Friday, March 28, 2014

Since Snow is Finally Taking a Vacation, Here is a Pictorial Reminder of Winter's Wonders

In honour of Noah coming out this weekend, the rain is coming down at a furious pace at the moment. The once white snow that dominated the landscape for several months is now becoming a grey slush. The outside isn't beckoning for us to wear shorts and tank tops yet, but it appears to be trying to encourage one to think about pulling out a lighter jacket. It looks like spring is finally going on the offensive and winter may be at its last stand.

Even though it got tiring pushing the snow off the driveway, and my habit to misplace gloves and hats means I played around with frostbite on my long walks with Summit, and most of all a pain in having to endure people whine about the thing that comes every single year, winter wasn't all bad. It is actually quite a fun time of year when the weather doesn't freeze off your limbs, especially when you have a young child and a bouncing dog that take plenty of pleasure in the great white.

Winter sometimes is a wonderland. So, since it finally seems to be gone, I am ready to talk nice about it. Here are some photos from a few months back where the Spicer clan got to embrace the joys of winter in our new backyard. Winter is extra fun when you have a tobogganing hill on your property.




























If you so desire, you can gander at these picture all weekend. I'm planning to be off the blog yet again. I've got the typical pay copy and family obligations to eat up all my hours. I'm aiming for a much busier week on the blog next week in order to kick off that wonderful month we all love to call April. I'll likely be back on Tuesday Wednesday.

'Noah' Hopes for Movie-Goers to Flood the Cinemas This Weekend

It's a weekend where studios are banking on icons from the past to draw out movie-goers. Paramount goes way back to present a Biblical epic that they hope can capture the imaginations of audience like they did back in the 1950s. A smaller studio in Open Road Films only trots back to the 1980s to find their iconic star and hope Arnold along with rising action director David Ayer can bring out the paying customers. Scott looks at the chances of both pictures.

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After months of controversy stirred up from unhappy religious groups, as well as a show of support from other clusters of the religious world, Darren Aronofsky’s Noah comes out in theatres and attempts to claim king of the weekend over Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Sabotage. While Divergent had a very strong opening last weekend, there is little chance that it will able to remain the number one film, although crazy happenings are never off the table.

There has been a lot of talk about Noah over the last number of months, but not so much around the typical hype that a film gets prior to its release. A lot of words have been said from some segments of the Christian faith regarding the lack of biblical accuracy in the film, and they have railed against it fairly hard. Paramount, the backing studio of the film, has responded by adding context to the beginning of their trailers and pointing out that this is an interpreted version of the Old Testament account. They have screened it to a number of church leaders, and there has been some very positive feedback.

If you look at the small amount of source material provided in the bible, it is pretty clear that there needs to be some more put into the story to make it a feature film. Aronofsky, a director with a distinct style with a personal flare, set out to tell a tale that was inspired by the scripture. It was never meant to be an accurate account, and, if anything, all of this commotion that has come out of protesting groups has amounted to an enormous amount of free publicity for the film. Back in the summer, the legal case over the name rights of The Weinstein Company’s Lee Daniel’s The Butler (originally titled, The Butler) was estimated to have increased its gross by over $10 million.

Whether or not it is a good film, it is one that has been discussed on websites and news broadcasts, and that amount of discussion is bound to raise both awareness and curiosity for the movie. While Aronofsky has had major financial success in Black Swan, his name involvement is not likely to be the driving promotional force in this film. As well, even though it stars Russell Crowe there is little stability behind that name anymore. The film will be relying on people’s intrigue in seeing an adaptation of the well-known story, as well as banking on all of the free press that it has gotten from opponents of the film (Note: if you are against a movie, sometimes the best thing to do is not bring a large amount of attention to said movie).

Noah Opening Weekend Prediction - $38 Million

From a man battling the rain we go to Arnold Schwarzenegger battling… well, does it really even matter who he battles in films? Fans just want to see explosions, big guns, and hear charismatic one-liners. Sadly for Arnold, the pool of people desiring those three things from him has declined a lot over the years, and big opening weekends do not seem to be a sure thing for the Austrian. Outside of the ensemble based The Expendables, Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand opened to only $6 million, and the Escape Plan (where he starred alongside Sylvester Stallone) made just south of $10 million.

Arnold has proven in the past that he is able to turn his career around after it seemed dead in the water when Last Action Hero hit theatres, and then Junior did not do much to help his case either. His future holds a return to multiple franchise roles in The Expendables 3, Terminator: Genesis, Triplets, and The Legend of Conan. While brand recognition may help a bit with some of those titles (I don’t really know how much the world wants a sequel to Twins), he does not have that sort of support to lean against with Sabotage.

Sabotage Opening Weekend Prediction - $8 Million


(Christopher: It is also interesting to note that the once mega-blockbuster king seemingly can't even get his picture into a major wide release as it isn't screening anywhere near where I live with nearby cinemas opting for The Grand Budapest Hotel or Bad Words instead.)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Everett's Adventures with Public Washrooms and Red Shoes

My stories about my adventures with Everett are some of the most popular articles on the blog. I thought it was time to share some more wonderful Everett experiences.

As I've mentioned on here in the past and in my old "Dad's Eye View" columns, we started plopping Everett on the toilet really early. Without bothering to do something frivolous like fact checking, I believe it was around six months that we started having Everett sit on a toilet. Though for the first month we didn't have a "potty seat", so it was more like holding the small infant over the chasm known as the "toilet hole" (does it actually have a name?). Though hovering over a giant hole that occasionally made large flushing noises and seemingly was threatening to consume him was probably not on Everett's list of favourite things in the world, he did handle that initial ordeal well. I can't remember if he actually ever did anything as he precariously dangling over the abyss.

We eventually got Everett a "potty seat." It allowed him a new spot to look at his upside down book while we made peeing noises and rooted him on to take a poop. For those first few months, it was more just about getting him comfortable with the toilet rather than actual training.

Before Everett's first birthday he had got pretty comfortable with the toilet and even sometimes was beginning to do things other than shake his little body while I sang "Baa Baa Black Sheep." It was decided to keep up the momentum that we'd get a second "potty seat" so we could keep up the pure joy of cheering on a half-naked boy as he busted a move on top of the porcelain throne at places outside our home.

The problem turned out to be grandma. Not that grandma would bust into public washrooms and snatch our son in a mid-poop. That isn't really my mom's style, and we rarely notified her when we were out to cover our tracks, just in case. The issues was that Everett would go over to grandma's house on occasion (since that time it has been upped to at least once a week so I have a day to focus on writing), but she didn't have a "potty seat" nor a shrink ray gun to make the toilet less scary for our small son. It meant if we wanted to keep up the habit of Everett going on the toilet then we'd need to remember to bring the portable "potty seat" each time. Between trying to remember to pack his diaper bag and have some "back-up" clothes, we usually ended up leaving the "potty seat" right at the door while we rushed off to the car (usually late to wherever we wanted but armed with Everett as our excuse).

Eventually, we remembered to bring the portable "potty seat" and in order to avoid that annoying habit of forgetting it, we ordained it a permanent resident of grandma's house. That covered the Everett and Grandma parties, but it once again left us without anything for Everett to sit on when we went to restaurants or day trips. Initially, we voted to avoid buying a third "potty seat" and instead opt to either try to remember to pick up the one from Grandma's (yeah right) or convince Everett it was really fun to float over a giant hole that could suck you into the great unknown.

The faulty belief was that hovering over the toilet hole was how we did it at the start and Everett never seemed to be too scared then. It seems our son grew comfortable with the life of being perched up on a toilet with a secure "potty seat." He wasn't about to return to the adventurous lifestyle of feeling like he could fall in, and he had got quite adept at arm waving and foot kicking through all his improvised dance sessions, so it made it hard to keep him in the dangle position.

For a bit, we just gave up on trying to get him to use the toilet at public places. Luckily, it wasn't like we made many forays out as a family (or should that have been sadly -- my introvert is showing again), so the toilet training wasn't completely destroyed. As Everett started to approach the mature age of 2, we began to discuss really elevating the "get Everett to not poop in his pants" game. At home we would try to get him on the toilet every hour. We would start offering rewards if he peed or pooed on the "potty." While he wasn't fully trained and he wouldn't tell us when he had to pee, we did get to a spot where he'd let us know if a "poo poo" was on the way.

At this point, it was decided to finally go for portable potty number 3. Though since Everett was still in diapers, there still wasn't the same urgency when we were out. Though the new portable "potty seat" was grand and used often, there would be time that we just left fate do its thing rather than make constant visits to the washroom.

Then it all changed on Christmas when Santa stuffed Everett's stocking full of "big boy underwear." Of course, underwear isn't worth anything if it isn't plastered with monkeys and cars. Such things are exactly what a little boy wants on his bottom. We transitioned from diapers all day to only diapers during naps and nighttime sleeping.

This now meant we were staging our own mini-Olympics at home. Everett would utter a word that sounded close to "pee" or "poop", and we'd sweep him up and charge for the washroom. It sometimes was a false alarm. Sometimes it was a massive success that led to Everett getting a reward. Sometimes evidence of what he was doing would be all over my shirt and his pants. The accidents decreased as the weeks went on. At one point I could even brag that I had a spotless record when Everett was strictly on my watch. Though the moment I started trumpeting that fact, it of course led to a disastrously wet week.

Eventually the home situation was under control. I still wouldn't declare Everett to be potty trained. He often will run and hide behind a chair the moment I ask if he has to "go potty." For the most part, Everett's business is conducted on the toilet. I'm confident he'll tell us he has to go without prompting before he's a teenager.

The real workout has been our time at restaurants or other public places. We've got a pretty good record. When we first started going out with an underwear clad Everett, there were several rushes towards the facilities. Many places aren't the best for changing a diaper, and they're even worse for trying to clean and change an energetic boy from his urine drenched pants. I always felt having an underwear adorned Everett go out to restaurants to be a bit of a high-stakes game of chance. It was that small fear that likely avoided any major accidents by constantly taking him but also meant I had a lot of cold meals (of course, we normally just ate sushi and sashimi, so that may have been part of the reason too).

While it was a bit of a challenge to convince Everett to "go potty" at home, it turned out to be much easier to do at restaurants. The big advantage was that being out was an adventure. It allowed Everett to leave his table and say "hi" to every patron on the way to the washroom. He also normally helpfully notified them of what he planned to do. It was a visit to the local Indian cuisine restaurant that really convinced Everett that washroom trips at restaurants are a wonderful thing.

I had done my normal panicked rush to the washroom, as Everett had warned that something was brewing. As was usual, I had my arms in a pretzel and Everett's pants flung on my head in an attempted to manage all the stuff in his bag, put on his "potty seat" and get him on the toilet on time. It was a success, but I was still feeling like I'd just been in a war. It was then, for what I think was one of the first times, another person entered the washroom while I tried to coax Everett into making the mad dash worthwhile.

Everett instantly perked up when he heard the door open. You could see his face deep in concentration as he tried to listen for what the door opening would lead to next. It was then that we heard footsteps. Quickly after that, red shoes became visible beside our stall.

This is when Everett made his first insightful observation in the washroom.

"Red shoes walking."

Then he looked down to realize that the walking was now done. The shoes were now sedentary. It was now time for the next big insight.

"Red shoes standing."

Then for the next few seconds, Everett regaled me with a tale about how the red shoes both walked and now stood. The owner of the red shoes seemed to appreciate this conversation, so he slid a red shoe into the stall.

"Red shows walking."

Then the owner of the red shoes did what he had planned all along.

"Red shoes peeing! Red shoes peeing!"

This led to laughter from both I and the mysterious red shoes. This of course encouraged Everett to become even more emphatic about what was being done by the red shoes. This led to much more laughter. And I'm sure my son just made the evening of Mr. Red Shoes.

After the red shoes left, Everett let me know they did indeed walk, stand and pee. It was quite a marvelous event that red shoes would pee. Everett thought this may have been the greatest moment of his short life. I'm not entirely convinced that Everett believed there was someone attached to those red shoes. For the next few days, he would let anyone who would listen know that red shoes were peeing and he witnessed this iconic moment.

The red shoes event meant now that peeing and pooing at restaurants were far more exciting than at home. It was now a mandatory ritual that Everett got at least one visit to the washroom. I am pretty sure he was seeking out those red shoes. Though he never did get to encounter his dear friends ever again. He was now much more alert, just in case someone even more exciting would cross his path.

I don't think any person could possible match the pure thrill and excitement of red shoes. It was an impossible expectation. One day Everett did get yet another visitor in a public washroom. Except this time we weren't able to know the colour of the shoes. This washroom was designed differently, and you couldn't see the feet of the patron at the urinal unless you decided to hop off the toilet and poke your head underneath the door. Now, this is something I think Everett was willing to do, but I wasn't in the mood to wash my shirt in the public sink.

It was the usual public "potty" routine, until we heard the door open. This time Everett not only sat at attention but was stretching out his neck in hope he'd turn into a giraffe and see who had entered. It was crucial that the new person be seen in hopes they were as captivating as a pair of red shoes. Luckily, we were about done the business, and we were able to finish up before the man was done.

I lifted Everett off the toilet and held him, and he instantly peered over the stall walls to finally discover who had entered. It was an older gentleman. He was a man with a full head of white hair. He was completely unaware that someone was watching him like a famished hawk. During this stare-a-thon, Everett made an important observation.

"New gampa!"

"New gampa peeing!"

Clearly, the man had to be a grandpa. Everett was well aware it wasn't the same grandpa who tickled and played with him. It had to be a new grandpa.

"Hi new gampa!"

The man realized his sole hope for a private pee had been vanquished. He acknowledged Everett and gave the chuckle that I'm sure my son expected. After he wandered out the door, Everett reminded me what the man had being doing. I'm glad I have my son to make me aware of the purpose of washrooms.

This is what going to the washroom is like when you're a parent. It is fun and educational. You even have the chance to talk to people that you'd never in any other situation have a conversation. Plus those last minute warnings are a great work out and a good test to see how my heart is doing.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Movies That Crushed Great Director's Careers

A single movie can sometimes turn a filmmaker into an instant superstar. It can just as quickly wipe out all the goodwill and get him blackballed from major studios. One flop suddenly can make everyone accuse the once talented director of being a hack or having lost the magic. In my latest Collective Publishing pop culture article, I look at movies that ended up ruining the careers of great directors.

It Was Only a Matter of Time Before Other Disney Characters Covered "Let It Go"

As you know, I am quite aware of that little Frozen ditty that goes by the name "Let It Go." Of course, anyone with kids has probably heard the song about a million times by now. Anyone without kids has only had it invade their ear canals about a thousand times or so. It is also very likely you've heard one of the countless parodies or covers that have invaded the internet, because if there is one thing the internet can do, it is beat a dead horse then revive it then beat it again then revive it so it can give birth to more horses that then can be beat.

There are lots of parodies or different version of "Let It Go" out there. The latest hot meme version may be the most impressive and also the most likely to inspire Disney into turning the version into an animated short. Or at least, I think they should feel inspired and do such a thing.

Brian Hull is a vocal performance major at Dallas Baptist University. He decided to join in on the contest of making covers of the Academy Award winning song. His version was a rather creative tribute to Disney canon as he decided to make a "We Are the World" style version where 21 different characters sung a few lines.

The idea is impressive on its own. The more impressive thing is how well he captures all the voices, and you can easily figure out almost every character without the helpful graphic. This is definitely my favourite cover version, and it is so well done that Disney could essentially take this version and just animate it to make their own video.

Hull is incredibly talented as he obviously can sing but also has a wide range of voices at his disposal. Not only can he do a whole lot of believable voices but he can do the even more challenging thing of doing it while singing.

The best thing about this story is apparently some Disney folks stumbled across this song. Now, they've offered Hull an audition. It is sort of obvious that this would be a dream come true for Mr. Hull. Based off this, he definitely deserves the chance to voice his own Disney character.

Anyway, in case you haven't seen the latest hot meme, here are 21 Disney characters singing "Let It Go." I love how Hull changes his expressions to become the character. It is proof that voice acting is a true form of character performing as you really need to become the voice and allow that personality come through. Anyway, this is a great.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Divergent Fulfills Promise, While the Muppets Fall Short at the Box Office

Scott looks at the top five grossers at the box office this past weekend, and analyzes the real winners and losers among a collection of movies with hopes to continue on as franchises.

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Claiming a victory where many others have failed, Divergent was able to establish itself as a solid young adult film as it made $54 million in its debut weekend. Studios seem to view the YA market as one of their hopeful golden gooses, but successful entrance into that market has proven extremely hard for many to conquer. The most recent attempt had come almost two months ago in the form of Vampire Academy, which has only made a total of $7.7 million and shows just how poorly a miscalculated effort can do.

Divergent, which stars Shailene Woodley, was able to make just shy of $5 million on its Thursday night opening, and finished Friday with $22 million (the Thursday night numbers are included in that). The movie had dominated Twitter over the weekend, and that continued word of mouth helped out its success as the weekend progressed. It only dropped 13% from Friday to Saturday, and saw a decline of 40% on Sunday. Typically, films that cater to this demographic see a little more frontloading in their success, as even the hugely popular Twilight saw a Friday to Saturday drop of 41%.

Where the film differs greatly from the success of Twilight is that the vampire love flick was able to haul in $69 million its opening weekend, and Divergent fell well behind that. Also, Twilight was extremely low budget (approximately $20 million) while there is a much more solid $85 million that went into Divergent. What that means is that the instant success is not as great, but the strategy here is to turn it into a multi-series franchise. While they were hoping for Twilight-like numbers, the stable hold of the movie over the weekend and the fact that the audiences seem to like it just fine (Rotten Tomatoes shows 40% critic approval, and 81% audience support. I should also note that the first Twilight movie had only 73% audience approval). The real tale of this franchise will be told next year when the sequel comes out and we see if there was any additional interest or not.

While Divergent gave studios hope for future franchise dollars, Muppets Most Wanted ended up heading in a bit of a different direction. Three years ago, The Muppets opened to $29 million dollars and pumped life back into the puppeteered franchise that had laid dormant since 1999. With a history of not excelling in theatres, there was some skepticism that could be had over the fact that Muppets Most Wanted upped the financial game by existing on a budget of $55 million, which is ten million more than the previous film.

I had a feeling that there would be some continued support in the franchise due to the wonderful movie of 2011 and that it would see an opening weekend very similar in size. As it would turn out, I was completely wrong about that and the film as it fell short of expectations and ended up making only $17 million and landing second place in the box office. The financial success of The Muppet franchise has never been stable, so it should not come as a huge surprise that Muppets Most Wanted was unable to achieve what it was supposed to. Before being rejuvenated three years ago, the only Muppets movie to even break into double digit millions on opening weekend was Muppet Treasure Island, which made $10 million on opening weekend in 1996 (The 1979 The Muppet Movie’s opening weekend numbers were unavailable, so they are not included in this).

Third place in theatres this weekend goes to Mr. Peabody & Sherman, which made $11 million in its third weekend out. It was able to take first place last weekend by sustaining, but this weekend was unable to hold out against both of the newcomers. Currently it has made $81 million domestically and $168 million worldwide. One source I have read points to it needing to reach $380 million before being able to start seeing a profit, and its chances of reaching that goal may be running out.

Ending up in fourth spot and showing in just 780 theatres is God’s Not Dead, a spiritual drama starring Hercules himself, Kevin Sorbo. It averaged an impressive $11,852 per theatre, and was able to achieve a total of $9 million. Daily performance numbers were not made available, so it is difficult to tell how the film trended over the course of the weekend.

300: Rise of an Empire, the once proud first place title holder of three weeks ago, saw another dramatic drop in gross this weekend as it fell by 56% from the previous weekend and took in $8.5 million. This puts its domestic total at $93 million, and its worldwide cume at $253 million, and it is looking like profitability is on the horizon for the sequel, which is seven years removed from the original. Fans of the franchise should be happy, because this success could excite Warner Bros enough to gear up for a sequel.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Doing the Weekend Disappearance Again

I hate to be a broken record, but pay copy and other plans will make it hard to do the social media thing this weekend. So, I've decided to make life easier by staying off for another weekend. The plan is to be back on Monday Tuesday.

My Argument Against Writing Ideas Down

I've mentioned in the past that for most of my writing I'll eschew an outline. I realize there are countless professional writers who are far more successful than me who would disagree with that approach. But I'm also in good company as best-selling authors like John Scalzi and Stephen King will go on record as usually only having a kernel of an idea before plowing into their novels.

For fiction writing, I find a strict outline to be constrictive and not allow me to follow my characters. This does mean that sometimes the second draft is a bit more work as I have the potential for more plot holes and rabbit trails to contend with as I worked through the direction of the story. I find it creates a more organic and lively piece of fiction as I'm allowed to trust my characters and have a story unfold before my eyes.

There are some people that such an approach will be a recipe for extreme anxiety. I know there are countless award-winning novels that had rigid outlines before they were written. This is one of those examples where the writing strategy doesn't work for every personality and type of writer. I find my story has more passion and energy if I allow it to be uncovered during the writing process and I only have a rough idea of the final product. To be honest, this is an approach that I have for most of my non-fiction work as well.

Again, this isn't to say I come in blind. I always have an idea of what I want to say. Sometimes the idea has had days or weeks or even months to germinate, so I can often come to the computer without anything written but the story is still fully formed in my head. I find an outline in the mind allows more flexibility and possibility for growth than a written construction that I feel obligated to follow.

This brings me to the "idea." This is yet another place where I'm more apt to follow Stephen King than many creative writing professors or some other very successful writers. I've heard the advice that one should carry around a notebook, so that they can immediately jot down an idea the moment it pops into their head. I think that is an awful idea and Mr. King has proven in countless speaking engagements that he agrees (well, he hasn't outright said he agrees with Christopher Spicer, because he doesn't have a clue that such a guy exists -- unless he has a friend with my same name). Of course, just because I think it is an awful idea doesn't mean it actually is awful and I know many people who are likely better suited for that approach.

My problem is that I get 20 or more ideas in a day. I'm not saying all of them are good or worthy to be turned into a story or article. Actually, I believe most of them are horrible and deserve to be forgotten. This is where not writing them down helps. If you write down every idea then it survives and it is there to torment you until you rip out that piece of paper.

My philosophy is that not writing them down means that your memory becomes a natural filter. The bad ideas will likely be forgotten before the sun sets on the day. But the good ones burrow inside your brain and camp out there. Sometimes they'll even grow and strengthen as the days go on. A good idea is one that you can let sit for a while. It never goes away. It remains and grows until you do something about it. It will haunt and call to you until you finally decide to transform it into a story. Hopefully, that good idea can blossom into something great.

Sometimes you have an idea but at the time you don't know what to do with it. But you're probably convinced it is something special and worthy of being turned into a story. The inclination is to write it down so that it doesn't get caught by the wind and blown away forever. From my experience, a good idea can last for days and months and years and even decades. If it really is worth becoming a story then it likely will be attached to you. You may not think about it for a long time. It will rise up back to the surface when properly inspired or when you find the other pieces to the story puzzle that will turn your small concept into something grand.

If you're still thinking about something after a decade then that is a pretty good indicator you're meant to write it. After it has simmered for all those years, it has likely been brewed into something that is prepared to be consumed by the masses. Or at least, it will once you make that idea something more.

As I said before, I'll have far too many ideas run in and out of my head all day. Usually at that moment, they seem destined for gold. Maybe they are and maybe they could have been something grand if I bothered to write them down. I also know that I still have ideas in my head for stories that I thought about before I even met Emily. They've constantly been shoving and pushing me so that I remember they exist and they want me to make the steps to ensure their birth. This is how I know these are the ideas that I should follow.

Why do I sit on some ideas for so long? Sometimes it is because they're far too ambitious and I don't feel ready to start writing them. Other times the idea is still vague and I haven't figured out how to make it something more. Often these are ideas that are fly paper that start having other small ideas stick on them until it becomes an entirely new and better thing (unlike fly paper, actually). I've had ideas that at the time I thought were great but I knew I should sit on for a bit. I'll then read about an event in the paper or have something on one of my walks resonate with me or have a conversation trigger something, then the new thought will converge with that long lingering idea to finally form into the thing that I always wanted. I'll be reminded of that old idea but then realize it was just the formation of a character or a backstory or just needed this new addition to actually become original and fresh.

This is why I don't write ideas down. I have faith that the good ones aren't going anywhere. Or an idea that I think is good isn't actually ready to become anything yet. It needs a bit more time in the pan before I come across the missing ingredient. It is hard for me to distance myself from an idea and actually sort out if it is worthy anything. Especially when I've just uncovered it and it feels like my map to great riches and fame. Unless the idea is so strong and urging me to write it, I usually leave it alone.

There are ideas that pop in my head that basically command immediate attention. It isn't like I leave everything to fight for my attention. There are times that you know this is the thing that must be written now. For me that is typically a non-fiction piece or something that is a hot current event. You can't really let the thoughts of a major news item simmer. A lot of times the reason a person writes an idea down is due to the fact they know there isn't time to write right at the moment or that they haven't got it completely formulated. In my experience, it is just better to leave it alone and trust it will come back to you when the time is right.

After saying all this, I have to confess that I have written ideas down before. At one point, I believed fiction ideas can be left alone but non-fiction ideas should be written down. Over the past several months, there had been ideas that I thought were great but either I didn't have a contact that I thought would buy it or I didn't have the time to write it at the moment or I just wasn't quite sure where to go with it, so I wrote it down for future reference. It was left on my massive To Do List for me to constantly reference and be reminded of.

Oh yeah, I have a To-Do list. In case one thinks that I don't write ideas down or create outlines is due to the fact I'm a disorganized mess then they'd be wrong. Actually, they would be right about the mess part, but that isn't the reason I avoid writing down ideas or creating outlines for stories. I am well aware that my natural inclination is to go with the flow. I also know that such a flow will leave me an anxiety-ridden glob of mess if I try to take that approach with my writing business. I actually meticulously schedule my day. I am also aware that certain appointments can't be trusted to my memory, so I write those things down. I write lots down to ensure I don't forget. I've just learned that the one thing that doesn't need to be around to remind me is story or article ideas.

In the past few months I've probably written over 10 different ideas for articles. At the moment they felt like instant genius and I couldn't risk them floating away into the abyss. Several months later, some of those ideas are still in my head, and I didn't need them written down to remember them. A few others I now look at the list and can't remember why I even bothered wasting the 5 seconds it took to type out those few words. I don't know where I was going with it. I probably could still write it, but the passion for it is completely gone. It'd likely be more painful than trying to shave with a butcher knife with even a less satisfying result.

One of my favourite pieces I've written on this blog was It's Not Okay. It all started when I was annoyed at a neighbour for feeding my dog ice cream. I had formulated an angry letter in the shower, and at some point during this soap covered mind rant, I'd thought I'd come up with some humorous piece about crazy neighbours. By the time I got out the shower, I started feeling a little selfish about wanting to write about a bunch of personal things that bugged me. It got me thinking about real injustices and problems that people need to deal with every day. I then saw something shiny and promptly forgot about it.

The idea that started with Summit eating something bad for him but then got me thinking about actual issues stuck with me for many months. I wasn't sure what it was supposed to be or what I was trying to say yet. Until finally in the fall, I decide to sit down and churn out the poem. At no point did I ever write down the idea. I didn't need to be reminded of it. It stuck with me. I'm still really happy with the results.

A personal story is something that can cling to you for a long time before the time is right for it to show up. Right around the same time as It's Not Okay, I was trying to come up with something to write and suddenly just decided to recount an event from my childhood when I stood up to some bullies. I have no idea why I chose to write it. I definitely didn't have any message that I wanted to share. It was just supposed to be a throwaway piece to fill up space on the site.

Obviously, the event had been stewing inside me for a long time. I wasn't even aware how much I had to say and how I could apply the tale to other thing in my life. It ended up being a piece about people standing up for themselves and the need for justice and also just a look at the dangers of bullying. The story ended up formulating and growing as I wrote it. I just followed where it was ready to take me. To my great surprise, it ended up being one of my most popular pieces ever and I got a horde of emails from people thanking me for it and how it helped them heal over their own pains of childhood. It was never the intention, but I'm glad it ended up having value to readers.

My point is that I never wrote down that story prior to the day I wrote the piece. I'd never really planned to write it. I rarely even think about that day. Yet that moment it came to the surface and it ended up being something that resonated with many people. It was a story that hung around in my brain for decades and waited for the day it could be told.

I like being surprised by the stories that inhabit the space in my head. The creation process is one of the most thrilling and addictive parts of writing. I like the part where I'm wrestling with a work and trying to head-butt it into being something meaningful. It is that joy that stops me from wanting to outline. It is also that process that reminds me that I need to trust that my ideas will come at the moment they're needed.

Back when I was writing my Dad's Eye View column, I wanted to make sure I captured as many of the stories and events in Everett's new life. I actually ended up not ever writing down an idea or really planning anything out. It just so happened that every time the deadline was approaching and I needed something written that I was always able to recall something worth spouting about. One of my most popular columns was the one where I allowed "Everett to write it." I'd never planned on doing an Everett as a writer piece. I'm not sure what my original plan was when I started writing it. I just remember that when I started smashing the fingers to the keyboard that I suddenly realized this tale may be more exciting from a baby's perspective. So that is what I did. From my experience, creativity isn't forced, but rather comes naturally.

Now, this isn't to say I don't brainstorm. This isn't even to say that I don't put outlines in my head and go through different options for articles when I should be sleeping. I think about writing almost all day even when I'm not writing. Sometimes I'll have to revise a piece several times or end up realizing what I'm writing just isn't working. I'm definitely not talking about some kind of divine message that plops in my head and instantly becomes gold. There is still a lot of work involved, and most of the time, I usually have a rough idea where I'm taking a story or article.

For me I think the most creative and imaginative stuff comes when I just trust my ideas. I allow those thoughts that have been playing around in the mind for a bit to come to the surface when they're ready. It isn't going to work for everyone, and likely while reading this, you already know if this will work for you. From my experience, a creative process works best when you allow it to form on the page and you discover the story as you work through it.

For the record, I didn't write this idea down before writing this either. You may think I should have.

A Singing Frog and a Dystopian Society Just Mean Another Weekend at the Box Office

Scott looks at a weekend that is a battle of brand recognition. It is a best-selling YA novel franchise going up against those beloved Muppets. Scott offers up in-depth analysis of both new release pictures.

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In the wake of the Twilight movies and under the current love for The Hunger Games, movie studios have been working fast and hard to find the next breakout young adult series to cash in on the financial success that has been mined by the two mentioned franchises. Opening this weekend is Divergent, which is based on the first book in a trilogy by Veronica Roth, which has its sights on being the next big thing in theatres. Also opening is Muppets Most Wanted, the follow up to the well received 2011 The Muppets, which was able to win over both audiences as well as critics.

There is a great deal of hype behind the release of the Neil Burger directed Divergent, with early indicators skewing towards the possibility that it could indeed be a hit. The waters in which it is charting are not friendly ones, a tumultuous sea that last year alone spat out three attempts to be the next big thing in the young adult world.

There was Beautiful Creatures from Warner Bros, which opened in February and only made a worldwide total of $55 million on a budget of $50 million. After that it was Universal who stepped up to the plate and released the Stephanie Meyer book turned film, The Host. While it hoped to grab Twi-hards who could possibly follow the Meyer name, it eventually finished at $58 million on a budget of $50 million. Once August rolled around it was Sony’s turn to set itself up for possible failure, which is exactly what it received when it launched The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. It would turn out that the third time was not indeed a charm, and City of Bones only managed $75 million on its budget of $60 million.

Studios always seem very quick to try and recreate the successes of others, and a lot of times it ends up being the situation that each of these films found themselves in; hyped for a franchise and losing money in the process. It is no surprise that Divergent seems to be prepped for success when we consider the fact that it is from Summit Entertainment, which is a subsidiary of Lionsgate. There is a lot of knowledge in the YA market shared between the two studios, with Summit being the studio behind Twilight and Lionsgate taking care of The Hunger Games. Where others have failed, there are a lot of signs pointing to a solid opening for Divergent.

At the time of writing this, Divergent is far and away the most talked about movie on Twitter with 123,000 tweets. That is 102,000 tweets ahead of the next closest movie, which is Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Because of the audience that it is marketing towards, the social media presence is a critical factor and it has been able to establish the online hype just fine. On top of the impressive Twitter numbers, Summit is now claiming that Divergent has set a record for the movie with the most Instagram followers. Fandango, the online ticket purchasing website, has also stated that ticket sales for Divergent represent 80% of their current weekend presales.

It is fairly safe to say that it will not be reaching the same kind of opening numbers that The Hunger Games opened to ($152 million), and it is more likely going to land closer to Twilight’s opening weekend ($69 million). Holding reported $80 million budget, this film should be a safe success after taking a look at the current tracking and indicators. As with The Hunger Games, the film has a chance to launch the career of Shailene Woodley, an extremely talented up and coming actress.

Divergent Opening Weekend Prediction - $63 Million

While I may have drowned you to death in my wordy analysis of Divergent’s chances, I promise I will be a lot more concise in regards to Muppets Most Wanted. In 2011, The Muppets returned to the big screen for the first time in twelve years and enjoyed the highest opening weekend for the franchise with $29 million.

There was not a great deal of success for the Jim Henson created crew of puppets for a number of the films (many of the movies fell short of reaching $30 million world-wide), so a return to relevancy in such a big way was able to pump the energy needed to fuel a sequel.

At the moment critics are responding well to Muppets Most Wanted, giving it a Rotten Tomato score of 80%. A positive critical reception does not always mean a lot for a family movie, but it can really factor in when parents are staring down the barrel of having to purchase multiple tickets as well as concessions. Two weeks ago, Mr. Peabody & Sherman opened to $32 million and this is the area that I could see Muppets Most Wanted getting close to. I have seen a number of predictions for this film at $25 million, but my gut is telling me that it could do a bit better. I denied my gut last weekend and paid dearly the price for it. I will not ignore it twice in a row… unless it is just the quesadillas talking.

Muppets Most Wanted Opening Weekend Prediction - $30 Million

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Away for the Day

Swamped with pay copy today, and since that pays the bills and mortgage then that is what I'm doing all day.

How has your day been?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Fixing Famous Plot Holes in Popular Movies

Any film nerd has spent time revealing major plot holes in popular films. It is part of the great fun in the motion picture viewing experience. Almost any plot hole can be resolved if one is just willing to be a little creative and do some brainstorming. I attempt to fix some of the most famous plot holes in popular movies over at Collective Publishing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Car Racing Movie Needed More Speed and Tyler Perry Flops Again at the Box Office

Scott looks at a weekend where a smart dog outraced fast cars to the top spot at the box office.

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This weekend it was the animated family feature Mr. Peabody & Sherman that was able to stave off the competition and grab the number one spot on the box office. While it debuted last weekend at number two ($32 million) behind 300: Rise of an Empire ($45 million), it was able to take the lead thanks to only dropping 32% and ending up with $21.8 million. The sequel to 300 fell 57% and ended up with $19.2 million.

Both of these films were facing the threat from Need for Speed, the movie adaptation of the racing based video game, which was believed to be heading for an opening somewhere in the mid twenty million dollar range. After the dust from the weekend had settled, the film only ended up making $17.8 million and found itself landing in third place. Most likely this happened because of a lack of appeal to draw in audiences outside of those who are familiar with the game, a struggle that any movie with an established source material can face.

With a budget of $66 million, it is quite clear that the film will not be able to reach profitability from the domestic market and will need a decent showing abroad to reach its goals. Luckily for Disney and DreamWorks, the allure of fast exotic cars proved interesting to the global market and it pulled in an international take of $45.6 million. Its strongest market was China, where it made $21.2 million. If the film holds up well over the coming weeks and continues to debut well in new territories, this could end up being a positive outing.

Also debuting this weekend was Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club, another film that fell far below expectations. While tracking and prediction numbers made it look as though it could be on pace for an opening of around $15 million (a number similar to Perry’s recent A Madea Christmas, which opened to $16 million), the movie ultimately ended up getting a dismal $8 million. I have been unable to find any budget information on the film, but even after estimating it at $15 million (a similar budget to Peeples, and on the lower end of the budget spectrum for Perry) it is unlikely that the movie will end up turn much, if any, profit.

With the dwindling returns for his movies, this does seem like an appropriate time for Perry to leave the land of the big screen. Currently his full attention seems to be heading in the direction of Oprah’s OWN station, and television could be what is best for him at this point in his career.

For the second weekend in a row, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel was the champion in the category of highest per theatre average. It expanded to 66 theatres this weekend and was able to bring in an average of $55,000 per theatre, which was enough to propel it into the top ten where it landed in eighth place. Considering its continued success, it is safe to say that it will most likely be seeing further expansion next weekend as well.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Flying Solo, So Jetting Off for the Weekend

I'm playing single parent this weekend (and it actually started around 1 this fine Friday afternoon). I don't expect being able to bask in lots of writing time. The time that I do have needs to be devoted to the pay copy. I'll be off most social media for the entire weekend, but be back with stuff to say on Monday.

EDIT: The weekend turned out less productive work-wise than I'd expected and my Monday has become a bit busier than I'd anticipated. I likely won't have anything on here until Tuesday.

The Battle of Captain America Against Batman and Superman is Set and Other Random Film Thoughts

I've mentioned in the past that I wanted to start discussing major movie news on here in an attempt to eventually lead to a full blown site to house my reviews and well. . . movie news and opinions. Today seems like a fine and dandy day to try it out. Here are a few major movie news bits from the last few days that I have thoughts on.

1. The Hollywood Reporter broke the news that the secret Marvel Untitled Project slated for May 6, 2016 is set to be Captain America 3. As things currently stand, that means we're set for maybe the biggest opening weekend box office rumble ever with the patriotic hero battling it out with Batman and Superman (and Wonder Woman and now possibly even Green Lantern).

The match-up between two studios' biggest tentpoles of the year warring over box office grosses on the very same weekend is intriguing, but I think the ultimate game of chicken that is about to take place is far more exciting. We almost never see two massive blockbusters open on the same weekend for a reason, because it will either drastically diminish both films' potential to break records or it risks significantly crushing one picture from starting out hot. It is a gamble that has almost no upside for studios unless one truly does triumph over the other and they can rest assured the competition didn't diminish earning potential. I think it is unlikely we'll actually end up seeing Captain America 3 going up against Superman vs. Batman.

Now we get to watch over the next several months to see what studio backs down first and moves its picture to a safer weekend. Superman vs. Batman already jumped out of the very crazy battle royal that is the mega franchise stuffed summer of 2015. It would look bad if the apparent pride and joy of Warner Brothers, and their hopeful launching pad for Justice League America thus their centrepiece franchise, once again flees from the scheduled date. I realize that the reason for the first move had to with there not being enough time for production and they still seem to be working on a script, but there are other major releases for next summer that are still at the casting stage, which means they have shooting and editing and CGIing to do as well. The excuse that things are running behind has been used for countless movies in the past and usually there is more to it than revealed (hindsight makes one think The Monuments Men move may have more to do with it not be Oscar-worthy than any post-production issues). Superman vs. Batman will likely have a hard time saving face if they try to go with "production is moving slow" a second time in order to avoid a heated battle.

A movie has got to move out of that slot though. It would be foolish and throwing away massive grosses to share a weekend with a gigantic blockbuster. The question comes down to which studio blinks. The move is essentially accepting defeat. It is admission that the other one scares them, and it is the bigger franchise by default. Of course, the end of the year tally of grosses will declare the real winner. Maybe the picture that moves will make more money. It isn't like the first weekend of May is a guaranteed windfall spot, but the blockbuster kick-off season is a prestigious one. This is a battler of pride and from a public perception standpoint, it may also be the more important one.

When Superman vs. Batman moved out of 2015 and hopped into the May 6 2016 spot, it was considered a pretty bold move by anyone that follows the film industry. The first weekend of May has been the established location for the Marvel mega-blockbuster for the last several years. Though it should be noted that due to deals made prior to the Disney purchase of Marvel that it hasn't always been part of the big mouse studio (for example, this year The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is distributed by Sony Pictures). It was pretty shocking that Warner Brothers dared to put a DC property on that date, especially since a Marvel project was already penciled in.

The hope was that Marvel didn't have a powerhouse in its sleeve for that weekend. There had been speculation it could have been Dr. Strange or Black Panther, which would be relying far more heavily on the comic company's brand name than character recognition. Everyone talks about how Iron Man was a lesser known property but through marketing became a smash hit, but even that character had my resonance in pop culture than the other two. Warner Brothers likely was hoping it was a lightweight property that obviously could become a hit but would have a strong uphill against its super-heavyweight franchise.

Now, Superman and Batman have to do battle with superhero whose stock has experienced a meteoric rise thanks to being part of an ensemble picture that is one of the highest grossing pictures of all time. Man of Steel did out gross the original Captain America, but the latter come out before the explosive release of The Avengers. There will be a better idea of what kind of momentum the patriotic franchise has after next month's sequel that currently is projecting an $80 million opening,

Man of Steel was a box office hit, but it wasn't the biggest financial success of the year. Its critical reception was mixed at best, and the public's feelings towards the picture seem to have diminished the farther removed it has been since its opening. The "at least it was better than Superman Returns" isn't really the endorsement needed to ensure the crowds are crashing down the doors to see it.

Batman has a far better motion picture reputation, and his name definitely makes the picture feel like a big event. The problem is that much of the love towards the Dark Knight comes from the Christopher Nolan franchise. The faith in Zack Snyder is no where near as strong. There are still people whining about the casting of Ben Affleck in the spot of the beloved brooding hero. Actually, almost all the buzz seems to be about casting complaints rather than actual excitement. I think people will still come, but the challenge is will it be it be more than Captain America 3. Especially when they open at the same time.

Between the two, Captain America seems like the stronger franchise at the moment. It is backed by the comic book company that has far more cinematic hits in the last decade. It likely has more confidence to stand its ground. But Warner Brothers has a lot at stake here, because outside of Batman, they haven't been able to muster both a box office and critical hit for the same picture. If this picture isn't a spectacular success then the hopes of a JLA picture and a franchise with the strength of an Avengers will become more a fading dream than actual reality. The backing out will almost be an admission they're the lesser of the franchises. Marvel will likely take far less damage if it moves, but it may also think it has less to lose if it keeps its ground too.

2. The Passengers was a picture that looked to be banking on the success Gravity in the newly resurrected sub-genre of mature adult sci-fi where blasting laser beams and hot young abs are replaced by older actors and deep human interest stories. Speaking of resurrections, Keanu Reeves' career needs one after taking a hit over the past few years, especially after starring in one of last year's biggest flops, 47 Ronin. The 2015 spring release was supposed to be the big hit to get his career back on track. It would also be a test to see if adults really were looking for sci-fi with mature stories and that eschewed typical modern action. It now looks like that question isn't going to be answered any time soon as co-star Rachel McAdams has pulled out and The Weinstein Company backed out as distributors as well.

The interesting aspect here is what caused McAdams to pull out of the project. Was it a script or creative issue? Are there other problems that are delaying the project and that is why she pulled out? Has she been lured away by something more attractive? I'd assume that it was her decision to leave the project that caused The Weinstein Company to exit as the distributors. There could possibly be other issues at play here.

It is too bad, because this project seemed to help with the push towards allowing the sci-fi genre to tell more stories than the typical explosions and comic book adventures. It is a genre that really can cross into other arenas and tell a lot of different type of stories. The success of Gravity likely means similar other pictures will be greenlit, but this would have been the first that likely wouldn't have relied on spectacular visual effects to drive the story and could have come in with a much smaller budget (sort of like Moon).

To be fair, there has been smart sci-fi for years. It just rarely comes in at the mainstream level. My fear for a while is that wide release picture have continued to get dumbed down even if they look impressive. The Reeves and McAdams names likely meant this had a shot at going to wide. If it was a hit then maybe studios will at least start plopping in a few more of these type of pictures outside of Oscar season and stop being so focused on the formulaic action spectacles.

Of course, the plot of this picture could have just turned into a cliché and tired romance too. A man gets out of hyper-sleep early on a spaceship sending colonist to a new world and wakes up a woman to keep him company is a story that can either just go for the easy sentimentality or can be an incisive look at human's need for relationships. Reeves doesn't necessarily represent the billboard for complex and complicated dramas, but the story has the potential to be special. It reminds me of a shot story that could have been written by Ray Bradbury, and that alone is what piqued my interest. Of course, now it looks destined for developmental hell unfortunately. There are many similar original stories just waiting to get plucked, and hopefully, someone takes the gamble.

3. On the Breakdown podcast, Scott and I debated if the talented Tye Sheridan had any interest in becoming a star or doing any pictures beyond the independent scene. It looks like we now have our answer. He isn't attached to the next Star Wars (as once was rumoured) or any tentpole picture, but he has now signed on to his first major studio picture. This is great news because it means more people will be able to see his talents. It also shows that he does have an eye on getting some mainstream attention. Considering how choosy he has been with his roles previously, it also makes be intrigued by a story that I'd normally totally pass over.

Scouts vs. Zombies sounds like something that would be distributed by Asylum rather than Paramount. Typically something this overtly campy and purposefully fighting for eye rolls is better suited for the independent scene and midnight screenings of festivals rather than a wide release. I wonder if this is a Sheridan miscalculation or if it happens to be an incredibly witty horror comedy script.

Christopher Landon's major directorial effort was Paraormal Activity: The Marked Ones, which I to my great surprise was by far the best of the franchise and enjoyable on its own. The problem was that it was tied down to the stupid found footage gimmick and made many of the story elements forced. The other disconcerting thing about Landon's inclusion is that he has written all the Paranormal Activity sequels, which have grown in their ridiculousness before the spin-off saved things a bit. He isn't really a filmmaker I have my eyes on, but maybe this will have a better chance if it ignores the found footage albatross. He also brought a great pacing and sense of action to the franchise in the latest, and those are elements that could make a horror comedy work. Also ridiculousness is what you want in this kind of picture, so there is a chance his style may be a better fit.

I'd never predicted this to be Sheridan's next role after Joe. You can at least consider me very interested to see how this turns out. I may not be eager for the picture, but I at least want to see a trailer.

4. J.K. Simmons is the type of actor that doesn't add any box office power but does add loads of prestige to a picture. This doesn't mean a picture turns out to be any good (I'm looking at your Dark Skies and Labor Day), but his presence and performance usually makes you fight harder in trying to give it a shot. This is why I love the addition of Simmons as the alcoholic and worn-out detective to the 2015 Terminator reboot. I don't love the idea of yet another reboot mind you, but having a character trying to solve the three decade insanity of Sarah Connor and time traveling robots at least shows an attempt to make a different type of movie. I'm guessing Simmons' character will be supporting here, but Simmons as a cranky and persistent detective seems like a perfect fit for him. I'd at least expect him to rule his scenes with a cyborg fist.

The other interesting part of this is that outside of Arnold Schwarzenegger they aren't going for any easy superstar casting here. This also feels like a recent pattern going on in Hollywood, which is pretty exciting. It seems ever since Jennifer Lawrence captured audiences with her lead role in The Hunger Games there has been a movement towards mining young stars who have proved their worth in dramatic independent fare. They round out the cast with trusted thespians rather than star power. Hopefully this will up the quality of pictures that otherwise would just be shiny and loud junk. Consider me at least mildly interested in where they're going with the story and picture.

5. Out of all the casting news that has been thrown out this week, the most intriguing is also likely the one to get the least interest, which is the casting of Aubrey Plaza to Hal Hartley's Ned Rifle - the final chapter to the Henry Fool trilogy. Plaza is becoming one of my favourite young comedic actors alongside Jane Levy. Both are huge stars waiting to break-out. Though Plaza right now seems to be content with Parks and Recreation being her most mainstream project as she sticks with indy comedies for the big screen. Safety Not Guaranteed was her biggest critical hit, while The To-Do List demonstrated her ability to pull off a character different than her cynical April.

Plaza is among a batch of super talented comedians who have been taking on independent comedies that have racy jokes mixed in with drama and more complicated stories than the current crop of formulaic and broad wide release comedies. The growth of on-demand and new ways of releasing pictures has allowed for what seems like a creative boon for comedies that many are missing. Hopefully, it will start to challenge the current major studios to up their game. The mainstream scene still isn't releasing a lot of strong female centric comedies, but Plaza is proof they deserve it and they're incredibly smart and funny. Kristen Wiig, Elizabeth Banks, and Sarah Silverman are just a few that can do more than just the raunchy comedies, but able to mix that style with some more thoughtful and challenging roles. Hopefully, if these movies continue to be solid independent hits then it will change what is expected and consumed at the mainstream level as well. I'm definitely rooting for this Plaza project along with whatever else comes her way soon.

6. Famke Janssen signed for Taken 3 to join Liam Neeson and Maggie Grace. The big news here is that Taken is now on pace to challenge Die Hard for longest series of preposterous scenarios in an attempt to keep a concept going with the same star. Though this picture already now has Die Hard beaten in recurring appearances by the wife, as they relegated John McClane's to just a voice on the phone by the third. My guess is this time around ol' Neeson will be on a honeymoon after he remarries his wife, but things get interrupted when he finds out his favourite second cousin has been kidnapped by the grandfather of the guys from the original.

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Okay, this turned out way longer than I expected. I started saying, "Oh, I should really talk about that bit of news too." As there is apparently way too much movie news that shows up in one day. I had to start cutting a lot of stuff out to avoid this being a novel or stopping me from writing the stuff that actually pays the bills.

I'll likely not do this format again. Instead, just try to throw up some quick thoughts the moment I come across a hot news item that actually inspires some thoughts. For everything else I'll just store it away until it triggers an idea for a long form essay that tackles a bigger issue or concept. I'm sure I'll constantly play around with things until I find a format that works.

I definitely know this won't be the place to get quick news. I won't be able to cover everything that happens during the week. Hopefully, I can make it a place that has some insight and maybe able to use current news as a way to look at history or evaluate some long term impact. It will essentially be a hodge podge until I find my groove.

Then of course, there will be those posts that have nothing to do with movies. Because this isn't a movie site and I have many other things I want to write about. But I like movie writing and it has afforded me my biggest break so far in writing. I do plan to give it a lot of attention.

If there are any major things going on in film that you want me to write about or discuss then feel free to throw in a request either in the comments, via Twitter or an email. If I like it then I'll tackle it. I'm also open to requests for film reviews (especially if you're movie site and willing to pay).

Single Moms and Hot Cars Race for the Top Box Office Spot

After a pretty strong weekend at the box office, it feels like we've been transported back to January. The offerings scream pictures that studios just want to push out and be done with. Scott still comes racing in with his predictions for the new pictures this weekend.

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Last weekend 300: Rise of an Empire was able to have a good time coming out of the gates as it was able to bring in $45 million during its opening weekend. The big question coming up is whether or not one of the two wide releases debuting this weekend will be able to dethrone it. One of the two, Tyler Perry’s The Single Moms Club is only opening in 1,896 theatres which indicates it does not really stand a chance. That means all of the pressure will be on Need for Speed to dethrone the champion.

Based off of a long running video game franchise, Need for Speed stars Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul in a movie that is about expensive cars driving very fast. For car lovers, it may be a dream come true to see a vast array of super cars all on the big screen at once, but I am left to wonder just how many people who do not follow the game series will really have been intrigued by the trailers that do little more than make it look like a video game with a straight forward plot and computer enhanced race sequences. Having owned a number of the games, I can quickly tell you that the weakest point of the franchise is the story, which is incredibly laughable at times. I do not think that there is a rich source material here to be mined for people.

As well, there is not a whole lot of star power that is pushing this film. Outside of Breaking Bad fans, a lot of people may not know who he is, which weakens its ability to draw outside of a niche market. In 2001, The Fast and the Furious was able to nab a $40 million opening weekend, but it also had the assistance of Vin Diesel’s name as he was rising in popularity coming off of Pitch Black.

This movie from DreamWorks has done well to keep its budget at around $66 million dollars, which is able to keep profitability in sight. What it will really come down to is how many people want to see a racing movie based solely off of its visual merits alone. Right now, it is not finding critical appeal as it is only at 24% on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of writing this.

Need For Speed Opening Weekend Prediction - $22 Million
As mentioned, Tyler Perry’s Single Moms Club is opening this weekend and the Tyler Perry name has had a history of bringing out an audience in the past. The key phrase there was ‘in the past.’ Lately his movies have not been performing as well, as they were generally able to open at or above the $20 million mark. There was increased potential in his movies if he was playing his Madea character, but this past Christmas saw that audiences may be tiring of that as Tyler Perry’s A Madea Christmas only opened to $16 million. Before that, the Tyler Perry produced Peeples only had an opening of $4 million.

This film reminds me a bit of Bridesmaids except it is very toned down in terms of the raunch factor, which fits well with Perry’s movies. While it strikes to present the ladies side of comedy shenanigans, it is lacking a big name star to pull audiences out. While I write this (late on a Thursday night) there are no reviews yet posted on Rotten Tomatoes, and usually that is a sign of a movie that the studio is not as confident in. I am sure that Tyler Perry fans will show up to see this film, I just cannot imagine there will be the same numbers that he has enjoyed in the past.

Tyler Perry’s Single Moms Club Opening Weekend Prediction - $14 Million

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Network TV Series Most Likely to Get Cancelled

Earlier this week I looked into my crystal ball and prognosticated the pictures that I thought would likely get the top prize at the 2015 Oscars. I've decided to keep up my pop culture fortune telling by looking at the TV series most likely to get the ax by the end of this season. Check out my choices over at BuddyTV.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Far Too Early 2015 Best Picture Oscar Nomination Predictions

I've seen some writers brag about their ability to get all the Academy Awards nominations correct, but they usually do the cowardly thing of predicting them a week before the announcements. At that point, my dog can probably end up about 50% correct, and they don't even allow him into screenings. The truly brave thing is to throw in predictions before almost all the potential nominees have even been screened. Over at Collective Publishing that is exactly what I decide to do.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

300 Slays a Really Smart Dog at the Box Office

Scott analyzes the aftermath of the Battle of Movies Set In the Distant Past that occurred this weekend at the box office.

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This weekend in theatres was a solid one, posting the highest gross since Valentine’s weekend as it brought in $143 million, a similar take to the same weekend last year which nabbed $140 million. Two movies of great potential for dollars debuted in 300: Rise of an Empire, a sequel to 2007’s Zack Snyder directed 300, and Mr. Peabody & Sherman, a family animated film that was based on a Rocky and Bullwinkle segment Peabody’s Improbable History. While family films can usually take the lead at this time of year, it was the stylized battling armies of 300 that were able to steal top spot.

Going into the weekend industry tracking numbers for 300: Rise of an Empire showed a possible predicted range between around $35 and $45 million dollars. While I ended up believing that the film may end up on the lower end of the spectrum due to two films of similar genre already bombing in the box office this year, the lack of Zack Snyder in the director’s chair, seven years passed since the original, and no carry over heroes from the first film. The R-rated action film took in $45 million, which was 35% lower than the $70 million opening weekend that 300 was able to make.

The numbers are lower, but it is still a very good start for the film. It has a much larger production budget than the original ($110 million compared to $65 million), but it already sits at $132 million worldwide and should easily be able to turn a profit for Warner Brothers. Unlike the other sword and sandal movies that ultimately tanked this year, the brand recognition as well as the distinct visual style of the franchise was able to set it apart and perhaps give the studio reason to consider penning a sequel, but it would probably be best if they did not wait another seven years to release it. With that being said, Terminator 2: Judgement Day came out seven years after Terminator and was able to bring in $31.7 million compared to the original’s $4 million, so it looks like my argument about not waiting seven years may not carry all the weight in the world.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman
easily took second place with an opening weekend haul of $35 million dollars. It is a positive way to start its box office campaign, but it is also under a shadow of a budget of $145 million. In the world of big budget films, $145 million is not a monstrous number but we have seen very successful animated family films show that quality does not need to come with a hefty price tag.

Despicable Me 2 (which had the third highest worldwide gross of 2013) had a very modest budget of $76 million, and The LEGO Movie (which is currently this year’s highest grossing movie) was able to bring in a deep cast and create beautiful animation for $65 million. Considering the budget for Mr. Peabody & Sherman, it will need to bring in over $300 million dollars to clear both production and marketing costs.

Not appearing in the top 10 this weekend was Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, which had an absolutely terrific opening of $811,000 across only four locations and giving it a per theatre average of $202,792. The film boasts both a very talented cast as well as the visual presentation that fans of Anderson have become to be familiar with. The critics are showing lots of love towards the film, as it currently has a Rotten Tomato rating of 89%. With such a successful opening, it is a good bet that the film will be expanding to more theatres next weekend.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

The Plan for the Blog This Week

I'm still not planning to be active on here until Tuesday. I thought I'd chime in with a few things I hope to accomplish on the blog this week.

My aim going forward is to as much as possible have new content posted at 5:30am, 11:30am, and 4:30pm every weekday, and then one thing posted first thing in the morning on the two weekend days. The key word being "aim" and it will likely not ever be that consistent or frequent.

The main reason for wanting to do this has to do with my goal of eventually launching a movie news/review site by the end of the year. I want to get in the habit of needing to post at least three things a day as well as managing the usual looking after Everett and accomplishing the copy that I actually get paid for.

Most social media experts agree that the most successful sites post something during those three periods in the day. The hope is that will grow an audience here and have a core for me to promote the eventual movie site.

I also want this particular site to be more than just movies. Especially since it would turn out to be pretty useless after the transition period. My goal is to continue to make this a place where I track my writing career, offer up advice, share my parenting adventures, try various different types of columns, and generally, just discuss whatever pops in my head. Hopefully, the goal of posting three things a day allows me to provide a variety of content and have something for my range of readers.

I do have to warn that the pop culture aspect is likely to increase over the next bit as I try to prepare for the eventual site launch. I actually have several non-movie stories and articles lined up for the next few weeks so it won't be a complete movie take over.

Speaking of a movie take over, the other major goal this week is posting several long overdue movie reviews. I ghost wrote several movie reviews from the 2014 releases, and haven't got around to creating them under my name. For posterity sake and to have a collection I can show to a few critic societies, I'm going to write-up and post all the pictures from 2014 I've seen so far.

The problem is a few of these are picture I saw a while ago. My memory is a little shady on them. I'm going to try to do my best, and it is more just to have them in the collection at this point. Hopefully, going forward I'll have all reviews for 2014 pictures written within 24 hours of watching them (they won't all be on this site, as I still hope to sell some to Collective Publishing or other fine sites).

You can expect Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, About Last Night, The LEGO Movie, Pompeii, 300: Rise of an Empire, and Mr. Peabody and Sherman all posted on the blog this week. That gives you something to either look forward to or know to avoid.

Anyway, you can now return back to your regularly scheduled programming. I'll see you on Tuesday.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Breakdown Back on Extended Hiatus

I am still taking the weekend off from the blog, but I wanted to pop on here for a short announcement. For various reasons and in an attempt to better focus on some other pertinent projects, the Breakdown has unfortunately been put on an extended hiatus. I can't give a planned return date for numerous reasons, but it will likely be for several months. Hopefully, this actually means more content on here though as well as a batch of writing projects being showcased from a variety of other sources. If the Breakdown returns then the podcast will have had several months of planning and preparation behind it and will come back in much better form.

Have a great weekend and see you Monday.

EDIT: A few unexpected things have arrived in front me along with the usual deadline work that I have at this point in the week, so I'll likely not be back on here until Tuesday now.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Taking the Weekend Off

I don't want to keep on doing this, since the plan is to launch the blog into some bigger things. I've got a lot of pay copy to do along with a few other important things. I'll do that this weekend, and be back here on Monday.

It's a Historical Weekend at the Box Office. . . Historical Fiction That Is

This weekend has two new releases that can boast sword-wielding Greek warriors. The one other thing they have in common is their battle for the top spot at the box office this weekend. Scott chimes in with who he thinks will win along with his usual expert analysis.

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We are barely into the third month of the year, and we are facing 2014’s third ‘sword and sandal’ movie in 300: Rise of an Empire. It does feel like it has been a bit of an overdose for this style of movie, but it does not end here as there is a tale about Hercules still to come. Will the sequel to Zack Snyder’s 300 be able to fend off the family animation film Mr. Peabody & Sherman this weekend?

300: Rise of an Empire is opening this weekend in 3,470 theatres across North America, and looks to cash in on the success of the original, which was able to turn a budget of $60 million into a worldwide gross of $454 million and an additional $262 million in domestic DVD sales. While the brand recognition will be aiding it greatly, it also comes seven years later, which could go a long way in diminishing the passion and fire that fans had for more Spartan violence. That is a lot of time for people to lose interest, and could end up hurting its take. 300 was able to open to a phenomenal $70 million, and as of right now there is little chance of the sequel living up to that sort of performance.

Another detractor to the film’s performance may be the lack of director Zack Snyder, although the promotional material has been sure to splash his involvement as producer when it can. The trailers for the movie look to get the same visual flare of the first one, but it takes very little time to notice that it is not quite the same. Director Noam Murro is filling some big shoes right now.

Also not helping the film is the fact that all of the spear wielding heroes from the first movie have been struck down, making little crossover of characters between the stories. Many sites are seeing this film taking first place this weekend, but that just is not sitting well with me. We have already seen sword and sandal movies this year fall way short of expectations, and I believe the family animated movie will likely be pulling the rug out from under Xerxes’ feet.

300: Rise of an Empire Opening Weekend Prediction – $35 Million


Standing in the corner opposite of the Spartans is a brilliant dog and redheaded boy who are able to travel through time, so heck, people may be able to get their Spartan fix in this flick as well. Based off of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show segment, Mr. Peabody & Sherman is hopping into theatres that have not had similar fare since the well-made and greatly received The LEGO Movie one month ago. Enough time has passed that there should be no competition between the films, as well as giving audiences a break to gain interest in the next big movie.

This time of year is also perfect for family movies. Last year Oz the Great and Powerful was able to pull in a hefty $79 million, and the year before saw Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax gather $70 million in admissions (Christopher: Also last year The Croods has a respectable 43 million opening weekend). While it is far behind 300: Rise of an Empire on Twitter, that is to be expected as 300 is more the type of film to gather that sort of chatter. The movie, unlike its R-rated, warring opponent, is sitting well with critics as it has 75% on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of writing this. I should note that its percentage has dropped a lot in the last few days, but I do not see that harming its chances. The biggest hurdle this film will have is getting children excited about a cartoon that their parents may have even been too young to watch.

Mr. Peabody and Sherman Opening Weekend Prediction - $38 Million

Coming out in limited release this weekend is Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, which is distributed by Fox Searchlight and is screening in four theatres. Anderson’s last movie, Moonrise Kingdom, also opened in four theatres and was able to make an average of $130,000 per theatre. I have no idea just where the interest for this film is right now, so I am backing away from making any predictions on it. The trailers show a film that has all of the personal touches of Anderson as it presents a partially real, partially fantastical visual style. Currently it has 87% on Rotten Tomatoes, and the next few weeks will determine if it will be expanding to a theatre near you.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

You May Have Noticed a Distinct Lack of Words

Mainly because I haven't written anything on the blog today. It has been a bit of whirlwind over here. Hopefully, I'll have much for you to read tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Is 'Gravity' Proof That Science Fiction Will Never Win Best Picture?

Gravity was science fiction's best chance at winning Best Picture since the box office juggernaut Avatar. Now, both pictures are stuck amongst prestigious company of great science fiction pictures that were snubbed the biggest prize at the Academy Awards. Are these losses proof that science fiction can't ever win the top prize? I answer that questions and look ahead to the future in my latest pop culture column for Collective Publishing.