Friday, May 31, 2013

Stock sci-fi FX or or a little scripted Magic? It's a low key weekend for new releases.

Two wide screen releases. Two successful but spotty directors. Two casts that don't have the advantage of an embedded fan base. And two options for opening weekend movies that don't offer much more than their trailers to entice an audience.

Though they may be after decidedly different target demographics, After Earth and Now You See Me may benefit most from having very different appeal. Still, if you're simply a movie fan, is this a weekend of new releases that you can get excited about?

For me, though the effects appear to be competent yet too familiar, and the production values high, as they should be expected to be, After Earth feels derivative and stale before its even past its 2½ minutes of trailer time. Can the story sustain itself for a feature length presentation in the face of a "been there, done that" pall that most certainly will divert attention if the movie doesn't keep you riveted to the screen from start to finish?

In the least little lapse of story, will you keep thinking about the fact that that young man on the screen is Will Smith's son (a risky movie on his Dad's part that could break a young actor's career in either direction), or will the story keep you focused on a the battle of survival that challenges a young man's long held fears?

After Earth may have found its answer in its own tag line: "Danger is real, Fear is a choice." I noted that line when I saw After Earth's first trailer and it's gratifying that the producers put it in bold text over their last poster. Over director, stars and production values, it may well be the movie's greatest asset. So this is the weekend to decide - will you pay to see After Earth? (Check out Moviedozer's first take on After Earth here, along with it's most recent trailer here.)

If you're heading toward a cineplex, likely playing in the theater next door to After Earth is a film I picked as offering one of the more original story lines of this summer's blockbuster contenders, Now You See Me.

Though advance reviews aren't exactly magical, the promising premise is coupled with an appealing cast. That combination may be just enough to elevate it to the more successful of this weekend's wide releases.

Where After Earth's marketing has included two trailers and a few assorted clips, Now You See Me hasn't shied away from promotion, offering a slew of trailers, clips and promos, plus one this season's best poster designs. A sign, I think, that Summit Entertainment is a bit more sure than Sony (After Earth's distributer), that they have a product worth promoting.

Since you'll be clicking back into past articles to watch After Earth trailers, I thought I'd include a couple of TV Spots, followed by a clip of the film's first four minutes of Now You See Me below, while the most recent feature trailer can be seen hereNow You See Me is Moviedozer's pick for new weekend releases.

Have a great weekend at the movies.

Thanks to Sony/Columbia and Summit Entertainment.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

This weekend it's Drunk vs. Driven

I'm a day early with a weekend pick because so is your Hangover. Well, perhaps not your hangover, but someone's.

Actually The Hangover Part III rushed into theaters on Wednesday night, hoping against hope that its target audience won't save the final Vegas debacle for cable to give in to their need for speed with Friday's release of Fast and Furious 6.

Here's some Moviedozer advice for a safe Holiday weekend - don't drink and drive. Along with lots of advance reviews, my gut tells me that The Hangover Part III is better left to cable and downloads - or better yet, rerun parties of 1 & 2 after the barbecues. Not that Fast & Furious 6 is filled with originality and great storytelling. But that's never put the brakes on this franchise before.

It's these guys versus...
So another way to look at this summer season's first real demographic battle for audiences might be this... Universal's Fast & Furious franchise is already greenlit for a 7th chapter while the good folks at Warner Bros. are mercifully promising that Part III is indeed the End of The Hangovers.

Of course money changes all that, and if audiences flock to see Vegas get dismantled by a crew of friends prone to blackout drinking binges there's room all over this franchise for spinoffs. Just remember I told you so.

...these guys.
So what will it be? Go really fast, lose control and smash into things or drink a helluva lot, get smashed and lose total control? And now you can see why these films are targeted to the exact same demographics.

I'll stick with my pick, but honesty compels me to say that I'll be more likely risking an ice cold hand to fish a beer from the cooler and enjoy time with friends and family in the backyard. Afterward I'll be surfing my Netflix queue and the program guide for Turner Classic Movies. It's a long summer ahead and I'll take this weekend to catch up on the classics.

Here's a look back at The Hangover franchise, strong language intact, as that seems a more fitting way to say goodbye.

And the guys they're up against in Fast & Furious 6.

Have a fun, safe Memorial Day weekend. We'll see you next week.

Thanks to Warner Bros. and Universal pictures.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Tracking down new trailers. The latest looks at "Planes", "Pacific Rim" and "Captain Phillips".

Disney/Pixar's Planes continues to taxi toward U.S. takeoff later this summer. Up until now, the general buzz has been that Planes is just an extension of the company's Cars franchise and an obvious way to leverage that popularity toward a spinoff toy series rather than an original new animated feature. The previous glimpses of art and story haven't done anything more than cement that perception.

But leave it to the house that John Lasseter built to infuse the latest trailer with some true artistry. The new trailer uses no dialogue, no story sequences and no title frames. Instead it's a showcase of why Pixar is still the unquestioned leader in combining masterful art with sympathetic and lovable characters.

Taking kids to a Pixar animated feature is kind of like sitting them in front of a quality stereo and playing Mozart. They don't know why it's special yet, but they're going to learn something about art anyway.

Poster not yet released.
New on the trailer front is the first glimpse of Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips. Hanks plays the title role in the story based on the real life events of Captain Richard Phillips who was in charge of the MV Maersk Alabama, the U.S.-flagged cargo ship that was seized by Somali pirates in 2009. Like all true stories, you likely know how this one ended. And for me, that makes the trailer both less interesting and far less dramatic.

As everything turned out OK for for the real life Captain and Crew (and not so well for the pirates), here's hoping there's much more to the story that can help fill the gap that exists between the opening and closing credits. Having Tom Hanks lending his considerable credibility to the project holds out hope.

Captain Phillips is scheduled for release by Sony Pictures this October.

Guillermo del Toro is hoping his next event movie may yet be this summer's biggest. At least in terms of its props, he'd likely be right. Pacific Rim is old school monsters from inner earth stuff, and with a nod to comic books, nostalgic sic-fi and Japanese anime, there's no lack of action or thundering soundtracks hinted at in any single minute of the previews.

This summer's answer to a Transformer's movie, Pacific Rim is frame to frame popcorn movie. With the current trend for superheroes to be suffering from copious amounts of inner angst in order to grab audiences these days, some good old fashion giant robots smashing the bad aliens might be exactly what the summer's looking for.

Then again, Michael Bay may have already done a pretty thorough job of slapping all of that out of movie audiences for some time. Guillermo del Toro and Warner Bros. Studios don't seem to think so.

Last in our line up today is perhaps the best look so far at the story of Pacific Rim, opening in U.S. theaters on July 12th.

Thanks to Disney, Sony Pictures and Warner Bros. for promotional materials.

Friday, May 17, 2013

This weekend summer hits warp speed with Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Last weekend's slate of big and small movie releases easily led to Moviedozer choosing Gatsby as the new release to see. And if you remember, (if not, by all means jump back to last weekend right here), to really be doing the summer movie season right, the thing to do was to see it in 3D.

This weekend, the movie is Star Trek: Into Darkness and, if you're doing things right, the way to go is BIG. IMAX big.

So when's the last time you saw a something really spectacular on a movie screen. If you've been reading these pages regularly, it was just weeks ago with the opening of Tom Cruise's Oblivion.

The fact is that while more and more movies, particularly during blockbuster summers, are shooting for spectacle, the real goods have been harder and harder to come by. The Avengers nailed it last summer and while Iron Man 3 is doing huge business carrying on the Marvel tradition, more and more previews of coming "event" movies feel stale by the time their teaser has ended.

Even a cursory look at this summer's upcoming blockbusters, with few exceptions, reveal movies banking on scenes that feel too familiar in setting, character, costume and tone. In fact, Moviedozer will be taking a close look at Man of Steel just next week. But right now there's an opportunity to experience what looks like one of the best examples of IMAX production yet - and it's at IMAX theaters all weekend.

J.J. Abrams shot action sequences for Star Trek: Into Darkness in native IMAX, meaning the film adheres to all of IMAX's standards for their proprietary projection systems. Not since last year's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey has a movie been more suited to IMAX exhibition.

So even if big action flicks aren't your thing or your impression of IMAX is of Space Shuttles launching from five story tall screens, get back into a modern IMAX theater and get reacquainted with a technology that has been refined to gold standards.

If you're going to see Star Trek: Into Darkness, see it big. See it IMAX big.

Here's a look at director J.J. Abrams, along with a few cast members, giving you some insight on IMAX filming along with the latest feature trailer.

Have a great weekend at the movies. Next week on Moviedozer - Will you Pay to see this movie: Man of Steel.

Thanks to Paramount and Universal for trailers and poster art.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Taste of what tomorrow brings - Star Trek: Into Darkness.

If you just can't wait for Star Trek: Into Darkness, you don't have to.

Star Trek: Into Darkness opens today for pre-weekend screenings. Tomorrow I'll tell you why you should see it in IMAX.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Art of the Trailer: Gravity

There's something in a first impression. Just a glimpse, a moment or two, can elicit an almost instinctual, seemingly subconscious reaction to what we witness. Even after repeated viewing and consideration, it is often still those brief, first moments that elicit our strongest responses.

The art of creating a marketing trailer for a new movie is a complicated one. Usually a succession of increasingly revealing and detailed peeks into character, story and settings that are designed to entice a potential audience. Crafting the very first of these, typically called the teaser, is perhaps the most difficult challenge.

The teaser trailer is usually shorter by about a minute of running time and much broader in terms of story. The most stock teasers may concentrate on a star's presence in the project, a reminder of the director's past hits or even a simple, albeit drawn out, reveal of a title logo. But teasers are most impressive, and compelling, when they display the studio's confidence in their story.

Judging from its new teaser trailer, Warner Bros. Pictures seems to be confident in Gravity. Director Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), gets a nod (not his past projects), but you won't know who the actors in peril are until the last credit frames. And even then you need to be a bit of a speed reader.

The fact is that Cuarón is directing two of Hollywoods most sought after A-listers, George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. The decision to not tout the cast in the teaser frees it to focus on captivating an audience with story rather than trying to capture a fan base. It works. Rather than a rapid fire collage of scenes designed to hype the stars, we're drawn into one place, one event. One with obvious chaotic and catastrophic consequences.

Do you want to see more? 

The poster perfectly compliments what you've just seen and the stage is set. You'll definitely be watching when the feature trailer makes its debut. And each time you see the poster will be a clear and effective reminder of that movie you want to be sure to see come this October.

Gravity is set for a U.S. release date of October 4th.

Thanks to Warner Bros. Pictures.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Googling "The Internship" or How to write, finance and location scout a screenplay through product placement.

Ask a gambler to put ten thousand on red and there's going to be some hesitation. Ask him to put your ten thousand on red and there won't be a moment's delay.

If you could have inscribed the casino chips with your own personal logo, you've just gotten a pretty good picture of what product placement looks like. And if the other people gathered around the table just happen to be your target demographic, well, the motivation to risk ten grand becomes obvious.

Hopefully everyone at the table will walk away remembering your logo. But should red come up and a pile of chips gets pushed your way, drawing envious stares at the stack crowned with your logo - the surest bet in the casino is that not only will everyone remember your logo - they'll be talking about it all night.

Enter product placement gambling - on the movies. As old as Hollywood and running the gamut from subtle clever tie-ins to in your face, club over the head snake oil pitches. But though there have been masters of the art form (the James Bond franchise leaps to mind), there's a new player in town and he's looking to break the product placement bank - by building his whole movie on one.

Let me hold the title for a moment and let the poster do the talking. Guess who has an interest in this new movie being successful...

Did you see it? I know it's subtle, but there's a company name hidden in this poster. Go ahead, take a few minutes and study the graphics. Particularly the eyes of the actors.

Did you find it. Were your eyes open? Hello? OK, so honest - how many of you held a mirror up to your screen to see what's written in the search box? (Yes. I did.) In case your curious (yes, I was), It says "jobs for people with few skills". That phrase gets 205 million results in .31 seconds. So far the marketing is working.

Director Shawn Levy did a pretty good job of building movies from existing products when he convinced every kid and kid-at-heart that their lifelong fantasy of getting trapped over night in a place like New York's Museum of Natural History (2006, Twentieth Century Fox' Night at the Museum) would be a total blast. Soon every educational museum in the country was working to develop sleep over events for school kids. Levy did it again in 2009 with Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. This time the museum even got their name in the title (and lots of screen time for their gift shop).

So much for museums and altruistic camouflaging of some clever marketing partners, this time out Levy's just put it out there. Google is the idea, the set and the main gag line of The Internship. Period. And they put their logo on the poster to prove it. Movies cost money to make. Get over yourselves.

I can't argue that. And I have no idea as to the deal worked out between The Internship's producers, studio and Google. But I also have no idea if this will work. Shawn Levy's track record is bright (yes, there's another night in a museum planned for future release), so hopes can be held relatively high that Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn stumbling around like Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in the Top Gun school of young hotshot tech geeks might be funny. But will all of the shameless Google plugs, logos, sets and search jokes ad nauseam kill the fun? If you use Apple's iOS instead of Android or use Yahoo search, will you be rooting against this movie?

To top things off, the trailer below is presented through the curtesy of Google's  "Google play" YouTube channel. Yes, YouTube is owned by... Google.

The Internship hits theaters (and Google's employee auditorium) on June 7th. Which means you can Google the box-office results for opening weekend sometime on the morning of June 10th to find out. 

I counted the Google logo popping into frame 14 times in this 2minute and 32 second trailer. If you go see the movie and do a "Google count", please drop us a comment.

All of this got us to thinking that the U.S. government could do with grabbing a piece of this action. What might Washington DC look like with a little product placement branding? To take a look, click over to SparxLab's sister blog Satire is Reason and take a look: "You say you need to increase government revenue? I say Google it."

Promotional materials and trailer from 20th Century Fox Film Corp and, yes, Google. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

This weekend: Go splashy, Go glitzy, Go Gatsby.

Perhaps not since Ang Lee's heroic tackling of Life of Pi last year, has a director taken a literary adaptation and transformed it into something so personally their own. It's nearly poetic that that new work of transformation would be F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and that the director infusing it with refreshed cinematic spirit is Baz Luhrmann. It's also no surprise that both films leverage 3D to further pull you into their visions.

Back on April 10th, Moviedozer asked readers if Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby would be a must see or an also ran. (Will you pay to see this Movie: Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby.) That question seems to have split audiences and critics in early screenings, but today The Great Gatsby hits theaters nationwide, so it's time for you to make your own call.

I've decided this is a movie not to miss. Though this may not be the "great" Gatsby, it will almost certainly be the best Gatsby committed to film so far, and it's sure to fascinate.

Perhaps the more accurate title this time out would have been "The Dazzling Gatsby". I'd guess that Monday morning will see more talk of the razzle dazzle than any other aspect of the film. And since that's been the style and promise of the marketing campaign, from posters to trailers to soundtrack and production glimpses, that would seem to be a fair result.

Director Baz Lurhmann next to the yellow roadster.
This is, after all, Baz Luhrman, and though casting will have to carry the day (with, I expect, admirable turns by both Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan), Baz Lurhmann is at the core of everything this Gatsby aspires to be. And, if nothing more, movie lovers have another opportunity to go to the movies and experience an accomplished movie director's true creative vision.

The bonus for you and for theater owners is, like Life of Pi before it, The Great Gatsby is a movie to be experienced in a movie theater, complete with a movie audience. And since 3D was part of Mr. Lurhman's vision, make it part of yours. If you're pushing your chips across the table this weekend, might as well go all in, so go to a theater that's handing out the dark shades at the door.

The trailers are over on the April 10th post so you can go back and take a look here.

Thanks to Warner Bros. for poster art.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

"Fast & Furious" fact or fiction. Universal is looking for two fast hits.

However you like to watch cars moving very fast across your cineplex screen, Universal is betting it's got you covered.

The choice gets down to fact or fiction. Do you like speed attached to over the top car stunts and explosive action, never mind the mindless plot and barrage of violence, or would you rather opt for a "based on a true story" Formula 1 trip back into racing history?

Universal is hoping you're on board for both, so to put you in the mood, here are both trailers along with some other ideas for getting a racing rush on home video.

The Fiction.
The action starts, or more accurately, continues on May 24th with Fast & Furious 6, yes 6. Not that one hasn't been much like the others, this franchise of gasoline fueled action has become a staple of what car movies have become in the last decade.

Reassembling bits and pieces of past casts and crews dating all the way to the franchise's debut with The Fast and Furious in 2001, the new movie feels like it was pieced together from parts found in a junkyard. Except the junkyard has been supplying only hits and box-office profits. Cast leads returning from the past include Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson and Michelle Rodriguez.

Though the poster's tagline is "All Roads Lead to This", don't get the idea this is all going to end with an even half-dozen. Fast & Furious 7 has already rolled out to a production greenlight at Universal. (7's new villain makes his presence felt in this chapter in the person of Jason Statham.) And if you really just can't get enough, you can add Roger Corman's 1955 original The Fast and the Furious to your Netflix queue this weekend.

The Fact.
In the real world there are also men who drive cars to the limits of their abilities, and that action can account for explosive results as well. Though the consequences of real life tragedies don't often include a second shot at glory. In Formula 1 racing, a fiery wreck for driver Niki Lauda during a 1976 race led to exactly that, and miraculously, only weeks after the wreck nearly claimed his life.

That 1976 racing season and the famous rivalry between Lauda and fellow driver James Hunt is where the green flag waves for the start of Director Ron Howard's Rush.

The making of Rush signals some much needed, big-screen exposure for auto racing in all of its forms and watching clips of the period era film remind me of some of the greatest racing movies ever made.

If you're interested in seeing Rush when it's released (in the U.S. on September 20th), you may want to revisit two classics, 1966's Grand Prix, directed by John Frankenheimer, with an impressive cast that included James Garner, Eva Marie Saint and Yves Montand, or 1971's Le Mans directed by Lee H. Katzin starring Steve McQueen. Though Grand Prix is set against some soap-opera like personal dramas, both films offer some of the most gritty and realistic driving sequences shot on film at the time of their productions.

And if you're interested in getting a period glimpse of the real life dangers of Formula 1 (this one from the 80's), don't miss watching the excellent documentary Senna, a biography of Ayrton Senna, the Brazilian three-time F1 world champion who died while racing at only 34 years of age. Senna is also from Universal. (Both Senna and Grand Prix are available as rentals on iTunes.)

Thanks to Universal Pictures for promotional materials and trailers. Moviedozer does not endorse or mean to imply an endorsement of the services provided by iTunes or Netflix.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Art of the Trailer: The Painting.

Trailers are marketing. The art of a trailer can sometimes simply mean the art of the sell. How effective is the 2½ or so minutes of well edited preview at pulling in money across a box-office counter and dropping ticket holders into theater seats? Some theater owners might even suggest a trailer's potency be, at least in part, measured in tubs of popcorn.

I'd offer no argument with any of that. Hype sells seats. Moviedozer came about to help assess the promise vs. the delivered goods. When the sell matches what's being sold, ticket buyers are happy, studios make money and the industry thrives.

But sometimes the "art" of the trailer is more than promotion. Sometimes it's a tool for unveiling a small film that is difficult to find. A film that has limited distribution, small marketing allowances and a heavy reliance on "art house" critics and festival screenings, that can occupy years of effort before breaking to wider audiences. Sometimes a trailer is discovery.

The trailer below is how I discovered The Painting. The Painting (known at U.S. festivals as Le tableau), had its American premiere performance at The New York Children's Film Festival more than a year ago. Since, it has only been seen at film festivals, but if you are lucky enough to be living in Manhattan, you can catch a screening between May 10th and May 16th at the theaters listed here.

I've been completely captivated by the trailer and a few clips and can't recall having seen hand drawn animation more enchanting since screening the Oscar nominees for animated shorts this past January.

I hope you enjoy the trailer. I urge you to seek out a screening if you happen to be strolling the sidewalks of New York, particularly if you have young, impressionable minds in tow. And I hope this will be a title you'll remember as it ultimately makes its way to home video.

The Painting was produced in 2011 at BE-Films in Belgium by writer/director Jean-François  Laguionie and writer Anik Leray. It is distributed in the U.S. by Gkids in New York.

Special thanks to Gkids for access to the trailer and poster art.

Friday, May 3, 2013

It's Blockbuster time! This weekend go BIGgest with Iron Man 3.

It's what the summer's been waiting for. The biggest movie of the season opens today and you're going to go see it. Or you're just not as much of a movie fan as you think you are.

Folks on foreign shores have already gotten a taste and Iron Man 3 is predictably off to a rocket boots start. How very Marvel of cast and crew, as Marvel Studios has become as much of a guaranteed hit factory as Disney's other boutique studio, Pixar.

Disney seems to be benefitting wildly from the strategy "if you can't come up with great creative on your own, go out and buy the folks who can". Marvel's Kevin Feige certainly seems to have become the superhero movie's answer to animation's John Lasseter at Pixar. But the wisdom of surrounding yourself with talent doesn't stop at the top.

Marvel and Disney have been dazzling audiences with fantastic talent inside the metal suits, skintight costumes and comic book makeup too. In the case of Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. has become Disney's second coming of Johnny Depp and Johnny Depp isn't a trick easy to repeat. But where the Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean franchise fell off the end of the plank with its third outing, At World's End (2007), and stumbled through a messy first half hour as it regained some footing in On Stranger's Tides (2011), Marvel hasn't dropped a beat.

Sir Ben Kingsley as the Mandarin
And Iron Man 3's cast is staying rock solid. This time out the franchise is bringing one of Marvel's most notable villains, the Mandarin, in for a star turn and the talent behind that role is none other than Sir Ben Kingsley. The reviews that are pouring in are pouring praise all over Kingsley's take on the classic character. And don't worry if you've never read a comic book (shame on you), you've never had to with these movies.

Another name to mention is Shane Black. As director for Iron Man 3, Black follows Jon Favreau's work on the first two films. Shane Black is a familiar name (or should be), if you're a fan of action with a smart-ass twist. He's the writer behind the entire Lethal Weapon franchise as well The Last Boy Scout (Warner Bros., 1991), The Long Kiss Goodnight (New Line, 1996) and the superb Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Warner Bros., 2005), that all starred Robert Downey Jr.. Black wrote the script for Iron Man 3 and his turn as director is yet another sign that Marvel understands how to pick solid talent.

With what the Marvel folks refer to as "phase one" of their role out of original movie productions from their own studio, the lesser known Iron Man character eclipsed even the heights of Superman, Spider Man and The Dark Knight. That feat led to hits headlined by Captain America and Thor and cemented the "Super" in front of box-office numbers when it all came together last year in a movie no one thought would ever happen, The Avengers. Not only uniting this superlative cast of Marvel heroes into one billion and a half dollar box-office sensation, but doing it with all of its name stars intact.

Well, it's time to kick off phase two. So when you go to see Iron Man 3, not only will you be witness to Marvel's latest blockbuster, you'll be treated to the bonus of being on the inside scoop of everything that lies ahead. So pay attention and don't rush out when the credits start to role. Their are very BIG things lurking in Marvel's future.

Along with a UK trailer, I thought I'd give you a taste of the hype and excitement that's already in high gear all around the world. In the last week,  Iron Man 3 has already taken in more than a 1/4 billion dollars and not one cent of that has included a North American theater. Robert and cast have lots of great reasons to be waving to the cameras.

Posters, production stills and trailers courtesy Marvel Studios and Marvel Studios UK.