Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hatfields & McCoys - TV Review

The History Channel's miniseries about the most famous family feud in US history was already a ratings hit, scoring the best ratings for any basic-cable non-sporting event ever, with over 13 million viewers.

And it helps that it's a great show.  This addictive six-hour event features Kevin Costner as Hatfield patriarch William "Devil Anse" and Bill Paxton as McCoy patriarch Randolph.  The two started as friends, fighting side by side for the Confederacy during the Civil War, but Devil deserts and heads home.  Devil's timber business is able to then flourish, but Randolph stays until the war ends, and his family suffers for it.  Also in there, Devil's uncle murders Randolph's brother Asa, who fought on the Union side.

Bad blood boils and boils, until each side keeps killing the others, trying to "get even."  But it can never really get even.

Throw in there a real Romeo & Juliet subplot, when Devil's son Johnse falls in love with Randolph's daughter Roseanna.

Supporting standouts include on the Hatfield side, Matt Barr (Hellcats) as Johnse, Tom Berenger as Uncle Jim, and Powers Boothe as Devil's brother Wall, and on the McCoy side, Lindsey Pulsipher (True Blood) as Roseanna, Jena Malone as her scheming cousin Nancy, and Mare Winningham as longsuffering matriarch Sally.

I love that Costner nutured this project to fruition. He can star in Westerns for the rest of his life and be successful.  Wouldn't surprise me if he received Emmy attention.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Dangerous Method - DVD Review

Starring Keira Knightley, Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender, Vincent Cassel and Sarah Gabon.
Directed by David Cronenberg.


I'll start with the good. Viggo Mortensen is very good as Sigmund Freud, and Michael Fassbender is very good as Carl Jung. Their conversations crackle.

Unfortunately this movie about talks itself to death. It centers on Sabina Spielrein, a groundbreaking psychoanalyst in real life, but here we meet her as a shreiking woman entering an asylum. We watch Jung analyze her, watch him deal with her issues. He talks to her, he talks to Freud, Freud talks to her. Jung eventually crosses the professional line and takes her as a mistress.

Keira Knightley's performance is all over the map. Sometimes I admired its fearlessness, yet other time she made me want to laugh out loud.

I read about the true story afterwards, and it sounded like they'd been more faithful to real events, it would have been a better movie.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Men in Black III tops Avengers

1. Men in Black 3 - $55 million - 1 wk (Sony)
. . . 4248 screens / $12,947 per screen
2. The Avengers - $36.99 ($513.67) - 4 wks (BV) -33.5%
. . . 3918 / $9440
3. Battleship - $10.8 ($44.3) - 2 wks (U) -57.7%
. . . 3702 / $2917
4. The Dictator - $9.6 ($41.45) - 2 wks (Par) -44.9%
. . . 3014 / $3185
5. Chernobyl Diaries - $8 - 1 wk (WB)
. . . 2433 / $3288
6. Dark Shadows - $7.52 ($63) - 3 wks (WB) -40.3%
. . . 3404 / $2208
7. What to Expect When You're Expecting - $7.15 ($22.17) - 2 wks (LG) -32%
. . . 3021 / $2367
8. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - $6.35 ($16.55) - 4 wks (FS) +96.6%
. . . 1233 / $5150
9. The Hunger Games - $2.75 ($395.21) - 10 wks (LG) -6.8%
. . . 1421 / $1935
10. Think Like A Man - $1.4 ($88.27) - 6 wks (SG) -47.2%
. . . 786 / $1781

MiB3 did what it needed to do. It dethroned The Avengers and put itself in position to at least break even. Haven't seen any official numbers, but most speculations put its budget over $200 million. It would need then to outperform Men in Black II from ten years ago to be profitable.

In limited release Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, starring Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton, did very very well, pulling in $509,000 on only 4 screens. It could be the Midnight in Paris of 2012.

The stage is set for Snow White & the Huntsman to open huge next week.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Men in Black III - Movie Review

Starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Emma Thompson, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alice Eve, Bill Hader and David Rasche.
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld.


The first Men in Black came out 15 years ago, and the second came out 10 years ago.  I can't remember much about the second one except that it wasn't near as good as the first.  But even so, the MiB team slide comfortably right back into our hearts, with the cocky Agent J and stoic Agent K keeping the aliens on Earth in line.

The plot here revolves around an alien villain named Boris (Jemaine Clement), who has escaped his supermax prison and stolen a time-travel device.  He intends to go back to 1969 and kill Agent K before he was imprisoned.  Therefore it's up to Agent J to stop him.

The best surprise of the movie is how good a job Josh Brolin does as the young Agent K.  He's not just doing a Tommy Lee Jones impression; we believe this is the same person forty years younger, and he and Smith quickly fall into the same chemistry that Smith and Jones have.

Boris is a good villain too.  He's up there with Vincent D'Onofrio's human cockroach in the first one. I don't even remember who the villain was in the second one.

Public service announcement: there's nothing at the end of the credits.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Gary Oldman joins RoboCop remake

I'm now officially okay with RoboCop being remade.  Gary Oldman will play the scientist who helps transform the mostly-dead Murphy into RoboCop.  Joel Kinnaman (AMC's The Killing) has already been cast as Murphy.  Director Jose Padilha had said he plans to spend more time exploring the transformation from human cop to cyborg law enforcer.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dark Shadows - Movie Review

Starring Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Helena Bonham Carter, Chloe Moretz, Bella Heathcoate, Jackie Earle Haley, Jonny Lee Miller, Gully McGrath, Alice Cooper and Christopher Lee. Directed by Tim Burton.


What is it with Tim Burton and a twisted tree on a cliff? All of his movies have that image in there somewhere. A tree, with gnarled branches, near a cliff. Even Big Fish had it.

Anyway, this eighth collaboration between Burton and Johnny Depp is a decent entertainment, even if it's more about visuals and dialogue than story. Depp plays Barnabas Collins, a 200-year-old vampire who's awakened in 1972 and must recalibrate accordingly. He finds his descendants hanging on their vast manor of a house, but barely. Their fishing business is on the skids. Ah, but Barnabas knows where the money's buried and he's determined to turn this family around.

There to throw a wrench in his plans is Angelique (Eva Green), the witch who cursed him and locked him away and has spent the past couple centuries making his family fail.

This is one of Depp's better characters under Burton's watch. Barnabas is an 18th-century aristocrat with some adjusting to do, and Depp's umpteenth variant on the Eurotrash accent still entertains. Most of the supporting cast is good in their less-flashy roles. (I just like seeing Michelle Pfeiffer get work).

The main problem for me was the ending, by which I mean the last twenty minutes or so. Tis a giant mess. Each thread is tied up, but the pacing and general clumsy execution is as though pages 80-95 of the script just said "Hijinks ensue."

I loved the early 1970's soundtrack. It's worth a rental, but you can wait until then.

Monday, May 21, 2012

NBC's Community - TV Review

This show is genius.

What's brilliant about it is how it deepens the characters and is true to them even as it goes off on a alternate-timeline episode, or the one where they're in an 1980's video game the whole time.

I'm glad they were renewed, but I'm bummed that creator Dan Harmon was fired.  If Community becomes more bland, it's going to lose some loyal fans, and that'll be the tipping point to get it cancelled.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Random Movie Stuff - 5/20/12

- Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy will star in a cop-buddy movie for director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids).

-  Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote, The Ides of March) will star in John le Carre's A Most Wanted Man.

- Johnny Depp is playing Tonto in next summer's The Lone Ranger. After that he's going to be doing a remake of The Thin Man with director Rob Marshall (Chicago), and then he'll star in The Night Stalker, about a reporter tracking a serial killer but then learns it's actually a vampire. Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) will direct.

- Frank Grillo (The Grey) has joined the cast of Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty, about the hunt for Osama bin Laden. It stars Joel Edgerton (Warrior), Kyle Chandler (Super 8), Jessica Chastain (The Help), Jason Clarke (Public Enemies), Mark Strong (Green Lantern), Chris Pratt (Moneyball), Edgar Ramirez (Carlos) and Harold Perrineau Jr. (Lost).

- Atlas Shrugged Part II will open this October. It has a different director (John Putch) and cast, which now includes Samantha Mathis, Jason Beghe, Arye Gross and Paul McCrane.

Avengers bests Battleship for #1

1. The Avengers - $55.06 million ($457.08) - 3 wks (BV) -46.6%
. . . 4249 screens / $12,958 per screen
2. Battleship - $25.3 - 1 wk (U)
. . . 3690 / $6856
3. The Dictator - $17.42 ($24.46) - 1 wk (Par)
. . . 3008 / $5790
4. Dark Shadows - $12.77 ($50.91) - 2 wks (WB) -57%
. . . 3755 / $3401
5. What to Expect When You're Expecting - $10.5 - 1 wk (LG)
. . . 3021 / $3476
6. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - $3.25 ($8.26) - 3 wks (FS) +21.6%
. . . 178 / $18,258
7. The Hunger Games - $3 ($391.63) - 9 wks (LG) -33.4%
. . . 2064 / $1453
8. Think Like A Man - $2.7 ($85.89) - 5 wks (SG) -53.6%
. . . 1722 / $1568

So what led to the big-budget bomb that is Battleship?  Maybe its mistake was in not having any stars in it, aside from Liam Neeson in a clear supporting role.  John Carter made the same mistake with the same lead (Taylor Kitsch).  Maybe its mistake was taking a board game and turning it into an alien-invasion-at-sea movie, when the board game is about two equals squaring off.  Maybe its mistake was opening too soon after The Avengers.  Whatever the reason, critics hate it, and it's tanking stateside.  I can see why they opening earlier overseas.

The Dictator and What to Expect When You're Expecting are footnotes this summer.

The Avengers is on course to become only the fourth movie in history (the others being Avatar, Titanic and The Dark Knight) to pass $500 million domestic.

So Men in Black and The Chernobyl Diaries are poised to do well, simply because those 14-screen megaplexes won't be able to get those other non-Avengers movies off their screens fast enough.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Avengers - Movie Review

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johnasson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgard, Clark Gregg, Colbie Smulders, Powers Boothe and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Directed by Joss Whedon.


Sometimes I marvel (waka-waka) at what build-up this movie had. It's had Iron Man 1 & 2, Captain America, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk, and those movies have all, in a way, served as prequels for this movie. This is supposed to be the awesomest superhero gathering ever. There is no way this movie could live up to the hype and build-up.

Well, sure it could.

This movie takes the best qualities of all those flawed heroes and meshes them together nicely. We have egotistical billionaire Tony Stark, the WWII-era noble-hearted Steve Rogers, the cautious genius Bruce Banner, the demi-god Thor, the super-spy Natasha Romanoff, and the super-sniper Clint Barton, all under the watch of the one-eyed S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury. How will they ever mesh?

In fittingly prickly fashion, turns out.

I heap praise upon the script by Whedon & Zak Penn. Everyone gets their moments to shine, their one-liners for laughs, and no one feels short-changed. After all, if they can't do justice to bringing them together, why bring them together?

Heroes need a villain to fight, and Thor's brother Loki, also a demi-god, does just fine, taking the Tessaract (seen in Captain America), an ultimate power source, to fuel a portal that'll bring an alien army down on Earth so he can rule it.

Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow is actually a better part here than it was in Iron Man 2. Robert Downey Jr. is his usual quippy self, but I really liked Mark Ruffalo's take on Bruce Banner. And Thor has one of the best laugh lines in the movie. And Captain America has a couple too.

And there's more, and more...

I'm one of the last people in the country to see this movie, so I'm just reinforcing what you already know. The Avengers was a blast, and I'm really glad with what Joss Whedon was able to do.

The Devil Inside - DVD Review

Starring Fernanda Andrade, Simon Quarterman and Evan Helmuth.
Directed by William Brent Bell.


When found-footage is good, it can be very very good, like Chronicle or the first Paranormal Activity, but when it is bad, you have something like this.

The faux-documentary angle is played here, as a young woman named Isabella wants to find out the truth about her mother. Her mother Maria went through an exorcism 20 years previous and killed the two priests and a nun who were initiating it. Maria somehow was sent to an insane asylum in Italy, so with her cameraman Mike, she's off to document/investigate.

The jump-scare tricks aren't often played here. It's more disturbing to watch possessed victims contort themselves into unnatural positions (they hired a real contortionist for one gruesome exorcism).

The shaky-cam technique gets overused. There were times it made Gary Ross look like Wes Anderson. The cast is largely unknown for that "real people" effect, and the acting abilities vary from passable to amateur-hour.

The main problem comes with the end, a giant middle finger to the audience; it's one of those decisions where I can't believe they didn't get it fixed before they released it.

Remember the movie The Last Exorcism? It was also a found-footage fake-doc where the exorcising uncovers something real. I didn't care for it, but I'd say that movie was better than this one.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Colombiana - DVD Review

Starring Zoe Saldana, Jordi Malla, Lennie James, Cliff Curtis, Amandla Stenberg and Michael Vartan.
Directed by Olivier Megaton.


This dark revenge flick gets as stark and bleak as a PG-13 movie can get. We first meet our heroine Cataleya as a little girl (The Hunger Games' Amandla Stenberg) in Colombia. She sees her parents murdered in front of her. She escapes and makes her way to the US, where she finds her uncle (Cliff Curtis), first introduced to us beating a tied-up man to a pulp. Oh, but he loves his niece!

Flash-forward a few years. Now Cataleya's old enough to be played by Zoe Saldana, and we see her enact her elaborate plan. She goes after druglord scumbags one by one, all leading up to the Big Boss.

Is this based on a video game? It could be. One of those games where the butt-kicking heroine is always is skin-tight clothes, and she's adept at all sorts of firearms. One where very few if any people will alive by the end credits, and whatever victory won will feel hollow.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Random Movie Stuff - 5/14/12

- Warner Bros. has scheduled The Gangster Squad to open September 7. The film stars Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin as agents leading a team to take down gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). It also reunites Gosling with his Crazy Stupid Love co-star Emma Stone. The trailer's below. Meanwhile they've moved back the space thriller Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, to some time in 2013.

Personally I don't understand why they'd open Gangster Squad the week after Lawless, another ensemble period law-and-order movie.

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- Kurt Russell has dropped out of Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained during filming. He'd replaced Kevin Costner, who'd cited scheduling conflicts. It'll be interesting to see who QT finds now.

- Jared Harris (Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows) and Sam Claflin (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) will star in The Quiet Ones, about a college professor who leads his best students to try to create a poltergeist using negative energy.

- Michael Scott may be gone, and Dwight, Toby, Kelly and Robert will be gone soon, but at least Jim, Pam and Andy will still be there. John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer and Ed Helms have signed new contracts to return to NBC's The Office.  Good thing too, since the anti-climactic season finale made it clear that Andy is here to stay.

The Skin I Live In - DVD Review

Starring Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes, Jan Cornet and Roberto Alamo.  Directed by Pedro Almodovar.


Well, that certainly was one of the most demented films I've ever seen.

Antonio Banderas, who always comes across as a better actor when speaking in his native tongue, plays Robert Ledgard, a plastic surgeon who's working on improving human skin. He has a prisoner at his house on whom he conducts his experiments, a woman who spends her time doing yoga and seems to be okay with her confinement.

The movie then jumps back in time to give the backstory for these people and show what's led them to this state, and it's one of the most ridiculous, twisted stories of the year. It's melodramatic horror or dark comedy or both at the same time. Dr. Ledgard is something of a Dr. Frankenstein.

The movie has plenty of squirm-inducing scenes and felt exploitative. There may be brave souls out there willing to put themselves through this "for art's sake," but I regret having ever seen it.

Haywire - DVD Review

Starring Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Channing Tatum, Bill Paxton, Antonio Banderas, Matthieu Kassovitz and Michael Angarano.  Directed by Steven Soderbergh.


The boast of this fairly standard thriller is that the fights scenes are more realistic. Gina Carano is an MMA fighter, and therefore her fights are a little more belieavable than those from DOA: Dead or Alive. Even then, though, there were a couple times where the sped-up editing felt like there'd been some CGI tweeks to what I was watching.

But they are good fights. They're fast, they're brutal, they have a more realistic choreography to them than what we're accustomed to from Hollywood.

Now I need to back up. The plot bears more than a passing resemblence to the Bourne series, though it is a little murky, in that Carano's an agent who's very good at her job, so why her government chose her to be the fall guy for an assignment gone wrong doesn't make sense. But hey, at least she gets to go on the run and beat up guys like Michael Fassbender and Channing Tatum.

The movie has its slow spots, and it's clear that some of the big name stars (Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas) only had a day or two of filming for their scenes.

Is Carano the next female action star? Meh. She needs to work on her on-screen charisma, but I'm willing to follow her, see if she improves from here.

AMC's The Pitch - TV Review

Couldn't finish the episode.  It's a reality show about rival advertising agencies trying to land accounts.  I get why they thought this'd be an interesting show, putting it on the same night as Mad Men, but it occured to me that Celebrity Apprentice pretty much covers this ground in splashier fashion.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Weekend Box Office - 5/13/12

1. The Avengers - $103.16 million ($373.18) - 2 wks (BV) -50.3%
. . . 4349 screens / $23,721 per screen
2. Dark Shadows - $28.81 - 1 wk (WB)
. . . 3755 / $7671
3. Think Like A Man - $6.3 ($81.92) - 4 wks (SG) -22.3%
. . . 2052 / $3070
4. The Hunger Games - $4.4 ($386.9) - 8 wks (LG) -21.3%
. . . 2531 / $1738
5. The Lucky One - $4.06 ($53.72) - 4 wks (WB) -24.5%
. . . 2839 / $1428
6. The Pirates! Band of Misfits - $3.2 ($23.1) - 3 wks (Sony) -41.8%
. . . 3079 / $1039

The Avengers has passed $1 billion worldwide.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Friday's Box Office - 5/11/12

1. The Avengers - $29.12 million ($299.14) - 8 days

2. Dark Shadows - $9.72 - 1 day

3. Think Like A Man - $1.58 ($77.19) - 22 days

4. The Lucky One - $1.29 ($50.97) - 22 days

5. The Hunger Games - $1.2 ($383.7) - 50 days

Dark Shadows should in the $27-30 million range for the weekend, signifying a disappointing pairing of Depp & Burton.  It could still get to $100 million, but will more likely finish in the $80-90 million range domestically.

The Avengers, of course, kicks butt and will probably the second-highest grosser behind Avatar when all is said and done.

TV Renewals & Cancellations

Here's the latest on which scripted TV shows have been renewed or cancelled by the networks:

Full-season pick-ups

Law and Order: SVU
The Office
Parks and Recreation
Up All Night

13-episode pick-ups
30 Rock


Are You There Chelsea?
Best Friends Forever
Free Agents
The Firm
Harry's Law
Prime Suspect

Full-season pick-ups
2 Broke Girls
The Big Bang Theory
Blue Bloods
Criminal Minds
The Good Wife
Hawaii Five-0
How I Met Your Mother
The Mentalist
Mike & Molly
NCIS: Los Angeles
Person Of Interest
Two and a Half Men


A Gifted Man
How To Be A Gentleman
NYC 22
CSI: Miami
Rules of Engagement

Full-season pick-ups

Body of Proof
Don’t Trust The B—- In Apt. 23
Grey's Anatomy
Happy Endings
Last Man Standing
The Middle
Modern Family
Once Upon a Time

13-episode pick-up

Private Practice

Moving to TBS

Cougar Town


Charlie's Angels
Man Up
Pan Am
The River
Work It

Full-season pick-ups

American Dad
The Cleveland Show
Family Guy
New Girl
Raising Hope
The Simpsons

13-episode pick-up



Allen Gregory
Breaking In
The Finder
I Hate My Teenage Daughter
Terra Nova


Bob's Burgers
Napoleon Dynamite

The CW
Full-season pick-ups

Hart of Dixie
Vampire Diaries

11-episode pick-up

Gossip Girl


The L.A. Complex
The Secret Circle

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Random Movie Stuff - 5/8/12

- Sharlto Copley (The A-Team), Miranda Richardson (Harry Potter's Rita Skeever), Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter's Dolores Umbridge), Lesley Manville (Another Year) and Sam Riley (Control) are joining Angelina Jolie in Walt Disney's live-action Maleficent.  Elle Fanning (Super 8) will play Aurora.

- Jessica Chastain will not be joining Iron Man 3 after all, saying she couldn't work it into her busy schedule but hoped she could be in a Marvel movie in the future.

- George Lindsay, best known as Goober from The Andy Griffith Show, has died at age 83.

- Maurice Sendak, children's author best know for Where the Wild Things Are, has died at age 83.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Dr. Seuss' The Lorax - Movie Review

Starring the voices of Danny DeVito, Ed Helms, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift, Betty White, Rob Riggle, Jenny Slate and Nasim Pedrad.  Directed by Chris Renaud.


Saw it at the $2 theater.

For those who haven't read the book, what's wrong with you? For those who have, the 1972 animated short is more faithful to the spirit of the book than this 2012 update. But it has its own pleasures.

Since the movie's 80 minutes instead of 25, we get a lot more fleshing out of the characters. We get a whole family for the boy who goes to ask the Onceler. We get to see the Onceler and his transformation from bright-eyed entrepreneur to the sinister unseen being telling the tale from his boarded-up house. Not much fleshing out for The Lorax, which I appreciated.

Chris Renaud got his big break with directing Despicable Me, and it shows. The bears and fish (?) of the forest serve the same function as the minions from Despicable Me, chattering and muttering and going physical gags on the sides of the screen.

The pro-environmental anti-corporate message is delivered with the velvet subtlety of a jackhammer, and most of the songs are more annoying than catchy. It made me smile a few times, and I like this trend of animating Seuss's stories, even if this one isn't as good as Horton Hears A Who. At least this wasn't a live-action treatment starring Mike Myers, amIright?

Avengers breaks box-office records

Marvel's The Avengers has easily broken the record for highest-opening weekend of all time, previously held by Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 2's $169 million.

For the weekend of May 4-6.

1. The Avengers - $200.3 million - 1 wk (BV)
. . . 4349 screens / $46,057 per screen
2. Think Like A Man - $8 ($73.03) - 3 wks (SG) -54.6%
. . . 2010 / $3980
3. The Hunger Games - $5.7 ($380.73) - 7 wks (LG) -47.3%
. . . 2794 / $2040
4. The Lucky One - $5.51 ($47.92) - 3 wks (WB) -49%
. . . 3005 / $1834
5. The Pirates! Band of Misfits - $5.4 ($18.56) - 2 wks (Sony) -51.5%
. . . 3358 / $1608
6. The Five-Year Engagement - $5.1 ($19.2) - 2 wks (U) -51.9%
. . . 2941 / $1734
7. The Raven - $2.51 ($12.05) - 2 wks (Rel) -65.6%
. . . 2209 / $1135
8. Safe - $2.47 ($12.87) - 2 wks (LG) -68.7%
. . . 2271 / $1088
9. Chimpanzee - $2.4 ($23.01) - 3 wks (BV) -54.2%
. . . 1531 / $1564
10. The Three Stooges - $1.8 ($39.64) - 4 wks (Fox) -65.2%
. . . 2174 / $828

Opens Friday
DARK SHADOWS with Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer and Chloe Moretz.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

13 Assassins - DVD Review

Starring Koji Yakusho, Takayuki Yamada, Yusuke Iseya and Goro Inagaki.  Directed by Takashi Miike.


The samurai movie is tried and true, and I'm sure we in the US don't get to see most of those made. So here comes one that revisits a familiar formula (think the Seven Samurai, but with another six guys) but does it in skilled, entertaining fashion.

The time is 1844, and the brother of the Shogun is an evil man slaughtering innocents. One noble enlists an old friend to assassinate the villain before he's given more power and destroys the kingdom. The first hour establishes the plot, the gathering of the thirteen, and then they find a city to fortify. The villain, after all, has 200 soldiers with him as he travels. 13 vs. 200. But at least the 200 are marching into a booby-trapped town.

The final 40 minutes are one big action sequence, and it's a credit to the filmmakers that we never really get lost in the action and we've had an hour to get to know these characters so it matters when they start dying. The 13 anyway. The 200 might as well be orcs.

Friday, May 4, 2012

NBC Thursday Sitcom Recaps - 5/3/12

COMMUNITY - After last week's brilliant Law & Order send-up, the Greendale 7 need to deal with the repercussions of the death of Alex "Starburns" Osbourne. But more importantly, they have to deal with Professor Kane resigning and their biology class getting cancelled. It wasn't as good as the L&O sendup, or Abed and Annie digging into virtual reality, but it was a solid entry thanks to the riot and Chang going the fascist route to control it.

30 ROCK - A "reality show" episode follwing around Tracy's wife Angie (Sherri Shepherd, a sneaky-good member of the recurring cast.) It skewered everything wrong with all those Bravo reality shows. Liz Lemon feuds with a baby, Kenneth feuds with a cord, and Jack has learned Avery is coming home from North Korea. It had its moments.

THE OFFICE - Best episode in a while. Mad genius that Robert California is, he decided during late night of drunkenness to close down one of the branches. Jim and Dwight, the top two salesmen who've hit their commission caps, are taking advantage of the new branchless clients by making sales for "Lloyd". Chris Bauer (True Blood) shows up as an angry Syracuse salesman who wants them to stop taking all the clients. I liked it when they recruited Toby to be Lloyd, how Jim & Dwight worked together to keep landing the big clients, and the energy Bauer brought in his role. (If his Sheriff Andy doesn't survive this summer's season of True Blood, he'd be a good addition to the Office next year.) I also liked the twist at the end that sets up nicely for Robert's departure and the possible directions next season could take.

PARKS & RECREATION - Brilliant! The campaign is winding down and there continue to be "gaffes" thanks to Pawnee's horribly biased press. I love Kathryn Hahn's ruthless campaign manager. Also loved Andy's codenames for everyone. "I am Eagle One. Ann is Been There Done That.  April is Currently Doing That.  Donna is Once In My Dreams. Chris is If I Had to Choose One. Ben... is Eagle Two."

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Random Movie Stuff - 5/2/12

- Due to positive reactions to Mark Ruffalo's take on the Hulk, Marvel's considering doing a stand-alone movie with him.

- Adam McKay (The Other Guys) is planning on remaking Uptown Saturday Night with Will Smith and Denzel Washignton.  The 1974 original had Sidney Poitier and Bill Cosby as two normal men who get mugged, but then one learns he had the winning lottery ticket in his wallet.  They brave the criminal underworld to get the wallet back.

- Sharlto Copley (District 9, The A-Team) will star in Open Grave, about a man who wakes up in a grave filled with dead bodies and no idea how he got there.  He's also signed to play the villain in Spike Lee's Oldboy remake, which'll star Josh Brolin as a man who's kidnapped and left in isolation for 15 years, then let go without explanation.

- Tom Cruise is going to star in a Van Helsing movie.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Dream House - DVD Review

Starring Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz, Naomi Watts, Elias Koteas and Marton Csokas.  Directed by Jim Sheridan.


Yeesh, what a mess.

This movie rolls through several haunted-house cliches, with Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz as a mom and dad who move into a house where the previous occupant murdered his family. And just when it feels like it's getting too bogged down in contrived jump-scares, it throws in a twist at the 45-minute mark that a few movies have used as their final reveal.

So after that game-changer, it becomes more mournful and ponderous. It's as if the makers realized they only had 45 minutes, so they stall for another 40 minutes before the credits mercifully arrive.