Saturday, June 30, 2012

Random Thoughts in My Head

When Johnny Depp passed the torch to Channing Tatum in 21 Jumpstreet, he didn't realize it was the box-office torch.  Magic Mike will be Tatum's third movie this year to gross over $100 million (he was also in The Vow).

Have you seen the preview for Pitch Perfect? It's a Glee movie starring Academy-Award nominee Anna Kendrick. They must have offered her a ton of money to be in something like that.  You know, post-Twilight money.

The Bourne Legacy should not have blinked against Total Recall and moved back to August 10.  Bourne was poised to be the bigger hit.  The closer we get to August 3, the less likely I feel like Total Recall will be a success.  Of course, it has a better chance now that Bourne Legacy moved back.

Saw the trailer for Here Comes the Boom, and Kevin James gets himself into slightly believable shape as a teacher who decides to become an MMA fighter to raise money for his school.  It'll be seen by tons more people than those who saw Tom Hardy in Warrior.  Life's not fair.

The success of Alex Cross hinges on Matthew Fox giving a cool performance as the chatty serial killer.  I would not want to hinge the success of my movie on such an unlikely factor.

Looks like Marvel Studios is putting out a Guardians of the Galaxy movie.  I thought I had a decent knowledge of comic-book characters but I've never heard of them.

It's been three weeks since Jessica Chastain was in a movie.  Is she okay?  Is she sick?  Someone should check on her.

I'll rent Think Like A Man when it comes on DVD. I feel like it's my duty to see any movie that's predominantly African-American that's not from Tyler Perry.

So were they making that Gotti movie? What happened to that?  It was going to star John Travolta, Al Pacino, Ben Foster, maybe Joe Pesci, maybe Lindsay Lohan... Nothing? I see it's in pre-production, sans Pesci and Lohan. I'd love to see Pesci in something besides a Snickers commercial.  He's made two movies in the past 14 years, and one of them was Love Ranch, which no one saw.

HBO has greenlit a movie about Chief Justice John Roberts making the courageous decision to uphold ObamaCare.  Not really, but it's plausible, isn't it?

Tom Cruise is divorcing Katie Holmes.  Her contract must have been up. I wonder what actresses in the 27-29 age range he'll audition for the role of his next girlfriend.  Tom Cruise was great in Rock of Ages, by the way. He deserved a better movie wrapped around him.

Gone - DVD Review

Starring Amanda Seyfried, Daniel Sunjata, Jennifer Carpenter, Wes Bentley, Sebastian Stan, Nick Searcy, Emily Wickersham and Michael Pare.
Directed by Heitor Dhalia.


Amanda Seyfried (Red Riding Hood) plays Jill, a young woman who was kidnapped, raped and kept in a deep pit by a shadowy figure. The pit is in the middle of the woods near her town, and the pit also contained bones of previous victims. She escapes, but the police don't believe her. She's ruled mentally unstable. Apparently either no one searches the woods, or they're really bad at their job.

The movie begins a year after these events. Jill's become paranoid and withdrawn, and when her sister Molly disappears, Jill is sure the same man has come back and taken her. The police once again don't believe her, so Jill aims to find her on her own. Once Jill starts brandishing her gun to ask questions, Jill is a fugitive trying to find Molly, while the police are simply trying to bring Jill in.

The movie is paced as if it has thrills, but the coincidences and red herrings stack up in two piles for Jill to maneuver around, and I got to the point where I was ready to fast forward to the end just to see either who the killer was, or if Jill really is crazy and it was all in her head. It ultimately didn't matter.  The ending is as inconsequential as it is goofy.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Cinematically Speaking - 6/27/12

All indications are that Brave will be able to hold on to the #1 spot next week too, but that Ted and Magic Mike will be duking it out for #2. Both of those movies are tracking in the $20's. Madea's Witness Protection might get to $20 million as well. People Like Us is tracking way low.

July's going to be an interesting month. The Amazing Spider-Man won't do near the business The Avengers did, but Sony can expect better dividends than Green Lantern. We have seen competition cannibalize some titles lately, but after Spidey, Ice Age 4 is relatively unopposed, then next week The Dark Knight Rises is relatively unopposed, and the week after that, you have The Watch (which I had higher hopes for box-office-wise until I saw the trailer and that it's rated R) going against Step Up 4.

Rumor has it Matt Damon and Jeremy Renner will both star in the fifth Bourne movie.  I approve.  The Bourne Legacy, which stars Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Albert Finney, Joan Allen and not Damon, opens August 10.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

HBO's The Newsroom - TV Review

Well, now we the regular people can make our ruling on the most talked about show of summer.

This show is the epitome of Aaron Sorkin, for all that entails. I happen to like Aaron Sorkin, even though I could only watch The West Wing in patches. I was ready to embrace Studio 60, but they'd soliloquy about comedy skits like they were in the well of the Senate. His movies are more disciplined, and therefore more crackling.

So for this show, he gets a format to grandstand and speechify, but I still went with it. Sorkin likes to create worlds where talented people are just doing what they do best, in an idealized more left-of-center world.

Jeff Daniels is great as Will McAvoy, one of the most successful anchors on cable news because he is so objective and safe that he hides his true opinions well. (Some of today's most respected newsmen are ones who do just that, but here it's an insult.)  One day McAvoy snaps at a media forum at a college and spouts off numerous stats in Sorkinesque succession to illustrate why America is no longer the greatest country in the world.  Well, well.

Back at his cable home at ACN, his boss (Sam Waterston, bow-tied and more relaxed than he was on Law & Order) decides he's hiring a new executive producer (Emily Mortimer), who also happens to be Will's ex-girlfriend.  She encourages Will to embrace his new-found notoriety and just do the news they've always wanted to do.  It means asking harder questions, and not hiding what he thinks.  Waterston cites Murrow and Cronkite as idols, and goals for the new age of journalism.

It's also set in 2010, so we get to watch McAvoy deliver the news on stories where we already know the result, and Sorkin gets to get his characters to deliver the news the way he wishes it had been done the first time around.

Sorkin aspires for higher intelligence in news digestion, even though every character has to explain their references as though the viewing audience is stupid and needs those details.  I know Man of La Mancha is a musical; do I really need to be reminded it was written 45 years ago as well?

This fantasy take is all fine and good.  The cast is good and I hope the characters get developed beyond shouting at each other.  (Stand-out for me was Allison Pill as the nervous young assistant to Will.  I also hope Josh Malina and Bradley Whitford do not join the cast in the near future; no offense to either, but I've seen them enough in Sorkin-land.)

I've read Sorkin spent some time backstage at MSNBC to get ideas on what the crew does, and you can see a little of Olbermann's ego, Matthews's doggedness, and Scarborough's skepticism in McAvoy, but he's really his own character, and one that I hope fleshes out as the season progresses.

I saw this episode free on YouTube so unless I get HBO for a month here or there, I won't be watching the rest soon, but overall - overall - I was encouraged into thinking this can be a good show.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Brave #1, Abe Lincoln #3

Weekend Box Office

1. Brave - $66.7 million - 1 wk (BV)
. . . 4164 screens / $16,028 per screen
2. Madagascar 3 - $20.2 ($157.57) - 3 wks (DW) -40.7%
. . . 3920 / $5153
3. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - $16.5 - 1 wk (Fox)
. . . 3108 / $5309
4. Prometheus - $10 ($108.55) - 3 wks (Fox) -51.7%
. . . 2862 / $3494
5. Rock of Ages - $8.1 ($28.77) - 2 wks (WB) -44.5%
. . . 3470 / $2305
6. Snow White & the Huntsman - $8 ($137.1) - 4 wks (U) -39.7%
. . . 2919 / $2741
7. That's My Boy - $7.9 ($28.18) - 2 wks (Sony) -41.3%
. . . 3030 / $2607
8. The Avengers - $7.04 ($598.3) - 8 wks (BV) -20.9%
. . . 2230 / $3157
9. Men in Black 3 - $5.6 ($163.34) - 5 wks (Sony) -44.3%
. . . 2462 / $2275
10. Seeking a Friend at the End of the World - $3.84 - 1 wk (Foc)
. . . 1625 / $2361
11. Moonrise Kingdom - $3.41 ($11.63) - 5 wks (Foc) +52.4%
. . . 395 / $8635
12. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - $1.62 ($38.37) - 8 wks (FS) -29.3%
. . . 741 / $2179
13. The Hunger Games - $.65 ($402.99) - 14 wks (LG) -24.4%
. . . 414 / $1558

Pixar can do no wrong, box-office-wise.  And the reviews are better this time around for Brave than for Cars 2. 

Madagascar 3 is holding up well for its animation competition.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter can claim it at least opened better than Rock of Ages or That's My Boy last week, but Fox has to be disappointed.  Prometheus is at least doing well overseas but I don't think it'll be enough to justify Prometheus 2.

Focus dropped the ball on Seeking a Friend at the End of the World.  I also think they need to double Moonrise Kingdom's screen count next week.

Red Tails - DVD Review

Starring Nate Parker, David Oyelowo, Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr., Tristan Wilds, Elijah Kelley, Ne-Yo, Gerald McRaney and Bryan Cranston.
Directed by Anthony Hemingway.


It's produced by George Lucas, and his signatures are all over it. Bad dialogue, stock characters, well-choreographed fight scenes, and good vs. evil.

I was worried this movie would be like Flyboys and at first it was. I point to Captain America as an example of a movie that could have been corny but succeeded in its patriotic earnestness. Red Tails doesn't quite get there.

It has its moments though. It improved as it went on, where the characters start facing individual challenges. We get past the two-dimensional racist officer (Bryan Cranston) to the gruff one (Gerald McRaney) who just wants to know if these Tuskagee Airmen can fly or not. In fact if I flowcharted this movie, you'd see my thumb down for Act I, sideways for Act II, and up for Act III. I couldn't help but be moved by the squad's courage and the surprise respect they earned from the white pilots with newly-opened eyes.

The aerial shots are obviously CG-generated, so it's about on par watching the Rebels shoot up the Death Star, but I'm not about to complain about Rebels shooting up the Death Star. The Nazis sneer and have strategically placed scars on their faces. Terrence Howard is decent as the commanding officer. The pipe-smoking Cuba Gooding Jr. always has this wry grin on his face like there's a joke he's not sharing anyone.

Lucas tried for years to get this movie made, and he said having blacks in all the main parts was his main obstacle. Well, it opened to $19 million, and had it been a better movie, it might've grossed more than its $50 million domestic.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - Movie Review

Starring Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, Marton Csokas, Alan Tudyk and Jimmi Simpson.
Directed by Timur Bekmambetov.


In honor of our 16th president, I'll just make 16 points about this movie.

1. There is no attempt at cleverness with actual US history. I thought it might try to do a little revisionist behind-the-scenes details the way Forrest Gump or Dick did. Nope. The movie has characters like Stephen Douglas, Harriet Tubman and Jefferson Davis with the aspiration of getting the audience to go "I think I remember those names from a history class I took once" and no higher.

2. For years, Liam Neeson was tied to the Lincoln biopic that Steven Spielberg's directing. Neeson finally dropped out of that, and now Daniel Day-Lewis will star in it. I mention this because Benjamin Walker looks a lot like a young Liam Neeson. And hey, Walker got his big break from playing young Kinsey in Neeson's Kinsey.

3. There's a scene where Abe is chasing a vampire in the middle of some stampeding horses, and they run across the backs of these horses with amazing dexterity. It's one of the few scenes where the movie seemed to be in on its own joke. Most of the time it's played straight.

4. Throughout the whole Civil War, you'd think that Abe, his black friend Will Jonson (Anthony Mackie) and his business partner Mr. Speed (Jimmi Simpson) were running the entire country by themselves. Just the three of them.

5. As far as we know, Abe was just trained to be a really good fighter, but I missed the part of his training that made his bones unbreakable. For instance, in the horse scene, at one point the vampire picks up a horse and throws it at him. The horse hits Abe and they fall to the ground. I am pretty sure a horse landing on a man will break all of his ribs. Abe groans and shakes it off to renew pursuit.

6. Silver, we're told, was cursed by God against vampires due to silver being the payment Judas received for betraying Jesus. But our main villain vampire Adam (Rufus Sewell, who has more fun than most) is 5000 years old and it's been a curse agains thim the whole time. So...?

7. Abe's always had his axe laced with silver when hunting vampires and much of the film takes place in the 1830's. He's deep into the Civil War when he's trying to figure out how to beat these vampire Confederates, and he has a "Eureka!" moment looking at his silver fork. Why the heck did he not think of silver before?!

8. Dominic Cooper (The Devil's Double) plays Henry Sturges, the man who trains Abe to be a hunter. He pops up here and there throughout the movie and I enjoyed what they did with him. For what it's worth.

9. Why must the vampires bare their fangs and roar before attacking? Just attack, guys.

10. Late in the movie, the Lincolns' young son William is killed by a vampire. William did die during the Civil War (of typhoid or something like that). Not cool to bum out the audience like that late in a movie called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Oh, in real life, the Lincolns had three other sons, but they don't come up here.

11. There are times Abe seems to have Jedi powers.

12. The "train on the burning bridge" scene was an impressive spectacle, but once again, it's just Abe, Will, and Speed on that train, delivering weapons to the Union troops. Where is everyone else in the country?

13. We saw the movie in 3-D, and it didn't really need to be. The 3-D wasn't bad (I forgot most of the time I was watching a 3-D film) but 3-D is a shade darker than its 2-D counterpart, and this movie already mostly takes place at night.

13a. (Sidenote: We saw the preview for Great Gatsby in 3-D and it looks like a living pop-up book. I'd rather see it in 2-D. We also had previews for the two stop-motion animation movies coming, ParaNorman and Frankenweenie, and those types of movies look good in 3-D.)

14. I appreciated that the movie's revisionist take didn't entirely excuse humans for slavery. I mean, the vampires loved it because they used slaves as food, but there were clear Southern humans who had slaves too. The cameo of Jefferson Davis is him making an agreement with Adam.

15. The movie did make it look like Lincoln and Douglas's rivalry started because they both liked Mary Todd, and Lincoln was adamently anti-slavery his whole life. Uh huh.

16. Director Timur Bekmambetov might have a sense of humor but it rarely comes out in this, and the fight scenes are full of those slo-mo then speed-up shots. I've seen Wanted, but I don't need to see the exact same style over and over. Keep this man away from anything historical in the future.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Random Movie Stuff - 6/21/12

- Reese Witherspoon is going to star in a big-screen adaptation of Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus. I'm assuming they're hoping for Think Like A Man business and not What to Expect When You're Expecting business. No word yet if Morgan Freeman's going to star in Chicken Soup for the Soul.

- Charlie Sheen will be playing the President of the United States in Machete Kills, Robert Rodriguez's grindhouse follow-up to Machete. The sequel will star Danny Trejo, Mel Gibson, Jessica Alba, Zoe Saldana, Sofia Vergara, Michelle Rodriguez, Demian Bechir and Amber Heard.

- Red Tails co-stars Cuba Gooding Jr. and Terrence Howard will reunite in The Butler, starring Forest Whitaker in the true story of Eugene Allen, who served as butler at the White House from 1952 to 1986. Oprah Winfrey, John Cusack, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda, Minka Kelly, Alex Pettyfer and Lenny Kravitz co-star. Lee Daniels (Precious) will direct.

- Development has stalled on the planned remake of The Thin Man. It was to star Johnny Depp and be directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago), but Marshall's moving for a big-screen adaptation of the play Into the Woods.

- Shawn Levy (Real Steel) is going to produce a big-screen Sesame Street movie. This would be the third time the Childrens Television Workshop gang graced the silver screen. There was also 1985's Follow That Bird and 1999's The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Seeking Justice - DVD Review

Starring Nicolas Cage, Guy Pearce, January Jones, Harold Perrineau, Jennifer Carpenter, Xander Berkeley and IronE Singleton. 
Directed by Roger Donaldson.


This is a terrific idea for a movie. And yet, the bombastic execution here betrays the premise.

Nicolas Cage and January Jones are the happily married couple, Will and Laura Gerard. Then one night their lives are shattered when she is attacked and raped. While grieving in the hospital waiting room, Will has a stranger named Simon (Guy Pearce) console him and offer to "take care of things." Will knows what Simon means, and in his vulnerable state, he agrees.

Here's where the movie makes its first mistake for me, or at least makes this protagonist more difficult to root for. Even though Will was not in his right mind, he doesn't call anything off, and the next day he gets a picture of the rapist, shot dead. Now he knows he'll need to someday pay Simon and his organization a favor.

At first Will goes along, but when he realizes he's going to have to eventually kill someone, he tries to get out of it. Does he try to go to the cops? No. But what did he expect? It's easier to go along with a character who makes immoral decisions than stupid ones.

Since Will is played by he of the bugged-eyed craziness of Cage, and the direction comes from he of the fearless-action-ratcheting of Donaldson (The Recruit), the movie doesn't address the ethical dilemmas of a vigilante organization; it prefers to devolve into a series of chase sequences.

Now that's not entirely fair. Cage is still capable of good performances, and Donaldson is also the man behind No Way Out and The Bank Job. But something went awry in the evolution of this movie.

Its original title was The Hungry Rabbit Jumps, which is the phrase someone speaks to signal the favor they've done for Simon is complete. Much more interesting title, right? "Seeking Justice" sounds like a straight-to-DVD Steven Seagal movie.

I kinda liked seeing all these TV faces pop up.  Cage and Pearce are the movie stars but it also has Jones (Mad Men), Harold Perrineau (Lost), Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter), Xander Berkeley (24) and IronE Singleton (The Walking Dead) pop up.  Not that they have much to do beyond me mentally pointing at the screen and going, "Oh, hey, it's that one guy."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

ABC's The Glass House - TV Review

CBS is suing this show because they say it's too similar to Big Brother. Well, they have a point.  It is very similar.  The main differences are that instead of the Chenbot, Glass House features an actual HAL-9000 lady voice as host, and most of the walls are glass.  Also, America votes out whichever houseguest each week.

So in a show like this, it comes down to casting, and there are some likeable people in there, and then there's Alex, a guy determined to be the "next great reality-TV villain."  He thinks if he's insulting to everyone, America will find that entertaining and keep him.  My guess is he's toast next week. Someone didn't learn the lesson of Will Mega.

Am I addicted?  No.  I might keep tabs on how it's doing, because I can have an addictive personality when it comes to things like that.

AMC's The Killing - Season Finale - TV Review

Well, now we know who Rosie Larson's killer is.

If this gets a third season, with a new victim and mystery, and the producers promise the killer's revealed at the end of the season, I would like this to get renewed. The problem with this series was that it stretched out the mystery over two seasons. Sure, the Dutch series on which it's based did the same thing, but when I look back, there were so many red herrings and subplots that didn't add anything to the full picture.  For instance, none of Stan's mob background really mattered.

Now looking at what actually happened, it's a little disappointing that so much of it hinged on coincidence. Rosie happened to be there when Jamie, Ames and Chief Jackson were plotting. Rosie happened to hit her head when trying to flee. And cruelest twist of fate, Aunt Terry decided to put the car in gear and kill that girl in the trunk, not knowing it was her own niece.

So yeah, I wouldn't mind Lindon and Holder coming back. They've learned from their mistakes and can solve mysteries in one season now, I would hope.

Monday, June 18, 2012

AMC's Mad Men - TV Review

Matthew Weiner was one of the main brains behind The Sopranos, alongside David Chase and Terence Winter, and most seasons of The Sopranos had their penultimate episodes feel like the season finales. It was usually when an important character died (poor Ade!) and this season was no different.

Layne Price had been drowning all year, but hiding it from everyone, and his suicide had serious ramifications. The season finale was more about the aftermath, with characters moving to springboard spots. Don at the bar not sure how he should answer the question, "Are you alone?" Pete getting his downtown apartment, which will make it easier to cheat on his wife. Peggy at her new company, about to make it big with the not-yet-named Virginia Slims account. Joanie's a partner and a single mother. Ken's decided to step up and challenge Pete.

I'm not sure how having Peggy stay at a different agency will keep her in the loop. I'm holding out hope that Sal shows up in their art department. But I was intrigued by one theory that the series is going to end with SCDP getting bought out by Peggy's company, and Don finds himself working for his former protege. I could definitely see that being the endgame.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Madagascar still #1, Sandler flops

1. Madagascar 3 - $35.5 million ($120.45) - 2 wks (DW) -41.1%
. . . 4263 screens / $8327 per screen
2. Prometheus - $20.2 ($88.86) - 2 wks (Fox) -60.4%
. . . 3442 / $5869
3. Rock of Ages - $15.06 - 1 wk (WB)
. . . 3470 / $4340
4. Snow White & the Huntsman - $13.81 ($122.6) - 3 wks (U) -40%
. . . 3701 / $3730
5. That's My Boy - $13 - 1 wk (Sony)
. . . 3030 / $4290
6. Men in Black 3 - $10 ($152.68) - 4 wks (Sony) -28%
. . . 3135 / $3190
7. The Avengers - $8.85 ($586.74) - 7 wks (BV) -21.3%
. . . 2582 / $3427
8. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - $2.2 ($35.13) - 7 wks (FS) -32.7%
. . . 1184 / $1858
9. Moonrise Kingdom - $2.18 ($6.78) - 4 wks (Foc) +39.8%
. . . 178 / $12,253
10. What to Expect When Expecting - $1.33 ($38.77) - 5 wks (LG) -52%
. . . 1216 / $1094

Out of the top ten: Battleship, The Dictator.

Rock of Ages and That's My Boy both had production budgets in the $70-75 million range, and they'd need overseas help to break even, and I put greater faith in Rock of Ages (Cruise factor) being able to do that than Sandler. But bottom line, they're both disappointments.

Madagascar 3 shows the franchise still has legs, and they've really benefitted from being the first animated movie of summer. Makes me wonder how Brave's going to do.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted - Movie Review

Starring the voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinckett Smith, Sacha Baron Cohen, Cedric the Entertainer, Andy Richter, Tom McGrath, Jessica Chastain, Bryan Cranston, Martin Short and Frances McDormand.  Directed by Eric Darnell.


This franchise has never been about art, it's all about the laughs, and this time around they're fairly successful.

Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the Giraffe and Gloria the Hippo are still hanging out in Africa, but now is the time, they've decided, to go home to the New York Zoo. They're just waiting for the penguins to return with their plane. When they figure the penguins aren't returning from their jaunt to Monte Carlo, they decide to head there themselves. Once there, they have an animal control officer, Captain Dubois, hunt them down. Turns out Dubois likes to behead the animals she captures, and she's very very good at tracking.

This was my favorite in the series, largely because it didn't try to find any Pixarish heart to its story. It lets its hair down like a Chuck Jones cartoon and blasts forward with bright visual gags and plenty to keep adults and children interested alike. It picks up the pace and never stops to take a breath, and that's a good thing.

Some observations:

- Seems like Jessica Chastain or Bryan Cranston is in every movie of the past year, but here they both are in the same movie.

- Dubois is a hilariously tenacious, resourceful, almost Terminator-like villain.

- Wouldn't mind it if they made a part 4, now that they've shown how limitless the potential of the franchise is.

Rock of Ages - Movie Review

Starring Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta, Tom Cruise, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Malin Akerman, Alec Baldwin, Mary J. Blige, Bryan Cranston, Will Forte and Kevin Nash. Directed by Adam Shankman.


This was one of the most bizarre experiences I've had at the movies in a while.

Adam Shankman demonstrated before he can translate a Broadway musical to the big screen with Hairspray, but whatever chops he showed there are missing here. The first couple minutes started out fine. Julianne Hough is small-town girl Sherrie, on her way to L.A. to become a singer, and on the bus she starts singing "Sister Christian" and the other people on the bus join in. It's a weird, cheesy moment, and I thought we'd be in good hands.

But then we go to the Bourbon Room where Drew (Diego Boneta) and Lonny (Russell Brand) are working and singing "Ain't Lookin' for Nothing But a Good Time" and the song is just betrayed by the movie. The editing's bad, the lip-syncing's bad, the song itself has no lift, and it didn't pull me in at all. And presiding over the Bourbon Room is Denny (a weirdly miscast Alec Baldwin). Sherrie and Drew meet cute and then we're stuck following their puppy-loving High School Musical 2 romance, their cheesy Disney Channel bubble-gum soft-rock pairing that just made me embarrassed.

My jaw was open at how bad this movie was for the first 45 minutes or so. I was stunned, just amazed in disbelief at what this movie was doing. Why is Chicago's sexy Catherine Zeta-Jones playing the uptight Tipper Gore villain? Why is her number "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" in a church? Why are the wigs on Brand and Baldwin so bad?

But then Tom Cruise shows up as tortured rock god Stacee Jaxx. He throws himself completely into the role, and his "Wanted Dead or Alive" is infused with more soulful defiance than Bon Jovi ever thought of injecting into that song. Cruise nails it, and I got those movie-magic chills.

And after that, every time Cruise wasn't on screen, I was counting the seconds until he was on screen again. I finally stopped doing that around Rock of Ages' only successful non-Cruise number, when Mary J. Blige helps turn "Anyway You Want It" into an empowering anthem for strippers.

Others that came out unscathed were Malin Akerman, whom I thought had good comedic chemistry with Cruise as a Rolling Stone reporter who falls for Jaxx, and Paul Giamatti as Jaxx's sleazy manager.

But scathed, very scathed, are our two leads Hough and Boneta. Hough's weak, but Boneta is awful, a black hole of charisma that just made me resent him every time he was on screen. How did this guy get cast? This should do for him what Xanadu did for Michael Beck.

Why the heck are Foreigner, REO Speedwagon and Warrant on this soundtrack?

So I couldn't in good conscience recommend it to anyone, and yet I hope Cruise gets nominated for Best Supporting Actor for this come award-season.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Random Movie Stuff - 6/15/12

- Hugh Laurie (House M.D.) has signed on the play the villainous CEO of Omnicorp in Jose Padhila's remake of RoboCop, starring Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Abbie Cornish and Samuel L. Jackson.
- A sequel is in the works for The Woman in Black. During WWII, the old house has been converted into a military mental hospital, and a young nurse new to the place discovers that the patients dying one by one is no accident.
- I'd be surprised if he said yes, but Philip Seymour Hoffman has been offered the role of Plutarch Heavensbee, the new Gamemaster in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson and Liam Hemsworth.
- Filming has begun on Labor Day. No, it's not an ensemble comedy about a bunch of C-listers celebrating a holiday no one cares about. It's from director Jason Reitman (Up in the Air) and it's about an escaped convict (Josh Brolin) who holds a single mother (Kate Winslet) and her 13-year-son hostage in her home over the four-day weekend.
- Production delays have forced the zombie apocalypse movie World War Z to move from its intended December release to June 2013.  It stars Brad Pitt.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

TNT's Dallas - TV Review

I watched a few seasons of the original as a kid, particularly those years I lived in Texas.  I started just after the "Who Shot J.R.?" finale and bailed on it somewhere around the Dream Bobby season.

I love that this continuation uses the same theme song and credit style (although I do wish they'd kept the three-faces shot during the cast listing).  By the time they display "and Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing" I know I'm back in familiar territory.

Now those who never watched it must remember first and foremost it's a soap. The acting's not going to be uniformly great, and the twists will be melodramatic.  But I loved getting reacquainted with the Ewing clan, and the perfect blend of the old (Hi, Linda Gray's Sue Ellen!) and the new (Josh Henderson's John Ross has his daddy's ruthless ambition).

It's not art TV.  It's guilty-pleasure TV.

There's a scene when John Ross visits J.R. in a nursing home, and we gather J.R. doesn't speak anymore and is suffering severe depression.  When John Ross presents his dilemma to his estranged father, and J.R. finally speaks and then opens his eyes, I got a chill.  Evil has returned.  How marvelous.

Prometheus - Movie Review

Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Alba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green, Sean Harris and Rafe Spall.  Directed by Ridley Scott.

This is a prequel of sorts to Alien, but it's a distant prequel, by which I mean I can see another movie or two happening between the events of this and Scott's original classic Alien.

The setup is familiar. A team of scientists, experts, etc., are on an exploratory mission. They believe they've found where life on Earth came from. They're in hibernation for two years while the ship travels; only the android David (Michael Fassbender) is awake. The scenes of David by himself are very reminiscent of the first half-hour of Wall-E.

The crew eventually awakens, and then they are given their mission brief. I think it's amazing that a crew would agree to go on a four-year mission without being told why before they were put into hibernation, but work with me here. They have found a habitable moon around the planet LV-223 (look up Leviticus 22:3), where they believe their creators - they call them the Engineers - are from.

I caught this in 3-D, and I really enjoyed it that way. This is a visually gorgeous film. The set design has H.R. Geiger's handiwork everywhere, and the eventual mythology spelled out makes sense in the Aliens universe.

There are three primary issues I have with this film. I have many more, but these are the three primary ones.

1. Unanswered questions. I am cool with some unanswered questions; it invites discussion. But there are so many unanswered questions that it's hard to tell what they were intentionally ambiguous about and what they just had no idea what the actual answer is. Rememeber how the end of Star Trek V felt like a cheat? Prometheus isn't as bad as that, but it made me think of it.

2. Stupid characters. Stupid character decisions are okay here and there. I mean, why is Brett looking for the cat by himself in 1979's Alien when he knows that killer critter's on board? But Alien had seven people and we got to know each of them. Prometheus has seventeen people on board, and half of them could be named Soon to Be Alien Fodder Especially If You Have An Accent. The experts in their fields, allegedly smart people (especially the biologist), behave as idiotically as teenagers in a Friday the 13th movie.

3. There is one character who dies near the end in such a stupid way that I can't help but think that maybe they actually survived and we had a bad camera angle. I mean, it's stupider than anything else anyone else does, and therefore it gets its own issue number.

It has its other, more minor issues, like why cast Guy Pearce if he's going to be in old-age make-up the whole time? And despite all of this, I am hungry for Prometheus 2. Prometheus 2 doesn't even have to connect us to Alien yet. There's plenty of room there, and possibilities. A lot of the bioengineering stuff worked for me. The explanation of what's really going on on that planet worked for me. Most of the time we don't know much more than the characters. I devoured the visuals.

It's a brilliant mess, a moronic masterpiece, a wonderful misfire. It's a paradox. And so I would recommend it to those who are curious, but expect to be a little annoyed when you come out.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Random TV News - 6/12/12

- Andy Samberg, who just finished seven season on Saturday Night Live, will star in the BBC comedy Cuckoo, as a hippie-type who marries the daughter of an uptight couple.

- Yvonne Strahovski (Chuck) will have a multi-episode appearance on the next season of Showtime's Dexter.

- Portia de Rossi will play Lily in NBC's reimagining of The Munsters, titled Mockingbird Lane.  It's from Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies) and is said to be a more dramatic take on the old show.  Jerry O'Connell has been cast as Herman and Eddie Izzard will play Grandpa.

- Zuleikha Robinson (Lost) has joined the cast of Showtime's Homeland.

The Grey - DVD Review

Starring Liam Neeson, Dallas Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, Frank Grillo, Joe Anderson, Nonso Anozie and James Badge Dale.  Directed by Joe Carnahan.


The marketing made this look like Liam Neeson kicking wolf butt in the Alaskan wilderness. This has more in common with a Jack London story than Taken.

After a handful of oil workers survive a plane crash during a snow storm, they find themselves surrounded by man-killing wolves. The eight men find themselves sitting ducks if they stay with what's left of their plane, and so they trek south. And then there were seven. And then there were six...

I liked the thoughtfulness to this story, and it is a bleak contemplation on life and death. It also gets predictable in its killing order. If the story seems to be focussing on one guy that isn't Liam Neeson, it's a pretty good bet that he's going to be the next to go. In fact some of the deaths started to make this feel like Final Destination.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Madasgscar 3 is #1, Prometheus #2

For the weekend of June 8-10.

1. Madagascar 3 - $60.35 million - 1 wk (DW)
. . . 4258 screens / $14,173 per screen
2. Prometheus - $50 - 1 wk (Fox)
. . . 3396 / $14,723
3. Snow White and the Huntsman - $23.02 ($98.5) - 2 wks (U) -59.1%
. . . 3777 / $6095
4. Men in Black III - $13.5 ($135.5) - 3 wks (Sony) -51.9%
. . . 3792 / $3560
5. The Avengers - $10.81 ($571.86) - 6 wks (BV) -47.2%
. . . 3129 / $3454
6. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - $3.24 ($31) - 6 wks (FS) -27.8%
. . . 1298 / $2492
7. What to Expect When You're Expecting - $2.71 ($35.75) - 4 wks (LG) -38.5%
. . . 2087 / $1299
8. Battleship - $2.29 ($59.83) - 4 wks (U) -55.1%
. . . 1954 / $1170
9. The Dictator - $2.15 ($55.19) - 4 wks (Par) -54.3%
. . . 1651 / $1302
10. Moonrise Kingdom - $1.58 ($3.75) - 3 wks (Foc) +80.1%
. . . 96 / $16,448
11. Dark Shadows - 1.36 ($73.74) - 5 wks (WB) -63.3%
. . . 1550 / $877
12. The Hunger Games - $1.05 ($400.25) - 12 wks (LG) -33%
. . . 751 / $1398

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted ultimately triumphed over the weekend after Prometheus edged it on Friday.  They're almost even in per-screen count.

The Hunger Games finally passed $400 million domestic, and The Avengers just might be able to get to $600 million domestic still. It's currently the third-highest grossing movie of all time, behind Avatar and Titanic.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Underworld Awakening - DVD Review

Starring Kate Beckinsale, Stephen Rea, Michael Ealy, Charles Dance, Theo James and India Eisley.  Directed by Marland & Stein.


After skipping Underworld 3, Kate Beckinsale is back for Underworld 4 and the result is breathtakingly... repetitive. It might as well be a Resident Evil sequel.

They rewrite some of the events from Underworld 2 to get Selene asleep in cryogenic freeze for 12 years. She awakens to a world where the vampires have been identified and eradicated. Right off the bat, she kills about twelve humans escaping the lab, more than a few begging her to not kill them. So... Selene's the bad guy, right?

Nope. We're to root for her as she fights back against a Lychan conspiracy, and since we don't have Michael Sheen's werewolf here to root for, I guess it's okay to just take it in stride that the lychans are the bad guys, and the vampires are the good guys. They're the underdogs.

The highlight for me was seeing Charles Dance (Game of Thrones' Tywin Lannister) as a vampire. But he's not in it enough, and nothing else about this movie is necessary or even justifies its existence. And yes, they leave it open for Underworld 5. Let it go.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Samuel L. Jackson joins Robocop remake

Samuel L. Jackson will play a powerful media mogul in Jose Padilha's remake of RoboCop.  He joins the previously cast Gary Oldman as RoboCop's creator-developer, and then The Killing's Joel Kinnaman plays Alex Murphy, the policeman left for dead and turned into the title character.

Jackson can currently be seen as Nick Fury in The Avengers, and will appear in Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained this December.  RoboCop has a tentative release date of August 9, 2013.

Speaking of Django Unchained, here's its trailer:

A&E's Longmire - TV Review

I really dug the first episode of this cable drama about a sheriff in Wyoming. I suppose I could call it a really laid-back Justified, but it might wind up being more procedural than that. If it has some season-spanning plotlines, I'll stick with it. It has Katee Sackhoff, so that's a plus. Interesting to see Lou Diamond Phillips getting work too. As is tradition, the manly main role goes to an Australian - Robert Taylor. He hides his accent well. I'll definitely watch episode 2.

Random Movie Stuff - 6/6/12

- Marvel may be moving forward with a Black Panther movie. In the comic books, he's prince of the fictitious African nation of Wakanda, not to mention a great warrior and brilliant scientist.

- Warner Bros. is moving forward with plans for a Justice League movie. It'd unclear whether Henry Cavill's Superman or Christian Bale's Batman would be in it, or if they'd start from scratch.

- And hey, they've also hired a writer for a Wonder Woman movie.

- So if we can get some movement on a Flash movie, then you can have Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Flash for your Justice League movie.

- Producer Rick McCallum gave an update about the planned live-action
Star Wars TV series. He said it'll be like a Deadwood in Space, where it explores the underbelly of the galaxy. He said they're still trying to figure out how to control the costs of making it. The events on the series will take place somewhere between Episodes III and IV.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman - Movie Review

Starring Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Sam Claflin, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan and Sam Spruell.
Directed by Rupert Sanders.


Kristen Stewart is a good actress. I know she doesn't seem like it in the Twilight movies, but in everything else she does, there's more to her. I point to Panic Room, Adventureland and The Runaways as examples. Here, she's Snow White, a princess imprisoned by her evil stepmother Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron). Snow White escapes one day, and with good timing, for Ravenna is planning on taking her heart as part of a spell to grant her immortality.

Snow White makes it to the Dark Forest, and the Queen sends her men to find someone who can track her down. They bring to her the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), a drunken widower who on his good days is an effective tracker.

Eventually the dawrfs come into play.

Stewart doesn't quite get there in all her scenes. There's a rousing speech she gives her people before battle that doesn't really work. Theron, meanwhile, owns the movie as Ravenna, remaining young by stealing the youth from others. I liked Hemsworth as the Huntsman. I think he'll prove to be a better actor than Sam Worthington.

And then there's the dwarfs. I loved the dwarfs. This one goes the Lord of the Rings route by taking regular actors and using makeup, CGI and camera tricks to dwarf them. Bob Hoskins stands out as the oldest, wisest, blind dwarf, but Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Eddie Marsan, Nick Frost, Toby Jones, etc., all get their moments.

This visually arresting fantasy brought to mind some of those 1980's classics like Ladyhawke and The NeverEnding Story.

Weekend Box Office - 6/3/12

1. Snow White & the Huntsman - $56.26 million - 1 wk (U)
. . . 3773 screens / $14,910 per screen
2. Men in Black 3 - $29.3 ($112.3) - 2 wks (Sony) -46.3%
. . . 4248 / $6897
3. The Avengers - $20.27 ($552.74) - 5 wks (BV) -44.7%
. . . 3670 / $5524
4. Battleship - $4.81 ($55.12) - 3 wks (U) -56.5%
. . . 3144 / $1530
5. The Dictator - $4.73 ($50.84) - 3 wks (Par) -49.1%
. . . 2649 / $1784
6. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - $4.6 ($25.5) - 5 wks (FS) -28%
. . . 1294 / $3555
7. What to Expect When Expecting - $4.43 ($30.72) - 3 wks (LG) -38%
. . . 2907 / $1524
8. Dark Shadows - $3.86 ($70.83) - 4 wks (WB) -48.6%
. . . 3002 / $1286
9. Chernobyl Diaries - $3.05 ($14.42) - 2 wks (WB) -61.7%
. . . 2433 / $1252
10. For Greater Glory - $1.8 - 1 wk (Arc)
. . . 757 / $2378
11. The Hunger Games - $1.5 ($398.27) - 11 wks (LG) -35.1%
. . . 1099 / $1365

Snow White's a hit. It'll ultimately gross a little less than Men in Black III, but MiB3 cost about $50 million more to make. It's going to ease the blow for Universal after Battleship tanked.

Opens Friday
MADAGASCAR 3 with the voices of Ben Stiller, Chris Rock and David Schwimmer.
PROMETHEUS with Naomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender and Charlize Theron.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Battleship - Movie Review

Starring Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano, Hamish Linklater, Peter MacNicol, Jesse Plemons and Jerry Ferrara.
Directed by Peter Berg.


When Paramount centered Top Gun around the star power of Tom Cruise, he'd already earned it. After supporting turns in Endless Love, Taps and The Outsiders, he made the most of his big break in Risky Business.

Taylor Kitsch has been given the same opportunity here, in a movie that wants to be Top Gun with Aliens. And he's not really up to the task.

For the first half-hour, this is one of the worst movies of the year. We go through the motions of establishing that Kitsch's Alex Hopper is impulsive, irresponsible, smart, cocky, a real maverick. Heh. His disapproving older brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgard) is there to shout expository dialogue at him, but one too many stunts has led to Alex possibly getting kicked out of the Navy, right after these combat exercises the US is doing with Japan.

Then the aliens finally show up and it gets more interesting. They drop a dome over a few-miles radius, trapping some ships in there with them, and no one can get in or out. What's their motivation? Well, once they blow up the first ship, that's all they need to know.

It never goes off the Roland Emmerich rails, nor does it go into that "commercial for itself" Michael Bay mode. It really stays the whole time in Jerry Bruckheimer-wannabe land. Top Gun more than anything, but it reminded me of Pearl Harbor at one point too.  And, yeah, Transformers.  By the way, Transformers 1 & 3 were better movies than this.

I can't think of an actor though, that could have saved this movie. I mean, I liked Skarsgard and Rihanna and the others in their supporting roles fine, but no one is required to do much. Liam Neeson's part could have been played by anybody. Could have just as easily been Beau Bridges.

And no one ever says "You sank my battleship!"

P.S. I did like the one sequence with AC/DC's "Thunderstruck."

P.P.S. I hated the obvious product placement. Coke Zero, I'm talking about you!