So Secret Life of Pets went beyond everyone’s expectations and reeled in $104 Million last weekend. That is giant for any film, but I’m planning to write a separate post all about this film that made more in its opening weekend than any other original non-adapted property. Think about movies like Inside Out and Avatar. Yes, Secret Life of Pets just did something unprecedented. So what’s coming next? Do any of this weekend’s offerings have what it takes to dethrone the pets? Let’s find out.
There were a tremendous number of innovative and well crafted movies in 2010. This made it very hard for me to decide on my top movie for this year. A lot of the the critics that I really respect pick a ton of independent films that only 20% of film-goers have even really had the opportunity to see. I tend to watch more populist films or independent films that get a fair amount of press. As I have already expressed, I am only picking from movies that I have seen, so I had to pass over films like Never Let Me Go, or A Prophet.
Even without those films, and not counting the three that I finally chose, we still had Inception, Black Swan, Exit Through The Gift Shop, Dogtooth, True Grit, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Meek’s Cutoff, and Winter’s Bone. Yes, you heard that correctly, I am not including Inception in my top three. It is certainly a good film and I would consider it part of my top 10 of the year, but it had some big problems that I couldn’t get past. Christopher Nolan wants us to see this as his greatest achievement, and while it is gorgeous and very intricately crafted I wish he didn’t feel the need to explain everything so explicitly and the fact that we don’t get much character development.
As far as the box office for the year, it looks like this year is lining up to be very similar to 2010. Five of the top ten highest grossing films of the year were animated, six if you include Alice in Wonderland, and many of them were very good, but I think that as we march backwards through time we will see the chasm between a film’s financial success and visionary prowess shrink. So let’s see the three films that I put on the top of the heap.
3rd – The King’s Speech
Tom Hooper’s historical feature The King’s Speech was the big winner at the Oscars celebrating the films of 2010. It won 4 Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Colin Firth who gave a fantastic central performance as a man with a crippling handicap who just happened to be Britain’s King George VI. The central relationship between Firth and Geoffrey Rush who plays his unorthodox speech therapist is filled with a wry and self-effacing sense of humor.
It’s a pleasure to watch Firth bring a heavy tension and frustration to his role as a man who cannot find his voice who has been thrust into the role of the voice of all of England. Firth begins the film by stepping up to a microphone as if he is stepping into a hangman’s noose. After a series of failed attempts with vocal coaches, his wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) pairs him with the unconventional Rush who insists on calling the budding monarch “Bertie” and treating him as an equal. Eventually, Firth unbends under Rush’s calm, unforgiving style and unwavering good humor. Firth’s agony and this rich relationship makes this one a good candidate for the best of the year.
2nd – Toy Story 3
Toy Story 3 was the top grossing film of the year coming in almost $100 million above Alice in Wonderland. I often think about the reason why these animated films do so well at the box office. I think a huge part of it is because kids can’t go to the movies by themselves. So with every group of happy children there is at least one adult along for the ride. It is like a buy one get one deal in reverse where the theaters sell one ticket and get one more at full price for good measure. However, I think that with Toy Story 3, there may have been times when the kids were being dragged in by the parents who were hoping to catch a glimpse of the magic they saw years before.
In this third and what we thought would be final Toy Story movie, we see a bunch of toys desperately trying to force an 18-year-old to play with them the way he did a decade ago. Coming to the realization that he has moved on, they mourn and debate about their place as Andy’s toys. The Toy Story movies have always been about the joy of play, but never before has it seemed like such a drag to be a toy. The fate of most toys is probably a horror story if we think about it. Essentially, they are immortal beings whose only pleasure comes from entertaining fickle children who will quickly grow up to forget them, leaving them to be broken and discarded.
There were few grimmer movie moments in 2010 than the point where the toys face their deaths, and few more uplifting sequences than the film’s ending. It’s strange to speak of a kids’ film as challenging, moving, and heartfelt, but Pixar’s movies continue to be some of the most sophisticated and entertaining films that we see all year, bar none. They did it again this year with Finding Dory though maybe not to the extent of Toy Story 3.
1st – The Social Network
Writer Aaron Sorkin (West Wing, A Few Good Men) and director David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac) make a movie about the contentious beginnings of Facebook, scored by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross from metal band Nine Inch Nails. While that certainly sounds interesting and potentially exciting, it also sounds like it could be a bit of a mess. I remember thinking when I heard about the plans for this film that it had everything it needed to be great it just had to find a way to put all those things into one box.
That is what makes this movie is so audaciously impressive. Sorkin is famous for his extremely verbal dialogue. How could that exist alongside the visual stylings of a guy like Fincher? And what business do these guys have working on a Facebook biopic since their specialties seemed to be government corruption and cover-ups, murder, scandal, and social unrest? They made it work to amazing effect. Using the deposition recordings of two separate lawsuits against Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg as an ingenious framing device,The Social Network traces the site’s origin in all its agonizing complexity.
Speaking of Zuckerberg, if you have seen this movie, the picture that you get in your head probably looks a good bit more like actor Jesse Eisenberg than the actual founder. Eisenberg was able to capture the innovation and youthful energy of Zuckerberg while also detailing his all too human flaws. We completely forget that this is a movie about recent events in the unfolding of the technological world and we are enthralled in this compelling story of a genius who is often petty and puerile but is also driven pathologically by the same thing that drives the 500 billion users of Facebook… the need to belong.
What do you think? Did I get it right? I’m actually going to put an asterisk on this one because I would like to potentially come back and add Toy Story 3 if I don’t use my four ties before the end.
It is Summer! Well not officially, but it is hot outside and the kids are out of school, so that means that lots of families will be embarking on a classic staple of my childhood… the road trip. I have so many memories sitting in the back of my aunt’s suburban as we traveled all over the Southeastern United States visiting campgrounds, state parks, beaches, springs, and caverns. I hope to instill plenty of these memories in my kids as well.
But perhaps you are like me and you have to work most of the summer and don’t get to participate in a lot of the fun. That’s okay, you can live vicariously through some movie characters in some great road trip movies. I will say that these are probably not the best movies to watch while you are on a road trip, that is a list for another day. There are so many that I will share a couple of honorable mentions, but these are my top 3. Please share your favorites in the comments below.
Honorable mentions (in no particular order):
The Blues Brothers (1980) – a quotable cult classic, they were on a mission from God.
National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) – Come rain, shine, dead relatives, or dragged dogs, the Griswolds were determined to get to Walley World. Skip the sequels and watch the original.
Thelma & Louise (1991) – They just wanted a girls’ weekend away. And instead they got a modern landmark of feminism on film.
Dumb and Dumber (1994) – Clearly not the smartest film on the list, but just try to keep a straight face as Lloyd and Harry rumble through America in their dog-shaped “shaggin’ wagon.”
Zombieland (2009) – Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) emerges from a World of Warcraft marathon to find zombies have taken over America. When Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) shows up, Columbus joins his quest for Twinkies and zombie annihilation.
3. Rain Man (1988)
When car dealer Charlie Babbitt (Tom Cruise) learns that his estranged father has died, he returns home to Cincinnati, where he discovers that he has an autistic older brother named Raymond (Dustin Hoffman) and that his father’s $3 million fortune is being left to the mental institution in which Raymond lives. Motivated by his father’s money, Charlie checks Raymond out of the facility in order to return with him to Los Angeles. The brothers’ cross-country trip ends up changing both their lives.
This was the highest-grossing film of 1988 and won four Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Hoffman, Best Director for Barry Levinson, and Best Original Screenplay. IMDb users rated it 8.0 out of 10. It is so much more than a road-trip movie, it is just good cinema.
2. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Years after the collapse of civilization, the tyrannical Immortan Joe enslaves apocalypse survivors inside the desert fortress the Citadel. When the warrior Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) leads the despot’s five wives in a daring escape, she forges an alliance with Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), a loner and former captive. Fortified in the massive, armored truck the War Rig, they try to outrun the ruthless warlord and his henchmen in a deadly high-speed chase through the Wasteland.
You might say that it is more of a chase movie than a road trip movie (especially since there are no actual roads just desert wasteland) but I think it should get a pass for such a large vision from George Miller being pulled off in nearly flawless fashion. It is a technical masterpiece and a great piece of storytelling. It is sitting at an 8.1 on IMDb.
1. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
The Hoover family — a man (Greg Kinnear), his wife (Toni Collette), an uncle (Steve Carell), a brother (Paul Dano) and a grandfather (Alan Arkin) — piles into a VW bus and heads to California to support a daughter (Abigail Breslin) in her bid to win the Little Miss Sunshine Contest. The sanity of everyone involved is stretched to the limit as the group’s quirks cause epic problems as they travel along their interstate route.
I can’t even think of another movie that I would consider at #1. When I think of a road trip story this is what comes into my head now. The comedy and tragedy are so intertwined. This is one seriously messed up family, but the close quarters of the van and the superb storytelling makes it feel like its your messed up family.
So what do you think? Sound off in the comments below! We’ll argue about it until dad threatens to turn the car around.
With X-Men: Apocalypse, Alice Through The Looking Glass, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows tumbling their way down the top 10, there’s more than enough room for a couple more sequels to make waves amid another weekend stuffed with multiple new wide releases. This weekend we will see a highly anticipated follow up to one of the best horror films of the last 10 years. Second, we have a not-so-highly anticipated sequel to a mediocre mystery drama about a troupe of magicians illusionists. Finally, we see a video-game adaption from a visionary director that has been doing amazingly well in China and Russia.
The Conjuring 2
So far, 2016 has become a graveyard for high-profile sequels as Alice Through the Looking Glass, Zoolander 2, Allegiant, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, and The Huntsman: Winter’s War have all under-performed. However, both cinematic continuations hitting theaters Friday look like they will bring in respectable grosses. The Conjuring 2 will almost certainly take the #1 spot this weekend after the dazzling run of its predecessor in 2013. I won’t be watching it, because I don’t like having nightmares.
The Conjuring, based on the spooky real-life dealings of paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, grossed $41.9 million in its opening weekend nearly three years ago. Its sequel, also directed by James Wan with Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson returning, is opening on approximately 3,200 screens this weekend, and will bring the series back to No. 1 at the weekend box office. For starters, strong critical reviews for a modern horror film are almost an anomaly, but The Conjuring 2 has them, as 64 percent of critics surveyed by Metacritic have given the film a positive review.
While it is expected to disappoint in North America, Warcraft, however, could put up a worthy fight for the No. 2 slot. Traditionally, video game adaptations are awful, but if anyone call pull off the impossible, it is Duncan Jones the director of two of the most original and thrilling sci-fi movies of the last 20 years in Moon and Source Code. The film hits almost 3,400 North American screens this weekend with a robust international gross already under its belt. Based on the wildly popular Blizzard Entertainment video game series with millions of active subscriber accounts.
Warcraft brought in the biggest Thursday gross ever (around $45 million) in China following a huge estimated $46 million opening on Wednesday, upping its total in the country to more than $90 million and counting. Given its low critical reviews (32 percent on Metacritic) and lack of star power among the cast, the picture is seemingly selling itself on brand alone. However, with more than 1.7 million likes on its official Facebook page, Warcraft also seems to be making a decent impact with its target demographic via their go-to medium: the internet.
Now You See Me 2
Now You See Me 2 has big shoes to fill. Its 2013 predecessor was arguably the most unexpected runaway hit of the year, grossing $351.7 million worldwide during its run. This film has a great following and has infused some new talent into it’s cast. As I watch, I’m going to be waiting for
Harry Daniel Radcliffe to pull out his wand.
The only problem for Now You See Me 2, however, is that its legs are probably nowhere near as sturdy as its forerunner’s. Critics haven’t been as kind this time around (it currently sits at 48 percent on Metacritic), though audience anticipation is strong, I think we will see a fairly warm welcome from fans, but that passion will quickly die down and Now You See Me 2 will join the graveyard of 2016 sequels.
This movie should have been great. So, what happened? In a word, Marvel happened.
I don’t get why it took so long for this to become a phenomenon. Comic books have been mixing and blending story arcs and character development for more than 60 years. In the many different comics iterations and timelines, these two Justice League teammates have battled at least a dozen times or more. So why has it taken so long for movie studios to grasp the idea that while stand alone superhero movies are great, comic book characters joining forces or engaging in battle is a golden ticket?
I can understand why and I’m personally glad that 60s filmmakers didn’t attempt to create epic superhero battles. The effects were not ready for it. Unless a talented director like Cecil B. DeMille got involved, the film would have likely never been made or would have been terrible. But since the 80s, we have been primed for some epic showdown. Imagine, instead of Batman Returns, we got Michael Keaton’s Batman joining forces with as Wonder Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) to defeat a Superman (George Clooney) who falls under the control of Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman). That would have been crazy. But instead, the studios were content to create their sequels.
Marvel came to understand this first. With the crazy success of Iron Man it was obvious to studio execs that even less popular comic characters could drive a story if given the right material and a chance. Since then, we have seen Marvel bet against the house with properties like Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Ant-Man and they have won big. (However, they have had missteps along the way, but most of those came out of Fox. (I’m talking to you Daredevil, X-Men Origins, and the not-so-Fantastic Four.) They learned who their audience was and they played right into their pocketbooks. Not only can these properties hold their own audience, but we go nuts when you mix them together.
- Stay grounded in reality. I think that Marvel has a distinct edge here because their comics are set in real cities. Spiderman web slings around New York not Gotham and even though Thor is from Asgard he lands in New Mexico instead of Smallville. This connection to the audience is crucial and shouldn’t be downplayed.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. I hate to quote the Joker, but “Why so serious?” Take Batman and Iron Man as examples. They were both orphaned as teenagers, they both inherited vast sums of money and were thrust to the top of their family’s empire, they are both crazy smart and have major character flaws, they both decide to don suits of their own creation to fight crime (albeit one is for revenge while the other is for redemption). So why is there so much difference between the brooding bat, and the playboy rocketman? Maybe you have to chock it up to their personalities, but I will tell you that moviegoers may appreciate a dark and contemplative movie that wrestles with existential quandries. They may even tolerate that from their superhero movie (Thank you Dark Knight) but if every film is like that, it isn’t as enjoyable. The Marvel films have walked this tightrope brilliantly, and I believe that it has made the difference in the success of their films and the detriment of others. In a word, a comic book movie should be, above all, fun.
- Tell great stories. This is more of a general principle for all movies and it kinda goes hand in hand with staying rooted in reality. As a movie-goer, if you don’t give me a compelling story that I can follow, I don’t care if you are Stanley Kubrick or Michael Bay, I will not care for your movie, because there is nothing to care about. That means that you can’t give me a movie that is so complex that I need to take notes as I go, and it can’t be so vapid that I feel like it has about as much substance as a balloon. When you have a huge film like Spiderman 3 with 3 newly introduced villains and then you waste precious character development time by throwing in a street dancing emo Peter Parker, the audience says nope, not worth it. On the flip side, you can have Captain America: Civil War with 12 Marvel Characters including a handful that we just met and as long as you give me funny dialogue, awesome special effects, and a believable story arc, they will be with you all the way.
I will say this, I didn’t hate Batman vs. Superman. It just left me wanting more and less at the same time, if that makes any sense. I wanted to see more depth of character than brooding and contemplative stares. I wanted the movie to be boiled down to a simple plot without DC getting ahead of itself and setting up a whole range of other movies that are in the pipeline. If the movie I’m watching isn’t great, it makes me much less excited about the future movies in the franchise.
This movie was almost enough to push the viewers into clinical depression. it is extremely dark and foreboding. Where was the fun DC? It left me craving Joel Schumacher Batman. I’m hoping that the DC universe is going to be darkest before the dawn, and now that we are after the dawn they will come out of their moody teenage angst. Tell me what you thought.