Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Delayed: A Cinephile's Nightmare

At the beginning of every season, I like to take a step back and look at the upcoming releases. I'll watch a few trailers and make mental notes around which holidays or special occasions the releases lie, gearing myself up for the exciting (or depressing) future of the box office. Of course, right around these summer doldrums lingers a dark, evil word that no cinephile wishes to see: DELAYED.

Now, there are many perfectly valid reasons for a film to be delayed, the most obvious of which being that it's just not done. Reshoots happen, schedules get pushed back, special effects need perfecting, and so on. This is an unfriendly reminder that humans are imperfect, and as such, sometimes things don't happen on time. Take, for instance, Gangster Squad, which was slated for a September opening. After the Dark Knight Rises theatre shooting, Warner Brothers decided to pull Ganger Squad due to a similar scene. The movie is now undergoing intense reshoots for a release early next year.

But delays aren't always so innocent. Sometimes studios delay films because they've exhausted their marketing budgets for the year. Other times, they look at the award season competition and gamble on which year will give them better results. After all, even film people are in the business of making money.

Worst of all, though, is the unexplained delayed. Really, I'm talking about Baz Lurhmann's The Great Gatsby being pushed from this December to next summer with no explanation. Perhaps it's because studios were worried that the box office is only big enough for one Leonardo DiCaprio film in December (what nonsense!), but nobody knows for sure. Instead, we'll all let out a collective sigh and rearrange our mental schedules.

Wallowing cinephiles, remember this: there are always more movies. Even if we have to wait with anticipation for some, we have innumerable others available to us. Let's just hope that the studios don't forgot how quickly our eyes can wander, though.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Bachelorette: Not Just Another Bridesmaids

It's Women's Equality Day here in America, so there's no better film to discuss than Bachelorette (2012, Leslye Headland). Originally a stage play, this film was just in production as a giant hurdle appeared: a tiny little film called Bridesmaids (2011, Paul Feig). It's rare enough for audiences to get one female-centric comedy, let alone two on the same subject so close together. Given the blistering success of Bridesmaids, is there room at the table for even more raunchy females?
In short: yes. Where Bridesmaids dabbles in vanity and gross-out comedy, Bachelorette goes straight for serious issues. The three main characters -- Regan (Kirsten Dunst), Gena (Lizzy Caplan), and Katie (Isla Fisher) -- have failed to achieve much outside of high school, and they must pull it together to celebrate the wedding of Becky (Rebel Wilson, who was also in Bridesmaids). They aren't dealing with broken hearts, ice cream, periods, and other cliché "women's issues"; instead, they struggle with drug addiction, abortion, infidelity, and eating disorders. With such serious problems at stake, the film could quickly become a Lifetime movie of the week tearjerker. Instead, it embraces the flaws and shows that women can be hilarious in the face of adversity. These moments also produce one of my new favorite motivational phrases: "Fuck everyone."

As with most films where the characters are insulting friends and doing too much cocaine, the performances are critical in creating sympathy for the characters. Dunst's acting showcases the miniature fractures in seemingly perfect Regan's veneer. As she frequently does, Caplan portrays an outsider character, but this time there's a pain and tenderness that I haven't seen in her performances since Party Down. Perhaps it's Adam Scott (playing Gena's ex-boyfriend, Clyde) who brings out the best as Caplan's foil. The only disappointment I had was that Fisher didn't push her character to be more memorable; instead, her character Katie turns into more of a hard partying airhead than a complicated and interesting woman.

Now that I've quickly gone over the film, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the movie's inspired release strategy. Bachelorette performed well at this part January's Sundance Film Festival, but it did not immediately hit wide distribution. After all, the spectre of Bridesmaids was still looming, so it would be a huge risk to invest millions of dollars in a film that audiences thought might be a simple copy. Instead, it was distributed via video on demand first, becoming one of the most popular rentals on iTunes as of this writing. Such a strategy not only tests the waters before investing in a full release but also can prove the strength of a film when moving from limited to wide release. Next week, the film will enter limited distribution, and I'm excited to see how the unique release strategy impacts both Bachelorette and future films. In the meantime, I highly recommend that you spend the $9.99 to rent the film on iTunes.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Why a Justice League Film Matters

Rumor has it that a Justice League movie is coming, potentially with Ben Affleck at the helm. Following the epic success of The Avengers, it's absolutely no wonder -- Marvel has figured out how to create not just a series of films but a dedicated film universe. Assuming DC isn't just having a case of me-too-ism, here are 5 reasons why a Justice League movie matters.

1. Strong female characters. This may not be the top priority for some people, but the Justice League has more than its fair share of badass women. Although the original roster only had one female, Wonder Woman, the team has since expanded to include almost every superheroine: Huntress, Hawkgirl, Black Canary, Zatanna, and so on.

2. There's something for everyone. Because the Justice League encompasses so many characters, lots of personalities are represented. Obviously, the film wouldn't include heavy screen time for many characters, but the diversity of the team really makes a difference. Not every member is sarcastic, handsome, or even human.

3. It ties everything together. For years, DC has been producing movies for Superman, Batman, and even the Green Lantern (with some false starts on a Wonder Woman show/film), but everything has existed separately. By combining the efforts into one movie, DC can carry the momentum from the Justice League into each of the separate ventures. After all, there won't be a new Avengers movie every year, but new films for the individual characters can be peppered throughout a few years to keep the steam going.

4. It appeals to a wider audience. For example, my hatred of Superman runs pretty deep, but I'm always willing to watch Superman television episodes if there's some Batman material involved. A Justice League movie probably won't change my decades-long disdain for Kal-El, but it may convince me to sit through a separate Superman movie I wouldn't have watched otherwise.

5. The stage has already been set. There's certainly no shortage of source materials for a Justice League film, and the Justice League television series has won numerous awards. Likewise, there's an active Green Lantern/Hal Jordan (albeit not well received) and a new Superman on the horizon. Forward momentum is building, and DC needs their next big thing now that the Dark Knight trilogy has wrapped up.

Notice that I did not include "to beat Marvel" or "to compete with Marvel". The better superhero/comic-based films do, the better for the entire industry. We don't want more Elektra or Daredevil-types of movies; we want witty, engaging films that reward our knowledge of comics while still appealing to non-comic book audiences. DC has produced some excellent material, and the time is right to push forward with the Justice League.