This Week in Film: May 11, 2007

The folks at Sony Pictures may still be hung-over. Not only did their "silly" Spider-Man 3 movie pull in over $150 million last weekend (breaking an all-time record previously set by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest), they also managed to thwart those Chinese bootleggers from sapping away their mega investment.

On the home front, such crackdown efforts were felt at a preview screening here in Toronto a few weeks ago where fans were scanned with metal detectors, and had their cell phones confiscated before being allowed into the theatre. Going too far? Apparently not, according to Hollywood studios. With Canada placing high on their threat list, our seemingly benign and friendly country is believed to be a "major haven for piracy". Evidence shows that Canadians are contributing significantly to the global underground market that's reportedly robbing $6 billion from the industry each year.

Earlier this week, Warner Bros. took the initiative and imposed an embargo on all preview screenings of their upcoming movies here. As the first studio to do this: "[Warners] is reacting to the failure of the Canadian government to introduce legislation to make camcording of films for trafficking around the world illegal and a punishable offense," as reported in The Hollywood Reporter.

I understand Warner's stance from a business standpoint, but by the same token, I believe what they're doing is entirely pointless, and above all a disrespectful blow for movie fans.

The sneak preview screening was where you were surrounded by the first-time excitement and enthusiasm of the audience -- something you rarely get at a regular screening -- that even if the movie was less than what you expected, the experience itself was hardly ever a complete waste (despite forgetting where you parked). Now taking this fond experience away from us feels like desperate backslap, and further illustrates how little this business actually cares about its customers.

And finally how this tactic might curb the piracy issue in Canada is beyond pie in the sky. Cam-movies actually make up a very small percentage of the piracy scene. Busting Joe Blow, who probably doesn't even care to white-balance, is not going to make a lick of difference.

So then, should the government legislate a new law to prevent Joe Blow from bringing his mini-cam to the theatre? GOD YES! If we can do anything (and I mean anything!) to stop those cheap ugly cam-movies from ever getting made, then it's worth the effort. Leave piracy to the pros! Leave it to the moonlighting insiders, who've been supplying us well with pristine digital transfers straight from the masters. And leave Joe Blow alone for once.

28 Weeks Later

The summer of sequels kicked off last week with Spidey 3. But one of the less heralded movies from the batch is 28 Weeks Later -- the follow up to Danny Boyle's post-apocalyptic horror film 28 Days Later -- which opens this weekend. The advance word has been extremely positive despite reservations about Boyle's directorial absence. At the helm instead is Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, who has a sure shot at becoming filmmaker worth remembering.

The story takes place six months after the Rage virus wiped out the entire population of Britain. The surviving refugees return home with hopes of starting over. But soon there's another outbreak, which means full-on zombie carnage. The results are: "brutal and almost exhaustingly terrifying, as any respectable zombie movie should be" (A.O. Scott, The New York Times)... and of course "it's also really really disgusting" (Glenn Kenny, Premiere).

Also opening this week:

Delta Farce
The Ex

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