April 24, 2014

Tag Archives: Film genres

The Contenders: Best Superhero Films of All-Time

by Joey Magidson
HollywoodNews.com: Now that ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is out in theaters, it sort of feels like we’ve reached a milestone point in the realm of superhero flicks… perhaps even an apex if you will. Everything that will come next for the genre will be judged on a different playing field due to that film and this year’s ‘The Avengers’ as well (essentially you now have to go big or go home). Those two films were as anticipated as any other major comic book film out there, and some might say the hype has been as much as any other big flick in general. As most people would argue that 2012 has seen the release of two of the best superhero movies of all time, I thought it was only proper to give a little rundown of what I think are the 10 best of all time (at least so far).
Obviously there are lots of contenders for a list like this one, some more universally embraced than others, and it’s fair to say that no two people would come up with the same combination of flicks, but this is mine, so just keep that in mind as you read on. Of course I’ll want you all to give your picks later in the comments, but for now let’s get started and focus on my picks and see where things go from there. Which filmmakers who took multiple dips into the superhero pool got a citation from me here? Did I give any love to Tim Burton’s contributions to the genre? What about Jon Favreau’s? Presumably Christopher Nolan’s, right? Perhaps Sam Raimi’s? Bryan Singer’s could be in play, couldn’t they? Maybe even Joel Schumaker’s? (I assure you I did not go that route). First off, here are some that just missed the cut for me when compiling this list of lifesavers…
To read more go to AWARDSCIRCUIT.COM
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Prometheus is a mid-level version of what it is

HollywoodNews.com: Come what may, Prometheus is a mid-level version of what it is. By that, I mean it is, in the end, a somewhat generic Alien/The Thing-type horror film. It is mostly science-fiction only in that it takes place in the future and involves inter-stellar travel. Its ‘big ideas’ can be summed up in two sentences, and they are not only not-revolutionary but recognizable to probably 90% of the viewing audience. It has some truly wonderful visuals and it’s arguably worth seeing once purely for some of the images it creates. But as a full-blown movie it doesn’t quite work. Like Super 8, it gets tied up with horror elements in its last half that its filmmakers don’t truly care about and feel like a commercial concession.
Like last summer’s botched 80s-Spielberg homage, Prometheus takes advantage of a genre audience so worn down by threatened reboots and remakes that it seems almost groundbreaking that this film is merely a glorified rip-off of earlier genre entries of this nature. While advertised as an original science-fiction epic with tangential ties to the existing Alien franchise, it really is a bigger budgeted and better cast variation of that specific template. Despite must-see production values and some genuinely compelling imagery, it’s somewhat closer in quality to The Thing 2011 than The Thing 1982
To read more go to Mendelson’s Memo
Photos by 20th Century Fox
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Oscars: “The Descendants” producer Jim Burke on George Clooney, Hawaii and the awards race – AWARDS ALLEY

By Sean O’Connell
hollywoodnews.com: Alexander Payne and Jim Burke’s creative collaboration dates back to 1999’s “Election,” a comedy starring Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick that helped define the director’s razor-sharp wit and keen observational voice.
Nearly 15 years later, they’re back with “The Descendants,” an equally witty and insightful human drama starring George Clooney that has been enjoying more than enough awards-season buzz. In fact, according to the pundits, if any film can upset “The Artist” in the Oscar race, it’s Payne’s latest.
It was a pleasure to sit down with Burke and discuss his film’s position in the Oscar race ahead of tomorrow’s nominations. He expanded on filming in Hawaii, and the challenges faced in making smart films for grown-up audiences. Here’s Jim Burke:
HollywoodNews.com: Long before “The Descendants,” you produced such outstanding films as Tamara Jenkins’ “The Savages” and Alexander Payne’s earlier drama, “Election.” These are complicated, difficult stories of characters at real crossroads. Are you looking for parallels to your personal life when contemplating material to produce?
Jim Burke: You know, the process of just talking about “The Descendants,” any movie sort of becomes revealing about one’s self. [Laugh] I learn as much about myself as I do about … speaking for me, I think a lot of our decisions are done subconsciously.
HollywoodNews.com: And do you feel that you support these types of films because there aren’t enough smart, adult options at the theaters these days?
Yeah, yeah, I do feel that way. But the business, the way it operates right now, is not set up for films like that, “The Savages” or films like that. Producers have choices we need to make. And sometimes, maybe, we make choices for not the right reasons. Sometimes you make a movie because you have bills to pay or a kid to send through college. Things like that. Those are the films that the people who have all of the money want to make.
Personally, I know that that consideration comes with the territory. I learned very early on that the selling starts with the word, “No.” [Laughs] I hear “no” all of the time. But if I have something that I really believe in. Those “no” answers are like rocket fuel for me. They empower me, because that “yes” feels that much better.
HollywoodNews.com: Logistically, is Hawaii a complicated location in which to shoot?
Well, logistically, it’s biggest problem is that it’s far away. [...]

“Red Tails” is an entertaining history lesson/B-movie

By Scott Mendelson
HollywoodNews.com:The strongest aspect of director Anthony Hemingway and producer George Lucas’s Red Tails is that it lives in a somewhat Utopian film industry where African-American dramas aren’t all that big of a deal. The picture may have an unfair burden of proving the bankability of larger-budget ($58 million) genre fare revolving entirely around African Americans, but you don’t see that sweat onscreen. It treats itself not like a test case, or a passion project for one of the more financially successful independent filmmakers of our age, but merely a B-movie action drama that involves actors like Cuba Cooding Jr. Terrence Howard, and David Oyelowo. Red Tails may be (unfortunately) an anomaly, but those behind and in front of the camera treat this as if it were one of many minority-led historical dramas that open each month at the local multiplex.
The plot, to wit, concerns six Air Force pilots in what was known as the Tuskegee program, along with two superior officers (played by Gooding Jr. and Howard). The drama on the ground is pretty boiler-plate stuff, although it’s delivered with such a low-key, no-nonsense fashion that it works by not slathering on the melodrama for cheap emotional points. Terence Blanchard’s score does not overemphasize every emotional cue and there is a bare minimum of what might otherwise be considered ‘big important speeches’. You will be surprised at just how many seemingly major dramatic beats are allowed to play out with minimal score, and that includes the major action sequences. No one will win an Oscar here, and there are quite a few examples of ‘on-the-nose’ dialogue (most of it delivered by the comparatively hammy white actors), but the leading airmen have a natural and relaxed chemistry that allows us to look past the occasionally clunky dialogue and divergence into cliche. Only Oyelowo’s half-baked romantic subplot represents a true problem, both because it isn’t the slightest bit engaging and because it pads the otherwise relatively tight narrative right up to the two hour mark. Nate Parker’s commanding officer has a needless subplot involving alcohol abuse, but it doesn’t become a major part of his character.
But as an action film, it is an unmitigated triumph. There are four major action sequences in this picture, and they are pretty much all rock-solid. Befitting the man who directed most of the Star [...]

2011: The Year’s Worst Movies

By Scott Mendelson
HollywoodNews.com: This time, it’s time to document the worst of the worst in cinema for the 2011 movie year. Of course, while most critics make a point to try to seek out the allegedly best in cinema in any given year, not quite as much effort is made to track down every would-be stinker. As such, I’ve tried to highlight truly terrible films that either ‘damn well should have been good’ or represent something greater than itself via its artistic failure. Anyway, without further pretentious ado, here are the nine worst films in alphabetical order, followed by the absolute worst picture in 2011.
The Art of Getting By
This film so slavishly followed that indie formula I’m always whining about (‘brooding young man solves his problems/comes of age with help of a selfless hottie’) to such a degree that with just a bit of tweaking, it could have been a Z.A.Z.-style parody. Emma Roberts again plays the endlessly helpful and forgiving prize to be won for the second time in under a year, after the comparably superior It’s Kind of a Funny Story (that one at least had strong dramatic work from Zach Galifianakis and Viola Davis). All of the cliches are firmly in place, the story has nothing of importance to say, and an extended cameo by Michael Angarano elicits guffaws in the same manner as Clive Owen showing up as ‘not-James Bond’ in The Pink Panter 2, albeit unintentional in this case. In short, The Art of Getting By (and, natch, the equally revolting though lower-profile Waiting For Forever) is the kind of film that makes independent cinema look bad.
Cowboys and Aliens
And now we have a film that makes big-budget blockbuster film making look terrible too. In a year when production budgets generally drifted downward to reflect slightly lowered ticket sales, Cowboys and Aliens spent $160 million to look about as impressive as an Asylum Entertainment picture. This seemingly amusing idea, a hybrid of alien-invasion drama and a classical western, instead becomes a textbook case of how everything can go wrong with a would-be franchise starter. Daniel Craig has not a drop of charisma or sympathy, proving yet again that the very elements that make him an interesting 007 (his cold, brutish, steely persona) kill his worth as a traditional heroic leading man. Olivia Wilde has nothing interesting to [...]

David Fincher’s otherwise pointless and neutered The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo remake – Rooney Mara

By Scott Mendelson
HollywoodNews.com: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo feels like a James Patterson novel drained of all color and pulpiness while given a somber air of alleged gravity and importance. That is not entirely an insult, as I enjoy trashy crime fiction and the kind of thrillers Paramount used to put out with regularity in the late 1990s. So if I tell you that this film plays like a drawn-out, overly pretentious, and ice-cold extended episode of Criminal Minds, that’s not quite the insult you might make it out to be. I rather enjoy Criminal Minds and its James Patterson meets Justice League construction. But how I wish that this film, which is arguably less suspenseful and (by virtue of its toned down violence) less sensational then the Swedish original, embraced its pulpy roots just a bit more. Come what may, if I may paraphrase Ty Burr, asking David Fincher to direct this material is like asking Picasso to paint a fence. What it earns in earnestness, it loses in pure entertainment value.
For much of the running time, it is a rather dull thriller in which a relatively dull reporter (Daniel Craig) attempts to solve a mystery with absolutely no urgency. The would-be investigation mostly comprises of Mr. Craig (admittedly more charming than usual due to not having to play a pure alpha male) conducting painfully dry interviews with generally uninteresting people which generally yield no real information and provide little insight into the cast of characters. And, without going into details, the major reveal is made painfully obvious pretty much right from the get-go (and a second major reveal is strongly hinted at pretty early on), which makes the majority of the film 2/3 into a bit of a chore when the focus is on cracking the case. As for the ‘breakout character’, Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) is barely in the film for the first half, and her scenes are so disconnected from the main narrative that her arc feels like a separate (and arguably superior) film altogether. Yes, Salander and Craig’s Blomkvist eventually do cross paths, and the film is better for it when they do, but the first half of the picture is basically a very boring and conventional mystery occasionally interrupted by a far more interesting character study.
As for the title character, if the film [...]

“The Ward (2011)” DVD Review

HollywoodNews.com: There is nothing particularly wrong with The Ward, there is just little about it to stand out amongst the sea of similar genre entries, to say nothing of the whole slew of direct-to-DVD films that fill the shelves of Blockbuster and the queue of Netflix any given day. That this film was given a token theatrical release just last month is only because it happens to be helmed by one of the more respected horror filmmakers of the 1970s and 1980s. But the era of John Carpenter is long over. While I can tell you that the film looks more polished and more overtly cinematic that it likely would have if directed by someone less esteemed, the picture remains a relative non-entity. It’s not bad so much as it’s not very good in any notable way.
A token amount of plot: Its 1966 and Kristen (Amber Heard) has just been taking to a mental institution for torching a house. While she is relatively level-headed compared to the more overtly ‘eccentric’ girls housed there, she is still deemed a threat to herself and others and is locked up for therapy. While the seemingly aloof Dr. Stringer (Jared Harris) attempts to get this young woman to open up, something sinister and possibly supernatural is stalking the halls of this facility. One by one the other girls meet tragic fates, while a seemingly uncaring staff looks the other way. Can Kristen and the dwindling survivors solve the mystery or will the ghostly killer claim all who reside there?
There are some small touches that I appreciated, I will confess. This is a rare film set in a mental institution where the staff are not overtly abusive and sexually exploitative (there is an almost shocking moment where an orderly, played by D.R. Anderson explicitly turns down a sexual advance from one of the patients). And while Dr. Stringer doesn’t seem all that capable of digging into young Kristen’s mind, he does seem to be a caring and genuinely concerned therapist. I also appreciated the lack of gore, as the film’s violence has more in common with Carpenter’s earlier works (Halloween, The Fog) than his later bloodbaths (Vampires, Ghosts of Mars). And while all of the other young women (Lyndsy Fonseca, Laura-Leigh, Mamie Gummer, Danielle Panabaker, and Sali Sayler) are all quite attractive [...]

Brad Pitt, Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life” booed in Cannes

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life,” one of the most anticipated films of the Cannes festival (if not of the entire year), finally screened for critics in France this morning and the reaction has been … well, mixed.
“Scattered audience members at its first screening in Cannes needed only one syllable: boo,” Anthony Breznican writes in EW.com. “The many supporters of the movie pushed back with counter-applause, but it was a shocking way for the movie to debut.”
Why shocking? Malick’s film has been set up to fail by uber-passionate bloggers like Jeff Wells, who practically demanded the film be excellent, sight unseen. How could anything but an instant masterpiece be deemed a success?
Maybe it’s not as bad as the boos make it seem.
Justin Chang references Stanley Kubrick’s “2001” in Variety as he writes that “Tree” is “something extraordinary,” and that the result “is pure-grade art cinema destined primarily for the delectation of Malick partisans and adventurous arthouse-goers, but with its cast names and see-it-to-believe-it stature, this inescapably divisive picture could captivate the zeitgeist for a spell.
Malick’s films divide audiences. Why would “Tree” be any different. Thankfully, you’ll be able to decide for yourself if his rumination on life an creation is art or navel gazing. “Tree of Life” opens everywhere on May 27.
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The Top 10 Scariest Horror Films from the last 20 years

By Scott Mendelson
HollywoodNews.com: The goal of this list is pretty simple. I’m sure we’re all sick and tired of seeing countless ‘scariest movies of all time’ lists every Halloween that basically include some combination of the same several movies. Among the movies that will not be on this list: “Psycho,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” “The Exorcist,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Jaws,” “Halloween,” “Alien,” and “The Shining.” Nothing against those films, but I’d imagine that any film nerd who cares enough to read a list of great horror films has probably already seen them. By limiting the list to the last twenty years, we automatically discount most of the staples that usually fill up such ‘best of’ lists for Halloween. Oh, and another thing, this is purely about theatrical movies that actually scared me, regardless of how high they rank in the quality totem pole. “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Se7en,” and “The Sixth Sense” are among my all-time favorite movies, but they didn’t particularly frighten me. So, without further ado, let’s dive into, as the television network TNT likes to call them ‘the new classics’.
Candyman (1992)
Based on a short story by Clive Barker, this genuinely disturbing fairy tale concerns an urban legend that haunts a poverty-stricken housing project in Chicago. As a grad student (Virgina Madsen) investigates the legend of Candyman, the hook-handed murderer who can be summoned by speaking his name into a mirror three times, Helen Lyle finds herself affected by the unending violence and desperation that grips Cabrini-Green. Effortlessly weaving in ideas involving class and race without aggressively preaching, director Bernard Rose crafts a mournful little picture where the underprivileged find it easier to blame their misfortunes on a ghostly hook-handed psychopath than accept the random misery and violence in their midst . Deftly dealing with the core power of urban legends (they only have power if you believe them), the film resists revealing the truth about the mythical Candyman until the last possible moments. Personified by a foreboding but sensual Tony Todd in a star-making-but forever typecasting performance, the world of Candyman is one where it’s easier to fear the boogieman than to fear your neighbors.
This one is Wes Craven’s masterpiece, bar none, and easily the best of the “Nightmare On Elm Street” series. The picture works as a deconstruction of the slasher genre, an emotionally wrenching portrait of grief, and a genuinely terrifying piece of horror of [...]

This Week In Movies – ‘Social Network,’ ‘Case 39,’ ‘Let Me In’

By Pete Hammond
HollywoodNews.com: For the third weekend in a row, a major studio adult-oriented, dialogue-driven film with more on its mind that non-stop mayhem or mindless sight gags topped the boxoffice thus keeping the resurgence of thinking-person’s cinema on a thrilling roll. Surprise, surprise! The fact that The Town, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and now this week’s The Social Network are drawing crowds Hollywood had seemed to give up on (55% of Social Network’s audience was over the age of 25) with movies that can be described as that five letter word: “Drama” is heartening to this observer even if most of the business for ‘Social’ had to be drummed up from big cities and not the heartland. The Social Network directed by David Fincher and brilliantly written to an inch of its life by Aaron Sorkin harkens back to the kind of piercing dramas like “Network”, “All The President’s Men” and even the hallowed “Citizen Kane” (although let’s not get carried away) so the fact that it could more than DOUBLE the gross of two competing horror genre films, Let Me In and Case 39, opening against it is quite astonishing since we were led to believe studios were in the tentpole big event business these days and not interested in grown up ideas anymore. How wrong. Of course it really helped that Sony brilliantly marketed the movie, invited bloggers in early and got lots of laudatory ink from critics, another group whose influence was said to be going the way of the dinosaurs. If that New York Times two page ad opening day chock full of quotes is any indication then that may be another modern myth exploded. Of course this is the Fall, a time for studios to trot out the one or two more adult projects they may have in their hopper and its doubtful we would ever see any of the recent box office leaders dare to open in the more lucrative summer months for sure. At any rate with a B+ Cinemascore and an even better 97% fresh rating at the Rotten Tomatoes movie review site, Social Network should be able to make a good run of it and further depress its key subject, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg who has disowned it as a piece of “fiction”. Of course when you’re only 26 years [...]

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