MMM – The Village

You can read my full recap of the marketing for The Village at FilmThreat.

So will the movies of M. Night Shyamalan hold up as well? Will we still be discussing The Sixth Sense twenty years from now? That may depend on two things: 1) How well this film does financially and 2) How well this film does artistically. Shyamalan needs to really make his mark and prove that he can keep producing at an exceptional level from movie to movie.

A rose by any other name

The media airwaves, newsprint and web pages have been inundated in the last week with the news of and commentary on bloggers being credentialed as press at the ongoing Democratic National Convention in Boston, MA.  Pontifs have pontificated, pundits have pundited and commentators have.. well, there’s got to be something that starts with a “p” otherwise my whole scheme is off.

Anyway, the general tone of these is that some great paradigm shift is underway with blogging.  There’s also the sense that the DNC is acting so magnanimously by allowing these writers, who more often than not are not associated with an established (read: corporately owned) media outlet into their hallowed hall.

A writer is a writer is a writer.  No matter what outlet they may use, be it a newspaper with a circulation in the hundreds of thousands (at least that’s what they tell advertisers) or a lowly web log with a dozen visitors a week.  What the DNC has done is not really all that groundbreaking, despite what NPR or the Washington Post may try and tell you.  All they have done is give more writers an opportunity to cover the event.

So why are writers whose works appear on privately operated web logs seen as such a brand new dynamic?  Because they are not accountable to subscribers or seven layers of corporate management.  They need not run their copy past three editors and a legal department in order to espouse their opinions or do any kind of reporting.

Things like this used to be confined to the “Letters to the Editor” or “Voice of the People” sections of the major papers.  It’s a measure of how far the faith of a certain demographic has fallen in the major media outlets that they have felt the need to self-publish in order to feel their voice is being heard.  Generally, according to various surveys (which I don’t have the time to find the links to), blog writers are fairly affluent with full time jobs and more often than not families.  These are not lonely frustrated nihilists.  They are the people on the train or on the highways commuting to their jobs and coaching kids sports.

So why the massive differentiation between writers and bloggers in the medias’ eye?  I can’t help but feel it’s a good amount of jealousy and snobbery coming into play.  If any Cletus, the Slack-Jawed Yokel with an internet connection can report/opine on current events than the sanctity that reporters and editors – as well as the managers who must justify their budgets – wrap themselves in.

The voice of the electorate will be heard this election, if not at the ballot-box then definitely online.  Web logs have achieved a kind of cache among the digirati that message boards never really did, despite their inherent similarities.  All you need for either is an ISP, some imagination to come up with a title for your post and possibly a User handle and an opinion.  Message boards, though, since they were always sub-sections of larger sites, were seen as kind of a playground where the kids could play while the adults did their important work.  By offering equal footing for all comers, web logs have truly democratized the writing format and should be noted by all.

What all this means for the future of journalism I can’t and won’t say.  If there is one constant in the field it’s that things will change so any prognostication is useless and a waste of space.  I write to my blog because it’s fun and free.  If you want to know why anyone else does so, visit their blogs and ask them.  They’ll probably love to explain it.

Random quotes

Memorable Quotes from Casablanca (1942)

Major Strasser: What is your nationality?
Rick: I’m a drunkard.
Captain Renault: That makes Rick a citizen of the world.

Bestowing titles

So the title for the sixth and final Star Wars film has been officially announced.  I can now put together the following list:

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones
Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi

As anyone who knows me will attest, I am completely George Lucas’ bitch.  I’m powerless.  If I misbehave there’s the threat he will punish me in some fashion.

Before Ep. 2 came out a few years and Lucas was trying to appease all the fans he pissed off with Ep. 1 he made quite a few comments about how the films were like poetry, where certain cadences and themes would be repeated.  This was all in the context of attempting to tie the prequel trilogy into the classic trilogy (never mind that he has done everything in his power with CGI and more to revise the classics to fit his new prequel mindset).  He may as well have just said, “Really, this will remind you why you loved the first three movies.  Please come see my movie!”.  Unfortunately, he then cast Hayden Christiansen as Anakin Skywalker.

One area Lucas has been good at hitting his “repeated themes” concept with are the chapter titles.  They fit a very nice pattern as you can see:

Eps 1 & 4 – Descriptive
Eps 2 & 5 – Decisive action by a large group
Eps 3 & 6 – Emotional action by a small group

Kudos to Lucas also for using “Revenge” which any Star Wars fan will be able to tell you was part of the original title for Ep. 6, i.e. “Revenge of the Jedi”.  The story goes that this was the title until Lucas decided that the concept of revenge didn’t really fit into the idea of the Jedi as a group who have learned to master their emotions and not let them cloud the use of good judgment to decide action.

However it turns out, I’m going to be there for Ep. 3.  I’ll get the DVDs of the original trilogy no matter what the CGI changes are that have been made.  I’ll get the DVD of Ep. 3 and probably the box set of the special editions of the six-part epic that is a couple years away.  I’ll get the DVDs of the Ewoks and Droids TV series and pretty much anything else that comes with the SW name attached.  As I said, I’m Lucas’ bitch.  We all have that one relationship that we can’t break off no matter how self-destructive it might be.  I know it’s not healthy, but that really doesn’t change anything.

But let’s get back to the big question: Do I like the title?  Yes, I do.  It fills out the pattern nicely.  My hope is that when the entire epic is viewed we will be able to see one arch reaching over 12-15 hours of film, with “Revenge of the Sith” dovetailing nicely into “A New Hope”.  It would be a shame if Lucas can’t bridge the two (something he has said he will do primarily with hairstyles) as that would almost completely invalidate everything he strove for.   Here’s hoping.

The glory of a $14.99 sale

In April of 2003 I began working for Blockbuster as a lowly worker-bee.  The best part about this employment (which was part-time in addition to my full-time job) was that I got five free rentals a week.  This included movies that weren’t hitting shelves until the next Tuesday.

I stopped working there in January 2004 for personal reasons.  The company had been great, the people I worked with were fantastic, especially my manager, and I loved the free rents, but life dictated other things.  So after about a month I signed up for the Movie Pass program, which gives you unlimited rentals in a month for a flat monthly fee.  The first month I did this I rented 40 titles.  Just to break that down, I paid $24.99 for the Movie Pass.  40 titles at $3.99 a pop would have otherwise cost me $159.60.  The second month I had the pass for I rented 20 movies ($79.80 worth).

I had been thinking about buying another pass and kind of knew it would be sometime in the next few weeks when I saw a commercial advertising a $14.99 sale when you buy a new Movie Pass.  Couldn’t resist.  I went that morning and bought one.  Rented two movies when I bought it, so I have already used $7.98 of the total cost.  Two more and I’ve gotten my money’s worth and everything else is gravy.

Gotta love a sale.

MMM – Catwoman

You can read my full recap of the marketing for Catwoman at FilmThreat.

So while they try to iron out the seemingly infinite number of problems getting a new Superman movie off the ground (Haaa!) and before the upcoming resurrection of the Batman franchise, they give us “Catwoman”. The character was introduced in 1992’s “Batman Returns” and is now being given her own vehicle but this time with Halle Berry taking over for Michelle Pfieffer. Not only is the actress different, but so is the character (I’m not well versed in the continuity of the DC universe so don’t ask) and the costume, which dispenses with all that annoying material that usually connects the parts covering various naughty bits. If fact, those naughty bits are barely covered, but that’s the subject of a completely different column.

View From the Rental Counter: 7/16/04

DVD Releases for 7/20:

Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (2004)  PG13
Synopsis: Spoiled city brat finds out she’s actually not that important when her family moves from the city to the suburbs.
Box Office: $29.3 million
Market: Anyone above the age of 13 is likely to have their intelligence insulted by this movie, so expect it to do well.  Families including at least one girl will gravitate toward this one.
Similar Titles: Freaky Friday (2003 remake), Princess Diaries

Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (2004) PG13
Synopsis: Nobody puts Baby in a corner, which is beside the point because Jennifer Grey isn’t even in this sequel to the 1987 classic (did I actually just write that?).  Patrick Swayze appears briefly, but that can only be a good thing.
Box Office: $14.1 million.
Market: May lean heavily on nostalgia for the original.  Couples in their 20s or 30s may enjoy this one.
Similar Titles: Dirty Dancing (duh), Titanic

Secret Lives: Hidden Children & Their Rescuers During WWII (2002) NR
Synopsis: Documentary on European families who risked the wrath of Nazi Germany to hide Jewish children during World War II.
Box Office: —–
Market: Adults seeking more serious subject matter.  People interested in this may not be fighting the crowds on Friday or Saturday night but may come in earlier in the day.  Parents who are bringing their kids may find this interesting for themselves.
Similar Titles: Blind Spot: Hitler’s Secretary (2002), Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (2000).

Starsky & Hutch (2004) PG13
Synopsis: A very loose and very tongue-in-cheek remake of the 70s TV series starring Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller in his 35th movie of 2004.
Box Office: $88.2 million
Market: This is the big one.  Everyone is going to be interested in this.  At PG13, this is the perfect compromise for families wanting to watch a movie together as well as teens and 20-somethings getting together with friends.
Similar Titles: Old School

The Big Bounce (2003) PG13
Synopsis: Comedy about small-time con artists all double dealing each other in this adaptation of an Elmore Leanord book.
Box Office: $6.4 million.
Market: If (or more accurately when) Starsky & Hutch is out, point customers here since it also stars Owen Wilson.  Not quite the same level of comedic hijinks, but may serve as a consolation prize.
Similar Titles: Get Shorty, Ocean’s Eleven

The Goodbye Girl (2004) PG
Synopsis: Remake of the 1977 original, which was itself originally a Neil Simon play, this version stars Jeff Daniels and Patricia Heaton (from “Everybody Loves Raymond”) as strangers forced to share an apartment.
Box Office: N/A.  This was originally a TV movie.
Market: Nice, gentle middle of the road romantic comedy will probably skew more towards 30-somthing couples looking for a date movie.
Similar Titles: Goodbye Girl (1977), Seems Like Old Times

The Human Stain (2003) R
Synopsis: Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman star in this drama about a college professor (Hopkins) and how the secrets he’s kept for years impact his life when they are revealed.
Box Office: $5.3 million.
Market: Adults looking for something that is just a few steps off the beaten path should enjoy this one.  This movie was well received by critics but never found a mainstream audience, making it perfect for someone who may not know exactly what they would like to rent.
Similar Titles: The Hours, Hearts in Atlantis.

MMM – I, Robot

You can read my full recap of the marketing campaign for I, Robot at FilmThreat.

In “I, Robot”, Will Smith plays Del Spooner, a robot-phobic detective assigned to investigate how a robot may have violated the three laws inherent in its programming and murdered a human being. Based on the Isaac Asimov novel, this is sure to be a deep, penetrating voyage into the human mind and the world that it creates. With lots of explosions and car chases, which I’m sure was the point of Asimov’s novel.