Commentary and analysis of interesting stuff that didn’t get a full post.
April’s over, and the summer movie season is chomping at the box office bit. There’s not much going on in movies right now, but like most Aprils that dearth of films – leftovers, misfires and films little-loved by their studios – pretty much represent the lull before the storm. (An exception being The Losers, a film we liked more than we thought we would.) The sequel to Iron Man, which most fans of the original have been looking forward to since its closing credits, opens next weekend; meanwhile the heavily-hyped remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street finally opens tomorrow. In the coming weeks – May alone – we’ll see the premieres of Robin Hood, Sex and The City 2, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and Shrek Forever After. June promises a similar metric ton of movies with budgets in the eight- and nine-digit range.
In the meantime, here’s our favorite news items and topics we thought were worthy of discussion and/or coverage, even if we never got around to blogging about them all on their own. They’re in no particular order of importance.
1. A couple of years or so ago we called Ang Lee’s Ride With the Devil to task for its choppy narrative structure and uneven performances. A just-released Criterion Edition premieres the director’s cut of Lee’s (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Ice Storm) Civil War saga, along with a new screen transfer and some pretty straightforward extra features. Though often well-staged and intelligent, the barely released 1999 theatrical version promised more than it ultimately delivered, especially in the way of performance: many of the supporting characters, including roles played by Skeet Ulrich and the suburb Jeffrey Wright, got short shrift despite hints of richer work left on the cutting room floor. Hopefully the ten restored minutes smooth out these problems, letting the film it could have been emerge. It’s available in both DVD and Blu-Ray formats, in keeping with Criterion’s aggressive new high-def release strategy.
2. There’s no poster image or teaser trailer available yet, but we’re still intrigued as all Hell by the upcoming The Adjustment Bureau, starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt as potential lovers kept apart by mysterious and possibly sinister forces. Damon plays a firebrand congressman fascinated by a beautiful ballerina (Blunt), despite strange circumstances that continuously work to keep them separated. Writer-director George Nolfi (The Bourne Ultimatum) loosely based the script on the Philip K. Dick short story “The Adjustment Team,” in which reality is carefully managed by unseen but powerful orchestrators. The film also stars Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Terrence Stamp, Daniel Dae Kim and Shohreh Aghdashloo. It’s currently slated for a late September release.
3. In other upcoming movie news, though some sites – including imdb.com – are reporting it as a done deal, Joss Whedon is still not confirmed to direct the upcoming The Avengers. While on press junkets for his own Iron Man 2, executive producer Jon Favreau has told audiences there’s no deal “in stone” for Whedon to handle Marvel’s team of superheroes, which include Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and The Hulk.
To throw in our two cents, without ambiguity: Whedon is the wrong choice for The Avengers. Its very concept suggests a scale and scope that do not play to the writer-director’s strengths, and to try and shoehorn the two together wouldn’t benefit either. To be less charitable, we don’t think Whedon’s recent efforts are on a par with his earlier work: 2005′s Serenity was a muddled and solipsistic bit of nastiness, while Dollhouse was a mixed success at best. We’d much rather see him attempt a Marvel franchise closer to his own style, such as Elektra (we’re not forgetting about the Jennifer Garner trainwreck) or possibly Firestar.
4. Just about matching the retro magnificence of last year’s Watchmen viral videos, the following spot for the Lots-O’-Huggin Bear from Toy Story 3 perfectly replicates children’s commercials from the decade that was pretty much a golden age of toys. Just watching it once got us thinking of similar products from the era, including Teddy Ruxpin and the weird, weird My Buddy doll for boys. The video below perfectly captures the fashions and 10K graphics of the era, while the clogged tapehead static at the bottom of the image is a stroke of authentic genius:
5. The May sweeps period begin today, so if you’re hoping your own favorite low-rated television program gets renewed for another season this is the time to watch or to write its network. For weeks now we’ve been following the slow ratings erosion of ABC’s once and presumed hits Flash Forward and V on great sites like tvbythenumbers.com as a kind of loose experiment, tracking the series’ episode quality from week to week and comparing it against the posted ratings the next day.
Of the two shows, though both are borderline we give V the better chance of renewal. The central cast is smaller (and presumably cheaper), the storylines pick up steam with each passing week, and we suspect its long-range dramatic possibilities are greater (Flash Forward is already flailing somewhat in this regard; the conspiracy behind the time-jumping blackouts remain frustratingly vague in motivation.) On the other hand Flash Forward is a solid hit overseas, especially in Europe, and it’s apparently something of a bargain to produce, as well. The network will announce its fall season May 18.
6. Sometimes ignoring the ratings is a good thing. Despite its under-performance this spring, TNT has renewed Southland for a third season to begin airing in 2011. The “second” season aired by the network consisted of episodes that original network NBC had ordered but not broadcast, and featured a streamlined structure that focused on self-contained stories with greater emphasis on individual characters. TNT would be wise to allow show creator Ann Biderman and staff to continue that momentum. Southland has the potential to become as good as show as ER or Biderman’s previous NYPD Blue, but like countless other ensemble cast shows that rose to greatness it needs time and breathing room to develop.
7. Finally, Serena Bramble’s “valentine” to film noir has been all over the online world for a while now, but we’re so amazed by it we want to include it on our site as a way of saying thank you. Presenting some of the genre’s finest work meticulously and often brilliantly set to Massive Attack’s aural bombing raid “Angel,” the montage is a six-miuntes and change crash course in what makes noir so haunting, and why its fans hold it in such romantic regard. If you’re a noir fan already, the video can act like a brochure to explain its smoky charms to the uninitiated.
We’ll be back next week. Thanks for reading.
- Michael Kabel