This Friday, Paramount unleashes World War Z, the Brad Pitt-fronted zombie apocalypse tale that has been on the receiving end of an inordinate amount of pre-release bad buzz. Stories of third-act rewrites, tension between star and director, shifting release dates, and massive budget and schedule overruns have dominated WWZ’s advance publicity, far more than anything of note about the film itself (which is unfortunate, as it’s a frequently gripping and reasonably intelligent disaster flick). But that’s nothing new in Hollywood; for decades we’ve been fascinated by stories of high-profile productions run amok, and by guessing whether those on-set woes would actually impact the final product. … Read More
Every generation gets the Superman it deserves. In the 1950s, it was the square-jawed George Reeves, maneuvering slipshod sets to save a Metropolis as black-and-white as the TVs it was broadcast on. When Superman: The Movie was released in 1978, it followed, and played as an antidote to, a troublesome period in which people no longer trusted or even felt they could rely on their government; Superman was a clear-cut force for good in an era where those seemed in short supply. His subsequent television incarnations were less about the character than the entertainment of the era, be it the faux-screwball romantic comedy (Lois & Clark) or the soapy, coming-of-age melodrama (Smallville). Bryan Singer’s 2006 Superman Returns clung to nostalgia, while the character’s new reboot, Man of Steel, finds him the denizen of a cheerless world defined by its own fear. … Read More
In its first weekend of wide release, Harmony Korine’s hedonistic morality play Spring Breakers did a respectable $5 million and landed in the top ten — certainly a first for Korine, and an indication that newbie distributor A24 may have an indie hit on their hands. And when a movie is big, you know what comes next: merchandising! You wouldn’t think that Korine’s feverish vision of gun-toting, bikini-wearing babes would be a natural for tie-in products, but you’d be wrong; after the jump, we’ll take a look at your must-have Breakers merch, and nine other unlikely movies you won’t believe were merchandised. … Read More
Disney’s Oz the Great and Powerful is out this Friday, in case you haven’t looked at a magazine or a television or the side of a bus recently, and while we know it’s a big-budget would-be Mouse blockbuster, attempting to replicate the astonishing (and frankly inexplicable) success of Burton’s Alice in Wonderland three years back, we still had to pick our jaws up off the floor when we got a look at its monster budget: $325 million in production and marketing costs. Yes, you read that right: 325. No extra numbers in there. … Read More
A fascinating little movie that you not have heard of hit DVD and Blu-ray this week—its debut in either format. A New Leaf was the debut directorial effort of Elaine May, half of the comedy team Nichols and May (with Mike Nichols, who would go on to direct The Graduate, Silkwood, The Birdcage, and many others). She wrote, directed, and co-starred with Walter Matthau; a notorious perfectionist, she went over schedule on the picture, and when she finally turned it over to Paramount, it ran a full three hours. Studio head Robert Evans recut the film, softening its darkly comic tone and shortening it to 102 minutes. (It was an arbiter of things to come; though she had no difficulties with her second film, The Heartbreak Kid, she went over budget and over schedule on Micky & Nicky and the notorious boondoggle Ishtar, her final directorial effort to date.) May tried to both stop the film’s release and have her name removed, to no avail. It’s a pretty great movie, odd and funny, with peculiarly winning performances by May and Matthau; the disappointment is that the new video release has none of those deleted scenes, which studios frequently tossed or lost in the days before bonus features and director’s cuts.
Our longing for the original, extended cut of A New Leaf got us thinking about other films whose longer versions have either vanished or been suppressed. After the jump, we’ve gathered up what we know about ten of them; add your own in the comments, won’t you? … Read More
There are certain movies that we, as a culture, have outright rejected. Declaring an unironic love for Battlefield Earth or Gigli is social suicide in some circles — and no one in their right mind would admit to enjoying the hugely unsuccessful Paris Hilton vehicle The Hottie and the Nottie. And yet, because Netflix (especially in its streaming form) provides an endless supply of time-wasting media without forcing users to submit to the glare of a snobby video rental store clerk, it ends up exposing viewers to movies they wouldn’t consider watching otherwise. The site’s anonymous reviews prove that there is no such thing as a universally reviled film. After the jump, we’ve collected a handful of glowing Netflix defenses of notoriously awful flicks — some with odd political or moral agendas, some puzzling, some plain hilarious, and a few sarcastic but brilliant. … Read More
This year’s Academy Awards are just around the corner (well, okay, they’re still a week and a half away, so it’s more like around the corner, down a little, second door on the left), and while we can’t help but get a little excited about Hollywood’s big night, we’re also being very careful to keep our expectations in check. We’ve already lamented the many worthwhile films and performances that were unduly snubbed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the nominations phase; when Sunday the 26th rolls around, you can bet the farm that the AMPAS will confound us again by making at least a couple of spectacularly bone-headed choices. There’s a long and storied history of the Oscar simply going to the wrong damn person or movie, countless cases where a peek back at the list of nominees and the eventual winner provokes confusion, rage, or at the very least, a bit of head-scratching. After the jump, we’ve gathered ten of the most egregious examples. … Read More
When you have to keep an obsessive eye on film, music, books, visual art, television, the Internet, and all other manner of popular culture, something eventually has to give, and for us — well, for this author, anyway — it’s sports. An almost-complete disinterest in professional and collegiate sporting events can make one feel a bit of an outcast (and it certainly makes for a confusing Facebook feed; apparently some guy who’s really into Jesus won something important on Sunday?), but after faking it through high school and college, I can’t pretend to care anymore. Maybe it makes me a pencil-necked geek, but the idea of spending three hours watching a football going to and fro — particularly when there are still Hitchcock movies I haven’t seen — is simply unacceptable.
However, many of the same film fans who are patently disinterested in a Sunday afternoon of TV sports will gladly spend that same time planted in front of a sports-themed movie — basically the same thing, albeit with better camera angles and a scripted ending. (And the angles are the only difference in a wrestling movie, HA HA!) And that’s fine with this viewer; as I told a friend after its release, “I’d watch football every week if it looked like Any Given Sunday.” But cinephiles more sport-phobic than I (and they’re out there!) might prefer films that keep the game play squarely off-screen. In honor of today’s DVD release of Moneyball, one of the best of the bunch, we offer ten genuinely good movies about sports that are notable for their minimal sports action. Check them out after the jump, and add your own in the comments. … Read More
We confess to being pleasantly surprised when Kevin Costner was cast in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained as one of the villains responsible for training slaves to be vicious “mandingo” fighters. Tarantino has a way of bringing out the best in actors, especially ones that haven’t been burning up the box office. Costner has always been… Read More