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THE CRISIS OF UNFORTUNATE TITLING

14 Nov

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1. Doctor Strange/Disney Wknd/$ 43.0 Total/$ 153.0
2. Trolls/Fox Wknd/$ 35.1 Total/$ 94.0
3. Arrival/Paramount Wknd/$ 24.0 Total/$ 24.0
4. Almost Christmas/Universal Wknd/$ 15.6 Total/$ 15.6
5. Hacksaw Ridge/LGF Wknd/$ 10.8 Total/$ 32.3
6. The Accountant/WB Wknd/$ 4.6 Total/$ 77.7
7. Shut In/EC Wknd/$ 3.7 Total/$ 3.7
8. Boo! A Madea Halloween/LGF Wknd/$ 3.6 Total/$ 70.4
9. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back/ Wknd/$ 3.3 Total/$ 54.6
10. Inferno/Sony Wknd/$ 3.3 Total/$ 31.6

WHEN YOUR WORST CHOICE IS STILL GOOD, YOUR CASTING DIRECTOR DESERVES A RAISE
Doctor Strange holds at number one making sure any doubts of Marvel’s dominance were laid squarely to rest. Yet another comic book hero 90% of the populace has never heard of has been a ridiculous success (it’s almost made budget in a week and made more than twice this overseas). It also validates the casting choice of Benedict Cumberbatch, whom they delayed this movie to get. What’s funny and a little sad is that he’s the least interesting actor in this cast. I like him well enough, but pretty much everyone else cast would have been better than him. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen and Tilda Swinton would have been more entertaining as Doctor Strange. Especially the latter two. There’s nothing about the character Doctor Strange that dictates it be a white male. Only that the character be a brilliant surgeon who is humbled and becomes a sorcerer. That’s any race, any gender (unlike say, Batman whose family has been prominent in Gotham since the pilgrim days which rules out anyone of color). Even costar Rachel McAdams would have been a welcome change from the so-safe-it’s-generic path they chose. There’s controversy about the casting because while they changed the Sorcerer Supreme from being Asian (Tibetan to be specific) to being White to avoid “stereotypes” (and offending the Chinese government so they could get those Chinese moviegoers). Yeah, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and that was another quarter mile laid down because while the “mystic Asian master” may be a stereotype it’s one that gives an Asian actor who might not otherwise have found work a job. Also crucial is the world “master.” He may be a stereotype, but the one who is the baddest muthafucka in the room. Simply put: the most powerful character in the story went from being a minority to being white. Yes, you can argue the most powerful character went from being a man to a woman (which is what Marvel tried to do) but it’s still a White woman as opposed an Asian one. Faced with this, Marvel again tried to wash over their sin by changing Wong from being Doctor Strange’s manservant to being another sorcerer equal to Strange, but one step forward plus one step back means you’re just standing still. That being said, Tilda Swinton is always a joy to watch, but she’d have been better as the doctor. She’s also more age-appropriate as the character not supposed to be young either, but someone older than Cumberbatch.

MAYBE SOME SCHOOLHOUSE ROCK EPISODES WOULD HAVE HELPED
Trolls holds at number two, followed by Arrival at number three and this is “grown up” science fiction, meaning it’s not about space battles and sexy robots, but about thoughts and concepts, in this case the science of communication, language in particular. How would you teach or learn an alien language? And do it before the world destroys itself in fear? My normal complaint about this type of movie is that it could have been told in 45 minutes on an old episode of The Outer Limits, but this actually needs its time to delve into what makes a language? How to communicate with no common basis, no Rosetta Stone? Amy Adams is basically the best linguist in America who is recruited by the government when one of 12 giant spaceships on Earth lands in Montana. Every 18 hours they open the door and try to communicate us, but until Amy Adams shows up apparently it never occurred to none of the hundreds of people on Earth trying to communicate (every country with a ship has team ) to a) use written symbols or b) not show up dressed like you’re landing on the moon when it’s clear they’ve made an effort to give you a breathable atmosphere. Seriously, they bring a bird in to make sure the air is safe and given nothing happens to the bird not one single scientist of the hundreds around the world thinks they can take that damn hazmat suit off!?! There’s a bit of a twist which is old hat if you’re a science fiction fan (seriously, this is basically a combination of a Deep Space Nine episode and a Next Generation episode) so once you’ve figured it out it drags a bit and honestly I’d have given that up for more delving into how they figured out the language of the aliens, but all in all it’s some solid thinkin’ man’s science fiction.

ALMOST ROLLING IN MONEY
Almost Christmas opens at number four and whoever decided on a pre-Thanksgiving release date needs to be fired. Seriously. In one more week you’d have a four-fucking-day weekend to bring in the bucks. I mean, it only cost $17M and already made $15M, but it could have, should have been so much more. Pretty sure no one going to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was going to have to decide between the two films.

THOUGH HE DID DATE HIS LEADING LADY AND BREAK UP WITH HER…JUST LIKE TOBEY
Hacksaw Ridge is down to number five and the star of this is former Spider-Man himself, Andrew Garfield trying to show life beyond the tights. Yeah, Tobey Maguire should have been a cautionary tale. But Garfield is a better actor and his defacto look isn’t “creepy loner” so hopefully he’ll do better.

SHE CAN’T PITCH PERFECT FOREVER
The Accountant is still around and color me shocked. This also works for Anna Kendrick as it’s a successful film out of her wheelhouse. Granted she’s “the girl who needs to be saved” but there’s no such thing as a bad hit.

ANOTHER JOB THAT SHOULD BE OPEN
Shut In opens at number seven and just as Almost Christmas opens a week too soon, this comes over a week too late. Returning to the genre that was the source of her only starring role success (The Ring) this should have been an easy win with at $10M budget for Naomi Watts. Seriously, somebody should lose a job over this as it was money just left on the table. Especially if that idiot used the term “counter-programming.”

WE ONLY HAVE OURSELVES TO BLAME
Boo! A Madea Halloween has made $70M off a $20M budget. See, this is why we can’t have nice things.

STARS OF THE LATE 20TH CENTURY FINALLY BEGIN TO FADE…
Finally the Toms close out the top ten with Jack Reacher: Never Go Back at number nine and Inferno at number ten.

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WHOA, HO, HO IT’S MAGIC!

7 Nov

dtrsg_49_94

1. Doctor Strange/Disney Wknd/$ 85.0 Total/$ 85.0
2. Trolls/Fox Wknd/$ 45.6 Total/$ 45.6
3. Hacksaw Ridge/LGF Wknd/$ 14.8 Total/$ 14.8
4. Boo! A Madea Halloween/LGF Wknd/$ 7.8 Total/$ 65.0
5. Inferno/Sony Wknd/$ 6.3 Total/$ 26.0
6. The Accountant/WB Wknd/$ 6.0 Total/$ 70.9
7. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back/ Wknd/$ 5.6 Total/$ 49.2
8. Ouija: Origin of Evil/Universal Wknd/$ 4.0 Total/$ 31.4
9. The Girl on the Train/Universal Wknd/$ 2.8 Total/$ 70.7
10. Miss Peregrine’s Home…/Fox Wknd/$ 2.1 Total/$ 83.3

TRY TO UNDERSTAND HE’S A MAGIC MAN
Doctor Strange opens unsurprisingly at number one as the latest installment of the Marvel films. And while it’s enjoyable I find myself oddly disappointed in just how hard Marvel is sticking to this formula. Granted, they’ve got literally a billion rea$on$ as to why, but I find myself saddened just how much like all the others this is because Doctor Strange has always been a character that I’ve liked and he’s not like other comic book heroes. Yes, the plot device is one of the oldest in the history of creation—the humbled prince who becomes a better person as a result and we’ve seen it twice here alone with Thor and Iron Man—but they do absolutely nothing to put a new spin on it. In fact they watered it down. In the comics Stephen Strange starts as a flat out callous asshole of a surgeon who just might let you die if you can’t meet his fees, but here he’s just a bit of an arrogant prick and doing what is basically a Robert Downey Jr-lite take on the character as he was also not a joke cracking wiseass like he is here. In fact, you really only know he’s an arrogant jerk because people keep telling you he is, not really because of any arrogant jerk things that he does. When it happens it’s a big moment, not like the genuine arrogance of Tony Stark in the first half hour of Iron Man as he casually rumbles over everyone, friend and stranger alike because he only cares about himself. Also missing is Strange’s growth from this minor asshole to almost painfully benevolent. It’s a near two-hour movie. You should have the time to show the passage of time but apparently it wasn’t worth sacrificing a gigantic psychedelic action sequence. You don’t go from callous asshole to caring for an entire plane of existence in a few days or weeks, but it feels like it’s barely a month of so for the character here when it should have been years. There’s no definitive “humbling moment” where enlightenment occurs. This goes hand-in-hand with his “instant magic skills” something a depiction of an extended period of time would have helped with immensely. There’s an 80 minute animated version from a few years ago that actually does better at showing this, which should embarrass everyone here. The quality of the acting goes without saying, but literally every major actor present would have made a better Doctor Strange than Benedict Cumberbatch. Every. Single. One.

IT’S A BAD MOVIE HOUSEHOLD
Trolls opens at number two and you can garner the quality of a children’s movie by whether or not kids shut up when the trailer comes up. Over the last few months, this trailer didn’t shut up any kids. ‘Nuff said. Besides, has Justin Timberlake ever starred in a good movie? He’s been a supporting actor in exactly one. Again, ‘nuff said.

I GUESS YOU COULD SAY HE HAD A BRAVE HEART
Hacksaw Ridge opens at number two and Mel Gibson finally realized no one was going to see a movie of his if they had to see his face so here he’s just directing. This feels like the kind of war movie they would have made in the 40’s when they weren’t borderline propaganda: they were flat-out propaganda. Except Gibson takes great pains to show war as horrifically bloody as humanly possible which isn’t really going to inspire anyone to take up arms. I know this is based on a true story about a pacifist soldier who refused to take lives and would only save them, but honestly that doesn’t make it any more interesting to me. It takes something truly exceptional to make me want to sit through a war movie and this ain’t it.

TAKING A STAND
Boo! A Madea Halloween is down to number for and the answer is still “No.”

NETFLIX. THE NEXT ONE WILL BE ON NETFLIX. STARRING HIS SON.
Inferno is down to number five and so much for this franchise. At least as big budget superstar movies. They could very well make a nice living doing them as TV movies like Tom Selleck did for that one character, but this is clearly going to tie up in a nice little trilogy for you to buy for your parents at future Christmases because they read the books.

SEX AND THE SINGLE SUPER SOLDIER
The Accountant is down to number six, followed by Jack Reacher: Never Go Back at number seven and while one franchise may have just been born, another may be seeing its premature end. Yes, this means that Ben Affleck just had more success as an action hero this year (remember Batman v Superman: Mad Stupid Cash Grab) than Tom Cruise. You can bet pre-production on the next Mission Impossible just kicked into high gear. What’s funny is that neither character gets to have sex with their female lead, which are Anna Kendrick and Cobie Smulders respectively. Not that we wanted to see it (ew!), but Ben Affleck’s character basically cannot with Kendrick because his autism leaves him socially impaired. And we don’t necessarily want to see it with Tom Cruise either (serious ew!), but there’s an odd kind of sexual tension that is present because Cobie Smulders and Cruise spend time half-undressed together in a very casual way that is oddly appealing. Honestly, it’s very adult that two people on the run from killers would have other things to worry about than whether or not someone sees them naked. And at the same time, knowing this night could be your last night on earth why the hell wouldn’t you hook up? Especially in the case of Jack Reacher, given his character has come to DC for the specific purpose of possibly sleeping with Cobie Smulders. I’m not kidding. They even discuss it in one of the oddly appealing scenes. It’s actually odd that they do not. Odd for the characters. For Tom Cruise, not so much.

STUDIO ACCOUNTANTS SAYS “OUCH! THAT’S SOME SHARP CHEDDAR!”
Ouija: Origin of Evil is down to number nine and you know who’s in this!?! Eliot himself, Henry Thomas. Good for him. Get that work, son! Yeah, it’s a low-budget horror movie, but it’s made 3x its cost, unlike the movie of the Toms (Hanks and Cruise) in this top ten. It also means you’ve had one more hit this year than Spielberg. Yeah, I said it!

BET YOU THOUGHT BEING PRETTY WAS GONNA CARRY YOU…MORE THAN IT ALREADY HAS I MEAN
The Girl on the Train is down to number nine at $70M off a $45M budget ($140M total worldwide) this is a minor success. Good for you, Glenn Cocco! I want Emily Blunt to do well (she had Sicario last year). I like The Devil Wears Prada that much. I want almost everyone who was in it or associated with it to do well. Yeah, that stops at you, Adrian Grenier. Entourage has tainted you forever. Being a pretty muthafucka don’t help.

A LONG OVERDUE DEATH
Finally, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children aka, Tim Burton’s X-Men closes out the top ten at number ten and mercifully I think we’re nearing the twilight of studios giving Burton millions of dollars for these CGI fests. It didn’t even make budget domestically and while it doubled its domestic take overseas that’s not the money that matters most. You can tell stories of eccentric characters without a lot of CGI, Timmy, but the operative word there is “stories” and you aren’t big on those, much less characters.

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EVERYBODY GETS A BUTT-KICKING FRANCHISE

24 Oct

jon

 

1. Boo! A Madea Halloween/LGF          Wknd/$ 27.6     Total/$ 27.6

2. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back/          Wknd/$ 23.0    Total/$ 23.0

3. Ouija: Origin of Evil/Universal           Wknd/$ 14.1    Total/$ 14.1

4. The Accountant/WB                             Wknd/$ 14.0    Total/$ 47.9

5. The Girl on the Train/Universal        Wknd/$ 6.0       Total/$ 58.9

6. Miss Peregrine’s Home…/Fox            Wknd/$ 6.0      Total/$ 74.4

7. Keeping Up With The Joneses/Fox   Wknd/$ 5.6      Total/$ 5.6

8. Kevin Hart: What Now?                      Wknd/$ 4.1       Total/$ 18.9

9. Storks/WB                                              Wknd/$ 4.1       Total/$ 64.7

10. Deepwater Horizon/Lions Gate       Wknd/$ 3.6      Total/$ 55.3

YOU KNOW HOW I FEEL ABOUT THIS SHIT

Boo! A Madea Halloween opens at number one and…no. Just…no.

NEVER GO BACK…UNLESS IT’S FOR MORE MONEY

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back opens at number two and I actually enjoyed the first film. Granted, I’m not one of the fans of the books where Jack Reacher is 6’3” so I don’t have a problem with Tom Cruise intimidating people and whooping ass all over the place like a man twice his size. I accept it for the cheap thrills sheer vanity production it is (one of the first things you see onscreen is “A Tom Cruise Production”). It exists to show you that the star is just the bestest thing ever! And while Cruise was never a great actor he is however a great movie star so this works. It’d work better for a young Clint Eastwood, but it works for Cruise too. This is a bit of an improvement on the the first because that one was centered around a horrific loss of innocent life along with horrible moments of the sheer “crap we do to our fellow human beings” variety. The only way it was better was that it had one of funniest fight scenes ever and we got to watch Jai Courtney get beaten to death. Hell, the latter alone is worth the entire film’s production. This one is a simple “wrongly accused heroes fight to clear their names” and we get to watch Tom Cruise get his Jason Bourne on. And don’t kid yourself: this was his attempt to have a Jason Bourne franchise the way every actor from Liam Neeson to Kevin Costner to Sean Penn has seemingly tried to get his own with varying degrees of success over the last 14 years (Cruise was originally supposed to be Salt which was obviously gender swapped to Angelina). Yeah, he’s got Mission Impossible, but a) you can never have too many franchises, especially when you’re officially an aging actor and b) that was actually famous before he was and has expanded to include other known actors. This is about him and him alone beating the shit out of people in that military martial arts style that even James Bond had to adapt as the result of Bourne’s success. It’s not an intellectual exercise by any stretch of the imagination, but for so cheap and easy fun (these movies cost about $60M each and literally a third of that probably went to Cruise alone) they are not a bad way to spend two hours and will be great on cable in the coming years where you can just tune out the improbable plot and just look up from what you’re doing to watch Cruise beat the shit out of people. Hey, I think Jai Courtney is about to die right now. Be back in a minute…

IT’S A SUCCESSFUL PLAN, STAN

Quija: Origin of Evil opens at number three and this is how you make money. Take a low budget horror movie and open it close to Halloween, the second most profitable holiday in America. The first Ouija came out on October 24th last year and made $50M from a $5M budget so they knew what they’d be doing the following year. This is basically the new “Saw” which milked this same marketing plan for years. The producers put a little more money into this one (it’s a whopping $9M this time), but have probably already started pre-production on the third given it’s already made that back and then some in one weekend. I think it goes without saying that I have not, nor will I ever see any of these.

DAMSEL IN DISTRESS

The Accountant is down to number four and also in this is Anna Kendrick, expanding her audience to dudebros who’d never see Pitch Perfect but bringing her trademark humor along with her which honestly is one of the reasons this succeeds: it knows when to be funny. After all, you can’t have a killing machine accountant and expect people to keep a straight face. You cannot. Granted, Kendrick is basically “the girl” who needs to be saved and doesn’t even have a moment where she contributes to beating the bad guys, but small steps. At least when they come for her she manages to put a hurt on them and doesn’t just scream and run.

AN ALL ALMOST-STAR CAST

The Girl on the Train is down to number five and this movie is filled with actors you know but none with enough star power to overcome Emily Blunt, which is shrewd if planned, but probably because a movie with a female lead didn’t have the budget to hire other A-list actors (you know it’s true!). You’ve got the would-be girl-of-the-moment Haley Bennett, Justin Theroux aka Mr. Jennifer Anniston, Luke Evans aka That Guy That Looks Like If Orlando Bloom Was A Man, Laura Prepon aka The Redhead From That 70’s Show, Allison Janney aka Always A Solid Supporting Actor But Never A Lead and Lisa Kudrow aka That Friends Money Means You Should Never Feel Sorry For Me.

THEY BELIEVE IN FLYING MEN AND GHOSTS…SO LONG AS THEY’RE WHITE

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is down to number six and there was some small amount of controversy about the lack of diversity in the movie, and while it would have been nice I honestly I don’t expect a lot in a movie set in Europe during WWII. But there’s something to be said that the only people of color in a Burton film before this were covered by make up as monkeys and the only one here is the freaking villain. If you doubted Burton’s geek cred this should back it up. They tend to like their fantasy worlds monochromatic.

SUCH A HANDSOME MAN

Keeping Up With the Joneses opens at number seven and Zach Galifinakis is running out of chances to prove he can sell a comedy. His last flop before this was only a few weeks ago with Masterminds. What that has in common with this movie is that they share a name with a previous movie that failed, which usually drives the people in suits crazy prompting an instant change. It’s nothing against Jon Hamm given this clearly isn’t his movie, but it’s not helping either. It’s great he doesn’t have an ego and needs to be the star, but you’re not a kid, dude and need to have something successful post-Mad Men under your belt. It’s ironic he’s here with the new Wonder Woman given he looks more like a superhero than basically everyone currently playing one. Hamm is a perfect Superman. Hamm is a perfect Batman. Hamm is a perfect Iron Man. Hamm would have been a perfect Doctor Strange as well. He’s been approached but balked at the decade long contracts they have to sign. Don’t expect to see him in a wannabe Jason Bourne movie either.

THE REST

Kevin Hart: What Now is down to number eight, followed by Storks at number nine with Deepwater Horizon closing out the top ten at number ten.

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OPPRESSED BUT LOOKING DAMN GOOD

20 Oct

6.194416
1. Fury/Sony Wknd/$ 23.5 Total/$ 23.5
2. Gone Girl/Fox Wknd/$ 17.8 Total/$ 107.1
3. The Book of Life/Fox Wknd/$ 17.0 Total/$ 17.0
4. Alexander & The Terrible…/Disney Wknd/$ 12. 0 Total/$ 36.9
5. The Best of Me/Relativity Wknd/$ 10.2 Total/$ 10.2
6. Dracula Untold/Universal Wknd/$ 9.9 Total/$ 40.7
7. The Judge/WB Wknd/$ 7.9 Total/$ 26.8
8. Annabelle/WB (NL) Wknd/$ 7.9 Total/$ 74.1
9. The Equalizer/Sony Wknd/$ 5.5 Total/$ 89.2
10. The Maze Runner/Fox Wknd/$ 4.5 Total/$ 90.8

HATERS GONNA HATE PT. 1
Fury holds the top spot and I was down to see this until I saw fucking Shia LeBeouf in the trailer. Seriously. I’m not the biggest war movie fan, but I do like Pitt and I like how for the epitome of a leading man he doesn’t like to play it safe (can you think of even one romantic comedy or science fiction action film he’s done?). And of course the classic premise of the outnumbered soldiers making a stand is classic for a reason (all that’s missing is a shirtless Pitt screaming “This. Is. Fury!”), but my interest took a complete nosedive the second LeBeouf’s name appeared onscreen. Much in the same way Inglorious Bastard goes unseen by me because torture porn director Eli Roth is part of the cast. Seriously, when I don’t like you, I really don’t like you. So when a half-dozen movies opened this weekend (the blessing and curse of living in NYC is everything opens here first), it quickly got pushed down the list in terms of importance and I don’t see it coming back up…unless you tell me I get to watch him die horribly.

HATERS GONNA HATE PT. 2
Gone Girl is down to number two and speaking of people I hate to see onscreen Tyler Perry is here in an acting role as Ben Affleck’s slick, successful, press-friendly lawyer. Except he’s not really acting. Director David Fincher explained Perry basically got the role years ago when they were scouting studios in Atlanta to make the incredibly underwhelming The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. They were looking into Perry’s studio space and he made them wait until he came off the roof where he was flying his model plane. In case you didn’t know how rich Tyler Perry was, that’s how rich. He can ignore an A-list director of major Hollywood film to fly his toy plane. This is part of why I could stomach him in this movie. He was playing someone I was free to dislike. If LeBeouf was playing the bad guy in Fury, I might have seen it.

BECAUSE THEY DIDN’T WANT YOU TO THINK IT WAS A ZOMBIE OR BULLFIGHTING MOVIE
The Book of Life opens at number three and the irony of this film it that it’s about death (it was originally called El Matador then Day of the Dead). It involves “The Day of the Dead” the Mexican holiday that coincides with the Catholic All Soul’s and All Saint’s Day. Basically the belief that on Halloween the gates of heaven open at midnight and the spirits of dead children are allowed to reunite with their families for 24 hours and on November 2nd, the spirits of adults can come down to enjoy the festivities that are prepared for them. The former makes me wonder why it took so long for it to be any part of a film aimed at kids. Hell, it should be the basis for the Casper cartoon outright. But good luck finding a plot synopsis for this. As near as I can figure from the trailer two matadors are in love with the same girl and two supernatural entities make a bet on which one will win her. When one thinks he’s going to lose he has the one matador bitten by a poisonous snake and killed. Once in the land of the dead the matador makes a deal with the same entity that killed him to see her again (I can only think his soul is forfeit or something) and he has to go on some quest and face epic challenges. Once again my prejudice toward an artist kept me from a film, but this time in error. I knew Guillemoro Del Toro was a producer on this, but I mistakenly thought he wrote it as well and his writing is for crap. Visually the man is an artist with almost no peer, but I wouldn’t let him write a grocery list. This is now on my list of things to see…above Fury.

LIFE AFTER THE X-MEN IS VERY HARD FOR SOME
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day is down to four, followed by The Best of Me opening at number five and there was no way in hell I was going to see an adaptation of one of Nicholas Sparks horrible someone-dies-in-the-third-act-because-real-love-is-always-tragic novels. Especially one so poorly cast we’re supposed to believe those two people become James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan. Maybe if they’d cast actual teenagers to play teenagers to play teenagers instead of two people pushing 30 to play the younger version of two people who are barely 40 (she’s only 38). Serious casting fail here.

METHINKS DAD HAS SOMETHING TO ANSWER FOR
Dracula Untold is down to number six and the star of this is Luke Evans whom you’ve seen everywhere from The Hobbit to the horrible Clash of the Titans remake. How happy is he that he has The Hobbit to wash away all his other sins? Every time he makes something like this or The Immortals, a Hobbit movie comes out to prop him back up (though he did have Fast & The Furious Six last year). Kind of like how it was from the man from whom he was cloned, Orlando Bloom. Bloom always had either Lord of the Rings or Pirates of the Caribbean to fall back on. Now that they’re done, when did you Bloom last? Why, in The Hobbit films of course…with Luke Evans (they were also in the horrible steampunk Three Musketeers together). But there may be hope here as this has made almost $100M overseas. He could actually be the new Dracula after all.

VANITY THY NAME IS MAN
The Judge is down to number seven and also in this is the wonderful Vera Farmiga who balances off her indie work with mainstream stuff like this as apparently the new “Anne Archer” meaning the first choice of actors “of a certain age” who don’t want to be openly creepy with an actress half their age, but don’t want anyone actually their age either. She was Clooney’s love interest in Up In The Air and she’s the proverbial “girl back home who’s still in love with the hero” and only the twist of her being sexually as well as financially independent allows her to be a bit more than the cliché.

THE PINNCALE AND END OF YOUR CAREER
Annabelle is down to number eight, followed by The Equalizer at number nine and also in this is Melissa Leo. Sound familiar? That’s because she won the Oscar almost guaranteed to send you into obscurity: Best Supporting Actress. Just ask Juliette Binoche or Mercedes Ruehl. How many years was Marissa Tomei missing?

THE END
Finally, The Maze Runner closes out the top ten at number.

JUST A REMINDER: SCHOOL DAZE SUCKED THEN AND IT STILL SUCKS NOW

Not breaking the top ten because it only opened in 11 theaters this weekend (Birdman only opened in 4) is Dear White People, a film that started off as a trailer before it got funding which reminds me that maybe I should finish that trailer I started 20 years ago in hopes of accomplishing the same goal. Nah. It’s probably too late. In any case Dear White People is an examination of modern race relations through the prism of humor and the people who can only see things in absolute terms: college kids. While the protagonist is the subtly named Samantha White (was “Black” as a surname too obvious?) a media major who sees racism in the film Gremlins and hosts a radio program called “Dear White People” (“Dear White People: Stop dancing.”) while secretly nursing a love of Taylor Swift and sleeping with a white teaching assistant in her class, the other storyline which rivals hers is that of Lionel Higgins, who is a shy, gay, undeclared sophomore who doesn’t feel he has a place anywhere with any group, black or white, straight or gay and winds up finding both a potential for romance and a place in journalism when starts a story on Samantha. Points of view are also spread around to Troy Fairbanks, ostensibly the leader of the black community on campus, but is also a pawn in his father’s rivalry with the college president (his father is dean of students and they attended that same college together) to the point where he dates the president’s daughter because of his father, having broken up with Samantha the previous year. Meanwhile Colandrea who prefers to go by Coco to distance herself from her from her background is aggressively assimilating to the point of blue contacts and deliberately conflicting with Samantha to drive up hits on her YouTube channel and possibly score the lead in a reality show coming to the campus. The film details the events leading up to a fight on campus as the result of whites throwing a racially themed party, which begins with Samantha ousting Troy as head of the black house. It’s a very funny film that makes serious observations about race with the time honored tradition of humor, but it is by no means perfect as it fully acknowledges that Samantha has a white father and that Troy has a white mother, but we never delve into how that has served to shape who they are beyond the Dean of Students accusing Samantha of “overcompensating” for it. Pretty sure that’s an important issue. Nor are supporting characters allowed any type of shading beyond being “angry black guy” and “clueless white guy.” Not to mention Lionel’s very presence brings up the very real issue of homophobia within the black community, which he actually acknowledges, but is brushed aside by one person saying “We’re not homophobic.” Though I have to admit their concern with his unruly afro over his sexuality rings all too real, not to mention every black person’s fashion sense is on point. Just because you’re fighting the man doesn’t mean you’re not going to look good doing it. And then there’s the matter of the missing seniors, which is just my personal bone to pick. Like so many movies set in high school or college, the most important and popular people on the campus never seem to be seniors and if anyone is running student society it’s them. But overall the film hits more than it misses and reminds me how long it’s been since a movie like this existed as the primary provocateur, Spike Lee is now too old and too rich to burn like he used to and honestly, was never this funny and is too much a misogynist fuck to have a female lead like this anyway.

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SHE ELF AND TOO MANY DWARVES

15 Dec

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 1. The Hobbit 2/Warner                           Wknd/$  73.7            Total/$   73.7

 2. Frozen/Disney                                        Wknd/$  22.2            Total/$ 164.4

 3. Tyler Perry’s A Madea Xmas/LGF      Wknd/$  16.0            Total/$   16.0

 4. The Hunger Games 2/LGF                   Wknd/$  13.2            Total/$ 357.0

 5. Thor: The Dark World/BV                    Wknd/$    2.7            Total/$ 198.1

 6. Out of the Furnace/Relativity              Wknd/$    2.3            Total/$     9.5

 7. Delivery Man/BV                                    Wknd/$    1.9             Total/$   28.0

 8. Philomena/Weinstein                            Wknd/$    1.8            Total/$     8.3

 9. The Book Thief/Fox                                Wknd/$    1.7            Total/$   14.9

10. Homefront/ORF                                     Wknd/$    1.6            Total/$   18.4

 

HOBBIT 2: ELFIN BUGALOO

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opens at number one and this is the second part of the Hobbit trilogy which wasn’t really a trilogy, but director Peter Jackson decided to make it into one because he felt the story needed “fleshing out” which somehow translated into making the first one a musical comedy about dwarves. Okay, maybe it was just one scene, but it seemed to go on forever and it’s sad that’s what I remember most about it. Seriously. I’ve forgotten most of the first film which is why this desperately needed a 30 second recap to remind us where we left off in because it feels like we walked into the middle of a movie. That said, it’s much better than the first thanks to the lack of dwarf musical numbers and honestly the presence of a butt-kicking female elf who didn’t exist in The Hobbit novel and the dragon himself.  Ironically, their standing out may be a result of Jackson actually neglecting the main character.  The movie may be called The Hobbit but the first act doesn’t even seem to be about Bilbo at all, but again the freaking dwarves. The middle is partially his and his battle with the seductive powers of the ring (reminding us again what a wuss Frodo was), while the final third he gives up once again to the dwarves, elves and now some humans. It’s telling the film finds a second wind only when Bilbo alone faces off against Smaug the dragon.  I look forward to the end of this trilogy when geeks take it upon themselves to edit out everything Peter Jackson added to “flesh out” the books and we see just how long it really should have been.

 

OF COURSE SHE’S SOARING; SHE JUST DROPPED 180 POUNDS

Frozen is down to number two and as the voice of the Snow Queen is Idina Menzel, best known as winning a Tony for her portrayal of the Wicked Witch in  Wicked and up until a few days ago, as the wife of Taye Diggs, but now they’re getting divorced.  Bad move on his part as “Let It Go” will undoubtedly be nominated for an Oscar and probably win, which means she’s going to be performing in front a global audience and thanking everyone but him. He won’t even get to escort her down the red carpet.  There’s a reason why Sandra Oh, kept her divorce from Alexander Payne under wraps until after the Awards.  She got to go to the Awards, share in the success and parties and then go her own way. Diggs is going to be babysitting their son while she ascends to another level and probably wind up with George Clooney. Need to work on that timing, brutha.

 

I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas opens at number three and just…no. Seriously, no. There’s just no excuse for this.

 

HE WAS PLAYED BY WHO? SEE WHAT I DID THERE?

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is down to number four, followed by Thor: The Dark World in at number five and this actually has elves in it as well, dark ones. The title refers to their home and their leader is played by Christopher Eccleston, best known as the Dr. Who that revitalized the series, then left immediately.  But that’s only if you’ve never had sex. If you’re a normal person you know him as the Duke of Norfolk who is the primary enemy of Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth.  He’s become a very good go-to bad guy, because he’s both unattractive and English. That’s a one-two combination that can’t be beat. Nothing says “pure evil” like an ugly Englishman.  Except maybe an attractive Englishman.

 

FRANK STALLONE KNOWS YOUR PAIN

Out of the Furnace is down to number seven and also in this as Christian Bale’s shorter, less attractive, less successful brother is Ben Affleck’s brother shorter, less attractive, less successful brother Casey Affleck.  Ouch. This was either the easiest role ever or a source of neverending torment for him during filming.

 

IF THE TRUTH IS YOUR ENEMY THEN YOU’RE NOT THE GOOD GUY

Delivery Man is down to number seven, followed by Philomena at number eight and this has caused some minor controversy as being “anti-Catholic” because it’s based on the true story of a woman who was forced to give up her child by the Catholic Church in England.  It was minor because the real “Philomena” spoke up to support and verify it and calling something that depicts the truth “anti” anything makes you look like a dick.

 

FREE FOOD AND LODGING TOO!

The Book Thief is down to number nine with Homefront closing out the top ten at number ten and also in this as the evil drug lord is…James Franco?  Clearly Franco has the indie work he believes in and cares for and the studio jobs he takes on a whim or as a joke.  Guess which one this one is? You know, with the script by Sylvester Stallone, starring Jason Staham and Winona Ryder?  Yeah, I started laughing just writing that.  Basically he got paid to go hang out in New Orleans for a few months and I doubt he ever pretended it was otherwise. 

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AIN’T NOTHING LIKE THE REAL THING

7 Apr

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 1. Evil Dead/Tristar                                    Wknd/$ 26.0           Total/$  26.0

 2. The Croods/Fox                                      Wknd/$ 21.1            Total/$ 125.8

 3. G.I. Joe: Retaliation/Paramount         Wknd/$ 21.1            Total/$  86.7

 4. Jurassic Park 3D/Universal                  Wknd/$ 18.2           Total/$  18.2

 5. Olympus Has Fallen/FD                        Wknd/$ 10.0           Total/$   71.1

 6. Tyler Perry’s Temptation/LGF             Wknd/$ 10.0           Total/$  38.4

 7. Oz The Great & Powerful/ Disney        Wknd/$   8.2           Total/$ 212.8

 8. The Host/ORF                                         Wknd/$   5.2            Total/$   19.7

 9. The Call/TriStar                                       Wknd/$   3.5           Total/$   45.5           

10. Admission/Focus                                    Wknd/$   2.1            Total/$   15.4

 

YES, THE TREE IS STILL IN THE MOVIE

Evil Dead opens at number one and as we all know I don’t do the scary, not even when it’s the deliberately “campy scary” of the Evil Dead series, which came to a wonderful climax in Army of Darkness aka Medieval Dead aka Evil Dead 3 (which I actually did see).  It doesn’t help matters that the creators behind this remake have gone all torture porn gory on it, so rather than scare you and make you laugh they’ve just gone bloody.  Yeah, you can keep it.  But this is a smart move by the little redheaded girl from Suburgatory (Jane Levy, and it’s a good show you’re not watching) to transition into films.  Like children’s films there’s a built-in audience for horror so chances of success are high and when it fails no one blames you.  It’s a win-win scenario and she won.  Unlike her appearance in Fun Size earlier this year, which was a loss, but Victoria Justice took the rap for that since she was the draw. Even tweens saw the ridiculousness of two girls so pretty somehow not being in the popular circle or being invited to hot parties.  It required more suspension of disbelief than a book of evil.

 

THE BRUCE LEE RULE: IT AIN’T KUNG FU IF EVERYBODY’S GOT THEIR SHIRTS ON

The Croods Hold onto number two, narrowly beating out G.I. Joe: Retaliation and by the way, that line was cut from the movie and only shows up in the commercials.  Not in the commercials but the highlight of the film for me is none other than The Rza, appearing as a ninja master in the most enjoyable part of the film which is the ninja war storyline.  It was almost 1987 all over again!  As the ninja GI Joe, Snake Eyes, is Ray Park, who shot to immediate fame as Darth Maul in the first Star Wars prequel and later turned up as Toad in the first X-Men movie.  But more interesting than him is pretty boy Byung-hun Lee as his lifelong ninja rival, Storm Shadow.  Lee has basically been “the girl” in both movies in that they both find some ridiculous reason for him to take his shirt off.  They like it so much he survived his apparent death in the first film to come back and disrobe here.  Even Channing Tatum doesn’t even have to do this.  Lee’s going to reunite with Bruce Will in Red 2 later this year, so we’ll see if they pull off the hat trick.

 

COULDN’T WAIT ONE MORE YEAR FOR THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY?

Jurassic Park returns in 3D format at number four and given this is running every other weekend on cable I can’t see why anyone would bother. Then again I can’t stand 3D so it’s not for me anyway. I’ve no doubt it’s still fun to watch because it’s still fun to watch every other weekend on cable.  Oh, the kid who plays Timmy?  He’s all grown up, playing a soldier in G.I. Joe Retaliation.  Yes, you’re old.

 

IT’S ALL POLITICS

Olympus Has Fallen is down to number five and also in this are Angela Bassett and Morgan Freeman as the Secret Service Director and the Speaker of the House, respectively speaking and in movie world, it’s demotions for both.  First of all, Glenn Close got to at least be Vice-President in the last time a Die Hard type of storyline was applied to the president in Air Force One.  And Bassett herself was White House Chief of Staff in Contact.  Though important, Secret Service Director (the first female director was actually appointed only a week ago, by the way) is still a massive step down.  Not to mention Morgan Freeman has been both The President and God and now he’s just Speaker of the House?  Please.  At least let him be the trigger happy Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that Robert Forester gets to play.  But if Martin Sheen has taught us anything, it’s that you can always come back.  He started off playing JFK, later showed up as Chief of Staff in The American President but returned to Commander in Chief on The West Wing, because if there’s anyone you can buy as the First Female President, much less the first Black Female President, it’s Angela Bassett.

 

SPOILER WARNING: IT SUCKS!

Down to number six is Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor and it’s time so for spoilers to let you know how horrible Perry can get with the hardline Christian dogma that runs through all his films.   The female protagonist winds up with HIV. Yes, the price of infidelity is an incurable disease and that’s only probably only because someone told him that contracting it is no longer the death sentence it once was.  Clearly that whole “love and forgiveness” message from Jesus was lost on Mr. Perry. What makes this particularly offensive is that Black women make up 2/3 of all new HIV transmissions among women.  Clearly they are all cheating whores who aren’t there for their men and need to find themselves some Jesus.  Did I mention the first time she actually gets raped?  Or that she not only goes on to have a relationship but he beats her and gets her addicted to cocaine?  None of which would have happened if she’d just resisted temptation. Or should I say “Tyler Perry’s Temptation.” Hey, isn’t pride a sin too? Or in this case “Tyler Perry’s Sin.”

 

ETC

Oz The Great and Powerful is down to number seven, followed by The Host at number eight and The Call at number nine.

 

SINS AGAINST COMEDY

Finally closing out the top ten at number ten is Admission and I do think there’s something amazingly appropriate in comedy legend Lily Tomlin playing Tina Fey’s mom.  Not enough to make me see it, but it is nice. Oh, and Michael Sheen who played Wesley Snipes on 30 Rock is also here as Fey’s cheating boyfriend. My god, how much talent did this film freaking waste?

 

CEREAL KILLER

I can’t stress enough how much I love that new TV shows never stop coming.  When I was kid we had to wait once a year. You people are freaking spoiled. This week Hannibal—which I thought was coming next fall—debuted and this should be of great concern to The Following given it was a thinly veiled rip-off of the entire relationship between Hannibal Lecter and the man who caught him, Will Graham as best shown in Manhunter (we’re going to pretend Red Dragon just never happened, like most of Brett Ratner’s career).  Charming, college professor contacted by FBI agent while researching killings turns out to be the serial killer.  They even had James Purefoy give Kevin Bacon near fatal wounds during his apprehension, just as Lecter gave to Will Graham.  Needless to say, it’s infinitely better. Better writing, better cast, better direction, better everything.  Maybe a bit too stylized which is easy for a pilot, but more difficult to maintain on a weekly basis since it has to fit the murders. One significant change is that Will Graham isn’t an FBI Agent due to the fact he’s suffering from Asperger’s/is autistic and is just a consultant (but he still gets a gun like Kevin Bacon it seems).  Again, this seems a pile on of “hey, let’s make him more interesting with a trendy disorder.”  Add to this he suffer from nightmares that make him sweat through sheets and collects stray dogs and you wonder what eccentricy they actually left behind. I’m waiting on him being a virgin to come up.  Of course the first time we meet Hannibal he’s eating. Right after we’re told the killer in question is eating the liver of the girls no less.  And because you can’t have a show named after him without him doing what he does best, he kills one poor girl and eats her lungs.  It’s actually short of gore, but infinitely more disturbing than the bloodletting on The Following.  The problem with this show is that how long can Will see Lecter every week and not see he’s a serial killer? We know the endgame and will only wait so long and can only endure so many “close calls”—not to mention the inevitable deaths of people who stumble onto the truth—before we get there. Yeah, I know they stretched out Clark Kent becoming Superman to ten years on Smallville, but you don’t want to have that be your example. Then there’s elephant in the room: an appearance by Clarice Starling? I honestly think the nothing lets you know how good a show is than feeling it should have a definitive beginning, middle and end and not go on forever.

G.I. BLOWS

31 Mar

spring-breakers-Vanessa-Hudgens-Selena-Gomez-Ashley-Benson-Rachel-Korine-2

1. G.I. Joe: Retaliation/Paramount            Wknd/$ 41.2               Total/$   51.7

2. The Croods/Fox                                        Wknd/$ 26.5               Total/$  88.6

3. Tyler Perry’s Temptation/LGF              Wknd/$ 22.3               Total/$  22.3

4. Olympus Has Fallen/FD                         Wknd/$ 14.0                Total/$  54.7

5. Oz The Great & Powerful/ Disney         Wknd/$ 11.6                 Total/$198.3

6. The Host/ORF                                           Wknd/$  11.0                Total/$   11.0

7. The Call/TriStar                                         Wknd/$   4.8                Total/$  39.5

8. Admission/Focus                                       Wknd/$   3.3                Total/$   11.8

9. Spring Breakers/A24                                 Wknd/$   2.8                Total/$   10.1

10. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone          Wknd/$   1.3                Total/$  20.6

G.I. JOKE

G.I. Joe: Retaliation opens at number one and action movies and romantic comedies are like porn and pizza: they seem deceptively relatively easy to make until you realize just how much of it out there sucks and you then realize maybe it’s not so easy to do after all.  G.I. Joe: Retaliation drives this home because it has everything you’d think an action movie needs to succeed: big stars, a decent budget and a built in audience and narrative.  Even the sheer “we’re about as grounded in reality as a cartoon” stupidity of the first film has being totally jettisoned along with most of its annoying cast, save Channing Tatum.  However, the MVP in an action film is always its director, not its star.  The Fugitive is one of the dumbest movies ever written, but Andrew Davis is a great action director who knows how to keep a film moving over all obstacles. Let me put it this way: he’s the man who made Steven Segal a star.  John M. Chu, however, is no Andrew Davis and in addition to attention-deficit action scenes (STOP WITH THE CUTTING ALREADY) looses focus overall and allows it to split into two films. One a para-military action film the other a ninja flick and honestly the ninja one is more interesting, but guess what which G.I. Joe ultimately wants to be?  But most of all it commits the greatest sin any action film can: it’s a tad boring.  For the final half hour where the good guys finally mount their forces to issue the “retaliation” of the title the speed of the film should kick into high gear, but honestly it feels like it slows down. Not to mention it has no sense of humor about what it is, given it’s filled with characters named Roadblock, Mouse and Snake Eyes.  Only Jonathan Pryce as the villain who’s assumed the identity of the president seems to understand what this film needs to be in order to succeed and embraced the fact that what he’s doing is ridiculous.

CHICK VOICES RULE!

The Croods is down to number two and both Ryan Reynolds and Nicholas Cage needed one in the win column like nobody’s business, while the women, Emma Stone, Catherine Keener and Cloris Leachman are all doing just fine, thank you very much.

TYLER PERRY’S LASTEST ASSAULT ON THE MEDIUM OF FILM

Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor (what the hell is up with that title!?!) opens at number three giving us basically our third cartoon in a row.  Clearly Perry’s recent stumbles (Alex Cross was named one of the worst films of 2012) have sent him scurrying back to his bread and butter and his audience has been there waiting for him, unwilling to following him to mainstream Hollywood productions. Good. The man is as horrible in front of the camera as he is behind it.  As much as I didn’t care for the Star Trek reboot, his appearance actually made me like it even less.  He puts the threat in triple threat (bad actor, bad writer, bad director). Actually it’s quadruple, because he’s a producer too, but he keeps making money to make more films so he’s actually good at that part, unfortunately.  I’d just as soon be beaten naked in the streets than sit through his little Christian morality plays.  The bruises and humiliation of that will fade. This crap will scar you for life.  And nothing sums up better how low rent on every level this is than the presence of Kim Kardashian.  Did Kanye promise a song for the soundtrack if they cast her or something?

AS SIMPLE AS A-B-STAY THE HELL AWAY FROM KATHERINE HEIGL

Olympus Has Fallen is down to number four and after G.I. Joe: Retaliation I have new respect for how this silly film still managed to do its job.  But no one appreciates this more than Gerard Butler who along with his management lacks the common sense god gave a paper boat in a stream.  It knows enough to go with the flow.  Butler does not and neither does anyone taking 10%. If, after years of supporting above-the-title stars like Angelina Jolie and Christian Bale you score a hit in an action film, THEN YOU MAKE MORE ACTION FILMS.  See, when you have half a dozen successful action films, then you can make the occasional drama, romantic comedy, family film, um, musical and it won’t matter if it fails of not and you’ll get some praise for trying to diversify.  Butler, however, followed 300 eight years ago with seriously bad dramas, romantic comedies, family films and yes, Phantom of the Opera.  Basically he’s a B-list Russell Crowe.  Even as  late of last year he was still trying with twin flops Chasing Mavericks—because what the world really wanted was a surfing bio pic—and Playing For Keeps along with Jessica Biel who is one more flop away from simply be known as Mrs. Justin Timberlake and nothing else.  You’ve got a second chance here, Gerry. Don’t blow it again.  Let me put it this way: they wouldn’t even put your face on the poster for this movie.

HE’D BE PERFECT FOR GQ THE MOVIE

Oz The Great & Powerful is down to number five, followed by The Host at number six and this would be the first Andrew Niccol film I’ve never seen, but I was put off by the fact this comes from the writer (and I use that term loosely) of the Twilight films.  Combining a director who could care less about story as much as he does making every film look like a live-action fashion shoot with someone who really can’t write a story is not a good idea.  I’m sure he thought it’d be a much-needed hit for him but this goes on the pile with all the young adult novels that have tried in vain to cash in on Twilight over the past few years, something not even its creator can do apparently.

THEY’RE NOT GOING TO BUY THE COW IF THEY GET THE NAKED MILK FOR FREE

The Call is down to number seven, followed by Admission at number eight and Spring Breakers at number nine and with a $5M budget, Spring Breakers has already doubled it, which qualifies as a modest success and no one is happier than Vanessa Hudgens, who was seconds away from “accidentally” having a sex tape released to make sure everyone knows she’s no longer some Disney kid, because clearly her first “accidental” nude photo didn’t do it and was followed by a seriously explicit second “accidental” release, which got the worst result possible: public indifference.  Her ambition is literally naked and has sadly been rewarded with movies like Beastly and Sucker Punch. You know who was also a child actor who is being taken seriously as an adult actor without nude pictures “accidentally” being released or making allegedly “edgy” films with sex and violence?  Jennifer Lawrence. She just gives good performances.  Just a thought.

LET’S JUST PRETEND THIS DIDN’T HAPPEN

Finally, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone closes out the top ten putting us all out of our misery.