Wednesday, August 15, 2007


The guy on this fake ID is the next teen idol. Mark my words, after SUPERBAD drops this weekend and takes all the box office business from Nicole Kidman & Daniel Craig's THE INVASION (raise your hand if you know ANYONE who's going to see it this weekend), McLovin' will be a star! Awkward HS Juniors in clique-run high schools across the country will be printing their PhotoShopped fake IDs with one-name monikers ..

McJiggy ....


McFreshman ... [its not as easy it looks, believe me.]

As Fogell, Christopher Mintz-Plasse comes THISCLOSE to stealing the very funny pic from Jonah Hill & Michael Cera (who play Seth & Evan, who are based on the movie's writers and inspiration, lifelong friends Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg).
The scene where he shows Seth & Evan his fake ID is hilarious, an instant classic ...

"You changed your name to McLovin?!?"

"Who are you ... Seal?"

McLovin is one of several great characters in the 2nd funniest movie of the summer (KNOCKED UP still holds on to the title). SUPERBAD is the PORKY'S for the new generation, and much funnier than any of the AMERICAN PIE movies. Go see it. Find out for yourself.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

SDCC '07 - Riding The Comic/Graphic Novel Gravy Train

Is there anyone in Hollywood NOT involved with a comic book these days? At this year's SDCC everyone from Rosario Dawson to Neil Young (yes, THAT Neil Young) unveiled new comic book & graphic novels.
Look, I'm all for artistic types stretching their craft and trying new things .. but its getting kind of ridiculous.
My big beef is that a lot of these people aren't actually creating these new projects they're involved with. They're doing the publication equivalent of 'executive producing.' And that's not how graphic novels or comic books or manga WORK.

You can't produce a graphic novel or comic book. You can't present one either, unless your name's Stan Lee. Otherwise, you haven't earned that distinction. You can write, pencil, ink, letter and/or edit one. Because then you're involved in the true creative process that creates a comic or GN.

Maybe I'm just splitting hairs here but I'm not that impressed when I hear about Rosario Dawson's GN "O.C.T. - Occult Crimes Taskforce" - because she didn't write or illustrate it. She may be involved in the storytelling process in some way but if she's not handling any of the two primary tasks, how much input into the story can she have? [BTW, O.C.T.'s first TPB is due out soon, and Dawson announced at Comic Con that more stories are due.]

Same thing with Neil Young. DC announced at their Vertigo panel plans to have Josh Dysart write the GN adaptation of Young's 2003 album "Greendale." At the panel, Dysart said the book " about a woman who finds her place as an activist. It's a blend of surrealistic Vertigo, my aesthetic and Neil Young." It was also said Young would have significant input -- whatever that means.

Look, I'm a big Neil Young fan but last time I checked he had no comic book experience so chances are he's not doing much more than giving the occasional piece of advice to the writer about what certain songs in the album meant. I could be completely wrong about that ... but I bet I'm not.

Not all of this new wave of 'Hollywood graphic novelists' take such a hands-off approach. Actor Thomas Jane ("The Punisher," "Stander," the upcoming "The Mist") has launched his own comic publishing firm, RAW Studios, to put out traditional comics as well as digital comics online. Jane is partnering with "30 Days of Night" creator Steve Niles on the project and Jane is co-writing the books. That's a big difference. [I'll have more on Jane's multitude of multimedia offerings in my next post. He's a busy guy!]

My concern with this new trend is that it cheapens the hard work, the dedication comic pros put in to making their books. There are no shortcuts for true artistic endeavors. Brian K. Vaugh, Brian Azzarello, Neil Gaiman, Dave Gibbons,et all .. none of them have 'ghostwriters' helping them with their stories. Its their work, their vision.

The blurring of the creative lines is giving someone whose main contribution is likely restricted to the promotional front, just as much credit as the person or persons responsible for the story. And that's not right.

I'd love to hear thoughts on this issue, no matter which way you stand.

Friday, July 27, 2007

INNNDYYYYYY!!!! (Guess Who's Back?) -SDCC News

One of the several big things to come out of Thursday's Paramount panel was the 'live via satellite' appearance by director Steven Spielberg and the cast of Indy 4 sitting on directors chairs. Harrison Ford looked great in his worn adventurer's outfit, Ray Winstone (who's also starring in Bob Zemeckis' Beowulf) and Shia LaBeouf were also there from the film's current shooting location.
Spielberg and Ford shared few details other than the fact that after 18 years, 25 days of shooting have been completed. Ford seemed genuinely excited to be doing another Indy movie and I can't wait to see him working with Winstone onscreen. No confirmation about LaBeouf's role, other than Ford calling him his 'other sidekick.' Spielberg told the audience this movie is for the fans and they're going to get it right - frankly, how can you doubt this crew?
Oh yeah .. almost forgot. Before signing off, spielberg went and grabbed another directors chair -- with the name 'Marion Ravenwood' on it! The crowd in Hall H inside San Diego's Convention Center went nuts when Karen Allen, the first and to many fans the best of Indy's girls, walked into view and sat in the chair.
And she looked amazing!! I mean, really, really good. I'm all of a sudden extremely excited about this movie. Everything seems to be falling into place for a great return for Indy. And while I'm a huge Cate Blanchett fan, I'm hoping Karen Allen gets more than just a cameo walk-on role, because the character of Marion Ravenwood deserves better. Thankfully, it appears Spielberg is well aware of what the fans want with this movie and he wants to get it right.
More SDCC updates later.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

San Diego Comic Con '07 - Trek Casting Call

Big Star Trek news broken @ SDCC today. At the Paramount Pictures panel, director J.J. Abrams revealed Zachary Quinto from "Heroes" will play young Spock in Abrams' still-untitled Star Trek project due out next year. Its assumed Abrams is taking the crew from TOS back to the beginning, maybe as far back as to the Academy. But before the crowd could even settle down from the well-received news of Quinto's casting, Abrams & Co. announced ANOTHER casting note for the movie - LEONARD NIMOY!!
Yep, original Spock will play himself in the new film. When Nimoy walked out on stage, it set off perhaps the most pure form of Fanboy enthusiasm I have ever witnessed, and that's saying alot. It was a great moment.
Meanwhile, Abrams said he hasn't cast Kirk yet and he wants Shatner in the film too but he wants to do it right and not screw with Shatner's legacy or that of Capt. James Tiberius Kirk.
I'll post pix when I return home to NYC and give you updates on Iron Man & Indy 4!!!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Billy Crudup is Dr. Manhattan!!

So a VERY, VERY well-placed source told me over the weekend that Billy Crudup is definitely, 100% inked to play Dr. Manhattan in the long-awaited and even longer-in-development "Watchmen" movie. Its expected that '300' director and the current King of all things graphically-oriented Zach Snyder will announce this and perhaps other casting notes this Friday @ the San Diego Comic Con during the "Watchmen" portion of the Warners panel.

Interesting decision on both sides. Snyder proved with 300 he 'gets' the source material and understands the responsibility a filmmaker has to bring a well-respected and beloved story to the screen. With "Watchmen" its doubly so because its nearly universally viewed as the apex of comic book literature. He knows if he screws this up, he's toast with the rabidly loyal fans who are bowing at his feet now because of his adaptation of Miller's bloody masterpiece.

What I like about Snyder is that unlike most folks in Hollywood, he realizes that to be a true commercially successful entity, a comic book/graphic novel adaptation should first and foremost appeal to the core fans. Of course, you want casual fans to get into your movie, but if you hook the diehards who are familiar with the source material, chances are you've got a hit. So I'm cautiously optimistic about "Watchmen," despite the fact that I have doubts about how they're going to pull off some of the bigger scenes from the comics.

As for Crudup, this could put him back in the public eye after years of ducking mainstream movie attention. Not even his too-brief turn in MI:III last year was enough to get him off the Hwood Milk Carton he's been on the past few years. If it wasn't for his voice on those 'priceless' Mastercard commercials, you'd think the man who portrayed 'The Golden God' Russell Hammond in the practically-perfect "Almost Famous" had fallen off the face of the earth. He hasn't. He's been on Broadway, but for most movie fans, that's the same thing.

Whatever the reason he's jumping onboard (hopefully he likes the original comics), Crudup's good in ANYTHING. This is a good step forward for "Watchmen." Can't wait to hear who else signs on.

Make This Guy A Star, Already!

The opening weekend success of "Hairspray" (not to mention the sterling reviews) may finally, FINALLY, solve a nagging mystery in Hollywood - why James Marsden isn't a bigger star?

Just look at the guy. He's annoyingly good-looking, perfectly coiffed and just about always well-dressed. On top of that, the guy can flat out ACT. His work on Ally McBeal, the X-Men trilogy, The Notebook and especially Superman Returns proves that. In Hairspray, he also shows he can sing & dance like a Broadway star. So I ask again, why isn't he a bigger star?

It has nothing to do with off-set headlines. He's never in Page Six or any other gossip columns because he lives the nice, comfortable life of a married man. It may have EVERYTHING to do with the fact he has perfected the role of the third wheel, the guy who NEVER gets the girl. As Cyclops, he may have technically gotten the girl (Jean Grey/Phoenix) but she obliterated him in the third film and always seemed to pine for Wolverine -- so that doesn't really count. In The Notebook, he loses Rachel McAdams to Ryan Gosling. Now, I enjoyed this movie, I did. Thought it was a great love story. My wife, though, LOVES this movie. Its one of her all-time Top 5 films. But she says the one flaw she has with it is that no woman in her right mind would leave a guy like Marsden for a sourpuss like Gosling's character. But it happens anyway!

Then in Superman Returns, Marsden has to compete with the Man of Steel. Impossible, yet, he somehow manages to make you sympathize with his character, knowing he's being held up to an impossible standard, and hoping he comes out of this incredibly awkward situation OK. THAT'S GOOD ACTING.

In Hairspray, the Stillwater, Oklahoma native turns a nothing part in the Broadway show into a scene-stealing effort that's bursting with charisma and conscience. He could have played it in a self-absorbed, Vince Fontaine-styled performance, but Marsden's natural likeability comes through onscreen and infuses Corny Collins with a personality he really didn't have in the Broadway show. If you caught the cast's appearance on TODAY last Friday, you saw it there as well. (Of course, you didn't hear a word from James during the interview portion because they only wanted to talk to the other stars. Talk about a slight!)

So again - why isn't he a big star? Beats me. Maybe casting directors feel he's the prototypical 'too good to be true' guy, someone the audience can't relate to. Could be, the right parts/scripts haven't come his way, or perhaps they have and he hasn't jumped on them. And sometimes, its just bad timing and bad luck. Who knew Hugh Jackman would be the breakout star of the X movies? Or that Preacher (based on the graphic novels), a project Marsden had been actively trying to get off the ground so he could star in it, would keep getting stalled in the Hwood pipeline? To illustrate my point about luck and timing, Marsden told me Preacher is finally getting made -- as a cable TV series. He won't be a part of it. Too bad. He would have been great in a really interesting role. But once again, things didn't break his way.

Regardless, he's way overdue to break out.

We had him on REEL TALK last week and he was one of the most down-to-earth guys we've had on. Laid back, self-deprecating, and very aware of the industry and his place. He seemed genuinely excited about Hairspray's chances of raising his profile. I hope it does that for him. Enchanted seems like another can't-miss hit later in November, which should also show off his sense of humor (he's playing a buffoon-like Prince Charming, as he put it - check out the trailer here. HE's also got a romantic comedy with Katherine Heigl and Ed Burns called 27 Dresses coming out later this year. If this isn't the year James Marsden becomes a big star, then there's no hope.

Keep this in mind. Outside of Hugh Jackman and maybe Matt Damon, name another under 40 star who can do comedy/action/drama/musicals. Think about it and get back to me when someone comes to mind. And I'm only including Damon because of his 'Will & Grace' episode.

So hopefully Hollywood finally smarts up and realizes their next genre-juggling star has been right under their noses, waiting to show what he can do. Someone give this guy a LEAD ROLE!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Potter Bandwagon

So yesterday I was talking about how Harry Potter has become the dominant force in pop culture. Admittedly, not such an 'out-there' statement to make. But I have to admit it was funny to wake up and read the front page of USA TODAY's LIFE section today and see their cover story.

Seems I'm far from the only person to notice the bespectacled one's pervasive influence and cash-hoarding prowess.

Also, is there any greater indication of someone (or something)'s "IT" factor than becoming a victim of piracy or getting prematurely leaked onto the Internet? If so, then further proof that it's Harry's world and we all just live in it can be found
If those really are the pages from the last Potter book, I hope they catch the person who put 'em up there. Its one thing to give an early heads up for a preview screening of an upcoming movie, but to go ahead and steal shots of the pages to post them .. its not just wrong but its cheapening how the audience can enjoy the book. Reading photographs of the pages of perhaps the most anticipated book of the last quarter century is not the way people should experience it. So if anyone is thinking of going on an online search for those pages, DON'T! Wait 'til Saturday and buy the book, sit down and read it on the couch, and enjoy Harry's last adventure the way it was meant to be enjoyed.

My PSA is done. Now I'm off to eat some Cuban food at Havana Central (which is pretty good, despite being right in the middle of tourist hell in Times Square).

Monday, July 16, 2007

The King of Pop (Culture)?

After scoring a mind-boggling $44 million its first day in theaters, $77.4M for the weekend, $140M for its first 5 days .. however you add it up, the totals compute to a ridiculous figure. Mind you, "HP:ATOOTP" is easily the worst-reviewed of the Potter films, so these totals prove the franchise is officially critic-proof. No matter what people say (my guys on REEL TALK didn't like it at all, BTW) the fans intend to go see it. That, along with the stellar box office, must have the executive folks at Warner Bros. exhaling and resuming their Hamptons house-hunting. They're also an indicator of just how strong a hold Mr. Potter has on mass audiences.

In TV a long-running series starts to lose steam, creatively and popularly, after its 3rd or 4th season. In the movies, the decline begins even earlier (Remember how fast the Matrix lost its coolness once Reloaded & Revolutions stumbled into theaters?). And the few franchises that have lasted past 3 chapters (off the top of my head ... Star Wars, Star Trek, Alien, Land Before Time, Halloween, Friday the 13th ..) have all either hit significant stumbling blocks that they could never fully recover from (Phantom Menace, ST: The Final Frontier .. any Land Before Time after the first, Winona Ryder) or degenerated into self-parodying schlock that was churned out just to cash in a quick buck. Harry Potter is different, however.

The unique situation of having the book series that inspired the movies continuing to be insanely popular has helped sustain interest in the franchise beyond the usual lifespan. Also, since the books were a few chapters ahead of when the first film was made, its built anticipation amongst the audience waiting for the chapters they've read to show up onscreen.

I also think the fact that the 3 stars were so well-cast is going to pay off in these last 3 films. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint have really made their characters their own, to the point that the fans couldn't see anyone else in those roles. And now that they've reached their late teens - in real life and in the films - it will make for better movies. Think about it. They're all veteran actors now who have learned their craft in these roles. The next 2 films should only see more improvement as they mature. And maturing along with them, are the fans who have grown up reading the books/watching films. Because Harry and the others have continued to age and grow up and not be stuck in an 'Archie in Riverdale' time warp, the Potter franchise has avoided the potential problem of being left behind by kids who have 'outgrown' the material.

Alot of people, myself included, have criticized the films for being too close to the original source material. Its as if the directors were somewhat lazy and didn't try to take too many liberties with the subject matter. Considering how popular the movies have been, its painfully apparent most people disagree with that assessment. Potter fans don't want a different spin on the stories they read. They want to see them AS IS on the screen, and the filmmakers have obliged.

Now obviously the key ingredient in all this is JK Rowling's incredible characters and storylines. Its a one-in-a-million Perfect Storm that appeals to practically anyone who's ever read them. I have NEVER met someone who has said, "yeah, I picked up the first Potter book, but I just couldn't get into it." NEVER.

My 62-year-old mother pores over each book like one of those 10-year-olds you see on the news whenever a new Potter book goes on sale at midnight. Then she gives them to my 2 nieces, who are 14 and 11. Its incredible. And that's how it is ACROSS THE WORLD. Its important to remember, that no matter how popular he is here in the States, he's that much more popular everywhere else on the planet. Harry Potter may be the last literary phenomenon of our lifetime. With so many other options competing for kids' free time, that's not a far-fetched statement to make. And that's all due to Ms. Rowling's imaginative writing.

The very nature of the books - the story of a boy wizard who learns about spells and real life while dealing with all the complications that go along with both - lends itself to a certain kind of devoted following that a regular, dyed-in-the wool, grounded-in-reality TV show/Movie/Broadway show just can't earn.
Grey's Anatomy may be TV's top show, but you don't see people dressing up as Mcdreamy at conventions do you?
Jersey Boys may be Broadway's hardest ticket to score, but they don't have a crowd of teenage, free-spending fans waiting outside the stage door like Spring Awakening does.

My point is, if you want success, any quality production can earn it. But if you want a Cultural touchstone, you should set the cop drama in space or in Fantasyland or someplace other than Brooklyn. Because the really devoted fans, the ones that make it a 'happening,' that buy all the related merchandise .. want their real-life metaphors wrapped in escapist fare, and they want their heroes to attend a school called Hogwarts.

So in this fragmented, Demo-specific, 500 channel, Internet-always-on universe we live in, a British boy wizard has become perhaps the last across-the-charts singular pop culture sensation. And folks, there isn't anyone - or anything - that's even close.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Whats In Your Playlist?

I mainly use my iPod for running, and I hear it as I walk to work, which thankfully is only a 10 block walk from my apartment to 30 Rock (yes, I work in the same building, just 2 floors below, for the same company ((NBC)) that Tina Fey ridicules on her hilarious sitcom).

Latest additions to my playlist: couple new Bon Jovi songs, "Any Other Day" and "Lost Highway" which is a sickeningly addictive song. Those guys know how to rock a catchy tune.

Also have Fergie's "Big Girls Don't Cry", a new Martina McBride song .. and as for classics, how about The Clash's "Police on my Back"? Perfect song near the tail end of a run when you're starting to fade. The moment that comes on your adrenaline spikes. God Bless The Clash.

I'm up to about 400 songs on my Nano and I usually don't blow anything out 'til I'm completely sick of it.

LMK what you've got playing ...

Friday, July 06, 2007

'Prime' Example of A Blockbuster Weekend

The Fourth of July has been a heavy-hitting weekend for the movie industry for quite some time. It has all the elements that make it one of the Top 2 or 3 weekends of the year for Hollywood, alongside Memorial Day and Thanksgiving.

This year its no different, except for the sheer variety of the movies being offered up. First you have the comedy "License to Wed" which -- despite the fact it looks incredibly lame -- features a proven favorite (Robin Williams) in a role perfectly suited for his bombastic, ad-libbing comedy skills.

Then you have the 800 lb. gorilla of the holiday, and maybe the entire summer, in "Transformers." I've seen it and it was a true cinematic experience. With so many CGI-heavy 'event' pictures being made these days, you don't really get to experience something so ... BIG very often anymore. But Transformers felt different to me. And no, I'm not one of those super-Transformers fans from the 80s. When the toys came out I was 13 and was just starting to stiff-arm myself away from my geeky pre-teen passions. That said, the moment in the film where all the Autobots are revealed was one of the best 'Geek-Out' moments EVER. Trust me when I say this is not a movie you want to see in an empty theater. This movie is meant to be shared with an audience full of Ringer Tee-wearing, toy-collecting fanboys. Oh, and don't sit close to the screen. You'll thank me for it later.

But while I think Transformers is definitely THE MOVIE to see this weekend, running a close second would be "Rescue Dawn" starring Christian Bale. Based on a true story, it has you on edge 5 minutes into the picture. Bale is always good but here's he's surreal. He plays Dieter Dengler just different enough so that you know this is not some cookie-cutter escape drama. Bale's POW is a picture of madness, but also one of dogged determination. The best thing about is that Bale plays him with wild eyes and Texas-sized intestinal fortitude, and makes the audience believe that nothing will keep him from escaping.

Because its such a dominating performance, Bale's work will overshadow everyone else, which is too bad because Steve Zahn really impresses with his work as a fellow prisoner. This could be the role that breaks him out of the goofy sidekick prison he's been trapped in his whole career.

Director Werner Herzog was born to make this movie. And his fingerprints are all over the film because it just ... FEELS DIFFERENT. In the hands of most of the filmmakers in the studio system, this would have been a by-the-books Prisoner of War drama. But Herzog does just enough to give it a wholly unique rhythm, keeping you from getting too comfortable with the pacing of the movie -- which then puts you in perfect position for the several SHOCKING scenes in the picture.
Excellent movie, one that I hope doesn't get buried in the avalanche of blockbusters this summer.

And you heard it here first - Christian Bale will get an Oscar nod for this role.
And you can hear a really good interview with Mr. Bale on Reel Talk this weekend - or check it out online at

I'm out.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Box Office Predictions

OK .. so this weekend's new movies is quite varied. Like those plastic-wrapped sets of 8 small single-serving cereal boxes, this weekend holds something of interest for most movie fans.
For the action shoot-em-up fans, there's Mark Wahlberg's "Shooter"...

for fans of more serious subject matter, there's Adam Sandler's 'I'm not just a movie star, I'm an actor!' turn in "Reign Over Me" ...

There's also "Pride," the inspiring, based-on-true-events flick starring Terrence Howard, who is so good, he even made to a pimp seem noble in "Hustle & Flow." Haven't seen it yet but I'm curious to see if swimming can pump up an audience like Boxing or Baseball.

For the kids, you have "TMNT," the rebirth of the Turtles franchise ... and "The Last Mimzy."
Now, while New Line Cinema's marketing department will do their darndest to make sure 'Mimzy' is the big winner this weekend (because their boss, studio chief Bob Shaye -- the guy who FIRED PETER JACKSON FROM THE HOBBIT -- directed it, so money is no object when it comes to preventing this film to bomb), I think the Turtles will be the big winner. Just a hunch but it looks like something kids will really get excited for.

Here's how I think the new movies will do this weekend:

1. TMNT - $35M

2. Shooter - $30M

3. Reign Over Me - $18M

4. The Last Mimzy - $10M

5. Pride - $7.5M

BTW, most of you reading this (anyone? ANYONE? Bueller??) don't know this but I produce LYONS & BAILES REEL TALK, NBC's national movie show which airs weekends on NBC stations around the country (Check your local listings). Its good stuff. Our critics, Jeffrey Lyons and Alison Bailes, review the new films, do interviews with the stars, check out new dvds, industry features and also share a weekly commentary called Final Takes. Click here to for more Reel Talk

OK, shameless plug is over. Enjoy the movies this weekend. What are you planning to see?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

A Shell Game

This weekend, what could be the best test yet of how strong a pull nostalgia has on the 80s Generation will take place. If successful, it could open the floodgates for a pop culture blast of retro-activity that will shake you down to your Pac-Man socks. On the other hand, if it fails ... we may wave bye-bye to rebirths from that gloriously geeky decade for good.

I'm talking about the cinematic return of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This time out, its called "TMNT" and CGI animation replaces the rubbery costumes of the original trilogy of Turtle flicks that unspooled in theaters starting in 1990. Most people may think this movie's coming out of nowhere. I mean, the Turtles haven't been spotted on the pop cult radar for years. But their return has been a few years in the making, with a new animated tv series, new comic books .. plus, the slow release of the classic 80s cartoon on DVD, which is the easiest way to stir those warm, fuzzy feelings of 'the good old days' that tend to lead to projects like this happening.

I'm actually surprised it took this long to for a new Turtles project to drop. You have to keep in mind, for most kids who grew up in the 80s, the names Michaelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo and Ralphael don't recall the great masters of Art. They're Turtles, dude!

I mean, these guys were huge -- SpongeBob huge, a billion-dollar franchise when that number still meant a BILLION DOLLARS!! And they were multi-platform. They began as an indie comic book, then came the cartoon series (which is what really launched Turtle-Mania), then the merchandise, THEN the films. After awhile, like every other pop phenom, after it was milked dry by the string-pullers behind the scenes, it faded away, stored away like old blankets in the attics of the minds of its maturing fan base.

But with comic book movies so big in Hollywood lately, this makes perfect sense. I haven't seen the film yet, but I must admit I'm curious. I was a casual Turtles fan -- I was in Junior High when they first broke so the cartoons were what I enjoyed when I took the occasional break from my juvenile delinquency -- but I'm always interested in seeing how comic book characters are translated to the screen. As long as they stay true to the wise-cracking, brothers-in-arms personalities the Turtles are known for, I think this could do OK.

What will be very interesting will be who turns out for the film. Will it just be aging fanboys looking to see their 80s favorites again? There's still a very strong collectors market for Turtles stuff - check out what this eBay auction for the original art from the first Turtles comic is going for.

But will the original Turtle fans come alone or with their kids? If I were the studio execs behind this project, I would hope younger kids turn out for it. If the crowds are full of overweight, toy-collecting moviegoers, that won't bode well for the rebuilding of a once-lucrative franchise. Because once they've had their nostalgic fill, those fans will lose interest and wait for the next blast from the past (which is coming in July with the Transformers movie, BTW).

And that's why TMNT's opening is crucial. Whether it does well at the box office is one thing. WHO turns out to see it could help determine if 80s nostalgia is a rich mine with much more left to be tapped, or if its running dry. So if you still have dreams of seeing the 21st Century reboot of the Smurfs like I do, keep your fingers crossed and hope lots of kids go Cowabunga at the theater this weekend.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Critic-al Juncture??

So perusing the box office totals for the weekend, it seems "300" used its superior fanboy-powered momentum to score a 2nd straight win. This is great news for fans of adrenaline-rush movies with some teeth and comic/graphic novel adaptations in general (I fall into both groups) because Hollywood being Hollywood, there will no doubt be many more movies of this nature hitting theaters in the next year or so as studios try to squeeze this particular lemon dry.
That's probably more good than bad. I'm sure there's already a script on some studio exec's desk about the legendary battle of Roman farmers who stood up and rebelled against the tyrannical produce price-fixers of ancient Rome. I can see the tag-line on the poster already - "Farmers, prepare to plant!"

Anyway, I also came across an interesting article from Variety's Peter Bart about an interesting effect 300's success could have. [check out the full article here]

Bart looks at the growing disparity between critical reviews and a film's box-office performance -- in the case of 300, mostly negative reviews had ABSOLUTELY NO impact on the movie's record-breaking opening. Same thing for 2007's other big box-office winners, Ghost Rider, Wild Hogs and Norbit. All 3 were raked over the critical coals but that didn't stop audiences from flocking to see them. GR's already over $100M and Wild Hogs will clear that hurdle by next week.

Using two print critics as examples, A.O. Scott of the NY Times & Kenneth Turan of the LA Times .. Bart illustrates how many critics today share no common ground with the average moviegoer. Scott trashed 300 and said its was on its way to camp movie infamy. That sounded silly to me when I read it on 300's opening day, and it sounds downright moronic now that it appears the film could usher in a new wave of filmmaking.

Studios no longer kowtow to critics like the old days. The fact of the matter is, they don't need to. Good reviews simply don't impact box office numbers outside of the more prestigious releases during the awards season.

Take horror movies. That genre rarely screens before opening day for critics because studios know that the teenage crowd they're going after with slasher films doesn't care what critics think of the film. As long as the blood runs deep and there's a high body count, they're happy.

I think the problem is that too many critics still view every movie from the same perspective. You can't critique a movie like 300 or Ghost Rider the same way you would Pans Labyrinth or Letters From Iwo Jima. The goal of the films is different, and so should the way they're analyzed.

Ghost Rider for example, wasn't out to win Oscar consideration. It was a popcorn flick aimed squarely at fans of the comic book (and starring a self-avowed fan, Nic Cage, who really got into his role as Johnny Blaze) and judging by the numbers, they were happy with it.

Judging by many of the reviews I scanned when the film first opened, few (if any) critics bothered to research the comic book before seeing the film. So how could they determine if it was faithful to the source material?

One of the first complaints about any movie adaptation of a book is its not true to the original story. The same should be held for pictures based on graphic novels or comic books. And since this genre is so important to Hollywood these days, critics need to pay closer attention.

The same for a movie like the Transformers or TMNT, both based on popular 80s cartoons. Movie critics would do well to do some research and try to understand why studios are so anxious to tap into the deep nostalgia properties like this spark in (mostly) 30-something men who grew up watching them. How can that NOT help them gain a better understanding of the film they're reviewing?

Knowing the intended audience of a movie is more important than ever. Its one thing for a critic to generate anger and frustration among its readers/viewers. But more and more, we're seeing something far more troubling -- indifference.

If you don't believe me, look at the box office numbers so far in 2007. They speak for themselves.

In a nutshell, sometimes a bad movie is a bad movie that deserves a drubbing. Norbit's a great example (or bad .. or .. er, forget it).

Other times, a movie's strengths need to be inspected from a more 'generous' vantage point. I'm not saying don't criticize a movie for fear of alienating its audience (and in return, your audience). But having a deeper appreciation for the movie and its source material could pay unexpected dividends.

Its like the difference between your parents (who listen to the lite rock radio station) and your friend's parents -- the ones who still listen to rock music and know who Fall Out Boy and the Tragically Hip. Whose opinion would you seek out to talk music?

If movie critics of any medium -- TV, print or Internet -- want to maintain their relevance, I think its time to draw up a new game plan. And quickly. The summer blockbuster season's just around the corner!