Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Weekend Box Office

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the numbers.

And sad numbers they are this week, pushed down by Hurricane Irene which basically closed most of the East. So, meh. The number one movie was The Help again, but we're all about novelty here so the top grossing new picture came in at #2. It is Columbiana and it made $10 million; you can imagine what the rest of the chart is like.

Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark came in at #4 with under $9 million, which still isn't bad for a remake of a TV movie from the seventies. At #5 was Our Idiot Brother with 7 million.

Okay, go back into your homes now where it's safe.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Summer 2011: Seen, Unseen or Just Observed

Summer 2011 is almost one for the books, so here is a summary of random observations. I'll kick it off by a short list of movies I paid good money to see this summer.

BTW: Did anyone else notice that the movie at the bottom of this week's Box Office Mojo, as noted by Dan, was called The Worst Movie EVER? It made $11, one admission. Anyway, on to that list:

• Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Fine entertainment, just stuffed with little hidden call-outs to the original series. I saw this in San Bruno, which is coincidentally the home of the fictitious San Bruno Simian Center, where the ape revolution begins.

• Bridesmaids: Excellent. See if you can spot the sequence Judd Apatow added to make it more, um, palatable to male moviegoers.

• The Tree of Life. Okay, it's not perfect, but it's one of the most challenging, beautiful and moving films I've seen in quite a while. Not a few reviewers tried to take Terrence Malick to task for adding stuff like the Big Bang and dinosaurs to his story, but for me it seemed like he was just being thorough, like writing a novel that has the family trees of all the characters in it. I tried to get as many people to go see this with me as I could, and failed.

• Stuff I didn't see: Cowboys & Aliens (strongly warned away by friends) Hangover II, Transformers III, Cars 2 (couldn't muster the interest) The last Harry Potter, X-Men First Class (couldn't find the time).

• What I'm following on TV these days: An excellent new season of "Futurama," "Breaking Bad" and "Wipeout" on ABC (Basically "Castle Attack" with LA wanna-be actors getting slammed by foam rubber apparati while the hosts crack wise). I'm following "True Blood" too-- but as my wife put it, several of the plotlines on this show need to be sentenced to the True Death.

• What I'm looking forward to on TV this fall: The return of "Mad Men," "Boardwalk Empire" and "The Walking Dead." The "Mad Men" inspired series kicking off this fall: "Pan Am" and "The Playboy Club." It seems Hollywood has finally responded to "Mad Men," and that response is: bring us more Joan Holloway and complicated undergarments!  Speaking of mid-century retro shows, the 1956-set "The Hour" on BBC looks pretty good too, but I'm going to get that from streaming sources rather than BBC America (who hack 20 minutes out of each episode).

• Strange Pattern-Seeking Observation #1: Is it just me, or are the character dynamics of "Breaking Bad" basically the same as in Back to the Future? Obsessive scientist, dopey trouble-making kid sidekick, involved in reality-bending adventures?

• Strange Pattern-Seeking Observation #2: There is a trailer cycling on TV for Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star, yet another urbane, sophisticated Adam Sandler comedy offering. The titular character, played by Nick Swardson, is a rural idiot man-child with a blond pageboy haircut and big joke-shop front teeth. At one time Mr. Sandler specialized in this sort of pathetically delineated doofus, but considering the sourness of his late characters (Funny People, Just Go With It) he obviously makes too much money to mug anymore (though his upcoming Jack and Jill will likely prove me wrong). Anyway, the observation: The first thing that struck me about Bucky Larson is his strong resemblance to Simple Jack, Tugg Speedman's "serious" character from Tropic Thunder. You know, "Never go 'full retard?'" Is Bucky Larson just another half-assed Adam Sandler attempt at comedy, or is it something more sublime-- the first example of art imitating art imitating art imitating life?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

But Does HAL Have an Intel Inside?

Thought it was high time I start contributing to this thing again!

What brought me out this time: Local high-tech jurisprudence. Good ol' Apple, that beloved corporate juggernaut, is trying to block sales of Android-powered Samsung tablet computers in some countries, claiming copyright infringement against the iPad. Same old story, really-- but Samsung's lawyers have sprung back with a remarkable defense. They pointed out that Apple itself swiped an idea over 40 years old. There were devices nearly identical to iPads in use in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Quoting Samsung's filing:
Attached hereto as Exhibit D is a true and correct copy of a still image taken from Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film "2001: A Space Odyssey." In a clip from that film lasting about one minute, two astronauts are eating and at the same time using personal tablet computers. As with the design claimed by the D’889 Patent, the tablet disclosed in the clip has an overall rectangular shape with a dominant display screen, narrow borders, a predominately flat front surface, a flat back surface (which is evident because the tablets are lying flat on the table's surface), and a thin form factor.
I did not notice this until now-- and it's amazing how right they got it-- all the way back in 1968! (the image here is an amusingly photoshopped deal I found online: in the film, the pads are made by IBM.) I'll bet if you can get a hold of some tech-savvy kid and make him or her watch 2001 (at 143 minutes, a tall order), and ask them what Bowman and Poole are watching BBC 12 on, they would be more interested in what brand of tablet they were using to do so.

Kubrick hired a lot of scientists, futurists and engineers to design the look and feel of his film. No doubt one of these guys (and back then, it had to be a guy) thought the future of TV would look like a clipboard with a video screen. They didn't totally nail future technology, though: The often-seen square-format computer displays in the film are more akin to data readouts, rather than GUIs (graphical user interfaces). In one scene an astronaut is seen scribbling data down on a yellow legal pad, and HAL dispenses hard data on a punchcard (this scene got some scattered laughter at the last screening I attended). And though today's solid-state SATA swappable hard drives bear a striking resemblance to HAL's logic core modules, I'm afraid nobody has yet figured out how to make them transparent.

Steve Jobs is just a few years older than me, and grew up in Mountain View, California. He was 13 years old when 2001 came out-- and it's even quite likely he saw it at the Century 21 on Winchester, same as I did. It likely made just as deep an impression on him as it did me, though I have to admit his inspiration was quite a bit more profitable than mine.

ADDENDA: About three hours after posting this, Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple. No need to take this blog personally, Stevie...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Weekend Box Office

Nobody knows anything, unless they look at the numbers.

William Goldman is one of the most brilliant and successful screenwriters who ever lived, but even more remarkable than that is he boiled down to three words the reason why executives pour money into projects that fail and little independents become blockbusters: NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING. This weekend served as an illustration of that axiom.

Spy Kids: All The Time In The World opened at #3 with $11 million. This you could have actually seen coming. #4 was a 3D remake of Conan The Barbarian, which brought in $10 million but reportedly cost 3 times what Spy Kids did. Fright Night, another remake (where have you gone, William Ragsdale?) made about $8 million at #6 and a little independent from Focus called One Day came in at #9 with $5 mil.

So what about the top slots? #2 was last week's #1, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a 3D science fiction epic. What could possibly do better? Last week's #2 movie, a civil-rights era weepie based on a best-selling novel even though everybody knows that people don't read nowadays.

Here's to you, William Goldman.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Weekend Box Office

Interesting but lackluster weekend! I punctuated that with an exclaimation point though obviously a period would have been just as appropriate.

Holdover Rise of the Planet of the Apes took the #1 spot again, but period chick-flick The Help came in a close 2nd with $26 million. Final Destination 5 (I did everything I did to avoid a sequel, but it came around anyway) took #3 with $18 million. At #5, suspense-comedy 30 Minutes or Less made $13 million. Call it less.

Glee: The 3D Concert Film took as little imagination to conceive as it did to market, and undershot the top ten by one slot, pulling in only $6 million. The TV show makes much more. Personally, I'm still waiting for the 3D Nip/Tuck feature.

Or if you're looking for 3D, try this: at #108, Sex and Zen 3D: Extreme Ecstasy.

Let's put a viewing party together!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Weekend Box Office

Click here to get the numbers flung at you.

Another surprise weekend, with Rise of the Planet of the Apes outperforming expectations. We all thought it would come in at #1 but it brought in $55 million! That's a lotta monkey business. Attention Variety headline writers! Hire me now!

At #4 The Change Up debuts with $13 million. Meh.

This week Smurfs beat Cowboys and Aliens by about $5 mil, and has already beat it in cumulative ticket sales. I'll miss ya, Harrison Ford! You had a good run.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Weekend Box Office

Whew, THAT WAS CLOSE. Look at the numbers!

I blogged about this yesterday - according to estimates, The Smurfs so outperformed estimates that the Hollywood Reporter was emailing breathless updates Sunday morning on its progress. Our tiny blue friends almost beat out Cowboys and Aliens for the number 1 spot. However, when all was tallied, C&A took the top with $36.4 million, and Smurfs made 2nd with $35.6 million. As a guy who has no understanding of the Smurfs phenomenon, this is a little too close for my liking.

Also doing respectably at #5 was Crazy Stupid Love, which manged to romance $19 million out of ticket buyers with post-adolescent tastes.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Smurf a Smurf On It

I'm a little ahead of the game this morning with box office figures, but the news for the past 24 hours is that Cowboys and Aliens was losing the number one spot this weekend to The Smurfs. This was distressing to me because by rights, C&A was said to be a solid bit of genre filmmaking while Smurfs looked like another dreary post-modern "updating" of the property by having characters remark on how stupid the premise has always been.

Ridiculing the tropes of this property is really low-hanging fruit.

But you know what they're doing there? They're HANGING A LANTERN on the Smurfs. Maybe our little blue friends can no longer survive in our sophisticated media landscape without addressing the glaring weirdnesses of the premise.

So this movie is, in fact, an epic lantern-hanging. It's like maybe the movie is all lanterns. It's lit up like a Christmas tree! I'm almost inclined to see it on that basis!

But of course, you'd still have to drug me to get me into an auditorium with those teutonic Schlumpfen. I mean come on. Research is one thing, but I can't waste two hours on a load of smurf.