Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Die Hard 5, Sin City 2, Megan Fox, etc.

- Don't cry for Megan Fox. She may have been fired from Transformers 3, but she has plenty of projects lined up. She just finished filming Friends with Kids with Kristen Wiig and Jon Hamm, then she has The Dictator with Sasha Baron Cohen (Borat), and then she'll be in Judd Apatow's next film This Is Forty, with Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Leslie Mann and Albert Brooks.

- John Moore (Max Payne) will direct Die Hard 5, to be set in Russia. Bruce Willis will indeed reprise his role as John McClane. Willis will then do the sequel to Red.

- William Monahan (The Departed) has been hired to polish the script for Sin City 2, to be co-directed by Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller.

- The Coen brothers' next directorial effort will be Inside Llewyn Davis, about a folk singer in the 1960's. They wrote but did not direct the remake of Gambit, opening next year. Gambit stars Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, Alan Rickman and Stanley Tucci and is directed by Michael Hoffman (Soapdish, The Emperor's Club, The Last Station).

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Nothing to Fear in the 'Dark'


l 1/2

Starring Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Bailee Madison and Jack Thompson.
Directed by Troy Nixey.

"Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" says the title. Oh don't worry. I won't be.

I did not like it. I thought there'd be some suspense somewhere. Never felt it. And the deeper I got into the movie, the less forgiving I was of its flaws.

I like to feel goosebumps in movies. I liked Paranormal Activity. I liked Insidious. I was expecting a PG-13 horror flick. This one never drew me in, and clumsy plot mechanics kept me at bay.

I have to do SPOILERS to really explain where I started to lose it...


First of all, the scene in the library, she takes several pictures that capture the creatures. There are polaroids everywhere laying on the ground when the adults rush in, not to mention she smashed the arm off of one of the creatures, and yet the adults don't look around, and suddenly we're in the next scene?! Wait a minute. She took a dozen picture of the things, and there's an arm on the ground of one of the beasties? And they just ignore it?

The librarian scene was terrible. The dialogue was exposition-city, but on top of that, if Katie Holmes's character is a big fan of Blackwood, shouldn't she already know basic biographical details about him, like that he had a son or that he disappeared and was never seen again?

Then the ending. If I am Guy Pearce, and I see Katie Holmes get sucked down a tunnel, I call the cops and send a rescue team DOWN THE FREAKING TUNNEL! I don't just give up. "Oh well. They got her. Let's foreclose this place."

But its biggest sin is the complete lack of tension.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Warrior's Way - DVD Review


Starring Jang Dong Gun, Kate Bosworth, Geoffrey Rush, Danny Huston, Tony Cox and Ti Lung. Directed by Sngmoo Lee.

I don't know what I expected but it wasn't a low-budget mixture of Leone, Fellini, and Chow. It's a movie that breaks down viewers' resistance and says "Come with me on this wild ride." It's one of those worlds where expert shooters are deadly accurate from impossible distances, and if you draw your sword, gravity will temporarily forget you. It's a martial-arts Western hybrid with mustache-twirling villains, a sad clown, and the scrappy young woman out to avenge her pa. Step right up.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Rise of the Planet of the Apes - Movie Review

lll 1/2

Starring James Franco, Andy Serkis, Frieda Pinto, John Lithgow, Brian Cox, Tom Felton, David Oleyowo and Tyler Labine.
Directed by Rupert Wyatt.

There is a universal theme that keeps surfacing in movies - the oppressed fighting back against the powerful. Sometimes it's a native who rises (Braveheart), sometimes it's someone who crosses over (Dances with Wolves, Avatar), but there's usually a central leader who inspires his masses to rise.

The tale may be as old as Pharaoah's adopted son Moses leading the slaves out of Israel, but when it's done right, it can be very powerful. So here we have a prequel no one was really clamoring for, but it's now the best in the series.

I mean, I like the Charlton Heston original, and I grinned at the plethora of in-jokes sprinkled throughout, but this for me was a landmark achievement in what we're calling motion-capture technology.

I can't praise Andy Serkis and the WETA team enough. There are still several spots where you can tell it's computer animation or not a real ape, but it's the best CGI performance on film to date. Serkis has been the motion-capture guy for Gollum and King Kong in Peter Jackson films past, but he is the star here as Caesar. James Franco may get top-billing, but it's The Serkis Show.

Franco plays Will Rodman, a scientist working on a cure for Alzheimer's. He cuts some corners in his desperation for a cure, as his father (John Lithgow) has Alzheimer's and is degenerating quickly. (Hooray for corner-cutting scientists! Imagine how many movies we wouldn't have if corner-cutting never happened.) One unexpected result from his drug testing is Caesar.

Caesar is a smart chimp that Will takes home to raise himself. Caesar knows he's not human, but he never really appreciates what it means to be an ape until he's forced to live among them.

The movie is largely character-based, and it builds nicely to a third-act showdown on the Golden Gate bridge. Director Rupert Wyatt (The Escapist) demonstrates his skill with acting, special effects, and action, and I'm stunned he doesn't already have his next job lined up. (My guess: the next Apes movie.) It's a concise, well-balanced movie, and just another good entry in what's been a surprisingly high-quality summer.

Limitless - DVD Review


Starring Bradley Cooper, Robert DeNiro, Abbie Cornish, Anna Friel, Johnny Whitworth and Robert Burke. Directed by Neil Burger.

When a movie has such a good idea, I'm really rooting for them to be creative with it and take me places I didn't anticipate. While it never surprised me, other than one dumb move, this character handled his new powers pretty much the same way I'd like to think I would.

Bradley Cooper plays Eddie, a would-be novelist who's in a funk. He just can't seem to get his wheels spinning in life. But he's offered a chance. He's given an experimental pill that'll let him access 100% of his brain capacity. He takes it, and he's suddenly a genius.

The movie deals slickly with the boost of intelligence, and with the subtext of addiction. The science... meh, who cares, let's enjoy the ride. It's a great "what if" premise that ventures down some dangerous roads when some deadly people hunt him down to get their hands on his drug.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Friday's Box Office

For Friday August 26:

1. The Help - $4.4 million ($86.7) - 17 days
2. Colombiana - $3.75 - 1 day
3. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark - $3.63 - 1 day
4. Rise of the Planet of the Apes - $2.59 ($142.39) - 22 days
5. Our Idiot Brother - $2.37 - 1 day
6. Spy Kids 4 - $1.59 ($17.57) - 8 days
7. The Smurfs - 41.25 ($122.44) - 29 days
8. Crazy Stupid Love - $1 ($67.62) - 29 days
9. Fright Night - $.97 ($12.15) - 8 days
10. Conan the Barbarian - $.93 ($14.41) - 8 days

Weak competition is going to allow The Help to be #1 for the second week in a row, in its third week of release. The end of August/beginning of September is usually a dumping ground for studios, so it wouldn't surprise me if The Help is still in the top three next week.

Opening next week: Apollo 18, Shark Night, and The Debt.

Friday, August 26, 2011

ABC's Take the Money and Run - TV Review

I recorded an episode a month ago and just got around to watching it. It's a surprisingly addicting show. The premise is a duo has one hour to hide a briefcase containing $100,000. Then a pair of cops have 48 hours to find that briefcase. If they do, they get the money. The episode I saw, it was two brothers who hid the money, but one brother was weaker than the other, and he actually told the interrogators where they'd hid it about 30 hours in. It was jaw-dropping.

It's from Bertram van Munster, best known for producing The Amazing Race.

Talking of which, I tried watching Expedition Impossible, but it was way too much of an Amazing Race rip-off. Every time the host popped up, I'd think "I miss Phil Koeghan."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Conspirator - DVD Review

ll 1/2

Starring James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Kevin Kline, Tom Wilkinson, Evan Rachel Wood, Danny Huston, Justin Long, Colm Meaney, Alexis Bledel, James Badge Dale, Toby Kebbell, Norman Reedus and Stephen Root. Directed by Robert Redford.

As a portrayal of historical events, this film is a valuable document. As its own entertainment, it never really comes to life.

The Civil War is finally over, and Pres. Abraham Lincoln has cause to celebrate, but before the nation can even exhale, he is shot in the back of the head. Quickly, John Wilkes Booth and his conspirators are chased down. Booth was killed, but the rest are on trial.

Only one on trial is Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), and as her reluctant lawyer Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) quickly learns, she may be innocent after all. The movie is seen through Aiken's eyes, and the more convinced he becomes of Mary's innocence, the more the chips are frighteningly stacked against her.

If The Crucible was a response to the McCarthy hearings, then The Conspirator is a response to Guantanamo Bay. The parallels are too juicy. The nation is in fear, prisoners' right are ignored, a military tribunal judges instead of a civilian court, and the movie all but argues that Dick Cheney was War Secretary Edwin Stanton in a previous life.

One choice I wish Redford hadn't made: all the interior shots are done with realistic lighting, so that beams of light coming through the windows puts half of any room in shadow. Another is to keep Mary Surratt a cypher. Oh, Robin Wright makes you think more will be revealed about Mary, but it's never allowed to surface. It's all about the lawyer.

I support this being shown in high-school classrooms, but it is about at the level of your average Masterpiece Theater.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Weekend Box Office

Source: Box Office Mojo

1. The Help - $20.48 million ($71.8) - 2 wks (BV) -21.4%
. . . 2690 screens / $7613 per screen
2. Rise of the Planet of the Apes - $16.3 ($133.76) - 3 wks (Fox) -41.4%
. . . 3471 / $4696
3. Spy Kids 4 - $12.02 - 1 wk (Dim)
. . . 3295 / $3648
4. Conan the Barbarian - $10 - 1 wk (LG)
. . . 3015 / $3317
5. The Smurfs - $8 ($117.75) - 4 wks (Sony) -41.7%
. . . 3057 / $2617
6. Fright Night - $7.9 - 1 wk (BV)
. . . 3114 / $2537
7. Final Destination 5 - $7.71 ($32.33) - 2 wks (NL) -57.3%
. . . 3155 / $2442
8. 30 Minutes or Less - $6.3 ($25.76) - 2 wks (Sony) -52.7%
. . . 2888 / $2181
9. One Day - $5.13 - 1 wk (Foc)
. . . 1719 / $2983
10. Crazy Stupid Love - $4.95 ($64.42) - 4 wks (WB) -29.8%
. . . 1940 / $2552
11. Harry Potter 7 Pt. 2 - $4.41 ($365.9) - 6 wks (WB) -39.3%
. . . 1738 / $2535
12. Cowboys & Aliens - $4.19 ($89.48) - 4 wks (U) -46.3%
. . . 2213 / $1895
13. Captain America - $4.1 ($164.73) - 5 wks (Par) -43.1%
. . . 1988 / $2062
14. The Change-Up - $2.87 ($32.02) - 3 wks (U) -54.4%
. . . 1633 / $1760
15. Glee The 3D Concert Movie - $1.83 ($10.46) - 2 wks (Fox) -69%
. . . 1982 / $921
16. Horrible Bosses - $1.32 ($112.62) - 7 wks (NL) -45.9%
. . . 755 / $1748
17. Sarah's Key - $.78 ($3.09) - 5 wks (Wein) +61.1%
. . . 201 / $3896
18. Midnight in Paris - $.59 ($50.65) - 14 wks (SPC) - 16.4%
. . . 258 / $2279
19. Transformers 3 - $.58 ($348.52) - 8 wks (Par) -57.8%
. . . 484 / $1209
20. Friends with Benefits - $.55 ($54.73) - 5 wks (SG) -70.2%
. . . 413 / $1332

The Change-Up - Movie Review


Starring Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde, Alan Arkin, Gregory Itzin and Craig Bierko. Directed by David Dobkin.

Freaky Friday. Switch. Like Father Like Son. Vice Versa. 18 Again. 17 Again. 13 Going on 30. Big. Dream A Little Dream. Face/Off.

Body-switching movies have been a staple of movies of late, drawing inspiration from Shakespeare's disguise comedies to Twain's The Prince and the Pauper. It has limitless possibilities in humor, in situations, but the actors and the writers have to be good to set it apart from the pack.

What surprised me most was how different Reynolds and Bateman actually are, and how much fun they have taking on the other's persona. Reynolds plays Mitch, an aspiring-actor slacker ladies-man man-child airhead. Bateman is the hard-working husband, father, lawyer Dave who still enjoys Mitch in his life because they can go get drunk together, and Dave can live vicariously through hearing of Mitch's single-life exploits.

One fateful night, they get drunk and go pee in a fountain while wishing they had the other one's life, and the next morning, hijinks ensue.

This movie goes to some gross places, and that's its biggest weakness. Vulgarity for its own sake is not funny, and it undermines the sweetness they try to being full-circle in the third act. I will also say there is some CGI manipulation with Dave's twin babies that lands on the believability spectrum somewhere between Baby Geniuses and the E-Trade commercials. I know it's odd to bring up believability in a body-switching movie, but I will give the movie the laws of the universe its sets up for itself. I will give you a magic fountain that can switch bodies; I can't give you a six-month-old that can swish a knife around like a ninja.

The supporting cast is able to have some fun too. Leslie Mann has solid comedic and dramatic reactions to the changes in her husband, and Olivia Wilde is the object of desire at work who reveals a whole different side to herself when she agress to go out with "Mitch." Gregory Itzin (24) does the late Ted Knight proud as he bulges his eyes at the outrageousness "Dave" displays at work.

There's a lot here that's fun, and funny, and it's tragic to me that those parts are grafted in to terrible choices that drag it down.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Random Entertainment News 8/18/11

- Director Tony Scott (Unstoppable) plans to next direct a Hell's Angels movie, but he wants Jeff Bridges. If Bridges agrees, Scott has to wait until he's done filming R.I.P.D. and The Seventh Son. Scott also plans on remaking The Wild Bunch, the 1969 Sam Peckinpah western that starred William Holden and Ernest Borgnine.

- Director Shawn Levy (Date Night) will meet with Will Smith about starring in his Fantastic Voyage remake. Sources say if Smith doesn't sign and Fox can't find another A-lister soon, Levy will likely move on from the production.

- A third Diary of a Wimpy Kid movie is coming, scheduled to open August 3, 2012. Zachary Gordon, Rachael Harris, Steve Zahn, Devon Bostick and Robert Capron will all return.

- Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn will star in Neighborhood Watch, a sci-fi comedy about a suburban "neighborhood watch" group that serves as a front for guys' night out. But the guys then accidentally uncover a plot to destroy the world. It opens July 27, 2012.

- NBC has cancelled The Marriage Ref, which drew less then 3 million viewers this week.

The Roommate - DVD Review

l 1/2

Starring Leighton Meester, Minka Kelly, Cam Gigandet, Aly Michalka, Billy Zane, Daneell Harris and Frances Fisher.
Directed by Christian E. Christiansen.

I will start with the positive. Leighton Meester has an "it" quality about her, and I'd be interested in seeing her do something else.

But here the script does her no favors. This is in every way a remake of Single White Female, even if no one wants to admit it. There's no insight into the psychology of the character. She's just nuts and does what the plot needs her to do.

So Meester is in the Jennifer Jason Leigh role, and Minka Kelly is in the Bridget Fonda role. They're roommates at college, only one has an unhealthy liking of the other.

This movie features Cam Gigandet giving blue-steel face, Billy Zane as a colossally stupid fashion professor, and Frances Fisher as yet another mother of a psycho. Does it have suspense? The soundtrack thinks so, but no.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules - DVD Review

ll 1/2

Starring Zachary Gordon, Devon Bostick, Robert Capron, Rachael Harris and Steve Zahn. Directed by David Bowers.

Not quite as good as last year's first Wimpy Kid movie, and therefore still isn't as enjoyable as the books, but there are worse kid movies out there.

Where the first movie focussed mainly on Greg's adjustment to school, this one centers mostly on the relationship between Greg and his older brother Rodrick. Rodrick's a cretinous bully of a brother, in the tradition of The Wonder Years, but as the movie moves through its episodic scenes, they develop a mutual understanding.

It had one good gag I laughed at. And I was shocked when his family went to church. Usually people only go to church in movies when they're having their enemies killed elsewhere, or they're about to go fight some winged demons.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Arthur - DVD Review


Starring Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Greta Gerwig, Jennifer Garner, Geraldine James, Luis Guzman, Nick Nolte and John Hodgman.
Directed by Jason Winer.

I liked the original. Never sullied its memory by seeing the sequel. But I have sullied its memory by seeing this.

Truth be told, as irritating as I might find Russell Brand in real life, he can be pretty funny in the movies. Forgetting Sarah Marshall, for example. And he has his moments here. But if anything this movie suffers from bad timing. I'm not a big fan of seeing millions of dollars go to waste, and as Arthur is a billionaire, he can afford to extravagant things, like rent out Grand Central Station. This movie made me think a national salary cap might be a good idea.

He's engaged to a gold-digging woman he doesn't love, but then he meets a sweet tour guide in a Diane Keaton hat. But if Arthur follows his heart, his mother will cut him off from his fortune. Oh, what will our little imp do?

Helen Mirren and Luis Guzman are amusing as his nanny and chaffeur, respectively. Are they worth making the rental? Not really.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Weekend Box Office

1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes - $27.5 million - 1 wk (Fox)
. . . 3691 screens / $7451 per screen
2. The Help - $25.53 ($35.4) - 1 wk (BV)
. . . 2534 / $10,073
3. Final Destination 5 - $18.4 - 1 wk (NL)
. . . 3155 / $5832
4. The Smurfs - $13.5 ($101.55) - wks (Sony) -34.8%
. . . 3427 / $3939
5. 30 Minutes or Less - $13 - 1 wk (Sony)
. . . 2888 / $4501
6. Cowboys & Aliens - $7.61 ($81.48) - 3 wks (U) -51.6%
. . . 3310 / $2300
7. Captain America - $7.13 ($156.89) - 4 wks (Par) -45.3%
. . . 2835 / $2513
8. Crazy Stupid Love - $6.93 ($55.4) - 3 wks (WB) -42.3%
. . . 2635 / $2630
9. Harry Potter 7 Pt 2 - $6.88 ($356.96) - 5 wks (WB) -44.8%
. . . 2414 / $2848
10. The Change-Up - $6.22 ($25.75) - 2 wks (U) -54%
. . . 2913 / $2135
11. Glee The 3D Concert Movie - $5.7 - 1 wk (Fox)
. . . 2040 / $2794
12. Horrible Bosses - $2.44 ($110.01) - 6 wks (NL) -46.8%
. . . 1338 / $1824
13. Friends with Benefits - $1.8 ($53.03) - 4 wks (SG) -61.6%
. . . 1294 / $1391
14. Transformers 3 - $1.35 ($347.23) - 7 wks (Par) -56.3%
. . . 886 / $1524
15. Zookeeper - $1 ($75.8) - 6 wks (Sony) -53.9%
. . . 748 / $1337

Jumping the Broom - DVD Review


Starring Angela Bassett, Paula Patton, Laz Alonso, Loretta Devine, Meagan Good, Julie Bowen, Mike Epps, Tasha Smith and Brian Stokes Mitchell. Directed by Salim Akil.

This bland wedding-day movie never justifies its existence. Having cast members like Mike Epps hints it might be a comedy, and we know there are going to be some dramatic revelations, but it's so lightweight and inconsequential, I can't recommend it.

It centers around a rich girl marrying a middle-class guy, and so we get some class-warfare glares from rich matriarch Angela Bassett and working-mom Loretta Devine. There are several subplots with different members pairing off, and one big revelation that comes at the end of Act II that threatens to derail the marriage because all wedding-day movies have a big revelation at the end of Act II that threatens to derail the marriage.

I can't say it's funny, and the drama's not juicy either. It's a great cast in a greeting card of a movie.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

TV Actor Salaries

TVGuide had an article showing what the television industry people make, and one numbers jumped out at me. Ashton Kutcher is getting $700,000 per episode for Two and a Half Men. He has yet to have an episode of his air, and yet he's now the highest-paid comedy actor on television.

Some others:

Jon Cryer, Two and a Half Men - $600,000 per episode
Dan Castellanata, The Simpsons - $400,000 per episode
Tina Fey, 30 Rock - $350,000 per episode
Alec Baldwin, 30 Rock - $300,000 per episode
Angus T. Jones, Two and a Half Men - $250,000 per episode
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory - $250,000 per episode
Johnny Galecki, The Big bang Theory - $250,000 per episode
James Spader, The Office - $125,000 per episode
Ed O'Neill, Modern Family - $105,000 per episode

Hugh Laurie, House - $700,000 per episode
Mark Harmon, NCIS - $500,000 per episode
Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: SVU - $395,000 per episode
Davis Caruso, CSI Miami - $375,000 per episode
Simon Baker, The Mentalist - $300,000 per episode
Patrick Dempsey, Grey's Anatomy - $275,000 per episode
Ted Danson, CSI - $225,000 per episode
Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife - $180,000 per episode
Jon Hamm, Mad Men - $175,000 per episode
Kathy Bates, Harry's Law - $175,000 per episode
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad - $125,000 per episode
Nathan Fillion, Castle - $100,000 per episode

Also noteworthy across TV, Judge Judy makes $45 million a year from her syndication deal. David Letterman makes $28 million a year, Matt Lauer makes $17 million a year, Ryan Seacrest makes $15 million a year, Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann each make $10 million a year, and to occasionally show up as an analyst, Fox News pays Sarah Palin $1 million a year.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Smurfs - Movie Review

ll 1/2

Starring Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria, Jayma Mays, Sofia Vergara, Tim Gunn, and the voices of Jonathan Winters, Katy Perry, Anton Yelchin, Alan Cumming, Fred Armsien, George Lopez and Frank Welker. Directed by Raja Gosnell.

I'll admit I saw every episode of the first few season of the Smurfs when I was younger, at least up until they introduced the country smurfs, Baby Smurf, Grandpa Smurf, and so forth. I was getting older, and it felt like a shark-jumping move. But I still remember Papa, Smurfette, Brainy, Clumsy, Jokey, Hefty, Handy, Greedy, Vanity, Grouchy, Lazy, Harmony, Poet, Painter, Natural, etc. Always felt like there was limitless story potential there.

But the movie decides to take the Enchanted route. Gargamel (Hank Azaria) at long last finds the Smurf village, but in running from him, six Smurfs take a path they've never seen before and wind up going through a portal that opens up every blue moon. The six (Papa, Smurfette, Brainy, Grouchy, Clumsy, and Gutsy) dive through, followed by Gargamel and his cat Azriel. They land in New York's Central Park.

Cut to Neil Patrick Harris, a likeable host for our B-story. He plays Patrick, expectant father and stressed-out marketing manager for Angelou, THE cosmetics chain of New York. Sofia Vergara is his boss from hell, a combo of Meryl Streep's Prada-wearing devil with a little of Horrible Bosses' Kevin Spacey thrown in. He's about to launch a new ad campaign, and so having these little blue guys show up in his apartment becomes a great inconvenience.

And an inconvenience is all it really is. After the "Aaaahh!" wears off, he goes back to business as usual, like they just inherited six puppies. It's all about worrying about his job.

I found the whole thing watchable. I enjoyed Azaria's commitment to playing a live-action cartoon. It's geared for kids and wasn't too bad for adults with nostalgia. If you have no nostalgia for them, then it'll probably be boring.

Take Me Home Tonight - DVD Review


Starring Topher Grace, Anna Faris, Dan Fogler, Teresa Palmer, Chris Pratt, Michael Biehn, Lucy Punch, Demetri Martin and Michael Ian Black. Directed by Michael Dowse.

In a few years, are we going to get bombarded with 1990's nostalgia? But hey, if we're going to get 1980's nostaliga, great. Twas a fun decade.

This movie has many of the trappings of a Reagan-era jumble: the St. Elmo's Fire crew adrift with License to Drive longings and one-wild-night shenanigans. It centers on Matt (Topher Grace), an MIT grad implausibly adrift in life, working at a mall video store, but that day his old high-school crush (Teresa Palmer) walks in. He pretends to be just visiting the store, and that he's a Goldman Sachs employee, and she invites him to the "big party" tonight at his sister's boyfriend's house.

Matt invites his best friend Barry (Dan Fogler), and this best friend has been assembled from parts as varied as Curtis Armstrong, Corey Feldman and Mark Holton. Naturally they steal a car and find some cocaine inside. Barry partakes to give himself some courage for the night. He'll need it.

It all adds up to not much, same way many other comedies about high-schoolers/college kids do. Cast-wise Teresa Palmer acquits herself nicely as the epitome of The Girl, that seemingly unattainable princess who's really a little more inside, a combo of Amanda Peterson and Lea Thompson. Never cared much about Matt's plight, and I think that's more the script's fault than Topher's.

This was filmed in 2007, so it was weird to see a pre-Parks & Recreation Chris Pratt looking so young.

One final note: if you're going to name your movie after a song, you should probably feature that song in the movie somewhere. Remember Can't Buy Me Love? Opening credit song.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Weekend Box Office

1. Rise of the Planet of the Apes - $54 million (Fox)
. . . 3648 screens / $14,803 per screen
2. The Smurfs - $21 ($76.2) - 2 wks (Sony) -41%
. . . 3395 / $6186
3. Cowboys & Aliens - $15.75 ($67.37) - 2 wks (U) -56.8%
. . . 3754 / $4195
4. The Change-Up - $13.5 - 1 wk (U)
. . . 2913 / $4635
5. Captain America - $13 ($143.18) - 3 wks (Par) -49.1%
. . . 3620 / $3591
6. Harry Potter 7 Pt. 2 - $12.16 ($342.8) - 4 wks (WB) -44.7%
. . . 3175 / $3830
7. Crazy Stupid Love - $12.1 ($42.19) - 2 wks (WB) -36.7%
. . . 3020 / $4007
8. Friends with Benefits - $4.7 ($48.54) - 3 wks (SG) -49.3%
. . . 2398 / $1960

The Smurfs might get to the $100 million mark. Doesn't look as good for Cowboys & Aliens.

For the new openings, Rise of the POTA did great, and the reviews are surprisingly strong. It should dominate August. The Change-Up is one too many R-rated comedies for the summer. Bad reviews and ill-conceived marketing. They never should have featured baby poo hitting Jason Bateman in the face. And one can't help shake the feeling that Bateman & Reynolds aren't that different.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

WWE House Show results 8/5

Won tickets to the WWE Raw show at Salt Lake City. FIrst hint that it wouldn't be an actual Raw show on TV? No TV announcers table.

MATCH #1 - Santino vs. Jack Swagger

Santino's a good way to open a show. High energy, hilariously cartoony. The crowd started cheering "Cobra! Cobra!" and so Santino tried to do his finishing move on Swagger before the match even started. Swagger drew a lot of heat from the crowd too. Swagger dominated most of the match, but it has a couple screwed up moves where both guys would just stop in mid-move as if confused by what the other one was about to do. Ultimately Santino pulled out his cobra sleeve and hit Swagger and got the three-count.

Winner: Santino

MATCH #2 - John Morrison vs. R-Truth

When Santino was leaving his match, enjoying the victory he got hit from behind by R-Truth. Two refs came to help the injured Santino leave. R-Truth got on the mike and started yelling about the conspiracy and how he wanted to fight Morrison. The crowd started yelling "What?" after everything he said which made him mad, and he was pretty funny with it. Morrison came out and they had a back-n-forth match. They each hit some good acrobatic moves, but Morrison got him with his finisher where he bounces off the top rope and twists for a slam.

Winner: John Morrison

MATCH #3 - Zack Ryder vs. Drew McIntyre

The crowd was about 2/3 for Zack and 1/3 against him when he came out. He wears a belt and calls himself the "Internet Champion" and he asked a few people int he crowd if they wanted to be his "bro-ski" for the match. The couple kids didn't seem to know what that meant, and then he asked a guy who said he'd rather be friends with Dolph Ziggler. McIntyre came out, and he had 1/3 pro, 2/3 anti from the crowd. The energy dropped a bit for this one, and some people just didn't seem to know who they were supposed to root for. Ryder wrapped it up with a pinfall.

Winner: Zack Ryder

MATCH #4 - Diva Champion Kelly Kelly vs. Beth Phoenix

At this point Amy Torres (is that her name?) came to say they were going to have a contest and the winner was going to be able to go backstage and meet their favorite Superstars. But Phoenix came out and interrupted to fight Kelly Kelly NOW! Kelly came out and they went at it. Phoenix is obviously the stronger one, but we're not going to have a title change hands at a house show, are we? Kelly got this last-second reversal for a quick pin, and then she and Amy left quickly.

MATCH #5 - Rey Mysterio vs. Alberto Del Rio

Del Rio really knew how to work the crowd as the heel. At one point some idiot actually threw something at him and got himself kicked out (he didn't hit him). The crowd popped big for Rey, and I liked how Rey would stop at each kid he passed who was wearing one of his masks.

Rey's a great high-flyer, and Del Rio's a good seller. They had some really good moves, but Rey was able to get the 619, which the crowd chanted for several times, and then his finisher off the top rope for a clean pin.

Winner: Rey Mysterio

Halftime. I wondered why the good guys were winning every match. Is this how it always is at house shows?

MATCH #6 - Alex Riley vs. US Champion Dolph Ziggler

Ziggler came out first and took the mike, ranting about he ambodied perfection. Got plenty of boos (and no Vickie Guerrero). He has this Mr. Perfect-Owen Hart-Jeff Jarrett style to him that could make him a star down the road. Riley came out to big cheers, and they had a very entertaining match. Ziggler acted like he was scared of Riley, sliding out of the ring, avoiding a count-out by rolling in at nine and right back out. As soon as they tangled, Ziggler dove back out, grabbed the mike and yelled "Didn't you see him pull my hair? He's a cheater!"

Once they got into it, Riley was able to hit some power moves. Ziggler got in some strutting moments, very Jarrett-esque. Riley didn't sell the finisher well, but Ziggler got the pin.

Winner: Dolph Ziggler

MATCH #7 - Kofi Kingston & Evan Bourne vs. Tag-Team Champions David Otunga & Michael McGillicutty

The tag champs aren't that special, but the crowd popped big for their opponents. Actually met Kofi Kingston at a meet-n-greet earlier in the day, seems like a genuinely nice guy. Bourne's not that big, but he's able to jump high and knee guys in the face. The tag match had those predictable moments where the bad guys work on one in the corner for a while, and he finally barely breaks free and the other one comes in and cleans house.

Naturally the tag champs got the pin, but they got greedy and kept beating up Bourne after it was over. Kingston, who'd been knocked out on the outside of the ring, recovered and came back in, and he and Bourne did their finishers. Bourne has one of the coolest where he jumps forward from the top rope but does a back flip before landing on his opponent. So, moral victory, but...

Winner: Otunga & McGillicutty

Remember that contest Amy Torres promised? She picked four volunteers, and we'll call them Hot Chick, Fat Guy, Cute Kid, and Redhead. Once they were in the ring, Torres let them and us know that the contest was a dance contest. Hot Chick went first, and she did okay, she got some encouraging cheers. Next went Fat Guy (and I do mean at least 300 pounds), and he got bigger cheers, going for it. Next went Cute Kid and he busted out some old-school moves including the snake and the worm. Giant cheers. Last was Redhead, and I felt bad for her. Who wants to follow Cute Kid? She started, and was obviously not very good, and so the crowd turned on her, booing vociferously. Once it was over, Torres let the crowd vote. The cheers went the same. Some cheers for Hot Chick, more cheers for Fat Guy, decisive cheers for Cute Kid, and loud boos for Redhead.

MATCH #8 - WWE Champion John Cena vs. WWE Champion CM Punk

The Miz had been on the poster, so I thought the final match would be Cena vs. Miz, but when they announced "Champion vs. Champion" I was genuinely excited to see it. Punk got half boos-half cheers when he came out first, and I liked his attitude. He's only turned face a month ago, so it's taking a while to catch on. Cena's entrance music got the loudest pop of the night, though there was a section that booed him.

I should also say the loudest squeal of the night from the women was when Cena took off his shirt. Next Punk took his shirt off in a "my body's nowhere near cut as his" manner, but the girl he threw his shirt to was thrilled.

It was a back-n-forth match. Tons of submission moves, headlocks, ankle locks. one would break out and we might get a flying clothesline or a drop-kick, but then it would be right back to a headlock. At one point there was a "Let's go, Cena! CM Punk!" shout contest. Cena was able to get in his "U Don't See Me" followed with the five-knuckle shuffle, and he got in his submission finisher, but Punk was able to get to the ropes. Then Punk had his comeback, and I wondered how they'd actually end this.

Oh, yeah, I'm at a pro-wrestlign show. R-Truth and Dolph Ziggler ran out and attacked both men from behind, clearing the ring. They picked up the championship belts and mocked them with them, but in getting too proud of themselves for what they did, they didn't notice Cena and Punk get back in the ring. Cena and Punk worked them together and did their finishing moves on them at the same time. Truth and Ziggler retreated, licking their wounds.

Winner: None. Double disqualification.

Once it was over, Cena and Punk had a belt off. Punk would hold up his belt and his theme music would kick on (Living Colour's "Cult of Personality") and the crowd would cheer. Then Cena would signal to cut the music, and he'd thrust his belt into the air, and his theme music would kick on, and the crowd would cheer. They did this back and forth for a bit. Punk left first as Cena wound up with the bigger cheers, and Cena took longer than most reeting fans as he left, high-fiving, signing stuff.

Entertaining show, first time I've been to a live one. Maybe not as cool as attending a pay-per-view, but I think I liked it more than a Raw show. GLad I won tickets.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Lincoln Lawyer - DVD Review

lll 1/2

Starring Matthew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Philippe, William H. Macy, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, Michael Pena, Bryan Cranston, Frances Fisher, Bob Gunton, Trace Adkins and Michael Pare. Directed by Brad Furman.

This airport-thriller has been turned into a crafty little courtroom drama. It has the twists and turns one's come to expect from mass-market law-thriller authors like Michael Connolly or John Grisham, and when it's done well, it is what it is, and it's highly entertaining.

Matthew McConaughey is all Southern-fried oily charm as a defense attorney who'll defend anyone if the price is right. He lost his license, so he's ushered around town in his Lincoln, hence the title. When a rich son is accused of the attempted murder of a hooker, he's on the case to defend him. When he starts to develops doubts as to his client's innocence, it gets ethically dicey for him.

The cast is a deep bench of talent. It's not To Kill A Mockingbird, but everyone has fun doing their part. Ryan Philippe's petulant menace as the suspect, William H. Macy as a hangdog investigator, even Bryan Cranston as one of those stubborn idiot detectives who just doesn't like defense attorneys. This movie contains many small pleasures that add up to a satisfying conclusion.

Somewhere - DVD Review


Starring Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Chris Pontius, Michelle Monaghan and Ellie Kemper. Directed by Sofia Coppola.

Sofia's an accomplished director and she's carving out her own niche in the "Nothing Happens" art film genre.

This movie is similar to Lost in Translation in that it's about a jaded actor and it takes place mostly in hotel rooms and lobbies. It very much has a home-movie feel, and if you followed someone around with the camera, there would be large stretches where they don't talk, they just stare straight ahead. She's not quite dipping into Gus Van Sant territory yet. She's just flipped the drama. Most movies have a lot happen and we get these quiet moments. This movie is all quiet moments.

Dorff gives his most effective performance to date, as a bit of a blank-slate of an actor. We gather he's been in the business a while and he's very successful, but he's finding his life off-camera is empty. It gets filled a bit when his daughter shows up and then her mother can't take her back for a few days. So she travels with him, stays at his hotels, goes to his award shows.

His daughter is Elle Fanning, before known as Dakota's little sister and now known as the girl from Super 8. Her presense brings the hope that something might happen. The father-daughter relationship is casual and real. There's definite authenticity here to portrayals.

At one point, Dorff falls asleep watching twin models pole-dance for him. I feel like if I'd nodded off at any point in the movie and woke up ten minutes later, wouldn't have missed a thing. Here's one hint. If a song with lyrics starts on the soundtrack, whatever the characters are doing, they're going to do it the whole time so the song can play out, whether it's eating lunch or sunbathing. Really, ultimately, why should people outside of the Coppola family and some of their jet-setting friends care about this non-story?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Random Entertainment News 8/4/11

- Marvel is not slowing down. They are proceeding with a Doctor Strange movie. Also, Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim) has finished his work on the Ant-Man script. Marvel has The Avengers, Ghost Rider 2, and The Amazing Spider-Man opening in 2012, and Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 slated for 2013.

- Meanwhile, on the DC Comics side, Laurence Fishburne has signed on to play editor Perry White in The Man of Steel, starring Henry Cavill (Superman), Amy Adams (Lois), Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Julia Ormond, Michael Shannon and Christopher Meloni.

- Ben Foster has joined the John Gotti biopic, starring John Travolta, Al Pacino, Lindsay Lohan and Kelly Preston. Joe Pesci was attached but probably won't be now that he's suing the production.

- Michael Gracey has taken over directing duties from Francis Lawrence on The Order of the Seven (formerly titled Snow and the Seven), a twist on Snow White about a 19th century Englishwoman in China who must flee and finds protection from seven Shaolin monks. Not to be confused with Snow White, starring Julia Roberts and Lily Collins, or Snow White & the Huntsman, starring Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart.

- Mark Ruffalo, who'll play Bruce Banner in the upcoming Avengers movie, is close to joining the cast of Now You See Me, with Jesse Eisenberg and Melanie Laurent, about a group of illusionists who pull off a series of bank heists. Amanda Seyfried (Red Riding Hood) is also in talks to join.

Season of the Witch - DVD Review

l 1/2

Starring Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Claire Foy, Stephen Campbell Moore, Stephen Graham, Ulrich Thomsen and Christopher Lee. Directed by Dominic Sena.

Not as bad as I thought it would be, but it does make some gloriously terrible choices to where I can't in good conscience give it that second full star. First would be casting Nicolas Cage as an English crusader. Well, once you've made that choice, it doesn't matter what you do with everyone else, does it?

Cage and his band of merry men, who somehow make it the whole movie without belting out a single tune from Spamalot, are charged with bringing an accused witch (Claire Foy) to trial. They face perils on their journey. Rickety bridges, hungry wolves, that sort of thing.

Ron Perlman has some fun as Cage's right-hand man. I also liked Boardwalk Empire's Stephen Graham as a thief turned navigator for the party. I just wish it had either embraced its hokeyness or aimed to be an actual enthralling adventure.

There's plenty of swordplay, but not too much blood actually squirts out of their victims so they can keep that PG-13.

Do you think you know what really caused the plague of the 1300's? This movie dares you to think again. Think again, I say.

Still, not as bad as The Rite.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sanctum - DVD Review

l 1/2

Starring Richard Roxbergh, Iaon Gruffudd and Rhys Wakefield.
Directed by Alister Gherson.

This movie was sold on being a 3D adventure. Caves, waterfalls, falling, diving, claustrophia, etc. The movie looks and feels like it was all shot on a series of soundstages with rubber walls. Never felt excited or nervous or in suspense. I spent a lot of cringing that these so-called experts kept doing dumb things.

The center of it is a father-son relationship on the rocks. Son's bitter and angry and petulant. Dad's a hard-headed shouter. They argue in cliches. Along for the ride is Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic Four) as a wealthy businessman. Gee, I wonder who's going to be the coward who gets people killed halfway through? I should mention there are four or five other characters, but they're there to wait their turn to be stupid and perish.

Most deaths in this movie follow this pattern.

Deadmeat: I'm going to do this!
Expert: Don't do it, it's too dangerous, it won't work!
Deadmeat: Now I'm panicking, I'm still going to do it!
Expert: No, don't!
Deadmeat: I did it! Aaaaah! (falls to death or drowns)
Expert: There was nothing we could do.

And scene.

Weekend Box Office

1. Cowboys & Aliens - $36.43 million - 1 wk (U)
. . . 3750 screens / $9715 per screen
2. The Smurfs - $35.61 - 1 wk (Sony)
. . . 3395 / $10,489
3. Captain America - $25.55 ($117.42) - 2 wks (Par) -60.7%
. . . 3715 / $6879
4. Harry Potter 8 - $21.98 ($318.51) - 3 wks (WB) -53.7%
. . . 4145 / $5302
5. Crazy Stupid Love - $19.1 - 1 wk (WB)
. . . 3020 / $6326
6. Friends with Benefits - $9.28 ($38.18) - 2 wks (SG) -50.2%
. . . 2926 / $3170
7. Horrible Bosses - $7.19 ($96.29) - 4 wks (NL) -39.5%
. . . 2510 / $2864
8. Transformers 3 - $6.09 ($338.01) - 5 wks (Par) -49.5%
. . . 2604 / $2337
9. Zookeeper - $4.3 ($68.83) - 4 wks (Sony) -50.6%
. . . 2418 / $1779
10. Cars 2 - $2.35 ($182.12) - 6 wks (BV) -58.5%
. . . 1763 / $1332
11. Winnie the Pooh - $1.78 ($22.44) - 3 wks (BV) -65.6%
. . . 1632 / $1089
12. Midnight in Paris - $1.16 ($46.85) - 11 wks (SPC) -35.9%
. . . 471 / $2456

Cowboys & Aliens may have won the #1 spot, but considering it cost $50 million more than Smurfs to make and had higher tracking numbers right up until Friday morning... well, it's a disappointment for Universal. That opening is great if you're Super 8, but for a movie with that pedigree, C&A needed to do better. Personally the marketing campaign never seemed to get out of teaser mode.

As for Smurfs, well, it was review-proof. I'm stunned it did this well; I thought overall it would bomb. Don't underestimate the power of nostalgia. Or Neil Patrick Harris.

Crazy Stupid Love is that PG-13 adult rom-com-dram that should've opened stronger, but might have done so in the spring or fall, with less competition.

After two weeks, Captain America has already passed Green Lantern. That 60% drop in week 2 is a little worrisome, but after such a strong week 1, it still looks possible to catch Thor's $180 million domestic.

Harry will catch up to the Transformers. Might take two more weekends, but he'll get there.

This has been a low year for animation in general. They're all selling tickets, it's just that none of them have broken out. Rio's the only one to exceed expectations gross-wise. Neither Kung Fu Panda 2 nor Cars 2 will make it to $200 million, which was an unthinkable prospect in spring.

Further down, Bad Teacher's still stuck at $96 million. Probably won't pass the magical $100 million mark.

The Sarah Palin doc The Undefeated lost 10 of its 14 theaters in week 3 and fell 79.4%.