Wednesday, July 31, 2013

10 Short-lived TV Series That Were Ahead of Their Time

It is always fun to laugh and point at the latest "destined to be a hit" TV series that only last four episodes.  Sometimes, there are actually really great and innovative series that end up with a short shelf life.  Usually it is a fresh concept that the networks and the viewers don't totally understand and so the series fails to find a large audience.  In my latest Collective Publishing Pop Culture column, I look at 10 short-lived TV series that were way ahead of their time.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Wolverine Claws to the Top of the Box Office, But the Results are a Little Dull

Scott analyzes the success of The Wolverine and several limited release pictures.  I do want to prognosticate the success or failure of The Wolverine may partly be due to the fact the past film was a critical flop and the other previous Jackman X-Men (Last Stand) flick was also a disappointment.  I have faith the well received X-Men: First Class may allow for better numbers for next years' motion picture.  Though only in the silly world of high expectations and ridiculous budgets is a $55 million opening weekend a disappointment.  Anyway, enough of my meandering, and here is Scott's take on the weekend.

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Going into last weekend, a lot of predictions had The Wolverine earning between $70 and $80 million, with my prediction being at the higher end with $77 million (the reason being that another site already predicted $74 million, which was what I was planning on doing and since I wanted to be different I went with the magic of Ray Bourque).  As time passed by Friday afternoon, the projections were dropping and dropping some more.  At the end of the weekend, The Wolverine finished in the area of $55 million, a similar opening weekend to 2011’s X-Men: First Class and a significant drop from the previous Wolverine focused feature X-Men Origins: Wolverine which took home $85 million in its opening weekend.  The Wolverine sports a budget of $115 million, so should the studio be worried about losing money with this movie?

The answer is a very strong ‘no, they currently have nothing to fear.’  While the domestic opening was well short of expectations, Hugh Jackman’s return to the role of Logan/Wolverine earned a worldwide gross of $141 million this weekend.  There are signs of blockbuster action fatigue in these here parts, but that will not slow this movie down too much.  It still has another 25 markets on its release schedule that it will enter throughout the month of August, so there is much more money to be made.  It is not a dire situation for 20 Century Fox, but at this point they must be noticing the diminishing returns on X-Men movies as of late.  The real test of the franchise will be next year when X-Men: Days of Future Past is released, featuring both the original X-Men cast and the reboot cast and a title that could have used a bit more work.

Elsewhere in cinema world, Fruitvale Station continued its successes as it made tenth spot in the domestic charts earning $4.6 million dollars from 1064 theatres.  That is a very good feat, but it may be reaching its pinnacle as its average dollars per theatre is down to ‘normal movie levels’ at $4,377 from last week’s $21,000.  There is a good chance for further expansion with this movie, but it is quite possible that it has already reached its peak.  However, if word of mouth spreads Fruitvale Station could see a slow accumulation in the box office similar to other limited release movies (Mud, starring Matthew McConaughey, grossed over $20 million with only having two weeks with an average north of $3000 per theatre). Regardless of how it ends up, it is now the 8th in the box office this year and has some early Oscar buzz, both of which should be seen as encouraging progress.

Opening in just 6 theatres was Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, which made $612,000 for an average of $102,000 per theatre.  The movie stars Alec Baldwin and Cate Blanchett and has a very strong Rotten Tomato rating of 86%.  Meanwhile The Conjuring maintained well with movie goers, only suffering a drop of 47% in its second weekend as it brought in $22 million for an accumulated domestic total of $83.9 million.  Despicable Me 2 is holding strong as it remained in the top three with a weekend box office of $16 million.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Breakdown of RIPD, The Conjuring, Pale Rider, and Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Podcast

This week Scott and I review the latest Ryan Reynolds' supernatural action comedy, RIPD; the latest haunted house picture, The Conjuring; the Clint Eastwod directed mythological western, Pale Rider, and a comedy about outsourcing a retirement home, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  The show is filled with in-depth discussion and a look at film history.  Please check it out and if you love it, recommend it to the friend.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Scott Claws Away at the Box Office with his Razor Sharp Predictions

Sorry about Scott's predictions being late once again.  But it still smells pretty fresh to me.  And yes, I do plan on writing my own original content for this blog before it is 2014.

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While last weekend I was contemplating four debuting films, this weekend seems much quieter with only one new wide release heading to a theatre near you.  Oscar nominated Hugh Jackman is back in his role of Logan/Wolverine in The Wolverine.  This is a return to the character that really put Jackman on the map when he first played Wolverine in X-Men in 2000 and last played in X-Men Origins: Wolverine in 2009.  Part adamantium, part mutton chop, all action.  While X-Men Origins: Wolverine did not do as well as anticipated in the box office and only scored a 38% on Rotten Tomatoes, Wolverine is undoubtedly the fan favourite of the X-Men universe and a second attempt is worth the risk.

One factor that is working in favour of The Wolverine is the fact that it is the only kid on the block in terms of new blockbusters.  The only real competition it could be facing is from fellow action movies Pacific Rim, Red 2, and R.I.P.D., and none of those movies made huge waves in the domestic markets this summer.  Now, while it may seem like the perfect time of year for The Wolverine to burst on the scene, it does run the chance of running into some form of action-fatigue from the audience.  This summer was incredibly front-loaded with explosions and fist-pumping action, and some audience members may be looking for a bit of a break right now.

A second factor that The Wolverine has going for it is the same as the first rule of real estate – location, location, location.  Much of The Wolverine is set in Japan, which may not seem like a big deal.  To those who wave this off as nothing, let us take a look at Pacific Rim as a case study.  While Guillermo del Toro’s summer action flick seemed like a misfire domestically, it was in actuality the number one movie on the planet this past weekend.  In Pacific Rim, del Toro made the movie with a global feel, instead of the typical ethnocentric backdrop of Hollywood blockbusters.  It had characters representing a number of different nations, the terminology for the monsters and robots came from foreign languages, and the main location for the movie was Hong Kong.  The international market has become such an important component, that filmmakers are starting to realize that some global inclusiveness may assist overseas sales.  There is a lot of money to be made in the Asian markets, so setting a movie in one of the countries cannot hurt its chances.

Currently, the Rotten Tomato rating for The Wolverine is sitting at 66%, which is not too bad for a blockbuster.  World War Z has 67% on Rotten Tomatoes and has globally made $450 million.  Man of Steel has made $635 million on a Rotten Tomato Rating of 56%.  When it comes to action and explosions, people are not expecting masterpieces that will be remembered for all time.  They just want something that packs the adrenaline and is not insulting to the intelligence.

The Wolverine Opening Weekend Prediction - $77 million

Edit:  Friday's box office earnings were behind expectations, and so The Wolverine may more likely earn $55 million.

There are a few other interesting movies to get notable on, so on I shall get.  Fruitvale Station, a movie that won awards at both the Sundance and Cannes film festivals, is moving from 34 theatres last weekend to over 1,000 this weekend.  It has done really well in the box office already, as it has passed the million dollar mark after just two weekends in limited release and I really did not expect it to expand this quickly.  If you have a chance to see this film, it may be worth your time.  This movie could be looking at a few Oscar nominations come next winter.  As well, The Way, Way Back will be increasing in theatres for the second week in a row, and will be playing in 886 theatres domestically.

Lastly, The Asylum studios will be seeing one of their films coming to theatres.  The Asylum are mainly masters at the ‘mockbuster’ (which is a copy of a blockbuster, example Atlantic Rim), but they also do creature features.  They are campy, they are cheesy, and the CGI is laughable but they can be a lot of fun to watch.  A few weeks ago on SyFy and Space channels their latest movie, Sharknado, ended up becoming a huge hit thanks to incredible Twitter activity during its broadcast, apparently getting up to 5000 tweets per minute.  This social media buzz ended up getting the movie talked about in many news outlets, and repeats of the movie have been shown.  On August 2 it will have a midnight showing in 200 theatres, which The Asylum would have never predicted when they sat down to write about a tornado that picks up sharks from the ocean and drops them on Ian Ziering.

Personal Bias Shameless Plug – watch Pacific Rim!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

To Make Up for Not Blogging Today, Here is Ernie . . .

I ended up being away from my computer for most of the day, and when I was at it, it was occupied with that little thing I like to call "work the fuels my habit of living in a house with working power."

To make up for the lack of "pearls of wisdom," I will leave you with a song by that famous philosopher, Ernie from Sesame Street.  Because once you have a toddler, Sesame Street starts sounding pretty profound.  Here is one of the most profound of all songs, "I Don't Want to Live on the Moon."

Because seriously, you don't.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Supernatural Conjures Up the Top Box Office Spot: Scott Reflects the Results of the Past Weekend's Box Office

The weekend box office results are in, and Scott analyzes what were the factors in creating the hits and flops between the new releases.
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This past weekend, four wide release movies burst into theatres and one of them managed to topple Despicable Me 2 from the number one spot.  Of the other films, two did not do too badly (though not as well as had been hoped for by the studios) and the third underwhelmed beyond expectation.  During what is typically a huge weekend in the box office, the winner did away with special effects and high budget and showed that bigger is not always better.

Nabbing top spot in theatres was The Conjuring, a supernatural horror that used effective trailers and internet buzz to haul in just shy of $42 million in its opening weekend, which ranks it second of all time for openings of a supernatural horror.  The movie is ‘based on a true story,’ which can either catch the intrigue of people or start to raise skepticism in the audience, and tells of one particular case of ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren.  It was directed by James Wan (Saw and Insidious), and proposed to be a more methodical, atmospheric, and mature movie than his previous works.  Combine the creepy trailers with the internet buzz and a very strong reception from the critics, and this movie had all the necessary components to be successful.  The question now is what kind of second week drop it will experience.  If it has positive word of mouth, it should only drop 50-55% as it has no direct competition in theatres right now.

Turbo, the digitally animated movie about a superfast snail came into theatres last Wednesday, looking to grab some of the family market.  Unfortunately for Turbo, it is just two weeks removed from the powerhouse that is Despicable Me 2 and four weeks removed from Monsters University.  Family outings are not like heading to the theatre with friends, where you are only responsible for your own ticket and concessions.  Since family trips can cost a lot of money, it is easier to do so with a proven franchise rather than an unknown product.  It may be that they picked the wrong time to release the movie, and that it just didn’t have the depth needed to put up a fight against the franchises.  Sure, the movie starred Ryan Reynolds, but this weekend has shown us that is not a strong anchor to rely on.   Over the five days of its extended opening weekend, Turbo earned $31 million and may be looking to overseas markets for some better success there.

Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, and John Malkovich returned in Red 2, the follow up to the 2010 movie Red.  In the first go around the crew was able to take in $21 million on opening weekend and finish with just shy of $200 million globally.  It was that success that put a sequel into motion, and the second attempt saw an opening weekend of $18 million. This perhaps shows it was curiosity in the concept of Malkovich and Mirren as aging assassins that made the first movie popular and that it was not the beginning of a bankable franchise.  It is unlikely that the domestic ticket sales of Red 2 will be enough to make back its reported $84 million budget.

In last place among the new wide release movies is R.I.P.D., starring Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges that earned just $12.7 million opening weekend.  To say this movie under-performed is as ludicrous as saying Titanic 2 would be a good idea for a movie (there actually is a movie called Titanic 2 by The Asylum studios, and it was indeed not a good idea for a movie).  The budget was $130 million, which seems like a huge miscalculation of investment for a movie that looks like a carbon copy of Men in Black.  It is not the end for Universal Studios, as it has become the first studio to reach one billion dollars in 2013 and did so in record time.  They just may be the topic of water cooler ridicule for tent-pole miscalculations such as R.I.P.D. and Battleship.  I am sure they are fine with that.  They have enough money to buy their own water cooler to hang out at.

We spend so much time chatting about wide release movies that it is easy to forget those in limited release.  The Way, Way Back was in 300 theatres and has now exceeded two million dollars in the box office.  It will be expanding to over 650 theatres this upcoming weekend, and has the potential of going to wide release in August.  Fruitvale Station was shown in 34 theatres and earned an average of $21,750 per theatre to put it past the one million dollar mark.  Only God Forgives starring Ryan Gosling and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive) opened to mostly negative critical reception and made $313,000 in 78 theatres.  And lastly, Girl Most Likely came out to negative critical response (15% on Rotten Tomatoes), opened in 351 theatres and made just shy of seven hundred thousand dollars.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Breakdown of Dying Genres Podcast: Will Zoolander Ever Team Up with Rambo to Fight Jason?

Scott and I change things up a bit with the Breakdown this week.  We look at the star driven comedy, the slasher/paranormal horror, and the one man army action, which are all three genres that used to be incredibly popular.  We analyze their recent success, and figure out if any of these genres have a future.  It is one of our more history heavy podcasts as we follow the roads that lead to this point, and look at the high points in each of the genres.  It is a fun film history lesson along a good dose of debate and discussion.

If you enjoy this podcast, then please pass the word on to others.

Enjoy!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sunday's Deep and Profound and Thought-Provoking and Maybe Even Life Changing Question. . .

Okay, so horror movies are infamously known for being populated with brain dead teenagers that always make the stupidest and most life-ending choices possible.  The horror movie character will faithfully go alone into the dark woods after hearing a strange sound, or decide to throw a party in an abandoned cabin real close to where those murders just happened, or happily recite Latin that will unearth an indescribable evil after only being warned five times, or think nothing of sticking their head through a mysterious hole, or date the figure with the shady past that has a habit of friends dying around them.  Characters in scary movies can almost always be trusted to do the stupidest things possible.

So, my question is who is the smartest character from a horror motion picture?  It isn't a large selection, I know.  But once in and while, they're a few who end up being more than glorified ground beef.

My pick is Laurie Strode from the original Halloween.  She actually showed a heart by trying to protect the kids she was babysitting, and she did a lot more than just scream her lungs out.  If it wasn't for Michael Myers being unkillable, she'd have actually been able take him out unlike most other characters in other scary movies.  She seemed to act like a real teenager and actually value her life and make decisions that didn't make it easier for her to be sliced and diced.  Laurie Strode seems like a real but also smart human, which is a rarity in any slasher picture.

Who do you think is the smartest character from a horror movie?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hey Remember When This Blog Was Updated Every Day?: State of Blog Address, Summer Edition

I've acknowledged the pitiful lack of original content on the blog a few times this year, and even remedied that problem a couple times with consecutive weeks of daily original articles, but for the most part my content output on this site for 2013 is what us professional writers like to call "shit awful."  It is likely what non-writers like to call it too, but it sounds more authoritative when I claim the backing of a group of respected professionals.  Especially considering I have a sneaking suspicion 78% of you or more suspect me to be a hack since I still don't have a published book.  My experience is you don't really get to flaunt your writer's card until you can point to your book on store shelves or direct to people to your Amazon page, even if what I do probably pays just as well or even better than most authors.

But I seem to have been sidetracked.

2013 hasn't started off great for this blog.  I've written a few articles on here that I am proud of, and my highest one day hit count ever on the site came this year when I covered the Academy Awards, but for being consistent in writing fresh content it has been pretty pathetic.  Actually, if it hasn't been for Scott's prediction pieces, the Monday podcasts, and my links to my articles on other sites, this place would have been a complete wasteland since May.

So, the appropriate follow-up question is what happened and what am I going to do to fix it?

Go ahead and ask it.  I'll wait.

Have you asked it yet?

No,

Can you hurry then, please?  I have stuff to do.

You've done it now?

Good.  So, here is the answer to your very smart question.

I hate giving out excuses despite the fact I've likely given more than the years I've lived on this Earth.  Actually several more times than my years since I haven't been alive for more than a hundred years.  Despite my apparent hatred, here I go to add another notch on my excuse belt (which looks really snazzy when worn at semi-casual weddings, I must admit).  My reason is pretty lame, but it is the only one I can muster at the moment.  I've been doing a decent amount of ghost movie reviews for a few sites that wanted to have all the different mainstream movies of the year reviewed for their readers, but didn't want to have to actually see or write about them.  My plan was to also post my own version of the reviews up here on this site, but since my ghost reviews can't actually be revealed to have been written by me (or defeating the whole point), I would have had to write an entirely new and fresh review taking some different stances to stay original.  I have no problem doing this.  But then I ended up having some other pay copy and responsibilities like being a father and dog walker and person who cleans up his own milk spills.

I wanted the latest review to be the next thing on my blog.  But I kept holding off.  Then next thing I knew, it had been a few weeks since I had posted anything that wasn't a link or a podcast.  In my crazy head, I wanted to make sure the next thing I posted that was original would be a pretty exciting and thought-provoking piece.  It would be my way to make good for being absent.  Except my other paying work and a few bouts of anxiety that I've talked about before, kept getting in the way of writing for this blog.  As I write this all down, it sounds pretty preposterous, or just some extravagant way to say I've been procrastinating.  Maybe that is close to the truth in some winding road way, but I do know I was feeling overwhelmed and at the same time, constantly had ideas for content on the blog.  I just stayed away because I wanted the next piece to be perfect, but knew there wasn't the time for it.

Yet my next piece is now this, and well, perfection wouldn't be one of the words I'd use for giant "excuse essay."  It feels like the truth, and it is at least my internal truth, and you can decide whatever you want.  The fact is I haven't written much on here for a bit, but I've written content that pays to keep my family happy and I've had a few days that felt a little like I was carrying a hippo who just ate a McDonald's (an American kind with the extra salt and fat) on my back.  After taking three romantic days with my wife to celebrate our belated 5th anniversary, I'm in a good place and hoping to make this blog a regular provider of original content again.

Well, I'm in a good emotional place, but my body has decided to cling to a rather nasty cold like thing.  I am actually not a hundred percent physically, and I planned to write this piece several days ago.  Now, I can sit up without the room turning into the tea cup ride at Walt Disney's World, and so this seems like a good day to finally tear off this three month old band aid.

Speaking of tearing off a three months old band aid, Scott had been trying for several weeks to get me to watch Troll 2 so we can podcast about it.  For those who have no idea what I am talking about, Troll 2 had a documentary made about it a few years ago called Best Worst Movie.  It also doesn't have any trolls in it, and is about goblins that turn human into vegetables because they can't handle meat.  This sounds fun, but so does riding an enraged rhino and I've never done that either.  I promised I would watch it.  I will.  It sure will be a case of ripping off a band-aid, and just getting the pain over with.  I'll podcast about it, and hopefully, my mental torment will be your entertainment.

What did that digression have to do with anything?  Well, it was promoting future stuff on this site.  This site is not only sticking around, but I plan it to be very active over the next several months.  Well, the goal is for it to be active for infinity, but I'll just stick with several months for now.

I've made a rough content schedule.  I've got many little possible projects that will end up being spotlighted on here.  I also have plans for several regular columns that I'll unveil over the next few weeks.  The big plan is for this place to not only have daily content, but a few things every day -- or at least a few articles on certain days.  Anyway, I'm still going to have to be vague on a few particulars, because it currently isn't entirely in my power.  I'm excited, and once you see it, you'll squeal too.  Maybe.  Probably due to accidentally dropping a hammer on your foot.  But what did I tell you about doing construction while reading my blog?  It just doesn't mix.

You'll notice this place has been largely about motion pictures this year.  There will still be a lot of that, since I'll continue to try to grow as a film critic, plus some of my planned project have to do with writing about film.  I also want to get back to writing about my personal life and also about my writing career in attempt to offer advice to other hopeful writers.  Plus I like to brag about my son, and man there is lots to brag about since I last mentioned his name on here.  I'd like to write a bit more about politics and world news and history again.  I could keep on listing thing I wants to write about, so I'll stop.  Instead, I'll sum it up by saying I want this blog to be about a variety of things, and just be my place where I write about what is on my mind and hopefully, in some way that entertains you.

This piece is also my way into forcing myself into getting this site back to where it was several months ago.  If I publicly declare it will start being active again, then most of you will likely have an expectation for there to be new stuff to read.  If you have an expectation, then I'm in a place to meet it.  Thus an active International House of Spicer.

Okay, I think we're all good here.  I'm going try avoid coughing up a lung.

Have a splendid Saturday.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Conjuring up Speed, Death, and Colours at the Box Office: Scott Makes His Weekly New Releases' Grosses Predictions

Scott once again predicts what will be the hits and the misses of the weekend.  This is an especially busy weekend with four new wide releases, and even a limited release that may be competitive in Girl Most Likely.  Here is the tale of the tape for the bigger releases this weekend.
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We are now nearing the middle of the summer, and this upcoming weekend has a history of bringing a summer blockbuster.  Last year, it was The Dark Knight Rises.  The year before that, it was the feature length trailer for The Avengers in Captain America: The First Avenger.  And the year before that, the weekend was highlighted by Christopher Nolan’s Inception.  The last time this July weekend was a sleepy one was in 2007, when the debuting I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry took first place in the box office with $35 million.  And what will 2013 offer for a weekend that is usually penciled in as a time to unleash blockbuster gold?  The answer, four wide release movies ranging from animation to horror.   With so much to talk about and ponder, let us waste no time as we jump right in.

Animated family movies can be a gold mine.  Despicable Me 2 is showing just how much money there is to make, as it has taken two weeks to reach almost the same worldwide box office totals that Monsters University took four weeks to attain.  The new challenger to the crown of year’s best animated movie is Turbo, a film starring Ryan Reynolds about a snail that becomes supercharged and looks to compete in the Indy 500.  I can’t find any box office numbers to give an analytical breakdown of supercharged snail movies and their performances to gain some insight into how Turbo may fare, but I think I can boldly say that Despicable Me 2 is safe at the moment.   What does not help the chances of Turbo is the fact that Despicable Me 2 is still a relevant, which will affect ticket sales. It did open to around $6 million on Wednesday, but it looks like that is a bit of a disappointment when compared to expectations as DreamWorks stock took a small hit on Wednesday (I believe it closed at around 3% down, and dropped on Tuesday as well).

Turbo 5 Day Opening Weekend Prediction - $34 million


If you listen to The Breakdown podcast on this blog, you may have heard Chris and I talk about how Bruce Willis has been the smartest of the 80s action heroes in terms of the movies he chooses to do.  He has learned that since he is getting on in years it is best to play a character who is getting on in years, and not a one man army (with the exception of this year’s Die Hard movie, but he knows franchises are usually safe in the box office) like some of his contemporaries have done.  In Red 2 Willis returns with cast mates Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, and Mary-Louise Parker.  The movies are about aging and retired assassins that are thrown in the middle of explosions and intrigue, and the appeal is in seeing acclaimed talent like Mirren and Malkovich in such situations.  Red finished its domestic run in the box office with $90 million and I am sure the studio executives are hoping for a repeat performance.

Red 2 Opening Weekend Prediction - $18.5 million


Ryan Reynolds is double dipping this weekend as he stars alongside Jeff Bridges in R.I.P.D., a film that is not concerned about disguising the fact that it is a rip off of Men in Black.  I will not mock it for being an already used concept, as recycling is a game for everyone to play.  The movie takes the concept of Men in Black and sells it on the name of Ryan Reynolds and the fun, over the top performance of Bridges.  I believe that Bridges' character, who is a Wild West style gun slinger, is the main selling point for this movie.  The trailers (other than being a slap in the face, blatant commercial for Fresca) show a lot of semi-polished  special effects and scenarios , but it is Bridges who is the main draw here as he delivers the personality and tries to add a stamp to it for audiences to remember.  The budget is estimated at $130 million dollars, so that leaves a heck of a mountain to climb for a movie on a borrowed concept.   With last summer’s failure of Battleship still in recent memory, Universal Studios may have done a miscalculation on their tent-pole summer blockbuster for a second year in a row.

R.I.P.D Opening Weekend Predictions – $15.5 million


The final movie coming out this weekend is one that some people consider to be the biggest wildcard of the 2013 blockbuster season.  The Conjuring is a midsummer supernatural horror movie, something that does not happen all the time.  It can work, as The Omen proved in 2006, and The Others in 2001(an interesting note about The Others is that it never was number one in the box office, but earned $209 million worldwide because of never dropping more than 26% between weekends for the first 8 weeks, something that is almost unheard of.  Going into its seventh weekend, it witnessed an increase.  It spent the first four weeks in the box office at number four and showed the value that a movie with lasting appeal can have, and that a sprint for a large opening weekend is not always the best method).  Most horrors find themselves in theatres at the end of August, around Halloween, or in the cold dark void of January and February.

One trailer for The Conjuring makes it look like a by-the-numbers horror affair with predictable jump scares.  Another trailer shows a movie that takes its time and focuses on atmospheric tension, connecting the viewer with the fear of the characters on screen.  It is the second trailer I am referring to that has me most intrigued.  That intrigue is limited based solely off of the fact that it is directed by James Wan, the director of Saw, and Insidious.  While some think he can bring a lot to a horror, I find that his films can suffer from ADD and am still suffering the effects of having seen Insidious within the past year.  Recently, internet buzz around The Conjuring has caught a lot of people’s attention as on most days it is one of the top five most tweeted about movies.  On Tuesday alone it had around forty thousand tweets, compared to seventeen thousand for Grown Ups 2, and ten thousand for Pacific Rim.  Combine that kind of chatter with a number of positive critical reviews, and we may see a horror as reigning champion in a very competitive weekend.

The Conjuring Opening Weekend Prediction - $35 million

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Major Hits That Were Critically Panned

As an independent film critic, I recognize my opinion probably doesn't carry much weight with readers.  I'd like to think I've influenced a few movie going decisions, especially getting someone to enjoy a motion picture they wouldn't normally pay to see.  Critics definitely have value, and I do think they can influence a product's success.  There are times an audience just doesn't care how much a critic hates something, because darn it, they want their deer pissing all over the house comedy.  In my latest Collective Publishing Pop Culture column, I analyze some artistic works that proved to be critic proof. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Despicable Overcome the Monstrous: Scott Analyses the Weekend Box Office Results

Scott assesses the winners and losers of the big weekend at the box office.  He proves he is a professional by owning to some predictions that were off the mark, while celebrating his spot on guesses.

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A quality animated movie for the family is a hard beast to oust from first place in the box office, and this past weekend Grown Ups 2 and Pacific Rim did everything they could to nab top spot from Despicable Me 2, which maintained first place with $44 million.  The Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, and David Spade movie Grown Ups 2 came in second place with $42 million, and the giant robots battling giant monsters in Pacific Rim finished in bronze medal territory with $38 million.

The big story of the week was Pacific Rim, as early measures had it on similar ground with World War Z (which did an opening weekend of $68 million) and it ended up thirty million dollars shy.  What happened here?

I should do a little disclaimer first.  I had a prediction of $55 million for Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, and it was an outside, Hail Mary prediction as I tried to read the situation and determine if this movie was going to be one of the summer’s surprise hits.  I was not confident in this prediction for a few reasons.  Firstly, they promoted this movie as a Guillermo del Toro movie (who has not directed a movie in 5 years) and, unless you are a fan of Hellboy or Pan’s Labyrinth, most people do not recognize the name.  Secondly, there was no proven blockbuster draw in the actor’s chair.  Thirdly, and most importantly, it was about giant robots fighting giant monsters.  Some people find that cool.  The rest of the world (probably the proud majority) laughs at such concepts.  The movie was never really on any solid ground, but it had a lot of internet buzz that left many a person believing it could be a surprise hit.

When the numbers started coming in for the late night Thursday showing, not only was Pacific Rim beating Grown Ups 2, but it was on pace with World War Z’s late night opening.  Where the two movies diverged is all in the demographics.  Zombies are living in the mainstream right now.  The undead are an in thing, living in the realm of popular video games and main stream media.  Giant robots and giant monsters live in the realm of the young male’s bedroom in poster form.  That’s about it.  I am no anthropologist, but when you have a movie where your key demographic is going to be young males, the box office results are going to be front heavy.  When I was but a young lad, getting geeked up for such movies also meant part of the theatre experience was seeing the first available showings as well as seeing it in the biggest format possible.  Almost twenty percent of Pacific Rim’s weekend take was from IMAX ticket sales.  Being front loaded in its ticket sales meant that even though it was on par with World War Z, it would not be keeping that pace, whereas the Brad Pitt zombie flick enticed a number of demographics who would venture out over the course of the weekend (I saw it in a fairly full mid Sunday afternoon showing).

Meanwhile, on the other side of the cinema, audiences proved once again that critical response means absolutely nothing at times.  Earning a 7% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Grown Ups 2 showed that perhaps audiences are not done with Adam Sandler… at least in ensemble movies.  Sandler’s movies have struggled the past few years, and with the unpredictable nature of comedy movies this year, it was anyone’s guess as to how well it would do.  I figure that at this point since I have owned up to my colossal overestimate of Pacific Rim, it is fair to point out that I got this one right.  I shall bask in the sunshine of being right for a moment, as it may be a while before such a feat is repeated.

It is also important to note that Fruitvale Station had a great opening weekend and averaged just shy of $54 thousand dollars per theatre.  If it is able to keep the momentum, it may be expanding to more theatres in coming weeks.  It is quite timely as the movie is based on the true story of Oscar Grant, an unarmed black man shot by a white transport police officer, and it debuted the same weekend that George Zimmerman was acquitted.  Fruitvale Station gained critical acclaim and awards at both the Sundance Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival, and it will surely be looking for an Oscar nod or two.  Another independent movie that performed well this weekend was The Way, Way Back, which finished its second weekend in theatres by breaking the million dollar mark.  The movie starring Steve Carell will be expanding from 79 theatres to around 700 in two weeks' time.  If it does well, it could be looking at wide release sometime in August.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Breakdown of Pacific Rim, The Lone Ranger, Side Effects, and The Dictator Podcast

It's another Monday, which means another Breakdown podcast.  This week we'll be reviewing and discussing the latest massive blockbuster from a man who hasn't really done anything of this scale in Guillermo del Toro as he serves sea monsters battling giant robots in Pacific Rim.  We'll also look at the film that Disney was hoping would launch another franchise in The Lone Ranger.  Then we'll dip into the vault as we look at this past February's psychological thriller from Steve Soderbergh in Side Effects, as well as Sacha Baron Cohen's first scripted comedy where he is in the lead with The Dictator.

For the first time ever, we have a major disagreement over one of the films.  You'll definitely want to hear that.

Enjoy!


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Stars vs. Rawrs: Scott Breaks Down the Weekend Box Office

Sorry, this is posted really late this week. I ended up being out of town, and then having a full slate yesterday so I didn't have time to format the article. The box office weekend is wrapping up, but you can now compare how close his predictions were to the reality. Also see if you catch on to what movies Scott plans to see, and which ones he secretly hopes fail.
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Last weekend saw Despicable Me 2 set pace to become the number one animated film of the year, while The Lone Ranger underwhelmed expectations and is proving to have missed the mark on recreating the fun and success of Pirates of the Caribbean.  This week sees two wide release movies that share nothing in common in their fight for your cinema dollars.  One is a collection of comedians returning for a follow up to Grown Ups, and the other has no blockbuster name power but does boast the power of giant robots and giant monsters.  Star power vs. robot power… let’s dig in.

Adam Sandler, David Spade, Chris Rock, and Kevin James are back in Grown Ups 2, the follow up to their 2010 summer comedy.  The movie proved to be a trial by fire experience for critics and scored a horribly low 10% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Luckily for Sandler and friends, people would be undeterred by this and the movie’s opening weekend grabbed $40 million from audiences on its way to a worldwide total of $270 million.  A haul like that would make anyone consider a sequel, and consider it they sure did.  Here we are on the eve of attempt the second, and there is no way a star studded comedy can be a miss, is there?

Sadly, this year has shown that audiences are increasingly fickle about their comedy movies.  You are no longer able to attach a few recognizable names and expect the movie to be a hit.  For more information on this ask Tina Fey, Paul Rudd, Jim Carey, Steve Carell, Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, or any of the many people associated with Movie 43.  Over the past two years Adam Sandler has started to experience a decrease in drawing power with Jack and Jill earning only $25 million its opening weekend, and 2012’s That’s My Boy failing to make back its budget.  However, with the amount of Twitter activity around this movie, I think these four comedians will see some profit on this film as the audiences will forgo critical opinion once again (Grown Ups 2 is currently 7% on Rotten Tomatoes).

Grown Ups 2 Opening Weekend Prediction - $42 million


Pacific Rim enters theatres this weekend, bringing a feel of Godzilla versus Robot Jox in a blockbuster movie directed by Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) and starring actors most people may not recognize.  Now, if you are a fan of the television station FX, you may have giddy excitement for seeing Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam and Ron Perlman, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Charlie Day.  If you watch the trailers for Pacific Rim you will notice that they pay no attention to the human aspect of the movie… it is all about the robots and monsters.  For those who enjoy movies with deep, rich characters and interesting arcs, you should be staying away from this movie.  It is a special effects extravaganza; the kind that suggests you should bring an extra few dollars for popcorn so you can get the full experience of the fun blockbuster.

There are two movies this blockbuster season that are considered wild cards, which means they are hard to predict, and they could end up bringing in a lot more money than people expect.  Pacific Rim is one of them, the other is The Conjuring, and I will be talking about that movie next week.  At this point in time, Pacific Rim has had early success in the box office.  Last night it brought in $3.6 million, which is consistent with where World War Z was in its late night releases.  Online movie ticket purchasing website Fandango reported that Pacific Rim accounted for 60% of their advanced ticket sales for this weekend and was ahead of World War Z sales leading up to its release.  Also, this movie has already taken first place in a number of international markets, and international monies are a very coveted commodity.  Many of the websites that I lurk around on are predicting Pacific Rim will take in around $40-45 million this weekend.  Alas, I must go a different route.  Because this movie is showing many indicators of being on the same trajectory as World War Z ($66 million opening weekend), I feel that the $40 million mark is a bit low and this movie could shock a lot of people with how well it does.  The trailers for Pacific Rim tell me to ‘go big or go extinct,’ and that is exactly what I must do.

Pacific Rim Opening Weekend Prediction - $55 million


Another movie that needs mentioning this weekend is the limited release Fruitvale Station which is an independent movie based on the story of Oscar Grant, who was killed by a police officer in 2009.  It is one of the year’s first serious Oscar contenders, and has won awards at both the Sundance Film Festival and the Cannes Film Festival.  Fruitvale Station is the first feature film directed by Ryan Coogler, and it is noted for having an amazing performance from its lead actor, Michael B. Jordan.  If you happen to live near one of the seven theatres playing this movie, consider myself envious of you, and I hope you get a chance to see this film.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Top Fictional Vacation Spots

Everyone needs a vacation at some point, and summer usually turns out to be the most popular time.  This also means you want to avoid where the masses are flocking towards.  In my latest pop culture column for Collective Publishing, I spotlight some of the top fictional vacation spots.

Monday, July 08, 2013

The Breakdown of World War Z, The Bling Ring, The Cabin in the Woods, and Kick-Ass

Scott and I review and discuss this year's big zombie epic, World War Z.  We then also look at Sofia Coppola's latest indy picture, The Bling Ring; the horror cult hit, The Cabin in the Woods; and the stylized comic book action picture, Kick-Ass.  We've got some strong opinions on these pictures, and it leads to some passionate discussion.

Enjoy!


Thursday, July 04, 2013

Scott Breaks Down the Weekend Box Office

Scott called this week's article "Despicable Ranger", and based off the reviews, that seems pretty fitting for one of the pictures.
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Last weekend taught us that Melissa McCarthy has solidified herself as a box office draw as The Heat earned just shy of $40 million and came in second place behind Monsters University. As well, we learned that Roland Emmerich maybe best suited for large scale epic blockbuster movies, as his latest movie (White House Down) left everyone surprised with how poorly it did. It brought in $25 million and has much farther to go to make back its $150 million budget. So, are those pointless lessons learned, or do they hold any relevance to this week’s new releases? I believe that they have a lot to teach us.

The lackluster performance of White House Down shows us that you can throw as much budget as you want into a buddy action/comedy, you can attach star power as can be grabbed, and nothing will guarantee that you will make back your budget. The key aspect to a ‘buddy film’ is (and this will sound incredibly simplistic) the buddy relationship. The audience needs to be lured in and charmed by the chemistry between the two leads involved. This concerns me because the trailers for The Lone Ranger do not depict an endearing or emotional relationship between The Lone Ranger (Armie Hammer) and Tonto (Johnny Depp). Come to think of it, the trailer does not depict much other than an obvious attempt to redo Pirates of the Caribbean.

And, to ponder a rhetorical question, will The Lone Ranger make Pirates of the Caribbean style money? In doing a little bit of research online it is interesting to see that predictions on the success of this film have been getting lower and lower. It is getting mauled by critics, and when compared to GI Joe: Retaliation, who had a midweek open as well, made similar amounts in its first full day in theatres (around $10 million). I don’t believe that Jerry Bruckheimer would like his movie being compared to a schlocky movie about children’s toys, but there it is. This movie may have a long way to go to make up its ridiculously high budget which I have seen estimated at as high as $275 million.

The Lone Ranger 5 Day Opening Weekend Prediction - $55 million


The fact that Monsters University was able to stave off The Heat and hold the number one spot in the box office demonstrates just how powerful an animated family movie can be. Not only can they grab a whole lot of consumer dollars during opening weekend, but the drop in monies from week to week is generally a lot lower than most other genres. But now the Pixar movie will really meet its competition as Despicable Me 2 opens up with a five day weekend, and has already proven to be a big contender. In its first day in theatres, Despicable Me 2 earned $34 million which is four million more than Monsters University made on day one.

I honestly do not know what more needs to be said on this movie. I have already read impressive rumours of international numbers, which means this is a good time to be an executive for Universal as they have yet to suffer a loss for the year 2013. With Despicable Me 2 having a budget of $70 million, it could make a third movie for this franchise a very enticing endeavour. As well, for lead actor Steve Carell, this movie reinstates his relevance on the big screen and may cause people to forget The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. Carell is also in the limited release movie The Way, Way Back which comes out this weekend and has already generated a lot of critical buzz.

Despicable Me 2 5 Day Opening Weekend Prediction - $150 million

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Movies That are Entirely Different Than the Novel They're Based On

Some fans get really annoyed when their favourite novel is adapted into a big budget motion picture.  They're often afraid that the movie just won't measure up to the images they have in their head.  Hollywood sometimes will counteract that by making a movie that is a completely different story than the book it is supposedly based on.  In my latest Collective Publishing article, I look at several movies that turned out to be very different than the books they were claiming to be adapted from.

Monday, July 01, 2013

The Breakdown of the First Half of 2013 in Film Podcast: Revealing the Best Film So Far

Scott and I take a look at the first six months of 2013, and debate if it has been a good year for cinema.  We also pick some of our favourite moments of the year, and also both give our top 5 films of 2013 so far.  We then look ahead, and list the films we're most looking forward to seeing.  It is a fun podcast, and will hopefully, spotlight some films that you haven't yet had a chance to check out.

Enjoy!