Saturday, April 28, 2012

Friday's Box Office

1. Think Like A Man - $5.5 million ($48.37) - 8 days
2. The Lucky One - $3.91 ($32.51) - 8 days
3. The Five-Year Engagement - $3.5 - 1 day
4. The Hunger Games - $2.97 ($364.18) - 36 days
5. The Pirates! Band of Misfits - $2.75 - 1 day
6. Safe - $2.55 - 1 day
7. The Raven - $2.52 - 1 day
8. Chimpanzee - $1.6 ($15.3) - 8 days
9. The Cabin in the Woods - $1.42 ($31.58) - 15 days
10. The Three Stooges - $1.3 ($33.04) - 15 days

No good news for the new kids in the field.  Theater owners are just waiting around for The Avengers to get here.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Martha Marcy May Marlene - DVD Review

Starring Elizabeth Olsen, Sarah Paulson, John Hawkes, Brady Corbet and Hugh Dancy.  Directed by Sean Durkin.


There's a few things going on here. First, there's the great performances from the leads. Elizabeth Olsen, younger sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley, is a very natural performer, and Sarah Paulson and John Hawkes (Deadwood alum unite!) are very good in their roles too. Olsen plays Martha, a young woman who has fled from a backwoods cult. She finds her older sister Lucy but she won't tell her what she's been through.

The movie then jumps back and forth between the past and present, where we see Martha get drawn tighter into the cult, and then the present where Lucy has to deal with the weirdness of her sister. Martha seems to have forgotten how to function in normal society.

The movie draws you in with the quiet menace, particularly from cult-leader Patrick (Hawkes), who at best may be like one of the brothers from Big Love but is more likely the next Charles Manson. And so even with back "in the real world" Martha's always looking over her shoulder, wondering if they're going to come back to kidnap her.

At the same time, it's so quiet that it does have its slow parts. In fact when the movie ended, the closing credits jarred me; I had to rewind and make sure that yes, that was the note it wanted to end on. And it wasn't until the next day that the implication of the ending hit me.  So it's good as far as a first film from a new voice, but don't let yourself get overhyped.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Summer 2012 Box-Office Predictions

Each summer has question marks, because each summer never quite goes the way we think it will. The studios take some risks, but more reliably double-down on sequels and reboots, and based on results, who can blame them?

Last summer I thought Kung Fu Panda 2 and Cars 2 would be bigger than they were. I also thought Cowboys & Aliens, The Zookeeper, The Change-Up, Priest and Larry Crowne would do better than they did. I was also surprised at how well The Hangover II, The Help, Bridesmaids and The Smurfs did.

So this is how I see this summer going:

Box-Office Predictions:

1. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (7/20) - $350 million - It may not have the instant hook of Heath Ledger's Joker, but with Christopher Nolan's Inception, audiences have demonstrated In Nolan We Trust.

2. THE AVENGERS (5/4) - $340 million - Should have an opening about as big as Hunger Games, even if it has a steeper drop-off. Early word's been pretty favorable so far.

3. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (7/4) - $250 million - Not as much buzz now, but I anticipate once we get into June, excitement will build for this fresh take on Spidey.

4. ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DIVIDE (7/13) - $220 million - I figure one of the animated titles will pass $200 million but I'm having a hard time guessing which one, so I'll go with the one that comes last. The preview showed more promise than the past couple sequels.

5. MEN IN BLACK III (5/25) - $210 million - I don't really think there's much clamor for this, but it's just nice to see Will Smith working again after that Seven Pounds fiasco.

6. BRAVE (6/22) - $199 million - It's Pixar. It should be awesome. Despite Cars 2.

7. MADAGASCAR 3 (6/8) - $180 million - Kids everywhere will move it move it.

8. BATTLESHIP (5/18) - $175 million - This stepchild to the Transformers looks terribly derivative, but hey, it's summer and it's in good position for a huge opening, deserved or not.

9. SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN (6/1) - $160 million - That trailer made the movie look miles better than anyone could have guessed. I'm genuinely looking forward to this.

10. PROMETHEUS (6/8) - $145 million - I can't tell if I'm lowballing or overestimating this unofficial prequel to Alien. I just know I'm excited to see it.

11. NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH (7/27) - $138 million - Ben Stiller opened Zoolander shortly after 9/11, and now he has this movie opening on the heels of the Trayvon Martin case. But Ben and Jonah Hill and Vince Vaughn should be a good comedic combination.

12. ROCK OF AGES (6/15) - $130 million - Should follow in the tradition of Hairspray and Mamma Mia! as far as musicals opening in the summer.

13. THE CAMPAIGN (8/10) - $125 million - Will Ferrell and Zack Galifianakis in a political comedy. Sounds good to me.

14. THAT'S MY BOY (6/15) - $117 million - Looks terrible, but Adam Sandler's shtick in the summer is bulletproof.

15. DARK SHADOWS (5/11) - $112 million - I don't know how much more appetite there is out there for Depp/Burton weirdness.

16. WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE EXPECTING (5/18) - $110 million - My list doesn't look like there are enough chick flicks on here. So here. Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Chris Rock, etc. should be able to at least do Think Like A Man business, shouldn't they?

17. TOTAL RECALL (8/3) - $106 million - Looks like The Fifth Element doing an Arnold movie impression, but the effects looks good, so if the positive reviews are there, this could be a sleeper hit.

18. G.I. JOE 2 (6/29) - $100 million - I never understood why the first one was such a hit, and now the sequel kills off most of the characters so Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis can be brought in to replace Channing Tatum and Dennis Quaid. Okay.

19. THE BOURNE LEGACY (8/3) - $90 million - Yeah, it's a brand, but I don't know if Jeremy Renner is a big enough name to get people to see this without Matt Damon.

20.  THE EXPENDABLES 2 (8/17) - $85 million - Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture and Terry Crews are back; Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis return as well, with bigger roles; and then you throw in Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme, well, that's just too cool a collection to not make the Top 20.

Other possible hits:

Ted - It does open in the Horrible Bosses slot, but how many hit comedies have Mark Wahlberg top-billed?

The Dictator - I've heard positive things, but will audiences be willing to give that guy from Bruno another chance?

ParaNorman - Loved Coraline, and this looks right up that alley.

Hope Springs - Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell are the stars, but it's about marriage counseling.

Seeking A Friend At the End of the World - Steve Carell's fairly bankable these days, but a romantic comedy about the end of the world? Ehh...

Lawless - This comes at the tail end of summer, but the trailer looked good.

Predicted Bombs:

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - Just not seeing it catch on.

Magic Mike - Channing Tatum may be hot right now, but I expect this movie to cool that off.

Savages - Oliver Stone's high-octane shoot-em-up has some colorful supporting actors (John Travolta, Benecio Del Toro, Salma Hayek) but I don't have faith in the leads (Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson) getting people interested.

People Like Us - Chris Pine's squandering his Star Trek karma.

Other Titles That'll Have An Audience:

Tyler Perry's The Marriage Counselor, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, Step Up Revolution, To Rome with Love, Premium Rush, Moonrise Kingdom, Piranha 3DD, The Chernobyl Diaries, The Odd Life of Timothy Green, The Apparition, Hit & Run, Sparkle

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Random Movie Stuff - 4/25/12

- Some updates regarding Disney & Pixar. James Bobin will be back to direct a sequel to The Muppets. Pixar has three new titles on its slate. The Good Dinosaur is set to be released May 30, 2014, and it features a modern story set in a world where the cataclysmic asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs never actually hit the Earth. Inside the Mind is set for June 19, 2015, and it takes place inside the human mind. Dia De Los Muertos doesn't have a release date but it will center on the Mexican holiday. Pixar's Brave opens in June.

- Jessica Chastain (The Help, The Debt) is in talks to join Iron Man 3. She'd play a sexy scientist whose brain rivals Tony Stark's. She'd be joining Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce.

- Ben Kingsley will also star in the indie film Cut Bank. It's about two men trying to escape a town frozen in time. Armie Hammer (Mirror Mirror), John Malkovich, Michael Sheen and Teresa Palmer co-star.

- Gina Carano (Haywire) is in talks to join Fast & Furious 6, starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Dwayne Johnson. She'd play a member of Johnson's team, seeking to take the car thieves down.

- Owen Wilson will star in the thriller The Coup, about a family visiting southeast Asia who get caught in the middle of a violent military coup of the government.

- Mel Gibson will be joining the cast of Machete Kills. The sequel will star Danny Trejo and be directed by Robert Rodriguez.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Three Stooges - Movie Review

Starring Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, Chris Diamantopoulos, Jane Lynch, Sofia Vergara, Larry David, Jennifer Hudson, Craig Bierko, Stephen Collins, Kirby Heyborne, Kate Upton and Isaiah Mustafa. Directed by Peter & Bobby Farrelly.


This movie is about as good as one could make it, if it's to be true to the spirit of the Stooges and yet stretch the shenanigans out to a full-length feature.

The original plan had been to have Benecio Del Toro, Sean Penn, and a weight-gaining Jim Carrey as Moe, Larry and Curly. While I would have loved to have seen that movie, I also liked the fact that they just found three actors really good as their Stooge impressions, and oddly enough, they bring just a whiff of depth to the guys. Sean Hayes (Will & Grace) nails the vocals of Larry, Will Sasso (MadTV) embodies the oblivious glee of Curly, and Chris Diamantopoulos (24) gets into the skin of Moe. The movie, in its way, explains the origins of Moe's anger and why he feels compelled to be the leader.

It plays as three episodes, though they're all linked so it does wind up being a whole movie. The boys must go raise $830,000 to save their orphanage, and they get caught up in a murder plot. It's goofy, silly, and it's filled with the childish slapstick of old. The Farrellys do justice to the Stooges. Now let's see them do Laurel & Hardy.

Some side notes:

Conservative watch: the villain (Sofia Vergara) who wants her husband killed pointedly reads a Weekly Standard in bed.

Liberal watch: in its own way, it makes an argument against euthenasia.

What-did-we-do? watch: demonizes foster care.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods - Movie Review

Starring Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Fran Kranz, Anna Hutchison, Jesse Williams, Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, Brian White and Amy Acker.
Directed by Drew Goddard.


Anyone who's seen a horror movie knows the rules in a horror movie. And like Scream in 1996, this movie turns those rules on its head. This movie wasn't made. It has simply manifested itself in the universe. It's evolution.

Joss Whedon wrote and produced this little gem about five young people heading off to the proverbial cabin in the woods, the deadliest place for young people in movies. The movie lets you know right away there's another level going on. We meet two white-collar guys (Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford) who are manipulating events in a control room. There's an entire industry built on taking kids and running them through horror-movie tropes. But why?

Oh the answers come, and it's not what I expected. It's a terrific yanking of the rug.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Weekend Box Office - 4/22/12

1. Think Like A Man - $33 million - 1 wk (SG)
. . . 2015 screens / $16,377 per screen
2. The Lucky One - $22.81 - 1 wk (WB)
. . . 3155 / $7228
3. The Hunger Games - $14.5 ($356.9) - 5 wks (LG) -31.3%
. . . 3752 / $3865
4. Chimpanzee - $10.21 - 1 wk (BV)
. . . 1563 / $6529
5. The Three Stooges - $9.2 ($29.36) - 2 wks (Fox) -45.9%
. . . 3482 / $2642
6. The Cabin in the Woods - $7.75 ($26.98) - 2 wks (LG) -47.4%
. . . 2811 / $2757
7. American Reunion - $5.2 ($48.3) - 3 wks (U) -50.4%
. . . 3033 / $1714
8. Titanic 3D - $5 ($52.83) - 3 wks (Par) -58.1%
. . . 2515 / $1988
9. 21 Jump Street - $4.6 ($127.07) - 6 wks (Sony) -29.9%
. . . 2427 / $1895
10. Mirror Mirror - $4.11 ($55.21) - 4 wks (Rel) -39.9%
. . . 2938 / $1400

The Hunger Games has finally been toppled, and while the $400 million may be tricky to get to domestically, no matter what happens in the summer, this movie is the story of 2012.

Think Like A Man, the ensemble "urban" comedy, I think successfully broadened its appeal to its battle-of-the-sexes premise.  The Lucky One did about as well as one could expect.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Random Movie Stuff - 4/21/12

- Guy Pearce (Memento, Lockout) is set to join the cast of Iron Man 3.  He'd play geneticist Aldrich Killian, who sells nanotechnology to terrorists to help them spread a virus.  Ben Kingsley's also on board, and returning are Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle.  It's scheduled to open May 3, 2013.  Pearce can be seen in this summer's Prometheus.

- Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) is in talks to direct Wish List, about a girl who makes ten wishes on a coin and throws it into a magical fountain.  Unbeknownst to her, the coin got tstuck and didn't make it to the bottom, but twenty years later it gets unstuck and hits the bottom, causing all ten wishes to suddenly come true and disrupt her life. It stars Reese Witherspoon.

- Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is finally moving forward, and the first two confirmed returnees are Mickey Rourke and Rosario Dawson.

- Jonathan Frid, who played vampire barnabas Collins on the original Dark Shadows sopa opera, has died at age 87.  He did film a cameo in Tim Burton's Dark Shadows, which opens next month.

Friday, April 20, 2012

NBC's The Office - TV Review

"Angry Andy" - Catherine Tate's Nelly has moved in, but we finally got the episode where Andy (Ed Helms) has returned and had to confront Nelly taking over his job and office. It had all the signature awkwardness of the series but it didn't get there in believable ways.

I get Angela taking Nelly's side, but all season long, Andy has been the underdog boss that the rest of the office rallies around. The group didn't rally around Andy this time. Even Robert California (James Spader) was baffled by Nelly and wound up taking her side. This did not feel right, especially since most of the office hates Nelly.

Now last week, Jim and Dwight got the dirt on Nelly, and so Jim decided to be nice about it, but this week, no, Andy was back, and the office should have stood up for him.

I did like Erin, seeing her man emasculated, deciding to stand up for him and show some anger. Andy - anger management graduate he - joined in, but in typical Erin/Andy fashion, they took it too far and Andy wound up punching the same wall he did a couple years ago.

And so Andy got fired.

Now we know that Robert California (Spader) will be gone by season's end, and we know that Dwight (Rainn Wilson), Kelly (Mindy Kaling) and Toby (Paul Lieberstein) are probably gone due to other projects the actors have. I also read somewhere that the contracts are up for John Krasinski (Jim), Jenna Fischer (Pam) and BJ Novak (Ryan) and they haven't signed new ones. If this was the last season for The Office, they're set up for it. Trouble is, NBC doesn't have anything on the schedule to replace it. Community and Parks & Recreation may be critical hits, but they can never muster the ratings.

So I would think they'll get Andy back as a Dundler-Mifflin employee by the season finale. In fact, my guess is Jo (Kathy Bates) will be back somehow to realign the universe. Nelly currently is one of those characters who's supposed to be an antagonist, but if she's still boss next season, it makes the already weakened Office that less appealing to keep on the DVR.

Starz's Magic City - TV Review

Showtime has done a good job establishing itself as the other HBO with hit series like Dexter, and Starz is trying to do the same.  Spartacus and Boss are semi-successful, and now we have Magic City, which plays like a hybrid of Mad Men and The Sopranos, but it's nowhere near as interesting as that description would suggest.

I watched the first episode, and while Danny Huston's mobster character was a highlight, the whole thing was too slow and assured in its "quality TV" sheen that it never really became interesting.  Also, when a show starts with a really cheap green-screen effect, I have a hard time getting invested.

I deleted the second episode off my DVR.  I'll watch season 2 of Boss, but that's the only Starz series I can say that about.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Random Movie Stuff - 4/18/12

- Michael Douglas and Robert DeNiro will play two of four 70-year-old buddies enjoying a bachelor party in Last Vegas.  Christopher Walken may be the third friend, and the fourth one's supposed to be an African-American Air Force vet (*cough!* Morgan Freeman? *cough*!)

- Darren Aronfosky (Black Swan) will direct The General, about George Washington, although they say it's more of an Unforgiven-type story than a straight biopic.  Aronofsky's currently in pre-production for his Biblical epic Noah, starring Russell Crowe.

- Dick Clark, the world's oldest teenager, is dead at age 82.  He's best known lately for hosting his New years Eve special every year, but also hosted American Bandstand and The $100,000 Pyramid.

And here's the trailer for People Like Us, opening June 29.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Iron Lady - DVD Review

Starring Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Nicholas Farrell, Richard E. Grant, Anthony Head, Iain Glen, Harry Lloyd and Alexandra Roach.
Directed by Phyllidia Law.


This movie, despite all its problems, is still worth seeing for the showcase of Meryl Streep. Streep is fantastic here as Margaret Thatcher, embodying the tough, complex, bold leader who inspired so many punk rock songs. Wait, I mean...

The movie itself falls into one of the unfortunate traps of biopics. How shall we frame this? They opt to go for the flashbacks-within-flashbacks route, hopskotching from Thatcher's later years where she may be suffering from dementia (she is still alive, by the way). We go back to her idealized youth, where she was inspired by the stiff-upper-lipped leaders that led Britain to victory in World War II. We are able to watch her rise and fall from politics.

But almost half of the running time is dedicated to her old-age Alzheimerish speculation, as she's often visited by her late husband Denis (Jim Broadbent). Let's cover her in the 1960's. And here she is old. And here's how the 1970's went for her, montage-style, and here she is being old some more.

And despite all that, I assume Streep will be great every time in roles like these, and she is. It may not be terribly enlightening as a history lesson, but it's enveloping as an actress displaying her craft.

Sleeping Beauty (2011) - DVD Review

Starring Emily Browning and Rachael Blake.
Directed by Julia Leigh.

A perfect example of an artist thinking she's saying something by not saying anything at all. Emily Browning is even more objectified here than she was in Sucker Punch, as a cypher named Lucy who takes a job as a sleeping beauty, meaning she allows herself to be drugged and unconscious while creepy old men do whatever they want with her.

At one point we know Lucy needs the money. She's on the verge of getting kicked out of her apartment, but then she sets fire to a $100 bill she's earned to watch it burn. So what motivates her? We never know.  It doesn't work on any level, and if I redid my Worst Ten of 2011 list, it'd make the cut.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Saturday Night Live - Josh Brolin

Best skits of the night:

Cold Open - Mitt Romney (Jason Sudeikis) and Rick Santorum (Andy Samberg) head to a bar to commiserate/celebrate the campaign.  Rick orders a chocolate milk and Mitt orders a napkin.  They start singing "Time of Your Life"and one by one, past candidates come in to join the celebration.  Rick Perry (Bill Hader), Michelle Bachmann (Kristen Wiig), and Herman Cain (Kenan Thompson) each get their own verse, but they all hide when Newt Gingrich (Bobby Moynihan) walks in and steals nuts from the bowls.  (Noticeably absent was Ron Paul, as Paul Brittain quit/was fired in January.)

Piers Morgan - CNN's Morgan (Taran Killam) wants to talk about the Trayvon Martin case but can't get guests anywhere close to the situation, so he winds up asking people like Kim Kardashian (Nesrim Pedrad) and Kanye West (Jay Pharaoh) their opinions.


Weekend Update - The jokes weren't good this week, and the singing group Garth & Kat (Fred Armisen and Wiig) ceased to be funny about four appearances ago.


Brolin wasn't given much to do, odd considering it's his second time hosting.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hunger Games #1 for 4th week

1. The Hunger Games - $21.5 million ($337.07) - 4 wks (LG) -35.1%
. . . 3916 screens / $5490 per screen
2. The Three Stooges - $17.1 - 1 wk (Fox)
. . . 3477 / $4918
3. The Cabin in the Woods - $14.85 - 1 wk (LG)
. . . 2811 / $5283
4. Titanic 3D - $11.63 ($44.42) - 2 wks (Par) -32.7%
. . . 2697 / $4310
5. American Reunion - $10.7 ($39.9) - 2 wks (U) -50.3%
. . . 3203 / $3341
6. Mirror Mirror - $7 ($49.47) - 3 wks (Rel) -36.9%
. . . 3206 / $2183
7. Wrath of the Titans - $6.91 ($71.25) - 3 wks (WB) -53.1%
. . . 3102 / $2226
8. 21 Jump Street - $6.8 ($120.57) - 5 wks (Sony) -32%
. . . 2735 / $2486
9. Lockout - $6.25 - 1 wk (FD)
. . . 2308 / $2708
10. The Lorax - $3.02 ($204.48) - 7 wks (U) -40%
. . . 2112 / $1430

With more titles in the market, the wealth is getting spread a little more, but that didn't stop The Hunger Games from staying #1 for a fourth straight week. It's also passed $500 million worldwide.  The Three Stooges did about as well as one could expect since the original stars (Jim Carrey, Sean Penn, Benecio Del Toro) dropped out. The long-delayed Cabin in the Woods didn't take advantage of having Thor's Chris Hemsworth in its cast.

Opening next week are the bland-looking romance The Lucky One, starring Zac Efron and Atlas Shrugged's Taylor Schilling, and Think Like A Man, the ensemble comedy with Michael Ealy, Kevin Hart, Jerry Ferrera, Regina Hall, etc. It wouldn't surprise me if Hunger Games managed to stay #1 for a fifth week. DisneyNature's latest title, Chimpanzee, also opens this Friday.

The Muppets - DVD Review

Starring Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper, Rashida Jones and Jack Black.  Directed by James Bobin.


This movie embraces the old and makes it... not new again, but at least a return to form. It uses the tried-and-true "let's get the band back together" story with our old friends The Muppets.

Gary (Jason Segel) and Walter (a puppet) are brothers who love the Muppets, but the Muppets have since broken up and faded into obscurity. When they learn of a plan of an evil Texas oilman named Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to tear down the old Muppet theater, they spring into action to track down Kermit and the rest to save the theater.

There's humor and fun in seeing where they imagine each has wound up (loved Animal's subplot), and there are plenty of good cameos.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Random Movie Stuff - 4/10/12

- Gary Ross will not be back to direct the Hunger Games sequel Catching Fire. The "tight production schedule" was touted as the reason.

- Colin Farrell will reunite with his Hart's War co-star Terrence Howard in Dead Man Down. Farrell will play right-hand man to Howard's crime boss, who gets seduced and blackmailed by a crime victim (Noomi Rapace), and then things spin out of control.

- Steve Carell is looking into starring in Alexander & the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day, though not as Alexander.

- And in TV news, Fox has officially renewed Glee, New Girl, and Raising Hope for next season.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Man on a Ledge - Movie Review

Saw this at the $2 theater.

Starring Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Jamie Bell, Ed Harris, Anthony Mackie, Edward Burns, Genesis Rodriguez, Titus Welliver, Kyra Sedgwick and William Sadler.
Directed by Asger Leth.


This movie thinks itself clever, but it reminded of that old "If I Was An Evil Overlord" list, where one of the items was sojmething to the effect of "Hire a 5-year-old boy as my advisor. If he sees any flaws in any of my plans, correct them at once."

This movie, in its setup, violates that rule. We see the Man (Sam Worthington) got into a hotel and eat a fine meal. He then wipes anything he touched of fingerprints. Then he goes to the window, opens it, and climbs out on to the ledge. And my wife and I turned to each other and said, "What about his prints on the window frame?"

But later on, the "lab" couldn't find a single print in the room. Apparently they just assumed there wouldn't be in prints on the window he just crawled out of.

This is one of those grimy early-year thrillers that feels like it was made to be subtitled and played throughout Europe. The Man, named Nick, was once wrongly jailed for stealing a diamond from an evil businessman (Ed Harris, looking skeletal). Now he's on the ledge of a 21-story building, and he's willing to jump, but it's really a big distraction while his brother and girlfriend break into Evil Businessman's offices and crack his safe where the dimaond's been hidden the whole time.

The preview gave most of the movie away, so I had to wait patiently for it to get to the point where I didn't know what was next. The "twists" it has are all telegraphed, sometimes just by the very casting of a person ("Oh, that guy. He's always a bad guy"), other times it requires gigantic leaps of logic, but we know it's going to happen anyway because that's just the type of movie this is. And the final twists makes everything fall apart, although the movie doesn't think so.

It's interesting enough while it's happening, but the screenplay's half-baked, and Worthington's American accent seems to get worse in every movie he sports it. There's just way too many contrivances and coincidences to be able to recommend it.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Weekend Box Office - Hunger Games #1 - 4/8/12

1. The Hunger Games - $33.5 million ($302.84) - 3 wks (LG) -42.8%
. . . 4137 screens / $8098 per screen
2. American Reunion - $21.5 - 1 wk (U)
. . . 3192 / $6736
3. Titanic 3D - $17.35 ($25.71) - 1 wk (Par)
. . . 2674 / $6488
4. Wrath of the Titans - $15.01 ($58.9) - 2 wks (WB) -55.1%
. . . 3545 / $4234
5. Mirror Mirror - $11 ($36.47) - 2 wks (Rel) -39.3%
. . . 3618 / $3040
6. 21 Jump Street - $10.2 ($109.58) - 4 wks (Sony) -31.2%
. . . 3009 / $3390
7. The Lorax - $5 ($198.2) - 6 wks (U) -35.8%
. . . 3003 / $1665

The Hunger Games remains on top for a third week in a row, and if you add in foreign sales, it's passed $450 million.  I saw it again with my teenage daughter, and I still liked it the second time around.

American Reunion wound up being a sound investment by Universal, if not spectacular.

Speaking of foreign sales, John Carter's managed to gross its production budget ($250 million), but when you factor in the marketing budget and the theater owners' cut, it's still a huge money-loser.

Wrath of the Titans isn't doing near as well as the previous Clash, but foreign sales will probably make this one a break-even affair.

Straw Dogs - DVD Review

Starring James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, Alexander Skarsgard, James Woods, Dominic Purcell, Rhys Coiro, Billy Lush, Laz Alonzo, Walton Goggins, Drew Powell and Anson Mount.  Directed by Rod Lurie.


When Rod Lurie moved the setting of this remake from England to Mississippi, I was pretty sure what his intentions were. Our blue-state prtagonist is about to wander into red-state hell.

This remake is faithful to the beats of the original 1971 Sam Peckinpah classic, with fish-out-of-water David (James Marsden) accompanying his wife Amy (Kate Bosworth) back to her hometown for the summer. There she runs into ex-boyfriend Charlie (True Blood's Alexander Skarsgard) and his crew, and eager to please the locals, David hires Charlie's crew to fix up their barn.

From there we get a slow build of rising tension, with Charlie and co. passive-aggressively poking at David, testing him, and David holds to his pacifist ideals. Amy wants David to stand up to them; it's the Southern way. David just rubs the rednecks wrong. He drives a Jaguar, he doesn't like football, he goes to their church but then walks out on the pastor's sermon because he doesn't really believe in God.  Never mind these alleged Christians will shortly be engaging in rape and murder.

The rape scene isn't handled as ambiguously this time around. In the original, Amy seemed to like the rape on some level (at least before the second guy joined in). Here it's very clear that while Amy's been encouraging attention to get back at David, this was not what she wanted or bargained for.

The final half-hour is where everything must come to a head in a violent showdown, and here David lowers himself to their level, as that's the only level where he'll be able to stay alive. The third act is well done, full of suspense and tension.

By the way, even though it's supposed to take place in present day, other than a couple modern references (like cellphones), it more often felt like it was stuck in the 1970's.

Take Shelter - DVD Review

Starring Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Whigham, Kathy Baker, Ray McKinnon and Lisa Gay Hamilton.  Directed by Jeff Nichols.


Michael Shannon has always been an interesting actor to me. His blocky features tend to get him cast as weird characters (Bug, Revolutionary Road) but he's been able to carve out some memorable, complex performances in films like Shotgun Stories, and then this one.

Here he plays Curtis, a man who keeps having apocalyptic nightmares, and with each one, he starts to wonder if they're prophetic visions, if he and his family and his town are truly in danger.

This plays against the backdrop of the working poor, where he already struggles to make ends meet, but against the wishes of his wife (Jessica Chastain) he builds a storm shelter. As the movie progresses, we realize we're not watching a supernatural thriller, but rather a drama about a man who's losing his grip with reality as he descends into mental illness.

Shannon's tremendous here, one of those movies where an Oscar nomination would have been well-earned.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

30 Minutes or Less - DVD Review

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Danny McBride, Aziz Ansari, Nick Swardson, Michael Pena, Fred Ward, Dilshad Vadsaria and Bianca Kaljich.  Directed by Ruben Fleischer.


Danny McBride has made a living playing self-centered louts, to the point that I wonder how annoying he is in real life. Has he ever played a nice guy? Here he plays a colossially amoral idiot, heir to a million dollars if his Vietnam vet dad (Fred Ward) would just die already. He decides he can't wait, so he's going to hire a hitman (Michael Pena) for $100,000 to whack his dad. But he needs the money first. So what do he and his dimwit friend do to get the $100,000?

They kidnap a pizza-delivery guy (Jesse Eisenberg) and strap a bomb on him. He has ten hours to get the money or the bomb will go off. So what's the fastest way to do get a hundred grand? Rob a bank.

As you can guess, this movie is overflowing with geniuses. And dumb people doing dumb things is often funny. This movie is scattershot in achieving those.

The director's Ruben Fleischer, and he and Eisenberg previously had wild comic success with Zombieland. Here, the characters never grow from their one-dimensional start-off points. I like Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari (Parks & Recreation) generally, and yeah, there's some fun parts, but ultimately this 78-minute caper is very skippable.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Friends with Benefits - DVD Review

Starring Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Woody Harrelson, Patricia Clarkson, Richard Jenkins, Jenna Elfman, Bryan Greenburg, Nolan Gould, Andy Samberg and Emma Stone. Directed by Will Gluck.

Yet another movie that tries to teach us that sex can be business-like between friends without any of that yucky emotional stuff. I'm sure nothing will get complicated.

Timberlake and Kunis start off with a professional relationship and then they become friends, actual friends. Somewhere in there they decide to have sex but make a promise that if either one starts to feel emotional about it, they stop it, because they like each other too much.

And for a while it works. And then they hit a point where they stop as they decide to see other people. And that works for a while. Ah, but those pesky emotions...

Kunis has the right rhythms for a rom-com lead without feeling like we're ever going to venture into sappy territory. She's a genuinely funny performer. Timberlake's been good in supporting roles (The Social Network) but here, he's just fine.

I didn't like the main plot at all. I did like some of the detours it took, like with Timberlake's father (Richard Jenkins) having signs of Alzheimer's and how the family deals with that. But really, this is basically the same movie as No Strings Attached.

Fox's New Girl - TV Review

Just wanted to say this show has steadily improved and is now one of the funniest network sitcoms on the air.  Zooey Deschanel's her usual quirky self, but the three guys have really grown into their roles.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Hunger Games - Movie Review

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Lenny Kravitz, Donald Sutherland, Toby Jones, Alexander Ludwig, Amandla Stenberg, Willow Shields and Paula Malcomson. Directed by Gary Ross.


I went to see this with my wife. I'd read the books; she hadn't. The movie provided equal enjoyment.

Based on Suzanne Collins's best-selling dystopian YA novel, this movie takes us to a distant future where the rich and powerful live in a central Capital City in the country of Panem, while the 99% toil in districts under extreme poverty and working conditions. We learn that 74 years ago there was an uprising, and the might of the Capital slammed back hard. From that point on, each of the twelve districts, once a year, must send one boy and one girl between the ages of 12-18 to compete in a fight-to-the-death reality show called The Hunger Games. 24 go in, and 1 comes out, and that winner is able to bring extra food and rewards back to their district for the year. It's a way to keep those peasants under control.

In many ways, the movie hinges on the central performance of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen, the resourceful girl from District 12 who volunteers to "play" in the Games after her younger sister is drafted. She's in almost every scene, and she's great. She had a similar role in Winter's Bone that garnered her an Oscar nomination.

The movie does keep its PG-13 by not being gratuitous with the violence, but it doesn't skimp on it either. Blood splatters and kids get killed, all for the entertainment of the colorful Capital dwellers, following the natural digression of reality TV.

Fans of the book can rest assured it's about as faithful to it as any adaption can be (no Avox though), and for those who haven't read it, you won't be lost.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Hunger Games #1, Wrath of Titans #2

1.  The Hunger Games - $61.1 million ($251.03) - 2 wks (LG) -59.9%
 . . . 4137 screens / $14,769 per screen
2.  Wrath of the Titans - $34.2 - 1 wk (WB)
 . . . 3545 / $9647
3.  Mirror Mirror - $19 - 1 wk (Rel)
 . . . 3603 / $5273
4.  21 Jump Street - $15 ($93.1) - 3 wks (Sony) -26.7%
 . . . 3148 / $4765
5.  The Lorax - $8 ($189.6) - 5 wks (U) -39.3%
 . . . 3264 / $2451
6.  John Carter - $2 ($66.21) - 4 wks (BV) -60.5%
 . . . 2397 / $836
7.  Salmon Fishing in the Yemen - $1.27 ($3.17) - 4 wks (CBS) +81.3%
 . . . 483 / $2638
8.  Act of Valor - $1.01 ($67.75) - 6 wks (Rel) -50.7%
 . . . 1239 / $812
9.  A Thousand Words - $.92 ($16.52) - 4 wks (Par) -53.1%
 . . . 1007 / $909

The phenomenon continues.  The Hunger Games will have no problem getting to $300 million domestic.

Wrath of the Titans opened lower than the original Clash and is receiving even worse reviews than the first one. Last I checked it was a 25% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Mirror Mirror opened lower than Relativity would've hoped for.  Part of the problem may have been it's a kids-aimed comedy, and the grittier Snow White & the Huntsman has a stronger marketing campaign.