The number one movie of last year was based on a comic book. The year before, two of the top five movies were based on comics. The year before that, both of the two top movies of the year were inspired by comics; both went on to make more than $1 billion worldwide and are now among the top 15 highest-grossing movies in history. Next year, no less than ten (10) movies based on comic books will open in theaters. Blessed are the geeks, for they have inherited the earth, at least as far as Hollywood is concerned.
Longform - Page 10
Raimi is echoing what most critics and fans have been telling him for the last seven years. ‘Spider-Man 3’ had the lowest Rotten Tomatoes rating of any film in the franchise (until this year’s ‘Amazing Spider-Man 2’), and it made less money in the U.S. than either of its predecessors. For many, it represents not only the lowest-point of the Spider-Man series, but for comic-book movies as a whole; the conclusion of Raimi’s Spider-trilogy routinely ranks among the worst superhero movies ever. (See: this, and this, and this, and this, and this.) No wonder Spidey looks so sad on the ‘Spider-Man 3’ teaser poster; everyone hates his movie.
James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ opened on December 18, 2009, five years ago this month. In a theatrical release that would stretch on for 34 weeks, Cameron’s motion-captured 3D spectacle grossed $749 million in the U.S. and an additional $2 billion overseas. Box-office-wise, it is the biggest movie in history by an absurd margin; it tops its closest competition, Cameron’s own ‘Titanic,’ by some $600 million. That’s more than ‘The Dark Knight’ made in its entire domestic theatrical run.
There seem to be two paths for monumentally popular pieces of art and entertainment once the initial excitement around them begins to wear off. Either they become a cultural touchstone, and become a part of the fabric of everyday communication, or they become a footnote, a piece of trivia relevant only as nostalgia and an occasional answer at bar trivia. I revisit Peter Jackson’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy every few years, because I desperately want it to be the former and not the latter.
Joss Whedon is tired. It’s just about halfway through the shoot for ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’ in London, and Whedon doesn’t as much sit down for our interview as he does collapse into a chair. It’s a bright and sunny day in London, but he looks like he hasn’t seen the sunshine in weeks. He’s completely wiped out—”raggedy” as he puts it—by his schedule, which he describes thusly: “I do this, I go home, I rewrite, I go to sleep. I do this, I go home, I rewrite, I go to sleep.”
SPECTRE is an awesomely over-the-top acronym for SPecial Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion, which may very well be the most literal name for a villainous organization in the history of fiction. They’re mentioned in the very first Bond film, ‘Dr. No,’ when the title villain name-drops them to a captive Bond, saying that they’re behind his scheme to sabotage an American rocket launch. Naturally, Bond prevails in the end, but SPECTRE is just getting started.
You could comfortably bake several loaves of bread—plus a cake or two—in the time it takes to get through ‘Exodus.’ This film does run an hour shorter than Cecil B. DeMille’s famous version of ‘The Ten Commandments’ from 1956, but at times it feels just as long; maybe longer.
Damien Chazelle’s film, ‘Whiplash’—the story of a future jazz prodigy (Miles Teller) and his manipulative, sadistic conductor (J.K. Simmons, who seems to be the odds-on favorite to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor) has had quite the journey this year. It premiered in January at the Sundance Film Festival and wound up taking home the top prize. After, it steadily built momentum from word of mouth on the festival circuit and now, having been in release for two months, it still seems to be operating on a word of mouth system. (I still get text messages from friends back in the Midwest asking, “Should I see ‘Whiplash’? I keep hearing it’s good.”)
I loved ‘The Avengers’ and I’m looking forward to the ‘Age of Ultron.’ I grew up on ‘Star Wars’ and I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve watched ‘The Force Awakens’ trailer. But I would trade both those upcoming movies right now for a third installment of ‘The Trip,’ which is, hands down, the best current movie franchise on the planet.
Memories are so sensual. The right song will bring you back to the first place you ever heard it; a particular blend of smells will put you back in your grandmother’s kitchen (toasted bialys with cream cheese do it for me every time). ‘Wild’ communicates this idea better than almost any movie I can think of. As Cheryl Strayed hikes the entire Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada alone, sounds and sights she encounters on her physical journey send her—and the audience—on a psychological journey into her past, to learn exactly why she decided to embark on such a crazy and potentially dangerous expedition. Strayed hikes the PCT with a comically large backpack—“The Monster,” as a few of her fellow travelers dub it—but it’s clear that the heaviest baggage she carries is the emotional kind.