Sunday, December 20, 2009
What It's About: It's the year 2154 and people still make references to the Wizard of Oz and the War in Iraq. The evil American military-industrial complex sends an obviously Australian marine to infiltrate and learn the ways of a group of people, who are so enlightened they apologize to their food for eating it.
What I Was Expecting: It's James Cameron. I expect bang for my buck, visuals like I've never seen and dialogue that causes physical pain to my ears.
What I Got: Everything except the last part. Okay, there were a few zingers from James Cameron, who apprarently learned to write dialogue by watching Ed Wood movies. But, in general, it's not too bad. Or I was just so dumbfounded by what I was seeing on screen, I didn't notice. I have never seen anything like this film. This film should not even be shown in 2-D. There's no point. It was obviously made to be seen in 3-D. And it's the 3-D effect where Cameron really shows his genius. Most 3-D movies focus on having things come at the screen. Cameron focused on moving things away. It was brilliant how many times there would be a character or two up front and how much movement there would be some 50 feet behind them. That is what makes it seem like things are happening right in front of you. As for the rest of the movie, as brilliant and inventive as the film is visually, plot wise, it's just okay. There is not a single, non-cliche character in the film. The performances are just passable as well. Sam Worthington apparently learned to do an American accent by watching Russell Crowe movies. I did like Giovanni Ribisi, but I liked his character much better when Paul Reiser played him in Aliens. Overall, the film is an experience and needs to be seen in 3-D, in a theatre.
Oscar Potential: This film will get a lot of Oscar love. Nominations for Picture and Director, for sure. And the technical awards, just check them all off. How many it will actually win is a different story. Visual effects and the sound categories. But that may be it.
Five Random Thoughts:
1. I wonder how much screen time actual actors must have in a movie to make it not qualify as an animated film. Or is it that the animation looks so real in Avatar that you forget that minutes go by where you don't see anything not created with a computer.
2. Invoking Rule 34 on the Na'vi in three...two...one..... (If you don't know Rule 34, google it.)
3. Any particular reason why the 3-D glasses look like Wayfairers?
4. They invent an entire language for this film, create all kinds of new species and the best sound they could come up with for the horse-like creature is an actual horse? And the best name they could think of for the Na'vi home tree is "The Hometree"?
5. James Horner should be shot for the score at the end of the film. If you've written one of the most recognizable film scores in recent memory, you don't rip it off. And it was an emotional moment and I found myself singing along to it, "Near...far...."
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief: I've reviewed this same trailer before, but it was the first time that I recognized the kid playing Percy as the kid from 3:10 to Yuma and the TV series Jack & Bobby.
Salt: Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Wait a second. Hasn't Angelina Jolie been nominated a couple of times for Oscar recently? What on earth is she doing making this crap? The problem with coming up with such an awful title for a film: No one will forget it. You couldn't change it at this point.
The Book of Eli: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman....and Mila Kunis? Malcolm X, Beethoven and...Meg Griffin? Okay, I'm game. Looks great.
Alice in Wonderland: I'd seen this trailer on the internet before and I didn't think much of it. Now that I've seen it in 3-D, it looks amazing.
Despicable Me: I've reviewed this one a couple times as well. Had no idea this one was also in 3-D. Looks fun. Especially with THAT cast.
Shrek Forever After: I hated this trailer. I hate this title. When have you ever heard "forever after" in a fairy tale. And what happened to the original title "Shrek Goes Fourth"? Well, if it makes me laugh once, it'll be better than Shrek the Third.
Back on December 19, 1997, the most expensive movie up to that point was released. There had been a lot of noise about Titanic's budget, a whopping $200 million. And that's before marketing. It was estimated that Titanic would have to pull in over a half billion dollars worldwide before it even sniffed making a profit. Considering that it was an epic romance, people were questioning the studios' judgment in taking such a risk. There had only been 8 eight movies at that point to pull in that kind of money and six of them featured either aliens (E.T., Star Wars, Independence Day, Men in Black) or dinosaurs (Jurassic Park, Lost World). The other two were The Lion King and Forrest Gump. Titanic, on the other hand, did not have the names Lucas, Spielberg, Disney, Smith or Hanks attached to it. (Side note: Considering Jeff Goldblum starred in 3 of those, why isn't he a bigger star?)
Leonardo DiCaprio was not a household name. Kate Winslet did have an Oscar nomination under her belt, but wasn't exactly a big ticket seller. Who was the biggest name actor in Titanic? Billy Zane? Kathy Bates? Bill Paxton? Not what you would call star wattage. No, the biggest name attached to Titanic was James Cameron. A name that has been mentioned for too many times in his career with the phrase, "most expensive movie ever made." With the release of Avatar, I think this is the fourth time in his career he's held that distinction. Oh, the good old days when people screamed bloody murder over The Abyss' $80 million budget.
People forget that opening weekend for Titanic. You'll hear it mentioned on the news over the next 24 hours, Avatar's $73 million opening and what it means. How it was the second biggest December opening ever (ironically, Will Smith owns that record too.) But it's funny how people don't remember Titanic's opening weekend numbers. Titanic also had the second biggest December opening. Not of all time. Of 1997. The biggest December opening of 1997 happened the week before with a $32 million opening weekend for Scream 2. Titanic opened with $28 million. And executives at Fox and Paramount were panicking. A $28 million opening usually means a domestic box office of about $100 million. $100 million domestic usually means about $150 foreign. $250 worldwide means the studio will get about $125 million. And when you're movie cost $200 million to make and about $100 million to market, a $125 million return on a $300 million investment will NOT please your shareholders. Those kind of numbers end careers and sometimes entire studios. And when you're huge budget movie barely beats the new James Bond (Tomorrow Never Dies opened at $25 million), you're kind of screwed.
Then something interesting happened. You see, Titanic did $28 million over 3 days. That's just under $10 million a day. Now, when a movie makes $28 million in its opening weekend, it usually makes the same the over the four days following. Then in weekend #2, the movie will do about half what it made its first weekend. Theoretically, by the end of weekend #2, Titanic would have made around $70 million. By December 28, Titanic had made $88 million. Nearly 20% higher than expected based on the opening weekend. And things were looking up.
Neither Titanic's first or second weekends were anything extraordinary. Weekend #3 is STILL the fifth highest 3rd weekend of all-time. And on top of that, Titanic made $70 million the Monday-Sunday after weekend #2. Yes, all of a sudden, Titanic was averaging $10 million a day. Weekend #3 was actually $5 million HIGHER than opening weekend. That was unheard of.
Weekend #4? The highest 4th weekend of all time at $28.7 million. But Monday through Sunday, Titanic only made $40 million. A huge slowdown, probably because kids were back in school. The film still hadn't crossed the $200 million plateau.
Well, it didn't take the kids long to head back to Titanic. Weekend #5 (again, the biggest ever) saw Titanic back above $30 million again. To put it in perspective, the second highest grossing film of all-time, The Dark Knight, did $16 million in its fifth weekend when the average ticket price was $3 higher! That's how huge Titanic was at the time. Even with school back in, the Monday-Sunday was nearly $50 million.
Titanic also holds the record for:
Weekend #6 ($25.2 million. 2nd place? The Sixth Sense with $16.5)
Weekend #7 ($25.9 million, it went UP. 2nd place? Passion of the Christ at $15.2)
Weekend #8 ($23.0., followed by Home Alone, $12.6)
Weekend #9 ($32.8 million, Valentine's Day weekend, Home Alone in 2nd again with $9.8) Weekend #10 ($21.0 million, Slumdog Millionaire is #2 with $12.0)
Weekend #11 ($19.6, finally a weekend below $20 million. My Big Fat Greek Wedding is #2 with $8.4)
Weekend #12 ($17.6, Home Alone in 2nd again with $8.2)
They don't really keep track beyond that since most films don't remain in theaters much longer than 3 months. But considering Titanic was still doing better than $10 million per weekend for another FOUR weeks, it's unlikely any film even challenges it. Titanic's final weekend above $10 million was also it's first weekend where it wasn't number one at the box office, losing out to Lost in Space. Which holds a similar distinction to being the one who beat Ken Jennings. No one remembers who beat Titanic, just that it was eventually beaten.
Another amazing statistic about Titanic's numbers: To make it on the list of the biggest 12th week grosses, a film would need to make $3.5 million. That's in week TWELVE. The first weekend that Titanic DIDN'T make that much was in week number TWENTY-TWO! That's two and a half months later! By then, Titanic had made $577 million in the U.S. alone. That's over $100 million more than Star Wars and the Special Edition made combined. And the sick part is that Titanic went on to make ANOTHER $23 million before finally going away. $600 million in the U.S. alone. $1.8 BILLION worldwide. To this day, the second biggest worldwide gross (Lord of the Rings: Return of the King) is over $700 million short of James Cameron's bohemoth.
The only movie to break the $600 million barrier. Until The Dark Knight last year, the only movie to even break $500 million. If Titanic had sold the same number of tickets for the price that people paid to see The Dark Knight, it would have made $921 million at the box office.
When people say something is of "Titanic proportions", I can't help but wonder if they're referring to the boat or the movie.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
What It's About: A bomb specialist defuses bombs around Baghdad with the 2 soldiers assigned to protect him.
What I Was Expecting: A lot of Oscar buzz for this film, but it's directed by Kathryn Bigelow, whose claim to fame is friggin' "Point Break." I went in very skeptical.
What I Got: A war film with the tension cranked up so high, I actually found myself closing my eyes because you knew something bad was going to happen. The film is unbelievably intense. It is similar in a sense to the brilliant "Black Hawk Down". The major difference between the films is that in BHD, the characters got trapped in a horrific situation and were simply trying to escape. In "The Hurt Locker", the characters walk into those situations willingly and repeatedly. Another aspect that makes this film so brilliant is that it doesn't pretend to know why, but seems to be looking for the same answer the audience wants to know. There's no real plot in this film. Much like "Platoon", it just follows these soldiers around during their last 40 days or so of their tour in Iraq. But unlike "Platoon", this is not a message picture. It's a character study. The performances are flawless. In fact, the only flaw in the film is when it tries to establish some sort of plot involving an Iraqi boy, but it doesn't dwell too long on it thankfully. Looking at what else is coming out this year, it's quite possible this is the best film we will see in 2009. It would be very hard to top.
Oscar Potential: At the moment, this is the film to beat. Expect nominations, if not wins, for Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Screenplay, Score, Cinematography, Film Editing, Sound Mixing, Sound Effects Editing. In fact, I would say the last three are locks to win.
Five Random Thoughts:
1. I love how this film refuses to follow The Law of Economy of Characters. That means that, cameos aside, if there's an actor you recognize, he/she must be important to the story. This film has Guy Pearce, David Morse, Ralph Fiennes and Evangeline Lilly and none of them could be less essential to the film. They have one, maybe two scenes each.
2. The score is excellent, even if it sounds like a carbon copy of the score from "There Will Be Blood."
3. They should show this film at things like the X Games. Recruitment would go up for thrill seekers.
4. I love how finding out who is planting all these bombs is inessential to the film. All that matters is that the bomb be disarmed.
5. I was REALLY hoping for an explanation of what a hurt locker is.
Taking Woodstock: It's Ang Lee, so I guess he gets the benefit of the doubt, but this film looks lousy. Soundtrack should be good though.
The Time Traveler's Wife: I wish they'd have done something with this trailer that would make me think it's not as formulaic as it looks.
Shutter Island: This trailer would be MUCH more effective if it had told us less. Looks creepy though.
Sorority Row: I Know What You Did Last Semester? (Eyes rolling.)
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Who's in It: All the Harry Potter regulars plus Jim Broadbent
What It's About: Surprisingly, this is actually the one film in the series that ISN'T about someone trying to kill Harry.
What I Was Expecting: Let's see. It's the SIXTH film in the series, so basically, I was expecting to see how ugly the once cute kids have gotten over the last two years.
What I Got: To be honest, I'm torn. As Harry matures, so do the films. Much less focus on the action, which might explain the attack on the Weasley house, which I don't recall being in the book. Nothing had gone BOOM in a while, so.... For me, the film is paced brilliantly. The scenes that aren't all that important are short and usually montage-like. The scenes that do matter are fleshed out and take their time. Quite the opposite of, say, "The Prisoner of Azkaban" which feels like a 150 minute montage on repeat viewings. The students in this film are allowed to play to their strengths. Daniel Radcliffe, who keeps getting better, carries the film nicely. Emma Watson, who seems to get worse with each film, seems to just get a scene here and there. The kid playing Ron might as well have sat this one out. He wasn't very good, but he wasn't given much to work with anyway.
Oscar Potential: With the new rules, Oscar potential is huge. If it's a weak year, it will not be shocking to actually see a Best Picture nod. It won't be a contender since there won't be any nods for directing, acting or writing. Editing, Cinematography and Sound are possibilities. Oddly, there's very few special effects.
Five Random Thoughts:
- It was really nice to see Alan Rickman being used more often in this one, although there is not one single scene showing Snape teach Defense of the Dark Arts. Harry's inability to silently cast spells was interesting to me and I was a little disappointed to see it left out.
- I hope they are shooting Maggie Smith's scenes first for the last two films. She looks like can't be with us much longer. For those not in the know, Deathly Hallows will be split into two .
- How has screenwriter Steve Kloves not lost his mind yet? It's one thing for J.K. Rowling to have written the seven books. It's another thing to basically spend 10 years rewriting someone else's work. I can't help but wonder how many times he must have called Rowling to scream "If I'd known that would matter, I would've written it in 4 movies ago!"
- By the end of the series, David Yates will have directed half of them. Will he have any career after the series is over? Both his films feel like Rowling is on the set saying "This is how it should look" and Yates just runs around the set with a camera. It's not directed badly, just not very creatively. Of course, the same could be said about the first two films.
- Why did John Williams walk away from the series? Yes, I know he left after the third film. Just curious why.
2012 – Another mega disaster film (figuratively and literally) from
Irwin Allen Roland Emmerich, who brought us Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow (Irwin Allen is responsible for 70s disaster classics like The Towering Inferno, Airport and The Poseidon Advernture). Who the hell knows what the actual plot will be of this one other than that ancient civilizations were right and the world is ending? Looks horribly stupid and I will be seeing it opening night, since my one true guilty pleasure in film is crappy disaster film. I can't get enough of them.
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief - Can I just say I look forward to the day when there is once again economy in film titles? Anyway, this was little more than a teaser that presumes the viewer has even heard of these books. Apparently, it's like a Harry Potter meets Greek mythology in modern day New York. Okay. I'm game. Right until the words "Directed by Chris Columbus." Sorry. Not gonna see it.
Despicable Me - It's a little daring to preview a movie starring Steve Carrell and not include any of his scenes. If the trailer is any indication, too much set up for too weak of a punchline. Although the Keith Olberman bit is cute.
Sherlock Holmes - Why do I feel like I've written about this one 100 times? Come to think of it....where are all my other reviews? Hmmmm..... I think Guy Ritche is capable, if not consistent. Curious to see how it's handled. My one major concern is the girl floating with the pentagram in the background. I hope the plot involves occult and not the supernatural.
Shorts - Well, the kids in the audience thought this was cute and got quite a few giggles. Just not any from me.
Where the Wild Things Are - It's been 30 years since I've read the book and I can't remember a single detail about it. Possibly because I grew up in a Norman Rockwell home. My friends whose parents split when they were young or had traumatic childhoods remember every bit of it. It looks fascinating to me. It's certainly been a long time coming.
Friday, July 3, 2009
2. The Informant
3. The Lovely Bones
4. Untitled Clint Eastwood (now titled "Invictus")
5. The Boat That Rocked
with the alternates of:
1. Inglourious Basterds
2. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay
3. The Road
4. Stutter Island
5. Away We Go
We're just over halfway into the movie year, most of those movies have yet to be released and already, there's obvious changes to be made. Unfortunately, not because great movies have been released. Starting at the bottom, "Away We Go" got some great reviews, but has been soon forgotten. The trailer for "Stutter Island" makes the film look mediocre at best. The buzz is still strong for "The Road." "Kavalier & Clay" still hasn't started production. And, unless QT makes a major save, "Inglourious Basterds" will not leave much of a mark.
Moving on to my gut instinct picks, "The Boat That Rocked" has already been released in most other countries and has gotten decent reviews, but whether that translates to U.S. appeal remains to be seen. "Invictus" is a question mark, just like "Million Dollar Baby" was a few years back. I'm still liking "Lovely Bones" chances, along with "Nine", even if it does look like "Chicago Part II". "The Informant" looks like a terrific film, sort of like a "Thank You for Smoking" about corn.
This may not sound like a lot of changes, especially since I still consider four of my five picks to still be serious contenders. But it's the OTHER six nominees that are going to throw people for a loop. If there aren't 10 "serious" films to consider, where are the other nominations going to go. THAT'S where things get interesting. What you are likely to begin to see are movies that people "loved", as opposed to "respected". Pixar's "Up" is likely to benefit from the new rules and that was everyone's first comment. But there are other non-Best Picture type films that could slip in. There's even talk about a movie like "The Hangover" slipping in if it's a particularly weak year. Something people really enjoyed. There's some buzz that J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" is a strong possibility, particularly since the DVD should be out around Christmas and hitting F5 on the voters' memory. Even the early buzz on the latest "Harry Potter" has people wondering if it could sneak in. But let's SERIOUSLY look at that for a moment.
It January 2010. The day of the nominations. And the nominees for Best Picture are...(Do me a favor and read this OUT LOUD)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
The Hurt Locker
If THAT were the list, any takers that a 10 nomination list would be a one year and out deal?
The big problem is that this was simply the wrong year to try it out. While there are a few Oscar winning directors putting out films this year (Scorsese, Coppola, Eastwood, Jackson, Cameron, Howard, the Coen brothers, Ang Lee, Mendes, Zemeckis), for the most part, outside of Eastwood and Jackson, they aren't doing Oscar type films.
Wow. I keep re-reading that list of directing firepower and can't BELIEVE only two of them are doing films worth considering for an Oscar list. Okay, Mendes did "Away We Go", probably to cheer up from the uber-depressing "Revolutionary Road" and Zemeckis' take on "A Christmas Carol" with Jim Carrey and Gary Oldman does sound intriguing. But Scorsese is doing strange thriller. Coppola is doing whatever the hell he wants and who cares if anyone else cares. Cameron is probably either going to kill his career forever or establish himself as a total visionary. Howard did "Angels and Demons". 'nuff said. The Coen brothers seem to be remaking "You, Me & Dupree". Ang Lee is getting awful notices for his Woodstock film. All we need is Spielberg and Polanski and it's every Best Director winner of the last 15 years. This year should have been better. But it's not. And trying to come up with an additional 5 Best Picture nominees will be a stretch.
What they should have done is changed Best Picture to be more like the new rules for Best Song. In order for a song to be nominated, it must received at least 8.5 percent of the vote. Make it 20 percent for picture and I'm there. Remember, they pick 5 on their ballots, so 20 percent is not too hard. But it will make it a LOT more interesting. There could theoretically be as many as 25 Best Picture nominees, if each received the exact same number of votes. Let's see the Oscar prognosticators try and guess who would win there.
Right now, I'm just hoping "Avatar" bombs and Kathryn Bigelow's rides the huge wave of buzz for "The Hurt Locker" and sweeps so she can give Cameron the finger from the podium and apologize for making "Point Break".
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
For the first time since 1993, my favorite movie of a given year won Best Picture. If you haven't seen Slumdog Millionaire, you are missing out on what could be one of the best films of the decade. And after you see that, go check out Danny Boyle's other films, especially Millions, 28 Days Later and Sunshine. He's on quite a roll.
I agreed with most every one of the winner's so I won't break down each category. Even the ones I didn't necessarily agree with (Best Actor), I'm cool with the pick.
The show itself was okay. The last musical number was totally pointless. Just an excuse to have Zac Efron on the show, I suppose. Hugh Jackman was a decent host. The presenters were good for the most part except for the pinhead from Twilight and bimbo from Mamma Mia, who gave the evening the most boring and excruciating moment.
SO....on to next year.....
Your 2009 Best Picture nominees are (or will be)......
Yes, even with Fergie in the cast. Director Rob Marshall (Chicago) is making the film version of the Tony-winning musical based on the Oscar winning film 8 1/2. The script is by the late Anthony Minghella and Michael Tolkin (The Player). And the cast includes six, count 'em, SIX Academy Award winners. Daniel Day-Lewis, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, Judi Dench, Sophia Loren and Marion Cotillard. Not to mention a director who made a Best Picture winner and an Oscar-winning cinematographer (Yes, that's important), Art Director and probably Marshall's usual Oscar-winning film editor too. There's so much pedigree behind this film, it's tough to imagine this not being right up Oscar's alley.
2. The Informant
The Academy LOVES movies about whistle blowers and people who fight big business. This one is a Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Erin Brockovich) film with Matt Damon as the VP of an agriculture giant who rats his company out to feds for price fixing. AND it's a comedy, albeit, a dark one a la the Coen brothers. Just playing a hunch on this one.
3. The Lovely Bones
Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings, King Kong) is filming the popular novel about a girl watching over her family from heaven. Two Oscar winners (Rachel Weisz and Susan Sarandon), two nominees (Mark Wahlberg and Atonement's Saoirse Ronan) and "how hasn't he been nominated" Stanley Tucci are your starts. Plus, it's got a December time slot.
4. Untitled Clint Eastwood
Well, if Gandhi is Best Picture material, why not Mandela? Clint Eastwood is on such an incredible roll right now. I suggested before, go look at his imdb and check out what a decade he's having. And why not Morgan Freeman as Mandela. And Matt Damon as the South Africa rugby captain! Yes, you read that right. That's not a joke. The film is about the newly elected Mandela trying to unify the country through South Africa's run at 1995 rugby World Cup. A political sports movie? Why the hell not?
5. The Boat That Rocked
Okay. A couple of years ago, I was dead wrong when I predicted Richard Curtis would strike Oscar gold with Love Actually. After all, he'd defined himself as the master of the English romantic comedy. He wrote Four Weddings..., Notting Hill and both Bridget Jones movies. This time, he's still doing the romance, placing it in a historical context, focusing on a tidbit of English music history. The boat in the title was, quite literally, a pirate radio station that was estimated to have as many as 25 million listeners, more than half the population of England. If nothing else, the soundtrack is going to be incredible.
1. Inglorious Basterds - Here's to hoping Quentin Tarantino has escaped from genre hell. I liked Kill Bill and Death Proof, but enough is enough. It's getting an August release, so I wouldn't hold my breath. But if it is good, expect it to carry over to Oscar season.
2. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay - Stephen Daldry. The dude seems to get nominated for breathing. 3 movies, 3 nominations. With so much focus on movies based on comic books, how about a movie ABOUT comic books. Kavalier and Clay created a superhero called The Escapist and "ushered in the golden age of comics." This might have been higher, but there's rumors of budget problems.
3. The Road - The Academy doesn't usually go for many post-apocalyptic thrillers, but this one does have Viggo Mortenson, Robert Duvall and Charlize Theron and it's a Pulitzer prize winning novel. We'll see.
4. Shutter Island - Dennis LeHane novels have been doing well at the Oscars. As has Martin Scorsese. But has it been too many trips to the well?
5. Away We Go - This one looks to be a lighter comedy which is a little shocking given that it's directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty) and written by Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius). Plus it's got a summer release. I'm kind of scraping the barrel here. There just aren't that many standout movies announced for this year. We will see.
Until next year.....