USE A WORD THAT DON’T MEAN NOTHIN’, LIKE LOOPDED

30 Sep

1. Hotel Transylvania/Sony                        Wknd/$  43.0            Total/$  43.0

2. Looper/TriStar                                         Wknd/$   21.2            Total/$  21.2

3. End of Watch/ORF                                  Wknd/$     8.0            Total/$  26.2

4. Trouble with the Curve/Warners          Wknd/$     7.5            Total/$  23.7

5. House at the End of the Street               Wknd/$     7.2            Total/$  22.2

6. Pitch Perfect/Universal                           Wknd/$     5.2            Total/$    5.2

7. Finding Nemo 3D/Disney                       Wknd/$     4.1            Total/$  36.5

8. Resident Evil Retribution/SG                 Wknd/$     3.0            Total/$  38.7

9. The Master/Weinstein                              Wknd/$     2.7            Total/$    9.6

10.Won’t Back Down/Fox                              Wknd/$     2.7            Total/$    2.7

MONSTERS MASHED

Hotel Transylvania opens at number one and I can’t help but think, “This could have been you ParaNorman.”  And I wish it had been because ParaNorman looked like it was made by people with actual talent and vision, while this comes from Adam Sandler (he’s the voice of Dracula as well as a co-writer and executive producer), so you know it probably blows. Chunks. And no I’m not just bitter because I also went to NYU like Sandler and he’s a multi-millionaire casting Salma Hayek as his wife and I’m doing this for free while being ignored by women online.  He’s made one funny film in his life and that was Happy Gilmore. The rest all blow.  All the jokes are the dumbest, weakest, lowest hanging fruit possible and I don’t believe that’s okay simply because a movie is for kids.  Pixar and the occasional Dreamworks film all prove you can be funny, be for kids and not be insultingly lazy about it (yes, I’m looking at you, Shrek, Ice Age, Madagascar, etc.).

WHERE’S THE DIGITIAL UNDERGROUND THEME SONG?

Looper opens at number two and being a geek from way back, I enjoy a good time travel movie. They almost always use paradox and it’s always fun if they make it work, like the end of The Terminator.  On the other hand you can get overrated pieces of crap like 12 Monkeys and an abomination called Retroactive whose purpose seems to punish you for staying up late and watching B-movies on cable TV. How bad was it? Two words: Jim Belushi.  That said, while this is technically science fiction, it’s also heavily hard-boiled noir, which makes sense as the first teaming of Joseph-Gordon Leavitt and director Rian Johnson was Brick, which transferred the detective genre to high school with no small measure of success.  This is basically the story of a hitman dealing both with his past and his future, but because it’s science fiction it takes what’s metaphoric and makes it literal.  Joseph Gordon-Leavitt is a “Looper” which is a hitman who kills off mob targets sent back from the future. They’re called “loopers” because eventually that target will be you, so your “loop” gets closed by you.  Of course the time comes when Joseph Gordon-Leavitt has to kill himself and in the last 30 years he’s somehow become Bruce Willis.  Willis gets away and tries to change his past which is Gordon-Leavitt’s present and future—and while Gordon-Leavitt doesn’t love his  present he still wants his planned future to be his own and sets out to kill his future self while avoiding his bosses who have a horrible, vicious punishment for loopers who fail to kill their future selves.  They try to make Gordon Leavitt look a little like Willis but honestly it was unnecessary and ultimately distracting, because we know Joseph Gordon-Leavitt doesn’t look anything like Bruce Willis! And the occasional angle where he does is just weird.  Different actors play the same character all the time and no one cares.  They should have worried more about the gaping hole in the premise which is, if the problem in the future is that there’s no way to completely dispose of a body, why don’t they simply kill them there then just dump the body in the past? Because then you’d have no movie, that’s why. Now, if I can accept that hole to enjoy the movie, I can accept that Joseph Gordon-Leavitt grows two inches in his thirties and forties and the entire structure of his face changes.  That said it’s a fun ride as we jump through time not just literally in the story but in terms of the storytelling with a  flashback/flashforward at a key moment in the film. If there’s one flaw (aside from the pace bogging down a bit in the second act) it’s there’s a little too much science fiction with a subplot about people with mutant powers that really wasn’t necessary.  Take it out and you speed your film up and nothing really changes.

BETTER TO RULE IN HELL

End of Watch is down to number three and this is much-needed success for Jake Gyllenhaal who was the “It Boy” after Brokeback Mountain, but that was followed a lot of A-list failures in every conceivable genre from Jarhead to Prince of Persia to Love & Other Drugs.  This had a budget of $7M and so far has grossed $27M, which more than surpasses the “3x budget” rule that dictates actual profits.  Given his last hit was the Source Code, which also had a relatively small budget ($32M with a $147M worldwide gross) he might want to leave the big summer blockbuster work to others.

FORGET SEXY.  IT’S TIME TO BRING THE MUSIC BACK

The Trouble With the Curve is down to number four and will someone please point out to Justin Timberlake that the only reason he gets to make movies is because he’s a pop star?  And that nothing he’s been the star in has ever succeeded? Jesse Eisenberg was the star of The Social Network. Cameron Diaz was the star of Bad Teacher.  You were the star of In Time and Friends with Benefits, which both bombed. You wanna keep making movies, you better keep making music. Elvis understood this and his movies were actually successful.

BUT I’M SURE PAT BOONE LIKED IT

The House At The End of the Street is down to number five and “Glee Goes To College” aka Pitch Perfect opens at number six, giving Anna Kendrick two films in the top ten (she’s Jake Gyllenhaal’s wife in End of Watch) and in the latter she proves in thirty seconds all that Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton, Hall & Oates, George Michael, Eminem and Justin Timberlake have spent 50 years trying to disprove: the painful stiffness of white people trying to get down.  Her trying to do Dr. Dre’s rap from BlackStreet’s “No Diggity” is one of the most excruciating musical moments on film since Michael Madsen decided to remove a man’s ear in Reservoir Dogs to Stealer’s Wheels “Stuck In The Middle With You.”  The time travel in Looper is more believable than her suddenly stirring up the crowd with her vanilla mayonnaise stylings.  Now I like Anna Kendrick.  She was great in her Oscar-nominated role in Up In The Air, but she is so painfully WASPy she has no upper lip!  I can believe she hasn’t played the uptight girlfriend of the main character who leaves her for a full-lipped, ethnic bohemian. So hearing her even use the phrase “Let’s remix this business” is like nails on a chalkboard. And all these things are from the trailer! You couldn’t have done more to keep me (and undoubtedly others) out of this film if you hired a man to kill me waiting at the door!  No wonder the bulk of the commercials stresses the comedy of Rebel Wilson because Anna Kendrick as some kind of “hip” music type is so ridiculous they may invalidate her Oscar nod.

THE ONLY SURVIVOR

Finding Nemo 3D is down to number seven, followed by Resident Evil: Retribution at number eight and The Master at number nine and also in this is Amy Adams who is also in The Trouble With The Curve and despite the fact that she’s clearly ascended to the A-list with two Oscar nominations for The Fighter and Junebug, to me she’ll always be the girl who played the Sarah Michelle Gellar role in the Cruel Intentions prequel ironically called Cruel Intentions 2.  Yes, they made a prequel, but it was originally supposed to an entire series that was a prequel to the movie, but was cancelled before it even aired because Aaron Spelling found it so offensive.  It’s so bad and so over-the-top with its attempt to show how decadent rich kids are it’s hysterical (they make the Gossip Girl cast look like 3rd graders).  They also break the fourth wall with direct looks at the camera and at one point they comment on how their conversation “sounds like dialogue from a cancelled TV series.” She was also on Smallville, which brings her full circle as she’s Lois Lane in the upcoming Superman movie, Man of Steel.

TO SCABS WITH LOVE

Finally, Won’t Back Down enters the top ten at number ten and has apparently pissed off every teacher in the nation as it’s basically an anti-teacher’s union, pro-charter school movie.  Makes no difference to me. I wasn’t gong to see it when I thought it was just another “spunky single mom and dedicated teacher fight the system” movie with no political leanings.  But it not only gives us two Gyllenhaals in the top ten, but a reunion of Radio Raheem and Tina from Do The Right Thing as also starring in this are Bill Nunn and Rosie Perez. Think she dances in the credits to this?  Too bad.  That might be worth seeing.

ANYBODY CAN HAVE FRIENDS OR READ BOOKS

The most wonderful time of the year continues as the Fall TV Season rollout continues.  I try to give everything a even shake, but couldn’t make through a full episode of Partners, which is about—get this—a gay guy and straight guy who are lifelong friend. OH. MY GOD!  This is barrier breaking…if this were 1982.  It’s from the guys who gave us Will & Grace and is based on their relationship, just as Will & Grace was also based on the relationship of one of the team with his unknowing girlfriend.  Honestly, that was clearly the more interesting relationship because this just recycles most of that.  It’s more like “Straight Will & Jack” which is a show no one asked for.  There’s even a Rosario character continuing the disturbing habit of gay men who feel their own disenfranchised state frees them to stereotype others (see the “Sassy Black Female” currently used on The New Normal and the horrible Asian stereotype continuing on Two Broke Girls).  I like Brandon Routh and Sophia Bush and hope they both find better work soon…Vegas comes from none other than Nicholas Pileggi who wrote both the Goodfellas screenplay and the book it was based upon.  He’s also the executive producer here .  No wonder this was one of the more entertaining things I’ve seen so far this year.  It’s set in the early 60’s when Vegas was just beginning to grow and how that new world of money & the mob runs into the old world already there; specifically rancher turned sheriff Dennis Quaid. He’s based on a real sheriff who’s also a consultant on the show so hopefully the abundance people concerned with actual facts will give this show a nice edge that all the other shows borne out of an attempt to cash in on Mad Men have lacked (yes, I’m looking at you Playboy Club and Pan Am).  One thing I like that is that Dennis Quaid is only doing the job because he wants the mayor to keep planes from flying over his property.  So it starts off as quid pro quo more than any need or concern for justice.  It’s also has a nice cast of character actors, including James Russo who’s always nice to see.  The only problem is he can’t really “win” because we know the mob ran Vegas during that time period and no one pretended they didn’t so it’ll be interesting to see how they balance out reality with a TV need to see good guys win on a weekly basis.  But you know what I would really love?  If they had an appearance by a young boy named Dan Tanna.  That’s a joke for the old people…CBS clearly has room for only one show by smart people, which is unfortunate when your show about a smart character isn’t that show.  Elementary is the attempt to cash in on the Sherlock Holmes resurgence going on with hit movies and the hit BBC modern interpretation. The difference being those are run by the English and they aren’t going to dumb down others to make Sherlock look smart. They’re just going to make him smart. Elementary is American so everyone else has to be dumb for him to be smarter (the smartest thing they do is the use of Elvis Costello’s “Watching The Detectives”).  They also wuss out on the acerbic personality of Holmes, which makes no sense. If an unapologetic rude Sherlock Holmes is something people are clearly willing to pay to see in the theater, what makes you think they want your “Oh, I’m sorry” Holmes for free?  Unfortunately, I have a weakness for shows shot in NYC and Lucy Liu, so I’ll probably give this another shot….now truly stupid is the basic premise of Made in Jersey, because if there’s anything that’s not even remotely unique or unusual it’s a girl from New Jersey working in Manhattan, but whomever ever created this show seems not only to lack a basic knowledge of the city but of basic geography.  This would make sense if the show was set in the south where a Jersey girl (the working-class aspect is given in shows like these) would stand out. In New York City there are literally millions of people from New Jersey who come into work every. single. day.  She wouldn’t stand out, she wouldn’t be special and she’d be far from the toughest person walking the streets as we’re supposed to gather from the way she confronts a bike messenger in the first five minutes. They’ve clearly confused the Upper East Side of Manhattan for all of New York, because everyone in the law firm where she works is clearly some kind of uber-WASP while she’s earthy and ethnic (with a last name that ends in a vowel). And of course, she just can’t be really smart; everyone else has to be a little dumb to make her look smart. In the first 5 minutes she’s the only person who realizes you can’t kill someone by hitting them with just a pair of pliers because apparently no else has ever touched a pair in their lives. At first glance this seems like they’re trying to cash in on The Jersey Shore, but while that clearly has something to do with it, it’s actually a junior sized (translation “younger female lead”) version of The Good Wife (they even give her a kickass ethnic investigator to work with), meaning it’s a police procedural masquerading as a legal drama, only lacking in all the nuances that make The Good Wife interesting. Not to mention her accent is wrong (she’s doing Brooklyn) and she’s too damn skinny as evidenced by the fact none of her casual shirts seem to fit and always “just happen” to reveal her flat, toned stomach…I don’t do the scary at the movies and I don’t do it on TV either, so 666 Park Avenue will not happen for me.

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