Friday, May 30, 2008

Hollywood Summer Blockbusters of All Time

1. Spider Man This movie had something for everybody. Comic book fans of all ages had been waiting to see Spidey on screen. The visual effect finally solved, Hollywood provided something familiar yet original to film viewers. Most importantly, the filmmakers crafted a poignant story that transcended all of the above to teach youngsters a valuable lesson about responsibility, and crafted the most tragic love story since Titanic.
2. Terminator 2
This film combined one of the most stunning visual effects still ever created with one of the most hotly anticipated sequels, and the ultimate twist. The liquid metal T-1000 still holds up as one of Hollywood's most beautiful creations, so the visual alone was worth seeing again and again on the big screen. The sequel to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s star-making vehicle became even more enticing when early buzz revealed that his evil killing machine would now be the protector.
3. Independence Day
Regardless of the quality of the ultimate film, this was the best idea ever for a summer blockbuster. Aliens attack on July 3rd, so the humans have to fight back on what happens to be the American holiday of independence. The movie itself is a mixed bag of effects and clichés, relying on plot contrivances to get to the end, but that didn't stop everyone from going to see it again and again. No one was going to be accused of lacking patriotism!
4. Jurrasic Park
Steven Spielberg had already created more blockbusters himself than most studios could achieve with arsenals of creative filmmakers. Still, he reinvented the wheel again by showing the world dinosaurs. Not just jerky, animated dinosaurs. These things looked like the real deal. Even the king of summer blockbusters, Arnold Schwarzenegger, couldn't compete with them that year.
5. Star Wars
This is the movie that proved that Jaws was not just a fluke. Hollywood could make movies every year that were such must-sees that the theaters of the time could not hold them. Two sequels, three prequels and an animated movie later, fans are still obsessed with Star Wars. The original opened their minds to light sabers and hyper speed, and proved itself a blockbuster even in re-release 20 years later.
6. E.T.
Even more than Spielberg’s Jaws or Indiana Jones films, E.T. so defined a generation that they had to re-release it for several subsequent years. This was before widespread use of VHS and DVD made movies accessible year-round. Everyone felt for Elliot's relationship with E.T. and cried when he had to go home. Also, the film made so much money for Reese's Pieces that the Marrs company has forever kicked themselves for not providing M&Ms instead.
7. Forrest Gump
Perhaps the most unexpected summer blockbuster of all time, Forrest Gump took a weird name and a complicated premise and made it resonate with everyone. The special effect of making Tom Honks meet famous historical figures was the gimmick of the year, and his journey through history gave both grown-ups and kids something to watch that summer.
8. Batman
This may have been the first film that created its own buzz. Early teasers of the bat symbol and trailers focusing on dramatic moments showed potential audiences that this was not going to be just some comic book cartoon. This was grown-ups playing with wonderful toys. Despite an uneven narrative pretty much universally criticized, the world of Gotham City and A-list actors in costumes made Batman the biggest movie of the summer.
9. Transformers
The newest addition to this list earned its place by providing maximum entertainment to the maximum people. It took a toy and cartoon that had been around for decades and pleased those fans, plus created a new technological vision on screen. Finally, the kicker was giving the robots a sense of humor so that even the parents taking their obsessed children to the movie could enjoy human scenes of backyard fumbles and overprotective parents.
10. Jaws

This is the one that started it all. Before Jaws, movies just rolled around the country playing a few theaters at a time. Jaws blasted nationwide and defined the term blockbuster by creating lines that went beyond a single block. It had the effect of scaring people out of the water and launched a series of decreasingly entertaining sequels, but Jaws is the reason this list even exists.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Jessica Gets Married to Warren

Jessica Alba was so desperate to keep her nuptials private on Monday, she didn't invite any guests. News of the wedding leaked out on Tuesday, a day after the pregnant star and her fiancé Cash Warren had exchanged vows at the Beverly Hills Courthouse. Jessica Alba reportedly wore a long blue dress for the ceremony. They newlyweds applied for a marriage license on Monday morning and waited for the paperwork to be processed before a staff member from the courthouse married them. The couple announced their engagement in December, shortly after Jessica Alba revealed she was pregnant.

Monday, May 19, 2008

'Narnia' Retreats with Sequel

The second coming of Narnia had a less passionate opening reception than its predecessor and, being the sole new nationwide release of the weekend, led to one of the softest mid-May periods of the decade in terms of overall foot traffic at the movies.
“The Cronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” captured a sizable estimated $56.6 million on approximately 8,400 screens at 3,929 theaters to top the weekend, but the reportedly $200 million sequel heralded a theatrical lull for the franchise based on C.S. Lewis' series of religious fantasy novels. The previous adaptation, 'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe', roared in December 2005 with a $65.6 million start (or over $70 million adjusted for ticket price inflation) from fewer screens and wound up with $291.7 million by the end of its run. The disparity is compounded by the fact that, buoyed by the holidays, first weekend grosses in December generally portends higher final grosses than they do in May.
Despite the success of the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter series, it was unrealistic to expect Prince Caspian to exceed its predecessor as blockbuster franchises normally don't maintain interest. Beyond The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Caspian's literary source was not as popular as what propelled Rings and Potter. Storywise, Lord of the Rings was designed as a trilogy while Potter had the recurring school year and coming-of-age themes. With Narnia, Caspian's just another adventure as the first movie had a complete journey. That's how the picture was marketed as well, as no strong villain or new high stakes were presented, and the Prince Caspian character took center stage with no context or reason to care shown for those who haven't read the books.
What's more, it's been two and a half years since the first Narnia, whereas Rings and Potter made audiences wait only a year for their second adventures. In that time, the fantasy genre has suffered from a glut of movies seemingly all made out of ticky-tacky to the uninitiated (The Golden Compass, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Bridge to Terabithia. Etc.), and Prince Caspian looked the same, replete with its computer-generated battles and anthropomorphized animals.
Distributor Walt Disney Pictures' research suggested that Prince Caspian's audience skewed older than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe's with more than half 25 years and older, and opening night moviegoer pollster CinemaScore's rating was lower with an "A-" versus the first movie's "A+." The next movie in the franchise, “The Cronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, is scheduled for May 7, 2010, a week after another sequel to one of this summer's big movies, Iron Man:2.
Speaking of Iron Man, the crowd pleaser held firm in its third weekend, down 39 percent to an estimated $31.2 million. Soaring to $222.5 million in 17 days, it will soon surpass X-Men: The Last Stand’s total.
What Happens in Vegas held well by the standard of recent major romantic comedies even if it didn't open as well last weekend. It eased 31 percent to an estimated $13.9 million for $40.3 million in ten days. Speed Racer, on the other hand, slid 59 percent, notching an estimated $7.6 million for $29.8 million in ten days. Baby Mama had the smallest drop among nationwide releases, down 26 percent and good for $47.3 million in 24 days. Below the top five movies, little else of note transpired.
The gasping of Caspian may register as a summer hiccup. Thursday marks the debut of the season's most anticipated picture, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” which aims to whip overall business into shape, perhaps excavating some records in the process. The last two Indiana Jones pictures set new first weekend milestones back in the Eighties.
(Courtesy: Box Office Mojo, USA)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Hollywood Classics: Red River (1948)

Released in black and white 60 years ago, Howard Hawks' 1948 Western, Red River, starring John Wayne at his best, is a masterpiece. Based on a piece of fiction in the Saturday Evening Post by Borden Chase, who also wrote the screenplay, Red River captures the American spirit. It is an epic about earning respect, love and money.
Opening with a wagon train heading west, the plot is deceptively simple. A big, strapping man named Dunson (John Wayne) breaks away from the line, declaring, "I'm starting my own herd." Paired with his workmate, played by Walter Brennan in one of his best performances, Dunson is rational; he has surveyed the land and he figures this is near a good spot.
Dunson, who leaves his woman behind thinking she's too soft, is also rationalistic, mistaking delayed gratification for postponed happiness. A scene or two later, there's smoke in the distance and, soon, Dunson and his pal are literally under fire from the Indians. The duo fight them off—with Dunson killing his first redskin in the Red River—but the wagon train has been wiped out and his lady in waiting is gone. All that's left is a bracelet that once belonged to his mother.
Dunson dusts himself off fast—too fast—and the rationalist becomes a narcissist, really, which won't help because the work will be hard. When a boy named Matt, having survived the Indian massacre, wanders into Dunson's path, Dunson notices the kid's potential. In classic John Wayne drawl, Dunson tells Brennan's character: "He'll do."
The years pass in a diary-style narrative and Matt has grown into a fine, if passive, young man played by Montgomery Clift in a first-rate motion picture debut. Of course, the adoptive son's measured approach clashes with Dunson's, a difference that becomes apparent during a cross-country cattle drive. The men recruited for the grueling work are framed in quick close-ups as individual cowboys, yelling "Hee-yaw!" as the action begins.
The thunderous drive is breathtaking. Hawks is one of the greatest directors and this brilliant movie is proof. The river crossing in particular is astonishing, moving hundreds of horses, wagons, cowboys and cattle across rushing waters in real time from every angle, conveying the danger of such a feat and therefore the heroism of the American cowboy.
Dunson and Matt are joined by a cocky, competitive cowhand called Cherry Valance (John Ireland) and a familiar crew, each playing a unique role in the exciting journey. Red River depicts American West ideals—self-interest, individualism, and capitalism—in action. Making and spending money is practically celebrated, from an Indian seeking maximum value who partners with Brennan's old cuss to a stuttering young cowboy who aims to buy a gift for his wife.
In fact, the most favorable characters are the ones who try hardest to make money—and the lone businessman (Harry Carey Sr.) in Red River is not only generous, offering to buy a round of drinks, he's also observably happy, thrilled at the sight of another man's achievement and delighted to offer the best price. Doing business is a joyful enterprise.
Dunson, who is not fully sympathetic, has honorable intentions—there's plenty of truth in what he says, even when he's at his worst—and this is a credit to John Wayne's ability as an actor. The struggle during Red River involves the brash, shortsighted style of the father figure and the thoughtful, longer-range view of the young man and, when their interests collide at a critical junction for the cattle drive, it's not at all clear what will happen.
But it's pretty obvious that Matt and Dunson love one another, which, if it weren't for Mr. Wayne's commanding presence and subtly convincing portrayal of old man Dunson, might have drained the conflict from the picture. This is about the time that Joanne Dru's character, Tess Millay, enters the movie, defending herself against an Indian attack on her wagon train. Tess represents the pioneer spirit, too; a woman who refuses to live in fear and it's Tess who more or less resolves the remaining conflict and calls upon the men to stop behaving like a couple of monkeys.
Tess falls for Matt and the love of a good, strong woman shakes the young gun out of his anxious state। Matt comes to life, rejecting Dunson's narcissism (to Tess: "I like [talking to you] better than talking to a mirror"), embracing real intimacy with a woman and acting decisively in a crisis. The showdown between father and son culminates in a psychologically complex display of love and fearlessness. Everyone emerges a richer person. With Dmitri Tiomkin's stirring score, a great cast and the twin giants of John Wayne and Howard Hawks at their personal best, the ingeniously constructed and visually gorgeous Red River, which is about earning one's values, deserves its outstanding 60-year reputation.
Director: Howard Hawks. Writer: Borden Chase, Charles Schnee.Producer: Howard Hawks, Charles K. Feldman.Composer: Dimitri Tiomkin.Cast: John Wayne, Montgomery Clift, Walter Brennan, Joanne Dru, Harry Carey, Coleen Gray, John Ireland, Noah Beery Jr., Harry Carey Jr., Paul Fix.Running Time: 2 hours and 13 minutes.MPAA Rating: Unrated.