Friday, January 31, 2014

20 Random Things I Should Have Written About a Long Time Ago

As you know, 2013 wasn't a great year for the blog. For many reasons that I am too bored about to recount here, I wasn't regularly delivering content like I had in previous years. 2014 has started out much better, but I've still pulled off a few disappearing acts on some days. What this means is that I often have things I'd love to rant and rave about, but I end up locking them up in the brain vault for another time. Another time seems to keep on being held up in traffic. So, in an attempt to end the false starts and officially kick-off the new era of the International House of Spicer I've decided to offer up 20 thoughts on some random things that I'd meant to discuss here in the past. I'm actually going to be doing this as they come to me, so I'll likely be missing out on many things I'd have normally written about if this last year had not been plagued by the writing demons.

1.  First thing I wanted to address was that I feel awful that I didn't even bother to write up a three line blurb to acknowledge the passing of one of the most iconic and important figures of our time, Nelson Mandela.  There are several famous people that passed away in the past year who I wanted to acknowledge, but the person who has been one of the most integral in shaping crucial parts of modern times was Nelson Mandela. In a hundred years there will only be so much room for important modern figures to be fit into history books, but Mandela will not only get a substantial write-up but will warrant his own classes. He was a complicated man just like any figure who became great, and there is no arguing that he transformed a nation and left a lasting impact on our world. He will rightfully be remembered alongside Gandhi and Martin Luther King as revolutionaries that forced massive change in civil rights. There is little I can say that can compare to the greatness of this man, so I'll just end by saying I am proud that I got be alive during his lifetime to see the changes he created.


2.  Those that have been following my film reviews from the start will remember that it wasn't until 2012 that I incorporated star ratings. I was always hesitant about using them, because I realized they were subjective and didn't want them to take away from what I'd written. I also knew there would be issues where I'd end up giving three stars to one movie that clearly wasn't as good as a picture that I gave two and half. I saw it as an opening of a door to many headaches and arguments, and lot of that would just come from my inner voice as I try to justify my choices. I eventually came to terms with the fact that star ratings weren't scientific and it was just arbitrary, but it did allow the readers to at least get a rating system of where I put a particular picture. I also started to constantly be asked to implement a system, as some felt it helped better understand and compliment the reviews.

Over time I started to realize the star ratings weren't gospel and just a barometer to go with my written reviews (written being the most important part). I also started learning that not all two and half rated films were created equal. I slowly came to terms with the fact that a person reading a review about Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones wasn't interested in knowing how it stood up against a movie like The Place Beyond the Pines but rather where it stood against other found footage horror movies. Yes, I gave Marked Ones three stars, but that doesn't mean it was only one star in quality below Pines, but rather it was of that value in that particular genre. I try to review a movies based off who the film is being marketed to and what kind of movie it is trying to be, so I'm likely much easier on a goofy action picture rather than a historical drama where the expectations I have are much higher.  The three for one and the two for other may still mean I'd rather see the two star historical drama again rather than the guy smashing through windows for two hours. Anyway, I wrote all this to link to a rather interesting piece about Roger Ebert explaining how he arrives to his own star ratings and film recommendations over at /Film.  Ebert is probably one of the biggest influences on my film criticism career, and it is an interesting look at how to approach the star rating.

3. Since I'm now sort of writing about writing, it seems like a great time to bring up Chuck Wendig. He is a novelist, screenwriter, comic book writer, and game designer who is currently far more successful than me. He also likely gets asked how to be successful at writing far more than I do. Considering how often I get asked at my very low level of success, I'd think it is almost a full time job going through those emails for him. Anyway, I always tell people you've got to write. Write lots. Keep on writing. During that time you have to pitch and scramble and hustle to try to sell that work. Oh yeah, and write. Well, Wendig says the exact same thing except he has several decades of experience and some great success stories to strengthen his advice. For all aspiring writers that are wondering why they haven't hit it big yet, here is a really important post to read.

4.  I was going to try to cover a whole bunch of major news issues that I never got around to discussing in 2013. To be honest, it is now getting so far removed from them that I don't have the energy or passion to write anything interesting about them anymore. Let's just say that if a bearded mallard says anything controversial or a mayor I once interviewed puts his head firmly into his ass again then I'll try to throw in my two cents in 2014.

5.  It's interesting how one's current life situation makes it hard to remember what things were like before the change. I look back at life before Everett, and I don't understand how I wasn't writing six novels a year and still having time to make my own margarita recipes. Now, I'm not sure how in the old place I ever thought shovelling the driveway was time consuming when our new house has something much larger than some streets. If anyone wants to just give me a snow blowing as thanks for all the years of free content on this blog then that is a gift I'm willing to accept. Or as I analyze the currently snow covered lawn, I'm also open to accepting riding lawnmowers as my current push mower means I'll need to pack a sleep-over bag and a three meals to get it all done. Once again, Christopher from one year ago really shouldn't have complained about the chores. Hey, at least I can laugh at him, because I have a much bigger house. Also he doesn't actually exist anymore, so I have that over him as well.

6.  I've currently found myself being smothered by a backlog of film reviews again. I'm not going to bother with the excuses because it is complicated, and I'd rather just move on with life. Many of the films that I missed written reviews with a byline (not ghost written) have or will be covered on the Breakdown. As for the others, I'll just have to let them float in the abyss until the time comes for me to rewatch and properly reviews them. For now, I'll state that Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and Olympus Has Fallen are prime examples of movies that follow a successful formula but do it in the most tiresome, predictable, and lifeless way possible. Though I will say that one is more guilty of being forgettable come the end of the year, and the other would have made my worst of the year list if I'd seen it in time. I'll let you sort it out which is which.

7.  Everett ended up getting several train sets for Christmas, because apparently, it is time to get his career path set now that he is two. His career obviously being one that somehow finds a way to get paid while playing with train sets. The plan had been to return some of the sets and exchange them for things that didn't inspire my son to scream out "choo-choo."  Not that we were opposed to that, but there is more to life than train noises. There are always airplane noises and cow sounds too. Anyway, Emily went back to work and Everett went hard to work convincing me to open up one of the train sets that we left in the living room. He convinced me with the solid and impossible to beat argument of "Open peese daddy."  I challenge you to find a counter.

So, we opened the box, and I quickly realized it was not one of those magically assemble on their own sets. I told Everett he had to put the train track together himself, and he responded by going off to sit on the dog's head. I was left staring with my mouth wide open at the box and trying to figure out which of the various configurations would be the easiest. While building with things that aren't words and ideas is far from my passions or skill set, I actually found myself engrossed in trying to get a track set-up. To the point it became my toy while Everett made stuff cats fly and blue cars dance.

Eventually, I accomplished my task, and I have to admit to some pride of actually successfully assembling something, even if it was designed for those between 4 and 10. It looks great, and the toy train ran on it fine.  Everett was quite happy to see a fully functional train track. He quickly realized it looked just like the one we have in the family room.  So, he ran off to look at that one. He then came wandering back with the train from that set in his hands. He made the "choo-choo" sound while the train chugged along its new track.

It actually fit on the track fairly well, despite being a different make.  The really important thing to Everett was if it could fit in the tunnel. Except it didn't. He tried pushing, jumping and singing to convince the train from the other set to fit through the tunnel.

During the fracas, he remembered he had a third train. It was a Fisher Price train that popped up coloured balls, and was about 10 times bigger than the other two trains. But it was a train. Everett decided that it should go on the track and go through the tunnel. His face scrunched up when discovering the massive toddler toy couldn't fit through the tunnel. He asked for assistance, because he obviously mistook me for Rick Moranis from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

This was the day Everett learned not all trains are created equal.

8.  I've talked before about my plans to launch a major movie news site in the coming year. The plan would be to house all my reviews, podcasts, and box office predictions over there. I'd also like it to be a site that contains film history, essays on the current state of cinema, and opinion pieces on current major film news.  In an attempt to try to grow that particular audience, I'll likely try to increase the movie news I do on this site until the launch. I don't quite know what that means yet. I still want this to be a place where I write about everything. I'd like to actually increase my "slice of life" type writing along with parenting pieces and also start writing a bit more about politics and world news again. For the next little bit I'm going try to sort out exactly what I can handle along with my pay copy and pantless boy aspiring to ride Summit.  Expect even more focus on movies over the next bit with more reviews and discussion of news, so either be excited or consider yourself warned.

9.  For what may be the 10th winter in a row, I've appeared to have lost my mittens. I blame it one mitten trolls, and assume somewhere there is a bridge constructed out of my winter clothing.

10.  It is about two months old, but I never wrote anything about last season's Survivor: Blood vs. Water. I should have, because it turned out to be one of the best seasons ever. Tyson went from being the snarky and witty comic relief character to a player that controlled the game and was absolutely dominant. What makes his win more impressive than other returning players who won like Boston Rob was that Tyson was surrounded by people playing really hard to win. It was a lot of fun seeing a season where no one seemed to be playing just to make merge or just happy to go deep. Everyone did backstabbing and arguing and manipulation to try to make it to the every end, which made for an incredibly fun season. It also made Tyson one of the surprising great players in the history of the game, when there wasn't any sign of that from his previous two seasons. I won't go into details since the season is so distant now, but I wanted to just throw in that this was an all-time favourite and one worth tracking down if you missed it. If CBS actually made high quality box sets of this series I'd try to get this one and review it from the start, but they only make the flimsy to-order variety, which is only a step-up from burning it off a torrent.

11.  About two months ago, I knocked over some smelling oils all over the kitchen island. Considering this isn't where they are supposed to go, I uttered something like, "Oh no, mommy is going to be mad and I'll be dead." Everett thought that was a great thing to declare and yelled over and over, "Oh no! Mommy! Dead!" For the rest of that week, any time I dropped or spilled something, or it could possibly look like I accidentally laid something down, Everett would yell out, "Oh no! Mommy! Dead!" It isn't usually good to teach your 2 years old that his mommy is a homicidal, but it was fun.

Then before Christmas, Summit decided to help himself to an entire box of chocolates. Considering chocolate is toxic and deadly to dog, it may have been less stressful if he ate the entire turkey instead. We decided we wouldn't call the vet, but just keep on an eye on him instead. The next day I was talking on the phone and Everett was doing his usual laps around the house. I then suddenly heard him yelling over and over in an exasperated tone, "Doggy! Doggy! Doggy!" I then went into the living room to discover the side effects of a dog eating an entire box of chocolates. It was quite the unpleasant mess that I now had to focus my attention on.

Since I was not expecting it and probably because it is always good to identify what you see, I blurted out without thinking, "Oh Shit!" Luckily, Everett seemed to mishear me, and instead said, "Oh Sit!"  He then promptly sat down. He then had a moment of clarity come across his face and he jumped right back up to yell out, "Oh No! Mommy! Dead!"

I then got to hear him yell out that chant while I tried to prevent a stain on our rug in what is supposed to be the fancier room of the house. Nothing quite says class like a giant brown stain on the carpet. As I continued to scrub, Everett helped by doing his new chant. He then realized one of the words in his chant, "Dead!" Then every time after saying that word he'd dramatically throw himself to the ground and lay out just like he'd been shot.

12.  You may have also noticed I haven't talked about football at all this season. If this seems odd then consider that I'm trying to adopt the "if you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all approach" and then look at the Chicago Bears' record.

13.  This may be too late for many, but for all aspiring writers in Ontario, I wanted to remind you that Toronto Star is once again doing their Short Story contest with $5,000 as the top prize. It is a great way to get some exposure for your career, and even if you don't place, it is good to learn to try to write on deadline and come up with ideas on a relatively short time frame. Even with less than a month left, it might be a good thing to consider.

14.  I tried starting up TV reviews on the site again.  You may also notice just as quickly that I stopped again. There is a part of me that feels that when I enjoy entertainment that I must justify it by writing about it. I once again realized writing TV and book reviews is too time consuming if I also want to do several film reviews a week and other writing on top of that. I may try again in the future, but for now, I'll likely just keep TV writing to opinion pieces or reviews for sites like BuddyTV (where I currently write Rake reviews).

15.   I didn't do a New Year's resolution piece this year, because I didn't want to discover that I had the exact same goals as the year prior. Admittedly, career wise 2013 wasn't as successful as 2012, so some of the lack of goal achievement was trying to recover from a few unexpected hits in terms of clients. The biggest unachieved goals are much more easily blamed me. I've been talking about writing more fiction every single year, and I'm still as far along with my novel now as I was three years ago.  This is to say I have ideas and dreams but nothing that any publisher would even think to buy.

This year I'm hoping to have an actual complete novel. Now, if it gets sold is a totally different story, as typically it takes a novelist several manuscripts before they have something a publisher deems worthy of purchase. The writing of a novel is a very different beast than just the writing of articles or reviews or ad copy or any other thing I currently make a living at doing.  Simply put, I have ideas and like to tell stories, but don't have any concrete proof that I can actually write a full length book. I'm making it clear that will be the objective this year along with trying to make a name writing some shorter fiction as well. The goal will be to write some occasional progress reports on this site to reveal the brainstorming process and how I turn the idea into the story and all the other creative aspects of creating long form fiction.

Of course, what ends up working or failing for me doesn't necessarily mean anything to another writer other than it failed or worked for me. I am learning writing and creation is a very personal process.  Many people can go about very different routes and still achieve the success someone down another path met. It is also helpful to hear how other people arrived to a story and trying to sort out if that works for you.

The other major process will come after I complete the novel. I'll need to sort out if I go the traditional publishing route or try the self-publishing route.  Self-publishing is no longer just a hobby or something done by hack writers. It is a real option.  One that has the benefit of retaining more profits and rights. At one time I only wanted to do traditional publishing because it would be a sign that I made it and that someone accepted my work. Self-publishing means the actual completion just shows I could write a book and not that anyone liked it. It would then rely on my own self-marketing and generating actual sales.  As I grow older with a family to support, I stop thinking about the ego and more about the actual financial end. There is the time factor and some other costs related with self-publishing (like making a cover), so in the end my decision will likely be more practical rather than attempts to feed the ego. Hopefully, this is something I can write about further when the time comes to sorting out the future of the novel I'd have finally completed.

I'd also really like to get a non-fiction book moving.  But then I reveal how overly-ambitious I am. I should probably just get projects moving forward and reveal them when they're closer to completion.  Hey look, a fuzzy squirrel!

16.  2013 marked my first full year as a stay-at-home-dad.  I'd largely declare it a success.  Spending time and watching my son grow is always going to be rewarding in itself. I'm truly blessed to see him hit each milestone and see how much he has changed from even a month ago. It also has allowed for me to have a special and close relationship with my son that I really wouldn't trade in for anything.

The big factor is how looking after Everett has affected my writing career. Everett isn't a big fan of daddy on the computer when he is running about.  Well, let me correct that, if daddy isn't showing him Michael Jackson music videos or Disney songs then he isn't a big fan of me being on the computer. I'm pretty sure Everett thinks work is watching YouTube. I find I can get him distracted by toys or food for a maximum of a half hour and then he comes prowling.  The half hour is a good day. For the most part, I get up early, because Everett isn't up until 7:30 to 8. He luckily sleeps from an hour and half to sometimes even three hours in the afternoon (counting an hour of singing to his stuffed toys). Then Emily is home in the evenings and can take over the Everett party. It is now about trying to sneak in as much writing in those available windows as possible. Some weeks are magical and other weeks I have an entire weekend spent trying to cram in deadline sensitive projects.

The time with Everett is the real magic. Emily makes a good living, so I have to remind myself my own career is the financial gravy. The most important thing is making sure Everett isn't just stuffed with jelly beans or setting the dining room table on fire. I've achieved that, so I'd consider my career a success.

Personally, I do have a strong desire to feel like I am contributing outside of caring for Everett. I have dreams and goals and ambitions. For my own emotional well-being I still need to push for my writing career while looking after Everett. It has been hit or miss, but I hope 2014 is where I get much better. I'll likely try to track my progress and adventures as a stay-at-home dad more regularly this year. I'm sort of missing my weekly "Dad's Eye View" column, so I may try to something similar here but with a bit of a managing work focus as well.

17.  I'll likely be mentioning Star Wars on here a lot if I try to track the major movie news. The film is pushing forward to the end of 2015, and so much should be happening over this next year if they stick with the release date. The script is now completed and the big hubbub on the Internet is that the focus is on the original trilogy characters rather than the next generation as had been assumed. People are nervous about the focus being on ageing characters and point to how Obi-Wan Kenobi was a supporting character and it wouldn't have worked as well if he was the hero. I admit it would be awkward seeing an older star playing the role of the hero and jumping about with his lightsabre, and you just have to look at Sylvester Stallone to see how well that works for the box office. This is where we also need to admit we don't know squat about the story, because J.J. Abrams has been super secret about it. This is also the guy who denied up and down that Khan was in the new Star Trek picture, so he isn't past lying for misdirection sake.

I assume new characters will need to be introduced. I am sure a proverbial passing of the torch is planned. I don't necessarily want Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia to be the driving force of the narrative, but I also have to admit that nostalgia dictates I sort of want to see how they all turned out after the event of Return of the Jedi. I am not ready for any nerd diatribes until I know more about the picture. I am still optimistic and excited for this.

The thing I am more concerned about is Disney's push for it to be December 2015. It doesn't seem like enough time for a picture that just finished the first draft of the script. The special effects and innovations have always been a major part of the story. Fans expect to be introduced to new worlds and an assortment of bizarre creatures. All those things take time to create. I'd assume the special effects alone probably take most of a year if not more. It seems to be really optimistic to have the film so close with so little worked on.

I'm also leery of all the spin-off they want to churn out, but I'll leave that talk for another day.

18.  A city trapped under a dome, and nefarious fellows try to exploit the circumstance to their benefit. Depending on your entertainment tastes, you either thought about The Simpsons Movie or Under the Dome by Stephen King (or the TV series based on the novel). My point is that an idea is nothing more than just that, an idea. I find it interesting how closely some writers will guard their kernel of an idea when on its own it isn't much. Nobody would mistake The Simpsons Movie for Under the Dome other than the towns being trapped, because one is a comedy and the other is a very dark tale about secrets of a town. The stories are drastically different but with a similar initial idea.

I personally am not really scared about giving up an idea. I trust that even if a writer then decided to run with my idea that the story would turn out drastically different. The idea isn't sellable or entertainment. It is the story that matters. If someone comes about their idea honestly, then I'm pretty sure their final product will be very different than any other writer.

The sacredness of an idea is something I've had to get over myself. I used to think that it was what held the magic. I was so proud of the ideas that popped into my head. I'd cherish them and try to keep them away from the greedy. I now know that they don't mean anything until the story gets uncovered. They have nothing until I transform it into a tale. This is an important lesson that I have to remind myself. The fruits and treasure are buried in the story that I must be written.

19. 2015 was looking like one of the most bloated years ever for blockbusters. Some acquainted the unrolling of big, budget spectacles from major well-known franchises as turning the year into the best. This is only if trying to make massive profits is now what we call the best. I like blockbusters just fine, but I tire of endless sequels and special effects got tiring by June this past year, so I don't look forward to even more crammed in a year, I like nuanced and complex storytelling that is character driven, and that doesn't really exist in the realm of the blockbuster. 2015 actually is a year I dread as it looks like we are headed for some massive blockbuster burnout.

The year is crammed with The Avenger: Age of Ultron, Tomorrowland, Jurassic World, Fantastic Four, Ted 2, Terminator: Genesis, Despicable Me Minions, Ant-Man, The Bourne Identity 5, Fast and Furious 7, Hotel Transylvania 2, James Bond 24, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, The Good Dinosaur, and Star Wars Episode VII are just a few of the movies hoping to be massive hits. The list I just gave is far too many movies hoping to rack in billions in the global market, and I'm sure many have budgets that will need massive success. There is just no way that enough people will have the energy to see that many movies. A few of those listed are animated, so it is a different crowd than the teen action pictures, but I also left out several family films scheduled that year that come from major franchises.  If I had to guess I'd say The Avengers, Star Wars, and The Hunger Games are the sure things.  Good Dinosaur as a Pixar movie should turn out fine, and the Minions likely have enough life to get close to Despicable Me 2 numbers.  After that movies like Ant-Man and The Bourne Identity better have modest budgets to get by as midlist hits. Fast and Furious 7 comes out early in the year so it should turn out fine. We'll see how fondly people really remember or more importantly how eager they are to revisit, Terminator and Jurassic Park after a long layoff and amidst the heat of the summer movie season.

Batman vs. Superman (which from constant reports is sounding more and more like a Justice League picture) was the first movie to lose the game of chicken. It has been reported that due to the work it will take to create the world that the picture has been moved to 2016. I partly believe it is also an acknowledgement that things are just too crowded and thus too risky in 2015. It now has the chance to look like the big movie event of the year with the move. It also has two years of build and anticipation, which it has over the Marvel movie that at this point is untitled and unknown. Of course, none of this speaks to the quality of the movie, which outside of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, has been more than spotty for DC pictures. The film itself is sounding a little crowded with the promise of Wonder Woman being included, and I'm sure a trillion villains.

My prediction is that at least two more of the movies on that list will move over to 2016.  Maybe even a few will great scrapped depending how the box office turns out this summer. At this point I am more intrigued about the box office battles than reviewing the majority of the blockbuster movies coming up in 2015.  Except for Star Wars, I can't wait for that.

20.  Remind me to never have a spotty year at blogging, where I then feel compelled to do a post like this again.            

It Could be an Awkward and Laborious Super Bowl Weekend at the Box Office

The final weekend of Dumpuary is upon us, and it is the worst weekend for new movies hoping for a hot start. Scott analyzes the chances for the two new wide releases on Super Bowl weekend.

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Alright, it is Super Bowl weekend, which means that it is typically one of the worst weekends of the year in theatres as people have other things that they are paying attention to. Last year the big football weekend managed just shy of $69 million (with only the first weekend in September having a worse outing, headlined by Riddick) and was led by the zombie rom-com, Warm Bodies. So far, 2014 is faring better than 2013 year to date, and but do the new releases give it much of a chance at scoring a better Super Bowl weekend?

One of the movies coming out, That Awkward Moment, is an R-rated romantic comedy that will be entering into 2,800 theatres and stars Zac Efron, Miles Teller, and Michael B. Jordan. I suppose there are fans of High School Musical out there who may be lured in by the Efron name, but those fans will have to be old enough to gain admission as it is an R-rated movie. Teller has had the history of R-rated comedies in the successful Project X (2012, $21 million opening weekend), and the similarly styled 21 and Over (2013, $8.7 million opening weekend) that was not nearly as successful. Both of those movies also had the advantage of opening the first weekend of March, and not during the black hole that is Super Bowl weekend.

As I mentioned, Warm Bodies is a romantic comedy that took first place last Super Bowl weekend ($20million opening), however it benefitted from not having a rating that could keep away some of its potential customers. Two years ago, Chronicle, another teen oriented movie, was able to capture first place with $22 million. There is definite potential for the right kind of movie to succeed during this weekend, but I just cannot wrap my head around the rating, which I think will ultimately be what could keep this movie from reaching the $20 million mark that has been achieved in the past.

That Awkward Moment Opening Weekend Prediction - $16.5 million

Back in the summer, there were a number of movies that had some serious hopes of awards contention around them, and one of those was Labor Day, the Jason Reitman directed drama starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. The names of the people involved is what created the hype for this film, and unfortunately once it screened it lost a lot of the luster and hype that had been created around it. It was left out of the Oscar nominations completely, which has really hurt its chances of performing this weekend. I suppose that is the risk you run when your wide release expansion is left until after the nominations come out.

One advantage that it could have going for it is that there has not been a lot of recently released adult fare into theatres. I, Frankenstein seems to not have quenched the mature audience`s thirst for contemplative and deep films, so there is little competition for Labor Day in that regard. However, this is also the time where a lot of Oscar nominated films are still in theatre from their late 2013 release dates, as well as some of the older nominees (such as Dallas Buyers Club, 12 Years a Slave, and Gravity) are being brought back out into more theatres, and that is the main bad news for the chances of Labor Day. The biggest nail in the coffin could be that the current Rotten Tomatoes rating is 44%, which, while it means nothing for movies like That Awkward Moment, means a lot to movies for adults who may have to plan a whole evening around it, which could include having to get a babysitter, and will not want to waste the opportunity on a poorly made film. I really feel like this movie is simply going to be lost in the cracks.

Labour Day Opening Weekend Prediction - $4 million

'Rake' Ep. 2 Review: To Beard or Not to Beard

Any procedural that wants to make it in the world of network TV needs to have an episode with Amish. Or at least I'd think that is a necessary thing. Or at least the writers for Rake must think so as they threw them in by only the second episode. I analyze if the Amish and the series' attempt to feel like a cable show work in my latest review for BuddyTV.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Hey, Did You Hear Kevin Hart is In "About Last Night"? Also Some Other Trailer Reviews

It is only a few days away from what will likely be the marching out of an army of big, loud, shiny trailers for big, loud, shiny summer blockbusters. So, this week we enjoy a few quieter trailers to limited release pictures along with a few bigger films hoping to strike gold at the box office. Oh yeah, we do discuss that little known actor, Kevin Hart, too.


Maleficent (May 30, 2014/Wide) - Trailer #2



Christopher:  This is the fourth trailer I've seen for this picture, so Disney is definitely pushing for another Alice in Wonderland here.  Not sure if they can pull it off, because it will hinge on how much parents want to take their children to a film with the villain as the central figure. I realize I just described Despicable Me, but that was animated and had far less haunting material in the trailer. There is the Angeline Jolie factor of a big star that we rarely see on the big screen, and she is prominent throughout every single trailer (plus the whole being the title character). This has been described as a story that explains how Maleficent turned into the cruel witch that put such a sweet princess under a dark spell, but the trailer hints far more towards events happening when she is already evil and nasty. The CGI works here and the visuals are pretty stunning and storybook-like, and this is what is still drawing me in. The whole moss monsters battling the knights looks too much like trying to capture a Lord of the Rings crowd, and brings back far too many memories of the visually stunning but rather disappointing Snow White and the Huntsman. There are hints at a more complicated relationship with Princess Aurora this time around rather than just being the person to trick her into pricking her finger that then gives her an extended slumber. Hopefully, this means the story is set to bring a new twist on their connection and explain why Maleficent does the evil deed. I still want those bubbly fairies to turn out to be bitches and revealed to be the nasty backstabbers that cause the transformation and all the problems. I have lots of hope for this movie being a different kind of big summer blockbuster, but I also sadly must admit each new trailer gets me less interested.

Scott:  I believe I have said it before, and I will easily say it again, Angelina Jolie rocks the look in this movie and brings perfectly to life the cold, calculating stare of a wicked witch.  The movie looks like a lot of fun, and I personally enjoy tales that allow more focus on the villains.  When I used to watch professional wrestling, I always cheered for the heel because that was a lot more fun.  My tastes, however, are not what is going to turn this movie into a profit, and it could be possible that the material is one that has parents less ambitious about spending money on, especially considering that only two weeks after the release of How to Train Your Dragon 2, and that is more typical family fare.

Visually and conceptually, it looks great, but how it will make out is a tough guess.  While I know I will be watching its success closely, I can only imagine that Sony will be paying even more attention, as they are looking to expand the Spider-Man universe with spin-offs based on Peter Parker’s opponents.  If Maleficent fails to connect, it could be a huge indicator to Sony to perhaps rethink its long term strategy.

Stalingrad (February 28, 2014/Limited)



Christopher:  I'm all for foreign films breaking into the North American market, and I'm always intrigued to see war movies from a different perspectives than just the American. The Battle of Stalingrad is one of the bloodiest battles in military history and also considered by many historians to be the turning point in World War II. There is no arguing that this is a story that deserves to be made into a big budget motion picture. My grievance and hesitation is the visuals remind me of a graphic novel, and it seems to be closer to Red Tails than Saving Private Ryan. This should have been a gritty and thought-provoking war drama that focuses in on a few key characters and explores how a soldier deals with the heartbreak and trauma of war while protecting the country they're sworn to defend. Except this instead looks like a big budget, special effects laden action picture that replaces depth and character for big explosions. I could be wrong but the promise of a 3D IMAX experience sort of points me in the direction towards the type of audience they want and how they plan to sell this movie. It is already the highest grossing Russian movie of all time and seems to be a major success overseas, though just like how American-centric war films don't play well outside of the domestic market, I expect less interest for it here. I just hope this picture doesn't end up being a sign of the future of war movies where it is all about being shiny, fast-paced and explodey rather than gritty, dramatic, and thoughtful.

Scott:  While Iron Man 3 liked to rule many areas of the world in 2013, it did not even come close to touching Stalingrad’s numbers in Russia.  I had not seen the trailer before today, and it looks like it really could be an interesting 3D experience.  I catch what Chris is saying about the atmosphere that seems similar to movies based on graphic novels, but some part of me is thinking that it could work in this film.  It leaves it looking like the sky itself is burning, almost like blood is mixed in with it, and from an artistic standpoint that makes sense for the brutality that was the battle of Stalingrad.  I think this movie will more lean to the side of visual spectacle, but will not be void of heart or vision.  I am also looking forward to seeing a WW2 movie that is not about the American involvement in Normandy, but one that pays attention to one of the most gruesome and horrible battles in the war in a story that people rarely hear about from a voice that is justified in telling the tale.

Joe (TBA)




Christopher:  Nicholas Cage has to be one of the most frustrating actors ever, and I'm not referring to his "cry to the heavens" scenes that he must have written in his contract for every movie. He is one of the most talented actors around, but most of you probably roll your eyes when I say that. He earned that title in incredibly complex and nuanced performances in acclaimed films like Leaving Las Vegas, Adaptation, and Matchstick Men while his presence elevated otherwise decent action films to something special in The Rock and Face/Off. Can you think of any other actor that could have truly pulled off the Big Daddy character in Kick-Ass as expertly as Cage? The guy is great and I'll write a whole essay if I have to, in order to prove it. The problem is that for the last decade he has constantly been taking shit roles in movies destined for the bargain bin a week after release. In these pictures he ends up over-acting and hamming it up at the most inopportune time in some misguided attempt to improve the material. His name is tarnished and it could have been saved if he just took the time to read the scripts before signing on.

This is why I'm so excited about Joe. This reminds me a lot of Mud and not just because of the inclusion of rising star, Tye Sheridan. It is about a complicated man that ends up becoming a questionable father figure to a tormented boy in what should be a dark coming of age story. The story is something far more significant and intriguing than most of the other work that Cage has been starring in. Hopefully the material allows him to show a wide range of emotions and tackle some challenging character acting in order to prove he is the real deal. Maybe it can be the kind of role that Mud was for Matthew McConaughey where it possibly leads to some better scripts but more importantly, reminds people that he is above the direct-video-pap he has been smothered by lately. Unfortunately, all of Cage's other upcoming work doesn't give much hope for a renaissance, but baby steps can work for rehabbing a career too -- especially if this ends up getting some awards recognition.

The cynical side of me feels that its chances for any awards rely on the picture being released closer to the end of the year. Once again mentioning Mud, that movie ended up being totally forgotten during the awards race, despite really strong reviews. Of course, this picture is also far from Oscar bait material anyway, and more of a gritty drama about salt-of-the-Earth types battling to make the best of their situation. The antihero is also still in fashion and it is a perfect role for Cage who I've got high hopes will be in a few memorable and captivating moments.

Director David Gordon Green is also an intriguing choice for this picture, because he is kind of an enigma with his portfolio. He has goofball pictures like The Sitter and Your Highness, but also outright entertaining genre spanning pictures like Pineapple Express and Prince Avalanche. He also has a pretty strong resume for the tougher dramatic pictures with stuff like Snow Angels and Undertow. I have a lot of faith that the talent in this picture can put together one of the year's surprise gems and this trailer hints at some engaging hard-edged entertainment.

Scott:  This movie came out with perfect timing at TIFF this past year, as around a week earlier I had mentioned Nicolas Cage in a podcast about actors who are not deserving of all the hate they get on them.  While Cage seems free to take pretty much any role that pops along, if given the right script with the right director, the man is magic.  The reviews from TIFF seemed to indicate that this is another quality role for the acting veteran, and the trailer proves that it is a much more layered character that Cage has the ability to ease into.

And, it has Tye Sheridan in it.  If you have not heard his name before, remember it because I am predicting this kid will be huge on the acting scene.  When I say that, I don’t mean that he will be taking the same kind of roles that Seann William Scott takes.  Sheridan, even at a young age, seems to be drawn towards more dramatic roles.  He will be in a film later this year with another great acting prospect in Chloe Grace-Moretz... fun stuff.

Okay, back to Joe.  From my perspective, the talent looks great, the cinematography looks great, and I am thinking that this film has a lot of potential to be great.  It also has the potential to be a bit of a letdown, but I am going to focus more on the positives.

A Long Way Down (TBA)



Christopher:  Nick Hornby has consistently delivered witty and sharp novels about cynical protagonists that hide from their insecurities and inadequacies through immersing in some type of obsession until meeting an individual that changes their perspective. He is a master of writing smart comedy and quirky, pessimistic characters that help balance out the sentimental moments of his narrative, and is one of the few talented writers that can safely swim into the realms of heartwarming and touching without things feeling overly melodramatic. It comes from creating complex and fully developed characters that we believe and grow attached to. High Fidelity and About a Boy are two adaptions from his novels that turned into fantastic not-quite-romantic comedies that followed some of the usual patterns of the genre, but offered several unexpected twists that made it exceed the formula.

Being an adaption of a Hornby's novel is enough to get me on board with this picture. This also looks to have the quirk and humour that made the other movies into stand-outs. It is hard to make a dark comedy believably transition into touching and sweet, but the actors involved along with a strong story should be able to pull it off. The cast is really great with Pierce Brosnan, Toni Collette, Imogen Poots, and Aaron Paul all fitting well into their roles and seeming to have a believable camaraderie with each other. This trailer had several dark humorous moments that pulled a laugh out of me like Brosnan offhandedly mentioning they'd live to regret the pact or Collette wondering if the jumper could hurry things up. The trailer had a stronger hit rate with jokes than some feature length comedies I've seen. This should be the funniest dark but sweet picture of the year, and hopefully, a film that really gives this talented cast the recognition and buzz they deserve.

Scott:  This trailer makes me think of The Breakfast Club on a roof, but instead of ending in the instance it follows the rag-tag group as they go from almost dying together to living together.  I quite like the poetry of the concept, and, completely echoing Chris, I laughed more in this trailer than some that I have seen for full on comedies.  I absolutely love the cast, and felt like there was a great chemistry between them that this kind of story would absolutely hinge on.  It is the kind of movie that could walk the audience through a wide range of emotions, and the people who are attached to it give me good reason to assume that it will be successful.

Blood Ties (March 21, 2014/Limited)



Christopher:  I saw a trailer for this picture over a year ago; it essentially showed many of the same scenes but with slower paced music and cuts. It made the film feel more like a gritty crime drama about one man trying to wrestle with reconnecting with his family and staying on the right side of the law while fighting off the urge to make the major money from his former criminal life. It looked intriguing, and I told myself to keep an eye on this film's release date. It is a year later, and it still hasn't come out in the domestic market. Even more disturbing is this trailer makes the picture now feel like an action thriller with its high paced music and glimpses of shoot-outs and car chases. So, which movie are we getting? I'm very leery of limited release action pictures because that is just screaming for direct-to-video fare that tends to have all the eye rolling sequences of big budget action films but look far shittier. I'm really hoping this was a case of trying to appeal to a different demographic than the initial trailer, but the actual film being closer to what was promised the first time around. It being a year since I last saw that mythical trailer could also means this picture has been recut to be more "mainstream."

The two brothers from different walks of life isn't a fresh concept, but it still makes for good storytelling in the right hands. Writer James Gray has experience creating dramatic action-like pictures that deal with one guy being pulled back into the life of crime often with a belief to help his family. If he isn't writing a screenplay like that then it is about the dark side of life, such as the upcoming The Immigrant about a woman being forced into prostitution. The guy likes his stories with broken protagonists in very dark and nasty situations. The Yards and We Own the Night would likely be the scripts that would play closest to this particular picture, and both had a decent amount of focus on character and action. Clive Owen is a great choice for the man torn by his allegiances, and works well as the possible antihero here. His name has faded the last few years, so it'd nice if this can get him a bit of buzz. He is supported by a cast that I really love with names like Zoey Saldana, Billy Crudup (sporting an awesome '70s time period mustache), and Mila Kunis. James Caan can be hit or miss in the films he picks, but the man always has a remarkable presence and I enjoy him even if I'm not digging the film.

I've got hopes for this, but it is also likely going to be a harder film to track down. Lionsgate at least usually is able to get a good portion of their pictures into fairly wide release. If it turns out to be pretty good and gets an audience on the limited run, then this may be a gritty little treat to gobble up before blockbuster season.

Scott:  I am going to admit right now, I was pretty damned bored through the trailer.  It really felt like the kind of cop and family movie that has happened before, and that I have seen tons of trailers for before.  Visually, it seemed to have an almost ‘made for TV’ quality to the action, and I half expected the stars in it to be people like Tom Selleck and Don Johnson.  I didn’t read Chris’ thoughts on this one because, well, I was bored and I was more interested in just writing my piece and moving on.  This movie has ‘On Demand’ written all over it, because it sure won’t be coming to a theatre near you.

About Last Night (February 14, 2014/Wide)



Christopher:  The major success of Ride Along and the rise of Kevin Hart seems to have altered the last minute advertising campaign for this picture. This is a remake of the 1986 hit comedy starring Demi Moore, Rob Lowe, Elizabeth Perkins, and James Belushi, which was based off David Mamat's play Sexual Perversity in Chicago. The initial trailer did focus more on the premise of the original movie by making it clear it was about two couples and showing the scenes where the two guys and two girls would separately talk to each other about the events of the previous evening's dates. The jokes were more about how the lines got crossed and each gender interpreted the dates differently. The trailers also made it look like Hart was the comic relief and secondary character like Belushi was in the original, and that Michael Early and Joy Bryant were the lead couple of the picture. Well, you now hardly even see Early or Bryant in this trailer, and it looks like the Kevin Hart show. His name seems to be how they will try to sell this on the final stretch and possibly make it seem like the film is entirely framed around him and Hall's antics. It isn't a bad marketing approach considering he is a hot star at the moment, but based off the first movie and the first round of trailers, it isn't an entirely honest one. On the other hand, this trailer made me laugh while the other one didn't, so it suddenly looks like a slightly more appealing picture now.

Scott:  Yep, I am on board with Chris’ last statement on this film.  This is a good example of smart marketing, which is realizing that Kevin Hart is a fast rising star and they should be tapping into that.  I found myself laughing, having a good time, and almost thinking that it would not be a waste of time to see that film.  But then again, this shift in tone with this recent trailer may get more people out on opening night, but it could very easily disappoint when what they get is not what they were sold on.  As much fun as this trailer was for me, I have to remember that it is a representation of secondary characters, and if you got excited about the movie after watching this trailer, I think you should also remember that.

Robocop (February 12, 2014/Wide)



Christopher:  I've always been a sucker for the viral in-universe commercials. I think the best version of this style of ad campaign in recent years was Dark Knight and probably the second best that I remember was Prometheus.  Hopefully, this one turns out more like the former.  Based off the past trailers, it appears the crew involved remembered that the original worked because it didn't take itself too seriously and there was a good dose of old school genre picture camp tossed in. I'm a fan of this being about a big giant corporation clearly trying to get global dominance and convincing everyone their robots are the future.  Once again based off previous trailers and sort of hinted here, the major difference in this picture seems to be that Alex Murphy retains most of his memories, and he fights back against the actual corporation this time. In the current environment where many see big corporations as the big bad, I think the plan is for the entire company to be the villain rather than one greedy executive. If I'm right about that, then the proper resolution is Murphy overthrowing the company and finding his way once again. The conclusion doesn't really set things up for a sequel though. There has to be a billion sequels planned, right?

Scott:  Ah, it’s good to see the logo of Omni Consumer Products once again, and this time they are not just about revitalizing Old Detroit, but on improving the world as a whole.  I like that change from the original Robocop, and as well the fact that this time Alex Murphy volunteers instead of being forced and then having to rediscover his identity.  Perhaps I like the original idea better, but at least this is a reboot that is actually taking the story in a different angle.  As for the trailer itself, it is always hard to guess just how effective these can be.  I think if perhaps there was a little nefarious undertone towards the end of the trailer it may have been a bit better.  I liked Chris mentioning Prometheus, because the feel of the all-consuming corporation has the same feel to ‘the company’ in the Alien universe.

Vampire Academy (February 7, 2014/Wide)



Christopher:  This was one of those cases where I was despising this picture before I'd seen any real evidence to have such strong feelings. Any backlash towards this picture can be blamed on Stephenie Meyer's popularization of vampires as the dark, brooding, handsome bad boy with a heart of gold archetype. I need to confess I haven't even read much of the literature or watched any of the shows and movies that follow this modern trend, despite it still being everywhere. I hold bitterness over Anne Rice turning the once demonic, bloodthirsty, terrifying, pure evil monsters into deeply disturbed antiheroes seeking redemption. Last year, I learned a valuable lesson from Warm Bodies that you can't automatically discount a film based on being a Young Adult supernatural romance novel and also that not all of them are created equal. It seems that some critics couldn't get out of that mindset with the zomcom and panned it more on principle thus missed out on a surprisingly fun little picture.

I mention all this because there is a small bit of me leaning towards this picture possibly being this year's surprise delight. The trailer plays around with the typical high school movie clichéd characters along with the common fish-out-of-water in a new school story, but with some tongue-firmly-in-cheek incorporation of the typical YA supernatural stuff. It isn't played straight and looks like it is trying for some genre twisting and turning with the tropes. I'm expecting it will still lovingly follow the typical YA formula considering this is based off a bestselling novel series, but it looks to also have a strong self-awareness. I sensed a Joss Whedon style of writing and it reminded me a lot of one of my all-time favourite and underrated TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  The vibe partly came from the self-referential humour, but the other part comes from the wit, charm and strength exuding from lead Zoey Deutch. I know absolutely nothing about this novel series other than the brief bits I looked up to get some background on this trailer, but I do know these type of films hinge on a captivating lead and the trailer makes me think we may have one.

I'm not expecting a genre redefiner here.  It may not even turn out as good as Warm Bodies. I admit the Whedon comparison sets the bar high. I am not necessarily recommending to run out to the cinemas to check this out. It may be worth a look once it arrives on Netflix.

Scott:  Hey, Twilight and Harry Potter were successful, so why don’t we make a movie that throws both of those together because then people would of course run out and see it.  That is what I was originally thinking when I saw the title for this movie a few months back, but there is something in the trailer that excuses it from my angst and negativity because it really seems to be having fun with itself.  In no way does it look to be taking itself super seriously, and that is really what may save it and set it apart from all of the supernatural young adult movies that are being forced fed to audiences.  I should not say that they are being ‘force fed...’ that would imply that someone is eating it.  In most cases, it just gets coughed up on the floor like a cinematic hair ball.

I kind of want to hate myself right now, because this trailer has me kind of intrigued.  I think the film could be fun, it knows the genre, it is having fun with the genre, and that is something it has in common with a number of my favourite movies.  I won’t be rushing out and buying a ticket, but I won’t fight against seeing it, because curiosity is a hell of a thing and I love being proven wrong.  In this case, I may have to eat the months of mockery that I dished out on this film before seeing the trailer.


Zero Theorem (TBA)



Christopher:  Director Terry Gilliam is the master of visually stunning, mind altering, existential science fiction. He makes the Wachowskis' philosophical science fiction seem straight forward in comparison. It isn't to say all of Gilliam's work has been an acid trip, because he also has stuff like The Brothers Grimm and The Fisher King to his credit. His science fiction is almost always something you need to watch more than once and allow some time to simmer in the brain. It is interesting the trailer used Twelve Monkeys as one of his credits, because I'd say that was his most mainstream and least bizarre of the science pictures he has done when one compares it to stuff like Brazil, Time Bandits, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. If we're going to play the comparison game, I'd say this picture has the most in common with Brazil.  Though it doesn't look like this one is necessarily about a dystopian future along the same path as 1984 (a huge inspiration to Brazil), but there still seems to be a man seeking hope and having it altered through technology.

Gilliam's style isn't really mainstream and without a Bruce Willis or Brad Pitt, I'd say this likely is stuck in limited release purgatory in the domestic market. His ability to make the visuals enhance and drive the narrative is masterful and something that almost no other director can quite compete with. As I sort of alluded to before, you're really looking at a drug trip without the need for mind altering aids other than what is on the screen.

Christoph Waltz may lack the star power, but he is the perfect casting for this role. He has proven that he can do eccentric in the Quentin Tarantino pictures, but also has a commanding screen presence. He can tackle a wide range of emotions and also play distant while still connecting with the audience. These are the skills necessary for making an abstract and philosophical picture like this work. Or so I am assuming it will be that style based off seeing this trailer, and having to admit I don't exactly know the plot. I want to know it via watching this picture whenever it decides to get over here. This could be what one calls a cinematic experience and one we're discussing and trying to figure out for a few years.

Scott:  This trailer looks like it was pooped right out of Terry Gilliam’s head, with the colours, the physical sets, and, well, pretty much everything else in it.  I would love to spend a day inside his imagination, because I am pretty sure it would be a wild, crazy, and unique ride that would be well worth the time.  This movie in particular does well in introducing the concept of ‘the zero theorem’ but does not seem to go so far as to give away its main importance and power.  It allows us to know that it is important, but holds back enough to build proper intrigue.

This, however, is a film that will most likely not be seen by me in theatres due to the over the top nature of it.  I had been thinking that a possible stumbling block for Wes Anderson’s upcoming film, The Grand Budapest Hotel is that it looks very ‘Wes Anderson,’ which means it is visually very imaginative and colourful, which could keep a lot of audiences from wanting to see it and leaving it with just his fan base.  Take that factor and times it by one hundred for Zero Theorem, as a lot of people may get scared off by the world presented to them in the trailer.

Nymphomaniac: Volume II (April 18, 2014/Limited)



Christopher:  This is likely an example of a major event movie among writers, festival goers and film buffs, but something the general public doesn't even know exists. Lars Von Trier's magna opus about sex addict Joe recounting her life after being discovered beaten in an alleyway has been discussed and eagerly anticipated by many critics. The question is are they looking forward to the possible train wreck or are they holding out hope for a provocative and challenging adult picture? What we do know is it has now been split into two parts, and it also promises a whole load of simulated sex that apparently can be seen in a softcore and hardcore version. This is apparently a trailer to the second half of the story, with the first being scheduled on limited release on March 21. It was the first half that screened at Sundance to a pretty strong reception with Uma Thurman's performance being the stand-out in what some said was hilarious. I wasn't even sure this movie was supposed to have humour.

Trier is a talented director who creates some emotionally stirring and challenging works. He is kind of known for the strong sexual images and making stuff that upsets the Religious Right. He has a key eye for visuals and imagery, even if some critics can't see past how he decides to use it.

Based on this trailer alone, I can't really say I'm all that intrigued to see it. I am interested to see how largely forgotten actors like Shia Labeouf and Christian Slater get used, and I'm always a fan of Willem Dafoe. I have to admit that the scenes of the woman tied up like cattle on the couch or the scene with two guys ready to do the nasty with the uncomfortable woman makes me feel uneasy. I can handle disturbing images and scenes, even of a sexual nature (Leaving Las Vegas was very effective with that), but it needs to have a purpose. If I am going to get traumatized or left unsettled, then I want to believe it was telling me something. Maybe it will be. I just don't know what that is, based off this trailer.

Scott:  I think this is the type of movie where cinesnobs can wave off anyone who does not want to see it as being a prude.  I would not consider myself to be prudish, and I will flat out say that I really have no interest in seeing the movie.  There has been lots of underground hype around it, and articles seem to be written at length simply when a new poster is unveiled.  However, I believe a lot of the hype is simply around the visual content as well as being by Lars Von Trier.  I remember a fun news clip The Onion did where they claimed Lars Von Trier was going to be doing the new Denmark tourism commercials and highlighted the types of themes the director is known for.  He always seems to be living on the edge of issues and willing to push boundaries, which can be a good thing, but it can also be a bad thing at times, such as making comments about sympathizing with Hitler and, in the same breath, stating that Israel is ‘a pain in the ass.’

Director aside, it just is a film that could be for some people, but easily not for others.  One person may look upon it and call it art, but I don’t think I would be that person.  The presentation of the material does not interest me or get me wanting to see around five hours of that sort of subject matter.  Perhaps there is an interesting story under the surface, but it is the delivery that really does not seem to resonate with me.

 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Critically Panned Fillms That Were Major Hits

It never really makes sense to write an article to make people questions the usefulness of your line of work.  Yet this burgeoning film critic has decided to reveal how often people don't listen to those in the profession.  In my latest Collective Publishing article, I look at critically panned films that became major hits.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

'I, Frankenstein' Goes Under in the World of the Box Office

I, Frankenstein failed to have a monster weekend, and Scott explains the factors that lead to it bringing home minimal grosses.  After that, Scott has a short look at the implications of the possible new rules being put in place for movie trailers.

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The attempt to resurrect the Underworld franchise under the guise of the title I, Frankenstein has proven to be a miss with audiences. Being pushed on the producer’s association with Underworld, as well as being similar both in visuals and story, I, Frankenstein was hoping to grab monies from the pockets of the young male demographic. Over the weekend, I have found budget estimates for this movie as high as $65 million, which sets a high bar of approximately $130 million world-wide for this film to begin to make a profit.

Before the film opened, I felt that the casting of Aaron Eckhart in the starring role not the best step forward in trying to hit their key demographic, and my fears seem to be well based as the largest audience quadrant that came out this weekend for the over CGIed tale of gargoyles battling demons was males over the age of twenty five. The movie brought in a very dismal $8.6 million, well below predicted numbers, and hopefully the studio is not scratching their heads for too long trying to figure out what exactly went wrong. If they want to save themselves some time, I can tell them right now: people do not want cheap looking movies that are blatant knock-offs that are just pumped out to rob them of their admission money. They will have to look to the international markets in hopes of any profit on this movie, and its performance in Russia of taking first place with $6.4 million gives little reason for hope.

Because that is all there is to talk about in relation to new releases, and because it is not the most uplifting to talk about, I may as well end up on what could possibly be a high note. It turns out that the National Association of Theatre Owners have created new voluntary marketing guidelines that distributors are to follow. One of the key aspects of this is the shortening of movie trailers. Currently, the average is around two and a half minutes, and the new guidelines would call for trailers to be no more than two minutes in an attempt to address complaints from movie goers that there is too much time spent on trailers and advertising before the movie begins. As well, trailers could not be released more than five months before the movie is set to be released, and in house marketing materials could only be put up four months prior. Each distributor will get two trailer exemptions per year, which could allow them to still have far off teaser trailers come out or to create longer trailers.

While I got excited about this at first, there is another way to possibly look at this. Theatres make money on each trailer that they show, and there is a possibility that due to shorter trailers, some exhibitors will attempt to cram more in which would mean the same amount of time sitting and waiting for the movie to start. It may be that a good majority of theatre owners are looking forward to shortening the pre-show, there are bound to be others out there who are seeing this as a possible way to add a little revenue under the belief that audiences were already waiting twenty minutes already, so the time may as well be filled right up. Time will tell to see if this is a positive or a negative for the consumer, and the rules are set to go in place for any movie that is being released on or after October 1, 2014.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Breakdown Will Be Delayed This Week

Gremlins have conspired against us, and made it impossible to get the Breakdown posted this Monday.  The aim is to have it up by mid-week, hopefully.  Sorry for causing a Monday with far less movie chatter.

Friday, January 24, 2014

'I, Frankenstein' Hopes You Have Fond Memories of 'Underworld' This Weekend at the Box Office

Scott looks at the lone new wide-release picture heading into the cinemas.  You get the feeling he isn't all that pumped to be one to help out its attempt to get top spot at the box office.  Scott offers up his analysis of the film's chances and who the filmmakers are trying to target for success.

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This weekend is quiet on the wide release front, as only one movie is hitting theatres. That film, I, Frankenstein, is about Aaron Eckhart as the creature of legend, and he becomes involved in a battle that pits gargoyles against demons. The trailers are quick to point out that this movie is brought to us by the same producers of Underworld, which is the same target audience that I, Frankenstein will be attempting to grab. As well as being by the same producers, the visuals have the exact same feel, and even the story itself is similar as it pits one supernatural clan against another, just like Underworld.

The Underworld franchise started with a great profit compared to budget, but had a hard time repeating that as budgets got a bit bigger (the first movie’s budget was $22 million, and the fourth’s was $70 million) and the audiences did not seem to grow substantially enough to produce the same kind profit ratio. Each of the four movies were all able to bring in over $20 million dollars opening weekend, and while it is the best comparison piece to I, Frankenstein, I don’t believe that will be an accurate predictor of what their latest attempt will do.

Knock-offs tend to not do as well as what they are following, that is just the general way it works. If it was not true then we would be stuck in a perpetual loop of the same movies coming out over and over again, and making more and more money. What will really hurt this knock-off (which already stands to not make the same money as Underworld did) is the fact that Underworld had Kate Beckinsale in form-fitting leather, and considering they are targeting the same demographic of young males, that will definitely not help its chances. While Aaron Eckhart is a fine actor, he is not really a marquee attraction, and does not seem to be the kind of talent that has any recognition with a younger audience. I doubt they will recognize that he was the neighbour in Erin Brockovich or that he had a stellar performance in Thank You for Smoking. I like him as an actor, but it appears to be the wrong person you would get for this type of role and for that type of crowd.

As well as promoting it off of the name recognition some of the producers have with Underworld, it is also based off of a graphic novel, which is a continuing trend coming out of Hollywood. The name value of the comic is not enough to draw out a huge existing audience, so I believe that is why they are relying so much on banking off of the Underworld connection. Interestingly enough, if you thought that the concept was so similar to Underworld, it would appear if it inspired the artist as Kevin Grevioux was an actor in Underworld prior to developing the comic. It all just seems so cyclic, and just feels like such a blatant repackaging of the same product.

At the time of writing this, 6:57pm on Thursday, January 23rd, there still is not a single review up for it on Rotten Tomatoes, and that is almost never a good sign. I can easily bet the critics will not enjoy this film at all, but considering how the year has started off, I would not be surprised if audiences flat out rejected it or flocked out to see it.

Underworld I, Frankenstein Opening Weekend Prediction - $14 million

Rake Series Premiere Review: Network Posing as Cable

Cable channels are where are all the prestige shows hang out.  It has had such a drastic rise over the last decade that many actors, writers, and directors are moving over to TV for the creativity and original stories it allows.  Network TV shows aren't quite there yet, but the quality has increased.  'Rake' is FOX's latest attempt to disguise a network show as a cable series.  I analyze the level of success in my most recent review for BuddyTV.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Trailer Reviews of '300: Rise of an Empire' and 'Pompeii' and Even Some Good Movies Too

Many trailers were released this week, which means it is all new stuff to be reviewed.  It also means we were able to successfully avoid having to watch that Haunted House 2 trailer.  We will see how many weeks we can get away with that.  This doesn't mean we didn't have to endure some stinkers.  Speaking of which, Scott and I started our review off with. . .


300: Rise of an Empire (March 7, 2014/Wide)



Christopher:  We kick off with this trailer, because Scott essentially turned his Belle review into a plea for it. This is also the hot new trailer that has just been released, and all the kids are getting excited and pumped about, so seems like it needs to be discussed. Call me an old fogey, but I don't really get the excitement. I'm actually not entirely convinced this is just the exact same movie with the same exact same scenes except they somehow CGIed Sullivan Stapleton in the place of Gerard Butler. I also not really sure what made this a new trailer compared to the one out a few months ago. I obviously am oblivious to the fine-tuned differences between the varieties of slow motion slashing and leaping. Of course, we also have a remixed version of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" this time around, just so we are helpfully told that things are now kick-ass.  All the things that made 300 stand out is exactly what made all the clones so irritating and aggravating to sit through, and I'm not seeing how this won't be just as a painful viewing experience. This actually looks like it may even have less story than the original or the rip-offs. The plus side is that it is a different director in Noam Murro, so maybe the female leads will be depicted in a strong way. The downside is his one other picture is a comedy starring Dennis Quaid, so he is a tad unproven in this area.  But at least he seems to have already mastered the art of showing a guy flying through the air with his sword held high ready to strike, because cinemas don't allow these types of movies in without that scene.

Scott:  When I read ‘War Pigs’ in Chris’ write up, I thought, ‘surely, he must be joking.’  It turns out that he is not, and this trailer really feels like they are kicking promotion into high gear in fears of having not generated enough buzz off of previous attempts.  Why else would we have such an overdramatic, kick-ass feel to it?  I guess it is possible that it is just an over-dramatic, kick-ass movie, or at least it is trying to be one.  They also really push the fame of Zack Snyder in the trailer, obviously knowing that it is the main selling point that they have to go on in this film that simply looks like a repackaged version of the original.  The one hopeful spot that stood out is the possibility of a strong female character, although Chris already pointed that out.  That being said, it will probably just be about guys hewing other guys in slow-mo.

I should add that this really was my fault, and that there is a good reason why Chris wants to stay clear of sword and sandal movies this year.  It is just repetitive, heartless, movie production done with minimal effort to create a cash cow.  For some reason it has become my mission to get Chris to the theatres to see one of these films this year.

Cesar Chavez: An American Hero (March 28, 2014/Limited)



Christopher:  The melodramatic score along with scenes seeping with emotion and constant show of adversity for the protagonist to overcome set in the past screams Oscar bait. My Spicy Senses start tingling when the release date is way off from awards seeking season. Though 42 was one of my favourite pictures of 2013 and it was released in April, and plus most smaller studios tend to release their pedigree films outside of the Oscar months due to the major studios crammer their pictures into the prime spots. I can't really judge the quality based on the date of release, and there is a lot that looks good even if it is a typical grabbing for the emotions type of historical picture trailer.

Michael Pena is an interesting choice for the main lead, because he isn't the one I'd first choose for a historical drama that will rely on some emotive and layered performing. Most of his major roles have come from either pulpy picture like Gangster Squad or comedies like Tower Heist. This isn't to say he doesn't have the skill to pull off the lead role in an emotional drama, and he did show off his acting chops in the critically acclaimed End of Watch. I've liked him in many of his supporting roles (he was great in American Hustle as the Mexican officer posing as a sheik) but the key is how well he can get out his usual acting style to pull this off. Back in 2011, I wouldn't have been confident in Bradley Cooper being nominated for a Best Actor Oscar, yet it only took one picture in Silver Lining Playbook to completely change how he was viewed in Hollywood. I can at least give Pena his shot to transform how he is viewed and have his big breakout role.

He has some pretty quality back-up with a cast consisting of John Malkovich, Rosario Dawson, America Ferrera, Wes Bentley, and Gael Garcia Bernal (No). This is definitely the type of material that can push actors to showcase their talents, but also allow for some more nuanced and complicated performances as well. Director Diego Luna only has one full length feature to his credit with Abel, but that was a well-received picture and he has several producer credits. His first film was one that really did demand some great performances, and so hopefully, he can pull out great showing from a talented cast a second time.

It is an important story that is still relevant today, and one that despite the title, seems to be attempting to show several layers to Chavez.  It doesn't just look like a deification of a prominent civil rights activist. It looks to be attempting to show that he was a complicated man that was great but also was more than just the saviour of the proletariat. There were some hints towards the issues he had at home and the strain his hard work had on his family. This will hopefully allow for underrated actors like Ferrera to shine and demonstrate her immense talents (she is better known for comedic roles).

The challenge will be for it to not get overly-sentimental or fall into the clichés of the countless biopics. The trailer makes me both apprehensive and intrigued. It is a solid cast with a good story, and it looks like they're avoiding trying to be too stylized or "action-packed." The key will be coming off authentic and not resorting to just having an emotional punch.

Scott:  This is a very interesting film, which through the trailer, makes me think that it may not come in a perfect package, but that it may be still be an interesting and emotional story.  While the trailer for 300: Rise of an Empire asserted a dominance of ‘epic shots,’ the trailer for this movie asserts an assault on our emotions.  What will most likely determine the effectiveness of this film’s attempts will be on how nuanced the performances will be, or at least that is my best guess.  In a film where we go into it knowing that our fortitude will be tested, it seems to be the small things that allow, or hinder, the objective from being completed.  In 2013’s Fruitvale Station, the audience knows exactly what will happen at the end of the movie, but it was the intricate performances by the actors and the attention to detail in the directing that still allowed it to have a huge emotional impact.  This film will come out swinging, trying to sway emotions, and it will come down to the finer elements to dictate whether or not it will be successful.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman (March 7, 2014/Wide)



Christopher:  I essentially wrote this film off the moment I heard about it. This whole journey to find a franchise is getting a little ridiculous considering this is based off a small cartoon segment from a series in the '60s. Now, it was an awesome cartoon series that can likely still be watched on TeleToon or a similar channel, but it still seems like mining a recognizable name for a target audience that wouldn't have a clue. Now saying all that, after being subjected to countless different trailers and promotional materials for this movie, my hard exterior has been cracked and I'm starting to get just a tad interested in possibly seeing this. Probably helps that the absence of Pixar this year is causing me to have to seek other options for my animation fix.


The trailer looks like clips from what could be a pretty fun movie, and gives off a vibe that not all the best jokes were served up in the attempt to lure the audience out to the big screen.  The small annoyance I have is that this film seems incredibly modern and doesn't have any of the feel or vibe of the original Peabody's Improbable History segment from The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. Ty Burrell as Mr. Peabody is perfect casting, and I love that along with Muppets Most Wanted, he is getting exposure beyond Modern Family. Phil Dunphy has also brought along his daughter Alex, as Ariel Winter is voicing Sherman's -- what I suppose will be his -- enemy turned lover interest. Looking at the casting list, there is a pretty fun collection of voices that should add life to the odd assortment of characters including Stephen Colbert, Allison Janney, Ellie Kemper, Mel Brooks and Leslie Mann. I could have listed a few more that I think are great fits for animated voicing, but that is what IMDb is for.

There was one scene with all the historical characters being confronted by the police that made it feel a bit like an animated version of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. I'm hoping that is a final act deal, rather than half the movie being historical characters doing zany things in modern times. Animation allows one to tell stories that are far too expensive and ambitious for live action, so I'm hoping for lots of adventures in various locales and time periods. The trailer seems to hint at that, and I really hope they've kept many moments hidden. This really could be a lot of fun. It also could just be that I'm a sucker for time travel too.   

The one thing that makes me think the magic of time transporting is clouding my judgement is the very disturbing fact that some sites are citing 7 different screenwriters for the script. The more writers on a movie usually means a disaster is ready to explode on the screen. I'm also not sure if those many names are consultation or rewrites or attributions to past works that inspired this film. I have to admit an army of writers makes me nervous. On the other hand, the director is Rob Minkoff, and though his track record as a director is a bit spotty, this was the man who helmed The Lion King, so he can be trusted to make a heart-warming but terrifically fun animated adventure.

Scott:  And now here’s something we hope you’ll really like, as Mr. Peabody and Sherman dust themselves off, head out of retirement and onto the big screen.  I guess this was the next logical step to happen in the battle to redevelop franchises, and there have already been a few movies made from the popular Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.  The only crazier thing that could happen at this point is if they decided to reboot Dudley Do-Right.  I suppose they could venture into other segments from the show and bring out Fractured Fairy Tales or Roger Ramjet, and even though I should be surprised if they ever do such a thing, I probably won’t be.

If this were a live action movie, I would say that it was a horrible miscalculation, and the audience that would be familiar enough with the source material to market it to probably would not care to see the movie.  However, the animated version is brilliant as the trailer is made in a fun way where the fresh eyes of children can get excited by the adventurous tale that it promotes, and the parents of the children may not mind taking them to see it because they have fond memories as well.  There seem to be three times of year that could be great for an animated film, and March is one of those times.  Last year The Croods brought in $187 million, the year before Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax made $214 million, and in 2011 Rango was able to lead the March box office with $123 million.  While I suppose I should be commenting on the trailer and what it makes me think, my mind starts heading into box office analysis mode, and I think this movie will be entertaining enough to children and adults to do extremely well in the box office.


The Quite Ones (April 25, 2014/Wide)



Christopher:  This is a very typical "jump scare" horror trailer that makes everything extra irritating and silly by trying to pass off some of the ridiculous moments as being based on some real event. Is there anyone ready to believe this picture after they just saw a poorly CGIed puke demon spiral towards the screen? This seems to be trying to sell itself as a The Exorcist meets Amityville Horror meets a year's supply of caffeine. This movie likely exists and is even getting a shot to go wide, because of the success of The Conjuring, since it set in the same time period and playing off the whole a "spirit is attached to you" concept. I'm sure I have many other of these clones to look forward to in the coming year. After saying all that, I have a feeling this trailer may not be properly representing what this movie will really be like. This movie may actually have a more patient pace and concentrate on a disturbing atmosphere rather than cheap scares, and it was just cut to look like a different movie. It is really the first half of the trailer that makes me think the picture may be something smarter, but it could just as easily be a festival of cheap effects and gut-busting goofy scare attempts. Director John Pogue doesn't give me much hope as his only other directorial effort was sequel to a found-footage movie, and his writing efforts (he assisted with this screenplay) consist of either cinematic disasters or direct-to-video sequels to cinematic disasters. It just takes one movie for a director to change his reputation, but that pesky puke demon tells me this probably isn't it.

Scott:  And now we have in front of us a horror movie that is ‘based on true events,’ something which means absolutely nothing.  The Amityville Horror was based off of a true story that was a lie, and yet it can still claim that it is based on it because some technically did lie about it in real life.  Speaking of that story, apparently there are a few more of those on the way for all those fans of that tale, and one of them may be The Conjuring 2, which will probably say ‘based on a true story,’ even though it is a well-documented lie.  All of that to say, ‘based on a true story’ means pretty much nothing at all in movies, and especially in horror films.

The trailer boasts that it is from the producer of Let Me In, which could give a mild dosage of hope to fans of quality horror films.  What the trailer does not tell people, and much more importantly, is that the director John Pogue has only ever directed one other film in his life, and that film was Quarantine 2: Terminal, a fact that should deflate all hopes someone may have in the film.  The trailer shows a lot of use of what has become a very generic soundtrack of loud noises in recent horror films, which does not bode well for a quality tale.  Seriously, silence can be deadly scary, and nobody uses it.  Scary music is not scary when it has been used over, and over, and over.  I doubt there will be any finesse in this movie, and that it will just resort to typical moments and scares that other horrors attempt, and I am not excited about it at all.  Now, there were two horror movies in the last half year that I was incredibly not excited about due to the trailers and ended up being completely surprised by (one of them was a favourite of 2013), so I am not ruling out the possibility of eating my words.


Walk of Shame (April 25, 2014/Wide)



Christopher:  Ever since the huge success of Bridesmaids, there has been a series of comedy pictures designed to be starring vehicles for talented and funny actresses. Last year we had films designed to be career launchers for Aubrey Plaza (The To Do List), Kristen Wig (Girl Most Likely) and Melissa McCarthy (Identity Thief). Only Thief turned out to be a big success, but it was pretty obvious none of those films were really great canvases for the incredible performers to create their art and showcase their skill. Those pictures didn't really play to the strengths of the actresses, but rather had just been formulaic comedies that we've seen many times before but now with women. I know Bridesmaids and Heat are essentially that as well, but there was writing that allowed the comic timing and talents of the cast to really shine through in those cases.

So, now struts in Walk of Shame the starring vehicle for the very talented and funny Elizabeth Banks in a movie that doesn't really look all that funny or original. It also borrows clichés from countless previous movies in an attempt to paste together a "crazy odyssey across the wacky city while on a giant time crunch" movie. These movies can definitely work with Planes, Trains, and Automobiles being the crown jewel and many folks being fans of pictures like Date Night and Adventures in Babysitting as well. This picture just feels fresh out of the factory for quirky comedies by hitting all the standbys of mousy girl suddenly transforming into a beautiful and confident woman, the sudden announcement she needs to be somewhere quick at the worst possible time, the car being towed off right when it was needed most, venturing through the rough streets in the worst attire, cops mistaking the lead for committing a crime, and of course, winning over the street thugs with gumption. This is all funny because some studio executives saw it in better movies.

Banks has been a showstealer on sitcoms like Modern Family and is the best part in movies like Zack and Miri Make a Porno, so I desperately want her to elevate the material here. Maybe it is just a really bad trailer and this is far fresher and colourful than what is being hinted.  It wouldn't be the first or last time I totally misread a trailer (thanks a lot, RIPD). I would consider Banks almost enough of a draw to get me out, but then there is director and writer Steven Brill with movies like Drillbit Taylor, Little Nicky, Without a Paddle, and a segment of Movie 43 all on his resume. Fresh, original, and funny don't necessarily seem to be requirements for most of his comedies. Though he wrote The Mighty Ducks, so maybe all can be forgiven.


There were two scenes in this trailer that got a chuckle out of me. Both of them were more based on Banks' delivery than the actual material. When a criminal running away from her wonders why she is so fast, she throws in an off-handed comment about being a former track star, which I found brilliant with her matter-of-fact delivery. The other fun part was her letting the officer know that you can't block a 'boop' with a hand, which again was more just her sincerity that made it work. There really is a chance that this could be like Identity Thief where everything was contrived and manufactured, but the stars really showcased their comedic gifts to make it somewhat enjoyable. 

Final thing about this trailer is the appearance of the once proclaimed next big star, James Marsden who seems destined to now eternally be in supporting roles. He is pretty talented but he seems stuck in the role of just being that cute cocky guy or JFK. Though the second may actually eventually lead him into more prestigious pictures. At least Marsden pops around for a few minutes in other people's movies, which is far more work and success than the other next big star, Josh Hartnett. I'd consider that a win for Marsden on the staying power front.

Scott:  It really is unfortunate that I get excited about a movie that is not a romance that is carried by a female actor.  I should not get excited, because it should happen approximately fifty percent of the time.  The reality is that it does not, so I like it when it comes around.  However, as Chris pointed out, it seems less to be coming out of a sincerity than it does a rush to catch on a newly discovered trend founded by Bridesmaids.  While the trailer was just a series of clips from other movies that I have seen, I think this film could be a bit of a sleeper and has a bit of potential.  I am hesitant on predicting it to do well because the other female-led movies were either ensembles or pairings, and this one is a straight female lead on her own.  While there may be a bit of a push for female leads, it is interesting that these movies are usually directed by men.  I believe a study showed that less that 20% of the people working behind the camera on movies are females, a stat that shows the current state and remind us that these female driven movies are still not representative of women. 

Wow, I am rambling on a lot about that.  Probably because I think it is more interesting a topic than the trailer.  I have no faith in the writing and directing credits of Steven Brill, and I doubt this movie will have many moments of humour (outside of Bank’s delivery, but Chris already mentioned that… and I can’t believe he has claimed fond memories of The Mighty Ducks, a film that still makes me shake my fists at the heavens to this day, unless he referenced it sarcastically)


Adult World (February 14, 2014/Limited)



Christopher:  I was totally grooving to the first half of this movie and ready to bemoan the fact it likely won't end up anywhere near where I live. The casting of Emma Roberts and John Cusack is inspired and wonderful. Watson can play whiney and self-entitled but still be endearing, which is exactly what you want out this starving poet that has to find a real job at a mom and pop adult book store. Cusack pulls off the curmudgeonly and slightly pretension writer who is almost annoyed about his fame in the most glorious of ways. These are perfect roles for the two actors, and the first half was hilarious but also had me nodding my head with delight.

I am a creative type, as I've made clear many times. I am also a professional writer. I like to think that I at least know how some of us are wired. I also have some friends that are writers, and I interact with them enough to get a good idea of their behaviour. This is why I got a big kick out the over-dramatic writer shoving her head in the oven or talking about how she is in a period where she must create and essentially, squeezing everything for its dramatic worth. I have a soft spot for indy films like this, because it is fun watching the obstacles that creative folks often toss at themselves in order to make their jobs appear sacrificial and grueling. Hell, I embarrassingly must admit besides the poet part, there is lot of me in both characters. The created writer struggle in this movie is similar to why I loved Inside Llewyn Davis, because he shunned commercialism to be a self-ordained saint of folk music. The first half also almost felt like it could grab a bit of that cynical with hidden sweetness contained in the wonderful Young Adult.

Then the second half lost its authenticity and seems more concerned trying to get some easy laughs. I'm hoping it is just the way the trailer was framed. I'm totally down for a movie about a struggling poet trying to suffer in order to impress the too-cool-for-school professor with a healthy dose of cynicism, self-awareness, and dark humour.

Scott:  I have to completely echo Chris on this one, as he took the words that I had to say for it.  It got me very excited to show a dramatic and comical coming of age movie with a unique twist, but then devolved into very generic jokes.  It is funny because I expect movies to shit the bed halfway through, but it is odd that a number of trailers, which can be assembled in so many ways, with so much control over the message and the content, can follow the same route as movies and be unable to hold to singular voice.

Alan Partridge: The Movie (TBA 2014)



Christopher:  I have to confess my ignorance as I know very little about the Alan Partridge character. I do know it is a Steve Coogan character that has been around for over 20 years and has appeared on numerous BBC radio and TV specials. I'd assume it may also be something similar to a Borat or Ron Burgundy (at least during the ad campaign) where he appears at actual events as the character and hilarity ensures.  Except in this case since it is Coogan, hilarity actually comes forth. This picture was actually already released in Britain under the title Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, which I'm assuming is a title the crazy Brits would get but the North Americans need the even funnier title of Alan Partridge: The Movie. Sometimes, we need to be told why we're sitting down watching something for two hours, "Oh it is a movie, so this is why I am in a cinema and eating popcorn."

Coogan has had a bit of a dramatic run lately with movies like Philomena and What Maisie Knew, and has been able to prove his versatility as an actor. It is comforting to see him return to his comedic roots where he dishes out heaping amounts of snark and wit. The movie also seems to have a nice balance of subtle humour and complete goofball chicanery. There is enough evidence in the trailer that the jokes will be slightly more twisted and odd-ball than the usual American fare, which is exactly what I want from an import.

It sort of reminds a bit of Airheads with the whole taking a radio station hostage. It could even have a few winks towards the movie that likely even inspired airhead, Dog Day Afternoon. It also looks like the story won't stay in that location for the whole movie. There appears to be equal amounts of bonding and battling between Coogan and Colm Meaney. I'm expecting a pretty fun film out of this one, and hopefully, a good reception causes it to get a decent sized release.

Scott:  This trailer has me extremely excited, as it is classic British humour dealt out in heapin’ helpins’ by the very talented Steve Coogan, who will most likely make my stomach ache while I am watching this movie from having laughed too hard.  Coogan is a comedian who is blessed with amazing timing and delivery, and I have a lot of faith that this film will not disappoint.  It is hard to guess just how violent this movie might get, and that is the only worrisome part, as sometimes it can be very hard to blend humour and violence while keeping the same feeling and tone.

Better Living Through Chemistry (TBA)



Christopher:  Sam Rockwell is one of the current indy darlings as he's constantly shown an incredible diversity in the type of characters he plays. He was the fun-loving man-child in The Way, Way Back and the emotionally unstable guy living on a space station in Moon. The two roles were both awards worthy and elevated already strong movies, but also were just proof of Rockwell being one of the top performers today who doesn't land major films. The smaller film streak continues here, but so does the proof of his ability to play different parts. This time around he plays a rather geeky push-over pharmacist, which is a wildly different role from his confident party animal in The Way, Way Back. He also seems to transform a bit into a bad-ass, but I'm sure Rockwell will stick to some moments of being unsure and panicked throughout the picture.

My Rockwell love is enough to make me eager to see this picture. I also am excited to see the very talented Olivia Wilde being given a significant role to showcase her talents and sexiness. She hasn't really played too many sordid types, but it looks like she can pull it wonderfully. I also dig that this movie seems to have several different stories that aren't revealed in the trailer. There looks to be an investigation going on that isn't directly tied to the drugs -- maybe a murder. This looks sort of like an updated version of The Whole Nine Yards with an unscrupulous character inspiring and transforming a meeker character into someone more dangerous, but this time with a romantic element. Ray Liotta has also had some great supporting roles lately, so I'm excited to see how he plays into things too.

It will likely be one of those in and out movies that largely gets forgotten. It also looks a lot more interesting than many of the wide releases coming up.

Scott:  It is very intriguing to see Sam Rockwell as a very small, mild, and timid character.  The man is very skilled at the art of nuanced roles, and I am expecting some very talented stuff from him based off of the trailer, which will mean once again fans of his will be begging the question of why he has not caught on with the mainstream.  The supporting cast in this looks like it could help get some attention his way, as Olivia Wilde is growing her name, Michelle Monaghan is a solid actress, and Ray Liotta is a sure-fire star.

What makes me wonder in this movie is how well the serious elements will be pulled off, as the clips are short but do not give me the most confidence in their execution.  Helming the film are first time writer/directors Geoff Moore and David Posamentier, and their talents will be put to the test for sure in this film.  Movies with dark content can really miss the mark for audiences, and it almost seems to be playing with fire, to a degree.  The trailer looks like it travels that road, and I am left wondering just how well it will pull it off.  The good news is that I will find out, because I am all kinds of interested in this cast and movie.


The Raid 2: Berandal (March 28, 2014/Limited)



Christopher:  The Raid: Redemption was an Indonesian martial arts action picture that did surprisingly well in North America based off its release size. It also reviewed favorable amongst critics that saw it, and is a pretty huge cult hit already. This is all a bit surprising to me, since based off the trailers it was just about a bunch of guys fighting on the stairway because the elevator was broken. But maybe I wasn't paying attention all that well.

It seems to have taken up space in the land of pop culture already, and based off that fact alone, I need to watch the original. The sequel gets out of the one location and now there is bat and hammer smashing, sword slashing, and plenty of kicks to happen in several locales. The action in this looks pretty insane, and it is going to be a two hour adrenaline rush kind of picture. I definitely appreciate that it looks like a good bit of the fight sequences are choreographed rather than resorting to special effects or doing that annoying just shoot a bunch of flailing limbs. It will likely be a movie looking to serve up some innovative action sequences along with some unforgettable kills. This will be the action fans manna for the year.

I also have to admit martial arts pictures aren't an area I'm an expert. It is a genre where I've missed many of the classics. But I'm willing to be trained, and I mind as well start with this series.

Scott:  I have had a number of people tell me that I need to see The Raid: Redemption, and I really have no reason not to, because I believe that it is on Netflix.  It is always great when a foreign film makes it in North America on its own and does not need to be introduced via North American remake.  This cult classic is one that I really do need to sit down and see at some point, because punching, jumping, and kicking always have the potential to lead to awesome.

Judging by the trailer for The Raid 2, they have the standard punching, jumping, and kicking, and have added into the mix cars, motorcycles, and various other foreign objects.  Who cares about the plot?  Who cares about the character development?  Not I.  That sort of thing is not what a movie like this is about, it is about a bad-ass cop (well, I guess that is a bit of character development) who punches, jumps, and kicks a bunch of baddies all over the place.  It looks like it could be some fun, but also it looks like it could be pulling a Matrix sequel and thinking that more is better, such as the scene where Neo fights a bunch of Agent Smiths in a battle that ultimately gets boring and repetitive.

 
Pompeii (February 21, 2014/Wide)



Christopher:  Since Scott has been begging for way more "sword and sandal" movies on here, I decided to give his birthday present gift early by putting two in the article this week. This is the Japanese trailer, but it is about as easy or even easier to follow than the American version. I'm going to leave this one for Scott, since he loves Paul W.S. Anderson so much.

Scott:  Gladiators, awful special effects, and for some reason, a volcano that ties them all together… seriously, this plot has nothing to do with the volcano and is just a way to shoehorn the historic name recognition into an awful movie.  I liked the Japanese trailer much better than the American ones, although my only complaint is that it is roughly around forty seconds too long.  If it was shortened down that much, I seriously believe it would be that much better.

Chris is a nut, and had no need to insert two of these movies into the review queue, but it is almost fitting because they both steal from 300.  However, Pompeii raises the bar as it also steals from Gladiator, something that 300 is not bold enough to do.  The movie looks awful, seriously, undeniably, awful.  I have seen a number of trailers and spots for it now, and there has not been a single one that makes it look like there is any reason to see this movie.

Chris is right, I do have some feelings for Paul W. S. Anderson, and they are not great ones.  If it were not for the success of the Resident Evil franchise, this man would probably not be getting big films, and probably should not be getting them anyways.  He does not have a good track record of films making a profit.  In 2011, The Three Musketeers made $140 million on a budget of $90 million (it would have needed to make around $200 million to break even),  in 2008 Death Race made $72 million on a budget of $65 million (needed over $140 million to break even), in 2004 he pulled a modest profit on Alien vs. Predator, in 1998 the movie Soldier made $14 million on a budget of $75, in 1997 Event Horizon (which I will admit to enjoying) made $26 million on a budget of $60 million, and in 1995 he had success on Mortal Kombat which brought in $122 million on a budget of $20 million.  So, out of the non-Resident Evil movies, only two of his movies have made money, with some of them losing huge chunks.  In this case, the budget is currently estimated at north of $100 million, which means it needs to succeed a lot more than his other films.  This is not to talk about his style, which I have some comments on, but more speaks to the fact that audiences generally don’t groove on his works.  I don’t wish him any ill will as a human being; I just don’t want to see any more of his films.