Friday, August 30, 2013

The New Films May Getaway from the Hassles of Making Money at the Box Office this Weekend

We live in a world where a concert film about a British boy band has the best chance of scoring big at the box office this weekend.  We also live in a world where the director of Dungeons and Dragons is still allowed to make movies.  Scott talks more about these things that are very much real.  Life is crazier than fiction.

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If you are used to popping by and checking out the pre-weekend rundown of the new release movies, you may have noticed that for the past few weeks I have brought up the fact that there are a lot of movies each week in wide release.  This was a huge factor last weekend as none of the debuting films were able to land in first or second spot, and that was with two movies that had some good critical support behind them.  This weekend may be even more grim for the lot of newcomers as there is very little buzz or critical appeal behind some of the offerings.  Perhaps there will be a diamond in the rough that will remind us that there are sleeper films out there.

The new release with the best chances of success this weekend is One Direction: This is Us, a concert film about the British boy band, One Direction.  For folks like me, this may be the first time hearing that there is a band that goes by such a name, but that’s alright.  The film is not intended to reach out and grab eyes of people on the outside of this world, but rather provide something for the fans of the band (according to the interweb, there are a number of fans out there).  It has a modest budget of $10 million so it is well within its grasp to make that money back, especially since Katy Perry proved last year that a concert film can draw an audience.  The director is Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me), and documentaries are kind of his thing, but don’t expect fans of his to buy tickets for This is Us based solely off of his participation.

One Direction: This is Us Opening Weekend Prediction - $18 million

Next up is Getaway starring Ethan Hawke and Selena Gomez, and Jon Voight.  Perhaps that cast sounds intriguing.  Perhaps it is… perhaps it is.  Sadly, we are left to never know its true potential as the captain of this ship is director Courtney Solomon who directed Dungeons and Dragons back in 2000.  Not many people have seen it, but I sure have, and what I witnessed was scene after scene of blatant highway robbery of the Star Wars franchise and the Indiana Jones franchise.  For b-movie standards it was a lot of fun, but it was one of the worst train wrecks to be witnessed in theatre (yep, I actually saw it in theatre) and there was a complete lack of any redeeming qualities.  I would like to hope that he has become more skilled and refined at his craft, but the fact that Getaway is currently sitting at an unbelievable 0% on Rotten Tomatoes has me fearing this is not the case.  Hawke, who had started the summer off well with Before Midnight and The Purge will rebound for sure, as he is a very talented actor.  He just may need to lay low for a bit until people forget about Getaway, which should be as early as next weekend.

Getaway Opening Weekend Prediction – $4 million

Closed Circuit is a crime-thriller starring Eric Bana that opens in 862 theatres in North America.  There are times when a movie can still do well with lower numbers of theatres, but I do not think this will be an example of that.  If you have seen the trailer, you may have got the vibe of a movie that is better suited as a straight to video release.  It opened on Wednesday to $248,000, which equalled $289 per theatre.  Bana, who gained fame when he played Bruce Banner in Hulk in 2003, usually sees fairly decent returns opening weekend, though I do not believe his name alone will be enough of a draw to see substantial ticket sales.  I think this movie may simply suffer from not having enough to catch the eyes of the public during a lull in the theatres after all the explosions of Hollywood have passed.

Closed Circuit Five Day Opening Weekend Prediction - $1.5 million

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The World's End Film Review: A Comedic Love Letter to the Sci-Fi Genre

Mainstream sci-fi has taken a critical beating this year, but that wouldn't have happened if someone bothered to make actually good movies.  Edgar Wright is out to solve that problem by making a comedy that is also a fun sci-fi picture too.  Wright has a habit of dropping in lots of little treats for the movie buffs with his references and winks.  But will that be enough to make a really good sci-fi comedy?  Find out in my review of The World's End over at Collective Publishing.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Butler Serves Up Another Box Office Win But It Isn't the End for Edgar Wright

Scott analyzes the results from this past weekend's box office.  He also makes Craig Robinson cry by forgetting the fourth apocalyptic comedy and the second he stars in this year, Rapture-Palooza.

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Coming out of this past weekend in the box office, the story that sticks out is that of Lee Daniel’s The Butler, which was number one for the second week in a row and has now earned $51 million over two weeks.  It is a solid statement to the suits in Hollywood that teenagers and young adults are not the only ones who venture to theatres and pump money into the film economy, and that a mature movie can succeed in the ticket sales.  It has made more after two weeks than big budget movies like After Earth ($46 mil), Red 2 ($35 mil), White House Down ($50 mil), and RIPD ($24 mil).  What is frustrating is that it seems studios are more likely to take a high budget/high risk gamble on an action movie than to see a well-casted drama come into theatres, even though it is proven that the drama can out-pace a number of the action movies.

As for the new releases, the movie that outperformed the others was The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, which came in at third place.  This was a very slow week in theatres, as there were only two movies that made double digit millions and City of Bones came close with $9 million (it pulled in $14 million over the duration of its five day start).  While landing ahead of the other wide release movies is something to be proud of, the performance was not at all good as it has a budget of $60 million to make back, something that will not be happening in the domestic markets.  There were high hopes for this movie to grab a large audience as it is the first story in a six book series, and Hollywood loves its franchises.  It is just another example that just because you make a movie that has a similar feel to a popular series (in this instance, Twilight) it does not automatically mean the people will herd in that direction.

In fourth place this weekend was the Edgar Wright directed The World’s End, an apocalyptic comedy starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.  The idea of an apocalyptic comedy may seem random, but oddly enough it is the third one of 2013 following This is the End (starring Seth Rogen) and It’s a Disaster (starring David Cross).  The critics loved this movie, giving it a score of ninety one percent on Rotten Tomatoes.  It was the third movie in the ‘blood and ice cream trilogy’ (named after the appearance of blood and Cornetto iced cream treats), and had the most successful opening weekend of the three with $8.8 million on a modest budget of $20 million.  It had the highest dollar per theatre average of all wide release movies this weekend (with $5,667 per theatre), and it should be able to hold up well as it moves into next weekend, as it will not be facing competition from other comedies.

The last of the new wide release movies from this past weekend was You’re Next, a home invasion horror movie featuring a family dinner being crashed by baddies wearing animal masks and wielding crossbows.  It originally debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival back in 2011, and has had quite a wait to make it to theatres.  While the trailers make the movie out to look generic, it has done well with critics and has earned a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 79%.  Sadly for those involved with the movie, critics are not the ones to buy the majority of tickets, and it was only able to make a disappointing $7 million.  We can probably chalk this up to the trailer resembling the plot of The Purge, which came out back in June.  Even though the movies are said to be quite different, sometimes it sucks being the second one out as people may just view you as the copy-cat and do not bother giving it a whirl.  That is something that I think Roland Emmerich learned first-hand this year with White House Down.

Woody Allen’s latest movie Blue Jasmine moved from limited release to wide release and was shown in 1,200 theatres in the domestic market.  It made just shy of $4 million over the course of the weekend, bringing its current total to $14 million.  Allen’s last movie, To Rome With Love, earned a total of $16 million in the domestic market, so Blue Jasmine is sure to surpass that.  As well, Woody Allen’s movies have a history of doing well in the international realm, which is just one more argument for the fact that well-made, mature movies can be financially successful.  However, as many arguments we can make in favour of quality movies, executives seem to have their eyes on the hopeful billion dollar franchise and are willing to cycle through many duds and fiscal flops in the hopes of attaining the prize.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Breakdown of The World's End, Lee Daniels' The Butler, Elysium, and Boyz N the Hood Podcast

This week Scott and I load up with three new wide releases with Edgar Wright's latest genre mash-up, The World's End; the first big Oscar hopeful, Lee Daniels' The Butler; and a dystopian sci-fi action picture, Elysium.  We also dip into the vault to look at a '90s classic, Boyz N the Hood.  Just because we don't think that is enough goodness for one podcast, we have a discussion about the latest debate of allowing texting in movie theatres.  It is a loaded show, and hope you enjoy the latest look at cinema.


Friday, August 23, 2013

It's the End of the World but Scott Still Has Box Office Predictions

You know the drill by now.  The weekend is here and there are new movies in the cinemas, and Scott predicts their success and failure.

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Four movies in wide release two weeks ago, four movies in wide release one week ago, and this upcoming weekend will be adding another three movies into the mix as well as Blue Jasmine expanding to 12,000 theatres.  What this means is limited screen space for the new entries, with only one of them heading to more than three thousand locations.  While last weekend was a bit of a let-down, this weekend offers three different genres, with two of the movies currently having a Rotten Tomato rating above 80%.  It is getting ultra-competitive out there, so let’s try and look into the future and see who will be successful.

I shall first off try and tackle The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones for a few reasons.  Firstly, if I get it done now I do not have to think about it again until Tuesday.  Secondly, I am getting rather sleepy and it will be easier on my sanity to forge through this while there is ample mental strength.  It is yet another teen-fantasy-supernatural movie that is quite obviously being marketed as another Twilight.  I have not read the books, which it is based on, but I have seen Twilight and have watched as studios have tried to recreate the success of that franchise.  We have already had a number of attempts this year alone in Warm Bodies (I actually quite enjoyed that one), Beautiful Creatures, and Stephenie Meyer’s The HostCity of Bones is the next attempt, and it shows the needed ingredients… supernatural beings, action, romance, and hot young actors and actresses… pouty faces are everywhere.

What the studios seem to forget in the search for the next Twilight is that it was not the concept of the movie that drew its fans into frenzies, but the characters and dynamics of their relationships.  People were passionate about what happened next to Edward, Bella, and Jacob.  I was not on Team Jacob because I figured him a home wrecker… and then thought him creepy for wanting to marry a baby.  The early response to City of Bones is not great amongst the critics, but that does not matter.  What matters is if the characters are captivating enough to win over the young adults, and that is something that Hollywood has had a very hard time recreating.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones Five Day Opening Weekend Prediction - $17 million

Next on the agenda is a horror flick that has been around for quite a while now, but has not had its time to shine on the big screen yet.  You’re Next debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2011, and was met with a lot of enthusiasm.  The distribution was then worked out with Lionsgate, who would later merge with Summit, which lead to twice as many movies on the release schedule, so some schedule trimming needed to happen and You’re Next had to wait. 

It has now started to generate some buzz, which will aid it a lot.  What will be working against it is a cast that many people will not know, as well as a director that folks are generally unfamiliar with.  The trailers show a movie that looks extremely generic in the slasher/home invasion realm, something that audiences got a crack at a few months ago with The Purge, which had a huge boost by marketing the names of actor Ethan Hawke and producer Jason Blum.  The strengths that lie within You’re Next are (apparently) a good use of black humour and some clever writing.  Sadly, those are the sorts of things that will more so excite and bring out genre buffs and not attract the masses.  I am finding this an incredibly hard movie to come up with a prediction that I can feel semi confident in.

You’re Next Opening Weekend Prediction - $12 million

The third movie of the weekend is a comedy from writer/director Edgar Wright, writer/actor Simon Pegg, and actor Nick Frost and is the last movie in a trilogy of movies (called the ‘blood and ice cream trilogy,’ but the movies are not related other than having some blood and Cornetto ice cream) involving this group of talent.  The movie is The World’s End, which is about a group of guys who reunite to try and complete one heck of an epic pub crawl, only to find out that local residents are actually robots. 

The first movie in the trilogy was 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, and the second movie was Hot Fuzz, which came out in 2007.  It has indeed been a long six years for fans of this trio, and the long wait and anticipation are now coming to an end.

What makes these movies distinct is a very layered writing, which has very obvious jokes as well as both subtle and in-your-face pop culture and genre references.  They also include a lot of literary devices such as repetition, book ends, and foreshadowing to give the movies such decent re-watch appeal.  The opening weekends for the trilogy have been getting stronger with Shaun of the Dead earning only $1.2 million and Hot Fuzz taking in $5.8 million.  Frost and Pegg also had a movie together a few years back called Paul, which opened to $13 million.  Positive factors for this movie are the increasing recognition audiences have towards the leads (the cast also includes Martin Freeman from The Office (UK), and The Hobbit) and an incredible 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  Unfortunately, because of the amount of movies in theatres right now it is only showing in 1,548 theatres, the lowest amount of any of this week’s wide releases.  As well, the movies generally attract a niche audience, so that will limit ticket sales.  If you are a fan of well written comedy, British humour, and movies in general, this is my choice for a must see of the weekend.

The World’s End Opening Weekend Prediction - $8 million

Thursday, August 22, 2013

10 Must-See Films Still to Come in 2013

The blockbuster season has wrapped up, and we've entered into the usually quiet month of August, but this is just the breathing period before what most consider the big Oscar season where many nominated pictures often get released.  If you think 2013 has been a bit of a letdown at the cinemas this year, then get ready for some big changes.  The fall slate of films is loaded with some tantalizing cinematic treats.  In my latest Collective Publishing column, I pick the 10 movies that you will most definitely want to check out.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Butler Kicks Ass and Avoids Paranoia at the Box Office

Scott looks at what turned out to be a pretty dismal weekend at the box office for 3 of the new releases, but a great sign for those wanting more mature and adult pictures get wide release with one film doing well.

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Going into this past weekend, it was considered a toss-up as to who would come first in the box office between Lee Daniels' The Butler and Kick-Ass 2.  I sided with the R rated action comedy about amateur super heroes being number one, but I was extremely happy when The Butler kicked its ass.  I harbour no ill will towards the sequel to the 2010 Kick-Ass starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloe Grace Moretz as the original is one of the most fun movies I have seen in years.  The reason why I was happy is because it should show studio executives in Hollywood that mature, well thought out content should not be forgotten or ignored in the age of the CGI blockbuster.  Sure, The Butler will not be packing out theatres in China, but there is enough proof in the past that quality dramas can sustain well in the box office and also do fairly well in foreign markets.  Lee Daniel’s The Butler was able to make almost $25 million in its debuting weekend, and the reason could very well be because there has been so much shallow action this summer that has left audiences craving for something of substance.  The critical reception seems to not be as strong as it was pre-release, so it will be interesting to see if this movie is remembered at Oscar nomination time, as it was considered a contender.

The aforementioned Kick-Ass 2 ended up finishing the weekend in the number five spot, which is quite a disappointment when we remember this movie was supposed to rival The Butler in ticket sales.  The response to the movie was very front heavy, with it dropping from Friday to Saturday.  It was a dismal sign for the teenage super hero movie when the weekend projections dropped continually over the course of the weekend.  At the end of three days, it made $13 million on a modest budget of $28 million and was lucky enough to not be remembered as the biggest disappointment of the weekend.

Landing in seventh spot in the box office was Jobs, a biopic about the career and life of innovator Steve Jobs starring Ashton Kutcher in the lead role.  While it ended up being a bit of a disappointment when compared to projections, it as well is lucky enough to not be considered the disappointment of the week.  Yep, there is a theme of disappointment this week.  Jobs made $6.7 million on a budget of $18, and I found a lot of projections and predictions that had it lined up for getting at least in the double digit millions.  The performance may be best blamed on low critical reception and very little consumer buzz around the movie.  Perhaps it was too soon, or perhaps it was a story that the greater audience would never really dive into.

And now we have Paranoia, the official disappointment of the week.  I really do not like this theme of negativity in this write up, but wow… it really is what I have to work with.  There have been some flops this summer, but not really a weekend with four new releases and only one of them having a truly encouraging experience.  Last weekend had four new movies as well, and they all finished in the top four.  Great for them, but bad for the follow up weekend who not only had to compete with other newcomers, but also had the previous weekend’s four in such recent memory.  It is a case of too much in a short period of time.  This upcoming weekend will bring three more movies, so we are left guessing what will happen to their grosses in this busy market place.  Theatres are busy shuffling movies around and trying to make sense of what will be the most profitable.

I suppose I should get back to Paranoia, a thriller starring Liam Hemsworth, Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman.  I thought I was being a bit doom and gloom when I said in my prediction of the movie that it should be able to at least make the top ten.  It did not.  It failed.  It had a budget of $40 million, it had names such as Ford and Oldman, and it was only able to squeak out $3.5 million.  It is fair to say that Paranoia will not be meeting its budget.  This could serve to be a big problem for still new studio Relativity, as it is not its first huge bomb of the year.  Back in the winter it released Movie 43, which people cannot seem to reference without disdain or mockery.

Enough for now about the negativity.  The Butler should be showing in a few more theatres this upcoming weekend, so focus on that if you are interested in a movie with meat on the bones.  As I had mentioned, there are three more movies primed to debut and two of the movies are currently sitting at over 90% on Rotten Tomatoes (although the sample size for one of the movies is still fairly low).  This could mean some interesting new entries to remind us that good stories can still be told and that everyone has a bad weekend from time to time, even Hollywood.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Breakdown Goes International Podcast

This week Scott and I jump on the proverbial plane and review two international pictures that were released in North American theatres this year: a Chilean picture that looks at the political campaign designed to oust Dictator Augusto Pinochet during the 1988 referendum called No and a French Gothic thriller starring Vincent Cassel called The Monk.  This podcast is showcasing two pictures that you may not normally watch or even hear about, but then we also have gone into the vault for two more well known films.  We look at an Adam Sandler comedy in Just Go With It and a dramatic comedy that looks at the flaws in the American legal system starring Al Pacino, And Justice for All.  It is a pretty diverse array of movies and might point towards some motion pictures that you should track down.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Scott Martin's The Analysis of the Box Office

Scott looks at a weekend that is full of a wide variety of pictures, and analyzes which ones may be worth your time and also which pictures will reign on top of the box office.

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For the second week in a row, we will have four new wide release movies debuting in theatres, which at first may sound like a big selection, but in a lot of markets that will not be the case.  Because theatres generally keep movies for a minimum of two weeks, and because there are a lot of movies from previous weeks that are still profitable, most theatres will not have the screens available for all new releases this weekend.  Some may offer all four, but a lot will end up carrying only a few of them.  Each of the movies coming out will be released into less than three thousand theatres, which will ultimately affect their chances of success.

The critics have not been too kind to this week’s offerings except for Lee Daniels’ The Butler, which prior to release had some whisperings of Oscars floating around it.  Before you get a little frustrated at the nerve of Lee Daniels having the arrogance to put his name in the title (which I must confess was my first thought) I must note that the original title was The Butler, but there were some court room shenanigans around that because Warner Bros didn’t want us to confuse it with a silent movie of the same name from 1916.

The movie follows Forest Whitaker who plays a butler in the White House during the terms of eight different presidents, and has quite a deep ensemble cast starring names such as Cuba Gooding Jr and Robin Williams.  The reception to the movie has been mostly positive so far, but there has been some criticism around the cast being more about name value than selecting the proper people for the role.  What Lee Daniels’s The Butler has going for it (curse you Warner Bros for making me type that lengthy name!) is that we are an audience bloated and overly satiated from action and comedy movies, desiring a little more substance.  It has also been a long while since we have had a docudrama in wide release (I believe it has been since 42 back in April) so it does not have to worry about genre over-saturation.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler Opening Weekend Prediction - $21 million

If you are a listener to The Breakdown podcast that Chris and I do, you may know that I had unfair hatred towards the movie Kick-Ass prior to seeing it, and then sung its praises afterwards and gave it four out of four stars.  Perhaps that may give you the feeling that I am anticipating the sequel.  Perhaps I should be… but I am not.  Kick-Ass was a brilliant movie that had a self-contained story that left some aspects open ended but gave a good sense of closure.  It had such a style and personality that even attempting to replicate it would ruin the very thing that made it special as you cannot re-capture the magic of the first one.  As well, there is a new helmsman this time around in the director’s chair, so that should send a little bit of worry into the hearts of purist fans of the now franchise.  Critical reception has been fairly brutal to this movie, claiming it has now become exactly what the first movie was a satire of.  I doubt this will keep curious audience members away, as this is my pick to be first place in the box office.  I, however, will wait until it is on Netflix.

Kick-Ass 2 Opening Weekend Prediction - $23 million

Next on the docket is Paranoia, a thriller starring Liam Hemsworth, Gary Oldman, and Harrison Ford.  That is a great looking line-up on paper, with the only curiosity being the drawing power of Hemsworth.  For a second, let’s also look at the drawing power of Indiana Jones himself.  It would be wrong of us to assume quickly that money is attached to Ford’s name, as it was just three years ago that he had two movies that had opening weekends that fell under $10 million dollars.  He is not the gold that people can so often believe, and I do not think he will be enough to save Paranoia.  The online buzz around this movie is dismal, and the reviews are now just starting to roll in with it currently having a Rotten Tomato rating of only 4%, a number that has been continually dropping.  The best thing I can say about my prediction for this movie is that it should be able to make it into the top ten.

Paranoia Opening Weekend Prediction - $7 million

The last of the new wide release movies is another drama based on real life, giving us some good head to head competition as Jobs starring Ashton Kutcher will battle it out with Lee Daniels’ The Butler.  While the character that Whitaker plays in Lee Daniels’ The Butler suffers from little to no prior public awareness, Kutcher will be playing Steve Jobs, a name and a face that a large portion of the population are familiar with.  The first worry I had when I heard about the film was the speed in which it has come out following the death of Jobs, the kind of turnaround that is more suitable for made-for-TV movies.  My fears have been confirmed in the consensus on Rotten Tomatoes, that the vibe is not that of a deep, well-scripted movie.  The names of Kutcher and Jobs are the best things going for it, as they are both well recognized by audiences.

Jobs Opening Weekend Prediction - $10 million

In the realm of limited release movies we have Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, which stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara and appears to be styled towards being a semi-modern western with a love story between the leads.  The trailers make the movie look enthralling, and Mara is sure to bring a dynamic performance as she is one of the great up-and-coming talents in Hollywood.  Sadly, it is only being screened in three theatres this weekend, so colour me jealous of those who get to see what could possibly be a very fun and deep film.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

10 New Fall TV Shows to Check Out

The TV Fall season is when an army of new TV shows with high expectations come marching in, and cynics like me try to predict who will be the first causality.  I am not going to do that this week, even though I am sure there will be plenty.  Instead, in my latest Collective Publishing Pop Culture column, I am picking 10 new shows that may be worth checking out this Fall.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Robotic Damon, Stripping Aniston, and Poseidon's Son Battle at the Box Office: Analyzing the Weekend Results

Scott analyzes the results at the box office, and looks at all the reasons for the successes and failures of the new wide release pictures.

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Well, another box office weekend is in the books with Neil Blomkamp’s Elysium taking first place with $29 million dollars, followed by We’re the Millers at $26 million, Planes with $22 million, and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters ending in with $14.4 million.  Though it may be the quick and easy route to think the straight forward winner was Elysium, we would be most wrong to do so.

Leading up to the release of the Matt Damon led sci-fi movie, a lot of projections had Elysium having an opening weekend in the same realm as Blomkamp’s Oscar nominated District 9, which was $37 million.  That was an unfortunately low projection, as District 9 only had a budget of $30 million, while the budget on Elysium is rumoured at $120 million.  Even more unfortunate is the fact that Elysium underachieved on the already low (compared to budget) expectation, and will end up having a very dismal domestic run.  We can mark this movie down as another casualty of an over saturated special effects summer and lukewarm critical reception.  I had believed this movie would fare better as it was more of a true sci-fi than an action movie, and that would separate it from the other blockbusters of the summer.  I was proven wrong, as explosions are explosions no matter what genre they emanate from, and people are fatigued from them at this point in the season.

The true winner this weekend was the R rated comedy We’re the Millers which starred Jason Sudeikis and Jennifer Aniston as husband and wife in a fake relationship in order to smuggle drugs across the border.  My expectations for this movie, along with many others, were quite low based on a competitive weekend, the drawing power of Sudeikis and Aniston, and a year that has seen audiences ruthlessly reject some comedy offerings.  Over its five day opening weekend it brought in $38 million, which is not only impressive when compared to original projections but is impressive when we realize that it has already made back its $37 million budget.  It was able to benefit from a lack of straight comedy movies in theatres, but it will see direct competition next weekend with the arrival of Kick-Ass 2.  By the time its domestic run comes to an end, it could wind up with around $90 million which is a great day out when we compare it to its reasonable budget.

Even though Disney’s Planes fell short of studio expectations this weekend, we are going to consider this movie a winner of the weekend as well.  The reason why I am so quickly willing to call it a winner is based solely on the fact that it was originally going to be a straight-to-video release.  Because of that, any money made in theatres is technically money that was originally not anticipated, apart from additional marketing done to promote the film.  The reviews are fairly awful, and it is important to note that there is no Pixar involvement in this film.  It has a decent budget for an animated movie at $50 million, and it will possibly come close to that before it goes to video for its originally intended sales.  There is already a sequel in the works for 2014, and it will be interesting to see how that one succeeds, and if it will end up as a straight-to-video release.

And finally we come to the last of the wide release new arrivals from this past weekend, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.  The first movie in the Percy Jackson series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief fell below studio expectations, but was able to draw $30 million in its opening weekend with the sequel making just under half of that for its opening weekend.  The best guess as to what happened here is that there was no reason, audience, evidence, desire, market, demographics, or whatever else is needed to prove that there was a purpose for creating a $90 million dollar sequel to a movie that failed to make back its budget in the domestic markets, yet they attempted the sequel nonetheless.  The international market is what saved the first movie with a decent run and time will tell if foreign audiences want to give a second attempt to what we cannot deny is a blatant knock-off of Harry Potter.  If it seems like I am not a fan of Hollywood copying successful movies to milk and bleed all potential money from hard working people who enjoyed a franchise that started a fad, just wait until I get to let loose my fingers and type about The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones in two weeks.

Outside of the land of domestic wide release movies, there are a few interesting talking points to share.  One of them being the success of Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim in China.  Domestically it struggled ,partially due to the aforementioned over saturation of special effects blockbusters, and partially because of the niche market that would be interested in giant robots battling giant monsters.  It was easily predictable that it would do well in Asian markets based both on the content of the film and the location of the film, and China has not let del Toro down.  Pacific Rim opened on July 31, and has already made $76 million in China which will probably pass the current North American total for the movie, which is $96 million.

Also of note in the international market is Snowpiercer, a South Korean film by director Joon-ho Bong which saw much anticipation prior to its release.  For South Korean movies, it is now the one with the highest opening weekend in its home nation and beat Hollywood mammoths Iron Man 3 and Transformers: Dark of the Moon in the amount of time taken to reach 4 million admissions sold.  Snowpiercer also placed fourth in the international box office charts last week, beating movies such as Despicable Me 2, Monsters University, and Fast and Furious 6.  The premise is a train with a perpetual motion engine that travels across the surface of the planet, which has been frozen due to climate change.  The inhabitants of the train are separated by classes, with the rich living in lavish quarters at the front of the train and the poor crammed into the rear cars and a revolt that ensues.  It should be reaching North American theatres in 2014, but will most likely suffer from much editing in an effort to dumb it down for audiences.  To me it sounds like a simple concept that is easy enough to follow and comprehend, but perhaps I am wrong.

Yep, I am still going.  It would be a shame for me to not mention in this write up the continued success that Blue Jasmine is achieving.  The Woody Allen movie starring Cate Blanchett and Alec Baldwin has held well over three weeks in theatres as it just recently expanded to over 100 theatres and has now grossed over $6 million.  It saw an average of $21,750 per theatre this past weekend, only second to debuting In a World, which averaged $23,667 per theatre in its first weekend.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Breakdown of Critically Panned Films Podcast

This week Scott and I dig up four films that made several critics worst of year when they came out.  Sometimes, the most reviled pictures later become cult classics and heralded as films before their time.  We tackle four motion pictures that most think suck in an attempt to find a hidden gem.  We look at the comic book adventure starring Ryan Reynolds in Green Lantern; the romantic comedy starring the then hot couple of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, Gigli; the hit movie based off the then hot children's series, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie; and the film that turned into a giant Bruce Willis punchline, the action comedy called Hudson Hawk.  Find out if we go against the consensus this week as we dig for buried treasure through a pile of garbage.  


Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Way, Way Back Film Review: A Bumpy Emotional Nostalgic Trip

Scott successfully makes me jealous by having the chance to see a film I desperately want to watch, but the picture stubbornly refuses to be screened in my area.  Here is Scott offering up his thoughts on a very different kind of summer movie in his review of The Way, Way Back. 

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Perhaps it was meant to be, standing outside of the Paramount Theatre in Kelowna on a still summer evening awaiting the fourth member of our party to head in and see The Way, Way Back.  In a day of large, spacious and sterile movie theatres with brightly lit foyers, I was transported back into my childhood every time the doors to the Paramount opened.  Inside I could see an almost claustrophobic entrance with dim lighting, which brought me back to simpler days of movie theatres that had one, two or three screens. What sent my senses directly into overdrive, though, was the smell of stale popcorn that flooded out of the door to smack me in the face, only to disappear the moment the entrance was once again closed.  I was completely teleported back to summer nights as a child, going to the theatre with my parents to see such classics as The Goonies.  Completely pulled from time and space, I was awkward young Scott.

When the movie opens, we are met with Duncan (Liam James) riding in a panel station wagon, having a conversation with his mother’s boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) with his mother riding shotgun and Trent’s daughter reclined and lost in her own world.  In the conversation, Trent gives what we can only presume is what he considers an encouraging speech to Duncan about the upcoming summer.  The height of the encouragement and uplifting comes after Trent asks Duncan how he would rate himself out of ten, and then tells Duncan that in actuality he is a three.  The interesting part of this introductory scene is that of the four characters, all are riding in the car looking forward to what may come, whereas Duncan is riding in the trunk seat of the station wagon, looking back to where he came from.

When they reach their destination, which is a cozy little beach town on the Atlantic coast, we find that it is a summer trapped in time. All of the characters here seem to revert to the rhythms and patterns of summers' past, never being able to let go of those moments of their youth.  Duncan, a fourteen year old boy with a social awkwardness and lack of confidence that transcends just existing in his interactions with others, but penetrates into even his withdrawn posture and stance, has no place in which to fit.  The other teenagers seem to be living in the same cycle as the parents and just doing the summer motions as they have always done.

What we have in this movie is an object, surrounded by happily stationary objects, wanting to move, wanting to discover but not having the abilities to naturally do so.  We follow Duncan as his want to escape the pain of his unhappy life forces him to take some social risks, including awkward conversations with girls that I myself can align with all too well.  In his pilgrimage with no known destination, he meets Owen (Sam Rockwell) who is a manager at local water park.  Owen is a charismatic, laid back individual who develops a relationship with our socially inept protagonist and hires him to work at the park, which is also completely stuck in the past.

What follows is one of the most heartwarming, yet at times emotionally torturous movies of the summer.  The performance by Liam James is unbelievable, and he captures the nuances of his character to perfection. The movie does have some very jilted transitions from moments of elevated emotion, to Duncan being rocked by reality and left remembering the harsh nature of his dysfunctional life at home. Sometimes such quick emotional transitions do not work, but in the real life of a socially lost individual the highs are intoxicatingly high and can be swept out from under your feet as quickly as someone can remind you of who you truly are.

The movie was written and directed by both Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, neither of whom had directed a movie before.  The talent they show in weaving a story of different characters with deep personalities, using imagery to narrate the mood would make people believe they have been around the block and had sat in the director’s chair many times before.  As well, the acting performances by Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell were dynamic and captured a real essence of the characters that they played.  They both played a father figure to Duncan, but one who went through the motions and the other who would do anything to see the man develop his confidence and self-awareness.

In the end, this movie left me with so many emotions that I was just completely unable to shake as the credits rolled. That truly is the sign of a good movie… it is one that haunts you, whether you want it to or not. As I saw a lot of myself in Duncan, I know that there are scenes and characters in the movie that other people can relate to.  Some scenes can be triggering for some people, as Rash and Faxon seem to know well the instances and situations that are able to cause tension among family.  As the movie ended, we once again had Duncan in the rear-facing seat of the panel station wagon with the rest of the family once again looking forward.  But this time, as the car reversed out from the driveway of the summer home, it was now Duncan who was the lone character looking forward, a victor over summer by choosing to push into the unknown and discover life.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Monsters, Talking Planes, and Robotic Men is Just Another Weekend at the Box Office

We're now entering into the traditionally quieter month of August after being bludgeoned with special effects spectacles, animated adventures, and raunchy comedies since May.  Though the slowdown doesn't seem to be occurring quite yet.  This weekend is loaded up with 4 wide release films, and Scott weighs in with how he sees things shaping up.
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As we are now into the final month of the blockbuster season, we are on the threshold of a very busy weekend that sees four wide release movies setting to make their case for audience dollars.  Not only do the new releases have to worry about other movies coming out this weekend, but next weekend also brings four new movies with it, which include early Oscar buzz with The Butler.  Also hampering the new contenders on the market is the fact that for the most part there is nothing that separates them apart from other movies that have blitzed the theatres already or that are currently in theatres.  We also have a few intriguing limited release movies to chat about, so let’s hop right in.

The movie that I am predicting to be the top of the heap is the summer’s last big budget blockbuster feast in Elysium, which stars Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, and is directed and written by Neil Blomkamp.  While many people recognize the names of Damon and Foster, Blomkamp does not carry the same weight, yet it is his involvement that adds an increased level of intrigue to this movie.  Blomkamp’s directorial debut for a feature film was District 9 (he also wrote the screenplay), a dystopian sci-fi movie that gained four Oscar nominations with one of those was for Best Writing.  With a proven experience in well written sci-fi movies, the biggest obstacle Elysium will face is coming at the end of a long summer of shiny looking special effects movies.  However, its most comparable competition would be Oblivion, and we are many months removed from that one.  It looks to separate itself from the more recent field by creating a futuristic society with the haves and the have nots in conflict (instead of a giant monster, or someone bent on taking over the world), a common groundwork for a good dystopian movie.

Elysium Opening Weekend Prediction - $35 million

On the digital animation front, Disney is extending the universe of Cars with the first of a possible trilogy called Planes.  As I mentioned, it is set in the same realm as Cars, but the difference this time is that it is planes.  Yes, that is simplistically said, but it is not like there is a rich history of originality behind this movie.  It was at first intended to be a “straight to video” release, but has now been brought to the big screen to try and perform well in the land of diminishing returns as parents wallets appear to have dried up by this point in the blockbuster season.  Three weeks ago Turbo had a $21 million opening weekend, and last week The Smurfs 2 experienced a $17.5 million opening weekend.  With the Cars franchise making over $60 million during opening weekend for both movies, I find it more likely that Planes will be finding themselves at half of that.  The market is just too tired, there have been bigger and better movies already this summer, and kids do not seem to be clamoring for a film where Dane Cook pretends to be a prop-plane.  On a side note, I did find it interesting that the trailer for this down to earth, family movie for kids features a song by the band White Zombie, which does not really seem to align with family values.  Do not worry though, parents… the featured song is not from their Make Them Die Slowly album, or La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume One so there is no need to question the choice of Disney integrating that music into your child’s film.

Planes Opening Weekend Prediction - $23 million

For the second week in a row, we have an R rated comedy entering the mix.  Last weekend, it was 2 Guns, which was a buddy action/comedy starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg.  This weekend, we have what appears to be a cross between a road trip movie and an odd couple comedy in We’re The Millers.  The twist with We’re The Millers is that it is not an odd couple per se, but an odd family grouping.  The trailer shows a marijuana dealer turned smuggler who pays a stripper to pretend to be his wife, a dorky kid to pretend to be his son and a ‘gutter punk’ to be his daughter with the belief that it is easier to cross the border as a family than as a single male.  It stars Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis as the fake husband and wife.  The two worked together previously in the ensemble movie Horrible Bosses, which made $28 million its opening weekend.  The reviews are not great for We’re The Millers, and it is doubtful that the public sees Sudeikis as a box office draw while in the lead role.  It made $6.7 million on Wednesday, a decent start to the five day release weekend.  However, it will most likely not be able to continue that strongly as it will face competition from Elysium once it is released on Friday.

We’re The Millers Five Day Opening Weekend Prediction – $28 million

The last of the wide release movies breaking out this weekend is Percy Jackson: Seas of Monsters, the second movie in the Percy Jackson franchise, which is a completely original premise and not at all attempting to cash in on the success of the Harry Potter franchise.  Sure, criticize me for being sarcastic and that I only made it halfway through the trailer before realizing that life is too short, but this movie comes from Hollywood… the land of the cash cow.  What works against Percy Jackson right now is what originally was working for it.  The fad once was for young magic wielding protagonists, but the fad is now supernatural teen romances, the kind with hot, brooding young actors and actresses.  The first movie in the franchise, Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightning Thief (which was directed by the same person who directed and produced a number of Harry Potter movies), made $31 million its opening weekend, which was Valentine’s weekend in 2010.  Valentine’s weekend is usually a great time for movies, and it benefitted nicely from the holiday.  Sadly, the sequel has no holiday to bank on and the first movie seems to be a distant memory at this point.  It had a decent start on Wednesday, and pulled in $5.4 million.  It is most likely that it will take the full five days of its opening weekend to match what the original did in its first three days.  If audiences flock to see Planes when it comes out on Friday it could make for a rough weekend for Percy.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters Five Day Opening Weekend Prediction - $31 million

As I mentioned above, there are a few interesting limited release movies opening this weekend.  One of them stars Amanda Seyfried in the movie Lovelace, a dramatic biography about the life of 70s pornstar Linda Lovelace.  Seyfried plays the role of Lovelace, a woman who is abused and forced into the world of porn (reportedly by gunpoint) by her husband and later stands up against the porn industry.  It is currently getting mixed reviews by critics, and it will be interesting to see if Seyfried is able to bring the multiple dimensions needed to such a complex role.

Also opening in limited release this weekend is In a World… which is directed by, written by, and starring Lake Bell.  It is a comedy about competition between voice over talent in movie trailers.  It is said to be quite witty and satirical, which is a good thing considering the irony is that (besides the trailer for The World’s End) voice overs seem to have departed from trailers completely.  It debuted at the Sundance Film Festival where it won an award for best screenplay.  Thinking back, I can remember so many trailers that contained the title’s phrase ‘in a world,’ which was popularized by famous voice over king Don LaFontaine.  Currently it is sitting at 85% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, which is a bright spot on a weekend with many poorly reviewed movies.  If you are looking for a movie with an interesting concept that focuses on strong female characters in a male dominated industry, this would be the movie to see.

One last quick movie of note to touch on is I Give it a Year, a romantic comedy about a couple whose relationship is teetering on the brink of collapse by their first anniversary.  It has a cast that includes Rose Byrne, Simon Baker, Anna Faris, Rafe Spall, and Stephen Merchant, and currently it has a rotten rating of 57% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

38 Mini Film Reviews of 2013 Releases

I've reviewed 38 releases from 2013.  But not all of them have been under my name, so you may have read reviews that sound strangely like mine but without that pesky byline telling you.  I am remedying that this week by offering up short reviews of every film over at Collective Publishing.  If you're torn on what 2013 films are worth your time, I make it easy by revealing the modern classics and monumental stinkers.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Box Office Aftermath from the Smurfs and 2 Guns Shootout

Scott analyzes the results after the final weekend of what is traditionally known as blockbuster season.  He also takes a look at some heavy hitting limited release pictures.

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Not only is another weekend in the books in the box office, but we now enter into the final month of the summer blockbuster season.  The year of 2013 did not start off with a lot of excitement with January and February both failing to come anywhere near 2012’s numbers.  Entering the start of the summer months there was a lot of doubt as to how movies would perform.  This doubt was well founded, as we saw that a lot of action and comedy movies were flopping during the winter (the two genres that carry the bulk of the summer releases).  However, it started out on the right foot with the highest grossing May and June of all time.

As much as July would try to three-peat, it fell just $26 million shy and ended up in the number two spot when compared to other years.  It would have easily taken top slot if not for what could possibly be a sign of ‘action fatigue’ amongst movie goers.  May and June sported a number of high budget, high octane, and high grossing action movies that appear to have zapped interest from the offerings of July.  The Wolverine, The Lone Ranger, R.I.P.D., Red 2, and Pacific Rim all fell below expectations, with some possibly not looking to make their budget back.  The successes of the month came from Despicable Me 2, Grown Ups 2, and The Conjuring.

Kicking off August, 2 Guns starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg opened to mixed reviews and brought in $27 million domestically.  While it is not a horrible number, many originally had this movie pegged to open at around $35 million.  Perhaps it was a combination of the reviews and the fact that many people had already had their fill of movies this summer that brought the movie down.  The strength of the film laid neither on its convoluted plot nor the trailers (which gave away the convoluted plot, and probably could have left more mystery around what may happen), but on the shoulders of Washington and Wahlberg who did everything they could to bring a lot of energy to the movie.  With a rumoured budget of $60 million, it should be able to make it back fairly easily.

Also coming out this past weekend was The Smurfs 2, which started off with a five day opening weekend that made $27 million domestically and $52 million in the international markets, and apparently only 4% behind The Smurfs at the same time during its release.  At the end of its run, it should be able to make north of $450 million worldwide, which would leave the creation of The Smurfs 3 as a no-brainer.  With the numbers looking good for the franchise, it is lagging far behind in the domestic market.   Perhaps there is such a thing as ‘digital animation fatigue,’ which would make sense considering this is the fourth of its genre within the last month and a half.  If that is true, then things do not look so good for Planes, which comes out on Friday.

Recently I wrote about Sharknado getting a shot in theatres.  Regal Entertainment Group held a midnight screening of the made for TV movie in 200 theatres on August 2 after it debuted to enormous success in mid-July on the SyFy channel.  There is no confirmed information as to its success in theatres, but the word around the campfire is that it made $200,000.  While the number does not seem like a lot, I believe this is the first movie from The Asylum Studios to enter theatres.  The Asylum generally makes low budget ‘mockbusters’ (rip offs of Hollywood blockbusters, e.g. Atlantic Rim) as well as creature features.  A sequel is currently in the books for 2014, with New York City being the host battle ground for the deadly confrontation between man and storm swept shark.

Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine expanded from 6 theatres to 50 and made $1.8 million this weekend, putting it just under three million for its current two week run in the box office.  It finished with the second highest average per theatres at $37 thousand, coming behind the debuting The Spectacular Now, which averaged $49 thousand in the four theatres that it opened in.  The Spectacular Now is an award winner at the Sundance Film Festival, with its screenplay written by the same team that wrote (500) Days of Summer.  If you have not heard of (500) Days of Summer, consider yourself advised to watch it.  It stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel in a movie about love, but that is not a conventional romantic comedy.  If you have Netflix, there is literally nothing stopping you from seeing it.

Monday, August 05, 2013

The Breakdown of The Wolverine, 2 Guns, The Heat, and 21 Grams Podcast

This week Scott and I tackle two buddy pictures that are filled with guns and smack talk.  One is the latest action picture starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg, 2 Guns, and the other is the hit comedy starring Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock, The Heat.  It is still summer time so there is yet another comic book action picture to talk about in The Wolverine.  We end things by digging into the vault and reviewing the gut punching drama, 21 Grams.  Once again, Scott and I disagree on several of the pictures, so check the show out to hear two different views on all these films.

If you enjoy what you hear, then please pass it on to a friend.  As always, we want to hear your thoughts.


Sunday, August 04, 2013

Warning About Content Output for the Next Two Plus Weeks

I keep promising a relaunch on this blog where I go back to magically posting original content on a daily basis.  Of course, I then successfully continue my streak of not doing that at all.  I thought it was only fair to let you know that the status quo will likely remain for the next two weeks.  There is a chance magic will prevail and I actually start putting up some new articles over the next two weeks, but there is also a chance a magic portal to the land of fairies is buried underneath my shed.  Though pretty unlikely.

I am going to be pretty occupied for the next bit, but I am hopeful that a real relaunch with regular content will start on Tuesday August 20th.  Or at least I'll then write yet another long "excuse essay."  Either way, I'll write something that day, I'm sure.

So, now you've been warned if you come here in the next two week and start seeing tumbleweeds blow past.  It'll get better.  I promise.  Maybe.

Friday, August 02, 2013

The Blues and Guns Trying to Rule the Box Office: Scott's Latest Predictions

The blockbuster season is considered over now, and it is time for the typically quieter month of August.  Hollywood still has its guns blazing and hoping to avoid those box office blues.  Scott lays out his predictions for this weekend's wide release debuts.

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It was just over a month ago that The Heat came into theatres and gave us a buddy cop movie that focused on two strong female leads busting heads, taking names, and shooting bad guys in the nethers.  A few weeks later, the buddy cops were both dead and cracking down on dead people who had escaped judgement.  One of them also had a thing for ankles.  This weekend we get yet another buddy cop movie, and it will make its play for the top of the heap.  Does it have what it takes?

The movie I am referring to is 2 Guns, and it stars Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg as undercover agents working for separate agencies looking to bring down a drug cartel.  The key to any ‘buddy’ movie is the chemistry between the two leads, and both of those actors have the ability to bring the charm and charisma needed to make it work.  Both of these leads have been around long enough to develop some credibility with the public, and there should be a lot more interest in this pairing than there was for R.I.P.D.’s Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges duo.  Washington is a proven box office draw and is coming off an Oscar nominated performance in Flight, and Wahlberg is a semi-consistent draw who can bring in the audience when in the right roles.

The only other new wide release movie this weekend is The Smurfs 2, and they need not worry about having to share demographics with them.    What could hinder 2 Guns is the 58% Rotten Tomatoes rating that it currently has, and the fact that it is a movie that is lacking internet buzz as it is barely getting any Twitter activity.  The reported earnings from late Thursday showings put it at earning $1.2 million, which is not a great start for a movie with such high caliber name value.  It will most likely not come close to the opening weekend of Safe House ($40 million), which paired Washington with Ryan Reynolds in February of last year.

2 Guns Opening Weekend Prediction - $23 million

The Smurfs 2 continues the part live action, part digital animation franchise that started two years ago.  The original movie was able to make $35 million in its opening weekend, on route to a worldwide box office of $563 million.  The sequel opened in theatres Wednesday and took first place in theatres with $5 million, and will be benefiting from a five day opening weekend.  A few weeks ago, Turbo went for the five day opening weekend, did $5 million on the Wednesday, and made $31 million for its five day opening weekend.  The Smurfs 2, which trailers don’t present the strongest premise for a movie (Gargamel tries to turn Smurfette into a naughty Smurf… I suppose that could work to implode a society based around having only one available female) and that may hurt it considering there have already been a number of family friendly movies out, and another one coming in just a week’s time.

The Smurfs 2 Five Day Weekend Prediction – 29 million

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Well, There Goes Thursday. . .

So, much for this.

Seriously, it was intended to be a relaunch at the time.

Unfortunately, time has been a bit of an ass.  The problem is that very soon I'll be away from the compute for approximately two weeks.  Being away from my computer makes it rather hard to type up the work that is due to my clients. 

As great as freelance writing can be, it does have the downside of being really lousy at vacation pay.  As in it doesn't exist, because why would an editor just give me money for my vacation.  Though if they want to do that, I am totally cool with that.  Since they likely aren't then this means that two weeks of no writing means two weeks of no pay.

In order to try to solve that problem, I've been trying to do about two weeks' worth of pay copy for all my clients so they don't even notice I'm gone and are still willing to give me my normal weekly fee.

This means that I've been furiously exercising my finger against the keyboard, but just not here.  But I want to be.  Honest.

At least, you now know the reason that I've been a little silent after promising I'd stop doing that.

It is a better excuse than devoting all my time to a Pop Tart castle.  Though that may or may not be the reason I'll be away for two weeks.  Pop Tart castles take time.