Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Walking Dead "I Ain't a Judas" - TV Review

So, since Merle saved Rick's life, he's part of the group now.  He's given his non-apology shrugs to Glenn and Michonne.  Maybe they're going to begin the long road to redeem Merle, but more likely, he'll eventually be the downfall of the group.

I love having Andrea caught in the middle, and I loved how unwelcoming the group was upon seeing her.  But while it's in Michonne's character to withhold information, why didn't Maggie ever pull Andrea aside to spell out just what kind of man the Governor is?

I'm loving how Carl's morphed into this no-nonsense grown-up-too-soon kid, as willing to shoot a zombie as anyone else.  He's the only one in the group who can tell Rick that maybe he shouldn't lead anymore.

I'm hoping that Tyreese and company see through the Governor sooner rather than later.

The Walking Dead "Home" - TV Review

I like where this episode ended up.  You have Andrea still in Woodbury, knowing that it's her people in the prison, but she's divided by her loyalty to the town and to her former lover, the Governor.  You have the prison crowd, led by Glenn today, arguing that they need to strike first and assassinate the Governor.  And you have Daryl finally deciding he'd rather head back to the prison, where Merle wants to or not.  That climactic shoot-out was nicely out of nowhere, complete with the van full of walkers released into the prison yard.

Axel was the last of the original prisoners, and his death was out of left-field.  Now the prison gang need Tyreese and his people to return, as they need more multi-episode guest-stars to zombie chow later in the season.

The Walking Dead "Suicide King" - TV Review

Interested set of dilemmas for our players now that this show is back from its mid-season hiatus.

The Dixon Brothers are reunited and on the same page, but Daryl has a condition for going back to the prison fortress - "no him, no me."  Daryl knows his brother's a jerk. I can't remember if he knows exactly how far Merle and the Governor went with Maggie, but even then, Daryl's blood is blood.  "No him, no me." Had Carol been there when the decision was made, I don't think Daryl would've made it so easily.

Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) is one of the coolest characters on TV. Reedus might never get nominated for it, but neither was Larry Hagman for his revisiting of J.R. Ewing or Nick Offerman for Ron Swanson. I love the older sister-younger brother dynamic that Carol and Daryl have.  No matter how hard Daryl wants to make himself, Carol's there to pat his chest and remind him he has a good heart.

Merle, meanwhile, is a dilemma. He has no reason to forgive Rick for handcuffing him to the top of the building, or to anyone else in the group for not coming back before he sawed his hand off. He may yet get a shot at redemption by being with Daryl, especially since the Governor's about to sink to some evil depths.

I like that Rick is still losing his mind.  After the phantom phone-calls, now he's seeing his wife appear in the rafters like she's been summoned by the Music of the Night.  With Daryl gone, Rick's the only alpha male left in the dwindling group, and he can't let himself let Tyreese and company join, which is a shame, because I get the feeling Adam and Ben are going to do something stupid and get one of the group members killed before they become zombie-chow.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Identity Thief wins box-office

1.  Identity Thief - $14.06 million ($93.67) - 3 wks (U) -40.6%
 . . . 3222 screens / $4365 per screen
2.  Snitch - $13 - 1 wk (Sum)
 . . . 2511 / $5177
3.  Escape from Planet Earth - $11.01 ($35.14) - 2 wks (Wein) -30.7%
 . . . 3353 / $3285
4.  Safe Haven - $10.6 ($48.06) - 2 wks (Rel) -50.5%
 . . . 3223 / $3289
5.  A Good Day to Die Hard - $10 ($51.8) - 2 wks (Fox) -59.7%
 . . . 3555 / $2813
6.  Dark Skies - $8.85 - 1 wk (Dim)
 . . . 2313 / $3826
7.  Silver Linings Playbook - $6.05 ($107.48) - 15 wks (Wein) -3.1%
 . . . 2012 / $3007
8.  Warm Bodies - $4.75 ($58.27) - 4 wks (Sum) -46.4%
 . . . 2644 / $1797
9.  Side Effects - $3.51 ($25.25) - 3 wks (OR) -44%
 . . . 2070 / $1696
10. Beautiful Creatures - $3.41 ($16.37) - 2 wks (WB) -55%
 . . . 2950 / $1156
11. Zero Dark Thirty - $2.25 ($91.56) - 10 wks (Sony) -24.9%
 . . . 1197 / $1880
12. Argo - $1.97 ($129.79) - 20 wks (WB) -10%
 . . . 802 / $2450

Snitch can claim it had the highest per-screen average, but Identity Thief managed to reclaim the top spot.

2012 Academy Award Winners

BEST DIRECTOR - Ang Lee, Life of Pi
BEST ACTOR - Daniel Day-Lewis, Lincoln
BEST ACTRESS - Jennifer Lawrence, Silver Linings Playbook
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR - Christoph Waltz, Django Unchained
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS - Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY - Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained
BEST DOCUMENTARY - Searching for Sugar Man
BEST ORIGINAL SONG - "Skyfall" by Adele
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE - Mychael Danna, Life of Pi
BEST MAKEUP - Les Miserables
BEST SOUND MIXING - Les Miserables
BEST SOUND EDITING (tie) - Zero Dark Thirty & Skyfall

The wealth was spread tonight.

4 for Life of Pi
3 for Argo, Les Miserables
2 for Django Unchained, Lincoln, Skyfall

Seth MacFarlane's opening number - I enjoyed seeing Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron dancing, Flight as done by sock puppets, Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt soft-shoeing, the Sally Field bit, but by the time we got to "Be Our Guest", whew.  Just start the show.

Pretty amazed that Waltz won.

The "Jaws" playoff music was pretty funny for the Life of Pi visual effects team.

Shirley Bassey's "Goldfinger" number was a nice surprise.

Wow, John Travolta's hairpiece is looking particularly vampiric.

Brave was at best the fourth-best animated film nominated. Shocked that it won.

I'm happy for Russell Crowe. He sounded better at the Oscars than he did in the movie.

I love In Memoriums, but it bugs me every year when publicists and marketing executives get in, and they snub big names.  How about Andy Griffith?  Ben Gazzara?  Larry Hagman?  Richard Dawson?

I love how Adele sings like a sultry songstress but talks like a cockney housewife.

Awesome speech by Ben Affleck to end the night.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Weekend Box Office - 2/17/13

1.  A Good Day to Die Hard - $25 million ($33.24) - 1 wk (Fox)
 . . . 3553 screens / $7036 per screen
2.  Identity Thief - $23.44 ($70.73) - 2 wks (U) -32.2%
 . . . 3165 / $7405
3.  Safe Haven - $21.43 ($30.26) - 1 wk (Rel)
 . . . 3223 / $6649
4.  Escape from Planet Earth - $16.07 - 1 wk (Wein)
 . . . 3288 / $4886
5.  Warm Bodies - $9 ($50.22) - 3 wks (Sum) -20.7%
 . . . 2897 / $3107
6.  Beautfiul Creatures - $7.46 ($10) - 1 wk (WB)
 . . . 2950 / $2529
7.  Side Effects - $6.31 ($19.13) - 2 wks (OR) -32.2%
 . . . 2605 / $2421
8.  Silver Linings Playbook - $6.09 ($98.46) - 14 wks (Wein) -5.2%
 . . . 2202 / $2765
9.  Hansel & Gretel - $3.47 ($49.7) - 4 wks (Par) -39.7%
 . . . 2103 / $1650
10. Zero Dark Thirty - $3.1 ($88.03) - 9 wks (Sony) -22.6%
 . . . 1522 / $2037

Four new movies invaded multiplexes over Valentine's Day weekend, with varying results.  A Good Day to Die Hard was #1, but with its $92 million production budget, Fox had been hoping for more in the range of $45 million for its first four days.  Word has it it's the worst one of the series, so I expect it to drop quickly over the next couple weeks.

Safe Haven is this spring's low-budget weepie that outperformed expectations.  Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough don't have the star power of Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum, but Relativity Pictures has to be pleased with its performance. (Hough can't open a movie with Tom Cruise, but she can with Duhamel!)

Escape from Planet Earth wasn't screened for critics and didn't have much publicity, but there's a drought of kids movies in multiplexes right now, so it did its job.

Beautiful Creatures was hoping to bank on the supernatural-YA fad, but there may be a few reasons why it bombed.  For one, no one has heard of either of the leads.  When Twilight was greenlit, Kristen Stewart was at least a recognizable name (not to mention it had a much bigger fanbase).  I've heard that it changes a lot of the book as well, so the built-in audience isn't happy with that either.

Identity Thief and Warm Bodies are strong holdovers; both can be considered successes.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Warm Bodies - Movie Review

Starring Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich, Rob Corddry, Dave Franco and Analeigh Tipton.
Directed by Jonathan Levine.


The voice-over narration is by a witty fellow, but unfortunately that narrator is trapped in a zombie body who can only shuffle along and manage some moans and grunts.  His grunts get more strained when he meets a cute girl.  So ultimately this is a perfect metaphor for lovestruck teenhood.

R (Nicholas Hoult) is one of many zombies that came about a plague struck Earth eight years before whenever we are now.  He's called R because that's the only part of his original name he remembers. You may remember Hoult as Beast from X-Men: First Class. He's been in many other things, but his work as R is going to be the role where now I won't forget who Hoult is.  ("Who's Nicholas Hoult?" "The guy from Warm Bodies." "Oh yeah...")

Now underneath it all, yeah, it's a twist on the Twilight craze, where Romeo's a zombie instead of a vampire, but it's decidedly a comedy first, and it works. It also has less gore than your random Walking Dead episode.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Impossible - Movie Review

Starring Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, Oaklee Pendergast and Geraldine Chaplin.  
Directed by J. A. Bayona.


Based on a true story.  The 2004 tsunami that struck southeast Asia was one of the deadliest natural disasters in history. Over 230,000 people died across 14 countries.  This movie focuses on the story of one family.  In real life, they're Enrique and Maria Alvarez from Spain, but in the movie they're changed to Maria and Henry Bennett from England. I know a handful of critics got their righteous-indignation danders up over the story of "white people!" in the tragedy, but I don't mind it. I've read the backstory, and Maria chose Naomi Watts herself to play her.  Other than that adjustment, the movie's remarkably faithful to what really happened.

To the movie!  Maria and Henry Bennett are vacationing in Thailand with their three boys Lucas, Thomas and Simon when the tsunami strikes.  The tsunami sequence is a triumph in special effects, and the immediate aftermath has us on the edge of our seats as Maria comes to the surface, fighting for air, being swept along by a debris-filled ocean wave crashing through what used to be dry land in Thailand.  She soon spots oldest son Lucas (Tom Holland), and they must fight to stay alive and find safety before another wave hits.

Watts and Holland are great in their roles. They draw us in, and their dynamic shifts when Maria's badly injured.  Lucas rises to the occasion, looking after his mother's health, trying to keep her safe.

The acting by the five family members works so well.  I'm happy Watts was nominated for Best Actress for this. The moment when Lucas tells her the rest of the family is dead, you see the shifts in her eyes of absorbing the pain of that but being strong for her son in front of her.  All three kids are great in the moments they have, and the scene where he borrows a stranger's cellphone may be the best acting Ewan McGregor's ever done.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Cinematically Speaking - 2/14/13

- Michael Mann (Heat) will direct Chris Hemsworth (Thor) in an untitled cyber-security thriller. Hemsworth's schedule freed up after Steven Spielberg put Robopocalypse on hold.

- Director Bryan Singer has cast Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) in an unspecified role in X-Men: Days of Future Past, starring Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Ellen Page and Shawn Ashmore.

- Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland, Gangster Squad) is set to direct the long-delayed project Spy Hunter, based on the 1980's video game about a government agent whose job is to eliminate rogue spies when they become government liabilities.  A few years ago, John Woo and Paul WS Anderson looked at directing with Dwayne Johnson attached to star. Fleischer views it as his chance to direct an American James Bond type movie.

- John Cusack is attached to star in Cell, based on the Stephen King novel about a Pulse that makes everyone who was on their cellphones at the time turn into bloodthirsty zombies.

- In TV news, Mike Vogel (ABC's Pan Am) has been cast in the CBS series Under the Dome. Based on the Stephen King novel, it's about a New England community that finds itself trapped one day under a mysterious forcefield.  He joins Aisha Hinds (ABC's Detroit 187), Colin Ford (We Bought a Zoo), Natalie Martinez (End of Watch) and Brittany Robertson (CW's The Secret Circle).

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Cinematically Speaking - 2/10/13

I've seen three of the five Best Documentary nominees, and I plan to see The Invisible War before Oscar night. Watching them all close together makes me rethink each one, examine how documentaries work, what the filmmaker chooses to show and not show. Are key facts being left out to shape how I feel about what I see?

5 BROKEN CAMERAS I saw first, thought it was great.
SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN I saw next, also great. Completely different story. I addressed them both in the Top Ten post.

I then watched HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE, and it only serves to inform me more how to think about the first two, and will do so for whatever documentary I choose to watch next.

PLAGUE is about the AIDS activists of the 1980's and 1990's who kept pressure on the government, on drug companies to find a cure.  There's no doubt the men and women who fought then for the usual molasses-pace of the FDA to change its ways saved lives. I just came away at the end wondering if anyone in the government or anyone in the drug company was a good guy. Were they all villains, even the ones who actually, you know, found the drugs that worked? It made me wonder about SMA, the genetic condition that contributed to the deaths of two of my girls. Should I have been more angry? If I'd carried a camera with me and confronted anyone I could, would that have made a difference? I don't know. But for these guys, yeah, it made a difference. And it is breathtaking sometimes to look back at how little we knew about AIDS in the 1980's and 1990's (and I would argue, still today).


The rumors we have right now is that in addition to Star Wars 7, 8, and 9 coming, is that we'll get stand-alone movies for other characters. The three identified so far are Yoda, Han Solo and Boba Fett. One of those might come to pass. I seriously doubt all three will, but it means we're going to get another decade of Star Wars rumors.


More movies I've seen on DVD recently:

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 (★½) - This one attempts to add another layer to the story, but at this point, Paranornal Activity 5 (and there will be one) would be better off pursuing an entirely different family. Katie Featherston is back in a small role as a creepy neighbor who will factor into the climax. In the meantime it follows a teen girl whose little brother is making friends with the weird new kid next door.  The found-footage style doesn't always work here. Who holds a videocamera while running for their life?  It's the weakest in the series. Dull, illogical and anticlimactic.

SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS (★★★) - In Bruges actor Colin Farrell and director Martin McDonagh reunite for this story about a screenwriter who gets caught in the crosshairs of a gangster who's looking for his dog that Farrell's roommate kidnapped. It has a lot of inside-baseball Hollywood humor about screenwriting and what sells, but it has a lively cast (Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson, Abbie Cornish, etc.) and plenty of funny moments.

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS (★★) - It's strictly for minors. I like the books better.

PREMIUM RUSH (★★★) - Straightforward B-movie about an NYC bike messenger being chased through town by a corrupt cop (Michael Shannon). It doesn't try to be anything more than a chase movie, and that's great.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters - Movie Review

Starring Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Peter Stormare and Thomas Mann.
Directed by Thomas Wirkola.


Not sure what the thought process was behind this hybrid action-adventure-comedy-splatterfest.  Were they aiming for Van Helsing?  Was that the high-end bar they set for themselves?  Because it throws in elements of Your Highness, Red Riding Hood and Season of the Witch as well.  Yeah, all high-quality products, them.

Jeremy Renner, not a natural comedian, plays Hansel, and Gemma Arterton (Clash of the Titans) plays Gretel.  The two kids are grown up and thirst for hunting witches ever since one tried to eat them as children.  The witches, aside from the main villain Famke Janssen, might as well be orcs.  They are CG-creatures waiting to be mowed down.

If it had gone for more comedy, then maybe it could have worked.  Or if it had committed more to the period in its aim for action, maybe that would have worked. The Arnold-esque one-liners thrown in aren't funny, the action is indistinguishable from any other video-game-style movie, but at least I can say I wasn't bored.  It's fast-paced, mercifully short (88 minutes) and frank about its stupidity.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Paperboy - DVD Review

Starring Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack, David Oyelowo, Macy Gray, Scott Glenn and Ned Bellamy.  
Directed by Lee Daniels.


Lee Daniels directed Precious, which won Mo'Nique an Academy Award.  He also directed Shadowboxer, which had Cuba Gooding Jr. and Helen Mirren as a stepson/stepmother assassin team that isn't anywhere near as fun as it sounds.

This Southern gothic tale is more Shadowboxer Daniels than Precious Daniels.

In the mid-1960's, two reporters (McConaughey, Oyelowo) investigate the closed-case of a convicted killer (Cusack) at the behest of a death-row groupie woman (Kidman) who has fallen in love with him via writing letters.  Efron plays younger brother to McConaughey, and he wants to help on the case.  He's developed a crush on Kidman.

Now every actor does a great job (Kidman was nominated for a SAG award for her work here), and some of them plumb some debasing depths for their director.  There's one scene where Efron gets stung by a jellyfish and Kidman pees on him. But why is that scene in there at all?  This movie is full of scenes like that, scenes where I don't get what that has to do with the rest of the story.  Ah, but you see, this is the story. The investigation doesn't really matter.

The movie's shot with browns and oranges that make it look like 1960's home movies. I just wish Daniels had decided on a completely different script for this cast. Oh, Daniels co-wrote it too? Never mind.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

My Top Ten Films of 2012

I have not yet seen Amour, Holy Motors, Anna Karenina, Rust & Bone, and some of these other movies making top ten lists, but of the 99 titles from 2012 I have seen, these were the best.

Best of the Miscellaneous

BEST PERFORMANCE IN A BAD MOVIE - Tom Cruise in Rock of Ages.  Whenever he wasn't on screen, the movie was terrible, but whenever he was, we knew we were basking in the light of one of the coolest guys on the planet.

BEST COMEBACK - Channing Tatum.  We should have seen this coming, since he was the funniest part of The Dilemma.  He was so good in 21 Jump Street that the producers of GI Joe 2 ordered reshoots to not kill his character off in the opening scene.  He managed to star in a movie about male strippers and carry over $100 million domestic, and he kept his chick-flick card in "premium" by starring opposite Rachel McAdams in The Vow.  He'll also co-star in his third Soderbergh collaboration (Side Effects) next year.

SECOND BEST COMEBACK - Matthew McConaughey.  Bernie, Magic Mike, Killer Joe.  Three different characters, save that each wears a cowboy hat at some point.  (Yeah, he was good in The Paperboy too, but the less said about that, the better.)

The Master - If PTA had just given this movie an ending, showed some progression, then I would have loved this.
Prometheus - I rewatched Alien and Aliens after this movie. (I was surprised how closely their rhythms matched).  But they both gave answers.  Basic. Brief.  That's all we ask.  This movie leaves things too ambiguous.  It also casts Guy Pearce as a 90-year-old man.  Why not get an actually old actor who isn't buried under Pruneface make-up?  And So-and-So's death at the end is one of the dumbest I've ever seen.  Other than that, I look forward to the sequel.

The Amazing Spider-Man
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Hope Springs
Jeff Who Lives at Home
Premium Rush
Rise of the Guardians
Snow White & the Huntsman
The Three Stooges

Honorable Mentions (my 21-26, alphabetically):

5 BROKEN CAMERAS - This documentary is filmed almost solely by a Palestinian farmer who became a world-known activist as he documented Israelis taking over their nearby land, then setting up walls and fences and tear-gassing the residents anytime they came too close. It's definitely one-sided but it's not common that we see the Palestinian point of view.

21 JUMP STREET - This movie is one of those surprises. When the trailer debuted I thought it looked awful, but it was arguably the funniest movie of the year.

THE HUNGER GAMES - I recognize its flaws but I don't mind them. Didn't mind the shaky-cam; didn't mind the fact that these people don't look that hungry; didn't mind that Katniss only kills people in self-defense.  I've seen it three times now and hope the sequel can fix the problems of Book 2.

PITCH PERFECT - This does for a cappella what Bring It On did for cheerleading.

SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN - Strange journey of a documentary that made me think it was going one place and went somewhere else entirely, to the point I checked Wikipedia while watching the DVD to see if this really happened and isn't some Bansky-style hoax doc.  It's mainly about a couple South Africans who are trying to find out how their favorite musician Rodriguez died.  Rodriguez was a musician in the early 1970's who flopped in his native US, but he was as big as Elvis in South Africa.

THE SESSIONS - John Hawkes is one of those actors who elevates any film he's in, and he gives another tremendous performance here as a man left virtually quadriplegic by polio who sets out to lose his virginity. It's filled with humor and heart.

More Honorable Mentions (my 11-20, alphabetically):

ARBITRAGE - Richard Gere's best work since Chicago, this movie accomplishes exactly what Bonfire of the Vanities could not.  Gere's a millionaire hedge-fund manager cheating on his wife, but somehow we still root for him as he tries to keep his house of cards from falling.

THE AVENGERS - About as good a movie as it possibly could have been, finally Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk and Thor are in the same movie.  Good job by Joss Whedon in keeping the action moving, the dialogue crackling and giving everyone their moment.  Didn't really see why this movie needed Hawkeye, but...

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS - Joss Whedon's puzzle pic is a terrific send-up of pretty much every horror film ever made.

CLOUD ATLAS - This deeply ambitious project may not achieve all its goals, but I found it breathtaking on the big-screen.  It follows six stories across the centuries, with each one loosely - very loosely - connected to the next, and it weaves through each story so that once you get the rhythm, you never get lost.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES - The conclusion to the best superhero trilogy ever made might not be as good as the first two installments, but it's still pretty darn good.  Anne Hathaway was able to mine sexuality I didn't know she had as Catwoman, and all the regulars (Bale, Caine, Oldman, Freeman) get their moments.

END OF WATCH - Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena have great chemistry, the kind where I actually hope the next MTV Movie Awards mentions them.  Probably would have made my top ten if it didn't have 400 F-words.

LES MISERABLES - I liked it.  It definitely had its problems but it also hit some emotional buttons and had some of the best raw acting captured on film this year.  I view it as a companion piece to the stage play.

LIFE OF PI - Visually arresting, narratively challenging work from Ang Lee.  Just one of the most gorgeous movies of the year.

MAGIC MIKE - Steven Soderbergh has abandoned high-minded fare, but he hasn't slipped in quality. This is like Flashdance for male strippers, but with substance and a story.  Tatum's a charming lead, and McConaughey shows up again in a role that would get him a Best Supporting Actor nod in a weaker year. And hey, Alex Pettyfer has finally been made a credible actor.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK - Loved this little gem.  Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence give career-best performances, and Robert DeNiro is the best he's been in a long time.  Casting is the heavy lifting for a film like this, but the chemistry generated afterwards needs to be there, and they have it.

And now...

    ... My Top Ten

10. DJANGO UNCHAINED - Quentin Tarantino is an artist because he makes movies that he would want to see, and he invites audiences to join him on this ride.  Jamie Foxx is fine as Django, a slave seeking to rescue his wife, but it's the supporting cast that chew all the scenery and have all the fun: Christoph Waltz as a good-guy German bounty hunter, Leonardo DiCaprio as a sadistic plantation owner, and especially Samuel L. Jackson as the devious house negro Stephen. QT brings his 1970's exploitation mentality to slavery, but once again, adds more levels than the casual viewer might expect, or might miss due to the cartoonish gore.

9. SKYFALL - It's the best Daniel Craig Bond yet, and easily makes the top five of best Bond films ever.  A large part of that is Javier Bardem as a former agent seeking revenge on M, and it makes it a more personal mission.  We see more of what's behind the aunt-nephew-like relationship of M and 007.  Love the theme song!

8. WRECK-IT-RALPH - Even 8-bit characters can have heart.  This is another home-run for Disney, and it's very Pixarian in the way it weaves together multiple strands to a plot and populates with funny supporting characters and clever throwaway gags.

7. LOOPER - Rian Johnson's futuristic thriller plays with the problems of time travel and keeps twisting the story down paths we don't expect.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt does an amusing impression of young Bruce Willis.

6. LINCOLN - Good ol' Abe finally gets a movie, not counting all the others. One smart decision this movie makes is to not try to tell his life story but focus on one aspect of his presidency and let it illuminate all others.  We see him as president, husband, father, commander-in-chief, cajoler, taskmaster, politician and friend.

5. CHRONICLE - Breathes new life into the found-footage genre, and the superhero genre. Three teens find "something" in the woods and shortly thereafter they develop super powers, one stronger than the others.

4. THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER - The best John Hughes movie since Hughes was making them himself.  The three leads are all great, but Emma Watson announces herself here as a true star.

3. ZERO DARK THIRTY - This straight-forward account goes through the ten years between 9/11 and Usama bin Laden getting killed. We see it through the eyes of Maya (Jessica Chastain), a focussed analyst who makes capturing or killing UBL her life's mission.  We get no backstory on her, and so we're like the characters on screen, knowing only what is presented to us (that, and what we remember from the news the past few years).  Pretty sad Kathryn Bigelow wasn't nominated for this.

2. MOONRISE KINGDOM - The most magical tale of the year, and unjustly ignored by most during this awards season, but awards are about publicity and campaigning, and well, that's fine.  This probably surpasses The Royal Tenenbaums as my favorite Wes Anderson movie. (I'll have to see how I feel in a few years).  While it has famous adults (Edward Norton, Bill Murray, etc.), the film's two young star-crossed puppy-lovers are the central reason it works so well.  And hey, Bruce Willis made it into two movies in my top ten!  Didn't see that coming.

1. ARGO - Despite its historical - shall we call it "playfulness" - for dramatic effect, Ben Affleck has delivered a milestone as his third directorial effort. It's no accident that he won the Golden Globe for Best Director and had he been nominated, I'm confident he would've brought the Oscar home for this too.  He stars too, but he always seems generous with his on-screen co-stars.  Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Victor Garber, Clea Duvall, Tate Donovan, Chris Messina, etc., etc., all come together for one great whole, with a story that's suspenseful even though we know how it ends.

So there it is. Did you see any of them?

My worst ten of 2012 are here.

UPDATE: I rented The Perks of Being A Wallflower, and it deserves to be in my top ten. Somewhere.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Weekend Box Office - 2/1 to 2/3

1.  Warm Bodies - $19.51 million - 1 wk (Sum)
 . . . 3009 screens / $6482 per screen
2.  Hansel & Gretel: WH - $9.21 ($34.46) - 2 wks (Par) -53.2%
 . . . 3375 / $2729
3.  Silver Linings Playbook - $8.11 ($80.38) - 12 wks (Wein) -14.1%
 . . . 2809 / $2888
4.  Mama - $6.73 ($58.26) - 3 wks (U) -48.6%
 . . . 2781 / $2420
5.  Zero Dark Thirty - $5.3 ($77.8) - 7 wks (Sony) -45.4%
 . . . 2871 / $1846
6.  Bullet to the Head - $4.5 - 1 wk (WB)
 . . . 2404 / $1872
7.  Parker - $3.22 ($12.44) - 2 wks (FD) -54.1%
 . . . 2238 / $1437
8.  Django Unchained - $3.04 ($150.98) - 6 wks (Wein) -38.6%
 . . . 1777 / $1710
9.  Les Miserables - $2.44 ($141.52) - 6 wks (U) -42.2%
 . . . 1848 / $1320
10. Lincoln - $2.41 ($170.79) - 13 wks (BV) -37.6%
 . . . 1756 / $1374
11. Argo - $2.1 ($120.44) - 17 wks (WB) +15.9%
 . . . 935 / $2246
12. The Hobbit - $1.91 ($296.2) - 8 wks (WB) -43.6%
 . . . 1300 / $1469

Zombie-love ruled the weekend.  Meanwhile Sylvester Stallone is meeting the same fate as his Expendables co-stars Jason Statham and Arnold Schwarzenegger at the box-office.