Thursday, February 28, 2013

Movie Preview: March 2013

So far it's been a pretty bleak year for movies. January was dominated by December holdovers, but due to a huge slate of disappointing new releases it failed to make it to last year's average mark for a January. No big January holdovers and a big slate of average to disappointing February releases (Identity Thief turned out to be the only big hit of the month), led this February to be the worst grossing February since 2002. Not a good start to the year at all. Now there is no way this upcoming March breaks last year's record setting March due to the huge performance of The Hunger Games as well as other big hits in The Lorax and 21 Jump Street, but this upcoming month does have some good potential with some big titles being released to get this awful movie year on track. There are five weekends this March, so lets jump right into it.

March 1st - 3rd - 

The first weekend of March has recently been a great one. The Lorax, Rango, Alice in Wonderland, and Watchmen were the last four movies to open up in that spot and all four of them wound up with a total north of $100M, with all of those four except for Rango opening up north of $50M. This weekend should continue this successful trend with Jack the Giant Slayer. Originally scheduled for June 2012, this was going to be a part of the odd fairy tale movie craze of last year before it and Hansel and Gretel rescheduled for this year. Hansel and Gretel back in January had a decent opening of just under $20M at the end of January and has held well to now be over $50M. Jack the Giant Slayer appeals to a much broader audience and should be closer financially to Snow White and the Hunstman, which opened to $56M last June. In terms of the story, Jack the Giant Slayer is turning the classic tale of Jack and the Beanstalk into a action-packed fantasy adventure. While I'm positive it won't be as epic as Lord of the Rings, that's the style of movie and audience it is trying to attract and it is sure to gain a big paycheck. The movie cost nearly $200M to make, so any total south of that will be considered a disappointment. If its US totals don't get it to that number, oversea totals should pick up the slack. It stars Nicholas Hoult as Jack and it is looking like a good year for the actor as he already has the decent hit Warm Bodies on his resume this year. The biggest obstacle for Jack the Giant Slayer will be how well it holds with Oz The Great and Powerful coming out the following weekend.

 The second movie that could surprise people this weekend is the raunchy comedy 21 and Over. It is from the writers of the Hangover so it has that going well for it and from the looks of the plot it seems that those writers lost a bit of creativity because it sounds a lot like the Hangover as well, with different younger characters. The original Hangover opened to $45M and while 21 and Over won't get to that mark, it is of note that at a similar time last year, 21 Jump Street debuted to nearly $40M. Also, last month's big hit Identity Thief opened to $34M, so a total north of $30M is definitely a possibility. The other possibility is for it to be closer to last March's Project X, which debuted to $21M on it's way to just over $50M. 

As a third potential hit this weekend, we get another horror movie coming to the big screen in The Last Exorcism Part II. Now horror movies are a dime a dozen and always fizzle pretty fast if they even get going in the first place, but the exorcism style of movies for some reason always are pretty good at attracting an audience for at least the first weekend in theaters. The exorcism of Emily Rose opened to $30M in 2005 and this movie's predecessor The Last Exorcism opened to $20M in 2010. Also when horror movies decide to downgrade to a PG-13 rating instead of R they are sometimes able to grab a broader audience than normal just like January's top new release Mama, which opened up to $28M and has peaked at $70M. The best comparison for this movie would probably be the previously mentioned predecessor The Last Exorcism. If it doesn't top that movie's total, it should get pretty close. 

Finally, the last new release of the weekend is most likely going to be this weekend's loser in Phantom. Phantom is an R-rated submarine drama starring Ed Harris and is about a man who has to leave his family to be the Captain of a Soviet submarine on a classified mission. He is haunted by his past and learns quickly that he was chosen with the idea in mind that he was going to fail. With how crowded this weekend is, it's unlikely that this movie gets much attention.

March 8th - 10th - 

The second weekend of March only has two new releases, but one of them should be a pretty big in as Oz The Great and Powerful hits theaters this weekend. Outside typically forgotten 80's movie Return to Oz, the land of Oz is a place that Hollywood really has never traveled back to which is actually kind of odd considering The Wizard of Oz is easily considered to be one of the greatest movies of all time. Not just that, though, but a fact that not as many people know is that The Wizard of Oz is actually based on a book by L Frank Baum. And he didn't write just one book about Oz. He wrote 14 books. And after his death, his publishers published 26 additional Oz books that followed the original cannon written by a couple different authors. So with that in mind it seems that Hollywood is just now realizing that they have a gold mine with all these books that they could take advantage of. This current trip back to Oz via a Wizard of Oz prequel is being headed up by Sam Raimi, which has mixed reaction from people due to his Spider-Man trilogy. It is also being heavily advertised as being from the producers of Alice in Wonderland and whether it is a good or bad thing, it looks an awful lot like Alice in Wonderland as far as the visuals goes. Now if I were to pick just one movie that has the potential to be huge and bring this year close to last March's level, this would be the movie to do it. I don't think it will be as big as Hunger Games or even as big as Alice in Wonderland, but it has the potential to get close to that and it's PG rating will also draw in a broader family audience as well.

Opening up beside Oz is Dead Man Down. This movie is an R-rated action thriller starring Collin Farrell and Noomi Rapace. There's been a lot of these type of movies this year and the unfortunate thing about them is that they have all done awful. Broken City, The Last Stand, Parker, and Bullet to the Head were the four R-rated action thrillers that came out this year and all four opened below $10M. Snitch was another similar movie that came out this year and it actually opened above $10M, but not by much at $13M, but it had the advantage of being PG-13. Moral of the story is that Dead Man Down might not be in very good shape.

March 15th - 17th - 

This weekend will in all likelihood belong to Oz once again, but there are two newcomers that will try to make noise and may or may not fail. The first one is The Incredible Burt Wonderstone. Jim Carrey and Steve Carell star in this PG-13 rated comedy about a magician who is trying to come back into relevancy after another magician steals his spotlight. While Steve Carell has been around the movie scene quite a bit, Jim Carrey has been on a Hollywood vacation. Both actors seem to be a little up and down in terms of box office success, Jim Carrey specifically having his heydays in the 90's and early 2000's, but both are pretty popular comedy stars and having the two together you would think would be a pretty big draw. There have been two times in movie history where the two have been together, one being the animated hit Horton Hears a Who, but in non-animated movies, the other one is Bruce Almighty. I don't think Burt Wonderstone will hit those levels, but I am thinking that a realistic range for this comedy would be Jim Carrey's Yes Man, which opened up to $18M in December of 2008 and wound up with just under $100M.

The other movie of the weekend is Halle Berry's The Call. Halle Berry has also been non-existent recently outside of being in box office duds Cloud Atlas and New Year's Eve. The last time she starred in a significant box office hit was the X-Men trilogy, which ended in 2006. But nevertheless, she is back and it looks like she's in for another failed movie. The reason for that is that the premise of The Call sounds like it is just a glorified, extended episode of Criminal Minds or CSI. They are hunting down a serial killer who has just kidnapped another young girl. Why pay the money to go to the theater when you can turn on the TV and watch a criminal investigation show for free?

March 22nd - 24th - 

Dreamworks Animation is back on center stage in this fourth weekend of March with their latest attempt at an original animated movie in The Croods. Now there is actually a lot riding on this movie due to Dreamwork's recent disaster in The Rise of the Guardians. I'm not saying it was a bad movie, but what happened was they actually lost a lot of money on the project as it only opened to $24M and wound up with just over $100M. This caused a chain reaction where Dreamworks cancelled their 2014 project Me and My Shadow, rescheduled Mr. Peabody and Sherman for that spot in 2014 from November of this year, and fired 350 employees. So the pressure is one with this new movie The Croods, which is a movie about a cave dwelling family in the prehistoric era. They borrow the voices of Nicholas Cage, Ryan Reynolds, and Emma Stone to try to pull this off and they have the advantage that there really hasn't been many options this year in terms of animated movies, so they should be able to improve on the numbers of the Rise of the Guardians. 

Opening with The Croods is a completely opposite and thus non-conflicting movie in Olympus Has Fallen. No, it is not about a mythological ancient Greece. Olympus has fallen is code word for the White House has been taken over, which in this instance the cause is terrorists. This should be an interesting enough premise to avoid the recent trend of R-rated action thrillers completely bombing, but it probably won't be a huge breakout hit. It also stars Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, and Morgan Freeman among others, so that should be an interesting enough cast to get people's attention.

Finally, the loser of this week will be a second straight PG-13 comedy in Admission. Admission stars Tina Fey and Paul Rudd, which isn't a bad thing, but the premise of the movie just doesn't look that interesting. Fey and Rudd are decent actors, but I don't know if they can single-handedly carry this movie on their backs without an interesting plot.

March 29th - 31st -

In wrapping up this month, there aren't a ton of guaranteed hits, but rather a slew of movies with potential - potential being a scary word sometimes. The final week should bring a couple of movies that are guaranteed to at least be decent hits to make up for whatever failures happen earlier in the month. The first of this being GI Joe: Retaliation, a sequel to the first GI Joe. Now GI Joe: Retaliation was originally scheduled to come out last June and it wisely rescheduled to this final spot in March of this year because no one would've seen it last Summer as it was scheduled to be released right before The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises. They claim they rescheduled the movie in order to add 3D to it, and while that may be true, I personally believe the spot they had in June was what really scared them away. Also the rumors are that they wanted to extend Channing Tatum's role in the movie after he had three $100M hits in 2012, which would be smart. The original GI Joe opened up to a great $54M and finished with over $150M, but has an overall bad rap and so logically you might conclude that this leads to a weaker sequel, which might be the case, but they have brought on Bruce Willis and Dwayne Johnson to try to remedy that.

The other movie opening this weekend that should be a huge success is The Host. The Host actually in my opinion has a good chance to actually win the weekend as it is the next big screen adaption of a Stephenie Meyer novel. Is it going to be the next Twilight? I don't know, but a lot of the fans of the Twilight books have also read The Host and word on the street is that it is a more widely enjoyed novel even though it may not be the more popular one, so this fact means that it should be able pull in both Twilight fans and non-Twilight fans alike. For those not familiar with it, it is about an alien race that invades earth and specifically the human mind, but some humans refuse to give up control and thus the drama ensues. It stars Saoirse Ronan as the lead role (Hanna, Atonement) and she is a MUCH better actress then the wooden, emotionless Kristen Stewart.

Finally, last movie of the month comes with Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confession's of a Marriage Counselor. If you are one who enjoys these Tyler Perry movies that seem to come out every other month, then be my guest. You might enjoy this one. They have a decent fan base and typically open between $15M and $25M, so this might make a slight dent in the weekend.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Analysis of the 85th Academy Awards

This past Sunday, if you missed it, was the 85th Academy Awards. The Super Bowl of the movie world if you will. A lot of movies are made to entertain audiences. Then there are a lot of movies that are made to gain awards. Some movies that are made to do the latter end up doing the former, but oftentimes they fail to catch the attention of the general public and thus ensues much confusion when the casual moviegoer turns on the Oscars and all he or she sees is a bunch of awards handed out to movies he or she has never heard of. Many times the huge box office hits made to entertain audiences are completely ignored by the Academy and thus the Academy Awards only become entertaining to those people who are huge movie buffs. While this wasn't completely the case this year with many of the awarded movies earning over $100M in the domestic box office, it was still a problem. The 11 movies that earned over $200M in 2012 combined for a grand total of three wins at the Oscars. Skyfall with two and Brave one. If we take that further, those top 11 movies combined for a total of 11 nominations. And no, that's not one per movie. That's Skyfall getting 5 of those 11 nominations, with a few other courtesy nominations scattered here and there. And if you look even further at the biggest categories, yup you guessed it. A big fat zero nominations for those 11 movies. To try to fix this, they attempt to turn the award ceremony into a comedy show mixed with a concert with awards sprinkled in occasionally, thus turning our awards ceremony into a huge three and a half hour deal. Personally I think the whole thing is a little overkill. Just give me the awards. I would love an Academy Awards show that lasted an hour or an hour and a half. Many people like discussing all the things that happen in between awards and I do too. There were a lot of things that I did enjoy even if I didn't think they were completely necessary. However, I like to get down to business and talk about the awards, which is exactly what I will do here. And all things considered, I was actually more pleased with the Oscars this year then in previous years. But let's get on with it. Enough rambling. My plan here is to go through and analyse category by category.

Best Picture - Winner - Argo. This is one of the movies I talked about that was essentially made to earn Oscars. When I first read about it around a year ago, I had a feeling that it would at least contend for best picture. Then we got closer to the awards and my feeling was that Lincoln was going to win. However, Argo started winning literally everything and I guess I bandwagoned on that fact to determine that Argo was going to win and it did. Although in watching the Academy Awards I was partially convinced that Life of Pi was going to surprise everyone when they started stealing some surprise big awards like best director. And that I would've actually liked that because I LOVED Life of Pi. Also it has been since 24 years since a PG rated movie won best piture (Driving Miss Daisy in 1989). How cool would that be if that streak ended? But nevertheless Argo won and I'm actually not disappointed in that. I haven't seen it, but everyone that I've talked to loved it and a 8.0 on IMDb, a 96% tomatometer, and a $126M box office total is enough to convince me that it is deserving. And I love how Ben Affleck in his acceptance speech, knowing that Steven Spielberg had been snubbed that night, gave tribute to him. I gained a lot of respect for Affleck when he did that.

Best Director - Winner - Ang Lee (Life of Pi) - This was a pretty big surprise win for Life of Pi. Really the whole best director category raised some eyebrows starting back at the nominations when Ben Affleck, Kathryn Bigelow, Tom Hooper, and Quentin Tarantino were all left out of the race. So logically it seemed like a no brainer that Steven Steven Spielberg would walk away with this. Logically it would then make sense with all the confusion in nominations that they would end up giving it to Ang Lee. Ok. I wasn't complaining at it. Like I said, I loved Life of Pi.

Best Actor - Winner - Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln) - I really liked the movie Lincoln and mostly due to the amazing performance of Daniel Day-Lewis. The man did such a good job that I honestly believed that in casting Lincoln, someone had found a time machine and brought in the actual Abraham Lincoln to be in this movie. Seriously one of the best acting performances I have EVER seen and if DDL didn't win best actor, I would've walked down to the academy and punched every one of them in the face. Luckily I didn't have to do that. Now in normal years, Denzel Washington and Joaquin Phoenix would be good candidates to win with their respective performances and maybe even Bradley Cooper for Silver Linings Playbook. Sorry Les Mis homers. Hugh Jackman was fifth best this year.

Best Actress - Winner - Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) - This was one of the more interesting categories this year with five candidates who deserved a win and no real clear winner. Jennifer Lawrence was the early favorite before Zero Dark Thirty came out and everyone fell in love with Jessica Chastain. Then for some reason, we left her behind after a couple weeks on a high and went back to Lawrence. Then we had the oldest nominee ever AND the youngest nominee ever. And of course I personally can't leave out mentioning Naomi Watts with her fantastic performance in The Impossible. In the end I kind of wanted nine-year old Quvenzhane Wallis to win after her muscle flex when they showed her, but I gotta give some love to Katniss on the win.

Best Supporting Actor - Winner - Christoph Waltz (Django Unchained) - This category I really had no idea. All five nominees had a previous Oscar win and there was no front runner. I thought Tommy Lee Jones would win because I thought this would be a big night for Lincoln, but I can't complain at Waltz winning it for Django Unchained. This award was given right at the beginning and I guess it was a precursor for a night where Lincoln got snubbed.

Best Supporting Actress - Winner - Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables) - The was never really any competition for this award. Everyone knew a few months ago that Anne Hathaway was going to win and when the nominations came out it was hard to argue because the competition wasn't that great. I mean, Amy Adams and Sally Field both did good in their roles, but not good enough to dethrone Hathaway.

Best Original Screenplay - Winner - Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained) - With how well liked Django Unchained, it was good to see it get some love from the Academy here by giving Tarantino the Oscar for best original screenplay. Although to be honest, I hated Tarantino's speech. While most people are humble and thanking everyone else for all the work, his attitude was "I am so awesome." He spent his whole speech bragging about how good of a job he did. Dumb.

Best Adapted Screenplay - Winner - Chris Terrio (Argo) - Life of Pi, Argo, Lincoln, and Silver Linings Playbook would've all been fantastic choices for the win for this, so it was hard to predict, but Argo winning was well deserved. While Tarantino was an idiot with his acceptance speech for the other screenplay award, I do remember the contrast with Chris Terrio's speech being heart-felt and humble. Great job!

Best Editing - Winner - Argo - Editing is a super important part of a movie, but I've never walked out of a movie thinking, "Wow, that was fantastic editing!!" Sorry. Congrats, though, Argo!

Best Cinematography - Winner - Life of Pi - Many people, Bond homers in particular, were hoping that this award would go to Roger Deakins because he's been nominated a ton of times without a win, but that would've been a lifetime achievement award and I'm glad that didn't because I hate lifetime achievement awards at the Oscars. Anyone who saw Life of Pi would agree that this was a no brainer. By far the best cinematography of the year.

Best Art Direction - Winner - Lincoln - Once again, I don't know how to determine best art direction in a movie, even though it is important. Congrats to Lincoln on this. It seems like a courtesy award, though. Lincoln got 12 nominations and should've won a lot more than just this one and best actor.

Best Costume Design - Winner - Anna Karenina  - Anna Karenina is a movie that flew under the radar this year. Really the only people that heard about this movie were the fans of the classic novel of the same name. Although I wouldn't have minded to see the late Eiko Ishioka win for her work in Mirror Mirror, all you had to do was watch the Anna Karenina trailer to determine that the win here was well deserved.

Best Makeup - Winner - Les Miserables - This was kind of a head-scratcher. The Hobbit got very little love from the Academy this year, but this was one award they should've won. At least when it was between The Hobbit, Les Mis, and Hitchcock. Les Mis fans will take it, but with all the praise from the movie, I never really heard people bragging about how good the makeup was in the movie. I mean, it was good, but nothing to write home about.

Best Visual Effects - Winner - Life of Pi - Once again, same as with Cinematography, this win was really a no-brainer for Life of Pi, although it did have decent competition as I was impressed with the visuals of all the movies nominated here. And since it was the only category where The Avengers showed up in, let me give a shout-out to the five Avengers who made an appearance at the Oscars. I can't remember which one said it, but I really got a kick out of it when that person (I think it was Robert Downey Jr) called out the Oscars, "The most popular movie of the year. Which is why it logically got only one nomination." Sometimes I really wish the Academy would get their heads out their butts and give more respect to the big blockbuster films that everyone, fans and critics alike, all loved. Movies like The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, The Hunger Games, The Hobbit, and The Amazing Spider-Man all deserved to get more love.

Best Sound - Winner - Les Miserables - Ok, Les Mis spent the whole movie singing. I have no problem with them earning the best sound award. Makes perfect sense. And no, that wasn't sarcastic.

Best Sound Editing - Winner - tie between Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty - WHAT?!?!?!?!?! A TIE? When Seth MacFarlane announced that this was a tie, I laughed alongside everyone else. Then he said it was not BS. This was really a tie. I had no idea that was possible. You would think that if the voting ended in a tie, the would redo the vote or do some sort of tie breaker. But no. I guess you learn something new every day.

Best Original Score - Winner - Mycheal Danna (Life of Pi) - On the week leading up to the Oscars I went back and listened to the scores of all movies nominated for this award and as a musically inclined person, I was very impressed with all of them. My favorite was actually Argo's score followed by Lincoln's score, so I was somewhat surprised when Life of Pi walked away with it, but not at all disappointed. I loved the music from Life of Pi.

Best Original Song - Winner - "Skyfall" by Adele, Paul Epworth - Once again, I love music and I enjoyed most of these songs when I went and listened to them (except for the Ted song - it was kinda stupid and I don't even know why it got nominated), by Adele was the obvious choice and it would've been awful if she did not win. Skyfall is a great song that sets the tone perfectly for the beginning of the movie Skyfall.

Best Animated Feature - Winner - Brave - This is the one award that was given where I was extremely angry. My friends watching with me can witness that I booed this loudly. I actually thought Frankenweenie might win this because it was a tribute to older movies, usually perfect bait for the Academy, but I was hoping Wreck-It Ralph would win. It was by far the best animated movie of the year. It's actually kinda funny, when I first saw and reviewed Brave I actually predicted that it would win the Oscar for best animated movie, but the more I thought about the movie, the more I didn't like it. Sure, in terms of pure animation it is fantastic and the Celtic music they play is awesome as well, but the story is just so boring and unoriginal. The trailer is almost better than the movie itself. Once you watch the trailer, you don't really need to see the movie because you know exactly what is going to happen. Shame on Pixar for making such a safe movie and even more shame on the Academy for encouraging them by giving a win to such an average movie. It's two disappointing movies in a row for Pixar and I think the streak will continue with the very stupid looking Monster's University.

Best Foreign Language Picture - Winner - Amour - Usually a foreign language picture is not one people care too much about, which is actually a shame because America isn't the only country that knows how to make good movies, but for some reason Amour is different. This is the only award it won, but it got nominated for five awards, which is impressive.

Best Documentary - Feature - Winner - Searching for Sugar Man - I guess it's good that the Academy gives some love to the documentaries out there, but I'm sorry. I'm just usually not interested in them. But congrats to Searching for Sugar Man.

Best Documentary - Short Subject - Winner - Inocente - Ok, you just read that I don't really care for documentaries, but I do have to give kudos to this one. Well, I have not seen it, but I give kudos to whoever the guy was that gave the speech for this, because that was the most heartfelt, inspiring speech of the night. It actually made me want to go check this out.

Best Animated Short - Winner - Paperman - I remember watching this short at the beginning of Wreck-It Ralph and being really impressed. Those who didn't see it should go search for it on YouTube right after they finish reading this post because it is a great little animated short.

Best Live Action Short - Winner - Curfew - I have not seen this, but I have a desire to now check it out. I heard it was the first movie started by kickstarter and if I have that information correct, that is pretty cool

Big Winners - Argo was obviously the big winner of the night after winning best picture. Although that was the only big award they won, they still managed to pull off three other wins, tying with Life of Pi for most Oscars. Speaking of Life of Pi, it was the other big winner as it not only pulled off four wins, it pulled off four big wins, two of which (director, score) it wasn't even favored to win. A PG movie getting that much love is pretty impressive. Also, this was a unique night for the Oscars because it seemed like there was a lot of movies that won something instead of the usual happening at the Oscars where one or two movies win everything.

Big Losers - With all the hype on Zero Dark Thirty, it's five nominations turned into only one win for best sound editing and even then, that wasn't an outright win. Also it was supposed to be a big night for Lincoln, but out of the 12 nominations it got, it only won for best actor and best art direction, essentially leaving Spielberg and John Williams in the dust. Third, Silver Linings Playbook was nominated for eight Oscars, but only pulled off one. Lastly, I have to give one more disappointing look towards the Oscars for not even recognizing big movies like The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Frankenweenie Review

Halloween is a long time over. In fact, we have passed several holidays since then, so you might be wondering what the heck I'm doing watching and reviewing a Halloween movie at this time of year. Well, to be perfectly honest, a big part of it was that I was just curious. The other part of my reasoning is what will make most sense to you and that is the fact that the Academy Awards are this upcoming Sunday, the 24th of February, and Frankenweenie is one of the animated movies that got nominated best animated feature and it was the one movie of the five that I hadn't seen, so in preparation for the Oscars, I checked it out. After watching it I fully believe that it has a good chance of winning the award. However, if it were up to me, I wouldn't even give it the nomination.

Frankenweenie is a stop motion animated movie done by none other than the ever so weird Tim Burton. I don't know what is up with that man's brain, but he always does a pretty good job of weirding me out with his movies. I often, however, am able to deal with his movies' kookiness enough to enjoy it. Thus is the case with his other two stop motion films, The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride. In checking out Frankenweenie, I was hoping for a similar experience to those two movies, but unfortunately for me that was not the case. I was just completely weirded out and not entertained much at all. It was one of those experiences where when the credits roll, you just wonder to yourself what in the heck just happened in that last hour and a half. Frankenweenie is based off of an animated short of the same name done by the same man, Tim Burton, back in 1984 and you could probably guess what it is about just by the title. It's the story of Frankenstein, but with a dog. This young genius kid loves his dog and when his dog dies, he develops a way to bring him back to life. Well when he does this, you can safely say all hell breaks loose. And I say that in the most literal way possible. This is a Halloween movie. Be creative.

The issues with this movie? Hmmmmm.... where to begin. Let's start with the animation. I usually enjoy stop motion. I think it's a very clever way to do a movie and I applaud it because it is very difficult to pull off. I really enjoy movies like Chicken Run and The Nightmare Before Christmas, especially recent stop motion movies made last year in Pirates! Band of Misfits and ParaNorman. But this one didn't get me. I actually thought the animation wasn't done very well when compared to all the other stop motion movies. Also I didn't care for the story. I don't hate the story of Frankenstein, but Frankenweenie was done very poorly. It was predictable and boring for the first half and way to over the top in terms weirdness in the second half. The people who did the voices sounded like they weren't committed to the movie. The music done by Danny Elfman didn't seem to fit very well. There was just a lot of things I found wrong with this movie and few things that I found that were right.

With all that said, you'll remember that I said this actually has a good shot at winning best animated feature. Why do I say that, despite all bad things I said about it? Well, the Academy is the Academy. This movie is a black and white animated feature that seems to pay homage to the movie business and the Academy loves movies like that. But on a personal level, I would advise you to skip it. If you want to see a stop motion animated Halloween movie that is really good, go check out ParaNorman or even re-watch The Nightmare Before Christmas. I give Frankenweenie a 5 out 10.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Warm Bodies Review

On December 21, 2012, the world was predicted to end. The Zombie Apocalypse was a commonly thought up event that people thought was going to end it. Well, we are now in February of 2013 and none of that ever happened. I don't actually think there were too many people that really thought this was going to happen, but what it did inspire was a bunch of movie makers wanting to depict the event on the big screen. Thus in 2013 there are multiple end of the world movies, a few of them being zombie end of the world movies. Now it's true that this zombie movie idea isn't groundbreaking. There are a lot of zombie movies out there. There are even a good number of end of the world movies. But this is just a newly revived craze for this year and Warm Bodies is first up at bat. In my opinion, it hits a home run.

Warm Bodies is actually based off a book of the same name written by Isaac Marion. I have heard good things about the book, but I have not read it myself so I cannot give a book vs movie comparison in this review. After seeing the trailer as well as the first four minutes of the movie (here is the link from YouTube), I decided that I was really excited to see the movie. What I expected from it was a rom-com. While I did get that, what I didn't expect, but probably should've, was a full out genre mesh. This wasn't just a silly zombie rom-com, it was also an intense zombie action thriller at times. Thus it makes for a very clever movie that is perfect for both guys and girls. But not children. This isn't a family-friendly movie. The premise of this movie is as follows. While the year is not stated, it is a time on earth where zombies are slowly taking over. If a human gets bitten by a zombie, they will turn into one. There are two types of zombies, corpses and bonies. Corpses still look like their former human selves but aren't. The bonies are corpses that have completely given up and turned into skeleton zombies that have no soul or conscience at all. The humans that are left are in a war with the zombies. With that background in mind, our movie begins when our main female lead is part of a group of humans leading an attack on the zombies, but when they aren't expected it, they get invaded by a group of corpses, of which our main male lead, a zombie named R (he can't remember the rest of his name), is a part of. However, due to a certain chain of events that I won't mention here, R decides to save Julie from this zombie attack and kidnaps her to protect her. Thus leads to a story that, while fairly predictable, is very clever and fun.

First off I will have to give props to a certain crew that I don't think I've ever given props to and that would be the makeup department. The zombie corpses all looked fantastic and realistic. And speaking of zombies, the CGI bonies also looked pretty good. And of course, going along with good makeup had to be good people under the makeup. The zombie acting was really good. All the acting, for that matter, was pretty good, especially the two leads - Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer. Nicholas Hoult is The Beast in X-Men: First Class, which I didn't even know until I looked it up afterwards. Once again, props to the makeup department for making great looking zombies. Hoult was doing the narrating for the movie as well, speaking in first person as his zombie character and that made things interesting as we went back and forth from his cohesive thoughts to him trying his hardest to express himself through words with his limited vocal abilities. And Teresa Palmer certainly did a great job of being the pretty female character. What made things better was that she was a smart, useful, AND pretty. You don't often get that in a movie girlfriend. If you don't know Teresa Palmer, she is also the blonde girl in I Am Number Four, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, and Bedtime Stories. Before I move on from actors, while a lot of the crew does a great job, in addition to who I've previously mentioned, I have to give a shoutout to John Malkovich as Julie's (Teresa Palmer) dad. In terms of pure acting, he was probably the best in the movie. Finally, I have to give props to the music. This movie went back and forth from being serious and funny quite a bit and the music is what really helped pull that off.

I don't have a ton of complaints, but there is a few things I can mention. Now this first isn't really a complaint on my side because I didn't have a problem with it, but if you are looking for a movie that is deep, has a super profound and non-cliche message, and is completely unpredictable, Warm Bodies is not for you. Personally, though, I didn't think any of those were necessary for us as an audience to be entertained. My biggest problem came with language. I'm not a fan of language in the first place, but there are some movies that do it somewhat smartly and other movies that you can tell it is forced. Warm Bodies is the latter, especially with the f-bomb that is completely unnecessary. There was also a scene where Julie is laying in bed with R on the floor and she tells him that her clothes are wet and she needs to hang them out to dry. So we as an audience get to watch her strip down into her underwear before she jumps back into her covers. Luckily it doesn't last long and we see nothing from the front, only the back. But it was still a useless scene that was only thrown into the movie in attempt to be a little risque.

Overall, though, I think this is a great movie. When you talk about Valentine's Day, it's usually the case where a guy somewhat reluctantly takes his girl to see a chick flick. He doesn't really enjoy the movie, but he enjoys being with his girl and scoring brownie points because he took her to that movie. With Warm Bodies it is not quite that way. The girls will enjoy it because it has the romance story line and the guys will like it because of the zombie action in it, so you get the both of best worlds. A perfect Valentine's Day movie in my opinion. I give it an 8 out of 10.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Movie Preview: February 2013

The month of January is typically seen as a new movie dumping ground while Holiday holdovers and academy award nominees dominate theaters. This was the case for this January as the top grossing movies for the month were all December releases, while the only movie that didn't disappoint was the PG-13 horror film Mama. Mama was also the only PG-13 movie released, the others were all R and all fell flat. February is usually another low key month before things start to pick up in March, but at the same time its usually better than Januaries as on average one or two movies end up making it past the $100M mark. Last February even produced three movies that hit that mark. This February will have to have some huge surprises to replicate last year's success, but nevertheless there are still some decent Valentine's Day choices to look forward to in the movie world, so lets take a look.

February 1st - 3rd - The first weekend of February is always a tough one for movies because the first Sunday in February is the Super Bowl. Essentially, for a movie to be successful, it has to have good numbers on Friday and Saturday and hope for a good holdover in future days and weeks. Last year Chronicle and Woman in Black attempted the feat and both wound up with $20M+ weekends. This year we have three movies attempting the feat and only one of them will make an impact. That one movie that should do decent business is Warm Bodies. Warm Bodies is a unique genre-mesh that is quite clever and should appeal to a fairly broad teenage/adult audience. It combines a romantic comedy with a zombie action movie. The zombie action should be appealing to the guys while the love story should appeal to the girls, thus making for a great date movie that should do decent business this Valentines month. It also might survive the Super Bowl weekend because on Sunday there will be enough girls not interested in the big game that will instead go for a girls night to a romance movie. A movie that will probably totally bomb on Super Bowl weekend is Bullet to the Head. I don't know who thought it would be a good idea to release a pure guys movie on Super Bowl weekend, but the specific audience for Bullet to the Head will be the same group of people that will be busy watching the Super Bowl. This is another R-rated action movie and if you haven't been following the Box Office recently, three movies of that exact same style just came out in January: The Last Stand, Broken City, and Parker. Main stars respectively were Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mark Wahlberg, and Jason Statham. Broken City was opened up the highest of the three with a whopping $8M. Yup, it was that bad. Bullet to the Head has Sylvester Stallone trying his luck, but you'd be surprised to know that Stallone hasn't had a very good box office track record in his solo movies since his glory days in the 80's. The final movie is Stand Up Guys. It stars Al Pacino and Christopher Walken, but it won't make a dent at all this weekend. It only opens up in just over 600 theaters, barely qualifying for a nationwide release. With the poor reviews for this R-rated action comedy is receiving, it will probably disappear rather quickly, too.

February 8th - 10th - In a year that is already packed full of R-rated movies, this weekend before Valentine's Day throws in two more before we finally get some diversity on Valentine's Day. The first of which is the R-rated comedy Identity Thief. This movie actually has a pretty good chance to be the first big hit in 2013 and if this February is going to match last year, this movie needs to be. It is directed by Seth Gordon, director of Horrible Bosses and Four Christmases, both of which topped $100M. It also features Craig Mazin as writer who worked on The Hangover Part II and the last two Scary Movies, all of which did great box office business. The premise of the movie is that Jason Bateman's character has his identity stolen by a big fat lady played by Melissa McCarthy and he ends up chasing her across the country. Could be an interesting story that might attract fans of movies such as Hangover or Bridesmaid. Other R-rated movie of the week comes in the form of Side Effects. Now remember the movie called Contagion? The movie where some germs spreading led to people all over the world dying, thus making you want to wash your hands every 10 seconds of your day? Yeah, the makers of that movie are coming out with this Side Effects movie which is a movie about a girl that gets a drug prescribed to her that has unexpected side effects. I'm expecting a crazy Contagion-like movie with this, except more amped because of its R-rating. Contagion opened up to $22M on its way to $75M in September, so numbers like that are possible, although Contagion was only PG-13, so Side Effects' numbers might be a bit lower.

February 14th - 17th - Valentine's Day is on a Thursday and there are four releases that smartly will release a day earlier than the normal Friday to accommodate Valentine's Day crowds. On this day holds quite the conundrum for young couples with two big options. Option number one is the pure chick flick option of Safe Haven. Safe Haven is another Nicholas Sparks novel adapted to the big screen. I don't need to tell you what it's about. Guy meets girl. Guy and girl fall in love. Some drama happens that splits up guy and girl up. Guy and girl miraculously get together in the end. Boom. This movies couple is Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough. Last year's Valentine's Day chick flick hit The Vow broke out with $125M. Despite that, though, the highest that a Nicholas Sparks movie has made is The Notebook's $81M followed by Dear John's $80M. They usually end up between $40M - $60M. So guys wanting to earn kudos for their girls will take their Safe Haven. Now the conundrum arises with the fact that opening at the exact same time as the pure girls move Safe Haven is the pure guys movie A Good Day to Die Hard. If there is one guaranteed hit for this month, this is it. This is the fifth Die Hard movie to come over the course of the last 25 years. The first one opened up back in 1988 and would up with $83M, which adjusted for ticket price inflation would be equivalent to $157M today. The other three all wound up between $100M and $150M and adjusted for inflation once again would make it so that all four movies were above $150M. The fourth installment, 2007's Live Free or Die Hard, was actually the highest grossing of the four with $134M, but at the same time it was the least attended in terms of ticket sales. So a total north of $150M isn't guaranteed, but it is certain to gain at least $100M. Now guys who want kudos with their girl will go to Safe Haven, but perhaps there are girls out there that want to turn the tables and instead want to get kudos with their guy by heading out to Die Hard 5. Now for those not celebrating Valentine's Day but instead are celebrating Single's Awareness Day, the best movie of the weekend perhaps might be Beautiful Creatures. Now I make that statement but yet the title of the movie seems like one that fits in with Valentine's Day. And yes there is a romance story line in the movie, but this isn't a chick flick and I don't think it is intending on attracting romantic crowds, but is instead aiming for a bigger audience with the Twilight/Harry Potter/Hunger Games crowds. Twilight is over now and Harry Potter has been over for over a year, and Hunger Games just started, but Beautiful Creatures is going to try to be the next big book series to movie. The book series is called the Caster Chronicles. Beautiful Creatures is book one and it is followed by three more sequels, Beautiful Darkness, Beautiful Chaos, and Beautiful Redemption. Now the first Twilight opened up to $69M on its way to $192M and I don't think it will quite get that high, but it should beat the sadly failed screen adaption of I Am Number Four, which tried the same feat but only opened to $19M on its way to $55M. Final movie of the weekend is going to try to reach family audiences and that is Escape From Planet Earth. It's been since Christmas since a PG family movie came out and since Thanksgiving since a PG animated movie, so there is probably a fairly big desire for a movie like that and Escape From Planet Earth will try to feed off of that desire. Now, I am also getting visions of Mars Needs Moms when I look at this movie. That movie opened up to $6M in the beginning of March 2011 and ended up at $21M. I don't imagine that being the fate of this movie, but its a possibility if it turns out to be a bad movie.

February 22nd - 24th - With a loaded Valentine's Day, the most likely scenario for this final weekend is for Valentine's weekend holdovers to rule as the two final movies of February don't look too strong. First up to bat is Snitch. Snitch is the same type of movie as recent bombs The Last Stand, Broken City, Parker, and Bullet to the Head. This time around the lead role is Dwayne Johnson, The Rock. Now Dwayne Johnson has done a great job propelling movies when he has a good cast around him, but as the lead role in an action flick that is more questionable. He might be popular, but not more so than Schwarzenegger, Wahlberg, Statham, and Stallone and none of those could do anything. Maybe Johnson will break the trend, but I am not betting on it. Finally, we have Dark Skies. This movie is a PG-13 horror thriller movie written and directed by Scott Charles Stewart, whose only directing experience comes with Priest (2011) and Legion (2010), both of which underwhelmed. Dark Skies has a mysterious alien invasion feel to it, that could intrigue some people, but probably won't. The best case scenario for it would be turning up numbers like last month's Mama, another PG-13 horror film, but the probable scenario is that it gets overlooked and disappears quickly.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Super Bowl XLVII Predictions

This is it! The Super Bowl. This is the very event that all 32 NFL teams spend all their time and effort preparing for, starting with all the offseason transactions and heading into the preseason and of course the regular season. Unfortunately in the fight to make it to the big game, 30 teams will get eliminated, leaving players and fans across the country disappointed. Out of the two teams that make it, at the end of the day only one of them will stand as the ultimate victor, sending the other home to prepare for their run the next season. Is football all about winning, though? Is there not many other purposes to football and many other life long lessons to be learned along the way, whether or not you win the big game? Of course there is, but we can talk about that later. For our purposes in this blog, we only care about who the winner is this year. XLVII is a really fancy number. Those who can translate that into everyday language, it is the number 47. After this weekend, 47 Super Bowls will have been played. I have not been alive for all of them. In fact, this is only the 25th Super Bowl that I have been present for and if we narrow that down to the number of Super Bowls I have payed attention to, the number goes down significantly. The first Super Bowl of my existence took place less than 48 hours after I came into this earth as Jerry Rice led his 49ers squad to a 20-16 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on the 22nd of January in 1989. To the dismay of all my friends and followers out there, I don't think I was watching that game. And if I was, I don't think I knew what was going on. So because of those facts, I can't officially claim that this is the most interesting Super Bowl played, but I at least can claim that it is one of the most interesting match-ups I have seen. This is the Harbaugh Bowl. Jim and John Harbaugh, two brothers, are going face-to-face with the winner getting lifetime bragging rights at any future family gathering. I don't believe that this has ever happened before, two brothers as head coaches facing each other in the Super Bowl. I also don't know if there has ever been two brothers with head coaching jobs in the NFL at the same time, or even two related head coaches coaching at the same time. If there has been, I would love for someone to share with me that information. But even so, the fact that it is happening makes this a really intriguing game.

Since predicting the outcome of one game would make for an awfully short blog post, I want to spend a bit of time reflecting on the paths that these two teams have taken this season in their run to the Super Bowl. First up is the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens in recent years have been a fairly consistent playoff team as they have made the playoffs in 9 of their last 13 seasons and are currently on a 5 year run of making the playoffs. That most recent run has been propelled by quarterback Joe Flacco, who is often overlooked when we talk about the league's great quarterbacks. The man has not only made the playoffs in every one of his five NFL seasons, but he has won at least one playoff game in all five of those years. He currently has an 8-4 record in the playoffs, which is great for any quarterback, but especially for a quarterback who is only in his fifth year. This season, however, they went through quite the scare. They started at 9-2, but sputtered to a 1-4 record the rest of the way, landing them at 10-6. Their struggles late season led many to write them off and most people assumed that the Broncos and the Patriots were the only two teams that had a chance in a weak AFC. Heading into their first game, future hall of famer Ray Lewis announced that this was his final run. Shortly after that announcement came the emotional win over the Indianapolis Colts, giving Lewis another shot. Following that came the remarkable run by the Ravens. Like I mentioned, most everyone, myself included, thought that this year would be a battle between Broncos and Patriots. The Ravens not only spoiled that, but they sent both teams home in consecutive weeks. The Broncos game took double overtime to finalize and many can look at that game and say that the game was decided by a bunch of Bronco mistakes rather than game changing Raven plays. The Patriots game can't be argued that way, though, as the Ravens pulled off one of the more impressive Patriot beatdowns of late. The team hadn't been shutout in a half in quite some time. The Ravens entry to the Super Bowl is thus no fluke at all. It is well deserved.

Next up is the San Francisco 49ers. I have actually given the 49ers a lot of flack this season and thus Niners fans that have followed me recently may be surprised to know that the Niners were my preseason pick to be the NFC's representative in the Super Bowl (evidence here). Since then I mistakenly took them out of my Super Bowl predictions based on their horribly inconsistent season. Now what you say? I'm calling a team that won 11 games horribly inconsistent? Yep, I am. Did you know that the 49ers didn't even win three straight games this year during the regular season? They also didn't lose two straight games either, but still. And it wasn't that they had two good wins followed by a tough loss. They'd win two games in a row in a fantastic, elite way, making me look smart for originally picking them. But then in their next game they would completely disappear and play like they were heading for the top 10 in the draft next year. Jim Harbaugh also showed that he has a non-traditionalist attitude in his unclassy handling of his quarterback situation. Alex Smith was having a probowl type season before he was sidelined for a game with a concussion. Colin Kaepernick took over and played well, so Harbaugh kept him in and thus benched Alex Smith. Smith did nothing wrong. He didn't deserve to get benched. But that is what happened. Did it work out? Sure. Kaepernick has played lights out in the playoffs. But Alex Smith still didn't deserve to get benched. Now the CK has done great in the playoffs, if I'm Alex Smith I want nothing to do with the Niners next season, so the Niners better hope that CK doesn't follow the typical running quarterback trend by becoming injury-prone. But despite the inconsistencies and the quarterback shuffle, the 49ers snuck away with a first round bye and followed that by a pounding of the Packers and a comeback win over the Falcons, who have proven time and again that they don't know how to play in the second half of games. So in a very crazy NFC battle this year, the 49ers have come out on top.

Without further ado, lets actually talk about what you came here to read. Who is going to win the Super Bowl? Will it be the commercials. Possibly. Although I remember a time when the commercials were funnier. Will it be Beyonce performing at half time? Certainly not. And on that note real quick, I don't know who has been in charge of picking the Super Bowl half-time performers, but that person needs to get fired. Those two things aside, I am certain that a football team, either the Ravens or Niners, will win this game. But it is a tough one to pick. Both teams have fantastic defenses. Both teams have offenses that have been off and on this season, but have been playing lights out during the playoffs. The two head coaches definitely must be brothers. The Harbaugh Bowl is going to be an intensely close match-up that I think might go down to a game winning field goal. In picking the team that will win by that field goal, I am going to have to ride the Ray Lewis wave here. Ever since he announced his retirement, his team has been playing as if they are playing for him to get him one last championship ring. CK and the Niners will have their shot in the future, but I think this year belongs to the Ravens. Now you may point to the fact that the 49ers have never lost a Super Bowl and that is true. However, the Ravens technically haven't lost either (they are one for one) and to anyone who points to trends like that, I will remind them that this is a different Niners team. Even though past Niners teams have gone unbeaten, this Niners team is setting their own legacy separate from the old team. And there is a first for everything, Super Bowl losses included.
Prediction: Baltimore Ravens 34 - San Francisco 49ers 31