This past weekend, a seismic shift in box-office history took place and went largely unnoticed. The writing was on the wall for Star Wars’ legacy in the all-time top 10 highest-earning films, as noted on Reddit prior to the start of this past weekend. Box-office behemoth Beauty and the Beast continued to generate healthy grosses in its fifth weekend of release, ending the weekend with a princely (or should I say, princessly!) sum of $471.1 million. This gave the film a slight edge of the next-most-lucrative film on the list, which just so happened to be George Lucas’ original space opus. Star Wars and its lifetime gross of $461 million have now slid down to the #11 spot.
For a franchise about slightly sketchy space crooks and intergalactic military types, the Star Wars films are almost conspicuously free of profanity. It makes sense from a business perspective — keeping the series PG-13 ensures that it’ll be open to a wider array of viewers — and yet the absence of cussing feels especially noticeable in a movie starring the famously coarse-tongued Carrie Fisher. The closest the series came to a four-letter word was Han Solo getting dissed as a “scruffy nerf-herder,” but a recently discovered cache of lost footage from the original 1977 Star Wars is going to change all that in short order.
Much online e-ink has been e-spilled over the question of which actor will take up the mantle of international superspy James Bond for the 25th installment of the perennial franchise. Will incumbent star Daniel Craig return for another go-round as 007, or will he be replaced by the likes of new challengers Tom Hiddleston, Dan Stevens, Emily Blunt, or Idris Elba? Who knows (not us), but as the mission to secure a star has been playing out, another big change-up has unfolded largely in the background.
Shooting a movie’s not like performing a play. The theatrical process is primal, all rooted in emotion and immersion within the fictional moment. Production on a feature film requires far more on a technical level, to the point where actors will be ordered to pick up a spoon in the exact same way ten times, just to be safe. (David Fincher famously went through one hundred takes to nail the opening breakup in his magnum opus The Social Network.) For the typical actor, most of filmmaking is waiting around for stuff to happen — but that’s far less tiresome when you get to hang out with Carrie Fisher between calls of “ACTION!”
Alien Vs. Predator. Freddy Vs. Jason. Kramer Vs. Kramer. Plessy Vs. Ferguson. Soon, a new rivalry shall join the ranks of the great cinematic grudge matches. You saw Bradley Cooper plumb new depths of moral compromise with American Sniper in 2014. Now, he’ll go up against his greatest nemesis yet: it’s American Sniper Vs. American Assassin — Battle of America.
While the post-credits scene was once a surprise specially afforded to those superfans with the dedication to sit through the final frames of a film, it’s now become par for the course, a de facto advertisement for whatever a franchise might have up its sleeve next. Marvel Studios has turned this into standard operating procedure, to the point where viewers expect nothing less than another tasty morsel of footage, the cinematic equivalent of the delicious fries waiting for you at the bottom of your McDonald’s bag. How to continue taking audiences off-guard, then? Marvel could do no post-credit scene at all, that’d certainly throw people for a loop. Or... they could do five.
This past weekend saw the Coachella Music Festival descend on the deserts of Indio, California for a multi-day celebration of artistic expression, obscenely expensive designer drugs, and that thing where white women dress up in traditional Native American garb. Among such Top 40 stalwarts and tastemaker-blog darlings as Kendrick Lamar, Radiohead and Lady Gaga, an unexpected name claimed the mainstage: German composer of film scores Hans Zimmer, bringing his touring act to new highs for the festival attendees. Above, you’ll find the most complete, cleanly-recorded account of Zimmer’s massive live show to date, in which the multiple Academy Award-winner shreds with the best of them.
If Zack Snyder if the filmmaking equivalent of a supervillain, and that’s precisely what he is, then his dark origin story came in 2009. He had earned a lot of admirers for his adaptation of Frank Miller’s 300, rendering the account of the Spartan warriors’ doomed last stand with visual panache and lots of sexy slow-mo. In 2009, he tackled an even more dense and beloved graphic novel with Watchmen and began his long, illustrious career in mangling things comic book nerds love. His Watchmen was literal, goofy, dim-witted, and dull, slavishly faithful to the source material without for a moment understanding what makes it work. It is history best overwritten.
Much in the same way that I have always wondered who delivers mail to mailmen (if they live in their own district, are they allowed to deliver mail to themselves? is that a conflict of interest?), the writers of the new action-comedy The Hitman’s Bodyguard ponder who a career killer goes to when he finds himself a mark. Even professional assassins need a little muscle from time to time, and when one especially ill-tempered sunuvagun hires a body guard with a short fuse, violent egos clash with nose-crushing results.
Having successfully shepherded the Emma Watson-led Beauty and the Beast remake to a billion-dollar worldwide gross, Bill Condon now has the world in his palm. An Academy Award winner with blockbuster bona fides, he’s pretty much free to take whatever project he’d like. Today brings news of what his next big endeavor might be, and it looks like he’s going to make a lateral move to stick with big budget studio work. Condon chronicled the life of British filmmaker James Whale with the celebrated Of Gods and Monsters, now he’s poised to tackle Whale’s work head-on.
Fambly. Chances are you just read that word in the gravel-voiced growl of babyfaced colossus Vin Diesel, the star of the Fast and Furious franchise that turned those two syllables into a catchphrase, and then into a way of life. In no small way, Diesel is the series, and not just because his name makes him sound like he’s already a character in one of these movies. As noble-hearted car jacker Dom Toretto, he helped shape the tone, themes, and overall outlook of all films fast and furious. But he was this close to missing it all, and going through life primarily identified as “the guy in the xXx movies I always tell my wife I was trying to Google.”
A few years ago, I wrote up a brief item about an incident taking place at Los Angeles’ AFI Film Festival wherein an irate woman maced a man in the face for having the gall to ask her to turn off her cell phone during a screening of Mike Leigh’s J.M.W. Turner biopic Mr. Turner. “Wow, being at the movies sure makes people do crazy things!” I thought to myself. “I wonder how long it’ll be until the next time I get to write about a violent movie theater conflict over petty nonsense.” That day has come at last, and this time [beat to let the moment breathe] the stakes are even higher.
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