This Week in Movies by Pete Hammond

By Pete Hammond With only one wide release on tap for the week, 20th Century Fox’s sensational re-invention of the X Men franchise ruled the roost and came away with a $56 million haul. That’s not anywhere near what some of the predecesors in the series have done such as The Last Stand but it is respectable especially considering that Fox was rebranding the series ala what Star Trek did and presenting virtually a totally new cast. Critics were very supportive with a sterling 86% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes and audiences gave it a Cinemascore rating of B+, good but not great in a summer where the next blockbuster is just around the corner ready to knock you off your perch. X Men: First Class needs to develop strong word of mouth to make a return on the high pricetag of the picture (around $160 million).

Bringing back Bryan Singer, original director of the first two films in the series, to craft a new origins story (with Up In The Air writer Sheldon Turner) turned out to be a good decision as was bringing in Matthew Vaughan (KickAss) as director. First Class is really a breath of fresh air, a smart rethinking of the whole franchise and like Batman Begins and Star Trek a really clever way to introduce us to characters we only think we know. By seeing their beginnings and how they got the way they are Fox can probably milk another couple of films out of this concept of mutants merging on to the planet if this film can just hang in during the uber competitive summer season. It’s always interesting to me that expectations built up by the media are so ridiculous that many were calling $56 million a disappointment. It’s certainly not and not everything can be Harry Potter or Transformers. With so much competition to choose from and a cast of capable actors like James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender but no star names as such, First Class did really well considering it wasn’t — thank God — one of those films that tried to bilk the public out of more bucks by being in faux 3D.

Over the weekend at the Producers Guild of America’s extremely well-attended Produced By Conference at Disney Studios there was a panel of producers who specialize in blockbuster-type movies. On the panel was X-Men: First Class producer Lauren Shuler Donner who said she has never made a movie in 3D and has no plans for one . Others on the panel were even more adamant against the process , at least as far as it is used for live action movies. Bonnie Arnold, producer of How To Train Your Dragon was a big proponent saying it works well for animation. One participant said he went to the Arclight theatres to see Priest and could not for the life of him understand why that movie was in 3D in the first place. It bombed quickly upon its May 13 opening and should be out of theatres completely soon. Those studios who jumped on the bandwagon thinking 3D was the golden goose are just kidding themselves. The 3D boom appears to have peaked and it will be interesting to see how the new Transformers 3D does when it opens June 29 as the next big test case. The final Harry Potter coming in July is also in 3D but is probably bulletproof as is Disney/Pixar’s Cars 2 coming later this month. Animated films appear to be the one safe haven – for now — for the process which has parents balking at the inflated prices and the nuisance of keeping glasses on their kids for a two hour movie.

Just like the 3D boom in the 50’s quickly wore out its welcome, it looks like this “boom” is gonna go bust too. Time will tell.

— Pete Hammond

Photo by 20th Century Fox/Marvel Studios

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About Pete Hammond

Pete Hammond is a writer, producer, movie critic and film expert whose commentary on the entertainment industry has appeared in numerous publications and on air interviews including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, OK Magazine, NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw, Evening News With Brian Williams on MSNBC, the CBC, BBC, Bravo, E!, AMC, Canada AM and the KTLA Morning Show.

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