Thursday, June 27, 2013

Scott Breaks Down the Final Week of the June Box Office

My podcast colleague and friend, Scott Martin, is a back again this week to analyze the chances of the new wide releases to the cinema.

Heading into the last weekend of June we have two wide release movies that are coming into theatres to vie for box office supremacy in The Heat (starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy), and White House Down (Starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx). At first glance these movies seem to be quite different, which would mean they are no real threat to each other in the grab for audience dollars, however they both seem to follow the buddy action movie format. Which one will win the weekend, and does the winner have what it takes to oust Monsters University which took in just over $80 million last week? Let us ponder a bit more on each movie.

Melissa McCarthy has proven to the masses that she is a legitimate Hollywood star after Identity Thief became the number one movie in February and is currently the top grossing comedy of 2013. In the trailers for The Heat, McCarthy plays a quirky and dishevelled police officer who is teamed up with straight edge Sandra Bullock. It is a concept that is not even close to new, but the main attraction here is the potential for ultimate comic chemistry between the two leads. As well, it is very nice to see a female driven movie in the theatres, as Hollywood still leans towards male dominate blockbusters.

The role McCarthy plays is in keeping with the style she has brought to movies such as Bridesmaids, Identity Thief, and The Hangover Part 3. She plays the oddball character really well, and I think it is too soon in her career for this to seem overplayed to the public. I really am hoping for the day when she is cast to play the straight character instead of the misfit as I believe she has a lot of talent that we have yet to see.

When it comes to making the prediction on how much this movie will make, things get a bit tricky. Comedies have been extremely hit or miss, and some have fallen completely flat. Who would have thought that a movie starring Steve Carell and Jim Carey would have failed to make back budget, and The Internship seeming to be in the same predicament?  I like to believe that the failing of Movie 43 shocked not a soul, but that would not be true. The success of The Heat rides on the shoulders of the odd couple in Bullock and McCarthy and they should get a solid opening weekend.

The Heat Opening Weekend Prediction - $38 million

And in the opposite corner, Channing Tatum is set to protect the president of the United States played by Jamie Foxx in 2013’s second White House action fest. The first being Olympus has Fallen, which starred Gerard Butler as Mike Banning, a no nonsense bad ass who will stab terrorists in the skull every chance he gets… he just cannot help himself, like a kid seeing a cookie on the counter. Whereas Olympus Has Fallen was a direct example of Hollywood highway robbery in how it ripped off Die Hard, White House Down has distanced itself from that comparison by taking the buddy film approach and leaving it more comparable to a rip-off of Die Hard: With a Vengeance.

The director of the film is Roland Emmerich, and if you do not recognize that name there are two things you need to know. The first is that he is great at creating a full theatre experience blockbuster movie.  He has shown his savvy in movies such as Independence Day, The Patriot, and 2012. The other piece of information that you should be keen to know is that he likes stomping on the White House in his movies, and he gets to let loose his CGI assault on the iconic building like never before in this movie. The digital assault of the White House in Olympus Has Fallen was not the best piece of work, and was the dullest part of the film. Roland Emmerich is not the type of person to let that slide, so White House Down will most likely be visually stunning and be best enjoyed on the big screen.

The problem with White House Down is that, as mentioned, it is the second time in a few months that audiences are seeing this concept. Regardless of which studio first got the idea, White House Down will be viewed by a lot of people as the copycat. Another problem that they will run into is that the possible box office cannibalization that could occur with two buddy films entering the theatres the same weekend. Both have a great one-two acting combination, both show action in their trailers, and both show comedy in their trailers. I believe that White House Down would have been better suited to have come out in early June when its competition would have been easy pickings in The Purge, and The Internship.

White House Down Opening Weekend Prediction - $42 million

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Monsters University Review: Head of the Class

Pixar has returned to its school of popular characters, and served up the highly anticipated Monsters Inc. prequel, Monsters University.  It is always fun to see cherished characters like Sulley and Mike again, but the key is putting them into an engaging story.  I let you know if this latest feature ranks high among the other Pixar classics in my latest film review for Collective Publishing.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Breakdown of This is the End, The Place Beyond the Pines, Upstream Color and Ratatouille Podcast

Scott and I offer up a review of the latest raunchy comedy created by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, This is the End.  Along with that box office comedy hit, we also offer looks at the latest indy science fiction picture directed by Shane Carruth, Upstream Color; Derek Cianfrance's ambitious dramatic tale about fathers and sons, The Place Beyond the Pines; and a beloved Pixar classic, Ratatouille.  We both debate and discuss if these are worthwhile films for you to track down.

Enjoy the latest Breakdown, and we always look forward to your thoughts.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Scott Breaks Down This Weekend's New Release Box Office Chances

My podcast companion, Scott Martin, is back with another guest article this week.  This time he is looking at the wide release openings for this weekend and analyzing their chances for box office success.  He also gives are few short opinions on each picture and helps give you an idea on what movie you should possibly give a chance this weekend.


This upcoming weekend brings with it two very diverse wide release movies to the summer box office mania that we are currently in the midst of. How often is it that you can get excited for an animated comedy and a big budget zombie apocalypse movie in the same weekend? So far, action movies are the top of the pile with Iron Man 3 already reaching over a billion dollars in worldwide box office and Man of Steel setting a solid pace with 2013’s second best opening weekend box office of $116 million.

One of the movies opening in a few days is Monsters University, the sequel to Pixar’s 2001 Monsters Inc. It may seem a long way removed from the original, but Disney was smart and released it in 3D back in December. Audiences did not seem too into this, as it pulled a dismal $4 million in the box office its opening weekend. Is that a sign that Monsters University will be a flop? This blockbuster season has been all about the sequel, and most have fared well (The Hangover excluded). People do like the comfort of recognizable branding, and I think it is going to be no different with this animated family feature.

Monsters Inc. thrived off of the fun and sincerity of the relationship between James P. Sullivan (John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal), and they are both too talented to not be able to bring the same dynamic this time around. As well, animated movies can do quite well this time of year as is evidenced by the $66 million opening weekend enjoyed by Brave in 2012. So far, the animated movie to beat in 2013 is The Croods (released March 22), which has accumulated $182 million dollars domestically, and still sits at number 15 on the box office list. I believe it is a safe bet to make that Monsters University will be able to catch and surpass that mark.

Monsters University Opening Weekend Prediction - $65 million

The second wide release movie this weekend is the Brad Pitt starring and producing World War Z, based on the 2006 novel by Max Brooks. Riding the current trend of zombies, this movie looks to take the genre to a scale that it has not been to before. The trailers show epic large scale zombie invasion, which for the most part looks great but seems to look a bit like a video game at points.

This movie was originally to be released in December 2012, but got the bump for some reshooting. Normally this is the tell-tale sign of a sure flop. People who went to see GI Joe: Retaliation a few months ago can give you first-hand accounts of the horrors a pushed back movie can bring. Or people who saw Gangster Squad and felt the sting in their wallets and their hearts can lend similar testimony. I am one of those suckers who saw both, but still I am not too deterred by the pushback of this movie. Apparently, one of the reasons was for some rewriting of the script and the man who was brought in to save the day was Drew Goddard who had written and directed the brilliant slasher film (it is not often that phrase is uttered) Cabin in the Woods. The inclusion of Goddard gives me a bit more hope for the potential of this movie.

My biggest concern, though, is what this film will do for the genre. As with any trend, there is a finite timeline for it to bask in the sun and one starts to wonder when the zombie trend will have reached its apex.  World War Z takes the zombie concept to such an epic level, that I have to wonder what can possibly be left for it after this and that this is the sign that it has jumped the shark. The only places left for it to go are outer space, in a Planet of the Apes style movie. Or, perhaps an intriguing zombie movie could easily be made by Paul Thomas Anderson and starring Daniel Day-Lewis. I will admit right now, I would pay double the ticket price to see that movie.

I am not saying that I believe the zombie genre will be dead, but that it will just slowly regress back towards being out of the mainstream until a brilliant film maker sparks the same fire that Danny Boyle did when he directed the genre-changing 28 Days Later. Unfortunately for Brad Pitt and company, the window of opportunity for their movie is very limited as Roland Emmerich is about to keep his tradition of stomping on the US capitol building in White House Down starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx. As well, Man of Steel is hitting it big with audiences which may be steering people into the waiting arms of Zack Snyder this weekend.

World War Z Opening Weekend Prediction - $40 million

And lastly, some markets will get the expanded release of Sofia Coppola’s movie about teenagers who thieve from celebrities, The Bling Ring. Coppola based the movie around an article written in Vanity Fair, and this weekend it moves from being played in 5 theatres to over 500. It was only a few month back that Michael Bay released a movie based off an article (Pain and Gain), but something tells me The Bling Ring will offer viewers a bit more than they got from the rock and roll style of Bay. The critics are mixed on this movie so far, but if you are interested in seeing something that looks a bit different from the typical explosion filled blockbuster flicks then this may be one worth sampling.

The Bling Ring Expanded Weekend Prediction - $1.5 million

Man of Steel Review: Superman is Grounded

Man of Steel is the picture I was most pumped to see this summer.  I have fond memories of the first two original films, and hoped for some of that magic to be triggered again with the reboot.  Summer time is about the loud and mindless spectacles, but the trailers hinted at something with some depth and nuance.  I was expecting to see one of the true blockbuster classics.  In my latest film review for Collective Publishing, you can find out if Superman's latest picture soars to new heights.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Breakdown of Man of Steel Podcast: Superman Tries to Soar Above the Box Office Competition

Scott and I will be trying something new with our podcasts going forward.  Instead of just focusing on one particular picture, we want to review, discuss and analyze four different films.  Our goal is to usually have one major new release to start off the show, and then follow it up with either limited releases, hidden gems, forgotten classics, or whatever films we think are worth discussing.

This week we've chosen three pictures that have recently gone on DVD and On-Demand services - Identity Thief, Lincoln, and Mama.  We have a lot to say about all these very different pictures.

Check out our new format, and let us know what you think.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Purge Guest Film Review: Scott's Survival of the Latest Blumhouse Horror Picture

My good friend and podcast partner, Scott Martin, decided to sacrifice his well-being and step in to do a film review of the latest horror picture, The Purge.  Here is his take on a film that has done surprisingly well in the box office.

If you have seen the trailer for The Purge, you have a good idea of the concept behind the latest film from Blumhouse Productions. If you are not aware of Blumhouse Productions (the producers of Paranormal Activity and Insidious), there are two key pieces of relevant information about them. First, they are masters at making low budget, high grossing movies. Second, they are masters at repackaging the same concept and tricking audiences into spending their money.

I will not spend time going into the depths of their formula and talking about all the similarities that flow between their movies, as The Purge is at least moderately successful in being different from their other films. The concept behind the movie is the most gripping aspect, as it tells the story of America in the near future. It is a country with minimal crime, almost no unemployment, and it is all thanks to one night a year when crime is legal for 12 hours and people can purge the evil they have inside of them.

Normally in a Blumhouse movie, the protagonists are rich Caucasian suburban yuppies who live in a large house and are not very relatable to the average movie goer. This movie is fresh in the fact that it is important that the protagonist family, the Sandins, are affluent people. As the time of the purge approaches, they are completely relaxed as there is no reason for them to fear. Not only is their house fortified, but the father James (Ethan Hawke) sells advanced security systems, so you know the Sandins have spared no expense. When it is time, they calmly hunker down to wait the night out.

It is not too long into the night when the son Charlie (Max Burkholder) views the security monitors and sees a man on the street who is being hunted by people who intend to kill him. Charlie then decides to deactivate the security system, opens the door, and ushers this unknown man inside to offer him sanctuary. It is then that the villains arrive to claim the life of the person who the Sandins have inside their house. It is now decision time for the Sandins… deliver this stranger to the people outside who will kill him, or protect the man and have baddies on the lawn break in and kill everyone in the house.

As the movie plays out, it does so in typical Blumhouse horror style, in that you can very easily predict when all the scares will be, and what the next scene will bring. The characters are fairly one dimensional, but are not as mind numbingly bland and stupid as they are in Blumhouse movies past. As the night of the purge moves on, the members of the family are left to make decisions about morality, and as they do, it is the overall concept of the movie that can leave one feeling a bit uneasy.

One major failing of Blumhouse Productions that is quite present in The Purge is lame baddies. The villains in this movie are meant to be portrayed in a creepy, massively psychotic way, but it ends up seeming comical and unrealistic that someone would actually act this way. But, that is not what they worry about, as they want the baddies to act in ways that unnerve you, not in ways that would actually make sense to the situation. A large portion of the teenage girls in the theatre could not stop laughing at the ‘tense’ scenes with the baddies, so one might deduce that the attempt failed.

In all, it was the concept, mediocre characters, decent acting, a few unpredictable key scenes and gripping ‘reality footage’ of events of the purge that made this movie salvageable. If you are a fan of all things horror, you will not find anything worthy of spending your money on here. However, if you are intrigued by the concept, the trailers look decent to you, and you have not seen a lot of horrors, then this movie may be worth a cheap night movie ticket. As for me, I wish I waited until it was on Netflix.

Ten Unforgettable Pop Culture Weddings

Summer time means wedding season.  Every year there seems to be some TV special or special edition magazine covering a celebrity's latest wedding.  You may think this is a new phenomenon but we've always been fascinated with weddings, and so media has always tried to find ways to showcase them.  In my latest Collective Publishing Pop Culture column, I list ten of the most memorable weddings.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Breakdown of Nostalgia Podcast: Analyzing if Present Pictures Compare to the Past

Scott and I get nostalgic this week on the Breakdown.  We take a look at some of our beloved decades for film and also some of the decades known as the Golden Age of Cinema by many critics.  Then we decide if modern cinema measures up, and if there is any truth to the belief things aren't as good as the old days.  We give a brief history lesson on major moments in cinema, analyze the current state of motion pictures, and then choose which decades have the best pictures for specific genres.

It is a fun one, and definitely something different than the usual analysis of one picture.  Hope you enjoy it, and as always, we love any feedback or comments.

Friday, June 07, 2013

5 Years

It was five years ago that I said the smartest thing in my entire life, "I do."  It meant that I was now married to the most wonderful and beautiful person that I know.  I now got to take the roller coaster ride of life with my loyal partner, sexy lover, and best friend.  If life is going to be crazy then I say that is exactly who I want to share it with.

I've had a pretty wild but incredible five years.  Some of my greatest memories and most cherished moments have come from these five years.  I am happy with my life.  There are a lot of amazing gifts that have come my way over this half decade.  When I look over the time and think about the things that I hold most dear, almost all of them come from saying those two words back in 2008.

It was my wife that found the neighbourhood we live in, and without her, I wouldn't be in this sweet little home.  Emily was the one who convinced me that we needed a large dog in our house, and I was pretty hesitant until the day we got Summit.  He is now the perfect definition of "Man's Best Friend" and I've got a stronger bond with him than most humans.  Everett is the greatest treasure in my life and a constant source of joy, and well, Emily played a pretty major role in his existence.  I'm pursuing this career of writing, because my wife supports me and believes in me.  Best of all, I know I always have someone to talk, laugh, and cry with, and that is one incredible gift.

I couldn't imagine my life without Emily.  Even though I am fully capable of making decisions and functioning on my own, I attribute most of my success and positive traits to the strong woman who pushes me to be better but also hugs me when I don't feel I can be.  I'm sure my life would turn out to be just fine and dandy without Emily, but it has been magical and magnificent with her.

In the past two years there have been many things I've been anxious about such as becoming a father, focusing on a writing career, and dealing with unexpected obstacles.  Just like it took two simple words to start this amazing adventure of marriage, it also just takes a very simple look from my wife to remind me that I could handle these challenges.  One of the greatest things I love about my wife is the strong belief she has in my ability, and the fact she often knows I can achieve much more than I think.  She knows to kick me hard when it is needed, but also embrace me just as hard when I succeed (or fail).

She isn't my life coach.  I'm not married because she is a key to success.  I am married to her, because I want to share my life with her.  I want her opinion on things.  I want to hear her jokes.  I want to make her laugh.  I want to hike or bike with her.  I want to discuss and debate ideas with her.  I want to hold each other tight.  I want to encourage and cheer her up.  I want her to be the person that goes on this great adventure with me.

Emily is my best friend.  I can't believe it has been five years.  Sometimes that feels too short, because she knows everything about me.  It is kind of scary that she can guess whatever I am thinking throughout the day.  Other times it feels too long, because that wedding day is so fresh in my mind.  It was a wonderful and fun event.  At one time it was the greatest day of my life.  It is now the birth of Everett, but I also shared that day with Emily.  Every single one of my greatest days are connected to Emily in some way.

I love you, Emily.  You are and will always be the greatest thing in my life.

Happy 5th Anniversary, Beautiful.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Now You See Me Film Review: Stuff This Rabbit Back in the Hat

Now You See Me looks like a fresh and original idea especially during the summer months where we're bludgeoned with big budget franchise films.  I went in with hope for something different, and a tale about down-on-their-luck magicians uniting to come up with a grand scheme to take money from the rich and give to the poor.  Maybe that concept isn't new to fiction, but it is a story relevant to current society.  The picture ends up being something quite different, and I have my review over at Collective Publishing.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Paranormal Activity Revisit Podcast: Were the Scares Worth the Trend It Spawned?

The original Paranormal Activity was a surprise box office smash and also a big critical success.  It has shaped the current horror genre and is responsible for over 50% of the type of scary pictures that come out each year.  I've made it clear how much I dislike many of the current horror films, but up until recently I never saw Paranormal Activity.  This has now changed, and I offer up my opinion and reviews on the film that created a massive franchise and several knock off pictures.

Scott joins me as we look at the history of horror, the influence of this film, and then discuss if it actually is a good picture and deserved the high praise from other critics.  You may be shocked with what we have to say based off many of our criticisms of this genre in the past.

It is a loaded show that is great for horror fans or those who enjoy film history.  Enjoy!