LULLABY OF BIRDMAN

7 Dec

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1. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt.1        Wknd/$ 21.6   Total/$ 257.7
2. Penguins of Madagascar/Fox                     Wknd/$ 11.1    Total/$ 49.6
3. Horrible Bosses 2/WB                                 Wknd/$ 8.6     Total/$ 36.1
4. Big Hero 6/Disney                                        Wknd/$ 8.1     Total/$ 177.5
5. Interstellar/Paramount                               Wknd/$ 8.0     Total/$ 158.7
6. Dumb and Dumber To/Universal             Wknd/$ 4.2     Total/$ 78.1
7. The Theory of Everything/Focus               Wknd/$ 2.7     Total/$ 13.6
8. Gone Girl/Fox                                                Wknd/$ 1.5     Total/$ 162.9
9. The Pyramid/Fox                                          Wknd/$ 1.4     Total/$ 1.4
10. Birdman/FoxS                                             Wknd/$ 1.2     Total/$ 18.9

WHY BOTHER READING WHEN IT WILL BE ONSCREEN NEXT WEEK?
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 1 holds at number one and the continuing success of these Young Adult novel adaptations in pretty much every category (drama, romance, science fiction) has resulted in the odd bit of rational response as the numerous failures are treated as individuals rather than a sign the entire genre is a running down. This isn’t how corporate execs normally think. When their vampire or superhero film fails they immediately think that the whole genre is coming to a close rather than accept they just screwed the property up. Percy Jackson, Eragon, The Spiderwick Chronicles, Ender’s Game, I Am Number Four, Beautiful Creatures, Vampire Academy, Blood & Chocolate Milk, Inkheart, The Host, The Mortal Bones, etc, just blew it, period, because the audience is still clearly very much here.

LEARNING IS FOR SUCKERS
Penguins of Madagascar holds at number two which on one hand is good because it’s a decent movie and deserves success and this hopefully will inspire Dreamworks not to suck so much. On the other hand it’s bad because they never learn and this will inadvertently result in another awful Madagascar film. You’d think watching Disney make money and win awards constantly would give them motivation to do better, but you’d be wrong. And don’t even get me started on the no-talents that make the Ice Age movies.

WILLIAM SHATNER IS STILL FUNNIER THOUGH
Horrible Bosses 2 actually rises to number three which means that grownups desperately wanted something light to watch. All that’s out there right now are Oscar bait dramas and movies for kids and teenagers. Not to mention TV is going into reruns until the new year. They simply had no choice but see this weak sauce. Also in this is Chris Pine making smart moves to build a career outside of the lackluster Star Trek reboot. With something like this he gets to show range beyond being just a pretty boy leading man and the weight of the film doesn’t rest on him. It’s a win-win. But it felt familiar to me having just seen him in Stretch were he plays another horrible boss in the form of a psychotic fare of desperate limo driver who needs one of the fare’s legendary tips to payoff a gambling debt. Pine actually punches himself there as he does here. Now that’s a weird coincidence. At least here you don’t see his (or possibly the stuntman’s) scrotum the way you do in Stretch, which I could have lived without.

YEAH, MORE SPOILERS FOR INTERSTELLAR
Big Hero 6 is down to number four, followed by Interstellar at number five and also in this as Matthew McConughey’s adult son is Casey Affleck which means both Affleck brothers have been in the top ten for the last month in Oscar bait films. Sadly the more successful, more talented brother got the good one. The other brother got Chris Nolan and a story wherein all mention of his character is missing at the end. Matthew McConughey gets to meet his daughter who’s been waiting in hypersleep for two years to see her father once more before she dies. But never once is her older brother mentioned by either her or McConughey. I understand that being older he would have naturally died first, but for McConughey’s character not to even ask about his son’s is as bad as him apparently having no interest in his grandchildren. Bear in mind part of the reason Affleck’s character loses faith in his dad is that his first child dies as the result of deteriorating conditions on earth and his sister actually has to start a fire as a distraction to save the second. It’s in this same scene she discovers mankind’s salvation? That kinda means he has to show up, right? Nope.

A GOOD MOVIE MAKING A LOT OF MONEY STILL STUNS ME
Dumb and Dumber To is down to number six followed by The Theory of Everything at number seven and at number eight with the other Affleck brother, Gone Girl, still here after over two months and holding at number eight for two weeks which is good news for nominations because it means the film hasn’t faded from memory. It’s also good for the box office because this film has grossed $163M from a $63M budget domestically alone. Worldwide it’s $336M, which means more grown up best-selling novels will be adapted into films too. Maybe all those other books that had women in red coats on the cover. You know there’s someone in Hollywood dumb enough to think that way. And he’s making more money than you or me.

ALL MOVIES MUST BE MADE WITH ME IN MIND
The Pyramid opens at number nine and unfortunately the “found footage” genre is also benefitting from being seen as individual films so their failures also aren’t view as signs the whole damn genre needs to die, because it really, really does. I know that seems unfair, but I don’t care. They’re mostly garbage and they make me nauseous with all that camera movement. Not to mention they’re mostly horror films and since I don’t do the scary it’s no big loss for me. And who makes a movie about a pyramid without mummies anyway? Dummy.

IRONICALLY ROBIN WOULD BE THE PERFECT SIDEKICK FOR THIS GUY
Birdman closes out the top ten at number ten and I finally got off my ass and saw it…and it was okay. The crisis of a man trying to put on a show (or make a film) and slowly falling apart is a genre to itself and while this isn’t a bad one, it’s not exactly new either. I believe the filmmakers are aware of this which is why I think they chose a different technique to its approach as it’s done as a series of long takes, ostensibly making the film look like just one long giant shot. It’s befitting the film as it’s about Broadway, which means actors basically had to act like they would onstage, with each scene going on for 10-15 minutes straight. Michael Keaton is an actor best known for playing a superhero called Birdman, which made him a global superstar. Get it? He played Batman (which when adjusted for inflation is still #50 in the biggest films of all time, on the list that includes Gone With The Wind, Godfather, Gone With The Wind, Titanic and Star Wars). But no one really identifies him as Batman, do they? If anything Beetlejuice has stuck with him more. Christian Bale is Batman now and Affleck’s about to replace him. In any case the actor Keaton portrays has put all his money into a Broadway show he wrote directed and stars in based on a Raymond Carver novel and it’s causing him to unravel to the point where the character of Birdman is always talking to him and he hallucinates having superpowers. Not helping is the added pressure of a prima donna actor constantly pushing him and Keaton trying to bond with his daughter who’s fresh out of rehab and working as his assistant. The pretentious actor is perfectly played by Edward Norton in a clearly parody of Norton’s reputation as such. I’d give him credit for being so willing to be in on the joke if I didn’t know somewhere at this very moment he’s actually patting his own back for the same thing. Add to this a needy female lead (who is in fact the pretentious actor’s girlfriend), a co-star girlfriend who may or may not be pregnant (who hooks up with the female lead) and Broadway’s most powerful critic who doesn’t appreciate Hollywood coming to their sacred land and you’ve got a ticking time bomb of a man’s psyche and boom it does go by the end with plenty of tiny detonations along the way. The biggest irony of this is that his performance in this film may do for Michael Keaton what the show is supposed to for his character. In fact there are many levels of irony at work and I’ve no doubt that they were all intentional as the writer/director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu hates superhero franchises and yet has as his main stars people associated with some of the biggest (Batman, Avengers, Spider-Man). This is a well put-together plan.

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