Friday, July 30, 2010

New Movie Friday!

"Dinner for Schmucks" - Steve Carell, Paul Rudd, Zach Galifianakis
A businessman (Rudd) is offered a promotion but discovers part of this new found job status involves each member of the team bringing a complete idiot/weirdo to dinner as a form of entertainment. At first he balks at this cruelty and then he runs into Carell's character who proves too good to keep away from the dinner. I want this movie to be good but I cannot shake the feeling of complete and abject failure. It seems like the studio is trying hard (too hard) to drum up interest and the trailers, while funny, hint at a lack of content. I think I'll see it but the reviews have been bad and I'm starting to lean toward DVDing this sucker.

"Charlie St. Cloud" - Zac Efron, Kim Basinger
Efron plays a guy who sees, converses with, and plays catch with his dead little brother. The trailer leaves me to believe this playing with dead people begins to get in the way of his having a real life (as you can imagine that kind of thing would). I think I'm in a small group of people who have no feelings toward Efron whatsoever. Everyone either hates the guy or inappropriately fawns after him. Personally I just don't care. He's not so bad of an actor as to garner by hatred but I'm not dying to see anything he's in. "17 Again" was pretty solid but not so solid as to create any buzz for me moving forward. Meh.

"Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore" - Chris O'donnell, Bette Midler
I'm not even going to waste anyone's time with a plot summary. It doesn't matter. If you have a young child or you are my friend Micah who freaks out over any movie that involves talking animal, you're going to see this. If you don't have a kid and are not my friend Micah, you won't see this ever. I unfortunately saw the first "Cats and Dogs" while running a summer camp a few years back and please listen to me when I tell you that under no circumstances should any human over the age of 11 get involved with this franchise.

Limited Release
"Get Low" - Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek
Duvall plays a crotchety old hermit who emerges from relative solitude to throw a "funeral party" for himself while still alive. This is getting tremendous buzz and could bring Duvall an Oscar nomination. It's early in the year for a folksy independent film like this to start making the rounds but a trip to an artsy theater may be in order for me here shortly.

Movie News Today!

As we continue to follow the yearly trek to Nerd Mecca, /Film gives us the best and worst things about Comic Con 2010.

I'm a big fan of Philip K. Dick and the movies based on his stories, but "Total Recall" does not hold up well and I'm certainly not dying for a remake. Len Wiseman is, though, as he's now in negotiations to retool the Arnie vehicle.

JJ Abrams has picked up the rights to "Boilerplate," a graphic novel that sounds something like the robot version of "Forrest Gump." I kind of secretly (now unsecretly) hate "Gump" but it's kind of hard to doubt Abrams these days.

Marshall at the Movies has seen "Dinner For Schmucks" and the results are not good. I have been teetering back and forth on what I expected from this movie and Marshall's review is pushing me to the dark side.

Cinema Blend gives us 16 actors who are better wingmen than superstars. Totally agree except on Morgan Freeman and sometimes Steve Buschemi.

Ellen DeGeneres has joined Simon Cowell in exiting from the "American Idol" judges table. It always felt like a strange addition but Ellen brought some much needed buzz to the show. Prediction: "AI" makes it one year without Simon.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Instant Queue Special - "The Searchers"

Former Confederate soldier Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) returns home from the Civil War with bags of money and buckets of bitterness. Just as he's settling into civilian life, a band of Comanche Indians come through, slaughtering most of his family and capturing his young niece, Debbie. Ethan and his posse, including a half Cherokee boy named Martin (Jeffrey Hunter) whom Ethan rescued years ago, set off on a journey to hunt down the Comanche and reclaim Debbie. But as the years drag on and their numbers dwindle, the reasoning behind Ethan's search become murky and it becomes clear that Martin is Debbie's only real hope of surviving.

"The Searchers" is one of those movies that seemingly every film aficionado calls a classic and some I know have even put it into the discussion of "best Western ever." Personally I'm not all that impressed. (To be fair though, I'm often less than impressed with many of the classics.) There's definitely some strong material here. It's hard to ever say anything negative about John Wayne, partly because he's awesome and partly because I'm still a little afraid of him even though he's been dead for 31 years. And the rather straight forward handling of the film's inherent racial tones is outstanding. Still, though, these qualities don't cover up the fact that "The Searchers" is a nightmare in terms of character and plot development. The story jumps rapidly and crudely from scene-to-scene and the characters are poorly written and extremely one dimensional. It's also a bit on the boring side with Ethan and Martin basically doing the exact same thing for 119 minutes. There's no question that many of the classics would be absolutely butchered if they were made today. Imagine "The French Connection" as directed by Michael Bay. Blerg. But it would be foolish to stop there and not admit that some of the classics could use a dose of modern filmmaking. With a touch of additional storytelling, some character development, and a release date during an era in which Westerns are not a dime a dozen, "The Searchers" would be an award worthy film. As it is, it's a solid "not bad" in my book.

Grade: B-

Movie News Today!

Say what you want about Sly Stallone but the guy gets it when it comes to the fans. He's joined Ain't it Cool News for 5 days of answering fan questions. Great grass-roots promotion for "The Expendables."

IFC asks and discusses the question, "Do stars matter?" This is stupid question for me personally as I am very actor/director/writer-centric. But the numbers show otherwise.

CNN examines why the 3D experiment is already failing. I'm all for the failure of an unnecessary technology but this article does not completely take into consideration the sheer lack of interesting movies on the calendar. 3D or not, 2011 will see the numbers jump back up, no question.

Guillermo Del Toro has jumped from "The Hobbit" to an interesting little project called "At the Mountains of Madness." James Cameron will produce.

Damon Lindelof is being rumored as the writer for the upcoming "Alien" prequel. The work Lindelof did on "Lost" was outstanding for about three years so hopefully a two hour movie won't be too much trouble.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Despicable Me"

I seem to be writing about expectations quite a bit lately. I give the old college effort to keep from going into a movie with too much excitement or anxiety and yet it’s starting to feel like a lost cause these days. Similar to the way Nicholas Cage keeps getting major film roles, the symptoms of the Expectation Virus keep popping up when I’d much prefer a more subdued, even slightly doubtful approach going in. That’s kind of the territory I like to be in for all movies: interested enough to see it but not holding out for anything more than two hours of entertainment. That way, if a movie doesn’t hit the mark, I’m not overly disappointed and if it brings the noise (and/or the funk), I’m pleasantly surprised. When I saw the first couple of trailers for “Despicable Me,” I thought it looked alright, worth seeing, but probably nothing to get my hopes up for. And then I was inundated with reviews and opinions that described this movie in such glowing terms as to cause the retched disease of Expectation to come bursting forth. So thanks a ton to all of you who set me up for failure.

“Despicable Me” centers around the semi-evil activities of world renowned super villain Gru (voice by Steve Carell). Gru, his mad scientist Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand), and his team of yellow minions (think Oompa Loompas plus Larry the Cucumber from “Veggietales”) have pulled a few big jobs but nothing compared to that of Vector (Jason Segal), Gru’s nemesis who recently stole an Egyptian pyramid. To get back on top, Gru sets out on a two part heist in which he will first attempt to steal a shrink ray gun and use it to miniaturize the Moon. Vector, however, has the same idea and jacks the shrink ray gun from Gru, locking it away in a fortress that seems to have only one weakness: Vector’s affinity for Girl Scout cookies. Hatching a plan on the go, Gru adopts three sisters from a local orphanage (you know, like any good super villain would) and uses them to break into Vector’s complex. But as he recovers the shrink ray gun and begins making preparations to steal the moon, he finds he’s becoming more and more attached to his new family members, leading his two worlds eventually collide.

I give the writers and directors behind “Despicable Me” a lot of credit for the film’s originality. The whole bad-guy-gets-his-heart-softened-by-a-kid thing has been done, sure, but “Despicable” really does bring some new material to the table. The concept may be slightly cliché but the world in which the film takes place is so odd as to seem different and fresh. Gru is an interesting character who seems from the very beginning to be less cut out for the world of evil than he’d like to think. As always, Steve Carell gives a strong performance packed with funny lines and the perfect timing I’ve come to expect from the guy. Carell is becoming the master of bringing an authentic dose of heart to otherwise unlikeable or uninspiring characters and that’s something “Despicable” would be lost without. In addition, the kids bring the requisite combination of cute and humor to keep the ball rolling. And the minions, whom I feared would grow old quickly, actually kept me chuckling along with the dozens of kids in my theater. Plus, I’m of the opinion that if you’re making an animated movie, you should be required to cast Will Arnett and his A-MAZING vocal talent so “Despicable” gets extra points for that.

In the end, though, “Despicable” doesn’t go far beyond “cute kid’s movie” territory. It’s fun, mildly humorous, entertainment but that’s where its merits end. By no means do I mean to say there’s anything wrong with it. To be honest just the fact that it kept my interest throughout and didn’t induce groaning and/or vomiting makes it better than the average children’s feature. (I promise the same could not be said for most of the movies advertised before “Despicable.” So glad I don’t have kids yet.) But in a year that has brought us “Toy Story 3” and “How to Train Your Dragon,” animated movies have a lot to measure up to if they want to stick out. There’s nothing inherently off about “Despicable Me,” it’s just not one of the best movies I’ve seen this year as that darned Expectation Virus had me thinking it might be.

All told, “Despicable Me” is a fine kid’s movie that should keep the average parent almost as entertained as their children. It reminded me a lot of “Shrek.” I didn’t love “Shrek” but I certainly didn’t mind it; fun, just not great. I’m not rushing out to buy the Blu Ray but if I run across it late at night after I’ve already watched Sportscenter once or twice, I’d be happy to watch it again. For me the enduring legacy of “Despicable Me” will always be the fact that it dethroned the latest “Twilight” crap fest at the top of the Box Office Charts, thereby sparing America of another depressing yet glittery week at the mercy of the Cullen gang. For that I will forever be grateful.

Grade: B

I’d be happy if I had no idea who Edward Cullen is,

Movie News Today!

Well I've finally hit the big time. One of my favorite blogs, Marshall at the Movies, has featured the Soap Box Office in his "Origins" series. Very cool day for me, be sure to click over there and check out the site.

Tom Hardy was one of the bigger surprises to come out of "Inception." Outstanding actor. But I can tell you right now, if he cashes that success in for many roles like this one, he'll be right back out of mind before he knows it.

An interesting look at the marketing campaign for "Tron Legacy" and how it could revolutionize the industry.

When Nathan Fillion talks, I listen. (Or in this case, watch.)

My friends at Movie Muse were at Comic Con last weekend (so stinking jealous) and present us with a list of the Top 10 Attention Grabbing Films from the event.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New DVD Tuesday!

Clash of the Titans (2010): Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes
When Ralph Fiennes is accepting junk like this, you know things are bad. The remake of an early 80s cult classic didn't garner quite the affection its predecessor did. Post production installment of 3D graphics didn't do this mess any favors but then again, neither did the writer, director, or actors. It's not what I would call truly awful but it's certainly a far cry from good. Watching this late at night (or drunk) will probably make it more enjoyable.

Repo Men (2010): Jude Law, Forest Whitaker
In the not too distant future artificial organs are available to the masses. Awesome, right? Problem is, if you can't keep up your payments, Jude Law shows up to take your vital bits and pieces back from you. So that sucks. But then later he has a "change of heart" so to speak when he himself is equipped with an artificial ticker and has to go on the run. I'm pretty sure this is bad. In fact, I know it's bad. Yet I can't help but be intrigued by the concept. If done right... okay, there's no way this could have been done right.

New to Blu Ray
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000): Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeow
One of the more visually stunning and original movies of the last decade, I confess I wasn't all that impressed with "Tiger" after my first viewing. It was so well received and reviewed but I just didn't get it. But, maybe it's just a movie a 17 year old (my age in 2000) isn't supposed to get. I might give this a go now that this version is available.

Movie News Today!

Daniel Craig is officially on board for the American version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and he's signed on for the whole trilogy. There was quite a competition between Craig and Brad Pitt for the role so really, how could you go wrong? I've got the foreign version sitting on my Netflix Instant Queue but haven't had time to read a movie just yet.

If you'd like a sneak-peek at a new "Godzilla" film, then here you go. Honestly I can't imagine why you would but it isn't my place to judge (at least not openly).

By now you know that if there is "Star Wars" goodness to be passed on, it will be passed on. /Film presents us with the "19 Things You Didn't Know About Star Wars." I feel I knew at least 10 of these things. What does that say about me? Never mind, keep it to yourself.

Movie Muse provides a review of the murderous classic "Arsenic and Old Lace." Some quirky old English teacher I had in high school let us watch this in class once upon a time and I will be forever grateful for that violation of district policy.

Monday, July 26, 2010

DVD Review - "The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights"

"Under Great White Northern Lights" is half concert film, half behind the scenes look at one of the great American bands of the modern era, The White Stripes. After failing to truly tour Canada throughout the majority of their 10 year existence as a band, the Stripes decided to go all out with a tour that saw them play in every single Canadian province. As part of their fun, they brought along music video director Emmett Malloy to film the experience and give the fans a glance behind the curtain.

Let me level with you by saying I'm a White Stripes disciple. What front man Jack White does with every album, every song, every line, I consider to be complete genius. He is perhaps the most talented man in the world right now, a guy who is sickeningly good at pretty much everything he puts his mind to. Anytime I see an expose on Jack, I come away thinking that whatever talent of his that he considers to be the 38th best thing that he does, would be better than my number one best skill. So I am far from unbiased when I say that "UGWNL" is an outstanding example of what a concert film/band documentary could and should be. Malloy gives us an insight into the minds of the Jack and Meg without giving them too much leeway to show the negative side of artistry. At the same time, he gives us snippets of show footage without letting the whole thing turn into a glorified recorded concert. It's a brilliant mix that keeps the audience zoned in on what's happening while showing off just how special this band really is. Malloy also chooses the songs he uses very carefully without relying on the band's more well-known hits and thereby displays the versatility and diversity of the Stripes.

Jack and Meg, meanwhile, hold up their part of the bargain by delivering in every single scene, be it concert or interview segment. The raw energy and intensity they bring to the stage is matched only in the way they (Jack especially) think and work on their sound off of it. Everything about the Stripes is a paradox of sorts. They take the stage without a set list yet put more thought into what they will play than just about any other band. Their sound is often raw and sometimes unrefined and yet at the same time it is so much more advanced than what you get from most rock artists. Everything about the band is both complex and simple all at once and that same dynamic works in the off stage dynamic between Jack and Meg, a relationship that "UGWNL" so graciously gives us a glimpse of. This is a must-see for any Stripes fan and a should-see for anyone who wants to better understand the mind of a genius.

Grade: A

Box Office Monday!

Well "Salt" brought in its fair share of cash this week but "Inception" held the top spot as viewers went back for a second helping of Chris Nolan's awesome heist thriller. I said on Friday that I was very interested to see how much "Inception" would drop and I'm pleased to report that the second weekend run saw only a 30% drop from last week's totals. In this day and age, that's an outstanding figure. "Despicable Me" also held on strong and even got my money this week (review forthcoming). All in all, a solid weekend for such a retched year.

1. "Inception" - $43.5 million ($143.7 million total)
2. "Salt" - $36.5 million
3. "Despicable Me" - $24.1 million ($161.7 mil total)
4. "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" - $9.7 million ($42.6 mil total)
5. "Toy Story 3" - $9 million ($379.5 mil total)
6. "Ramona and Beezus" - $8 million
7. "Grown Ups" - $7.6 million ($142.4 mil total)
8. "Twilight: Eclipse" - $7 million ($279.7 mil total)
9. "The Last Airbender" - $4.2 million ($123.3 mil total)
10. "Predators" - $2.9 mllion ($46.6 mil total)

Movie News Today!

Lots of Comic Con news today starting with...

Zachary Quinto (Spock) letting us know that production on "Star Trek 2" has been delayed. Kaaahhhhhhhnnnnn!!!

A picture of the entire starting lineup for the upcoming "Avengers" movie. Awesome lineup, though Mark Ruffalo replacing Ed Norton is a significant downgrade.

Oh, and BTW, there was a stabbing before one of the panels at Comic Con this year. You don't get between a nerd and Lucy Lawless, okay?

Marvel has reacquired the rights to "The Punisher" and hopes to bring a reboot to theaters soon. Under normal circumstances I would say if three different versions of a movie fail miserably, you should just let it go. But I honestly can't understand why the Punisher character hasn't caught on. If done right, it should be a big hit.

Univarn over at A Life in Equinox has reviewed "Inception" and has some interesting thoughts on a film I found to be exquisite.

And if you're interested in the play-by-play for some of the biggest nerd movies of the next year, Movieline did liveblogs from the panels for "Thor/Avengers/Captain America", "Green Lantern", and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 1." Enjoy.

Friday, July 23, 2010

New Movie Friday!

Once upon a time the summer calendar was so jam packed with exciting new releases that I almost felt overloaded. Like, how in the name of Chewbacca's beard am I going to be able to see all this stuff? Alas, that age seems to have passed us by and while I hold out hope for 2011 and 2012, 2010 is slowly sucking my Movie Life Force Away. Neither of this week's offerings do anything for me, which is all the more reason for you to check out "Inception" if you haven't already. And if you have seen it then this week is the perfect opportunity to see it again. Seriously, when Hollywood is cramming junk down our throats at every turn, it's important to embrace the truly original, inspired works that manage to slip through. I digress. This week brings us...

"Salt" - Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber, Chiwetel Ejiofor
CIA Evelyn Salt (Jolie) is accused of being a spy and embarks on a journey to clear her name. It's not that I think this is going to be terrible, it's just that I don't care. Maybe it's the Jolie Factor; I'm not a Jolie fan and that usually translates into my disinterest in her films. But maybe the problem is that, to me, "Salt" just sums up 2010: all style, no substance. It just fits right in with the cliche, mediocre, "meh" material that Hollywood has treated us to all year long. I think if this was released in a normal blockbuster-packed summer it would be relegated to back up status, meaning the film you see when the movie you really want to see is sold out. Instead, we've been inundated with trailers and advertisements for months, touting this as one of the big selling points for the year. I'm not saying I won't see this, I'm just not impressed and imagine this will end up being a late night DVD viewing for me.

"Ramona and Beezus" - Selena Gomez, Joey King, Bridget Moynahan
Per IMDB: "When grade-schooler Ramona Quimby (King) senses that her family's home is danger, she uses her boundless energy and enthusiasm to save the day." I'm just glad I don't have kids yet.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


So there’s this part of my Movie Oriented Brain that I like to call the Over Hype Mechanism. The Over Hype Mechanism (OHM) takes in everything I learn about a movie from the time I first become aware of it until the time that I actually see said movie: The multiple trailer viewings, the pre through post-production news and gossip, the IMDB nerdouts that routinely take up my Wednesday evenings when I should be in bed, and finally the experience I have when I actually take in the movie. This all goes into the OHM which processes the stimuli and issues forth a ruling within my brain that is usually something like, “HOLY CRAP, THIS IS GOING TO BE INCREDIBLLLLLLLLLE!” Needless to say, I do not consider the OHM to be my friend. In fact, I often rage war against the OHM the way John Connor takes on Skynet. This is why I try to talk myself into half expecting a movie to be bad and almost always wait four to seven days to write a review. If I don’t temper my expectations going in and my enthusiasm coming out, I’m prone to proclaiming a movie the best I’ve seen all year before properly evaluating what I’ve just witnessed (case in point: “Avatar.”) With that in mind, let’s discuss “Inception.”

I’m struggling with what exactly to say concerning the summary of “Inception.” Truthfully, (as Roger Ebert said in his review) this is a spoiler-proof movie. I could tell you exactly how the movie ends and you’d have no idea what the deuce I’m talking about. To accurately describe this film would be to devote 1,000 words to the plot alone. Basically, “Inception” brings us the concept of dream thievery. Dom Cob (Leonardo DiCaprio) joins his mind with the target, brings him into his dream, makes him feel safe, and then unlocks the deepest, darkest secrets of the hidden recesses within the mind. When presented with an opportunity to get back home his children, Cob takes on a case that involves inception. Inception is the art of planting an idea within the mind of a subject and doing so in such as way as to make the subject believe the idea is his own. Cob and his team (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, and Tom Hardy) work to plant an idea in the subconscious of business tycoon Robert Fischer, Jr. (Cillian Murphy) while Cob’s own fragile mind attempts to sabotage them. To go any further with this explanation would be an injustice to you, the movie goer, who should be on his or her way out the door to see this right now.

The OHM was in full battle mode going into “Inception.” All of the tell-tale signs of OHM involvement were present. An insane trailer that asks three dozen questions and answers none. Actors that I deeply respect. A director that I’ve openly proclaimed as the best in the game. An oppressive, miserable, worthless movie calendar that makes anything remotely original look a Chicago deep dish surrounded by Totino’s frozen pizzas. (Worst analogy ever.) Call it a perfect storm if you will but the fact remains, the OHM won this battle in a decisive manner. I was left defenseless against its seductive ovations of promised awesomeness. There was no way this movie could live up to the ridiculous standards the OHM had set me up with.

And yet it did. I’m going to try to keep this simple. If not for “Toy Story 3”, you could make the case that “Inception” is the best movie of the last two or three years. I’m not going to say it is because this is one of those movies that you are just going to have to judge for yourself. Some people aren’t going to get it and if you don’t get it, you’re not going to appreciate this the way I did. Also I’m working on step 7 in Overrating Movies Anonymous. But if you wanted to make the case that this belongs in the upper echelon of modern films, I wouldn’t argue with you.

What you will see on screen during “Inception” are visuals that I don’t think you’ve ever seen before and may never see again. There are a few special movies, like “Star Wars”, “Jurassic Park”, and the aforementioned “Avatar” that are game changers. “Inception” joins that list. It’s just stupid how eye popping the landscape of this movie is. Because of the nature of the film, the world “Inception” has to work with is virtually unlimited. If the mind can imagine it, it can be done. Add to this some outstanding work by a group of highly talented actors and the combination alone should make for a solid movie. I’m not sure exactly when it happened but somewhere between here and “Titanic” DiCaprio went from this baby faced, annoying little punk to one of the best performers Hollywood has to offer. His now patented intensity is on full display here and it works magnificently for Cob. In turn, Levitt and Murphy are perfect for their roles, Watanabe reminds us of why he was nominated for an Oscar, and Hardy plays the witty, debonair enforcer with exquisite precision. And while at times Page feels out of place and perhaps even a bit underused, on other occasions she goes toe-to-toe with DiCaprio and carries her weight beautifully.

The real brilliance for “Inception”, however, is in the genius of writer/director Christopher Nolan. Nolan should teach a class to every aspiring movie maker on how to write and illustrate a story. No one does it better. The plot behind “Inception” is one of the more in-depth, complex stories you could possibly imagine. One scene opens up a level of elaborate content that leads directly to another level of ever increasing complication. No scene is wasted (the mark of a truly great writer/director) and while the story gets more involved and more complex, it doesn’t seem so complex when you’re in the middle of it all. Nolan paints such a detailed picture that you can’t help but follow along and grasp the content he puts before you. As weird as it may sound, this is a bit revolutionary in the mind-bending action movie genre. The average director takes a story and adds elements into it to convolute and confuse the audience, then calls it complex. Nolan, on the other hand, seems to have this entire story laid out in absurd detail and because of that, following the concepts he presents you with allows you to think for yourself and explore the vision he’s sharing. He blows your mind while still leaving it intact to enjoy and contemplate what’s happening. And yet, at its very base, “Inception” is just the story of a dad going to literally the very edge of sanity to get home to his kids. “Dark Knight” may end up being his biggest cash cow but “Inception” is Nolan’s masterpiece, a monumental achievement in filmmaking.

“Inception” is incredibly tense throughout and absolutely mesmerizing to behold. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a theater that was as quiet and still as this one was. That’s an incredible compliment to Mr. Nolan and the rest of the parties involved here. For an audience of 175 people to sit wordlessly, almost breathlessly, through a 148 minute film (in a non-air conditioned theater no less), riveted to the screen is about as good as you could ever hope for as a filmmaker. Well done, Over Hype Mechanism.

Grade: A+


Movie News Today

Fox has signed on a pair of screenwriters to pen the story for a pseudo-biopic of the notorious Barefoot Bandit. If you haven't been paying attention, the Bandit is a teenager who's been on a worldwide crime scpree over the last few years and was just recently aprehended. Incredibly interesting.

Muppets plus Pixar. That's all I'm saying.

Brad Pitt is officially on to star in "World War Z." This is one of my favorite books and one of the more inventive pieces of fantasy/sci-fi of the last...ever. I want to be excited about this. However, there's a right way and a wrong way to do this thing and I'm afraid that, even with an actor as established and talented as Pitt involved, it's going to be done the wrong way.

It's looking more and more like Joseph Gordon-Levitt is going to play the Riddler in Chris Nolan's third "Batman" film. Completely on board.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Movie News Today

I intended to have my "Inception" review up tonight but four days of insomnia have finally caught up with me and I believe I'm headed for an early exit tonight. Tomorrow, I promise.

Marvel is headed to ComicCon and is bringing posters for "Captain America" and "Thor" with them. Oh to be in San Diego right now...

Sam Raimi, fresh off his departure from "Spiderman", is now set to direct another comic book inspired series, this one based around Wyatt Earp in a futuristic dystopian society. Okay, I'm intrigued.

Tim Burton is apparently on board to direct "Monsterpocalypse", which is based on a miniature battling game. (Think Dungeons and Dragons plus Magic the Gathering.) I always find it necessary to pass on Burton-related news because, while I don't love everything he does, he does everything with a style all his own and I admire that.

Notorious douche bag Armond White has grown tired of attacking films, directors, and actors and takes to bashing on Robert Ebert. I could probably do a full column on this but let me just say, what killed film criticism (if in fact is is dead which I would argue against) are arrogant, narcissistic, indignantly sophisticated jackholes like Armond White who would prefer to hear themselves talk endlessly about why every film sucks than they would just sit back and enjoy a movie every once in a while. Just another example of a mainstream, published, self-important critic who feels threatened by the type of platform the Internet provides people like myself and can't figure out why no one wants to listen to him wax unpoetically every week as he tears apart another perfectly fine piece of entertainment. You suck, Armond White, and the sooner we can run no talent butt clowns like you out of business, the better. *End Rant*

Movieline gives us the six films that ComicCon could either make or break. Totally agree, except I think "Green Lantern" is a smash hit no matter what.

Turns out "Inception" actually made a bit more money this weekend than originally thought. Add to that a $10 million total today and it's still going strong. I expect $100 million by the end of the weekend.

An interesting little article over at 30ninjas gives us some fan-made trailers. The idea here being, the studio puts out trailers to get us, the audience, excited about their upcoming films. Why can't we, then, produce trailers for favorite books, comics, and video games to get the studio excited about the source material? Intriguing. Didn't watch all of these but I'm impressed with what I saw.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Blu Ray Review - "Brooklyn's Finest"

"Brooklyn's Finest" tells the story of three (Brooklyn) cops of varying importance and the way in which their screwed up lives intersect. Think "Crash" plus "Training Day" minus "significance." Richard Gere is a washed up patrol cop on the brink of retirement who never does anything that calls for extra effort or paper work. Don Cheadle is so deep undercover that the line between cover and reality has become blurred. And Ethan Hawke is a narcotics officer whose family is quickly dipping below the poverty line. All three are close to the breaking point in their own way as the tensions of the city take them through shoot outs, crooked take downs, and kidnappings. Director Antoine Fuqua puts together a slow moving, worthlessly complex, grim plot that none of his characters seem capable of properly navigating. And then it all mercifully ends.

Generally speaking, I'm a fan of Fuqua's work. "Training Day" is one of the best cop movies I've ever seen, complete with an iconic performance by Denzel Washington. "Tears of the Sun" is far from great but I find it to be an above average war movie that tackles tough content with relative realism. And "Shooter" is one of my all time favorite "guilty pleasure" movies and one that I find myself watching more times than I'd like to admit. Fuqua displays an understanding of his subject matter that few directors do.


"Brooklyn's Finest" is an extreme departure from Fuqua's recent catalog. The setup takes forever to get settled in, the characters are wholly unlikeable, and the connections between these unlikeable characters are questionable at best. Characters that are supposed to represent a gritty, authentic take on crooked cops in a corrupt city come across as cliche caricatures instead. In addition, the story is as common as they come. Gere is a burn out who spends all his money on prostitutes and booze, Cheadle can't bring himself to turn in his new bad-guy buddies, Hawke is killing and stealing to support his family and blah blah blah. The whole of "Finest" plays out like a bad episode of "NYPD Blue" only with more cursing and less Dennis Franz-related nudity (at least it has that going for it). When finding it hard to phrase how I feel about a movie, I like to pull inspiration from the great scholarly works such as "Billy Madison." In the words of Billy's principal, "At no point in your rambling...were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought." (Perhaps the classic "...sound and fury, signifying nothing" would seem more sophisticated but I just like "Billy Madison", okay?) That's how I felt about "Finest." It strives to matter but it simply doesn't, instead reveling for two hours in the Pointless Abyss, leaving the semi-resurrection of Wesley Snipes as its only legacy.

Grade: C-

New DVD Tuesday!

The Losers (2010): Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Idris Elba, Chris Evans
Based on a graphic novel, "The Losers" are a collection of ex-military types who set out on a mission to clear their names and exact revenge. Basically, it's "The A-Team" without anywhere near the amount of fun. "The Losers" isn't bad exactly, it just doesn't quite click. The real drawback is a sub par villainous turn by Jason Patric. Didn't love it.

Cop Out (2010): Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan
I know I shouldn't want to see this movie and yet every time I saw the trailer, I hid my face, shook my head in disgust (at myself), and then shamefully laughed. I'd be much more interested if not for these four words: "directed by Kevin Smith." I cannot stand Kevin Smith and find his self-importance to be only slightly less maddening than that of John Travolta. Still, though, I can't shake this idiotic desire to see "Cop Out" against my better judgment.

The Runaways (2010): Kristen Stewart, Dakota Fanning
Just your typical coming of age in a band story, this one focusing on Joan Jett and co. I heard a few good things about this but I just don't care. Outisde of "Into the Wild", Kristen Stewart does nothing for me and that sentiment goes for wanna-be grown up Dakota Fanning. Sure, Joan Jett is a legend, but I'm just not interested in the slightest.

And that's it. Another lackluster Tuesday in the sad year that is 2010.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Box Office Monday!

Well it isn't quite on the level of "The Dark Knight" but it's certainly good enough to take the day. "Inception" jumped into the summer action with a strong $60 million total, pushing last week's champ "Despicable Me" to second while Disney's "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" stumbled, fell, and was shot on the track just outside the gate. Can we stop making these Nicholas Cage, cookie cutter action movies now? Please? The real story for "Inception" will be what happens next week. Obviously it's going to drop off the first week total because every movie does. But with the strong word of mouth this movie is getting (my review is coming but in short, INCREDIBLE) how far it drops will be interesting to watch.

1. "Inception" - $60.4 million
2. "Despicable Me" - $32.7 million ($118.4 million total)
3. "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" - $17.4 million ($24.5 million)
4. "Twilight: Eclipse" - $13.5 million ($264.9 million)
5. "Toy Story 3" - $11.7 million ($362.7 million)
6. "Grown Ups" - $10 million ($129.3 million)
7. "The Last Airbender" - $7.5 million ($114.8 million)
8. "Predators" - $6.8 million ($40.1 million)
9. "Knight and Day" - $3.7 million ($69.2 million)
10. "The Karate Kid" - $2.2 million ($169.2 million)

Movie News Today

Adam McKay, writer and director of "Anchorman", says the now defunct sequel was going to be a musical. Darn you, Paramount!

I'm always up for whatever Will Smith brings to the table. One of my all time faves. But... this potential project that would have him playing a vampirical Cain (as in Cain and Abel) is admittedly a bit off.

Empire provides us with some shots of a low-budget little movie called "Monsters." As much as I love sci-fi, I'm usually quite wary of these little "gems." But "District 9" changed the game for me last year, showing just how much can be done with good writing and $30 million. I confess interest here.

It seems Soap Box Office favorite was in the house for a screening of his newest piece of awesome, only to have the film shut down due to a malfunctioning air conditioner. Funny because this is exactly what happened to me except we the audience sat through the whole thing in desert-like temperatures and no one asked for my autograph afterward.

Apparently the folks over at Columbia Pictures weren't paying attention to the lackluster returns for Nicholas Cage's newest film "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" as they have agreed to bankroll another "Ghost Rider" movie. Painful.

Say what you will for Ben Affleck's acting abilities, the guy is a gifted director. Just saw the trailer for his newest film, "The Town", and it looks outstanding.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Top 10 Most Anticipated Movies For the Rest of 2010

I've made no bones about how bad the 2010 movie calendar really is. Even the majority of the movies I've been excited about going in have proven to be little more than mediocre. That said, there are still a few movies worth looking forward to and this is before all the award fodder films that I've never heard of start getting mainstream releases in the fall. I give you my Top 10 Most Anticipated Films for the rest of the year.

10. "Due Date" (November 5) - Robert Downey, Jr., Zack Galifianakas
A modern day recreation of "Planes Trains and Automobiles" with Downey in the Steve Martin role, Galifianakas as John Candy. Instead of Thanksgiving, however, this story revolves around Downey trying to get home to see the birth of his child. Just saw a trailer and while it looks a little more slapstick than I was hoping, I'm still quite interested.

9. "The Expendables" (August 13) - Every conceivable action star from the 80s and 90s
OK, I admit, it is 100% foolhardy for me to even care about this thing. I'm not usually the guy who falls for the super-macho, no-plot-lots-of-explosions action movie but I mean, come on! Stallone, Willis, Statham, Rourke, Arnie, and everyone else? Together? Just the idea of the crazy steroid-laced exploits that took place on the set are enough to get me interested. I know it's likely to be terrible. I just can't help myself.

8. "The American" (September 1) - George Clooney
Clooney plays an assassin on a difficult final mission. The trailer for this was mediocre and the September release date worries me. But George Clooney is just so good it's hard to doubt him. What I love about Clooney is that he makes you feel like he is the only actor who could play his character. Almost every role is identifiably his. Last year's work in "Up in the Air" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox" just renewed my zeal for Clooney's work.

7. "It's Kind of a Funny Story" (September 24) - Zach Galifianakas, Keir Gilcrist, Emma Roberts
A relatively artsy look at the life of a teenager who gets placed in the adult wing of a psychiatric facility where he learns some life lessons from a couple of nutcases. I saw a trailer for this a couple of days ago and it rapidly escalated my interest. I'm sure I won't get a chance to see it in theaters as it will probably run only in art houses but maybe it'll slip in at a big theater somewhere around here.

6. "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World" (August 13) - Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
I'm just going with the IMDB plot summary on this one: "Scott Pilgrim must defeat his girlfriend's seven evil exes in order to win her heart." Michael Cera going all "Kill Bill" on us? Um...yes, please! I know that one of these days the whole Michael Cera one-trick-pony thing is going to wear me out. But I don't think that day will be today.

5. "Red" (October 15) - Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren
Sure, it's a cliche formula: a retired Special Ops guy gets the old band back together to take out an assassin that's messing with his quiet new life. I know, I know, it's been done a million times. But has it been done with Bruce Willis?! That's right! 22 years later and I will still buy into just about anything Bruce Willis does just because of "Die Hard." I might be stupid, but I'm loyal.

4. "The Other Guys" (August 6) - Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg
Ferrell and Wahlberg play desk-jockey cops who finally get a chance to take a big score and find that big time detective work is harder than it looks. I love both of these guys and while it will CERTAINLY be juvenile absurdity, the trailer made me LOL quite a bit. All I want at the end of the summer is stupid laughter so I'm definitely in.

3. "True Grit" (December 25) - Jeff Bridges, Barry Pepper, Josh Brolin
Not exactly the family Christmas fodder you might expect, this Coen Brothers' remake of the John Wayne classic has been all over my radar for quite some time. Coens+Bridges+Brolin+Pepper+Matt Damon in a guest spot = HOW COULD THIS NOT BE INCREDIBLE?! So in.

2. "Inception" (July 16) - Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard
I'm hoping to be in a theater late tonight for this and I'm bursting with excitement. Really battling the overhype machine in my brain.

1. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1" (November 19) - Daniel Radcliffe et al.
This was my number one most anticipated movie of 2010 at the beginning of the year and nothing has changed that. I'm a complete Potter nerd, the type that's read all the books multiple times, watches the movies religiously, and only just stops short of actually contemplating which House of Magic I'd get in were I to have the Sorting Hat placed upon my head. If not for this thing called "work" I might be inclined to get in line for this by, say, August. If nothing else it would provide some magnificent content for this blog. Man, I might need some professional help...

New Movie Friday!

"Inception" - Leonardo Dicaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard
This is perhaps the last movie of the summer that I'm really, really excited about. I've purposely avoided getting too much information as to the nature of this movie's plot beyond the fact that it has something to do with dream thievery and it looks INCREDIBLE. I'm trying desperately to keep myself from inflating my expectations but dude this looks good.

"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" - Nicholas Cage, Jay Baruchel, Alfred Molina
Based loosely on the "Fantastia" segment of the same name, Baruchel plays an average-guy science nerd who gets recruited by Cage into a world wide battle between good and evil. Question: why are you people so into Nicholas Cage? I say you people because the dude makes serious bank on every film and it sure isn't me who's dying to see him over and over again. Nic Cage is a beating. He not only plays the same character in every movie he even brings the exact same mannerisms to every role. It's exhausting to fight through this guy. Stop giving him your money, people! We can do better than this.

Movie News Today

I'm so quickly losing interest in the casting news for "X-Men: First Class" but if you still care, another character has been lined up.

Entertainment Weekly gave us a first look at the costume for Ryan Reynold's "Green Lantern." Nerds of the world! Assemble!

How about a syllabus for an entire college course on "The Simpsons"? Yes, please. Actually I took this course in college. I just didn't get any credit for it.

The Independent (which I usually can't stand) gives us a look at the newest Pixar short "Day and Night" and their rest of the shorts. Some of the best work in film over the last 15 years.

Here we have a look at the 10 most underrated villains of all time. Totally agree on number 3. "Something Wicked This Way Comes" freaked me out as a kid. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Movie News Today

Magnolia Pictures (funded by Mark Cuban) has purchased the rights to the Joaquin Phoenix mockumentary "I'm Still Here" and will release it in September. I admit it's absurd but I'm a bit fascinated by this whole thing. Phoenix is either completely delusional or completely genius but either way, he's committed.

OK, let me preface this by saying this comes from the same site that bashed on "Sherlock Holmes", which was great, and "The A-Team" which I loved. So perhaps we should take it with a grain of salt. But... Movieline HATES "Inception."

In other "Inception"-related news... Empire has been doing a great series on Christopher Nolan, getting some of the actors he's worked with to discuss the film process under the visionary director. Followers of this site know that I praise Nolan and Gary Oldman as much as anyone in the world. So when I saw that today's installment was Gary Oldman talking about Christopher Nolan... I'm not going to lie, I might have peed a little.

After unceremoniously sending Edward Norton to the curb, Marvel is rumored to be courting Mark Ruffalo to play the Hulk. My take? Ruffalo is a good enough actor but he does the same exact thing in every film and I'm tired of it.

I really don't want to report this but I guess it's required. Pixar is apparently developing a "Cars" spinoff called "Planes." Sounds great, right? Well just let the other shoe drop, friend. This new development is going to be (gag) a straight-to-DVD production. That's all I'm saying.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Knight and Day"

Every once in a while I feel I have to start out these little reviews with a confession. Maybe this happens more than it should but that’s beside the point. Today is no different as I must confess to you, dear reader(s), my affinity for Tom Cruise movies. I really like Tom Cruise’s movies. Not Tom Cruise the person, you understand. That guy is clearly as street rat crazy as they come. No, I’ve no interest in Tom Cruise the Human. But Tom Cruise the Actor…that’s a different story. Say what you want about Cruise but his movies almost never fail to entertain me and he truly invests in his roles, something you definitely can’t say about every actor. He’s brought so much entertainment to me that I find myself rooting for the crazy dude and hoping for a comeback. Needless to say, I really wanted “Knight and Day” to be good.

“Knight and Day” centers on international superspy Roy Miller (Cruise) and his exploits involving civilian mechanic June Havens (Cameron Diaz). Miller has gone rogue from the CIA and is in possession of a super secret, super valuable piece of technology. When Miller’s attempt to use June as a mule backfires, he ends up crash landing their plane in a cornfield. June wakes up at home in her bed with instructions to deny any knowledge of Roy Miller. When she disobeys this request, however, Miller jumps back into her life to save her from the CIA spooks (led by Peter Sarsgaard) who’ve been on his trail and who will, assumedly, kill June to keep her quiet. What follows is a fast paced journey around the world as Miller and June stay one step ahead of the CIA and other would-be assassins.

Let’s start with the good, shall we? Tom Cruise is back, ladies and gentlemen. I’ve seen a few critics throw out some negative reactions to him here but I honestly can’t understand it. Perhaps the professionals are tired of Cruise’s antics or perhaps I just see the movie world through rose-tinted, “Top Gun”-esque Aviator glasses. Whatever the case may be, I thought Cruise brought his A-game to this role. He works well in the action sequences while at the same time bringing a touch of witty humor to the character. Miller is a hardened spy but he’s also somewhat naive as to the ways of the civilian world, especially concerning June. At the same time, he is extremely loyal and determined, going way out of his way to help June out of the pickles she routinely puts herself in (more on this later) and returning her to safety time and time again. Cruise breathes a bit of life into a character that could have easily fallen flat with a lesser actor manning the role. In essence, I think he did the most with what he had to work with. In addition to Cruise, the action is solid throughout and director James Mangold keeps the thing moving. Never does he allow the movie’s momentum to die down, which is important given the rockiness of the script.

Now for the bad. This script is, at best, poorly developed. Somewhere in there is a fun, entertaining story that is begging to pop out. This story, however, is often overshadowed by the clichés and general lack of originality that runs rampant throughout the film. Using a blurry blackout scene to cover up a plot hole can work once but when you routinely return to this crutch, the bit gets old fast. Peter Sarsgaard’s potential villain is as cookie-cutter as they come and the dialogue at times just feels unbalanced. It’s as if the screenwriter (newcomer Patrick O’neill) isn’t sure whether he’s writing for comedy or action and can’t make the two work together.

The biggest issue, though, is the absolute and complete worthlessness of June Havens. You know what sucks the life out of an action movie faster than anything else? A worthless, annoying, and helpless female lead. For two hours June Havens does nothing but the opposite of what a normal human with the thinking capacity of a retarded chimpanzee would do. She makes unsecured phone calls when she knows she’s being traced, she screams at inopportune times, and she even fires approximately 60 rounds from a sub-machine gun “on accident.” Basically, whatever Roy Miller (a trained CIA agent and former Army Ranger who specializes in surviving in tight situations, mind you) says she should do, June immediately does the opposite. If this is the only way you can create drama within your script then your script sucks, no if ands or buts.

Sadly this is the standard operating procedure for a lot of action movies. Something, whether it’s research or tradition, says they have to have a female lead or a damsel-in-distress and so a cardboard-thin character is drawn up and handed out to a pretty face. Whenever I see a movie like this I can only think one thing: shoot the girl. Just once I want to see Roy Miller, Jason Bourne, James Bond, or whoever else say to themselves, “Nothing is worth this ridiculousness” and just end it. Maybe that’s too dark or callous but if Hollywood can’t create a female character worth watching then what’s the point of her being on screen? Most of the best action movies involve either: a.) a solo adventurer with no baggage (Jason Bourne); b.) a pair of buddies working together as a well-oiled machine (Riggs and Murtaugh); or c.) a solo adventurer working to save his woman/family without dragging her along through all the craziness (John McClane). I’m not saying the damsel-in-distress can’t work, I’m just saying that right now Hollywood isn’t smart enough to make it work so let’s just let that ship sail, alright?

*End rant* All together, “Knight and Day” is a mildly enjoyable action flick, but one that won’t be remembered. The plot holes and shallow, poorly constructed characters take too much away for this to be considered anything beyond average. It’s the type of film that most people will completely forget about until TNT picks up the cable rights and it gets played a dozen times every weekend. If nothing else, however, it reminded me of all the great movies Tom Cruise has given me and provided an excuse to blare “Danger Zone” from my iPod as I zoomed away on my motorcycle.

Grade: B

I’m kidding about that last part,

Movie News Today

The New York Times gives us a brilliant look at the rejuvenation of single-theater movie houses across the Midwest. One of the coolest stories I've read in a while.

Peter Jackson is making the rounds, quietly recruiting for the upcoming "Hobbit" movies. Please join me in praying that this means the MGM catastrophe will soon be resolved.

Totalfilm throws out a step-by-step process for a "Star Wars" reboot. It sounds fine and all but never underestimate the ability of post-1990 George Lucas to screw up anything. Please, George, PLEASE: no "Star Wars" reboot, okay?

It seems that Brad Bird and some of the other Pixar gurus gave input into reshoots for the upcoming "Tron: Legacy." If Brad Bird could consult on, say, every film that comes down the pipes, we'd all live in a better world I think.

Disney has begun work on a gargoyle-inspired fantasy film. Could Brad Bird please give them a little guidance?

Julia Roberts has a new film in the offing! This may not be big news to you anymore but I still love Miss Roberts and always, always will.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

New DVD Tuesday!

We should all be issued personal apologies from the movie industry for the awfulness that is the 2010 movie calendar. Never have I had as little interest in the meager, week-to-week offerings as I am experiencing right now. I've had to resort to watching shows on USA for Pete's sake. ("Burn Notice" is top notch, BTW.) Blerg. But I digress. Your craptastic DVD offerings for the week.

The Bounty Hunter (2010): Gerard Butler, Jennifer Aniston
This thing is a sure thing come award season. And by awards, I mean the Razzies and the Worst 10 list of every critic worth his salt. It's embarrassing how bad this thing is. I say this, of course, based on the vomiting I did after watching the trailer and the reviews of, literally, EVERYONE. Gerard Butler is quickly working his way onto the Worst Actors list and Jennifer Aniston continues to make puzzling choices, bringing her closer and closer to career suicide.

Chloe (2010): Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore
A suspicious wife (Moore) hires a girl (Seyfried) to seduce her husband (Neeson). Always a solid plan if you ask me. Things go downhill from there. Meh.

Greenberg (2010): Ben Stiller
A movie about a middle age curmudgeon (Stiller) who begins to rethink his life after moving and falling in love. I was really, really intrigued by the trailers for this film. It looked authentic and honest and seemed like the type of role that could gain a comedian like Stiller some recognition. Unfortunately, however, this is written and directed by Noah Baumbach, a man who seems to delight in offending his viewers. I've started to watch both of Baumbach's mainstream titles ("The Squid and the Whale" and "Margot at the Wedding") and finished neither because of Baumbach's insistence on the unwatchable. And this pisses me off because he comes up with great stories but directs as if he wants half of his audience to bail out. Not sure I can take a third swing on this guy.

New to Blu-Ray
Insomnia (2002): Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank
An LA detective (Pacino) goes to always-sunny Alaska to help track down a serial killer (Williams). This is the only Christopher Nolan-directed film that I don't find to be particularly brilliant. It lacks flow for me and while I usually endorse the "Comedian as a Villain" line of thinking, Robin Williams actually distracts from the plot here. It's good, it's just not great. I just expect more from a director that I frequently refer to as the best in the industry.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Movie News Today

Hitfix presents us with an interview with Dallas' own super character actor Stephen Tobolowsky.

Our friends over at Movie Mobsters rank the top 10 alien movies of all time. Very much on board with their selections as a matter of fact. Always good to see "Signs" get some love.

Amanda Seyfried will star in Mike Nichols' newest film "I'm.mortal." (Not a spelling error there.) Stupid title but the plot seems pretty cool.

And that's it. Sorry folks, it's a slow day. Everyone who matters is at Comic Con geeking it up the way I so desperately want to. We'll try harder tomorrow.

Box Office Monday!

It is with great shock and awe that I bring to you the news that the latest installment of the "Twilight" suck fest (you see what I did there?) has been dethroned after only one week. I can't tell you how surprising this is to me. Just a couple of weeks ago "Despicable Me" seemed destined to be one of those never-quite-found-its-audience films that struggles to find its place, especially up against a still relatively new stalwart like. Instead, I stand before you today with tears of joy in my eyes, thrilled to have something, anything, knock "Eclipse" off its glittery little pedestal.

1. "Despicable Me" - $60.1 million
2. "Eclipse" - $33.4 million ($237 million total)
3. "Predators" - $25.3 million
4. "Toy Story 3" - $22 million ($340.2 million)
5. "The Last Airbender" - $17.2 million ($100.2 million)
6. "Grown Ups" - $16.4 million ($111.3 million)
7. "Knight and Day" - $7.9 million ($61.9 million)
8. "The Karate Kid" - $5.7 million ($164.6 million)
9. "The A-Team" - $1.8 million ($74 million)
10. "Cyrus" - $1.4 million ($3.5 million)

Movie News Today

I hope this isn't your first destination for celebrity gossip/news. It would make me sad if that's what I was known for. But, when the news involves John Krasinski (one of my favorite actors) and Emily Blunt (one of my top 5 celebrity crushes) getting hitched, I'll pass it on.

Edward Norton is apparently out as the Hulk for the upcoming "Avengers" movie and his representation wants to make sure everyone knows this was Marvel's decision, not theirs. The truth is, Norton really never wanted to play the Hulk but couldn't pass on the money. He did an excellent job but it just wasn't his type of role. When negotiations for "The Avengers" started up, he saw a way off the Bruce Bannister bandwagon and refused to take the significant paycut it would take to bring him on. On the one hand this news is a serious bummer because Norton is a BEAST of an actor. On the other hand, he doesn't really fit in well with the ensemble thing so this is probably for the best.

Kevin Bacon is reportedly in talks to play the villain in the upcoming "X-Men: First Class" movie. In other news, no comic book film has ever done more in a week to lessen my enthusiasm for it than this one. Blah.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

DVD Review - "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs"

With his hometown of Swallow Falls teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, would-be super inventor Flint Lockwood unleashes his newest creation on the world and watches as it literally takes on a life of his own. After failed inventions like Ratbirds, Monkey Translators, and non-flying Flying Cars, Flint introduces a machine that instantly pops out any food that you might ask it for. In a town that almost exclusively dines upon sardines, this is potentially big business. His invention, however, somehow shoots itself off into space and, like a satellite sending TV signals back down to the population, drops giant quantities of food onto the plates of Swallow Falls. This makes Flint a hero, of course, but the popularity only leads to big problems, mainly due to the fact that the townspeople want more and more, finally taking the machine past the point of safety and smothering the town (and the world) in giant bagels, hamburgers, and the obligatory meatballs. Flint and his gang must stop the machine before the food overtakes the entire world.

"Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" is based on a beloved children's book of the same name. Visually speaking it is unquestionably one of the better non-Pixar animated films I've ever seen. Absolutely stunning visuals. The story is quite original (obviously) and it's very easy to get sucked into to the absurdity of the tale. And the voice talent is as good as you could possibly get for an animated feature. Every voice is a somebody and more importantly, all of the voices work in concert and no one voice dominates the screen. "Cloudy" isn't the funniest cartoon movie I've ever seen but there are enough laughs to go around. What is it that is so funny about a talking animal? Dug the talking dog was perhaps the best character in "Up" last year and in this case Steve the talking monkey brought about more laughs for me than anything else. Somebody needs to study this phenomenon. Anyway, the overall impact of "Cloudy" doesn't quite reach the heights of the Pixar products or Dreamworks' "How to Train Your Dragon" but it is a quality film with a fantastic world in which to operate and a great deal of fun.

Grade: B+

Movie News Today

Work is dwindling for screenwriters, which is great news for the 12 billion humans who are currently trying to break into the screenwriting business.

One website has decided to rank the Top 50 soundtracks of all time. Good luck getting through the entire list.

Reviews (like this one from Movieline) are in for "Despicable Me" and they are extremely (and surprisingly) positive.

Christopher Nolan says he would love to direct a Bond film. Please, please PLEASE let this happen.

Movieline gives us a list of the biggest Emmy snubs. "Justified" and "Sons of Anarchy" might be the best shows on TV so, yeah, there were some snubs there.

As if he didn't have enough projects in the works, Ridley Scott is in discussions to pick up yet another high value property.

I still know nothing about this project but if it's good enough for Gary Oldman and Ralph Fiennes, it's good enough for me.

A bunch of no-name, British actors have been lined up for "X-Men: First Class."

Christopher Columbus is apparently Warner Brother's first choice to direct the new "Superman" reboot. Yikes. 

The Jack Ryan reboot (starring "Star Trek's" Chris Pine) is going to start filming sooner than later.

Friday, July 9, 2010

New Movie Friday!

"Despicable Me" - Steve Carrell, Jason Segal, Will Arnett
A super thief competes with another super thief and somehow picks up guardianship of his nieces and nephews. This is the weirdest, most intriguing marketing campaign for a movie that I've seen in a long time. The teaser trailer opened last summer and made no sense. The first real trailer also left me unsure of what was actually going to take place in the film. "Despicable" is an animated movie but the marketing has been aimed almost exclusively at adults and boy, has there been a lot of marketing. At the risk of major backlash, the movie's characters have been all over the place, popping up in Best Buy ads and auditions for "Last Comic Standing." It's super annoying is what it is. But will it work? Some of the critical reviews I've seen have been ridiculously positive and yet my gut tells me the test showings didn't go over so well with audiences. Monday's box office returns are going to be very interesting for this one.

"Predators" - Adrien Brody, Walton Goggins, Topher Grace, Laurence Fishburne
A group of warriors (a soldier, a death row inmate, and some others) wake up on an alien planet and soon discover that they're being hunted by the super race that inhabits the planet. This is a reboot of sorts that could actually breath a little life into the franchise. I dismissed this immediately upon seeing the first trailer but it's actually getting some strong acclaim.

"The Kids Are All Right" - Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Mark Ruffalo
The children of a lesbian couple begin a search for their sperm-donor father. Certainly not my cup of tea but I cannot begin to tell you how well this is being received across the board. Oscar nominations are a near certainty for some of these actors.

"Winnebago Man"
Documentarian Ben Steinbauer sets out to find and talk to viral video legend Jack Rebney, a man who did some ads for Winnebagos in the 80s. The hilarious (and often bleep-filled) outtakes of these ads made it onto YouTube and became a sensation but Rebney essentially turned into a recluse since. Steinbauer's documentary is getting great reviews and I can't wait for it to pop up on Netflix.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Movie News Today

As if 2010 didn't suck enough, now Universal has moved the Matt Damon/Philip K. Dick movie "The Adjustment Bureau" from its September date back to March 2011. I hate you, Hollywood.

Movie Muse has a review of the 1973 Western/Fantasy "Westworld." I watched this for the first time fairly recently and half way enjoyed myself.

Skeet Ulrich has been cast in the upcoming "Law and Order: Los Angeles." Ulrich has turned into a solid TV actor and the "Law and Order" series rarely makes a mistake.

Nathan Fillion, aka the Coolest Guy in Hollywood, will appear on some "Kids Need to Read" posters in your local library. No one deserves a big movie star break more than Fillion.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Movie News Today

The New York Times speaks with Christopher Nolan and again I say, best director in the industry.

Due to MGM's continued problems, production on the newest James Bond film has been cancelled. Darn you MGM.

Wired has an interview with M. Night Shyamalan. I'm not going to lie, I haven't read it. I'm still not on speaking terms with Mr. Shyamalan. I hope this is just a trial separation but I'm not optimistic.

Javier Bardem will appear on "Glee" next year. He'll be the one shooting the group's competition in the head with an air compressor.

Shooting for the second "Sherlock Holmes" movie will begin in October.

Christian Bale is considering a role in Zack Snyder's upcoming war movie "The Last Photograph."

Oh, and also, Lindsay Lohan was sentenced to 90 days in jail. Be honest, now. You forgot Lindsay Lohan was a person, didn't you?

Blu Ray Review: "The Nightmare Before Christmas"

After another successful holiday, Halloweentown's discontented super-scarer Jack wanders aimlessly out of town and unwittingly happens upon a door to another village. This place, known as Christmastown, is much different than his own home and he begins to pine for something different. When he returns home, Jack starts his own Christmas that invitably falls short, leading to an abduction of Santa Claus and some ensuing chicanery.

Somehow I've never seen this twisted animated feature despite its stellar reputation. I've got a love/hate relationship with Tim Burton. Some of his stuff is incredible and some of it is terrible. "Batman" great, "Planet of the Apes" terrible. "Alice in Wonderland" solid, "Beetle Juice" blerg. I guess that's the case with anybody but I feel like many directors are more predictable as to how I'm likely to feel about their films after seeing them. Still, Burton's style is entirely his own and he is a unique visionary, even if his visions are often creepy and weird. Burton didn't direct "Nightmare" but his finger prints are all over it. "Nightmare" is a solid outing but I'm not as into it as so many other people are. The visuals are excellent, the musical portions are great, and there's a definite entertainment value. But if I'm being honest, I was easily distracted from what was taking place on screen. Despite my ADD tendencies, a 76 minute animated movie shouldn't lose my attention (and interest?). I got bored between songs and drifted away to whatever was happening on Twitter and Facebook and that left me feeling just okay about "Nightmare" as a whole. Maybe my feelings would be different if I'd seen this in a theater or perhaps I'm not really the target audience. Either way, I'm not totally sold.

Grade: B

Monday, July 5, 2010

New DVD Tuesday!

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009): Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace
The Swedish version of the first book in the acclaimed series (that is a mouth full of a sentence), this thing is getting serious momentum as it makes its debut in the States. The books have gotten crazy hype in the last couple of years and David Fincher ("Seven", "Zodiac") will be directing the Hollywood version before too long. This could be the biggest DVD debut of a foreign film in history. I almost never watch a subtitled movie on DVD because my ADD kicks in and I just can't pay attention. But I might make an exception here to see what all the fuss is about.

Brooklyn's Finest (2010): Ethan Hawke, Richard Gere, Wesley Snipes, Don Cheadle
I believe this is your typical "one friend is a cop, one friend is a crook, and now their worlds are colliding" plot line. But this time with Richard Gere! Yay! Seriously, though, I have a weird attracted to Antoine Fuqua-directed films and the opportunity to see Wesley Snipes in a movie that is not straight-to-DVD is intriguing enough to talk myself into this at some point. OK, maybe I'll be renting it tomorrow, shame faced and disappointed in myself.

A Single Man (2009): Colin Firth, Matthew Goode, Julianne Moore
The story of a British man (Firth) in the 1960s trying to stay closeted while dealing with the death of his lover (Goode). Not really my type of film on any level. Still, Firth was nominated for an Oscar for his performance here, one that has been praised as the work of a lifetime.

Movie News Today

Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf are both in talks to join a new maritime thriller, "Riptide."

"The United States of Movies." Just have a look.

NPR has a suggestion for "The Office" after Steve Carrell leaves. My opinion: more Jim and Pam.

In celebration of "Back to the Future" turning 25, have a look at the original theatrical trailer.

And finally, a look at the poster for part one of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

The Collected Works: Adam Sandler

"Grown Ups" may have been bad, but I'm still a big Adam Sandler fan. With that in mind, I debut a new semi-regular column in which we take a look at the work of a given actor/director/production company/etc. and rank them from worst to first. Feel free to give your input.

The Collected Works of Adam Sandler
(cameos and insignificant films not included)

Haven't seen: "Going Overboard", "Airheads", "Punch Drunk Love"

20. "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" - There was a funny premise in here somewhere and it did bring Kevin James to the forefront, but there is almost nothing at all funny about this movie. 

19. "You Don't Mess with the Zohan" - An absolutely pointless, meaningless, insignificant piece of crap.

18. "Little Nicky" - This might be the least thought-out movie on this list.

17. "Grown Ups" - Half-hearted and lacking in humor.

16. "Anger Management" - I'm still shocked that this one stunk. Sandler plus Nicholson before he completely went off the deep end seems like a sure thing, but it never really got off the ground for me.

15. "Reign Over Me" - This one hurts because it's possibly Sandler's best work. His broken character, whose family died in the 9/11 attacks, is achingly poignant. Unfortunately the rest of the movie is trash, ruined by writer and director Mike Binder.

14. "Eight Crazy Nights" - Sandler's only animated movie, this has some fun moments but not enough to make it truly worthwhile.

13. "Bulletproof" - Not a bad action-comedy all told, this suffers from the Wayans Factor (meaning nothing made after 1991 that features a Wayans brother can possibly be good).

12. "Bedtime Stories" - This has some decent moments but it feels like Sandler is being forced into the Disney Box. Doesn't work.

11. "Mr. Deeds" - Stupid and a bit aimless, Sandler is still quite funny and the supporting players are strong.

10. "Click" - For some reason I really like "Click." It's got the heart that Sandler comedies have become known for and a little less stupidity than some of his other films.

9. "The Waterboy" - More than any other Sandler work, this is the one that you appreciate less and less as you grow up. Funny, but not nearly as funny as it was when I was a teenager.

8. "Spanglish" - A little bit like "Reign Over Me," though much more fluid. Sandler's actual acting skills are overshadowed by what is kind of a bummer of a movie.

7. "The Longest Yard" - A remake that actually works for me on both the comedy and sports action levels.

6. "50 First Dates" - This, along with "The Wedding Singer," are the only real romantic comedies Sandler has participated in. And while he and Drew Barrymore aren't quite Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, they ain't bad.

5. "Happy Gilmore" - Possibly the most quotable Sandler film and an awful lot of fun.

4. "Big Daddy" - The first Sandler movie to display some heart along with the comedy.

3. "Funny People" - You either love or hate "Funny People." There is no in between. I found Sandler's terminally ill stand up comedian to be hauntingly authentic and he brought the rest of the film up.

2. "The Wedding Singer" - There's nothing to not like about "The Wedding Singer," even for an 80s hater like myself.

1. "Billy Madison" - The first one is still the best for me. "Billy Madison" took Sandler from the overstuffed ranks of early 90s "Saturday Night Live" and catapulted him to stardom. This is juvenile, immature, and absolutely ridiculous and I still love it.