This/Last Weekend

poster admissionAdmission, the new comedy starring Paul Rudd and Tina Fey is coming out in two days, adding another new comedy to the mix for Identity Thief to contend with.  Olympus Has Fallen is the political thriller du jour starring Aaron Eckhart and Moran Freeman in a terrorist seige of the white house.  Also, The Croods, a Dreamworks Animation product about cave people will be dragging its knuckles into theaters.  Get tickets.

In the words of your favorite Arrested Development character, “I made a huge mistake.”  I actually thought Star Trek was openning last sunday, which is crazy.  Duh!  I know that now.  The true release date is MAY 17, which makes a whole lot more sense.

So, Oz got another run at being on top and hauled in a sweet $41 million to repair China Town.  What surprises me is that The Call, with Halle Berry came in second nearly doubling  The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, which only came in third with $10 million, probably due to the latter’s 38% ranking on rotten tomatoes, though the audiences response was substancially better.   Jack dropped down to fourth place far from making back it’s immense budget and hanging on to the top five in its sixth week is Identity Thief.  The cume domestic earnings are:

5 Identity Thief $123,606, 175

4 Jack the Giant Slayer $54,007,635

3 The Incredible Burt Wonderstone $10,177,257

2 The Call $17,118,745

1 Oz: The Great and Powerful $144,056,326

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This/Last Weekend

gi poster oz 2James Franco is going to have two movies out when Spring Breakers hits theaters this weekend.  Jason Mewes of Jay and Silent Bob fame returns in K-11, a film about a music executive trapped in the Los Angeles prison system.  Star Trek Into Darkeness sold out in many theaters for its Sunday opening this weekend, giving the high profile comedy– The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, starring Jim Carrey and Steve Carrel– and Oz chance to make money on Friday and Saturday.

Last Weekend Oz raked in nearly $80 million.  Jack fell to second leaving a huge gap, bringing in only about $10 mil.  It will be interesting to see how Oz holds against Star TrekJack has likely done all it can.  In third place last weekend, Identity thief is likely to fade  away against Burt Wonderstone.  Niels Arden Oplev’s (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) $30 million American venture took in over five million in its first week and 21 and Over is clinging on to the top five with $5 million.

Domestic Cume:

5 21 and Over $18,175,752

4 Dead Man Down $6,439,083

3. Identity Thief $117,911,015

2 Jack the Giant Slayer $45,813,826

1 Oz: the Great and Powerful $92,540,469

This/Last Weekend

gi poster oz 2Oz the Great and Powerful, Disney’s Sam Raimi directed follow up to Alice inWonderland hits theaters this weekend in mind blowing 3D.  Other new offerings include Don’t Stop Believin, the Journey documentary about their unlikely new frontman; and Dead Man Down, a thriller directed by Niels Arden Oplov of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and starring Noomi Rapace and Colin Farrell.

Last weekend Jack the Giant Slayer came in first place with $27 million.  Identity Thief steals second place earning nearly $10 million for the weekend followed by 21 and OverSnitch and The Last Exorcism Part 2.  Here are the cumulative domestic earnings for last week’s top five:

The Last Exorcism Part 2: $7,728,354

Snitch: $24,478,730

21 and Over: $8,754,168

Identity Thief: $107,433,250

Jack the Giant Slayer: $27,202,226

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Movie Review: Wreck-it Ralph

Review: Oz The Great and Powerful

gi poster ozLast night, I had the immense pleasure of full immersion into the merry old land of Oz the way it’s never been seen before.  Revealed by the vision of the great and powerful Sam Raimi and his master tinkers, from opening curtains it was clear that this was going to be a dazzling display that succeeds in recapturing the magic of the moment original audiences must have felt when first watching The Wizard of Oz in 1939.  Nothing beats the fun and anticipation of a wll crafted title sequence to get you started on your journey, especially when your companion on that journey is Danny Elfman, who has and still does do some of his very best work with Raimi (Darkman, A Simple Plan, Spiderman).  The score is immediately recognizable to any Elfman fan as classic Danny in his prime.  Ad to that the stunning black and white photography and you are locked in for the ride.

Oz the Great and Powerful is every inch made for a Real 3D experience and delivers the most colossal spectacular any team of Hollywood magicians can offer.  It’s no wonder that the ever-changing scenery and many elaborate sets are to be drunken in slowly as the epic adventure of a carnival con man drags him the yellow brick road toward possible redemption.  Aside from the stunning spectacle of magnificent scenery and Sam Raimi’s keen vision and incomparable sense of balance between fresh innovation and familiarity with the classic, the big seller for this film is James francos impeccable depiction of Oz.  Franco does for the character what RDJ does for Tony Stark and what Johnny Depp did for Jack Sparrow in the first Pirates of the Caribbean; only he handles the character with such finesse and discipline that he creates a more three-dimensional character than anyone is likely to have seen on the silver screen.  The complexity of the man has so obviously been thoroughly explored by Raimi and Franco that he becomes such a flesh and blood human it seems astounding that he could ever be a wizard.  Franco’s depiction of Oz is such that he ceases, as an actor, to be a medium to the character, and fully becomes him in a way that every look and every utterance comes from the heart and soul of Oz himself.

The amazing story of the redemption of Oz (both the land and the man) starts out in Kansas, where we find our trickster little more than a petty thief with some theatrical flair and a weakness for the ladies.  The black and white photography is some of the crispest most beautiful I have ever seen and Raimi’s first action sequence of the film is harrowing, desperate, comical and brilliant, as is the predictable, but no less illuminating first glorious glimpse of the land of Oz in full color, mirroring of course the moment of Dorothy’s arrival 73 years ago.  As a stranger in a strange land,  Oz struggles with the opportunity to start fresh and the irresistible urge to take advantage, especially when the chips are down, but before he is even fully aware of his predicament, the choices he makes upon his arrival begin to seal his destiny and shape the people he meets.

It’s an epic journey full of great humor and powerful imagery that marks a monumental technical and artistic achievement.  Danny Elfman’s score is so perfectly in tune with the production and a must have, especially for fans of his work on Big Fish and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Peter Deming, Director of Photography, gets to play with every trick in his trunk and creates a seamless and believable atmosphere where fantasy knows no bounds.

The rest of the cast is terrific, but my favorite supporting performances come from Oz’s primary companions, played by Joey King and Zach Braff.  These characters lit up the screen and really played a part in Oz’s transformation as opposed to simply adding comic relief.

Oz the great and Powerful in Real 3D will envelope you in a world unlike any other, so real and so imaginary it is a sensation that is unique to cinema alone and yet only the highest of aims and the loftiest of dreams can harness it.  It provides sufficient enjoyment of these gifts yet never treads away from the story.  So you can ease on down the road with little urgency, but no less compulsion to move forward.  This is a great piece of art that introduces one of the greatest characters in cinema history to one of cinema’s oldest and most timeless worlds.

Simplicity=Complexity>Complicated

gi amazing 2I like to figure out what makes things work.  I don’t have a work desk cluttered with vacuum cleaner parts or anything, and I still think televisions are magic, but complicated things are like complicated ideas, which then become complicated movies.  I like to build things without the instructions before I realize I made a huge mistake and start over.  One thing that I find interesting about both movies and anything material that requires assembly is that the simpler it is, the fewer the parts and those parts tend to serve a dual purpose, functionality and style.  The more complicated, once you crack open the hood you find a big ugly mess of raw function.

I think that films are the same way.  Small films can be great fun.  A really enjoyable, but simple movie is never unimpressive.  Big, movies with lots of moving parts are very ambitious projects that not many can handle. It’s a problem that tends to be very unique to large properties, such as those based on comics, or blockbusters like Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean.  Spider Man 3, was pretty disliked and one of the biggest, but also most vague complaints about it was that “they” tried to do too much.  TDKR also got criticism for being overly complicated.  Every X Men movie, even  First Class, is notorious for jamming more characters than necessary into the picture.  Jon Favreau turned down returning to Iron Man 3 as director for various official reasons, but word early on was he was concerned about flooding the film with too many characters.  The pressure to overcomplicate these films comes from the studios who want to be able to market more action figures.  Joel Schumacher was under a lot of pressure from Warner Bros. to turn the Batman franchise into basically a feature-length commercial for Batman toys.

But what makes a movie go from a solid, provocative, and even admirable complexity to an overcomplicated tangled mess?  Iron Man 2 had dangerous potential to be convoluted and dizzying, but they had good mechanics.  The Dark Knight was the epitome of the kind of masterfully woven tapestry of story that Chris Nolan has become known for.  I think the key is functionality.

The Dark Knight had a theme that was continuously reiterated by the story’s central characters.  The theme was choice.  It was full of dichotomies:  Dark Knight/White Knight, Chaos/Order, Bruce Wayne’s inner dichotomy, Two Faces outer dichotomy, Batman’s struggle to reconcile freedom and justice, and Harvey’s resignation to chance determining his actions.  For all that is going on in the movie, everything taps into the same theme and reinforces the body as a whole.  In Iron Man 2 the theme was legacy.  It’s like a home base you can return to if things are getting out of hand.

If a movie is particularly large and hosts a number of sub-plots and a wide cast of characters you need to determine above all else, what the heart of the story is.  It can’t just be a simple heroes journey.  It must be thought about as a thesis, with each separate plot supporting it.  When you make a movie about a flawed hero overcoming obstacles and saving the day, it’s best to give him one nemesis for a tight well-rounded effective and exciting story.   You don’t want him facing a thief with superpowers, who’s trying to save his daughter, a former BFF dead set on vengeance, and a work rival who gets his hands on your symbiont costume and becomes the worst ever representation of Venom.  Spiderman 3 had three major villains and no heart.  Peter Parker’s struggle is explored to death and yet it still works in small doses.  It isn’t enough, however to support so many adversaries without a central theme that they can plug into.  It’s also a terrible waste of great villains.

The easier the movie can be summed up in one idea (better yet, one word), the easier it is to connect all of the characters to that idea so that they serve a unique function in telling your masterpiece.  If you try to give each character their own separate objective that does not reinforce the theme of the primary storyline the film becomes fragmented and crushed under its own weight.

The Amazing Spiderman was a great movie.  It’s a brilliant retelling of the origin story with terrific new vision.  It was also a pretty standard hero movie.  The upcoming sequel, following in the tradition of pretty much all hero movie sequels, has a cast list that looks like an unfinished brainstorm.  The talent is stellar and it isn’t necessarily bad news, but it isn’t looking great either.  Jamie Foxx, Paul Giamatti, and Chris Cooper have all been cast in villains roles.  Foxx plays Electro (guess what he does) and Giamatti will be Rhino, which is an interesting choice, but I have no problem going with it.  Now as far as I can tell, Cooper is signed on to play Norman Osborn, who becomes the Green Goblin, but where Foxx and Giamatti are credited with characters names AND their supervillain names i see nothing actually saying Green Goblin will make an appearance.  That would be good.

It makes perfect sense to set Norman Osborn up as a main character as he runs Oscorp and likely has something to do with the mystery that Parker continues to unravel about his parents.  The Incredible Hulk pits Banner against the Abomination making his defeat the resolution while his real nemesis, General Ross, lives to fight another day.  Similarly, Loki conjures up the The Destroyer for Thor to battle and saves his best stuff for later.  Allowing a character to be introduced without giving them their own storyline to finish is like a delicious glass of Sam Adams, always a good decision.

Norman probably enlists Electro and/or Rhino as thugs.  that would be typical and raises no alarms to my mind.  Since there is no way such great talent is going to be squandered on roles like Toad and Sabortooth in the original X Men, I think it’s a good chance we are in for a nice ride.  Marc Webb is still directing, The Kurtzman/Ortiz writing team are big hitters scripting the story by James Vanderbilt who penned The Amazing Spiderman.  I would not expect a big thematically interwoven monument of a film, but provided Norman Osborn stays out of the green suit this could be a fascinating sequel.

Review: Amazing Spiderman

This/Last Weekend

gi poster giantslayer21 and Over is the Hangover like comedy about a boy who becomes twenty-one and goes out of control celebrating with his buddies, the night before an important interview.  In Day of the Falcon, directed by Jean-Jaques Annaud of Seven Years in Tibet, a truce between two desert kingdoms is put to the test when oil is discovered between their lands.  Bryan Singer’s Jack the Giant Slayer is finally arriving.  Horror sequel The Last exorcism part 2  and documentarian/tv writer Todd Robbinson’s Phantom, a submarine thriller starring Ed Harris and David Duchovny will also be hitting theaters this weekend.

Last weekends domestic box office leaders were the Universal comedy Identity Thief at number one, followed by Lionsgate’s thriller Snitch and The Weinstein’s animation attempt Escape from Planet Earth came in at number three, trailed by Relativity Media’s Safe Haven and 20th Century Fox’s latest but not nearly the greatest instalment of the Die Hard franchise.  Here are their cumulative revenues:

A Good Day to Die Hard: $51,967,897

Safe Haven: $47,916,357

Escape from Planet Earth: $34,812,699

Snitch: $13,167,607

Identity Thief: $93,619,615