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DAYBREAKERS trailer

Lionsgate has released the trailer to Daybreakers, a nifty looking new daybreakersvampire film that stars Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill. With the movie franchise Twilight red hot and the HBO television show True Blood a cult hit, vampires are apparently as popular as ever. Personally I like Ethan Hawke as the lead. He was really good starring in the remake of Assault on Precinct 13. Daybreakers hits theaters Jan 8, 2010. Take a LOOK

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June 29, 2009 Posted by | And Beyond - Trailers & News | , , , | Leave a comment

TRANSFORMERS: Revenge of the Fallen – A flat uneventful follow-up

Transformers 2-5There are many things that you can say about director Michael Bay (The Rock), but the one thing I never thought I would ever say is that he could make a boring movie. YES, Michael Bay has delivered a truly bland, uninspired and BORING film with the mega budget follow-up to his worldwide blockbuster, Transformers. Conceived during the writer’s strike, Revenge of the Fallen brings back most of the main characters plus robots, both old and new, but there is a flatness to the entire affair. If I sound greatly disappointed as I write this it’s because I’m a big fan of the original film. I was looking forward to this sequel being a really fun, involving, summer movie – an event film well worth going to the theater to see. The original is one of my favorite popcorn films of the last decade.

In so many ways, Bay’s follow is the definition of the term ‘sequalitis’ (yes, I know that’s not really a word). The same components from the original are there but, for one reason or another, it has almost none of the first film’s magic. Think of the difference between 48 Hours and its sequel Another 48 Hours. Same actors, same premise, NO magic.

Bay clearly made a fatal mistake with the ‘bigger, faster, louder’ theory. Just because something is wider in scope doesn’t mean it’s any better. Transformers 2-2Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox are back as Sam and Mikaela, our two likeable heroes from the first film. Sam’s about to go to college on the East Coast and Mikaela is running an auto body shop with her father in LA. Right before Sam leaves he discovers a shard of the all-powerful, presumed destroyed, all spark cube. After it causes havoc by producing a dozen or so mini decepticons that wreak havoc on his house (in the film’s only moment of real energy and sense of fun) he gives it to his girlfriend Mikaela for safe keeping.

Meanwhile the decepticon’s looking to resurrect their fallen leader Megatron, who is lying on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, are soon hot on their trail. With the help of the good Autobots, Sam and Mikaela have no choice but to go on the run in hopes of finding a way to conquer the alien adversaries. I can assure you the plot is not only thin but it quickly heads down the road to blandness after the first 45 minutes. The next two hours are pretty painful to sit through. When the story has our characters appearing in Egypt for the film’s last half, the whole exercise grinds to a halt and becomes a bore fest of epic proportions. It appeared to me that Bay shot a bunch of extraneous footage for this film’s section and used it for the sake of using it as it doesn’t advance the story in the least.

One of the things I enjoyed so much about Bay’s first Transformers was the humor. It was funny. The scenes featuring the computer hacker (Anthony Anderson) had me buckled over in laughter. He added so much to that film’s overall sense of fun. No such luck this time around. Just about every attempt at humor falls completely flat. From the extended sequence of Sam’s mom (Julie White) hopped up on pot brownies to humping dogs to the twin jive talking and pretty offensive twin autobots named Skids and Mudflap, every attempt is a misfire. Kevin Dunn (Sam’s Father) who was so appealing the first time around is wasted filler in this outing. John Turturro returns, this time as a former G-man who is now a butcher in a Brooklyn Deli. He gives it his all but even his zaniness is not enough to make much of a difference, even in the one scene where he appears wearing a g-string. Okay, I guess it was a decent site gag.
 
It’s nice to see Optimus and Bumble Bee once again who supply a few brief moments of excitement. Shia LaBeouf is a solid lead but, for the most part, he’s buried amongst the noise of Giant Robots fighting throughout. Megan Fox is even more just eye candy the second time around. Director Bay clearly shows no confidence in her ability to act, giving her little to do except look hot. Not exactly a blueprint for a steady career in feature films. While it’s unlikely she will be beating out actresses like Rachel McAdams for roles she must aspire to be more than this.        

The Robots are extremely well done. Bay has clearly mastered CGI but you can only watch them fighting each other so long before you ask yourself “what else is going on here? The answer… not much! Revenge of the Fallen -1.5 out of 5 and a MAJOR disappointment.

June 28, 2009 Posted by | Reviews | | Leave a comment

THE BOX – Trailer

Warner Bros. has released the first trailer to Richard Kelly’s (Donnie Darko) sci-fi horror thriller THE BOX which stars Cameron Diaz, James Marsden and Frank Langella. The film follows the story of a couple who receive a mysterious box that grants them one million dollars but with one catch; once they open the box, a person who they do not know will die. The premise is an interesting one and actually reminds me of a great Twilight Zone episode, “The Man in the Bottle” (1960), about a genie who grants a luckless antique shop owner and his wife four wishes but with every wish warns them of the consequence of their desire. This film’s story has that feel. Take a LOOK

June 27, 2009 Posted by | Reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

Harry Potter is Finally Here!!!

Michael Cooper . Contributing Editor

In less than a month the sixth installment in the Harry Potter franchise will be released with premieres in Tokyo, London and New York on successive days between July 6th and the 8th with worldwide release July 15th. 

harry-potter-and-the-half-bIt’s been nearly 9 months since the movie was originally scheduled to open over Thanksgiving week but, due to the quagmire called the writers strike, studio executives were forced to spread their movies out over a longer period of time so they wouldn’t run out. Finally though, it’s Potter Time and Harry and company have three movies coming our way. After this year’s installment, the follow-up, Deathly Hallows, will be released in two parts on Thanksgiving 2010 with the conclusion in May of 2011, feeding our Harry Potter fix for the next three years.

I’ve been enamored with Joanne Rowling’s Harry Potter since a friend of mine invited me to the premiere of the 5th film two summers ago.  I, like potter1many, had viewed Harry Potter as a children’s story after watching the first two Chris Columbus films. I was intrigued by the third and fourth efforts but got hooked on Potter in #5.

David Yates version of The Order of the Phoenix was a dark fantasy that left so many questions in my mind at the conclusion of the film that I just had to read the book. It began a Potter marathon. I read book five and immediately began The Half Blood Prince. As timing would have it, the seventh and final book was released just as I finished book six. Within a span of a couple of weeks I was at the end of the Potter saga and it was a whirlwind I hadn’t felt since reading Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

Interestingly enough, I went back to the theater a month later to re-potterwatch The Order of the Phoenix and the film that had inspired me to finally read the books left me extremely disappointed by all the significant storyline details left out from the book. I put that blame on screenwriter Michael Goldenberg, best know for 1997’s Contact. He chopped Harry too fine for my tastes and I was glad to see Rowling and the producers agreed by returning

JK Rowling

JK Rowling

former Screenwriter Steven Kloves (Wonder Boys and The Fabulous Baker Boys) to helm the final 3 films.

Kloves and author Rowling have a tremendous relationship and it shows. Watching the previews for Half Blood Prince for the past nine months convinced me they got this one right. Scene after scene is right from the book. Harry is beginning his sixth year at Hogswarts – as each book has followed a time line covering Harry’s life since turning 11.  Now a 16-year-old Harry must face a Voldermort who is beginning to seize power not only of the Wizarding world but the world of humans (muggles) too. 

The movie has eliminated a few important scenes from the book in order to fit into a 2 hour and 33 minute run time. This still makes The Half Blood Prince the third longest film inpotter2 the series. Kloves eliminated Chapter One where the outgoing Minister of Magic, Cornelius Fudge, meets with the British Prime Minister as the world of men and wizards is finally revealed. We learn that the Minister of Magic and the current British Prime Minister always meet when a pending catastrophe could affect both worlds at once. Fudge has been canned after refusing to acknowledge the return of Voldermort until it was too late and explains to the Prime Minister he is being replaced by an potter3alleged vampire named Rufus Scrimgeour (pronounced Scrimge-yore). British actor Bill Nighy was rumored to play Scrimgeour before his part was practically eliminated. Director Yates has apparently fit Scrimgeour in for a brief non-speaking cameo. 

The film replaces chapter one with an opening scene showing the collapse of a muggle bridge. This will be used to explain to the audience that Voldemort is affecting more than just the Wizarding world. Up until this point Rowling’s universe seemed to exist in our world with mankind being completely oblivious to them except for the Dursleys. 

Additional scenes in the book which are cut from the film include a gruesome battle at Hogwarts. Producer David Heyman claims the fight between Death Eaters, Dumbledore’s Army and the Order of the Phoenix would be too repetitious because of battles in book seven – but this really makes zero sense to me at all. That’s like saying the battles in The Two Towers had to be cut because there were more fights in The Return of the King. 

Many of the memory journeys via the Pensieve – the mystical way Harry and Dumbledore travel back in time – have also been cut. These include the murder of Riddle’s father by his son and a scene I really wanted to see on the screen, Voldemort’s bizarre Slytherin family. There are some memory HarryPotterHalfBloodPrinceBscenes that had to be in the movie involving Horcrux’s – the mysterious sinister life forces that become central to the plot of this movie and the next two. Also, director Yates has deemed a significant character’s funeral at the end of Half Blood Prince unnecessary. Frankly, in hindsight, I think they should have made all the books from 4 through 7 into two part movies in order to really capture the story – not to mention making at least an additional billion dollars for the studio.

The title of book six comes from a used potions book given to Harry that contains secret hand written formulas by a former Hogwart’s student who refers to himself as The Half Blood Prince. With the help of these formulas Harry becomes the best potion maker in his class, much to Hermione’s consternation and concern. The mystery of the Half Blood Prince carries on throughout the story and the revelation is a stunner.

teenage Voldemort

teenage Voldemort

Professor Slughorn, with dark ties to Tom Riddle when he was a student at Hogwarts, is the new Potions Master while Professor Snape has finally been rewarded with the teaching post he always-craved – Defense of the Dark Arts.

My biggest disappointment is the loss of the Dursleys. They have become some of my favorite characters from the books. Cutting them out of the fourth film was bad enough but now again in the sixth is a screenwriting mistake by Kloves. However, Quiddich is returning along with two scenes not in the books – Diagon Alley is shown under attack by Voldemort’s Death Eaters and, for whatever reason, Kloves has come up with a Bellatrix Lestrange / Werewolf Fenrir Greyback

young Tom Riddle

young Tom Riddle

attack on Ron’s home in the Burrow. Why so much has been cut and two scenes added is a bit confusing. I’m sure it’s an attempt to create more action because of the book’s big battle scene being cut. More disappontment includes the elimination of the all important elves Kreacher and Dobby along with Ron’s brother Bill and his fiance Fleur, the alluring Vella and Beauxbatons Champion from Goblets of Fire. Bill’s big scene in the book was the Hogwart’s battle where the Werewolf Greyback mauls him. I can report that all will make returns in the two- part Deathly Hallows and will play significant roles.

Potter4This latest movie plot revolves around Harry’s belief that Voldemort has ordered Draco Malfoy on a secret mission in retaliation for all of his father’s failures in the past. Plus we continue to learn more about the early life of Tom Riddle and how it’s not so different from Harry’s. Actor Tom Felton as Draco plays a significant role in this movie along with Hero Fiennes-Tiffin as the 11-year-old Thomas Marvolo Riddle. Hero is also the real life nephew of Ralph Fiennes who plays the adult Voldermort.
 
In the Chamber of Secrets we met the teenage Riddle and found out he changed the letters of his muggle name to create Lord Voldemort. Actor Christian Coulson was deemed too old by Director David Yates to reprise his role and Frank Dillane will replace him. In all seven actors have played Voldermort since the Sorcerors Stone. 

Finally, this film deals with the search for the Horocrux’s that explain why Voldemort did not die when his spell backfired on Harry as a baby and, of course, the assassination of one of the main characters which will change the Potter storyline immeasurably in the final two movies.

George Lucas - Star Wars

George Lucas - Star Wars

I predict these final three Potter films will go down in movie history as the very best of the franchise. They are certainly Rowling’s best writing and, unlike my co-writer on this site Chuck Curry who still considers Potter a children’s story, I believe these concluding books-to-film will stand up with The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars as the greatest fantasy adventures of all time. I also predict that with over 400 million books sold, this

Tolkien - Lord of the Rings

Tolkien - Lord of the Rings

film will indeed overtake Star Trek, Up and Transformers and become the biggest grossing movie of the year.

Already the first 5 Harry Potter movies rank in the top 21 all time box office films worldwide. When it’s said and done, look for an unprecedented 8 of the top 20 all time movie grosses to include the name Harry Potter. Just think about that next time you decide to once again put off writing that great novel in your head.

In 1991 Joanne Rowling was destitute – a divorced 26-year-old mother surviving on welfare. Today she is the richest woman in England and not only has more money than the Queen but has her own castle too. Tolkien, Rowling and Lucas – the triumphant trifecta of fantasy storytelling for this generation of moviegoers.

June 27, 2009 Posted by | And Beyond - Trailers & News, Reviews | | 2 Comments

AMELIA Trailer

Fox Searchlight has released the trailer to Amelia, there biopic about the life of Amelia Earhart, the legendary American Pilot. Amelia Earhart, played by two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank, disappeared while flying over the Pacific Ocean in 1937 in an attempt to make a flight around the world. The film co-stars Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor and Virginia Madsen. This could be a major player come Oscar time. Take a LOOK

June 26, 2009 Posted by | And Beyond - Trailers & News | , | Leave a comment

Huge change at next year’s OSCARS – Ten Best Picture nominees instead of five

OscarStatue_325In one of the more interesting news stories I’ve read in quite some time, the Motion Picture Academy announced today that there will now be 10 films in the Best picture category competing in next year’s 82ND Academy Awards. Not since 1943 has there been this number of eligible films in the category and one has to wonder why…

Clearly the Oscars are losing some of their relevance as ratings for the telecast continue to dwindle year after year primarily due to a lack of mainstream interest. The glaring slight of fan favorite and worldwide critical hit The Dark Knight at this year’s Oscars could have been the tipping point for the Academy to go in this direction. Personally, I  have mixed feelings about this because I don’t want to see the Oscars get watered down to the point of being ridiculous like the Golden Globes but I also feel there are years that high quality films with big mainstream interest get left out.

Let’s be honest, the Academy is way too guarded when it comes to box-office blockbusters and, in many instances, just stuck up. It’s safe to say that the insane snub of The Dark Knight left a bad taste in many mouthes so, while this change might displease the old school crowd, it should delight many others who want to see an Oscar telecast where they have a rooting interest. This change will guarantee at least that.  

OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE
Beverly Hills, CA (June 24, 2009) — The 82nd Academy Awards, which will be presented on March 7, 2010, will have 10 feature films vying in the Best Picture category, Academy Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Sid Ganis announced today (June 24) at a press conference in Beverly Hills.

“After more than six decades, the Academy is returning to some of its earlier roots, when a wider field competed for the top award of the year,” said Ganis. “The final outcome, of course, will be the same – one Best Picture winner – but the race to the finish line will feature 10, not just five, great movies from 2009.”

For more than a decade during the Academy’s earlier years, the Best Picture category welcomed more than five films; for nine years there were 10 nominees. The 16th Academy Awards (1943) was the last year to include a field of that size; “Casablanca” was named Best Picture. (In 1931/32, there were eight nominees and in 1934 and 1935 there were 12 nominees.)

Currently, the Academy is presenting a bicoastal screening series showcasing the 10 Best Picture nominees of 1939, arguably one of Hollywood’s greatest film years. Best Picture nominees of that year include such diverse classics as “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” “Stagecoach,” “The Wizard of Oz” and Best Picture winner “Gone with the Wind.”

“Having 10 Best Picture nominees is going allow Academy voters to recognize and include some of the fantastic movies that often show up in the other Oscar categories, but have been squeezed out of the race for the top prize,” commented Ganis. “I can’t wait to see what that list of ten looks like when the nominees are announced in February.”

The 82nd Academy Awards nominations will be announced on Tuesday, February 2. The Oscar® ceremony honoring films for 2009 will again take place at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, and will be televised live by the ABC Television Network.

June 25, 2009 Posted by | And Beyond - Trailers & News | | Leave a comment

INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS TRAILER #2

inglouriousbasterds-italian-poster-full1The Weinstein Company has released the second trailer to Quentin Tarantino’s World War 2  film, Inglourious Basterds, a revenge flick with Tarantino’s unique vision written all over it. According to several sources (including Nikki Finke) if this film and Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2 don’t perform well at the box-office, Harvey Weinstein’s Film Company could be headed toward bankruptcy. Basterds screened at the Canne film festival last month to more positive than negative reviews but even those who really liked it called the film more ‘talky’ than action oriented. To me that doesn’t spell Box-office dynamo.

Reports also have it that Weinstein wants to cut 40 minutes from its 2 hour and 40 minute running time in order to make the film more marketable to the vast mainstream audience. From a business standpoint I can understand his point of view but I’m sure it won’t make the core Tarantino fans very happy if he accomplishes that feat. While I’m not one who drinks the Tarantino kool-aid, I do like this trailer and look forward to seeing this film. Look for Basterds to march into theaters Aug 21, 2009. LOOK

June 24, 2009 Posted by | And Beyond - Trailers & News | | 1 Comment

BATMAN 1989 – 20 YEAR ANNIVERSARY

batman-artBoy how times flies. I must admit I simply cannot believe that it has been twenty years since Tim Burton’s Batman was released into theaters. Amongst the wildly inventive Bat-emblem posters plastered in subways and on buses, Batman tee-shirts and hats and people walking around dressed as the Joker, it feels like yesterday to me. Well, maybe not yesterday but certainly not two decades ago. While Jaws defined the summer blockbuster, as the first summer film to gross $100 million at the box-office, Batman clearly changed the way studios marketed movies and the after effect is still very prevalent to this day. I wasn’t the biggest of comic book readers but I was pretty excited to see this film as Warner Bros created buzz that was unprecedented at the time. You simply couldn’t go anywhere within a month of its release without seeing that Bat-emblem poster everywhere.

What truly changed the face of movie marketing was a decision by Warner Bros. The studio took a calculated gamble and decided to air the complete coming attraction trailer on a weeknight on all the network channels at about the same time, a month before its June 23rd release date. It created some great water cooler talk and many people, including myself, were psyched. After that trailer was released any negative talk about the casting of Micheal Keaton as the Caped Crusader dissipated and the footage of Jack Nicholson as the Joker was not only the talk of the industry but of movie fans who couldn’t wait to see the first serious take of Batman on film. People were roaring with applause in theathers when that trailer was played.

While I love Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight and the performance of Heath Ledger as the Joker, the hype and overall excitement for that film, no matter how big, wasn’t in the same league as Burton’s original Batman. There truly was a euphoria in the air – contagious and almost surreal for weeks leading up to its release. I honestly can’t remember anything like it. The ABC network magazine show 20/20 also aired a retrospective on the history of the Batman character about a week before its release. It was really well done and also got me pumped. WATCH below

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HI1cqFapYCs

On Friday, June 23, 1989, the highly anticipated film opened to mostly positive reviews with the NY Post giving the film four stars. In those pre-internet days, I remember running to the newstand that morning to buy the Post, the NY Daily news and Newsday in order to read the reviews. While the majority of the reviews were postive, the film did have some detractors with the trade, Variety, and Roger Ebert giving the movie a negative review.

I wound up seeing Batman numerous times in its theatrical run. While I knew the movie had flaws, especially in storytelling, there was something about it that made me keep coming back. I personally loved the mid-section of the film. The Museum sequence where Jack’s Joker batman_posterdances around to Prince’s Party Man was super cool. Batman crashing through the sky light ceiling to save Vicki Vale was great and the introduction of the Batmobile outside the Flugelheim Museum was perfectly executed. Plus Danny Elfman’s score was as good as it gets and really elevated the whole production. Bottom line – despite being far from perfect, I thought it was great. Tim Burton’s Batman had a $40.5 mil opening weekend on 2201 screens and it had legs. It played in theaters for 25 weeks ending up with a domestic gross of $251mil. Its 2201 screens is half of what many big films open up on nowadays.

Batman is a film that has a couple of real legacys. The first is that it was the first serious film take of the comic book hero Batman that helped create one of the most popular franchises. The second is that it truly changed the way movies are marketed. Since the release of Batman 20 years ago, the only weekend that a studio thinks about is its opening one. Studios now use every tool and resource they have to get a huge mass audience into the theater for its opening frame for their high profile tent pole films. There is now no such thing as platforming, building word of mouth (although its always nice) and hoping the film is playing in theaters eight weeks after it comes out. Not for Summer movies. No, its all about the opening weekend and spending the bulk of marketing dollars getting the word out that this is the film you will see now – not next week. It’s all about the event. Maximum effect is the operative goal. While this event usually doesen’t last very long, and the legacy of any given film doesn’t burn in ones memory, Batman was truly a game changer. Love it or hate it, Jon Peters, Peter Guber, Tim Burton and Warner Bros made history on June 23, 1989. Theres no doubt about that and every studio had its marketing blueprint in place thereafter. HAPPY Anniversary and thanks for the memories!

June 22, 2009 Posted by | And Beyond - Trailers & News | 2 Comments