Sunday, March 31, 2013

GI Joe is #1, Tyler Perry #3, Host #6

For the weekend of March 29-31.

1. GI Joe: Retaliation - $41.2 million ($51.71) - 1 wk (Par)
 . . . 3719 screens / $11,078 per screen
2. The Croods - $26.5 ($88.62) - 2 wks (Fox) -39.3%
 . . . 4065 / $6519
3. Tyler Perry's Temptation - $22.3 - 1 wk (LG)
 . . . 2047 / $10,894
4. Olympus Has Fallen - $14 ($54.74) - 2 wks (FD) -53.9%
 . . . 3106 / $4507
5. Oz the Great & Powerful - $11.61 ($198.28) - 4 wks (BV) -46.2%
 . . . 3324 / $3491
6. The Host - $11 - 1 wk (OR)
 . . . 3202 / $3436
7. The Call - $4.8 ($39.48) - 3 wks (TriS) -46.1%
 . . . 2439 / $1968
8. Admission - $3.25 ($11.76) - 2 wks (Foc) -47.1%
 . . . 2161 / $1505
9. Spring Breakers - $2.76 ($10.1) - 3 wks (A24) -43.2%
 . . . 1379 / $2000
10. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone - $1.3 ($20.58) - 3 wks (WB) -69.9%
 . . . 1575 / $825
11. Identity Thief - $1.09 ($129.91) - 8 wks (U) -57.8%
 . . . 1082 / $1010

GI Joe: Retaliation survived bad reviews to nab a big opening weekend.  It was supposed to open last summer, but they wanted reshoots to beef up Channing Tatum's part (he'd originally been slated to die in the first scene).  The other wide releases - Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor and The Host - received even worse reviews.

With a cast like Tatum, Bruce Willis and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, GI Joe looks like a younger, better Expendables spinoff.

The marketing never came together for The Host. There was never a final sell, and tracking numbers fell off for it the last week.

I keep waiting for Tyler Perry's Phone Book to be released to big numbers.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Olympus Has Fallen - Movie Review

Starring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Rick Yune, Dylan McDermott, Robert Forster, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser and Ashley Judd.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua.


Die Hard in the White House!

I actually saw a few people in my Twitter feed compare it to a Die Hard sequel (mostly favorably) before I went to the movie, so that was in my head.  And they're right.

Olympus Has Fallen is a straightforward action B-movie where one man has to take on a small army of terrorists who've taken over the White House, and they're holding the President, VP, Defense Secretary and a few other notables in the safehouse bunker underground.

One man, ex-Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Butler), makes his way into his former place of employment before the terrorists manage to lock it down.  Now he must kill off the stray guards that go looking for him as he searches for the President's son, unaccounted for and somewhere in the White House.

Meanwhile the head of the terrorist group (Rick Yune) sends demands to the Speaker of the House (Morgan Freeman), acting president while POTUS and VPOTUS are hostages.

The whole thing takes place over the course of 24 hours, so a lot of it is at night, where fight scenes can hide more in their choreography. It amused me how often Mike and the other guy would have their guns knocked away so they'd fight with fists and kicks until one of them found a knife or something.

There were a couple plot points that were so stupid - and I mean so stupid! - that my brain had to actively fight and wrestle with them to not kill my enjoyment of the movie. If you tell me a failsafe, and I can instantly think about how to get around it and exploit it to kill millions, why did this potential exploitation never occur to anyone in the White House, Pentagon, contractors...?

Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) fills the supporting roles with plenty of champions.  I really liked how Melissa Leo (Academy-Award-winning actress...) threw herself into what could have been a throwaway role as the Secretary of Defense. (She was probably thinking, "I probably won't be in too many more action movies, so I'm going to have fun!")  You want the Speaker to be a man with gravitas? You don't mess around; you just get Morgan Freeman.

The body count is high, and the bullets fired are plentiful. Fuqua really doesn't mess around.

I can already see a sequel where Mike Banning is just visiting Buckingham Palace...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Bachelorette - DVD Review

Starring Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, Adam Scott, James Marsden, Rebel Wilson, Kyle Bornheimer, Ann Dowd, Hayes MacArthur and Andrew Rannells.
Directed by Leslye Headland.


It'd be very easy to compare this movie to Bridesmaids, but that movie was geared to be more mainstream.  This is more like a meaner version of The Hangover, mostly taking place over the 24 hours before a wedding with three maids of honor spending all night trying to emergency-repair their friend's wedding dress that they tore when drunk.

The three rude-and-crude chicks are the tightly-wound Regan (Dunst), the flighty Katie (Fisher) and the jaded Gena (Caplan). This movie doesn't ask you to sympathize with them, as two of them do cocaine in the first few minutes. They were part of a clique in high school, and they're reverting to their old destructive ways when reunited. Imagine the three Heathers coming together at age 30 to be bridesmaids.

The performances are solid all around.  Dunst seems invigorated to play Regan, a rhymes-with-witch who believes she's done everything right and can't believe she isn't married yet. Her unhappiness will be felt by those around her in her passive-aggressive best.  Caplan's Gena is the tough girl who falls apart when her ex-boyfriend Clyde (Scott) shows up.  Fisher has this unending sweetness about her, where her Katie seems to think her never-ending substance abuse is still "cute."

Even though it tries to end on a somewhat positive note, it leaves a nasty aftertaste.

Branded - DVD Review

Starring Ed Stoppard, Leelee Sobieski, Jeffrey Tambor and Max von Sydow.
Directed by Jamie Bradshaw & Alexander Doulerain.

This wannabe satire on consumerism is never funny on purpose, and there needs to be a more pointed jab than "consumerism is bad."  Weak acting abounds, most notably from its lead Ed Stoppard (Upstairs Downstairs). The special effects are cheap and ineffective. It's just a mess from beginning to end.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Hit and Run - DVD Review

Starring Kristen Bell, Dax Shepard, Bradley Cooper, Tom Arnold, Kristen Chenoweth, Joy Bryant, Michael Rosenbaum, Beau Bridges, Ryan Hansen, David Koechner, Jess Rowland, Carly Hatter, Sean Hayes and Jason Bateman. Directed by Dax Shepard & David Palmer.


Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard have been a couple for years, so here comes along this home movie that shows off Dax's car collection and features their friends stopping by for roles of various sizes. (I'm actually surprised Johnny Knoxville and Jason Segal didn't cameo.)

Shepard plays Charlie, a man in witness protection who falls in love with Annie (Bell).  Annie has a great job opportunity in L.A., and Charlie agrees to move with her to L.A. and leave witness protection. Ah, but it turns out Annie has a jealous ex-boyfriend who Googles Charlie under his real name and finds the men he testified against.  So we are now in a road movie where one car plans to kill the people in the other car.

Tonally it has this 2 Days in the Valley vibe to it, a date movie with faux-Tarantino flavorings. It's primarily a comedy that is never quite funny. It has a lot of setup for some places where laughs should be, and most of my entertainment came from trying to figure out which cast members know Shepard or Bell from what.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - DVD Review

Starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman, Kate Walsh, Dylan McDermott, Nina Dobrev, Paul Rudd, Johnny Simmons, Melanie Lynskey and Joan Cusack.
Directed by Stephen Chbosky.


A teen-angst drama that John Hughes would be proud to call his own, this is about a shy high-school freshman in 1992 who manages to befriend a circle of seniors and become part of their group.

Logan Lerman (Percy Jackson) is Charlie, the awkward freshman who's had some tragic circumstances push him deeper into his shell, but he manages to get in good graces with two step-siblings who take him under their wing.  From there, we experience the joys and pitfalls of high school with him, and them, a group of friends with universally recognizable characteristics but none feeling stock or cliche. It's one of those rare high school movies that treats its characters like real people.

Sam is a girl trying to push through her previous reputation of promiscuity, and Emma Watson (of Harry Potter fame) plays her beautifully. She takes on a nurturing role to Charlie that deepens as they grow closer. Patrick is her fearless gay stepbrother, and he never feels like he's "the gay guy." He's Patrick, and Ezra Miller is completely different here than he was as the titular pyschopath in We Need to Talk About Kevin.

It brought back a lot of memories. Pretty much the opposite effect of Take Me Home Tonight.

I updated my Top Ten of 2012 to include this. I liked it that much.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Weekend Box Office - 3/17/13

1. Oz the Great & Powerful - $42.22 million ($145.03) - 2 wks (BV) -46.6%
 . . . 3912 screens / $10,793 per screen
2. The Call - $17.1 - 1 wk (TriS)
 . . . 2507 / $6821
3. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone - $10.31 - 1 wk (WB)
 . . . 3160 / $3261
4. Jack the Giant Slayer - $6.22 ($53.91) - 3 wks (WB) -36.8%
 . . . 3357 / $1853
5. Identity Thief - $4.52 ($123.71) - 6 wks (U) -28.7%
 . . . 2842 / $1590
6. Snitch - $3.5 ($37.26) - 4 wks (LG) -31.3%
 . . . 2353 / $1487
7. 21 & Over - $2.62 ($21.87) - 3 wks (Rel) -48.6%
 . . . 2424 / $1080
8. Silver Linings Playbook - $2.59 ($124.61) - 18 wks (Wein) -28.5%
 . . . 1602 / $1615
9. Safe Haven - $2.5 ($66.95) - 5 wks (Rel) -33.5%
 . . . 2206 / $1131
10. Escape from Planet Earth - $2.33 ($52.17) - 5 wks (Wein) -27.7%
 . . . 2211 / $1052

Oz was able to reign for a second week with ease. It's now the highest-grossing movie thus far of 2013.  The Incredible Burt Wonderstone collapsed upon opening. The closer it got, the lower the tracking numbers. This may have benefitted The Call, which was expected to open lower than Burt.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

To Rome with Love - DVD Review

Starring Woody Allen, Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, Penelope Cruz, Judy Davis, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig, Ellen Page, Alessandra Mastronardi, Alessandro Tiberi, Allison Pill, Ornella Muti and Flavio Parenti. Directed by Woody Allen.


This is middle-of-the-road hit-and-miss Woody Allen.  I mean, I'm still a big fan.  Seeing that white Windsor font against the black screen while a really old song plays is the best kind of introductory cinematic comfort food.

This is an ensemble piece where we have four stories going on that don't bother to link to each other, save for that they all take place in Rome.  We meet a newlywed Italian couple where the uptight husband (Alessandro Tiberi) is the young-Woody stand-in, nervous and insecure.  We meet an architect (Jesse Eisenberg) who runs into an old pro (Alec Baldwin) who may just be an older version of himself.  We meet two nervous parents (Woody Allen, Judy Davis) flying to Italy to meet their daughter's Italian fiance. We also meet Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni), an office drone who is suddenly famous and stalked by paparazzi for no discernible reason.

The success of the movie depends on how successful each storyline works in its own right and how they come together as a whole.  Well, they don't come together as a whole, so how are the parts?

The Benigni thread worked best for me.  It had the whimsical what-if fairy dust of Purple Rose of Cairo or Deconstructing Harry.  I enjoyed Penelope Cruz popping into the newlywed thread as a high-priced call-girl, even if it never lived up to its premise.  The Woody Allen thread had one good gag.  The Eisenberg/Baldwin thread was a waste. I blame some of it on the miscasting of Ellen Page, but the older Baldwin, seeing the trainwreck coming, doesn't really try to stop it.

So it's not a nailgun to the skull like Whatever Works or Curse of the Jade Scorpion, but there are a good twelve Woody movies I'd recommend over this one.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Oz wins weekend

1.  Oz the Great & Powerful - $80.28 million - 1 wk (BV)
 . . . 3912 screens / $20,521 per screen
2.  Jack the Giant Slayer - $10.02 ($43.81) - 2 wks (WB) -63.2%
 . . . 3525 / $2843
3.  Identity Thief - $6.32 ($116.53) - 5 wks (U) -34.9%
 . . . 3002 / $2105
4.  Dead Man Down - $5.35 - 1 wk (FD)
 . . . 2188 / $2445
5.  Snitch - $5.1 ($31.86) - 3 wks (LG) -34.3%
 . . . 2340 / $2179
6.  21 and Over - $5.06 ($16.84) - 2 wks (Rel) -42.2%
 . . . 2771 / $1825
7.  Safe Haven - $3.8 ($62.88) - 4 wks (Rel) -39.5%
 . . . 2541 / $1495

Oz is the big story of the weekend, the highest opening thus far in 2013.  Dead Man Down is DOA, as is the WWII period pic Emperor, starring Tommy Lee Jones as Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Random Movie News - 3/8/13

- George Lucas has confirmed that Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher are all on board for Star Wars Episode VII.

- Keri Russell (Dark Skies) has joined the cast of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, starring Andy Serkis, Gary Oldman, Jason Clarke and Kodi Smit-McPhee.  Most of humanity has been wiped out, but the film centers on a resistance group in San Francisco, and Caesar's attempt to maintain order in his new ape society.

- Liam Neeson and Giovanni Ribisi have join the cast of A Million Ways to Die in the West, a western comedy starring Seth MacFarlane as a cowboy training to be a gunfighter.  Charlize Theron and Amanda Seyfried co-star.

- Michael Keaton will star in Birdman, about an actor once famous playing a superhero who is now trying to mount a Broadway play.  Edward Norton, Emma Stone, Zack Galifianakis, Amy Ryan and Naomi Watts.  Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel) will direct.

- Jessica Chastain tops Warner Bros' wish list to play Jane in their upcoming live-action Tarzan movie.

- Christopher Nolan's next movie will open November 7, 2014. It's called Interstellar, and plot details are currently under wraps.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Flight, The Invisible War, Detective Dee - DVD Reviews

FLIGHT (★★★) Starring Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly, John Goodman, Bruce Greenwood and Melissa Leo.  Directed by Robert Zemeckis.

So nice to see Zemeckis back in the live-action business.  The man behind the motion-capture animated movies like Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol has decided not to cover Denzel Washington with those green dots, but to just let him be his flesh-and-blood self.

Here, Denzel plays an airline pilot with a bit of a drinking problem, but hey, if he's ever too drunk, a little cocaine will wake him right up.  The movie is alot more about an addict's long road to recovery than the trailer would have you believe, but that's just fine. It's all about the performances.  The contrived final twenty minutes, however, almost ruin the movie.


THE INVISIBLE WAR (★★★½) Directed by Kirby Dick.

This documentary is one that'll make your blood boil.  It highlights the under-reported problem of rape in the Armed Forces.  One of the first stats cited is one of the most alarming. One out of five women in the Armed Forces is raped.  We meet a few victims, some using their names and faces, some blurred, and we hear their stories of the injustices.  Since the documentary came out, there have been changes made (as the closing credits indicate), but it still made me wonder.  Of those dishonorable few who poison the well, how many of those raping soldiers were also the torturing soldiers.


DETECTIVE DEE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE PHANTOM FLAME (★★) Starring Andy Lau and Tony Leung.  Directed by Tsui Hark.

This movie made me appreciate Zhang Yimou and Ang Lee so much more.  This offbeat period tale is about a 7th century detective ordered by Empress Wu to investigate two mysterious deaths by spontaneous combustion.  Naturally there's plenty of wire-fu, but the lighting, editing and direction makes it difficult to determine what's going on half the time, and a fight scene should not inspire its audience to just patiently wait for it to end.

Zero Hour, Vikings, The Bible - TV Reviews

ABC's ZERO HOUR - Watched one episode, just to see what it was like, but the next day I learned it had already been cancelled.  ABC really screwed this one up.  Why put a show like this against Big Bang Theory and American Idol, in the same spot where FlashForward failed?  Anthony Edwards made his grand return to TV in this National Treasure/DaVinci Code type series where he's trying to solve a centuries-old mystery that involves Nazis and a treasure map, and that's in the first twenty minutes.

HIST's VIKINGS - The most promising aspect of this show is that it has Gabriel Byrne as an aging chief trying to keep his power.  The rest of it is fairly generic, striving to be a Scandinavian Game of Thrones where any schemes are announced out loud in front of everyone.  I'll record a second episode, but it needs to improve.

HIST's THE BIBLE - Straightforward sword-and-sandals take on the highlights of the Bible.  in the first hour we start with Noah, but he decides to tell the family the story of Genesis, at least all the chapters that lead up to him.  We see Adam rise from the dirt, Cain crush Abel's skull, bada bing, bada boom, Noah gets on dry land, and then we jump to Abraham and Lot.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Jack is #1 but a bomb nonetheless

1.  Jack the Giant Slayer - $28.01 million - 1 wk (NL)
 . . . 3525 screens / $7946 per screen
2.  Identity Thief - $9.71 ($107.43) - 4 wks (U) -30.8%
 . . . 3230 / $3005
3.  21 and Over - $9 - 1 wk (Rel)
 . . . 2771 / $3248
4.  The Last Exorcism Part II - $8.03 - 1 wk (CBS)
 . . . 2700 / $2974
5.  Snitch - $7.7 ($24.41) - 2 wks (Sum) -41.5%
 . . . 2511 / $3067
6.  Escape from Planet Earth - $6.73 ($43.21) - 3 wks (Wein) -37%
 . . . 3110 / $2163
7.  Safe Haven - $6.3 ($57.09) - 3 wks (Rel) -39.7%
 . . . 2951 / $2135
8.  Silver Linings Playbook - $5.94 ($115.52) - 16 wks (Wein) +3.3%
 . . . 1836 / $3236
9.  A Good Day to Die Hard - $4.5 ($59.62) - 3 wks (Fox) -55.7%
 . . . 2589 / $1738
10. Dark Skies - $3.56 ($13.45) - 2 wks (Dim) -56.6%
 . . . 2313 / $1537
11. Warm Bodies - $2.65 ($62.01) - 5 wks (Sum) -45.1%
 . . . 1930 / $1373
12. Life of Pi - $2.3 ($116.94) - 15 wks (Fox) +43.3%
 . . . 626 / $3674
13. Argo - $2.21 ($132.76) - 21 wks (WB) +20.7%
 . . . 985 / $2239
14. Side Effects - $1.78 ($28.1) - 4 wks (OR) -47.1%
 . . . 1112 / $1598
15. Quartet - $1.76 ($11.16) - 8 wks (Wein) +56.3%
 . . .725 / $2428
16. Zero Dark Thirty - $1.3 ($93.6) - 11 wks (Sony) -41.7%
 . . . 722 / $1801
17. Django Unchained - $1.02 ($160.32) - 10 wks (Wein) +5.4%
 . . . 983 / $1042
18. Lincoln - $1.01 ($180.09) - 17 wks (BV) -32.1%
 . . . 652 / $1541
19. Beautiful Creatures - $.92 ($18.53) - 3 wks (WB) -74.4%
 . . . 1075 / $859
20. Wreck-It-Ralph - $.58 ($187.39) - 18 wks (BV) -11%
 . . . 352 / $1634
21. Les Miserables - $.56 ($147.62) - 10 wks (U) -11.8%
 . . . 352 / $1591

Jack the Giant Slayer had a $200 million production budget, so a $28 million opening puts it in the same "bomb" company as John Carter and Battleship.

The weekend after the Oscars benefitted the winners.  Argo, Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook and Django Unchained all saw upticks in their business.  Of 2013 titles, Identity Thief is the big winner.  Even with weak reviews (24% RotTom ranking) it's a hit with audiences.

This all sets the table for Oz The Great and Powerful to have a huge opening this weekend.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Escape from Planet Earth - Movie Review

Starring the voices of Rob Corddry, Brendan Fraser, Sarah Jessica Parker, William Shatner, Jessica Alba, Jane Lynch, Jonathan Morgan Heit, Craig Robinson, George Lopez, Ricky Gervais, Steve Zahn and Chris Parnell.
Directed by Cal Brunker.


The animation is no eyesore, but it is also a modest movie.  It's not in the realm of anything cranked out by Disney/Pixar, DreamWorks or BlueSky, nor is it as bad as the Hoodwinked movies.  It's a decent time-killer in its own right if your tickets are free.

It's the story of two brothers, Gary and Scorch, aliens who go on intergalactic missions.  Scorch is the brawn, the chiseled-chin hero who gets all the glory.  Gary is mission control, the brains back at base who always has to bail his brother out of his predicaments.  Their sibling rivalry happens to be in a bad place when Scorch gets the call to save an alien from "the Dark Planet" aka Earth.  No alien has ever come back from Earth alive.  Scorch goes alone, convinced he doesn't need Gary's help.

One reason no alien comes back alive is because they all keep landing right next to Area 51.  (Seriously, how come they never try to land in Australia or Brazil?)  Area 51, in our story, is run by a maniacal general who kidnaps aliens and uses them for slave labor.  When Scorch's signal winks out, Gary decides it's up to him to save his brother.

The themes are familiar and the humor is mostly for little kids. There's a running gag where a janitor keeps stepping on his mop so it flips up and whacks him in the face.  It reminded me of Planet 51 more than any other film.

Random Movie News - 3/1/13

- David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, The Fighter) will next direct Abscam, about a con artist (Christian Bale) and his mistress/partner in crime (Amy Adams) forced to work with a federal agent (Bradley Cooper) to take down other con artists, mobsters and politicians, and they center on the leader (Jeremy Renner) of the New Jersey state assembly.  Jennifer Lawrence and Louis C.K. also star.

- Russell will then direct The Ends of the Earth, based on the true story of an oil tycoon who lost everything after he began an affair with his adopted daughter. Lawrence will play the daughter, and it'll be the third film she and Russell make together.

- Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me In) has joined the cast of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, starring Andy Serkis and Jason Clarke. The sequel starts 15 years after the events of the first film.

- The Wolf of Wall Street will now open November 15.  Based on a true story, it stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort, a New York stockbroker who became entangled in a securities fraud case.  It's directed by Martin Scorsese and co-stars Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill, Jean Dujardin, Jon Bernthal and Kyle Chandler.

- Would I bring Seth MacFarlane back to host the Oscars?  No.  For every funny bit, like Flight retold with sock puppets, there was something haltingly inappropriate, like the sexist "We Saw Your Boobs" number. He wasn't the worst host; I'd actually put him somewhere in the middle overall, but I agree with the sentiments expressed elsewhere: get Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to host next year. Or maybe they'll look at the ratings and say, "Let's give it to Trey Parker and Matt Stone."