The Last Airbender

The Art of Ralph McQuarrie

What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly collection of links, movie news, happy things and sad things. Tonight we begin with something sad, because it’s easily the biggest story of the night. We begin this evening on a sad note. Over the weekend, Ralph McQuarrie passed away. Some of you may not know the name, but you’ve seen his work. In fact, his work may have defined a lot of what you consider to be the iconography of your childhood. He’s the man who helped George Lucas craft the look of a little project called Star Wars, among other things. Better men than I have written excellent obituaries. I found Drew McWeeney on Ralph McQuarrie and AICN’s Eric Vespe on Ralph McQuarrie to be the best of them. Also, Geek Tyrant has a great gallery of Ralph McQuarrie art.

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M. Night Shyamalan

When M. Night Shyamalan join the world of Twitter, I immediately thought, “This guy’s going to get slaughtered.” So far, it hasn’t been a slaughter, but neither has it been the warmest of welcomes. Right when it became aware the divisive director – and a director I still like, The Last Airbender and The Happening notwithstanding – the twist jokes came. So. Many. Twist. Jokes.

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Studio logos are an iconography all their own, but nothing puts a grin on my face like a spiffy send-up of a traditional company emblem tailored made to gel with the film I’m about to watch. Don’t get me wrong — nothing’s going to top classics like Alfred Newman’s Fox fanfare, Jerry Goldsmith’s Universal tune or the countless other openings ingrained in our cinematic memories. But when someone takes the recognizable logo and makes it their own…well, that’s when I get giddy. For decades, movie studios have been allowing filmmakers to tinker slightly with the prestigious logos that preface every film they release. Nothing too crazy — maybe a color shift or a throwback to a retired bumper — but nothing that would tarnish their reputations. These days, most movies are free to run wild. Many stick to the time-honored traditions of their studios, but the ones that don’t feel that much more special. Regardless of a film’s quality, a great logo is like the cherry on top for most movie buffs. Here are fourteen modern variants that bring a little extra magic to the pictures they kick off:

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The day that Hollywood waits for all year is here. Also, the day that people who write about Hollywood wait for all year is here. Hollywood is probably paying attention to the Oscar winners, but for the rest of us it’s time to see who won The Razzies. After all of the paychecks have been cashed and all of the artistic compromises have been made, the moment to find out who crapped out the worst schlock comes here: The Golden Raspberry Award Foundation has poured over all of the nominees and named their winners for the worst work of the year. Watching bad work earn Razzies isn’t quite payback enough for having to suffer through all of the crap that Hollywood churns out every year, but for people who watch everything in hopes of steering the public towards the good, it does serve as a little peace of mind. If the ceremonial blowjob of the Oscars has to exist, then I’m glad the Zen of the world is maintained by the Nelson Muntz “ha-ha” of The Razzies; the snarky yin to the gushing yang.

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The moment that Ricky Gervais secretly waits for every year is upon us. The nominations for the 31st Golden Raspberry Awards are in. The Razzies is a different kind of awards show, not one that heaps false praise on people that it doesn’t respect, but one that dishonors the worst work of the year. No, their nominees for Worst Picture aren’t quite as bad as the Golden Globe nominees for Best Picture – Comedy or Musical, but it’s still generally considered an insult to earn Razzie recognition, and God forbid you actually win. Looking over this year’s nominees has left me in a confused emotional state. The only film I’ve seen that on here is The Expendables. Does that make me a bad film fan or a smart consumer?  Can one truly appreciate the good if he hasn’t waded through most of the bad? In 2011, I solemnly vow to see more bad movies.

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Some folks love trailers while others think they’re the devil’s work made to foil your plans of avoiding spoilers, but regardless which side of that particular fence you land on, few people would argue that trailers are an art unto themselves and deserve their own recognition. It’s for that reason that we present the ten best trailers of the year. They’re in alphabetical order, but in the spirit of trailers being too often filled with spoilers these days, let me just reveal right now that the best trailer of the year is the red-band one for Hobo With A Shotgun.

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As the movies of 2010 comes to a close, it’s time to look back and revisit the finer points of cinema. But here at Film School Rejects, we like to turn the spotlight not just on the best, but also on the worst. This year has been a particularly rough year for movies as more films fizzled than we expected. With the year quickly coming to a close, it’s time to look back and realize which films didn’t just disappoint, but caused us the most pain. So with the help of the entire staff here at FSR, our own curator of the wretched Kevin Carr has compiled the list of the year’s most unwatchable, unbearable and unfortunately unforgettable films — may there be mercy on the souls of anyone who endured all of these gems…

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The race for the Oscar for Best Visual Effects is on, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has put it into full gear by releasing the list of films that will comprise the final 15 contenders. As you might remember from previous years, this only the first cut. Over the next few weeks, the Academy’s visual effects branch will narrow the list down to seven films, then watch 15-minute clip reels and bring it down to five nominees for a January 25th announcement. Which leaves us the never-difficult task of picking through the list and deciding two things: which films we think deserve the 5 nominations, and which five films will actually get the nominations. First, lets take a look at the list.

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This Week in Blu-ray

Re-releases are a tough business, I tell you. And this week is full of them. Be they the re-lighting of the old flame that still burns from Chaplin’s last trip as the Little Tramp or James Cameron’s twice released (this year) mega-event movie Avatar, This Week in Blu-ray is full of stuff that we’ve seen before, in various capacities. That doesn’t mean that some of these titles aren’t worth buying, as you might expect. A few of these titles will be welcomed additions to your collection. They may also have you cursing the names of faceless Fox executives who duped you into buying Avatar the first time around. Or Blu-ray column writers who recommended it, despite the obvious lack of special features… Actually, lets not focus on that last part. Why don’t we just move on to this week’s selection of high definition wonders.

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Culture Warrior

For better or worse, this summer of movies is over, and now we’re in the early-Fall transition into the inevitable season of so-called “serious” awards-friendly films, films that supposedly say a lot about human nature and our time and place as a culture. However, I’ve always contended that it is often the films that seemingly exist only for “entertainment’s sake” that have the most to say about culture, mainly because they operate in such a way that allows us to turn our minds off, passively consume them, and therefore go along unquestionably with the socio-political presumptions explicitly or implicitly embedded within their narratives. Such films that purport to exist solely for entertainment value often end up telling us a lot about how and what we think about the present, and it just so happens that these types of films are most often relegated to the summer months. Summer movies in 2010 ranged from highbrow to lowbrow, blockbuster to indie to sleeper, with head-scratchers and brain-cell-killers alike, but many of these films, intentionally or not, had something to say or assume about the present cultural moment.

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Culture Warrior

I argued in a Culture Warrior article last year that bad films give audiences a degree of power and authority over the enormous and intricate machinations of filmmaking – in other words, that in an industry so large, with so many levels of production and with such a complex process from inception to completion, for a work of incompetence to somehow arise is an instance of seemingly impossible serendipity. Bad films are more believably possible – and come about, arguably, more often – through the process of independent filmmaking, a venue where resources may be limited but accountability may be absent altogether. Thus, a masterpiece of incompetence like Tommy Wiseau’s The Room is likely if not inevitable when there are significant sources of funding provided by a first-time feature director who doesn’t know the first thing about narrative storytelling, much less the difference between 35mm and HD cameras – or Troll 2, in which a language barrier also provided a barrier to competent filmmaking.

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And so it goes for the 4th of July weekend, two heavy hitters deliver fireworks to the masses, even if those fireworks aren’t on a milestone level of awesomeness. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and The Last Airbender had respectable openings even if neither of them came close to breaking any records this weekend. The much beloved Toy Story 3 held strong in its third weekend out, and a big surprise came in the form of the latest indie comedy from the Duplass brothers. All in all, another fun-filled weekend at the movie theater.

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Some movies aren’t worth beating a dead horse this much. The Last Airbender certainly is. M. Night Shyamalan’s film, a blight against good storytelling, has been ill-received by critics. And that usually wouldn’t mean the world, especially in the case of most fan-driven event films (like Twilight). That is, until the fans see the movie and begin to received it poorly themselves. Such is the case in the tale of Aang (which is mispronounced in the film).

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Hollywood turned in its assignments early this week with releases on Wednesday and Thursday. Now Fat Guy Kevin Carr hands out his grades for the latest installment of The Twilight Saga and the big screen adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender.

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Squeeeeee! Kevin and Neil run around the Magical Studio in the Sky without their shirts on, desperately trying to shape-shift into a werewolf so they too can be worthy of sickly-looking Bella Swan’s fickle infatuation… yet they still have a better time than they did when they saw The Last Airbender.

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I mean no offense, but my job isn’t to be an avenger of fandom. I’m here to talk about whether or not the movie is good, from the most objective place possible. But this time I can’t help it. It’s just too much to bear. To the fans of The Last Airbender: I am offended on your behalf.

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Twilight: Eclipse

Twilight fans (yes, you) rejoice. Your Eclipse is finally upon us, and it is sure to storm through the box office like a tornado through a trailer park. Not even The Last Airbender will be able to control it.

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I will admit to still being excited about The Last Airbender, M. Night Shyamalan’s foray into the world of adapting popular kids cartoons into mega-budget action movies. But from the beginning — or at least that first teaser trailer — it’s been about the action. Assuming Shyamalan’s dialog is anywhere near as bad as it was in The Happening, the less talking, the better. And that’s exactly what we get in these two new clips.

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So it’s about time for that other Avatar movie to come out, the new flick The Last Airbender from director M. Night Shyamalan. The good folks here at Film School Rejects have arranged for some early screening passes for the screening in Columbus, Ohio, next week. Here’s your chance to see the movie early, on Tuesday, June 29 at the AMC Easton Town Center 30 at 7:30 PM.

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Summer Movies 2010

It’s that time again. Every year, Film School Rejects is looked to by readers the world over to be the guiding light for summer movie-going. What can we say? We just have a knack for it. And this summer, we’re excited…

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