Sunday, May 31, 2009

May Movie Watching

My favorite movie month of the year. I saw five movies theatrically this month, eschewing anything "small."

Caught the midnight showing of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I liked the trilogy a lot, and even if I consider this a "4" the "idea" of it didn't bother me that much. What seems to have bugged critics (as well as myself) was the SHAMELESS inclusion of all these other X-Men characters to test the waters for sequels-- even when they had little or nothing to do with the plot. However, despite the bad reviews, and a definite formula, I thought Wolverine did well as a popcorn flick. It was a pleasant, if unmemorable, open to the summer movies.

Star Trek is probably going to turn out to be one of the biggest hits of the summer-- clearly kids are seeing it again and again if you look at the numbers. And good for it. Although I wasn't ga-ga about it (the plot is outlandish), it was an exciting time at the movies. The casting of EVERYONE was right on the money (I particularly liked Zachary Quinto as young Spock). Plus it didn't feel like a film that was all about exposition, even when that's exactly what it was. The thing I was most distracted by was Leonard Nimoy's dentures! (Not, however, his performance-- it'll be a nice swansong, if he makes this his last.)

Terminator: Salvation was the film I was most anticipating. And, oddly, as with last year's film most anticipated (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), I have the IDENTICAL review. That is, it was total nonsense, but if you removed your brain and just sat back and enjoyed it was a solid little piece of entertainment. Did anything make sense, could I easily follow the "timeline" of the Terminators (even though I'm a fan), did Christian Bale deliver a performance that wasn't identical to Batman-- the answer to these questions, is no. But at least it wasn't a disasterous embarassment and derailment of the film series, so there's THAT. My friends and I agreed however, that Cameron didn't show much of the "future" in his films, because, essentially, there is no story there. This movie proved it. It will be hard not to come up with a "2" to this one that doesn't have the IDENTICAL plot. If they were smart they'd "break the rules" and just do ONE more Terminator movie and call it a day.

Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian was best summed up by the 8-year-old kid behind me. During the tag he blurted out: "This movie is so LONG!" Now I know people who liked this movie. Old people. I just thought it was SO talky. Constant chatter and "schemes." And it's very hard to get over the fact that all these historical figures would know so much about eachother's eras. But of course, that's criticizing a movie about wax figures coming alive for being unrealistic, right. SPOILER: A tip. When you're trapped in an hour glass, with sand falling down on you, don't try to get on top of the sand. Just stand in the middle and have it all bury you.

Up is yet another instant Pixar classic. Although I have to say, it REALLY disappointed in the end-- went for the obvious I thought. It's first act was amazing to me-- loved every second. Second act very good, third act just "good." However, it will easily be one of the best films of the summer.

On TCM I saw 1932's Best Picture nominee Smilin' Through (Now I know why it's so obscure: a stagy thing with over-the-top performances) and They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (I took some time thinking about this movie, but decided that overall it didn't succeed, if a noble effort; by which I mean I think it was depressing for depressing's sake./Gig Young DID deserve his Oscar though-- a great performance and a REAL change of pace./Also: this was the LAST Best Supporting Actor performance that I hadn't seen-- I've now seen them all [!]).

I also went to the Egyptian Theater here in L.A. to see the original Dracula on the big screen, with special guests Bela Lugosi, Jr. AND 99-year-old Carla Laemmle [who had the first line in the movie]. I'm happy to report that Carla is doing VERY well and has a book coming out. Crazy she's still around-- she also had a bit in the 1925 PHANTOM OF THE OPERA!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Funny Parody of Transformers 2-- "My Little Pony"

A friend told me about this parody on YouTube... funny!

Friday, May 8, 2009

"Whatever Works" Trailer

The Whatever Works trailer has been released... and yes it looks like a bit of a trainwreck. Maybe I'm looking forward to it despite all because I know one of these days there will be no new Woody Allen. Still, it's just kind of funny to have Woody's words come out of Larry David's mouth. You decide (but don't tell me what you think!-- I'm afraid I already know).

Link to Whatever Works trailer.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

"Oz Munchkin" Mickey Carroll Dies, Leaving Six Actors Left from "The Wizard of Oz"

Seven of the nine surviving Munchins from The Wizard of Oz were presented with the 2,352nd Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in November 2007. Present were Mickey Carroll, Ruth Duccini, Jerry Maren (holding lollipop in photo, as he was one of the "Lollipop Guild" in the movie), Margaret Pellegrini, Meinhardt Raabe, Karl Slover and Clarence Swensen. Since then, Clarence Swensen has passed (on February 25, 2009) and now Mickey Carroll (1919-2009); as well as non-attendee Lewis Croft (who died on April 29, 2008). I went to the joyous unveiling of the star and covered it in my blog entry of November 20, 2007.

This leaves just six remaining "Munchkins" alive from the film: Ruth Duccini (b. 1918), Jerry Maren (b. 1920), Olga C. Nardone (b. 1919?), Margaret Pellegrini (b. 1923), Meinhardt Raabe (b. 1915), and Karl Slover (b. 1918). The sole reason why we know the complete list of "Munchkin" actors is due to the enormous efforts of author/researcher Stephen Cox, whose book The Munchkins of Oz (now in its third edition but originally published in 1989), set the record straight on the credits for the little people who were merely credited as "The Munchkins" in the movie. Had Cox not done the research in 1988-89, sifting through the call sheets and false claims, such an effort would have been impossible today.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Coppola's "Tetro"

Probably another think-piece fizzle from Coppola-- but you never know. I'd prefer he keep "experimenting" rather than just turn out some "safe" genre piece. But, I'm still gonna wait to hear what the critics say before going to it.

Link to first ten minutes of Tetro.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Top Ten 1940s Films on My Movie Radar

The 1940s brought us two highly influencial films which have remained the only two to-date to top Sight & Sound's poll as the #1 film of all-time: Citizen Kane (1941) and Bicycle Thieves (1948). In between we had the war years, and the birth of film noir. And it was the decade of Bogie & Bacall, Tracy & Hepburn, and Abbott & Costello, too.

Here's the 1940s films that have managed to elude me so far, but they're on my radar:

My Little Chickadee- 1940

The Sea Hawk- 1940

Blossoms in the Dust- 1941

The 49th Parallel/The Invaders- 1941

Day of Wrath- 1943

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man- 1943

House of Frankenstein- 1944

The House on 92nd Street- 1945

Crossfire- 1947

That Lady in Ermine- 1948

Saturday, May 2, 2009

What Will Be Summer '09's Surprise Hit (U.S. Domestic)?

I always get annoyed when I see in print: such and such a film is destined to be this year's sleeper hit. Because, by definition, a "sleeper" is a hit that's a surprise! If you see it coming, it's not a surprise. But just like predicting box office grosses, "guessing" what will be a sleeper is different if everyone expects a movie will do little business, but you just have a gut feeling it might be a hit. So, if we call a movie that makes $150 million+ a hit, then, will any of the "untouted" movies make this number?

Last year's sleeper was Sex and the City, which grossed $152.6 million domestically; following right behind on the summer movie sleeper-meter was Mamma Mia!, which grossed $144.1 million. Neither was an outright blockbuster (i.e. $200 million+, but both were certainly unexpected hits).

My guess last year was hopelessly off the mark (Star Wars: Clone Wars which grossed $35.1 million). Rather than offering another poor prediction, I'll just list the ones to follow, below (if forced I might go with The Hangover as my prediction for this year's summer sleeper-- did I just doom it!?).

Surprise hit "contenders" include:

• Drag Me to Hell: Sam Raimi is back in the horror genre after his Spider-Man tenure.

• Management: Anything with Jennifer Aniston these days seems to have hit potential.

• My Sister's Keeper: Now this would be a surprise, but semtimental somethimes hits big.

• The Proposal: The Sandra Bullock/Ryan Reynolds (/Betty White!) flick has gotten alot of exposure trailer-wise.

• The Hangover: Old School's Todd Phillips might have the comedy touch in a season light on straight comedies.

• (500) Days of Summer: Wouldn't exactly be a "surprise" hit as it's already getting buzz.

• G-Force: Ever since the Chipmunks, anything goes with cute rodents.

• I Love You, Beth Cooper: Looks appealing.

• They Came From Upstairs: I dunno, it's been a long time since we've had a E.T./Gremlins experience-- could this be it?

• Julie & Julia: The mighty Meryl is back after her one-two summer movie punch of last year.

• The Time Traveller's Wife: Against it, it comes out in mid-August; for it-- the kids are back in school two weeks later.

• District 9: Alien invasion and summer movies go hand-in-hand.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Summer Movie Season 2009 Begins!-- Trailers Before "X-Men Origins: Wolverine"

There were just three trailers that played before X-Men Origins: Wolverine, when I went to the 12:01 (i.e. midnight) May 1st show [this might have to do with the fact that I saw the movie at the Arclight theater chain which I believe limits the number of trailers before features]:

Terminator Salvation: Nothing will dampen my interest in Terminator. The trailer is not amazing, but offers the one thing we ALL want-- terminators and humans going at it.

Up: Looking better and is unlikely to break the string of hits for Pixar (helps that the marketing campaign has the movie plastered everywhere, including online). I'm looking forward to it for sure and I'm not big on animated films, per se.

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs: That same teaser we've seen for a year-- it's cute, but wow is it getting "tired." Ice Age 3 is the kind of movie that I'll see dependent on how hot the summer gets and how much I need to get out of the heat.