April 23, 2014

Articles By: Scott Mendelson

Mendelson’s Memos: The basics – 30 years old, married with one child, currently residing in Woodland Hills, CA. I am simply a longtime film critic and pundit of sorts, especially in the realm of box office. The main content will be film reviews, trailer reviews, essays, and box office analysis and comparison. I also syndicate myself at The Huffington Post and Open Salon. I will update as often as my schedule allows. Yes, I’m on Facebook/Twitter/LinkIn, so feel free to find me there. All comments are appreciated, just be civil and try to keep a level discourse, as I will make every effort to do the same. Read more at Mendelson’s Memos:

Disney’s Animation Empire in Peril?

During the summer of 2013, there will be six animated (or live-action/animated hybrid) entries. At a glance, it would seem like healthy competition as each of the major current players are offering an official entry into the summer box office sweepstakes. You’ve got 20th Century Fox taking a shot at proving they can do more than Ice Age sequels, delivering the somewhat on-the-nose-titled Epic over Memorial Day weekend. P
Pixar unleashes their official summer entry, the Monsters Inc. prequel Monsters University on June 21st. Universal delivers its trump card with Despicable Me 2 over July 4th weekend while Dreamworks releases its snail-racing comedy Turbo on July 17th, a frankly unusual release date for them, but no matter. Sony delivers The Smurfs 2 on July 31st while Disney offers up the previously straight-to-DVD entry Planes on August 9th.
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From 1997 to 2009 there were five $1 billion film grossers. Between 2010 and 2012, we added an additional ten such films.

Just a few years ago, had I written a piece entitled “There are no films guaranteed to gross $1 billion this year”, you likely would have laughed and said “Of course not!”. As recently as 2010, the idea that any movie could or would gross $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales was somewhat of a pipe dream.
From 1997 to 2006, there were just two films to reach that milestone, they being Titanic (the biggest movie of all-time with a seemingly insurmountable $1.8 billion) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the Oscar-winning chapter to what can be argued is the finest screen trilogy of our time (that’s a debate for another day). In 2006, we saw the powerhouse success of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest which parlayed the unexpected popularity of the first film into an even larger haul for its sequel, breaking the domestic opening weekend record at the time ($135 million) and earning a massive $423 million in America and $642 million overseas.
In 2008, The Dark Knight pulled another “massively popular sequel to unexpectedly well-liked original” trick to the tune of $533 million in America (good for the second biggest grosser of all time in America, if only for a year) and just over $1 billion worldwide despite not playing in China due to that pesky “Chinese gangster hides Gotham mob money” subplot. 2009 saw James Cameron do that trick that James Cameron does yet again, with Avatar earning $1 billion worldwide in about seventeen days and going on to earn an eye-popping $2.7 billion.
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Roger Ebert was an inspiration to all of us who loved movies

Roger Ebert has died, but the art form he loved is very much alive. We honor him not so much by remembering his reviews of North but rather his and Gene Siskel’s raves for Do The Right Thing during a time when pundits were sure that Spike Lee’s drama would cause race riots. We honor him by remembering his essays and his and Gene Siskel’s relentless championing of Hoop Dreams. We honor him by remembering what films and what filmmakers we never would have discovered at a young age had Ebert (and yes Siskel) not introduced us to them.
If the film critic has any kind of noble purpose, it is to shine a light on the good and the unexpectedly great in film.
No one gets into film criticism because they hate movies. We got into this because we love the cinema and we love the singular experience of watching great movies. If we have any kind of noble goal, it is to highlight what we love, even if its a minority opinion and even if it opens us up to ridicule from our peers.
If we have a social good, it is in highlighting the great movies that may have slipped under the radar. It is in highlighting the little-seen independent film that desperately needs the publicity to stand out alongside its peers.
It is also in highlighting the genuine artistry found in mainstream studio pictures, especially in a time when so many film scholars are all-too willing to write off every would-be ‘big movie’ and thus declare that cinema is dead. Cinema is not dead. Cinema is as alive as it’s ever been.
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“Jurassic Park” a major film that absolutely delivered the goods

I’ll make this simple. My first theatrical viewing of Jurassic Park remains, without question, the best theatrical movie going experience of my life. It encapsulated pretty much everything good about the theatrical experience, including any number of elements that are perhaps non-replicable in today’s film culture.
The viewing was an unexpected advance-night screening, back before every movie opened on Thursday at 12:00 am, if not 10:00 pm or earlier. Jurassic Park had a whole slate of advance screenings on Thursday the 10th of June, starting at I believe 8:00 pm. I had presumed I would be seeing it sometime that weekend, but my mother informed me that my dad was coming home from a business trip and he was picking me up in time for a 10:00 pm screening.
Obviously excited, I hurriedly rushed to finish the original Michael Crichton novel that I had been blazing through. We got to the theater early enough and the auditorium, as well as the auditoriums around us, were absolutely jammed packed. Everyone was excited to be there, but nobody really knew what they were in for.
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2013’s “Evil Dead” biggest shock

Evil Dead is a surprisingly faithful yet reimagined retread of the legendary Sam Raimi film that pushes the limits of commercial theatrical wide release horror films. This is a horror film that isn’t afraid or ashamed to be one. With a intense, blood-drenched finale that should leave a packed theater cheering, Evil Dead falls on the side of good remakes.
The story of this iteration of Evil Dead surrounds a girl, Mia (Jane Levy), who is being taken out to an old abandoned secluded cabin, once owned by her family, to hopefully detox her current drug problem. Along the way to assist, are 2 of her friends and her brother with his girlfriend. Upon exploring a smell in the basement, Eric (Lou Taylor Pucci) and David (Shiloh Fernandez) find a ritualistic set of dead cats and the Book of the Dead. After reading some passages, wild things begin to happen to Mia. Should her friends believe the things she says or is it her trying to escape cold turkey detox?
By Brandon Peters
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G.I. Joe: Retaliation opens with solid $51.7 million

G.I. Joe: Retaliation opened with a relatively solid $51.7 million over the four-day frame, for a $41.2 million Fri-Sun gross. Any way you slice it, this is a slightly lower figure than the $54 million Fri-Sun debut of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra back in August 2009. Yes that film opened in late summer but this film had 3D-enhanced ticket prices, so it’s basically an even comparison.
The sequel/reboot was scheduled to open in late June of last summer only to be pulled and rescheduled so that the film could be converted to 3D in order to theoretically boost foreign grosses. One can only wonder whether Paramount possibly cut off its nose to spite its face, sacrificing a prime summer slot when the buzz was hottest only to achieve an arguably lower debut than it might have achieved had it opened when intended. G.I. Joe: Retaliation probably won’t cross $120 million in America, which in normal circumstances would be very bad.
More likely, Paramount knowingly sacrificed domestic strength for international muscle, which is yet another sign of the times. The current worldwide total is estimated to be about $132 million, so it’s nearly halfway to the first film’s entire $300 million worldwide total. Assuming it has anything resembling legs, Paramount’s risky bet may have paid off.
The new film cost less ($130 million) and the first film ($175 million), so presuming the rescheduling didn’t massively add to the marketing and distribution costs, equaling or surpassing the first film’s total ($150 million domestic and $150 million international) still counts as a single if not a double depending on the overall result.
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‘Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn’ was an extra-special treat

Brandon Peters has returned! Leading up to the April 5th release date of the new Evil Dead remake, Mr. Peters will be doing his voodoo with the Evil Dead series. He continues with a look at Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn. As only a casual Evil Dead fan, this was an extra-special treat as this isn’t a film series that I’ve memorized by heart. This was as informative for me as I hope it will be for you. So without further ado…
Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn
1987
Director: Sam Raimi
Starring: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks, Kassie Wesley, Ted Raimi
Rated R
We just cut up our girlfriend with a chainsaw. Does that sound “fine”?
~Ash’s mirror image

The second installment of the Evil Dead trilogy is the bridge between the first film and Army of Darkness in terms of tone. Whereas the first film was a straight horror film, the 2nd adds a level of humor while still able to maintain jumps, scares and intensity. This film is definitely one of the earlier and most notable films in the splatstic sub-genre of horror. The film also serves as pretty much a big budget remake of the first film.
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The inexplicably wonderful “Meet the Robinsons”

This is the next entry of a reoccurring feature of sorts, spotlighting the movies that aren’t just my favorites, but films that I probably hold in higher esteem than anyone else out there in the critical community.
Next up is a film that celebrates its sixth-anniversary this Saturday. But I saw it six years ago today at a press screening. No, I’m not talking about Blades of Glory, but the inexplicably wonderful Meet the Robinsons.
I walked into said press screening for this one knowing almost nothing about it, save for a few pieces of promotional art and something about musical ‘wiseguy’ frogs. I distinctly remember walking out of the press screening, my eyes more than a little watery, and immediately calling my wife to inform her that I had just wasted a Wednesday afternoon. I had just seen something truly special and she was going to have to accompany me for a repeat viewing as soon as possible.
It was that kind of remarkable discovery, a completely unexpected masterpiece during a time when Disney animation of the non-Pixar variety had fallen into a bit of a rut. Six years later, it is perhaps my favorite film of the prior decade and in a just world would stand alongside the Katzenberg Waking Sleeping Beauty era as one of Disney’s modern crown jewels. At the time, what stood out about Meet the Robinsons was how unassuming it was. It was not a fairy-tale story, it was not a talking animal comedy, and it was not a would-be animated epic of any kind.
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“The Wolverine” gets posters – Hugh Jackman

Well if you’re not going to make a great poster, you might as well go the other route and make a piece of marketing art so terrible that everyone will *still* be talking about it all day.
There isn’t much more to say other than to point and laugh. The trailer drops on Wednesday. Anyway, enjoy…

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“The Croods” Leads Weekend Box Office

What a difference three years and an deflated expectations make. Three years ago this weekend, Dreamworks had to eat a token amount of crow when How To Train Your Dragon opened with *just* $43 million.
Coming off the $59 million debut of Monsters vs. Aliens a year prior and elevated expectations due to the “new-found” popularity of 3D, the film was written off initially as a slight disappointment with the hopes that strong reviews and word-of-mouth would keep it alive. Of course, the film had insane legs and eventually ended up with $217 million domestic, but that’s another story.
Now, coming off the somewhat disappointing Rise of the Guardians ($303 million worldwide), a series of company lay-offs, and the delaying and/or cancellation of a few projects (like Me and My Shadow), Dreamworks is now trying to sell the (estimated as of this writing) $44 million debut of The Croods as a comeback and/or a massive win for the company.
But not only is this not a comeback, but I would argue that Dreamworks doesn’t have anywhere to come back from and that the perception of their failing after a single disappointing film is indicative of the fall-out of our obsession with rise/fall narratives where they don’t belong.
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