wheeled tricycle through hotel hallways as the sound of the rear wheels on concrete and hardwood alternate with the silence of area carpets. Somehow that soundtrack embeds both speed and foreboding. The tricycle stops and the young boy looks drawn to a room he was about to peddle past, room 237. You want to race down the hall, scoop the boy up out of his seat and rush him away from that room to safety, but you are trapped in your theater seat, helpless to help and captivated by danger. What's in that room and who are the mysterious twins that appear?



The Shining is famous for other shots as well. Perhaps highest on the list is Jack Nicholson's (as Danny's father Jack Torrence) demonic delivery of Ed Mahon's Tonight Show introduction "Here's Johnny" while axing through his wife's room door. And then there are the majestic shots of the snow storm isolated Overlook Hotel and its infamous outdoor maze.

Kubrick elicited intense performances from his leading cast and then provided a baseline and counterpoint to the building hysteria with a superbly understated performance by Scatman Crothers as caretaker Dick Halloran. It would seem that all the pieces are in place to acknowledge The Shining as a true horror masterwork.

Yet, when I saw The Shining in a movie theater in its original release, I was unimpressed. Even bored and annoyed. What's it all mean?

Given Nicholson's on screen histrionics, even Kubrick's name wouldn't have led me to believe the film would age with such respect. But it may be the craft of the meticulous and pioneering director that stands as the truly undeniable classic element of the film. One I've slowly come to appreciate.

In perhaps in the simplest of examples, the producers of Room 237 realized Kubrick's genius for visual production is on full display in the teaser trailer released to promote The Shining's premier run. So much so that they used the device of a static hallway shot for their own clever trailer. Here are both. The trailer for Room 237 followed by the teaser for The Shining.







Documentaries can be a wonderful way to discover new worlds, new cultures and new points of view about subjects that range as wide as the personalities and the imaginations of the filmmakers who make them. In this case, you may discover a film you've never seen or a film for which you may gain new insight or respect. Or perhaps, you'll be revisiting a favorite from a new perspective. Stanley Kubrick is certainly a director whose work is worth exploring. Perhaps Room 237 will be your place to start.

Room 237 opens in the US in limited release on March 29th. It is directed and edited by Rodney Ascher and produced by Tim Kirk, it is an IFC release.

Box-office numbers provided by the-numbers.com. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Are you off to see The Wizard? Summer flicks take off with an adventure to OZ.

Welcome to the first weekend of Blockbuster Summer. This year it all starts with a trip in a hot air balloon.



Disney begins loading up a 1-2-3-4 box-office punch that starts with a trip back to Oz, then lands Iron Man 3 on May 3rd, followed by Monsters University on June 21st and Johnny Depp as Tonto in The Lone Ranger on the Fourth of July weekend. It's a formidable schedule that I'm betting includes at least two of the summer's top five hits.

Other studios are adding to the summer sizzle too. Here are the movies and their release dates that are surest to make the major studio's accountants offices crackle with box-office lightning.

Universal will be out gunning Disney, at least in shear numbers with a slate that kicks off with another trip back in time, with the first 3D release of the original Jurassic Park. Jurassic Park 3D stomps into theaters on April 5th. Universal's second April release is the Tom Cruise sic-fi thriller we've featured on these pages before, Oblivion releases on April 12th.

Universal continues the summer onslaught with Fast & Furious 6 on May 24th, Despicable Me 2 on July 3rd, an unusual action/comedy with a promising cast in R.I.P.D. on July 19th (watch for this one), Kick Ass 2 on August 16th and a late summer wrap up with Riddick on September 6th.

Paramount seems so confident about their May and June schedule, they may be taking the rest of the summer off. The big guns hit the silver screen first on March 29th with Bruce Willis energizing the return of G.I. Joe: Retaliation.

Next up, Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Ed Harris muscle in for laughs with Pain & Gain on April 26th. The highly anticipated follow-up to J.J. Abrams Star Trek reboot takes off with Star Trek Into Darkness on May 17th, (watch for Imax 3D screenings several days earlier.)

Paramount then drops its massive Brad Pitt zombie thriller World War Z on June 21st. If all goes according to plan at Par, the rest of the summer will be divided between counting money and summer vacations.

Sony has a mixed bag in store for summer that kicks off in just a week with Halle Barry's The Call. Then it's low budget horror with Evil Dead on April 4th, big budget Sci-Fi with M. Night Shyamalan's After Earth starring Will and Jaden Smith on June 7th, and explosive action in White House Down on June 28th.

July is about sequels with Grown Ups 2 on the 12th and The Smurfs 2 on the 31st. Then it's back to Sci-Fi and fantasy in August with Elysium on the 9th and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones on the 23rd.

20th Century Fox goes mostly small ball for its summer league starting with the much-hyped animated The Croods on March 22nd. Comedies take over screens in June with Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn in The Internship on the 7th and Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock in The Heat on the 28th.

An animated snail lives out a dream while racing IndyCar in Turbo on July 19th and The Wolverine puts Hugh Jackman back in claws on July 26th. Fox wraps up their summer with a return to mythology with the follow-up in the Percy Jackson series with Percy Jackson's Sea of Monsters on August 16th.

Warner Brothers Pictures gets things started next week with a little magic in the comedy The Incredible Burt Wonderstone on March 15th. The Jackie Robinson story unfolds in 42 on April 12, followed on May 10th by the long delayed Buz Luhrmann take on The Great Gatsby starring Leonardo DiCaprio. May 24th is the date to catch the likely destruction of LasVegas in The Hangover 3.

Warner's summer popcorn movies loom large in June and July. The much talked about reboot of Superman soars though theaters on June 14th with Man of Steel and Guillermo del Toro unleashes robots of steel in Pacific Rim on July 12th.

But Warner's has lots more in store before they're willing to say Summer's over. A spooky tale haunted by an impressive cast, The Conjuring releases on July 19th, 300: Rise of an Empire starts on August 2nd and Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts and Jason Sudeikis star in the comedy We're the Millers on August 9th.

And of course, like every summer, there is a full schedule of independent and limited releases that will be hunting for an audience. Have some summer fun with seeking out your own hidden gems and tell your friends about them. What could be more fun than being surprised in a cool, dark theater on a hot summer night, than finding a little bit of hidden movie magic?

Thanks to the studios for trailers and poster art.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Oscars should take themselves seriously.

Nearly two weeks ago, the 85th annual Oscars ceremony was broadcast live on ABC television. It's taken that much time to get past the colossal shortcomings of the broadcast. Time considering just why a botched show and irreverent host should bother me at all since I have very little to disagree with in terms of who walked away as winners.

Then what had been nagging at me became perfectly clear. Disrespect. Not from host Seth MacFarlane; there's no one associated with the show or the Academy who shouldn't have seen MacFarlane's style of humor many miles off. Rather from the producers and director of the show, and the Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences itself.

Seth MacFarlane did what he does in every entertainment project he has created, he pokes irreverent fun at the topics, cultures and celebrities of the day. He does that well enough to sustain both a television and movie career and become, presumably, stinking rich. Lincoln assassination jokes and "boob" songs included, MacFarlane did what MacFarlane does and that was expected by entertainment writers the moment he was announced as host, from as far away as the announcement carried. Considering his reputation, Mr. MacFarlane may be excused from the room.

The show's writer's, though guilty of providing miserable material, also get a pass as it is impossible to say who directed and approved their work. I would assume not many will be including video takes of this year's Oscar show as a resume builder. But a gig is a gig and no one these days turns down a paycheck.

Director Don Mischer and producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron certainly stand tall as the responsible parties for bad lighting cues and some awful camera framing, but even with a show that resonated with snarky humor and irrelevance, the director and producers were representing who hired them: the Academy.

In my comments on the day after the event, (Oscar winners shine, while all around them crumbles.), I pointed out that the Oscars differs from other awards shows in its elegant and respected history of honoring the movies. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is (at least by public perception) an astute and respected institution. It diligently protects the golden silhouette of its Oscar award (as well as the name Oscar), for the treasure that it represents; the recognition of excellence within an industry that boasts a long, proud and unique distinction as Hollywood's contribution to a global art form.

Oscar memories, like the movies, craftspeople, and talent that are honored by them, should too be golden. Not sophomoric or irreverent. Not hip or played to a marketing demographic. And certainly not derogatory or insulting. But worthy of the distinction its own award bestows upon each lucky enough to be nominated. To present itself in any lesser light degrades its significance and dishonors all of its past history.

The Academy's move to dumb down the stature of the Oscars in a play for a larger, more marketing friendly audience, only exposed a complete abandonment of confidence in its own validity. The Academy foolishly shamed itself on its 85th birthday. Their loss of self-respect will hopefully usher in some serious self-examination and an elegant return to Oscars' glory days.

And then the task will be convincing movie fans that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences still merits their respect as well. Or one day Academy members will be remembering their tarnished golden Oscars while watching the winners of the premiere movie awards show toting gleaming MTV astronauts from the podium.