1. Snow White And The Huntsman (Universal, @3,700 Theaters, 127 minutes, Rated PG-13): The battle of the Snow White films might have already been won, because this film could eclipse Mirror,Mirror‘s $62 million domestic take with its grosses in this weekend alone.
The film offers a grimy, gritty take on the Snow White legend and also gives Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth a chance to add a new franchise to add to their resumes.
But the fact that Mirror, Mirror was a disappointment (it’s domestic box office was less than its $85 million budget, but it made another $97 million overseas, so it might have just made its money back) might make the powers behind this one a bit worried. I guess we’ll see on Monday if audiences are dead set against a non-Disney Snow White or not.
Snow White And The Huntsman (June 1) I have to say that I find it hard to believe out of the two duelling cinematic takes on the Snow White the one that looked more visually compelling would not turn out to be Tarsem Singh’s Mirror, Mirror, but this film from new comer director Rupert Sanders. Thanks to Disney’s ultra-cuddly animated classic, people have forgotten that the story has some dark underpinnings but this definitely looks as if it aims to remind them of that. (In case they miss the PG-13 rating.) Drop in Chris Hemsworth, subbing out his Thor hammer for an ax, as the titular huntsman going after Kristen Stewart’s Snow White at the behest of evil queen Charlize Theron and add Bob Hoskins, Nick Frost and Toby Jones among the seven dwarves for spice and you have got the makings for a really good film. – Rich Drees
Prometheus (June 8) To say that most people were skeptical of Fox’s first announcement that they were developing a prequel to their classic Alien franchise may be an understatement. And considering how that franchise has puttered out with the fairly terrible duo of Alien Vs Predator films, it was hard not to blame them. But then something happened. The director of the original film Ridley Scott became involved and then the project slowly evolved from being a prequel to another story set in the same universe that would share some “DNA” with the original film. Now I’ve had friends who have criticized the trailers for looking too much like an Alien retread – Spaceship crew lands on mysterious planet, discover alien lifeform, much running and screaming ensue – but I have to believe that Scott has something far more deeper and smarter than that in store for us. -RD
Rock Of Ages (June 15) When Rock of Ages opened on Off-Broadway in 2008. I didn’t give it much of a chance to succeed. It’s well-worn star-crossed lovers plot set against the rock clubs of the Sunset Strip didn’t seem the type of show New Yorkers would go for, even if it didn’t feature a score provided by an iPod Shuffle full of 1980′s Hard Rock hits. But succeed it did, moving to Broadway in 2009 where it still resides, and it has made it to the big screen before many other high profile musicals–most notably Wicked.
The biggest thing about the film seems to be the curiousity surrounding Tom Cruise making his musical debut as washed up hair band singer Stacee Jaxx. But the original musical had less going for it and is still going strong. This film could be the surprise of the summer. - William Gatevackes
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (June 22) I didn’t expect much out of this film other than it being a tounge in cheek piffle. However, the ads for the film look good. Really good. Granted, the film cannot be all that serious. I mean, it portrays our most iconic President as a male Buffy. But it appears to be slightly more than just one note. - WG
Brave (June 22) Cars 2 was a critical disappointment for Pixar. Not that Disney even noticed, the film was one of the Top Ten highest grossing films of 2011. But it showed a chink in the armor of the usually dependable output from Pixar and some might be worried that it was the first step in the downward spiral of diminishing quality. From what I’ve seen of this film, I think Cars 2 more an abberation than a warning sign. This film seems utterly charming and even the trailer evoked an emotional response from me. It appears to be a return to form for Pixar. – WG
GI Joe: Retaliation (June 29) I can’t wait for this film since I…wait, what?Really? Nevermind.- WG
Ted (June 29) – Judging by the red band trailer, this story about a grown man and his living teddy bear will be just as profane as one would expect from Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane. Mark Wahlberg has made a few stabs at doing comedy before but this looks like it might actually be the film where he scores a hit. Also, in a summer full of big budget tentpole action pics an original high concept comedy could be just the cinematic sorbet we need in the middle of the summer movie season. – RD
One of the more surprising bits of news recently was Paramount moving their anticipated GI Joe: Retaliation from its hyped June 29 release back to March 29, 2013 with the announced intention to convert the film to 3D in an attempt to make it even more appealing to overseas ticket buyers. It seemed like an odd decision for a studio to make so late in the game, but a tweet from star Dwayne Johnson seemed to confirm it when he said that there was even going to be some reshoots to take more full advantage of the 3D.
Except that might not be the entire story. Deadline is reporting that the studio has ordered reshoots that will add more scenes of actor Channing Tatum and change a part of the film’s storyline by making sure his character doesn’t die in one of the opening scenes of the film.
While Tatum was the star of the first GI Joe film in 2008, he didn’t have the star power that he has now thanks to roles in The Vow and 21 Jump Street. When director John Chu envisioned his take on the franchise, it didn’t seem to include Tatum, and he was scheduled to be offed in the film’s opening sequence when the US military, under control of an evil Cobra agent masquerading as the President of the United States, attacks the Joes.
However, it turns out that one of the few positive responses that the film got from test audiences was over the short scenes between Tatum and Johnson’s characters. And The Avengers notwithstanding, this summer has been fairly sift for big tentpole films. It is certainly understandable that the studio would want to up the Tatum-quotient of the film if it would insure a few more sales at the box office. And hopefully that will at least offset the amount of money that the studio is now doubling down with for the reshoots.
And while fans are probably disappointed at the nine month wait, it is really hurting retailors who now have boxes of GI Joe toys taking up space in warehouses rather than being on store shelves available for sale. However, Deadline is reporting that Paramount and its producing partners probably won’t be feeling a similar financial pinch.
Will the gamble pay off? We’ll see next March, I suppose.
Last month, everyone seemed so sure that the mysterious villain of J J Abrams’ upcoming Star Trek 2 was going to be the classic Trek villain, genetically enhanced war criminal Khan with Benedict Cumberbatch stepping in for Ricardo Montalban who originally played the part in an episode of the original series and the feature Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan.
But in an interview with The Telegraph, Trek reboot cast member Simon Pegg blasted those reports not only for what he says is inaccurate reporting but for the need for sensationalism that has driven the reporting.
It’s not Khan. That’s a myth. Everyone’s saying it is, but it’s not… I think people just want to have a scoop. It annoys me – it’s beyond the point to just ferret around for spoilers all the time to try to be the first to break them. It just spoils the film. It masquerades as interest in the movie but really it’s just nosiness and impatience. You just want to say, “Oh f— off! Wait for the film!”
While I am sure that some folks will write this off as just some spin from the production to keep the film’s plotlines secret, I would suggest that in this case, if it were indeed true, it would be a case of closing the barn door after the horses had already gotten out. I think we need to take Pegg at his word that Cumberbatch is not playing the part that everyone seems to want to believe that he is.
And I am fine with that. We’ve talked about why having Khan in Star Trek 2 would be a big, stupid mistake, and I am glad to see that Abrams isn’t making it.
I admire Tarsem Singh as a visual stylist, even when he finds himself working with a script that may not be a match for who the director intends to realize it on screen. (Yes, Mirror, Mirror, I’m looking at you.) Singh’s next film is to be a telling of the life of explorer Marco Polo and the asian settings certainly lend themselves to the lush visual vistas he likes to create. Set to get in front of cameras sometime before the end of the year, Singh has now hired the first cast member for the project.
Screen Daily is reporting that Memoirs Of A Geisha actress Gong Li has signed on to play a Mongolian empress in the upcoming film. They also intriguingly report -
Gong has yet to meet Tarsem but said that he was just the kind of “audacious film-maker you need to make a film about Marco Polo.”
That seems fairly unusual but I hope that it works out for all.
Another good weekend at the box office for Marvel Studios’ The Avengers as the superhero mashup has crossed the $500 million in domestic ticket sales mark. But Marvel Studios honcho Kevin Feige would like you to know that this is not the end of their plans for their superhero films, but only the beginning. In a new interview with Empire magazine (via Collider), Feige pointed out -
The Avengers was not the finale for us. It was a giant, giant marker, but it was never the finale. We are already well into the plan for the next phase of our little cinematic universe.
And those plans include the currently in pre-production Thor 2. Although the film is set to start shooting this fall, there is lots of speculation as to who the Asgardian god of thunder may be squaring off against this time around. Variety has the answer, stating that Casino Royale bad guy Mads Mikkelsen is in talks to join the film in an unspecified, but villainous, role. Of course, this has led to fan speculation that Mikkelsen could be playing Thanos, the death-obsessed bad guy behind Loki’s attempted invasion of Earth in The Avengers. But in that aforementioned Empire interview, Feige was quick to point out that while Thanos would be seen in the future, it would not be in Thor 2. Instead, the sequel will feature “a major new villain. A major, major new antagonist…”
OK, Thor scholars, who do you think he could be referring to? Perhaps the Asgardian known as The Executioner? He seems like a good fit for what the studio is looking to do next. As to what else the Thor sequel might encompass, Feige stated that the film will explore more ofThor’s otherworldly home.
We’re going to see the other side of Asgard. It’s not all polished and golden in this film. And the events of Avengers will have affected Thor for sure. His relationship with Loki will continue to evolve, and the biggest part is Natalie [Portman] and Thor returning with Jane Foster.
Thor 2 is scheduled to fly into theaters on November 15, 2013.
Randall Miller’s indie film CBGB has just added another cast member in the form of Malin Akerman. Akerman will be playing Debbie Harry, lead singer of the ground breaking band punk band Blondie, one of the many bands who got their start at the famed titular New York rock club. And as you can see from the picture above, I think that there is at least a passing resemblance.
Akerman will be joining Alan Rickman who still as CBGB’s owner Hilly Kristal and Rupert Grint co-staring as Dead Boys guitarist Cheetah Chrome.
This won’t be the first rock and roll tale Akerman will be in. She’s headlining the rock jukebox musical Rock Of Ages hitting theaters next month, though that is set a decade later than CBGB.
If you’re a Steven Spielberg fan you have a lot to look forward to this fall between the release of the Indiana Jones films and his classic ET: The Extra-Terrestrial all on blu-ray. And with the release of the trailer for the ET blu-ray, it also appears as if Spielberg is making good on his promise about restoring the film back to how it looked when it was originally released in 1982. And by that we mean he has reversed the changes he made to the film for its DVD release back in 2002 for its 20th anniversary.
You may recall ten years back that when the film hit DVD, Spielberg had the scenes in which federal agents armed with guns digitally altered to change the firearms to more benign walkie-talkies. At the time he stated he was uncomfortable with the idea of adults pointing weapons at the children characters in the film. Although the 2002 DVD release actually contained both the original and the altered version of the film, the 2005 re-release only contained the newer, modified version.
More recently, Spielberg has admitted that what he did was a mistake and has encouraged people to watch the original version over the modified one. As you will see in the trailer below, the feds are once again armed with shotguns.
Now if we can just get him to have a conversation with his old friend George Lucas about this…
We’re just a few short weeks away from the release of the first trailer for Quentin Tarantino’s spaghetti western homage Django Unchained in front of Prometheus, but to tide you over until then, we have six new images from the film featuring Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz and Tarantino himself. (Click on each image for a larger view.)
Every now and then there comes a year when it seems that there are an inordinate number of really good films out in theaters. Is it the result of some sort of cultural zeitgeist or is it just mere coincidence? Who can say? But what can be known for sure is that the summer of 1982 was one of those magical movies times. On the 30th anniversary of that summer we will take a look back at some of the many movies that made that summer so memorable.
After Rocky II, Sylvester Stallone was faced with a quandary. It was an enviable quandary, one he also faced after Rocky, but a quandary nonetheless–how to keep the franchise going.
With Rocky II, he simply hit the reset button, plot-wise. Rocky was back being a down and out underdog fighter who through extraordinary luck and twist of fate got a chance at a championship bout. This was explained by having Rocky burn through all the money he made after the first film and Apollo Creed’s ego not being satisfied with the victory he got in that film and his wanting a more decisive victory over The Italian Stallion.
There were some changes. Rocky was now married to Adrian, and they were expecting their first child. And, most importantly, Rocky ended the film by becoming World Heavyweight Champion.
Simply hitting the reset button would not work this time. It would be seen as going to the well one to many times, and would shatter the audiences suspension of disbelief(Rocky’s broke!?!! Again!?!). So, how do you make an underdog who’s become the overdog into an underdog again without taking a step backwards?
You can say every Rocky sequel has been a case of diminishing returns. Drama is replaced with melodrama, characterization is replaced with thinly-drawn caricatures, complex intelligence replaced by simple stupidity. You could accuse Stallone of taking the cheap and easy way out, or you could praise him for knowing exactly what the audience wanted and boiling down the story so that was all that remained. Both are probably accurate.
What began in the second Rocky with Adrian lapsing into a post-delivery coma (a sick loved one is an easy way to evoke an emotional response from a audience) continued in this one, where Stallone’s emotional manipulation of the audience reached a fever pitch.
The story this time around shows a more successful Rocky, 10 title defenses and one year into his reign as champion. Rocky’s perfect world is disturbed by Clubber Lang, the #1 contender for Rocky’s title. He accuses the champ of ducking him. Truth is, he has. His manager, Mickey has been throwing “Tomato Cans” at Rocky–skilled yet easily beatable fighters–to keep Rocky safe and healthy.
After a confrontation at a statue dedication, Rocky agrees to fight Clubber. In an altercation backstage at the fight, Clubber shoves Mickey, bringing on what would become a fatal heart attack. The fight continues, but not for long as Clubber easily overpowers and defeats the distracted Rocky.
Rocky is later confronted by Apollo Creed, who decides to train Rocky for the rematch. But Rocky is hesitant. He’s lost his “eye of the tiger,” and needs to get it back. Rocky experiences a mental breakthrough after a heart to heart with Adrian. One training montage later and Rocky is ready for the rematch which he–SPOILER ALERT!!!!–wins.
The film replaces the gritty realism of the first to films with a glossy sheen. Instead of an organic and natural look at these character’s lives, it’s a pre-fabricated collection of scenes calculated to blatantly manipulate the emotions of the audience.
The most obvious example of this in action is the death of Mickey. It’s established the Mickey wants no part of Rocky fighting Clubber, that Clubber would “kill him to death,” but Rocky convinces his mentor to manage him, only for Mickey to be the one “killed to death.” For the audience, this scene immediately quantifies Rocky’s guilt and grief for us. But it also makes us want Rocky to knock Clubber’s block off. Clubber killed Mickey! Not in a legally culpable way, but he killed him nonetheless! His death needs to be avenged! If not Rocky, then who?
The scene is a shortcut to get a visceral emotional reaction from his audience. As is Apollo Creed becoming Rocky’s mentor (They were enemies, but now are friends! Cool!) and Adrian being the one to help Rocky regain his confidence (I knew Adrian would be able to set him straight!). It’s calculated audience manipulation, but it worked. Heck, I’m getting fired up just writing about it!
This establishes the audience’s rooting interest in the story. Now all Stallone had to do was set up Rocky as an underdog. He did this two ways: by giving Rocky crippling self-doubt and giving him a seemingly unbeatable opponent.
Mickey’s giving Rocky powder puff opponents shakes his confidence to such a point that it becomes a struggle for him to even want to fight. This not only is a bit of backsliding to the first film, where Rocky expressed doubts in his abilities, but also and amplification of that. I can’t say this plot element really rings true. After all, we have just seen two films where Rocky has fought as hard as he could against the odds without ever quitting. To have him almost give up here because Mick took it easy on him in the fights he booked just doesn’t seem genuine. It helps build drama by giving him another obstacle that might be impossible to overcome, but by this point the character should have been past this by now.
On paper, Clubber Lang was simply an “angry black man” stereotype, angry at being kept down by the white man (justifiably in this case as Mickey was keeping him from a title shot). However, in the hands of Mr. T, Clubber became rage incarnate. No one will ever accuse Mr. T of being one of the finest thespians to come out of the 1980s, but he is pretty much perfect in this role.
Mr. T, real name Laurence Tureaud, was discovered by Stallone after appearing a televised “America’s Toughest Bouncer” contest. Stallone was taken by Mr. T’s appearance, a look he modeled after Mandinka warriors. While he definitely looked intimidating, it was his acting–100% pure anger–that made his performance so great. It felt authentic and Mr. T kept his characterization consistent, which sold Clubber Lang as an almost insurmountable threat.
Mr. T became a cultural icon after his role in the film, earning a role on television’s The A-Team, which amped up his stardom even more to the point where he was everywhere–from Saturday morning cartoons, the cereal aisle at the supermarket to the comic book racks at the local newsstand. But Mr. T wasn’t the only person the film raised to cultural icon status.
The film’s script called for an early bit of comic relief where Rocky, the World’s Heavyweight Boxing Champion, would face off against the World’s Heavyweight Wrestling Champion in an exhibition for charity. The wrestler, named “Thunderlips” had to be physically imposing yet charming. He had to be able to toss Rocky around the ring as the match brokedown into chaos, but be genuine in showing no animosity as they are posing for pictures after the match.
Hulk Hogan, working for the AWA, a mid-level regional federation based out of Minnesota, fit the bill. Hulk, real name Terry Bollea, with is blonde hair and Fu Manchu mustache, looked like the Greek God of Surfing. He was big enough to be believable throwing Stallone out of the ring, fierce enough that you’d actually believe he was going to kill Rocky, yet had a twinkle in his eye that you’d accept him coming over after the match to shake Rocky’s hand.
After his appearance in the film, the AWA was either unwilling or unable to capitalize on Hogan’s popularity, so he signed with the Connecticut-based WWF. He arrived shortly after Vince McMahon took over the company and together both men to the company from a regional organization that played local CYC’s to a global leader in sports entertainment that sold out sporting arenas and stadiums. Hogan, like Mr. T, became a 80s cultural icon, his likeness appearing on toys, in cartoons and movies and in comic books as well.
The success of Rocky III and the popularity of Mr. T and Hulk Hogan in the years after the film marked the apex of Stallone’s ability to tap into the cultural zeitgeist at just the right time. The film also marked a turning point both in the franchise and in Stallone’s career.
The sequel, 1985′s jingoistic Rocky IV, took Rocky III‘s formula to absurd heights. Rocky has to avenge yet another friend (this time it’s Carl Weathers’ Apollo Creed) against another terrifying and unbeatable behemoth in the form of the Russian Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren). This time, the franchise became a cartoon. If Rocky’s lack of faith in himself in Rocky III stretched the limits of believability for you, having the Moscow audience switch their allegiance from Drago to Rocky in the climax to that film would rip it to shreds.
Stallone felt that two films was enough time passed between reusing plot contrivances and returned Rocky to poverty in his old-neighborhood in Rocky V. It would take 16 years for another sequel, but that one would be the a return to form in 2006′s Rocky Balboa, where Rocky’s age made him a natural underdog in the film.
Stallone’s career also changed with this film. Prior to Rocky III, Stallone would occasionally act in out and out dramas like F.I.S.T. and Victory or smart action films like Nighthawks. But from Rocky III on, Stallone move towards more high-concept blockbuster bait for his starring roles. When First Blood became a hit later in 1982, eventually spawning another franchise for Stallone, it seemed like this new career approach would work out. However, while there were many successes (Cliffhanger, Cobra, The Specialist), there were more misses (Oscar, Lock Up, Stop or My Mom Will Shoot, Judge Dredd, Assassins), so much so that when Stallone returned to drama with 1997′s Cop Land, people doubted his ability to pull off the role.
Rocky III was an important film in the history of the franchise and in Sylvester Stallone’s career, as well as being one of the defining films of the 1980s. Hence it’s inclusion here.