"Welcome to a world without rules." read the tagline on the poster of 2008's The Dark Knight. It may just as well have read "Welcome to a movie series without rules."
This column usually delves into the study of theatrical profitability. But these aren't "usual" times. And as the country begins to pick up the pieces left behind from last week's tragic events in Aurora, Colorado, the once palpable and near-deafening buzz of The Dark Knight Rises has understandably been softened to a murmur.
As they say, the show must go on. Given the appropriate time to grieve, it is perhaps just as important to honor the victims by moving forward and not letting the actions of one selfish individual negatively impact any more lives than he already has.
The Avengers represent a kind of FDR can-do ethos. They're cultivated by the government for the common good and don't exist as authority figures so much as the right tools for the right jobs. Most of them are even the product of government-run projects (The Hulk, Captain America) or government money (Tony Stark is a defense contractor, remember).
But The Dark Knight trilogy has always been ruled over by Ayn Rand. In it, true societal good is reached through the singular actions of a wealthy, powerful, selfish people. In The Dark Knight, Batman clamps down on the regular folk imitating his crime-stopper spree and indulges in kidnappings, violations of privacy, misappropriation of sensitive technology.
The Danish comedy KLOWN, our favorite flick of the week
A cross between Stranger Than Fiction and (500) Days of Summer, this quirkfest watches struggling novelist Paul Dano write himself an ideal girl (writer and star Zoe Kazan, Dano's real life squeeze). Playful and oddball, it's frothy fun with a slightly sour take on wish fulfillment.
Director: Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Writers: Zoe Kazan
Stars: Antonio Banderas, Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Annette Bening, Elliott Gould, Steve Coogan, Chris Messina, Deborah Ann Woll
There's something squicky about the new movie The Watch, starring the comedy dream team of Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and Richard Ayoade. It's not the ubiquitous green goo or the repeated references to Stiller's semen. (Been there, done that!) It's the obvious subtext of a suburban fortress of white-itude having to be defended at all costs against invasion by dark, dangerous outsiders. Back in March, the real-life tragedy of Trayvon Martin's shooting death in a Florida gated community forced the studio to change the film's original title, Neighborhood Watch, after it was revealed that Martin's alleged killer, George Zimmerman, acted in his capacity as a neighborhood watchman.Read more
The Watch was supposed to sell tickets based on the sheer hilarity of Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill joining the neighborhood watch. After the real-life shooting this spring of a 17-year-old by a neighborhood watch volunteer, that strategy was impossible. Fox quickly tweaked the film's poster, trailer, and title from Neighborhood Watch to The Watch, but the rebooted campaign never recovered. Given the non-starter marketing, the film is forced to rely on its star appeal to fill the seats. But how much can each actor contribute—and who is the biggest draw?Read more
"I grew up on Steven Spielberg and all these directors who knew how to treat the audience to a great, great experience," says Scott Speer, the 30-year-old music video auteur charged to take over the Step Up saga from director Jon M. Chu, the wunderkind who put his mark on the series and has continued on as Executive Producer even as he left to helm G.I. Joe 2. The dance franchise's last flick, Step Up 3D, boasted some of the wildest visuals the format has ever seen—think 12 break dancers in six inches of water—and this fourth film, Step Up Revolution, is doubling down on the idea that when audience pay for 3D glasses, they want to be wowed.Read more
When the crowd-funding website Kickstarter launched in 2008 at the height of the (still ongoing) recession, it was a great idea, but no instant cultural sensation. Despite early acclaim from Time Magazine and the New York Times, it remained largely under the radar until late 2011, when a few high profile video game projects received a massive outpouring of support from eager donors. Today, it seems that every week some new high profile Kickstarter project makes national news.
It makes sense then that in an era of studio skittishness and broadly appealing blockbusters, independent filmmakers would choose Kickstarter over begging for change from the usual system.