Monday, February 27, 2012

The Week That Was and the Week That Will Be - 2/27

The 84th Academy Awards were held last night (duh) and there are many far better recaps than the one you’re about to read.

Overall, I thought it was a pretty good show and definitely a far cry better than last year’s debacle. I may be in the minority but I was pleased with Billy Crystal’s hosting performance. I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Crystal so it’s always good to see him working. Much of his presentation was safe and somewhat vanilla but we knew that going in, didn’t we? I enjoyed it. I also thought the production value this year was top notch. The, “actors talking about the movies they love” bit that was broken up over the course of the broadcast was inspired and touching, a goosebumps-inducing segment that the show hasn’t had recently. And the In Memoriam segment was classy and well-done.

As far as the awards go, I was glad to see Hugo take home an arm-full of awards, even if they were all technical and even if they did take a toll on my Oscar game predictions (I still got 14 correct, however). Octavia Spencer was a big bright spot for me as I always love to see career character actors take home major hardware. And of course Christopher Plummer FINALLY taking home an Oscar was an especially touching, special moment. His speech was perfect, too.

On the other hand, two awards really stuck out to me as idiotic. I understand that many voters, critics, and audience members didn’t understand or care for Tree of Life; can’t blame them for not buying in. However, that’s one of the most visually stunning films I have ever seen. Its loss to Hugo in the cinematography department is absurd. And then there’s Viola Davis who gave perhaps the best performance I have seen from a leading lady in a decade and somehow lost the Best Actress trophy. I get that we all love Meryl Streep and she’s the best actress ever and blah blah blah. But we’re talking about a performance in a film that no one saw ($25 million at the box office) and most critics didn’t care for (53% on Rotten Tomatoes) against a strong, powerful, beautiful portrayal by Davis. Stupid. Just stupid. This award made me actually physically angry.

Weekend Box Office Results
I would never have guessed the ridiculous amount of cash Act of Valor brought in this weekend. I guess there’s just no sating America’s appetite for dudes shooting other dudes. I (somewhat begrudgingly) gave my money to both This Means War and Wanderlust and was underwhelmed by both of them. I’m looking forward to the better days of March.
1. Act of Valor - $24.7M
2. Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds - $16M
3. Journey 2: Mysterious Island - $13.47M ($76.73)
4. Safe House - $11.4M ($98.1M)
5. The Vow - $10M ($103M)
6. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance - $8.8M ($37.83M)
7. This Means War - $8.5M ($33.57M)
8. Wanderlust - $6.6M
9. Gone - $5M
10. The Secret World of Arriety - $4.5M ($14.66M)

New to DVD
What I’ve Seen and You Should Too
Hugo (2011) - Asa Butterfield, Ben Kingsley, Chloe Grace Moretz
Hugo hits DVD shelves with perfect timing, fresh off its five Oscar wins. This film struggled mightily to find an audience, partly (or mostly) due to the fact that the marketing campaign was somewhat confusing and no one had any idea what it was all about. Is it a kid’s movie? Is it a period piece? Is it sci-fi? The answer is yes. I found Hugo to be a richly layered, beautiful film that displays the expert craftsmanship that you’d expect from Martin Scorsese. I’ll be buying this one.

What No One Should Have to See
Johnny English Reborn (2011) - Rowan Atkinson, Rosamund Pike, Dominic West
A simple question comes to mind when considering this movie: “Why?” I don’t even know any kids who have seen either of the Johnny English movies and I work with large groups of kids within the target demographic on a daily basis. Apparently these movies make bank overseas. So next time a European gives you guff about how uncultured America is (because I’m sure this happens to you every day like it does to me), make sure you rub this little gem in his/her face.

Also New
I Melt with You (2011) - Rob Lowe, Thomas Jane, Jeremy Piven
The Myth of the American Sleepover (2011) - Claire Sloma, Marlon Morton, Amanda Bauer
Law and Order: Season 10 (1999) - Jerry Orbach, Jesse L. Martin, Sam Waterston
Here Come the Brides: Season 2 (1970) - Robert Brown, Bobby Sherman
Breakout Kings: Season 1 (2011) - Jimmi Simpson, Domenick Lombardozzi, Brooke Nevin

New to Blu-Ray
What I’ll Be Buying This Week
Runaway Jury (2003) - John Cusack, Rachel Weisz, Gene Hackman
I wouldn’t say this is the best film based on a John Grisham novel but I would say that it is the most entertaining. I might even go so far as to call it, “thrilling.” Runaway Jury is the prototypical mid-weekend TNT movie that you don’t really mind watching three times. It also stands as Gene Hackman’s last movie (because we can all agree that Welcome to Mooseport never happened, right?).

Also New to Blu
Johnny English (2003) - Rowan Atkinson, John Malkovich, Natalie Imbruglia
The Buccaneer (1958) - Yul Brynner, Charlton Heston

Coming to a Theater Near You
I went 4-for-4 last week on the Rotten/Fresh predictions but missed the mark fairly widely on the scores. Wanderlust did significantly (and having seen it, probably deservedly) better than I guessed and sat at 58% (versus the 20% prediction) at the time of this writing. Act of Valor topped the box office but failed with critics who gave it a 31% rating. Good Deeds must have been especially bad, even for Tyler Perry, because it came in under my 34% prediction (27%), which was the average of all Tyler Perry films from the last decade. And Gone…well, Gone struck out on all fronts, bringing in very little at the box office and finishing with a 13% rating. There’s a bad pun in there somewhere about Amanda Seyfried’s star potential being Gone but I won’t go there.

Dr. Suess’ The Lorax - Zach Efron, Danny Devito, Ed Helms
In the not-so-distant future (or maybe an alternate reality), trees have become all but extinct, leading one young environmentalist to go on a search that will lead him to the speaker of the trees.The Lorax made my top ten anticipated films a few weeks back and every new advertisement has only served to deepen my anticipation. This is one of my favorite Suess books and it looks stunning. On the other hand, Suess films have not always knocked it out of the park with either critics or audiences so you never really know how this will translate. Hoping for big things. Rotten Tomatoes prediction: Fresh, 75%

Project X - Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown
Three high school nobodies throw a gigantic party. That’s the plot. Another found-footage film, this one brought to you by Todd Phillips, there’s nothing here of interest for me. Rotten Tomatoes prediction: Rotten, 30%

Two limited releases are also on the docket: Being Flynn (Robert De Niro, Paul Dano) could hold some value if executed properly and Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (Tim Heidecker, Eric Wareheim) will probably satisfy fans of Tim and Eric and fall flat with everyone else. 

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