Thursday, May 31, 2012

Weekend Preview 6/1-3/2012

30 Beats: A summer heat wave and a series of sexual encounters connect a group of New Yorkers.

A Cat in Paris: A thrilling mystery that unfurls in the alleys and on the rooftops of the French capital, Paris, over the course of one adventurous evening.

For Greater Glory: A chronicle of the Cristeros War (1926-1929), which was touched off by a rebellion against the Mexican government's attempt to secularize the country.

High School: A high school valedictorian who gets baked with the local stoner finds himself the subject of a drug test. The situation causes him to concoct an ambitious plan to get his entire graduating class to also fail the test.

Piranha 3DD: After the events at Lake Victoria, the pre-historic school of blood-thirsty piranhas make their way into a newly opened waterpark.

Snow White & the Huntsman: In a twist to the fairy tale, the Huntsman ordered to take Snow White into the woods to be killed winds up becoming her protector and mentor in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen.

Wish Me Away: After a lifetime of hiding, Chely Wright becomes the first commercial country music singer to come out as gay, shattering cultural stereotypes within Nashville, her conservative heartland family and, most importantly, within herself.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Best Exotic Movie Review

Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

"If you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and I have a straw - there it is, that's a straw, you see? You watching? And my straw stretches acrooooooss the room, and starts to drink your milkshake... I! Drink! Your! Milkshake!"

You may recognize that as the famous line by Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood. The scene is a perfect example of a brilliant actor bringing the words on his script to life (even if he is talking about a milkshake!).

The script for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel from Ol Parker (Imagine Me & You) is certainly not as well-crafted a work as There Will Be Blood, but the British acting royalty who have been brought on board for Marigold Hotel are similarly talented in elevating their lines so highly that through their sheer talent they can save a film, like Marigold Hotel, from an otherwise predictable story.

In the film, seven British senior citizens all find themselves, for various reasons, retiring to an Indian hotel, advertised for being intended for "the elderly and the beautiful." Yet when the arrive, the hotel is in much greater disarray than the pictures in the brochure. This adds a comedic side-story, but the real plot is found in the identities and relationships of the characters as they each attempt to create a new life.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

MIB Neuralizes Avengers

Weekend Recap: 5/25-27/2012

Will Smith is finally back on top of the box office as Men in Black III (review here) grossed $70 million over the four-day weekend ($55 million Friday-Sunday).

That's slightly higher than the opening weekend of the first two MIB films. But considering inflation over the past 10 years and the extra cost of 3D and IMAX tickets, the studio was probably hoping for a bigger opening weekend. Then again, $70 million ain't bad. Plus, MIB3 was also the top film internationally, taking in $133.2 million.

The Avengers (review here) is still going strong, grossing $46.9 million over the holiday weekend and becoming  only the fourth movie ever to cross the $500 million mark domestically. Overall the film has made $1.3 billion and will soon overtake Harry Potter 7 Part 2 ($1.33 billion) to become the third biggest movie ever, behind only Titanic ($2.18 billion) and Avatar ($2.78 billion), both of which have a more-than-comfortable lead.

Despite being a celebration of our military, Battleship (review here) continued to disappoint during the Memorial Day weekend, bringing in $13.8 million in third place for a ten-day total of $47.3 million. Nipping on its heels is The Dictator (review here) and its ten-day total of $43.6 million following its weekend take of $11.8 million. Although its important to remember The Dictator was made for so much less than Battleship.

With $9.4 million, Dark Shadows edged out Chernobyl Diaries with a $9.3 million debut, while What to Expect When Your Expecting (review here) and surprise hit The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel both grossed over $8 million. The Top Ten was rounded out by The Hunger Games (review here) with $2.8 million (at $395.9 million, it still can't seem to pass the $400 million mark domestically) and Think Like a Man (review here) with $1.8 million.

Meanwhile, Wes Anderson's new film, Moonrise Kingdom, grossed a whopping $670 thousand in only four theaters, for a per-theater average of $167 thousand, a new theater average record for a non-animated film.

Here's a snapshot of the Top Ten weekend films:

Weekend Gross
Theater Average
Total Gross
Men in Black 3
$70 million
$70 million
Marvel’s The Avengers
$46.9 million
$523.6 million
$13.8 million
$47.3 million
The Dictator
$11.8 million
$43.6 million
Dark Shadows
$9.4 million
$64.9 million
Chernobyl Diaries
$9.3 million
$9.3 million
What to Expect When You’re Expecting
$8.9 million
$23.9 million
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
$8.2 million
$18.4 million
The Hunger Games
$2.8 million
$395.9 million
Think Like a Man
$1.8 million
$88.7 million

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Back in Black… Again

Review: Men in Black III

I didn’t realize that I was actually looking forward to seeing Men in Black III until after the lights had gone down in the theater, the previews had run, and composer Danny Elfman’s familiar MIB score began to play over the opening credits. It’s been a while since I had watched the originals, but when that music started all the fun, action, and humor of the first film came flooding back to me and I actually got excited.

I’m not sure who decided, 15 years after the fantastic original Men in Black and ten years after the lackluster Men in Black II, that it was time to revisit the MIB franchise, but I’m glad they did. Men in Black III may not feel as fresh as the classic original, but it is miles beyond the second film and reminds us that, although a few years out of the spotlight, Will Smith (Independence Day, Bad Boys) is still a true-blooded movie star.

Smith’s charisma is what fuels Men in Black III. In the film, Smith’s Agent J follows an alien super criminal bent on revenge back in time to the 1960s to prevent Agent K’s premature death. Tommy Lee Jones (The Fugitive) is present-time K and Josh Brolin (No Country for Old Men), doing an outstanding Jones imitation, is past K. But the constant is Smith, who carries the film and, despite perhaps a few wobbles, never drops it.

Smith jumps right back into the character of J, who as we remember was a product of the 90s and early 2000s. Mainstream humor was a bit different back then, a bit cleaner I’d say, so Smith’s style of delivery takes a minute or two to get used to, but is one that we are familiar with and fall back into comfortably. This is certainly an action/comedy that the whole family can go to. Although if Smith’s brand of comedy gets on your nerves, brace yourself; this is a Will Smith show.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Weekend Preview 5/25-27/2012

Chernobyl Diaries: Six tourists hire an extreme tour guide who takes them to the abandoned city Pripyat, the former home to the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor. During their exploration, they soon discover they are not alone.

Hide Away: A successful businessman attempting to resurrect his life buys and boards a dilapidated sailboat.

The Intouchables: After he becomes a quadriplegic from a paragliding accident, an aristocrat hires a young man from the projects to be his caretaker.

Men in Black III: Agent J travels in time to MIB's early years in the 1960s, to stop an alien from assassinating his friend Agent K and changing history.

Mighty Fine: Joe Fine moves his family from Brooklyn to New Orleans, where his dreams and extravagance far exceed his means.

Moonrise Kingdom: A pair of young lovers flee their New England town, which causes a local search party to fan out and find them.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lower Your Expectations

Review: What to Expect When You’re Expecting

In 2009 we admitted He’s Just Not That Into You. 2010 asked us out for Valentine’s Day. In 2011 we celebrated New Year’s Eve. And now, in 2012, we learn What To Expect When You’re Expecting. We can learn a lot by studying this list:

1. Hollywood places more emphasis on cast than script. This is obvious, since it is the actors and actresses who get all the attention. How many screenwriters can you name? … Exactly. So studios think that as long as they populate their film with stars, it doesn’t really matter what they are actually doing on screen. Therefore, while more of a story could be told with less characters, many filmmakers would rather sacrifice plot for profit, and profit comes from movie stars.

2. Similar to #1, much of Hollywood places more emphasis on quantity is than quality. Why pay millions for two prime actors or actresses when you can spend the same amount of money for 10 mediocre actors? A celebrity is a celebrity to those who make these films, so the Meryl Streeps of the industry are unjustly equated to the Katherine Heigls. And the Katherine Heigls are much cheaper. So in addition to a weak story, you can also forget about any real depth of character.

3. If something works once, studio executives will green-light the same thing time and time again. These types of ensemble romantic-comedy films could stretch back further than 2009 and could include many other films in between (these four just seem the most similar to me).

4. The quality of each “clone” decreases with every cloning. Think about the “spoof” film resurgence which started with the actually entertaining Scary Movies. Now, countless films later, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, and Vampires Suck are seen as some of the worst films ever made. Let’s take a look at an average of scores from (both critic & audience ratings) and (originally on a 10-point scale):

Monday, May 21, 2012

Avengers Sinks Battleship and Other Films

Weekend Recap: 5/18-20/2012

Once again, the weekend box office closed with The Avengers (review here) atop with a weekend gross of $55.1 million. That puts its domestic total at $457.1million, making it the sixth biggest movie in the U.S. ever, behind Star Wars Ep. IV ($461 million).

Internationally The Avengers has become the fourth biggest film ever with $1.18 billion, following only Harry Potter 7 Part 2 ($1.33 billion), Titanic ($2.18 billion), and Avatar ($2.78 billion).

Despite doing good business overseas when it was released a month ago, Battleship (review here) sank with a meager $25.4 million compared to its $200+ million production costs. Internationally it has made $226.8 million, so it has at least broken even and made some actual profit. This is bad news for star Taylor Kitsch in particular, whose John Carter (review here) absolutely tanked not too long ago. Maybe he’s not the star people thought…

Opening early on Wednesday, The Dictator (review here) did well considering the competition, grossing $17.4 million over the weekend with $24.4 million over all five days. In fourth place was Dark Shadows with a weekend take of $12.8 million for an overall total of $50.9 million, while What to Expect When You’re Expecting (review here) tanked with only $10.5 million. I have no idea why it wasn’t released last weekend, when Mother’s Day would have given it a considerable bump.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel continues to do great business in limited release, taking sixth place with $3.3 million from only 350 theaters, giving it the weekend’s second-best per-theater average and bringing its overall total to $8.2 million. The Hunger Games (review here) is still in theaters, adding $3 million to its total to $391.6 million.

Think Like a Man (review here) is also still adding to its gross, earning $2.7 million over the weekend for a total gross of $85.9 million. The Top Ten was rounded up by The Lucky One and The Pirates! Band of Misfits (review here) which both took in over $1 million for ninth and tenth place, respectively.

Here’s a snapshot of the Top Ten Weekend Films:

Weekend Gross
Theater Average
Total Gross
Marvel’s The Avengers
$55.1 million
$457.1 million
$25.4 million
$25.4 million
The Dictator
$17.4 million
$24.5 million
Dark Shadows
$12.8 million
$50.9 million
What to Expect When You’re Expecting
$10.5 million
$10.5 million
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
$3.3 million
$8.2 million
The Hunger Games
$3 million
$391.6 million
Think Like a Man
$2.7 million
$85.9 million
The Lucky One
$1.8 million
$56.9 million
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
$1.5 million
$25.4 million

You Sunk My Battleship!

Review: Battleship

All I ever wanted from Battleship was to hear Liam Neeson (Taken) shout “This isn’t a game!” or "You sunk my battleship!" He sadly said neither, but you can see how low my expectations were.

Perhaps it is because I expected literally nothing after reading so many scorching reviews of Battleship, but I walked out of the theater pleasantly surprised that I actually enjoyed the film for what it was.

Now what Battleship turned out to be is not a great film by any means. There are plot problems – for the first half of the film it is unclear exactly what path the film is taking – and every character is a stereotype.

But despite not-always-clear direction, the film is fun and audiences are treated to visually stunning action scenes. Every shot is so sleek and smooth it looks like a J.J. (Star Trek) Abrams’ movie, including many more lens flares than are necessary. When things get dirty, the film still seems to shine. 

And Battleship never takes itself too seriously (a good thing when remembering your origins are a board-game). Even in a third act surprise cast addition which could have easily been a cheap emotional ploy to patriotism, it maintains the film’s atmosphere of fun without making the patriotism seem silly. Yes, the film’s action scenes look like they could fit in a Transformers movie. But the manner in which the major action scenes are approached is unique in its delivery.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

How Miley Cyrus Defeated the Avengers

Once upon a time, there was a group of superheroes known as the Avengers. In the summer of 2012, the Avengers assembled and surprised expectations by breaking the domestic opening-weekend record. Proudly, they displayed the Top Ten Opening-Weekend Films:
  1. Marvel's The Avengers ($207,438,708)
  2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 ($169,189,427)
  3. The Dark Knight ($158,411,483)
  4. The Hunger Games ($152,535,747)
  5. Spider-Man 3 ($151,116,516)
  6. The Twilight Saga: New Moon ($142,839,137)
  7. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 ($138,122,261)
  8. Pirates of theCaribbean: Dead Man’s Chest ($135,634,554)
  9. Iron Man 2 ($128,122,480)
  10. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 ($125,017,372)
Dismayed, stars of other blockbuster films united in an attempt to prove to the Avengers that they weren't so much better than everyone else. Their solution? Adjust for inflation! Maybe that would work. So they introduced the Top Ten Opening-Weekend Films (Adjusted For Inflation):
  1. Marvel’s The Avengers ($207,438,708)
  2. The Dark Knight ($174,738,000)
  3. Spider-Man 3 ($173,959,700)
  4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 ($168,763,300)
  5. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest ($164,003,900)
  6. Spider-Man ($156,551,700)
  7. The Hunger Games ($152,535,747)
  8. The Twilight Saga: New Moon ($148,657,800)
  9. Shrek the Third ($140,015,100)
  10. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1 ($139,709,900)
The other films couldn't believe it. The Avengers had beaten them again. They were about to abandon all hope, when suddenly a young blonde girl walked in. "I know how to beat the Avengers," she said. "Those superheros got, like, a ton of help from being in so many theaters. Let's look at how many tickets were sold per-theater!" And with that, the blonde enigma of a girl unveiled the Top Ten Opening-Weekend Films per-Theater:
  1. Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour (6,346)
  2. Marvel’s The Avengers (6,022)
  3. Spider-Man (5,468)
  4. The Blair Witch Project (5,222)
  5. Spider-Man 3 (5,166)
  6. The Dark Knight (5,053)
  7. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (5,010)
  8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (4,871)
  9. Borat (4,826)
  10. The Lost World: Jurassic Park (4,790)
The other films gasped (and the Avengers all feinted) when the blonde girl removed her wig and revealed herself to be Miley Cyrus. And that is the story of how Miley Cyrus defeated the Avengers.

Retold from an original CNN article.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Time for a Regime Change

Review: The Dictator

Sacha Baron Cohen is known as a character actor and his newest film, The Dictator, certainly gives us a compelling figure in Admiral General Aladeen, the dictator of a fictitious Middle Eastern nation, Wadiya.

In the film, Aladeen is treacherously switched with a bumbling body-double and abandoned in New York City, where Aladeen is forced to confront everyday Americans as he attempts to break into the U.N. before Wadiya is turned into a democracy and he loses power forever.

The Prince and the Pauper,” a novel by Mark Twain in which a beggar boy and a prince are confused for one another and adopt each other lives for a time, is a fantastic storytelling guide, setting up easily executed and completely relatable character arcs as the “Prince” character must learn humility while the “Pauper” character is rewarded for his own hard-earned wisdom.

Updating the prince to a merciless dictator was famously done in 1940 when Charlie Chaplin masterfully played a Hitler-like character in The Great Dictator. It is a phenomenal movie which I highly recommend (I included Chaplin’s inspirational final speech at the bottom. You should definitely check it out!). When combining its sentiments with qualities of Eddie Murphy’s 1988 film Coming to America and Baron’s own Borat (2006), The Dictator has all the right ingredients to make a good movie and a great comedy, taking on the new generation of dictators.

The Dictator does get it right in a few ways – a decapitated head gag and a child-bearing scene are particularly funny and an ending scene is a searing satire of American politics – but the film has a major problem: The Dictator is all about Baron’s Aladeen character. This is rightfully so since Aladeen is THE dictator in The Dictator. The problem is that the film is then inseparably tied to Aladeen. Whatever qualities Aladeem has, the film in its very nature shares with him. So who is Aladeen?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Weekend Preview 5/18-20/2012

Battleship: A fleet of ships is forced to do battle with an armada of unknown origins in order to discover and thwart their destructive goals.

The Dictator (which actually comes out 5/16/2012): The heroic story of a dictator who risks his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed.

Hysteria: The truth of how Mortimer Granville devised the invention of the first vibrator in the name of medical science.

Lovely Molly: Newlywed Molly moves into her deceased father's house in the countryside, where painful memories soon begin to haunt her.

Mansome: A documentary from Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Morgan Spurlock that explores the question: In the age of manscaping, metrosexuals, and grooming products galore - what does it mean to be a man?

The Samaritan: After twenty years in prison, Foley is finished with the grifter's life. When he meets an elusive young woman named Iris, the possibility of a new start looks real. But his past is proving to be a stubborn companion.

Virginia: A sheriff sees his state senate bid slide out onto the ice when his daughter begins to date the son of a charming but psychologically disturbed woman with whom the sheriff has engaged in a two-decade-long affair.

What To Expect When You're Expecting: A look at love through the eyes of five interconnected couples experiencing the thrills and surprises of having a baby, and ultimately coming to understand the universal truth that no matter what you plan for, life doesn't always deliver what's expected.

Truth Is...

Truth is…

Truth is what affirms reality
If you believe truth is correspondence.
Truth is a property of systems of propositions
If you believe truth is coherence.
Truth is a perception influenced by society
If you believe truth is constructed.
Truth is what is agreed upon
If you believe truth is consensus.
Truth is what works
If you believe truth is pragmaticism.
Truth is an expressive convenience
If you believe truth is a linguistic symbol.
Truth is an action 
If you believe truth is performative.
Truth is an opinion
If you believe truth is pluralistic.
Truth is...

Truth is God
If you believe truth is found in Western religions.
Truth is self
If you believe truth is found in Eastern religions.
Truth is proven
If you believe truth is the scientific method.
Truth is the phenomena of the human experience
If you believe truth is poetry.
Truth is adrenaline
If you believe truth is adventure.
Truth is passionately intuitive
If you believe truth is love.
Truth is…

I think about truth constantly
What is true?
Why is it true?
How can I know it is true?
Prove it!
But with endless understandings of truth
Can I ever get one answer?
Because truth is...

Truth is explained a thousand different ways
And each explanation can be justified a thousand times.
But as much as one perspective can be proven
It never seems to disprove another.
Different forms of truth all writhing together
Yearning to escape human debate
To become THE Truth
But we do not let them go.
We cannot
Because in this life we will never know who got it right.
Because truth is…

Truth is belief
Even if you think it is correspondence or coherence or constructed or consensus.
Truth is conviction
Even if you think it is pragmatic or symbolic or performative or pluralistic.
Truth is faith
Even if you think it is found in Judaism or Christianity or Islam or Hinduism or Buddism.
Truth is a choice
Even if you think it is science or poetry or adventure or love.
Truth is…

Truth is a mystery
Truth is a paradox
Truth is completely out of our control.
And truth is completely up to us.
Truth is…

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Avengers Assembles Over $1 Billion!

Weekend Recap: 5/11-13/2012

“Walt Disney Pictures reports that Marvel's The Avengers (review here) is expected to cross the $1 billion global box office mark today on its 19th day of release! It will be the first Marvel film and fifth Disney release to reach $1 billion.

Domestically, the Joss Whedon (Serenity) action adventure added $103.2 million, which is the first time in history a film has crossed the $100 million mark its second weekend. Last weekend, the film set the opening weekend record with $207.4 million. Internationally, The Avengers earned $95.4 million this weekend. The film has earned an estimated $373.2 million now in North America and $628.9 million overseas for a worldwide total of $1,002.1 billion.

That means in just 19 days, the $220 million-budgeted film has surpassed The Dark Knight's $1,001.9 billion and has climbed to the 11th spot on the all-time worldwide list. It's also the fastest film to reach the $200 million mark domestically in three days, the fastest to reach $300 million in nine days, it has the highest Saturday ($69.5 million) and Sunday ($57 million) totals of all time, and the second-biggest single-day gross of all time ($80.8 million).

Internationally, The Avengers began opening April 25 and is the biggest opening weekend of all time in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Central America, Peru, Bolivia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, and United Arab Emirates. The Avengers has now opened in all major markets except Japan (August 17)” (

Following all that, Warner Bros. is sure to be disappointed with the measly $29.7 million that Dark Shadows managed to bring in after being produced for an estimated $150.

Think Like a Man (review here) continues to be one of the top films, grossing $6.3 million for third place, while The Hunger Games (review here) and The Lucky One both brought in over $4 million for fourth and fifth place respectively.

Taking fifth and sixth place were The Five-Year Engagement and The Pirates! Band of Misfits (review here), which both took in over $3 million. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel surprised in eighth place, grossing $2.7 million in only 178 theaters with a per location gross of $15,012, the second best per-theater average overall.

The Top Ten was rounded out by Chimpanzee and Safe, which both took in over $1 million.

(Don’t have time for a weekend “snapshot,” sorry!)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Weekend Preview 5/11-13/2012

A Bag of Hammers: A comedy about two misfit best friends incapable of growing up, whose direction is tested by an abandoned child, worn beyond his years; together they invent the family they've always needed.

Dark Shadows: An imprisoned vampire, Barnabas Collins, is set free and returns to his ancestral home, where his dysfunctional descendants are in need of his protection.

Girl in Progress: As single mom Grace juggles work, bills, and her affair with a married doctor, her daughter, Ansiedad, plots a shortcut to adulthood after finding inspiration in the coming-of-age stories she's reading for school.

God Bless America: On a mission to rid society of its most repellent citizens, terminally ill Frank makes an unlikely accomplice in 16-year-old Roxy.

Hick: A Nebraska teen gets more than she bargained for when she sets out for the bright lights of Las Vegas.

I Wish: 12-year-old Koichi, who has been separated from his brother Ryunosuke due to his parents' divorce, begins to believe that the new bullet train service will create a miracle when the first trains pass each other at top speed.

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview: A conversation with Steve Jobs as he was running NeXT, the company he had founded after leaving Apple.