Tuesday, March 29, 2011

From the archives: November 2008

Hollywood studios call it a "tentpole franchise": a series destined to be a guaranteed, ongoing cash cow ... as long as the filmmakers concerned don't screw things up too badly. Think Star Wars, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones and Star Trek.

And if the franchise is strong enough — if, to continue the silly metaphor, the poles are strong enough to withstand a storm — the series can survive the occasional lamentable entry. (Star Trek 5, anyone?)

This month was laden with series entries, but only two qualified as tentpoles: the newest James Bond outing, and the first big-screen adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. Fans of Daniel Craig's re-booted "blond Bond" got what they paid for; so, I suspect, did the legion of readers transfixed by Meyer's "sparkly vampires." Director Catherine Hardwicke deserves credit for good casting in the latter, but the film itself is tedious and bloodless ... although still a major cut above Meyer's laughably over-written book. Her devoted readers couldn't care less about that, of course, and they've made each of the subsequent films a bigger hit than the one before (despite the fact that the films themselves have gotten worse).

With respect to the other follow-ups, Jason Statham delivered his usual crazed stuntwork in the newest Transporter flick, and managed the hardest challenge of all: surviving a no-talent female co-star who couldn't act a lick. And the second Madagascar outing proved to be the rare sequel that improved upon its predecessor.

On a frustrating note, the world at large — both critics and the public — apparently decided that Australia wasn't worth a damn. This is one of the mysteries of the court of public opinion: Every so often, people inexplicably turn on a perfectly decent film, heaping it with wholly undeserved scorn and contempt. I loved Australia, and am not ashamed to admit it. Because of a very early advance screening, I had no inkling of the public censure to come, when my review was written; I predicted that Australia would "pack 'em in" during the upcoming holiday season. Well, that proved incorrect ... but the film deserves a much broader audience than it received. Maybe time will be kinder.

As for the rest, Clint Eastwood delivered another searing drama, this one based on jaw-dropping true events, and we also were transfixed by a heart-breaking Holocaust parable. All in all, a very strong month.

Step into the Wayback Machine, and check 'em out:


The Boy in the Striped Pajamas


Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

Quantum of Solace

Role Models

Transporter 3


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