Film

What the Hell is Going On?

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SPOILERS AHEAD (OBVIOUSLY...)


 

The culture has passed me by:

Avengers: Infinity War” can check off yet another record: The second-highest second weekend of all time.

Disney and Marvel’s latest collaboration earned $112.5 million from 4,474 locations in its second frame. The 56% decline was just enough to top the record previously held by fellow Marvel title “Black Panther,” which made $111.6 million in its second weekend. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” holds the prize for biggest second weekend, with a mighty $149 million in 2015. Only five films have ever hit the $100 million-mark in their second weekends.

In just North America, the superhero mashup has made $450.8 million. Among “Infinity War’s” numerous accomplishments is being the fastest film to gross $1 billion, in just 11 days. And the film has yet to open in China.

I enjoy living in the future. I don't advocate a return to the bad old days. I have a smart phone and I love it when people put out new music. But I couldn't be further out of the cultural zeitgeist if I was walking around dressed like it was the 1890s and talking through the severed end of a flugelhorn. 

What do I have here at the end of watching all 18 of these terrible, terrible Marvel movies? Nothing. I have no idea what has happened. I mean, I don't want to pull the sleeve right off your best jacket, but what the hell was all that about? Some people and some magic stones have fought each other and now the universe is in balance? There is no balance in nature. It's just wild and free and shit goes one way, then another. Is Jesus supposed to show up now? I think that was a joke in Infinity War, which I saw a day ago and can't remember anything about.

Why aren't the Jesus freaks angrier about this movie? It's supposed to be the end-all, be-all of everything and all it needed was for Southpark's version of Jesus to show up, put his hand on the shoulder of Thanos, and say, "who hurt you, my son?" That would have ended the whole movie. No need for any more Avengers because Jesus can shoot a lightning bolt through your eyes if you try to make special weapons or steal magic stones.

I'll tell you how the movie will end next year. Something, joke, something, everybody's trapped in the soul stone! fight, joke, joke, fight, and then another fight and then the little girl makes the bad guy put everything back the way it was and someone hides those magic stones and we get to do it all over again in the reboot.

The whole movie runs through the relationship between the young version of Gamora and the big bad evil daddy figure. Conquering figure adopts helpless child, wah wah, okay, what did we learn? Did we learn more about emotional manipulation and allow a figure who has killed untold trillions of children in the universe to have a soft spot for a little kiddy? Genocide never had a better premise in a film. Let's just breeze past the horror--he's got a heart of gold hidden in there, but he's been hurt and Jesus never came around to save him.

Culturally, this is all just junk. It's light, it's fluffy, people eat it up, and then it dissipates. It amuses and distracts, but it doesn't really do anything beyond that. The only thing it really accomplishes is that, for far too many underpaid Americans, a massive amount of discretionary spending has been ripped out of the middle of the economy, causing people to put off buying tangible things while edging out all of the other crap they don't need. Video game makers have tried to cash in by making Avengers games, but it's just not the same. They need a new franchise, obviously, and it's something about killing. 

Is there any point to any of the Marvel crap? It's just another version of Star Wars for people who still spend a lot of money on other stuff. Someone somewhere is busy thinking up another version of all of this, but edgier, man. Everything has to be the same but just a little darker and meaner and cooler. Dude.

Think of the art that didn't get made because all of this talent, money and energy was tied up making 18 Marvel films. There are actors and actresses here who have real talents. I'm not out of line for suggesting that there are far too few female characters and way too many men who are playing characters that are younger than they are in real life. Mark Ruffalo can actually make real movies for adults. Is this a wise use of his time? And do we need slightly less stupid Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation to be the guy who screws up everything? Talk about playing to a cliche. I'll bet when Paul Bettany was doing Richard III, all he could think about was putting a jewel on his forehead and floating about in a robot body while living in Scotland with his girlfriend. Really? You don't think they would have preferred Brighton? Come on. No one lives in Scotland on purpose.

You could have told it all in 3 films that cost a lot less, but no one thinks small like that anymore. It has to be massive! On a scale never before seen! Why sell them three pictures when we can pad this out and make billions off of six different trilogies! Cram it into every nook and cranny! Put it on every product known to man. Well, that's what they did, and that's what they've plopped down in front of everyone. But there are more movies on the way! Here they come! 

Do you know what still has more relevance in the culture? The Beatles, high as kites and out of it, singing Love is All You Need to a world that didn't believe it for a minute. Oh well, this is what you get when you grow old.

The Secret Life of Pets 2

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Last month, when everything related to Louis CK blew up in a storm of outrage and howling, one of the little-known ripples through the entertainment business was the fact that CK had just come off one of the biggest animation hits in history as the lead voice. The original Secret Life of Pets earned over $875 million dollars worldwide and was a lock to become a new franchise.

It stands to reason that the sequel would have been a pretty big hit as well. It was scheduled for release in 2019, but someone else is going to have to do the voice:

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If you look at the project's IMDB page, Jenny Slate is the only person signed for the sequel. Who are they going to get to replace CK, and should they go back and remove his voice work from the original film?

How horrible is that to contemplate?

That Batman Movie Was a Piece of Shit

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I think I remember this film. Man, was it a piece of steaming shit:

Two-Face and Riddler looked like they had a blast together during Batman Forever, but off-camera, Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey's relationship was anything but amiable. Carrey hasn't been shy in the past about talking about how Jones hated working with him, but now the comedy star has gone into more detail on the encounter where Jones' unpleasantness was on full display. One day during Batman Forever's production, Carrey found out that Jones was eating at the same restaurant as him. He went to greet his co-star, which caused the blood in Jones' face to drain. Carrey continued:

And he got up shaking --- he must have been in mid-'kill me' fantasy or something like that. And he went to hug me and he said, 'I hate you. I really don't like you.' And I said, 'What's the problem?' and pulled up a chair, which probably wasn't smart. And he said, 'I cannot sanction your buffoonery.'

Tommy Lee Jones bluntly summarizing his hatred for Jim Carrey in such an archaic fashion is weird enough, but what's even stranger is that Jones expressed disapproval of Carrey's antics before they were going to shoot the biggest scene they had together in Batman Forever. After Carrey recalled this encounter during his recent appearance on Norm MacDonald Live, the show's eponymous host posited that Jones might have jealous that Carrey was the center of attention on set. After all, Batman Forever was in principal photography months after Carrey became a comedy movie star thanks to Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and The Mask.

No idea why anyone cares, but there you go.

Sir Roger Moore 1927-2017

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Sir Roger Moore was the James Bond that I grew up with; his take on the character was oft-derided but it was perfect for the times.

To say that Bond should have been cunning, ruthless, and humorless in the 1970s was to ignore the overwhelming importance of male bravado and self-awareness of the times. This was the decade that made stars out of complex characters (DeNiro, Pacino, Hoffman) and less than complex fellows (Eastwood, Reynolds, Bronson). You could not have made Bond like any similar character from American cinema, nor could he have had the detached, monosyllabic approach of international films. Bond had to be a global star, able to bridge all of the different genres of film. He had to be able to do dry humor, heart-stopping action, clever romance, and political intrigue. He had to be able to save people, kill people, and mock people, often in the course of a single action sequence. 

That meant finding a British actor with serious theater chops, which is what people still do when they need someone who can truly inhabit a character. Michael Fassbender is the Roger Moore of our time, but, really, he's just another version of Moore churned out by the wonderful schools that teach acting in Britain. You can definitely see Fassbender becoming one of the greats and surpassing quite a few great actors, but he's following the template that Moore helped create.

In his day, no one was better than Roger Moore at being everyman and superman at the same time. He had to portray a character that was marketed and sold to the vast world audience of the time. He had to be the actor who could open a film in London, Rome, Los Angeles and Tokyo and few people have ever been able to do that. The universality of his portrayal does not dim with age. You can laugh at how camp it was, but the whole goddamned 1970s was a campy affair on purpose. At no point were you ever not able to believe he could do what he did. That was what made him great.

The Bond that Roger Moore gave us was sharp, sly, quick and capable. He was very much of his time, and we do his performance a disservice by thinking he had to act like the action figures of the last thirty years or so.

Tombstone

Anybody who writes an entire article about Kurt Russell's movie career and forgets to mention Tombstone probably did so entirely by accident.

Kurt Russell is such a good actor, it is possible to write about the films he has made and the quality of his work and forget what is probably his greatest role. Tombstone gets a mulligan for the mangled history but five stars for being completely and utterly entertaining. 

Oh, my bad. I meant to say Tequila Sunrise. 

Tequila Sunrise was Russell's greatest role. Who plays the guy who doesn't get the girl by choice? That was his best performance and then, the classic Tombstone. How you could write about this guy and not mention any of those movies is beyond my comprehension.

Yeah, I'll go see him in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. Hell, the whole movie should just be about him.

Richard Gere Has Paid a Price For His Support of Tibet

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China's influence in the film industry means that actor Richard Here has to appear in independently financed films that are not being marketed to the Chinese:

When Richard Gere walked the red carpet at the Academy Awards in 1993, there was no way he could have known that the night would have repercussions for his career more than 20 years later. Invited to present the award for best art direction, he skipped the scripted patter to protest China's occupation of Tibet and its "horrendous, horrendous human rights situation." The late Gil Cates, the show's producer, was furious, calling the political speeches at that year's awards show —Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins also went off script to speak on behalf of Haitian refugees — "distasteful and dishonest" and vowing to ban all three from future Oscars broadcasts.

Gere hasn't done a major studio film in ten years. This is primarily because, whenever he ends up near a project that can be influenced by businesses trying to work out deals in China, pressure is exerted to have him removed.

Terry Gilliam Isn't Crazy

Terry Gilliam's Don Quixote film always struck me as proof that people in Hollywood are afraid of spending money to make great films:

It has now been 18 years since Terry Gilliam first tried to film The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, a.k.a. The Movie That Will Probably Kill Terry Gilliam, Instead. In that time, Gilliam has faced a Job-like series of setbacks on the film, from flash floods to sick actors to dead actors to some “Portuguese chap” who couldn’t deliver the financing he supposedly promised. And yet, Gilliam has persisted on the film for almost two decades, blowing through our entire stock of jokes about “tilting at windmills” and the entire project becoming the exact definition of “quixotic.”

Today, IndieWire reports that Gilliam has hopped back in the saddle again, putting together an unnamed source and an Instagram post from original cast member Rossy De Palma that indicate that production has once again resumed...

There's no reason why a Gilliam film can't be properly marketed and treated like any other commercial film product. Every year, the Oscars come and go, and the absence of really important and great films is the elephant in the room. When was the last time anyone found themselves truly inundated with great films in the span of a calendar year?

The failure to recognize the fact that he does have an audience and that he does have a masterful ability for filmmaking is a result of something entirely not his fault. Wanting to shoot a script and make a film that satisfies the artistic itch is the ultimate worthwhile endeavor.

Sing is a Better Movie Than Some Would Have You Believe

Really, what are the standards for an animated film to be considered "good?"

Despite some bad reviews here and here, I actually saw Sing and I thought it was a good movie. I liked it about as much as I liked Zootopia, so if you didn't like that, well, I don't know what to say. This film does not avoid sadness and it does not insult the intelligence of children. Yes, it is fun and upbeat and has some slapstick to it, but it does not avoid telling you that show business sucks most of the time. If I had to point to one thing that allows the film to succeed it is that it arrives without assuming you haven't already seen what goes on behind the scenes at talent shows. It assumes you know that there's going to be conflict and drama.

Sing owes a lot to the animation esthetic at Illumination (the Minion movie, whatever else) and you can easily be dazzled by what you see. It's a rich, diverse tapestry and, a few stereotypes aside, it works very well on the screen. So, relax. You're not going to be ripped off.

Now, having said that, the plot is a mile wide and an inch deep. You know that down on his luck Buster Moon is going to take a fall and climb right back up. You know how the movie will end when the whole thing kicks off, but it's the journey that works. You will not mind the episodic format and you will want to see more of certain characters. There's so much happening in this film that the plot will not bother you at all because you're already seeing all the different ways these characters are looking for some sort of validation.

Somehow, they made Matthew McConaughey lose every bit of Texas from his voice. Somehow, they managed to make Scarlett Johansson not sound exactly like herself but like a teenaged girl instead. Reese Witherspoon and Seth McFarlane are part of a broadly drawn cast of weirdos and misfits and it all somehow works. McFarlane in particular fits into the whole thing like a completely square peg being dropped through the other side of a round hole. He's not even really part of the team, he just kind of floats through this thing like comic relief. And, as always, you're going to wonder why Jennifer Hudson doesn't already have her own damned franchise already.

There's an especially weird diversion towards the end of the second act that involves washing cars and acting loopy and it's absolutely worth the price of admission. The rest I'm not giving away.

 

Wonder Woman

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Something tells me that DC made a massive mistake by not making the stand-alone Wonder Woman movie before that horrible mess of a Batman against Superman movie:

She’s finally here. After years of false starts, a live-action Wonder Woman movie is coming next summer. Warner Bros. just revealed the first trailer at San Diego Comic-Con to the uproarious excitement of the Hall H crowd, and it. is. perfect.

I would add that movie trailers are really nothing to get excited about, but still. Patty Jenkins has created something that is probably going to blow the genre away. This film has a visual style that will make people wonder why Zack Snyder still gets work. It takes enormous courage for a film to use World War I as a setting, especially since we're more conditioned to other periods in history.

You Cannot Call it Alien 5

Sigourney Weaver made a weird cameo in the film Finding Dory and she confirms that one of her next projects will essentially ignore the third and fourth sequels to Alien:

The 30th anniversary celebrations of James Cameron’s Aliens are getting underway, and as part of that, Sigourney Weaver has been speaking with Entertainment Weekly about the film. And, somewhat inevitably, the conversation shifted to Neill Blomkamp’s delayed Alien 5 movie, which is set to be a direct follow-on from Aliens. 

Blomkamp’s project has had to get in line as Ridley Scott makes Alien: Covenant and perhaps further Alien prequels (at least two more are planned, but it’s unclear if they have to be made before Alien 5 can get going), and per the original plan, it would have been shooting by now. Instead, it's in a little bit of limbo right now.

Blomkamp’s film is still an active project, though, and Weaver has revealed a few more details about the film. “It’s just as if, you know, the path forks and one direction goes off to three and four and another direction goes off to Neill’s movie,” she said, seemingly confirming that the idea is to overlook the third and fourth Alien films.

If you're going to ignore the 3rd and 4th movies, why the hell are you calling it Alien 5? I am hoping that's the working title. Shouldn't you just called it Aliens 2.5 or Alien Three: Huge Mistakes Have Been Rectified in This Series? Or am I being simplistic?

I do recall the Alien3 movie as being unnecessarily dark and dreary. It was innovative in that it used a camera angle seen from the aliens point-of-view as it scurried through corridors, but, beyond that, it was a huge, unimaginative let down. I have no working memory of a fourth Alien movie, as I'm sure many people do as well. It sort of reminds me of the Julianne Moore version of Jurassic Park that no one saw.

How Much Did They Spend on Marketing?

This is the kind of film that ends up on HBO or Starz, and they end up airing it 52,000,000 times:

Misconduct, a star-studded legal thriller starring Oscar-winners Al Pacino and Anthony Hopkins, made less than £100 in its opening weekend at the UK box office.

The $11m-budget film was showing on just five screens, but its total take was only £97, making its per-site average £19.40. It received negative reviews on release, with the Observer’s Wendy Ide giving it one star and writing that it “could be shown in film schools as a textbook example of how not to make a movie”.

The cinemas were all regional Reel cinemas, in locations including Kidderminster and Burnley, and the opening coincided with a digital release, making the film simultaneously available to stream at home.

With an adult ticket at a Reel cinema costing £6.20, it means that less than four people caught the film at each site.

I think that there's a desire to make fun of the fact that Hopkins, Pacino, and Duhamel "aren't movie stars" anymore after a story like this comes out. Hell yeah, they are. Everyone in this film is good. Is this film itself any good? Well, that's more about story and presentation than it is the actors in it.

The problem is, if you don't market the film correctly, no one goes to see it. Is this something you'd release at the start of the summer movie season? Is this something you'd put out against animated films and comedies and blockbusters? Well, if you're looking for a niche, maybe, but this is a Christmas movie that should have been marketed in a better way.

Or, it's just a boring film. So what? 

Kevin Smith Might Reboot Buckaroo Banzai

Oh, my:

The cinema of the 1980s produced a lot of ambitiously strange genre fiction, but only one movie of that era (or any era) starred a particle physicist who's also a race car driver, rock star, and neurosurgeon: W.D. Richter's 1984 B-movie masterwork The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. It's a beloved-but-obscure cult hit, but it might be getting a high-profile reboot if Kevin Smith has his way. The writer, director, and podcaster told listeners of his Hollywood Babble-On podcast that he and MGM are developing a TV version of the story.

It apparently stemmed from Smith's recent turn directing an episode of the CW's The Flash. "Doin' that has opened up weird doors," Smith said in the podcast. "MGM said, 'Hey, we hear that you like Buckaroo Banzai.' ... So they called my agent and they were like, 'We think we'd like to talk to him about — y'know, we did — with Fargo, we took Fargo and turned it into a TV show and it's won awards and shit.' They were like, 'We have another property that we wanna do that with, and we were wondering if he's interested and has ever heard of Buckaroo Banzai.'"

He said he was interested, it having been a childhood favorite of his, and now he and MGM are apparently about to "take it out and try to find a home for it." Smith wants it to include the original cast — which featured Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Christopher Lloyd, and a young Jeff Goldblum — as villains, and wants the first season to reinterpret the plot of the movie before a second season that would go in a new direction. For those who disdain the idea of Smith helming this project, just remember the words of Buckaroo: "Don't be mean. We don't have to be mean. 'Cause remember: No matter where you go, there you are."

There's only one way to go with this--no self-referential bullshit. This is material that cannot be aware of itself. It has to be done straight and it has to take itself way too seriously. Anything else--anything coy, sly, satirical or winking at the audience through a busted-down fourth wall--and you've ruined it.

There is No Political Message in the New Captain American Movie

I have seen the new Captain American movie (this is the one about the Civil War) and it was a fun movie. I have no idea what this guy is talking about:

Convinced that the American superpower has reaped more bad than good, and thus must be checked by both the government and the U.N., Iron Man—no matter his love of weaponized suits of armor—comes to embody the more self-critical, dove-ish, nanny state-advocating Left. Meanwhile, Cap’s opposition to imperious federal oversight, and his belief that he knows best and should be allowed to act accordingly in whatever international jurisdiction he sees fit, marks him as a figure of the Right—replete with a sidekick, Falcon (Anthony Mackie), who performs both surveillance and tactical strikes with his own personal aerial drone.

The fact that these characters once held opposite positions—Iron Man the armament-loving bad boy free agent (decked out in Republican red), Captain America the dutiful by-the-books soldier (outfitted in Democratic blue)—lends the film some dark irony about the way global conflicts warp deep-rooted convictions. But make no mistake about it: Civil War is the moment at which the Marvel Cinematic Universe most clearly embraces its conservative ethos.

While Iron Man’s attitude seems practical, it’s also ultimately demarcated as wrong. The outside-the-law Captain America is this film’s unqualified hero from the start, when he’s presented as the righteous alternative to Iron Man’s collaborative cowardice. And it’s solidified by its conclusion, when his conspiracy theory hunches are proven correct—thereby proving he’s more trustworthy than Iron Man, Thunderbolt Ross, the U.N., or any other administrative body. Furthermore, Bucky, the friend he’s driven to protect, is a case study in what happens to superbeings when they’re controlled by governments: they’re transformed into murderous, amoral assassin-slaves.

Hey, that's great, but it's a comic book movie. It's not a political movie at all and I can say that because it didn't have Thor in it and he didn't call for parliamentary elections. Nothing about this article even resembles the film, as far as I'm concerned. In fact, there's an actual scarlet witch in the film and she's not really a witch and she does not do any damage whatsoever to witches throughout the world. I thought Elizabeth Olsen was the best thing in this movie, and I think the new Spiderman and Black Panther movies are going to be amazing.

Where I believe the idea of this being a political film goes off the rails is when it fails to take into consideration that we're looking at an alternate reality. None of the situations in our political reality match what's real in this film. For example, in our world, none of these characters, none of the things they have done, and none of the things that have happened exist in our world. Why you would then try to compare the two and say because Bucky so and so says this to that guy it means he has no respect for the new Speaker of the House is just way, way off, man. 

In the analysis above, you could flip Iron Man and Captain America. In point of fact, Iron Man is telling everyone they have to "register" with the government and accept supervision. That's a liberal idea--you have to register yourself as a weapon, meaning your guns, you have to submit to the authority of the government, and you have to accept greater regulation of your activities. The conservative idea would be to resist government supervision, regulation and the invasion of privacy. The conservative would try to come down  on the side of being independent and able to determine what you do and, while that skews libertarian in some ways, it does speak to the emergence of a political divide on many, many issues. So, yeah. The whole article is just way, way off and it just doesn't make any sense.

Daniel Bruhl, who was probably the second best thing in the whole movie, presents a villain who is going to blow your mind at the end of the film. What motivates him runs to the heart of the movie--what do you do when your actions have consequences for people you don't even know?

And if you haven't seen ALL of the Marvel movies up till now, you should not expect to get all of the things going on in this film. If you haven't seen Ant Man, don't see this film until you do. I had no idea what was going on and I felt like a dumbass.

Hello, World!

Captain America: Back For More Cash

Can someone explain to me why people who don't live in America got to see Captain America before Americans did? Is that jingoistic bullshit?

The superhero tentpole — embraced by critics — is likewise expected to pull in massive numbers when opening in the U.S. on May 6, the start of the summer box office.

Doing Avengers-like business, Disney and Marvel Studios' Captain America: Civil War opened to a massive $200.2 million at the foreign box office, one of the biggest starts of all time and nearly matching the launch of last year's Avengers: Age of Ultron.

In some individual markets, Civil War came in ahead of Ultron, as it scored the biggest debut of all time for any film in Mexico ($20.6 million), Brazil ($12.3 million) and the Philippines ($7.5 million). All told, Civil War rolled out in about 63 percent of the foreign marketplace this weekend.

This is the third Captain America movie, but it's really the third Avengers movie. Or is this a prequel for the third and fourth Avengers movies? I can't even tell anymore.

Why they didn't make all of these movies about Loki is beyond my limited grasp.

J.J. Abrams Ruins Everything

One of the unintended consequences of rebooting Star Trek is the fact that it is basically Star Wars at a time when there are new Star Wars movies being released:

 

[...] there's also the issue of Star Trek's position inside the genre since its 2009 reboot in J.J. Abrams' first entry in the series.

In his attempts to bring more personal stakes and character-based stories to the franchise, he arguably moved it closer to Star Wars and diluted the more nuanced, difficult to describe appeal of the series as a whole. In other words, recent Star Trek has seemed more like Star Wars, and who needs that when the real thing is back and already on everyone's minds?

The obvious solution — and one which may already be chosen by Beyond, judging by recent comments by co-writer Simon Pegg and director Justin Lin — is to return the franchise to its roots as a vehicle for stories that are as intellectual as they are visceral, and embrace everything that makes Star Trek different from Star Wars. To go not towards the final frontier, but back to the series' roots, so to speak.

At its core, Star Trek is a procedural, not a character piece (despite having such great characters as Kirk, Spock, McCoy — and, in later incarnations, Picard, Data, Worf et al; the one exception to that rule is spinoff series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which broke many of the rules of the franchise). It's a series of stories intended to make commentary and ask questions about the world around us today through metaphor and allegory, and the majority of the most fondly remembered episodes of the various TV series do exactly that.

Despite the Abrams movies pivoting away from that core appeal — arguably building on something that has been part of the Trek movies since 1982's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan — it's the ability of Star Trek to look outwards that won the hearts of fans originally, and remains the franchise's unique selling point.

At its best, Star Trek does what literary sci-fi does so easily, but so much of TV and movie sci-fi stumbles with: It changes the way that its audience interacts with the world.

Whereas Star Wars is a series that speaks to the heart — it is, after all, inherently a story about relationships and families, both inherited and constructed — Star Trek is arguably at its best when it speaks to the brain, asking questions and introducing ideas that challenge the status quo. Viewed in that light, not only can the two co-exist, alternating between the two seems like a well-balanced diet of sorts.

The short answer is, J.J. Abrams ruined Star Wars after he ruined Star Trek. Everything he gets his hands on becomes a fan's nightmare and a studio executive's wet dream.

Other filmmakers are now going to have undo the damage done by retelling old story lines and abandoning the heart of each franchise. Star Trek is a cerebral examination of the archetypes in human nature; Star Wars is an adventure saga designed to make everyone forget they live in a world where there is no magic. Abrams turned them into large Hollywood movies that make kids go whee! and not much else.

Sounds LIke They're Scared

There's a market out there for people who hate the movie-going experience. The movie industry just doesn't want to accept it:

"If you've got it, flaunt it," said a confident Sony Motion Pictures Group chairman Tom Rothman when taking the stage at the annual gathering of cinema operators in Las Vegas, where the major Hollywood studios go to promote their upcoming slates.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas — except when it comes to CinemaCon, which is always certain to generate headlines and controversy as Hollywood promises theater owners that it's got the goods.

This year's convention, which ran from April 11-14, was no exception, offering up new trailers and footage for a wide array of films, a parade of top stars (including Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt and Will Smith), James Cameron's announcement on stage that he's making four Avatarsequels instead of three and much talk about Sean Parker's divisive proposal to make new movies in the home for $50.

They can fight it all they want, but television is producing better fare than most movies. And if television is working that well for people, the movie industry is going to be left behind and they'll be scrambling to release films to play at home before you know it. The only thing missing here is a quote from someone who thinks they know what's happening:

“We are not going to let a third party of middlemen come between us,” Warner Bros.chief Kevin Tsujihara said to strong applause from the audience of theater owners. 

Unless, of course, the consumers abandon your product and this ends up being the only way you can make money.

How Did That Work Out For You?

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If you've just made a widely panned sequel to three of the best adventure films ever made, why would you keep the one thing that people didn't like about it (aside from Shia Labeouf)?

Indiana Jones: Upcoming Film a Continuation of 2008's 'Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,' Producer Says

"This will be an original idea, but we have the character, and it's not prequel but continuing since the last one," Frank Marshall said Monday at CinemaCon in Las Vegas. Harrison Ford is set to star.

I think that the first thing they should have said was, "we're throwing everything out! This is a prequel that has nothing to do with weird magnetic spinning aliens! We're sorry! Please forgive us for the horrible, horrible shit we did."

Or, hey--maybe get new producers and come up with something good? Why wouldn't that be the logical move after a badly-reviewed misstep?

And, Good God--is Shia coming back or not? That's what everyone really wants to know.

The Pleasant Surprise of Zootopia

It may be late, but my review of Zootopia is positive on all fronts because of how much I enjoyed the film. I saw Zootopia over the weekend as an afterthought--we were bored, there wasn't anything else worth seeing, and so we figured, why not?

Spoilers ahead, so pause here and come back after you've seen it. And if you want to wait for the Blu-Ray or the on-demand version, go ahead. You won't be disappointed.

Zootopia is a Disney animated feature that picks up where almost no other Disney films leave off--with a hint of darkness and a tinge of the hopeless. It's not a bouncy, thoughtless romp through nonsensical product placement gags and Baby Boomer satire gags (although putting Tommy Chong in the film is as counter-culture as you can get without completely blowing minds and trampling through the fields of nostalgia). It's not fall down funny but it's amusing enough to see again.

And that's what I really liked about the film--it lived in its own world and didn't try too hard. It didn't go for the fart and gross-out jokes. No one sucked on a urinal cake. No one's ass explodes in a brown cloud of doom. There is a sick burn that weaves through the story line--it's called a hustle--and it works on a number of levels. It may be one of the first animated comedies that truly steps away from Baby Boomer humor and leaves the Simpsons era behind. That may explain why I liked it so much.

Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman have great chemistry as the leads in this. She plays an idealist and he plays an anti-hero and their collective backstory informs the plot without overwhelming anything. This did not play like an attempt for an actor to play something in a movie that their kids can see--the casting works out in the long run because of the banter they have and the conclusion to the film, which has a moment that is noticeably scarier--and more honest--than the usual Disney fare. 

Where does it fit in? Well, this was a smart film with some hard edges. I would put Zootopia just below The Princess and the Frog and Tangled, but that's very good company. I would say it's as good as Brave without the hard to parse accents. And Brave was a very, very good film that has been overlooked. These four animated films represent the best of the films that are not quite as good as Frozen, and if you haven't seen any of them, they're a pleasant discovery for anyone who enjoys animated films. This film was much, much better than Kung Fu Panda 3 and I preferred it to Inside Out (which I did not care for, but that means I'm merely an idiot, of course).

Really, this wasn't junk. We've seen a slew of junk animated films over the last few years and a handful of really strange and densely plotted things that should never have been made. This was a near murder mystery with more emphasis on the mystery aspect. There's even a twist at the end that works. How often can you say that?

Sacha Baron Cohen is the New Adam Sandler

Not Our Kid with Mark Strong

Man, you can't pay this guy enough to go away:
Sacha Baron Cohen's latest comedy fails to cause major offense and has his lowest-ever box-office bow in the U.K.
Despite a final scene, in which Donald Trump accidentally contracts AIDS (and from an already-infected character purported to be Daniel Radcliffe), Sacha Baron Cohen's latest film has failed to copy its predecessors in igniting major offense or, indeed, major box- office glory.
The Brothers Grimsby, which was released in the U.K. last week as Grimsby, landed in the comic's homeland in second place behind Deadpool with $2.7 million, the star's lowest-ever British debut (his last, The Dictator, earned $6.9 million, while Borat amassed some $11.9 million).
Liam Gallagher impersonators, take heart. You can be rest assured that Cohen won't be putting you out of business any time soon. The only career arc left for this guy is to have his own show on NBC.




Do It Yourself


Roughly $24,000 stands between you and making a feature film:
During a launch event at the DGA, the company introduced a new camera aimed at episodic series production and indie filmmaking.
Panasonic is aiming to extend its reach into television production and indie filmmaking with a new addition to its VariCam 4K camcorder line, which was unveiled Wednesday evening before several hundred guests at the DGA Theatre. The VariCam LT offers the same Super 35 sensor as the VariCam 35 but with a compact body weighing just six pounds.
The company is positioning the new model for uses including series television, documentaries and indie filmmaking, either as the main camera or a B-camera for use on a Steadicam, drone or the like. It will be available in March with a list price of $18,000, body only; or $24,000, body plus viewfinder.
It offers up to 4K resolution, variable frame rates, 14 stops of dynamic range, new dual native ISOs of 800/5000, multiple recording options, workflow tools and an EF lens mount with optional PL lens mount.
Now, add in a few lights, some accessories, some memory cards, a bag, and maybe some insurance and you're all set. The technology needed to make music at a professional level has brought the price of a home studio down considerably in the last decade or so. Got Pro Tools? You can get that for free off of someone, so set up some microphones and get ready to smooth things out. Use that to record sound while you're filming.

I'm guessing that it would take a computer and about $35,000 to set up enough gear to make a good film. If they start renting these things, the cost will plummet even further. Film students everywhere should figure out what they want to finance--a new car or a career making movies.

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