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THE MARKETING FORCE NEVER SLEPT

21 Dec

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1. Star Wars VII/Disney Wknd/$ 238.0 Total/$ 238.0

2. Alvin & The Chipmunks Road Chip Wknd/$ 14.0 Total/$ 14.4

3. Sisters/Universal Wknd/$ 13.4 Total/$ 13.4

4. The Hunger Games Mockingjay 2 Wknd/$ 5.6 Total/$ 254.4

5. Creed/WB Wknd/$ 5.1 Total/$ 87.9

6. The Good Dinosaur/Disney Wknd/$ 4.2 Total/$ 96.5

7. Krampus/Universal Wknd/$ 3.8 Total/$ 34.8

8. In the Heart of the Sea/WB Wknd/$ 3.5 Total/$ 18.6

9. Dilwale/UTV Wknd/$ 1.9 Total/$ 1.9

10. Bajirao Mastani/Eros Wknd/$ 1.7 Total/$ 1.7

THE SKY IS BLUE AND WATER IS WET

To the surprise of no one anywhere, Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens at number one, breaking nearly every conceivable box office record that would apply to it (it didn’t beat Jurassic World for Global Box Office and if you think Spielberg’s not laughing about that you’re wrong). It’s already made half-a-billion dollars worldwide and by the time it’s done should crush everything, including fucking Avatar, which has me pulling for it for that alone. But it is good. As he proved when he crapped all over Star Trek by turning it into Star Wars (farmboy goes to the stars to fight a planet destroying machine) Abrams knows, understands and has affection for this material. Some may say a little too much given it does involve a cute droid carrying information vital to The Resistance and The First Order (which are what The Rebellion and The Empire have become 30 years later). There’s also a hotshot pilot and an orphan on a desert planet and…and to say more would give things away and I want you to enjoy it and not kick my ass. Like that dickhead kid who decided he’d give away plot twists after seeing it and had the shit beaten out of him. Do I even have to tell you he was dateless and in a Star Wars costume? What I’m saying is, while there are new things (women and minorities in prominent roles for one), they clearly were not out to reinvent the wheel and rightly so. They give you what you want and they give it too you good, like a well-made cheeseburger but on a brioche bun this time.

EVERYONE INVOLVED IN MAKING THESE IS A WHORE, PERIOD.

When I was waiting in line to see Star Wars, I saw Neil DeGrasse Tyson come in with his kids. They didn’t go to see Star Wars so I like to think they went in to see Alvin & The Chipmunks: Road Chip (opening at number two) instead and that we’d be getting tweets about all the failed physics in the film. Neil DeGrasse Tyson possibly seeing it is probably the most interesting thing about this series, which has reached its fourth goddamned installment. I’m beyond stunned to learn that the first two actually made over $200M domestically. Even the last one made $133 domestic and when you factor in another $50M in DVD sales, you new another one was coming. Again, pulling for Star Wars to help kill this off.

THE TITLE SAYS I HAVE TO

Sisters opens at number three and apparently the pattern of the Tina Fey/Amy Pohler movies will be whomever played the free spirit last time will play the uptight one this time and vice versa. I will see this regardless, but appropriately enough am waiting to see it with my sisters, who complain that I’ve seen everything when I get home.

YOUNG, GIFTED AND YOU KNOW THE REST

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 is down to number five, followed by Creed at number five and is this when we finally get a young Black leading man to take the place of Denzel Washington in Michael B. Jordan? Anthony Mackie was the last candidate, but it clearly didn’t work out as he now supports Chris Evans as The Falcon with no one rushing to give him his own mainstream Hollywood films in which to star (as opposed to indie films and movies clearly meant for a Black audience and no one else). Taye Diggs and Morris Chestnut are well into their 40’s and now on TV. Chaswick Boseman has come close and will actually be lead in his own superhero movie as the Black Panther, but a) he’s 40 and b) and apparently isn’t seen to helm anything beyond bio pics (Diggs and Chestnut didn’t even make it that far). Seriously. He’s been James Brown, Jackie Robinson and next will be Thurgood Marshall. Denzel had his bio pics too (Malcolm X, Cry Freedom, The Hurricane) but was also allowed to be hero cop/lawyer in other films too (albeit with an A-list white star beside him). Michael B. Jordan looks poised to be that guy and is probably thrilled the Fantastic Four movie failed because now he’s not obligated to any sequels that will keep him out of choice roles.

LOOKING FORWARD TO KRAMPUS 2: THE WRATH OF RUDOLPH

The Good Dinosaur is down to number six, followed by Krampus at number seven and how is it this is the first time the other side of the Santa Clause legend has gotten his own movie? You’d think an animated feature about him would write itself (he was reassigned to administrative duties after the marketing department decided he didn’t “sell” to a modern audience). At least they had the common sense to go with black comedy about the being who came at Christmas time to punish bad children. Needless to say, overseas where Krampus is still very much a part of the holiday it’s doing very well. It’s made double its budget here so once home video sales are tallied in, don’t be surprised if sequels become a holiday occasion.

SADLY, IT’S JUST NOT ENOUGH TO BE BIG AND PRETTY

In the Heart of the Sea is down to number eight and fool me once, Chris Hemsworth and Ron Howard, shame on you, but fool me twice shame on me. I tend to forget that when the rubber meets the road, Ron Howard is one of the most pedestrian A-list directors working. The opposite of people like Ridley Scott, he has neither style nor flair…or even an interesting point of view, which is why his best work was Apollo 13, which is practically a documentary. I’m still amazed a Beautiful Mind was as good as it was, because usually he makes movies that look like big budget TV films with the same level of writing. Rush, which also starred Chris Hemsworth was one such film. In fact, given that most of Chris Hemsworth’s non-Thor work has sucked, this has two strikes against it right out of the gate and that was more than enough for me to give it a pass.

WHY WE’RE STILL GREAT: AMERICA IS ONE OF THE FEW COUNTRIES WHERE BEAUTY QUEENS DON’T HAVE INSTANT CAREERS

Dilwale and Bajirao Mastani are at nine and ten and are two of those Indian films that hit the top ten from time to time. The most notable thing about the latter one to us is that it stars Priyanka Chopra who stars in that dumb Quantico show. She’s stunning (Miss World 2000, first non-white face for Guess Jeans) and has a great deep scratchy voice (sorry, that works for me) and hopefully will see better things from Hollywood. Then again, if the posters of her Bollywood movies are any clue, she’s used to successful crap and feels right at home already. I mean aside from being able to actually kiss a dude onscreen.

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IT’S FINALLY OVER

22 Dec

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1. The Hobbit: Battle of the 5 Armies       Wknd/$ 56.2     Total/$ 90.6
2. Night at the Museum: Secret…            Wknd/$ 17.3     Total/$ 17.3
3. Annie/Sony                                           Wknd/$ 16.3     Total/$ 16.3
4. Exodus: Gods and Kings/Fox              Wknd/$ 8.1       Total/$ 38.9
5. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt.1  Wknd/$ 7.8       Total/$ 289.2
6. Wild/FoxSearchlight                             Wknd/$ 4.2       Total/$ 7.2
7. Top Five/Paramount                             Wknd/$ 3.6       Total/$ 12.5
8. Big Hero 6/Disney                                Wknd/$ 3.6       Total/$ 190.4
9. Penguins of Madagascar/Fox              Wknd/$ 3.5       Total/$ 64.2
10. P.K./UTV                                             Wknd/$ 3.5       Total/$ 3.5

FREE AT LAST!
The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies opens at number one and our long national nightmare is finally over. Seriously, the biggest complaint about these films even before they were made was that stretching the one novel into three films was a shameless money grab and nothing makes is clearer than this one. It’s like watching the final battle of Star Wars stretched out over three hours. You know Smaug, the dragon whose appearance single-handedly saved the second film? Dispatched in the first ten minutes. Now, you’re probably wondering why couldn’t that have been in the second film. What part of “shameless money grab” did you not get? The only thing I felt at the end of this film was a sense of relief that I’d never have to go through it again. Thankfully, the Tolkien family has refused to license the other books so we won’t have to…until they decide to remake them. You know they will.

NEXT UP: THE MUSEUM OF FURNITURE!
Speaking of shameless money grabs, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb opens at number two and the first film was only barely entertaining, so I didn’t come back for number two. Apparently I was alone in this because here comes number three and it looks awful. When a monkey peeing on people is one of your selling jokes you’re clearly out of ideas. They’re also running out of museums, because when you think America it’s New York and Washington (sorry, Chicago and don’t make me laugh, LA), which have been done and this is the London museum. What’s next? I’m pretty sure the Louvre doesn’t lend itself to wacky hijinks. I hate to say it, but the only good thing about Robin Williams’ death is that they can’t make any more of these. Oh, shut up. You were thinking it too.

PLUS I HATE EVERY SONG I’VE HEARD FROM IT
Speaking of remakes, this is the color-blind remake of Annie which is a good thing ostensibly speaking, but it’s still a musical so I still don’t care.

SUDDENLY EDWARD G. ROBINSON LOOKS GOOD
Exodus: Gods and Kings is down to number four and to give you an idea of how wrong-headed this movie is John Turturro is Seti. Yeah. That kid from Breaking Bad with the gravelly voice? Joshua. Yeah, it just keeps getting worse

HOLLYWOOD ROYALTY, BABY
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 is down to number five, followed by Wild jumping up to number six and also in this is Laura Dern. Hey, girl! Where you been? Oh, that’s right. On HBO. She’s been getting better notices for this than the star, which I’m sure is going over well given this was her comeback vehicle, not Dern’s.

HOW DID AUNT TOM FEEL ABOUT THIS?
Top Five is down to number seven while most of the film is good and I give it special points for taking not one, but two shots at Tyler Perry it unfortunately itself relies on distasteful cliché of far too many films from Black filmmakers: homophobia. This is coupled with the other sad cliché of romantic comedies that any rival for the lead characters affections not only lose, but fail in their own right. Gabrielle Union as Chris Rock’s reality star fiancée can’t just lose him, she has to be every horrible thing you expect Kim Kardashian to be. Rosario Dawson’s boyfriend likewise can’t just lose her to Chris Rock, he has to turn out to lying her to her this entire time as he’s actually gay, or at best bisexual. And the “big joke” is how she should have known by what he asked for in bed. Seemed he liked a little ass play, as if that makes a man gay. The same men who think this are the same guys who are obsessed with sodomizing their girlfriends. I got news for you, dude: ain’t nothing in her ass that’s not in yours, so if she can learn to enjoy it so can you. Of course we have see him naked on all fours begging for something to be shoved up his ass, ‘cause now he’s the bitch. Get it? Sigh. It’s really so far beneath this film I have trouble believing the otherwise intelligent Rock not only wrote it, but also filmed it, saw the footage and still didn’t see a problem. Then again, he also sees himself as a romantic lead.

SOME THINGS ARE JUST UNIVERSAL
Big Hero 6 is down to number eight, followed by Penguins of Madagascar at number nine and opening at number ten is P.K. Yeah, I don’t know what that is either. I’m guessing it’s either Christian or Indian. Yep, it’s the latter and seems to be some Forrest Gump type of tale about an idiot manchild who helps people learn what life is really about. See, this kind of shit exists all over the world. It’s not just us.

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YOU’RE AS COLD AS ICE

1 Dec

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 1. The Hunger Games 2/LGF                       Wknd/$  74.5            Total/$ 296.5

 2. Frozen/Disney                                            Wknd/$  66.7            Total/$   93.4

 3. Thor: The Dark World/BV                        Wknd/$  11.1             Total/$ 186.7

 4. The Best Man Holiday/Universal            Wknd/$    8.5            Total/$  63.4

 5. Homefront/ORF                                          Wknd/$    7.0            Total/$     7.0

 6. Delivery Man/BV                                         Wknd/$    6.9            Total/$   19.5

 7. The Book Thief/Fox                                    Wknd/$    4.9            Total/$     7.9

 8. Black Nativity/FoxS                                    Wknd/$    3.9            Total/$     5.0

 9. Philomena/Weinstein                                 Wknd/$    3.8            Total/$    4.8

10. Last Vegas/CBS                                           Wknd/$    2.8            Total/$  58.7

 

GIVEN NEW MEANING TO THE EXPRESSION “BASED UPON…”

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire holds at number one and opening at number two is Frozen, which continues Disney’s newer tradition of adapting classic fairy tales but making them into buddy-romantic-comedies with spunky girl leads and hunky dudes who accompany them on their journey only to fall for them.  First was Rapunzel, redone as Tangled and now we have The Snow Queen redone as Frozen. Looking for the story of a boy and a girl and slivers of a magical mirror?  Look elsewhere. This movie is about two sisters, the older one with magical snow powers, and as a child she accidentally injures her younger sister with them and is taught by her parents to hide them stay isolated. Her younger sister is made to forget about this as part of the healing by the rock trolls and doesn’t understand why her sister suddenly became so distant. Don’t remember any rock trolls from the original story? Get used to it.  When their parents die in a shipwreck (it’s Disney; you cannot have two loving, living parents) the older sister becomes queen and at her coronation ball, her powers are revealed and go out of control throwing the land into eternal winter and causing her to run away and create a palace for herself.  Her younger sister sets off with a handsome ice dealer (just roll with with it) and his reindeer to find her sister and save the land.  Not a bad story, but not “The Snow Queen” even in the slightest except for the fact there is a “snow queen” of some sort.  Certainly not a comic relief living snowman, who doesn’t show up until midway through the film, despite what the ads show you. You can see why they use him as selling point because the irreverent humor he brings is the high point of the movie.  Overall, it’s not a bad animated film, but the lack of shading of the characters (everyone is either good or bad, period) shows the difference between a regular Disney film and a Pixar film.

 

THIS WEEK’S LESSON IN FEMINISM

Thor: The Dark World is down to number three and speaking of queens, who wasn’t shocked when Renee Russo popped in the first as the Queen of Asgard?  She’s back here as the butt-kicking queen of Asgard who almost ends the movie before it starts when the main bad guy makes the mistake of taking her on in single combat and gets his ass handed to him.  This isn’t archetypal for Thor which oddly enough does well by women passing the Bechdel Test in both films. For those unfamiliar with it, the Bechdel Test is so named for a cartoonist Alison Bechdel who asked three questions to determine whether or not women have a meaningful presence in films: 1) are there two or more women in it that have names? 2) Do they talk to each other? 3) Do they talk to each other about something other than a man?  When you think about it you’ll be shocked at how few films pass this test (not that you can’t break it and still work, because Renee Russo is in The Thomas Crown Affair, never really speaks to another woman and is totally awesome). Thor however does, thanks to Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings who have names and talk about their actual work. Not boys, not shoes, not make-up. Their work. For a comic book fantasy film, it’s positively revolutionary.  Ironic enough, warrior goddess Sif never has a conversation that isn’t about Thor. Small steps, it seems.

 

THIS WEEK’S LESSON IN FEMINISM PT. 2

The Best Man Holiday, however would not past The Bechdel Test and doubles down against it by making Sanaa Lathan, who plays the wife of Taye Diggs dislike Nia Long, who was the girl he always liked in college but never got together with. Because god forbid two successful, intelligent women—who clearly share some mutual traits for him to love them both—get along.  It’s probably the weakest part of this otherwise enjoyable film.

 

IT’S CALLED “GETTING IN YOUR OWN WAY”

Homefront opens at number five and Jason Staham may want to rethink his opposition to working in films with special effects as he’s not getting any younger and his films are start to do worse and worse.  Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Tom Cruise, Harrison Ford, etc. Name the A-list action star and I’ll name the big-budget special effects film. Jason Staham however is B-list in danger of sinking to C if he doesn’t wise up. Let me put it this way: this has got to be the first major release from him that I didn’t automatically see.  That they’re all the same isn’t an issue; all action films are dangerously similar.  That much I accept.  It’s that they’ve been too disappointing too many times. And I don’t know why the producers thought that “written by Sylvester Stallone” would be a selling point. If anything that guarantees even more plot holes and illogic than your average action film and honestly was the deciding factor for me.  Clearly more than a few people felt the same.

 

THIS TOO WILL PASS, YOUNG MAN

Delivery Man is down to number six giving Vince Vaughn two flops this year and you can’t prove I’m smiling.  Also in this is Chris Pratt whose star is actually rising in comedy (Park & Recreation) and drama (Zero Dark Thirty) and will be in the next big Marvel offshoot, Guardians of the Galaxy and his casting while clearly calculated to bring down the age curve is actually a mistake given the plot hinges on Vince Vaughn being in his 40’s. The best friend who fulfills the straight man role of the married family man is not going to be in his early 30’s. It needs to be someone of a similar age. I can only think his frequent partner, Jon Favreau saw the writing on the wall and turned this down.

 

NAZIS, HOLOCAUST, CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED NOVEL = OSCAR BAIT

The Book Thief enters the top ten at number seven and I know nothing of the novel this is based upon, only that it stinks of Oscar bait but also wants to be a heartwarming family film and you can only serve one master.  Trying for both risks sucking on two fronts.

 

WHY WAIT UNTIL CHRISTMAS TO IGNORE SOMETHING?

Black Nativity opens at number eight and I’ve got “zero” interest in seeing this.  I cannot deal with the hamfisted religious thing, even at Christmas.  Not to mention is this a musical or what?  Jennifer Hudson is shown doing the only thing she should ever do onscreen and that’s sing (her Oscar win remains an embarrassment), but it’s when she’s just walking down the street.  No one else seems to do it and I think that confusion contributed to its low opening (other than having Jesus shoved in your face over Thanksgiving). The Book Thief is in fewer theaters, has been out longer and has even a smaller niche audience and still did better.  I’m a little sad because I like Kasi Lemmons and hoped that Eve’s Bayou would lead to bigger and better things for her as a director. You know her best as Jodie Foster’s roommate in Silence of the Lambs. Yeah, that’s her.

 

QUEEN OF THE GRAY DOLLAR

Opening very well even though it’s at number nine is Philomena.  To even break the top ten with less than a thousand theaters is impressive, but Dame Judi Densch has proven she’s queen of the older audience, having scored a hit with Best Exotic Marigold Hotel two years ago. This is a comedy drama about a writer following a woman as she seeks to find the child she was forced to give up for adoption decades earlier and unlike the book thief it seems to mix the sad and the sweet in the right amounts for Oscar audiences.

 

I’M GONNA HAVE TO TRADEMARK “GRAY DOLLAR” IT SEEMS

Speaking of the “older audience” Last Vegas has rolled the dice for the last time in the top ten but $72M worldwide from a $28M budget isn’t bad at all.  Given that the rest of its target audience will probably devour it on home video (pay-per-view, DVD, etc) it’ll probably deliver nice profit when all is said and done. Ironically, this probably sprung up from the success of Red, whose sequel bombed, so while Last Vegas 2 (Next To Last Vegas?) is unwise another excuse to put a bunch of older actors together will probably pay off.  I’d bring up having some women in it as well, but clearly Judi Densch doesn’t need your punk ass.

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I STILL DON’T CARE

24 Nov

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1. The Hunger Games 2/LGF                   Wknd/$ 161.1            Total/$ 161.1

 2. Thor: The Dark World/BV                  Wknd/$  14.1            Total/$ 167.8

 3. The Best Man Holiday/Universal      Wknd/$  12.5            Total/$  50.4

 4. Delivery Man/BV                                   Wknd/$    8.2            Total/$     8.2

 5. Free Birds/Relativity                             Wknd/$    5.3            Total/$  48.6

 6. Last Vegas/CBS                                       Wknd/$    4.4            Total/$  53.9

 7. Bad Grandpa/Paramount                      Wknd/$    3.5            Total/$  95.5

 8. Gravity/Warners                                     Wknd/$    3.3            Total/$ 245.5

 9. 12 Years A Slave                                       Wknd/$    2.8            Total/$   29.4

10. Dallas Buyers Club/Focus                    Wknd/$    2.8            Total/$    6.5

 

THE RUNNING GIRL

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opens at number one breaking a record and like Twilight before it and Harry Potter before that this is something that has gone right past me. Know why? BECAUSE I’M AN ADULT AND I DON’T READ CHILDREN’S BOOKS  THAT’S WHY! Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Just don’t ask me what adult books I’m reading. And honestly, I just have a problem where children are forced to fight children to the death.  Somewhere down the line I’ve just gotten squeamish about certain things and watching children die onscreen is one of them. Yes, I know. This time around it’s full-grown adults fighting (which is one of the oldest tropes in and out of science fiction), but I still can’t get with it.  The taint remains.

 

TWO SMART GIRLS

Thor: The Dark World drops to number two and if you’re saving that episode of Agents of SHIELD to watch until you see this, don’t bother. It has almost nothing to do with the movie.  Seriously.  It’s just a carrot to draw you into that incredibly lackluster series.  Speaking of lackluster series, how happy is Kat Dennings for these movies?  Every two years she’s gets to be in a blockbuster film and this time around actually joins Tom Hiddleston in “Steal The Movie” club which should bump her up in a way Two Broke Girls never could. As Hiddleston stole Thor from Thor, Darcy steals the movie from Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster, Thor’s mortal love interest. She’s clearly the more interesting of the two and between her and overlooking Sif, Thor’s taste in women is seriously in question.

 

ANOTHER BRIDESMAID

The Best Man Holiday is down to number three and with the entire original cast returning also in this is Nia Long who, quite honestly, was Kerry Washington before Kerry Washington as the potential heir to Halle Berry’s throne (as we know, Hollywood and only have one A-list minority lead at a time).  The difference being Kerry Washington had the A-list films (Ray, Django Unchained) and now hit TV series (Scandal), whereas Nia Long peaked in Big Momma’s House and Third Watch.  Ouch.

 

MONEY NO MORE

The Delivery Man opens at number four (the lower budget makes this not as bad as you think) and this is a remake of a French film that just came out last year and even I was shocked at how quickly Hollywood remade it.  It’s a cute enough premise, but they should have found a different leading man, because Vince Vaughn and his motormouth routine gets old fast.  In fact it’s been old for a long time now and this is coming from someone who was a huge fan after Swingers and followed his indie career in things like Clay Pigeons, Return to Paradise and yes, even the shot-for-shot remake of Psycho so my bitterness is earned, baby.  Someone a little more charming and little less annoying would have served this film well.  And better looking. Seriously. It matters.

 

THE TURKEY YOU’RE HAPPY TO KILL

Speaking of annoying onscreen motormouths, Owen Wilson is one of the voices in Free Birds, down to number five and the only thing worse than Owen Wilson is just his voice, I don’t care what cute animal you put up there onscreen.

 

BAD GRANDMA?

Last Vegas is down to number six, followed by Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa at number seven and given how well this has done prepare yourself for an onslaught of low budget prankster films. Okay, maybe not an onslaught, but there will definitely be more of them coming.

 

TRAUMATIC ISN’T THE WORD FOR IT

Gravity is down to number eight, followed by 12 Years a Slave down to number nine and some people have issues with seeing their favorite stars as evil slave owners. I don’t want to hear it. Roots had everyone in Hollywood owning slaves and you don’t know from difficult until you’ve seen Mr. Brady own slaves or Sandy Duncan toss around the “n-word.”

 

THE MANY FACES OF MATTHEW

Finally entering the top ten at ten is more Oscar bait in the form of Dallas Buyer’s Club, continuing the Matthew McConaughey renaissance.  Apparently somewhere down the line he tired of merely being a parody of himself and decided to be a more serious version of himself, because lets face it: he’s always playing Matthew McConaughey. He’s not Daniel Day Lewis and can disappear into any role.  He can only be a more somber McConaughey (like in the surprise hit, Mud), a more straight-laced McConaughey (The Lincoln Lawyer and Bernie) a more psychotic McConaughey (Killer Joe) or a more sleazy McConaughey (Magic Mike, which I honestly thought he deserved a Best Supporting nomination for). But it’s always McConaughey.

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THE BETTER MAN

17 Nov

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 1. Thor: The Dark World/BV                        Wknd/$  86.1            Total/$  86.1

 2. The Best Man Holiday/Universal            Wknd/$  30.6            Total/$  30.6

 3. Last Vegas/CBS                                           Wknd/$    8.9            Total/$  47.0

 4. Free Birds/Relativity                                  Wknd/$    8.3            Total/$  42.2

 5. Bad Grandpa/Paramount                          Wknd/$    7.7             Total/$  78.7

 6. Gravity/Warners                                         Wknd/$    6.3            Total/$ 240.6

 7. Ender’s Game/LGF                                     Wknd/$    6.2            Total/$  53.8

 8. 12 Years A Slave                                           Wknd/$    4.7            Total/$   24.9

 9. Captain Phillips/Sony                                 Wknd/$    4.5            Total/$  97.6

10. About Time/Universal                              Wknd/$    3.5            Total/$   11.6

 

HOW THE (IRON) MAN TAKES YOUR MONEY

Thor: The Dark World holds at number one and there’s an odd absence of SHIELD in this movie given how they were set up as the “connective tissue” between all the films, starting with Iron Man.  Originally I thought it was simply a plothole, but once I learned there was going to be a tie-in episode with the lackluster Agents of SHIELD show I realized it was probably a deliberate act, much in the way comic books will have “off-camera” developments that you’ll have to buy to get the complete story. Want to know how Cap is now fighting alongside Iron Man in New York when we last saw Cap was in Washington DC? Well, pick up the latest issue of Captain America to get the whole story.  And when they’re really, really having you grabbing your ankles financially, half the story will be in Captain America, half will be in Iron Man and the main story will be in The Avengers.  But hey, when you’re not spending money on dating, nice clothes and gym memberships, it doesn’t matter.

 

CAN YOU STAND THE RAIN…OF MONEY

The Best Man Holiday opens at number two and if you’re surprised this did so well (made almost double its budget on the first weekend) you either don’t remember the first Best Man opened at number one or you have movies where the lead actor looks like you and isn’t a slave for 12 years or a butler for 40.  Yeah, I said it!  Real talk!  Not every one has gods or astronauts.  And don’t think this movie isn’t aware of it. The opening credits are a mixture of scenes from the first film and a “where-are-they-now” montage of success. Every single one of them is madly successful and you never realize how much you miss something until it’s pointed out to you.  But all that glitters is not gold as our first scene is learning that Taye Diggs has lost his teaching position at NYU and his agent is telling him his latest book blows. Not to mention hospital bills have been piling up as he and his now-wife (remember he proposed at the end of the first film) are expecting a baby in less than a month.  Harold Perrineau, who played the somewhat meek character who dumped his domineering girlfriend for a well-read stripper, is facing the downside of that decision as her past is catching up them (they’re married with kids) and their progressive school which needs money from conservative donors.  There’s also something up with football star Morris Chestnut and his wife whose relationship with Taye Diggs was the heart of the story of the first film (I’m not going to spoil it, but it’s pretty obvious).  Terrence Howard is also back as the trouble-stirring “Q” who has lost some of the angry darkness from the first film, but his hysterical bluntness is the source of much of the film’s humor. They all gather for holidays at the mansion of Morris Chestnut and the laugher and tears ensue.  Writer/director Malcolm Lee (yes, cousin of Spike) doesn’t break any new ground but he knows how to use the old stories well enough that he doesn’t have to. They’re tropes and clichés for a reason.  Because when done right they never stop working and they’re working here.  Taye Diggs, Harold Perrineau and Morris Chestnut are all keeping secrets. Think they’re going to come out at the worst possible time to maximum drama? Of course they are! That’s what you’re paying for! If they acted like intelligent, rational people, this movie would be very boring and about 30 minutes. One thing I will give him credit for is sticking to the “R” rating. This movie could very easily be PG-13 (which you’d think would be required for a holiday film), but would have felt a little less honest.

 

HELEN MIRREN NEVER STOPS BEING HOT. I’M JUST SAYIN’…

Last Vegas actually rises to number three and speaking of seeing yourself onscreen, think maybe this is the reason this AARP film has staying power?  A movie your mom and dad might want to see because they see themselves onscreen as leads, rather than as parents and grandparents of the main characters?  Of course if that’s the reason maybe they should have worked a little harder to cast women the same age as the men.  Real talk all day!

 

HE’S FOUND HIS LEVEL AND HE’S LIVING IT

Free Birds is down to number four, followed by Bad Grandpa at number five and who is more grateful for this than Johnny Knoxville who plays the “bad grandpa?”  His attempt at actually leading comedic man status pretty much died with the anemic Dukes of Hazzard film.  I loved the Dukes of Hazzard, but couldn’t stomach more than a few moments of that horrible movie. His second banana roles didn’t work out either as The Last Stand and Walking Tall showed. But he rules in hell, as he’s also a writer and producer here, so I think his days of trying to make it in heaven are done.

 

YOU CAN’T BUY YOUR CHILD BRIDE WIFE A PORSCHE ON ACCLAIM

Gravity holds at number six, followed by Ender’s Game at seven and also in this is Sir Ben Kingsley who could care less as he’s now part of the Marvel money machine, thanks to his appearance in Iron Man 3 as the not-quite-what-he-seems Mandarin.  He’s confirmed he’ll be returning though not in what role. Not that it matters or if he even cares.  I can promise you his manager and accountant do not.

 

YES, I’M A BAD MOVIE-GOING BOYFRIEND

12 Years a Slave is down to number eight, followed by Captain Phillips at number nine and About Time at number ten and it hurts me to see Rachel McAdams have yet another disappointment, even though I know I’m partially responsible, not having seen a single one of her last four films. But given that her formula seems to be to do projects she likes (aka artsy indie films) than go do a horrible yet insanely profitable Nicholas Sparks movie, she seems to have a formula that works for her. Unfortunately it doesn’t work for me, as I’ve no interest in the little films she chooses (Brian DePalma remaking a French film sounds like a recipe for disappointment) and sure as hell won’t see anything based on a Nicholas Sparks scribbling. Luckily for me she’s going to be in an upcoming Cameron Crowe film. Now that’s what daddy likes.

NOT OVER YET

So I finally watched the new Dracula—or as I call it “Short Sexy Dracula”—and to say they take liberties with the story is to say they even made it. Every version of Dracula takes liberties, but that Dracula and Van Helsing are allies against a secret order is very new.  Unfortunately it’s not all that interesting.  Nor is Dracula’s cover as an American industrialist.  And just because Renfield is black and no longer a weird toady servant doesn’t instantly make him more intriguing either. Not to mention I’m just not buying a short Dracula, I don’t care how sexy he is.  Stature matters when you’re supposed to be intimidating.  Sorry, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers.  When the most interesting character wasn’t even part of the original story (Jonathan Harker, Mina and Lucy are all here), you’ve got a problem.  I’d much rather see the cleavage-heavy, knife-wielding, vampire-hunting blonde (played by Victoria Smurfit and yes, that’s her real name) who loves having sex with Dracula (pretty sure Bram Stoker’s novel never had Dracula finger-fuck someone in an opera box) even when she knows he’s her enemy than anyone.  She alone possesses the one factor this show is otherwise lacking: fun.

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BRINGING THE THUNDER

10 Nov

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 1. Thor: The Dark World/BV                     Wknd/$  86.1            Total/$  86.1

 2. Bad Grandpa/Paramount                      Wknd/$  11.3             Total/$  78.7

 3. Free Birds/Relativity                               Wknd/$  11.2              Total/$  30.2

 4. Last Vegas/CBS                                         Wknd/$  11.1              Total/$  33.5

 5. Ender’s Game/LGF                                    Wknd/$  10.3            Total/$  44.0

 6. Gravity/Warners                                        Wknd/$    8.4            Total/$ 231.1

 7. 12 Years A Slave                                         Wknd/$    6.6            Total/$   17.3

 8. Captain Phillips/Sony                                Wknd/$    5.8            Total/$  91.0

 9. About Time/Universal                              Wknd/$    5.2            Total/$    6.7

10. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2      Wknd/$    2.8           Total/$110.0

 

THOR? I CAN BARELY WALK!

Thor: The Dark World opens at number one and while heads and shoulders better than the first film this franchise still has story problems. Setting up the plot seems to take up the bulk of the film and then the execution takes no time at all. Shouldn’t that be reversed? Basically, The Dark Elves (from the Dark World of the title) want to return the universe to darkness (duh) and can only do so during the once every 5 thousand years “convergence” of the Nine Realms (Earth is one, Asgard is another). For this they need “The Ether” which of course Jane Foster happened to find and is now infected with, which makes Thor bring her to Asgard with The Dark Elves right behind her. It takes so long to get to this point, even when the story has started it still feels like they’re still setting up.  No real tension is ever developed regarding stopping the Dark Elves or saving Jane even though everyone is racing the clock.  The Dark Elves only have limited time to complete their plan, but you’d never know it by how they move. Odin’s insistence on just fighting them and sacrificing his people doesn’t make any sense without him adding that they only have to hold The Dark Elves until The Convergence passes. Even the fact that “The Ether” is killing Jane like a slow poison generates no suspense. It would have added a great deal of drama to learn that letting her die would destroy “The Ether” and remove the threat forcing Thor to choose between billions of lives and his heart. It would also provide Jane with a moment of self-sacrificing heroism to prove herself to Odin, who clearly distains.  Even needing to trust Loki who is clearly untrustworthy adds no dramatic weight to the story. Thank goodness the film is stronger on its characters, with almost everyone getting defining moment and that moment usually lends itself to humor. Don’t let the sub-head fool you; like Iron Man 3 there’s no shortage of laughs throughout the film even when the fate of the universe is at hand.

 

SADLY, IT DOES CRACK EVENTUALLY

Bad Grandpa holds at number two followed by Free Birds at number three and Last Vegas at number four and also in this is Mary Steenburgen and like always in Hollywood she’s still six years younger than the youngest male lead who is Kevin Kline. But he’s getting his own ego bruising, being asked to play contemporaries with Morgan Freeman who has a full decade on Kline.  And honestly, while he looks good for his age, Freeman is clearly the oldest by a long shot.

 

CLEARLY LEARNING NOTHING FROM SEAN CONNERY ON HOW TO AGE IN MOVIES

Speaking of ego bruising, is anyone’s taking a bruising like Harrison Ford’s as Ender’s Game drops massively to number five?  Once upon a time Han Jones or Indiana Solo was gold, even making crap like Six Days, Seven Nights successful. Now, he can’t buy a hit as his last film before this, Paranoia (with the other Hemsworth. Liam) didn’t even open in the top ten. 42 was a modest success, but Cowboys & Aliens (with James Bond to help), Morning Glory, Extraordinary Measures and Firewall all tanked (Crossing Over was released in maybe one theater).  His last real hit? Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. No wonder he’s rumored to making his participation in the next Star Wars sequel conditional on another Indiana Jones film. Yes, he still doesn’t think he’s too old. Dude, you should have replaced Kevin Kline in Last Vegas you’re so old.

 

I GUESS HE’S GOT THE RIGHT STUFF. GET IT?

Gravity is down to number six and making his second appearance as the voice of mission control (and third as part of NASA) is none other than Ed Harris.  It’s a mixed blessing that the biggest thing he’s been in recently never shows his face.  Yeah, Pain & Gain made money but I’m sure he’s not proud of working with Michael Bay.

 

MALE OR FEMALE, REDHEADS ARE EVIL

12 Years a Slave holds at number seven, followed by Captain Phillips at number eight and about time at number nine and this the latest from Richard Curtis, the writer of Love Actually and Four Weddings & A Funeral (we’re trying to pretend Notting Hill never happened) and screenwriter of Bridget Jones’s Diary (we’re trying to pretend Edge of Reason never happened). Combine him with Rachel McAdams (whom I love), Bill Nighy (whom I love) and a science fiction element and you’d think I’d be in there, but no. The leading man leaves me cold. Never underestimate the contribution to Hugh Grant to appeal of his films. Give me  a young Hugh Grant rather than some near albino and I might have found the time (no pun intended).

 

THE END…FINALLY

Finally, after two months, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 says goodbye to the top ten.

THE JERK DANCER FROM THE DANCE

3 Nov

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 1. Ender’s Game/LGF                                    Wknd/$  28.0        Total/$  28.0

 2. Bad Grandpa/Paramount                        Wknd/$  20.5         Total/$  62.1

 3. Last Vegas/CBS                                          Wknd/$  16.5         Total/$  16.5

 4. Free Birds/Relativity                                 Wknd/$  16.2         Total/$  16.2

 5. Gravity/Warners                                        Wknd/$  13.1          Total/$ 219.2

 6. Captain Phillips/Sony                               Wknd/$    8.5         Total/$  82.6

 7. 12 Years A Slave                                          Wknd/$    4.6       Total/$    8.8

 8. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2     Wknd/$    4.2  Total/$106.2

 9. Carrie/SG                                                     Wknd/$    3.4        Total/$  32.0

10. The Counselor/Fox                                   Wknd/$    3.3        Total/$  13.4

 

HE’S A JERK AND HIS MOVIE LOOKS DULL

Ender’s Game opens at number one with a small amount of controversy. The author of the book it’s based upon, Orson Scott Card, is an anti-gay rights activist. He doesn’t just dislike homosexuals, he actively works to deny them rights. This separates him from your average jerk, because honestly if you wouldn’t go to see a film because a jerk was in it or wrote it or wrote the book it was based on you wouldn’t be able to see any movies, starting with George Clooney. Yeah, I know what you’re saying, “But he’s so perfect!”  Yeah, and he knows it. Self-satisfaction oozes from every pore of his body. Then there’s the little matter that, despite him having his choice of almost any woman in the world, he literally picks up 20-something cocktail waitresses.  That’s pretty jerky to me. And are we even going to pretend Madonna isn’t a total tool? Her marriage to Sean Penn probably didn’t last because they had daily jerk competitions.  But she’s a great pop star (I didn’t say musician) and he’s a great actor. The simple fact is you don’t have to be a nice person or even a decent human being to be good at your job. The question is can you separate the dancer from the dance as a consumer? In this case it’s actually the dancer once removed from the dance. The studio clearly doubts it as I’m sure they were doing damage control with all these little articles popping up last week pointing out that Card sees no profit from the film. He was paid once for the rights to this book and that was it. Clearly this was meant to make it okay for people who didn’t like his homophobia to see the film. There are only two problems with this: 1) if you see the film and like it you might buy the book so he makes money, and 2) if the film is successful the studio will buy the rights to those as well and he makes more money.  As for me, I learned long ago to separate the dancer from the dance (thanks for nothing, Woody Allen). I just didn’t like the way the film looked. “Kids in Space” is boring to begin with and the commercials and trailer basically show you him being special then winning. Where’s the hook?  That he’s going to win isn’t the question. That his journey to doing so looks fairly boring is. I mean, never thought Jaden Smith was going to die in After Earth, but I was fairly interested in him fighting for his life on a futuristic earth because he was shown to be a bit of screw up at first. And this was his test. Ender is special and gifted and then just proves it. Yawn.

 

NO MOVIE BUSINESS FOR OLD MEN

Bad Grandpa is down one notch to number two followed by Last Vegas opening at number three and let’s see what the jerk content is for this film.  Michael Douglas’ sex addiction is fairly well known not to mention the he openly casts younger women at his leading ladies and he blamed oral sex for his cancer.  Jerk.  Morgan Freeman was in a car accident, which revealed he was dating his step-granddaughter (top that, Woody Allen).  Creepy jerk.  However, none of these things had anything to do with me not seeing Last Vegas, which trotted out the trope of let’s laugh at those wacky old people.  “Old Hangover” was not on my list of plans this weekend and neither the trailer nor the commercial did anything to change that.  It doesn’t help that while we think of these actors as “older” we don’t think of them as “old men.”  It’s an irony that they look too good at their respective ages for this to really work.  What this needed was either more decrepit actors (like Cocoon) or younger straight men (and women) to not only offset their ages, but also play the straight man (and woman). Well that and actually be funny.

 

YES, I’D FRY UP BABE AND WILBUR IN A HEARTBEAT

Opening at number four, Free Birds kicks off the holiday movie season with the story of two turkeys that travel back in time to stop the turkey being the main dish of Thanksgiving. Yes, the plot of a children’s holiday film is to stop turkey genocide.  I’ll admit parts of the trailer did make me laugh, but the core of this film is very dark, because we know they have to fail and all the turkeys they meet in the past are going to die and be eaten.  It also gives personalities to the food we eat at the very time of year that we eat it!  Someone clearly didn’t think this through.  Needless to say I did and gave it a pass.   I’d say give me two turkeys on the run from being dinner and you might have had a film worth seeing, but honestly it’s problematic to ever connect funny cartoon animals with the actual place they occupy in our society as I’ll never choose them over a good meal.

 

MY SISTERS WOULD BE JUSTIFIABLY SUING ME

Gravity is down to number five and notice how I saw this despite thinking Clooney is a jerk. That’s how that works.  Also, Captain Phillips is down to number six and I, like most, think Tom Hanks is the nicest man in the world. Yet, I have not seen it. One has nothing to do with the other. But in a nice case of irony the real life crew thinks the real life Captain Phillips was a total jerk. So much so they’re suing him (if that’s a spoiler for you then you need to read more newspapers and see fewer movies). Yeah, it’s movie, guys. Not a documentary. And if we all sued jerks, we’d all in court on one side or the other.

 

BEST NAMED DIRECTOR IN THE WORLD

12 Years A Slave actually rises to number seven as its theater count increases and the Oscar race heats up.  I like every actor in it, yet I have not seen it. See? Dancer and Dance are separate. And yes, the director’s name is actually Steve McQueen.

 

BUT I’M GLAD THEY’RE ALL WORKING

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2 is down to number eight and the voices for the film are Bill Hader, Ana Faris, James Caan, Will Forte, Andy Samberg, Benjamin Bratt, Neil Patrick Harris, Terry Crews and Kristen Schaal.  All likable to me, yet I will never see this film. Dancer here, dance there.

 

BITE SIZED CANDY VS. CARRIE. ADVANTAGE BITE SIZED CANDY.

Carrie is down to number nine and you know people don’t want to see your horror film when you don’t make any money on Halloween.  This is the danger of remaking a film that’s too much at part of the culture. It’s impossible for Carrie to be scary because we know all that happens.  Even the shock ending of the first film is expected now.

 

BAD TASTE, WORST AFTERTASTE

Finally, The Counselor is down to number ten and as bad as I thought this film was a week ago, it’s even worse now. What makes it worse than say something like Transformers is that at least Transformers is trying to entertain you.  This is isn’t. This pretentious crap think it’s brilliant and is above such base concerns. This could have been some half decent film noir. People doing bad things that causes a bad result.  It even has the nerve to reference Body Heat! But rather than follow that excellent example, it wants you to take Cameron Diaz humping cars seriously.