Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Great Mother of Middle Earth

An Archetypal Study of Galadriel in Fiction and Film

Carl Jung is widely considered one of the greatest psychologists and thinkers in history. He introduced the world to Jungian psychology, which strives to study, explain, and predict the unconscious forces that are innate in every individual. “He contributed many ideas which continue to inform contemporary life: complex, archetype, persona, shadow, anima and animus, personality typology, dream interpretation, individuation, and many other ideas” (Hollis, 2006, para. 1). Jung’s studies of creativity, spirituality, symbolic expression, psychodynamics, and collective patterns which develop within culture has greatly influenced modern thought and academic research into the mind of man.

Carl Jung was born in Switzerland in 1875 to a mother who had frequent battles with depression and was often absent from the household. Jung graduated with a medical degree and began working with psychiatric patients, which led to his acquaintance and eventual deep friendship with famed psychologist Sigmund Freud. Freud deeply impacted Jung and how he thought about the conscious and unconscious mind. Yet while Freud focused on sex and sexuality as the source of behavior motivation, Jung began to look towards the symbols of the human mind. This eventually led to the development of Jung’s own branch of psychology, called Analytical Psychology, which studied the three parts of the psyche: the ego, the id, and the superego. (Cherry, 2011, para. 1-7).

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Weekend Preview 6/29 - 7/01/2012

Magic Mike: A male stripper teaches a younger performer how to party, pick up women, and make easy money.

People Like Us: While settling his recently deceased father's estate, a salesman discovers he has a sister whom he never knew about, leading both siblings to re-examine their perceptions about family and life choices.

Take This Waltz: A happily married woman falls for the artist who lives across the street.

Ted: As the result of a childhood wish, John Bennett's teddy bear, Ted, came to life and has been by John's side ever since - a friendship that's tested when Lori, John's girlfriend of four years, wants more from their relationship.

Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection: A Wall Street investment banker who has been set up as the linchpin of his company's mob-backed Ponzi scheme is relocated with his family to Aunt Madea's southern home.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Brave Decapitates Abraham Lincoln

Weekend Recap 6/22-24/2012

Brave (review here) became Pixar's 13th straight film to debut at #1 at the box office, earning $66.3 million from 4,164 theaters, the studio's widest release ever.

Brave is Pixar's 4th biggest opening weekend for a non-sequel, following Finding Nemo ($70.3 million), The Incredibles ($70.5 million), and Up ($68.1 million).

A kid's movie took also took 2nd place, as Madagascar 3 (review here) brought in $19.7 million, while Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (review here) grossed a measly $16.3 million.

Prometheus (review here) and Snow White & the Huntsman (review here) rounded out the Top Five with $9.9 million and $8.1 million, respectively. Worldwide, Prometheus has now taken in $261.4 million, while SW&TH has reached $297.4 million.

Rock of Ages (review here) and That's My Boy (review here) continue to perform poorly in their second week of release, both bringing in over $7 million for sixth and seventh place. They barely surpassed the eighth place film, Marvel's The Avengers (review here), a film that's been out for two months, as it also earned over $7 million, with a better per-venue average than Rock of Ages and That's My Boy.

Men in Black 3 (review here) and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (review coming soon) concluded the Top Ten, with $5.7 million and $3.8 million, respectively.

Meanwhile, Moonrise Kingdom continues to do well, bringing in $3.4 million in only 395 theaters, and should be back in the Top Ten next week when it expands nationwide. To Rome with Love rocked the 5 theaters it was in, taking in $379 thousand, averaging $75 thousand per location (a number which blows any of the Top Ten films' averages out of the water).

Here's a snapshot of the Top Ten Weekend Films domestically:

Weekend Gross
Theater Average
Total Gross
$66.3 million
$66.3 million
Madagascar 3
$19.7 million
$157.1 million
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
$16.3 million
$16.3 million
$9.9 million
$108.4 million
Snow White & the Huntsman
$8.1 million
$137.1 million
Rock of Ages
$7.7 million
$28.4 million
That’s My Boy
$7.6 million
$27.9 million
Marvel’s The Avengers
$7.2 million
$598.4 million
Men in Black 3
$5.7 million
$163.5 million
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
$3.8 million
$3.8 million

Monday, June 25, 2012

Brave Misses the Usual Pixar Bullseye

Review: Brave

Pixar is possibly the most original movie studio in Hollywood. Let me give you a quick reminder of their animated masterpieces: Toy Story (1995), A Bug’s Life (1998), Toy Story 2 (1999), Monsters, Inc. (2001), Finding Nemo (2003), The Incredibles (2004), Cars (2006), Ratatouille (2007), WALL-E (2008), Up (2009), Toy Story 3 (2010), and Cars 2 (2011).

You may not love every film in the Pixar canon (I’m not fond of Cars and really didn’t like Cars 2), but you have to admit they’ve been consistently original and successful. Even their “worst” films (not that any of them are truly bad) are better than most other cartoons that come out; in fact, better than most other films that come out, period.

Brave, Pixar’s 13th film, will also deliver their 13th straight number 1 opening weekend film. Not bad.

Of course, what this all means is that Pixar has established a pretty high standard of expectations for its films. Perhaps this is why I, and those who I saw Brave with this weekend, left the theater feeling rather underwhelmed. It was nice, we thought, but not the epic of originality that we’ve come to anticipate from Pixar.

In Brave, Pixar presents its unique take on the princess story. Merida is the daughter of a Scottish lord, expected to soon pick a husband from a number of suitors, but instead wants to forge her own path. Opposed to her unladylike behavior is her mother, who wants her to act like proper royalty. Merida runs away into the woods where she encounters a witch, who gives her a spell to change her mother. The rest of the film deals with Merida dealing with the spell’s consequences.

Friday, June 22, 2012

President By Day, Hunter By Night

Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

The new mashup film Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter “has visual style to spare, but its overly serious tone doesn't jibe with its decidedly silly central premise, leaving filmgoers with an unfulfilling blend of clashing ingredients” (RottenTomatoes).

I generally try to not rely overly much on other critics when writing my reviews, yet it seems everyone, including myself, pretty much agrees on this one.

The film is certainly more action movie than horror movie and ALVH gives us a number of thrilling action scenes as good ol’ Honest Abe takes on the blood-sucking vamps. This shouldn’t come as shock, as the director is Timur Bekmambatov (Wanted), who knows how to film exciting fight sequences.

The actors brought in for ALVH serve both the action and the dramatic moments well. Benjamin Walker (Flags of Our Fathers), as Abraham Lincoln, is not the most charismatic individual, but does an acceptable job as our top-hatted president. (At times he also really looks like Liam Neeson, which is somewhat ironic since Neeson was the fan favorite to be Lincoln before Daniel Day-Lewis was cast in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming historical biopic epic.) Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, and Jimmi Simpson each also do well.

With decent action and serviceable actors, it is really the film’s tone which bumps it off-track. ALVH takes itself much too seriously for a film that’s essentially using its title as a gimmick to generate interest. If the filmmakers want their audience to suspend rational belief long enough to not only accept that our 16th president killed vampires, but also did it while running on the backs of horses during a stampede, or could chop down a tree with a single blow, then they should realize everything they’ve put on screen is ridiculous and treat the material more appropriately. If the characters had more fun, audiences would too.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Weekend Preview 6/22-24/2012

Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter: Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, discovers vampires are planning to take over the United States. He makes it his mission to eliminate them.

Brave: Determined to make her own path in life, Princess Merida defies a custom that brings chaos to her kingdom. Granted one wish, Merida must rely on her bravery and her archery skills to undo a beastly curse.

The Invisible War: An investigative documentary about the epidemic of rape of soldiers within the US military.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World: As an asteroid nears Earth, a man finds himself alone after his wife leaves in a panic. He decides to take a road trip to reunite with his high school sweetheart. Accompanying him is a neighbor who inadvertently puts a wrench in his plan.

Stella Days: A small town cinema in rural Ireland becomes the setting for a dramatic struggle between faith and passion, Rome and Hollywood and a man and his conscience.

To Rome with Love: A story about a number of people in Italy, some American, some Italian, some residents, some visitors, and the romances and adventures and predicaments they get into.

Sandler Should Be Disowned

Review: That’s My Boy

The new Adam Sandler film, That’s My Boy, which tells the tale of Donnie Berger's attempts to reconnect with his son, whom he fathered when you was only a teenager, tanked at the box office this past weekend. I think there’s a few reasons for that.

Foremost, I think audiences have finally grown tired of Adam Sandler’s style of comedy. He never really switches up what he’s going to do in his comedies anymore. An annoying voice and some immature antics pretty much sums up everything Adam Sandler has to offer.

It was acceptable during the early Adam Sandler years – Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, and The Waterboy are classics! – but now it’s just old. That’s My Boy continues the trend of offering us nothing new. Oh, Sandler’s playing another man-child? Pass.

Perhaps Sandler, who normally sticks to PG/PG-13 films, thought that going for the R-rating with That’s My Boy constituted doing something fresh and innovative. It doesn’t. In fact, being raunchier ends up shifting Sandler from his standard bumbling and ignorant character to a complete jackass. The jokes go from inappropriate to just plain mean.

It’s one thing when Sandler plays nice guys and pauses time to slaps his jerk boss in Click (who hasn’t wanted to do that at one point or another) or takes on a table of condescending elitists in Mr. Deeds. But it’s entirely different when Sandler is the jerk and is kicking people while they’re down. Going after those who are already marginalized in That’s My Boy only makes Sandler’s character, Donnie, a bully.

More Karaoke Than Concert

Review: Rock of Ages

Just a small town girl...

And yes, she is living in a lonely world. Sherrie has "journeyed" to find fame and fortune in 1987 Los Angeles. She ends up working at a club. But this isn’t any old club, it’s the Bourbon Room, a famous Rock ‘N’ Roll club, gearing up for a huge Stacee Jaxx concert. And it’s where she finds love.

There’s also a useless subplot in Rock of Ages about the city’s mayor and his wife wanting to close the Bourbon Room, but really the entire plot just serves as exposition and introduction to some of the huge musical numbers they perform.

And boy do they pack this movie with music; I’m not sure if at any point we go for more than 10 minutes without a song. Which is fine by me, since the return to Rock ‘N’ Roll is what most of the audience is there for anyways.

This is why critics have written that Rock of Ages is “Two films in one: the good film, which is composed of extremely proficient, highly energetic production numbers (of which there are many), and the clich├ęd, surprisingly non-energetic other film, which is composed of all the talky bits” (CJ Johnson).

It’s true; most of the dramatic moments really aren’t all that dramatic, because they can never match up to the adrenaline we feel while reliving the classic rock ballads. And it’s also because the film’s two leads, the amazingly attractive Julianne Hough (Footloose) and the insignificant Diego Boneta (Mean Girls 2), can’t act worth a lick. Sure they are phenomenal singers and dancers, and again, Julianne Hough is crazy pretty (is my celebrity crush showing through?), but they just can’t act. Everything they say feels like you’re watching a high school play and their chemistry is obviously forced.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Running Away with the Circus

Review: Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

It’s been a while since I’ve seen the first Madagascar film – I liked it, but I guess it wasn’t worth multiple viewings – and I can remember so little of Madagascar 2 I’m not entirely sure if I ever actually saw the whole thing. Since the first two films having failed to make an impression on me, I questioned how well the newest sequel, Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, would turn out.

Overall, I liked the film quite a bit, but I don’t think it will end up being one that I will remember in years to come.

In Madagascar 3, Alex, Marty, Melman, Gloria, King Julien, and the penguins are still trying to get home. The solution seems to be with a traveling circus who, if they impress a talent scout, will earn themselves a free pass to New York. All the while they are pursued by a merciless animal control officer who will do anything to mount Alex’s head on her wall.

Most impressive were the film’s visuals. The 3D in the movie was actually pretty darn good, adding to the excitement rather than being a distraction. The most striking scene is the thrilling performance the circus delivers in London, delivering vibrant colors and gripping feats. This is the first time in the Madagascar series that the filmmakers truly strove to blow audiences away and it really works, making us wish they had been so ambitious in the first two films. The London scene, as well as the film’s climax, are visually stunning and exciting. Those two scenes alone make the film worth watching.

Madagascar 3 not only looks good, but feels good too; it’s a movie with heart. The animals (and the audience) learn some good lessons along the way about friendship and finding home and there are some sweet character moments that just make you say “Awww.”

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

An Incredible Journey

The Changing Face of Masculinity in Cinema

As Seen Through “The Hero’s Journey” in The Incredibles

In 1949, Joseph Campbell first released his influential book concerning comparative mythology, entitled The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he unfolds his theories about narratives and archetypes. Campbell contends that most myths and stories adhere to a basic structure, called the monomyth, and have similar characters. The author famously summarizes his thoughts on the monomyth when he writes early on in the book, “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man” (Campbell, 2008, p. 23). Since its publication, Campbell’s work has been applied to numerous storytelling vehicles, including literature and film, and has been adapted by other scholars. 

One such scholar is Christopher Vogler. In the early-1980s, the writer stumbled upon Campbell’s work and began to recognize Campbell’s mythological story patterns to be present in movies as well, particularly in the Star Wars films. A few years later, while working as a story consultant for Walt Disney Pictures, Vogler sent out a seven page memo outlining his summation of Campbell’s ideas and how they truly were present in modern films. The memo circulated the Hollywood industry like wildfire and Vogler was reassigned by Disney legend Jeffrey Katzenberg to the Animation division where he began work on many of what are now considered the animation classics of our time, all while applying his formulation of Campbell’s theories. (Vogler, 2011). In the early-1990s, after much encouragement from his industry peers, Vogler adapted Campbell’s work into a textbook, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, to great acclaim. It was Vogler’s textbook which played a major role in popularizing the phrase “The Hero’s Journey” when describing a narrative pattern similar to the monomyth that Campbell described. In Vogler’s formulation of “The Hero’s Journey,” the Hero passes through twelve stages and there eight basic character archetypes encountered. This is compared to Campbell’s seventeen stages, although both authors admit that not every myth or story would contain every single one of their stages.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Madagascar Roars Past Cruise & Sandler

Weekend Recap: 6/15-17/2012

It’s been 10 days since my last review and I feel terrible about that. But until I can find some time to play catch up on the reviews, here’s the Weekend Recap!

This past weekend was a bit of a rematch. Tom Cruise and Adam Sandler have done battle before (check out their versus analysis here). On June 25, 2010, Cruise’s Knight and Day took on Sandler’s Grown Ups. Both failed to top the box office, with the top spot going to Toy Story 3 in its second week. That year, Sandler took second place and Cruise took third.

This weekend Cruise was able to finish ahead of Sandler, but both were trumped yet again by a cartoon in its second week. Not only did Madagascar 3 lead the box office with $35.5 million, but a returning movie took second place as well, as Prometheus (review here).

That left third place to Cruise and Rock of Ages, with a disappointing $15.1 million. Snow White and the Huntsman (review here) came in fourth, bringing in $13.8 million, although being in less theater’s than Rock of Ages actually gave SW&TH a better per-location average.

Sandler and That’s My Boy rounded out the Top Five with an abysmal $13 million. That’s the lowest opening-weekend gross for a Sandler live-action comedy since Bulletproof in 1996.

Meanwhile, Moonrise Kingdom, still in less than 200 theaters, took in $2.2 million for a weekend-best per-location average of $12,252. Also in limited release, Your Sister’s Sister, the second Mark Duplass-starring movie released in just as many weeks (the second being Safety Not Guaranteed) grossed $117 thousand in only 13 theaters.

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

Weekend Gross
Theater Average
Total Gross
Madagascar 3
$35.5 million
$120.5 million    
$20.2 million
$88.9 million
Rock of Ages
$15.1 million
$15.1 million
Snow White and the Huntsman
$13.8 million
$122.6 million
That’s My Boy
$13 million
$13 million
Men in Black 3
$10 million
$152.7 million
Marvel’s The Avengers
$8.8 million
$586.7 million
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
$2.2 million
$35.1 million
Moonrise Kingdom
$2.2 million
$6.8 million
What to Expect When Your Expecting
$1.3 million
$38.8 million

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Weekend Preview 6/15-17/2012

Extraterrestrial: Everyone knows what to do if one morning the sky would be absolutely full of UFOs: run as fast as you can. However, what would happen if the invasion started while you are in the flat of the girl of your dreams, the one you have just met?

Rock of Ages: A small town girl and a city boy meet on the Sunset Strip, while pursuing their Hollywood dreams.

Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap: A documentary on rap music and its rise to global prominence.

That's My Boy: While in his teens, Donny fathered a son, Todd, and raised him as a single parent up until Todd's 18th birthday. Now, after not seeing each other for years, Todd's world comes crashing down when Donny resurfaces just before Todd's wedding.

The Tortured: An upper-middle-class couple's life is destroyed when their only child is kidnapped and killed. Obsessed with revenge, the couple seizes an opportunity to kidnap the killer.

The Woman in the Fifth: A college lecturer flees to Paris after a scandal costs him his job. In the City of Lights, he meets a widow who might be involved in a series of murders.

Your Sister's Sister: Iris invites her friend Jack to stay at her family's island getaway after the death of his brother. At their remote cabin, Jack's drunken encounter with Hannah, Iris' sister, kicks off a revealing stretch of days.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Adam Sandler vs. Tom Cruise

This weekend Adam Sandler's That's My Boy goes to battle with Tom Cruise's Rock of Ages. So I thought it would be fun to run a quick comparison between the two of them. (The movie ratings are an average of the IMDb rating, the RottenTomatoes critics rating, and the RottenTomatoes audience rating.)

Adam Sandler
Tom Cruise

Academy Award Nominations
Academy Award Wins
Golden Globe Nominations
Golden Globe Wins
Razzie Nominations
Razzie Wins

$100+ Million Movies
Average Movie Rating
Movies ≥ 70%
Movies ≤ 50%

Top 3 Movies
Punch-Drunk Love (75%)
Rain Man (85%)

Reign Over Me (73%)
Magnolia (84%)

Happy Gilmore (70%)/The Wedding Singer (70%)
Mission Impossible IV (84%)

Bottom 3 Movies
Going Overboard (20%)
Losin’ It (33%)

Jack and Jill (25%)
Cocktail (43%)

Bulletproof (40%)
Lions for Lambs (45%)