Friday, April 26, 2013

This weekend: Get pumped on laughs with Pain & Gain.

You'll be going BIG in just another week with perhaps the biggest Superhero movie of all time (so far) as Robert Downey Jr. & company grab screens and ticket sales with Iron Man 3. In the meantime, this weekend's wide release showcases Mark Wahlberg's superb comic timing (and incredible ability to buff-up for action roles) in Pain & Gain.

Sharing screen time and laughs are Dwayne Johnson and Tony Shalhoub with lots of support from the likes of Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker), Ed Harris, Rob Corddry and Ken Jeong.

This isn't anything you couldn't wait for on download or streaming queues, but hey, it's a fun night in a real movie theater. If you've never tired one, this may be a great time to check-out a dine-in theater experience, since there won't be much need to watch the screen so closely.

The trailer for this movie (there's only been one, along with lots of TV spots), had me chuckling when it was first released. Add in a directing turn from Michael Bay, who is also directing Wahlberg in next year's as-yet untitled Transformers movie, and it's certain there won't be any lack of pyrotechnics or car chases.

And any movie that takes its lead character from driving a Pontiac Fiero to an exotic super car at least has an interesting character arc to relate.

But let's not get all analytical. This is a movie to go with, no matter where the journey takes you.

Next week that trip will be taking you straight to Stark Industries.

Thanks to Paramount Pictures.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Thor: The Dark World has a Trailer!

We break away from our summer blockbuster coverage to bring you this.

The brand new and shiny, sort of, just released and rushed to the pages of Moviedozer for your viewing pleasure, very first glimpse of Thor: The Dark World. Coming to you from Marvel Studios and the good folks at the Mouse House for release on November 8th. Enjoy.

You're welcome.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Post Boston, are we still in the mood for "White House Down"?

Roland Emmerich likes to destroy national landmarks the way that Michael Jordan liked to win basketball games. From Buddhist temples to famous city skylines to the Statue of Liberty. The guy has a fetish for wrecking havoc on places people treasure.

One imagines Emmerich touring the world in an effort to become familiar with every nation's most revered buildings and symbols just so he can hole himself up in the dark somewhere and invent a an excuse to build the place in miniature, then blow it to bits in a movie.

With White House Down, coming from Columbia/Sony Pictures on June 28th, he'll score a hat trick for taking out America's highest seat of government, the White House. But the question, as we take a breath on this side of Boston's hell week is - has Hollywood, and Mr. Emmerich in particular, exhausted our tolerance for watching our symbols of pride and freedom get ripped apart on our local movie screens?

The poster that leads off this article names two other films Mr. Emmerich directed, which coincidentally also see a White House in ruins, 1996's Independence Day and 2009's 2012. Those attacks came by way of aliens in one and Mayan prophecy in the other. But with White House Down, the method of destruction is a terrorist attack, a plot that hits home with an unfortunate and unavoidable amount of believability.

In a world plagued by the violent whims of dictator dominated governments who strive to obtain nuclear weapons rather than feed or educate their people, and world "leaders", who, through their bluster and ego, supplant rational thinking by threatening mass murder with antics more suited to school yard bullies, it is abundantly clear that the world is demonstrably a dangerous and volatile place.

In the light of events in Boston last week, is there any appetite at all for watching a violent and destructive attack on Washing DC? Even on a movie screen?

Unfortunately for the Sony Pictures and the producers of White House Down, it becomes a question the entire movie industry will have to struggle with. It's just that their film will be first in line to grapple with the fresh wounds of a growing audience weary of real-life tragedy.

There will also be more articles like this one, questioning the need to splay icons of freedom, trashed and destroyed (even in miniature), for the sensationalization of a fictitious terrorist assault. Would the images on screen seem less upsetting if the destruction was of a less iconic and more generic nature? And would that lessen in any way, a director's ability to bring emotional impact to their story?

The last time the White House was destroyed on film was in last month's Olympus Has Fallen (Millennium Films, U.S. release on March, 22). In one month that film has had an $88m domestic box-office take. Though that number will be enough to lead to profits, it certainly doesn't register in blockbuster territory, a place where Mr. Emmerich has staked out his own plot of ground based on big budget destruction.

Watching Godzilla's off-spring savage Madison Square Garden or alien spaceships obliterate the familiar skyscrapers of famous cities, even the White House decimated by the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy as it is carried by a massive wave in 2012, the sense is that it's moviemaking. Craftwork. A piece of fiction that is simply entertainment.

That sense fades when we see deliberate destruction of places that represent our hard-fought struggles and sense of values. Destruction wrought by menace and malevolence on a society that is vulnerable through its own insistence in its belief in freedom and equality. Has it faded so much that it is no longer reasonable to ask moviegoers to find entertainment in fiction that too closely recalls fact?

There is no word if Sony will delay or adjust White House Down in either its content, its marketing (which recently has depicted increasing amounts of the destruction and psuedo-news cast realism depicted in the final film), or its release date. But the question looms large and, with violent acts and terror assaults so much of our national psyche and 24 hour news cycles, it will not be going away. After last week's horrific events in Boston, are we still in the mood for White House Down?

For a look at the controversial teaser poster campaign for White House Down, click The Art of the Poster: Does "White House Down" go too far?

Here's the latest trailer.

Thanks to Columbia/Sony for promotional posters and trailer. Still from "Independence Day" courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox.

Friday, April 19, 2013

This weekend go IMAX big with Oblivion.

When Moviedozer picked the best bets for each month of 2013, Oblivion landed on top of April without much contest. (2013: the best movie bets from January thru June.) Not that I think it will be one of the best of the year, but I do think it's a fun start. And that's why you should see it in IMAX.

When it comes to fun, big fun is better. Oblivion is just in time to set the stage for a May that will rock big screens with both Iron Man 3 and Star Trek: Into Darkness, both surely to be in the top 5 movies of the summer, if not the year. And those tallies will be racking up world wide so what better way to get ready than the season's first big-screen sic-fi adventure? Add in Tom Cruise, who, no matter the negatives, can still deliver a sense of fun on a movie screen like few others.

I've been hooked by the anticipation of Joseph Kosinski's sets, lights and vision ever since being dazzled (and more dazzled with repeated viewings) of his first project, 2010's Tron: Legacy, and an IMAX screen is the perfect place to find out if the anticipation pays off. Oblivion was shot on 4K and 5K cameras which means it's source prints were ultra high definition. With IMAX's exclusive digital processing, that means extra clarity on screen. The playback won't be using high frame rate technology or 3D, so don't worry about being put off by video-like images, and no  dark glasses for this one.

I've added a trailer below for the fun of it and you can catch three of Oblivion's featurettes from a post on Monday right here. Oblivion has the weekend pretty much to itself in terms of new releases, so buy a ticket, have fun and celebrate the season of big summer popcorn movies just ahead. (Moviedozer also featured Oblivion's very first trailer back in December. Take a look.)

Thanks to Universal Pictures for trailers, posters and pics.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Catching up: a five pack of new summer trailers.

Time to do a little catching up with new movie releases by showcasing five brand new summer trailers. With this weekend kicking off high budget sci-fi action with Universal's Oblivion, there's no shortage of studios looking to compete by making an impact with their biggest titles of this year's blockbuster season.

Since I know you'll just skip right to the trailers anyway, so will I.

Star Trek: Into Darkness. (May 17th from Universal. Directed by J.J. Abrams.)
First up, in order of release is a sequel to a reboot. And one of the year's most promising, and likely profitable, movies. The newest trailer for Star Trek: Into Darkness gives more of a hint at the story than ever before.

The trailer was released just yesterday as an Apple Movie Trailers exclusive so it was tough to find a copy not slammed with ads. The copy below was the least offensive available. (As a reminder, Moviedozer will never add advertising to any of the videos presented on the site.) Here's one of the last glimpses you get of the new Star Trek before it lands in theaters and on IMAX screens next month.

The Hangover, part III. (May 24th from Warner Brothers. Directed by Todd Phillips.)

This is the third (and promised as last) in the Hangover franchise and as things look to have gotten very predictable, that's probably a good thing. But there are still laughs here. At this point in a comedy franchise, it's critical that everyone who's back on camera looks to be having fun just working together again. They do.

Hopefully it's enough for fans to feel they've come along for a great ride rather than feeling they've been ridden for one last trip to the studio bank. The first Hangover, from 2009, was one of the biggest breakout comedies in contemporary movie history and made stars of most of its cast. Here's a glimpse of the end of the story.

Now You See Me. (May 31st from Summit Entertainment. Directed by Louis Leterrier.)

They say magicians never give away their secrets and it looks like Now You See Me is holding its secrets for opening weekend. I'm calling Now You See Me the most intriguing movie of the summer. Maybe it's marketing slight of hand, but every glimpse I've seen of this movie so far looks like top notch production and cast working off of a great script (from writers Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin and Edward Ricort).

Perhaps more telling are the producer credits. Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci are the power house team that have been swelling studio bank accounts by getting their hands into film franchises like Mission Impossible, Transformers and Star Trek, and television properties like Fringe and Hawaii Five-0. With three more titles in production and some fifteen listed in development, you'll be "seeing" them for lots of years to come.

Elysium. (August 9th from Sony/TriStar. Directed by Neill Blomkamp.)

Neill Blomkamp took his first project as a movie director and turned out the alien sci-fi hit District 9 (2009) along with $211 million in receipts on a $30 million production budget. That means two things in Hollywood, another project and a bigger budget next time out. The result is Elysium.

Oh yeah, when you make all of that money, the next time out you get to have stars in your cast as well. In this case, that buys you the services of Matt Damon and Jodi Foster.

The budget is evident in the trailer with elaborate sets and effects. And there's a familiar nod to District 9 with the look and feel of the world the regular folk are forced to live in. Perhaps the plot echoes the Directors own interest in moving up the ladder a few rungs.

In any case, Elysium is just starting to crank up its marketing campaign so they'll be more to see before its August release.

Kick-Ass 2. (August 16th from Universal. Directed by Jeff Wadlow.)

Unusual for a sequel to a surprise hit, Kick-Ass 2 hits the screen in August with a new director and new writers from the 2010 original. What is consistent is that the writers of the comic book, John S. Romita, Jr and Mark Millar, which served as the original source material, are on hand here to keep things on track.

The cast also returns intact from the earlier hit with one noteworthy exception. The surprise of seeing Nicolas Cage masked as Big Daddy is replaced with... well, if you don't know yet I'll leave it as another surprise - at least until the end of the trailer. (That's him below in the camos.)

For me, the real fun will be seeing Chloë Grace Moretz reprising her break-the-rules breakout performance as Hit Girl from the original three years ago. Moretz is a star actor and her career looks to have strong potential for delivering on the promise she reenforces with each new project.

Box-office numbers courtesy of Thanks as always to the studios for their trailers and posters.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Art of the Featurette: Oblivion

Big movies need to make big money, fast. In an industry that looks on the first three days of releasing its product as hyper-critical, an opening weekend at any number other than "1" is at least one number away from the goal of its studio.

Moviedozer is always watching the marketing campaigns of new movies, assessing how the posters and trailers convey just enough of a film to draw in an audience. No analytics, no focus groups, no scales and measurements. Just an educated perspective from the point of view of the audience, and a bit of gut feeling on whether the marketing is effective and confident or smells more like an effort to recoup whatever investment can still be salvaged before word-of-mouth destroys its box-office.

That means Moviedozer spends a lot of time looking at the posters and trailers that are the main marketing guns of every movie studio and independent producer. But those tools have taken on new sophistication with the nearly universal access of video distributed on the internet and mobile apps. With video "production diaries" moving from DVD background extras to short courses on advanced production techniques (see the Peter Jackson The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey series which begins here), studios came to understand that video access to production sets could fascinate fans and promote their product as well.

As these brief films, dubbed featurettes, evolve, they have come to highlight much more than simple onset interviews and production glimpses. They also convey a sense of what the director and producers see as their projects' biggest assets, the most marketable aspects of their story and even a sense of the pride they feel for the project they've crafted, sometimes weeks and months before the release date.

No, crews don't get stunt pay.

At their best they can take you inside the mindset of a director or a craftsman and expose the thinking behind decisions that have an effect on every moviegoer in a theater seat, often illuminating not only the movie at hand, but a director or a producer's body of work - and often trends seen again in other examples of the genre. A kind of everyman's film school, free for the taking. But does it help sell tickets?

Here are three examples of featurettes produced to help market Joseph Kosinski's Obivion, the much anticipated follow-up to his gorgeously conceived, constructed and photographed Tron: Legacy from 2010. Each gives perspective on production of the film, but each gives that perspective by highlighting the making of the film in different ways from different aspects of the production.

Featurette as story background.

Featurette as craftwork primer.

Featurette as all access pass.

There's something to appreciate with these glimpses of production and craftwork. Something to be gleaned from understanding an actor's point of view or a producer's challenge in overcoming obstacles. And there's something more to identifying with a director's instincts and preferences as we are invited to watch them work, that perhaps adds to the experience of later watching their work on screen.

The director, Joesph Kosinski, with his star and his favorite prop.

Production featurettes, perhaps more so than any other form of movie marketing, have the potential to add to the enjoyment of a great movie by building an appreciation for the process of moviemaking. These brief guided tours have the potential to share a passion for the art form of film while recruiting fans for a director, an actor or a franchise, in ways that can carry over to future projects and sequels.

Oblivion opened overseas this past weekend and brought in an impressive $61 million, claiming the number 1 spot in foreign box-office receipts. Perhaps the half dozen or so featurettes produced while the movie was being made had something to do with that success. Oblivion opens in theaters in the U.S. this Friday, April 19th.

Thanks to Universal Pictures for video and photos. Apologies for embedded advertising in the video presentations. No ads are inserted by Moviedozer.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Weekend Pick: Go Big, small and game-changing with "42".

In this weekend's movie openings, only one new release found its way to the top of the Moviedozer list. That film is writer, Brian Helgeland's (Mystic River, L.A. Confidential) telling of the Jackie Robinson story, 42. The film is both written and directed by Helgeland.

Starring Chadwick Boseman as Robinson and a deeply in character Harrison Ford as Brooklyn Dodgers executive Branch Rickey, 42 is a small story in a big film, and a small film telling a big story all at once.

The story of the first black player to crack through the color barrier of major league baseball obviously carries profound historical importance. But it was, and is, the reserved character of the two men at the center of the story who deeply believe they can prevail over hard set prejudice, that pushes the story to unfold so powerfully. That achievement, and the indomitable belief in its inherent justice and acceptance, would become a milestone for race relations in our country and an indelibly proud moment for the sport of baseball.

In a past article on marketing true-life movies (The Art of the Trailer: Selling true stories.), Moviedozer included the trailer for 42. You can see it by clicking here, or on the title of the article above.

Going small. Three new limited release worth attention.
Also based on real life events, Into The White takes moviegoers back to World War Two and a small arial battle that results in forcing the combatants to confront one another while trying to survive side by side. Notable for including a performance by Rupert Grint who played Ron Weasley throughout the entire series of Harry Potter movies, the film also takes big concepts and themes and distills them down to basic instinct and emotion.

The Angel's Share will take you on a journey to Scotland and a taste (and a sniff) of making whisky. That's Scotch Whisky, thank you very much and this clever comedy finds charm in the people whose lives are truly flavored by the "waters of life" that flow through their land and their blood. Notable for winning a Jury Prize at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival for director Ken Loach and a clever angle (if a bit contrived) for telling the story of a young man's redemption.

Lastly is a movie that I personally doubt I will ever sit through. Mostly because the trailer makes me feel as if I already have, in another movie. Both of the films I'm talking about are directed by Terrence Malick. The new film, featuring a cast headlined by Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem, is To the Wonder.

As fans would expect of Malick, the trailer images are stunning. Unusual framing, seemingly incongruent cuts, a masterclass in folding light around characters, ethereal camera movement and stunning composition. All of the artistic qualities that drew me into the trailer of Malick's Oscar nominated The Tree of Life. The admiration of which also drew me into sitting through each of the 139 minutes of its running time wondering why I felt like the experience was more like sitting on a bench in front of a wonderful photography exhibit rather than being told a story on film.

I'm including To the Wonder in today's column because it is, indeed, a beautiful trailer. It is also hauntingly and annoyingly similar to Tree of Life. So the trailer is here for you to enjoy, at about the exact running time I would recommend a Malick movie runtime. But for 2 minutes, it is gorgeous work. If you're a fan of Terrence Malick's work, you should certainly go see the whole movie on a real theater screen because even I won't deny that he is a master filmmaker.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Will you pay to see this movie? Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is one of America's shining novels. It has never been a very shiny movie. Not that it hasn't been tried.

I can find traces of four previous Gatsby movies (one was an A&E TV movie), dating back to 1926. 1974 saw the most famous of those, mostly due to its starring cast lead by Robert Redford in the title role. (Mia Farrow played Daisy and the script was adapted from the novel by none other than Francis Ford Coppola.)

No matter what the critical reviews say or the box-office take on opening weekend, I can predict with absolute certainty, the newest take on making a movie of The Great Gatsby, as directed by Australia's Baz Luhrmann, will definitely be shiny. But that's as far as my predictions go.

The question is will you go?

Warner Brothers will be releasing the new Gatsby in the gutsiest time slot it could gamble on, a week after Iron Man 3 hits just about every theater with seats and one week before Star Trek: Into Darkness makes a grab for all the rest. You can argue that it's a confident strategy of counter-programming that fills the gap for female and over-forty demographics. But you could also make a helluva an argument for waiting for a fall release (a time when Oscar voters memories are fresh and impressionable).

So the wild cards become cast and character.

The cast is impressive, yet perhaps not compelling. As Gatsby, Leonardo DiCaprio seems a natural fit, though hints of Howard Hughes (from his 2004 turn in Martin Scorsese's The Aviator) feel like they come through in the performance. As that may be unavoidable, I'll turn to Carey Mulligan as Daisy, who I suspect is the jewel of this cast and the actress most likely to break from a Gatsby success as a genuine big-time movie star.

Where my brakes skid on, like a careening yellow roadster, is Toby Maguire as Nick. Though the idea of Maguire playing the role seems sound, the performance snippets visible in the trailers (particularly when narrating), feel out of step with nearly everything else in frame. Of course, not knowing just what, exactly, this Gatsby has in store, that may just be a flaw in building the trailers.

As for character - the character that is center stage is Director, Baz Luhrmann, famous for what he calls his "red curtain trilogy of Strictly Ballroom (1992), Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Moulin Rouge (2001, which deserved credit for reinvigorating movie musicals a full year before Chicago stole the attention and an Oscar). Lurhman is as much visionary director as unabashed showman. The defining moments (and perhaps every other) of The Great Gatsby will undoubtedly carry his signature. That alone may be enough to make a seat worth the ticket price. And did I mention, this is all in 3D? Baz Lurhman in 3D is an intoxicating selling point.

Take a taste of what's in store in just one month, with two of the trailers for The Great Gatsby.

A soundtrack that beats like the heart of an MTV awards show, a saturation of color and movement, this is definitely not your father's memory of the great American romance novel. But that may be what makes this all add up to very entertaining night at the movies.

Does it suck or sparkle. Is it genius or miscalculated? Does it so dazzle in 3D that it's a first run must-see? It's impossible to watch with anticipation, without wondering what this all would have looked like with a  much more traditional approach. But then it wouldn't be so damned intriguing.

DiCaprio and cast, a soundtrack that includes Beyoncé and André 300, Florence + the Machine, Lana Del Ray, Gotye and Jack White, and Mr. Lurhman behind the camera. Is that enough to get you to put on the 3D glasses for Gatsby as extravaganza?

Will you pay to see The Great Gatsby?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Annette Funicello. 1942-2013.

Rules and Exceptions: Marketing screams.

It's the second Monday in April and the box-office champ for new releases over the weekend looks like Evil Dead with $26 million. Though that's not blockbuster territory, on a reported $14 million production budget, that number means a healthy profit without much effort. Exactly the niche this kind of movie is meant to fill. So yes, Evil Dead will rise again, just give it a year or two.

While taking in the past weekend's business, it occurred to me that horror movie posters are all fairly predictable. It's usually maniac, victim or preferred instrument of destruction. As a rule, it seems that faces obscured by disguise, distortion or damage are most in vogue.

The Rule. What horror movie fan doesn't think of a crazed homicidal killer when they see a goalie mask? If it works it becomes a rule and the rule repeats - masked and damaged faces sell horror. Here are three 2013 releases following the rule.

The Purge from Universal on May 31st, You're Next from Lionsgate on August 23rd and Carrie from Sony/MGM on October 18th.

Yes, Evil Dead had a "face" rule poster too. This one was for a foreign release poster. (Honest, it's Evil Dead).

The Exception. You gotta love when someone breaks the rules. This one skips the face rule and instills fear by aiming right for your childhood nightmares. Remember that tree in the backyard and the crazy shadows it cast in the wind and the rain and the moonlight? Well it's back to grab you right out of bed.

Mr. Jones. Preferred Content, see it at its April 19th screening at the Tribecca Film festival.

Ok, now along with being afraid to go to a Hockey game, I've probably just screwed you up on the whole "let's take a walk through the park in the moonlight" thing. Blame it on the rule breakers. Just don't get out of bed if the limbs of your backyard tree are knocking against the window.

Thanks to the studios for the poster art and thanks to for access to great poster downloads. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Go BIG, Go small: This weekend you can go BIG either way.

If you're heading to the movies this weekend and don't know if you should check out the blockbuster in your nearest cineplex or head over to the local art house for something a bit more modest in scale, take heart. This weekend offers a rarity - three chances to go big no matter where you buy your ticket.

GO BIG Retro-style with Jurassic Park 3D.

This weekend you can revisit (if you're as old as I am), or travel to Isla Nublar for the very first time, to take a tour through John Hammond's (played by Richard Attenborough) original Jurassic Park. And this time around you'll be traveling with 3D glasses on.

In Steven Spielberg's first venture into reissuing a classic using digital 3D conversion technology, the most terrifying T-Rex ever to appear on film is romping through the trees and electric fences again, just like it was yesterday. If yesterday was June of 1993. There's money in the madness as this return trip is a prelude of sorts to Jurassic Park IV, scheduled for a 2014 release.

A classic movie, a classic cast and breakthrough technology all spiffed up for today's screens feels like a pretty sure bet for a winning night at the movies. And if any movie seemed destined for a 3D rerelease in its future, this is that movie. C'mon, haven't you always wanted to see the ripples in that glass in three dimensions?

GO BIG with a Director in Danny Boyle's Trance.

Leave it to the Oscar winning Danny Boyle to go from bright and romantic with 2008's Slumdog Millionaire (and very British in directing the opening ceremonies of the London Summer Olympics) to dark and dangerous with an art heist crime caper. With a cast featuring James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel and Rosario Dawson, Boyle spins a not so typical art heist into a came of who-remembers-what, when the guy who may have taken a stolen painting can't remember where he may have taken it. If he's taken it at all.

It's that extra bit that lets Boyle and cast pull out the stops until you're wondering not just who done it, but what exactly was done. Sort of a "who and how done it", with an effective cast driven by a master director. Trance offers a BIG chance to catch a small movie with BIG potential.

GO BIG with the Cast (and Director) in The Company You Keep.

Robert Redford's ninth outing as a feature film director stars Robert Redford. In my book that sentence can read "just go". Watching Redford in the role of an aging 60's radical activist, The Company You Keep feels familiar in the way an old leather bomber jacket looks natural on a retired astronaut.

As the plot recalls the best protest films of the '60s, so too the cast, with performances by Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper and Richard Jenkins. Adding to that ensemble, the presence of Shia LeBeouf (in likely the smartest script he's had in sometime), Stanley Tucci and Terrence Howard all attest to the draw of working for, and with, Robert Redford.

A complicated story that takes viewers back to difficult issues during a volatile time in our nation's history. Perhaps most interesting is how the topic's talking points still resonate. The Company You Keep offers this weekend's movie goers a triple threat - a chance to go small, go BIG and go Smart.

Thanks to the studios, as always for trailers and poster art.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

In Memoriam. Roger Ebert

Two critics sitting together in a balcony arguing about movies. The first time I found them was on PBS's Sneak Previews. I watched them until I couldn't find them any longer. The two men in that balcony made me want to write about movies. Film fans around the world lost Gene Siskel in 1999.

The Chicago Sun-Times today announced the passing of film critic Roger Ebert. He was 70.

R.I.P. The balcony is closed.

Lead photo CBS News. Bottom photo by Vince Bucci / Getty Images.

Marketing The Purge. If the tagline is the plot, is the title the motive?

There is something to admire here and something to despise. But up front, let's agree on this point - regardless of the idea, of the story or of the genre, if filmmakers play out their concept to the end with some sense of vision and confidence, an inherent value to the work is created that stands apart from individual perception or taste.

Conversely, there is cynicism and arrogance toward the medium and its audience when the work is simply commerce on the path of least resistance.

To pitch a story in a single sentence, the economy of a few words that tell the basis of plot, is at it worst, high concept, but at best, brilliant invention. The Purge teases a potential audience with the tagline: "One Night a Year, All Crime is Legal". Eight words, a movie pitch master class. In a 5 minute pitch, the kind so many aspiring writers subject themselves to at so called "pitch festivals", there would be 4 minutes and 45 seconds to discuss where to email the treatment. Who doesn't want to know more about this story?

And then the game changes.

Yes, the concept is broad and outrageous, it's a movie, be as outrageous as you like. But it's also intriguing and that fits a teaser poster's mission perfectly.

Fawkes' face from V for Vendetta.
The tagline works but do the graphics? My problem is all "V", the very famous face of the masked anarchist based on Guy Fawkes from the movie V for Vendetta (Warner, 2005). That mask has become one of the most repeated, and now clichéd of movie props. Coming so close in a poster graphic feels cheap - and unfortunately that graphic icon is all over the trailer.

So the question becomes one of depth - is there substance here or only light reflecting off the surface of a very shallow pool? That's a question to ask of a trailer. My take is that just as the action kicks in, the story dumbs down to plot contrivances and a barrage of stale clichés. If you're in a movie seat, you've been taken for a ten spot. So a clever one line pitch seems to have gotten picked up as a quick shot at a weekend or two of profit. Cynicism prevails?

Take a look at the trailer and see if you agree.

You're looking at the start of a marketing campaign for a movie that opens in less than two months, on May 31st. That opening will come just a week after Fast and Furious 6 begins pouring money into Universal's bank account like a ripped open tanker truck. And there, perhaps is the most telling part of the poster's graphics - the Universal logo - also found on the Fast & Furious 6 posters.

By releasing wide just a week after opening Fast & Furious, Universal fills competing cineplex screens with more of their own company's product. Even empty screenings of The Purge means a Universal dominated weekend, effectively purging the competition from the venue. Now that would be cynical. Perhaps the second tagline on The Purge's poster "Survive the Night" would be more appropriate as "Survive the weekend".

You've got more than 7 weeks to think about it, but my pick for this Memorial Day weekend would be to skip The Purge, and the second weekend word of mouth for Fast & Furious, and instead checkout the opening of Summit Entertainment's Now You See Me. If I'm going to be manipulated by magic, marketing or otherwise, I'd much rather not be able to figure out how it's done.

Thanks to Universal Pictures for poster art and and trailer.