Friday, June 28, 2013

Before the fireworks: The Heat, Copperhead and White House Down.

It's Friday and that means it's time to decide if you're going to try to catch a first run release before hitting the barbecues next week.

It also means that it's the weekend for making all of the Fourth of July references in movie reviews, so you may as well brace yourself now. You'll be reading about the barrage of White House Down "fireworks" and how the chemistry between Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy in The Heat is hotter than a "sizzling summer grill", throughout the next week.

I'll spare you all of that and just give you the bottom-line. It's one you already know. If you're drawn to seeing White House Down, very little, I should think, is going to get you to buy a ticket for a girl buddy-cop movie. If on the other hand you're heading to the movies to see Bullock and McCarthy cut up with near perfect balance as a comedy team, one that will surely, actresses schedules permitting, spawn a sequel, I'd be betting big time that White House Down may not even qualify for a future Netflix queue.

And of course, if you're worn out with summer star vehicles on just the second weekend of the summer, but you're a died in the wool movie fan, you'll be off chasing down the elusive limited release.

In that order, here are the weekend's choices. I'll go with The Heat. Advance reviews are great and the thought of watching Washington DC decimated by terrorists is just too depressing.

The Heat looks like a win/win with two actresses who have impeccable timing, established comedic credentials and big fan bases. I think it could top the weekend numbers.



White House Down has been a topic on the pages of Moviedozer in the past, both for its poster campaign and its unapologetic, seemingly gleeful take on destroying Washington DC in a terrorist attack. (See here and here.)

Director Roland Emmerich is a true master in his chosen genre and advance word is that Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum have a surprising amount of chemistry on the screen. It all makes for a movie better than not and a weekend that might prove very good to Sony/Columbia and to both actor's movie careers.

The trailer that follows is the extended version that should either have you salivating for more or convinced you've seen more than you needed to. Enjoy.



If you're dismissing The Heat as a chick-flick and White House Down as more of the same, the independent release that caught my eye this weekend is a modest historical piece with both an appealing cast and a solid dramatic underpinning to a historical pivot point in this nation's civil war. Copperhead offers drama that carries to today in theme and, when put in context against developing democracies and destructive dictatorships, feels perfectly timed.

Copperhead leads its cast with Billy Campbell and then surrounds him with credible actors that include Peter Fonda and Angus Macfadyen. The film is directed by Ronald F. Maxwell (Gettysburg, Gods and Generals), from the novel by Harold Frederic.


Have a safe and Happy July 4th no matter where in the world you live.

Thanks to 20th Century Fox Film Corp., Sony Pictures and Brainstorm Media for trailers and poster art.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Cuddly or rabid, it's a Monster weekend.

If Sulley and Mike (of Monsters University) really want to go to scare school, they might want to go to the movies themselves this weekend and take a few lessons from Brad Pitt.

That's because Pitt's (who stars in and grabs a producer's credit) World War Z is the first big budget feature to understand what makes zombies scarier than ever before - an ability to outrun you. When dead people who want to consume you can chase you down by running and climbing, faster and farther - after all, they're not pestered by leg cramps or running out of breath - they tend to take on a new degree lethality. Add an apparent ability to think and plot en masse and... well, meet zombie 2.0.

Watching the lead-up to today's release of World War Z has been a little like witnessing the evolution of a staple monster genre. How is it that someone has finally made these things aggressive instead of just slow but relentless? And clever instead of, well, brain dead?

It all makes for a great action monster pic and that makes it the Moviedozer pick for the weekend. Here's the latest trailer. And be sure to listen for that last warning in the dialogue.



If you or your kids are more inclined to take your scares with a one eyed wink and a nod and lots of blue fur, save the zombie war for a future late night download and take the kids to Disney/Pixar's Monsters University. I can promise that the laughs will outnumber the scares by a long shot.

Unfortunately, I can also promise that you've seen it all before. In fact, likely tons of times before, while the kids sit glued to their Pixar videos. But that's a little different than plunking down the money to see it again, for the first time, in a movie theater.

Monsters University has plenty going for it and Disney knows it. I suspect that I can count myself in the first wave of Pixar fans growing a bit restless and annoyed that Pixar's genius has been "Disney'd" into a sequel house.

Not that Pixar sequels aren't still enormously entertaining (Toy Story 3 was brilliant), but it smacks of an increasing loss of vision. I'll remind you that I said that on the weekend of August 9th. That's when Disney's Pixar spins it's Cars franchise (which already has a sequel) into Planes. Given all of the modes of transportation on the planet, there's an enormous potential trend for lots of lazy movies getting made.

But for those who still find the charm in Disney's money grab - here's a look at the latest trailer for Monsters University.



Have a great weekend at the movies.

Thanks to Paramount Pictures and Walt Disney Studios for trailers and poster art.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

2013 pt.2: the Summer's best Movie bets from July thru September.

2013's number one. So far.
With just days before summer becomes official, some movie studios are already celebrating summer box-office success stories.

Disney's Marvel has once again gone to the well that is Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man and pulled another plus billion dollar ($1.2b at last count) hit from their 2009 acquisition of Marvel and its bursting vault of intellectual property.

Fast & Furious 6 proved that audiences still love a thrill ride, with the latest in that franchise already crossing $600 million since its late May release.

And though the Man of Steel has a hard time saying the word "super", his studio doesn't (and neither does his new director). The highly anticipated reboot of Superman broke the all time record for a June weekend release (beating out 2010's Toy Story 3 opening) and just two days later, has already soared past $150 million.

I know what you're thinking - so what's next? And right on cue, here's what studios and independents have in store for you throughout the popcorn days and nights of summer.



July's Best Bets

The wide-release pick: The Lone Ranger. (Disney, 7/3)
Disney's hoping to rule Summer as they've ruled Spring. And if you work for anyone making movies other than the house that Mickey built, you're about to be reminded that Robert Downey, Jr. was the sequel to Johnny Depp. The really bad news is that Depp's wearing feathers instead of dreadlocks this time out - which means that if The Lone Ranger succeeds, Disney's just launched a new Johnny Depp franchise. Success isn't even in question here, only how big is big. The Lone Ranger opens wide on July 4th weekend.


Competing for your attention:
Lots of wide releases will be fighting for ticket sales, but none with bigger robots than director Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim (scheduled for release on July 12th, Moviedozer past posts here, here and here.) Pacific Rim promises to be everything you ever dreamed a summer movie should be if you were ever a nine year old obsessed with comic books and monster toys. And if you're that nine year old now, or a parent of one - Universal's second outing with the minions of Despicable Me fame (cleverly titled Despicable Me 2, and scheduled for a July 3rd release), is lined up to give Disney a run for the animated summer crown.

Limited releases have to work hard to grab summer screen space but July will be offering at least three releases that appear to be worth expending some effort to find. In order of their releases, you might want to watch for: The Way Way Back (7/5), written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash and showcasing standout performances by Sam Rockwell and its young star Liam James, against a very impressive ensemble cast; Girl Most Likely (7/19), starring Kristen Wiig, Matt Dillon and Annette Bening; and Blue Jasmine (7/26), written and directed by Woody Allen with a cast that includes Alec Baldwin, Cate Blanchett, Peter Sarsgaard and Louis C.K..


August's Best Bets

The wide-release pickElysium. (Sony, 8/9)
Written and directed by Neill Blomkamp who also wrote and directed 2009's surprise hit District 9, Elysium stands out as August's big action sic-fi adventure. Though by the time of its release some will have likely had their fill of big action adventurers, in or out of space. For those of you game, this one offers both Matt Damon and Jodi Foster to head up the cast and plays on Blomkamp's now familiar looks of a beaten down, abandoned planet. In this case the haves have left the have nots for a space based utopia called Elysium - where trouble, ultimately, will follow.


Competing for your attention:
Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg team up, a week before Elysium opens, for a "who's the cops - who's the robbers caper called 2 Guns (8/2) that plays the buddy pic for both action and laughs. Wahlberg's comic timing is its own force to be reckoned with, while the plot holds the promise of enough twists to keep things from getting ordinary. You'll have to wait until the end of the month to catch Closed Circuit (8/28), an international terrorist chase set in London starring Eric Bana, Julia Stiles, Rebecca Hall, Ciarán Hinds and Jim Broadbent.

There's lots more in store for summer's later half. For comedy you can check out We're the Millers (8/9) with Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis, Kick-Ass 2 (8/16) with Chloë Grace Moretz's return as Hit Girl, this time accompanied by Jim Carrey, and The World's End (8/23) which proves to Martin Freeman, Simon Pegg and friends, that reliving the old days can be more challenging then one may imagine.

Also of interest in August is Paranoia (8/16) where hi-tech collides with high stakes corporate spying in the companies of Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman. Nicholas Cage finds himself chasing down John Cusack across The Frozen Ground (8/23) and writer/director Brain De Palma returns to the big screen directing Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace in Passion (8/30).


September's Best Bets


The wide-release pickRush(Universal, 9/20)
What better thing to do on the very last weekend of summer than to bask in the roar of vintage Formula One cars in Ron Howard's latest directorial effort. The true-life story of the legendary 1970's racing rivalry between F1 poster boy James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and racing purist Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) is said to have been so realistically filmed that director Howard counts it as his most stressful film project to date. The results should bring a much needed jolt to racing as a sport and may influence lots of American sports fans to embrace F1's new found presence in American auto racing.



Competing for your attention:
The stereotype of "ugly Americans" in Europe gets a boost when a mob family gets witness protection tickets for a relocation to France in The Family (9/13). Starring Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer and Tommy Lee Jones, The Family is directed and co-written by Moviedozer favorite Luc Besson.

Justin Timberlake goes off looking to get a return on a bad bet and winds up in front of Ben Affleck in Runner, Runner (9/27). Set in the world of online gambling's mecca, Costa Rica, there's some on screen chemistry between the stars and enough plot intrigue to pull you into a late summer cineplex, with Affleck returning to his slick, polished whatever-it-takes-to-win persona that feels like a welcome throwback to films like Boiler Room and Changing Lanes.

Also of note in September is Vin Diesel's return as the bad-ass who can see in the dark in Riddick (9/6) and Danny Trejo's return as the bad-ass who's name is his weapon in Machete Kills (9/13). Machete Kills surrounds Trejo with an enormous cast of known names including Amber Heard, Michelle Rodriguez, Mel Gibson, Jessica Alba, Charlie Sheen (billed here as Carlos Estevez), Sofia Vergara, Vanessa Hudgens, Antonio Banderas, Cuba Gooding Jr., Edward James Olmos and, wait for it... Lady Gaga.

And just for a touch of nostalgia, you may want to watch for a special 75th anniversary engagement of the original Wizard of Oz, remastered and slated to come to IMAX theaters in 3D on September 20th.




Release information from IMDb.com and the-numbers.com. Poster art curtesy of their studios. Release dates are based on North American distribution.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Forget Zod, today Superman is going up against a Hogwarts wizard.

The long awaited reboot of Superman as the Man of Steel has come and the fiercest foe Clark Kent is facing may not be the one in his own movie.

This weekend Superman squares off against a real wizard. A top-of-the-class Gryffindor (as in Harry Potter) wizard. Emma Watson, who played Harry's compatriot Hermione Granger through eight movies, appears in not one but two competing films which should, at the least, convince teen females to break their dates and hang with their girlfriends this weekend.

Not that I'm expecting The Bling Ring to be krypton to Man of Steel's chances for a number one weekend, but its director, Sophia Coppola, has established serious credibility coming into her 5th film as a director.

That cred includes a real movie superhero, the man of gold called Oscar. With a 2004 win for her screenplay of Lost In Translation, which also earned her nominations for Best Picture and Best Director, Sophia Coppola is well on her way to building a serious director's résumé. This time out, the film is also as topical as a celebrity tweet with its true-story retelling of a group of LA friends who decide it might be a kick to break-in to the homes of a few of their favorite celebs.

And if the girls can't convince their dates to skip Superman for a girls-gone-rogue romp, they may be able to sway them past Man of Steel and into a theater showing how some real life moviestars might handle the end of the world in This is the End. Really.

It's not much more than an extended internet video bit in concept, but then along comes Emma Watson wielding an ax and all comedy breaks loose. If for nothing more than being in on the first weekend of seeing Ms. Watson threatening Jonah Hill and James Franco with apocalyptic dismemberment, This is the End may well be a solid reason for saving Man of Steel for a future online rental queue.

Though I'm not convinced Man of Steel will be the Superman I was waiting and hoping for (click here), I'm convinced that it will have a more than respectable weekend by both scoring a number one at the box-office and spawning the sequel films with these budgets are desperate for.

But as for a pick - I've got to go with watching Emma Watson, all grown up and carrying an ax.

The trailers for all three new releases are below. Make your own pick and get out to the movies this weekend.

And for all of you Dads - Happy Father's Day.


The Moviedozer pick: This is the End.


Man of Steel:


The Bling Ring:

Thanks to Sony Pictures, Warner Bros. and A24 for trailers and poster art.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

2001: A Space Odyssey: a Space.com tribute.

These are the blockbuster days of the summer box-office season. The tentpole days of action and adventure that spur ticket sales, popcorn consumption and sequel fever in studio offices and marketing departments throughout every corner of Hollywood.

Already this year we've seen Iron Man 3 reach 1.2 billion in worldwide ticket sales and Fast & Furious 6 and Star Trek: Into Darkness enter into the top five of the 2013 box-office. Still on the way are giant robots created to take on monster invaders in Pacific Rim, the rebirth of the western as a Johnny Depp frolic in The Lone Ranger, and the reboot of DC's most classic of classic superheroes with the Man of Steel (just a day away).

Before summer has even officially begun, the season has already commandeered 3 of the top 5 spots in this year's most successful films.

Director Stanley Kubrick with cast
on the surface of the moon.
But if you're like me, you still yearn for the smart intrigue, bold vision and groundbreaking filmmaking of THE science fiction film of all time, 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Released by MGM with 1968 premiers in Washington DC, New York City and Los Angeles on April 2, 3 and 4th successively, 2001: A Space Odyssey went continued with openings all over the world through the remainder of 1968 and into the early months of 1969. Since its first American rerelease in 1974, the masterwork of Stanley Kubrick has gone through a series of festival showings and studio rereleases that has continued as recently as last year.

On a reported budget of $10½ million, a reported North American domestic box-of just under $57 million doesn't put it in the ranks of today's blockbusters, but there has never been a more influential film set in space. And that includes everything Star Wars.

Here's a fascinating look at 2001: A Space Odyssey, published by Space.com, that sets the landmark film against the real life canvas of our history of science and space exploration.


Find out about '2001: A Space Odyssey
Source SPACE.com: All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

Space.com is a fascinating place to spark your own ideas about adventure. Add them to your bookmarks and visit often.

Friday, June 7, 2013

This Weekend: Crash the System.

There are two major wide releases opening this weekend. They've both appeared on Moviedozer before - The Internship (click here), little more than product placement as moviemaking 101, and The Purge (click here), a ridiculous premise that pretends to be substantive social commentary while being not much more than a test concept for its studio's Halloween theme park event.

This is clearly a weekend for movie fans to catch up on past releases, hit the Netflix queue or zone in on TCM for a refresher course in the classics.

It's also a weekend to ponder how so many bad movies get made. Lazy, gutless movie executives? Risk adverse public companies that just happen to be in a creative business? Path-of-least-resistance moviemaking? What's the deal?

One of the most infuriating questions in creative communities, "With so much amazing talent out there, how can bad scripts still get made into movies?" pulls focus to the darkest side of Hollywood - the gated, high-walled castle that throws unrepresented talent into the moat.

And of course the irony that the talent shunned by established producers and studios is potentially the talent that could be breaking the most exciting projects and trends in the business.

So this weekend Moviedozer will take its inspiration from The Internship's own poster campaign. It's an idea for the masses and perfect for this time of social connectivity - Crash the System.

If you're scrolling through your favorite movie app, searching for something to see this weekend, click out of the app and click open your email. Take a minute, or 5 or 10, and write to a studio. Write to a director, an actor, a producer. It doesn't have to be a complaint - instead pick one you respect. Give someone who calls the shots in the movie business a bit of audience feedback. Good or bad, it's up to you.

The point is that ticket sales aren't the only way to tell a studio what you think. Consider yourself recruited into a giant focus group and get your voice heard and your feelings known. If you don't get to make the movies, grab a chance to influence the movies that get made. Who knows what may follow.

If you want to start with the two movies opening today, here's some information. As for researching other email addresses and contact info, try Google (there's something poetic about that). The effort will surely be worth the pain you'll avoid by paying to see a bad movie.

The Internship:
Studio - Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp: www.fox.com, foxmovies@fox.com.

Stars - Vince Vaughn: Creative Artists Agency, www.caa.com.
Owen Wilson: United Talent Agency, www.unitedtalent.com., info@unitedtalent.com.

Director/Producer - Shawn Levy: Company-21 Laps/Adelstein Productions. Agency-William Morris Endeavor: www.wmeentertainment.com.


The Purge:
Studio - Universal Pictures: www.universalstudios.com.

Stars - Ethan Hawke: Creative Artists Agency, www.caa.com.
Lena Headey: Troika, www.troikatalent.com, info@troikatalent.com., Creative Artists Agency, www.caa.com.

Director - James DeMonaco: United Talent Agency, www.unitedtalent.com., info@unitedtalent.com.

Producers - Michael Bay: Companies-Platinum Dunes, Bay Films. Agency-William Morris Endeavor, www.wmeentertainment.com.
Jason Blum: Blumhouse Productions.
Andrew Form: Platinum Dunes. Agency-William Morris Endeavor, www.wmeentertainment.com.
Bradley Fuller: Platinum Dunes. Agency-William Morris Endeavor, www.wmeentertainment.com.
Sebastian Lemercier: Why Not Productions, www.whynotproductions.fr, contact@whynotproductions.fr

Of course, don't leave Moviedozer off your list. The comment link below is always open. And here's hoping for at least a touch of creative excellence in the movies headed our way in the weekends ahead.

Thanks to Universal and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. for poster art.


Monday, June 3, 2013

Do you believe the Man of Steel can fly?

If you believe the posters, you believe the Man of Steel can not only fly, but fly faster than movies have ever shown before. And while that may make nifty looking poster art, Warner Bros and director Zack Snyder are desperate for you to believe that this Superman won't be just a blip on your radar screen.

In a world of sequels post the discovery that "rebooting" can extend the life of potentially any movie franchise, DC Comic's Superman is getting yet another reincarnation as a movie star. If you're pondering why, try to name the actor that donned the red cape in Bryan Singer's 2006 Superman Returns. Go ahead, I'll wait.

How about Lois Lane?, Perry White?, Jimmy Olsen? (ok, now I'm just being cruel). Lex Luther? - Yes, Lex was played by Kevin Spacey; ironically the most memorable presence was created by the actor who would likely most want you to forget he was in the movie. (No need to hit IMDb, the cast is listed at the bottom of this post.)

If you're looking for a clue at how resounding a flop Superman Returns was, look no further than the fact that the name Superman seems persona non grata anywhere near Man of Steel's marketing department. Then take a good look at the trailers. What's happening here, outside of the fact that Clark Kent can no longer even bring himself to utter the word "super",  is moviemaking by trend. Trending that follows box-office, reviews, awards show chatter and studio heads frozen with insecurity, while paying no attention at all to story, direction or the t-word - "talent".

The result - every movie studio's reserve super power, the reboot*. (*re-boot: to redo what has been done before, but deferent, so at least the people ponying up the budget can convince shareholders that there's actually something different about the same old thing. i.e. Batman into The Dark Knight, Star Trek 1 thru 6 into Star Trek 7-10 into J.J. Abrams' Star Trek, even Greek History into Zack Snyder's 300.)

The thing is, when "reboots" work, and they do, it's got nothing to do with rebooting and everything to do with making a fresh, entertaining movie using resources previously squandered by bad scripts, bad directors, bad casting and bad moviemaking.

Superman Returns was bad moviemaking. Man of Steel won't fix that or make you forget if it too is bad moviemaking. Admittedly, Superman is tough material - camp, silly and dated. The one Superman that still soars is the first. Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Glen Ford and Valerie Perrine, directed by Richard Donner with a sense of respect to the original material and a sense of fun about itself, that no other superhero movie has matched. Goofy, yes - but reread those old comics and imagine otherwise.

Yes, the comic-book Superman has changed, but moviemaking is still about story, and in these summers of superhero movies plastered from April to August, if you don't bring original ideas to the table, perhaps you should just bring the original movies?

Man of Steel, as directed by Zack Snyder (notorious for the nearly unwatchable Watchmen (Warner Bros., 2009) and the over-hyped, but appropriately named nonsense of Sucker Punch (Warner Bros./Legendary Pictures 2011) tries to get some altitude back into Superman on June 14th (U.S.). My gut is that if you look up into the sky that weekend, you may only hear the sound of a superhero sputtering back to earth.



The cast of "Superman Returns" starred Brandon Routh as Superman, Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane, Frank Langella as Perry White, Sam Huntington as Jimmy Olsen, and of course Kevin Spacey as arch-bad guy Lex Luthor. Thanks to Warner Bros. Pictures for trailers and posters.