Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Sequel-itis

I saw Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End yesterday. And it's pretty much official: I am sick of sequels. Every movie I have reviewed this month has been a sequel. Spider-Man 3, 28 Weeks Later, Shrek the Third, and now POTC 3. And only one, 28 Weeks Later, has actually been a good movie. Which is the one I had the lowest expectations for. I guess Shrek the Third is the best of the "three-quels." But that's not saying much.

This month, more so than any I can remember, has felt like a chore for me as a film critic. It has been full of nothing but blockbuster after blockbuster, and I have felt obligated to drag myself to each one. Yet I have gotten hardly any pleasure from it. Watching these movies has felt like work. I have seen these movies not so much out of any real desire to see them, but for work only.

Next month is looking up though. This coming week I will review Knocked Up (which I can't wait to see), Judd Apatow's new film after The 40-Year-Old Virgin (one of the best comedies of recent years), and the week after that I will review Killer of Sheep - a film that was made in 1977 but never released theatrically until now, despite being considered one of the greatest films ever made. It makes its North Carolina premiere at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) in Winston-Salem on June 7 & 10, and then has no more scheduled screenings in the state. And I get to go see it, I'm really excited.

I just want to see something on screen I've never seen before. May has been nothing but a constant sense of deja vu. Before May I was actually getting to see lots of really good films. I reviewed Zodiac, The Lives of Others (still the best film of the year), The Host, The Hoax, Reign Over Me, The Boss of it All. I gave each film three and a half stars (except for Lives of Others, which got four). Now I'm handing out two-star grades left and right.

Why do original visions not sell as well? Why do people go see the films they're familiar with, instead of taking chances? I sat through each of these "three-quels" thinking about how I had seen it all before. There was nothing really that new in any of them (except for Peter Parker the emo kid, but that was just silly). What happened to the days when everyone went to see movies like The Godfather and The Exorcist and Star Wars. Now studios can just reheat the same old crap over and over again and people still eat it up. I just don't get it. And frankly I probably never will. I thought At World's End was far too long at 168 minutes and had a headache when it was over, but I thought 153 minutes of The Death of Mr. Lazarescu was perfectly acceptable. And the only thing that happened in that movie was an old man was driven from hospital to hospital until he died because no one would take him in. Did I mention that it's in Romanian? I guess its all about preference and taste.

Give me originality of vision, engrossing stories, and profound themes over wall to wall action any day. Especially if we've seen it all before. Three times.

I have sequel-itis. Give us something new at the multi-plex, please. Just looking at the theater listings right now makes me bored. These sequels are clogging up our theaters, and smaller, more worthy films are getting lost in the mix. If I want to see Jack Sparrow or Spider-Man again, I'll go watch the original film. When I go the theater, I want to see something brand new. Or at least a fresh perspective.

All we're getting right now is stale, reheated leftovers.

The Joker Revealed

Here is a first look at Heath Ledger as the Joker in The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan's sequel to Batman Begins.


This is pretty creepy stuff. They're obviously going in a VERY different direction with it than Tim Burton did, but that was to be expected.

Thanks to the folks at Empire.com for sharing the pic, after fans revealed it as part of the Dark Knight promotional site, www.ibelieveinharveydenttoo.com (which itself is pretty damn creepy), which is meant to be a creation of the Joker himself (hint: highlight the page).

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

"POTC: At World's End" Shatters Memorial Day Records

Weekend Box Office Results:

1. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End - $115,057,000
2. Shrek the Third - $53,011,000
3. Spider-Man 3 - $14,200,000
4. Bug - $3,310,000
5. Waitress - $3,075,000-
6. 28 Weeks Later - $2,585,000
7. Disturbia - $1,921,000
8. Georgia Rule - $1,856,000
9. Fracture - $1,200,000
10. Wild Hogs - $1,092,000

Source: Box Office Mojo

The summer "three-quels" continued their box office monopoly as Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End sailed into theaters to become the biggest Memorial Day opener ever, while playing on the most screens (11,000 +) in the most theaters (4,362) ever.

With Spider-Man 3, Shrek the Third, and At World's End dominating the box office, precious little else is able to do much business. Summer hasn't even officially started yet and already I'm longing for fall, if for no other reason than just so the little guys can have a chance to breathe.

On the bright side though, Waitress is now at #5 in just 510 theaters. Although, sadly, with the blockbuster stranglehold, that doesn't mean much.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

"Four Months, Three Weeks & Two Days" wins Palme D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival

From Variety:
CANNES -- "4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days," Cristian Mungiu's stark, trenchant drama about a woman's experiences getting an abortion in the waning days of Romania's communist era, won the Palme d'Or at the 60th edition of the Cannes Film Festival.

Screened on the festival's first full day, "4 Months" is one of the few Cannes films in memory to have led wire-to-wire in critics' polls and come out on top on awards night. IFC bought the picture during the fest for U.S. release.
Click here to read the full article.

Here is the list of winners from the 60th Festival de Cannes:

INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION JURY
Palme d’Or: "4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days," Cristian Mungiu, (Romania)
Grand Prix : "The Mourning Forest," Naomi Kawase, (France-Japan)
60th Anniversary Prize : Gus Van Sant ("Paranoid Park," France-U.S.)
Screenplay: Fatih Akin ("The Edge of Heaven," Germany-Turkey)
Director: Julian Schnabel ("The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," France)
Actor: Konstantin Lavronenko ("The Banishment," Russia)
Actress: Jeon Do-yeon ("Secret Sunshine," South Korea)
Jury Prize (shared) "Persepolis" (Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud, France-U.S.) "Silent Light" (Carlos Reygadas, Mexico-France-Netherlands)

SHORT FILM JURY
Palme d’Or: "Watching It Rain" (Elisa Miller, Mexico)
Special Mentions: "Run" (Mark Albiston, New Zealand) "Grandma" (Anthony Chen, Singapore)

UN CERTAIN REGARD JURY
Grand Prix : "California Dreamin’ (Endless) (Cristian Nemescu, Romania)
Special Jury Prize: "Actresses" (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, France)
Coup de Coeur Award: "The Band’s Visit" (Eran Kolirin, Israel-U.S.-France)

CAMERA D’OR JURY
Camera d’Or: "Jellyfish" (Etgar Keret, Shira Geffen, Israel-France)
Special Mention: "Control" (Anton Corbijn, U.K.-Australia-Japan)

CINEFONDATION JURY
First Prize: "Now Everybody Seems to be Happy" (Gonzalo Tobal, Argentina)
Second Prize: "Way Out" (Chen Tao, China)
Third Prize: (shared) "A Reunion" (Hong Sung-hoon, South Korea) "Minus" (Pavle Vuckovic, Serbia)

CRITICS’ WEEK JURIES
Grand Prix: "XXY" (Lucia Puenzo, Argentina-Spain-France)
SACD Prize: "Jellyfish."
ACID/CCAS Support Award: "XXY."OFAJ/TV5Monde
(Very)Young Critic Award: "Jellyfish."
Canal Plus Award for Best Short Film: "Madame Tutli-Putli" (Chris Lavis, Maciek Szczerbowski, Canada)
Kodak Discovery Award for Best Short Film: "Um ramo" (Juliana Rojas, Marco Dutra, Brazil)

OTHER JURIES
Ecumenical Award: "The Edge of Heaven."
Fipresci Awards (intl. critics’ assn.) "4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days" (Competition) "The Band’s Visit" (Un Certain Regard) "Her Name Is Sabine" (Directors’ Fortnight)

Source: Variety.com

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Oscarwatch Changes to AwardsDaily

Oscarwatch has officially changed its name to AwardsDaily. Check out their new format here at www.awardsdaily.com.

Oscarwatch has long been one of the most respected awards blogs on the internet, but was recently sued by the American Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences for trademark infringement of their symbol, the Oscar - stating that the domain name was confusing and could lead people to believe that the site was somehow connected to or endorsed by them.

Which is silly, of course. Oscarwatch was born out of love for the Oscars, and going after people who stir up buzz and interest in your program is akin to biting the hand that feeds you. But the greedy have won out here, and editor Sasha Stone (again, one of the best Oscar bloggers out there) has moved her site and changed its name.

She has divided the site into several sections, in which the name Oscarwatch still exists as a focus on the Academy Awards, while the main page is more general in its focus. The site now also features an Emmywatch, and Indiewatch, and several others.

Here's hoping they keep up the same high standards of Oscar blogging just like they always have.

Sasha, you're one of the best.

BRATZ: The Movie

The apocalypse is upon us:

Monday, May 21, 2007

"Shrek 3" Easily Tops Box Office

Weekend box office estimates:

1. Shrek the Third - $122,000,000
2. Spider-Man 3 - $28,500,000
3. 28 Weeks Later - $5,150,000
4. Disturbia - $3,675,000
5. Georgia Rule - $3,493,000
6. Fracture - $2,375,000
7. Delta Farce - $1,840,000
8. The Invisible - $1,308,000
9. Hot Fuzz - $1,255,000
10. Waitress - $1,135,000

Source: Box Office Mojo


Everyone's favorite green ogre easily took the box office crown from Spider-man this weekend, drawing in $122,000,000. But that's no surprise of course. Spider-man 3 is in it's third weekend of release and is dropping rapidly. What I find most interesting is the presence of Waitress, an indie comedy starring Keri Russell, Jeremy Sisto, and Andy Griffith, in the top ten, having grossed $1,135,000 in only 116 theaters. That's not a huge amount, but impressive for a film of its size in limited release playing against Spider-man 3 and a just released Shrek the Third. Could this end up being this year's Little Miss Sunshine?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

"To Each His Own Cinema"

The 60th Annual Cannes Film Festival is in full swing in the south of France right now. I've been quietly following the buzz, but have yet to blog about because A), well I'm not there, and B) I've been too busy with my acting work right now to do anything but quietly follow it.

However, the film that has most piqued my interest is To Each His Own Cinema, a collection of 33 short films made by 35 of the world's greatest directors (2 were made by two filmmakers, the Coen Brothers and the Dardennes Brothers). The article in Variety nearly made me cry:
The melancholy came at the press meet, as David Cronenberg expressed pessimism about the future of cinema-going.

"I believe the cinema is no longer the cinema. The form of the cinema is a thing of the past," he said. His short film was about the last Jew in the world who holds a gun to his head in the last movie theater in the world.

The "Chacun" shorts features a recurring theme of empty and/or derelict movie theaters, presaging the decline of movie-watching as a collective experience in theaters.

Despite that, the over-arching theme was one of love for cinema, and the emotions it stirs. Asked at the press confab about his personal rapport with the cinema, Atom Egoyan opined that in the not distant future huge halls and movie palaces, the few that are left will be preserved just for "the latest franchise," a la "Spider-Man," and certainly not for classics.

In short, few will ever have the opportunity to see something like Carl Dreyer's "Joan of Arc" on a big screen. His short in fact is a rift on the changes technology is bringing us, showing a young person watching the Danish auteur's classic in a theater and sending images of it over to a friend's mobile as he watches another movie in another moviehouse.

Maybe it's because Carl Dreyer's 1929 silent classic The Passion of Joan of Arc is my favorite film that the article got to me...bringing me into a kind of wistful nostalgia for a period in film that I wasn't even alive for. Maybe it's because I have gotten to see it on the big screen, and it was one of the most emotionally overwhelming experiences of my life. But just the very idea behind the film has really gotten to me, just by reading that article.

I agree with Cronenberg about the current state of cinema. And it makes me sad. Blockbusters are indeed destroying cinema as it once was. I know there are deeper thoughts about this issue in me somewhere, but that is for another post. Perhaps after I have seen the film.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Spielberg and Jackson Team Up

From Variety:

Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson are teaming to direct and produce three back-to-back features based on Georges Remi's beloved Belgian comic-strip hero Tintin for DreamWorks. Pics will be produced in full digital 3-D using WETA Digital’s groundbreaking performance capture technology.

The two filmmakers will each direct at least one of the movies; studio wouldn't say which director would helm the third. Kathleen Kennedy joins Spielberg and Jackson as a producer on the three films, which might be released through DreamWorks Animation.

Tintin has long been a passion project for Spielberg; he and Kennedy have held various film rights to the comedic adventure book series off and on for more than 25 years. With the rights in place, Spielberg, Jackson and DreamWorks began quietly developing the project. Jackson has also long been a fan of the comic books.

Jackson's New Zealand-based WETA Digital, the f/x house behind "The Lord of the Rings" franchise, produced a 20-minute test reel bringing to life the characters created by Remi, who wrote under the pen name of Herge.

"Herge's characters have been reborn as living beings, expressing emotion and a soul which goes far beyond anything we've seen to date with computer animated characters," Spielberg said. "We want Tintin's adventures to have the reality of a live-action film, and yet Peter and I felt that shooting them in a traditional live-action format would simply not honor the distinctive look of the characters and world that Herge created," Spielberg continued.

Official word of the three-pic pact comes just weeks after Jackson inked a deal with DreamWorks to direct "Lovely Bones," based on Alice Sebold's haunting tome about a 14-year-old girl who watches over her family — and attacker — from heaven after she is raped and killed.

Click here to read the full story.


Well this is certainly an interesting move. Each will direct at least one of the three films, no word as of yet on who will direct the third. It seems like an odd project for either director to choose, especially committing to three films. This is either going to be a huge success or a disaster of epic proportions. But with Spielberg and Jackson behind the wheel, it will definitely be worth watching.

Monday, May 14, 2007

"Spider-Man 3" Tops Box Office Again

Weekend box office estimates:

1. Spider-Man 3 - $60,000,000
2. 28 Weeks Later - $10,000,000
3. Georgia Rule - $5,879,000
4. Disturbia - $4,807,000
5. Delta Farce - $3,500,000
6. Fracture - $2,900,000
7. The Invisible - $2,202,000
8. Hot Fuzz - $1,655,000
9. Next - $1,604,000
10. Meet the Robinsons - $1,600,000

Source: Box Office Mojo

Everyone's favorite webslinger was king of the box office again, claiming $60 million, besting the strongest newcomer, the horror sequel 28 Weeks Later, which debuted at #2 with a so-so $10 million. That is a steep 60% decline from last week for Spider-Man 3 (bad word of mouth, perhaps?), but it's total gross now stands at $242,071,000, which isn't anything to sniff at.

Gary Marshall's Georgia Rule stumbled out of the gate with $5,879,000, while the Blue Collar crew failed to make an impression with Delta Farce, which only grossed $3,500,000. The Zach Braff vehicle The Ex crashed and burned at #12 with $1,355,000.

Spidey will most likely not repeat his box-office reign for a third week, as Dreamworks' Shrek the Third opens on Friday.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Has Lars von Trier Directed His Last Film?

From CBC:

Danish director Lars von Trier has revealed he takes no pleasure in filmmaking, and isn't sure whether he can continue to create movies after a period of depression.

"You can't make a film and be depressed at the same time," he said in an interview published Saturday in the Politiken newspaper.

"They say that it can take a couple of years to recover after a depression. But let us see."

Von Trier, who directed Breaking the Waves, Dancer in the Dark starring the singer Bjork and 2003's Dogville starring Nicole Kidman, says the depression has left him "like a blank sheet of paper," losing focus and initiative.

"It's very strange for me, because I've always had at least three projects in my head at one time," said the 51-year-old filmmaker, who was admitted to a Danish hospital at the beginning of this year for treatment.

Von Trier said he's due to begin work in a few months on a horror movie, called Antichrist, but isn't sure whether he can get it started. Antichrist depicts Satan, not God, as the world's creator.


I hope this isn't the end for Von Trier. He is one of my very favorite directors. I had the privilege of attending the East Coast premiere of his latest film, The Boss of it All at the RiverRun International Film Festival last month, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It demonstrated a rare light comedic touch for Von Trier, his depression hasn't affected his skill.

Antichrist sounds interesting, but I'm especially concerned about Wasington, the third part of his America: Land of Opportunities trilogy that began with his masterpiece Dogville, followed by Manderlay a few years later.

Von Trier is too good a filmmaker to lose. Here's hoping he recovers quickly and returns to what he does best. Cinema just wouldn't be the same without him.

The Boss of it All will be released in select cities on May 25. Click here to read my review.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Michael Moore Investigated by U.S. Treasury Department

From Times Online:

In a timely spark of controversy, the American polemicist and filmmaker, Michael Moore, is being investigated by the US Treasury for possible breaches of America's trade embargo with Cuba.

In February, Moore took a group of around 10 former rescue workers still suffering from breathing problems caused by the September 11 attacks for health treatment in Cuba — the idea being to expose America's healthcare system for his latest documentary SiCKO.

But the Associated Press reported today that the trip attracted the attention of the US Treasury's Department of Office of Foreign Assets Control, which monitors the trade embargo imposed on Cuba by John F. Kennedy in 1963. On May 2, Treasury officials wrote to Moore saying he had not received proper authorisation for the journey.

“This office has no record that a specific license was issued authorizing you to engage in travel-related transactions involving Cuba,” wrote Dale Thompson, chief of general investigations and field operations at OFAC, according to the AP. Mr Thompson said Moore was being investigated for civil violations of the embargo, which can carry fines of up to $55,000 per violation.

Click here to read the full story.

Honestly, who cares about the Cuba trade embargo anymore? If this proceeds it will be for political reasons only.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

"Spider-Man 3" Squashes Box Office Competition

Weekend box office estimates:

1. Spider-Man 3 - $148,000,000
2. Disturbia - $5,720,000
3. Fracture - $3,420,000
4. The Invisible - $3,125,000
5. Next - $2,768,000
6. Lucky You - $2,515,000
7. Meet the Robinsons - $2,466,000
8. Blades of Glory - $2,302,000
9. Hot Fuzz - $2,054,000
10. Are We Done Yet? - $1,700,000

Source: Box Office Mojo


Spider-Man 3 was far and away the winner of this weekend's box office, unseating three time champ Disturbia and trouncing the only other major new release, Curtis Hanson's Lucky You, which tanked at #6 with only $2,515,000. In the process, the latest in the lucrative Spider-Man franchise shattered box office records with the highest weekend tally in cinematic history. All this despite some poor word of mouth and middling reviews, which could cause a major drop off next week. Time will tell how Spider-Man 3 performs in the long run against upcoming blockbusters Shrek the Third and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

"Spider-Man 3" Breaks Opening Day Record

From Box Office Mojo:
Spider-Man 3 cast the widest web ever—over 10,000 screens at 4,252 theaters—and nabbed the all-time biggest gross for a single day: an estimated $59 million on Friday.

The previous title holder, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, drew $55.8 million on 8,500 screens at 4,133 theaters, contributing to a record-breaking $135.6 million weekend last July.

Distributor Sony projected Saturday morning that Spider-Man 3 would generate from $135 million to $145 million for the weekend (Friday to Sunday). The studio claimed a $258 million production budget for the Marvel Comics sequel, compared to $200 million for Spider-Man 2 and $139 million for Spider-Man.

Click here to read the full story.


With Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End just around the corner...this is going to be a summer for record breakers.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Spider-Man 3 Breaking Records Already

From MSNBC:

LOS ANGELES - “Spider-Man 3” cast a worldwide web with a blockbuster first day, hauling in $29.15 million in 16 overseas markets and beating the debuts of the previous two “Spider-Man” flicks in each locale.

The film had the best opening day ever Tuesday in some countries, including France, Italy, South Korea and Hong Kong, distributor Sony Pictures said.

“Spider-Man 3” opens over the next couple of days in dozens of other countries, including the United States on Friday.