Archive for the ‘Films’ Category

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
May 20, 2008

Well, I just saw the new Indiana Jones movie this past Sunday, which was a special advance screening.

Although not as good as the previous 3, I still think it is worth seeing. I also think that this movie will bring in around $150m over the 5 day period counting Memorial Day.

Not to give anything away, but there are some great action scenes and as rumored, a tie-in to aliens.

-Sparks

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Outdoor Film Screenings
August 19, 2007

One great thing I’ve discovered a little bit this summer as a movie watcher are the outdoor film series that have been showing throughout the D.C. Area. Festivals like Screen on the Green or the NIH Outdoor Film Festival offer people a chance to see films in a less claustrophobic setting than a movie theater with plenty of room to eat a picnic dinner or even play frisbee while the film is showing.

There is the Classic Screen on the Green series which is advertised all over the Metro and takes place on the National Mall. This year they showed All the King’s Men, Casablanca, Wait Until Dark, The Thing from Another World, and Annie Hall. Annie Hall and Casablanca are two of the most beloved movies of all time. All the King’s Men is also an appropriate choice because aside from being a great film, it was remade in the last year so it offers a chance for those who saw the remake to see the original. It also is about Louisiana which is a state that needs to be in the public consciousness more considering the devastation done by Hurricane Katrina. I don’t know anything about The Thing from Another World, but Wait Until Dark is a great underrated gem starring Audrey Hepburn as a blind woman who is clued onto a potential murder plot involving her by a 12-year old neighbor. It’s a great suspense thriller.

The Comcast/NIH Outdoor Film Festival ends tonight at the Strathmore in North Bethesda, Maryland, and although I’m posting this kind of close to the event, the last movie being shown is Happy Feet and it’s practically free. It’s only a $2 suggested donation which goes to various NIH charities. See here for details: http://www.filmfestnih.org/. The filming showed mostly films from last year (Da Vinci Code, Night at the Museum, Casino Royale, Happy Feet, Over the Hedge and Devil Wears Prada) which provided people the opportunity to see one of the great films of last year (most of these were critically successful) on the big screen rather than on DVD. They also had an advanced screening of Resurrecting the Champ and showed two classics in Wizard of Oz and North by Northwest.

Lastly, there’s the Hang’Em High film festival which plays in Rosslyn’s Gateway Park and honors Clint Eastwood. Clint Eastwood is quite possibly this decade’s most preeminent director (along with Scorsesee) which is why it’s so interesting to explore him retroactively and see him as a star. The film festival plays on a slightly smaller screen but the audio is still pretty good. There are two film showings left. This coming Friday is Clint Eastwood’s Western masterpiece Unforgiven which won him his first directing Oscar and put him on the map. It stars Morgan Freeman, Clint Eastwood, and Gene Hackman among others. The week after that is a film called Shane which is, along with Unforgiven, on AFI’s list of top 100 American films, and doesn’t star Clint Eastwood at all but I imagine they added it on because it’s a Western. It’s one of the most well-known of films in the Western genre and it focuses on the relationship between the 12-year old son of a farming household and a Western hero he befriends. I personally wasn’t a fan of it, but I imagine there are many who are. It’s a good family film if nothing else.

Summer gets an early head start in the blockbuster era
May 27, 2007

Hi, I’m one of the movie writers for D.C. Scene and I’m sorry I’m a little late in contributing to this blog. Then again it is memorial day weekend when the summer usually begins:

Five years ago, Spiderman burst into movie theaters across the country an unprecedented three weekends before Memorial day. Boasting a head start over the rest of the summer films, an unlikely choice for the lead in Tobey MaGuire, and a legion of comic book aficionados eager for the movie’s release, the film made movie history by becoming the first film to make one hundred million dollars in its opening weekend.

Since then, Spiderman 3 enters theatres the same weekend, but in an era that’s completely dominated by summer blockbusters. At $151 million Spiderman 3 broke the weekend record once again and has become the eighth picture to do so. Thirty-three movies have grossed $200 million or more domestically and 23 of those came out during the summer whereas only 28 films hit the $200 million mark before this decade.

Ten years ago, there might have been one or two big budget projects like Men in Black, Batman Forever, or Independence Day that would generate water cooler buzz all summer, but nowadays, a big-event picture enters the theaters once every other week during the summer months, with sequels, prequels, remakes. Everything practically falls into this pattern even if it’s not technically a sequel. The 2002 hit Signs and M. Night Shamylan’s sophomore effort, was anticipated “the next M. Night Shamylan film,” which was in essence The Sixth Sense II or we could have called Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 911, “Bowling for Columbine II.”

“Why don’t the studios care about originality?” you may ask. The good news is that they do. In fact, it’s because of their love of film making and their desire to want to make innovative and original films that the studios put us through this cycle and it also benefits us as well. Here’s how: By expending a lot of money on these cash cow films and shamelessly plugging away at them until every person and their grandmother has seen the movie twice, studios are able to pay for all the more interesting films that might not be as sure of a commercial bet. These films usually appear in theaters from around the end of the summer to the end of the year, and you can often find many of them spilling over into January and February. The films that are released during this time of year in hopes of winning Oscars, which are little toy statues that the winners like to wave around to their peers in hopes of gaining respect, power, and priority seating at high-class Hollywood establishments. It’s a strange culture they have out there.

Nevertheless, once Oscar season ends, we have a season of pretty-much nothing on the movie front. Movie fans can spend their time watching the NHL or college basketball or whatever else catches their fancy, because the state of movies is pretty much unchanged. Sure, there are movies in the theaters between February and April but these are films that are released just for the sake of having something new for the movie theaters to show. With a few exceptions, these movies are usually very forgettable (If films in this category like R.V., the Pacifier, Norbit, Epic Movie, Failure to Launch, The Shaggy Dog, Date Movie or Wild Hogs become classics 10 years down the road, than I will eat my words on this one). I think of it as a kind of absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder-type of process where we take a break from watching current releases and might even swear off movies as a whole considering the quality of the films that comes out during this period.

This is where the summer Blockbuster season comes to the rescue. It presents us with sequels, remakes and tent poles which are virtually impossible to turn down. Anyone who’s watched Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and has even the slightest interest in the characters is going to feel compelled to watch the third one just to see what happens to the characters. This is why sequels are so profitable, although that’s based on the cliffhanger element being done well enough. Personally, I thought one of the weaknesses of Spiderman 2 was that it closed off all the loose threads for me to be invested in the third: Spiderman’s identity revealed to Harry, Spiderman’s identity revealed to Mary Jane, Spiderman’s confession to his aunt, Spiderman and Mary Jane getting together, etc. Still, the people saw it in mass droves ignoring mixed reviews because that’s the power of the sequel: It’s a must-see and more than that, it’s a must-see on opening weekend, which some of us (myself included) have not been able to make. The tragedy of this summer is that if we mutually agree that Ocean’s 12 ruined our good faith in the Ocean’s 11 franchise and that the Rush Hour series was never very good in the first place, than the three big trilogy back-ends this summer, Shrek 3, Pirates 3, and Spiderman 3, are all taking place by Memorial Day Weekend which was when the summer season is traditionally supposed to start. “The early bird catches the worm” is the philosophy. So if you haven’t been able to make the big opening-weekend rushes, don’t worry, there’s still the actual summer to see them. I myself am a little behind on starting my summer. I just saw Spiderman 3 last weekend and will see Pirates this weekend.