Avengers vs. Dark Knight

This summer is looking to be quite possibly the best summer for movies I will ever see. It includes everything from a new Wes Anderson film to a new Men in Black to a Pixar movie to Seth Macfarlane’s first feature film. But there are two specific movies that are poised to steal the show:The Avengers & The Dark Knight Rises.

Comic Book movies have secured their place as the number one movie draw in the world, and what makes this matchup so exciting is that it is the rival comic book studios (Marvel and DC) going toe to toe with what will most likely go down as their best films ever. With The Avengers due for release next friday, there is so much hype building up that some people are saying that it has eclipsed The Dark Knight Rises. Yeah, OK, come talk to me in July….

But it is a great matchup, an intriguing clash of styles. Marvel has a reputation of making more humorous and fun superhero movies while Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is pretty dark stuff. Nolan’s last batman film The Dark Knight was one of the highest grossing movies of all-time, reaching a number no Marvel movie has touched. But recently I’ve been hearing that pre-sale tickets for The Avengers is breaking all sorts of records. Not to mention that early reviews are nothing less than stellar, indicating it will do very well past opening weekend. So The Avengers has made a strong case for being the movie of the summer.

But all of this could change very quickly come July. It is obvious that promotion for The Dark Knight Rises is pretty quiet right now. And why shouldn’t it be, it’s still two months away. But screening before every showing of The Avengers next Friday will be the brand new Dark Knight Rises trailer, which has been guarenteed to spike interest even higher. I think that come July, this little contest could very well turn into a blowout. When The Dark Knight came out four years ago, it was basically heralded as one of the greatest films of all time. Immediately after seeing it, I was just thinking “there is no way they can top that.” Many others shared this thought, and so when insiders started telling us that Nolan has indeed topped himself, expectations rose to the highest levels ever. When you say you’ve topped one of the best movies ever, what you’re essentially saying is that you’ve made the best movie ever.

The race may look close now, but come July, it might not even be a contest. If The Dark Knight Rises lives up to its potential, I’m positive it will be the biggest film of the summer. But it might not, because with expectations so high, there is a lot of room for failure. On the other hand, there’s already confirmation that The Avengers is Marvel’s best showing to date, and that’s a studio that has produced classics like Spider-Man and Iron Man. So, like I said before, it should be interesting…

Uhm….Pie

imdb.com

I have a confession. I’m not proud of it, but until this last weekend I had not seen all of the American Pie movies. While I’m glad to have caught up, I consider this a major failure in my life.

I pride myself on being a 90s nostalgia freak. I don’t necessarily think things were better than, it was just when I was a kid so anything from 90s pop culture basically reminds me of when I was a kid, when everything was awesome. The first American Pie came out in ’99, and was a major hit and pop culture phenomenon. The two sequels came out post-90s, but not too far off.

It’s hard to blame myself for not growing up with these movies, as most kids don’t watch American Pie. But then again I’ve been watching R movies since before I can remember. Here’s the thing, I’m going through the exact same thing I went through with the Scream franchise. Last year, I discovered those movies due to the new 4th installment that was coming out. I loved them, then saw the 4th one and loved it, but I couldn’t fully experience the coolness and nostalgia that I would have from the 4th movie had I been watching them when they were released.

American Reunion, the newest installment of the Pie franchise, comes out tomorrow. While I’m ecstatic for it, I’m once again feeling only the pseudo-nostalgia effect. I can appreciate how cool it is that this iconic cast is returning for another go-around, yet it can’t mean as much to me as it will to those teenagers who went to the theaters in 1999 and were blown away by ground-breaking first film.

The Dawn is Coming

This past weekend was what is called a box office apocolypse. What this means is that all top ten grossing films hold a rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes. While many would see this as pathetic, I see it as a precursor to something much greater about to come.

This upcoming weekend, 21 Jump Street hits theaters, and it currently holds an 86% on RT. From what I’ve heard, it’s supposed to be great, a movie that will find long life as a modern classic. This is exciting news, and it is sure to get people flooding into the theaters. But this is only the beginning.

About this time last year I made a post about how awful a year 2011 was going to be for movies. And by gosh I was right! But 2012, on the other hand, looks to be the greatest movie year of my life thusfar. This Summer in particular will be jam-packed with must-sees. We get everything from comic book movies, a Wes Anderson film, A Knocked Up spinoff, an Alien prequel, a Pixar film, and, of course, the final installment of the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy.

So while the theater has looked dead these past few months, we must remember that the night is darkest just before the dawn, and so with the box office going completely rotten, I promise you that the dawn is coming. Go see 21 Jump Street.

The Oscars Stunk This Year

This is going to be a short and simple post. There’s not much else to say. I didn’t even bother watching the Oscars this year. We all knew The Artist was going to win it all, and frankly, while it may have been the best film this year, that just speaks to how lame the fare was this year. Boring, off year for films. Plus they didn’t let the Muppets perform and Billy Crystal hosted. It doesn’t get much worse.

Screw Spider-Man

If my title seems a like a little much, it’s not enough. Were this not a blog I was keeping up for school, the title would be much worse. This post is long overdue, and it’s something I feel pretty passionate about.

First, let me clarify. When I say “screw Spider-Man,” I am not referring to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies. I love those. Well, I love the first two. I can enjoy the third one too. In fact, the first Spider-Man could very well be my favorite movie ever. It inspires me as a film-maker more than any other movie. It gives me the exact experience I want to give my audience. Seeing it in theaters as a kid was the greatest movie-going experience I ever had. It was exciting, cool, but most of all, it was FUN. And shouldn’t a movie about a far-fetched superhero be fun? Yes, it should.

But now, Marc Webb, indie movie superstar, is already re-booting the series. The series isn’t even five years old yet. It’s like Sony held a funeral for the Sam Raimi series, and at it they announced that they’re re-doing it. Things that I should clarify for those who are confused: the new movie is not a sequel, it is not a remake, it is simply a different take on the source material. Why am I so mad then? Because, Raimi created something groundbreaking. To me, What they are doing is simply disrespectful. Raimi created one of the greatest cinematic achievements ever, and its like they’ve already forgotten about it.

Let me remind you all of something. Superhero movies come out left and right these days. But when Spidey came out in 2002, they weren’t makinf superhero movies. It was going into really unknown territory. That’s what made it such a phenomenon. People lined up to see this movie, because it was like nothing they’d ever seen before. It was a movie that had magic, a certain quality that reminds people of why they love movies.

And now they’re already re-doing it. They’re taking it and putting a more “realistic” spin on it with more emotional depth. Cool! Were did you get such a groundbreaking idea?!?! (COUGH Dark Knight). Whatever. Raimi could have made an indie and mature Spider-Man, but he purposefully didn’t. He knew the nature of Spider-Man, and that was one that was pure fun. So he made his movie pure fun.  People don’t realize, or at least they’ve forgotten, why those films were so genius. Without them, we wouldn’t have all of these super hero movies today. We owe everything to Raimi, yet most of us have already forgotten him.

The Oscars Predicted by TomatoMeters

For years now, I’ve been a student of the website Rotten Tomatoes. What they do is they take every professional film critic’s review of a movie, give it either a rotten or a fresh label (whether it gives the movie a good or bad review), then comes up with the percentage of critics that gave the film a “fresh” review, and that becomes the movie’s TomatoMeter. I’ve done some research between the correlation of TomatoMeter’s of films and oscar winners, and given some of my takeaways from them. Here are interesting facts I’ve come up with:

-The average TomatoMeter for the Best Picture winner for the past 10 years is 90.2%, with only two movies being below 90% (Crash with 76% in 2005, and Chicago with 88% in 2002), and the last Best Picture winner to be under 90% was six years ago.

Takeaway: No film can win without at least a 90% anymore. Favorites The Artist and Hugo hold 97% and 94% respectively. This would also mean that The Descendants, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, War Horse, The Help, and The Tree of Life are nearly out of the running.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is the first movie with a rotten TomatoMeter (48%) to be nominated for Best Picture since 1977 (The Turning Point). Only 4 movies ever have won best picture with a rotten TomatoMeter, the last one being in 1952 (The Greatest Show on Earth).

Takeaway: Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close has no shot, as if that needed reassuring. Movies with rotten TomatoMeters don’t win anymore. Older movies would win for different reasons, like groundbreaking technology that movies today just won’t win for. Also, TomatoMeters for older movies have far less reviews, and are more vulnerable to being rotten.

-Each TomatoMeter comes with a “critic’s consensus” that is one or two sentence summary of what the general consensus was amongst critics for a particular film. For the past five years, the winner of Best Actor has been specifically named and mentioned in the “critic’s consensus.”

Takeaway: This year kind of has a lack of iconic roles, so it’s hard to apply this statistic this year. The only nominee who was specifically mentioned this year was Brad Pitt for Moneyball. While he is certainly not out of the running, all of the past award shows have indicated a win for Clooney.

-For the past five years, 4 out of the 5 Best Actress winners have also been mentioned specifically in the “critic’s consensus,” with the one exception being Reese Witherspoon for her role in Walk the Line.

Takeaway: This trend looks to continue this year. The one nominee mentioned in the “critic’s consensus” Is Meryl Streep, who is the favorite to take home the award. Witherspoon’s lack of mention shouldn’t be given too much thought, as she obviously wasn’t the star of that film.

-The average TomatoMeter for the Best Director winner in the past 10 years is even higher, at 92.1%. For six years running now, the winner of Best Director has also gone on to win Best Picture. The two movies in the past 10 years to win Best Director and not Best Picture were Brokeback Mountain (12% higher TomatoMeter score than Crash) and The Pianist (8% higher TomatoMeter than Chicago).

Takeaway: Best Director is typically given to the highest or one of the highest TomatoMeters, but is NOT given to a movie under 90%. That means the movies mentioned above that this year are under 90% are ENTIRELY out of the running.

-The average TomatoMeter for Best Editing is 89.7%. Only 6 of the winners of the past 10 years have gone on to win Best Picture. Three movies to win the award in the past 10 years have been action films (Bourne Ultimatum, Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Black Hawk Down). Also in the past 10 years, 2 Scorsese films (The Departed, The Aviator) have won, and one Fincher film (The Social Network) has won.

Takeaway: TomatoMeter isn’t necessarily important, as I think that great editing doesn’t equate to a great movie. While the Best Picture winner will certainly have a good shot at this award, it is by no means a strong indicator. The tendency towards action films might help War Horse, but not likely. Hugo and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo both are in the running for sure, and the academy has already recognized the editing of their director’s films in the past.

Oscar Look 1

Awards season has been going on for about a month now, and all I can take away is that nothing is obvious or super clear yet. Tonight is the Critics Choice Awards, which should give us a better picture of what to expect (or just further muddle things, I can’t really guarantee anything. Anyways, for my first of a series of looks into the Oscar race, I will give my opinion on who is actually in each race along with my early predictions for who I believe will win.

Best Picture

The Artist

The Tree of Life

Hugo

-I am pretty confident in The Artist to go all the way. It’s won the New York Film Critics best picture so far, and its got the charm and terrific word of mouth that should hold up well and give it strong momentum right into the Oscars. Plus, frankly, I have a hard time believing that any of the other films released this year will be given best picture.

Best Actor

George Clooney- The Descendants

Brad Pitt- Moneyball

Micheal Fassbender- Shame

Jean Dujardin-The Artist

-I’m going with Dujardin to ride The Artist’s coattail. Although both Clooney and Pitt are not far behind, and depending on how the next few awards ceremonies go, they each might have just a good a shot at the top spot. Fassbender is my dark horse nominee, having such an impressive year altogether and for playing such a gutsy role

Best Actress

Tilda Swinton- We Need to Talk About Kevin

Meryl Streep- The Iron Lady

Rooney Mara- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Michelle Williams- My Week with Marilyn

-While it’s easy to go with Meryl Streep in any given year, she seems to be in her own league this year, receiving non-stop acclaim for her role. Plus, I think she made a wise choice, going with a film that isn’t all too strong so that she can stand out just that much more. Personally though, I’d like to see some recognition for Rooney Mara.

Best Director 

David Fincher- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Michel Hazanavicius- The Artist

Martin Scorsese- Hugo

Woody Allen-Midnight in Paris

-I could be fantasizing a bit, but I’m putting my bets currently on the academy making up for snubbing Fincher last year. I think Dragon Tattoo isn’t his best film, but certainly displays that he has got his craft nailed down, and he needs an Oscar. But this race is currently pretty open, and will be a very fascinating one to follow.

Ghost Protocol- The Most Important Action Film in Years

I don’t know if you’ve seen Mission Impossible 4 yet, but I have. In fact, I’ve seen it twice. One of those times I payed 15 dollars just so I could see it on that IMAX screen. Here are some other movies I saw more than once in theaters: The Dark Knight, Toy Story 3, X-Men: First Class, The Muppets. What do these films have in common? They’re all fantastic. Mission Impossible was no exception.

Granted, I was already a big fan of the series going in. While M:I3 didn’t do so well in the box office, I thought it was by far the best one yet and was ready for more. To me, we need Tom Cruise to keep doing M:I movies in order for the world to make any sense. But this last one was more than I could ever ask for.

Let’s see what was different about this one. First of all, and most importantly, new director Brad Bird. This was Brad Bird’s first live-action film, having previously directed The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille. This was a perfect choice for so many reasons. One, the man is imaginative. Working in the world of animation before he got to live-action, he was really limitless. Going into this movie, he brought that same sensibility, not letting the impossible hinder his vision. Thus, we get such scenes as the breathtaking Burj Dubai scene. God knows how complicated, time-consuming, and just scary that must have been to film. But Bird is a man who is relentless in getting his vision on screen. I also have to comment on the sandstorm scene. In it, Tom Cruise chases after a man through thick winds of sand that barely make it capable of seeing five feet in front of him. Somehow, though, Bird manages to capture this perfectly in both a thrilling and totally comprehensible way. Super cool.

So why is this such an important film? Well, for me it was Brad Bird showing the world that making a fun and exciting action movie shouldn’t be so complicated. What you do is take a plot that is high stakes yet very simple to follow, think up some awesome action set pieces, and bring a fun and humorous tone to it all. The film itself is a testimony to what can happen when a director really dips deep into his imagination and does whatever it takes to make that vision happen.

IT BEGINS

Yesterday the National Board of Review announced their winners of this years awards ceremony. Their choices can be seen here.

I just wanna give a few of my thoughts on their choices:

-J. Edgar was in their top 10 movies of the year list, despite the fact that it has been rejected by most all critics. The trouble with this is it could discredit their judgement on all of these films.

-Drive made it into the top 10 as well. Drive is probably my favorite movie of the year so far, and I’ve been worried about how it will fare during awards season because of its lack of success at the box office and how it may be too graphic for some older award comittee members.

-Michael Fassbender was rightfully recognized with the spotlight award for the incredible year he’s had, although Clooney took home best acting honors. While I love Clooney, I think this is Fassbender’s year.

-Hugo won best film, which is hard for me to fairly judge because I haven’t seen it, but I don’t its likely that this will happen again. At least I hope not.

-The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was in the top 10 list and Rooney Mara won the breakthrough performance award. I’m excited to hear this, because I want this film to do well after David Fincher got robbed last year with The Social Network.

-Harry Potter was in the top 10, and I do think its time that the academy recognizes it and gives it the best picture nod that it deserves.

90 Minutes

I’ve been reading a lot this week about Woody Allen, regarding his new film and his oscar push. Woody Allen is a great man and has done a lot for comedy. He has this rule about comedies though. He has said that comedies should never exceed 90 minutes.

It seems strange for a director to say this about the genre in which he thrives, to kind of put down his own work as less meaningful than others. But it actually makes sense, and I do believe it’s a smart rule that can be very beneficial for all comedic filmmakers. But I, on the other hand, like to take this rule out a little further.

I like to think that ALL movies should not exceed 90 minutes long. I am a firm advocate of swift and strong storytelling and always want my plot moving forward. I mean how many films have you seen that you thought it was too long? It happens all of the time, and it’s a result of self-indulgent, undisciplined filmmakers. Directors can’t seem to cut out certain scenes, even though it would be for the greater good.

Now a lot of you might be quick to say “well wait a minute, all of the greatest movies are around 2 hours long!” And you’d be right. Many of my favorite films even exceed 2 hours. But guess what. Films like that don’t come out everyday. They don’t even come out every year. So why are so many films that long? Like any rule regarding art, it certainly can be broken, but if you break it, you have to be sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.

But say it was a strict rule, that all films must be kept under 90 minutes. It wouldn’t be as bad as you think. Take The Godfather for instance. You’d certainly have to cut some scenes and shorten some shots, and to some would be quick to say that they’d hate that. They’d say that it wouldn’t be as rich or fulfilling a picture if it was cut down so much. And I’d kind of agree. But I also don’t think movies should be wholly satisfying. To completely satisfy a viewer, you have to transport them to a new world, show them around, then tell a story. But movie-making is only about telling the story. Tell the audience a story in another world that they want to know more about, but don’t tell them. Just tell them the story. Then they’ll leave the theater wanting more. And in this way, the movie becomes bigger than itself and it makes it so that its sure to be viewed multiple times, and that’s what you want.