Monday, March 30, 2015

The Movie Breakdown Podcast Ep. 82: Talking Movies Can Be a Hard Time

This week Scott and I review the latest raunchy comedy in the Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart team up, Get Hard. After that we have a slew of new trailers to discuss including Spectre and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. We also give our thoughts on the announcement Transformers will be entering the cinematic universe fad.

As always if you love the show then please spread the word.

Breakdown Outline:

0:00 - 5:05 (The benefits of not having facial hair)
5:05 - 21:40 Get Hard review (discussing the Will Ferrell character, is it offensive?)
21:41 - 32:39 Spectre trailer and history of Bond and how recent movies have hidden goofiness
32:40 - 35:38 Discussing anticipation of Mad Max: Fury Road
35:39 - 40:29 Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation trailer (problem with great opening sequences, quick Terminator: Genysis trailer thoughts)
40:30 - 51:04 Southpaw trailer
51:05 - 52:53 Dope trailer
52:54 - 55:58 Entourage trailer
55:59 - 59:19 Maggie trailer
59:20 - 1:13:03 Do franchises kill an actor's career? (predicting next big stars)
1:13:04 - 1:22:12 The different authors with different views on movies based on source material (Veronica Roth okay with Insurgent movie being drastically different, E.L. James micromanages every detail and scares off director, Gillian Flynn becoming hot thriller writer in Hollywood)
1:22:13 - 1:27:50 Franchise insanity continues (Transformers cinematic universe, Way too many Lego movies)
1:27:51 - Closing (I really had to pee)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Jake Gyllenhaal Proves His Freaky Chameleon-Like Superpowers in 'Southpaw' Trailer

Jake Gyllenhaal was robbed last year from an Oscar nomination for his transformative and riveting performance in Nightcrawler (I'd actually say it was the best of the year). Gyllenhaal has become an incredible character actor that makes major physical changes and completely throws himself into each role where he'll master strikingly different mannerisms and physical ticks for every movie. But he has gone unrecognized by the Academy outside of Brokeback Mountain because from best I can guess, he hasn't starred in Oscar style pictures. His movies are slick, stylized, and disturbing and either mainstream thrillers like Prisoners or bizarre, experimental indies like Enemy. If the actual pictures are the reason Gyllenhaal keeps getting snubbed, then expect another cold shudder over his latest transformation in this summer counter-programming release, Southpaw.

Gyllenhaal once again has thrown himself into a character drastically different than his previous. Last Fall he was the gawky and malnourished-looking Louis Bloom and now this summer he will be the absolutely ripped and chiseled boxing sensation, Billy Hope. It is amazing the lengths this talented actor will go to make his roles authentic and drastically different than his past. There wasn't much here to really get a feel for his performance, but Hope also isn't really designed to be an unforgettable and disturbing character like Bloom. I'm confident the nuance and subtle touch will still be present, because Gyllenhaal seems pretty incapable of a bad showing.

As for the movie, it feels like a grittier and darker take on the classic Rocky tale. This time around he is a superstar boxer already bathing in the spotlight but then a tragic night throws everything apart. A tragic night that seem to follow Director Antoine Fuqua's hobby of casting a talented and big name female that gets written out after only a few scenes (or maybe Rachel McAdams will appear frequently in nightmares and flashbacks). Poor Hope's life falls into a tailspin, and his stakes of rising up increase as he needs to win back the heart of his daughter, prove he can be a father, and smash up the face of the new world champion. All these things can be realized with the help of a crusty but talented trainer, who may have never played the Penguin but was an evil dictator ruling over Uganda.

It feels like a well-worn and travelled path with the expected stops. To be fair, most trailers are designed for the sole purpose of reminding you of other popular and beloved movies in hopes that the warm-fuzzy of nostalgia will draw you out. There is a chance a more complex and deeper movie is hidden in here. 

I'm still eager to see Southpaw, because I'm enamoured with Gyllenhaal and willing to give him a chance in anything he chooses (that isn't called Accidental Love). I also find myself curiously excited every time I see Fuqua attached to direct a picture, despite the fact I've only really liked Training Day, which was released back in 2001.

Fuqua is an action director and isn't about subtleties or complexities, but is heavily stylized and has a feverish pace to his movies. Even with his disappointing movies like The Equalizer, there is a grace and poetry to his action sequences that feel more artful than something made by more blunt and special effects focused directors. I find myself drawn in even if the screenplay or actual story induces eyeball rolling. I'm interested to see how he directs the boxing matches and I can feel bit of personality coming through in the trailer. The boxing sequences could be great considering they have legitimate boxing star Victor Ortiz playing the opposition. This is a hard edged boxing picture with a blaring soundtrack and a visual style that makes it feel edgier and rougher than Rocky or The Fighter.

I can't shake the feeling that this also feels a bit schmaltzy and melodramatic. Tender and touching drama isn't something I really trust Fuqua's sensibility on here. But again, there is a chance the scenes with the daughter are quieter and shorter than it seems like in the trailer. Hopefully, the picture focuses more on the director's strengths or allows Gyllenhaal shine. Considering the screenplay is written by Kurt Sutter who established his name as the showrunner for Sons of Anarchy and a major write for The Shield, it is likely going to be a testosterone fuelled adrenaline rush that splashes sweat and blood at the audience. It will be interesting to see how Sutter adapts to his first movie script and how he settles into a more focused and concise form that demands things feel more epic but also intimate.

It still stands out as something different and more adult amongst the big PG-13 franchise monsters of the summer, so that alone is enough to be intrigued. Forrest Whittaker as a grumpy trainer has potential, and I don't know Naomie Harris' role but she is a great upcoming star that hopefully has a substantial part. I also have a trainwreck-like fascination when talents like 50 Cent seem to be cast against type, and ever since Tyler Perry's eye opening performance in Gone Girl, I won't underestimate anyone before seeing them do their thing. This might not be a knock-out, but I've got hopes it can still win with a decision.

The Box Office will 'Get Hard' and Studios Hope to Take Big Grosses 'Home'

We're in our final weekend of March and that means fast approaching are the studios big guns that will be shooting for massive box office returns. But before then, we have two wide releases looking to win people over that are either hankering for some prison rape laughs or a warm relationship between a young girl and an awkward alien. The theme of the weekend is togetherness. Scott serves up his predictions of how these new releases will fare.


Sitting down to write the predictions, I had initially thought that I was going to toe the line this week and follow a little more closely with what the common analysis is. For the last two weeks I have made some deviations, some of which paid off, and others which did not. It is a cruel mistress, this predictions game. Many different and reputable sites have both Home and Get Hard poised for a neck and neck battle to place in or around the mid thirty million range. And, once again, when it comes time to put my words where my mouth is, I cannot fully jump aboard.

Before I get into my dissension, I side with popular opinion on the chances for DreamWorks Animation’s Home and its chances for success. It is sad to say that landing over thirty million would be good for the film considering its weighty budget of $135 million. Because of DreamWorks misses in the animation department over the past few years, they have altered their number of projects per year, but it would appear that no note has as of yet been made in regards to the budget. The trailers for this film attempt to boast a sincere fun between a young girl (voiced by Rihanna) and an awkward alien (voiced by Jim Parsons). It looks very bright and fun, and is an attempt at an original property.

Two years ago they were able to hit the mark with The Croods, earning an opening weekend of $43 million before they returned to the late-March slot with Mr. Peabody & Sherman, which had less life and opened just over thirty million. Are the days of DreamWorks Animation’s films being highly anticipated over and done with? There should be no counting anyone out yet, but the fact that this is their only release of this year is not a good sign. There may have been some creative mishaps along the way, but I’m a numbers guy, so I will point to the stats that may indicate part of their struggles.

Since Flushed Away in 2006, every single film they have made has had a budget of over $125 million, and 63% of those being over $145 million. That means that even their cheapest films, would need to roughly take in around $275 million to cover their production budget alone (that’s not counting the millions spent on marketing). Perhaps as they search for ways to keep going they look at how much they are investing per film.

Home Opening Weekend Prediction - $34 Million

And, this is where I pull away from the crowd. There is a very good chance that I could end up looking like an idiot over this, but I am willing to take that chance. Opening opposite the animated DreamWorks feature is the aforementioned Get Hard, which pairs up funny men Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart. I have to admit that ever since seeing the red band trailer I have housed a personal curiosity and interest for this film. It would seem that I am not the only one, as it had 10,222 tweets about it the day before opening. That’s a bad number for a film about brooding teen vampires, but decent for an R-rated comedy. However, what keeps me hesitant around the success of this film is the recent performances of both parties involved.

While Hart had an outstanding opening weekend in Ride Along (at $41 million), it could be that over-saturation is becoming an issue. Think Like a Man Too had an opening frame of $29 million, and The Wedding Ringer was much softer at $20 million. It has not been much better for Ferrell, whose The Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues and The Campaign both opened at $26 million. I think there will be a decent response to Get Hard, but I tend to believe that it will not crest the $30 million mark.

Get Hard Opening Weekend Prediction - $28 Million

And finally there is the horror film It Follows, which is coming off of a successful in limited release and is being expanded to approximately 1,200 theatres. There is much critical love for this flick, and it will now come down to just how much public awareness there is of this terrifying little darling. It averaged $40,000 per theatre in its opening weekend in four theatres, and was bumped to 32 theatres last weekend, averaging $10,000 per theatre. I am predicting that through its expansion it will end up around the $3,000 average.

 It Follows Expansion Weekend Prediction - $3.6 Million

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Get Nostalgic for the 1990s with the Unique 'Dope' Teaser Trailer

Teenage movies about actual teenagers and high school are suddenly a thing again. It is amazing how one hit can suddenly change what studios deem as something worthy for the cinemas. I'm thankful for The Fault in Our Stars success, because it has suddenly made high school pictures a viable genre again and the main reason a movie like The DUFF landed a wide release (just look at fantastic movies like Spectacular Now and The Way Way Back forced into limited release just two years ago to see what would have happened to The Duff without The Fault in Our Stars' success). The really exciting part is when a genre gains some respect and so studios are willing to take a bit of a gamble on the more challenging and quirky pictures within the type. So, I present you with Dope, currently slated for a wide release during the tentpole jammed summer (June 19th to be exact).

Now that is exactly what you should get out of a teaser with a minimum of plot or scenes but a taste of the feel and style of the movie that makes one crave more. It is a very old school feeling teaser that isn't just a shortened version of a trailer, but rather actually "teases" us with wanting much more. I'm now more excited for this coming-of-age dramedy than most of the major summer blockbusters that have already dropped trailers. Obviously, it doesn't give you much about what the picture is actually about, but it has a distinct retro feel and definitely declares that music will be a central part of the story.

Dope debuted at the Sundance Film Festival to great critical acclaim (currently stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes) and sparked a bidding war with over six movie studios that ended with Open Road Films acquiring it. They have enough faith with it that it is not only getting a wide release, but right in the heat of the summer with hungry dinosaurs and super spies. Based off Open Road's past track record, I'd say this is probably going to fall under a smaller wide release, but it still is encouraging and impressive that an intimate and character-driven story gets to play at a competitive time. It probably helps it has heavyweight producers on its side like Forrest Whittaker (who is also the pictures narrator), Puff Daddy and Pharrell Williams (who also provided four original songs to the soundtrack).

Based off the synopsis, the picture is set in modern Inglewood, California despite the graphics, music, and video game scenes making it seem like a 1990s period piece. This is likely designed to catapult the viewer into the mind and world of the main character Malcolm who is a high school geek that is obsessed with 1990s rap. The picture looks to balance some provocative and emotional drama with zany shenanigans and off-beat humour. Malcolm lives in a tough neighbourhood filled with gangs and drugs, but has dreams of escaping the life by getting into Harvard. It also contains a wild teen adventures (a must for a coming of age story) when Malcolm and his two friends spend a night at an underground party that causes all kinds of problems but also gives him a chance to finally go from zero to hero -- or rather become real dope.

The title of Dope seems to both be in reference to 1990s slang for being cool but also actual drugs. It seems like illegal substances play a major part in Malcolm's big evening. Based off the little snippets from the trailer, I'd guess there is some delightful romance thrown in as well.

Critics have said this is a break-out role for newcomer Shameik Moore who plays the flat-topped Malcolm. He also has some great support in incredible young talents like Keith Stanfield, (who will play Snoop Dog this summer in Straight Outta Compton and was phenomenal in a nuanced performance in Short Term 12) and Zoe Kravitz who is a superstar in the making with solid performances in blockbusters like the Divergent and X-Men series.

The teaser has a great energy and looks willing to be silly and crazy. It also will tackle the complexities of teenage life (especially when stuck being uncool) mixed in with the trials of living in a tough area that hardens one at too young an age. It is a hard balance but it works when you believe and trust the characters. Usually when someone actually puts work into making a simple thing like a teaser feel special and unique then it bodes well for real creativity and craftsmanship being put into the feature.

I have to confess that I'm not overly familiar with director Rick Famuyiwa's body of work with 1999's The Wood being the only picture that I've seen the trailer and was aware existed. Though he doesn't have a loaded portfolio, it does seem to be a very personal one with very specific things he wants to explore. He also isn't afraid to load on ample doses of comedy amongst his poignant storytelling.

It has probably been several years since a studio has taken a chance on a "teenagers go on an adventurous night out that changes their lives" something that was pretty common fare in the 1980s. It is even rarer now if you eliminate all the type of movies that contain aliens or supernatural creatures. This is a down-to-earth teen flick without needing CGI and explosions that isn't afraid of tougher subject matte but also quickly embrace a sense of fun. Not only can it getting a wide release be credited to The Fault in Our Stars, but I'm sure Empire becoming a massive TV rating phenomenon this year has proven that a picture steeped in rap culture and stars a predominantly Black cast is something audiences are craving (I realize TV and movies are different in how they attract but there has to be some crossover in what appeals).

If you haven't clued in, I'm totally on board with this picture. This along with Straight Outta Compton hopefully delves into rap culture and the hardships of a specific neighbourhood in a way that often gets ignored. This one also seems to have a lot of heart and charm. Unfortunately, it is also pitted on opening weekend against another movie that may have even more heart and charm in Pixar's Inside Out. Though I assume the animated feature will have a lot less references to drugs and MC Hammer's pants.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Jason Segel Joins the Lego Race but will it Get Overwhelmed with Franchise Overkill

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller are long touted as the magical duo that can turn seemingly bad ideas into massive box office and critical hits. I don't think there was anyone that was excited about film adaptations of a barely remembered goofy 1980s police procedural or an adventure based off building blocks. Yet both now are major franchises that their respective studios have high hopes for (even if the directors' end credit mocking of the idea for a continued 21 Jump Street franchise was seemingly mistaken as a road map).

The Lego Movie launched what Warner Brothers clearly has sights for a massive animated franchise with a long shelf-life. So, I think it is sort of fitting that one of the directors and writers for an upcoming spin-off happens to be someone that has a bit of a reputation for reviving franchises or turning dead genres into something fresh. Jason Segel is better known for his acting, but his writing credits include two of the delightful surprises of the past decade Forgetting Sarah Marshall and the 2011 The Muppets.

The Muppets were a pretty lagging property when 2011 came about, but Segel wrote a self-aware and slightly self-deprecating script that also had all the energy, heart, and humour from the classic movies that turned the lovable talking plush toys into hot items again. The movie is a pure pleasure with memorable songs and an incredible charm that turned it into one of the very best movies of 2011. It was so good that the rather delightful follow-up Muppets Most Wanted was a bit of a letdown in comparison.  

Forgetting Sarah Marshall revitalized the tired raunchy romantic comedy genre with something that mixed sly satire with wit and even heart. It is a movie that is equally sweet and hilarious. It also launched a spin-off picture in the almost as good Get Him to the Greek

Though some would consider Sex Tape a major flop, I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. It had moments of authenticity with the struggling but loving marriage, but also had some brilliant moments of insane humour like the sequence at the Rob Lowe character's home. So for me, Segel is on a pretty solid streak as a screenwriter.

It was his skills with the Muppets that has me the most excited about him being attached as both writer and director of The Billion Brick Race. He proved in that picture to be equally skilled at appealing to adults and nostalgia while also making something engaging for kids. He has a solid mind for a fantasy world, and I'd love to see some more musical numbers thrown into Bricksburg. Much like Lord and Miller, he can affectionately mock the world he is in while also offering up some fresh spins.

He'll be teaming up with Iron Man 3 and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation writer Drew Pearce. Pearce is clearly more proven in action, but his Marvel script is actually filled with tons of self-referential humour and doesn't take itself too seriously (think the Ben Kingsley character for an example). Plus it was actually Pearce's idea for this Lego movie that sold Warner Brothers on greenlighting it. I'm excited that this picture was birthed from actual creativity and ideas rather than just the demands of the studios. There are lots of reasons to be excited about this team up and I think we have a legitimately exciting and fun movie to look forward to watching.

Except there is a huge reason for some eye-rolling and groaning too. Because before this movie makes it to the big screen, we will be overloaded on Lego features. We have Ninjago in 2016, The Lego Batman movie in 2017, and in 2018 we will have Lego Movie 2 (because apparently we didn't just have two movies come out prior to this). Essentially with this year being the only reprieve, Warner Brothers has its eyes on a Lego movie for every year up to 2019, and of course, that is only because the 2020 Duplo movie and the 2021 Lego Harlem Globetrotters haven't been announced yet.

This leaves us with one most aggravating and money grubbing trend by major movie studios. The almost yearly churning out of movies based on a franchise with both sequels and spin-off under the guise of a cinematic universe. There is a chance there is a legitimately good idea and movie behind every single of these Lego movies. Do we really need these many features about building block trotted out in a row?

On top of that, every studio seems to be jumping this craze. I'm eagerly anticipating this year's Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, but then we have the Star Wars: Rogue One spin-off next year, Episode VIII the preceding year, then another spinoff, and if Disney has their way, it will continue that way every year. I love Star Wars and the universe may be able to handle it, but that is a whole lot of light sabres and there is no proof the market can support a Star Wars every year.

Then of course there is the Marvel Universe that has two a year and soon coming to a theatre near you, it will be three in a single year. They've been really great at creating different pictures, but eventually that starts getting to be a whole slew of guys in capes and armour. On top of that, Warner Brother and DC will be churning out their comic book characters at a yearly pace (sometimes even twice a year). Sony will do whatever it can to have a yearly franchise picture be it Ghostbusters or Robin Hood or whatever they're giddy about in a given week.

Simply put, some of these movies will be great and some will flop. But the important word that studios seem have forgotten is burn-out. Even if every Lego or Star Wars movie is awesome, you can get too much of a good thing. You can tire of seeing a similar movie set in the same world every year. The anticipation and excitement fades when there isn't any wait period between getting movies and countless trailers every year. The market just can't sustain this many franchises churning out a movie a year. Fatigue will set in, and may take longer for the larger cinematic universes, but eventually, all will suffer.

Yearly sequels from numerous franchises really haven't happen at this level at any other time in movie history. Yes, we've always had sequels. But the old Star Wars series was more than a year apart each time. Sequels usually weren't announced until it was clear audience still wanted more. Now, we have an army of movie dates locked up for sequels to movies that haven't even screened yet. There is no proof the world will be clamouring for The Billion Brick Race after already seeing three other Lego inspired movies.

In 5 years, we will probably have a really good idea what effects have been made on the movie industry with this obsession of never-ending series. Some of the series listed here will either be in morgue or have a much longer waiting period due to decreased demand. At this point, I can see why people like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were warning the movie blockbuster machine was about to explode and the industry will be badly shaken up.

On the positive side, hopefully the constant force feeding of "Big Event" pictures (and how can something be big when there are 5 or more of these a year), will likely leave a major hunger for smaller and more intimate pictures. I have high hopes this will open up the chance for at least one studio to realize there is a demand for forgotten genres like romantic comedies or personal dramas or low-key slice of life features or a competently made thriller. The multiplexes will still be clogged with brands and sequels, but I also think fresh and original pictures on a smaller budget will make a comeback.

All my nay-saying doesn't discount that many of these franchises will deliver some really great entertainment. On the Lego front, at least every movie seems to be aspiring for originality and like Marvel and Star Wars, is better equipped than most to actually be a cinematic universe. While I don't know where my excitement will be with this franchise in even two years, for now I'm pumped for some brick racing with Segel and intrigued to see what happens at the finish line.

Steven Spielberg Entering his Third 'Peter Pan Phase'

There was a period in Steven Spielberg's career that some writers and critics coined as his "Peter Pan Phase". The reference was to the fact that the director was refusing to grow up much like the tight-wearing boy who pranced through the air in Neverland. It was believed Spielberg was making sugary, fantasy adventures that may have had some more complex ideas and emotions that were masked and blurred by stories with child-like wonder and whimsy.

By some this may have been deemed an actual criticism and flaw against Spielberg's work, but I couldn't disagree more. Especially since his first "Peter Pan Phase" would be during the early to mid-1980s that saw him direct classic pictures like Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (you could also throw in 1977's Close Encounters of the Third Kind to extend this phase). To increase the notion of dabbling with the mystical and magical, you'd look at his producer credits at the time that include Gremlins, Goonies, and Back to the Future.

For example, E.T. is believed to be Spielberg dealing with the impact of divorce on a child. A heavy theme that gets smothered by the adventure of a children's relationship with a sweet-toothed alien that resembles putty. Spielberg has gone on record in the past saying Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was his own way of working through a failed relationship he was suffering through at the time.

You could see how he was accused of retreating from real emotions by plunging into fantasy. But again, I personally don't see this as a bad thing nor really even something new amongst creative people. Some of the greatest tales of adventures and fantasy were created with the writer dealing and working through more complex themes that can't necessarily be grasped at first look. Stephen King often admits to many of his horror stories being about something much more than just things that go bump in the night.

I'd much rather go on an epic adventure that may have been initially fueled by feelings of loss or ways to deal with one's actual personal life then just be presented yet another melodramatic story. E.T. and Raiders of the Lost Ark may be pure fantasy, but their also deceptively complex stories that also happen to be two of my all-time favourite movies. I wouldn't change a thing.

Spielberg was seen as growing up in the mid to late 1980s by helming pictures like The Color Purple and Empire of the Sun. If that period is truly deemed as Spielberg growing up, then 1989 to the early 1990s has to be his return to Neverland. He steeps himself in fantasy and wonder again with pictures like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Jurassic Park, and of course, his literal "Peter Pan Phase" with Hook (fittingly about a grown-up Peter Pan). After that with a few exceptions, Spielberg could be seen as abandoning Neverland with much more serious and emotionally complex movies like Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, and Munich.

I completely confess I'm simplifying things to make a point here. Spielberg in the last twenty years did make yet another Jones adventure, extensively dabbled in sci-fi, and directed the Tintin feature. He has never fully abandoned that sense of wonder and childhood, but over the past few decades, he is more associated with making 'Oscar-worthy' fare like Lincoln and War Horse. You hear about Spielberg helming a picture now and you automatically think a Best Picture contender and something with some serious weight (even if he has his detractors that think even his dramas are far too light and bubbly).

This fall's Bridge of Spies completely fits into the modern perception of Spielberg. A dramatic thriller that is based on true events set in 1960s and about the Cold War and stars Tom Hanks. It is about a lawyer who is tasked with negotiating with Soviets Russia for the safe return of a pilot who was shot down in their borders. It is one of my most anticipated movies of the year and even though it is months away from being screened has to be considered a major Oscar contender.

Then that all changes after this year, as Spielberg suddenly is ready to chase shooting stars and seek his inner child again. We have an adaptation of Roald Dahl's novel BFG, which is a children's classic about a girl teaming up with a big friendly giant to capture a group of nasty, man-eating giants. It feels like something perfect for early 1980s Spielberg.

It now looks like he won't stop with that children's tale. It was announced today he has signed to direct an adaptation of Ernest Cline's novel Ready Player One. The story is about a teenager jacked into a virtual utopia known as OASIS who goes on an adventure to discover an "Easter Egg" that will allow him to inherit the estate of the deceased creator of the world, but as it always happens, must compete with some less than scrupulous individuals. So basically, another picture that seems to fit perfectly with a Spielberg of another time. A Spielberg that would expertly turn this into a whimsical and wondrous adventure that a young Christopher would excitedly reenact in his backyard (many bike rides in the mid-1980s was my own return to E.T.).

If this truly is a return to Neverland for Spielberg with his same talents and eye for young adventure, then maybe Everett may have a modern movie to open up his imagination and trigger him to recreate in his own backyard. I'm sure this time will also have themes and concepts that he doesn't fully grasp but will still register with him on some level. Spielberg was and will hopefully prove to be the master of capturing childhood adventure on the big screen.

The foray into Neverland may be short as Spielberg is also set to direct a picture potentially starring Jennifer Lawrence based on the memoirs of war photographer Lynsey Addario, It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War. So, he won't be away from the Oscar hunt for too long and be back dealing with serious subject matter.

Sometimes the most serious stuff is best dealt with in children's tales and epic adventures. I'm excited with Spielberg's return to movies that are targeted towards kids and families. My son and daughter will have a chance to see one of the truly great directors weave his magic again and witness the heart of a man who has never been afraid to embrace his childhood.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

'The Detainee' Promises a Very Different Dystopian Future

Scott is really excited about a future where older people get shipped off to a desolated island. I'm really glad I'm not his father, because my history with islands isn't good. In this case, it seems like the love more comes from a recently announced movie. He explains more below.


For those of you that are getting a little tired of the sexy teen dystopian book trilogies turned movies, prepare to get excited. Your dystopian future has just been shaken up by the writing of Grant Pierce Myers (one of the writers who did the screenplay for The Maze Runner) who is signed on to pen the movie adaptation of elderly dystopian book, The Detainee. It is a time when there is a non-stop flow of the same style of film that attempts to sell us on the stories of ‘the chosen one’ or ‘the one person who could unite them,’ all the scenarios contain the hope placed in the hands of hormone injected teens, who, no doubt, have some kind of romantic entanglement.

The Detainee focuses on a future where the elderly have been banished by the youth who see them responsible for the awful conditions of society. It is this demographic protagonist shift that could end up adding a breath of fresh air to the sub-genre as well as shaking things up a bit. Good things can happen when studios take chances on deviating from the established path. When I saw the teen dystopian film The Giver in theatres, I was seated amongst a crowd of older theatre goers who had no doubt been drawn in by the fact that Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep (who did not get an Oscar nomination for appearing in the film, an oddity from the Academy) were attached.

It is this audience that is commonly neglected by film executives as they plot out their strategic releases. It is also this audience that has proven multiple times over that they can give long legs to quality films. Both Gravity and Gone Girl are glowing recent examples of the hunger that mature crowds have for reasons to get a sitter for the kids and purchase the mammothly inflated costs of butter flavoured theatre popcorn. This year’s unexpected success story has been Kingsman: The Secret Service, which threw onto theatre screens an R-rated film that had both young and old talent, and created curiosity around seeing Colin Firth kicking people’s asses. As one older audience member put it after the film was done, ‘it was cute.’ That’s not the phrase I would have chosen, but I was impressed to see that different demographics were able to groove to such a film.

Who knows if this movie will ever get made, or if it will end up in limited release. It may be an instant flop, and could reinforce the notion that the target audience should always be young people. There is a chance that it could come and go without having any impact on the cinematic landscape, but it also could be the kind of film that instantly alters strategies of competing studios. Regardless of how it all turns out, it is simply an encouraging sign that some people out there see diversity in how stories are told as a good thing and a risk to take.

Monday, March 23, 2015

'Insurgent' Fails to Rise Above 'Divergent' but 'The Gunman' Completely Bombs at the Box Office

Scott looks at a weekend where the wide releases didn't meet the expectations the studios had for them. Though one picture fared far better and could be considered a decent success, while the other might be the signs of the death of an entire genre.


While it was not able to see a boost over the franchise starter Divergent, Insurgent (seeing a theme with the names?) still was able to have a healthy opening weekend and posted almost the exact same debut take as the first with $54 million. Lionsgate/Summit was not merely hoping for a similar success, but seemed to be banking on a sizeable increase in interest for the franchise. This can be evidenced by the fact that the budget for Insurgent was approximately thirty percent larger than the first film, as well as having an aggressive marketing campaign that highlighted action above everything else. Reaching for the growing franchise can be a bar that is set rather high. Even though The Hunger Games was a success for both audiences and critics, the sophomore attempt only brought an increase of four percent.

The studio was also offering Insurgent in IMAX and 3D, which Divergent did not have, to play off the more ‘epic’ vision of the film the marketing campaign held. In actuality, with the increased ticket prices associated with IMAX and 3D, the fact that this film had the same take as the first one indicates that there were less tickets sold overall. Where this movie really aims to make ground is overseas, where spectacle movies fare better. After its opening weekend, it is already becoming clear that the foreign markets are hungrier for this film. According to Box Office Mojo, Insurgent posted incredible gains over Divergent in France (increasing 71%), the UK (74%) and Brazil (106%).

Before the weekend began, I had a terrible feeling regarding the fate of Sean Penn’s action flick, The Gunman. The genre of older gents picking up guns is a fading sunset, and he arrived too late to the party. With next to no Twitter activity prior to release, The Gunman fell below most expectations and ended up with $5 million. This film should be a tombstone that reminds many others that peril is afoot when believing that it is easy to replicate the success of Taken.

With a rumoured production budget of $40 million, there seems to be no way possible that The Gunman will be able to salvage this situation. The film sits in thirty third spot for worst opening for films opening in over 2,500 theatres and joins the likes of other 2015 releases Blackhat, Mordecai, Unfinished Business, and Strange Magic in the top fifty.

The faith based film Do You Believe? was a very difficult one to predict. These types of movies don’t generally have the same indicators in the build-up. A lot of the success seems to do with the promotion from churches and that sort of word of mouth. Whatever the case, the same level of interest shown in last year’s films God’s Not Dead, Heaven’s For Real, and Son of God could not be found here. Do You Believe? opened to a soft $4 million dollars over 1,320 theatres. It may be the smallest total made from an opening film this week, but it does have the leg up on The Gunman for average money made per theatre, posting a modest $3,030 to Sean Penn’s $1,786.

The Movie Breakdown Ep. 81: Just Can't Get Enough of Dystopias Filled with Pretty People and Ripped Older Men Shooting Baddies

This week on The Movie Breakdown I review the two major new releases in Insurgent and The Gunman. Scott then takes a look at the critically acclaimed 2014 horror picture, The Babadook. After that we discuss some trailers that include Pixels, Insidious Chapter 3, and Infinitely Polar Bear. As always if you love the show then please spread the word.

The Movie Breakdown Outline:

00:00 -  8:30 Usual rabbit-trail packed Introduction (Inability to post links, Scott's fly-down confession, writing erotica, professional wrestling mullets, reprimanding from wife and lack of zippers on pants for three year olds)
08:31 - 20:59 Insurgent review
21:00 - 25:28 The shifting of what studios are creating for teens (state of Divergent series, bragging about predicting The Fault in Our Stars would create a trend, return of high school dramas)
25:29 - 32:35 Paper Towns trailer review
32:36 - 45:30 The Babadook review
45:31 - 53:17 The Gunman review (remembering when Chappie made me fall asleep, time to retire Old Thespian actioners, problem with an action movie taking itself too seriously, Rambo!)
53:18 - 57:05 Scott looking at how successful he was at predicting new releases' box office numbers
57:06 -1:02:17 Pixels trailer review (problem with special effects comedies, Sandler taking chances again)
1:02:18 - 1:05:31 The Transporter Refueled trailer review
1:05:32 - 1:09:08 Insidious Chapter 3 trailer review (how I prefer to see Before I Wake)
1:09:09 - 1:14:35 Infinitely Polar Bear trailer review
1:14:36 - 1:24:04 Studios gravitating towards established names then copy entirely different movie (Verona, 6 Robin Hoods, Franchise burn out for even the big names, lack of anticipation with no waiting periods for sequels)
1:24:05 - Conclusion (Get Hard next week)

Star Rating Recap:
Insurgent *** (CS)
The Babadook **** (SM)
The Gunman ** (CS)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Babadook Review: The Gripping Manifestation of Single Parenting's Horrors

The Babadook was a massive critical hit that did something that is rare for horror pictures, which is make many respected film critics' top ten of the year lists. Just in case you need more motivation to check it out, Scott offers up his own glowing review.


Rating: ****

Starring: Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Daniel Henshall, Hayley McElhinney
Director: Jennifer Kent
Screenplay: Jennifer Kent
Genre: Horror, Drama, Thriller
Rated: NR
Release Date: November 28, 2014
Run Time: 93 minutes

When I watched the Australian horror The Babadook, it did not take me long to remember the monsters that inhabited the dark realm under my bed and the closet when I was a child. The fear of having to emerge from the sanctuary of my protective sheets and venture to the bathroom late at night would overcome me, the shadows populated by every insecurity and worry that could run forefront in a young boy. My parents in their sleep were sometimes summoned when the unknown became too much and the courage of the little boy shattered into obscurity. It is this dreadful nocturnal condition that The Babadook taps into, a child needing comfort from the protective parent. But what happens when it is the parent that has allowed the evil to take up residence in the creaks and groans of a house at night?
The film is a horror of basic familiar concept, playing on the haunted house/possession genre and building up to the dread that comes when the sun goes down. It centres on a single mother, Amelia (Essie Davis) who has never allowed any amount of proper grief over the tragic loss of her husband. Her life is filled up by the energetic and misbehaving ways of her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) who drains her energy, leaving her no form of life that she can call her own. It is when Samuel one night asks her to read the children’s book The Babadook (which had appeared in his room, and one that is enough to scare an adult) that Amelia’s world turns into a vortex of insomnia, paranoia, and horror.

It is hard to watch this film and not see it as allegorical to the dangers of allowing personal demons to exist, such as Amelia does with the grief over her deceased husband. First time feature film director Jennifer Kent, who also penned the film, weaves with crafted excellence with the imagery of denial and the relational problems that it creates with those around you. Was the scary monster in her closet actually there, or was it all in her mind as she emerged at a breaking point with her son under the weight of her pain and agony?

As the film intensifies, it is Amelia who becomes crippled and twisted in the fears with a parental role reversal happening with Samuel. She reverts to youth, hiding under the covers when night arrives in a paralytic state, a message from Kent to the power unaccepted grief can have over an individual. The relationship between mother and son jumps through different phases, and, even in the midst of fist-clenching terror, shows the light of genuine love, commitment, and protection.

Kent asserts her abilities to not only detail a complex relationship and symbolic story, but delivers unsettling scenes better than those who are veterans of the horror game. Some of the set ups to the scares enlist the well-known paces, but the delivery is with a much steadier hand and attention to subtlety. She refuses to believe that simply inserting loud noises will accomplish the task, and instead plays well with varying levels of sound for what is the most appropriate at different stages of the film.

The greatest films are ones that are transcendental to their genres, films that don’t merely exist to add to cinematic canon but have a bolder story to tell. They may appear to be just another film, but have a life separate to the surface and use imagery and paces of a certain genre to enhance a more personal story. The Babadook will not end up getting the same social recognition of movies like Alien, but believe never for a second that it isn’t anywhere near as good. Just be warned - this is a beautiful and personal story, but it is also scary enough to turn an adult into a child.