Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hitchcock (2012) review

Hitchcock is the latest film to come from the Hitchcock craze that has struck America this year. Along with this film, which has gotten Oscar buzz, there has been an Alfred Hitchcock Masterpiece Collection released on Blu-Ray, and an HBO film titled The Girl which is a much darker film that highlights his sexual obsession with his leading lady, Tippi Hendren during the making of The Birds. Alfred Hitchcock is a legend and I highly recommend several of his pictures including the one that Hitchcock is about. This film is based on a book which tells the tale of the making of Psycho. Hitchcock personally financed the film and took a severe risk to make the film he wanted. If that sounds inspirational, don't go in thinking that because Hitchcock is far from inspirational. It's being marketed as a drama with comedic aspects but it honestly is a romantic comedy that tells a story of a romance between Hitchcock and Alma Reville, his wife and partner.

Hitchcock begins with the premiere of the Hitchcock classic North By Northwest, a big budget picture starring Cary Grant, Eve Marie Saint, and James Mason. A reporter asks Hitchcock (Anthony Hopkins) why he doesn't quit while he is ahead because he is 60. And at that moment, Hitchcock decides that he needs to do something new. He comes across Robert Bloch's book Psycho and decides that he will make a low budget horror movie. Hitchcock proposes the idea to the Paramount Executive Producer and he denies him, so he pays for the film himself. The production is out of control at first because his wife, Alma (Helen Mirren) is sick of his obsession with his leading ladies and crazy tendencies and goes off to work with Winfield Cook (Danny Huston). But eventually the film evovles into a romance between the two.

First off, I will say that despite several criticisms that I will list, I really enjoyed the film. It was a fun and well done homage to the Master of Suspense and one of my favorite directors. It really enjoyed all the Hitchcock and Hollywood references because after all I am a Hollywood buff and seeing that world come to life on the screen is a lot of fun. Anthony Hopkins is Hitchcock. I really bought him in the role and he honestly became the character. I know some people think he just did a Hitchcock impression but I found that his acting put me in the picture more because he was so much like Hitchcock. The cast is also impressive. There isn't an actor who did a bad job. Standouts include James D'Arcy as Anthony Perkins and Mirren as Reville. She brings a power to the role and you can see how much Hitchcock relied on her.

And also, the picture seemed relatively accurate. I have studied Hitchcock and I did a project on him for school, so I know quite a bit and there were only a few things that I thought were inaccurate. First off, I'm not quite sure why Ed Gein (Michael Wincott) kept popping up in the film. It was rather odd. It didn't really bug me but it seemed to highlight the thing that annoyed me the most. Hitchcock, from my point of view, was a man who was fascinated by the dark side of human behavior and what the impulses are for people to commit violent crimes. Hitchcock at times depicts him as a man who himself was susceptible to violent tenedencies. Now that may be true but I doubt that it was as severe as the film portrays them. But with everything else, it is spot on. Hitchcock was truly obsessed by his blonde leading ladies and the way that this film portrays him with that issue, I think is accurate. Also, his disputes with some of the stars were based on real life and that was a sigh of relief for me.

I had one problem with the film and it is both small and big. The fact that it deals so little with the actual making of Psycho fascinated me. It honestly focused on Alma being fed up with Alfred and going off with Winfield Cook to write a script. It has a lot more to do with relationships than it does with the actual making of the film which I think would have been a lot more interesting. Also, while I really liked all the film references and discussion of previous Hitchcock films, it got to a point where it wasn't natural anymore and it was forced. Like in a scene, a character would randomly say: "I loved Strangers on a Train and Rope, Mr. Hitchcock" and I was like cool, I like Strangers on a Train but what's the point of saying that. I don't know, it just became a little over-indulgent sometimes. It wasn't as natural as in a film like Argo, which was done a lot better when it comes to movie references.

But I felt like overall, Hitchcock was a solid film. It was certainly entertaining and it was briskly paced and it was very funny but it sometimes walked that line too closely between comedy and drama. This is a dramatic story and I'm not quite sure why they put so much humor in it but it is funny so I can't complain. The biggest thing is that there are some moments where you just go: "Ok, why is this happening." I did that during the film maybe three times. For the most part, these are minor criticisms but they do detract from the film a little. But still, especially if you're a Hitchcock or Hollywood fan, check this film out because you'll enjoy it quite a bit. I love the first and last scene, which contain references to both The Birds and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I think that most people will have a good evening watching this film.

THE FINAL GRADE: B-                                            (6.8.10)

Image Credits: IMDB

Strangers On A Train (1951) review

Alfred Hitchcock is a filmmaker that I have studied; both is personal life and biography along with his films. Last year I recieved a box set of Alfred Hitchcock films that contained five of his masterpieces: Rear Window, Vertigo, North By Northwest, Psycho and The Birds. I watched all of the films and enjoyed four of the five (I didn't like Vertigo) and I wrote reviews of the films on this site. After watching those I just assumed that those were Hitchcock's best films and didn't bother to watch any of the other ones. I had read about and studied his other films but I never really cared to watch them. Until I picked up a book that had the greatest movies of all time ranked and Strangers On A Train was listed at #31. I was intrigued and I bought it at a store. I didn't watch it ever but the other day I watched it and I was blown away. This film is better than three of Alfred Hitchcock's masterpieces and definitely deserves recognition.

Strangers On A Train is the story of Guy Haines (Farley Granger), a tennis player who boards a train to go back to his hometown to finalize divorce papers with his wife so that he can marry the daughter of a senator, Anne Morton (Ruth Roman). On the train, he meets a man named Bruno Antony (Robert Walker). He complains to Bruno about Anne and Bruno proposes a murder swap. He would murder his wife, if Guy murdered his father. Guy laughs at the idea and doesn't really respond to him. He dismisses Bruno but Bruno really thinks that they have a deal. Bruno kills his wife and expects the favor in return. Guy doesn't want to do it but also is being tracked because he looks guilty in the case of his murdered wife. What happens next is a caroussel of action and suspense. I'm telling you, I could really write these summaries; if you've seen the movie you get the joke.

Of course, the directing is fantastic. Hitchcock was a master of film and the way he manipulates audiences and does different camera angles is apparent here. Hitchcock is at the top of his game. The acting is solid with one spectacular exception. Farley Granger is solid as Haines but a little wooden. Roman is also decent as Anne and is one of the only relatable and good characters in the film. Patricia Hitchcock is also a standout as the critical, biting sister of Anne. But the real standout is Robert Walker as Bruno Antony. Bruno is a really despicable character who is insane and violent but somehow draws people in and is friendly. All this is thanks to Walker's performance. I think that out of all the Hitchcock films that I have seen, Bruno is the most intriguing and most interesting. I think that he is well worth discussing and honestly the first serial killer character in film that I have seen.

One of the things that I found interesting is the way that Bruno manipulates people and turns them into monsters. There is a scene at a dinner party where Bruno is talking with some older women, sane and normal and asks them: "Have you ever thought of killing your husband?" At first, they reject the thought but as Bruno keeps talking, they are soon drawn into his mindset and start conversing about all the ways that they could kill them and why certain ways wouldn't work. It is a fascinating scene and one that I think draws straight from Hitchcock's life and mindset. I went to see Sacha Gervasi's Hitchcock today and while I'm not sure it is entirely accurate, Hitchcock was in some ways obsessed by murder and thought that he was susceptible to commiting the acts of violence depicted in his films. So I wonder now, after seeing that film if Hitchcock put a little bit of himself into Bruno. Not much, but a little.

There are also two masterful sequences in the film, both taking place at a carnival. The scene where Guy's wife is killed by Bruno is drawn out over a suspensful ten minutes and ends with a brutal strangling. The final scene of the film is also fantastic. It takes place on a caroussel spinning out of control and is something that feels like it would belong more in an action movie from 2012 than a classic film. The film's last thirty minutes are some of the most fun I've had watching a movie in a while.

Strangers On A Train is a film you will enjoy even if you are not a fan of Hitchcock. It is just a fun film to watch and despite a bit of pacing issues in the middle, it is a masterpiece and a must-watch for all film fans. An underappreciated masterpiece.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Batman (1989) review

The Caped Crusader is probably my favorite superhero. I love Batman because he doesn't have any powers, he lives in a grungy, fictional city, and his rogues gallery is the best there is. I think that Batman is my favorite also because I read the old comics, which are the gold standard of Batman. I also love the Christopher Nolan films. Nolan is the best director around and his trilogy is everything that I want from movies. They are exciting, well made, and contain some of the best performances of the last decade. So when I sat down to watch Tim Burton's Batman for the first time, I really wasn't sure what to expect. It was certainly different and there are things I like and things that I dislike but I will say that it is a very good film.

Batman centers on Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton) after he has already become Batman. It doesn't tell his origin story but it sort of focuses on Gotham getting to know the Caped Crusader. District Attorney Harvey Dent (Billy Dee Williams) and Jim Gordon get their first taste of Batman after he pushes Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson) into a vat of chemicals. After that, Napier seizes Gotham by poisoning various toiletries and sends them into fear. But eventually he has a bigger plan to destroy Gotham and only the Dark Knight can stop him. Also in the film is Vicki Vale (Kim Basinger), a love interest for Wayne and a Time Magazine photographer trying to know more about Batman.

First off I will say one thing about Tim Burton's version of Batman: his stylized version of Gotham city is amazing. One thing that I loved about Batman Begins is that Nolan gave Gotham a sort of noir makeover but Burton's Gotham is even better. It perfectly fits the more fun, and less intense tone that Burton gives his film. I can't really describe it but it fits the movie really well. Another thing that I loved about the Nolan version is the acting and the casts he puts together for any one of his films. Burton's cast is nowhere near as good as Nolan's but contains one fantastic performance: Jack Nicholson as the Joker. Heath Ledger's performance has been the gold standard for villain roles since The Dark Knight was released, but in some ways I honestly think that Nicholson is better than Ledger.

But I definitely had some problems with the film. It takes a while to get into. Unlike any one of Nolan's films, it takes a ton of time to establish the story and the characters, maybe a little too long. The action is also really choppy partly because Keaton can't move his neck in the batsuit. Also, for those people who complained about a Batman shortage in The Dark Knight Rises, go watch this film again. I guarantee you, the amount of Batman in this film will surprise you.

All in all, this film is a trip worth taking. I really enjoyed seeing a different take on the Caped Crusader and in a few ways, this film is superior, but Nolan's films are still much better. I apologize if I'm comparing the films too much but it's just my instinct. It is a very solid film with a great performance from Nicholson as the Joker.

Cool Hand Luke (1967) review

Paul Newman is one of the biggest movie starts to hit the screen after 1960. The age where the big stars were gone and the French New Wave cinema was coming in was beginning and the biggest films didn't necessarily have the biggest stars. Newman starred in tons of films and remains an iconic figure. He was in three era defining films: Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, The Sting, and Cool Hand Luke. And after watching all three, I can say that Cool Hand Luke is his best film and his best performance. I loved almost every minute of Cool Hand Luke but don't ask me why. Just like 2001: A Space Odyssey, it just has this weird quality about it that is so entertaining. But Cool Hand Luke even surpasses 2001 in entertainment value (although 2001 is a great film, it isn't all that entertaining), it just has this quality about it that doesn't involve action, or dialogue or even acting. It's just a great film.

Cool Hand Luke centers on the title character Luke Jackson (Newman) who is sentenced to around two years in prison for cutting off the heads of parking meters while under the influence. His prison is the home of a chain gang who's leader is Dragline (George Kennedy). Luke at first has trouble adjusting to life in the prison but eventually becomes a sort of idol for the prisoners and after many escape attempts, is pretty much their leader. The prisoners love him, but the guards don't and he is beaten senselessly multiple times.

That's pretty much it. There isn't a whole lot in terms of story but a whole lot in terms of entertainment value. Newman delivers an amazing performance as Luke and he fits right into the character. He is extremely subtle though and doesn't have a lot crazy moments or even much dialogue on screen. The flashiest performance belongs to George Kennedy as Dragline who also steals the show. He begins as a sort of villain but eventually becomes friends with Luke and a sentimental and good character.

Cool Hand Luke is an amazing film because it does so much with so little. It doesn't have much of a story but is one of the great entertainments not because of mindless action or corny dialogue but because it has characters that you care about and moves along at an extremely fast pace. It's depiction of prison life is both harsh and tender at the same time. I think that that was another one of the things that I found really interesting was the film's depiction of prison. I hadn't really ever seen a prison movie before and I thought that this film's depiction of it was very interesting and fun to watch.

One of the best things about Cool Hand Luke is that I came away with a lot of questions during and after watching the film. Why did Luke want to escape so badly? He had friends in the prison, it wasn't like he was miserable. What is the film saying about Luke's rebellious behavior. Maybe the film is a commentary on the Vietnam War protests of the time. I don't really know much about this film so I found it interesting to disect the themes. One thing I can say for sure is that I loved Cool Hand Luke and will be revisiting it again and again.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989) review

I wanted to start this review off with an iconic quote for this great film but I don't think there is one. There isn't that much in terms of great dialogue but Christmas Vacation is the perfect film to put you in the spirit for one side of Christmas. The side where everything centers around the presents, the decorations, the food, the tree, the cookies and the lights. But Christmas Vacation represents only one half of the Christmas equation. In addition to the material side, there is also the spiritual side and the humanity that comes with the season. That is represented by It's A Wonderful Life, which is not just a Christmas Classic but a Classic in general. Now in no way am I comparing Christmas Vacation to It's A Wonderful Life; they compare in no way and one is far supreme. What I'm saying is that if there are two definitive Christmas films, it's these two. Now some people would argue for A Christmas Story (which I hope to watch for the first time on Christmas) and Miracle On 34th Street (which has been on all week but I haven't gotten through it) but I think that these two films are the best.

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation centers on the hijinks of the Griswold family led by father Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) and mother Ellen Griswold (Bevely D'Angelo). The Griswold family is having a big family Christmas with all the relatives coming. I can't really come up with a good summary for this film because there isn't a ton of plot that I can describe about the movie. But all you need to know is that it will put you in the spirit and it is pretty dang funny.

Chevy Chase is once again very funny in his defining role as Clark Griswold. He is amazingly stupid and also very funny. The rest of the cast is great as well and it's a true ensemble. For a Big Bang Theory fan like me, it was also great to see Johnny Galecki as Rusty. But Randy Quaid steals the show as Cousin Eddie, whos is absolutely hilarious in the second half of the film. Overall, I don't have very many complaints about the film except that it gets a little too serious for five minutes in the midst of all the stupidity and it took away from the tone a little bit.

Christmas Vacation is the perfect film to get into the spirit of the season. I watched this film a few days ago and I felt more excited and happier than ever that Christmas was only four days away. It has all the ridiculousness and humor of a Chevy Chase film with the spirit of Christmas. And Christmas can get a little ridiculous, so I guess Christmas Vacation is a perfect embodiment of that insanity.

Die Hard (1988) review

Yippie-Kay Yay! It's John McTiernan's holiday classic Die Hard. Although this is far from a "Christmas" film, it has some Christmas songs and is set around Christmas time. The action in Die Hard is pretty awesome but it is the dialogue the crackles and lights up the screen even more. Bruce Willis delivers all his lines with awesome wit and power at the same time. Along with that, Die Hard has a great villain in Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). Add it all up and Die Hard is worth watching again and again because of it's entertainment value but also because of its smarts.

Die Hard centers around John McClane (Willis), a New York cop who travels to Los Angeles to celebrate Christmas with his estranged wife, Holly and kids who moved out to LA after a job opportunity came up for her. McClane heads to Nakatomi Plaza to attend his wife's holiday party but soon a group of terrorists led by Hans (Alan Rickman) and Karl (Alexander Godunov). Their goal is to take the money in the safe of Joseph Takagi (James Shigeta) and escape with a few other tricks up their sleeve. But McClane escapes before Hans can round him up and he leads a one man attack against Hans and his army.

First off, Die Hard is very entertaining. There is lots of action, lots of gunfire, and lots of twists. And it is a relatively simple plot, which is refreshing for a change. It's one of those films that you can just turn on and jump right into with out having to think too much. All the acting is great. Bruce Willis is stunning in his career-defining role and Alan Rickman is equally as good in his second most famous role after Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films. The action is also expertly crafted. There isn't a ton of explosions or stunt-work, just good-old fashioned gunfire and fist fights.

My only complaint is that it is sometimes too simple. There are times where Die Hard plays a little too much like a video game. Okay, McClane killed this guy, let's see who's next. That is the plot of the middle section of the film. But no video game I have ever played is a smart or has as much great dialogue as Die Hard. That is what separates Die Hard from being another generic action flick. It's like this year's The Avengers, except with a lot more f-bombs.

Die Hard is definitely a film worth watching again and again. It is mindless and fun but also hilarious and well-done. On a side note, since most readers of my blog are kids and teens and I am
14 years old, I figured I would add that Die Hard is rated R and contains an almost constant stream of profanity and some moments of graphic violence. It's bloody but not gory. I won't suggest an age because that isn't my job but I figured that I would add that for readers.

Good Night, and Good Luck (2005) review

If I had a one word to describe George Clooney's 2005 film, it would be smoky. Most of the film takes place in smoke filled rooms with various CBS workers discussing their plan to expose Senator Joseph McCarthy, chairman of HUAC (Hearings for Un-American Activities Committee). McCarthy blindly chose people and named them as communists just for attention and put the majority of the country in fear. But thanks to Edward R. Murrow, Fred Friendly and a team of journalists at CBS news, the tide changed and McCarthy's position was taken away from him. This is a big story and it is told very well by director George Clooney but unfortunately the film is too cramped, too fast and not long enough.

As I said, Good Night and Good Luck is about Edward Murrow's (David Strathairn) plan to expose Senator McCarthy and for the first time in the history of television, take an opinion on the news instead of just report it. Murrow has help from his friend Fred Friendly (Clooney), Joe Wershba (Robert Downey Jr.) and Sig Mickelson (Jeff Daniels) with some opposition from his boss (Frank Langella).

First off, Clooney's direction is fantastic. Good Night, and Good Luck was filmed in black and white and it helps the movie tremendously. There is so much Clooney does with the shadows and the smoke and the setting, you would think that he was a master at work. What he does with black and white is something I hadn't ever seen in a film besides Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Honestly, I shouldn't give all the credit to Clooney; whoever did the cinematography should have won a lot of awards in 2005. The cast is also a fantastic ensemble. Everyone has a small role except for Strathairn and Clooney but everyone contributes something to the film.

But there is one big problem in an otherwise gripping, entertaining, and interesting film: it's way too short. It feels like Clooney decided to play it safe in his directorial debut and make just a short, high quality film. But there is way more material than what is in Clooney's film. This story is so interesting and so good, that you just want to see more but Clooney doesn't put it in the film. The film runs for 93 minutes but you wish it was more like 123, because the content is surely there.

I can say that I really liked Good Night, and Good Luck but it felt very rushed and moved a little too fast for my taste. But it is definitely a film that you should watch and enjoy but I think that it is a bit of a disappointment because there is so much more that could have been done with the material provided.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Dr. No (1962) review

"Bond. James Bond." The legend begins in Dr. No. Everything iconic about the super spy begins in this film. The beautiful girls. The stunning landscapes. The gun shot through a barrel opening. The memorable characters that would be in all Bond films to come. Felix, Q, M, Moneypenny; they're all here. Dr. No is not a great film but it is so memorable because it establishes everything we love about Bond in great style. There is not much action and there is some bad acting (Quarrel) and it isn't as outlandish as some other Bond film but it was the first and without everything that it does, we wouldn't have James Bond.

Dr. No has Bond traveling to Jamaica to investigate Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman), a member of SPECTRE that is planning something against the US space program. In Jamaica, Bond teams up with Felix Leiter (Jack Lord), Quarrel, and Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress) to stop Dr. No and save the US space program.

First off, I will say that Dr. No is pretty slow. Compared to other Bond films, this is like a PBS documentary. There is not much in terms of gun play or fighting and more time spent establishing the character. The villain also is very weak. Dr. No comes into play only in the final twenty minutes of the film and even then his screen time is minute. His plan is never very clear and Joseph Wiseman doesn't quite have the charisma like the other Bond villains that helps him to just control the screen with his performance.

But where Dr. No fails is fixed in the Bond films that came after and the precedents it set are still used in Bond films today. The beautiful girls, the Bond formula, and the characters are timeless and have helped sustain the Bond films for the past 50 years. While Dr. No is not necessarily a great film, it is iconic and must watch for any fan of the franchise. After watching several Bond films and then watching this one, it brought a smile to my face to see it all begin. Dr. No is something that all action fans and all Bond fans must watch.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Artist (2011) review

A very dark and depressing Singin' in the Rain. That is how I would describe The Artist. It essentially follows the same plot as that classic musical for a while but it goes off in very grim and bleak directions. The main character loses everything, fires his beloved chauffeur (James Cromwell), destroys all his films and even puts a gun in his mouth. It isn't the most fun movie to watch but it is an interesting and well made homage to silent films.

The Artist follows George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), a big-time silent film star who is at the top of his game when the talking films show up. His boss (John Goodman) proposes them to Valentin and he rejects them and it completely derails his career. Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) starts as an extra and rises up to be a talking movie star. She becomes the star of Hollywood and a very famous actress. Miller's rise happens during Valentin's fall and his resistance to talking films results in empty movie houses for his silent film. But eventually they come together and make for a happy ending.

One thing I will say is that I don't understand how this won best picture. 2011 was a strong year in my opinion and the prize should have gone to The Descendants or Moneyball, both very good and very entertaining films. I only found the first hour of The Artist to be entertaining. I liked some of the silent film homages and the overall atmosphere but it gets way too depressing way too fast. I didn't think it was great.

The acting is good. Bejo and Dujardin are quite a duo and I would say that Dujardin was deserving of his best picture Oscar (although Brad Pitt was also very good). The direction is good as well. I really don't have that much to say about this film. It's decent but it is nothing special. I think that even major movie buffs could find this film boring and it doesn't have enough upside for it to be a great film.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey review

It took me a long time to watch Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. I always sort of dismissed it as something that I wouldn't want to watch and just never did for a while. I finally did this summer and I loved all three with Return of the King being my favorite. They were epic, exciting and emotional: everything you could possibly expect from big-scale blockbusters. I would say that after watching those films I was genuinely excited to see The Hobbit. After seeing it, I have a lot of mixed feelings.

The Hobbit tells the story of how Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) went on an adventure with a group of dwarves, whose names are Fili, Kili, Dori, Nori, Ori, Bifur, Bofur, Bombur, Balin, Dwalin, Oin, Gloin and their leader Thorin Oakenshield. The dwarves want to take back their homeland of Erebor which was taken by the dragon Smaug. And basically that is it. There is also a subplot involving the Necromancer, an evil spirit and of course the ring. The Hobbit tells of how Bilbo Baggins found the ring which is the foundation of Peter Jackson's fantastic trilogy.

The Hobbit is a short fantasy novel that is aimed at kids and with not a ton at stake. Why Peter Jackson expanded this book into three films is unknown. There really is no reason beyond money. Jackson is known for doing extended cuts of his films on DVD and if there is one for The Hobbit, I will be amazed. I don't think anything was cut. This is not enough material for a trilogy. The whole film consists of the dwarves wandering around Middle Earth while being chased by Orcs. There isn't enough to keep the entertainment level of Lord of the Rings going in The Hobbit. Peter Jackson started with this franchise a long time ago, where he planned to make The Hobbit one film and then two Lord of the Rings films. New Line told him to make three and now somehow he's making three Hobbit films. I don't understand. Not everyone is up for a three hour long Middle Earth epic and certainly not three of them.

After my rant, I will say that once again Peter Jackson makes this high fantasy material easily accessible for audiences. While I have read The Hobbit, I haven't read Lord of the Rings or Tolkien's footnotes so I'm not an expert like Jackson. So I don't honestly know that much about Middle-earth. Jackson still makes it a fun ride, keeping the time spent wandering mindlessly through the forest on par with the amount of fighting. And he manages to reclaim some of the magic that he captured in Lord of the Rings. But certainly not all of it. And certainly not enough to make the Hobbit a great film or maybe even a good one. I have to say that the future is promising for this trilogy. I think that the ending puts Desolation of Smaug in a good position.

Now for the good. The special effects are amazing, with Middle-earth looking as great as ever. But the effects are also misused. The acting is pretty good. I really liked Martin Freeman and Richard Armitrage. They both fit their roles nicely and add some more memorable characters to the Lord of the Rings canon. The action sequences are good, if a little bit clunky. They aren't quite as smooth or as big as some of the scenes in The Two Towers or The Return of the King. But the final battle before the final battle is really good and clean and the scene with Gollum is really good.

Now for the bad: it's a butt-numbing three hour film that takes a long time to get going and when it gets going, isn't really sure where it wants to go. The first hour is pretty good actually. I know a lot of people are not a fan of it and say that it is two slow but I think it was perfect to set up the story and get you back into Middle-earth. Some of the few moments where I recaptured the feeling I got when I first watched LOTR were in the first hour. The second hour is where it really gets you. I was kind of bored during that part at times. I think Jackson wanted to have the source material to make a film that could stand up with the LOTR films but he didn't have it. His result is a series of meaningless chase sequences with little bits and pieces of plot thrown in to move the story along just enough to keep the audience's attention. And the stuff he does thrown in doesn't always make sense. One of my few problems with Lord of the Rings is that they were huge and they were high fantasy which means breesing by things that are important yet might not make sense to the audience. I found that frustrating at times. And with three films for one book, Jackson had a real chance to take his time with the important things. There was some bit about some Necromancer. I had no idea what was going on. And they never bring it up again after Gandalf (Ian McKellen), Saruman (Christopher Lee), Galadriel (Cate Blanchett) and Elrond (Hugo Weaving) talk about it.

Another thing that could have been handled better is the dwarves. There is thirteen and I could recognize about four. I hope the sequels go through the backround of the rest of these dwarves into greater detail. The effects are also overused. Lord of the Rings had some great special effects work but also a lot of practical effects use. The Hobbit is all over-animated, over-done, obviously computer generated effects. It was just too much. Even my little brother said after the film: "It was good, but there was too much animation." There is no reason for Jackson not to ground Middle-earth in some reality. The Orcs are less scary because they are less real. I hope they have some practical effects in The Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again.

But overall, I would say that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is worth it. Beneath all my criticisms, there is an entertaining film in The Hobbit. I think that Jackson will improve with his next films but I have one more problem that I would like to bring up. His multiple endings show up again. There is a battle scene that finishes up and then another starts and then that ends and then there is finally the end scene. I don't know it just bothers me. One thing you should go in thinking and knowing is that it is not Lord of the Rings (even though the narrative is very similar to The Fellowship of the Ring). If you know that, then you will enjoy the film much more. But it is entertaining and worth seeing in the theater.

THE FINAL GRADE: C+                                           (6.1/10)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Live and Let Die (1973) review

Roger Moore finally gave some stability to the Bond franchise. After bouncing around from actor to actor (it went Connery to Lazenby to Connery), producers Harry Saltzman and Albert Broccoli finally settled on Roger Moore. Moore went on to play the superspy until he was 56, starring in seven Bond films. Live and Let Die was his first and it is actually pretty good. It starts off nicely, lags in the middle, and has a fantastic final hour.

Live and Let Die sees James Bond hunting down Dr. Kamanga (Yaphet Kotto), a leader from the island of San Monique. He is responsible for the death of three MI6 agents, who all died on the same day. Bond first heads to New Orleans to investigate and discovers that Kamanga is self growing heroin and plans to get the world heroin market under his control. Bond also meets the beautiful Solitaire (Jane Seymour), Kamanga's fortune teller who falls in love with Bond.

Replacing Sean Connery was no easy task. And I'm not saying that Moore is nearly as good as Connery or even Daniel Craig. But he does a solid job of filling in the characters shoes and making it so that the Bonds that Connery and Moore are not drastically different. While the Bond films are different and certainly less action oriented, I felt that Moore did a solid job of filling in some big shoes.

Live and Let Die is an interesting Bond film because it is so different. Most Bond films take place in beautiful, lush locations. Live and Let Die takes place in New Orleans and an island that isn't exactly pretty. So there it is the complete opposite of the previous Bond films. But it works for Live and Let Die. It just feels so right for the film.

Kananga's plan is a little muddled. It isn't explained well in the film and there are a lot of henchmen and double crosses involving Kananga's people. But I think that that is what makes it so interesting at times because you don't know what is going to happen next. And the last half is a blast. It is non-stop action. One minute Bond is about to get eaten by crocodiles, the next they're on a speedy boat chase and the next Kananga and Bond are fighting in his underwater tank. It is very exciting. And Jane Seymour is very good as Solitaire. The voodoo aspect is interesting but it isn't always explained very well with what it means for the story.

Overall, Live and Let Die is a pretty good film and worth a watch. The score is amazing and the theme is the best ever. Without question. There are some missteps, but I would say that this was a pretty good start to the Roger Moore era.

Thunderball (1965) review

Thunderball was Sean Connery's fourth film as the secret agent James Bond. It is considered to be a step down from the series' previous films which included classics such as Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger. And it certainly is. Thunderball includes some memorable moments but it isn't much fun until the end and it has a villain that isn't fleshed out and way too much focus on the Bond girls. Plainly, Thunderball is a mess. It has a beautiful setting but its story is as generic as they come and it just isn't much fun.

Thunderball has James Bond going to Nassau in the Bahamas to stop Largo (Adolfo Celi), a SPECTRE commander from detonating two nuclear warheads and sending the world into chaos. Bond heads down and meets two girls, Fiona (Luciana Paluzzi) and Domino (Claudine Auger) who both help and hurt him in his quest to stop Largo. The film has several underwater sequences including a final epic underwater fight that is the most fun the film ever has.

Thunderball is mostly boring. There is not much going on and there is hardly no action until the final sequence. All the focus is on the Bond girls it seemed like to me, and they are both barely discernible from each other. It just seems like it goes on for a long time. And the film gets off to a weird and slow start. Connery is not as strong as he is in Goldfinger but the thing that bothered me the most was the villain.

Largo is a member of SPECTRE. He is the basis of the Number Two character in Austin Powers (in fact there are several things in this movie that Myers took inspiration from). But there is no motive. There is no reason that Largo is doing what he is doing. I guess that you are supposed to just assume that he is evil but I'm used to more complex villains like Darth Vader and even Silva from Skyfall. It just seems so weak. And with someone that wants to kill a million people, you expect that they either have a reason or they are just crazy. Largo has neither. It just seems like there isn't enough there for a villain and that this guy just felt like killing people. I don't know, I wasn't a fan.

The only fun part of Thunderball is the underwater fight sequence at the end of the film. It's such a cheesy end to the film that it only feels right for a poor movie. There is a bunch of spears and guns and sharks and it is really stupid. But it is a lot of fun.

Thunderball has a few good things about it. I liked the theme song and the opening credits sequences and the ending but that is not enough to justify a watch. There are plenty more Bond films that are better than this one.

Goldfinger (1964) review

Goldfinger is often known as the gold standard of the Bond franchise. While it may be surpassed by Skyfall, it certainly is a fantastic action film that is smart, witty, and packed with virtually non-stop action. This is one of the best of the series and it is helped by iconic set pieces and of course, the definitive Bond, Sean Connery. It's a blast.

Goldfinger is the 3rd film adventure of super-spy James Bond (Sean Connery). This time, he is in Miami, spying on Auric Goldfinger (Gert Frobe), a man that MI6 chief M is worried about. He falls into bed with Goldfinger's assistant Jill Masterson (Shirley Eaton) but she ends up dead, covered in gold paint. Bond follows Goldfinger's trail and it eventually leads to more iconic set pieces and characters including a scene where Goldfinger threatens to saw Bond in half, the air pilot Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) and a final battle at Fort Knox.

As I have said, I love the Daniel Craig Bond films. Casino Royale is amazing, and Skyfall may very well be my favorite movie of 2012. But Connery IS James Bond. He first played the character and it just feels like everything he does is iconic. And Goldfinger is full of iconic moments. "Martini, shaken, not stirred." was originated in Goldfinger in fact.

Also, it is entertaining almost from start to finish. There is a ton of action and a ton of special effects that you are almost always entertained. Another reason this Bond film is so good is that it is the perfect mixture of everything we love about the Bond franchise. There is tons of action, sex, and witty remarks but it is all balanced perfectly so that you don't feel like there is too much of anything. That is one area where I feel that other Bond movies lack. Thunderball is too much about the girls. Skyfall is too much about the action sometimes. Goldfinger lies right in the middle and that is the best thing about it.

The action is stunning too for an older film. It still holds up as exciting, entertaining and awesome. The final battle at Fort Knox has an amount of machine gun fire unrivaled by almost any other Bond movie that was released before 1990. The film has some problems with continuity and plausibility but isn't that the endless appeal of the Bond franchise? I mean, there is not a plausible story out of the bunch and in the real world Bond would be shot in a minute and not put into elaborate death traps. Bond is the ultimate guy. He gets all the girls, he gets to kill bad guys for a living and he gets to go on all sorts of exotic vacations. And he never ends up dead. That is the whole appeal of the franchise and Goldfinger shows off how awesome these movies are with extreme ease. It's one of the best I've seen so far.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lincoln review

Abraham Lincoln is one of the greatest men in history. He led a country in a time of great crisis, he got rid of its greatest poison and he was a very honest man. His great personality and things he did have been portrayed on screen a handful of times, most famously by Henry Fonda in Young Mr. Lincoln. But now we have a definitive screen portrayal of Lincoln in Steven Spielberg's new film named based on its title character. Daniel Day-Lewis is a powerhouse as Abraham Lincoln leading the ensemble cast of the year that delivers about ten fantastic performances. Spielberg's Lincoln has some flaws but if Day-Lewis does not win another Oscar, I will be shocked.

Lincoln focuses on the 16th president trying to pass the13th amendment to free the slaves. At the same time, the Civil War is winding down as the South knows that they will not win the war. Lincoln's goal is to pass the amendment before the south rejoins the union because he knows that they will vote against it. He and Secretary of State William Seward (David Strathairn) must procure twenty democratic votes to get the amendment passed. Lincoln gets three men (John Hawkes, James Spader, and Tim Blake Nelson) to persuade democratic voters to vote yes while dealing with a tricky political situation. He also deals with Thaddeus Stevens (Tommy Lee Jones), a strict abolitionist who wants more than just for the slaves to be free. Lincoln takes place in one month of presidency and basically follows up to the end of his life. It is not a full biopic of Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln is basically two and a half hours of dialogue. There is one battle sequence at the beginning but after that, it is all talking. So it is a miracle that this film is as entertaining as it is. The acting is top notch and in a weaker year would give Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones and Sally Field Oscars for their performances (Day-Lewis and Jones will still win, Anne Hathaway will beat Sally Field). But it is not just the three main roles. David Strathairn is very good as Seward. Hawkes, Spader and Nelson are very good as well. There isn't a bad performance in the film (except I think that Sally Field wasn't great as Mary Todd Lincoln). That is the best part of the film.

The script is also very well done but it isn't necessarily cinematic. Most of Spielberg's films are the prime example of what cinema is but Lincoln at times feels less like a movie and more like a stage play. Maybe it is because Lincoln doesn't do the same things that typical Spielberg movies do. Lincoln is not an extremely sentimental film (SPOILER: it ends in his death) and that feels unusual for Spielberg. Most of the film takes place in smoke-filled dark rooms with people talking.

I think that for a film with all dialogue, Lincoln is extremely entertaining, thanks in no small part to Day-Lewis' charismatic performance as Lincoln. But I felt that the first section of the film wasn't nearly interesting enough. It is very slow to start with not much interesting going on. But once Tommy Lee Jones' character comes in along with Lincoln's three persuaders, the film picks up and becomes very exciting.

The actors performances help you to relate to the characters. Tommy Lee Jones is commanding as Stevens and Day-Lewis is both subtle and scene stealing as the title character. The characters are good characters that you can relate to. Lincoln just wants to do the best thing for the country while Stevens is a man highly dedicated to a cause. I think that unless someone gains significant momentum Day-Lewis will win an Oscar and unless Leonardo DiCaprio is an absolute powerhouse, Jones will win another Oscar.

This is where I have a hard time as a reviewer. Because Lincoln is a very good film. It has a fantastic script by Tony Kushner, fantastic acting, and for the most part, it is entertaining. But it is all dialogue and it can be pretty slow. I always want to score films based on their entertainment level while at the same time, how skilled they are as a film. I think that Lincoln is a very good film that has many good things and is pretty entertaining and will definitely win Oscars but I will never watch it again. It just can't quite match up to the mixture of skill and entertainment that the year's other great films like Argo, Skyfall and The Dark Knight Rises have.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B                                             (7.2/10)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"Life of Pi" is all style, no substance

An epic once deemed unfilmable, Life of Pi has now hit the big screen. It is directed by visionary director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and features some beautiful CGI. Yann Martel's novel has a long history. It was a surprise hit about a tiger and an Indian boy stranded at sea that climbed the best sellers charts and won tons of book awards. Several directors including M. Night Shyamalan and Alfonso Cuaron tried and failed to adapt the novel. Finally, Ang Lee got around to making it. The film has been acclaimed widely and is one of the leading contenders for best picture. And for me, it is a momentous disappointment.

Life of Pi tells the life story of Piscine Patel, a man who grows up in Pondicherry, a place in French India. His father owns and operates a zoo and he is around several animals his whole life. He also takes a liking to several religions, embracing Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. The zoo goes bankrupt eventually and his family is forced to move to Canada. All of that takes about forty minutes in the movie but it feels like an hour. Finally, there is a shipwreck and Pi ends up on a lifeboat with a tiger, orangutan, zebra and wild dog.

Life of Pi has some of the most impressive visuals ever put on film. Everything in the film looks like a beautiful painting or an exquisite work of art. The ocean, the animals, the swimming pools all look fantastic. But it doesn't matter. Visuals cannot save a film and Life of Pi is not redeemed by its visuals.

First off, Life of Pi is slow. It has nothing of interest for the whole movie. It takes forever to get into the story and once the shipwreck happens, it goes back to doing nothing. I think that there was no way to make it interesting. You know how the film is going to end and the film is not interesting enough to justify sitting through the entire thing. Secondly, it is very, very long. Or at least it feels like it is. Life of Pi is only 2hrs, 5 mins. But I felt like I was in that theater for about 4 hours. I checked my watch more times than I can count and I cannot remember a time that I was ever that bored during a film. Actually, it has never happened before.

Life of Pi is a film full of religion and philosophical theory. And the theory is that Pi miraculously survived his ordeal because of his passionate love of God and that God helped him specifically. And I find that movies about those kinds of things are very interesting but this film just feels like it has nothing under the surface. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a film that I love and it is similar to Life of Pi in many ways. But the difference between Life of Pi and 2001 is that everything in Life of Pi is spelled out piece by piece. You understand everything. I have watched 2001 around four times and I still don't understand everything. And there is just something special about it that makes it standout despite the slow pacing.

Life of Pi has nothing of interest for me. This is just my preference. Judging by the A- cinemascore that it received, it seems like a lot of people do like it. But it is just not my type. I think that it has moments of interest (like some of the religious philosophy) but I think that this was meant to be a book and stay a book. Some people are going to moved to tears and some people are going to hate it. I fall into the second category.

THE FINAL GRADE:  D                                             (4.4/10)

"Skyfall" is an amazing blast of action filmmaking

Fifty years ago, a spy franchise based on Ian Fleming's best selling novels was started. The first film was Dr. No and it became an instant hit. The James Bond franchise spawned twenty-two films after that one and became one of the most well known and loved film series' in the world that has been played by Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig. The twenty-third James Bond film, Skyfall, was released this year. And I can tell you, it is one of the best Bonds yet.

Skyfall begins with an exciting chase through the streets of Istanbul. Bond (Daniel Craig) is chasing Patrice (Ola Rapace) a man who has stolen the drive containing the identity of every NATO and MI6 agent fighting terrorist organizations across the globe. Bond chases Patrice across a train but the other agent (Naomie Harris) who is helping Bond shoots Bond and he falls off the train. Bond is presumed dead but after an attack on the MI6 building in London, Bond returns to hunt down the cyberterrorist Silva (Javier Bardem), who is bent on revenge against M (Judi Dench) and MI6. It all ends in a series of exciting action and chases that make Skyfall one of the most exciting Bond films yet.

Skyfall is an immensly entertaining film. The action is entertaining, the dialogue is good and the acting is fantastic as well. In many ways, Skyfall is a classic Bond film. It has all the excitement and small touches of the original films but with a modern feel. It has all the elements like the sadistic villain, the exotic locales and the beautiful Bond girls. Both Craig and director Sam Mendes say that they wanted to make a classic Bond film that was a bit lighter than the previous installments and they definitely did that.

In many ways, Skyfall mirrors The Dark Knight. Its themes have a lot to do with terrorism and what people do to stop them but director Sam Mendes put a cool twist on it. In The Dark Knight, the Joker creates chaos with bombs and guns and weapons. Skyfall's Silva does it all with a computer. He kills with the press of a button on a keyboard and that scares both Bond and M, who feel that they have fallen behind in the world of espionage. They used to be able to stop the bad guys by sending agents with guns into the field but now its a different world. I thought that element was very interesting and that it put a nice twist on the over-used terrorism angle.

The direction and cinematography are fantastic. Unlike Marc Forster in Quantum of Solace, Sam Mendes films Skyfall with fluidity: you can always tell what is going on in the action. It has a sleek, cool look to it that has more in common with a Christopher Nolan film than any Bond or Bourne movie in the last ten years. The cinematography is stunning. If cinematographer Roger Deakins does not get an Oscar for his work on the film, I will be surprised. There is so much right about the way he films the movie. The scenes in Shanghai are breathtaking and mindblowing and I loved every minute of them. Everything in the film has a sense of beauty or excitement to it and I hope Deakins is recognized at the year's end.

The acting is fabulous, led by strong performances from Craig, Dench, and Bardem. Bond and M's emotional story is the heart of the story but the standout for me is Bardem. He gives such evil power to Silva and one of the standouts of the film is the entrance of Silva who gives a scary dialogue to Bond, who is strapped to a chair. He's like a slightly less creepy yet more homosexual Joker. He carries the second half of the film.

The film has some plot holes. One of the unque and powerful things about Skyfall is that it gives Bond a backstory, but it is a slightly under-developed. It is adressed and is handled in the simplest of terms but it is something I hope they adress more in the future Bond films.

Overall, Skyfall is a fantastic Bond film. It is the best Bond that Daniel Craig has been in so far and a very exciting action film. It has some minor holes but the film is good enough to warrant a five star rating. I think that the other exciting thing is that it lays the groundwork for future Bond films. In some ways, Skyfall is more of a reboot than Casino Royale. I have seen Skyfall twice now and I left both times excited for the next one. I hope that Mendes and Logan return and I can't wait for November 2014.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A+                                            (10/10)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

"Skyfall" grosses franchise record $87.8 million, "Lincoln" huge in 11 theaters

One of the holiday season's biggest films was released this weekend coming in the form of Skyfall, the 23rd James Bond film. This film was the most successful since The Dark Knight Rises in July grossing a franchise record $87.8 million along with an A Cinemascore. That gross is more than twice Casino Royale's 2006 debut and $20 million more than Quantum of Solace. Bond will have great legs as it is the only major action film in the next month (sorry Red Dawn fans) and it is seeming to attract all kinds of people. It could hit $250 million at the domestic box office if it holds well.

Another major feat occurred t[his weekend as Skyfall has now passed $500 million worldwide. That is a massive total and the $200 million film is sure to recoup its budget and possibly hit somewhere around $800 million. That is a massive total and the highest for a Bond film. The film will likely pass Quantum of Solace and Casino Royale by next weekend.

In second place, Disney's Wreck-It Ralph grossed $33 million. That is a good hold, not great but good. It was a little lower than my projection but it should hold well in the following weeks until Rise of the Guardians. It has now grossed $93 million domestically. Paramount's Flight finished 3rd with a $15 million weekend. That is a good hold for an R-rated drama but nothing compared to Argo's hold in October. The A- Cinemascore didn't help Flight as much. In fourth was Affleck's drama, which took a harder hit than in previous weeks grossing only $6.7 million. The R-rated drama has now grossed $85.7 million. In fifth place, Taken 2 took in another $4 million.

In limited release, Steven Spielberg's Oscar-buzzed drama Lincoln grossed $900,000 in 11 theaters. That adds up to a marvelous $81, 818 per theater. Lincoln goes wide next week so we'll see how it goes.

Next weekend is bound to be a big one. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn- Part 2 opens and so does Lincoln for non-Twilight fans. This weekend's total gross was around $160 million.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Christoph Waltz now a major best actor candidate, Django Unchained moves up in Oscar race

Apparently, there was a screening of Django Unchained on the Sony lot and it has shaken up the Oscar race. In addition to Christoph Waltz now being in the Best Actor race, Gold Derby's Tom O'Neill says that an insider has told the site that Waltz: "Towers over the whole film" and that the day this screens for major critics it will shake up the Oscar race. The cut of the film is additionally reported to be three hours long and Tarantino is cutting the film down right now. This is big news.

Django Unchained has fallen off the radar of many people who predict the Oscars and I think that now everybody has it back on. Waltz is definitely now a top 5 for the best actor race. On Sunday's Oscar update I think that I will be implementing so big changes. For now here is the updates for the leaders in each of the major categories:






"Les Miserables" looks great, Oscar contender is here- Trailer Scorecard

The latest trailer for director Tom Hooper's Les Miserables has been released. The film stars Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean a former prisoner who takes possession of Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) the daughter of Fantine (Anne Hathaway) while being chased by Javert (Russell Crowe) all while the French Revolution is going on. Here is the latest trailer for Les Miserables:

Wow. The Oscar season really is here. Les Miserables looks like a perfect mixture of fantastic visuals, amazing musical pieces and great action. The first time I watched this trailer I felt it was too sentimental but now I see what they're going for. Les Miserables is going to be one of the major Oscar candidates. There is all the ingredients. Plus, it looks really good. I think that Les Miserables is going to be a major player. I am looking forward to the film and I am hoping it is good.

"Warm Bodies" trailer is funny, heartfelt- Trailer Scorecard

The trailer for Summit Entertainment's Warm Bodies has been released. The film stars Nicholas Hoult as a zombie named R who falls in love with a girl (Teresa Palmer) who is a leader in the fight against zombies. R then protects her and their star crossed romance can only end with a battle between the zombies and the humans. Also starring Dave Franco and John Malkovich. Here is the trailer link for Warm Bodies.

The trailer was not available on youtube yet so I had to link you to another site. Wow, Warm Bodies looks fantastic. Like I am genuinely shocked that this is not another sappy Twilight melodrama. This looks hilarious, action-packed and something that I think is going to be a big hit. The trailer features a lot of zombie violence which is good, I like action. But then I'm just shocked that it actually looks funny and that it looks good. It does look a little campy and stupid but who cares? I think that Summit may have struck gold with this one, a very broad zombie romance comedy.


"Skyfall" to be the biggest Bond ever and win the weekend

This weekend will showcase the opening of Skyfall, the 23rd film in the James Bond saga. It will surely win the weekend by a huge margin. Skyfall actually opened today in select IMAX theaters but its official opening is today. Daniel Craig's third outing as James Bond is sure to be the biggest yet thanks to great reviews (93% on Rotten Tomatoes) and pent-up demand (there has not been a Bond film in four years). The great international numbers are highly encouraging and Skyfall seems poised to open higher than both Quantum of Solace and Casino Royale. Also, skeptics of Quantum of Solace are already behind Skyfall which means that its gross will be even bigger. Expect an $80 million + debut this weekend. On a side note, I cannot see the film this weekend so don't expect a review (I should have one by the17th). In second place, Wreck-It Ralph will maintain good momentum thanks to word of mouth and little competition. Expect a drop similar to the one Puss in Boots had last year and a $35 million second weekend gross. The Denzel Washington vehicle Flight should drop slightly and make about $17 million this weekend. The film has good word of mouth and it will drop more next weekend. Argo will have another short drop and make another $8 million. To round out the top 5, The Man with the Iron Fists will make about $4 million for a 50% drop.

1. Skyfall- $84 million
2. Wreck-It Ralph- $35 million
3. Flight- $17 million
4. Argo- $8.2 million
5. The Man with the Iron Fists- $4 million

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Holiday Box Office Projections (Final)

The holiday box office is one of the most lucrative of the year. It is a time when Hollywood is gearing up for the Oscars but at the same time releasing some of the biggest blockbusters of the year. The holiday box office truly began last week with Disney's very good animated comedy Wreck-It Ralph but I couldn't do it in time, so I'll start with the week of November 9. Here is my box office projections through December 25.


1. Skyfall- $84 million opening- $235 million total- Skyfall is the 23rd film in the James Bond franchise. It is riding a huge wave of buzz for being one of the best Bond films ever and that should certainly give the film an advantage. Skyfall will also benefit from pent-up demand: it has been four years since Quantum of Solace. The second chapter in the Daniel Craig Bond franchise was not well reviewed or enjoyed by the general public but enough people will just remember the first chapter, 2006's Casino Royale. The film is also the first major action blockbuster in several months. The last one was really The Expendables 2. People are ready for Skyfall and this film is going to be the biggest Bond ever.


1. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn- Part 2- $150 million opening- $325 million total- Final chapters in sagas tend to do very well and Breaking Dawn-Part 2 will be no exception. This film is going to be huge. It has all the fans and all the buzz and it is already tracking huge. The question is: how big? I think the buzz that the film is actually good should help and it has more action than the other films. Deathly Hallows Part 1 opened to $125 million. Part 2 opened to $169 million. I don't think the gap between the two will be that high but it should be higher than Part 1's $138 million.

2. Lincoln- $20 million opening- $115 million total - Lincoln is Steven Spielberg's is one of the most anticipated films for adults this year. Lincoln is getting major Oscar buzz and it's more than just awards bait (the way most people felt about last year's War Horse, even though I liked it). It's got a famed director, an all-star cast and a everything people love this time of year. However, a film like Lincoln doesn't scream "BOX OFFICE MONEY!!" but recent successes Flight and Argo have proved that there is a big adult audience that wants to see quality films and Lincoln could tap right into that.


1. Rise of the Guardians- $60 million 5-day opening- $180 million total- I have heard that this animated film is not all that spectacular and that could hurt word of mouth. But the fact that is the only animated film this holiday season will help it significantly. The holiday feel is also going to make it a huge success. Christmas films do well this time of year unsurprisingly and I don't think Rise of the Guardians will be any different.

2. Life of Pi- $25 million 5-day opening- $75 million total- This is a film that sounds like it's going to be too weird for the general public. Even I really don't know what the story is about beyond the fact that it is about a boy, a tiger, and other animals stuck on a boat after a shipwreck. It is rated PG which could help bring in family audiences but it is a very hard PG from the descriptions I have heard so far. The only things really going for the film are its visual effects (supposedly the best since Avatar) and the millions of people who read the book. I think that it could really take off if people like it but I'm thinking very modestly right now.

3. Silver Linings Playbook- $20 million 5-day weekend- $95 million total- I think that this is going to be a word of mouth sensation. The film is getting major Oscar buzz out of the Toronto International Film Festival and I think that it is one of those broadly appealing romantic comedies that people are going to love. The storyline follows a mentally ill man (Bradley Cooper) whose wife was cheating on him and he ends up going to a mental hospital for his bi-polar disorder. Then he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) a woman with an even worse mental illness, and they fall in love. The reviews say it is sentimental but tough and I think that it may be too emotional for people who were expecting something different. It still will be a success.

4. Red Dawn- $15 million 5-day opening- $40 million total- The film was one of the several that was put on the shelf once MGM went bankrupt. The remake of the 1980's classic is a bit less plausible and will be very unsuccessful because unlike the 1984 film, it's not timely. There is no threat of a North Korean invasion. But I think that there is no other action film that will be opening so it has an advantage. But reviews are not good and it could be a flop.


1. Killing Them Softly- $8 million opening- $26 million total- I've heard good things about this Brad Pitt starred action drama but the trailer was rather lackluster and I don't think that it is a broadly appealing film. On the plus side, it has Brad Pitt who is always a draw and it has a small enough budget that I would imagine it wouldn't lose any money.


1. Playing for Keeps- $5 million opening- $14 million total- This is one of those crappy romantic comedies that studios just dump off on some random release date because they don't know what to do with it. It has Gerald Butler, Jessica Biel, Dennis Quaid, Catherine Zeta- Jones and Uma Thurman and it is about a former sports star who gets his life together by coaching his son's soccer team. It just screams out terrible.


1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey- $120 million opening- $510 million total- This is THE film of the holiday season and it will do big business. I think that the demand is there. People want another Lord of the Rings style film and The Hobbit is part one of a series of prequels to those films. It has big budget effects and an all-star cast and I think that nothing is going to stop The Hobbit from making at least $400 million.


1. The Guilt Trip- $15 million 5-day opening- $60 million total- It does look like a lighthearted option to the more serious holiday fare that is coming out and unlike its competition This is 40, it looks fun and not so depressing and dark. Then again, it won't bring in the typical Seth Rogen audience. Barbra Striesand hasn't been a draw in a long time. And it does look like a typical road trip movie. But I think that the audience is out there to make this film a success.

2. Monsters Inc. 3D- $12 million 5-day opening- $30 million total- I think that there is no demand for a 3-D re-release of this film. I don't think that a lot of people have a personal connection to it (except for me, it was my first film in the movie theater) and it doesn't fit the 3D medium as much as Finding Nemo or The Lion King. Expect more results similar to Beauty and the Beast 3D than the other two films.


1. Jack Reacher- $30 million opening- $92 million total- The first trailer for this movie sucked, but I really liked the second one. It looks a little too formulaic but I think that enough people have read the books and it is a typical Tom Cruise action flick so people looking for action may flock to it. It really is the only action film this holiday season so I think that it has the possibility of being a big success.

2. This is 40- $22 million opening- $70 million total- This is 40 has a lot of the elements of a traditional comedy smash. Big stars (Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann), top-tier comedy director (Judd Apatow) and a lot of raunchy jokes. But This is 40 is about aging and the people who these raunchy comedies are typically aimed at are not gonna want to see this. So I don't know how big this will be. I think it looks a little too dark as well and I'm not sure if it is right for the holiday season. Keep an eye on this one, it could get interesting.


1. Les Miserable- $40 million Tuesday-Sunday opening- $140 million total- The story of Jean Valjean and Fantine and Inspector Javert is finally coming to the big screen as a musical. There are a lot of fans of the beloved musical and I think that they will turn out in droves to see this. The film is also getting a lot of publicity through a five minute featurette that is playing in front of almost every movie right now. It is getting a lot of buzz because of that and a lot of Oscar buzz as well. I think that this will be a big hit this holiday season.

2. Django Unchained- $35 million Tuesday to Sunday opening- $100 million total- This is going to be front-loaded. The people who see Tarantino's movies typically go out and see it as soon as they can. I think that if it gets enough Oscar buzz than it will make more, but I think that with the controversial subject matter will be too much for the Academy. Plus, this was a supposedly out of control production, so we'll have to see how this goes.

I think that I have covered most films. Hitchcock opens in limited release on November 23, The Collection opens on November 30 Zero Dark Thirty opens in NY/LA on December 19 and Billy Crystal's Parental Guidance opens on Christmas day.We'll see how it goes. The box office begins this weekend with Skyfall.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Regal Cinemas announces theaters that will show The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 48 FPS

Regal Cinemas has announced their list of theaters that will be showing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 48 FPS 3D. Here is the list. Keep in mind that this is only Regal Cinemas locations, not all theaters:

  • Tikahntnu Stadium 16 IMAX & RPX, Anchorage, AK
  • McCain Mall Stadium 12 & RPX, North Little Rock, AR
  • Alhambra Renaissance Stadium 14 & IMAX, Alhambra, CA
  • Aliso Viejo Stadium 20 & IMAX, Aliso Viejo, CA
  • Bakersfield Stadium 14, Bakersfield, CA
  • Brea Stadium East 12, Brea, CA
  • Hacienda Crossings Stadium 20 & IMAX, Dublin, CA
  • Parkway Plaza Stadium 18 & IMAX, El Cajon, CA
  • Fairfield Stadium 16 & IMAX, Fairfield, CA
  • Foothill Towne Center Stadium 22, Foothill Ranch, CA
  • Fresno Stadoum 22 & IMAX, Fresno, CA
  • Irvine Spectrum 21 IMAX & RPX, Irvine CA
  • Long Beach Stadium 26 & IMAX, Long Beach, CA
  • LA Live Stadium 14, Los Angles, CA
  • Ontario Palace Stadium 22 & IMAX, Ontario, CA
  • Laguna Village 12, Sacramento, CA
  • Natomas MArketplace Stadium 16, Sacramento, CA
  • San Bernardino Stadium 14 & RPX, San Bernardino, CA
  • Horton Plaza 14, San Diego, CA
  • Mira Mesa Stadium 18 & RPX, San Diego, CA
  • San Marcos Stadium 18, San MArcos, CA
  • Valencia Stadium 12 & IMAX, Santa Clarita, CA
  • Southgate Stadium 20 & IMAX, South Gate, CA
  • Temecula Stadium 15 & IMAX, Temecula, CA
  • West Covina Stadium 18, West Covina, CA
  • Colorado Center Stadium 9 & IMAX, Denver, CO
  • Continental Stadium 10 & RPX, Denver, Co
  • Gallery Place Stadium 14, Washington, DC
  • Peoples Plaza Stadium 17, Newark, DE
  • Brandywine Town Center 16, Wilmington, DE
  • Belltower Stadium 20, FT Myers, FL
  • Gainesville Cinema Stadium 14, Gainesville, FL
  • The Loop Stadium 16 & RPX, Kissimmee, FL
  • Kendall Village Stadium 16 & RPX, Miami, FL
  • South Beach Stadium 18, Miami Beach, FL
  • Waterford Lakes Stadium 20 & IMAX, Orlando, FL
  • Park Palace Stadium 16 & RPX, Pinellas Park, FL
  • Royal Palm Beach Stadium 18 & RPX, Royal Palm Beach, FL
  • Sawgrass Stadium 23 & IMAX, Sunrise, FL
  • Atlantic Station Stadium 16 & IMAX, ATlanta, GA
  • Augsta Exchange Stadium 20 & IMAX, Augsta, GA
  • Mall of Georgia Stadium 20 & IMAX, Buford, GA
  • Hollywood Stadium 24 @ North I-85, Chamblee, GA
  • Town Center Stadium 16 & RPX, Kennesaw, GA
  • Dole Cannery Stadium 18 IMAX & RPX, Honolulu, HI
  • Fenway Stadium 13 & RPX, Boston, MA
  • Independence Mall 14, Kingston, MA
  • Westview STadium 16 & IMAX, Fredrick, MD
  • Salisbury Stadium 16 & RPX, Salisbury, MD
  • Majestic Stadium 20 & IMAX, Silver Spring, MD
  • Biltmore Grande Stadium 15 & RPX, Asheville, NC
  • Stonecrest at Piper Glen Stadium 22, Charlotte, NC
  • Mayfaire Stadium 16 & IMAX, Wilmington, NC
  • Fox Run Stadium 15 & RPX, Newington, NH
  • Red Rock Stadium 16 & IMAX, Las Vegas, NV
  • Colonie Center Stadium 13, Albany, NY
  • Crossgates Stadium 18 & IMAX, Albany, NY
  • Court Street Stadium 12 & RPX, Brooklyn, NY
  • Sheepshead Bay Stadium 14 & IMAX, Brooklyn, NY
  • Clifton Park Stadium 19 & RPX, Clifton Park, NY
  • Deer Park Stadium 16 & IMAX, Deer Park, NY
  • Atlas Park Stadium 8, Glendale, NY
  • Kaufman Astoria Stadium 14, Long Island City, NY
  • New Roc Stadium 18 & IMAX, New Rochelle, NY
  • E-Walk Stadium 13 & RPX, New York, NY
  • Staten Island Stadium 16 & RPX, Staten Island, NY
  • Westbury Stadium 12 & IMAX, Westbury, NY
  • Fairfield Commons Stadium 20, Beavercreek, OH
  • Bridgeport Village Stadium 18 & IMAX, Tigard, OR
  • King of Prussia Stadium 16 & IMAX, King of Prussia, PA
  • Riverview Plaza Stadium 17, Philadelphia, PA
  • Warrington Crossing Stadium 22 & IMAX, Warrington, PA
  • Hollywood Stadium 20 & RPX, Green Ville, SC
  • Charles Towne Square Stadium 18, North Charleston, SC
  • Pinnacle Stadium 18 & IMAX, Knoxville, TN
  • Amarillo Star Stadium 14 & IMAX, Amarillo, TX
  • Gateway Stadium 16 & IMAX, Austin, TX
  • Greenway Grand Palace Stadium 24 & RPX, Houston, TX
  • Houston Marq'e Stadium 23 & IMAX, Houston, TX
  • Live Oak Stadium 18 & RPX, Live Oak, TX
  • Alamo Quarry Stadium 16, San Antonio, TX
  • Cielo Vista Stadium 18 & RPX, San Antonio, TX
  • Huebner Oaks Stadium 14 & RPX, San Antonio, TX
  • Potomac Yard Stadium 16, Alexandria, VA
  • Kingstowne Stadium 16, Alexandria, VA
  • Manassas Stadium 14 & IMAX, Manassas, VA
  • Valley View Grande Stadium 16, Roanoke, VA
  • Everett Stadium 16 & RPX, Everett, WA
  • Lakewood Stadium 15 & RPX, Lakewood, WA
  • The Landing Stadium 14 & RPX, Renton WA
Thankfully, the theater near me has bee listed as an available theater for FPS 3D. I was hoping that I would be able to see the film in the format and I am thankful that I am able too. For those who are not aware, 48 FPS means that instead of the traditional 24 FPS, there are more frames on the screen and it makes the experience clearer in 3D and is closer to what the human eye actually sees. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey hits theaters December 14 but tickets go on sale this week.

The Muppets 2 to begin filming in January, release date set

The Muppets is one of my favorite films of 2011 and a favorite of many other people as well. Luckily, Disney realized that and they are getting a sequel off the ground quickly. The Muppets 2 is going to be without Jason Segel but will be written again by Nicholas Stoller and directed by James Bobin again as well. The film is described as being a comedy caper throughout Europe. Recently, Christoph Waltz was cast in the film as an Interpol agent. Producer Todd Lieberman stated that the film will begin filming in early January in London and wrap in April in time for a December 20, 2013 release date. He also teased that more casting announcements are coming soon. I am very excited for a Muppets sequel and I think that it is a good idea to get it going soon as long as it is a quality script. The Muppets 2 will hit theaters on December 20, 2013.

Another Sign of the Apocalypse: WB considering Casablanca sequel

The perfect example of what is wrong with Hollywood, today the news broke that Hollywood is considering a sequel to one of the absolute greatest films of all time, 1942's Casablanca. A sequel to the 70 year old classic would find Rick Blaine's son traveling to Morocco to learn more about his father. The screenplay was written in the 1980's by the original Casablanca screenwriter Howard Koch. Apparently, Rick's actions have become legendary and his son wants to learn more about him. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is rumored to be a candidate.

Most people are shocked at the possibility of a Casablanca sequel. Even Humphrey Bogart's son is against the idea. I think that this is quite possibly the dumbest idea ever. Even worse than a remake of Casablanca. Now that's saying something. Hollywood is a weird place sometimes. They are always nostalgic and want to remember their heritage but with unnecessary remakes and sequels (1998's Psycho, anybody) they ruin the original films and seem to discourage people from seeing the originals. That is one of the greatest films ever, an example of Hollywood filmmaking at its peak.There are some films that you just do not touch. Sequels to any film such as Citizen Kane, Inception, Singin in the Rain, Lawrence of Arabia, Raging Bull, Gone With the Wind, etc. would all be bad ideas. Hopefully this never gets off the ground because this is one idea I am fully against.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

"Wreck-It Ralph" leads weekend, "Flight" surprises with $25 million

Disney's Wreck-It Ralph opened the holiday season with a bang this weekend. The animated video game comedy opened with a strong $49.1 million, along with an A Cinemascore. The film represents a new high for Disney Animation Studios, whose largest previous hit was 2010's Tangled which opened with $48.7 million (Tangled went on to make $200 million). This film will have much longer legs than any other animated film this year. The candy colored atmosphere and jokes are broadly appealing and the only other family animated film this holiday season is Dreamworks' Rise of the Guardians. I did enjoy Wreck-It Ralph quite a bit, and although it is not flawless, I would recommend it, especially to people with kids. It's a pleasure to watch and it is very clever and funny.

In second place was Paramount's Flight, the Denzel Washington starred drama. The film surprised with a $25 million opening, which is very high for an R-rated alcoholism drama. The film opened even higher than Ben Affleck's Argo, which opened to around $19 million. Flight also grabbed an A- Cinemascore and a budget of $31 million. It will be interesting to see if Flight can hold as well as Argo has. Speaking of Argo, the political thriller made around $10.2 million this weekend for a cumulative total of $75.8 million. Argo should have no trouble passing $100 million and if it gets an awards-season re-release, then it will get even higher. Bet Warner Bros. didn't see this one coming.

RZA's directorial debut The Man With The Iron Fists opened to $8.2 million this weekend, but a weak C+ Cinemascore. The film looks to have no staying power, as Skyfall opens next weekend which will take away most of the action crowd. Good thing is that the film only had a $15 million budget.

In addition, Taken 2 finished 5th with $6 million, Cloud Atlas was 6th with $5.2 million, and the other films dropped considerably. Overall moviegoing was at $138.3 which is up 21% from last year. Next week sees the release of Skyfall and a limited release of 11 theaters for Steven Spielberg's Lincoln. Skyfall is already tearing it up overseas and look for an $80+ million debut for next weekend.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

"Wreck-It Ralph" is a colorful and immensely clever animated film

The last two years have not been great for animated movies. Cars 2, Kung Fu Panda 2, Madagascar 3 and Brave were decent films, but there hasn't been anything new or imaginative. So I was happy to have an animated movie that finally has some imagination to it. Wreck-It Ralph is not exactly new. I was telling my dad about the film in the car and he went through the entire film's ending. It is predictable; you can watch the trailers and know the ending. But it's the characters, the humor, and the endless action and fun that make Wreck-It Ralph a good animated movie worth seeing.

Wreck-It Ralph follows the title character (John C. Reilly) who is a video-game bad guy that is sick of being bad. He has done the same thing over and over (wreck the building and then fall off the building) in an old-school 8-bit arcade game called Fix-It Felix Jr. for the last 30 years. The townspeople of the game all look down on him and look up to Felix (Jack McBrayer). Eventually Ralph decides that he's sick of it and he leaves to get a medal from Hero's Duty (a first person-shooter/parody of today's games) to prove to the townspeople that he is just as good as Felix. Ralph fights with Sargent Calhoun (Jane Lynch) and then ends up in Sugar Rush, where he helps Vanellope Von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) build a car and become more than a glitch in the game.

The film has a lot going on. It is pure magic that it is able to juggle all these stories into a comprehensive narrative. The craziness is an advantage to the film as well. Wreck-It Ralph really does mirror a video game: it's crazy and in the scenes in Hero's Duty and Sugar Rush, there is flashes of hyper-kinetic action and extreme blast of gunfire (actually there's quite a bit of action). But Wreck-It Ralph is also very smart and very funny. The last time I saw a non-Pixar animated film as smart as this was 2010's Despicable Me.

Much of the humor is derived from video game references and in the Sugar Rush scenes, candy. The humor is so clever and a lot of it had me laughing very hard. There are references to the Wizard of Oz, Pacman, subtle Alien references, and just overall video game craziness. The film often is not as funny as it is clever. Not since Toy Story has there been a world so fully developed and thought out. The video game world has rules and they are very clever. The film is great in that respect but it is not without flaws.

The film clocks in at around 1hr, 41 minutes, which seems reasonable. It's just that they spend ten minutes too many in Sugar Rush. I felt that there was a ten minute burst where there wasn't much going on and there was a twist that I'm not sure needed to be there. I was checking my watch a couple times during that time period (my showing started about ten minutes too late) but the issues I had were quickly resolved and I was back to enjoying the film.

Another problem I had was the constant candy references in the script during sugar rush. It was pounded over and over to the point where the script was nothing but candy references. Sugar Rush was probably my least favorite part of the movie. It's designed beautifully and it is where that the characters are developed, but it runs pretty long during the duration of the film and I think that the screenwriters ran out of stuff to do. Too much of anything is a bad thing.

The cleverness of the film and the imagination is why I would recommend it. The film is a lot of fun. But director Rich Moore also creates a cast of dark and cynical characters that you root for. Vanellope and Ralph are both outcasts and you feel for them and while Felix has no dark past, Calhoun's husband was killed on their wedding day. So during the final montage of the film, I felt satisfied for all the characters and their (SPOILER BUT NOT REALLY) happy endings.

Wreck-It Ralph is the best animated movie of the year. It takes all the things that we can do with computer animation and makes a colorful film that is technologically a fantastic feat. The way the video games characters move is authentic and real. The film is immensely clever and fun to watch, and the references, while not all memorable will have you either chuckling or laughing out loud. Kids will like it, adults will like it and it is a great film for the whole family that can stand up with and beat this year's best in animated films. This is the kind of film Pixar should be making.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B+                                             (8/10)