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James Cameron 'Avatar': Positive Buzz

Avatar - James CameronJames Cameron's Avatar, the event movie of the season, had its London premiere earlier this evening.

Audience members and critics were initially forbidden from commenting on Cameron's costly sci-fi extravaganza – depending on who you listen to, Avatar may have cost more than the Gross National Product of Austria, Argentina, and Algeria put together. (Fox, which at first had kept mum on actual figures, now says that Avatar cost $237 million to make and $150 million to promote.)

But you shouldn't believe everything you hear.

The critical response thus far? Generally positive, sometimes enthusiastic.

In a piece titled “Avatar: hit or miss? We can't really tell you,” The Guardian's Mark Brown writes, “by saying Avatar was really much, much better than expected, that it looked amazing and that the story was gripping - if cheesy in many places - the Guardian is in technical breach of the [later rescinded] agreement. It is not a breach, however, to report that other journalists leaving the screening were also positive: the terrible film that some had been anticipating had not materialised. It was good.” Cynics, however, “might sneer at the plot,” which requires “a certain amount of suspension of disbelief.”

US Republicans, for their part, may writhe in agony in their seats when they hear a “deranged general” reminiscent of former Commander in Chief George W. Bush, saying, “Our survival relies on pre-emptive action. We will fight terror, with terror.”

Following Brown's report – and surely aware that the buzz would be mostly positive – Fox said To Hell with It, and allowed other reviewers to chip in.

Here are three more comments:

Avatar is an overwhelming, immersive spectacle,” writes Wendy Ide in The Times. “The state-of-the-art 3D technology draws us in, but it is the vivid weirdness of Cameron's luridly imagined tropical otherworld that keeps us fascinated.”

“A dozen years later, James Cameron has proven his point: He is king of the world,” gushes Kirk Honeycutt in The Hollywood Reporter. “… He brings science-fiction movies into the 21st century with the jaw-dropping wonder that is Avatar.”

“The story of Avatar was okay — but probably the weakest part of the whole production,” says Empire Movies. “If you step back and look at the basic premise of the movie, it was all pretty simple. The corporate bullies, with the help of the army, step in to take something valuable and they don't care who they are inconveniencing by doing it. We've seen this a million times before on film and probably more times in real life.”

Avatar stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel Moore, CCH Pounder, and Wes Studi.

Photos: © 20th Century Fox

'Avatar': No Robert Pattinson, Zac Efron

Fox says James Cameron's Avatar is its most expensive production ever. That's quite something, coming from the studio behind Cameron's own Leviathanesque Titanic in the late 1990s, Joseph L. Mankiewicz's Galleonesque Cleopatra in the early 1960s, and Richard Fleischer's brontosauresque Doctor Dolittle later that decade.

Both Titanic and Cleopatra went on to make a fortune at the box office – Doctor Dolittle was less lucky – but they had Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet and Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and Rex Harrison and Eddie Fisher. Eddie Fisher? Well, not on screen. After dumping Debbie Reynolds for Taylor, Fisher found himself being dumped by Taylor, who by then was having a torrid affair with Burton. The scandal-plagued production earned loads of free publicity worldwide – condemnation from church groups, et al. – of the type that Avatar sorely lacks.

Also, Sam Worthington (above) may have done well for himself in Terminator Salvation, but he's not Robert Pattinson or Zac Efron when it comes to the teen crowd. And a cast that includes Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Giovanni Ribisi, and Wes Studi sounds prestigious, but prestige hasn't translated into big box office figures of late. Neither has 3-D (ask Robert Zemeckis) or blue aliens (wasn't E.T. a greenish gray?).

Avatar has its world premiere in London tomorrow. It will kick off the Dubai International Film Festival on Dec. 15, and three days later it'll open in the US. The film will be released in dozens of other countries around that date. No one has any idea how the movie will fare, but I don't think one has to be a psychic to know that suits at Fox – where the Avatar budget is being kept secret, though outside estimates range from $300-$600 million – are all wet by now. (To date, without adjusting for inflation, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is the most expensive movie ever made as per boxofficemojo.com. Adjusting for inflation, Cleopatra may well remain the most expensive movie ever – that is, perhaps, until Avatar.)

With more than $1.8 billion in worldwide receipts, Titanic eventually recovered its cost and earned sizable profits, but Cleopatra, at least in its initial run, left the studio mired deep in the red. Doctor Dolittle was a disaster.

Century City, a.k.a. The Old Fox Backlot, is a direct result of the Cleopatra debacle. Will Los Angeles' Westside get another new neighborhood if Avatar fails?

Photos: 20th Century Fox

Los Angeles Film Critics Winner 'The Beaches of Agnès' Returns to LA

Agnes Varda in The Beaches of Agnes

Cinema Guild will bring Agnès Varda's Les plages d'Agnès / The Beaches of Agnès back to Los Angeles for an open-ended return engagement on Saturday, December 26, and Sunday, December 27, at 11 am at the Laemmle Sunset 5 in West Hollywood and Playhouse 7 in Pasadena.

Named the Best Documentary of 2009 (tied with Louie Psihoyos' The Cove) by the Los Angeles Film Critics, The Beaches of Agnès has also been included on the shortlist for Academy Award consideration in the 2010 Best Documentary Feature category. Additionally, The Beaches of Agnès was nominated for an European Film Award.

From the Cinema Guild press release:

Agnès Varda, whom A.O. Scott in The New York Times deemed “a treasure” when writing about her acclaimed documentary, The Gleaners And I, returns with a movie that synthesizes 50 years of filmmaking, and 80 years of a life well-lived. An early member of the French New Wave, Varda has worked with Chris Marker, Alain Resnais, Jean-Luc Godard, Jane Birkin, Michel Piccoli, Catherine Deneuve and Philippe Noiret - not to mention Harrison Ford, the Black Panthers and Viva.

Stories of her childhood in Brussels and adolescence in occupied Paris, of Los Angeles in the '60s, and of life in her 14e arrondissement Paris neighborhood are melded with clips from both documentary and fiction work. Husband/filmmaker Jacques Demy, who died in 1990, is an abiding presence.

Varda is an avid collector: of people and places, sensual experiences and intellectual preoccupations, personal commitments and political principles. She is a mother and wife, a feminist, nature-lover and urban-dwelling artist. Above all, she is a woman in love with the cinema whose new movie perfectly expresses her sentiment, “While I live, I remember.”

Henry Selick Mini-Retrospective in Hollywood

James and the Giant Peach by Henry Selick
Coraline - Henry Selick
Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas - Henry Selick

James and the Giant Peach (above, top), Coraline (middle), and The Nightmare Before Christmas (bottom) will be screened at a mini-retrospective on the films of animator Henry Selick presented by the American Film Institute at the ArcLight Hollywood tomorrow, Dec. 10, beginning at 5:00 pm.

Coraline is one of 20 animated features vying for a 2010 Oscar nomination. Additionally, Selick's 3-D fantasy received 10 Annie Award nominations from the International Animated Film Society – more than any other film this year. (Pete Docter's Up came in second, with nine nods.)

Photos: Courtesy of the AFI

Schedule and film info from the AFI website:

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 10, 5:00 PM

JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH
1996 79 MIN 35MM Rated PG

DIR Henry Selick SCR Karey Kirkpatrick, Jonathan Roberts, Steve Bloom (based on the book by Roald Dahl) CAST Susan Sarandon, Paul Terry, Richard Dreyfuss, Jane Leeves, Joanna Lumley, Miriam Margolyes, Pete Postlethwaite, David Thewlis, Simon Callow MUSIC Randy Newman

When James, an orphan, is sent to live with his wicked Aunts Spiker and Sponge, he can only dream about going to New York City - a place, his father once told him, where dreams come true - until a magical bag from a mysterious man takes him on an incredible adventure in a giant peach.

DECEMBER 10, 7:00 PM

CORALINE (in 3D)
2009 100 MIN 35MM Rated PG

DIR/SCR Henry Selick (based on the book by Neil Gaiman) CAST Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, Keith David, John Hodgman, Robert Bailey Jr., Ian McShane

Coraline, the first stop-motion animated feature to be conceived and photographed in stereoscopic 3-D, focuses on Coraline Jones, a girl of 11 who is feisty and adventurous beyond her years. She uncovers a secret door and discovers an alternate version of her life - one that is similar, but much better. When her fantastical visit turns dangerous, Coraline must muster all of her resourcefulness and bravery to get back home - and save her family.

A Q&A WITH DIRECTOR HENRY SELICK WILL IMMEDIATELY FOLLOW THE SCREENING OF CORALINE

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 10, 9:05 PM

TIM BURTON'S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (in 3D)
1993 76 MIN 35MM Rated PG

DIR Henry Selick SCR Caroline Thompson (based on a story and characters by Tim Burton) CAST Chris Sarandon, Danny Elfman, Catherine O'Hara, William Hickey, Glenn Shadix, Paul Reubens, Ken Page, Ed Ivory, Susan McBride

Jack Skellington has grown bored with his job as “The Pumpkin King,” and so, despite having just presided over a very successful Halloween, he is beginning to find life in Halloweenland unfulfilling. Serendipitously, Jack stumbles upon Christmastown, a place abundant with cheer and good will and he promptly decides to make the Yuletide his own, embarking on a merry mission that puts Santa in jeopardy and creates a nightmare everywhere.


         
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4 Comments to James Cameron 'Avatar': Positive Buzz

  1. Tapanjeet

    well… read carefully before commenting..
    the author compares it with GROSS NATIONAL PRODUCT( GNP ) AND NOT GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT(GDP).. lol… srsly… google before u counter any statement

  2. Michelle Hutton

    According to World Bank figures, the GDP of Argentina, Algeria, and Austria put together is $1.146 trillion. No, AVATAR didn't cost that much.

    I was fully aware the comparison was way WAY far-fetched. And that was the whole point: AVATAR cost figures have been much, much exaggerated and, as I wrote in the post, “you shouldn't believe everything you hear.” (Or read.)

    I do know the difference between billions and millions. I have neither, but would be happier with the former. (Though I'd settle for the latter as well.)

  3. N

    The writer of the article needs to keep a sense of proportion when saying “Avatar may have cost more than the Gross National Product of Austria, Argentina, and Algeria put together”. Obviously confusing millions and billions, even if the goal is too emphasize the excessive cost of the film this is a bit far fetched.

  4. fat

    You wrote “Avatar may have cost more than the Gross National Product of Austria, Argentina, and Algeria put together. (Fox, which at first had kept mum on actual figures, now says that Avatar cost $237 million to make and $150 million to promote.)”…

    You made a mistake…. THe GDP of such countries is in billion not million……