Friday, April 29, 2016

Box Office 2015

U.S. box office results for notable movies from 2015...(mil = million)

1. Star Wars - Episode VII: The Force Awakens ($936 mil)
After the huge success of Jurassic World, there was some doubt that the next Star Wars wouldn't top the yearly box office (which has been done before; Attack of the Clones landed in third behind Spider-Man and Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in 2002).  But then it just completely exploded.  Fans are still debating if JJ Abrams was too faithful to the original trilogy...

2. Jurassic World ($652 mil)
The last entry in this series (Jurassic Park III) was released back in 2001.  So fans were ready for the unofficial reboot, and more from the suddenly heroic Chris Pratt.

3. Avengers: Age of Ultron ($459 mil)
Marvel's Avengers franchise just keeps clicking along at the box office.  Captain America: Civil War features ramifications from this as well as its own previous entry, Winter Soldier.

4. Inside Out ($356 mil)
The Pixar machine rolls along with this entry about the inner workings of a little girl's mind, personified by wacky characters.

5. Furious 7 ($353 mil)
The late Paul Walker makes his final appearance in the series with this entry.

6. Minions ($336 mil)
A spin-off of the Despicable Me franchise gives the wacky little yellow dudes their own movie at last.

7. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 ($281 mil)
Interest in this saga cooled over the years, leading to a somewhat underwhelming performance for the finale.

8. The Martian ($228 mil)
Matt Damon gave a career performance in this latest astronaut disaster movie.

9. Cinderella ($201 mil)
Disney has been producing live action versions of its animated hits since 1996's 101 Dalmatians, and they remain viable box office fodder (see this year's massive success with The Jungle Book, for instance).

10. Spectre  ($200 mil)
Daniel Craig's final appearance as James Bond was a subdued success.

And selections from the rest of the list:
11. Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation ($195 mil)
13. The Revenant ($183 mil)
14. Ant-Man ($180 mil)
15. Home ($177 mil)
17. Fifty Shades of Grey ($ 166 mil)
19. Straight Outta Compton ($161 mil)
21. Mad Max: Fury Road ($153 mil)
23. The Divergent Series: Insurgent ($130 mil)
24. The Peanuts Movie ($130 mil)
27. Spy ($110 mil)
28. Trainwreck ($110 mil)
29. Creed ($109 mil)
30. Tomorrowland ($93 mil)
32. Terminator: Genisys ($89 mil)
33. Taken 3 ($89 mil)
37. Ted 2 ($81 mil)
42. Bridge of Spies ($72 mil)
44. The Big Short ($70 mil)
45. War Room ($67 mil)
47. The Visit ($65 mil)
52. Joy ($56 mil)
53. Fantastic Four ($56 mil)
54. The Hateful Eight ($54 mil)
59. Jupiter Ascending ($47 mil)
60. Sicario ($46 mil)
62. Spotlight ($44 mil)
69. The Age of Adaline ($42 mil)
73. Pan ($35 mil)
75. Concussion ($34 mil)
94. Ex Machina ($25 mil)
95. In the Heart of the Sea ($25 mil)
100. Aloha ($21 mil)
111. Room ($14 mil)
117. Carol ($12 mil)
119. Strange Magic ($12 mil)
121. Self/Less ($12 mil)
156. Anomalisa ($3 mil)
186. Legend ($1 mil)

Source: Box Office Mojo

Monday, April 11, 2016

861. Good and bad news for fans of Lost and its enduring legacy...

I remain an unabashed fan of Lost, the maddeningly ambitious TV series that ran on ABC from 2004 to 2010.  It's one of my favorite stories from any medium, and true highlight of my experiences to date.  Entertainment Weekly recently released a special magazine detailing its favorites from the past 25 years, and in the TV section it included Lost at seventh out of twenty-five.  I was a regular reader of EW for fifteen years or so, and so know full well that it was as obsessed with Lost as anyone else, possibly even moreso, possibly even using it to shape the course of the magazine's whole future.  Well, maybe, but at long last it seems, after years of joining the trend of backlash that followed the controversial final episode, EW is ready to embrace Lost again.  Here's its write-up:

This exotic survival saga about redemption and community started earthy and existential and finished esoteric and mystic, sparking endless discussion and frustrating some of its fans in the process.  What is inarguable is that its tantalizing, labyrinthine mysteries helped change the way we watch and talk about television.

This is like a breath of fresh air for someone who never stopped loving it.  Finally, the bitter years of disappointment, in which the whole thing looked like it would be whitewashed from history, seem like a memory.  As someone who was astonished to find himself buried in an avalanche of praise for something he was enjoying, and being thoroughly unused to such things, this is reassuring.  But it also suggests that the new praise may also suggest that all the previous love will amount to something, in the future, that will make it harder to rediscover than, say, The Prisoner, something that continually enjoys revivals precisely because it didn't have an ending, or The Fugitive, because its ending defined the whole thing.  What good is a cult following if it completely collapses?

As a fan of Star Trek, I know what it's like to see something you love lay dormant for years.  But the thing that keeps Star Trek coming back is that at its heart, it's relatively simple and durable in new iterations.  What about Lost?  Fans tend to binge-watch things that continue giving them visceral thrills. A lot of people came to Lost because they wanted to know answers, and they kept finding them in strange and unexpected places.  But when they saw where it was all headed, what the last answers would be, they lost interest.  The ending of Lost is the same as its beginning.  At its heart, Lost is an examination of the human condition, far more demanding, and ultimately forgiving, than anything else in this moment has proven to be. 

 But maybe it's too demanding.  Fans saw something flashy, and so came aboard for that.  Do fans of old television really come back for substance?  Absent from EW's list was the cathartic, short-lived Boomtown.  I've never found much interest in reviving interest for that, but it remains a truly treasured memory for me.  Theoretically, it'd be easier to rediscover.  A lot of the key players resurfaced in Justified.  And yet...?

This is the strange place in the cultural ether I always inhabit.  Maybe it explains me.  I don't think I'm a contrarian, but that's what I end up seeming like.  I don't know.  Maybe I just shouldn't worry about it.  Let succeeding generations do that.  I have my memories, right?

Friday, April 08, 2016

860. Mock Squid Soup April 2016 - The Fall

Hey, everyone, I'm joining the Mock Squid Soup movies group for another month.  Hope you don't mind.  Soup's hosts are Mock! and Squid (although at least one of them would deny it, and we all know which one).  This month I'm going to talk about The Fall.  It's been a favorite of mine since I originally saw it in theaters, completely on a whim, and it becomes more and more a favorite in the years since.  It's just that good.

Hey, so you know The Princess Bride?  Well, The Fall is like The Princess Bride as an art film.  It's the story of a stuntman from the early days of Hollywood recuperating from, well, a fall.  His name is Roy Walker, and he's played by Lee Pace, who at the time was best known for the quirky TV series Pushing Daisies, but has since appeared in Peter Jackson's Hobbit movies and Guardians of the Galaxy.

This movie was a passion project for director Tarsem, by the way.  He labored for four years and largely financed it himself, and finally saw it hit the film festival circuit in 2006, although its theatrical release didn't happen until 2008.  Championed by David Fincher and Spike Jonze, The Fall garnered a rapturous review from the late Roger Ebert, but has otherwise languished in obscurity in the years that have followed.  It doesn't help that Tarsem has since become better known for The Immortals, Mirror Mirror, and Self/less, all of which failed to connect solidly with audiences or critics.  His earlier film The Cell, like the rest of his work, is well worth considering in the context of Tarsem's creative vision, and by itself.

But I'm here to sing the praises of The Fall.  If nothing else, please watch this film.  Here's a list of IMDb quotes from the movie to get you into it.  Most of the exchanges are between Roy and Alexandria, the precocious girl who's half the reason this movie works so exceptionally well.  The interplay, the pathos, and the humanity exhibited between them is breathtaking.  What Alexandria can't possibly realize, or appreciate, is that Roy is contemplating suicide the entire time she knows him.  He's heartsick over the loss his girlfriend to another member of the film production.  He spins incredible tales to amuse Alexandria, and the more time they spend together, the more the tales become a collaboration (whether Roy likes it or not).

The Princess Bride is an ingenious fairy tale told by a grandfather to his ailing grandson.  Yet you can forget the layers of The Princess Bride the more you get into its many fascinating characters.  Well, how about Governor Odious?  The name alone is outstanding.  He's the villain of The Fall, the enemy of a whole host of heroes, including a young Charles Darwin. Like The Wizard of Oz, Roy draws from people he and Alexandria know from the hospital, so that we get to know characters in various guises, including Roy himself, whom Alexandria eventually makes the star of the story as it takes shape, and she becomes his daughter.

Yeah.  And the art of it is a whole different level of what's to appreciate about The Fall.  If The Princess Bride is impossibly romantic, then The Fall is impossibly beautiful.  I think the only reason it's not better known is that it wasn't widely released and it's so hard to completely explain, except by analogy.  Which is why I'm making such a hard sell with the Princess Bride comparison.  Except some people won't give something a chance if it evokes a cherished experience, because some people will never let something touch their cherished experiences, and The Princess Bride has only become more and more beloved as time has passed.

The Fall is like that.  I'm not just saying that because it is for me, but because it's such a complete experience, something you really do need to see to believe, that you will watch again, and again, and still feel as if you haven't fully appreciated it.  It's a truly great film, and it's life-affirming in the best possible way, with an ending that you will laugh over and cheer for, and possibly even cry during...

Just watch it already.  You'll thank me later.

Friday, April 01, 2016

859. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Deadpool

Well, shoot.  Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is about as perfect a superhero movie I've seen since The Dark Knight.

I loved his Watchman, his Man of Steel, and Marc Webb's Amazing Spider-Man 2, but Dawn of Justice is about as escalated as they get in terms of what Christopher Nolan achieved.  (Also in the running?  Oddly enough, Gore Verbinski's Lone Ranger.  Last thing you should ever do is listen to what the critics say.  Unless their name is Roger Ebert.  Which of course is completely impossible these days.)

There were two things about Man of Steel's ending that stuck in the craw of viewers: Superman killing Zod, and the wanton destruction of Metropolis.  Both of these are addressed in Dawn of Justice.  How often has a sequel so directly commented on its predecessor?  Go ahead, I'll wait.

What Snyder obviously hopes to accomplish is recontextualizing superheroes, at least in the movies.  There are plenty of viewers who want Avengers-style faire, obviously, and that's all well and good.  But some of us want something meatier.  Snyder's aim is to discuss superheroes in the grand scheme of history.  And actually, he does it by positing Superman (Republicans) and Batman (Democrats) as emblematic of the political shift post-9/11, as well as the wars of the past, with Lex Luthor boldly comparing Superman to the British (and by extension, Batman to Americans).

It's also a bold piece of psychological profiling.  Snyder is not particularly kind to Batman.  He likens the young Bruce Wayne, and the man he becomes, to someone suffering from PTSD in the wake of his parents' murder, plagued with dreams he sometimes can't differentiate from messianic visions.  He literally can't tell fact from fiction.  Although driven by the best of intentions, he can be easily manipulated by the likes of Lex Luthor, who is his opposite number in much the way Superman is.  What separates them is someone who truly does understand the past, who's been there.  Which is to say, Wonder Woman. 

Snyder's Superman has always been the boy who grew up troubled by his own potential, convinced by his father that he would never be accepted.  And throughout Dawn of Justice, we're reminded just how many angry voices there really are out there.  Superman, in this interpretation, is George W. Bush.  So, yeah.  Critics will hate him, because most voices in the media are liberal (liberals hated Bush, in case you'd forgotten), just as they were lukewarm to Quentin Tarantino's Hateful Eight because he had a Mexican as one of the bad guys in the era of Donald Trump.

The whole thing is a brilliant depiction of what happens when ideologies collide, and are either forced to obliterate each other or compromise, or even discover that they're not enemies after all (in this political climate, it's a truly sensational message).  From the introduction of Tim Burton's specter in 1989's Batman, superheroes lost their ability to exist in a black and white world.  When forced back in, audiences either chafe (Joel Schumacher's Batman) or go along with it (Joss Whedon's Avengers) because of the spectacle.  Because audiences can't refuse spectacle.  That alone will make Dawn of Justice a hit, despite all its nasty complications.  People who hate complicated will hate it.  That's just how it always is.  If they can't ignore it, they'll hate it.  But the spectacle of it will bring in loads of money anyway.

Deadpool is completely different while kind of exactly the same.  It's the logical extension of Burton's Joker, the clown who steals the show because he doesn't take anything seriously while also taking his own life extremely seriously.  Ryan Reynolds is the perfect guy to pull off this kind of role.  (I mean, in both its current cinematic incarnations.)  Deadpool was created to be the logical extension of the wisecracking archetype previously embodied by Robin and Spider-Man, except he never had a story that rooted him into anything of substance until now.  In the comics he's the biggest cult figure around, has been since he burst onto the scene twenty years ago, and is only now being recognized for it.  In the movies?  The only character capable of taking the Marvel approach to its zenith.  You wouldn't have Deadpool without Iron Man, who all but smirks through most of his scenes, but then becomes deadly earnest for whole moments at a time (that's why Iron Man 2 is the best Avengers movie, because it tries the hardest to strike a balance).

Marvel likes to harp on the legacy of the Nazis.  Dawn of Justice sidesteps the villains of 9/11 to reveal how it brought out, in the end, the worst in the good guys.  I mean, it's spelled out so plainly.  Why does Superman have to die and Batman be the one to found the Justice League?  Because that's what happened in the real world, too.

Dawn of Justice is a superhero movie with a big idea at its core.  I'm sure, one day, Superman will revert to being the big blue boy scout again.  But hopefully it won't happen anytime soon.  It's worth noting that this is the first time since Adam West that a live action Batman wears the grey and blue costume.  Snyder's often accused of being too pure to the source material.  This movie cobbles together a number of comic book source materials (Dark Knight Returns, "Death of Superman," Justice League: Origin), but in the end it's his original version of his earlier Watchmen.

Which I consider to be a very good thing.  Deadpool can't touch that.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...