Welcome to Another Year at the Movies with Jordan Jeffries. Just a few weeks ago I stopped by the 2015 MoCCA Arts Festival (hosted by the Society of Illustrators) in New York City, sort of like Artists' Alley at Comic-Con minus the rest of Comic-Con and only the artists. There I stumbled across and discovered one amazing, unforgettable comic book dedicated to a love of movies, titled Matinee Junkie. It was written and illustrated by cinephile Jordan Jeffries from New Jersey. I bought a copy of year one and the sequel, Matinee Junkie 2 (for 2014), which recaps each a year of his life as connected to the films he saw - including a full-size scan of the ticket stub. This is a must read comic book for any/every last movie lover out there.
What looks good this year? This past week I attended the CinemaCon convention in Las Vegas, an annual convention for movie theater owners + distributors. Every year Hollywood flies in actors and hosts elaborate presentations inside of The Colosseum at Caesars Palace to show off their movies over the next year. I've decided to recap all of the panels from all of the studios (Paramount, WB, Fox, Universal, Sony) and discuss some of the best footage we saw. They pack in so much into these presentations, and I'm glad we get a first look at some of the big projects they've been working on. A few reveals blew us away, while other footage made me less worried about movies we've already seen teases for. So without further ado, let's jump right in.
The first teaser trailer for Zack Snyder’s highly anticipated sequel Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was unveiled on Friday – and expectedly, there were plenty that loved it and plenty that didn’t. There were some that praised the trailer’s dark tone but some that argued the trailer was too oppressively bleak. At the center of this debate lies a microcosm of Warner Bros. and DC Comics' approach to how they are handling their cinematic universe – which has created plenty of detractors, including those on Marvel’s side already accustomed with how to build a comic universe on film. However, I believe the trailer represents what WB and DC are trying to do in direct contrast with what Marvel has done, and that's okay.
Can it be done? Can (and will) a movie studio successfully market a major movie without any trailers or clips or actual footage from the movie? (And I don't mean a tiny indie that becomes a big hit.) That's the question bouncing around my head this week, augmented by all the marketing madness occurring at the CinemaCon convention (where movie studios go all out showing movie theater owners their slate for the upcoming year). With the release of the latest Tomorrowland trailer this week, the discussion has restarted on Twitter about not watching any trailers at all any more, a growing movement among dedicated movie lovers. So, that makes me wonder: is marketing a movie successfully without spoiling any footage possible?
Early this afternoon, we were wowed by the second teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which was chock full of plenty of new goodies, and also some sentimental old faces and friends. And now that we've had a chance to watch it dozens of times, and will continue to do so until December, we wanted to examine the trailer much more closely and see what we can decipher about what's to come in Star Wars: Episode VII. There are undoubtedly some hints as to what we can expect in the J.J. Abrams flick, but we're still just piecing together fragments here and there combined with the rumors we've heard. More below!
Let's discover something new. Kicking off this week in New York City is one of my favorite under-the-radar film festivals, called New Directors/New Films. Co-presented by both the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art (two of the best places for movies in the city anyway!), the fest highlights first-time filmmakers and their incredible feature debuts. This is my second year attending, and it's really all about the films, and the spirit of discovery, and first time introductions to filmmakers we'll be hearing about for many years to come. If you want to feel like you're ahead of the class, or you want an early start learning about which filmmakers are on the rise, take a closer look at this festival and its selection. They found them.
"It could be a game changer," but they're afraid of it. Here we go again with movie theater chains. Earlier this week Netflix announced they're acquiring and distributing the new film Beasts with No Nation, a feature from Cary Fukunaga starring Idris Elba as the commander of a group of guerrilla fighters in Africa. Despite Netflix starting out as a DVD company, they've grown considerably. Beasts with No Nation will not only be released on the Netflix platform, but it will be released in theaters by the company, with a "vigorous push in Oscar season." Their release strategy of going to theaters and VOD at the same time still scares some movie theater owners, and the big chains have backed out of releasing this film altogether. Ugh.
The U.S.S. Enterprise lost an irreplaceable member of her crew this morning: actor Leonard Nimoy, age 83, passed away in his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles, CA from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Fans everywhere have mourned the actor's death, paying tribute with a proper salute on social media. It's as if his memory has beamed into the hearts of those that watched him as a child on the bridge of the Enterprise – and into the hearts of those that just discovered him. For those that loved and admired him, Leonard Nimoy was more than just a Vulcan called Mr. Spock. To many, he was the face of Star Trek.
My second year attending the Berlin Film Festival has come to an end. I caught another 14 films, which combined with the 32 I saw at Sundance, puts my tally at 46 brand new 2015 films screened in three weeks (yea I'm a bit exhausted, suffice it to say). But I saw some great films in the last week, including Terrence Malick's latest and Pablo Larraín's latest. Berlinale has been stepping up their game these last two years, bringing in a robust selection of top notch features to see and hosting an exciting festival for movie fans of all ages. I'm glad I could make it back, and I hope to keep returning (even with Sundance in January). So which films did I see and which were the best? Here's my final breakdown of all 14 films I saw at Berlinale.
After the news broke that Sony Pictures and Marvel Studios had finally come to an arrangement on the Spider-Man franchise, Alex wrote an editorial about how he wasn't excited. I can't help but disagree. First of all, let's take a moment to soak in how utterly exciting it is that Spider-Man is back home – in a sense – with Marvel. It happened. It finally happened. After years of fans wanting it, two lackluster Spider-Man movies (that fans didn't want) and a studio leak that all but got fans' hopes up with discussions of a talk between Sony and Marvel – the studio behind The Avengers will finally be helping shape the cinematic future of Spider-Man. I can't help but spin this as great news for for Marvel, Sony and Spidey's fans alike.
This is definitely going to be the unpopular, you're-totally-crazy opinion but I should be totally honest - this Spider-Man in the Marvel Universe news doesn't excite me at all. In fact, at this point I think I'm over Spider-Man. I didn't grow up reading the character in comic books, so I don't really have that kind of deep connection to Spidey the character. But I did "grow up" watching the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, then later followed the newest iteration lead by Marc Webb after helping him breakout with 500 Days of Summer (originally a Sundance film). Maybe I'm also just a bit tired of Marvel these days, too. This is where Spidey belongs, in the Marvel Universe, I'll certainly agree to that, but I'm having trouble feigning any excitement.
In case you haven't heard by now, the character of Spider-Man is now being shared by Marvel Studios & Sony Pictures. Your friendly neighborhood wallcrawler will now be part of Marvel's Cinematic Universe appearing in a Marvel Studios release in the next couple years and will begin a new franchise of his own beginning on July 28th, 2017. And because this is a new Spider-Man, it has been confirmed that Andrew Garfield is no longer suiting up as Spidey, creating a major opportunity for an actor to gain superhero status. And I've rounded up my favorite picks as to who I would like to see shooting web around NYC now.
From one to another, the adventure continues. In 2014, I was lucky enough to be invited by Fox Searchlight to fly to Berlin to catch the world premiere of Wes Anderson's Grand Budapest Hotel (here's my review). It was an unforgettable experience, and I had a blast attending the Berlin Film Festival, also known as Berlinale, one of the biggest festivals in the world (started in 1951). I am excited to reveal that Berlin asked me to return again this year as a press guest of the festival, meaning they really wanted me to come back and see more films. There was no way I could say no. So only five days after returning from the Sundance Film Festival, I am headed out again onwards to Berlin for yet another film festival. I'm ready, bring on the films.
"Good films make your life better." We smile. We cry. We laugh. We shudder. Here I am, at the end of another Sundance Film Festival, 10 days and 30 films later. What did we discover this year? What films left us in awe? Maybe it's festival fatigue and intense exhaustion, but every year by the end I feel like I've grown–or evolved–as a person while at Sundance. I feel like I return home a completely different person, wiser perhaps or maybe just rejuvenated, but nonetheless changed. It's these films, it's the power of cinema, the potential it has to inform us and shape us and guide us that always leaves lasting impressions upon me. I am happy to return, but even happier that I spent another year surrounded by the glory of film in Park City.