Scott and I discuss the Oscars this week, because it happened and as a writer and lover of movies, it is kind of expected. Not the most memorable of shows, but we still found lots of talking points. Though my favourite ended up being left off the show, because I forgot to mention it. Every time I brought up that I needed to cover the Oscars, Everett would start singing, "I love trash!" Unfortunately, some unforeseen events meant the show got cut short but I was also able to throw in a very quick review of The DUFF (fans of high school movies should definitely check it out).
As always if you loved the show then please pass on the word.
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Saturday, February 21, 2015
Oscar Movie Platform Issues: Time for a Change in How Oscar Nominated Movies Get Screened Before the Academy Awards
Scott has some interesting thoughts on the lack of availability of Oscar nominated movies for many before the Academy Awards. He explains why he thinks it is time for some major changes in the current distribution model for these movies.
This weekend the red carpet is rolled out for which to be trampled underfoot by some of the biggest names in Hollywood, the select few to be leaving victors, but the majority sadly departing without the coveted hardware. The eyes of many interested parties turn to the broadcast or their twitter feed to find out exactly who is walking away with the gold, and it signifies a time of general interest in movies.
So many Oscar hopefuls delay their release date until later in the year so as to be fresh in the minds of Academy voters, a strategy that generally pays off with few films from earlier in the year getting acknowledgement at the awards. This year we actually got two earlier releases being remembered through the voting in Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel.
I used to believe that another reason for having later theatrical releases was that getting an Oscar nomination meant a sure-fire increase in box office performance. It is an easy assumption that getting the much wanted critical attention would get folks off of the couch and into theatres to see what the buzz is about.
This year, only three of the movies that had a run prior to the nominations (American Sniper expanded to wide release after the nominations were announced) saw an increase in their per theatre incomes. Selma, which expanded only the week before the nominations, increased only 1.8% while The Theory of Everything and Birdman saw better increases with 7.7% and 12.4% respectively.
After looking into the numbers from last year’s nominees for best picture, I saw a bit more of the puzzle. Some films saw a large increase (American Hustle at 30.7%, Nebraska at 23.1%, and Captain Phillips at 260%. It should be noted that the large percentage increase for Captain Phillips was represented from it growing from $250 per theatre to $902 per theatre). Other films actually showed a sizeable depreciation in their per theatre average. Her dropped 22.5%, Gravity fell (no pun intended) 24.7%, and eventual winner 12 Years a Slave decreased 22.8% per theatre.
This is not absolutely scientific of me. While the per theatre averages may drop, they could coincide with a substantial increase in the number of theatres screening the films and may end up seeing an overall increase in weekly box office performance. I am concerning myself with the averages because it is a gauge of sustained interest by the general population.
So, my theory and belief in awards buzz increasing the capital of a film in theatres is pretty much debunked. This does not say, however, that there is not an increase in desire for people to see the nominated films. According to the website irdeto.com (a company in the business of piracy protection), there is a marked increase in illegal downloads of films after they are nominated for major awards. Some of the biggest increases in downloads are seen with Selma (1033%), American Sniper (230%) and Birdman (192%) since they were nominated. They have also been kind enough to provide a great infographic of downloading trends around the globe.
It does not take long for these films to become available online. Just one day after the nominees were announced, 95% of the contenders (outside of documentary and foreign language categories) could be found for download. In a number of cases, the source material for these pirated copies were the screening discs sent out to voting members of the Academy.
What is not seen in the theatre numbers is represented in these online statistics, and that is that people do want to see the nominated films, but that does not necessarily translate into them paying for it at the box office. Part of the problem is that a number of movies up for contention never make it to wide release and are vacant from many different markets. Another problem, and the bigger one, is that people’s viewing habits and desires don’t line up with the standard distribution model.
When there is interest in a digital commodity that is unavailable through legitimate means, people seem to be apt to searching their own ways to view what they want to see. I have a hard time passing it off merely as ‘people pirate solely because they don’t want to pay.’ In the case of The Interview, which had a day and date digital release, the audiences showed that people are willing to pay money for something that is also available for illegal download. It is not the best example because of many factors surrounding the yo-yoing of Sony in the lead up to its release, but it shines a light into the mentality of the public. People (not all) who want to watch something that is legitimately available will pay for it.
The Interview incident showed the biggest cog in the wheel and one of the largest problems in the scenario. Theatres do not want to screen a film that will also be shown on other platforms. Typically, studios have to wait ninety days after opening weekend to expand to rentals and sales, and theatre chains do not want that model to change. When it comes to Oscar contenders, movies that are generally released later in the year and are not past that ninety day window when nominations come out (or even when the awards are done and over with) do not have the option to properly capitalize on the increased interest that the buzz has brought to their movies.
A lot of times these films from smaller studios and created on limited budgets, and the time to strike the iron is in mid-January. That is when the largest potential appears to be as they ride off of the attention that the nominations draw. It is unfortunate that the system in place, which does not even properly distribute these movies across the various markets through their theatres, is what is standing in the way from the artist potentially seeing a viable increase in profits.
People will continue to download movies illegally, that is something that I am sure of. What is unfortunate is that if people were expected to keep their noses clean and wait until either the movies came to their market or were available for rent then a lot of Oscar watchers would never know which movies were truly deserving come show time.
The digital landscape is changing everything, as forward thinking people such as Ted Sarandos of Netflix are aware. He has shown the financial viability and potential of the digital platform and continues to push the barriers, knowing that people are willing to pay for content. Right now it is the late adopters, non-adopters, and white-knuckled industry leaders that are holding onto the old system as though their lives depended on it (I suppose their pay cheques depend on it, but evolving with the times would keep them ahead of the curve) who are holding things back.
Interested in seeing movies like Whiplash, Selma, Inherent Vice, and other limited release films that are up for Oscars? You will have to wait until the mystery and intrigue as to how they will perform is all gone.
Friday, February 20, 2015
Earlier today, Scott insinuated that Hot Tub Time Machine may have stole its premise from an episode of Harvey Biurdman, Attorney at Law. A quick Google showed that he isn't the only person to stand by such a belief. But I'm not entirely convinced. So, I fired off an email to Scott with my reasoning of why I think it isn't fair to assume it is too much of a coincidence for two writers to use a hot tub as a way to teleport through time. I essentially don't think it is as novel to only be one person's idea as some think, but rather a fairly obvious choice for time travel.
And since I then needed justification for interrupting my work to write a raher pointless email, I now publicize my argument in favoure for Hot Tub Time Machine not being an intentional rip-off.
Hi Scott,I was thinking about your throwaway comment about Hot Tub Time Machine having the exact same premise as a Harvey Birdman episode and how it was too similar to be a coincidence. While you may very well be right in your allusion that the episode heavily inspired the genesis of the picture, I don't actually believe that it has to be the absolute and irrefutable fact you may believe.
Hollywood has a long history of similar movies coming out at the same time and there being enough evidence that it often was just a zany coincidence (Critters was released after Gremlins but started production long before and Gremlins was actually initially inspired by a script for a E.T. sequel).
I've used as an example before of how Stephen King was dismayed to discover that Under the Dome, a novel he has an idea for since the late 1970s, shared the premise of a small town trapped under a glass/see-through dome with The Simpsons.
I find premises can often be startlingly similar, which is why having an idea for a story is entirely different than writing the story. Ideas are easy and sometimes can sound exactly like something else even if you don't know the source material.
I haven't seen Hot Tub Time Machine or the episode in question, so I can't say if anything but the premise is similar. But I actually think that coming up with a hot tub as a time machine isn't that far-fetched.
A hot tub is a pretty retro item that brings back memories from the 1970s, sort of like a water bed. The idea that it is a nostalgia item is pretty accepted among most. So, an object that already causes nostalgia and memories to flood back or make one think about the past seems pretty prime for being the catalyst of time travel since it already does it at an abstract and subconscious level.
Even though Scott doesn't mention it, Fifty Shades of Grey is currently the heavy favourite for winning the box office weekend for a second straight time. Though based off Scott's write-up, part of that may be coming from a lack of competition appealing to the masses despite being a relatively loaded week with three wide-releases. I also want to note that I've been aware Bonnie Tyler sung "Total Eclipse of the Heart" for a long time now, even if that knowledge gave me nightmares.
Personal confession time. For some reason (most likely due to the gravelly, two pack a day voice) I always believed that "Total Eclipse of the Heart" was sung by Stevie Nicks. Turns out I was wrong. Bonnie Tyler brought that beast home in a video that at times reminded me of David Brent’s "If You Don’t Know Me By Now" (on account of the releasing of the doves and the windswept everything), except Bonnie Tyler’s video had ballet ninjas, so it loses points.
My apologies for getting sidetracked right from the get-go, but this week there are clichés hitting the theatres along with an uninspired sequel. The clichés being The DUFF, and McFarland USA, although they look like they may be fun films. The uninspired sequel that I was referring to is Hot Tub Time Machine 2.
This is a case of not completely being sure as to why a sequel was forged ahead with in the first place. The original film had a worldwide gross of $64 million against a production budget of $36 million. In no terms can this be called a success with its theatre run not gaining enough traction to make the film profitable. The only assumption that I can make is that the digital and hard copy sales of this film were enough to persuade Paramount into attempt the second, this one with a much more modest budget of $14 million.
This film is all about the gimmick, the off-the-wall concept that carries it from joke to joke (kind of akin to fellow time travel flick Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure). Most people don’t know this, but the zany idea in which this movie is based is not exactly original. As far as I know, the concept first appeared in an episode of Harvey Birman: Attorney at Law, when Potamus installs a hot tub in his office. I find it hard to believe that the film came up with the same insane idea about a soothing bath that propels occupants through time.
The first film opened to $14 million, and I have no reason to believe that the sequel will be getting the same kind of numbers. John Cusack, one of the stars from the first movie, is not returning, and the lack of a central cast member can deflate the value of the film to its core audience. Also, if we look at how this movie is holding up on Rotten Tomatoes (13% at the time of writing this) the future is bleak for this comedy.
Hot Tub Time Machine 2 Opening Weekend Prediction - $11 Million
From a comedy we go to one of the more overused genres in Hollywood, and that is the inspiring true sports story. Take a high school setting, add in a group of misfits, tag on the Disney name, a pinch of Costner, and season the trailer with a U2 song. That is what we have with McFarland USA, a film where originality is a concept cared not for. However, even with the hitting of familiar beats this movie is appearing to bring some heart and emotion and is sitting well with critics (78% on Rotten Tomatoes).
What is kicking this movie down is the limited awareness that it has. Right now the Facebook page has less than 30,000 likes and it is not getting much Twitter traffic. I do see this movie opening in a similar range to Million Dollar Arm, which broke out of the gates at $10.5 million.
McFarland USA Opening Weekend Prediction - $9.5 Million
And lastly we have The DUFF. If you are like me and are wondering what ‘DUFF’ stands for, it is ‘designated ugly fat friend.’ It is the premise of the ‘ugly duckling’ high school student who mayhaps end up transforming into the desire of one of the cool kids. It is based off of a young-adult novel, so it could be relying on fans to come out and support it, but it may be out of luck.
A number of sites that I view in gaining an understanding of how films are tracking reference Vampire Academy here. The series of six books have sold more than eight million copies, something that could give indication that support for a film version would exist. What we ended up seeing was something far less than spectacular as it opened to just shy of $4 million. There are many attempts at transferring young-adult literary properties into film format and the road is covered with the discarded carcasses and shattered DVD cases of numerous failures.
Also hindering the movie is the lack of a noticeable star. The lead is played by Mae Whitman, whom I loved from Arrested Development, but has not been front and centre before. Even having such an acclaimed show on her resume says next to nothing as the series (which is one of the most brilliant comedies ever broadcast) had difficulty getting masses of eyeballs to check it out. This could be another example of why you can’t make a movie based solely off of success as a young-adult book.
The DUFF Opening Weekend Prediction - $6.5 million
Thursday, February 19, 2015
Several weeks ago, I promised I was going to start writing on here again and try to rebrand it as a movie site. Though I think my current status and resources are better suited for in-depth think-pieces, retrospectives and reviews rather than news due to the fact that it would largely be doomed to regurgitation, I also recognize the most popular pieces regarding movies on the Internet tend to be speculations, rumours and glimpses into future works. Because gosh darn, we movie nerds love the hype.
There is also a very large subset of us that love the Alien franchise, even if a truly good and riveting picture from the series hasn't come out since 1986. Neill Blomkamp is pretty close to modern sci-fi royalty, even if at this point that exorbitant good-will mostly comes just from District 9 (hopefully, Chappie can erase the sour aftertaste left behind by Elysium). Those two sentences reek with cynicism but that doesn't dull the fact that there is a warranted amount of excitement over the news that Blomkamp will be directing a new Alien feature, which he revealed from his Instagram account.
This was something Scott and I discussed in the last podcast when it was nothing more than Blomkamp clearly pitching for the position and we wrongly assumed that any real movement would be delayed until after the opening weekend box office of Chappie came out. It looks like the director's bold prediction that Fox would instantly jump at making the movie the moment they got his pitch and idea turns out to be true. Of course, in today's franchise obsessed environment it seems like studios will eagerly gobble up anything with a recognizable name and has the promise of creating more merchandise or amusement park rides on top of high opening weekend grosses. It isn't like Blomkamp was boldly declaring a studio would eagerly pick up a complicated drama about a gay couple trying to raise a family in an Amish community or a road trip between a yuppie and his autistic brother.
To be honest, when it surfaced a week ago that he was attempting to get his vision of Alien approved by Fox, I started feeling the burning of the cinematic universe rash that is spreading throughout all of Hollywood. Ridley Scott is already making a Prometheus sequel, and even though he has gone on record that there won't be any xenomorphs this time, it is still set in the same universe. I didn't love the idea of two simultaneous Alien universe pictures being released, since there is a strong likelihood of blurring and confusion. More importantly, it is just that nagging obsession with cinematic universe that largely turns into one movie having scenes that act as teasers or full-on trailers for the other picture rather than an organic melding. I like how Stephen King incorporates his characters and towns into each book and makes it feel like a living and breathing world, but movies tend to be far more blunt and jarring in their implementation. Even Marvel Studios is getting a little tedious in its dropping of characters in several movies, and they're the master and pioneers of the form in cinema
Of course, I'm being cynical again since both pictures at this point are still at the screenplay phase, and those dreaded words of cinematic universe hasn't even been uttered yet. And even though the Alien universe hasn't told a good story in far too long, it is a world that probably has many thrilling adventures left to tell and has potential if the story comes about due to a vision and from a burning desire to tell it rather than a blatant attempt to keep a series chugging along.
The exciting part is the Blomkamp Alien movie is a genuine passion project and coming from a clear fan of the past pictures. He clearly has inspiration and this is a movie he wants to make rather than being hired on by a studio to resurrect a cash cow. Over the last few decades we've seen studio executive power increase while filmmakers at the mainstream level have had their voice lessened. Directors like Ron Howard, who were once major powerhouses, are forced to make an independent pictures because he dares to try to make something that doesn't have a toyline attached or isn't about super heroes. Passion projects have been annexed to the independent scene and studios buy rights to popular brand names then find a director to do their bidding rather than the director pitching exciting stories to studios.
Obviously, this Alien picture is part of a franchise and still reinforcing the current idea of studios only wanting established names or pictures that can birth a horde of sequels. The exciting part is that it was a director that was pitching the idea and more importantly, a director that is clearly passionate and excited about his idea. This is something worth chugging out the hype train for even without knowing any of the plot outside of some conceptual drawings that were released a few weeks back.
It seems like the new way to get studio approval is throw out an idea on social media, get a fanbase excited, and guarantee that a studio will want it before any real discussions are made. At this point, it looks like Blomkamp has all the power in this scenario and it is his vision and story that will have the chance to be showcased on the big screen. It is still at the infant stage and lots of time for studio meddling, but at this point it is a win for filmmakers and those wanting to have the freedom to tell their stories. He clearly has pitched something that swiftly won over Fox.
To be the skeptic and negative party pooper again, Ant-Man essentially started out as a Edgar Wright passion project and it looked like he was going to have the freedom to realize his vision on a big budget. Now the movie is being helmed by Peyton Reed. Of course, the situations are likely very different, especially since Blomkamp already has experience making movie that are big budget and trying to create a movie for a broad audience. It seems like Blomkamp's story is fully realized at this point and it was what would have caused the green light.
Since I'm already playing the speculation game, I mind as well dive right in. All we really know about Blomkamp's vision for the next Alien picture is the images he revealed. The intriguing part is that the sketches showed both Ellen Ripley (and Blomkamp has also made it clear he wants to work with Sigourney Weaver again) and Hicks. The Ripley appearance isn't surprising, because she has been in every movie except Prometheus (even if her character died in the third). Hicks is also dead, and doesn't seem to have ever been cloned like Ripley. So, it leaves us to ponder if those were sketches actually designed for the movie that Blomkamp is going to make.
Will it be revealed that both Ripley and Hicks are clones? Or is this a reimagining of canon, and Blomkamp's attempt to redo Alien 3? From what I remember, there isn't any story to tell between Aliens and Alien 3 unless this moneymaking idea is a 2 hour feature about hypersleep. Or maybe time traveling is being introduced to the universe and another character will be joining the heroes during the events of Aliens, sort of like in the upcoming Terminator Genysys set in the time of the original film but things have now been altered and shaken up.
Much like how I swore I was done with Star Wars after the disappointing prequels but then have been a giddy and squealy ever since Disney bought the right and have now been emitting high-pitch piercing joy screams ever since the amazing teaser trailer, I'm feeling some anticipation for this potential "reboot" despite being burned the last few times. I promise to keep up the hope no matter how Chappie turns out, because I'm currently ready to pass Elysium off as a one-time misstep.
A Neill Blomkamp Alien movie is happening, even though we have no information on it other than the drawings. Drawings could be red herrings and nothing to do with the actual movie that is about to be shot. We do know the idea was enough to sell Fox on it just like Blomkamp predicted. So, if he also predicts that we'll love the movie then I'm willing to declare him a fortune teller.
Monday, February 16, 2015
The Movie Breakdown Podcast Episode 76: The One Where I Call Samuel L Jackson by the name of Denzel Washington
Friday, February 13, 2015
Scott returns to his box office prognosticating for what is traditionally one of the bigger weekends of the year, especially outside of the summer blockbuster season. We've also got a massive franchise that I predicted would be one of the biggest bombs of the year due to its content, but it looks like I massively failed on that account.
Well, it has been a while since I have sat in front of the computer screen and prognosticated the possible successes (or possible failures... we don't want to rule that out) for movies on their opening weekends. Over half of a year has passed, and I got to marvel at the below average numbers that films were pulling in during 2014, perhaps a fiscal indication of how audiences viewing habits have shifted.
Regardless of any of that, I am back now for what can be the first big weekend of the calendar year. Grab your heart shaped chocolates, your sentimental cards of love and well-wishing, and your official Fifty Shades of Grey branded leather whip and dig in your heels for Valentines at the box office.
It is quite normal that some sort of romantic fare will pop out during this weekend. In fact, it would be a major studio and scheduling error if it did not happen. In the past we have seen up to four movies opening during the love holiday, luring couples from their norms and getting them to spend special, quality time together as they venture to theatres to sit in a large room with hundreds of strangers and refrain from talking to one another. Along with date bait films, there can be instances of good old counter programming in there as well, such as two years ago seeing the latest adventures of John McClane as he refused, once again, to die easy.
Playing it safe with the couples' content is the usual, but this year we are seeing something different with the film adaptation of EL James' sensual bondage adventure, Fifty Shades of Grey. The book became a massive global hit, with the Fifty Shades series selling over a hundred million copies. It has a rabid and dedicated fan base, and advanced sales for the film are already showing the massive anticipation audience members have for it.
One site that I refer to at times for box office tracking has predicted this movie could make up to $95 million during its opening weekend. However, I cannot be super confident in that number for a few reasons. First of all, even though the books have sold many copies, the audience for a theatrical version may be a niche market. Such a clustering of fans can skew perception because they will be quick to get things like advanced tickets but are not properly representative of the general audience.
On top of that, this is not your run of the mills date film. If the trailers are an indication of the movie proper, the plot is as such - a woman falls for a well sculpted rich guy who turns out to be a serious freak in the bedroom. There is not the typical structure of romantic films past, the kind that could bring both sexes to the theatre as part of their Valentine's Day activities. It is quite possible that due to the structure and composition of the film this could be a very hard sell for women to bring their beaus with them.
Fifty Shades of Grey Opening Weekend Prediction - $60 million
The only other film entering theatres this weekend is counter programming in Kingsman: The Secret Service, directed by Matthew Vaughn. His name not be one that is recognizable in many corners of the casual movie goers, he has proven himself to be very competent with the hits Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class, both of which he wrote as well as directed.
Kingsman has a very interesting cast, which shows action sequences involving Colin Firth as well as having Michael Caine, Samuel L. Jackson, and Mark Hamill. Having seen the trailers, I have a feeling that this movie will have a great deal in common with Kick-Ass in that it is taking a very shop-worn genre and elevating it to levels of absurdity. With Kick-Ass, Vaughn was able to take a style of film that generally finds success and love within specific pockets of fans and make it accessible enough to warrant a sequel. The film was still no box office trump card, and made just shy of $20 million its opening weekend.
The marketing campaign has been strong with Kingsman: The Secret Service, and the cast may be incentive to draw out older audiences who may not have realized that this is an R-rated flick. There could end up being a number of ticket holders who are shocked at what they see, especially if the tone is similar to what it was in Kick-Ass. But by then it would be too late. Their tickets already purchased and adding to the tally. I think the inclusion of older, established actors may be the gem that takes this movie to a higher level than Kick-Ass, propelled a portion further due to it scoring 75% on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of writing this.
Kingsman: The Secret Service Opening Weekend Box Office Prediction - $27 million
Monday, February 02, 2015
Scott and I tackle the big announcement of the female leads of the new Ghostbusters movie, because everyone else is talking about it and we didn't want to miss the call. It is also Oscar time, so it seems like the perfect time to review either movies that got many nominations (The Theory of Everything), pictures that previous years got nominations (The Master) or movies that were clearly targeting nominations that missed out this year (The Good Lie). You might have some fun discovering the movies that get the recommendations, though the title kind of gives one away.
As always if you love the show then please spread the word.
The Movie Breakdown Outline:
0:00 - 1:14 Intro (messing up, the magic finger)
1:14 - 11:08 The Theory of Everything review (plus talk of what makes a "good" Oscar movie, problem with biopics)
11:09 -12:10 An Everett story intermission (princess fairy)
12:11 - 16:42 Sherlock series review (Season 1 and Episode 1 of Season 2)
16:43 - 18:09 A second Everett story intermission (my son convinces me there is a One Ghost movie)
18:10 - 19:55 Scott's The Killing Season confession (plus Scott's excitement for Blood Lake)
19:56 - 14:19 Strange Magic review
14:20 - 27:24 Jupiter Ascending flops at Sundance (wanting to root for the Wachowskis)
27:25 - 34:16 The Good Lie review (trailer deception, mourning certain type of movies no longer deemed wide release worthy)
34:17 - 40:45 The Master review (strengths of Paul Thomas Anderson, humour and drama balance)
40:46 - 47:37 Ghostbusters casting and pictures potential to be a hit (Paul Feig directing a special effects picture, history of SNL cast members coming to the franchise)
47:38 -51:54 Fantastic Four trailer review and speculation of the type of movie
51:55 - 58:50 Ted 2 trailer review and a quick Ted review (fearing may need to see it, outlining movies looking forward to in February)
58:51 - 1:06:31 Looking at potential mid-budget adult pictures worth getting excited about (Batkid, Hurricane Katrina picture directed by Ava DuVernay, Catch & Release releasing commercial adult dramas)
1:06:32 - 1:17:04 Problem with prequels and Scott rants about Origins, the prequel to Night of the Living Dead (how prequels of horror movies ruin the scare factor, gloat over predicting Ghost Dimensions' release date being pushed back)
1:17:05 - 1:20:02 Child 44 trailer review (excited about a potential old-school adult thriller and frustration over what passes for adult action now)
1:20:03 - : A Very Long Closing (hyping potential reviews for next week, predicting the bigger movie disaster, judging interest off cinema trailer reactions, explaining why I picked @SpiceDawg handle)
EDIT: In the Ghostbusters segment, I meant John Belushi in Blues Brothers with Dan Aykroyd not his brother, Jim Belushi as I stated.