Doing The Impossible: Ranking Pixar's Short Films

on Friday, May 29, 2009   6 comments

Everybody has their little Pixar list. The one that ranks the nine (now ten) films in order from their favorite to least favorite. There might be some gray areas, where they'll claim "Ratatouille and Monster's Inc. are tied," but it at least will give some semblance of favoritism. Typically, Cars and A Bug's Life will be towards the bottom, while a Toy Story is always one of the top, but basically you'll find a wide variety of discrepancy in these rankings. Such is the beauty of Pixar, I suppose.

So originally I was going to put out what I considered to be the rankings of the Pixar full length feature films. But then I thought that was a little boring. Or at least, unoriginal. Everybody has seen and thought about the Pixar films for themselves, they have their own ranking in mind. But I wanted to do some sort of Pixar related list, in honor of the release of Up. And then it dawned on me: the Pixar short film. When I was younger I enjoyed these, but thought they just distracted and delayed the viewing of the movie. I think it was Finding Nemo where I really started to appreciate them. So I decided to collect all the films onto this very page, and rank them as I see fit.

But this wasn't an easy task. I haven't seen a lot of them in a while (some of them never, or at least since I was 8), and while I knew which would be my favorite, the others are incredibly difficult to pick from. Like the films themselves, there's not a bad one in the bunch.

Note: The way Pixar usually does this, at least recently, is they will have a short film released in the theater that has nothing to do with the movie, and subsequently release with the DVD a short film starring some of the film's main characters (a la Mater and the Ghostlight for Cars). I'm not including the latter. The only movie that gets iffy is Toy Story because it had a different short film attached to it in theaters and on video, but since neither includes characters from the movie, I included both.
Another note: It's interesting, but most, if not all, of Pixar's early short films all had to do with inanimate objects doing very animated things.

Here goes.

11. Geri's Game

Released with A Bug's Life. It's hard to put this last, especially considering it won the Academy Award for Best Short Film. It's about an old man, who must have severe schizophrenia, playing a game of chess against himself. Except one side of him is much better at the game. The character (characters?) is great, and it's cute and funny, but compared to a lot of the other's it's pretty simple, story and animation wise.

10. Tin Toy

Another Academy Award winner. This was released with Toy Story when it came on video, and was an obvious inspiration for the movie. A small tin toy soldier tries to run from a drooling, reckless, and horrifying looking baby who isn't careful with toys. It's one of their earliest films, made in 1988, and it shows, particularly on that baby. I haven't seen anything more horrifying since It's Alive. And look at that gigantic diaper! But it's very impressive for the time, and gets points for originality.

9. Luxo Jr.

That lamp you see stomp the 'i' in Pixar before all their movies? This is where it came from. Released with Toy Story 2 but made in 1986, this fantastic film depicts what must be an adult and child luxo lamp interacting and playing with Pixar's trademark star crested ball. It also perfectly demonstrates Pixar's ability to humanize anything, including lamps. We see, without words or facial expression, the jovial youth in the small, hopping lamp and the irritability and impatience in the elder. I also love the detail they've put into it. For instance, when that small lamp hops, they could have easily kept the chord relatively motionless except for near the lamp's base. But instead, they have that little ripple-wave go the entire length and off the screen. Nice touch, Pixar. Well played.

8. Partly Cloudy

Unfortunately this one isn't out yet, since it's attached to Up. I'll briefly describe it, so you can get some sort of image. It shows thousands of storks carrying adorable little young creatures, whether they be babies or kittens or puppies, and delivering them to their respective parents. The storks then fly up into the clouds, which we come to see are beings that mold animals out of their fluff and zap them to life. Most clouds make these adorable little creatures, but one seems to only make the ones with razor sharp teeth. The poor stork that's stuck delivering his creations has to put up with a lot more injuries and a lot less cuddly-wuddlies than any of his peers. I won't spoil it, but it's a creative story with some really neat elements. For instance, when a cloud cries it doesn't come from his eyes. It just pours from him, like rain. Well not like rain, it is rain. Rain is clouds crying. Got it?

7. Red's Dream

Ah, who hasn't heard the story of the poor unicycle who only wanted to be in show business? Oh that's right, nobody, because Pixar had the imagination to create it. Released with Toy Story in its theatrical run, it shows a poor, red tricycle that's stuck in the corner of a bike shop, still not selling despite it's half-off bargain price. The tricycle (Red, I assume), dreams of a life in the center ring and wowing the audiences. The biggest downer of the Pixar short films is poignant and touching, and makes me care about a flipping tricycle. Stop toying with my emotions, Pixar!

6. One Man Band

Released with the movie Cars, this short film shows two musicians, with ridiculously complex instruments, competing for the solitary coin of a young child. As their greed and competition intensifies the child becomes frightened and, in desperation to stop the noise, plugs her ears and loses her coin. At which point she orders a violin from the musicians, plays a solo, and gets a bagful of coins in ten seconds. Clever, charming, cute, comical. The four C's of Pixar.

5. For the Birds

Released with Monster's Inc. and the last of the Academy Award winning short films, this shows a group of identical chattering birds hanging out on a wire when a goofy lookin' bird wishes to join. I feel sorry for the dodo bird (who seems to be at a lower mental capacity), but at the same time he's making that wire sag! I'd be frustrated if I were one of those little birds too. But they were being pretty bitchy, so I guess they get theirs in the end.

4. Knick Knack

Made in 89, but attached to Finding Nemo, this hysterical short film depicts a sno-globe snowman's struggle to get out of his bubble and into the arms of the gorgeous, plastic, bikini clad figurine. Where he kept a hammer, a bull dozer, a blow torch and stacks of TNT is beyond me, since that igloo is just a cut out... But it's damn funny, and the animation is spectacular. The water movement, the little floating snow flakes, there's so much detail they put into this, and this came only a year after Tin Toy. Also, it has the most heart-breakingly hilarious ending of any of these little shorts.

3. Boundin'

Released with The Incredibles, this is perhaps the most unique of the Pixar shorts, at least stylistically. It certainly has the most words (that is, more than one) than any of the others. With it's absurdly catching country ballad, great animation, good story with a good message, Boundin' is great in its absurdity, and the wise old Jackalope with his pink eyes has words useful for everybody. It was written, directed, narrated, and with a musical score by Bud Luckey.

2. Lifted

We all remember our driver's test. That was pretty stressful, right? Compare that to this poor alien adolescent, who is taking the difficult and dread abduction test, and fails quite miserably. Released with Ratatouille, this once again shows Pixar's ability to imagine the original and then make it great. This hilarious sketch plays out like a 4 minute version of a Far Side comic. The hopeless kid and the stoic grader just make it all the better. But that poor bastard who was being abducted woke up with some bad bruises I'll bet.

1. Presto

Released with Wall-E, this is without a doubt my favorite Pixar short. I actually think it was my favorite part of the entire feature. The epitome of creativity and putting a witty spin on a magician's hat, it hilariously blends slapstick humor with bizarre spatial anomalies in a movie more creative than anything else out there. I wouldn't mind seeing this expanded to a full film, it has so many possibilities. I'd never think the common 'Rabbit wants a carrot' gag could be played out with such inventiveness.

And for those wonding:
9. Cars
8. A Bug's Life
7. Wall-E
6. Monster's Inc.
5. Ratatouille
4. The Incredibles
3. Toy Story
2. Toy Story 2
1. Finding Nemo

And I haven't been able to place Up yet. It's too soon.

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This Week in Blockbusters: Up

on Thursday, May 28, 2009   9 comments

Yomygod... It's finally here. I was excited about Wolverine. I look forward to seeing Angels and Demons, I'm being infinitely patient with a friend would like to 'finish the book first.' (ahem), and Terminator looked like a good diversion. But the first film I've been really ecstatic about, the one I've anticipated the most, the one I might actually see during its midnight debut, comes out at 12:01 tonight, Disney/Pixar's Up.

I've purposely avoided too much information about this movie, just because I don't want to be spoiled on what I foresee to be another masterpiece. When I heard the early premise, and all we knew was, "an old guy straps balloons to his house and flies away," I won't lie, I had my fleeting doubts. But my faith was strong and my spirit pure, and as I've said, if Pixar announced they were making a movie called "The Little Shit-Biscuit That Could" I would probably froth at the mouth at its release as well. Blind brand loyalty? Perhaps. But when the brand has not delivered a bad movie yet, nay, when the brand has delivered at least 8 (I say 9) great movies it's hard not to go gaga over each subsequent release.

The movie sounds, not surprisingly, unique and imaginative. (See the treatise on the remakes posted yesterday. Oh, also add Alien to the remake/prequel category). An old widower, who had always promised his wife he would take her to South America finally fulfills that promise by shooting balloons out his chimney and flying south. He accidentally takes a young boy scout with him, who was on the front porch during lift off. From the preview I know there's an old antagonist, a big funny sounding bird, and a dog with a collar that allows his thoughts to be communicated to humans (interrupted every few seconds by the thought "Squirrel!"). That's about all I want to know. It looks funny, charming, original, inventive; everything I want from a Pixar film.

So far it has a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and 50 critics have voted in. I expect that number to rise; the two nay-sayers are not exactly the most popular on the sight and tend to vote down popular, good movies. A lot of people actually predicted Armond White would vote it down, based on his track record. So reviews are wildly positive. Box office predictions say Up could rack in approximately 60 million this weekend.

Oh, and I believe a teaser for Toy Story 3 is attached as well. Though it might be another sequel, with Toy Story 2 Pixar showed they made sequels just as innovative as they do their original movies.

Excitement Buzz: 8.5/10

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Holy Shit, McG's Orginal Ending for Terminator Salvation Even Worse Than We Knew

on Thursday, May 28, 2009   5 comments

You know that little original ending you've seen floating around the internet? The one that was leaked for Terminator Salvation? The one that infuriated everybody so much that they changed it? The one I mentioned here? Well if not, here it is: John Conner dies. They decide his image is too important for the resistance, so his skin was put over the cyborg Marcus's body.

That's horrible, right? As a pretty strong outsider of the Terminator fan universe, I can say all in all it's a bad idea. But that wasn't the end of it. It went farther, and by 'farther' I mean deeper into the pile of shitty ideas, as if finding shittiest idea of all was their goal, and they thought that if they found and used this shitty idea, it would open the secrets of the universe so they could become omniscient beings who were smart enough to know how to produce shitty ideas like a shitty idea sweat shop would.

McG tells Entertainment Weekly:

"Connor dies, okay? He's dead," McG continues. "And Marcus offers his physical body, so Connor's exterior is put on top of his machine body. It looks like Connor, but it's really Marcus underneath. And all of the characters we care about (Kyle Reese, Connor's wife Kate, etc.) are brought into the room to see him and they think it's Connor. And Connor gets up and then there's a small flicker of red in his eyes and he shoots Kate, he shoots Kyle, he shoots everybody in the room. Fade to black. End of movie. Skynet wins. F--- you!"

F--- you? F--- YOU?!!!! That's you're brilliant idea? Holy hell, how were you paid to make this movie? I'm actually furious that this was ever a possibility. Who wrote this, some brainless emo kid who hates his father, cuts his self, and has never seen a Terminator movie?

McG (what a ridiculously stupid name, I'd like to reiterate) calls the ending 'nihilistic' and 'ballsy.' Sure. It's also nonsensical and retarded. It would have been fine if they'd ended on a low note, where Skynet had the upper hand, much like The Empire Strikes Back. But you don't kill you're main character, and you don't do anything that defies all credible logic. You don't do nihilism for the sake of nihilism, throwing everything else out the window for cheap f--king shock value, you inbred f--king foolish moron. The movies are already full of light paradoxes, but killing off the main character's father before he diddles the main character's mother is pretty damn hard to pull off with any sense of legitimacy. Mc-I'm-a-shit-head-G recognizes that it would piss, well, everybody off, but in a few years we'd think it was ballsy. Wrong. In a few years we'd be saying, "I could be seeing a Terminator movie right now, if McG wasn't such a witless bucket of phlegm."

I cannot imagine if they had done this, nor can I think how mad I would be if this were a franchise I actually cared about.

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Remakes And Sequels And Remade Sequels: Let The Madness Continue

on Wednesday, May 27, 2009   0 comments

So browsing for movie news today really enlightened me. Apparently Hollywood is making a LOT of remakes, sequels, and reboots. That's so weird, I hadn't noticed. I just went through three weeks of sequel blockbusters, maybe I should have picked up on the trend?

Seriously, where did this start? I've commented on it a few times, but what instigated this incessant need for recycling old material? Not that I don't enjoy sequels and remakes, some are great, but I would like to see more original thought. Too often a sequel is only made for monetary purposes and is only a complete rehash of the first. What happened to original sequels, told for the sake of a good story? Remember Die Hard? Die Hard 2 was completely different. They were in an airport that time...

I think, sadly, comic book movies are to blame. I don't want to accuse them, because I enjoy most of the so damn much, but there has been a negative effect on originality due to their popularity. For one, comic book movies are made to be serials. Not only that, but many of them were reboots or sequels from older movies, thus started a 'dig up the old' trend. When comic-book franchises became the big thing, studios stated looking for any franchise, and voila, we have remakes and reboots into modern franchises. Oh, and sequels galore. Movie-goers are now sequel obsessed. Hollywood's most original thought today is to make board game movies. And one about Bazooka gum... Does that count as originality? In some ways, perhaps, but it just seems like some idiot trying to adapt anything into a movie. It's original in that it has rarely been done (Clue was made a while back), but what they must not realize is this: it's also a terrible idea. Can't we do better? I guess we should specify: we want good originality. It's original to walk around and lick strangers pupils as an introduction. Few people would label that as acceptable, and those that do... well, they're probably pretty original themselves.

Most recently in this retread world, we have news of a few possibilities.

Anchorman 2: apparently Will Ferrel has said the leading guys from the first movie are meeting next week to discuss a possible sequel. Now, Paul Rudd and Stevel Carrel have gained significant star power since Anchorman, so it's not certain this will happen, but all the cast members and Adam McKay have expressed interest. There's talk of setting it in the 80s this time, and I read at slashfilm they even mentioned (gulp) the moon... I would be more excited about seeing the 80s, I'm a little wary about seeing them on the moon. Airplane 2, anyone?

I loved Anchorman and I'd hate to see them 'Caddyshack 2' its good name. But that cast is so funny, I find it hard to think they'll make a bad movie.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I've learned something during my parade on the internet, through various TV and movie and comic-book message boards or blogs: Buffy fans are loyal and rabid. Some site had a contest about a year ago to decide who the best comic-book character was, where people voted and the winners moved through a tournament bracket. I naturally pushed the Man Of Steel through, and thought he'd come to face the likes of Batman, Spider-Man, Wolverine, hell, even Aquaman. I was surprised to see the final showdown was between Superman and Buffy. Then Buffy fans teamed up, and sat at their computers to vote multiple times, so that not only did she win but she gathered more votes than China's population.

Alright, so that's an exaggeration, but it did tell me one thing: Buffy fans are cheaters. Devoted cheaters, perhaps. But still cheaters. They must just wait for some contest like this to pop up so they can manipulate their way through the system to win. Ask anyone on the street, you'll find very few Buffy votes. But, this shows the blond vampire slayer has an obvious fan-base, as well as a cult movie and successful TV series under her belt. So what do we do? We reboot her of course. Expect to see it soon, where I will go in Superman costume and smack all those little bitches that ruined the poll.

Tomb Raider: Remember a while back, I posted five video-games that should be made into movies? You know what wasn't on that list? Pac-man and Tomb Raider.

But that's what's goin' down now. They're rebooting the series, so forget whatever you remember starring Angelina Jolie. Apparently, the six years its been since the last movie is enough for movie execs to say, "You know what? I think we're ready for a new one." It's going to be a character driven origin story starring a younger Lara Croft. Megan Fox's name has been mentioned, but I think fanboys would start that rumor if there were a movie about Mother Teresa's teenage years. "Teenage female? Oh, Megan Fox is available. Yeah, who knew Teresa was a sex-bomb."

Great... A third Tomb Raider movie. There are better things to do with your time and money, damn it! Plus I still want to see a Legend of Zelda movie...

Oh well.

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Slow News Day: A Shameless Plug For Wonder Woman

on Tuesday, May 26, 2009   0 comments

I mentioned this a while back, and have made a few comments here and there reinforcing it: I'm kind of a Superman/Batman/DC fan. Alright, so saying 'kind of' is a very liberal usage of the term... Here's a shot of my collection, of sorts, something I call my 'Alter of Superman' though it has gathered quite a bit of Batman lately.

It's poor quality because it was taken with the camera on my laptop, but it should get the point across. It's also a mirror image, so it looks like Bizarro's S. But if you think it looks ridiculous there, you should see it in person, because it's much more imposing in real life. I should add that that entire top row of the DVD shelf is filled with various Superman and Batman movies and TV shows made throughout the years...

Obsessed much? Yes. I am. So sue me. But of the DC poster-heroes, there's a third that gets little love. Wonder Woman. I know, right? Nobody wants to see female superheroes, unless they're supporting characters in a predominantly male cast. I can hear feminists scream from here...

But that's the point of Wonder Woman, isn't it? A strong, female hero. One that can embrace her sexuality in that skin-tight leotard without being a promiscuous, erm, harlot.

Anyway, I never really thought much of Wonder Woman outside of that supporting role. She was fine in the Justice League TV show or when working with the other big guys, but I didn't really care about, or think it would be worthwhile, seeing her in a standalone setting.

Then I saw Wonder Woman, a recent direct to DVD release in the DC animated universe, the fourth of its kind produced by Bruce Timm, the leading man in the critically acclaimed Batman, Superman, and Justice League animated series. The first, Superman Doomsday, gave a simple version of the 'Death of Superman' arc from the nineties. The story wasn't quite as fleshed out as it could have been, but it gave the best Superman action scene to date. The second, Justice League: The New Frontier, was mediocre. The third, Batman: Gotham Knight, which was released about the time of The Dark Knight and meant to tie in loosely with that universe, was absolutely horrible. Then came Wonder Woman, a movie I bought out of brand loyalty but didn't expect much out of.

It turns out this was the best of the group, by far. In terms of story quality this one surpasses the others by miles. The only rival it has in action is Superman, but I think most neutral viewers would agree that this was the better film. And critics agree. It has gotten very positive reviews, and IGN ranked it the number 1 straight to DVD animated movies of 2008 (obscure award? Perhaps, but an award nonetheless). Not only that, I learned today that it's still selling well and is projected to continue its upward trend (hence my promotion). It was released in March and has sold almost 200,000 copies and is expected to hit the half-million mark by years end. The bottom line is: Wonder Woman turns out to be marketable, even in direct to DVD animated format, and the movie is really good. So put away your preconceived notions about cartoons and superheroes and watch it. I assure you, you've seen a lot worse (like Ghost Rider).

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Expectations Matched And Butchered

on Monday, May 25, 2009   0 comments

Currently, and not surprisingly, Pixar's Up has a 100% Rotten Tomato ranking from 25 reviewers who were lucky enough to see the movie early. Naturally I'm not surprised. Besides Cars which was a 75%er, Pixar's movies have all been higher than 90%. The Toy Story movies have yet to receive a negative review, and I can't help but hate the three people who brought Finding Nemo down to 98. But you understand, Pixar has released great movie after great movie, and it seems Up isn't about to kill that tradition. Pixar could have its next film be about amoeba and I'd have high expectations, so I always thought Up would perform well.

But what HAS surprised me over at Rotten Tomatoes are the early reviews for another release this weekend, Drag Me To Hell. I've seen quite a few previews for this movie and did not think much of it. It looks like B movie horror film with a typical, evil Ouija board storyline and a girl who sees ghosts. But I made the critical mistake of forgetting Sam Raimi defined the B-movie horror genre with the Evil Dead series. Along with Up, we have a second 100% on the Tomatoscale. The movie is 15 for 15 so far, with positive reviews that call it a, "fun horror flick that's a little gross, a bit silly, and entirely entertaining." So far the Top Critics have yet to drag that down, but I hope this is a surprise hit in the making.

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Night At The Museum Trumps Terminator Salvation

on Monday, May 25, 2009   0 comments

Never underestimate the power of families going to movies, especially during the recession.

Though the Memorial Day weekend isn't over, it appears that Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian has won the box office war with Terminator Salvation by a heftier margin than most people predicted. The geeks have been bested by Ben Stiller's strongest opening to date, not counting animated features.

As of today, Museum has brought in about 53.5 million, while Terminator has garnered 56.4 million. However, Terminator got an extra Thursday to rack in money, and Museum saw a 30% increase from Friday to Saturday, AND beat out Terminator on Friday night, a rarity for family films.

Speaking of family films, I read that 52% of viewers for this movie were non family. Quite an impressive statistic, really. Final four day tallies won't come out for a few days, but it looks like Museum will take the weekend, and even surpass Terminator's earnings with one less day under its belt.

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Terminator Salvation: Predictable, Occasionally Illogical, Pretty Damn Fun

on Sunday, May 24, 2009   3 comments

I didn't grow up in love with the Terminator series. I don't have a vehement adoration for the characters. In fact, of the three I first sat through the third, which is regarded as significantly worse than the first two. It might not be as good, but the hate it gets from many people is a little unfounded. It wasn't great, but it was an entertaining movie. Such is the case for Terminator Salvation, though perhaps it is a better film than its first predecessor.

The film opens in 2003, where a death-row inmate named Marcus (Sam Worthington) is approached by a doctor who works for Cyberdyne (Helena Bonham Carter), the company Terminator watchers will recognize as the creators of Skynet, the AI system that eventually takes over the world. Marcus signs for his body to be used for science experiments after his death, though it's somewhat unclear what they will be, the doctor tells him it's "a chance to live again."

There's a little typed up summary of the franchise history, and we come toe the year 2018 to see John Conner infiltrating a Skynet base, where he finds a horde of human prisoners. There's an ambush on the base, a seen that looks like Saving Private Ryan meets Robocop, and eventually we see Marcus wake up, very confused after his 13 year coma.

Marcus is chased by a robot with a big-ass machine gun and saved by two young boys who humorously call them selves the "L.A. branch" of the resistance. One them is (dum dum dum) Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin, who is having a huge summer, since he had a part in Star Trek as well) the known future father of John Conner and key to the entire resistance. It would be incredibly difficult to comprehend why this is the case if you haven't seen the other movies, and the film does little to explain it. It hardly even mentions time travel, a key element in the first three, so newcomers might not understand the entire going-ons of the film.

Reese is taken prisoner and Marcus escapes, only to help a beautiful pilot Blaire Williams (played by Moon Bloodgood, whose topless scene in this movie was removed because director McG hates everybody). Marcus and Blaire trek back to resistance headquarters, and through certain circumstances involving magnetic minefields, it is revealed that Marcus is himself a cyborg. A machine with human organs, including a powerful heartbeat.

Which brings me to my first gripe. I really wish I would have had to warn you of a spoiler in that previous paragraph, but I don't, because that little tidbit was part of every Salvation preview released. I watched the entire time knowing Marcus shared DNA of both humans and household appliances. But if I hadn't known, it would have been a really kick-ass twist. Even though they told you before the movie was released, throughout the first half they act like they haven't and put in really subtle clues that in a second viewing could have looked brilliant. For instance, when everybody else is eating, he doesn't even touch the food. He falls from a speeding jet and skims across the water and appears unharmed. We would know something was going on with this guy, but with a different edit and with different previews it could have been a nice surprise. If I hadn't known, I would have wondered why he was such a skilled fighter and why he could survive such ridiculous events, but the revelation would have been an "Ahhhh" moment.

However, this could all be because the early script for this movie was leaked to the public at large. Therefore, they might have thought the surprise was ruined since everybody knew Marcus was a cyborg, so why not put it in the previews? And believe me, I wouldn't trade the loss of this surprise for the terrible, original ending they had planned. It involved John Conner dying, but his skin being put on Marcus's skeletal body because his image was so important to the resistance. Oh my God that's an awful idea. Thank goodness the leak occurred, because that is not the ending we have, thank goodness. Though I was told the ending would be controversial and divisive, and kind of a downer. I guess it wasn't ecstatic per se, but it wasn't near what I thought it would be. Don't get me wrong, I liked it and it works, it just wasn't as ballsy as I assumed. But if there version of ballsy is killing the main character, perhaps that's not such a bad thing...

As for the main character, Christian Bale is, well, just okay. Conner is remarkably one-dimensional in this film, and doesn't do much besides run, shoot, yell, and rasp. It's all perhaps in the spirit of conveying intensity, but we don't need to main character to rasp all of his lines to show that: the omnipresence of robots does it just fine. In original drafts, Conner was going to be a secondary character, an influence on the protagonist much like Christ influenced Ben Hur. I'm glad this idea was dropped, because Conner is a neat character, but he was in this movie less than I thought it would be. Marcus gets a pretty hefty share of the screen time.

Which is a good thing, because Marcus is the infinitely more interesting character. He's first shown on essentially a crucifix on his death bed, right before they kill him and bring him back as a Metallo clone. He has a lot to do in this movie, and was really a high point for me. His ethical questioning, self-reflection/redemption/sacrifice all made for a resonating character. Also, he kicks a lot of ass, which is always fun to watch.

The cinematography in the movie is actually pretty awesome, I have to give direct McG credit (though I really hate that name). There's a particularly fascinating shot of a helicopter crash, all seemingly one take, as it spirals out of the sky and crashes upside down. It was brilliantly crafted, and really brought you into the peril.

Despite the praise I'm giving, the movie is riddled with logical inconsistencies that somewhat drag it down. I'm not even referring to those involving time travel, because they make my head hurt. I'm looking for for these:

1. Why do the robots attack Marcus at first, but then later let him walk right into their base because he's one of them?
2. How can John Conner jump from a plane into a stormy ocean and swim onto a submarine underwater? (Alright, so that isn't a logical mistake, it's just dumb writing).
3. How do gargantuan robots who can't walk without causing earthquakes sneak up on people without making a sound?
4. Why is Skynet taking human hostages? It's brought up but never explained, unless I missed it.
5. Why do these robots tend to attack so few at a time? This one is actually kind of strange to me. The greatness of the first film was the fact that it was one cyborg, stalking and trying to kill one person. It allowed an air of suspense to be breathed into the action film. It seems in order to replicate this, they wrote many instances into Salvation that pit one man against one robot, where that man would have to struggle immensely just to defeat it. Good for suspense, but it leaves you wondering why this A.I. system doesn't just send 10,000 of these babies out at once. If one is that hard to defeat, more must be better. So why don't they? Because there'd be no story. Alright, fair enough.

There are others, but I'm trying to keep spoilers to a minimum and make sure you enjoy the movie without having too much on your mind. It's exactly what it looks like, so don't expect much else, but it's a good popcorn-flick and an interesting addition to the Terminator series that's not like any of those that have come out before.

Also don't go to the bathroom while Marcus is talking to the computer generated face, or you'll miss a neat little cameo. Like I did.

Score: 7.9/10

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This Week In Blockbusters Part II: Night at the Museum 2: Battle at the Smithsonians: There Are A Lot Of Colons In That Title

on Saturday, May 23, 2009   0 comments

Indeed there is another blockbuster hit this weekend besides Terminator Salvation. Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are joined by the likes of Amy Adams and the hilarious Hank Azaria in the sequel to Night at the Museum. It seems to be a re-tread of the first premise, except this time it's set in D.C. and the Lincoln Memorial comes to life. For those that don't recall, the first film was about a museum security guard who was surprised to find all the objects in his museum come to life once the sun sets, including a skeletal T-Rex, a dummy of Teddy Roosevelt (Robin Williams), and miniature caricatures of a small cowboy (Wilson) and Octavius Gaius (Steve Coogan). The sequel will have many of these objects returning, with some new additions including Amelia Earhart (Adams) and Egyptian pharaoh Kah Mun Rah (Azaria). It will also feature cameos by Darth Vader and Oscar the Grouch, both of whom have displays at the museum in D.C.

I don't expect much from this, nor did I the original. It's mildly entertaining, perhaps more so for the kids than the adults, so this could be good for a family outing. That is unless you want to scar your kids for life having them watch cyborgs rip humans apart. I might catch this one, because some of the additions have potential to make it superior to the first. Amy Adams is a great actress, but I really like Hank Azaria. He does some of the oddest roles of any actor I've ever seen, but is always funny. You might recognize him as David the Scientist Guy from TV's Friends, or perhaps the Scuba Guy from Along Came Polly, or as the young Patches O'Hoolihan in Dodgeball, or perhaps as Agadore, the flamboyantly homosexual Latin-American house-maid in The Birdcage. If you don't recognize his face, you've undoubtedly heard his voice on The Simpsons. He's worked there for years, and does many voices including Moe the Bartender, and Apu. I bet you didn't even know they were voiced by the same guy. Apparently, Azaria has an incredible talent for voice mimicry. That long exposition was to point out that Azaria is a dynamic and hilarious actor, who has always taken on the smaller but scene stealing rolls, and I think his presence in this movie will be great.

Reviews are lackluster, but it could be a good diversion.

Excitement Buzz: 6/10. Unless you're a kid: 9/10.

Dishonorable Mention: Dance Flick

Whoever thought it was a good idea to put this movie's release against Terminator and Night at the Museum must be high. It might pull in some revenue, but there are many less competitive weeks ahead where people might actually want to see bad movies since they've already seen all the good ones.

Alright, I'm being a little harsh. The Scary Movies are a guilty pleasure of mine, though since then I've laughed twice. But I don't expect this to be anything fantastic. I did, however, laugh at the trailer more than I laughed at the entirety of some other movies. So perhaps the impact of the Waynes Brothers will make this a more-than-tolerable comedy movie.

Excitement buzz: : ( /10

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Hilarity: True Movie Posters, Valerie Atherton

on Friday, May 22, 2009   11 comments

I stumbled upon this site this morning. Funny, and oddly accurate.Link
What would summer movie posters look like if they were accurate?

Then there's Valerie Atherton. I stumbled upon her site a few weeks ago and have been following it even since. The only thing funnier than her moronic reviews are the moronic comments. I'll let you decide for yourself if you think this is the legitimate, idiotic work of a girl with an IQ lower than Alaska's temperature or if it's someone with a great sense of humor. They're just realistic enough for it to be plausible. I comment as 'Satire,' so you'll know my views. But decide for yourself.

I liked the blog so much I quoted her on Facebook, when she was describing Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen. He is, "Essentially, electricity and ice."

"Surface" to say, I think it's good for some laughs.

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Sam Raimi Should Personally Pay Everybody Who Sat Through Spiderman 3

on Thursday, May 21, 2009   9 comments

Remember when you walked out of Spider-man? Remember this was before the superhero craze. X-Men had done decently, but really, who expected Spider-man to be such a hit? Sure, it had absurdly cheesy moments, but damn you really enjoyed yourself.

Then came Spider-man 2, a film that once again took everybody by surprise. Wait, this Superhero movie was... incredible. I actually just sat through a fantastic movie. It wasn't just a fun popcorn action film, it was amazing as its hero claims to be. The genre was legitimized, and it took off into the whirlwind we see today. And Spider-man 2 was, for many, the superhero movie to beat until they got caught up in bat-mania last summer. (Though I thought Batman Begins was just as great).

And to keep up with surprises, Spider-man 3 shocked audiences as well, though much differently. There's a label on the side of the DVD: "Warning, watching this movie has been known to cause depression, self-mutilation, eye-gouging, vomiting, paranoid schizophrenia, and gout." Audiences everywhere wondered how in God's name a series could turn that bad in one film (evidently they had forgotten about the Superman series). It was just awful, we all remember. Peter Parker dresses emo and dances dumbly, which somehow shows he's 'evil' or 'brooding.' Apparently, nobody on that set had ever brooded before. Thinking about it makes my blood boil, which is unsavory for me, so I try not to. That picture at the top isn't a dark, brooding Spider-Man. He's actually mourning the disaster that was that movie.

Now they're making Spider-man 4, hopefully trying to redeem themselves and recapture 2's glory. It's a risky move: fourth films are rarely good (Superman IV is regarded as one of the worst movies ever, Batman and Robin was... You remember, even as kids we hated it. Does The Phantom Menace count as a fourth film?) You get it. It's typical (not guaranteed) in movies that the third is a step down from the others, and then the fourth is somehow even worse. So I'm hoping that Spider-man 4 realizes this and acts accordingly. They have a Pulitzer Prize winning writer penning the screenplay, so that's a good start. It also seems Sam Raimi knows how royally he f***ed up:

"As far as Spider-Man, I've learned a lot of lessons about what people didn't like and missteps that I'd made. But I learned those lessons on the previous two, I was just a little quieter about them. I made a lot of mistakes, and it's part of the reason I so want to make this next story of Peter Parker."

Raimi continued, "I really think I know in my heart who the character is, and I haven't quite been able to sing the song yet, or bring it out to the extent or degree of detail that I feel in my heart that I can. And I may not be successful, but I still feel like I know it better than I'm able to play it; I feel like the kid that really practiced at the piano recital, with years of comic books, and when I got to my other recitals, I sometimes made some missteps with them. There's a whole crowd there and they think that's as well as I know the piece, but I really do know it a lot better than that and I would like one more chance at that character. The Spider-Man films, I've made mistakes, but I really do look at them as things that I've learned, and hope that when I apply what I've learned to this next one, I really make a film that people enjoy and is really true to the character in a fresh, original way. That's my goal."

Alright, Raimi. You get this chance to get this right. It looked like Spider-man 3 was just a joke, and that nobody was taking it seriously since they knew it would make more money than the treasury. It's one of those films where you sit and wonder how it made through so many steps and alterations and checkpoints where somebody didn't stop and say, "Well, this is just terrible." Who thought that was a good idea?! I always imagine Raimi telling Tobey Maguire what to do, and having four people behind him with their face in their palms. What I hope is some coffee boy had the nerve to say, "Mr. Raimi, this is really bad." Then Raimi got really pissy, but after the movie came out he hired that coffee boy full time for having both courage and the common sense to recognize something that sucks more than God's vacuum cleaner.

At least he recognizes his faults. I have to remember that he also Spider-Man 2, so I can't judge too harshly. I know he has the capability to give us a more serious movie in line with the second in the trilogy. But he had that same capability for 3 and didn't just miss the mark, he missed the entire hay stack that the target was pinned up on. So this time, please, don't make Peter Parker dance.

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This Week in Blockbusters: Terminator Salvation

on Wednesday, May 20, 2009   0 comments

We've seen it all now. Leaked scripts, intense previews, Christian Bale flipping out and being f***ing done, professionally. This week Terminator Salvation comes out, the fourth film in the twenty-year old franchise. Though this one will be completely different than all the others, since this will be the actual war after the robot-apocalypse and we'll actually get to see John Conner kick some metal ass rather than hear it prophesied by naked time-travelers.

I don't think you'll be tricked by the preview here. What you see is what you'll get: high, intense action in a futuristic sci-fi setting. There's a war with advanced robots. If the first Terminator hadn't created this story (or at least brought it mainstream) I'd dock points for un-originality. What might trick you, however, is the ending. I looked for the quotation (for about three seconds, sorry I'm working on a clock), but it promises to be incredibly divisive. Some will hate it, some will love it, but it will likely be unexpected. This comes after the first ending was completely leaked, which featured (this is a spoiler for a changed ending, so do I really have to indicate it?) John Conner dying and, since his image is so important to the resistance, having a cyborg take his appearance. I'm no Terminator geek, but I recognize a terrible idea when I see one. Thank goodness this script was leaked and the ending changed. This completely butchers the whole point of John Conner, a regular human facing insurmountable odds. I could rant on that for a while, but it's not happening anymore, so I'll let it go.

Whatever the new ending is, it seems like a giant risk. I hope I'm on the 'love it' side of things. I know it won't end on a high note: think The Empire Strikes Back meets Requiem for a Dream. Bummer right? Instead of Han in carbonite we have Han dead from a cocaine overdose.

What looks particularly intriguing to me is the cyborg that thinks it's human. I don't know how they're using that, though I know it will be important, and it seems like an eerie and awesome idea.

There's really not much more to this, I suppose. Like I said, what you'll see is likely what you'll get. And what you'll get should be pretty good. We'll see.

Excitement buzz: 7.8/10

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Sherlock Holmes Trailer Shows Us That He Was, In Fact, A Badass

on Wednesday, May 20, 2009   0 comments

I know what you think of when you think Sherlock Holmes, because it's the exact same thing I think of. The immediate words that come to mind are action, explosions, excitement, sex appeal, and ass-kicking slow-mo boxing.

What? That's not what you think of? What do you mean mystery and suspense? Drama? Ridiculous. Sherlock Holmes is exactly as he is depicted in this new trailer.

Yup. That's Holmes all right. And Watson too, just as I imagined him to always be. Tall, handsome, Jude Law-ish, which is perfect because that's who plays him. And Robert Downey Junior as Holmes? It's too perfect.

All right, so this is nothing at all like the character, or the story, or anything. Here's a list of similarities between the original stories and this movie:

1. The names.

Basically this destroys the source material entirely, something I'm typically not a fan of. But despite it all, and despite my strongest urges, this looks like a thoroughly entertaining movie. Garbage, perhaps, but entertaining garbage. Maybe it's because Sherlock Holmes doesn't have a large, rabid fan base like most movies these days, so they could take gigantic liberties without upsetting anybody too strongly, except for, you know, English majors and stuff. Or anyone with literary credentials. But they just read, right? So they won't even be worried with the movie. In that case, hooray explosions and Rachel McAdams in a corset (we can always hooray the latter...)

Sherlock Holmes comes out this Christmas.

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Disney's Next Move

on Wednesday, May 20, 2009   2 comments

May 28th brings another Disney Pixar movie, which means I'm excited. Up has garnered a lot of positive pre-release reviews, which I'm sure everybody is shocked to hear. They have gone 9 for 9 on great movies, and when it comes to original imagination, Pixar can't be beat. Their whole film-making philosophy is awesome. There are no bad ideas to them; they make everything work. And they make it work well.

But what about the other half of that partnership? That is, the Disney half. Outside of their live action films (both good and god-awful), what's up with Disney animation? Bolt was respected by the critics, the first CGI movie made only by Disney to really do that. In fact, it's the first animated movie in a while that has given Disney any sort of success without attaching the Pixar name (I might be mistaken, but I can't think of any. The only recent movie I can think of is Chicken Little, which... Well, you know). So what is the company doing now?

Awesome things, that's what. Remember the Disney Renaissance? Of course you do. Especially if you're my age, because we grew up in it. It started with The Little Mermaid and took off from there, releasing great movie after great movie, as its affiliate Pixar does now. Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, The Lion King, Tarzan, Mulan, Hercules, even the least respected of the bunch Pocahontas had some good ideas and moving moments. Then we seemed to hit a wall. We got The Emperor's New Groove which was entertaining, I suppose, but not memorable. Treasure Planet, Brother Bear, and Atlantis fell flat. Lilo and Stitch was the only movie released to achieve high critical acclaim as well as any sort of financial success. What's the company to do? What they do best. They're going back to the basics.

This holiday season they're releasing The Princess and the Frog, the classic fairytale set in a Cajun themed Louisiana. Despite some unneeded controversy (it stars Disney's first Black princess), the film is on its, ahem, hind legs and is looking strong. The first official preview was released recently, and is embedded here:

It's a return to the classic, hand-drawn, musical Disney movie. It has been rumored that the 2-D animation style was dead, but I think this film will prove that false. We've just been waiting for a really good, well-made 2-D film. Those aforementioned didn't quite do the trick. I think this one will.

Next year they're releasing Rapunzel. I was always surprised they hadn't made this movie already, but it's nice to know there are still some classic fairy-tales left for them to put the Disney spin on. Rapunzel has an interesting animation style that blends the 2D with the computer imaging. It looks like the perfect balance of the old and the new, and while little has been released about this movie, it looks like it could aid in bringing Disney animation back into the limelight.

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9: The Weirdest Looking Movie I've Ever Been Excited For

on Wednesday, May 20, 2009   2 comments

I left Star Trek happy about two things. First, the movie was excellent. Second, the preview for the movie 9 intrigued me to the point of elation. It's a very different looking movie, with strange characters like none we've ever really seen, unique animation, an original and mature story, and set in an creepy post apocalyptic world where, it seems, a mad scientist created beings in order to preserve life.

I watched the trailer, in awe of the bizarre film I was previewing, and became excited in a way few movies do. In a summer (really, an entire movie era) full of remakes and sequels this seemed like a brilliantly crafted original idea.

Which is not entirely true. The original concept was first seen in the academy award nominated short film of the same title in 2005, embedded here:

Shane Acker's film was respected so much by the likes of Tim Burton and Timur Bekmambetov that they decide to produce it into a full length feature film, with Acker in the director's chair. Elijah Wood voices the title character, with support from Crispin Glover, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Christopher Plummer, Martin Landau, and Fred Tatasciore.

I'm hoping to spread excitement for this movie early, because I think it has a lot of potential, particularly considering how cool the dialog free, 10-minutes short film was (did you watch it? You should). It comes out September 9th. Get it? 9/9/09. I haven't seen such creative release dates since The Omen came out on 6/6/06.

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Week Late Review: Star Trek

on Sunday, May 17, 2009   0 comments

A while ago, I wrote the "This Week In Blockbusters" for Star Trek and indicated my excitement, despite knowing hardly anything about the basic series. Four exams and two beaches later, I finally got to watch it, and it matched and exceed my expectations. Star Trek is one of the best science fiction movies I've ever seen. When the biggest problem I have with it is the way Zachary Quinto stands as Spock (I tried to find a picture. It seems like his chest is stuck out and his arms are bent and pulled back), I know I have a great movie.

Star Trek opens strongly, with an intense action sequence as a gigantic Romulan ship attacks the U.S.S. Kelvin in deep space. Once the captain boards the ship, per their leader Nero's (Eric Bana) request, he puts a young man named George Kirk in charge. Once all hell breaks loose, Kirk, as the new captain, orders the people on the Kelvin to be evacuated, including his very pregnant wife (played by the lovely Jennifer Morrison) who has just gone into labor. Once Kirk is the last one left, he realizes that he must remain on the ship to divert the Romulans long enough for the evacuees to survive. In his final minutes, as he shoots down missiles pursuing the small escape crafts, he talks to his wife one last time and helps name his son, James.

I did not expect to get chills watching Star Trek. I certainly did not expect the opening scene to pack such an emotional punch. I thought we'd have a space battle, sure, but not a story of such sacrifice and emotional weight. It's a mythic origin, very much akin to the beginnings of various heroes throughout time (including, I have to say it because I noticed so many similarities, Superman). As I watched this scene, with its pristine special effects and its heroic message, I knew it was going to be great.

We then see the origins of a young Spock, trained in the methods of logical thinking and emotion suppression on the planet Vulcan. This might be more difficult for him than for his peers, since Spock is only half Vulcan; his mother is human (played surprisingly well by Winona Ryder). He is ridiculed by those his age and the leaders constantly underestimate his talents. He is told, "Control your emotions, so that they don't control you," and he learns to suppress his humanity, though it sometimes eeks out. When offered the opportunity to attend a school for higher learning "Despite his disadvantage" (aka his human mother), he refuses. He is the first person/Vulcan/living being to ever decline admission.

It's these two early events that indicated I would love this movie. I knew it would have brains, and I knew it would have great action and special effects, but it also has heart, and I was not expecting that.

As the plot develops, we find out (what most people already know) that Nero has come from the future from the original 'Trekverse,' thus creating a tangent and alternate universe (the movie goes into perhaps too-much detail, making it abundantly clear that in this Trekverse, ANYTHING can happen). We also learn why he blows up Federation ships, and why he creates black holes at the core of planets. It works for the story, but the character is very one-dimensional. He's out for vengeance, and is an evil Romulan. Got it? Good. It's simple, but Bana plays it capably, since all he has to do is sneer and be evil, and cringe every time he hears the name "Spock."

And about Spock. Even I got chills seeing Leonard Nimoy reprise his role (that being, future Spock, or as he's listed "Spock Prime"). It's great seeing him interact with young Kirk as if they're old friends (I suppose they are, for one of them), and then later with New Spock. It works well, and serves as a nice tie-in.

Chris Pine plays James Tiberius Kirk very well. I don't know much about Shatner's Kirk (except, of course, for...his... stunted... speech), so I can't compare, but this Kirk is strong, confident, often humorous, but also rebellious and risk taking (something his father was as well, and a quality he is told will work for his benefit). It's great to see his transformation from a drunkard in a bar to the leader of the newest ship in the fleet (despite it's slight contrivance). Overall he was very entertaining to watch, and I hope this helps push his career forward, as I'm sure it will.

The movie also made me wish I knew more about Star Trek lore, which I didn't really think I'd care about. But even I picked up on some of the throwbacks. There's a, "Damn it man, I'm a doctor not a physicist," and a "I'm givin' her all she's got." I did some research after seeing it, there are other little fun factoids for Trekkie fans. For instance, there's a scene where three people sky dive and they're each wearing different colored shirts. Those familiar with the show will realize one of them isn't going to survive very long, based solely on his attire.

The movie is also surprisingly funny. There's a lengthy sequence where Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban) continuously injects Kirk with various medicines and antidotes in order to get him onto the Enterprise, all the while Kirk is trying to get to the deck to warn Captain Pike of an impending ambush. Okay, so writing it doesn't sound that humorous, but it's worth a few laughs, another thing I didn't expect from Star Trek.

As I said, this movie exceeded my high expectations, something few movies do. It deserves all the praise it's getting, especially for making a Star Trek movie that is entertaining and accessible to the general public whether they be Trekkies or those that are dragged there by their boyfriends and think that they hate sci-fi movies. It's sci-fi at its best, reminiscent of the old Star Wars and a reminder of what the new Star Wars (particular I and II) could have been. J.J. Abrams has directed a fantastic space epic and once again shows his clout in movie-making. Sure the time travel story is a little contrived, and Winona Ryder plays an old lady, but they make it work for a thoroughly entertaining summer blockbuster, and somehow make Star Trek cool.

Score: 8.7/10

UPDATE: Sequel Rumors: Slashfilm has posted an article discussing the guaranteed sequel. Abrams says both William Shatner and Kahn are candidates for characters, though it's pure speculation at this point.

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No-Shite News: S. Darko S. Ucks

on Thursday, May 14, 2009   0 comments

Have you ever watched a movie and just sat as the credits rolled in thought, wondering "what the hell did I just watch?" You might not dislike it, you might even love it, but you'll definitely need to watch it a second time to understand it. Of course you've done that, everybody has. They're called 'mind-f**ks.' The Matrix or Memento are pretty good examples, but I'd say both of those are tame compared to the brain-stir that happened to me when watching Donnie Darko. I didn't understand a damn thing the first time I saw that movie, but man I loved it. Thanks to Wikipedia, I could watch it again and have it make sense and I loved it even more. It's a truly original plot mixed with social commentary and dabbles with philosophy. It really is a thinking-man's (person's, let's be P.C.) movie.

It was by no means a huge success, but has gained a cult following on DVD since its release. So I was less than thrilled when I found out they were releasing a direct-to-DVD sequel focusing on Donnie's younger sister Samantha, appropriately titled S. Darko. It looked like an obvious exploit to make money, completely devoid of original or coherent thought. Sure enough, reviews are out and reviews are baaaaaad. It seems they took all that was good in the first one, threw it in the sequel, mixed it with new stuff, and served up what seems to be a casserole from hell. It even has another creepy rabbit, which makes zero sense if you saw and understood the first film. They obviously just thought a sequel had to have a devil rabbit as well, solely because the first one did. Blech.

A good mind-f**k makes your head hurt, but always has a purpose behind it, and it makes you think to figure it out. This movie seems to just tries hurt your head. Not so much a mind-f**k, more like a mind-rape.

I still think I'll check it out if it's ever on some TV, for whatever reason people think it's a good idea to air it. It sounds like it could be good for a laugh or two.

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Summer At TBOJ, Reed's Edition

on Thursday, May 14, 2009   0 comments

Grady has said that he will not be able to post much, seeing as he has an incredible opportunity to be a camp counselor, something I am incredibly envious of. My summer will be much calmer, relaxed, and full of movies. Which means I will be blogging like mad, so keep checking up to see what's going on!

One thing I'm not so great at: multi-tasking. That means when I had two papers, exams, homework, and other things and events due, I let my blogging fall by the wayside. For that I apologize. But Summer has always been a beacon of openness for me. I will be working at a science lab, which means I will spend time setting up cell cultures or experiments, and then have to kill time while they centrifuge or something. Perfect time, I daresay, to punch out a quick article about movies of the past, present, and future. I plan on getting into this more than I have so far, which might be a good thing since the creator of this blog wil be on hiatus. I'll certianly try to pick up on his responsibilities as well, and if we get a guest blogger, all the better. Either way, this will hardly be a dead site. So please, get excited as summer really starts to crank into gear. It's going to be great.

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This Week in Blockbustsers: Angels and Demons, Fans Are Just Happy Tom Hanks Has A Different Haircut

on Thursday, May 14, 2009   1 comments

Writing from the outer banks in North Carolina (though not from the same location of Grady), I apologize for the gap between posts. I do not have ready access to my computer, and am having to break into the neighbors house and use theirs. But this means that much to me.

Last week the Trekkies went nuts over Star Trek, and it seems for good reason. I have heard very few negative comments about the movie and it seems to be a huge success financially and critically (96% Rotten Tomatoes, 8.6 IMDB, both impressive numbers).

This week gives us the third hopeful blockbuster of the season, Angels and Demons, starring Tom Hanks and directed by Ron Howard. It's the sequel to The Da Vinci Code and based on Dan Brown's novel (though the novel was, in fact, a prequel to The Da Vinci Code, so you readers don't get too confused).

This movie actually looks quite good. Da Vinci was not terrible, I thought, but it certaintly was not the pinnacle of movie making. This is partly to blame on the story, it always worked more as a novel. However, even when I was reading the book, before the movies were in production, I thought Angels was the better novel, and would actually make a better movie. It has some great cinematic shots (I'm thinking of the four elemental deaths, mainly) and a murder mystery more suited for the silver screen.

It's been a while, but I can give a decent synopsis of the plot. Structurally, it will be very similar to Da Vinci, and if you've read one of Dan Brown's books you can pick out the bad guy as soon as he's introduced. But basically, a recent scientific discovery at CERN has the catholic church and an ancient, secret organization in arms. The Illuminati seem to have resurfaced after centuries of dormancy, and now they're killing Catholic Cardinals and threatening to blow up the world with a dangerous bomb made of anti-matter (wikipedia it, for those not familiar with modern physics voo-doo). This is all happening in the period of mourning for the death of the pope, and the selecting of the next. Those Cardinals that keep dying are, naturally, the front runners for the position. Robert Langdon (Hanks) is asked to help solve the case, despite recently accusing the Catholic Church of keeping secret the bloodline of Jesus Christ and the love affair he had with Mary Magdalen. Oh, you crazy symbologists, always getting tangled up in huge church conspiracies.

Needless to say, plot twists and betrayels and secret agendas abound. It should be an exciting thriller, hopefully better than its predecessor. Early buzz isn't fantastic, but it's still part of a well liked series. In fact, the third movie has already been contracted, and the third book isn't even finished yet. However, the church has deemed this movie harmless after being up in arms over the first one. Bad news, since controversy only pushes people to watch the movie. Apparently killing future popes isn't as blaspheming as claiming Christ was not a virgin. But I'll definitely see it, and so will a lot of other people, I just imagine it to be a weaker summer release then the ones we've seen this far.

Says one viewer, "It was really great. Tom Hanks' hair didn't distract me at all. It looked like normal hair, rather than a greased up ferret. I was able to follow the story and not wonder who thought it was a good idea for his hair to look like that. But I don't get what that anti-matter stuff is."
Okay, so I made that up.

Excitement buzz: 7.2/10

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4 Things To Know About The Box Office Junkie's Summer

on Wednesday, May 13, 2009   1 comments

It's List Wednesday, and I'm here in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, soaking up the sun, swimming in the ocean, and finding some shark teeth! With a collection of over 10,000 at my house, shark tooth hunting actually is one of my family's favorite pastimes (random, right?), though it's pretty difficult in NC, which is a bit too far North for sharks. Anyway, I thought I'd use this opportunity to give you a short overview of what TBOJ's future is looking like for the next three months. The Box Office Junkie has been doing really well lately. Traffic is increasing (about 400 visitors a day) and occasionally really good (over 2,000 visitors on Saturday- Thanks Trekkies!), so that's been nice to watch. Also, I feel like I've really gotten into a rhythm of writing posts, and some of you readers have gotten into a rhythm of commenting, which is seriously so rewarding. There's been a lot of cool stuff going on in the world of movies, which makes writing fun, and some various websites have been linking to me (like this and this), which makes writing even more fun! On top of that, a tiny bit of ad revenue has started to roll in! Blogging has officially becme my hobby. I love doing it, and despite my previous ambivalence, I'm sticking with this site for as long as I can.

As happy as I am here at TBOJ, though, I regret to inform you that I've already committed my Summer away. I'm working at an incredible Christian sports camp in the hills of Western Pennsylvania called Summer's Best Two Weeks, and I'm headed there this weekend. Between my years as a camper and as a counselor, this will be my tenth straight summer at SB2W, and I'm so excited to serve there again. Unfortunately, my presence at camp means I will have extremely limited internet access until mid-August. Here's what that means for this Summer:

1. Limited Posting Capability
This is probably pretty obvious, but I promise, I'll try to write up some short posts on my days off from camp! Plus, Reed will still be around to contribute! Posts will be sparse, but they will certainly be present!

2. Guest bloggers may appear?
That is, if anyone ever takes me up on the offer! If you write about movies, the box office, or anything of the sort, I'd love for you to write a post for TBOJ this Summer! Email if you want to help out and write something up.

3. I am NOT gone for good.
The Box Office Junkie will be back in full force by the Fall. Don't you worry, and don't you leave in my absence! Your readership is tremendously meaningful to me, and I look forward to conversing with all you guys more regularly after the Summer Break!

4. TBOJ can keep growing!
Sometimes, when I look at my traffic on a day-to-day basis, I get so concerned about the health of TBOJ, but then I just think about last Summer. Last year, despite my absence from TBOJ, the site grew tremendously, due to increased numbers of links and comments, which lead to increased search engine traffic. Here's to hoping the same thing can happen this Summer! You can help the cause by passing along the address to The Box Office Junkie to all your friends, especially the ones that love movies or economics!

I'm really going to miss this. You guys are awesome.

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DVD Sales: Notorious B.I.G. Is Alive Again! On The Home Market, That Is...

on Wednesday, May 13, 2009   2 comments

The-Numbers' DVD Sales chart for last week was delayed, and then all the Star Trek pandemonium happened, so I apologize for the lateness of last week's DVD Sales Chart, but I finally got some time to get it posted. The chart, and my notes, can be found after the jump:

DVD Sales Notes for the week ending April 26, 2009:

-In a week where no films really broke out on the home market, Notorious still had a pretty good weekend. The rapper biopic had a solid first week of $14 million worth of sales on DVD, which is all well and good, but we must remember that this is a film that defined the term "frontloaded" during its theatrical run. It opened to $20 million and finished with just $36 million in theaters, and you can trust me when I say that Notorious will plummet next weekend.

-The Wrestler, the Oscar bait that saved Mickey Rourke's career, found a modest $7.5 million on DVD in its first week on the home market. For a film that earned $26 million at the box office, this is probably sufficient, but a bit less than what Fox Searchlight might have hoped for. Meanwhile, the other Oscar nominated release on DVD this week, Frost/Nixon, was completely ignored, moving just 181,593 copies. It certainly does not fit into the Era of Easy Entertainment!

-Twilight can not be stopped. Another 12% increase?! $139.4 million overall?! This film has singlehandedly made Summit Entertainment a viable studio.

-Dogs have proved themselves at the movies lately, and the DVD Sales Chart reflects this trend. Marley And Me, Bolt, and Beverly Hills Chihuahua have all sold very well on DVD, with cumes of $48.9 million, $57.3 million, and $50.6 million respectively.

Here's the full chart:

Top 30 Selling DVDs for the Week Ending April 26, 2009
RankTitleUnits this Week% ChangeTotal UnitsSales this WeekTotal SalesWeeks in Release
1 Notorious (2009) 605,916 -.-% 605,916 $14,535,925 $14,535,925 1
2 Wrestler, The 400,207 -.-% 400,207 $7,487,873 $7,487,873 1
3 Twilight 332,526 12.3% 7,715,411 $5,982,143 $139,483,327 5
4 Spirit, The 226,794 -32.2% 561,092 $5,425,185 $11,693,272 2
5 Day the Earth Stood Still, The 205,345 -29.8% 1,381,406 $3,325,090 $23,154,960 3
6 Marley and Me 199,589 -25.9% 2,720,508 $3,434,468 $48,876,571 4
7 Bedtime Stories 198,074 -29.3% 2,161,692 $3,392,651 $36,961,073 3
8 Bolt 186,137 -4.2% 3,220,500 $3,378,145 $57,344,529 5
9 Frost/Nixon 181,593 -.-% 181,593 $3,437,555 $3,437,555 1
10 Yes Man 176,806 -28.6% 956,385 $3,137,741 $16,661,455 3
11 Caprica 169,656 -.-% 169,656 $3,293,023 $3,293,023 1
12 Reader, The 156,932 -33.0% 391,308 $2,934,628 $7,476,835 2
13 Slumdog Millionaire 133,483 -13.6% 1,403,510 $2,134,393 $22,969,076 4
14 Seven Pounds 130,878 0.6% 990,066 $2,045,623 $16,632,842 4
15 Quantum of Solace 122,880 -0.3% 1,998,972 $2,124,804 $35,640,749 5
16 Tale of Despereaux, The 117,426 -25.5% 852,318 $1,995,068 $14,480,883 3
17 Doubt 93,978 -30.1% 486,753 $1,690,664 $8,681,783 3
18 Beverly Hills Chihuahua 92,584 7.1% 2,947,762 $1,480,418 $50,616,568 8
19 Stuart Little 78,466 -.-% - $587,710 - 471
20 Not Easily Broken 75,618 -19.4% 387,084 $1,317,266 $7,168,377 3
21 Ron White: Behavioral Problems 71,862 -.-% 71,862 $789,763 $789,763 1
22 Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, The 70,529 -.-% - $578,338 - 488
23 Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa 70,499 16.1% 5,815,130 $996,179 $88,946,988 12
24 Tom and Jerry's Greatest Chases 67,499 -.-% - $404,319 - 476
25 Role Models 57,804 -4.5% 1,706,794 $982,090 $28,998,430 7
26 Australia 52,048 -0.3% 1,406,260 $884,296 $23,713,349 8
27 Fireproof 49,685 0.9% 1,570,641 $741,300 $26,932,618 13
28 Pinocchio 47,625 -12.4% - $809,149 - 496
29 High School Musical 3: Senior Year 33,892 -40.4% 3,005,165 $626,555 $53,802,366 10
30 Milk 33,072 -4.8% 527,610 $564,208 $9,391,518 7

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