Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Sex and the City 2’

2010 – The Year in (moving) Pictures…

January 5th, 2011 No comments

Charles Dickens wrote in “A Tale of Two Cities” “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” but he might as well have been talking about the film year just passed. 2010 brought us pronounced Hollywood highs and lows, from the (continued) historic box-office success of 3-D juggernaut “Avatar” to the cringe-worthy release of “Sex and the City 2,” but perhaps the biggest story all year has been the public’s perceived paucity of quality entertainment coming from Hollywood. For every success like “Toy Story 3,” there were scads of expensive failures, from “The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader” or “The Sorceror’s Apprentice” to “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” (the latter two films being rare flops from mega-budget producer Jerry Bruckheimer). And then there was “The Last Airbender,” which offended fans of the series and struck out both artistically and at the box office, despite being 3-D retrofitted by Paramount.

But the news wasn’t all bad: there were big-budget successes (other than Fox’s “Avatar,” which made $477 domestically in 2010), like Tim Burton’s 3-D opus “Alice in Wonderland,” which earned Disney $334 million, as well as the think-piece of the year, Christopher Nolan’s “Inception,” which simultaneously thrilled and confounded audiences with its reality-bending storyline, pulling in $293 million domestically for Warner’s. Harry Potter made a return to America’s movie screens in “Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows: Part 1” and pulled-in $273 million, but the film couldn’t be made into 3-D by its already-set release date, so Warner Brothers sacrificed B.O. bucks while gleaning praise by purists for not cutting corners. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for Warner’s “Clash of the Titans,” which, like ‘Airbender,’ retrofitted itself to 3-D, with predictably bad artistic results (although being the first at the trough helps, since ‘Titans’ made over $163 million domestically).

But when the Motion Picture Academy announces its Oscar nominees on January 25, 2011, don’t expect to hear too many of these films being mentioned. For starters, “Avatar” was a 2009 release, and it did OK at the 2010 Oscars, but James Cameron’s ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow walked away with the statuettes for Best Picture and Best Director for “The Hurt Locker,” and that film also won for Mark Boal’s original screenplay. This year it’s about critically acclaimed movies (think  either low-budget or so-so box office), like The Weinstein Company’s “The King’s Speech,” whose ad campaigns seem eerily reminiscent of “Shine,” probably because of star Geoffrey Rush, or Sony’s David Fincher-directed, Aaron Sorkin-scripted “The Social Network,” which packs so much dialogue into its two hour running-time that the shooting script was 180 pages long. Another  potential nominee is Danny Boyle’s ultra-intense “127 Hours,” but after his manic “Slumdog Millionaire,” it’s doubtful he’d win again so soon, but James Franco seems a lock for a Best Actor nomination. While you’re at it, add “Black Swan” and Natalie Portman to the list, as well as Lisa Chodolenko’s “The Kids are All Right,” which seems destined to earn a few acting nominations for its stars. David O. Russell’s “The Fighter” falls into this group of critically-lauded but low-performing films.

One of the year’s best reviewed films is also its longest and hardest to find. “Carlos,” a 5 1/2 hour epic by Olivier Assayas about the international terrorist known as ‘Carlos the Jackal.’ The film was made for Canal Plus; it’s a demanding biography that travels through the history of international terrorism of the 1970s and 1980s. Because Assayas’ film was initially made for television (and already aired, last October, on the Sundance Channel) it won’t be earning any Oscar nominations. Even still, “Carlos” consistently placed highly on critics’ year-end ‘best’ lists, and was an audience favorite at last year’s Cannes Film Festival.

2010 wasn’t really a year for the record books – domestic box office receipts dropped along with ticket sales, approximately 5%. But the 3-D ‘premium’ ticket price kept things nearly even. Even still, of the top ten films at the U.S. box office in 2010, 6 of them were 3-D – but only 2 of those were live-action films: “Avatar” and “Alice in Wonderland.” The remaining films were all animated: “Toy Story 3,” Universal’s “Despicable Me,” and Paramount’s “Shrek Forever After” and “How to Train Your Dragon.” So although 3-D is credited with bringing additional change into studio coffers, that trend seems to be slipping, with audiences growing more picky about whether they spring for the extra bucks to see “Yogi Bear” in 3-D. Although more 3-D films are in the works, it’s still not clear whether 3-D is a technological advance in filmmaking – or a way for the studios to grab a few extra bucks.

With more big-budget films coming your way for 2011, there should be plenty for everyone. Did I mention Sony’s “The Green Hornet” opens in 3-D next week? See you at the movies!

Movies That Will Stay With You

August 2nd, 2010 No comments

In a summer of mostly instantly unforgettable movies (anybody remember “Sex and the City 2” or “Robin Hood”? I didn’t think so), I began to think about older movies I’ve seen that have stayed with me – because their stories and plots were so compelling, or because the films themselves were so thought-provoking. Most of them, if not all, are available on Netflix or Blockbuster.com, and if you seek out an alternative to today’s formulaic fare, you might want to check out one of these memorable flicks. But be warned – ‘different’ or ‘memorable’ aren’t always ‘more fun.’ Some of these movies are downers, truth be told. But they’re all affecting – and effective. If you want to stretch your cinematic boundaries, give one (or more) of these films a try.

  1. “Nobody Knows”  This Japanese film from writer/director Hirokazu Koreeda is based on a true story of a Japanese mother whose efforts to hide her children from her landlord and neighbors take on tragic proportions. A ‘Home Alone‘ cautionary-tale of the first order, this film has haunted me ever since I saw it – 2 years ago. Because it remains so affecting, it will probably be a while until I watch it again, but I recommend it to anyone who loves good movies – with a caveat that parents of young children shouldn’t watch it with them (it’s rated PG-13), and that it is as troubling as it is fulfilling, movie-wise.
  2. “The Passenger”  This film, I feel, represents the late Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni at the peak of his career. With earlier arthouse hits like “L’Avventura” and “Blow Up,” he cemented his place in world cinema. In “The Passenger,” which employs his trademark brand of nihilistic plotting, a reporter (played by Jack Nicholson) trades places with a dead arms dealer, with predictably ambiguous results. The film represents a nifty travelogue of sorts, but the movie’s ending will leave you puzzling for a long time.
  3. The 400 Blows”  Francois Truffaut’s autobiographical film (and the first of his ‘Antoine Dionel’ features) is a gritty, no-holds-barred retelling of his own wayward youth. As a foot-soldier director in the first wave of the French ‘New Wave,’ Truffaut crafted a kinetic, homage-laden film which revealed his affinity to work with young actors, and which featured the most famous ‘foreign film’ ‘freeze frame ending’ in cinema history. Truffaut and Jeanne-Pierre Leaud would go on to make at least 5 other movies which deal with the Doinel/Truffaut character.
  4. “The Wicker Man”  Not the disappointing 2006 remake from  Neil LaBute, but rather the 1973 original feature film written by Anthony Shaffer and starrring the late Edward Woodward. A ‘lost classic’ for a number of years, “The Wicker Man” resurfaced a decade or so after its initial theatrical run. Although the 2006 remake did its best, Woodward’s final scene in the original is one of haunting realization and bravura acting, and stays with the viewer long after the credits have played.
  5. “Seconds”  This 1966 black-and-white cult classic from director John Frankenheimer (“Ronin”) is a disturbing and prescient look into the world of “Nip/Tuck” some 30 years later… Rock Hudson plays a middle-aged businessman who learns of a way to ‘do-over’ his life, courtesy of a super-secret organization that can make you look younger, offer a great career and even jettison your old identity… but at a hefty price.
  6. “Night Moves”  Arthur Penn’s 1975 film about private dick Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman) is an existential film noir which deals with themes of self-worth, sensuality and self-control. Penn’s touch is evident from his emphasis on young actress Melanie Griffith’s sexuality to the film’s utterly 1970s ‘director’s ending.’ I suspect if this picture were made in a later decade, the studio would’ve forced Penn to shoot multiple endings for the DVD release… (By the way, his 1976 film “The Missouri Breaks” is worthy of an extra look, but keep in mind that next-door-neighbors – in this case Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando – do not best co-stars make…)
  7. “The Blair Witch Project”   OK, don’t laugh. This film was one of the first ‘viral marketing’ efforts which actually took root. Since then there have been a LOT of imitators, but with the exception of “Paranormal Activity,” no one has come close (including the ‘Blair Witch ‘ sequel) to the success of this film’ssuccess.  First-person point-of-view may be trite, but it WORKS… As a result, this low-budgeted film gets points for profit – and being the first at the trough…
  8. “Paths of Glory”  Two words: Stanley Kubrick. It’s early Kubrick at that… and the result is fantastic. Watch this film all the way through and tell me you are not surprised… “Paths of Glory”: features several great twists and superior performances; not the least of which is a sequence involving a frightened female German singer in the movie’s disturbing – but eventually cathartic – final scene. Although billed as Susanne Christiane, she became better known as Christiane Kubrick – the director’s wife.

If you recognize a common thread through these films, it’s that they are the product of bygone days. It’s not that older films are better, but sometimes more mature filmmakers can recognize  a human condition that is timeless. They are also – in most cases – the films of my youth. And that makes them even more valuable. There’s not a cookie-cutter movie here – they are all originals.

Why not give one a try?

Is that a Tentpole in your pocket? (Or are you just shoring-up your slate?)

May 10th, 2010 No comments

Here’s a number for you: 133,600,000. That’s the amount of money, in dollars, “Iron Man 2” made in the U.S. over its opening weekend, putting it in first place (and fifth among all-time 3-day opening weekends).

Here’s another number: 14.5. That’s how many times greater “Iron Man 2″‘s B.O. take is than the #2 grossing film of the week, the rebooted “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” which couldn’t crack $10 million – it made $9.2 million. As a matter of fact, the “Iron Man” sequel brought in three and a half times as much money as the rest of the weekend’s remaining ‘top ten’ combined. And worldwide, the film has already topped $325 million.

All this preoccupation with numbers and large box office opening weekends can only mean one thing: the summer movie tentpole season is here.

So, what IS a tentpole? There are varying definitions, but it basically boils down to one thing (doesn’t everything?): money. A tentpole film is a ‘property’ whose commercial potential a studio feels so strongly about that it throws money at the production (and subsequent marketing, advertising, publicity, and so on) and counts on its box office results to line studio coffers and reinforce the studio’s other releases, some of which may be mere ‘filler,’ like B-movie ‘programmers’ of old. In other words, a tentpole props up the studio bottom line, and it is part of a strategy the majors have grown increasingly dependent upon for nearly the last two decades.

“Iron Man 2” is the first of the summer tentpoles, but it will soon be followed by a flood of contenders for box office supremacy, from Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe’s reteaming in the testosterized version of “Robin Hood” to the gynocentric “Sex and the City 2.” Along the way, there will be a video game brought to the big screen – Disney’s “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time,” a couple of the summer’s few remaining 3-D films, “Shrek – The Final Chapter” and “Toy Story 3” from Disney. There’s also a retooling of “The Karate Kid” starring Jackie Chan alongside Will Smith’s son Jaden, and other big-budget entries like “The A-Team,” Tom CruiseCameron Diaz starrer “Knight and Day,” and M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Last Airbender.” And that’s just the half of it.

 Sony will release “Grown Ups,” starring Adam Sandler and his pals Kevin James, David Spade, Chris Rock and Rob Schneider. There’s another episode in the ‘Twilight’ saga, “Eclipse,” opening June 30th, and Christopher Nolan’s “Inception,” which stars Leonardo DiCaprio, will come out July 16. “Inception” has already garnered ‘industry buzz’ because of the secrecy surrounding the project, its large budget and rumors that the final result is mind-bendingly inaccessible. Angelina Jolie returns to big screen action in the spy drama “Salt” in late July. One week later, Matt Damon-starrer “The Adjustment Bureau” opens, just before a last 3-D summer entry, Disney’s “Step Up” three-quel “Step Up 3-D.” Though probably not technically considered a ‘tentpole’ picture, it’s important to note that Julia Roberts will return to the screen after a protracted absence in the film version of Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir “Eat, Pray, Love” on August 13.

This is the time of year the studios depend on to bring in the ‘big bucks,’ and they’re throwing everything they can into their efforts to ensure their tentpole films are successful. Watch for lots of TV advertising, viral marketing, and commercial tie-ins, not to mention talk-show appearances and other promotional efforts. It’s Hollywood’s high season, and every studio will do anything they can to get you into THEIR tent – as they hope their tentpoles can help keep them covered…