Author

Matt Patches
After a few years of working behind the scenes on movies and TV shows (and earning an IMDb page for bragging rights), Movies Editor Matt Patches made a hard right into the world of entertainment journalism. In 2009, Patches became the Associate Movies Editor of UGO.com, departing in 2010 to go rogue as a writer-for-hire. Patches covered movies and festivals for a number of outlets, including Movieline, MTV NextMovie, CinemaBlend, and Film School Rejects, before joining Hollywood.com as Movies Editor in 2011. He proudly names "Groundhog Day" as his favorite movie of all time.
  • 'Evil Dead': Horror Remakes Continue to Slay the Box Office
    By: Matt Patches Apr 08, 2013
    Sam Raimi's 1983 horror indie The Evil Dead trickled into theaters on January 1, managing to squeeze $2.4 million out of the box office over its short theatrical run. A decent take for a movie that cost just above $300,000 to produce. While it spawned two sequels and and countless DVD reissues, The Evil Dead franchise has continued to remain in the "cult" category. Seminal, but "The Necronomicon" is no "Jason" or "Freddy." So it's a testament to the power of a horror remake what Screen Gems has accomplished with their updated Evil Dead. Over the weekend, the 21st century incarnation grossed over $26 million at the domestic box office — a 983% increase from the overall total of the original. "Just enough" is the name of the game for horror remakes, the rare genre of Hollywood movies that can be delivered on modest budgets and be deemed hits when they amount to modest returns. What it takes is a ludicrous concept and the imagination to pull it off. Creating something fresh that fits the bill is a risk for Hollywood — let's be honest, would you pony up $20 million for a pitch like "murdered child molester seeks revenge by preying on the dreams of children"? But that's the kind of crazed concept a horror movie needs, especially when it comes to whipping up chilling trailers and posters that pop. So studios return to when filmmakers were capable of cooking up wilder ideas, back in the mid-'70s and '80s, and reap the properties for remake potential. The Evil Dead poster pays its respects to the original by featuring the line, "A New Vision from the Producers of the Original Classic," but it also showcases the blood-drenched image of a woman on death's door, accompanied by the claim that it's "the most terrifying movie you will ever see." Callbacks combined with sensationalist claims that only a "name brand" movie could make. Horror remakes have an advantage in modern technology. For fans, updating the story isn't the draw. It's all about the promise of amplified gory antics, the mayhem we saw decades earlier realized and escalated with today's style. The upgrade worked wonders for 2010's A Nightmare on Elm Street, 2009's Friday the 13th, and 2007's Halloween, three glossy remakes that grossed $63 million, $65 million, and $58 million respectively. Strong imagery is the key to keeping a franchise like Texas Chansaw Massacre able to continuously reboot itself, as it did in both 2003 ($80 million total) and 2013 ($34 million). With even slightest bit of name recognition and a high-concept to back it up, lesser-known properties have been able to prosper: Dawn of the Dead (2004, $80.1 million), Amityville Horror (2005, $64.5 million), The Hills Have Eyes (2006, $41.8 million), and even Prom Night (2008, $43.8 million) turned profits. Even George Romero's thriller The Crazies, which only made $143,784 at the box office back in 1973, was able to be twisted for today's audiences. Director Breck Eisner's 2010 remake made $39.1 million. Critical response withstanding, horror movie remakes from the past 10 years are lucrative investments. What's less sure is their franchise potential — both the A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th reboots hit big and sparked sequel talk. So far, neither has come to pass. Halloween and Texas Chainsaw made it to second rounds, but the returns didn't allow for series growth. Evil Dead's future is in question: there is already sequel talk, but will it make sense three weeks from now? And will the team that helped bring the movie into theaters want another round? Unlike most of the movies they're based on, today's horror movies rarely evolve into their own franchises. The real successes end up being the originals — Saw and Paranormal Activity being two everlasting series that got their start on the film festival circuit. Horror movies work, but like their victims, don't stick around for long. Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches [Photo Credit: Screen Gems] More: 'Evil Dead' Kills the Box Office with Strong Start'Evil Dead:' After the Credits RollHorror Movies That F**ked Us Up for Life From Our Partners:Eva Longoria Bikinis on Spring Break (Celebuzz)33 Child Stars: Where Are They Now? (Celebuzz)
  • 'Jurassic Park,' 'Willow,' FX Master Dennis Muren: 'Special Effects Aren't Special Anymore'
    By: Matt Patches Apr 05, 2013
    Dennis Muren is a legend. His name may not be familiar, but you know his work if you've ever flown through the trenches of the Death Star in Star Wars, been entranced by the magic of Willow, or watched in awe as dinosaurs walked the Earth once again in Jurassic Park. Muren is one of the legacy members of Industrial Light & Magic, the special effects company created by George Lucas that transformed blockbuster cinema forever. Now a Creative Director at ILM, Muren continues to help design and execute special effects for Hollywood's biggest movies — although it may not be as groundbreaking as it once was. "I think we sort of have reached [a ceiling]," Muren says when considering the evolution of his craft. "In some ways, I think special effects aren't special anymore. We really were at that stage when we did Willow." Muren says that around 1988 and 1989, the entire effects industry was still "doing it the old fashioned way," working through effects-enhanced set pieces with the known tools. "If you look back at a whole series of films in the '80s, there wasn't a big, visual "wow, look at that!" like 2001 had been or Star Wars had been." RELATED: 'Jurassic Park 3D': Do Eye-Popping Re-Releases Work? Of course, everything changed with the advent of computer graphics and Muren's work on Willow remains a milestone of those breakthroughs. The film's "morphing" scene, where Willow uses an incantation to transform sorceress Fin Raziel from an ostrich to a turtle to a tiger to her human form, was a moment where stars aligned at ILM. Around 1979, Lucas set up the company's computer graphics division. Over many years, the team developed a system that would allow for the digitization of film into computers, the manipulation of that footage by effects artists, and then a system that could output back on to film for use in the finished product. When it came time for Willow, Muren's team was finally to put the "known tools" aside and embrace the new technology. "Someone had done a research paper at a university somewhere a couple of years before [the movie]," he says. "Same idea, but with a still photo. As a still, on video, it morphed into another person. And I started thinking, 'Could we do this 24 times a second?' Blend them all together smoothly so a person wouldn't have to draw a shape by hand every time." Muren had experimented with digital effects and animation in Young Sherlock Holmes in 1985, but here was a hunk of a problem that could finally be solved with ILM's unique brand of computer technology. "George and Ron [Howard, director] didn't care what we did," Muren says. "They said, 'It starts here and ends there, do what you want in-between.' I had seen so many films where they had done it with marionettes and puppets and robots and they do as good as they can. Then they cut away to the actor looking at it and then cut back and you're seeing a different prop. If I was really there, I wouldn't turn away. That was the idea." Muren recalls the process clearly: they made a few puppets, found a real tiger, and hired an actress to stand in for Fin Raziel and shot the whole thing against blue screen. Throw it in the computer, a few weeks of meticulous craftsmanship and the trick was complete. History had been made. "You can do that right now on your cell phone," Muren jokes. The gargantuan undertaking of "the morph" is commonplace now — as is the case with much of ILM's greatest achievements. "It ran its course. After three or four years, it sort of lost its luster. You started seeing it less and less. Which is fine by me! You still see it in regular transitions in television shows, credits." RELATED: They're Remaking the Original 'Star Wars' Muren says that, since the beginning, ILM has had an R&D department whose purpose was to advance their capabilities to the next level. But they never pushed their discoveries on to film projects. "Sometimes you have to nudge something into it, like we did with Jurassic Park," he says. "That was going to be all stop-motion in the beginning. And we said, 'by the way, we've got this.' And we did a test and that was that. Sometimes it's more like Willow and we've got enough lead time." With new installments of Star Wars and Jurassic Park on the horizon (the latter on which Muren currently is not involved), ILM will once again be tasked with realizing the otherworldly visions of directors Colin Trevorrow and J.J. Abrams. Muren couldn't say if there was anything on the level of "morphing" in the works at behind ILM's closed doors, but he does see CGI becoming a peak standard much like the effects of the '80s. This toolkit has been around for 20, 25 years," he says. "Unless we come up with something really new, it's up to the artists to make best use of the tools they've got. If you're going to make a motion picture, don't just throw computer graphics in to make everything bigger or more. Don't have an army of 20,000 centaurs or whatever it is, if the story is better with seven centaurs. They've lost sight, making things bigger and bigger. Less personal." Like many passionate fans of special effects, Muren hopes that the directors of the future cast a wide net when utilizing special effects, blending CG, practical effects, and anything under the sun to best bring a scene to life. It all comes down to the people running the show, whether it's the folks behind the cameras, the studio, or outside forces. "A lot of directors like combining them," he says. "I would say not a lot of younger directors have had experience with that. Probably is that they won't be as comfortable with it and it's easier, production wise, to say just shoot a plate and we'll get it later. Get it and move on. The time it takes to make a robotic character or a Muppet perform right… there's a lot of value to that. Seems to have been forgotten." What won't change are Muren's accomplishments from the past. Check out his work in Willow, currently out on Blu-ray, and Jurassic Park 3D, in theaters now. Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches [Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection; Everett Collection; 20th Century Fox] From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)33 Child Stars: Where Are They Now? (Celebuzz)
  • 'Anchorman 2' and the Event Horizon of Movie Star Cameos
    By: Matt Patches Apr 05, 2013
    One of the joys of the original Anchorman was seeing Will Ferrell wrangle the best comedic talent in the business into one absurdist fable. Not only was the core team one of funniest of ensembles of all time, but the movie was littered with cameos. And they worked — the news anchor rumble is sublime comedy cinema. Judging from casting reports arriving from the set of the long-awaited sequel Anchorman 2, Ferrell may have been able to work his contacts yet again to fill the follow-up with an all-star cameo cast. Is there some sort of Hollywood Linkedin that makes this all possible? The latest addition to Anchorman 2 is one of Ferrell's former costars, but not one of the overtly funny ones — adding charm to her inclusion. Who is it? Possible spoiler of Anchorman 2 coming at you. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Nicole Kidman has shot a cameo for Anchorman: The Legend Continues, reuniting with Ferrell, her Bewitched costar, for a secret role. There's also no word if she'll be wearing her fake nose from The Hours for an arbitrary reason. RELATED: Is 'Anchorman 2' a 'Morning Glory' Sequel? Along with Kidman, Harrison Ford has also filmed a brief role for the sequel, and anchorman deathwatch combatant Vince Vaughn is rumored to be returning as well. As was the case with Anchorman, there may even be cameos the Internet isn't able to hunt down before the movie hits theaters December 20, 2013 (implausible, but possible). With so much star power being primed for the sequel, Ferrell and his Anchorman director Adam McKay make a gamble. An array of cameos worked for the first movie, which had a cool opening in theaters before catching on as a cult hit. People discovered the movie, and in turn, the random actor appearances that flurry the film. Replicating the recipe for Anchorman 2, and with bigger stars, is tricky. There's an event horizon for the tactic — one too many cameos and suddenly, the movie is limping with a crutch. The cameo is the trickiest gag to pull off. The goal of a celebrity's inclusion into the fictional world is essentially to pull the viewer out of the movie. A famous face walk-on raises awareness that what you're watching is completely fake and that recognizable people are in on the joke. A well-timed cameo can be hilarious — "Oh my gosh, they got that guy!" They can also be… less effective. While basketball star Patrick Ewing showing up as an Angel in The Exorcist III was likely meant to pull the rug from under us, adding a mind-bending element to the movie, it plays as goofy. The same fumbling can occur in comedy with significantly less laughter. Ewing's The Exorcist III appearances may have been palatable (emphasis on "may") had it not been for a clutter of other cameos around it, including Samuel L. Jackson, Larry King, and Fabio. It entered gimmick territory. That works for some movies: it was a selling point for 1956's Around the World in Eighty Days (Frank Sinatra! Peter Lorre! Cesar Romero!), and became a point of world building for Robert Altman's showbiz-driven The Player and political comedy Dave. Spike Jonze's Being John Malkovich took the "realism" aspect to the next level with: The movie required cameos just to make it believable that John Malkovich felt like a real character. Seeing Brad Pitt vouch for the thespian and Charlie Sheen appear as an old friend added gravity to the drama. Inversely, cameos don't have to make sense to work. Anchorman is a prime example, along with every Saturday Night Live movie ever made, and another non sequiter classic, Zoolander. But these movies weren't building off the success of a similarly patterned predecessors. The "lighting doesn't strike twice" fear of Anchorman comes from 10 years worth of investment on the parts of fans. Anchorman 2 requires cameos — it's a defining part of the original — but risks having too many, being too random, feeing disingenuous to the frat house feel of the first movie. If there is any franchise that gives us blind hope for Anchorman 2's delicate use of cameos, it's the Muppet movies. Jim Henson and his crack team of filmmakers worked magic with big name talent, their appearances always complimenting the Muppets rather than stealing the spotlight. Rounding up Steve Martin, Bob Hope, James Coburn, Madeline Kahn, and Orson Welles could be a lame attempt at earning cred, but by lowering their status (the celebs always played second fiddle to the puppet stars), it lampooned what we knew about them. Anchorman 2 has the heightened world to play like the Muppets. If you're going to put Kidman in your movie, push her further than Hollywood has allowed her to go. Maybe bringing back The Hours nose isn't a bad idea. So how many cameos is too many cameos? What cameos work and which ones fall flat? Name the best and worst in the comments. Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)33 Child Stars: Where Are They Now? (Celebuzz)
  • Roger Ebert: Film Critic, Pulitzer Winner, Internet Troll, and Defining Voice of Pop Culture
    By: Matt Patches Apr 04, 2013
    "No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough." On Thursday, famed film critic Roger Ebert passed away from cancer — a shock to the large audience that followed his critical advice on a daily basis. His death came only days after a blog post ran in the Chicago Sun-Times, from which the above quote is pulled, that laid out his plans for the future. Although thyroid cancer and surgery had distorted the face of the man America knew from his popular film review show At the Movies, it never slowed Ebert down. According to the post, he clocked 306 movie reviews last year — not counting his numerous other blog posts and feature articles. That was just the surface for Ebert, who fostered other voices and added to the conversation on every level imaginable. And that's always been the case. Prolificacy came naturally to Ebert. He was hired by the Sun-Times in 1967. While it was the place at which he ended his career, it was also the entry point for his emerging style and voice on pop culture. Browse Amazon.com  and you'll find that Ebert is a credited author of over 116 books, including his nearly annual Roger Ebert's Movie Yearbook series, the Great Movies series, Scorsese by Ebert (an inside look at a famed filmmaker), Awake in the Dark (a compilation of his best reviews), and the infamous Your Movie Sucks: a highly regarded tome of the late author's best pans. In 1975, Ebert became the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for film criticism — an honor that's only been bestowed four times since. RELATED: Hollywood Pays Tribute to Roger Ebert Ebert didn't just pen "movie reviews" and cast them off into a sea of cineastes. He wrote for everyone, because he knew movies of all types could be enjoyed by everyone. It didn't involved pandering, but a loose style that felt conversational and relatable. His jump to television was logical: reading Ebert was like talking to Ebert. So why not bring the act to the small screen? Ebert, along with his longtime sparring partner Gene Siskel, started Sneak Previews in 1975 as part of Chicago's local public broadcasting station WTTW, and quickly became the highest rated show on the network. In '78 the show was picked up by PBS and renamed At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. In '86, it moved up to ABC and became Siskel & Ebert & The Movies. The popularity filled a void in pop culture conversation as entertainment — it wasn't a late night show, it didn't bow down to Hollywood a la the Oscars, it wasn't the local broadcast critics rounding out the nightly news, and it predated Entertainment Tonight and the E! network. Ebert and Siskel took the arguments people had at bars and put them on television. It was unheard of. It was captivating. The ripple effect of At the Movies may be Ebert's most important contribution. A wordsmith at heart, his television show was the gateway drug for pop culture fanatics and budding movie critics to take a moment and think. As he described it, film was important because it was "the most serious of the mass arts" and that criticism mattered because the movies mattered. That's where his influence shows its face: sift through the millions of writings on the Internet and find a unique angle, a personal love letter, or an introspective account on any given film. Any given film — blockbusters, indies, foreign, homegrown, genres from any given point on the spectrum. They all say something, and Ebert not only started the conversations but promoted them. At the Movies was a starting point. Ebert championed personal tastes. There wasn't a "right" or a "wrong," but there were movies he didn't like and movies he adored. He was a man whose picks for the best films of their respective years included The Battle of Aligers, Apocalypse Now, Malcolm X, the sci-fi noir Dark City, and Synecdoche, New York. He would return to movies years later and reconsider them, even "hypocritically" (for those taking every choice he made as written in stone) ranking films above others — you won't find any of the previously listed films 2012 Sight and Sound "Top 10 of all Time" list. And just because someone loved it, doesn't mean he had to either. Roger Ebert hated Armageddon. Anyone who wonders why should read his review. One of the major gripes against filmmakers is, "Why don't you try and make a movie?" as if it's necessary to know what goes into making a film to publicly wrestle, and occasionally knock, the ideas presented in one. While unnecessary, Ebert did that too. He penned Russ Meyer's shlocky 1970 flick Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, reviled at the time but looked back as a twisted piece of pop art. While his "filmmaking career" didn't pan out, Ebert remained steadfast in his role as an advocate for the arts. He wrote on the subjects that fascinated him, contributed to commentaries on DVD releases (he wasn't joking about loving Dark City), and in the final years of his life, blogged about the smaller films that needed a boost while each week delivering insight into whatever was flooding the multiplexes. After his thyroid cancer and an eventual hip fracture that impacted his ability to walk, he continued to attend the Sundance Film Festival, a pastime for the film critic who helped turn the fest into what it is today. RELATED: Howard Stern Has a Few More Words for Ebert There's no doubt that if Ebert had been able to vocalize his thoughts in later years, we would have seen more divisive, inspiring opinions from the critic. Vincent Gallo — whose Brown Bunny Ebert notoriously took to task for what felt like years after its debut at the Cannes Film Festival — is among the many to clash with the critic, but in the end, both filmmaker and critic were chasing the same goal. They wanted people to see and respect movies. Ebert didn't want to hate a movie, but more importantly, he didn't want people to misunderstand movies. He was ready to defend, as in the case of Better Luck Tomorrow's Sundance premiere: At the Movies lost traction over the years, with the eventual loss of Gene Siskel and many alternatives to the show popping up on all mediums. Amazingly, that never felt like a hurdle for Ebert, even when At the Movies ended with Richard Roeper as cohost (and its short-lived revival produced by Ebert a few years later). Ebert launched his ship into the swirling microcosm of the Internet with little turbulence. He was a blogger at heart, ready to lay down thoughts on whatever topic he felt like. The politics of George W. Bush? Cooking? Video games? The last topic was one of his greatest conversation starters from the web: Ebert didn't think video games were art. He made it loud and clear. He started a vicious Internet flame war. He was pleasant the entire time. (And he even jokes in his final post about his future with the medium, supposedly working on an At the Movies mobile game app, that he was ready to argue the artistic authenticity of whenever people were ready.) RELATED: Robert Redford and Obama Ask: Is Gun Violence in Movies a Problem? People, both in Hollywood and those who never met him, loved Roger Ebert. He's been paid respects in all forms — few could help spoofing his rimmed glasses and "two thumbs up" catchphrase out of love, even Saturday morning cartoons. In 1997, capitalizing on his rare fame and support form his audience, Ebert began "Ebertfest," his own film festival that played host to the "under-appreciated" films of the world, past and present. Fans gathered from across the globe to see Ebert's picks. Even Patton Oswalt, upon hearing of Ebert's death, noted that missing Ebertfest was a missed opportunity: What I wrote when I had to cancel my EbertFest appearance.Now it's one of my biggest regrets (link fixed):bit.ly/16tgyAT — Patton Oswalt (@pattonoswalt) April 4, 2013 Enthusiasm was key to Ebert's legacy. In the past, critics have pointed to his work as the "McDonald's" of film criticism, quick and easy. But that's mistaking Ebert's style for pandering. Instead, his work made the heady concepts of dramatic theory into talking points that could educate anyone's own cinematic vocabulary. A kid who spends every summer afternoon watching whatever the local theater is playing or scanning the cable airwaves or something remotely captivating was (will still be?) provoked by Ebert's short but sweet reviews. They may push that kid to seek out "films," try their hand at writing a "review," or watch a movie and look past its surface elements to "understand what they mean." Who is Frank Capra and why is Ebert namedropping him in a conversation on Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackroyd's Trading Places? Seed planted. Pop culture owes Roger Ebert for making demands, and anyone who takes in a movie, a TV show, a video game, a book, anything with an ounce of creativity put into it owes him for kicking them in the butt and pushing them to take it seriously. Ebert is no longer with us, but his dreams will be forever. "So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I'll see you at the movies." Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches [Photo Credit: Denver Post/Getty Images]
  • Is 'Hannibal' A Worthy Small Screen Successor to 'Silence of the Lambs'?
    By: Matt Patches Apr 04, 2013
    In 1991, Anthony Hopkins won an Oscar for his brief, but memorable role as Hannibal Lecter. Hopkins' disappearance behind the shroud of the cannibalistic doctor's psychotic charm turned author Thomas Harris' character into a Hollywood brand. The previous iteration of the character — 1986's Manhunter — would be ignored. Hopkins owned the character now, and would reappear in Hannibal, the prequel Red Dragon, and pass the torch to Gaspard Ulliel for the prequel origin story Hannibal Rising. In a surprise to no one, multiple attempts have been made to bring Dr. Lecter to the small screen, with one finally having slashed its way into existence. Tonight begins NBC's Hannibal, which recounts the action back before Lecter was locked up, muzzled with his iconic jaw guard. In this version, Special Agent Will Graham (previously played by William Petersen in Manhunter and Ed Norton in Red Dragon) is once again investigating grisly murders, pulled from his classroom safehaven to solve crimes that require his unhinged brain, capable of recreation and full immersion. His boss, Jack Crawford, is in desperate need of Graham's intellect, but he knows his frail recruit could snap at any minute. So he hires a psychiatrist, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, to keep tabs on him. Hannibal preys on our expectations of the franchise, finding new motivations and arcs for familiar characters that keep us looking for clues. Creator Bryan Fuller is as calculated as his diabolical character when setting up threads for the show: there are mysteries immediate and gestating, all presented with stylish, down-right-frightening imagery. Is NBC's latest hour-long for you? Here's the real skinny on Hannibal: Actors you'll know: Hugh Dancy (The Jane Austen Book Club, Martha Marcy May Marlene), stars as Will Graham, Laurence Fishburne jumps from CSI to costar as Crawford, and Casino Royale villain Mads Mikkelsen slips into the role of Lecter, bringing a new dimension to the character. His Hannibal the Cannibal (who we won't see doing much murdering in the early episodes of the series), is a bit of a playboy in Hannibal: cunning, suave, and handsome. The perfect cover-up. 5 Reasons You Might Want to Watch: If you're a fan of Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal modernizes the movie's sparse look and procedural structure — mostly because it's been overdone by other television shows. It feels right, more cinematic than any of NBC (or other networks) stabs at the same experiment. Plus: Mikkelsen is creepy as all hell, Dancy finds his own way to leave our heads spinning, and gasping every five seconds at what new murder has been committed is part of the fun. And a Shining reference in the first episode! Nice touch. 5 Reasons You Might NOT Want to Watch:Blood. Guts. Blood and Guts. A slightly annoying ensemble cast who offer quips in-between the slow burn drama. So much blood (then again, if that's your thing, this is a positive!). Love it or Leave it? Hannibal is one of the boldest network shows I've ever seen. And not only in terms of gore (of which there is an amazing amount). TV is often cited as a writer's medium, but in a rare instance, Hannibal feels like a director's show. David Slade (Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night) helmed the pilot and it's slick and unsettlingly composed. The style of putting us in Graham's mind never feels like a gimmick, slipping in and out without warning, leaving us on edge from beginning to end. It's a freaky show, and looking ahead, it gets freakier. Stick with this one. Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches [Photo Credit: NBC] From Our PartnersHayden Panetierre Bikinis in Miami (Celebuzz)Every Jurassic Park Dinosaur Ranked From Best to Worst (Vulture)
  • 'Jurassic Park 3D': Do Eye-Popping Re-Releases Work?
    By: Matt Patches Apr 04, 2013
    First it was sequels. Then it was remakes. Then it was reboots. Now, as Hollywood responds to the ever-changing needs of audiences hungry for both mind-blowing cinematic experiences and nostalgic throwbacks, studios are taking cues from the practices of repertory movie theaters. Why figure out new ways to revive old movies when you can just bring them back to the big screen? This week sees the re-release of Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg's science-infused monster movie. Timed to the defining blockbuster's 20th anniversary, Universal has imbued the movie with the new re-release standard: pristine, eye-popping 3D. So there's still a twist — it's the movie you know and love, modernized in a way that feels familiar alongside today's mega-tentpoles. Reviving Jurassic Park— a kid-of-the-'90s staple that has never faded from memory thanks to ad nauseum repeats on TNT — screams cash-grab and, in some ways, it is. A 2011 report from the Los Angeles Times pegged the post-conversion cost for a non-3D movie at around the $10 million mark. Plus promotional costs, re-releasing a well-known title back into theaters with fanfare to contend with new releases costs a fraction of what goes into making a modern movie a hit. REALTED: The 20 Most '90s Moments in 'Jurassic Park' In Sept. 2011, Lion King 3D surprised the industry when it opened to over $30 million at the box office, working its way up to a $94 million over the course of its theatrical run. After the success of Lion King, delivering their classic animated films for kids with eyes for 3D became an imperative for Disney. They followed it with Beauty and the Beast 3D ($57.9 million), Finding Nemo 3D ($41.1 million), and Monsters, Inc. 3D ($33.8 million). 3D works so well for animation because traditionally 2D cartoons are created with layers. When Simba clings to a cliffside above a stampede of wildebeests or Belle and Beast dance in the castle ballroom, the drawings are physically laid on top of the backgrounds and can be separated for 3D using computers. Live-action is a bit tougher, and so audiences' perception for the post-conversion process was an inherently harder sell. The images look different — but clearly, not so much so that audiences backed away from the films. George Lucas took his first stab at 3D-ifying Star Wars with the 2012 re-release of The Phantom Menace, bringing in a decent total of just under $43.5 million. Doing even bigger business was 3D veteran James Cameron with his re-release of Titanic. The record-holder for highest grossing movie of all time added another $57.9 million by the end of its 3D release. RELATED: 'Jurassic Park' Inspiration Jack Horner Is Actually Reviving Dinosaurs Will Jurassic Park see the same success? The movie is tracking for an opening around The Phantom Menace, but should have even better luck at the box office thanks to the pure love of the audience. As one fan of the film told me, Jurassic Park was his life back in '93. He caught it several times in theaters; the film even spurred him to write a letter to Spielberg professing his love for the movie (and pitching him a few sequel ideas, in case the director needed any). People love Jurassic Park — especially the key demographic, 20- and 30-somethings, who flood movie theaters. Not only is the promise of Jurassic Park back on the big screen enough to get butts in seats, but the conversion serves the story. The 3D works because the movie is equipped for it — Spielberg's camera as always pushed the limits of the frame, putting faces in the foreground and eye-catching objects behind them. Is it a better film? No, but the 3D amplifies the terror, and the effects compliment what's already been shot. Take the legendary T-Rex attack: Timmy in the back of a jeep, playing with nightvision goggles behind a rain-covered window; Grant and Dr. Malcolm watching from the front seat as the animal emerges from its broken pen; the T-Rex snapping at Tim and Lex as they hold it away with a pain of glass. Spielberg composes the entire attack with layers, like the animation of Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. Adding a dimension was easy. RELATED: 'Jurassic Park 4' Finds a Director It's hard to call Jurassic Park 3D a "cash grab" even though it's easy money in the studios pockets because Jurassic Park is just that good. Unlike most of the movies we'll see this summer, every moment in the film feels thoughtful, each character woven into the larger-than-life narrative with a personality (for example: of courseNedry wipes shaving cream on to a slice of pie when first receiving his fake Barbasol canister!). The movie is a spectacle — and a terrifying one at that — but it's also about ambition, about people struggling with personal issues (c'mon Dr. Grant, kids aren't that annoying), and grand concepts of science we're still wrestling with today. Spielberg may not have planned for his Michael Crichton adaptation to be resurfaced in movie theaters 20 years after he unleashed to audiences, with an added 3D effect then normally utilized for the shoddiest of B-movies, but that's the thing with the entertainment industry. Re-releases find a way. Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches [Photo Credit: Universal Pictures] From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)33 Child Stars: Where Are They Now? (Celebuzz)
  • Disney Shuts Down LucasArts, Future of 'Star Wars' Video Games in Question
    By: Matt Patches Apr 03, 2013
    When Disney picked up George Lucas' company LucasFilm in October 2012, Star Wars fans across the galaxy cheered louder than an Ewok rendition of "Yub Nub." More adventures in the world of Jedi and Sith were on the way, a prospect few believed would ever happen while Lucas remained in control of the property. Along with the rights to produce more Star Wars films, Disney's deal saw them take ownership of other lucrative divisions of Lucas' empire. Along with other properties, special effects house Industrial Light & Magic, and a number of post-production branches, Disney absorbed the legendary LucasArts, an innovator in the world of video games for nearly 30 years. While the mega-deal looked prosperous for the theatrical side of Star Wars, what exactly Disney would do with LucasArts was up in the air. Today, their plans came to fruition: LucasArts would be closing its doors. RELATED: Disney Axes 'Clone Wars,' Plans New Animated Series Hollywood.com reached out to LucasFilm, who released this official statement: After evaluating our position in the games market, we’ve decided to shift LucasArts from an internal development to a licensing model, minimizing the company’s risk while achieving a broader portfolio of quality Star Wars games.  As a result of this change, we’ve had layoffs across the organization.  We are incredibly appreciative and proud of the talented teams who have been developing our new titles. Since their early days, LucasArts worked closely with LucasFilm to recreate the Star Wars experience in interactive form. Their recent projects included the Star Wars: The Force Unleashed series, the World of Warcraft-esque Star Wars: The Old Republic, the motion-controlled Kinect Star Wars, and Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars. At the time of its closing, the developer was in production on the action-adventure game Star Wars 1313. The game was far enough along that footage was shown at the 2012 E3 conference, and while there was hope after the Disney acquisition that the game would soon hit shelves, the intriguing now looks to be officially dead. During Disney's official conference call on the LucasFilm acquisition back in October, company CEO Bob Iger acknowledged that the company was "likely to focus more on social and mobile than we are on console” when it came to Star Wars video games. That seems to be evident from the released statement — at least for in-house. Much like tie-in games for other studio films (remember Avatar: The Game?), Disney's use of "licensing model" seems to indicate that there may be more Star Wars games in the future, they just won't be coming from one place with direct ties to the LucasFilm family. Perhaps the greatest loss for fans of LucasArts is the potential unearthing of older, non-Star Wars properties. LucasArts has weird and wonderful back catalogue of titles prime for redux — and with the advent of mobile gaming, new iterations of the previously released games. Point-and-click adventures like Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandango, the Monkey Island franchise, Sam & Max, and The Dig, a sci-fi adventure that was originally conceived by Steven Spielberg for a potential feature film. With iPad making touch and play all the rage, the loss of LucasArts feels even greater when potential is considered. RELATED: The Original 'Star Wars' Is Getting a Remake Unlike most spin-off material, the Star Wars games coming out of LucasArts could rarely be seen as cash-grabs. They were mythology builders — as important to the aura of the series as comic books, novels, action figures, and the movies themselves. Star Wars is a franchise when only thought of as a set of films. But it's more than that: Star Wars is a galaxy. LucasArts eliminated from the equation feels a bit like watching the Death Star blow Alderaan to smithereens. Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches [Photo Credit: LucasArts] From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)33 Child Stars: Where Are They Now? (Celebuzz)
  • Alien's S**t in 'Spring Breakers': A Visual Guide — INFOGRAPHIC
    By: Matt Patches Apr 02, 2013
    When we first saw Spring Breakers, James Franco's character Alien implored us (and his string binki-wearing cohorts) to "look at his s**t." And what wonderful s**t it was. Like a coked up, neon-draped version of Allen Ginsberg, Alien rattled off his materialistic triumphs with pounding rhythm. The film's triumphant moment is all together mesmerizing — so much so, it's easy to miss exactly what s**t Alien even had. RELATED: Should James Franco Get an Oscar for Spring Breakers? To help you drift back through hazy memories of the perfect Spring Break, we've compiled the following visual guide that lays all of Alien's prized possessions out on the table. That is some beautiful s**t. Click the image for the full infographic: RELATED: 'Spring Breakers' Is a Metaphor for The Corruption and Breakdown of Britney Spears Just in case you forgot the epic monologue: "This is the fuckin' American dream. This is my fuckin' dream, y'all! All this s**t! Look at my s**t! I got … I got shorts! Every f**kin' color. I got designer T-shirts! I got gold bullets. Motherf**kin' vampires. I got  Scarface. On repeat.  Scarface on repeat. Constant, y'all! I got Escape! Calvin Klein Escape! Mix it up with Calvin Klein Be. Smell nice? I smell nice! That ain't a f**kin' bed; that's a f**kin' art piece. My f**kin' spaceship! U.S.S. Enterprise on this s**t. I go to different planets on this motherf**ker! Me and my f**kin' Franklins here, we take off. Take off! Look at my s**t. Look at my s**t! I got my blue Kool-Aid. I got my f**kin' nun-chucks. I got shurikens; I got different flavors. I got them sais. Look at that s**t, I got sais. I got blades! Look at my s**t! This ain't nothing', I got rooms of this s**t! I got my dark tannin' oil… lay out by the pool, put on my dark tanning oil. I got machine guns. Look at this, look at this motherf**ker here! Look at this motherf**ker! Huh? A f**king army up in this shit!" Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches [Photo Credit: A24 Films; Hollywood.com Illustration] From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)33 Child Stars: Where Are They Now? (Celebuzz)
  • 'Disconnect': Alexander Skarsgard Uncovers Paula Patton's Internet Addiction — EXCLUSIVE CLIP
    By: Matt Patches Apr 02, 2013
    Technology. Can't live with it, can't live without it. And some people really can't live without it. That's the focus of Disconnect, a new drama from Murderballdirector Henry-Alex Rubin that unravels a web of characters struggling with the overbearing power of cell phones, computers, and the Internet in the digital age. So that's why my Dad made me keep a log of how long I was on AOL when I was a kid. It all makes sense! In this exclusive clip from the film, Derek (Alexander Skarsgård) stumbles upon a discrepancy on his Mastercard bill. He questions his wife Cindy (Paula Patton) on why this might be. With a computer on her lap and a suspicious look in her eye… well, it's safe to say there are parts of Cindy's life that she may not be sharing with her husband. Secrets in a relationship are like information on the Internet — they're always there and accessible. Whether they'll be discovered is a matter of "when," not "if." RELATED: See the Bigger Picture with the 'Disconnect' Trailer Check out this first look at Disconnect, which arrives in theaters April 12, below: Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches [Photo Credit: LD Entertainment] From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)33 Child Stars: Where Are They Now? (Celebuzz)
  • Is Stephenie Meyer's 'The Host' Rooted In Mormon Doctrine? How the Religion Fosters Sci-Fi
    By: Matt Patches Apr 01, 2013
    This article contains mild spoilers for The Host. Underneath The Host's schmaltzy romance and blinding shine of silver sports cars lies a challenging theme of identity and existence, both Earthly and beyond. The concepts are deepened with a little background information: the movie is based on a book of the same name by Stephenie Meyer, best known for penning the Twilight series. Meyer is also one of the most successful authors to come out of the Mormon faith. Viewed through a lens of the uniquely American religion, The Host ends up more of a refraction of those beliefs than anything found in her vampiric romance saga. Some connections are superficial: in the film, the human race is taken over by body-snatching aliens and forced to go into hiding. The "resistance" dwells in caves, living off their stored food and underground fields of wheat. The world of The Host may revolve around a doomsday scenario, but it bears striking resemblance to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Most notably, the Church practices food storage and the image of grain features prominently in The Book of Mormon (according to Robert R. Bennett of the Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, there are more than 28 references to grain in the Book of Mormon). Meyer tells us that it was Host director Andrew Niccol who pushed for the inclusion of wheat because he "really liked the visual" and that any LDS connection is total coincidence. But even persons of the Mormon faith see the roots of her science fiction tale. "There were many LDS/Mormon overtones on gender and race embedded in the Twilight series, but The Host seems more connected to to the Mormon faith to me," says Joanna Brooks, a senior correspondent for Religion Dispatches. According to Brooks, The Host's broader strokes — from the alien "Souls" (terminology from Meyer's original text) entering the body of humans to the possible interplanetary afterlife suggested by the film's conclusion — explore foundational Mormon doctrine. Brooks notes that Mormon theology teaches that before the souls of human beings come to this life, spirits live in a preexistence with God. She describes it as a "pre-heaven." But in that time before life on Earth, one-third of the souls that "pre-existed" were cast out of the presence of God and followed Lucifer instead of finding bodies on Earth. There have also been suggestions that the slighted souls attempt to intervene with the affairs of the world. "Sometimes, you will hear as folk doctrine, the idea that this one-third are so envious that they will try and take over," Brooks says. "But the teaching that there were a large number of spirits that never made it to Earth who might like to is actually doctrine." RELATED: Let's Talk About That Crazy Ending of 'The Host'— Spoilers The blurry line between doctrine and Mormon folklore, a visible sign that the 19th century religion continues to evolve, is at the heart of The Host. In the end of the film, the main character Wanda (an alien inhabiting the body of a human woman, Melanie) decides to opt out of being transplanted to a spaceship and sent to another planet, choosing instead to be removed from Melanie's body and "die." This strikes Brooks as a reference to Kolob, the thing closest to the dwelling place of God. It's another Mormon story that has slowly become myth in the grand tapestry of beliefs. Other Mormon writings took the concept a step further — and sound more like the basis of The Host. "Even our most speculative theologians in the 19th century inferred that there could be other universes where other divine beings with a parallel to God may also have dominion," Brooks says. "A cosmological consciousness is part of the Mormon tradition." Meyers isn't the only Mormon science fiction writer to look to her religion for inspiration. Nathaniel Givens, blogger for popular Mormon site Times And Seasons, cites Ender's Game author Orson Scott Card, who reworked the history of Joseph Smith, founder of Latter Day Saint Movement, for his book The Seventh Son, and touches on Mormon themes in the Ender's sequel Speaker for the Dead. Other prominent Mormon sci-fi writers include Glen A. Larson, whose show Battlestar Galactica includes a place called "Kobol," and fantasy author Brandon Sanderson, who took over the poplar Wheel of Time series. For Givens, The Book of Mormon, unlike other religious texts, considers all sides of the universe, creating a faith that nurtures science fiction writing. "Since Mormonism also makes doctrinal claims that go well outside of most religions (for example, about what happens before and after this mortal life) and also has long believed in compatibility between science and religion, the direction that Mormons take with their individual speculation is very compatible with sci-fi," Givens says. The blogger points to American sci-fi writer Pamela Sargent, who described science fiction as "the literature of ideas," and believes that a large part of Mormon practice is working out big ideas that have to do with how we got where we are and where we might get where we're going. "If Mormons want to try and dig deeper and understand the meaning behind or connections between elements of official Mormon doctrine, then that becomes sort of their own responsibility," he says. "So there's just this deep culture of amateur theology in Mormonism; we spend a lot of time just trying to figure out how things might work, theologically." Givens notes that he does not believe either Meyer or Scott Card depict things they already believe, aligning with Meyer's retort that The Host isn't an overtly Mormon film. There's a presumption to how faith-based works operate — a "preachy" film can steer larger audiences away — and that's not The Host. Instead, Meyer's adaptation takes a stab at considering, challenging, and working out Mormon ideas. "It's all about questions, not answers, and Mormonism is a religion that — in terms of structure — tends to create a lot of questioning people," Givens says. "It also creates a lot of very conformist people, too, don't get me wrong. That's just a tension that exists within the community." RELATED: ‘The Host’ Star Saoirse Ronan Talks About Alien Kissing A speculation-friendly religion is bound to divide, both between sects of believers and those on the outside looking in. As a successful Mormon figure, Meyer has come under predictable heat, and Givens says he knows just as many Mormons who are proud of Meyer's success as there are naysayers of her work. He says that the "Mormon depiction" in Twilight has caused issues with the perception of members of the faith, painting them as "sex-obsessed." On the other end of the spectrum is scrutiny over Meyer's ability to be a progressive fiction writer and commit to her faith. In a recent article, Brooks defended Meyer's ability to be a Mormon feminist, equating her with Harriet Beecher Stowe in her ability to employ saccharine drama and still tell deeply involved, human stories. Add that all to the science fiction of The Host and you have a layered individual that seems to exemplify what Mormonism strives to be about. For Givens, sci-fi ruminations like The Host, that wrestle with the oldest ideas of Latter-day Saints, don't interfere with the ability to take Mormon doctrine seriously. To him, a work like The Host can live side by side with The Book of Mormon. "I think that the historical claims of the religion are actually very important," he says. "I understand that there are a lot of Mormons who, for example, would like to value and treasure The Book of Mormon as a purely spiritual document without actually believing the stories it tells or the idea that there were really gold plates that Joseph Smith translated. I respect that, but that's just not my position. And, for me at least, I don't think that the sci-fi causes problems on that level." Givens also acknowledges the tension created by the difficulty Mormonism faces when being accepted by modern thought. But he doesn't believe that a movie like The Host pulls the carpet from under believers. Meyer may try to keep her faith-related questions out of the publicity circle, but even if her work is perceived by audiences as religiously rooted, introducing the questioning can be positive. "It's hard to carve out a kind of literal idea of the sacred in this current culture, and I think that's also a tension that you see Mormon authors working out in their work," he says. "So, for me at least, I think the tension just spurs more creativity and art, rather than necessarily detracting from the faith." For Brooks, Meyer spins stories from Mormon faith with the right sensibilities: part traditional, part imaginative. "One of the defining features of Mormon culture is that we are exceptionally pragmatic," she says. "This comes from our roots in the rural west and our penchant for large families. At the same time, we are a people with an extremely rich speculative theology. To live with that balance is to be a Mormon." Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches [Photo Credit: Open Road] Additional reporting by Jordan Hoffman From Our Partners:40 Most Revealing See-Through Red Carpet Looks (Vh1)33 Child Stars: Where Are They Now? (Celebuzz)