Still, movie news keeps accumulating. The following list includes some observations, ideas, and occasional snarky remarks we’ve compiled while working on longer pieces. All the opinions are just our own, of course.
1. Is the lowest common denominator approach that’s been stifling the selection of available Blu-Ray format titles finally beginning to thaw? Recent weeks saw such classics as The Seventh Seal, Dr. Strangelove, and Last Year at Marienbad making their debut on the high-def medium, classing up shelves usually dominated by much lower brow fare. Fans of foreign cinema will be glad to know that Akira Kurosawa’s Kagemusha makes its Blu-Ray debut August 18, while Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing debuts just this week. We imagine Sal’s Pizzeria looks great in high definition.
2. Meanwhile, the Lord of the Rings trilogy seems to be inching closer to a release of its own, according to this report, even though a release of the films’ straight-to-DVD expanded versions will wait until the 2011 premiere of The Hobbit. The three films collectively made just shy of three trillion dollars in worldwide box office receipts, so why Warner Brothers would drag heels on releasing a full edition in the meantime is anyone’s guess. Maybe they’re as pessimistic about Hobbit co-director Guillermo Del Toro’s vision for the LOTR prequel as we are?
3. In a summer with no surprise hit (yet), what about the bombs? So far Terminator: Salvation, Angels & Demons, Land of the Lost, and The Taking of Pelham 123 have all fallen short of expectations, while the mid-range budgeted Year One also seems destined not to recoup its money. Poor word of mouth hurt Terminator, and Pelham 123 likely should have come out later in the year, when more adults frequent multiplexes. As for Land of the Lost, Angels & Demons and Year One, we’re blaming audience shtick fatigue in all cases. We’ll tempt fate here and predict that Bruno also disappoints: previews make it out to be nothing more than Gay Borat, and audiences may take a “been there, done that” attitude as a result.
4. If Universal pushes Public Enemies any harder they’re going to risk a groin injury. The seemingly relentless advertising campaign, already somewhat misleading in depicting Michael Mann’s reported character study as an action-adventure romp, has commercials all over television, mostly featuring Johnny Depp’s good looks. We expect very good things from the film, but if early audiences feel baited and switched the film could likely join the crowd of turkeys mentioned above. It’s also not a good sign that all the rave critical comments used in the TV ads are from Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers, who’s essentially the go-to guy for movie critic testimonials.
5. DirecTV deserves some applause for bringing two of HBO’s most acclaimed dramas that aren’t The Sopranos to a wider audience. Last month the satellite provider began airing reruns of Deadwood and Barry Levinson’s landmark 90s-era prison drama Oz on its The 101 channel, presenting them uncut and without commercials. Coupled with its resurrection of worthy but prematurely cancelled network dramas Smith and The Nine, the all but unknown The 101 offers better summer programming than the major networks.
6. The rumors about fired directors and other postproduction crises surrounding G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra only throw fuel on a bonfire of backlash for a film that’s due to premiere for another five weeks yet. Part of the cynicism, and a big chunk of the problem, is that the creators have violated a lesson that Hollywood seems to finally have learned about adapting comic books: don’t screw with what endeared the subject matter to audiences in the first place. Past superficial costuming similarities in some of the characters, the film bears little resemblance to the 80s cartoon and toy line, trading loyalty to that nostalgia for some generic looking Michael Bay-style histrionics. The producers should know better. And knowing is half the battle.
7. Continuing his long odyssey through the entirety of genre flick purgatory, Nicolas Cage will appear next March in Swordfish director Dominic Sena’s sword and sorcery horror adventure Season of the Witch. Cage plays a knight transporting a witch to a group of priests who will determine if she started the Black Plague. Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy) and British actress Claire Foy (Little Dorritt) co-star. Hard to believe Cage was once considered one of America’s most potent leading men, with versatile turns in Leaving Las Vegas and Red Rock West. But, films like this, Knowing and Bangkok Dangerous must be making money somewhere, because they keep getting made.
8. Finally, Ang Lee returns to theatres with August’s Taking Woodstock, a based-on-true story about the small Upstate New York town that more or less played host to the Woodstock music festival (the original one in 1969, not the corporate crap in the 90s.) Though comedy is probably no one’s first thought when discussing the meticulous Lee (Brokeback Mountain, The Ice Storm) the unpretentious feel and goofy spirit in the trailer below looks all kinds of promising. The broad ensemble cast includes Eugene Levy, Emile Hirsch, Zoe Kazan, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and Paul Dano. It also stars Liev Shreiber as a gun-toting transvestite, which we hope was actually a common sight at the over-revered music concert.
Join us Friday for our review of Public Enemies. Thanks for reading.