The Hot Blog Archive for May, 2017

Friday Estimates by He Better Hope There Isn’t A Recording Of the Box Office Before He Estimates Klady

Friday Estimates 651w 2017-05-13 at 8.42.34 AM

Oh Guardians, my Guardians…

The second volume isn’t maintaining the “50% improved over the original” pace of the opening, but it is still well ahead of the first and internationally, it has already three-quarters of the way to the entire international gross for the first film ($326m going into this weekend vs 440m for the full run of the original). Given that, it is likely that V2 will come close to the total gross of V1 by the end of this worldwide weekend and it will pass it by next weekend (unless it somehow manages that feat by this Sunday).

Meanwhile, two new films arrived, neither encumbered in any way by Guardians’ haul this weekend… and both are as soft as a penis Amy Schumer would make into a gag about her not being attractive enough. (She is plenty attractive, but careeer-wise, should probably stop jumping between denying it and overstating it.) Ironically, the entire idea of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is that it is rock hard. (I know… pushing the metaphor too hard… damn, did it again by mistake!) The male gaze upon the male is the least of KA’s problems.

There is a legit difference between these films. King Arthur will, unless saved by international, lose a bunch of money. Snatched, which I assume stayed under $50 million, will be breakeven or lose just a little. So a tale of two grosses that don’t lead to the same sadness.

Meanwhile, the #4 and #5 in the box office are both billion-dollar worldwide movies.

Not an interesting weekend. Paris Can Wait will be the exclusive-release representative in the $10k per screen club. Have a lovely Saturday. Enjoy streaming something!

12 Comments »

BYOB 051217

byob_shubeck

19 Comments »

The Myth of Movie Industry Myths: Exporting Films Of Color

There are things that are true and there are things that we want to believe.

The media loves to accuse Hollywood of all manner of malfeasance. (This piece claims to correct a myth and this piece claims that Hollywood is so invested in keeping women and people of color down that it is lying to itself.)

But often, the attacks are inaccurate, and even insulting, as well as ignorant of how Hollywood works, who is making choices and what the real intentions are.

There are plenty of ways to manipulate the system from the outside (that’s us, media). Shame works… to some degree. Studio execs take action to avoid public embarrassment. But in my decades of experience watching this industry, that will be only a temporary adjustment.

Things move slowly. Change happens. If you look at the face (and faces) of movies today, there is a marked difference from 20 years ago. There are still a lot of white male faces. A majority. Too many. Yes. But still, there is change. There is change in the content. The things characters say and do. And even much greater openness to color-blind and gender-blind and orientation-blind casting. Not enough. No.

But today, I want to get away from feelings and opinions about how movies starring or depicting people of color work outside of the U.S. and just look at numbers.

Every year, there are between 130 and 160 wide releases (over 1,000 screens at some point in the run) in the domestic market. Statistically, about 20 of those should be “of color” to match American society.

Here is the count from the last 5 years (2012 – 2016)
2016 – 21
2015 – 10
2014 – 12
2013 – 20
2012 – 12

The thing that jumps out immediately is that the fewest films “of color” released in any of these years was in 2015, which not coincidentally became the “Oscar So White” year.

Conversely, 2016, which saw a big bump in nominations for people of color was also, not coincidentally, the biggest year for wide releases of films “of color” in this survey.

We have had 46 wide releases in the U.S. so far in 2017, about a third of the films that will roll out. There have been seven movies led by people of color.  So that seems like a pretty good year coming. But I only see seven or so similar movies on the schedule. Ideally, that number will evolve upward, including wider expansion than currently planned for smaller titles.

Domestic grossers over $100 million will leads of color:

2016 – 5
2015 – 4
2014 – 1
2013 – 2
2012 – 5

But to the question, what about international?

In recent years, the standard for international is that most (about two-thirds of) American-made wide release films generate more than 50% of their overall box office from international markets.

How many films led by people of color are generating 50% or better overseas?

2016 – 6 of 21
2015 – 2 of 10
2014 – 3 of 12
2013 – 7 of 20
2012 – 4 of 12

That’s 22 of 75, or 29%… or less than half the rate that is the norm in the industry for films that have been released widely in North America.

But it’s worse than that, because the other alleged myth is the perception that a select group of movie stars of color are the “only ones” who do well overseas. But of those 22 films that did 50%+ overseas, 10 starred with Will Smith, Dwayne Johnson or Vin Diesel. (I’m not counting Moana for The Rock.)

Denzel Washington didn’t have a movie in the past five years that made over half its grosses overseas. In a remarkable career in which he has been a consistent box office draw in America for over 20 years, he has had only six movies in which more than half the box office came from international. And only one, Deja Vu, crossed that 50% mark without a white co-star who was a solid international box office draw. But the truth is, when Denzel started doing around 40% overseas consistently (on top of his expected domestic $70m & up), he was marked as a worldwide draw.

Of the other 11 films of color that grossed over 50% internationally, two were Best Picture winners (12 Years A Slave and Moonlight), three more were Best Picture nominees (Django Unchained, Life of Pi, Lion). Two were animated (Moana and The Book of Life), two specifically targeted Spanish-speaking audiences (Instructions Not Included and The 33), there was a biopic about an international figure (Mandela), a comedy (Scary Movie 5) and one tentpole that was dominated by white stars (Independence Day: Resurgence).

Maybe you don’t like these statistics.

Creed only grossed 37% of its gross internationally. But that 37% was $64 million. Seriously impressive. The Butler did $60 million, though that was only 34%. It would be wrong for anyone to say that there are no success stories.

A dozen films with black leads did over $100 million internationally in the last five years. But again, aside from the Big 3 and animation, there was only ID4:2 and that didn’t lean too hard on Jessie T. Usher or make him a movie star.

Here’s another stat…in the past five Oscar seasons, three Best Picture winners did over 50% of their box office overseas and two did not. The two that didn’t were Spotlight and Argo.

There are very real arguments that can be made about why films of color do not play as well overseas as other films. Does the system downgrade these films, signalling audiences in other countries to pay less attention? Is there significantly less being spent on marketing, given the history? Has the bias been so institutionalized that there are a hundred small things holding these films back in other countries?

Still, it would be dishonest not to question openly whether other countries are, in their moviegoing mainstreams, less racially tolerant than the U.S.

I don’t have an answer. The Intouchables, with a black man and a white man as co-leads, did record-breaking business in most countries of the world other than the U.S., racking up over $400 million. Omar Sy is an international star now. And the failure of the film in the U.S. points much more at Weinstein focusing on remake rights than the film itself.

Explain to me why Queen of Katwe performed better in the U.S. than A United Kingdom, but not as well internationally. I don’t know. (I could come up with a theory, but that’s not the point.) The two films are different, but both are fight-your-way-to-a-feel-good with roots on the African continent with the same lead actor. Theories aside, is there an answer to this question?

With due respect, when you are arguing that Straight Outta Compton is a shining example of international success, you are starting with an illusion. Did Universal expect it to play overseas? No. Is $40 million pretty strong for the film internationally? Yes. Would Universal or any other studio budget based on expecting $40 million or more international on their next black-historical-musical-character film? No, of course not. Not any more than they would budget a film like Get Out anticipating a $100m domestic gross… even months after it actually happened for Get Out. It has nothing to do with color. (Jason Blum is still very white.)

12 Years a Slave did $6.6 million in Italy while Creed did $650k, Selma did $1.8 million, and Collateral Beauty did $10 million. How do you sort out those numbers and come up with an argument about how films with people of color play in Italy? There are theories, but they all seem nebulous when you look closer at slices of history.

All that said… if you want to suggest  that there is a positive trend line – and I think there is – and that opportunity is limited by false claims that success in this direction is only an anomaly, you cannot make the argument by arguing only the anomalies. Regardless of what Twitter might have to say, the people who control the pursestrings – even the “good” ones – are smarter than that. They understand risk. And they understand that there are difficulties to be taken into account. Of course, the same is true of every movie that is made.

Trends in the movie business are not created by exceptions, but by repeatable rules. Those rules can and often do change, but more slowly than many of us would like.

2 Comments »

Review: King Arthur: The Lege…

hunnam arthur b 651w

 

 

 

I won’t bury the lede. This movie SUCKS. King Awful!

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is the kind of movie that’s so bad that you wonder who greenlit the film at Warner and whether they have already been fired. (Answer: Greg Silverman… yes, he’s been gone for six months.)

There is only one reason why you would ever consider giving Guy Ritchie $100 million (which ballooned up to over $200 million) to make a King Arthur movie. “Sherlock Holmes 3,” which is still not a sure bet to happen.

What makes the greenlight on Arthur even more shocking is The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which the studio had to have seen before Arthur started shooting, a terrible, terrible movie that lost money after a $110m worldwide gross.

Incomprehensible loyalty to bad directors with giant egos had a big footpront at Warner Bros. Robinov was the walking definition of Old Boys Club. And the studio’s inability to get over the hump on DC has one giant thumbprint on it… Zack Snyder. After the surprise, massive, stunt-y hit that was 300, Snyder had three straight WB movies that lost large amounts of money. While that usually marks the end of a career, much less a relationship with a single studio, Snyder was handed the crown jewels. And yes, the numbers are up… incrementally, But even with Batman and Superman combined, Snyder could only earn the #7 slot in last year’s worldwide box office chart… not a disaster, but not what they needed.

Another problem is that WB has allowed these guys to cast really good-looking guys who don’t have the Movie Star muscle and never will. I have nothing against Henry Cavill or Charlie Hunnam. But neither of these very good looking, very earnest actors has that gear that takes our experience of staring at their faces, 30 feet high, to the level of magic. You are either born with that or you are not. They are not. The power of every close-up of Jude Law in this film, most of which are meaningless, shows how he has that magic (however mismanaged in past years). Even Eric Bana, who was born to be a character actor—and while good-looking, is not a natural lead—brings more weight than Hunnam does here. Just the way it is.

I have some more bad news… pretty sure that, as beautiful as she is, Gal Gadot doesn’t have that magic thing either. Affleck has it more than other Justice Leaguers. Ezra Miller has it… but does Snyder know how to exploit it? And Jason Momoa? Who the hell knows? So far, he is a grunter, showing none of the extra charm of a Dwayne Johnson… but who knows? Zach Snyder’s taste in casting was once exceptional. Dawn of the Dead was overloaded with interesting, clever choices. And Watchman was damn well cast, with a couple small exceptions. But it’s been downhill since 300, once production became more important than the acting.

But back to the hyperactive turd that is King Arthur

I don’t want to just list everything that is wrong with this movie, because neither you nor I have that kind of time. Let’s just look at one simple head-scratcher… Giant evil elephants.

“What could be wrong with giant evil elephants,” you ask? “It’s sword-and-sorcery. Stop being such a buzzkill! ”

Well… I was okay with the giant (like 50 feet tall) evil elephants, at first. They were, after all, only evil because they were being made so by a bad wizard of some kind in some way (unclear, but I would make room for that lack of clarity as well).

BUT… the elephants were not made giant by magic in this film. When the evil light goes out of their eyes, they are still giant, just not evil (even kind of good… kinda).

So in this movie, they live in a world with GIANT ELEPHANTS.

But wait… they don’t. Never see another giant anything. (Some big snakes… but perhaps hallucinations.)

Picking the world in which your story takes places and remaining reasonably consistent is so basic. Otherwise, you are making YouTube videos writ large.

Ritchie’s twist on King Arthur isn’t complex. Take the original and add The Lion King. Add some Harry Potter effects (not as well done). Add quick editing that makes parts of this film dangerous for ticket buyers with epilepsy. And voila! You’ve got a crap movie.

It’s not all hideous crap. There are a few moments, here and there. But almost everything is ham-fisted. There are some likable actors (including Hunnam). There are some fun moments. But tell the damned story!

I would have been thrilled to have a sequence as exciting as Conan’s fight between Conan and the cheesy giant snake… because it was about Conan, not his magic, light-saber sword. They film pretends that the Jude Law character has an arc… but it turns out to be a lie… and even that is just something you figure out, not storytelling.

Maybe the best chance for something interesting here is Astrid Bergès-Frisbey as the Merlin of the story… even though Merlin is mentioned and somehow not around. But it’s a dead end. Turns out that she is Beastmaster with an eye condition. But who is she?!?! What motivates her? What challenges her? What does she want (aside from the good guy beating the bad guy)?

And don’t even get me started on the Guy Ritchie cameo(s), with a LOT of dialogue.

Not bad enough to be fun. You may catch a scene on TV that makes you turn your head for a minute or two. Fair enough. But as Peggy Lee sang, is that all there is?

14 Comments »

RIP Michael Parks

Michael Parks sings! On “The Johnny Cash Show,” March 25, 1970.

2 Comments »

Review: Snatched (minimal spoilers)

snatched 651w a

Snatched is the movie that people feared Trainwreck might be. In Amy Schumer’s first feature, we were fortunate to get a coherent, quirky narrative with charming sidebars. Not so lucky here.

The premise is not unfamiliar. It’s a fish-out-of-water wacky international romp with the added twist of it being daughter/mother instead of a mismatched romance.

Colin Higgins was the master of this form, and sure enough, he and this style of filmmaking were a big part of Goldie Hawn’s ascension to movie star with Foul Play in 1978. Michael Ritchie was another often-great director who worked this wire, as he did with Ms. Hawn in Wildcats. And perhaps another inspiration here was Hawn’s turn in Private Benjamin, directed by Howard Zieff.

But Snatched isn’t a straight play on the form. It has the good, and the bad, of Amy Schumer’s comic ideas and ambitions. I have no idea whether Katie Dippold was driving this screenplay, although she was on set through most of the production. One gets the feeling, watching this, that the script was followed and then they did a few for Amy, trying to find the topper that wasn’t on the page.

The first disastrous choice on this was hiring Goldie Hawn to play the straight man to Schumer’s comic character. It’s not what she does. She can play comedy or drama. She can even play “The Girl” when she likes. Watching Hawn play the stick in the mud while Schumer mugs for the camera is frustrating. But in this broad, active comedy, the Goldie Hawn we know and love shows up for a brief moment in the third act. Too little, too late.

A similar, though smaller mistake, is made by the utter waste of one of the great comic actresses of her generation, Joan Cusack. I guess the idea of her playing a woman who can’t speak because she cut out her tongue is, uh, amusing. And some of the best laughs in the film are from her character (stunt doubled) doing unexpected physical things. But she – and her partner character, Wanda Sykes – are never allowed the space to make the mark that they are more than capable of making. They aren’t allowed to be Stan & Ollie, because while Cusack is silently in the background, Sykes is talking, and she is very funny. But it never works as a duo act inside the body of this other film. (And of course, we all know that they biggest laugh from the silent character comes when they finally speak… which can’t happen after a throwaway joke about cutting out her own tongue.)

But the biggest problem is that Schumer is playing dumb… perhaps stupid. And she takes it to a level that doesn’t serve her well. It’s kind of like, “If you loved Amy in Trainwreck as a smart but insecure late-20s/early 30s woman with a fear of commitment who finally gets it together, you’ll REALLY LOVE Amy as a self-indulgent woman/child with a clinging, enabling mother who really learns nothing through the course of the movie and keeps us from seeing her mother fully blossom because she is taking up all the screen time.”

I had a hard time recovering from the “your boob is out” joke that happens around the end of the first act, but not just because it wasn’t very funny. And not because Ms. Shumer’s breast is anything less than lovely. But because it reeked of desperation in a way that make me cringe. I am not a fan of the few instances of male comics whipping out their penises either. However, when Jason Segel rolls it out, it isn’t just a sight gag, even though it always starts as a shock gag. There is a storytelling value to the choice (for better or worse). And in a movie like There’s Something About Mary, the show of scrotum is part of an entire gag. And the shock comedy boobs in that movie are Madga’s, whose breasts are hanging below her waist. That is a broad joke. Not, “Hey I showed my boob.” Even if the gag here was that they were dancing and the camera pulled back and she had one boob out, it would feel like a part of the storytelling, not a spit take.

So much of the movie feels like it is working a clear, fairly familiar idea, only to be sidetracked by someone trying really hard to be funny instead of trusting the storytelling. The side characters, including Cusack & Sykes, Chris Meloni, Ike Barinholtz and Bashir Salahuddin all deliver, but are not given enough room to be as memorable as they should be. Only Randall Park, at the top of the film, gets to complete his mission.

I am willing to take broad leaps with a film, particularly with a comedy, when it comes to structure and narrative flow. I am certainly willing to suspend disbelief. But I need a little flow. I want something more than a series of gags – even if some make me laugh – unless you are doing something drop-dead funny (see: Borat).

Pretty much every big laugh in this film, except for the opening, is one-off.

I am a fan of Jonathan Levine, going back to All The Boys Love Mandy Lane, which I saw in Toronto and thought was funny back then. He works hard to make the movie look good and to keep it flowing.

We never knowsthe power structure on a film unless we were there. So I don’t know who to blame. I just know that it was not good. And that is a shame, given the talent involved.

I probably should have known from the title… because I am pretty sure it is meant to be hysterically raunchy. I’m sure there is some context in which I would find that funny. But not this one.

1 Comment »

After The Tease For The Trailer After The Teaser And The Full-On Trailer, Here’s Four BLADE RUNNER: 2049 Stills

BR-CC-7288

Lay the odds. Can it be good? Can Roger Deakins get an Oscar?

Read the full article »

17 Comments »

Weekend Estimates by I Am Klady, Vol 2

Weekend Estimates 2017-05-07 at 9.02.31 AM

Analysis to come… around 11a pdt

8 Comments »

Review-ish: Alien Covenant (spoiler-free)

alien-covenant-trailer-breakdown3

The third act of a movie is a magical thing. A story can drag through two acts, but if that third act really pops and the audience leaves the theater excited, the not-so-exciting journey to get to the end is forgotten and the buzz remains. But the reverse is also true. This phenomenon is as true for most film critics as it is for “the great unwashed.”

And that is the great challenge for Alien Covenant. If Alien was a haunted house movie and Aliens was a war movie, Covenant is the franchise’s take on “Heart of Darkness.” For 2 acts or so, it cooks. For a well-worn franchise, Ridley Scott comes up with all kinds of new stuff. It’s familiar, but he finds original ideas and images that feel organic.

No doubt, Scott responds to some of the critical complaints about Prometheus, however indirectly. People who HATED the map guys getting lost and characters making dumb choices around the eggs… your anger has been addressed and the answers work well.

Fassbender does nothing to disprove that he is one of our greatest actors. Simply explaining what kind of work he does here is a spoiler, so I won’t. But let’s say that he and Scott found an opportunity for him to top the tremendous work he did on Prometheus.

The rest of the cast harkens back to the original Alien. The actors are familiar, but not movie stars. The audience legitimately can believe, from the start to near the end, that virtually anything could happen to any one of the characters. I was rooting for one more massive twist, but… no. Still, every one of these actors delivers something different.

The leads are uniformly good. But beyond that, Danny McBride, Carmen Ejogo, Callie Hernandez and Amy Seimetz all overdelivered my expectations in this context. There is one “unexpected” performance that I assume was meant to be clever… but it plays flat and I wish wasn’t there. But you will have to pick that out for yourself.

There are even unexpected moments that are utterly genre gratuitous… but I loved that. Sex, Hysteria, Boobs, Cowardice, Bad Hair. I was excited by the surprises inside the surprises.

And this is what makes the final 20 minutes or so of the movie so very frustrating. It just isn’t the same movie as what came before. It’s beautifully executed and well acted and all. But it stops being its own thing and become part of a franchise in a variety of ways, all of which cooled my blood considerably.

As we left the theater, a journalist friend pointed out this film’s place on the franchise timeline… and yeah, it made complete sense.

It’s not just that, to be honest. The disconnect starts with a “what happened off camera” theatrical device that just never works. It could have. It doesn’t. But it is so obvious that you spend time wondering when the twist is coming and what it means if there isn’t a twist, distracting you from just being in the still very busy action movie.

I don’t know if there more scenes were shot. I don’t know if there were 30 passes at the editing of those last 20 minutes, trying to get it just right. I don’t know if Mr. Scott, who is one of our very best audience-thrilling filmmakers, thinks it works as it is.

There is so much right about Alien Covenant that what is wrong at the end is an incredible frustration. There are so few movies that do what the film does well. And I want to be all about the parts I truly enjoyed. But when it comes at the end of the movie, it’s the October 28 James Comey letter… even when it gets corrected, it’s too late to get the bad taste out of your mouth.

I will see Alien Covenant again… because of all the good, all the joyous horror thriller fun. And I will look forward to the next film(s) in the franchise, though it clearly evolves here from the original, unique franchise idea of changing up the genre each time out to doing variations on the same idea, movie after movie. Run. Scream. Rinse. Repeat.

11 Comments »

Friday Estimates by Klady Raccoon

friday estimates may 6 8a 651w

 

My instinct on movies like Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2 is to shut down the overanalysis. It is so easy, covering box office, to get stuck in the weeds.

It will be the 44th $100 million opening of all-time. There were EIGHT last year.

It will be the second $100 million opening of this year. There were three before the summer last year.

It will be the fifth biggest summer opener for the Marvel-Made MCU in the last 6 years. (The non-MCU opener was Sony’s Amazing Spider-Man 2, which launched to “only” $91 million in 2014.)

Gv2 cost about $50 million (25%) more than the first of the series (Disney copping to $30m), but will open to about 50% more domestically.

Guardians is very successful, but internationally, the first film was at the bottom of the list (next to Thor 2) of the post-Avengers MCU. Disney will be looking to smash the bar of 60% of total gross coming from international.

Kurt Russell is a great choice for his role in Gv2 for so many Disney-esque reasons, but Disney folks will be wondering if they should have spent the extra dollars on Kevin Costner about now.

Anyone who whines about a $140-$155m opening is a bit of an idiot. But is the measuring stick reality or the MCU? Marvel is launching into its most risky run of new characters (the re-tooled Thor franchise with Thor: Ragnarok followed by Black Panther) and starting next year, three movies a year – spring, summer, holiday – presumably for the rest of our natural lives.

That means a billion-dollar (plus) spend every year chasing theatrical of $2.5 billion and up for Marvel alone. Every studio would take that bet right now. But understand, the spend on just those three movies a year is about the same (a little more/a little less) than the other studios are risking on their entire 12+ slate of films.

But if the 2018 gross is more like $2 billion, fewer studios would line up for that honor, And if the trio grosses $1.8 billion, studios would remain interested, but look for partners to take on some of the risk. The fear would be that if the trio of films grossed $1.2 billion at some point, the slate would lose money, hard as that is to imagine.

Personally, I am excited for Marvel, more so than ever before. They are not standing pat. They are making bold creative choices on film after film (then getting a bit conservative about the Avengers machine). More and more I see them as a true indie studio that just happens to work with very expensive materials. With due respect to their directors, Marvel is unlikely to unleash the next Spielberg or Lucas or Fincher or even Brad Bird from that stable. That is not to say that the group of directors they have brought in – especially these days – won’t represent an important class of commercial filmmakers in Hollywood for decades to come. But the renegades in the group are made stronger by the boundaries and the conventional filmmakers in the group are made stronger by the expansive vision. Making all of this work is no small success.

As for the rest of the weekend, counterprogramming (which is really, in this case, just being in the path of the hurricane with product that works for younger kids and women) is showing solid holds. The only $10k release in limited/exclusive looks like The Lovers, which should play well into the summer if handled carefully as it becomes a big hit with the over-50 set.

10 Comments »

Me, Ranking The Marvel Movies

Here’s an exercise I never felt any urge to do before…

We are only 13 movies into the history of Marvel-produced Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. But here we are… and since I really liked some of the recent films, I got curious about how I would rank them.

I would probably put today’s Guardians 2 release right between the 2nd & 3rd Cap. It’s my second favorite true sequel, but it is so overloaded with ideas and so anxious to get the same laughs it got the first time, but 4x this time out, it stuck me as overload. And one of the big ideas just doesn’t work. They tried hard, but couldn’t make it work the right way.

Doctor Strange – The most spun spin-off of the M-pMCU. It’s derivative of Nolan in ways, but has the most effective use of CG —aside from the bending buildings— in the entire MCU, including non-Marvel-produced films. The effects felt naturalistic, or at least as naturalistic as effects can feel. It rarely felt like an effect wasn’t fully attached to an idea. Nor did it feel (a little in the third act) like someone told Scott Derrickson that he needed something more showy. This is a kinky, wild movie and that made it feel great.

Ant-Man – Also off-brand in most ways. It felt like what it really was by the time they made it, a character comedy that happened to have effects. I still have no idea why Edgar Wright left (jumped or pushed) because the film does have some of his comic energy. But it is also clearly Peyton Reed’s movie. The effects here are often brilliant, but taken as a whole, there is a real 1980’s pre-CG effects feel to a lot of it, which I loved and which I assume was intentional. Not as kinky as Dr. Strange, but a strong #2 for me.

Iron Man 3 – Until the cop-out ending, I enjoyed this very Shane Black piece. It felt like the effects and all were already worked out and that was someone else’s job and all Black had to do was to focus on telling his variation on the Iron Man story. Less encumbered with the weight of all things Marvel or fanboy obsessions, it was just a good story, well told… until that ending… oy.

Guardians of the Galaxy – I think it’s overrated, but there is no denying the joy of James Gunn doing his own thing on the first of the M-pMCU’s spin-off movies. I can pick this thing apart from today to next Thursday – the sequel is much better technically and as filmmaking, but has story problem, way too complicated for its own good – but there is pleasure in Groot and Rocket and Drax and Gamorah and Star Lord. And equally as much is the array of side characters, villainous and kind, who are along for the ride. For me, it’s a turn-off-your-brain pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless.

Captain America: The First Avenger – In some way, this Joe Johnston set-up film for The Avengers is as much spin-off as part of the central Avengers story. I like the WWII element. The villainy was not as powerful as I’d like. Red Skull is pretty much impossible to bring to life without making him either a joke or a bore. Somehow a kid’s imagination reading a comic makes him much more powerful. Same problem with Dr. Doom so far, by the way. As with Iron Man III, the ending was screwed up to get to the next movie. But I enjoyed the rest, so I forgive it (and always mention it).

Marvel’s The Avengers – Overrated for me… but still, enjoyable. It was a fresh take on the material. Delivered the best Hulk stuff ever. Nimble. Funny. It would have been much better for me had the ending delivered something other than target practice. The stakes just seemed minor… another movie with the world coming to an end. But enjoyable, charming and better not to think about it too much.

Iron Man – The movie that defined the MCU culture under Feige. I personally hated that a guy who kills Arabs as a business, then kills Arabs to save himself, and then goes back to kill Arabs for our amusement. I wanted an emotional arc. I get the idea of him as a selfish prick. Downey is a blast. But for me, he doesn’t become a man in this film. I know that it led to him and Captain America dancing… but it could have worked and been a better piece of writing.

Captain America: Civil War – Perhaps the most mature (perhaps overripe) Marvel movie. No one dies in this Civil War. The positions of the two sides aren’t intensely political. Got to roll out new characters or test out the solo viability of others. The whole thing felt like a holding pattern. The tarmac fight may be the best single action sequence in the entire 13 films. But… not enough for me to really like the film.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – The most highly respected MCU film that I simply don’t connect with in the way that others do. It felt cheap (thought it wasn’t) with more car chases and bullets flying than any of the other films. It felt wildly melodramatic. And I have zero interest in Cap’s relationship with Bucky. I am over that. I was over that the minute it started. Leaves me 100% cold.

Thor – The pleasures of Asgard aside… this was a couple good jokes repeated 4 times each. Didn’t buy the relationship. Didn’t care for the monsters. Not enough use of the side characters. Waste of Natalie Portman. The fully thing is, I really like Chris Hemsworth as an actor. But as Thor… a bore. They should have stayed in Asgard. And I look forward to the upcoming Thor, which looks like an acid trip of a good time.

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Just a terrible sequel, aside from the addition of Paul Bettany as The Vision. Ultron had his moments, though it got schticky too often. Love both Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as actors – seriously a fan of the work of both and the human beings in real life – but both are disappointments in this film… just minor as could be. And what was so great about the Hulk in the first A movie was less so here. Cap and Iron Man as bickering parents bored me. Jeremy Renner is great, but he is not a super, and it felt like a retirement party for his character (which they didn’t have the guts to finalize). I mean, there is a lot of entertainment value that cannot be avoided in any movie this big… but if it never existed, no great loss for me.

The Incredible Hulk – This feels like a part of the past, though it is on the Marvel books. I like the Ang Lee Hulk more than most do. I thought this one just felt like a B-movie with some big effects. Cast is all good, but they can’t be bigger than the screenplay. Felt like there were some big ideas there that just never got room to take off.

Thor: The Dark World – This one just lost me in pretty much every way possible. The stakes in the relationship didn’t feel real. The stakes for Asgard didn’t feel real. It really felt like a sequel with nothing much to say on its own.

Iron Man 2 – The worst MCU film. Every mistake a sequel can make, starting with being even more arrogant than the arrogant lead character. They even wasted Mickey Rourke. I will avoid watching this any time it comes across my screens.

36 Comments »

“Twin Peaks: Familiar Faces 25 Years Later”

David Lynch is about to unleash an 18-hour serial on the world. What are the chances of it being great?

4 Comments »

The Hot Blog

Quote Unquotesee all »

“That’s an artifact of just what a strange animal it was. They didn’t know, none of us really knew what to call it, or how to classify it. But aside from the confusion about the classification, the actual what we were going to shoot — the length of each of the stories, all of which vary — there was never anything that we were considering doing any differently. There were never any more stories and they were always intended to be seen as a group.”
~ Joel Coen on The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs at NYFF press conference

“I find it hard to believe that it’s pure machismo. It’s too simple of a thought. I don’t know what the reason could be. I also think that it makes sense that, as time goes by, filmmaking should become more of a women-dominated activity. To me, of course, I feel like it’s going to happen. It seems to me that, especially for a certain cinema with its own language, you need to take a lot of risks. And women receive a type of education that allows much more for failure than the type men receive. It is easier for a woman to take risks than for a man. But I’ll also tell you another thing, women need to learn to master the tools, to solve technical problems, to control unscripted situations. There is also a totally macho attitude that many women have internalized in terms of not solving certain technical problems on their own. That also makes them a little less capable… Female DoPs often think that their technical area is limited to pen and paper. And that’s wrong. You need to learn a lot of things to be a good DoP. For me, machismo breeds both a masculine education and a nefarious feminine education. Macho culture engenders an education for men and another for women. The education for men we already know, and is easily criticized. And the nefarious education that machismo has for women is exemplified by women who ultimately ignore how to use tools, who—when something breaks, or when it gets dark—are rendered useless and get desperate. Women who do not even know how to build a fire. They don’t know how to deal with these situations, because these were activities that have traditionally been delegated to men. That can make us… not very… prone to achieve certain things. For me, we first have to fight against our own education, and also against an external model of erasure that has rendered women less capable than men in certain fields.”
Lucrecia Martel