Sunday, January 27, 2013

Fan Tango: Coldplay (#518)

subject: Coldplay

overview: I think only young people approach pop music without cynicism.  The rest of us can be pretty vicious about it and not particularly honest, either.  The Beatles have dominated a large portion of pop music's legacy for years now.  Of course they were originally popular among young people.  Anyone who is even remotely similar to them is subsequently negatively compared to them.  For the purposes of this exercise, I'm going to focus on Coldplay, purveyors of "sensitive rock" or simply a standout pop music act of their generation.

They've long been a favorite of mine.  I didn't become a dedicated fan until Coldplay's second album, A Rush of Blood to the Head, but from there I came to greatly appreciate their increasing mastery of their own abilities.  That's what any fan likes about anything they like, right, if they stick around?  Fans either like the first impression they have of something and are satisfied with that, or stick around and form additional ones.  People who don't remain fans tend to become cynical.  They chart a decline, real or imagined, rather than an evolution.  Coldplay hit that moment with their third album, X&Y.  This is my favorite Coldplay album, completely solid from start to finish, filled with songs that vary in their charms.  The band won critics back with their fourth album, Viva La Vida, an ambitious shift in their basic style that like X&Y finds it hard to hit a bad note.  Coldplay's fifth album, Mylo Xyloto, is a return to more traditional pop music.

Like everyone else, I first heard Coldplay with the single "Yellow" from Parachutes (2000).  If "Yellow" had been the only song the band ever became known for, it would be cute and memorable but it would be easy to agree with the critics who still have yet to give Coldplay their due (although U2 has been waiting for that for far longer).  Parachutes is also notable for "Trouble," which heavily features Chris Martin's piano.  A Rush of Blood to the Head (2002) was a follow-up that addressed concerns that Coldplay might be considered fairly insubstantial, whether in "Politik" or "Clocks."  "In My Place" might almost be considered Coldplay's best Beatles song.  "The Scientist," however, is the album's best song, a heartbreaking ballad that proved the band's true depths.

X&Y (2005) is known for "Speed of Sound" and "Fix You," but like I said, I love the whole album, from the dance beat of "White Shadows" to the love song "Swallowed in the Sea."  Viva La Vida (2008) plays a lot to Coldplay's underrated musical chops, from the opening "Life in Technicolor" to the title track, which brings the string section to the fore.  The companion EP Prospekt's March (2008) has an alternate version of "Technicolor" featuring a brilliant appearance from Jay-Z, while it closes with the contemplative "Now My Feet Won't Touch the Ground."  Mylo Xyloto (2011) features "Princess of China" with exceptional guest vocals from Rihanna.  It's known for "Paradise," but the instrumental "Us Against the World" breaks my heart (more than the actual track "Don't Let it Break Your Heart").  There's also "Every Teardrop is a Waterfall," the first single from the album.

The only member of Coldplay that anyone really knows is frontman Chris Martin, who eventually married actress Gwyneth Paltrow.  Martin is the quintessential sensitive rocker, and most of Coldplay's music follows his lead, sometimes lush, sometimes pleading, sometimes aching, sometimes jubilant.  The band is constantly adapting to the times while remaining distinctly their own.  I continue to admire Coldplay because they are most of all transcendent, masters of emotion.  They know how to translate the human experience into song.  They're completely self-aware, too, as can be proven by a knowing appearance in Shaun of the Dead, while Martin once dueted with Conan O'Brien for a memorably surreal rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

personalities: Aside from Chris Martin (lead vocalist), there's also Buy Berryman (bass), Johnny Buckland (guitar), and Will Champion (drums).


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fan Tango: Deep Space Nine (#517)

subject: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

overview: The second Star Trek spin-off debuted twenty years ago this year.  Unlike its predecessors Deep Space Nine was set in a static point, a space station in orbit of the planet Bajor, a world that had just emerged from the Occupation, decades of torment under Cardassian oppression.  Starfleet sends Commander Benjamin Sisko to observe as Bajorans prepare to apply for membership in the United Federation of Planets.  Sisko is surprised to find a wormhole perched not far from the station, which leads to the Gamma Quadrant, but also serves as a direct link to what the Bajorans call the Celestial Prophets.  This complicates Sisko's life in a number of ways.  For one, the Bajorans have already determined that he is their Emissary, a religious figure who will help guide them to a better future.  The Prophets themselves, who may also be interpreted as noncorporeal aliens who exist out of time, seem to agree with the Bajorans that he's important.  And soon enough, he'll learn that on the other side of the wormhole is the Dominion, the anti-Federation.  The Cardassians aren't too pleased to see him, either.  The station used to belong to them.  Its former commander is Gul Dukat, who seems to take a personal interest in the station's continued affairs.

The Bajorans, at first represented by the benevolent Kai Opaka, soon find themselves under Kai Winn, who eventually comes into power over affairs of both church and state.  Odo, the shape-shifting constable who is technically aligned with the Bajorans but also worked under the Cardassians, learns that his origins lie with the Founders, who happen to control the Dominion, which has grown tired of incursions into its territory, and begins to sow seeds of distrust and chaos into the Federation's.  Starfleet once again finds itself in conflict with the Klingons, who want to eliminate the Cardassians once and for all.  Sisko learns that it was of course at the instigation of a Founder infiltrator.  The Cardassians end up joining the Dominion, and war breaks out, with the station at the forefront, thanks to its position opposite the wormhole.  For a time, Sisko is forced to abandon the station, but later reclaims it.  The war finally ends thanks to the Romulans (whom Sisko has persuaded to assist Starfleet in a morally compromising way) and Cardassians, whose defection follows Dukat's psychotic break after the death of his daughter and successor Damar leading the resistance.  Sisko wins the war and confronts Dukat one last time, one representing the Prophets and the other their wicked rivals the Pah'Wraiths, triumphing but leaving his corporeal life behind to reside in the Celestial Temple.


personalities: Well, for one, there's Sisko (Avery Brooks), whose backstory is as fascinating as what happens to him through the course of the series.  He served aboard a ship that was destroyed at the Battle of Wolf 359, the Borg invasion disaster originally featured in the Next Generation event "The Best of Both Worlds," in which Captain Picard is assimilated into the Borg Collective and as Locutus leaves a lasting impression on Sisko as the face of the enemy that cost him his wife.  He holds a grudge against Picard up until the moment he finally decides to accept the Bajor assignment.  Don't worry too much about his romantic life, though, because Sisko ends up marrying the wily Kasidy Yates (Penny Johnson)  He brings with him his son Jake (Cirroc Lofton), who grows up and surprisingly ends up far taller than expected, decides to remain a civilian and spend his life with words, both as a novelist and journalist.  Jake becomes fast friends with Nog (Aron Eisenberg), a Ferengi youth living aboard the station who gets them both into plenty of trouble before becoming the first of his kind to join Starfleet, though during the Dominion War he loses a leg and wonders if it was all worth it.

Sisko's first officer is the Bajoran Major Kira (Nana Visitor), who was an active member of the Resistance and initially a militant believer in Bajor's right to determine the course of its own destiny.  She eventually comes to appreciate the benefit of Starfleet assistance, though her own future is defined by her relationship with Odo (Rene Auberjonois), the station's chief of security who initially doesn't know his own origins.  Discovered by Bajorans and raised in a lab, he ends up working under Cardassians during the Occupation, but it's his love of order that motivates him.  He remains in the same position under Starfleet's purview, and discovers the awful truth that he's a Founder, and for Founders order has become something quite different.  Under the influence of the Female Changeling (Salome Jens), he briefly considers betraying his friends, but Kira helps guide him back.

Among Kira's fellow Bajorans, she enjoys Vedek Bareil (Philip Anglim) a lot more than Kai Winn (Louise Fletcher), but there's very little she can do (though she tries a lot) once Bareil ends up dead and Winn firmly in control of Bajor.

Odo's nemesis is Ferengi barkeep Quark (Armin Shimerman), who is a constant thorn in his side, exploiting the station's unique location to reap as much profit as possible, legally and otherwise.  His brother Rom (Max Grodenchik) starts out looking exactly like the idiot he appears to be, but becomes a capable engineer, the Ferengi Nagus, and husband of erstwhile Dabo girl Leeta (Chase Masterson).  Grand Nagus Zek (Wallace Shawn) steps down to marry Quark's mother Ishka (Andrea Martin, Cecily Adams).

Sisko's Starfleet crew includes Miles O'Brien (Colm Meaney), who previously served under Picard aboard the Enterprise, who enjoys the challenge of cleaning up after the Cardassians who gutted the station before they left; Julian Bashir (Alexander Siddig), who has just graduated from Starfleet Medical and is completely wild-eyed about the prospects of the final frontier; and Jadzia Dax (Terry Ferrell), the latest host for the symbiont who was once Sisko's good friend Curzon, and would in time become Ezri (Nicole de Boer), but not before marrying Worf (Michael Dorn).  O'Brien brings along with him wife Keiko (Rosiland Chao) and daughter Molly (Hana Hatae).

Among Cardassians there's Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo), who loves to hear himself talk and is at times someone you love to hate and then hate to love.  He eventually goes mad after the death of his daughter Tora Ziyal (Cyia Batten, Tracy Middendorf, Melanie Smith).  Garak (Andy Robinson) is anything but "plain and simple," but that's how he'll describe himself.  He becomes Bashir's best friend after O'Brien (though Bashir probably counts Ezri as his greatest conquest, because he'd been after Dax for years).  Damar (Casey Biggs) at first appears to be a petty functionary, but eventually grows a backbone.

Among Klingons there's Gowron (Robert O'Reilly), who still doggedly pursues Worf in search of his loyalties, which is something Martok (J.G. Hertzler) earns quickly enough, once we meet the real one and not his changeling doppelganger.

Weyoun (Jeffrey Combs) would be pretty upset if we didn't mention him!  He's the Vorta who best represents the Dominion, and there are far too many clones to overlook!  And as far as holographic lounge singers go, you can hardly beat Vic Fontaine (James Darren)!

Just in case you thought this was a complete breakdown of all the notable characters from the series, both regular cast members and recurring guests...Ha!  I'll mention one more, a personal favorite, Michael Eddington (Kenneth Marshall), who has a brief run as Sisko's rival, betraying Starfleet to join the Maquis and leading him on a series of encounters in the midpoint of the series.


  • "Emissary" (1x1/1x2) The first episode, in which we meet a lot of these characters and much of what's going on and what we'll be following for the next seven seasons.
  • "Duet" (1x19) Long considered a highlight of both the series and franchise, this is the moment where Kira discover that not all Cardassians are completely irredeemable when she encounters one who would rather die in the place of a notorious war criminal than forget his role in events that scarred him for life.
  • "The Homecoming"/"The Circle"/"The Siege" (2x1/2x2/2x3) The first extended arc in the series is the Bajoran epic that otherwise never happened because fans found them not exciting enough. A hero of the Resistance is discovered alive in a Cardassian prison camp, but his return sparks a Bajoran conspiracy to claim the station for its own until Sisko can win it back, a smaller-scale version of what he endures during the Dominion War.
  • "Necessary Evil" (2x8) The answer to "Duet" is revisiting how Kira met Odo, and what they were doing at the station at the time of the Occupation.
  • "Blood Oath" (2x19) Three actors who memorably portrayed Klingons in the original series return and send Jadzia into her first great adventure.
  • "The Wire" (2x22) Still the greatest Garak episode, in which we discover the cost his exile from his mysterious past holds on him.
  • "Crossover" (2x23) The first of many trips back to the "Mirror, Mirror" universe, in which morality is flipped on its side in shocking ways, including Sisko as a pirate working at the beck and call of a shockingly sexual Kira!
  • "The Jem'Hadar" (2x26) The first encounter with the Dominion features an epic clash with its foot soldiers Sisko barely escapes alive.
  • "The Search" (3x1/3x2) Sisko unveils Starfleet's first warship, the Defiant, originally developed to combat the Borg and from this time forward the station's means to travel abroad (and fight!), while Odo discovers the truth about his people the Founders.
  • "Past Tense" (3x11/3x12) A personal favorite, this two-part episode features Sisko, Bashir, and Jadzia thrust into Earth's past in the early 21st century, where they become participants in the drama surrounding Sanctuary Districts that attempt to mask the sufferings of the poor.
  • "The Adversary" (3x26) Sisko is promoted to captain and Odo is forced to kill one of his own, which ends up having grave consequences later on.
  • "The Way of the Warrior" (4x1/4x2) Worf joins the cast and the Federation goes to war with the Klingons!
  • "The Visitor" (4x3) Long considered the show's finest hour, the bond between Sisko and his son Jake is explored as we follow Jake's decades-long efforts to reunite with his father after Sisko's apparent death.
  • "Little Green Men" (4x8) The comic highlight of the series sees Quark, Rom and Nog thrust into Earth's past for a decidedly less serious time-travel adventure.
  • "Broken Link" (4x26) The consequences I mentioned as looming over Odo finally come to pass when his fellow Founders decide to strip him of his shape-shifting ability, forcing him to live life as a "solid" (for a while).
  • "Trials and Tribble-ations" (5x6) Famously splices the cast into "The Trouble with Tribbles."
  • "The Begotten" (5x12) Odo gets his shape-shifting abilities back after a strange series of events that helps him make peace with his past.
  • "For the Uniform" (5x13) Sisko squares off with Eddington, who likens himself to Jean Valjean and Sisko to Javert from Les Miserables.
  • "Dr. Bashir, I Presume?" (5x16) We learn that Bashir was genetically modified as a child in an episode also notable for featuring Voyager's Robert Picardo.
  • "Call to Arms" (5x26) The Dominion War officially begins.
  • "A Time to Stand"/"Rocks and Shoals"/"Sons and Daughters"/"Behind the Lines"/"Favor the Bold"/"Sacrifice of Angels" (6x1/6x2/6x3/6x4/6x5) The sustained war arc narrative that famously kicked off the sixth season sees the dramatic series of events that leads to Sisko's recapture of the station.
  • "You Are Cordially Invited" (6x7) The follow-up episode sees the wedding of Worf and Jadzia.
  • "Waltz" (6x11) Sisko and Dukat square off.
  • "Far Beyond the Stars" (6x13) Sisko finds himself transported to 1950s America thanks to the Prophets so that the life of science fiction writer Benny Russell can provide him inspiration to continue fighting.
  • "Inquisition" (6x18) Bashir finds himself drafted into the enigmatic Section 31.
  • "In the Pale Moonlight" (6x19) Sisko compromises himself in order to get the Romulans to join the war effort.
  • "His Way" (6x20) Vic Fontaine debuts as Odo and Kira finally address the long-simmering attraction that has existed between them.
  • "Tears of the Prophets" (6x26) The war most definitely still goes on, but the biggest news is Dukat joining up with the Pah'Wraiths and his subsequent murder of Jadzia.
  • "Take Me Out to the Holosuite" (7x4) Baseball was a favorite of Sisko's, but everyone plays the game in this episode.
  • "Treachery, Faith, and the Great River" (7x6) The best Weyoun episode, in which an unusually sympathetic clone reminds Odo that the Vorta revere the Founders as gods.
  • "It's Only a Paper Moon" (7x10) Nog deals with the effects of "The Siege of AR-558" with the help of Vic Fontaine.
  • "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges" (7x16) The definitive Section 31 episode, in which we revisit the Romulans one last time.
  • "Penumbra"/"'Til Death Do Us Part"/"Strange Bedfellows"/"The Changing Face of Evil"/"When It Rains..."/"Tacking into the Wind"/"Extreme Measures"/"The Dogs of War" (7x17/7x18/7x19/7x20/7x21/7x22/7x23/7x24) The eight episode arc that led to the finale, presenting the series of events that help make a resolution to everything possible.
  • "What You Leave Behind" (7x25/7x26) The final episode, in which the Dominion War finally ends and almost everyone leaves the station.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

#516. The Age of Mediocrity

Our civilization is in a bad way.

I'm not talking about guns or the state of our entertainment or politics.  I'm talking about people in general.  Whatever you think about anything, hopefully by the end of this you'll start thinking about people a little differently.

I'm talking about mediocrity.  I'm talking about the end of the space race, the end of innovation, the end of self-respect.

Well, let's start somewhere.  I read in a book that JFK only embraced the space race pragmatically.  For all the grand talk he didn't actually care all that much about sending people to the moon.  It was all about the Cold War, which for a time was a lot better for everyone than the nightmare it turned out to be.  After WWII, when the world's best minds were engaged in their best ideas and sometimes worst, we challenged ourselves with some of the biggest goals imaginable.  And we eventually walked on the moon.

For some reason one disaster after another started hitting NASA's continued efforts.  I believe this affected everyone's opinion of scientific progress more than what was actually achieved.  It began to seem like more of an expense than a project.  The last time anyone knew what any astronaut was doing we got the International Space Station, ushering a new era of cooperation.  Yet now of course all we do is bunk out in the most expensive tree house in history and take pictures.

I'm not lamenting the lack of speedy results.  I'm saying that it's emblematic of a bigger problem.  We now live in an age where we think technology and innovation means that our cars have more toys and our phones function as tiny computers.  I think there's a problem with this.  A lot of this is due to the typical greed of big business.  The auto industry figured out that it could roll out a new line-up of cars every year and there would always be suckers believing that any forward progress was being made, other than another new car.  There was a huge push at one point for gas-guzzling SUVs, and then the reactionary fad of hybrids.  We figured out how to make computers work for everyone, and then we just sort of started to stagnate and line up for the latest incremental and let's face it completely bogus "improvement" in the new model.

Our cries for social progress usually sound really good these days.  We keep repeating the mantra that teachers don't get the respect they deserve.  Teachers hardly get paid less than your typical customer service associate.  They have a whole system that supports them, and a set of rules that keeps everything in balance.  Those poor schmucks helping you and everyone else find what you're looking for?  Not so much.  I've said this before, but here we go: we're now officially a society of butlers.  We expect everyone else to pick up after us.  There's no civility, or maybe a modicum of it.  We go to a store and trash it.  We go to a movie theater and trash it.  I'm not talking about literal trash (although we do that, too), but looking at a product and then not bothering to put it back the way you found it, much less where you found it.  Or leaving the remnants of the stuff you bought in the lobby all over the floor (some of the trash to be considered).  Because someone else will deal with it.  We drive distracted, not just because of phones or anything else you probably hear about, but because we simply don't give a shit about anyone else.

In fact, the basic truth is that most of us function as if we're the only real thing in existence.  My mother likes to say it's the video game effect, that we don't think anything around us is real.  I wouldn't go that far.  We simply don't acknowledge anything out of our own experience.  We get a lot of mediocrity out of this.  Businesses who operate this way are able to fool themselves and believe they're fooling everyone else by consciously doing bad business because it suits their short-term goals and makes the ludicrous management culture a reasonable amount of money.  People who operate this way wear blinders that tell them no matter what they do, they can always apologize rather than do things right the first time.  Bump into someone?  Apologize, because it's a lot easier to do that than pay attention in the first place.

And god forbid you actually try to raise your kids.  It's the vacuum effect.  The more clutter there is, the more everyone seems willing to give up their responsibilities.  It's no longer about broken homes.  It's about parents not being the slightest bit interested in being parents.  They treat their children like a disenfranchised employee views their job, like a chore.  They don't seem to grasp that they're supposed to be guiding their children into an understanding of how the world is supposed to work.  Instead, they let their kids wallow in the way the world works.  Let them figure it out themselves.  Let them be messy and obnoxious and thoughtless.

Personally, I think about poetry, too.  The last time anyone really cared about poetry was the Beat Generation.  This was more or less the same time as the space race and the hippy revolution, the idea that counterculture solves all problems.  Yet we've discovered that the more we rebel against basic social structures the worse we all become, the more mediocre our lives become even as we convince ourselves that things are generally getting better.  In some ways they are.  And in others, we allow automobiles to stagnate and for computers to become smaller but no more effective, just more social, so that a lot of people squawk about nothing much significant at all.

We don't believe in the big concepts anymore.  That's the real problem.  We deconstructed the big concepts of the past but replaced them only with small ones.  I think we've proven that this doesn't work.  We end up with an age of mediocrity.  We allow ourselves to wallow in our base instincts and increasingly don't seem to notice, because we're just not paying attention.  As long as we get what we believe is coming to us, we don't notice that everything around us decays.

This isn't about impatience or personal setbacks or disgust at what I see around me, but rather a desire for pettiness to go away, for people to perhaps think more critically, consider the wider implications of their actions and decisions, how they affect those around them, not in how they project their moods but how what they choose to do leaves nothing positive in their wake.

I don't always blog like this, but when I do I like to rant.

Monday, January 21, 2013

#515. My Favorite Martian Blog Hop!

This is a blog hop hosted by The Geek Twins, Just a Dash of Geek, L.K.Hill, and Comic Book & Movie Reviews.

To start, because I'm working my way to my actual subject, let's just start with Martians.  My favorite Martian is DC's Martian Manhunter.  In his usual depiction, he's basically a bald human who happens to be green and have a giant brow.  Also, his costume is a blue cape and basically two red straps that criss-cross over his chest.

But he's really awesome.  He was the only sane member of the famed "Bwa-ha-ha" Justice League, although this period also surfaced his obsession with Oreos.  He had his own ongoing series in the late 1990s thanks to the popularity of Grant Morrison's JLA, but his best spotlight was in another eponymous mini-series from 2006-2007 (he wears a better costume here, and looks more alien), in which J'onn J'onnz (because he's a shapeshifter and as in human form, this naturally becomes John Jones) is faced with his truly being a stranger in a strange land for the first time.

In Smallville Martian Manhunter was portrayed by the underrated Phil Morris.

Another TV Martian milestone for me is "Little Green Men," an episode from the fourth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, in which the irascible Quark (who is a Ferengi, the species with the comically oversized ears) bastardizes his nephew Nog's break from their culture's tradition of institutional profiteering by entering Starfleet Academy.  He loads the ship the family (along with Nog's father Rom) takes to Earth with contraband that inadvertently sends them all into the past, where they crash-land in Roswell, NM.  They become the source of all our wild speculation about Martians (even though they're Ferengi).  Odo, the shapeshifting (though unrelated to Martian Manhunter) constable who snuck aboard Quark's ship because he didn't trust his most reliable adversary, helps save them.  

Although if you haven't seen the episode (or adore DS9 like I do), I've just gone ahead and spoiled one of its best surprises.

Now that I'm talking about Star Trek, let me wax nostalgic on a few of its most notable aliens.  I'm thinking here of Spock and Worf, one from the original crew and the other from The Next Generation.  Both of them serve in Starfleet, where they operate among mostly human crews.  Spock is literally half human, by the way, though he's often pointed out as a Vulcan, while Worf is all Klingon but raised by humans.  Both of them are militantly impassioned representatives of their respective alien cultures, however.  Don't remind Spock that he shares some of the same genetic material as the illogical "Bones" McCoy.  Don't make the mistake of being that Klingon who tries to tell Worf that he doesn't belong in that culture just because he was raised outside of it and is a warrior for another team.  Spock is most definitely a Vulcan and Worf is most certainly a Klingon.  It's what all their friends will tell you.

Getting back to comic books for a moment, I'd like to bring up the Green Lantern Corps.  It's basically the Starfleet of DC.  It's an intergalactic organization that provides each of its members with a ring that gives them the ability to exploit their willpower and imagination to police their respective sectors.  Two of the more notable aliens to wear such a ring are Abin Sur and Sinestro.  Abin Sur was Hal Jordan's predecessor in our particular sector of space.  This may be odd for you to comprehend, because Hal Jordan is known for many things, but patrolling much beyond Earth is not one of them, and Abin Sur hadn't really bothered with Earth prior to the spectacular crash-landing that cost him his life.  Sinestro meanwhile believed so much in the Green Lantern cause of galactic order that he reshaped his entire homeworld in its spitting image.  Or perhaps merely his interpretation of that image, to the point where he was booted from the Corps and for a time became Hal Jordan's greatest enemy.

Like Spock and Worf, Abin Sur and Sinesro represent the kind of aliens we all think about when we think about aliens at all, maybe not the conquering invaders of War of the Worlds, but aliens who behave much as we do, extremely ethnocentric in nature, even when encountering many other alien cultures as a way of life.

Well, that's why I'm reaching my real subject.  I'm talking about Phlox, of course.  Phlox was the doctor from Star Trek: Enterprise.  If you know much about Enterprise at all, you may still not know too much about Phlox.  He was easily one of its most fascinating characters, but in terms of actual use, he was kind of like Scotty in the original series, the fourth lead after the trio of Archer/Tucker/T'Pol, as in Kirk/Spock/Bones.  

Yet for a series about humans experiencing their first real taste of what's out there in space, there were only two aliens among the crew.  One of them was T'Pol, who was the token Vulcan, at the insistence of Vulcans who had bitterly opposing speedy human progress in warp engine development.  The other was Phlox, who was a Denobulan, a species currently only known from Enterprise.  

It may seem a little odd that on a ship full of humans the only doctor was an alien, but Phlox was exactly that kind of alien, and why I'm writing about him now.  His best friend was a human, actually, who was also participating in the interspecies medical exchange program.  That pretty much sums up everything that made Phlox so awesome.  Even before the crew understood its relationship with the possibilities they were about to encounter, they had among them someone who had already enthusiastically embraced them.

That's what sets Phlox apart.  Plenty of characters in Star Trek love the thrill of adventure and the unknown, but Phlox is the rare one (Jadzia Dax from Deep Space Nine being another) who loved simply experiencing other cultures.  At this point in Star Trek lore, that's exactly what the franchise needed, because in a lot of ways that's exactly what Enterprise was all about, why we finally revisited species like the Andorians (memorably embodied by Shran), Tellarites, and even Tholians while also spending so much time with the definitive Star Trek aliens, the Vulcans.

Phlox came from a culture that has, for simplicity's sake, an extremely complicated family structure.  He could already appreciate the benefits of extensive bonds.  He was a one-man Federation at a time when it didn't exist, an alien whose best and most simple advice to his captain was to embrace optimism.  Many times Phlox himself was forced into dark corners and had to make difficult decisions, and he didn't seem so optimistic then, but then he was also the guy who kept his medical bay stocked with exotic creatures he had to manually feed each day (some of them snapped at his fingers!), and never had the benefit of or need for a regular nurse like Voyager's holographic Doctor.  He was adaptable.  

Admire Spock all you want as the paragon of virtue.  Respect Worf for his stoic devotion to integrity.  But give me Phlox.  He's the one lived the message of Star Trek, the one that says Martians are what's out there, and that our future isn't so bad for it.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

#514. Film Fan launches

As you may or may not recall, I developed an obsession with the website Flickchart last year.  Part of the reason why this happened is that I've been obsessed with ranking my favorite movies for years now.  The last time before Flickchart that I did so ended up being listed at my Fan Companion before I completely devoted it to Star Trek.

Flickchart flabbergasted me with the movies that initially ended up in the version of my top ten that ended up there when I was still using the site's basic comparative model to reach such conclusions.  It's not that I didn't like the movies that ended up there, but I had developed a pretty good sense of what my favorite movies were, and kept hoping Flickchart would help surface them to the top.  That didn't happen.  Eventually I moved them there myself.  Still, I discovered some time later that the resulting list (around 1,400 films) still did not meet my satisfaction.  But the good news was that it allowed me a new way to look at what I truly valued and how films really compared.

Much like a lot of critics, I settled on a star rating and started to work from there, using the basic Flickchart outline as a basis.  Soon I came across movies that really weren't where they ought to be in this rating system.  I started shifting around.  It became far easier to shift around by creating separate lists by rating.  That was when I finally broke away from the central list concept that I had been using for years.

As you might guess from the many other blogs I currently maintain (this is not even to say that I have not yet officially acknowledged here the nascent Survivor page, Your Torched Will Be Snuffed), all this is leading to the announcement of another blog.  Yay!

Well, now there's Film Fan.  Much like at Star Trek Fan Companion, I will be spending my time writing about individual films.  At STFC, I'm currently in the midst of writing about each episode of the Star Trek franchise.  Film Fan will feature my thoughts on each of the films that ended up on my Flickchart, and any others as they occur to me.  As you can imagine, I have plenty of material. If you like films, hopefully you'll love this blog.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

#513. Box Office 2012

This last in the series will have a major caveat, since some releases from the end of 2012 will not be final grosses, so if you cared at all about grosses to begin with, keep that in mind...

1. Avengers ($623 mil)
Well, now we know that the whole Avengers cycle thing really, really worked.  At first it was just Iron Man, but then (and increasingly, in 2011) other members of the team got their own movies, and then they all came together, some of them wearing their mother's drapes, and Hulk in his third cinematic incarnation finally proved a wild success.  And suddenly Joss Whedon is no longer just a cult sensation but responsible for one of the largest grossing movies in history.  So naturally his cult fans wonder if this will translate to more Browncoat love.

2. The Dark Knight Rises ($448 mil)
Well, we all kinda knew already that audiences weren't going to flock to a Christopher Nolan movie just to see Heath Ledger's last performance, after Inception, so the success of this conclusion to his Batman trilogy was assured.  Some fans were concerned that after the above movie's huge success, maybe the superhero thing was already taken at last summer's box office.  Or believed it could make more money.  And then Aurora happened.  Chances are the shooting didn't have any real effect on the movie's success, but it did put a decidedly more negative spin on its release.

3. The Hunger Games ($408 mil)
Jennifer Lawrence had critics loving her at Winter's Bone.  The books this movie franchise is based on were already hyped as the Twilight Saga for serious (young) readers.  But the huge success of this movie was still a surprise, although slightly less so in hindsight.  We're a franchise culture now, yo, and this is definitely the followup to the Twilight Saga obsession and has greater crossover appeal.  

4. Skyfall ($299 mil)
Daniel Craig's James Bond returns!  And Javier Bardem is hyped as the greatest villain in the 007 franchise in years!  

5. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 ($290 mil)
The story of twinkly vampires and the women who love them concludes!  I realize that I've been apparently dismissive about these movies, but really, they're not so bad, probably a case where if I say the movies are better than the books, book lovers won't protest too much.

6. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ($278 mil)
Not quite the huge success of the original Peter Jackson foray into Middle Earth, but then there are so many more franchises to choose from these days.  

7. The Amazing Spider-Man ($262 mil)
The controversial reboot of a franchise begun a decade earlier found success much like the above movie in 2012, pretty respectable for having other franchises being slightly more immediately relevant.

8. Brave ($237 mil)
Pixar starts to seem a little less like Pixar with this one and a little more like Disney.  Did the studio check that new contract closely?

9. Ted ($218 mil)
Seth MacFarlane has a whole franchise on TV, but chances are this is a one-off, making it only one of two movies not having anything to do with franchises in this top ten!

10. Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted ($216 mil)
Seems like critics liked this one because as far as I can tell it's an animated version of a European film.

Other personal highlights:

13. Men in Black 3 ($179 mil)
20. Prometheus ($126 mil)
22. Django Unchained ($125 mil)
27. Argo ($111 mil)
30. Life of Pi ($94 mil)
37. John Carter ($73 mil)
41. Looper ($66 mil)
44. Mirror Mirror ($64 mil)
52. The Dictator ($59 mil)
53. Total Recall ($58 mil)
55. American Reunion ($57 mil)
57. This Means War ($54 mil)
64. The Grey ($51 mil)
70. Savages ($47 mil)
79. Silver Linings Playbook ($41 mil)
82. End of Watch ($40 mil)
85. Lawless ($37 mil)
98. Zero Dark Thirty ($29 mil)
100. The Five-Year Engagement ($28 mil)
101. Cloud Atlas ($27 mil)
109. Haywire ($18 mil)
111. A Thousand Words ($18 mil)
118. The Master ($16 mil)
120. The Man with the Iron Fists ($15 mil)
121. Seven Psychopaths ($15 mil)
122. Killing Them Softly ($14 mil)
133. Beasts of the Southern Wild ($11 mil)
141. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World ($7 mil)
224. Coriolanus ($700 thou)
263. Liberal Arts ($300 thou)
341. Iron Sky ($100 thou)
382. Deadfall ($60 thou)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

#512. Box Office 2011

Two years ago now (!) is still pretty recent history.  Here's a look at what was going on at the movies in 2011...

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($381 mil)
The conclusion of the Harry Potter saga (the books ended in 2007) sees the end of Voldemort's threat, with just a few wrinkles left, including the ultimate fate and true character of Severus Snape and what Dumbledore ultimately left behind.  Clearly audiences were primed to see how it all went down, finally bringing the franchise back to the level of popularity the films enjoyed at the beginning, and partly because of our modern franchise mentality that will make mass audiences turn out regardless of actual mass popularity.

2. Transformers: Dark of the Moon ($352 mil)
No Megan Fox!  Michael Bay brought the focus back to the concept and softened the rough edges that had appeared in the second film.

3. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 ($281 mil)
The fourth film begins the final chapter of twinkly vampires and the women who love them.

4. The Hangover Part II ($254 mil)
Some people questioned making another of these, but clearly the result was still popular, so we're getting a third and probably final one this year.

5. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides ($241 mil)
This was an attempt to discover whether or not audiences really only cared about Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow, because he's really the only common element between this installment and the previous three.

6. Fast Five ($209 mil)
The fourth and unexpectedly popular installment in this franchise brought the original crew back together, including Paul Walker and Vin Diesel.  This fifth one brought most of the stars from each of the previous four back into the family, and added Dwayne Johnson, and was clearly a huge hit.  So we get a sixth this year, and I say this series only gets better.

7. Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol ($209 mil)
Tom Cruise returns to a reliable franchise under his belt for another big hit.

8. Cars 2 ($191 mil)
For the first time even critics begin to wonder if Pixar is coasting on its own success.

9. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows ($186 mil)
Robert Downey Jr. in another installment of another popular franchise.

10. Thor ($181 mil)
The Avengers cycle starts to heat up, featuring a slightly more risky member of the team and a heavy focus on Marvel's version of Norse mythology, discovering once again that if they cast the central role right (in this instance Chris Hemsworth) they'll have good results one way or another.  Yet it's Tom Hiddleston's Loki who creates magic, which is good, because he's also a huge part of the later Avengers movie itself.

Other personal highlights:

12. Captain America: The First Avenger ($176 mil)
14. Bridesmaids ($169 mil)
16. Puss in Boots ($149 mil)
17. X-Men: First Class ($146 mil)
21. Super 8 ($127 mil)
23. Horrible Bosses ($117 mil)
24. Green Lantern ($116 mil)
28. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ($102 mil)
30. Cowboys & Aliens ($100 mil)
32. The Green Hornet ($98 mil)
34. The Muppets ($88 mil)
38. Immortals ($83 mil)
49. Hugo ($73 mil)
53. Mr. Popper's Penguins ($68 mil)
55. Unknown ($63 mil)
56. The Adjustment Bureau ($62 mil)
59. Midnight in Paris ($56 mil)
62. Source Code ($54 mil)
71. The Artist ($44 mil)
75. Hanna ($40 mil)
77. Spy Kids: All the Time in the World ($38 mil)
89. Sucker Punch ($36 mil)
90. Larry Crowne ($35 mil)
98. The Debt ($31 mil)
122. Fright Night ($18 mil)
131. Warrior ($18 mil)
132. The Tree of Life ($13 mil)
135. The Conspirator ($11 mil)
140. Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil ($10 mil)
176. The Way Back ($2 mil)
294. HappyThankYouMorePlease ($200 thou)
505. London Boulevard ($16 thou)

Source: Box Office Mojo

Saturday, January 12, 2013

#511. Box Office 2010

Now we're really entering recent territory.  2010 as you'll see had an explosion of computer animated hits on its hand, but there was also some dramatic material as well as plenty of franchises to keep audiences interested...

1. Toy Story 3 ($415 mil)
No Pixar hit pisses me off more than this one.  Basically a rehash of the first two movies, everyone gushed over it because Andy finally moves on permanently from his toys (otherwise known as exactly what the second one was all about, except without Andy) and thus a permanent transition is reached for Buzz and Woody (although exactly like the second one they encounter ruthless competitors, which is also what happened in the first one).  Anyway, there you go.  I'm the only person to ever shit on Toy Story 3.

2. Alice in Wonderland ($334 mil)
Another big beneficiary of the new 3D craze was Tim Burton's interpretation of the Lewis Carroll classic, prominently featuring Johnny Depp.  

3. Iron Man 2 ($312 mil)
I enjoyed this installment more than the first one, possibly because Sam Rockwell and Mickey Rourke were more compelling adversaries for Robert Downey Jr. than the generic general Jeff Bridges played in the first one.  Though the best part is the blatant franchise building as we have a glimpse at Howard Stark and thus hark to the Captain America era that would shortly enough be featured in another Avengers installment.  (Good year to be Bridges, though.)

4. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse ($300 mil)
Twinkly vampires and shirtless werewolves continue to fascinate people.

5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 ($295 mil)
What with Twilight copying the model and Peter Jackson splitting The Hobbit into three films, the decision to split the final Harry Potter book into two movies now stands as a precedent.

6. Inception ($292 mil)
Christopher Nolan's cerebral follow-up to The Dark Knight has all but replaced The Matrix in the popular consciousness.  Possibly because everyone assumes that there will be no sequels.  For me personally, it was great seeing Tom Hardy finally start to see some appreciation of his talent.

7. Despicable Me ($251 mil)
Steve Carell does a character in a computer generated film, though the basic features are obviously based on Alfred Hitchcock (which might be interpreted as the genesis of interest 2012 showed in two separate projects about the famed director).  This is another movie Pixar didn't do that probably does the Pixar model better without worrying about coming off artsy.

8. Shrek Forever After ($238 mil)
The fourth and presumably final Shrek tries to reboot the character to his humble origins.

9. How to Train Your Dragon ($217 mil)
I enjoyed Despicable Me very much, but this was my favorite computer generated cartoon of 2010, possibly because it captures the relationship between a boy and what might be described as his pet so perfectly, presenting a different interpretation of dragons and the Vikings who must learn to live with them.  Based on a series of young reader books that I would absolutely have enjoyed if I were a young reader (but simply haven't read because I have plenty of adult books to occupy me), so will probably be buying them for nephew Christmas gifts in the next few years.

10. Tangled ($200 mil)
For a time, it looked as if the partnership between Disney and Pixar would fall apart.  It was part of the reason ten years lapsed between Toy Stories.  So Disney did a version of its classic animation model in computer generated form and achieved pretty good success with it.

Other personal highlights:

12. Tron Legacy ($172 mil)
13. True Grit ($171 mil)
14. Clash of the Titans ($163 mil)
17. Megamind ($148 mil)
18. The King's Speech ($135 mil)
19. The Last Airbender ($131 mil)
20. Shutter Island ($128 mil)
21. The Other Guys ($119 mil)
22. Salt ($118 mil)
24. Valentine's Day ($110 mil)
25. Black Swan ($106 mil)
26. Robin Hood ($105 mil)
32. The Social Network ($96 mil)
34. The Book of Eli ($94 mil)
35. The Fighter ($93 mil)
36. The Town ($92 mil)
37. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time ($90 mil)
38. Red ($90 mil)
39. Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief ($88 mil)
41. Unstoppable ($81 mil)
44. The A-Team ($77 mil)
48. The Bounty Hunter ($67 mil)
50. The Sorcerer's Apprentice ($63 mil)
53. The Wolfman ($61 mil)
54. Get Him to the Greek ($60 mil)
55. Resident Evil: Afterlife ($60 mil)
60. Takers ($57 mil)
64. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps ($52 mil)
65. Predators ($52 mil)
70. Cop Out ($44 mil)
73. Gulliver's Travels ($42 mil)
74. Death at a Funeral ($42 mil)
87. Devil ($33 mil)
88. Hereafter ($32 mil)
92. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World ($31 mil)
100. Machete ($26 mil)
109. The Losers ($23 mil)
112. Skyline ($21 mil)
113. The Next Three Days ($21 mil)
118. Remember Me ($19 mil)
131. Jonah Hex ($10 mil)
148. The Warrior's Way ($5 mil)
160. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger ($3 mil)
172. I Love You, Phillip Morris ($2 mil)
175. Somewhere ($1 mil)
179. Cairo Time ($1 mil)
224. Ondine ($500 thou)
297. The Disappearance of Alice Creed ($100 thou)
316. Centurion ($100 thou)

Friday, January 11, 2013

#510. Box Office 2009

I'd been waiting since 2002 for another Star Trek movie.  It finally happened in 2009!

1. Avatar ($749 mil)
The massive success of this latest James Cameron spectacle is still a little hard to process.  On the one hand, it was one of the earliest beneficiaries of the new 3D surge.  On the other it was very much a spectacle, the way The Avengers was in 2012, something many people subsequently said they'd seen before.  But not like this.  I almost feel bad for Cameron, though, working on the sequels.  This may not be a popular success that will hold up subsequent entries to mass popularity.  I could be wrong.  Maybe the next few stories will have Star Wars kind of scope, game-changing elements that will solidify the mythology.  Or it could be like the Matrix trilogy, where further stories past the popular first one will contradict expectations and thus infuriate the geek response.  Well, we'll see.

2. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ($402 mil)
Massive success, for instance, can work both ways, as numerous films in this survey have proven.  This one, for instance, is considered the worst of Michael Bay's efforts in this franchise.  Yet clearly it made a pretty penny.  Oh how I love reactive thought.  First lots of people see something because lots of people are seeing something.  Then because lots of people are seeing something, some of them either decide that lots of people are seeing something because it's good, or simply because lots of people are seeing something.  And the latter will always conclude that something lots of people are seeing is by definition not worth seeing.  It totally makes sense, somehow...

3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince ($301 mil)
The sixth film in this series is also the final before the two-part finale.  Grosses have started to go up again, momentum is building, and the very thing I'm wondering about Avatar above and what helped make Revenge of the Fallen a massive success starts to take over.  This era is all about franchises, being able to say you've experienced the series that seems like it's defining the era. Anyway, this is probably the Harry Potter most like Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films.

4. The Twilight Saga: New Moon ($296 mil)
Well, see?  Greater success for this franchise once everyone realizes it's a popular franchise.

5. Up ($293 mil)
Everyone talks about the opening sequence for this Pixar effort.  Otherwise what's there to distinguish it, beyond the collar that translates what the dog thinks?

6. The Hangover ($277 mil)
A modern comedy milestone is reached and new stars are born.  Some still question making more of these, but I say it's a good thing.  It's a good formula, good cast, and makes for consistently good films.

7. Star Trek ($257 mil)
Not the first time a Star Trek has landed in the top ten box office successes for a given year, but still by far the biggest gross in the series, thanks to a reboot some fans always dreaded but that turned out really well.  Interestingly, I was always going to appreciate the casting of the villain.  Originally Nero was offered to Russell Crowe.  Instead Eric Bana played him.  The rest of the cast is dynamite as well, including that dude who plays the older Spock.  What's his name again?

8. The Blind Side ($255 mil)
Sandra Bullock becomes massively popular, more popular than she's ever been, and totally, totally deserves it.  This one's about football.

9. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel ($219 mil)
Cringe-inducing title.  But clearly kids love it.

10. Sherlock Holmes ($209 mil)
Robert Downey, Jr. in his other current franchise.  Although Iron Man is bigger.  What I like about this one is that it gives Jude Law, albeit in a supporting role, something popular to appear in.  Finally!

Other personal highlights:

13. X-Men Origins: Wolverine ($179 mil)
15. 2012 ($166 mil)
16. The Proposal ($163 mil)
17. Fast and Furious ($155 mil)
18. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra ($150 mil)
19. Paul Blart: Mall Cop ($146 mil)
20. Taken ($145 mil)
21. A Christmas Carol ($137 mil)
22. Angels & Demons ($133 mil)
23. Terminator Salvation ($125 mil)
25. Inglourious Basterds ($120 mil)
27. District 9 ($115 mil)
31. Watchmen ($107 mil)
35. He's Just Not That Into You ($93 mil)
37. The Ugly Truth ($88 mil)
38. Up in the Air ($83 mil)
41. Where the Wild Things Are ($77 mil)
42. Zombieland ($75 mil)
43. Coraline ($75 mil)
44. Law Abiding Citizen ($73 mil)
47. I Love You, Man ($71 mil)
49. Race to Witch Mountain ($67 mil)
54. The Time Traveler's Wife ($63 mil)
59. Funny People ($51 mil)
63. Land of the Lost ($49 mil)
66. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans ($45 mil)
75. Crazy Heart ($39 mil)
76. Surrogates ($38 mil)
77. Ninja Assassin ($38 mil)
78. Invictus ($37 mil)
79. State of Play ($37 mil)
81. The Pink Panther 2 ($35 mil)
86. The Men Who Stare at Goats ($32 mil)
87. (500) Days of Summer ($32 mil)
91. The Soloist ($31 mil)
100. The Fourth Kind ($25 mil)
107. Fantastic Mr. Fox ($21 mil)
116. The Hurt Locker ($17 mil)
122. A Perfect Getaway ($15 mil)
137. Extract ($10 mil)
146. Everybody's Fine ($9 mil)
151. Pirate Radio ($8 mil)
153. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus ($7 mil)
161. Moon ($5 mil)
168. Two Lovers ($3 mil)
181. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans ($1 mil)
193. Me and Orson Welles ($1 mil)
227. Red Cliff ($600 thou)
316. Bronson ($100 thou)
377. The Slammin' Salmon ($40 thou)
432. Killshot ($10 thou)

Source: Box Office Mojo

A special bonus!  Here are my predictions for key categories in this year's Oscars, based on yesterday's announcement of the nominees:

Thursday, January 10, 2013

#509. Box Office 2008

This year for me was pretty easily dominated by the movie at the top of the box office.  That doesn't always happen.  Congratulates 2008.

1. The Dark Knight ($533 mil)
Heath Ledger died before this movie was released.  There will always be doubt as to whether or not the resulting huge success and acknowledgment of his fine performance as the Joker was a result of this or because people started to appreciate Christopher Nolan's intricate vision of Batman, the reverse of everything audiences expect from superhero movies.  For me it doesn't matter.  I was already a fan of Ledger.  The performance speaks for itself.  The rest of the movie matches it perfectly.

2. Iron Man ($318 mil)
The start of the Avengers cycle was such a huge success that many fans still argue to this day that The Dark Knight had a rival for best superhero movie of 2008.  It doesn't, but without a doubt Robert Downey, Jr. made the role of Tony Stark his own.  Single-handedly revived his career, and made him hugely popular, his very own Jack Sparrow.

3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($317 mil)
Because every movie that people flocked to see in 2008 couldn't possibly remain beloved, fans almost immediately started a backlash against this latter-day adventure of the most famous descendant of classic Hollywood serials.

4. Hancock ($227 mil)
If there's any superhero movie that rivals The Dark Knight's brilliance in 2008, this was it, and I'm not just saying that because I'm a fan of Will Smith and he was clearly still on his hot streak.  The unacknowledged second lead, Charlize Theron, plays a huge part in what makes this one so ultimately transcendent.  And I'm not just saying that because I had this same idea in 2004.  Let that be a warning.  If your idea exists too long in the creative ether, someone else will eventually come upon it.  Same thing with the title of the movie Book of Eli.  That was mine, too.

5. WALL-E ($223 mil)
Pixar's silent film has a thing for environmentalism.  You'd think if one half of the movie were subtle and sublime, the other half would be too.  It isn't.

6. Kung Fu Panda ($215 mil)
Jack Black becomes immortal as a computer animated kung fu fighting panda.

7. Twilight ($192 mil)
Yeah, so sparkly vampires officially become popular.

8. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa ($180 mil)
At this point, you can clearly see Hollywood salivate at the prospect of computer animated movies.  They don't all become franchises, but the ones that do are lucrative indeed.

9. Quantum of Solace ($168 mil)
The first James Bond sequel, although I contend that you can enjoy it without having to worry too much about Casino Royale.  The second Daniel Craig outing isn't as well-received as the first, but it keeps both Craig and 007 wildly popular.

10. Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who ($154 mil)
Audiences love and will continue to love Dr. Seuss movies that are a little more faithful to the source material.  I tell ya, Seuss is an improbable heir to Shakespeare.  When people shout with glee, it's Seuss' rhymes they hear.  Jim Carrey is slightly more animated than usual.

Other personal highlights:

20. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button ($127 mil)
23. Tropic Thunder ($110 mil)
28. Step Brothers ($100 mil)
30. Yes Man ($97 mil)
36. 21 ($81 mil)
39. Cloverfield ($80 mil)
43. Vantage Point ($72 mil)
46. Seven Pounds ($69 mil)
49. The Happening ($64 mil)
50. Forgetting Sarah Marshall ($63 mil)
52. Burn After Reading ($60 mil)
64. Speed Racer ($43 mil)
71. Righteous Kill ($40 mil)
72. Body of Lies ($39 mil)
81. Star Wars: The Clone Wars ($35 mil)
88. The Love Guru ($32 mil)
95. Leatherheads ($31 mil)
103. The Other Boleyn Girl ($26 mil)
105. The Wrestler ($26 mil)
107. Superhero Movie ($25 mil)
108. W. ($25 mil)
112. Revolutionary Road ($22 mil)
113. Babylon A.D. ($22 mil)
117. The Spirit ($19 mil)
120. Frost/Nixon ($18 mil)
123. 88 Minutes ($17 mil)
124. Swing Vote ($16 mil)
125. Pride & Glory ($15 mil)
139. Meet Dave ($11 mil)
142. Doomsday ($11 mil)
144. U2 3D ($10 mil)
147. Smart People ($9 mil)
155. In Bruges ($7 mil)
166. Run Fat Boy Run ($6 mil)
168. RockNRolla ($5 mil)
171. Hamlet 2 ($4 mil)
177. Bottle Shock ($4 mil)
179. Charlie Bartlett ($3 mil)
191. How to Lose Friends and Alienate People ($2 mil)
196. The Fall ($2 mil)
209. Che ($1 mil)
226. Cassandra's Dream ($900 thou)
432. Boarding Gate ($40 thou)
549. Take ($6 thou)
570. Romulus, My Father ($4 thou)

Source: Box Office Mojo

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

#508. Box Office 2007

2007 was another fine year at the movies, perhaps most notable for me as Josh Brolin's big breakout, which went mostly unacknowledged, although he's been reaping the benefits ever since...

1. Spider-Man 3 ($336 mil)
Do you begin to sense a pattern about the trends of audiences yet?  Another blockbuster installment of a popular franchise scores big.  Sure, most fans think of this one as their least favorite in the series, but here it is, the most popular movie of 2007.  It's still my favorite.  Tobey Maguire is finally something other than merely geeky, getting to be geeky cool (to his mind, anyway) when the Venom symbiont has affected his personality.  That's progress!

2. Shrek the Third ($322 mil)
This is the installment I have the fewest memories of in this franchise, but clearly audiences were not deterred by the comparatively generic work.  Sometimes it's just about revisiting favorite characters.

3. Transformers ($319 mil)
Michael Bay makes a movie about giant robots who happen to also transform into common human vehicle and previously have been a 1980s cartoon and toy franchise.  Part of the reason these movies succeed so well is because of Bay's typically impeccable casting, with twitchy Shia LaBeouf leading the way, followed by American's temporary sexpot Megan Fox.

4. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End ($309 mil)
The most indulgent entry in this franchise allows Jack Sparrow to be as surreal as possible, plus literally meet his maker, Keith Richards, who helped inspire Johnny Depp's original portrayal.  Still, there's an awful lot of moody reminders that pirates really weren't appreciated in their time.

5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix ($292 mil)
The lasting image from this installment will always be the most thrilling wizards duel in movie history, between Voldemort and Dumbledore.  (This is one of the thing Peter Jackson got very, very wrong in his Lord of the Rings trilogy.)

6. I Am Legend ($256 mil)
Will Smith's hot streak continues full steam ahead, adapting the Hollywood favorite story from Richard Matheson as seemingly the last man left standing in a global apocalypse, sort of like the action version of Cast Away.

7. The Bourne Ultimatum ($227 mil)
Matt Damon finally learns Jason Bourne's real name (David Webb) in this final installment in the original trilogy.  Because I love mythology and character work, this is almost by default my favorite entry.

8. National Treasure: Book of Secrets ($219 mil)
Nicolas Cage returns as the modern Indiana Jones.  This is my favorite of the two films so far in this series.  I'm hoping for another, ideally from that mysterious page from the eponymous book borrowed with a wink from the president portrayed by Bruce Greenwood.  (Bruce Greenwood is always awesome.  He must also return.)

9. Alvin and the Chipmunks ($217 mil)
This update of another 1980s property (at least this is the point where it was famous for me) is also another blend of live action and computer animated characters.  This may be Jason Lee's lasting cultural memory, given that My Name Is Earl inexplicably failed to find a wide viewership, even though it was awesome.

10. 300 ($210 mil)
The digital landscape movie that audiences absolutely loved, and also the reason everyone is still trying really hard to combat Hollywood's efforts to make Gerard Butler a star.  This is also the next reason why Zack Snyder is a commodity halfway between Robert Rodriguez and Christopher Nolan.

Other personal highlights:

11. Ratatouille ($206 mil)
12. The Simpsons Movie ($183 mil)
15. Juno ($143 mil)
19. American Gangster ($130 mil)
21. Bee Movie ($126 mil)
22. Superbad ($121 mil)
25. Blades of Glory ($118 mil)
26. Ocean's Thirteen ($117 mil)
27. Ghost Rider ($115 mil)
31. The Bucket List ($93 mil)
32. The Game Plan ($90 mil)
33. Beowulf ($82 mil)
36. No Country for Old Men ($74 mil)
37. Fred Claus ($72 mil)
40. Charlie Wilson's War ($66 mil)
46. TMNT ($54 mil)
48. 3:10 to Yuma ($53 mil)
49. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street ($52 mil)
52. Music and Lyrics ($50 mil)
55. Michael Clayton ($49 mil)
60. License to Wed ($43 mil)
66. There Will Be Blood ($40 mil)
74. Freedom Writers ($36 mil)
75. Smokin' Aces ($35 mil)
77. The Number 23 ($35 mil)
87. 28 Weeks Later ($28 mil)
88. We Own the Night ($28 mil)
94. The Mist ($25 mil)
96. Grindhouse ($25 mil)
98. Across the Universe ($24 mil)
101. Hot Fuzz ($23 mil)
108. Gone Baby Gone ($20 mil)
121. Elizabeth: The Golden Age ($16 mil)
125. Alpha Dog ($15 mil)
127. Lions for Lambs ($15 mil)
135. Shoot 'Em Up ($12 mil)
146. Pathfinder ($10 mil)
159. Martian Child ($7 mil)
168. In the Valley of Elah ($6 mil)
172. The Last Legion ($5 mil)
175. Lucky You ($5 mil)
178. Rescue Dawn ($5 mil)
182. The Lookout ($4 mil)
189. I'm Not There ($4 mil)
192. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford ($3 mil)
217. Blade Runner: The Final Cut ($1 mil)
241. The Hunting Party ($900 thou)
296. Southland Tales ($200 thou)
550. Slipstream ($8 thou)

Source: Box Office Mojo

Monday, January 07, 2013

#507. Box Office 2006

I'm modifying this box office history one final time.  And announcing a spin-off blog that will be following it, called The Film Fan, which actually spins off from stuff I previously did at Star Trek Fan Companion.  Clearly I like a lot of movies, and want to talk about them.  But these things can get a little long.  Also, the followup feature here at Scouring Monk will be Fan Tango, a revamped version of the Vantage Point and Seven Reasons to Love features I've done in the past.  First up in that series will be Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year.

On to 2006!

1. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest ($423 mil)
I love that this was a huge success, because this was my favorite entry in the Pirates series.  It expands on the mythology in ways that might not have seemed obvious in Curse of the Black Pearl, as we meet Will Turner's dead Bootstrap Bill, for instance, who's a reluctant crewmate aboard the other iconic ship from the series, the Flying Dutchman, captained by the cursed Davy Jones, memorably portrayed with CGI help by Bill Nighy.  Jack Davenport, who appeared in the first movie, has a memorably expanded role in this one, helping to make it that much more swashbuckling (which is one of my favorite things about this entry and series, because it's the most notable swashbuckling movie of the modern era, and I love swashbuckling).  And it ends on an unexpected note (besides in the release of the Kraken, the beast which Clash of the Titans subsequently built its whole advertising campaign around), reminding everyone that this franchise revolves around Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow.

2. Night at the Museum ($250 mil)
Ben Stiller finds another blockbuster film property!

3. Cars ($244 mil)
As much as I love that this movie stars the voice of Owen Wilson, it's also the point where I officially declared Pixar not as creatively inspired as everyone says it is.  Another one strictly for niche audiences, but made into a huge hit because, well, everyone assumes everything Pixar does is golden.  This one's fine, but it's no Toy Story or Finding Nemo.  And if you wanted more subdued Pixar, you'd be better off looking at Ratatouille, which is arguably the studio's best.

4. X-Men: The Last Stand ($234 mil)
Bryan Singer didn't return for this one.  He was replaced by Brett Ratner, who did not actually offend everyone until last year, but still routinely finds it hard to find respect.  Perhaps not surprisingly, I love this installment.  It's my favorite X-Men flick to date, even, possibly because it's so deeply about the characters, not just on the surface like so many of the others (and pretty much every movie based on a Marvel character), but because it's dark enough to explore them truthfully.  Wolverine for once is not at the center of the story, but he's memorably present at the climax, when he's the last one standing against Jean Grey.

5. The Da Vinci Code ($217 mil)
A huge part of why I love Ian McKellen so much, not just because of Magneto or Gandalf, but because he helps elevate this material, along with Ron Howard and Tom Hanks (although even though the book was a huge sensation, the only thing anyone said about this movie was that Tom Hanks sports a mullet).  I never read the book.  But I adore this movie.

6. Superman Returns ($200 mil)
Just in case anyone hadn't figured it out yet, when a superhero movie is a big hit but not a huge one, it's prone to almost instantaneous backlash.  Bryan Singer chose to make this movie instead of the third X-Men, and made the fatal mistake of trying to continue the Richard Donner series with too much reverence.  Even Christopher Reeve couldn't do that, Bryan (although people didn't really started to love Reeve again until he was paralyzed, so yeah, people are fickle dicks).  Perhaps not surprisingly, I love this movie.

7. Happy Feet ($198 mil)
Rob Williams scores another huge voiceover hit with this computer animated movie about dancing penguins.

8. Ice Age: The Meltdown ($195 mil)
Let's face it, half the reason people love these movies so much is because Scrat is basically an updated version of the transcendent Looney Tunes characters.  Pixar did eventually do silent material, but predictably people exaggerated the worth of WALL-E.

9. Casino Royale ($167 mil)
The dawn of Daniel Craig's innovative new James Bond.  Some fans thought it was pretty controversial to cast someone with blond hair as 007, but Craig quickly set them straight, once everyone saw how awesome he is in the role.  Also part of the Year One trend that Batman Begins helped start.

10. The Pursuit of Happyness ($163 mil)
Will Smith's next shot at strictly dramatic success worked really well, because at this point he could do no wrong.

Other personal highlights:

11. Over the Hedge ($155 mil)
12. Taladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby ($148 mil)
14. Mission: Impossible III ($134 mil)
15. The Departed ($132 mil)
17. The Devil Wears Prada ($124 mil)
18. The Break-Up ($118 mil)
26. The Pink Panther ($82 mil)
29. Nacho Libre ($80 mil)
36. V for Vendetta ($70 mil)
37. World Trade Center ($70 mil)
38. Rocky Balboa ($70 mil)
43. Miami Vice ($63 mil)
50. The Good Shepherd ($59 mil)
51. Little Miss Sunshine ($59 mil)
56. Blood Diamond ($57 mil)
61. The Prestige ($53 mil)
71. We Are Marshall ($43 mil)
73. Lady in the Water ($42 mil)
76. Stranger Than Fiction ($40 mil)
77. The Illusionist ($39 mil)
82. Pan's Labyrinth ($37 mil)
86. 16 Blocks ($36 mil)
87. Accepted ($36 mil)
89. Children of Men ($35 mil)
92. Babel ($34 mil)
93. Snakes on a Plane ($34 mil)
96. United 93 ($31 mil)
101. Stick It ($26 mil)
110. The Black Dahlia ($22 mil)
118. Beerfest ($19 mil)
122. Ultraviolet ($18 mil)
126. Just My Luck ($17 mil)
128. Unaccompanied Minors ($16 mil)
131. Marie Antoinette ($15 mil)
137. Hollywoodland ($14 mil)
138. Letters from Iwo Jima ($13 mil)
148. Zoom ($11 mil)
151. The Last Kiss ($11 mil)
158. The Fountain ($10 mil)
166. A Good Year ($7 mil)
168. All the King's Men ($7 mil)
169. American Dreamz ($7 mil)
211. Brick ($2 mil)
215. The Proposition ($1 mil)
220. Factory Girl ($1 mil)
229. The Good German ($1 mil)
230. Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story ($1 mil)
236. The U.S. vs. John Lennon ($1 mil)
251. Ask the Dust ($700 thou)
263. Down in the Valley ($500 thou)
274. Idiocracy ($400 thou)
275. Don't Come Knocking ($400 thou)
349. Haven ($100 thou)
399. Beowulf & Grendel ($60 thou)
430. Candy ($40 thou)

Source: Box Office Mojo

Sunday, January 06, 2013

#506. Box Office 2005

I've had two great booms in my time appreciating movies.  One was while working for the video chain Movie Gallery, the other while working for the theater chain AMC.  2005 saw the start of the latter (although the following year was the greatest of the three I spent there), and as such is another defining year.

1. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith ($380 mil)
George Lucas completes his second Star Wars trilogy by finally depicting one of the most famous elements of franchise lore, the duel between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker on a lava planet.  Of course, there's much more that happens besides this, and the highlight of the film ends up being Palpatine, especially the moment he explains to Anakin how the Sith can manipulate life itself, surely the ominous moment in which Darth Vader is born not just in theory but as the journey toward the Dark Side of the Force begins.  I really appreciate creators who understand their own mythology, and the essential moments that define the stories that make the mythology worth knowing.  Basically this is the prequel everyone was waiting for, and they proved it by making it the fifth top box office draw in the six film saga.

2. The Chronicles of Narna: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ($291 mil)
The obvious box office appeal of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings helped resurface Tolkien friend C.S. Lewis's memorable journey to one of fantasy's most famous places.  Although obviously widely popular at the start of this latest incarnation, subsequent entries met with muted appreciation.

3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ($290 mil)
This one remains my favorite in the Harry Potter film series, the perfect mix of adventure and mythology, featuring Ralph Fiennes' debut as Voldemort in the chilling climax, as well as the secret origin of Robert Pattinson, who would later get his own franchise (the Twilight Saga).

4. War of the Worlds ($234 mil)
Tom Cruise further postpones his career backlash by appearing in this Steven Spielberg adaptation of H.G. Wells' famous tale of Martian invasion.

5. King Kong ($218 mil)
Peter Jackson's followup to his Lord of the Rings trilogy is another passion project, but perhaps a tad too indulgent.  Modern audiences are not reliably wild about the old movie monsters.

6. Wedding Crashers ($209 mil)
Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson achieve their greatest success.

7. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ($206 mil)
Tim Burton commences his modern goth phase, hitching himself once more to the career of Johnny Depp, once more painting himself into a nutty character.

8. Batman Begins ($205 mil)
Even I've been guilty of taking this initial Christopher Nolan into the world of the Dark Knight for granted.

9. Madagascar ($193 mil)
Another wildly successful computer animated franchise that has nothing to do with Pixar, and subsequently has a hard time finding respect.

10. Mr. & Mrs. Smith ($186 mil)
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie achieve a mutual smash hit, and realize their chemistry doesn't belong only on the big screen.

11. Hitch ($179 mil)
Will Smith in a rare movie that's contemporary and featuring him in a more-or-less ordinary person role, his lone romantic comedy to date.  Somehow also launched the movie career of Kevin James.

13. Fantastic Four ($154 mil)
Marvel fans were initially fairly happy with this new franchise.  But then the Avengers cycle began, and now we'll be getting a reboot.  Still, this is the secret origin of Chris Evans.

15. Robots ($128 mil)
It became increasingly normal for animation studios other than Pixar to achieve regular success at the box office around this point.  This one features Robin Williams in another of his voiceover performances, though not one of his famous ones.

16. Walk the Line ($119 mil)
Reese Witherspoon is charming in this movie, and was given an Oscar, though it stars Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash.

17. The Pacifier ($113 mil)
Vin Diesel goes the full Schwarzenegger in this family comedy, scoring a big hit playing against type.

18. Fun with Dick and Jane ($110 mil)
This hilarious and timely Jim Carrey comedy helped point out the financial mess that was soon going to lead the US into the Great Recession.  Apparently anyone who's supposed to learn from public satire does anything but pay attention to public satire.

19. The 40-Year-Old Virgin ($109 mil)
The movie careers of Steve Carell and Judd Apatow begin.

21. Saw II ($87 mil)
The draw for me with this sequel was Boomtown vet Donnie Wahlberg returning to the badge, years before Blue Bloods.

22. Brokeback Mountain ($83 mil)
Everyone who appeared in this movie benefited, from Anne Hathaway to Michelle Williams to Jake Gyllenhaal, but especially Heath Ledger, who finally found a role that everyone could respect.

24. Are We There Yet? ($82 mil)
Ice Cube.  Yeah, he was a star for quite a while.  Whatever happened to him?

26. The Dukes of Hazzard ($80 mil)
An unofficial entry in the Broken Lizards canon, this film updates the classic TV show with obnoxious stars Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott, but I suspect the cult of Jessica Simpson obscured everything about it at the time.

27. March of the Penguins ($77 mil)
This documentary helped usher a new obsessions with penguins.  No singing or dancing here, though.

29. Constantine ($75 mil)
Keanu Reeves is pretty much the opposite of the Vertigo/DC character he plays in this movie.

30. The Exorcism of Emily Rose ($75 mil)
Modern horror movies begin their obsession with exorcisms, previously featured in the classic movie The Exorcist.  Somehow that doesn't stop many other movies from including the term in their titles.

32. Sin City ($74 mil)
There are a number of standout performances in this Robert Rodriguez adaptation of Frank Miller comics, including Bruce Willis, Clive Owen and Benicio del Toro, but somehow Mickey Rourke's big comeback is later ignored when he stars in The Wrestler.  Jessica Alba famously does not get naked in this movie.

35. Sahara ($68 mil)
Surprisingly, popular fiction doesn't always translate to popular movies.  This one's based on bestselling author Clive Cussler's material, though it doesn't do much for Matthew McConaughey or Penelope Cruz's careers, either.

37. Herbie: Fully Loaded ($66 mil)
Starring in one last Disney movie actually lost Lindsay Lohan the support of critics, and that's another reason her career went down the toilet.

39. Sky High ($63 mil)
Kurt Russell certainly looks like a stereotypical superhero.  But this one is about a family of superheroes.  And it's live action.

40. Bewitched ($63 mil)
Nicole Kidman's second "sin" in a row was starring in this movie.  At the very least, Will Ferrell is typically hilarious in it.

41. Jarhead ($62 mil)
Jake Gyllenhaal scores again in this modern war movie.

42. Cinderella Man ($61 mil)
Russell Crowe realizes that the critics are definitely no longer supporting him after this one, which even the presence of Paul Giamatti can't salvage for those finicky creatures.

44. Red Eye ($57 mil)
This movie was supposed to be about Wes Craven, Cillian Murphy or Rachel McAdams, but it's instead stolen by Jayma Mays, who's later appears in Heroes and Glee.

45. Memoirs of a Geisha ($57 mil)
This was supposed to be such a more significant release, a spotlight for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon star Zhang Ziyi, and featuring Ken Watanabe second notable role, after The Last Samurai.  It was also supposed to be directed by Steven Spielberg.

47. Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit ($56 mil)
Classic British humor in stop-motion animation form.  Somehow there has still not been another feature length adventure starring these two.

48. Be Cool ($56 mil)
This followup to Get Shorty reunites Pulp Fiction stars John Travolta and Uma Thurman.  Also features a number of notable supporting stars, including Vince Vaughn and Dwayne Johnson completely shattering his image.

49. Crash ($54 mil)
The movie that briefly made Paul Haggis a sensation.

51. Tim Burton's Corpse Bride ($53 mil)
Burton in full goth mode, returning to stop-motion animation for the first time since The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Featuring, of course, Johnny Depp, as well as Burton companion Helena Bonham Carter.

53. Hoodwinked ($51 mil)
I adore this computer animated flick (crudely animated though it is), as the title suggests a twist on Little Red Riding Hood.  Featuring among many other pleasures Patrick Warburton and a singing goat (he's cursed).

55. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy ($51 mil)
I'm still baffled that this was not and still is not more popular.  "Purists" talked themselves out of enjoying it, and everyone else stayed away, too.  Still, features a terrific cast, including Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Sam Rockwell, and Zooey Deschanel, plus the voice of Alan Rickman.

56. Syriana ($50 mil)
George Clooney alters his movie career toward movies that are not guaranteed to be big hits with one of the early attempts to depict our modern political quagmire defined by 9/11.

57. Tyler Perry's Diary of a Mad Black Woman ($50 mil)
Thus begins the popular career of Tyler Perry.

62. Munich ($47 mil)
Spielberg made this movie, about the fallout of the Munich Olympics massacre of Israeli athletes, featuring Eric Bana and Daniel Craig.  Long one of my favorite movies, and featuring a haunting John Williams score.

63. Kingdom of Heaven ($47 mil)
Ridley Scott returns to the historical epic with this study of the Crusades featuring a bevy of stars supporting Orlando Bloom.  Another favorite.  Together with Syriana helped launch Alexander Siddig to new prominence in film.

65. The Legend of Zorro ($46 mil)
Considering how much I still love The Mask of Zorro, this late-in-coming followup probably could never live up to my expectations.  Featuring Michael Emerson (Lost, Person of Interest) in a supporting role.

69. Fever Pitch ($42 mil)
Suddenly it was very, very good to be a Red Sox fan.  This movie was filming when the team won its first World Series in eighty-six years, and that completely changed the ending.  Now Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore could end happily ever after!

70. The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3D ($39 mil)
Robert Rodriguez tries his Spy Kids formula in a different guise.  Not as successful.  Featuring the secret origin of Taylor Lautner (making this a very good year for Twilight fans well ahead of the curve).

73. The Brothers Grimm ($37 mil)
Terry Gilliam directs Heath Ledger and Matt Damon.  It's better than its lack of reputation suggests.

76. The Island ($35 mil)
Fairly familiar story made enjoyable by stars Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johnasson.

80. The Constant Gardener ($33 mil)
Thrilling drama featuring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz.

89. Good Night, and Good Luck. ($31 mil)
Together with Syrniana, this is the reason critics started to like George Clooney, and is also the the comeback of David Strathairn.

90. A History of Violence ($31 mil)
Viggo Mortensen in another movie he hoped people would really love.  I have a conflicted relationship with it, so for once I'm glad everyone else seems to, too.

93. Zathura ($29 mil)
Features Kristen Stewart.  I swear, 2005 was warning us about Twilight.

94. Rent ($29 mil)
One of my favorite musicals, either on the stage or screen.  Rosario Dawson officially and completely wins me over.

95. Capote ($28 mil)
Philip Seymour Hoffman finally succeeds in getting critics to love him.  I have no idea why it took so long.

96. Doom ($28 mil)
Dwayne Johnson makes a movie based on a video game.  Bad move.  Someone formerly known as a professional wrestler should not give audiences another reason to handicap him.

97. XXX: State of the Union ($26 mil)
Vin Diesel is replaced by Ice Cube.  Somehow this makes sense?

98. Elizabethtown ($26 mil)
Cameron Crowe makes another standout film starring Orlando Bloom and Kirsten Dunst (the movie that makes me fall in love with her).

100. Serenity ($25 mil)
Joss Whedon brings Firefly to the big screen!

103. Elektra ($24 mil)
Jennifer Garner (and the Daredevil franchise) learn the people don't exactly love her.

106. Match Point ($23 mil)
Woody Allen scores big (for him) switching his muse to London, plus Scarlett Johansson.  This played for a really long time at my theater.

110. Hustle and Flow ($22 mil)
Terrence Howard temporarily becomes a critical darling.

116. The Producers ($19 mil)
Mel Brooks scored a big Broadway hit adapting his own film after 9/11, but it flopped being brought back to the screen.  Still, Will Ferrell is a predictable standout.

118. Into the Blue ($18 mil)
Paul Walker and Jessica Alba make a movie the way they used to make Baywatch.  Features one of Josh Brolin's notable performances before his big breakthrough in 2007.

136. The New World ($12 mil)
Terrence Malick comes back to movies (and finally pretty much doesn't go away again) with this Colin Farrell film about Pocahontas.  Brilliant supporting cast includes Christopher Plummer and Christian Bale.

139. Casanova ($11 mil)
Heath Ledger in yet another movie Hollywood expected from him.

140. Lords of Dogtown ($11 mil)
Although 2005 being his breakthrough year, Ledger also got to do some terrific character work.  This is him in a supporting role basically playing Val Kilmer.

145. Domino ($10 mil)
Tony Scott makes a badass out of Keira Knightley.

159. The Aristocrats ($6 mil)
Comics telling the filthiest joke ever.

170. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang ($4 mil)
Speaking of Val Kilmer, here he is alongside Robert Downey, Jr., making his way toward the comeback.

174. Melinda and Melinda ($3 mil)
Woody Allen scored again this year with a movie about the two sides of Rhada Mitchell.  Will Ferrell is again predictably a standout.

185. Layer Cake ($2 mil)
Daniel Craig in the role that finally got him noticed.  And people noticed Sienna Miller, too.

223. MirrorMask ($800 thou)
Still meaning to catch this movie based on Neil Gaiman material.

413. Jiminy Glick in La La Wood ($30 thou)
Martin Short stages his comeback.

Source: Box Office Mojo


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