Saturday, October 24, 2009

Friday's Box Office

1. Paranormal Activity - $7.6 million ($48.08) - 29 days
2. Saw VI - $7 - 1 day
3. Where the Wild Things Are - $4.36 ($43.9) - 8 days
4. Law Abiding Citizen - $4.1 ($31.71) - 8 days
5. Couples Retreat - $3.65 ($70.77) - 15 days
6. The Stepfather - $2.21 ($16.05) - 8 days
7. The Vampire's Assistant - $2.2 - 1 day
8. Astro Boy - $1.8 - 1 day
9. Cloudy with Meatballs - $1.4 ($111) - 36 days
10. Zombieland - $1.33 ($64.33) - 22 days
11. Amelia - $1.3 - 1 day

Paranormal's buzz continues to build, and it should continue strong through Halloween. The Saw franchise is finally showing signs of weakness, though with a potential $18 million opening weekend, most studios would be thrilled to have a cheap sixth installment in a franchise with such "weakness." Kids' movies didn't fare well. Wild Things is having a steep drop, Astro Boy's a big dud, and Vampire's Assistant may show that we're getting oversaturated with vampires, although I think it's more a case of its target audience deciding they'd rather wait for New Moon.

DVD reviews (Terra, Bloom, Management)

BATTLE FOR TERRA (*1/2) - Starring the voices of Evan Rachel Wood, Luke Wilson, Brian Cox, James Garner, Chris Evans, Dennis Quaid, Danny Glover, Amanda Peet, Justin Long, David Cross, Mark Hamill, Ron Perlman, Danny Trejo, Beverly D'Angelo and Rosanna Arquette.
Directed by Aristomenis Tsirbas.

Sober video game about the last surviving humans coming to a peaceful planet and trying to take over by force. It felt like a commercial for how much environmentalists despise the military. Animation (and emotions) weren't much better than Star Wars: Clone Wars.


THE BROTHERS BLOOM (**1/2) - Starring Adrien Brody, Rachel Weisz, Mark Ruffalo, Rinko Kikuchi, Maximilian Schell and Robbie Coltrane.
Directed by Rian Johnson.

One of those movies where there are so many cons going on that once the truth is revealed, it didn't carry any weight. It's entertaining for the most part thanks to Rachel Weisz as the quirky heiress two con brothers set their sites on, but you know, in this economy, with banks and corporations and politicians handing around billions to each other, watching two con men prey on honest people isn't that cutesy.


MANAGEMENT (**) - Starring Jennifer Aniston, Steve Zahn, Woody Harrelson, Fred Ward, Margo Martindale and Tzi Ma.
Directed by Stephen Belber.

This stalker comedy can only be buoyed so far by the charms of Jennifer Aniston and Steve Zahn. By the second half I stopped caring. Zahn plays a geek at a motel who comes on to cute single patron Aniston, and he doesn't take no for an answer. But she's just screwed up enough that she starts to fall for him a little as she keeps trying to push him away.

Paranormal Activity - Movie Review


Starring Micah Sloat and Katie Featherston.
Directed by Oren Peli.

Let's get the Blair Witch Project out of the way. These movie have in common three things.

1.) Extremely low budget horror films.
2.) Done documentary style.
3.) Out-of-nowhere box-office successes.

But I remember coming out of Blair Witch thinking it wasn't that big a deal, and why didn't I think of it first. But that last image stayed with me for days. But really, it's not that scary.

This movie is. See it in a theater with girls ready to scream. This movie strips horror down to its bare essentials, and it's almost an essay on what makes scary movies work in the first place.

Two twenty-somethings get a hi-def camera to record some spooky happenings that have been occuring in their house. Turns out the girl thinks she's being haunted by... something... and they want proof. At first the nights yield nothing, then they capture a door opening and closing when there was no wind to make it so. As we get further in, the spookiness, the tension, builds up, until that final night where the whole audience is on the edge of their seat.

This movie was made three years ago and bought by a studio with the intent of remaking it with a bigger budget and bigger names, but when the right powers-that-be saw the original themselves and foudn themselves spooked, this little thriller got its own release. It's a great backstory, but that only means so much if the movie sucks. This is probably the most effective spooky movie I've seen since The Others.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past - DVD Review


Starring Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Michael Douglas, Breckin Meyer, Lacey Chabert, Emma Stone, Robert Forster and Anne Archer.
Directed by Mark Waters.

Matthew McConaughey is a black hole of humor, a southern himbo there to flash his pearly whites, flex his pecs, work that drawl, and cash out in lame movie after lame movie. It's amazing now how after his big break in A Time to Kill, he was being compared by some to a young Paul Newman. Here, this follows the Dickens formula of a cad getting an awakening at how shallow he is. Lacey Chabert provides the most laughs - both of them - as a stressed-out bride-to-be, but there's enough talent in the supporting cast to make it watchable.

Jigsaw returns again once more

SAW VI (**) - Starring Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Betsy Russell, Mark Rolston, Peter Outerbridge, Shawnee Smith, Samantha Lemole, George Newbern and Darius McCrary.
Directed by Kevin Greutart.

Finally, a slasher flick that could be played at the next DNC convention. The opening sequence pits two bankers - aka "predatory lenders" - against each other where only one can live. Then the main story features the president of a health insurance company who proudly finds excuses to ditch clients once they have actual health problems. Unfortunately for him, one client he ditched was John "Jigsaw" Kramer. Even though Jigsaw died three movies ago, his disease is spreading.

The first Saw movie was a good freaky little hardcore horror flick with a cool twist ending. The Saw movies have evolved, not even trying to be scary, just gory, with victims we don't really care about, and each movie provides flashbacks to show how everything is connected, as though the whole thing has been one giant master plan by Jigsaw this whole time. This movie had a better twist ending than Saw V, but it was tedious in the middle and weirdly preachy, since Jigsaw started breaking his own rules a couple movies ago.

When we get through Saw I and II, we see that Jigsaw had a code. He never killed anyone. He just set them up to die if they chose wrongly, but somewhere back there he started creating traps where it's impossible for all involved to get out alive. Here the most egregious departures are set up, where at least seven people will die regardless of the actions of anyone. It's just a matter of which seven. And needless to say, more than seven people are dead by the end of this. But that's okay, because of bankers and insurance employees, they all deserve to die. And that janitor. Oh, but he smoked, so he deserved to die.

But Jigsaw's work is now being carried out by Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) as we learned in Saw IV's twist ending, and Hoffman is taking a little too much enjoyment in the suffering of others. Not to mention the police are getting closer to figuring out who might really be behind the continued killings.

The producers have already announced that Saw VIII will be the final chapter. I wonder how money they plan to throw at Cary Elwes to return as Dr. Gordon, the man who had to cut off his foot in the first Saw.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Weekend Box Office

1. Where the Wild Things Are - $32.7 million - 1 wk (WB)
3735 screens / $8754 per screen
2. Law Abiding Citizen - $21.04 - 1 wk (Ove)
2890 / $7280
3. Paranormal Activity - $19.62 ($33.17) - 4 wks (Par) +148.3%
760 / $25,813
4. Couples Retreat - $17.23 ($62.62) - 2 wks (U) -49.8%
3009 / $5725
5. The Stepfather - $11.58 - 1 wk (SG)
2734 / $4236
6. Cloudy with Meatballs - $8.02 ($108.2) - 5 wks (Sony) -30.4%
3037 / $2640
7. Zombieland - $7.62 ($60.64) - 3 wks (Sony) -48.5%
3171 / $2402
8. Toy Story 1 & 2 in 3D - $3.02 ($28.55) - 3 wks (BV) -61.2%
1489 / $2026
9. Surrogates - $1.92 ($36.33) - 4 wks (BV) -55.1%
2326 / $824
10. The Invention of Lying - $1.91 ($15.5) - 3 wks (WB) -42.9%
1624 / $1175
11. Whip It - $1.51 ($11.36) - 3 wks (FS) -46.7%
1482 / $1017
12. Capitalism: A Love Story - $1.46 ($11.62) - 4 wks (Ove) -44.7%
991 / $1469

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hunger Games: The Movie

Lionsgate has purchased the rights to Suzanne Collins' best-seller. It's the first part of a planned trilogy, and while it's aimed at young adults, I found it a good, basic entertaining thriller about teens forced to fight to the death for the amusement of the ruling class.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Two Thumbs Up for Wild Things

Actually Ebert still owns the copyright on thumbs, so the new guys on At the Movies - Michael Phillips and A.O. Scott - give it two "See It"s. But that's not as easy to quote in a commercial.

All I know is that I've only teared at two trailers in my life. Saving Private Ryan, at the image of the mother on the porch, and the army men there to let her know that three of her sons ahve been killed, and Where the Wild Things Are, which reached deep into my childhood and gave it a pinch.

I really hope this movie lives up to its potential.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Lymelife - DVD Review


Starring Alec Baldwin, Kieran Culkin, Rory Culkin, Jill Hennessy, Emma Roberts, Timothy Hutton and Cynthia Nixon.
Directed by Derick Martini.

If you've seen The Ice Storm or watched CBS's Swingtown, you've seen this movie, but it is with a talented cast, so it at least has that going for it. I wanted to see this for the Culkin brothers - Kieran & Rory - both who've proven to be very talented young actors but who might not work enough since they don't look like models.

Rory Culkin is the younger brother in a 1979 family looking to move on up. It's filled with kids too mature and parents too arrested in their development to see what harm their actions can do.

The ending's a bit of a copout.

Fun with Zombies

(Movie Review)


Starring Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin.
Directed by Ruben Fleischer.

This might be the funniest zombie ever made. Yes, I put this just ahead of Shaun of the Dead.

Woody Harrelson (No Country for Old Men, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Natural Born Killers, White Men Can't Jump) gets his best role in years as Tallahassee, the man of the alligator-skin coat who's one of the last people on Earth, who derives perverse joy from killing zombies. He hooks up with Columbus (Adventureland's Jesse Eisenberg), a World-of-Warcraft junkie who has managed to survive by applying a rigid set of rules. (Rule #2 - Double Tap - Don't conserve bullets; shoot them a second time in the head to make sure they're really dead.)

Harrelson gets to kick-butt and take names. Eisenberg aims to out-drywit Michael Cera in his wooing of Emma Stone, and we get plenty of funny, gross sight-gags.

Films are films, but movies should be fun, dangit! And this is a fun movie.

Weekend Box Office

1 - Couples Retreat (U) $35.34 million - 1 wk
. 3,000 screens / $11,780 per screen
2 - Zombieland (Sony) $15 ($47.80) - 2 wks -39.4%
. 3,038 / $4,937
3 - Cloudy with Meatballs (Sony) $12 ($96.25) - 4 wks -24.1%
. 2,992 / $4,011
4 - Toy Story 1 & 2 in 3D (BV) $7.67 ($22.68) - 2 wks -38.6%
. 1,752 / $4,380
5 - Paranormal Activity (Par.) $7.07 ($8.28) - 3 wks +1,227.6%
. 160 / $44,163
6 - Surrogates (BV) $4.12 ($32.57) - 3 wks -43.2%
. 2,992 / $1,375

Vince Vaughn & company didn't have much competition with Couples Retreat, but Paranormal Activity is enjoying Blair Witch level success and should expand further next week.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Who should be Rusty Griswold?

New Line's developing a fifth Vacation movie, this one focussing on grown-up Rusty Griswold taking his own family on vacation. Hijinks ensue. They want Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo to cameo as Grandpa and Grandma Griswold, but one of the traditions of the Vacation movies is that the Griswold children were always protrayed by different actors. Would any of them still be up to the task?

Anthony Michael Hall (VACATION) - After ruling the 1980's as The Geek, he buffed up, took more serious roles, and later enjoyed success on USA's The Dead Zone series. Most recently he played a newscaster in The Dark Knight. I think even if Hall could do it, the producers would want a bigger name.

Jason Lively (EUROPEAN VACATION) - Last movie he did was 1992's Maximum Force, an action dud with Sam J. Jones and Mickey Rooney. I see he also produced and directed a DVD in 2004 called Learn to Hip-Hop. He's out.

Johnny Galecki (CHRISTMAS VACATION) - He's flying high now on CBS's The Big Bang Theory. I could see him doing it. Again, not a big enough name, methinks.

Ethan Embry (VEGAS VACATION) - I never did see this. I heard from friends it was terrible, so I skipped it. Embry did some impressive work on Showtime's Brotherhood and most recently had a supporting role on the big-screen with Eagle Eye. He's not aging well.

I'd say they try to get Ryan Reynolds or Matt Damon or Paul Rudd or Jason Bateman or Jason Segel... (Maybe Kevin James, if they say Rusty really let himself go?) But of the four Rusty alum, I'd like to see Galecki get the shot.

ABC's Cougar Town - TV Review

Courtney Cox throws herself into this with gusto in the same kind of painfully funny vein Lisa Kudrow did with the cancelled-too-soon The Comeback. Cox is a 40-year-old mother of a 17-year-old son who is adjusting to the dating scene, and why can't she go for younger men when her single male neighbor (Josh Hopkins) dates younger women all the time? Hopefully as this series progresses it won't tip the scales into just painful, but so far it's staying in my viewing rotation.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Fighting - DVD Review


Starring Channing Tatum, Terrence Howard, Luis Guzman, Zulay Henao and Brian White.
Directed by Dito Montiel.

It's not as melodramatic as Never Back Down, but it's not any more engrossing. Director Dito Montiel gives this a realistic feel, helped greatly by Terrence Howard (Iron Man) as the hustler/promoter of these back-room bare-knuckle fights for the entertainment of rich people. Channing Tatum (G.I. Joe) however is a blank slate to me. He's like a humorless Chris Evans. Therefore the longer the movie went on, the less I cared. I almost didn't finish it, and since I guessed exactly how each beat in the third act would go, it wouldn't have made a difference.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Cloudy with Chance of Fun

Ugh, I feel dirty just writing that Shalit-esque title.

(Movie Review)


Starring the voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Mr. T, Andy Samberg, Bruce Campbell, Bobb'e J. Thompson, Lauren Graham and Neil Patrick Harris.
Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller.

Ice Age 3 may have gotten more attention, but Cloudy is the better of Sony's animated movies this year.

Based on a popular kids' book, it's about a big dreamer who lives in the island city of Swallow Falls. The town specializes in sardine sales. As demand for their product shrinks, everyone starts losing their jobs and going hungry.

Meanwhile there's a big dreamer named Flynn who wants to change the world. Amazingly, his contraption to turn water into food works. Swallow Falls is saved. Or is it?

Plenty of good visuals gags with this one, and some good one-liners. I found myself especially entertained by Mr. T as the gung-ho policeman. I'd rank it about even with Monsters vs. Aliens.

ABC's forgettable 'Forgotten'

Procedural dramas have to have something really interesting about them to make my viewing rotation. Like The Mentalist. Simon Baker's a charming actor and it's a quirky character. The Forgotten doesn't really have much to distinguish it from any other cops show except that they're volunteers. They try to track down the identities of John & Jane Does. Sorry, Christian Slater. 0-2 in network primetime.