Saturday, August 30, 2014

FOUR OF A KIND: THE BEST TENT POLE FILMS OF SUMMER 2014


Every summer Hollywood floods us with big "tent pole" movies, usually part of a franchise of films that are already successful, or in the hopes of launching a new such franchise. Most of the time critics are mixed at best in their responses to these types of films. Some seem to basically write off any film released on 3,000+ screens as automatically devoid of creativity and artistry.

Occasionally though there are big budget films that do break through with critics, in addition to audiences. This summer saw the release of four such films, all released on a huge number of screens, with similar critical acclaim and audience reactions, but with very different results at the domestic box office.


All four acclaimed films (Guardians of the Galaxy, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, How To Train Your Dragon 2) were launched on around 4,000+ screens, with the anticipation of huge crowds opening weekend.


Each film scored solid grades from opening weekend audiences polled by CinemaScore.com. Receiving an A or A- means that there was generally very good word of mouth for each film.


Each of the films received at least an 8.1 from Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com) users, with three of the four films landing on IMDB's top 250 of all time chart.


The film review aggregator website RottenTomatoes.com currently has each film rated as 90%+ "fresh", meaning they were reviewed favorably by an average of 9 out of 10 critics in their analysis.


MetaCritic.com, another film review aggregator site, also shows all four films as scoring generally favorable reviews, bordering on universal acclaim (an 81+ score).


Taking all this data into account, this next graph is a little perplexing...


If audiences and critics alike enjoyed these films almost equally, why did these four films bring in dramatically different amounts of money at the domestic box office? What accounts for this huge discrepancy, potentially a 100+ million dollar difference when all is said and done between Guardians of the Galaxy and How to Train Your Dragon 2?

At the beginning of the summer I predicted HERE that How to Train Your Dragon 2 would be the top film of summer domestically. Why? I thought that the potential for strong buzz coming from it's premiere in Cannes, robust DVD and Blu-ray sales of the original Dragon film, and the assortment of direct to video movies and other TV and video game tie-ins that followed, it just seemed like a solid choice. The other big releases this summer also seemed quite underwhelming, with no one film garnering the lion's share of buzz, so it looked like it had as good a shot as any to win the season.

What happened instead was that Dragon 2 was swallowed up by the plethora of releases around it. 22 Jump Street surprised a lost of prognosticators by not only winning the weekend, but by doing so quite easily even though it was in almost 1,000 fewer theaters. The weekend also featured three other films (Maleficent, Edge of Tomorrow & The Fault in our Stars) that brought in at least 10 million dollars.

It is likely that Maleficent stole away enough Dragon audience to help Jump Street take the weekend. In addition there were three other mega budget films also still in the marketplace (X-Men: Days of Future Past, Godzilla and The Amazing Spider-Man 2). Overall the $179,970,757 brought in by the Top 12 films that weekend ended up being the single largest amount of any weekend the entire summer.


Not only were there a lot of big films already in theaters, but Dragon 2 was not helped out by the fact that the next few weeks featured a slew of big releases. Think Like A Man Too, riding high on Kevin Hart's thirteen years in the making overnight success (2014's Ride Along and About Last Night) took the #1 spot the following weekend. Next came Transformers: Age of ExtinctionTammy and then the aforementioned Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Barely a month after Dragon's release, Disney's Planes: Fire & Rescue also came out, further stealing away the younger audience.

Below is a snapshot of each weekend of summer 2014, with data from BoxOfficeMojo.com. The five highest grossing films of the summer are highlighted in green. Notice how Dragons 2 is wedged right in the middle, surrounded by big releases.


One other interesting note on these four films is the fact that Guardians of the Galaxy became the first film this century to be released in August that went on to be the summer champion at the domestic box office.


Generally, the champion comes out early in the season, before the market is saturated with big releases. Nine of the fifteen films to win the summer box office since 2000 have been released in May. I guess I should have taken this into account when predicting which film would win the season. May 2014 featured The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Godzilla and X-Men: Days of Future Past, none of which felt like they had the momentum to win the whole thing, with the performance of the Spider-Man and X-Men franchises fading, and Godzilla lacking the big name producer, director or stars (sorry "Heisenberg") usually associated with a mega hit.


In the end I guess it just became a matter of which film stuck with you the longest, made you tell all your friends and family members about it, and made you want to go back and see it again on the big screen. In the summer of 2014, that film was Guardians of the Galaxy. It's been a while since a movie felt that "addicting", like I had to go back and get another hit right away. The last time I felt that way about a movie was probably back in 2008, when Marvel first unleashed Robert Downey, Jr. and Iron Man on us. Leave it to Marvel to do it again. Guardians now gives Marvel the top film in each of the last three summers, following The Avengers in 2012 and last summer's Iron Man 3.


Though the term is overused, Guardians is truly an instant classic. It has it all: Action, adventure, romance, comedy, drama, dazzling visual effects, a fantastic retro soundtrack, an eclectic mix of unique characters including a genetically modified talking raccoon (voiced brilliantly by Bradley Cooper), and a leading man in Chris Pratt so compelling that his Peter "Star-Lord" Quill is one of the few characters in blockbuster history that can legitimately compete with Han Solo and Tony Stark in terms of sheer coolness.

Plus, Guardians has dancing baby Groot. So there's that.


Now if you will excuse me, I have to go listen to "Hooked on a Feeling" by Blue Swede for the millionth time this month. OOGA-CHACKA, OOGA-OOGA! Damn earworm!

Thanks a lot James Gunn.


Leave your comments below or tweet me @FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

NO JOKE! WHY BATMAN IS SO, SO SAD.


The rumor on the street (as reported HERE by Matt Singer from TheDissolve.com) is that all the glum Warner Brothers/DC Comics superhero movies (Man of Steel, Batman V Superman) we're getting are due to the "hilarious" Green Lantern's flop at the box office back in 2011. The Brothers Warner have even allegedly implemented a "No Jokes" policy on all future DC Comics movies, because clearly there's nothing funny about a grown man wearing a giant bat costume with a codpiece or a long red cape with blue tights.

Whether the "No Jokes" policy is true or not is uncertain, but what is certain is that Batman V Superman still looks pretty awesome, and will likely make a ton of dough at the box office. Plus, that first photo of "Batfleck" has been the internet meme gift that keep on giving.

NO SOUP FOR BATMAN!


What's your favorite "Sad Batman"? Leave your comments below or tweet me @FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks 

Monday, August 25, 2014

HAPPY 75TH ANNIVERSARY THE WIZARD OF OZ


Seventy-five years ago today the world was first introduced to Dorothy, Toto, Auntie Em, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the Munchkins, Glinda the Good Witch, the Wicked Witch of the West, those damn Flying Monkeys and of course The Wizard of Oz. Based on L. Frank Baum's series of books, the film has gone on to be one of the most viewed movies in history, beloved by audiences around the world, and reaching the status of pop culture icon.


Not only is the film full of wonderful characters, but the story is enhanced by featuring some of the most memorable songs in the history of movie musicals, including "Follow the Yellow Brick Road", "If I Only Had a Brain", "We're Off to See The Wizard", "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead", "Lollipop Guild", and the timeless "Somewhere Over the Rainbow".


All these decades later and the film is still being introduced to new generations, with reincarnations recently at the movies (Oz the Great and Powerful), television (Once Upon a Time), and the theater (Wicked). Seventy-five years is a long time to still be on top. How long is that? Here's some math...

2014 + 75 = 2089

What films from 2014 will we still be talking about in the year 2089? Think about that.


Leave your comments below or tweet me @FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

NO COATTAILS: 2014 AT THE DOMESTIC SUMMER BOX OFFICE


Let's be honest, this summer movie season at the domestic box office has pretty much blown chunks. 2014 had started out with a bang with the February release of The LEGO Movie and May's Captain America: The Winter Soldier each crossing $250 million in the first part of the year. We are now at the end of August and those are still the two highest grossing films of the year at the domestic box office.

Yes, numbers are down, WAY down. How down? How about the worst performing summer of this entire CENTURY (when adjusted for inflation)! While ups and downs are common, this drop is incredibly steep comparatively. Why is that? There are lots of possible reasons, ranging from the rise in the quality of television programming (HBO, Showtime, FX & AMC to be specific), to the ease of staying home and streaming movies and TV shows via Netflix, Amazon and iTunes.

Here's another reason, and the one I feel may be the biggest... NO COATTAILS!


Every summer there are one or two standout movies that break through into the popular culture and shatter box office records. These mega blockbusters help the other films around them by bringing more people into the theaters surrounding them. If you go to a movie and enjoy it, you are more likely to go to another movie the next weekend. If you go to a bad movie, or one that makes you feel indifferent, you are less likely to venture out to a movie the next weekend. This year, for the first time this century, there was not a single tent-pole film that brought in at least 300 Million Dollars (adjusted for inflation). No 2002 era Spider-Man, no Dark Knight, and no Avengers level hits to be found.

Sure, Transformers: Age of Extinction crossed the BILLION dollar mark worldwide, but here at home it hasn't even reached $250 million, a far cry from the $300-$400+ million each the previous three films in the franchise brought in domestically.


Even lesser summer blockbusters like Mission: Impossible 2 and Spider-Man 3 brought in significantly larger crowds than Trans4mers has this year.


If you look at the performance of this years five highest grossing films at the domestic box office, all of them followed basically the same path straight down. Guardians of the Galaxy has really been the only one to "have legs", with significantly stronger second and third weekends compared to the other four films. Guardians is on the verge of passing Transformers for the top movie of the summer domestically, which is well deserved. It hits all the right notes. It's funny, it's action-packed, and it has heart. There is no doubt that it's success helped give the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot a $10-$15 million boost on it's opening weekend, one of the few cases of one film riding the coattails of another this dismal summer season.


From week to week Guardians separated from the pack, hanging on to more of it's audience each week than the other films were able to. Even though Guardians is perhaps the best blockbuster since the original Iron Man in terms of quality and likability, even it may struggle to get to the seemingly elusive $300 million mark this summer.


While this summer has proven to be a bust, the late season success of Guardians and a strong slate of fall and holiday releases (Fury and Interstellar along with Hunger Games, Horrible Bosses, The Hobbit and Night at the Museum sequels) may mean we actually have more hits from outside the summer season than from the normal peak box office season. For Hollywood's sake, I sure hope so.

What do you think? Why was summer 2014 so bad at the domestic box office? Leave your comments below or tweet me @FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What if Michael Bay Directed "Up" or "The Shawshank Redemption"?

EXPLOSION! LENS FLARE! EXPLOSION! WITTY ONE-LINER! EXPLOSION!

Michael Bay has a formula, it works for him and it usually ends up leading to huge dollars at the box office. You go into a Michael Bay film expecting spectacular explosions and other visual eye candy. Frankly, if you didn't get that, you'd probably be disappointed. We like it when he blows $#!+ up! His style is the polar opposite of such slower paced, methodical, dialogue heavy classics like "The Shawshank Redemption" and "Up". In fact, if Bay had directed "Up" it would have been called "UP!!!"

Thankfully for all of us the YouTube channel "MrStratman7" has taken these two classic films and given them the Bay treatment. They now have all the lens flares you'd expect and the explosions you desire. Enjoy the Bayhem!




Leave your comments below or tweet me @FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

HAPPY 60TH BIRTHDAY JAMES CAMERON


Happy 60th Birthday to producer, writer, director and new cinematic world creator extraordinaire James Cameron! He made Arnold a superstar (as both a bad guy, and a good guy) in The Terminator and T2, made Sigourney Weaver a badass mama in Aliens, brought us to the depths of the ocean in The Abyss, made a comic-spy-thriller as good as any James Bond film with True Lies, made the biggest movie of all time with Titanic, and then topped it a dozen years later with Avatar.


Mr. Consistency at the Box Office, Cameron is one of the top 5 highest grossing directors of all time, and the only one to have made fewer than 10 films. At close to TWO BILLION DOLLARS grossed domestically, he has proven to be the man with the Midas touch.


In terms of quality, he also delivers time and time again. According to Rotten Tomatoes his seven wide-release films average an amazing 89%! Especially amazing considering those same seven films grossed an average of over $400 million when adjusted for inflation!


We'll have to wait a couple more years though for more cinema magic from Mr. Cameron, as Avatar 2 is not slated for release until 2016. 

What's your favorite James Cameron flick? Leave your comments below or tweet me @FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks 

Friday, August 15, 2014

ROBIN WILLIAMS AT THE BOX OFFICE


Few stars in Hollywood history have been as consistent in returning to the top of the Box Office as Robin Williams, and fewer still have been as beloved by audiences. In straight unadjusted dollars at the Domestic Box Office, Williams ranks number eight all time. In terms of consistency, he was down right remarkable.

The old standard of a "Hit Movie" is generally considered a film that crosses the $100 million mark. Well adjusted for inflation, Williams' average domestic take was $109,362,400! Seeing that he starred in close to fifty films, that figure is even more astonishing. He had ups, and he had downs, but he had more ups than just about anyone in history.

He made us laugh, he made us cry, and oftentimes he did so simultaneously. What a talent. He will be missed.



What's your favorite Robin Williams flick? Leave your comments below or tweet me @FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

OH, TO BE FREE (ROBIN WILLIAMS QUOTE MASHUP)

Oh, to be free! Not to have to go, “Poof! What do you need? Poof! What do you need? Poof! What do you need?" Phenomenal cosmic powers! Itty bitty living space. It's like riding a psychotic horse toward a burning stable. To be my own master? Such a thing would be greater than all the magic and all the treasures in all the world. What do I look like, a Ringling brother? What am I, a man or an amoeba? Some kind of barnacle on the dinghy of life? I'm sorry, if you were right, I would agree with you. I'm a knight on a special quest. You consider me a friend? You ain't never had a friend like me! I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must constantly look at things in a different way. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. We all have a great need for acceptance, but you must trust that your beliefs are unique, your own, even though others may think them odd or unpopular. The human spirit is more powerful than any drug, and that is what needs to be nourished: with work, play, friendship, family. These are the things that matter. You'll have bad times, but it'll always wake you up to the good stuff you weren't paying attention to. The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be? What some folks call impossible is just stuff they haven't seen before. No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world. You must strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all. Thoreau said, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation." It's not your fault. Don't be resigned to that. Break out! Carpe diem. Seize the day! Make your lives extraordinary! Say “There's no place like home. There's no place like home”, and you can be there. I hope. I hope we all could. All of life is a coming home. Salesmen, secretaries, coal miners, beekeepers, sword swallowers, all of us. All the restless hearts of the world, all trying to find a way home. If there's love dear, those are the ties that bind, and you'll have a family in your heart, forever. Please, don't worry so much. It's not your fault. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this earth. Life is fleeting. Why can't we treat death with a certain amount of humanity and dignity, and decency, and god forbid, maybe even humor. Death. To die. To expire. To pass on. To perish. To peg out. To push up daisies. To push up posies. To become extinct. Curtains, deceased, demised, departed and defunct. Dead as a doornail. Dead as a herring. Dead as a mutton. Dead as nits. The last breath. Paying a debt to nature. The big sleep. Death is not the enemy gentlemen. We need to start treating the patient as well as the disease. If we're going to fight a disease, let's fight one of the most terrible diseases of all, indifference. Life is short and fragile and unique. People call those imperfections, but no, that's the good stuff. And each hour, each minute, each second could have something to offer. Something beautiful and astounding. And if you're ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. See what no one else sees. See what everyone chooses not to see, out of fear, conformity or laziness. See the whole world anew each day! And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day, make a wish and think of me. If it can be dreamed, it can be done. Make your life spectacular. Thank you. Goodbye, now. Goodbye. Goodbye. Thank you. Goodbye. You have been a fabulous audience! Tell you what; you're the best audience in the whole world. Thank you for believing. Thank you for every kindness. Take care of yourselves! Good night. I'm free. I'm free. I'm home!

And now your friend is gone forever?

Oh no sir, no. (Points to his heart) I’ll always keep him right here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

R.I.P. LAUREN BACALL

Today we lost another legend of the Silver Screen, Lauren Bacall, at the age of 89. Her career spanned an incredible EIGHT different decades, with standout work throughout. Amazingly her lone Oscar nomination came for her turn as Hannah Morgan in Barbara Streisand's The Mirror Has Two Faces, more than fifty years after her career began.

Her most memorable work though came opposite her partner on and off the screen, Humphrey Bogart. "Bogie and Bacall" would make four unforgettable films together, To Have and Have Not in 1944, The Big Sleep in 1946, Dark Passage in 1947, and Key Largo in 1948. The two of them also played a key role in Hollywood's fight against McCarthyism, being outspoken critics of the House Un-American Activities Commission (HUAC) during the "Red Scare".

One of the all time stunners, armed with an unmistakable smoky voice and a razor sharp wit, she was truly an unparalleled leading lady. She will be missed.



Together again...


What's your favorite Lauren Bacall movie moment? Leave your comments below or tweet me @FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks 

O CAPTAIN! MY CAPTAIN!

O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people are exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
          But O heart! heart! heart!
          O the bleeding drops of red,
          Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                    Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;

Rise up-for you the flag is flung-for you the bulge trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths-for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
          Here Captain! dear father!
          The arm beneath your head!
          It is some dream that on the deck,
                    You've fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,

My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
          Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
          But I with mournful tread,
          Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                    Fallen cold and dead.

-Walt Whitman

Sunday, August 10, 2014

BE KIND, PLEASE REWIND: IFC FILMS' "BOYHOOD NOSTALGIA CREATOR"

Hey there boys and girls of all ages! If you read this blog regularly or follow me on Twitter at @FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks you probably already know that I'm a huge fan of Richard Linklater's enormously ambitious, wonderfully sublime film Boyhood. It is my #1 movie of the year so far (in a tight race with Guardians of the Galaxy, The Grand Budapest Hotel and The LEGO Movie).

One of the best aspects of the movie is how it highlights the small moments in life that add up to big nostalgic memories down the road. With that being said, IFC Films (the Distributor of the film) has created a cool new website, boyhoodnostalgia.com, where you can go on and select a favorite childhood memory from age six to eighteen and share it with all your Twitter followers or Facebook friends.

The screenshots below prove that it's as simple as 1, 2, 3...





It's a great way to look back and reflect on those small yet unforgettable moments from your own childhood, and connect with others who shared your experience. Reading through the list of questions I immediately had flashbacks to getting freaked out by the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark book series, my E.T. VHS tape with the awesome green flap, watching every episode of Reading Rainbow and The Disney Afternoon religiously, hearing Radiohead's OK Computer for the first time and having it blow my mind (it still does), and playing with my Ninja Turtles collection.


When it came to true love, there were two. Oh, to be Kevin Arnold and Zack Morris in the late 80's and early 90's...


After looking down the list of choices on the site, and recalling that E.T. VHS tape, the choice for me was simple...


Now it's your turn. Head over to boyhoodnostalgia.com and rekindle your own childhood memories.

I think it's fun, but...

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

SERKISING: FIVE REBOOT ROLES PERFECT FOR ANDY SERKIS


Andy Serkis is one of the most gifted actors working today. With over 80 film and television roles to his credit, his versatility is without question. Most of his roles have been live-action, but his most iconic performances have been his amazing motion-capture work. His characters Gollum (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Hobbit Trilogy), Kong (King Kong) and Caesar (The Planet of the Apes Saga) have amazed us with their lifelike nuances captured directly from the expressions and movements of Serkis himself. His virtuoso ability has also earned him roles in the upcoming Avengers and Star Wars films as well.

Since there's nothing that Hollywood loves to do more than to remake and reboot older, successful films and franchises, I thought I'd suggest five iconic roles that Andy Serkis would be perfect for. Hollywood casting agents, please take note...


!!! SPOILER ALERT !!!


ROSEBUD from Citizen Kane
Let's be honest, we'd all end up balling as Rosebud was tossed into the fire in that final, fateful shot, due to unbelievable depth and breadth that Serkis would undoubtedly infuse into that sled.



THE HORSE HEAD from The Godfather
While the original horse head did a fine job, the seemingly unlimited number of emotions that can be articulated by Serkis would bring an even more heightened sense of ominous dread to this pivotal scene. I can hear the screams already.



E.T. from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Come on Spielberg, it's been over thirty years and still no E.T. 2! We all know Serkis would nail this one, seems like a no-brainer. CHA-CHING!



WILSON from Cast Away
Cast Away 2 opening shot... Wilson is slowly drifting away from Tom Hanks on the open ocean and the heartbreaking cries of "Wilson! Wilson! I'm sorry!" are fading into the distance. For the next three hours Serkis takes us on a high-seas adventure we will never forget. Let's get on this Zemeckis!



BELLA SWAN from The Twilight Saga
The second (and final) wooden character on this list. I'm not suggesting that we make MORE Twilight movies, rather we should just have Serkis go back and re-shoot all of the Bella scenes. I mean, it would have to be an improvement, am I right?


What do you think? What other iconic movie roles would be perfect for a good Serkising?

Leave your comments below or tweet me @FiveStarFlicks or @5StarFlicks