Monthly Archives: July 2013

2013 Box Office And The Big Budget Flops

Movie (640x306)

Last week I wrote about the current situation at the box office in terms of the monthly totals. This time around I’ll be talking about another box office issue of this year, especially this summer. Big budget movies going up in smoke.

The box office has had big movies for years with special effects, dazzling action scenes, directed by reputed directors and starring A-list stars and they’ve paid off well more often than not. The summer is normally the best time to have such big movies loaded out in release.  This year it seems like the big budget movies are having their weakest year in a long time and it look like the hype of the summer movie season hasn’t done much to help boost it. How bad have they been doing? Here’s a list of the most notable big budget movies to fare poorly:

  • G.I. Joe: Retaliation – Stars: The Rock, Channing Tatum, Bruce Willis – Production Budget: $130 million – Box Office Total: $122.5 million
  • Oblivion – Stars: Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman – Director: Joseph Kosinski – Budget: $120 million – Box Office Total: $89.1 million
  • After Earth – Stars: Will Smith, Jaden Smith – Director: M. Night Shyamalan – Budget: $130 million – Box Office Total: $59.7 million
  • White House Down – Stars: Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx – Director: Roland Emmerich – Budget: $150 million – Current Box Office Total: $68.4 million
  • The Lone Ranger – Stars: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, Helena Bonham Carter – Director: Gore Verbinski – Budget: $215 million – Current Box Office Total: $81.3 million
  • Pacific Rim – Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi – Director: Guillermo Del Toro – Budget: $190 million – Box Office Total: $68.3 million

Now that’s just for the big budget movies that are now out of the Top 10. This weekend was unique because of two big budget movies with dismal opening weekends:

  •  R.I.P.D. – Stars: Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon -Director: Robert Schwentke – Budget: $130 million – Opening Weekend Total: $12.7 million
  • Red 2 – Stars: Bruce Willis, John Malkovich – Director: Dean Parisot – Budget: $84 million – Opening Weekend Total: $18.1 million

To think last year they were cracking all those John Carter jokes. Looks like John Carter‘s got some company this year. This also puts into question a lot of other big budget movies still to be released this summer. Yet to be released is The Wolverine, 2 Guns, Elysium, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones, Paranoia and Getaway. The production budgets for those movies has not yet been released by Box Office Mojo but you can bet they will all face the pressure of making it all back, if not #1, at the box office.

It’s not to say all big budget movies have done poorly. Iron Man 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, Man Of Steel, The Fast and The Furious 6 and Man Of Steel have fared very well. Even animated movies with big budgets like The Croods, Epic, Monsters University and Despicable Me 2 have been successes if not box office-toppers. Even Turbo opening this weekend at $31 million shows strong signs it will make its $135 million back before its run is over.

I guess it’s not exactly about shelling out bloated overhyped movies during the summer but just a job about doing the right moves. I know that every year faces the pressure of outgrossing the year before and 2013 faces that same expectation the record-breaking big shoes of 2012 to fill. I guess it’s just another study Hollywood has to undertake in preparation for both the summers of 2014 and 2015.  Also Hollywood should be reminded that you don’t always need a big movie to top the box office In fact this weekend’s #1 movie was The Conjuring with $41.8 million: more than double its budget. Pay attention, Hollywood.

WORK CITED:

BoxOfficeMojo.com. 2013. Box Office Mojo. Owned by IMDB.com. <http://www.boxofficemojo.com>

Cory Monteith’s Death All Too Common

Cory Monteith hit the big time with the TV series Glee but his death last week at the age of 31 ended it all.

Cory Monteith hit the big time with the TV series Glee but his death last week at the age of 31 ended it all.

I’m sure all of you know the news by now, especially Glee fans. Star Cory Monteith was found dead in a Vancouver hotel Saturday night. He was 31. I know because I live in Vancouver so that news hit fast. Toxicology results came immediate: it was an overdose of alcohol and heroin. It was a shock to many. Problem is this tragedy is way too common in the history of entertainment.

The arts and showbiz are known for great lives being cut short due to substances or their own personal demons. They go far back to such greats like composers Mozart and Schubert who never made it to their 40th birthday. They include poets like Edgar Allen Poe, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, Dylan Thomas…the list is lengthy. They include artists like Vincent Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock and Frida Kahlo. Actually it was right after the release of the 2002 film Frida that I made the comment: “A tortured soul makes an artist.” Young showbiz deaths include singers like Sam Cooke, Mario Lanza, Marvin Gaye and Amy Winehouse. They include rappers like Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. They also include actors like John Gilbert, Marilyn Monroe and River Phoenix.

Also unique about celebrities and artists is that quite often their young death can add to their mystique as an artist. Many people feel know of Jackson Pollock’s struggle with alcoholism and that it led to him to paint his feelings out. Many people are awestruck by the personal troubles of Kurt Cobain who sang out his troubles: troubles that eventually led to his suicide. Marilyn Monroe’s mystique of being the Hollywood beauty whose fame and fortune couldn’t save her from her personal struggles has added to her legend since her suicide. James Dean epitomized the popular 50’s belief  ‘live fast, die young’ upon his death in a high-speed car crash. Even Tupac Shakur’s knowledge that he would die an early death because of his bad attitude but still went for it anyways also mesmerizes fans to this day. Sometimes an entertainer dying young of natural causes like Bob Marley from cancer can leave us in amazement about what they did in their short life. Early deaths linked to a particular profession create a mystique too. We know of the ’27 Club’ of rock musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain who died at the age of 27. We also see how some of the greatest divas in history like Billie Holiday, Edith Piaf, Judy Garland and most recently Whitney Houston failed to reach their 50th birthday. Even early deaths of the biggest of the big like Elvis Presley at 42 and Michael Jackson at 50 capture our intrigue.

The most recent celebrity to be amongst entertainers and celebrities who died a young death was Cory Monteith. Cory was a young actor who had been in the business since he was 22. He was mostly cast in minor roles but received a big break in 2009 when he was cast in the lead role of Finn Hudson in the TV series Glee. The success of the musical TV series took off instantly with huge fanfare and hit records of song they performed on the show. There was even a Glee tour and a 3D concert movie. Things appeared to be going very well for Cory. He appeared to be handling fame well, was in a relationship with fellow cast member Lea Michele and appeared to have overcome a lightly-publicized substance problem within a month earlier this year.

Then the news hit in the evening of July 13, 2013. 31 year-old Cory Monteith was found dead in his room at the Fairmount Pacific Rim Hotel in Vancouver. An autopsy was completed in less than 48 hours. Cause of death was ruled to be a mix of heroin and alcohol. It was ruled to be an accident. Cory became yet another young celebrity who died an early death to drugs and alcohol.

The big question was did celebrity have to do with it? I’ll admit that on the day of his autopsy results released, I posted on my Facebook status:

On the subject of Cory Monteith’s toxicology results, you hear of celebrities past who died early deaths of drugs and various substances and you’d think the next generation will learn the lessons and avoid it, only to see them make the same dumb mistakes!

However if you read stories about him, you will hear that Cory had problems with alcohol and marijuana since he was 13. It should be too surprising knowing he was raised in Victoria when that happened. BC is known for its substance abuse problems. Since then he attended 16 different schools until dropping out at the age of 16. Cory continued to fuel his drug habit by stealing off of family and friends until his family staged an intervention when he was 19 and attended a rehab program that was successful in helping him recover. However his problems would come and go. One news source said his problem would actually disappear when he was in Hollywood but would recur when he was in BC. This may be true or not but one thing’s sure is that his death at the Vancouver Fairmont would make that statement look right.

I’ll admit I was erroneous in my Facebook update but it was nevertheless an easy assumption to make. When I was younger, it appeared that celebrities dying young deaths from drugs and alcohol would serve as a lesson to the younger stars that it’s not worth it. Boy was I naïve. The last ten years has shown us a lot of stories of young celebrities, especially the likes of Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, who kept on getting themselves into substance problems again and again. I even remember a quote from actress Barbara Eden just after Lindsay Lohan’s DUI arrest in 2007. I don’t remember the exact words but it went something like: “I feel sorry for those young girls in Hollywood. You just can’t simply do some coke. You have to do a whole lot.” It left me with the impression that stardom is still something people feel is worth putting your life at risk for. Even with all these gossip blogs of other celebrities dealing with their substance issues you’re left with that impression. It’s because of all that in which Cory’s death from that lethal mix of heroin and alcohol led me to think it was showbiz again doing its thing. However I’m willing to agree that it has more to do with Vancouver as I’m very familiar with its drug abuse problems. I see it almost every day.

Whatever the situation, or however it happened, Cory was nevertheless a life cut short. Apart from his celebrity, he left behind a mother, father and a brother having to deal with this. His father had an additional dealing as he was not invited to Cory’s viewing. Lea Michele has to deal with her boyfriend gone. The official Twitter accounts of top Glee stars like Lea, Chris Colfer and Kevin McHale have not had a tweet since July 13th: the day of Cory’s death. Lea however has had an official statement wishing for privacy at this time. The future of Glee also remains in question.

Cory Monteith may have shocked all with his death coming at a time of fame and fortune. However a young death is a young death. One can’t help but be left wondering what could’ve been, celebrity or not. I remember a quote from Stevie Nicks when she talked about her cocaine addiction and how she said part of her wanted to die but part of her made her think if she died young, people would say: “That was stupid of her,” and it made her recover. Did that ever cross Cory’s mind?

WORK CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: Cory Monteith. Wikipedia.com. 2013. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cory_Monteith>

2013 Box Office: The Year In Question

Cinema
You may remember from my tracking of the box office last year that it was a record-setting year, right? 2013 was given a hard act to follow and so far it hasn’t followed well.
The month of January looked well with the box office topping with Hansel and Gretel, Mama and Zero Dark Thirty but it wasn’t enough to outgross January 2012. February had it tougher when successes from Identity Thief, Warm Bodies and A Good Day to Die Hard failed to even touch February 2012’s results. Actually none of the weekends in February 2013 succeeded in outgrossing the previous year’s weekend. In fact February 2013’s gross of $536 million made it the lowest-grossing February since 2006. March 2013 wasn’t as bad but it also didn’t outgross the previous year. Mind you there was no Hunger Games in March this year. This March’s box office-toppers–Jack The Giant Slayer, Oz: the Great And Powerful, The Croods and G.I. Joe: Retaliation–failed to top with a big bang. There was at least one March weekend this year that did outgross the previous year’s weekend and that was when Oz was on top. Nevertheless the first quarter of 2013 added up to a dismal grossing of $1.85 billion, down half a billion from $2.36 billion: a dip of over 20%.
April 2013 was also lower than the year before. Yeah, not having a movie with buzz like The Hunger Games does hinder. It wasn’t all dismal as the first two weekend’s weekend toppers like Evil Dead and 42 did outgross the weekends the year before. However the spark didn’t carry with weekend toppers like Oblivion and Pain and Gain. May 2013 however was a ray of hope in 2013’s box office year. This came thanks to Iron Man 3 opening the very first weekend. It opening weekend of $174 million was the second-highest opening weekend ever. Oh sure, it didn’t outgross that weekend the year before because opening that weekend last year was opening weekend record-holder: The Avengers. The following weekends kept the buzz rolling with strong showings from Star Trek Into Darkness and The Fast And The Furious 6. As May 2013 came to an end, May became the first month of 2013 to outgross 2012. Its total gross of $1.438 billion set a record as the highest-grossing May ever and outgrossed May 2012 by over $250 million. June however was back to showing the box office struggle of 2013. This June’s box office toppers–Purge, Man Of Steel and Monsters University— lacked the buzz of 2012. In the end June 2013’s gross of $1.1 billion was more than $200 million less than June 2012 and the lowest-grossing June since 2008. Despite the low showings the second quarter of 2013 did show a plus sign. Yes it failed to outgross the second quarter of 2012 but by a slim margin: only $56 million.
So with 2013 halfway done, the box office results are not too impressive right now. Already 2013 is more than half a million behind 2012’s pace and it’s safe to assume 2013 won’t outgross 2012’s record year. Neverhteless there will be attractions in the coming months. This weekend features two action movies–Red 2 and R.I.P.D.–opening this week and even Turbo that actually opened today. Next weekend plans the release of The Wolverine. The first weekend in August plans Two Guns and The Smurfs 2. The following weekend has the action movies Elysium and the Percy Jackson sequel. Other August releases with big buzz is Jobs, Paranoia, Kick Ass 2, The World’s End, The Butler and One Direction: This Is Us. September has Riddick, The Family, Prisoners, Rush and Baggage Claim to perk up what is normally the quietest movie month of the year. October has Gravity, Captain Phillips, Escape Plan and a remake of Carrie to attract crowds. The end of the year promises more attractions like Ender’s Game, Frozen, American Hustle, Saving Mr. Banks, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and sequels to Thor, The Hobbit, Anchorman and of course The Hunger Games.
So even though 2013’s box office results look like this year won’t be a record-breaker, it doesn’t mean it won’t be a good year to draw people to the theatres. So go out and see a movie. Not for the sake of the box office but for your own enjoyment.

WORKS CITED:

“Monthly Box Office Chart” BoxOfficeMojo.com. 2013. Box Office Mojo. Owned by IMDB.com. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/monthly/

“Weekend Box Office Chart” BoxOfficeMojo.com. 2013. Box Office Mojo. Owned by IMDB.com. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/weekend/

“Quarterly Box Office Chart” BoxOfficeMojo.com. 2013. Box Office Mojo. Owned by IMDB.com. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/quarterly/

My Top 10 Movies Of 2012

If only I was a professional film critic, I’d be able to see all the movies and DVDs before year’s end to make my Top 10 list of the year. But I’m just an everyday schmuck like you who has to wait until the movies hit the theatre or come out on DVD to see them. Thus once again a delay this late in my Top 10 list. Maybe one year I’ll finally be an official film critic. You can always hope.

Anyways without further ado, many of you have already seen my lists of my Top 10’s from 2002 to 2010 and of 2011. Now I finally have my list out of the Top 10 of 2012 and five honorable mention picks:

MY TOP 10 MOVIES OF 2012

Zero Dark Thirty

  1. Zero Dark Thirty
  2. Silver Linings Playbook
  3. Beasts Of The Southern Wild
  4. Argo
  5. The Life of Pi
  6. Les Miserables
  7. Lincoln
  8. The Master
  9. Searching For Sugar Man
  10. Amour

Honorable Mention:

  • Django Unchained
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • The Hunger Games
  • The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
  • Wreck-It Ralph

Disasters In Canada: Three In One Month

Even though it is a good thing, Canada is not normally famous for its disasters. Yes we’ve had the Halifax Explosion, Hurricane Hazel and the Winnipeg Flood of 1950 but they don’t come that often. These past few weeks were a rare exception as Canada had three sudden disasters to deal with.

The Alberta Floods

Much of Calgary's downtown was flooded out in what has become the worst flooding in Alberta's history.

Much of Calgary’s downtown including the Stampede racetrack and saddledome was flooded out in  the worst flooding in Alberta’s history.

Alberta’s rivers are not known for their floods. However heavy rainfall throughout the province of Alberta from June 19th to 22nd led to the worst flooding in the province’s history. Seven major Alberta rivers including the Bow and Elbow Rivers were filled hard and were over flooded to the point they caused huge damage to surrounding cities. The damage done to the city of Calgary received the most coverage especially since the flooding damage hit the downtown core bad. That and the fact that the annual Calgary Stampede was about to start. The stampede grounds endured considerable damage. Even venues like the Scotiabank Saddledome reported flooding up to the tenth row. In fact 26 surrounding neighborhoods around the Calgary area were placed under a mandatory evacuation order for three straight days. The 75,000 evacuees made it the largest evacuation in the city’s history.

It wasn’t just Calgary. The town of High River had to evacuate. The Siksika First Nation east of Calgary had to declare evacuation. Even towns of Banff and Canmore had to be cut off after floods and mudslides cut off much of the Trans-Canada Highway. Even cities like Lethbridge, Red Deer and High River had to declare their states of emergency. The flooding resulted in four fatalities in total.

The towns and cities continue their clean-up in the aftermath. One thing that did happen is that the Calgary Stampede went on as planned. Events planned for the Saddledome however were either cancelled or relocated to other locations in the city.

Toronto Flash Flood

Soaking wet Go Train passengers are rafted to safety during a surprise flash flood in Toronto.

Soaking wet Go Train passengers are rafted to safety during a surprise flash flood in Metro Toronto.

Monday July 8, 2013 was expected to be like any other day in Toronto. If there was to be a thunderstorm, it was expected to be brief and pass by. However the afternoon provided some of the most serious thunderstorm activity faced by Toronto. Rain was delirious. Rainfalls ranging from 97mm in downtown Toronto to 126mm at Pearson Airport caused major flooding in many areas including the freeways and the subway stations. In fact news images showed a GO train with 1400 people that was caught in the floods. Power outages were rampant as 80% of Mississauga was without power as was 300,000 other people who received Toronto Hydro. A big surprise for a city that normally gets an average of 74mm of rain in the whole of July. Fortunately the floods have subsided and fortunately there were no fatalities.

Train Derailment In Quebec

I saved to worst for last. Until a week ago, Lac-Megantic was a simple small town in Quebec close to the Canada/U.S. border. Since the early morning of Saturday July 6th, it’s the centre of possibly the biggest train accident of the year and continues to make more bad news with each day.

It was a simple train trip done many times before: a trip transporting oil from the United States to New Brunswick. Lac Megantic was just simply a town where the train was to pass through without disturbance or incident of any kind. The train set consisted of 72 tanks each filled with 113,000 litres of crude oil and had been transferred from train system to train system.

Burned out buildings and burned out oil tankers lay in the aftermath of a train derailment in Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

Burned out buildings and burned out oil tankers lay in the aftermath of a train derailment in the downtown of Lac-Megantic, Quebec.

Two hours before the incident while the train was parked in Nantes, the engineer left the train as he was done his shift. He felt however that it was unsafe since it was spitting oil and thick black smoke and wanted to call an American official about directives for the situation. Actually drivers who were driving along the train 40 minutes earlier complained of thick black smoke coming from the train. The Nantes Fire Department put out the blaze at 11:30pm and the train company employees confirmed the train was safe. However one failed to notice that the locomotive was tampered with. The train tanks, detached from the locomotive, started moving downhill at witnesses considered a dangerous speed. Then the unmanned train derailed in an area of downtown Lac Megantic, the tanks collapsed spilling crude oil on the ground and cause a huge fire 91 to 121 meters in diameter. Between four to six explosions were heard and heat from the fire could be felt as far as two kilometers away. Over 1000 of the town’s 6000 residents had to be evacuated. People in the third floor of burning buildings jumped to avoid being caught in the blaze.

Even as of now, there are no final statistics and new information is being gathered every day. 35 people have been confirmed dead but 15 remain missing. Thirty buildings in the downtown of Lac Megantic have been destroyed by the blaze. Information has surfaced that the locomotive is believed to have been tampered with. I’m sure more clues will come up in the future.

The Aftermath

With every disaster comes action. Not just action from emergency crews but action from all those involved including officials from the various industries affected. Here’s some of the action that has been taken so far. Remember these incidents happened three weeks ago at the most so there is still more action to come:

-The province of Alberta has started to create new flood-mapping standards such as categorizing high-risk flood areas. Some homeowners in high-risk areas are offered to move from their current location with financial assistance from the province or risk being ineligible for any future Disaster Recovery Fund assistance. Homeowners will be given new regulations in the future such as notating homes for sale being in a possible flood-risk zone. Even developers will be made aware of high risk areas.

-The City of Toronto will have to do some rethinking and reassessing certain aspects of the city. Especially the drainage system. Also Toronto transit will have to organize a better system of escape from its trains and subways to avoid a worse scenario. One thing is train riders who had to travel on the still-wet trains the following day were given a $100 credit to cover whatever dry cleaning costs. Hydro One had most of its equipment underground. It will soon review its standards and practices in the aftermath including bringing some equipment above ground.

-Once the clean-up and other activities from the Lac Megantic derailment are completed, you can be sure there will be a full inquiry on this incident. Even without the death count being finalized, this has already become the deadliest train accident in Canada since 1864. Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MMA) will definitely face the biggest heat from this as well as Transport Canada. Already the Transport Safety Board of Canada has started an investigation on this. The Red Cross has started emergency efforts in the town. Lac Megantic will have to make efforts to rebuild and have makeshift locations for businesses that used to exist before the disaster. You can be sure that certain people will be prosecuted for criminal negligence and the government agencies will set new regulations for dealing with petroleum-filled tanks.

It is a shock to see all of this happening in Canada in the span of one month’s time but it was possible. Nevertheless it is Canadian nature to take immediate action towards something like this. In fact a roof collapse in an Ontario shopping mall last year that caused the deaths of two people made national news and brought fast action. In some countries, you’d need a bigger fatality result to get major action happening. Only time will tell what the end results are and what actions come of these incidents.

WORKS CITED:

Uncredited Author. “Alberta Unveils New Flood Proofing Rules” CBC News cbc.ca 14 July 2013 <http://news.ca.msn.com/top-stories/alberta-unveils-new-flood-proofing-rules-1>

Ogrodnik, Irene. “By the numbers: 2013 Toronto flood” Global News Global News And The Canadian Press. 9 July 2013 <http://globalnews.ca/news/704015/by-the-numbers-2013-toronto-summer-storm/>

Gheciu, Alex Nino. “Toronto flood: Underground equipment sank Hydro One” Toronto Star 11 July 2013 <http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/07/11/toronto_flood_underground_equipment_sunk_hydro_one.html>

WIKIPEDIA: Lac Megantic Derailment. Wikipedia.com. 2012. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lac-M%C3%A9gantic_derailment>

Movie Review: The Way, Way Back

Sam Rockwell (centre) gives Liam James (right) more than just a summer job in The Way, Way Back.

Sam Rockwell (centre) gives Liam James (right) more than a summer job in The Way, Way Back.

If you’ve seen The Way, Way Back, I’m sure you’d feel it should be described as a ‘summer movie’ because it’s not only released in the summer but is set in the summer too. But it’s not your typical ‘summer movie’ as it doesn’t fit how we interpret the term ‘summer movie.’ Nevertheless it is worth seeing.

We meet Duncan: a socially-withdrawn 14 year-old heading to upstate New York for the summer with his mother Pam, her boyfriend Trent and his daughter Steph. Trent is quite overbearing on Duncan chastising him about his shyness which doesn’t help at all. It’s obvious Duncan is not looking forward to this trip, especially since he wants to spend time with his father. At the beach house, the family meet up with Trent’s friend, the free-spirited Betty and her family including sullen teen daughter Susanna and young son Peter who Betty often chastises about his ‘lazy eye.’ Betty wants Duncan to be a play friend for Peter but Duncan is disinterested. He’s more interested in daughter Susanna but doesn’t know how to talk to her. The place is best describes by Susanna as ‘spring break for adults.’ Over at the beach house, Trent is the life of the party especially to his long-time friends Betty, Kip and Joan. That makes Duncan feel even more alone.

One day Duncan goes biking to the town on Steph’s girlie bike from years ago. He notices a waterslide park: The Water Wizz. Over there he meets the middle-aged man whom one day earlier was playing PacMan at the gas stop and wanted Duncan to keep up the high score. His name is Owen, a carefree easy-going personality, and he runs the Water Wizz. Here he shows Duncan about the Water Wizz with the employees and doing business, teaching him the ‘legend’ of the park, and even introducing a trio of boys he befriends. He also gets Roddy to show him how he sets up the female sliders to slide.

The experience gets Duncan coming back to the Water Wizz day after day and he even gets a job there. First duty was to stop a breakdancer from stealing the crowd. The breakdancer agrees as long as Duncan shows his stuff. Duncan agrees and he would be known at ‘Pop-N-Lock.’ Soon he learns from Owen that one doesn’t just simply work at the Water Wizz but the workers all share a common bond with each other. Meanwhile people back at the resort are wondering about Duncan and why he’s gone biking off so often, including Susanna who’s slowly developing an interest in him. Susanna actually follows Duncan one day, determined to find out what he’s up to. There she’s introduced to the Water Wizz and the two have fun together including Duncan teaching her the ‘legend’ of the park.

However while things are getting better for Duncan at the Water Wizz, things are getting worse for him and his family at the beach house. Trent and Betty are too carefree in their partying and Kip is oblivious to the whole thing. Meanwhile Trent is undecided about rekindling romantic interests with Joan who wants him back. Little do they know Duncan saw the whole thing. It’s at a resort party Trent is hosting at the house where Duncan impulsively blurts out to Trent that he knows what’s going on right for all to hear. The party’s over for the family. It gets to the point they all can’t have a normal dinner together or play a game on a rainy day without some friction. It bears hardest not only on Duncan but on Pam too as she knows the relationship will be over.

Duncan however finds someone to lean on in Owen. Owen reminds him Trent doesn’t know Duncan and how great of a kid he is and it’s more of Trent’s problem. He even offers to cheer him up by inviting him to Lewis’ good-bye party. Duncan comes with Peter and they all not only have a good time but Peter develops a new confidence about his lazy eye. Unfortunately the situation between Pam and Trent has gotten to the point that the ‘family’ has to leave the beach house and return home. This especially shocks Duncan since the people of the Water Wizz make him feel like a somebody although his job is still a secret to his ‘family.’ Yes, it is a goodbye to the town but not without one last ‘moment’ with Susanna and a golden last-hurrah at the Water Wizz that you will have to see for yourself.

The film’s movie poster advertises coming from the studio that brought out Little Miss Sunshine and Juno. The movie does kind of have the same feel as the two previous movies. Unlike the previous two, this film doesn’t seem to have much of a theme or a message to it. But like Juno and Little Miss Sunshine, it shows adults to be the messy ones or the ones who don’t have their head on straight. Also like those two movies, it shows that sometimes the kids or teens are the ones who deal with the situation best despite their own flaws. You could tell with the stupidities of Betty getting drunk constantly and Trent’s cheating that these adults don’t have their head on right. Even the adults’ treatment of the children like Betty getting on Peter’s case about his lazy eye and Trent’s judgment and belittling of Duncan are examples of their stupidity. While Duncan may be sky and Susanna may be unhappy, they’re the ones that actually end up being the smarter ones in the end. Another unique thing about the film is that it showed the career-oriented adults to be the ones playing games and doing stupid things that hurt those that matter most to them while the workers at the Water Wizz are the ones that most have it together. Duncan should be fortunate to have bumped into the park by chance. It was the best thing for him.

This is yet another coming-of-age story but it’s not yet another. Sure the coming-of-age story has been done at great frequency and some would say this story isn’t all that original. What makes this coming-of-age story work is through the character of Duncan. Everyone who’s been through the high school years knows a teen boy that is very quiet and is an anti-social loner. Duncan carries those traits in a comical way without poking too much fun at shy teen boys. But what’s also unique about Duncan is that he makes his anger and frustrations present. The film succeeds in getting us to feel for Duncan and wanting him to find his place despite Trent’s overbearingness. We first think of Owen and the gang at the Water Wizz as overgrown idiots who should get a real job but we soon see them as the friends Duncan needed during his vacation. That’s the movie’s appeal: the young protagonist and the people that change his life.

Without a doubt, young Canadian actor Liam James was the star of the film. He did an excellent job in portraying a shy anti-social boy very well both emotionally and physically. Great to see a young actor like him do an excellent lead amongst an ensemble cast of established actors. Steve Carell was also good playing a person you just wanted to hate. Toni Collette didn’t have that showy of a role but she played it very honestly and added to the story. Sam Rockwell was great in playing a free-spirited middle-aged man. Great character acting also came from Alison Janney and Rob Corddry. AnnaSophia Robb was also very good in playing a young teen girl. Very different from the ‘sweet’ roles she’s been known to play. Also fun to see the writers/directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash in roles in this film. Nat and Jim were writers who teamed up with Alexander Payne for The Descendants. This movie is a great way to show they can hold their own and hold it well. The movie also included a great mix of music both past and current.

Overall The Way, Way Back is a great summer film if you want to get away from your typical summer movie fare. This is a story you’ll really enjoy. Also movie fans should go see it if they want to get off the beaten path.

Film Review: Blood Pressure

Michelle Giroux reads a letter from a secret 'friend' in the Canadian-made thriller Blood Pressure.

Michelle Giroux reads a letter from a secret ‘friend’ in the Canadian-made Blood Pressure.

Even though I’m excited about the summer fare in movies, I’m also interested in what the independent movies have to show. Blood Pressure is one. Shown at the VIFF Theatre in Vancouver, it’s Canadian-shot, Canadian-produced and Canadian-made. But is it one film for those who want to get off the beaten path?

The film begins with the reading of a letter addressed from ‘a friend.’ It’s to a woman named Nicole. The letter from this ‘friend’ appears to be one who knows a lot about her. The ‘friend’ knows she’s a pharmacist and married mother of two living in a Toronto suburb. The ‘friend’ even knows where she graduated from. The friend also knows she’s not too happy with her job and her family life. You’ll soon see the friend is right. She’s not happy with her marriage or her job at a pharmacy. The one person she can confide to is retiring from the pharmacy.

Interestingly the ‘friend’ knows what to give Nicole as this ‘friend’ gives her a card for a complimentary massage and a manicure. The friend even knows of her wishes as just days after talking to her husband about a vacation to Mexico, she follows a set of lights to a chair with a plane ticket to Mexico. And the friend gives her shooting range sessions and martial arts classes. The ‘friend’ then asks of her to do things to prove her loyalty such as set up a flyer in the mail a certain way. Then the requests get bigger as the ‘friend’ asks her to observe a young man with a cane in a cafe at a certain time. Then the requests become even more voyeuristic as the ‘friend’ asks Nicole to observe the man while talking on the phone without being noticed. It didn’t work and the friend asks her to view the man in his bed at a certain time and be very observant.

However this fixation of these letters starts to bear down on Nicole’s life. The shooting sessions and martial arts classes work for her and even improve her relationship with her daughter. However it’s leading to difficulties in her marriage and even disputes with her boss on the job. Then the moment when she can finally find out who the friend is: a request to give the man an envelope at the cafe. It’s there she finds out that he’s the friend but it’s at his hotel suite she finds out why. At the suite she learns of this man, Darryl Saunders, and of his debilitating physical handicap. He is impressed with her loyalty to him and gives her one last request: kill him.

Nicole doesn’t know how to take this request. She tried looking up his medical information only to learn of a Daria Saunders instead, who is Darryl’s deceased wife. Meanwhile she develops feelings for the man and has simultaneously won over the attraction of her pharmacy boss. This even has her husband suspecting an affair. This all leads to a surprise decision from Nicole which leads to finding out another surprising truth about Darryl. The end result is one that will surprise you and the movie ends on a note that can leave the audience deciding for themselves how it all ends.

This film is a very good example of a creative idea paying off. It all started with an idea from scriptwriter Bill Fugler from an idea while talking with writing friends at a café bookstore. Co-writer and director Sean Garrity added narrative elements to bring the story to the big screen. It was originally to be filmed in Winnipeg when a sudden career change with his wife led to shoot it in suburban Toronto: Richmond Hill to be exact. Jonas Chernick was cast to be Darryl. Michelle Giroux, a friend of Jonas Chernick, was a stage actor and originally only read with the male actors during pre-production. Garrity was so impressed by her reading, she was cast as the lead. It was an excellent choice as Giroux owned the film. She was given a very complex lead role that spoke volumes even when she wasn’t speaking at all and she delivered excellently. Jonas was also good as the hurting Darryl as was Jonah Katz as the struggling husband. Tatiana Maslany did an excellent job of portraying a teenage daughter despite being much older.

After seeing Before Midnight, I was tempted to think that Blood Pressure was about reaching middle age in today’s world and the emotions that run through people. Even though Nicole possessed a lot of feelings and frustrations one would have at middle age, it’s not what this movie’s about. It’s more of a psychological thriller that uses human emotions to keep the audience thrilled instead of special effects.

One thing unique about Blood Pressure is its surprise success. The film made its big screen debut at the Busan Film Festival. It was screened in Garrity’s home city of Winnipeg in February 2013 to sold out shows at Cinematheque cinema which led to a screening at the Grant Park Cinema weeks later. The film would soon have popular screenings in Toronto in March. Its success in Toronto and Winnipeg has led to other screening nationwide including Calgary screenings and a Vancouver debut on June 29th. I actually thought something like this would make its Vancouver debut at the VIFF. looks like its buzz made it happen faster.

Blood Pressure is a surprise for the summer but not on a large scale. Those interested in Canadian film will like this. This is an excellent triumph for Manitoba filmmakers.

Movie Review: Before Midnight

Greece becomes the setting for the latest film of  Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) in Before Midnight.

Greece becomes the setting for the latest film of
Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) in
Before Midnight.

It’s the summer which means now is the time for movies to win crowds over for the top of the box office. Before Midnight doesn’t seem like the type of film that the summer movie crowd would rush out to see. Those lucky enough to give it a chance will be delighted.

NOTE: I know that Before Midnight is the third film in a series that includes Before Sunrise and Before Sunset which I will refer to as the ‘Jesse & Celine’ series. For the sake of the review, I will review Before Midnight without comparing them to the two previous films.

The film starts as Jesse is seeing his son Hank off back home to Chicago after spending the summer with him and Celine in the Greek Peninsula of Peloponnese. On the ride back to the house of their friend Patrick, the two have a discussion while their twin daughters are sleeping. Jesse has been doing well as a writer but wants to spend more time with Hank and give him a healthy childhood. Meanwhile Celine has been considering a job with the government back in Paris.

The visit at Patrick’s place becomes a moment of tranquility as the people staying with them, especially the other couples, talk about love and life. The couples even share their own experiences and feelings about each other and their relationships as Jesse and Celine are the centerpiece of it all. Patrick even gives his insight about Jesse future as a novelist in this time of electronic media.

Then Jesse and Celine head to the hotel the guests bought for them so they could spend some time alone. The walk seems light and sweet as the two talk about how they’ve met and how they’ve changed since then. However it’s in the suite that the friction starts. We learn that Hank’s mother back in Chicago is a suicidal alcoholic and citizenship laws can’t bring him to live with the two. We also learn that this government job is an opportunity of a lifetime for Celine. Then the fears about their future start pouring out from both of them which causes Celine to storm out of the hotel room leaving their relationship in question. The movie ends on the right notes in tune with the reality of the situation and allows the audience to decide the end of this story for themselves.

Even without the whole ‘Jesse & Celine’ factor, the film has the ability to stand well alone. The best quality of the film is that it’s one of the most thorough scripts I’ve seen when it comes to being about a relationship. The film focuses on the highlights and the struggles of the relationship between Jesse and Celine but it also features a scene at the house of Patrick and the other couples at the villa. The scene shows the couples young and old and their relationships where they talk about all the factors going into their love and their relations. There’s even talk from those no longer married. That scene adds to the story of Before Midnight. It’s a common trait of Richard Linklater to add conversations of others in situations involving the main plot of his films.

The other quality of the film is not just the film about being about relationships but of how two people can make or break it either by who they are, what they do or even what point in their lives they’re at. A lot of it has to do with the development of the characters. Jesse is the dreamer writer who tries to balance his imagination with his reality. He has become a successful writer as he’s on the verge of writing another novel. He appears to be in a happy relationship to Celine and a good father to his twin girls. However he wants to spend more time with his son in Chicago because he doesn’t trust his son’s mother. In the meantime, Celine is on the verge of a major career opportunity. This request from Jesse couldn’t come at a worse time. Celine however is the opposite of Jesse as she is very business oriented and does let her surrounding factors get to her. At the beginning of the film, you think this is a problem that will eventually sort itself out over time but it doesn’t. In fact all factors come into play such as the couple’s individual personalities, their vocations, Jesse’s fame as a writer, their roles as parents, their past selves, their genders, their current middle-ages and even their concepts of what they will be many years from now.

The thoroughness of the subject of relationships is one of the best qualities of the story. Another quality of the story is how the status of the relationship changes with every trip they make and every location they’re both at. In fact it’s all within a single day for changes to happen for the two to go from a family during a drive from the airport to one of the couples at Patrick’s house to a happy couple walking the streets of the town to a relationship in trouble at the hotel suite. That’s another strong addition to Before Midnight having all this happening in one day.

You have to give kudos to Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. It’s this trio that made it work in their collaborative scriptwriting, Richard’s directing and Ethan’s and Julie’s acting. You can bet with this series practically being Richard’s baby he would deliver a third movie that adds to the story of Jesse & Celine and he does it very well. Ethan and Julie have to know their roles of Jesse and Celine if they want to deliver performances that show them aging and growing believably in order for this movie to make the story of the two progress and even add to the series. Mind you it’s not just Richard, Ethan and Julie that deliver in this movie. Walter Lassally was a charming scene-stealer as Patrick and the dinner guests also added to the film very well. Another standout was the cinematography of Christos Voudouris that captured the feel of Greece in the movie.

Before Midnight may or may not be the last film in the Jesse & Celine series. Nevertheless it is an excellent and intelligent movie as it is and adds to the series. People who loved Before Sunrise and Before Sunset will not be disappointed.Those from the summer movie crowd who don’t bother to see this film don’t know what they’re missing.

The Confederations Cup And Protests In Brazil

One of many protests in Brazil that occurred during the time of the Confederations Cup.

One of many protests in Brazil that occurred during the time of the Confederations Cup.

The Confederations Cup soccer tournament began on June 15th. Also what started around that time was a protest in Sao Paulo about transit fare inflation. Protests soon grew in Brazil. I’m sure the Confederations Cup competition and the worldwide media attention to that event had a lot to do with the growth. But what are the protests about? And why are they happening all of a sudden?

First it’s important to look at the country of Brazil. Most people will consider Brazil a poor or developing country. It is true to an extent. What most people don’t know is how much Brazil’s economy has grown since the 1980’s. Its biggest growth was in the industries of oil, mining and agriculture which grew at 47% or 3.6% per year since 2000. Its industrial growth rate is also impressive with an 8.8% back in 2008. Brazil’s economy is one of the fastest growing in the world and actually now ranks 7th in the world and has the highest GDP per capita in South America and 53rd in the world overall. Its gross national income of $10,721 US in 2011 classifies itself as upper-middle income: an income on par with many countries of Eastern Europe. It can be attributed to many factors. Some say it could be Brazil’s move to democracy that started with an Amnesty Law in 1979 and developed into its own Constitution in 1988.

The quality of life has also gone up considerably in the last 20 years and Brazil has worked to establish methods to either keep it that way or improve it. Despite huge urban sprawl in cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, its cities have some of the finest public transit systems that have been copied and studied by many major cities in the world. Brazil has also reformed its Social Security programs and tax systems. There was even a Law Of Fiscal Responsibility that controls public expenditures by the Executive Branches of all government levels. Export, Industry and Trade has been increased while allowing Brazil to keep itself from vulnerabilities by methods such as not exporting the oil it consumes. It has also halved its debt through exchange rate-linked certificates which has allowed exporting to grow to as much as 20% a year and put a limit on its inflation rate to 4%. It also has an average life-expectancy rate of 72.7 years (2009) which is comparable to that of many Eastern European countries.

So what are all the protests about? Even before I get into the nitty gritty of the protests there are some facts to send a message that a bubble was about to burst. We must remember that while Brazil has improved a lot in past years and especially this century, there’s still a lot of development to go. Despite its improvements, the 53rd best GDP in the world shows they can do better. Its gross national income is roughly 1/4 of what developed countries like Canada are receiving. In addition, the minimum wage translates to an annual income of an unenviable 8,086 Brazilian Reals (R$) or roughly $3,600 American. Even in government despite being a democracy, Brazil still ranks as the 69th least corrupt country in the World according to Transparency International with a score of 43 out of 100.

The first protests actually started on June 1st, two weeks before the Confederations Cup was about to begin. The first major protest was in the city of Sao Paulo of a transit fare increase from R$ 3.00 to R$ 3.20. The first protest started on June 6 and grew over time. The real turning point came when police fired rubber bullets at the protesters and journalists on June 13th. This was widely criticized by Amnesty International and even Brazilian Amnesty Groups.

Soon after, and while the Confederations Cup was progressing further, the protests grew to as many as 250,000 in various major Brazilian cities on June 17th protesting. Rio de Janeiro had the biggest that day with 100,000. Even Brazilians in other world cities stages their own protests. By June 20th, protests grew to millions of people in 100 cities and grew over the next few days. As negotiations and government involvement in matters occurred, which I will discuss later, the protests calmed down but not without incidents.

Interesting enough is not just the number of protesters and cities involved growing but the issues too. What started off as one protest over a transit fare increase grew to a wide array of issues being protested against or demanded:

  • A bill (PEC – 37) that hindered Public Ministry to investigate.
  • The distribution of petroleum royalties to the appropriate causes.
  • Lack of criminalization of all forms of Corruption and Embezzlement.
  • Secret Voting in Congress for forfeiture of office.
  • A bill (PEC – 33) allowing decisions made by the Supreme Court going to Congress.
  • Having a Privileged Forum.
  • Taxing in Public Transport.
  • Demands to the National Pact for fiscal responsibility, control of inflation and proper distribution of funds to education, public transport and health.
  • Demands to implement means of political reform in the country.
  • Demanding 10% of the GDP be devoted to education.
  • Demanding a free-pass for full-time university students.
  • Demanding a revocation of a ‘gay cure’ bill (PDL – 234) authorizing psychologists to treat LGBT people.

Evident enough is that the growth in numbers and issues happened as the Confederations Cup matches were occurring. I still remember telecast of Confederation Cup matches on CBC that even included security updates of what was happening in the cities. Even though the protests have been successful in leading to solutions of problems being protested over, there was still last chances for opportunity as violent clashes occurred in Belo Horizonte as it was hosting a semifinal match on the 26th and in Rio de Janeiro as it was hosting the final on the 30th.

You could understand why the Confederations Cup had a lot to do with the increase in protests. With a major world event happening, it’s obvious the protesters want to highlight Brazil’s problems right while the eyes of the world are watching. Mind you these next three years are going to be very big for Brazil as they will play host to many major international events. Besides the Confederations Cup that finished yesterday, Rio will host the Catholic event World Youth Day later this month. Next year Brazil will host soccer’s World Cup with twelve major cities contesting the competition. And 2016 will have Rio hosting the Summer Olympic Games. I don’t know of any other country that has had to host this many major events in a matter of four years. For Brazil it’s a chance for them to show the world their image as a well-to-do nation as they will be the first developing country since Mexico in 1986 to host a World Cup and the first developing country since Mexico again in 1968 to host a Summer Olympics. In fact the World Cup was even the subject of protests that received less notice than most other protests. Many were protesting the government giving a lot of the budget ($12 billion US) to these sports events instead of on living conditions.

I mentioned that many of the issues being protested upon have been approved within this two-week span of time. You can assure the media attention to this had a lot to do with it. Among those approved by the governments and senate are: public transit prices reduced and taxes eliminated; petroleum royalties destined to education (75%) and health (25%); reform and improvement demands to the National Pact being granted; secret voting ended; Bill PEC – 37 being revoked; all forms of Corruption and Embezzlement being criminalized; and implementing a Plebiscite to politic national reform. Even though the Confederations Cup is over and a lot of reform and improvements have been politically approved, there are still demands outstanding. Some like the 10% allocation of the GDP to education, revocation of bill PDL – 234, and the Free Pass for students are currently under negotiation by Congress while issues of ending of Privileged Forum and the elimination of Bill PEC – 33 still remain undiscussed. On top of it, time will tell if the approved reforms are carried out and if carried out successfully or not. Another thing to look for in the future is how much impact it will have on President Dilma Rousseff. Her popularity has already been hit by the protests. It remains into question whether she will win the next election.

Even though many of the protester’s demand have been met and even though many are still pending as of now, don’t expect all the action to end just as the Confederation Cup has ended. I’m sure as long as Brazilians see injustice or wrong ways of doing things, there will continue to be protests even without the anticipated major events happening and even after they all end. Nevertheless it’s excellent opportunism to make improvements happen to a developing nation that has improved so much in recent decades but still has more to improve upon.

WORKS CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: Economy Of Brazil. Wikipedia.com.  2013. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Brazil>

Uncredited Author . “Brazil: One Million People Demand Accountability” Transparency International. 21 June 2013. <http://www.transparency.org/news/feature/brazil_one_million_people_demand_accountability>

WIKIPEDIA: 2013 Protests In Brazil. Wikipedia.com.  2013. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_protests_in_Brazil>