Review Wrap-Up for 9/26/08

I’ve put up a bunch of new DVD reviews over on CT that I now present to you in truncated form. Click through for the full write-ups.

Bucket List, Bruce & Lloyd, Funny Games, Harold & Kumar 2

Bucket List: Still, the movie is more or less enjoyable if you expect from it no more than what it has to offer. The two lead actors make it very much worth watching, but I advise quickly getting past the all-too-convenient situational settings. [Buy Funny Games at Amazon]

Bruce & Lloyd: Out of Control feels very much like a direct-to-video toss off, but has a few genuine laughs that mostly occur when it’s not trying to so hard to be “out of control.” Larry Miller appears as the underchief of the technology division and provides most of those with his wildly inappropriate phraseology and alternate agendas. [Buy Bruce & Lloyd at Amazon]

Funny Games: This is not for an audience that likes its stories nice and tidy. Everything is left open and the usual redemption that comes at the end of such movies is completely missing. So don’t expect anything other than relentlessly downbeat turns, with things going from worse to worse to worse and so on throughout the film. It’s unsettling and disturbing and not for the casual viewer. [Buy Funny Games at Amazon]

Harold & Kumar 2: All the characterizations are the same as before, which I guess makes sense since the movie is supposed to take place essentially right where the previous one left off. But that leads to an unsatisfying viewing experience since there’s no growth that’s taken place or which occurs during the movie itself. [Buy Harold & Kumar 2 at Amazon]

The Promotion: There’s nothing necessarily wrong with The Promotion. It’s perfectly likable and non-offensive as a comedy about two guys slugging it out for the manager position at an about-to-open grocery store. But there are problems with the script that even the best efforts of the actors can’t overcome. [Buy The Promotion at Amazon]

The Love Guru: In the hands of an actor less inclined to unabashadly mug everytime something funny happens, thereby draining all the actual humor out of the situation, The Love Guru would be about 95 percent better than it is. As it stands it’s got some genuinely funny bits, but Myers is simply too enamored of himself and so brings every scene to a screeching halt so he can make a face. [Buy The Love Guru at Amazon]

The Foot Fist Way: It’s never out and out funny in an obvious way, but the humor comes unexpectedly and, in most case, awkwardly as you watch a collection of relative idiots bumble their way through their lives trying to be bigger than they really are.

The Godfather Trilogy – The Coppola Restoration: There’s no sense in reviewing the movies themselves since they, at this point, are bigger than being merely films that can be judged on any sort of objective, critical level. They’re fantastic and epic, even while telling a very small and intimate story about men and what they do to protect their family. So on to how the movies look. [Buy The Godfather Trilogy at Amazon]

Iron Man: There’s so much to like about Iron Man it’s a bit hard to keep count. Between the tight, engaging script, Robert Downey Jr.’s loose, natural performance, the fact that Gwyneth Paltrow actually seems to be having fun and the top-notch special effects it’s just fun. On top of that it’s a good movie in and of itself. [Buy Iron Man at Amazon]

DVD Review: Iron Man

There’s so much to like about Iron Man it’s a bit hard to keep count. Between the tight, engaging script, Robert Downey Jr.’s loose, natural performance, the fact that Gwyneth Paltrow actually seems to be having fun and the top-notch special effects it’s just fun. On top of that it’s a good movie in and of itself.

Reviewing the movie at this point is kind of point…less. The movie has a widespread fanbase from its impressive theatrical run that includes both comic book mavens and general movie goers. So I’m probably not going to change anyone’s mind with a positive review of the film itself. If they didn’t see it in theaters they’re probably waiting until it hits DVD, which is what w’re here to talk about.

The two-disc DVD set from Paramount is filled with good stuff. Here’s what’s available:

  • Deleted/Extended Scenes
  • Featurettes: (Special Collector’s Edition “I Am Iron Man”, “The Invincible Iron Man”, “Wired: The Visual Effects of Iron Man”
  • The Actor’s Process
  • Robert Downey Jr. Screen Test
  • Still Galleries Images

The two biggest parts of the features are the I Am Iron Man documentary that runs an hour and 45 minutes and The Invincible Iron Man, which goes into the history of the character from the comics. Both are very interesting and entertaining in and of themselves.

In addition to what’s listed above there’s also a bonus treat on the second disc that people are sure to find enjoyable since it’s definitely more light-hearted in tone.

You can check out clips of some of the bonus features on MySpace:

The whole set is fantastic and is well designed and certainly a must pick-up for any fans of the movie or the Iron Man character.

No need to have an Excel spreadsheet on standby

Marshall Kirkpatrick offers a list of reasons you should absolutely be reading blogs on the clock. So next time someone says you’re just wasting time ask them about the trend you’re reading about right now but which won’t hit the trade magazine they rely on for another two months.

Movie Marketing Madness: Blindness

The last few years have seen an uptick in the number of movies where there is one person trapped in a closed-off area amidst a population that’s been quarantined or otherwise isolated for a number of reasons. Most often this sole individual is trying to survive or escape from zombies or some other horrific group that is out to get the lone person not infected. Or the person is trying to work their way through the mobs n order to find a cure or some other Macguffin that they alone are qualified to rescue.

While most of these movies are horror or action films, Blindness takes that premise and turns the outcast individual as a redemptive savior of sorts. In the movie an entire population has mysteriously gone blind. The infected are grouped together in one area in order to protect others from contracting whatever has caused their affliction. But one woman, played by Julianne Moore, who is not blind refuses to leave her husband, played by Mark Ruffalo, as he’s taken to the quarantine area. But the fact that she has retained her sight is somehow unknown to the population.

The Posters

Both posters for the film carry the same sort of look and feel, creating a good sense of brand consistency in this aspect of the campaign.

The teaser poster features a blurry figure reaching toward the audience, pressing her hand against what appears to be fogged glass, creating the appearance of something along the lines of having an astigmatism or some other vision problem. The way the title treatment is then arranged like an optometrist’s vision chart further enhances the focus on eyesight being a central topic of the movie. No star names appear on the poster, just the barest of details about the film.

The later theatrical poster carries over the blurred white visuals, but this time Moore and Ruffalo along with the rest of the main cast appear. Moore is presented at the head of a line, leading those behind her along, setting her up as the de facto leader of this small population. This one also includes a mention of the film being an opening night selection at Cannes, something meant to appeal to the independent film lover, or at least those with an eye toward serious films that they feel they should see.

They’re both pretty good, but have the appearance of making the movie largely inaccessible to a mainstream audience. It’s too fuzzy, without a clear outlining or explanation of the plot to be attractive to anyone not already interested in more psychological films that lack explosions or knife fights. Now if Moore had been front-and-center on the poster wearing a tank-top and carrying a sawed-off shotgun this wouldn’t be a problem. But she’s not, so a large portion of the audience is going to be turned off by this to some extent.

The Trailers

The movie’s teaser trailer opens with a normal scene of a married couple waking up before Ruffalo admits that he can’t see, becoming increasingly frantic at his helplessness. We then see a montage of he and Moore being hauled off and eye examinations being given. News announcements are made about the “white sickness” and the measures being taken to attempt to halt its spread. There are shots of people being herded into the institution and some descending into madness and anarchy.

The theatrical trailer delves a little bit deeper into the setup, showing how Ruffalo’s character came to be infected. There’s also more about how Moore, who remains uninfected, winds up in the same institution as those who have lost their sight. There’s more then showing other people being stricken as they go about their lives. Once inside the institution she becomes an increasingly important figure among those there as the one person willing to stand up to those who have taken mob rule to a new level within those walls.

Both trailers are pretty good at not only conveying the major plot points of the film but also extending the branding that runs throughout the campaign, showing that the look of the posters and the website come directly from the slightly washed-out and milky look of the film itself. They both present it as a straight drama, though, free of many of the moralistic issues that are said to run through the source novel. That might be an attempt to make it more approachable for a general audience who just wants to watch a movie and not have to think about how easily societal niceties break down when a crisis occurs.

Online

The movie’s official website opens with a news announcement that the world is being stricken by an epidemic of blindness before giving over to the film’s theatrical trailer, which you have the option of grabbing for embedding elsewhere. Once it plays, or if you decide to skip it, the full site content becomes available. More snippets from that news

First up is “Synopsis,” which presents the pedigree of the movie and the basic points of the plot, including an explanation of how the sickness is spread through the population. “Cast” is next, with write-ups on the five main actors in the film. What I find interesting is that, according to this, all the characters have names like “The Doctor’s Wife” and other descriptors in lieu of actual names. “Filmmakers” covers the same sort of ground, presenting the resumes of those behind the camera.

“Video” contains both the teaser and theatrical trailers as well as five extended clips from the movie. They’re not especially long but do present aspects of the movie that are key to the plot – just enough to give the audience a taste of what to expect.

Under “Downloads” there’s just a handful of character Icons and a Wallpaper that carries the same image as the teaser poster. “Production Notes” is pretty sparse, meaning it’s not filled with all sorts of sub-headers and such. Instead it just concentrates its handful of paragraphs on the travels the story took from the 1995 source novel to the big-screen and how it was adapted from one to the other.

There are 14 pictures by my count in “Gallery” that expand when you click on them.

Finally there’s the “Featurettes” section. This is really more a section of special features, or more accurately a special feature. Spread Blindness, the only option available there, lets you opt to send a URL to a friend that will let them experience Blindness. I tried sending this to myself, using CNN.com as an example. When I opened the email that was sent, the link within took me to a screenshot of the CNN homepage that is wrapped in the milky haze that permeates the rest of the campaign. The screen then turns to the same sort of news announcement about the quarantine before bringing the visitor fully into the film’s official site.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

Just a basic round of online and, I think, some TV advertising.

Media and Publicity.

The usual bits of interviews with the cast and filmmakers. The movie did get a bit of a boost toward the end of the campaign, though, when it appeared at the Toronto Film Festival without the narration by Danny Glover that it was saddled with when it appeared at Cannes. Most everyone I read said that made it much-improved and less awkward and stilted, giving the film a better pace and feel.

Overall

I know I probably shouldn’t be harping on this again, but this campaign contains a wonderful amount of brand messaging with the site, the posters and everything else all containing the same white-out visuals.

The site contains a good feature set and the trailers are tight and interesting, while the posters play into the themes presented throughout the rest of the campaign very well. Miramax has put together a solid campaign for a movie that could be among the first of the fall season’s “serious” films that try to reach a mainstream audience as well as those watching potential Oscar and other award contenders. As I’ve mentioned above there are some aspects of the push that don’t seem especially geared toward a wider audience but if the trailers, the most accessible component of the campaign, can reach a decent audience it could happen.

PICKING UP THE SPARE

  • 10/2/08: An advocacy group for blind people is protesting Blindness, saying that it harms the efforts of those without sight to integrate into mainstream society. This might be the most ridiculous position ever since from everything I’ve read it’s not about how blind people act but how society breaks down when the rules are abandoned. David Poland comes to a similar conclusion.