Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Random Movie Stuff - 2/28/12

- Several Dracula projects are in development, the most recent being an origin story take from Jason Keller (Mirror Mirror).  There's also a Dracula Year Zero project, a apocalyptical Dracula movie, and a modern take based on Justin Cronin's novel The Passage.

- Seth Gordon (Horrible Bosses) will next direct Jason Bateman and Melissa McCarthy in Identity Theft, about a man who has his identity stolen by a woman.  Also, Horrible Bosses screenwriters John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein will make their directorial debut on Vacation, a semi-reboot that will follow grown-up Rusty Griswold taking his own family on vacation.  Chevy Chase will return as Clark, now a grandfather.  While Anthony Michael Hall was the most memorable Rusty, I'd kinda like to see Johnny Galecki (Christmas Vacation) return.  Ethan Embry and Jason Lively were the other two Rustys.

- Demi Moore will play a mother who realizes how disconnected she is with her daughter (Miley Cyrus) after reading her racy journal in LOL.  Thomas Jane, Ashley Greene, and Jay Hernandez co-star.  It opens this May 4.

- Principal photography has begun on The Lone Ranger, starring Johnny Depp as Tonto and Armie Hammer (The Social Network, J, Edgar, Mirror Mirror) as the Lone Ranger. It also co-stars Helena Bonham Carter, Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner and Barry Pepper. It's written by Ted Elliott & Terry Russio and directed by Gore Verbinski, who all worked with Depp on Pirates of the Caribbean. It's slated to open May 31, 2013.

- Mike Tyson confirmed he will show up for The Hangover Part III, slated to open May 24, 2013.  Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zack Galifianakis will all be back, as will director Todd Phillips, who confirmed it will be considered the last installment of a trilogy.

- John Lee Hancock is in talks to direct Saving Mr. Banks, about Walt Disney's decade-long quest to get Australian author P.L. Travers to sell him the film rights to Mary Poppins.  Travers viewed Poppins as a personal work and wound up hating the animated sequences, vowing to never sell another title to Disney.  Early casting rumors have Tom Hanks as Disney and Meryl Streep as Travers.  Meanwhile Hancock is currently slated to next direct The Partner, based on the John Grisham novel.

And on the television front:

- James Spader is leaving NBC's The Office after joining the cast last year.  Executive producer Paul Lieberstein (who also plays Toby) said it had always been Spader's intention to just have it be one year.  If Mindy Kaling's Fox comedy pilot gets picked up, she'll be leaving the show as well (she plays Kelly, and is also a co-writer on the show).  There's also a possibility of a spin-off with Rainn Wilson's Dwight running Schrute Farms full-time, with multiple Schrute relatives showing up.

- Monday Night's Ratings:

Channel - Title - Viewers (in millions) / 18-49 rating


NBC - The Voice - 14.77 / 5.4
FOX - Daytona 500 - 14.24 / 4.5
CBS - How I Met Your Mother - 9.13 / 3.6
 - - - - 2 Broke Girls - 10.14 / 3.7
ABC - The Bachelor - 7.98 / 2.6
CW - Gossip Girl - 1.16 / .5


CBS - Two and a Half Men - 11.81 / 3.6
 - - - - Mike & Molly - 10.1 / 2.9
CW - Hart of Dixie - 1.4 / .5

CBS - Hawaii Five-0 - 9.44 / 2.5
NBC - Smash - 6.86 / 2.4
ABC - Castle - 9.06 / 2.2

Compared to other shows on the schedule, Smash's ratings are good, but not so much considering the drop-off from The Voice, which single-handedly keeps NBC a relevant network in the spring the same way Sunday Night Football does in the fall.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Drive - DVD Review

Starring Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Albert Brooks, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman and Oscar Isaac.
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn.


There's something very Steve McQueen-cool about this deconstructed actioner.  Down to the synth-soundtrack, this reminds me of old-school flicks where it took time with pace.  This movie may seem leisurely with said pace, but it's tense throughout and builds nicely for the explosive third act.

Ryan Gosling plays Driver. I don't think anyone ever says his name.  He's a Hollywood stuntman by day and a getaway driver by night.  We don't really know what makes Driver tick, or what he'll do next, but Gosling draws us in with his resolute focus.  When Driver tightens the gloves on his hands, we know something's about to happen.

Gosling will eventually win an Oscar.  He was good enough to merit a nomination here (didn't get one), and Albert Brooks should have been nominated for Best Supporting.

Drive takes a well-worn genre and makes it seem fresh.  I would love it if Drive 2 happened.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

84th Annual Academy Award Winners

Best Picture - THE ARTIST
Best Director - Michel Hazanivicius, THE ARTIST
Best Actor - Jean Dujardin, THE ARTIST
Best Actress - Meryl Streep, THE IRON LADY
Best Supporting Actor - Christopher Plummer, BEGINNERS
Best Supporting Actress - Octavia Spencer, THE HELP
Best Adapted Screenplay - THE DESCENDANTS
Best Original Screenplay - MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
Best Foreign Film - A SEPARATION (Iran)
Best Animated Film - RANGO
Best Art Direction - HUGO
Best Cinematography - HUGO
Best Costume Design - THE ARTIST
Best Documentary Film - UNDEFEATED
Best Makeup - THE IRON LADY
Best Original Score - THE ARTIST
Best Original Song - "Man or Muppet", THE MUPPETS
Best Sound Mixing - HUGO
Best Sound Editing - HUGO
Best Visual Effects - HUGO
Best Documentary Short - SAVING FACE
Best Live-Action Short - THE SHORE

My Live Reaction to the Oscars (on DVR)

6:30 - Love starting the show with Morgan Freeman.

6:32 - I also love the opening segment where Billy Crystal appears in all the other movies.

6:34 - ... and the opening musical number about the nine nominees! I may be one of the last film-lovers on Earth who can honestly say that.

6:42 - Tom Hanks has a grey goatee going on. Hopefully it's not for a sequel to Ladykillers. Aaaand the first win goes to Hugo for Cinematography. And so does the second for Art Direction. Very interesting. I thought The Artist would get one of those. I liked the cinematographer that looked like Yanni's father. The Italian couple art directors were cute.

6:53 - Wow, Billy's jokes are falling flat now. Out come Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez, coincidentally starring in a movie coming this spring, to announce Best Costume Design. And The Artist gets a win.

6:55 - Best Makeup goes to The Iron Lady. Which makes me wonder if the race between Meryl Streep and Viola Davis is actually really close. And both managed to get out what they wanted before the music played them off. No one has been played off yet!

6:57 - Ben Stiller, Morgan Freeman, Adam Sandler, Reese WItherspoon, Brad Pitt, Steve Carell, Hilary Swank (where's she been?), Tom Cruise (has he had work done?), Helen Mirren, and Barbra Streisand all share their early movie memories. Okay.

7:05 - Sandra Bullock is presenting Best Foreign Language Film and speaks Mandarin Chinese with a German accent. (heh heh)

Of the nominees, In Darkness looks intriguing. I knew A Separation would win; can't wait to see it. The director, an Iranian, is probably getting texts for offers to be the next Hollywood villain right now. Very nice acceptance speech though.

7:08 - Christian Bale came out, and my wife and daughter both gasped at his attractiveness. And even though she was the heavy favorite, Octavia Spencer looks shocked. And she gets a standing ovation! Nice.

7:18 - I kinda liked seeing the Christopher Guest ensemble in the Wizard of Oz focus-group skit, but it wasn't "hilarious" as Crystal tried to hype.

7:24 - Hey, cool! Girl with the Dragon Tattoo won Film Editing. These guys were not prepared to win.

And Hugo wins a third one, for Sound Editing.

7:27 - Wow, Tina Fey and Bradley Cooper are presenting three awards. Sound Mixing goes to Hugo as well. Wow.

7:34 - The Kermit & Piggy bit was lame. Should have been Statler & Waldorf. And we get a Cirque de Soleil tribute to the movies. Kinda reminds me of when they did a Riverdance tribute to the movies about 12 years ago. Gotta admit, this would be really cool to watch in person.

7:39 - Billy Crystal's jokes may be lame, but imagine how painful they'd be if James Franco was delivering them. The Robert Downey Jr.-Gwyneth Paltrow bit... well, they tried.

7:43 - Wife's fashion comment: "I think white's the new black."

7:44 - ABC successfully bleeped whatever that one guy said.

7:45 - Chris Rock's rocking the D.L. Hughley haircut.

7:51 - Melissa McCarthy added some energy to the show with her bit.

7:52 - Holy crap, Emma Stone's tall.  Or Ben Stiller's short.  And their bit is funny.  Has Ben Stiller hosted this before?

7:54 - Hugo wins another one?  Is there a surprise Best Picture win in the works here?

8:00 - Christopher Plummer has the best acceptance speech so far.

8:04 - I liked Will Ferrell and Zack Galifianakis' music intro.  Nine Saturday Night Live members have been nominated?  Murray, Aykroyd, Murphy, Wiig... hm.

8:07 - Angelina Jolie is working it with the hand on the hip and the leg sticking out.

8:08 - But someone really needs to get her a sandwich.  Angie, I'm worried!

8:13 - Woody Allen should forfeit if he's not going to show up to pick up his award.

8:36 - The "Shorts" banter with the Bridesmaids didn't work.  At all.

8:45 - Who are those girls in turquoise passing out popcorn?  Is this a set-up for a joke later?

9:00 - In Memorium is usually one of my favorites.  I hope they don't screw this up.

9:06 - That was actually pretty nice. And now I'm wondering who they snubbed.

9:20 - The Artist winning Director and Actor tells me it's going to win Picture too.  Still haven't seen it.

9:25 - Colin Firth is able to do the praising of the actresses a little more fluidly than Natalie Portman did with the boys.

9:30 - "Her. Again. But, you know, whatever!" Exactly how to handle it. :)

9:32 - Meryl Streep gave the speech of the night.

9:35 - And The Artist wins.  Really need to see it, I guess.

It was an okay show.  Crystal was good in the opening, but I don't need him a tenth time as host.  I'm hoping for Ben Stiller or Steve Carell or Jim Carrey or Eddie Murphy next year.  How about Tina Fey and Amy Poehler?

Weekend Box Office - 2/26/12

1. Act of Valor - $24.7 million - 1 wk (Rel)
. . . 3039 screens / $8128 per screen
2. Good Deeds - $16 - 1 wk (LG)
. . . 2132 / $7505
3. Journey 2 The Mysterious Island - $13.48 ($76.73) - 3 wks (WB) -32.1%
. . . 3350 / $4022
4. Safe House - $11.4 ($98.1) - 3 wks (U) -51.8%
. . . 3052 / $3735
5. The Vow - $10 ($103) - 3 wks (SG) -56.6%
. . . 3038 / $3292
6. Ghost Rider 2 - $8.8 ($37.83) - 2 wks (Sony) -60.2%
. . . 3174 / $2773
7. This Means War - $8.5 ($33.57) - 2 wks (Fox) -51.2%
. . . 3189 / $2665
8. Wanderlust - $6.6 - 1 wk (U)
. . . 2002 / $3297
9. Gone - $5 - 1 wk (Sum)
. . . 2186 / $2287
10. The Secret World of Arietty - $4.5 ($14.66) - 2 wks (BV) -30.1%
. . . 1522 / $2959
11. Chronicle - $3.71 ($58.01) - 4 wks (Fox) -51.4%
. . . 1797 / $2062

Act of Valor aimed for the heartland and won. The low-budget adventure starring real Navy SEALs doubled its production budget on opening weekend. Tyler Perry's Good Deeds delivered a predictably solid opening as well, albeit one of the weaker ones for his career. Wanderlust and Gone are both duds.

Journey 2 has benefitted from the lack of family-film competition, but that will change when The Lorax opens next week.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

My Predictions for the Oscars

My guess for the winners of the 84th Academy Awards:

Best Picture - The Artist
Best Director - Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Best Actor - Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Best Actress - Viola Davis, The Help
Best Supporting Actor - Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Best Supporting Actress - Octavia Spencer, The Help
Best Adapted Screenplay - The Descendants
Best Original Screenplay - Midnight in Paris
Best Foreign Film - A Separation (Iran)
Best Animated Film - Rango
Best Art Direction - Hugo
Best Cinematography - The Artist
Best Costume Design - The Artist
Best Film Editing - The Artist
Best Documentary Film - Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory
Best Makeup - The Iron Lady
Best Original Score - The Artist
Best Original Song - "Man or Muppet", The Muppets
Best Sound Mixing - Hugo
Best Sound Editing - War Horse
Best Visual Effects - Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Best Documentary Short - Saving Face
Best Animated Short - The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris
Best Live-Action Short - The Shore

Second choices in close categories:
Best Actress - Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady
Best Art Direction - Hugo
Best Cinematography - Hugo
Best Makeup - Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 2
Best Visual Effects - Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Best Documentary Short - God Is the Bigger Elvis
Best Animated Short - La Luna
Best Live-Action Short - Raju

Henry's Crime - DVD Review

Starring Keanu Reeves, Vera Farmiga, James Caan, Peter Stormare, Judy Greer, Bill Duke and Fisher Stevens.  Directed by Malcolm Venville.


This minor crime caper has its small pleasures. Fast-forward to any scene with James Caan, and you'll experience them. Otherwise it reminded me too often of Bullets Over Broadway, a much funnier movie.

Keanu Reeves reminds us all how limited his range is here. He plays Henry, a fairly spineless man who goes to jail for robbing a bank, a crime he didn't commit. He befriends a long-timer (Caan) in jail, and when Henry gets out, he decides he's going to go ahead and rob that very bank.

The bank has an old tunnel leaving between it and the theater next door, so they endear themselves to the cast next door, preparing to put on The Cherry Orchard.

The movie needed someone, anyone, with more energy than Henry. I kept thinking how someone like Steve Carell or Paul Rudd might've handled the role. Reeves, though, has the emotive power of a totem pole.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

50/50 - DVD Review

Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston, Philip Baker Hall and Matt Frewer.  Directed by Jonathan Levine.



I don't think anyone has ever attempted a serious comedy about cancer before, but Seth Rogen has, and it's great. And I like that it's another showcase for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who continues to prove himself as one of today's most interesting actors.

JGL plays Adam, a normal guy working a job he likes, wishing maybe his relationship with his girlfriend was better, but then one day he finds out he has cancer. And so down the unknown road he must go.

Everyone knows someone who's had cancer, someone who lived through it and someone who died from it, and the title comes from the survival odds of Adam's particular kind of rare spinal cancer. He and his friend Kyle (Rogen) have all the dark humorous moments that people have when flirting with death, and when the girlfriend leaves, Kyle figures having a buddy with cancer can serve as a chick magnet.

I liked all the different avenues explored and how they were played. Anna Kendrick plays Kathryn, a 24-year-old therapist working on her doctorate, and Adam is one of her first patients, so just as Adam is new at cancer, Kathryn is new at helping him through it, and I liked how you can see her mind accessing college-book answers whenever a new emotional wrinkle develops. I liked Bryce Dallas Howard as the girlfriend (can't remember the character's name right now). It could have been played as the stereotypical bad-girlfriend that our hero must inevitably part from, but she was given more emotional depth than normally allowed. And with what she's given to do, Anjelica Huston is really strong as Adam's worrying mother.

This movie always felt honest. It earns its laughs and it earns its touching moments.  In fact, I've updated my Top Ten of 2011 list over it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cinematically Rambling - 2/22/12

If they ever remake Belle de Jour, Cillian Murphy would be really good as that tool with a cane... The overhype and underhype of The Artist has been such a roller-coaster that I fear I will be surprised and disappointed at the same time.  But my gut tells me Jean Dujardin is no Roberto Begnini....

It's a good thing that John Carter is coming out before Attack of the Clones in 3-D.  I know Lucas got that idea from John Carter of Mars for the arena fighting, but most people watching John Carter are going to get to that scene and think "This is just like Attack of the Clones."...

Who are some actors that make you more iterersted in seeing a movie?  And by that, I mean you can hear the plot or one or two of the stars, but then you hear So-and-So's in it, and you're like, "I have to see it now."...

Ciaran Hinds is one such actor for me.  I think of his work in Munich and Amazing Grace and Tinker Tailot Soldier Spy and The Debt and HBO's Rome and The Woman in Black.  He almost tempts me to see Ghost Rider 2....

I get the profit-impact of piracy, but it isn't the same as shoplifting.  The internet moves too freely and too fast, and corporations, instead of trying to clamp down on the internet and suppress freedom like Orwellian tiger, they need to innovate and find ways to best funnel this info...

Abduction - DVD Review

Starring Taylor Lautner, Lily Collins, Alfred Molina, Sigourney Weaver, Jason Isaacs, Maria Bello, Michael Nyqvist and Denzel Whitaker.
Directed by John Singleton.


I do not think Taylor Lautner is the worst thing to ever happen to acting. I know it's fashionable to despise the Twilight series, and granted, the most recent one was laughable, and granted more heavily, Lautner's acting was among its biggest weaknesses, BUT---! He is who he is, now can someone get him a vehicle where his limited talents can still be exploited properly?

This may be as good as it gets for him, and if that's the case, he'll still have another five years of movies, maybe a TV show or two, then off to obscurity he goes. The teen heart-throb will learn the path traveled by Corey Feldman.

The thing is, Lautner is a true athlete. He trained himself, he bulked up, and so he has the physique of a credible combatant, and that's what we ask for in an action flick, following the tradition of Jean-Claude Van Damme or Chuck Norris or Dolph Lundgren. Except those are guys' guys and Lautner's still a Tiger Beat dude. (Does Tiger Beat still exist?)

Here he plays Nathan, a typical high-schooler whose dad tends to make him spar whenever he gets in trouble, so Nathan's a pretty good fighter. One day he finds his own picture on a missing persons website. The next day men in black show up and kill his parents. Nathan and his girlfriend Karen (Lily Collins) must go on the run.

The reviews for this were awful, and it only made its way into my DVD player because I tend to keep my Blockbuster Online queue 50 titles deep, and if I don't pay close attention, movies in the teens or in the 20's tend to get shipped. (So rarely do I get one of my top ten choices). But hey, let's give it a shot, and worst case scenario, I edit my Worst Ten of 2011 list.

Well, this won't make it there. This movie is directed by John Singleton, the once-promising director of Boyz N the Hood who still knows his way around a halfway-decent action movie (2 Fast 2 Furious, Four Brothers). And the supporting cast is really good. Molina is the CIA agent in pursuit, Weaver is the psychiatrist who of course is more than she appears, and Isaacs and Bello play his parents. Then you have Nyqvist (Mission Impossible 4) as the main villain, and so it's almost an embarrassment of riches. "We'll help you get through this, kid."

There's logistics points that pulled me out. For instance, he lives in Pittsburgh, he goes on the run for a full day, and yet the climax takes place at a Pirates game. Was he just running in circles? Also, how often are Pirates' games sold out?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Attack the Block - DVD Review

Starring John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail and Nick Frost.
Directed by Joe Cornish.


This is a low-budget creature feature done right.

It follows one of the basics that many thrillers tend to forget about.  Give me characters that feel like they had lives before the opening credits.  Real characters.  This movie takes place in one of London's more dangerous apartment complexes, with drug dealers, punk teenagers, white hipsters, and then the normal folk who wish a Harry Brown would move in and work his magic.  But when an alien lands in their block, and more creatures come hunt, they have to work together, at the least the ones that aren't totally stupid about it.

This movie has commentary on race and class under the surface of balancing comedy and suspense.  I liked the enrichment of some of the characters as the movie progressed.  I liked the design of the creatures.  Nick Frost shows up to remind who's behind this film, and I liked it better than his previous alien-comedy Paul.

Journey 2 The Mysterious Island - Movie Review

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Michael Caine, Josh Hutcherson, Vanessa Hudgens, Luis Guzman and Kristin Davis.
Directed by Brad Peyton.


You know those simulation rides at theme parks, the ones that put it on the big screen, and maybe it's in 3D, and it moves your seat around like you're actually flying or racing? That's what the Journey movies are like. 90 minutes of rides, with awkward human crap in between.

Josh Hutcherson is back as a Vernian, a big Jules Verne fan, but instead of going with uncle Brendan Fraser, he goes with stepdad Dwayne Johnson to visit the Island, where his grandfather supposedly disappeared. They fly to Palau and charter a helicopter ride to the coordinates, flown by a nerdy pilot (Luis Guzman, in kid-movie-acting mode) and his "spunky" daughter (Vanessa Hudgens).

They have to fly through a hurricane to get to the Island and so they crash. But it isn't long before they find the grandfather (Michael Caine), and they figure the only way to get off the Island is to find Captain Nemo's submarine, parked on the other side.

The plot's irrelevant, and more often than not, the characters behaved in ways that I don't think anyone would in real life if this was truly happening to them. The point is to get them from one adrenaline-pumping situation to the next, whether it's running from a giant lizard or flying on the backs of giant bees, and those sequences are fun to watch.

This is more for kids than adults and my kids enjoyed it. For the adults, you have the invaluable Michael Caine, who elevates anything he's in. It's fine. But if you have a $3 theater near you that has 3-D screens, you might want to wait until then to take the family.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Chronicle - Movie Review

Starring Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Kelly, Ashley Hinshaw and Bo Petersen.  Directed by Josh Trank.


The "found-footage" genre, when done well, can be an excellent entertainment, like the first Paranormal Activity.  This one is cut from the same cloth, albeit with multiple cameras using higher-end equipment.

I could compare it to Cloverfield, which gave a fun twist to the monster movie, but with the shaky-cam so shaky it gave me motion sickness.  We don't get that problem here, thank goodness.

Ultimately this is the best original superhero-origin movie since Unbreakable.  It's really about three teenagers and what they do when they suddenly garner great power, like telekinesis and flying.

The cast is full of mostly unknowns, and the director lucked out with them.  Dane DeHaan is the shy one, Andrew, who decided to chronicle his life on camera even before the inciting incident.  He's 2/3 Leonardo Dicaprio and 1/3 Michael Pitt, and it's going to be fun to watch his career blossom (he has supporting roles in the upcoming The Wettest County with Tom Hardy and Gary Oldman, and The Place Beyond the Pines with Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes).  There's also Australian newcomer Alex Russell as Andrew's cousin Matt, and TV vet Michael B. Jordan (The Wire, Parenthood) as Steve, the most popular guy in school.

At a party that doesn't go too well for Andrew, Matt and Steve want him to bring his camera to film a hole they found in the ground.  The three go in, and let's just say after they see what they see, we cut to the next day and they've discovered they have telekinetic powers.  At first it involves levitating Legos but the more they use their powers, the stronger they become.

The movie does a good job of making us care about the characters and the journey they're taking.  It always gets me excited to watch fresh young talent show off what they can do, and yet in an unshowoffy manner. (Yes, I've thought of better words, but "unshowoffy" stays.)

Bottom line is that "found footage" is a device, a story-telling tool, and if your story's weak, the device won't help.  Here, it works great.

Weekend Box Office - 2/19/12

For the weekend of February 17-19.

1.  Safe House - $24 million ($78.3) - 2 wks (U) -40.3%
 . . . 3121 screens / $7690 per screen
2.  The Vow - $23.6 ($85.53) - 2 wks (SG) -42.7%
 . . . 2958 / $7978
3.  Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance - $22 - 1 wk (Sony)
 . . . 3174 / $6931
4.  Journey 2 The Mysterious Island - $20.09 ($53.2) - 2 wks (WB) -26.5%
 . . . 3500 / $5739
5.  This Means War - $17.55 - 1 wk (Fox)
 . . . 3189 / $5503
6.  Star Wars Episode I 3D - $7.87 ($33.74) - 2 wks (Fox) -65%
 . . . 2655 / $2962
7.  Chronicle - $7.5 ($50.98) - 3 wks (Fox) -38%
 . . . 2556 / $2934
8.  The Woman in Black - $6.65 ($45.26) - 3 wks (CBS) -34.2%
 . . . 2559 / $2597
9.  The Secret World of Arietty - $6.4 - 1 wk (BV)
 . . . 1522 / $4205
10. The Grey - $3.03 ($47.93) - 4 wks (OR) -39.9%
 . . . 2107 / $1439
11. The Descendants - $2.93 ($75) - 14 wks (FS) -15%
 . . . 1243 / $2353

For the second weekend in a row, the top four movies each grossed at least $20 million.  I wonder if that's happened before.  Safe House and The Vow will both pass the $100 million domestic mark, and even journey 2 has an outside shot at it if it can keep up its legs.  Lorax doesn't open for two weeks, so it has a chance.

Ghost Rider 2 had a lower budget than the first one, so as long as it does well overseas, it will have been worth it.

The Oscar-nominated films are bouncing around, not really catching fire. If The Artist is the front-runner, it's not getting the same buzz and box-office that movies like The King's Speech and Slumdog Millionaire enjoyed.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Random Movie Stuff - 2/18/12

- Nonso Anozie (The Grey) has joined the cast of Ender's Game, which is now slated for a March 15, 2013 release date.  It stars Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Viola Davis, Ben Kingsley, Hailee Steinfeld and Abigial Breslin.

- Gael Garcia Bernal (Amores Perros, Letters from Juliet) will star in Zorro Reborn, a sci-fi twist on the Mexican legend that puts him in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

- Anna Friel (Limitless) and Imogen Poots (Fright Night) have joined the cast of Michael Winterbottom's King of Soho, starring Steve Coogan as Paul Raymond, who became one of England's wealthiest men by building an empire of nude theaters, gentlemen's clubs and porn magazines.

- Jennifer Aniston, Dennis Quaid and Ty Burrell have joined John Hawkes and Yasiin Bey in Switch, the prequel to Jackie Brown.

- Malin Akerman (Watchmen) has joined the cast of ABC's The Smart One.  It stars Portia de Rossi (Better Off Ted) as a brilliant, successful businesswoman who has to go to work for her ditzy younger sister, now the mayor.  Jean Smart (24) will play their mother.

- While The Office is still NBC's highest-rated show on Thursdays, it no longer can buoy the night. It fell to a series-low 4.3 million viewers (2.2 rating).  30 Rock's doing even worse than Community did at the 8/7 hour with 3.6 million viewers and a 1.4 rating.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Something Borrowed - DVD Review

Starring Kate Hudson, Ginnifer Goodwin, John Krasinski, Colin Egglesford, Steve Howey, Ashley Williams and Geoff Pierson.
Directed by Luke Greenfield.


Do women friends really get together and do dance numbers with each other in their living rooms?  I can't tell you how many times I've seen a chick flick where the two or three of them just start dancing to an oldie.  The oldie in question here in Salt N Pepa's "Push It".

As likeable an actress as Ginnifer Goodwin is, I couldn't feel too bad for her doormat Rachel.  She and Darcy (Kate Hudson) have been best friends their whole lives, and Rachel is the sweet mousy friend, the Marcie to Darcy's Peppermint Patty, the Milhouse to her Bart.  Darcy is loud and selfish and always gets her way, and so we're supposed to root against her when she gets engaged to Dex (Colin Egglesford), a bland model of a love interest who was friends with Rachel in law school.

Rachel and Dex were meant to be together, because the soundtrack says so.  Darcy's the obnoxious shrew that we're supposed to root against, but eventually we dislike Rachel for allowing Darcy to steamroll her at every turn, for Rachel to not have a spine even though several moments present themselves.  And Dex is just as passive and spineless as Rachel.

Watching all of this from his wry platonic perch is Ethan (John Krasinski), the lone bright-spot of reason in the movie who is incredulous that this love-triangle is going on but no one will admit it. Krasinski is an MVP here, a life-saver.

Just when I thought the movie might make some brave, interesting choice, it dodges and settles on the stereotype.  Krasinski and Goodwin deserve better.  Hudson, well, lately there's no more sure-fire guarantee the movie sucks than to have her in it. I expect her to play Adam Sandler's love interest in something eventually.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Zookeeper - DVD Review

Starring Kevin James, Rosario Dawson, Leslie Bibb, Ken Jeong, Donnie Wahlberg, Joe Rogan and the voices of Nick Nolte, Sylvester Stallone, Cher, Adam Sandler, Maya Rudolph and Judd Apatow.
Directed by Frank Coraci.


Kevin James has found his niche in family films, the bumbling loser who falls and goes splat, but we still root for him. Had Chris Farley lived, it might have been he as the schlubby zookeeper Griffin.

My main problem with this is not the kid-aimed pratfall humor, or that the animals can talk and have, what-do-you-know, intelligence equal to humans, or that Adam Sandler's silly voice for the monkey isn't funny. Or that our friendly neighborhood zookeeper at different points in the movie has women that look like Rosario Dawson and Leslie Bibb in love with him. Or how overt the product placement is (most egregiously TGI Fridays).

It's the fact that all the movie can imagine to do with this is have the animals give advice to Griffin on wooing women. The lion, the monkey, the bear, etc. all have different tips, and Griffin tries each of them to "hilarious" results. Griffin then learns the true meaning of Christmas, or it's what's on the inside that counts, or something like that, and we get our pat happy ending.

The film's unimaginatively directed by Frank Coraci (Click), who's apparently moved on to James now that Sandler's using Dennis Dugan as his go-to doormat, er, director. James has been sucked into the Sandler vortex, and I'm afraid we've lost him.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Woman in Black - Movie Review

Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds and Janet McTeer.
Directed by James Watkins.


I love ghost stories, and period ghost stories, and period ghost stories in giant creeky houses. I was prepared for this to be right up my alley, and for about an hour, it was. But after a while it occured to me The Woman in Black could also be called The Man Who Walked on Creaky Floorboards.

Daniel Radcliffe (you may know him from The Tailor of Panama) plays Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer who recently lost his wife, but he goes to a small town to help settle the affairs of an old rich woman who's recently passed away. Her house in an island that people can drive to when the tide is low. Love it. Isolated location, vines growing over everything. This is great!

Arthur is alone in the house, studying old papers by candlelight, looking at photographs that might contain clues...

What was that noise?

Arthur goes to investigate. We hear every heel-toe footstep he takes up the wooden stairs, slowly down the wooden hall, he comes to the door. Locked. He turns around when there's another noise at the other end of the house. Pause. Pause.


The Woman in Black pops out every once in a while, but sometimes not for his benefit. Sometimes it truly is for the audience. And I question a ghost's motives when she shows herself for a second but Arthur can't see her. Does she know she's in a movie?

This movie has all the ingredients to succeed and yet never gets there. I love it when actors like Ciaran Hinds get significant screen time. I love the art direction, the set, the mood, the atmosphere. But the mystery isn't that mysterious and the ending felt anti-climactic. The success of a horror movie tends to come through in the third act, like the final punches of The Sixth Sense, or The Others, or The Ring, or Insidious. This one doesn't quite get there.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Conan the Barbarian - DVD Review

Starring Jason Momoa, Rachel Nichols, Stephen Lang, Rose McGowan and Ron Perlman.  Directed by Marcus Nispel.


At one point this was going to star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Mickey Rourke. Johnson decided not to because he felt it too similar to The Scorpion King. That's my basic memory of it. Conan's one of those properties I figured would be served well by a reboot. There are several Conan books to draw from for source material.

Alas, they gave it to Marcus Nispel, maker of Pathfinder and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. So it never really had a chance to be good.

The plot's irrelevant, an excuse for a villain to kill most dastardly and a hero to kill most mercilessly. Everyone in this age is made of tomato soup, so splattery is their blood every time they get cut, chopped, sliced, nicked or breathed upon most hotly.

Momoa was better as Khal Drago on HBO's Game of Thrones. I can't complain about most of the others. Lang's found a career resurgance thanks to Avatar, and the women deliver about what I expected. 

I just wish someone more imaginative had been hired to bring Conan to life.   So much of it played like the first half of Pathfinder, and there were recognizable elements from numerous Jean-Claude Van Damme movies.  As is, it's a waste of time and money.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Margin Call - DVD Review


Starring Kevin Spacey, Paul Bettany, Jeremy Irons, Zachary Quinto, Penn Badgely, Simon Baker, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci and Aasif Mandvi.
Directed by J.C. Chandor.

This does for millionaire financial analysts what Glengarry Glen Ross did for real estate.  It's not based on any one company, but it wouldn't surprise me if the execs at Lehman Bros. or AIG went through the same thing.

Early in the movie there's a scene where a supervisor Eric (Stanley Tucci) along with 80% of the other workers on his floor.  He passes off a thumbdrive to a co-worker Peter (Zachary Quinto) who opens and tries completing its formulas.  He does that evening, and he calls Eric's boss Will (Paul Bettany) to come back to the office.  Peter shows him the numbers, and Will calls his boss Sam (Kevin Spacey) who then calls other higher-up executives until finally the CEO helipcopters in.

Jeremy Irons is John Tuld, the CEO, and one of the bitings truths the movie captures is that the further up the chain, the less knowhow they actually have, the less work they actually do.  They're there because they make the "hard decisions."  Irons commands every scene he's in, and this is with an already outstanding ensemble.

The Vow - Movie Review


Starring Rachel McAdams, Channing Tatum, Sam Neill, Jessica Lange, Scott Speedman, Wendy Crewson and Jessica McNamee.  Directed by Michael Sucsy.

The Vow has a straight-forward concept with a "What would you do?" element for the audience.  It's inspired by real events, and it was cool afterwards to read some of the details of the real couple.

This Hollywood spin has two lovebirds, happily married, Paige (Rachel McAdams) and Leo (Channing Tatum), when a car accident changes everything.  He has some scrapes and bruises, but she has brain damage, and when she wakes up, she has no memories of the past five years, including ever meeting, let alone marrying, Leo.  He must win her over all over again.

It isn't a very deep movie. The presense of Neill and Lange as her parents only emphasizes that these talents are capable of much more than the script asks them to do.  And McAdams and Tatum, while good together, are no match for the chemistry McAdams and Ryan Gosling once made in The Notebook.

But on its own featherweight ambitions, I liked it, especially McAdams.  It's a decent date movie.

Random Movie Stuff - 2/12/12

- Whitney Houston (The Bodyguard, Waiting to Exhale) has died at age 48.  Her last movie, Sparkle, is set to open Auguat 10 and co-stars Jordin Sparks, Derek Luke, Mike Epps and Cee-Lo Green.

- Steve Carell and Channing Tatum will star in Foxcatcher, based on the story of John du Pont, a paranoid schizophrenic who killed Olympis wrestler David Schultz.  Bennett Miller (Moneyball) will direct.

- At last, Harry Potter and Dexter unite!  Daniel Radcliffe and Michael C. Hall will star in Kill Your Darlings.  Hall will play a murder victim who inspires the Beat Revolution of 1944.  Radcliffe will play Allen Ginsberg, Ben Foster (Contraband) will play William Burroughs, and Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire) will play Jack Kerouac.  Elizabeth Olsen, Kyra Sedgwick, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Dane Dehaan co-star.

- At one point there were three dueling Snow White movies.  Two of them open this year (Mirror Mirror with Julia Roberts and Snow White & the Huntsman with Kristen Stewart) but the third was to take place in 19th-century China and star Natalie Portman.  Now it appears Saoirse Ronan (Hanna) will star in what's now titled The Order of the Seven, about seven Shaolin monks who become outlaws, but they come to the rescue of a British expatriate fleeing an evil woman.

- The plug's been pulled on Alex Proyas's Paradise Lost, based on the John Milton classic.  Legendary Pictures decided they couldn't keep the budget under control.  It was to star Bradley Cooper and Casey Affleck.

Weekend Box Office - 2/12/12

1. The Vow - $41.7 million - 1 wk (SG)
. . . 2958 screens / $14,097 per screen
2. Safe House - $39.3 - 1 wk (U)
. . . 3119 / $12,600
3. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island - $27.55 - 1 wk (Fox)
. . . 3470 / $7939
4. Star Wars Episode I - $23 - 1 wk (Fox)
. . . 2655 / $8663
5. Chronicle - $12.3 ($40.17) - 2 wks (Fox) -44.1%
. . . 2908 / $4230
6. The Woman in Black - $10.3 ($35.46) - 2 wks (CBS) -50.7%
. . . 2856 / $3606
7. The Grey - $5.08 ($42.82) - 3 wks (ORF) -45.4%
. . . 2801 / $1814
8. Big Miracle - $3.9 ($13.2) - 2 wks (U) -49.7%
. . . 2133 / $1828
9. The Descendants - $3.5 ($70.73) - 13 wks (FS) -23.1%
. . . 1581 / $2214
10. Underworld Awakening - $2.5 ($58.9) - 4 wks (SG) -54.6%
. . . 1657 / $1509
11. Red Tails - $2.4 ($45.06) - 4 wks (Fox) -49.3%
. . . 1580 / $1519

Spectacular opening weekend for the top four.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Hesher - DVD Review


Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Natalie Portman, Devin Brochu, Rainn Wilson and Piper Laurie.  Directed by Spencer Susser.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, he of 3rd Rock from the Sun and 10 Things I Hate About You and Brick and 500 Days of Summer and Inception, is a really good actor, and here comes another character he can sink his teeth into, a headbanging, vandalous squatter, a dangerous grenade who throws himself into other people's lives.  He's clearly having fun. 

Add to that the touching work of Devin Brochu as TJ, the real protagonist, a quiet kid whose mom just died.  He gets bullied at school, his father's too depressed to get off the couch, and they live at his grandmother's, who's suffering from the dementia.  When TJ runs into Hesher, Hesher follows him home and moves in, like a much more assertive Nick Nolte in Down & Out in Beverly Hills.

Then comes the leap of faith the movie asks that I could never quite make.  The dad's so depressed and beat up by life that he doesn't insist Hesher get out of his house, he doesn't call the cops, and he lets TJ go whereever with this clearly bad influence.  The movie made me sympathetic and angry at the struggles that TJ's going through, but it made me more angry at the total lack of concern on the part of the dad.

The movie's very profane and goes back and forth between dark comedy and depressing drama, and while it has its elements, it's not worth wallowing through the ones that don't.  But remember the name Devin Brochu.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

HBO's Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory

I'm not sure how the rules are for the Oscars. Maybe this was shown on a big-screen somewhere before it debuted on HBO. Nevertheless it is nominated for Best Documentary this year at the Academy Awards.

I have not seen the first two, but I didn't feel the need. This one does a good job of encapsulating what happened then, what happened since, and where things are now.

The story of the West Memphis Three has been one of those where I shied away from learning more because I knew I'd feel outrage the more familiar with the case I got. To me being falsely accused is one of the most violating feelings, and to know that these three boys were falsely accused of murder by an inept police department, a sensational media, a biased judge, and a jury foreman with an agenda, well... the blood boils.

For those who don't know the story, in 1993, three 8-year-old boys were found brutally murdered, and three teenagers were quickly accused of the crime. Somehow the police thought the murders might have been some sort of satanic ritual.

The injustices these three men suffered were aggravating, infuriating, and I can't believe that Judge David Burnett was able to stay a judge all these years and then get elected to Arkansas state senate. But their story is a cautionary tale. They may have ultimately been freed, but it never feels like justice was served.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Road to Nowhere - DVD Review


Starring Shannyn Sossamon, Dominique Swain, Tygh Runyan, Cliff de Young, Waylon Payne, Michael Bigham and John Diehl.  Directed by Monte Hellman.

This is a very sleepy movie-within-a-movie experiment, to the point where it often feels like a behind-the-scenes extra on the DVD about making the actual movie.

A young director is setting out to make a movie about a real-life double-suicide that also involved robbery. He casts an unknown actress (Shannyn Sossamon) in the lead, because she looks so much like the subject, Velma Durand. The movie is a series of scenes, without being clear if it's the movie, or the movie-within-the-movie, or even a movie within a movie within a movie.

For its byzantine aspirations, we get some long shots, whether it's gazing over a lake, or the actress doing her nails. So are the director (Hellman) and writer (Steven Gaydos) in sync? Well, sure. I actually found the cast to be its weakest element. I get its low budget, but I've never found Sossamon compelling, and some of the others just feel like college buddies giving this acting thing a try. But when vets like Cliff de Young or John Diehl show up, well, at least they know what they're doing.

It's not as cubist as The Limey or as seductive as Mulholland Dr., but it's a compliment to this movie that those others come to mind when I'm watching it. Would've loved to have seen the same story told with better actors and a bigger budget. As is, it's my first exposure to Hellman's work, and I'd like to see what he and Gaydos can do next.

(UPDATE: I asked Gaydos over Twitter about one of the ending plot elements that bothered me and he answered. I'm tempted to up it to three stars over just that fact.)

Random Movie Stuff - 2/8/12

- Warner Bros. has hired a new team to rewrite its big-screen live-action Jetsons movie.

- Danny Trejo will return for a Machete sequel, tentatively titled Machete Kills.  Most of the surviving cast members are expected to return.
- Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg are in talks to star in 2 Guns, about a DEA agent and an undercover naval officer who unwittingly investigate each other while each steals mob money.

- John Hawkes and Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) will star in Switch, a semi-sequel to Jackie Brown.  They'd be playing younger versions of Louis and Ordell, played by Robert DeNiro and Samuel L. Jackson in the 1997 Quentin Tarantino movie.

- James Mangold (3:10 to Yuma) will direct The Wolverine, now scheduled to open July 26, 2013.  Hugh Jackman will reprise his role.  He's currently filming as Valjean in Tom Hooper's Les Miserables.

- I Hate You Dad has had its title changed to That's My Boy.  It stars Adam Sandler as a man who fathered a baby while in his teens, and he raises him until the boy turns 18 and leaves.  They then don't see each other until his son's wedding day, and the dad faces the repercussions of his poor parenting skills.  Andy Samburg, James Caan, Susan Sarandon, Leighton Meester, Will Forte, Colin Quinn and Vanilla Ice co-star.  It opens June 15.

- Alex Cross will open October 26. It's based on a series of best-sellers from James Patterson.  Morgan Freeman played the detective in two previous movies (Kiss the Girls, Along Came A Spider).  This time, it stars Tyler Perry as Cross, as he hunts for a serial killer (Matthew Fox). Rob Cohen (XXX) will direct.

- Paul Brittain has left NBC's Saturday Night Live after joining the cast in September 2010.  No official reason was given beyond he had the "opportunity to pursue other projects" and they parted ways "amicably."  So if we don't hear from him soon, I say he was probably fired. Now they need to get someone else to play Ron Paul for their GOP debate skits.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Weekend Box Office - 2/5/12

For the weekend of Feb 3-5.

1. Chronicle - $22 million - 1 wk (Fox)
. . . 2907 screens / $7568 per screen
2. The Woman in Black - $21 - 1 wk (CBS)
. . . 2855 / $7356
3. The Grey - $9.5 ($34.76) - 2 wks (ORF) -51.7%
. . . 3208 / $2961
4. Big Miracle - $8.5 - 1 wk (Uni)
. . . 2129 / $3992
5. Underworld Awakening - $5.6 ($54.35) - 3 wks (SG) -54.7%
. . . 2636 / $2124
6. One for the Money - $5.25 ($19.67) - 2 wks (LG) -54.4%
. . . 2737 / $1918
7. Red Tails - $5 ($41.32) - 3 wks (Fox) -51.8%
. . . 2347 / $2130
8. The Descendants - $4.6 ($65.52) - 12 wks (FS) -28.2%
. . . 2038 / $2257
9. Man on a Ledge - $4.5 ($14.7) - 2 wks (Sum) -43.8%
. . . 2998 / $1501
10. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close - $3.93 ($26.79) - 7 wks (WB) -43.8%
. . . 2505 / $1567
11. Contraband - $3.49 ($62.1) - 4 wks (Uni) -47.9%
. . . 2047 / $1705
12. The Artist - $2.57 ($20.58) - 11 wks (Wein) -22.6%
. . . 1005 / $2552

Many studios put their prestige pics in limited release in December, their entire strategy hinging on award buzz. For the most part, that's not happening. The Iron Lady and Albert Nobbs can boast Best Actress nods, but they're losing screens. The Artist is hanging in there, but it's not getting the word-of-mouth boost that benefitted the releases of The King's Speech and Slumdog Millionaire in years past.

Meanwhile the modestly budgeted genre pics are making their money back. Good reviews help. All three new wide releases rank at least 62% on the RottenTomato meter. Chronicle's telekinetic twist on the found-footage genre means we're going to get a lot more. Daniel Radcliffe's first headlining role post-Harry Potter shows the kid has a future. Big Miracle will need Dolphin Tale-level word-of-mouth to make its money back, but with four wide releases next week, I wouldn't hold my breath.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Ides of March - DVD Review


Starring Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, Jeffrey Wright, Max Minghella, Jennifer Ehle and Gregory Itzin.  Directed by George Clooney.

I'm a political junkie, so it's fun for me to watch politically-based stories. When they're realistic or accurate, they can be exciting (Primary Colors), and when they're not, they still provide their own howling amusement (The Contender).

Based on a play, this movie focusses on the campaign managers, and the down-and-dirty politics they have to play for their guy to win in the primary. It's about Democrats but it could really go to either party.

Ryan Gosling plays Stephen Meyers, a highly-skilled campaign operative who's finally found an employer he can believe in - Gov. Mike Morris (George Clooney). But before he can win the presidency, Morris must win the crucial primary of Ohio. The movie is more about Meyers convening with campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) than it is the actual candidate. Meanwhile the campaign manager (Paul Giamatti) for their opponent would like to figure out a way to get Stephen to switch sides.

I tend to like Gosling in everything he does, but when you have two heavywrights like Hoffman and Giamatti, I wanted to see more of them, wanted to see them face off.

Clooney's directing job is solid, but once the credits roll, it lingers more as a good movie than a great one.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Winnie-the-Pooh - DVD Review


Starring the voices of Jim Cummings, John Cleese, Craig Ferguson, Bud Luckey, Tom Kenny, Jack Boulter, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Travis Oates.
Directed by Stephen J. Anderson & Don Hall.

It has all the charm of all the other Winnie-the-Pooh movies and shorts. It's barely a movie itself; the closing credits started at the 54-minute mark. John Cleese is a fine substitute for Sebastian Cabot's gentle Narrator. Most of the voices sound the same, though I do like Craig Ferguson putting a little more mania in the pompous Owl. The plots involve finding a new tail for Eeyore and then the gang banding together when they think Christopher Robin has been kidnapped by a Backson. (They misread a note that says he'll be "back soon.")

It is what it is. Good for your 3-to-6-year-olds.  Worth a rental for them; glad I didn't pay theater prices to see it.

CBS's Rob - TV Review

I saw two episodes now, and the verdict is no. The writing's limp, and maybe Cheech Marin and Lupe Ontiveros could have made it work with different writers, but Rob Schneider's just not that funny. I was a fan of his on SNL. ("Steeeve. Steve-O! Makin' copieeeees.") This? No.