Monthly Archives: September, 2014

2014 Box Office: Bumpy Summer, Bumpy Year

Movie (640x306)

You may have seen my blog about the VIFF already. One thing some people may not have noticed about my blogging is that I haven’t been doing tracking of the year’s box office pace. Normally I do. Maybe one or two of you have noticed. Anyways this is my first look at 2014 at the box office and it doesn’t look too pleasant right now.

Decent Winter

The first quarter of 2014 didn’t make as much as the first quarter of 2013. Nevertheless it did provide for an excellent January and February. Neither January or February set a box office record for that month but both outgrossed their respective month from 2013. January 2014 was almost $60 million higher than January 2013 thanks to hits like Frozen, Lone Survivor, Ride Along, The Wolf of Wall Street and The Nut Job. February 2014 was almost $175 million higher than February 2013 thanks to the phenomenal success of The LEGO Movie and other hits like The Monuments Men, About Last Night, Three Days To Kill, Non-Stop and Son Of God. However all that extra wouldn’t be enough to outgross the winter of 2013 thanks to March 2014 grossing almost a quarter-billion less than March 2013. Strong openings for the 300 sequel, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, Divergent and Noah didn’t carry far enough in the end and the winter of 2014 just missed by that much.

Spring Falls Slightly Short

Don’t get me wrong. Spring was loaded with movies to get people to the cinema but it didn’t outgross last year’s spring. Once again no month set an all-time high but April was more than a quarter-billion higher than April 2013 thanks to Captain America 2, Rio 2, Heaven Is For Real and The Other Woman. May 2014 was more than $225 million shy of May 2013. Some could say there was no real big bang like Iron Man 3 from last year. Others could say too many competitors like The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Neighbors, Godzilla and X-Men: Days of Future Past opening at once.

However don’t get me started on June. June was the month that sent the message that 2014 was going to have a tough summer at the box office. First off June had the only weekend where a movie released in 2014 grossed more than $100 million on its opening weekend: Transformers: Age of Extinction with a paltry $100,038,390. That’s only 27th on the all-time list. Secondly were the ho-hum openings of movies like Maleficient, The Fault In Our Stars, 22 Jump Street, How To Train Your Dragon 2, and Think Like A Man Too. At the end of it all, June only grossed $995.4 million: $230 million less than June 2013 and the first June since 2003 to gross below $1 billion!

Summer’s Bumpy Road

You shouldn’t rely completely on the totals over at Box Office Mojo because the list of July totals shows July 2014 telling one story and the Weekly chart of 2014 and doing quick math in adding the July weeks telling another. One thing is certain is that this July didn’t outgross July 2013 despite continuing success of Transformers 4 and openings for Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes and Lucy.

The bright light not just of the summer but of the movie year so far has to be August. This is the one month that set an all-time record this year: $983 million. Definitely the success of the Guardians Of The Galaxy has a lot to do with it. There were other box office pumpers that month too like the Ninja Turtles, Into The Storm and Let’s Be Cops.

I decided to pass up reviewing September even though it hasn’t grossed as much as last year. Nevertheless the next three months will be a challenge. I don’t think 2014 will set an all-time box-office record but it will draw huge crowds with Fury, Nightcrawler, Horns, the latest Hunger Games movie Mockingjay Part. 1 and sequels for Night At The Museum and Madagascar. I’m confident 2014 will end past $10 billion but that’s something only time will tell.

WORKS CITED:

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

“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/

It’s VIFF Time Again

CinemaYes, it’s that time of year again. The Vancouver International Film Festival will be back up and running. It will open Thursday September 25th and run until Friday October 10th.

This year’s festival looks to be optimistic. As you may remember, last year’s festival could be considered a test pilot for the new way of doing the VIFF. They had no choice. The Granville 7–our main venue for years–closed in 2012 and a whole new system had to be created. It took finding new venues like the Vancouver Playhouse, the SFU Arts Centre, three cinemas of the International Village and the Rio Theatre and relocate their gala shows from the Vogue Theatre to the Centre for the Performing Arts. The end result was a success as it had one of the best per-screening averages. Sure there was a slight decrease in the number of films shown and the number of screenings but it payed off and kept the VIFF in a very healthy state.

There are not too many changes as far as screenings of films. One cool thing is that there will again be 11:30 showings at the Rio Theatre during certain nights. The festival promises to show 365 films from 70 countries during its duration. Some of the hot ticket films include:

  • Mommy– The latest film from 25 year-old Quebec directing phenom Xavier Dolan
  • Wild- A film starring Reese Witherspoon from Dallas Buyers Club director Jean-Marc Vallee
  • Maps To The Stars – A film by David Cronenberg with an excellent performance from Julianne Moore
  • Whiplash– a musical drama featuring drumming phenom Miles Teller
  • Welcome To Me– A dramedy starring Kristen Wiig that’s surprisingly very personal
  • Clouds of Sils Maria– A humorous but personal story starring Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart
  • Foxcatcher– An Olympic story directed by Bennett Miller that ends up being far from the Olympic dream
  • Men, Women and Children– The latest Jason Reitman film that shows relationships of teenagers and their parents’ relationships and the complications coming with it
  • The Riot Club– An intriguing look at special clubs and establishments in England in the 1800’s
  • Winter Sleep– Cannes’ Palme d’Or winner this year from Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan
  • Goodbye To Language 3D– The latest from Jean-Luc Godard that caught the attention of crowds at Cannes.

The biggest change would be in the case of volunteering. In the past, volunteers would be kept strictly to a single theatre throughout the running of the festival. This time they can volunteer at any theatre or theatres they want. I myself have chosen to volunteer at three theatres so far. Yesterday at the volunteer orientation, all volunteers had to learn the five different duties which they will be assigned. This was the first time ever that the VIFF has given us instruction during the volunteer orientation. Nevertheless it’s a good thing for when they have to do their duty.

Anyways the festival begins tomorrow. Expect a lot of excitement. And expect to see a good number of reviews from me. For more information or to purchase your own tickets, go to the VIFF website.

Move Review: Lucy

lucy-scarlett-johansson

At first I was not interested in seeing Lucy. What got me seeing it was all the talk so many people who’ve seen it have said about it. I thought I’d check it out myself.

For those who haven’t seen the movie, it’s about a young woman who goes by the name of Lucy caught in a crime heist by surprise thanks to her shady and no-longer-living boyfriend. She then becomes a drug mule for a set of mind drugs that expands the brain’s use at one time from the alleged normal 10% to as much as 100%. This sets her up with getting even with her crime bosses, connecting with the other drug mules involved and making sense with the human race thanks to a college professor and her own mind’s supernatural ability to travel through time. Sound confusing? Well, you be the judge after you see the movie.

The funny thing about the movie is the whole plot of trying to make a connection between brain use at one time to the evolution of humanity coinciding with a criminal act. It’s a movie that tries to be humorous as in the case of Lucy telling her roommate of her health condition as well as action-filled in the story of as well as try and provoke thought about the human race and people’s ability to think. This is a complicated mix to try and create a good script that can entertain moviegoers.

One thing about the film is that it doesn’t make complete sense. Yes it’s a complicated story and yes there are parts that try to make it make sense over time. In fact the movie looked very ambitious at the beginning and appeared like it would deliver something to think about as the plot unraveled.  However there are many times in which I wonder if it could have been organized out better or even played out better. Like those parts where Lucy connects with the ape-like human from eons ago made me question its purpose and whether it really worked or not. This is one case when I leave the movie theatre thinking of what scenes could have been done better and how. I will give credit to the effort by director/writer Luc Besson given to make such a movie that includes an intriguing story. In fact I found the best thing about the movie is the fact we never know Lucy’s real name. But all the elements included in this story don’t blend together well as a whole. I felt it to be uneven and confusing at times.

The movie did have a lot of positive qualities. The best thing about it had to be the acting. I can’t complain about that. Scarlet Johansson and Morgan Freeman were good in their roles. They knew how to work their roles well otherwise the movie would have come across as completely ridiculous. They also knew how to keep our intrigue to the unfolding events. Choi Min-Sik and Amr Waked also acted well enough to keep the story intriguing and intact. The movies’ special effects were also excellent, and for not even $40 million. The score to the film by Eric Serra also fit the story well.

One thing I have to say about Lucy is that it was actually successful in getting people to talk about the movie’s topics. From the 10% brain-use hypothesis to the belief of evolution, that got a lot of people thinking, despite how disjointed the movie seemed. In fact I myself went to see it after two people I knew mentioned they saw it and gave their comments of what they thought of it. I find it interesting. That’s all I will say. It also paid off at the box office too. It’s still in theatres but it has made almost $125 million in North America and $378 million worldwide. I think the topic of the plot paid off in getting people to come. One feat it has achieved is this is Besson’s highest-grossing film to date.

Lucy is an ambitious science fiction movie that tries to make us think while keeping us fixated on the story and the action along the way. However it’s not all that together of a movie. Attention-grabbing, thought-provoking, but not really together.

Movie Review: Guardians Of The Galaxy

Meet the Guardians Of The Galaxy: a superhero quintet that went from misfits to household names this summer.

Meet the Guardians Of The Galaxy: a superhero quintet that became household names this summer.

Oh boy. Now my time to catch up on movie reviews. This is the first of two reviews of summer blockbusters I saw. I will admit I’ve been a bit laxed in watching big movies this year. One of which I did feel I had to see was Guardians of The Galaxy. I’m glad I did.

I won’t go into giving a brief description of the story since it’s safe to assume most people have already seen it. This is one of those superhero movies that tries to balance out the comedic parts with the dramatic parts and the action parts. It does a very good job of it. It succeeds in giving the movie intriguing characters like Peter Quill, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket and Groot. However like every first movie or introduction movie of a superhero or superhero ensemble, it has to have a very good story of how the superheroes came to be or in this case, came to be an ensemble. It does a good job of creating an introduction movie of such. It may not be as heavily dramatic as your typical superhero movie. It’s a mix of drama and comedy that many will find entertaining. I will admit there are a couple of cornball scenes in there but the movie does a mostly good job.

I will admit that when I first saw the trailer for this months ago, I thought this would be a cheesy movie. I think what got me thinking it would be cheesy was seeing a raccoon as part of this superhero ensemble. It wasn’t until I learned the Guardians Of The Galaxy movie is based off of a Marvel Comics series that I thought that this might be something good. I will admit I’m like a lot of people that probably never knew of the Guardians Of The Galaxy until I saw this movie. Anyone else? Yeah, I’m sure there are a bunch of you guilty of it too. Guardians Of The Galaxy has probably been one of Marvel Comics’ least known comic heroes or hero ensembles. Actually the Guardians we know of are not the original Guardians. The first Guardians came out in 1969 and consisted of a different set of Guardians including one named Captain Marvel. Then came the 2008 ensemble of Guardians that consisted of some of the original characters but added in others like Groot, Rocket, Star Lord and Gamora but the total number of Guardians is in the dozens.

This also makes for an additional point for the challenge it had. Marvel and the producers had to work with creating a hit movie about a superhero ensemble that most of the general public are not very familiar with. It’s definitely more challenging as doing such a movie with a more celebrated superhero like Superman or Captain America. The example of John Carter demonstrates the challenge; Disney hoped to introduce the world to John in a big way but it didn’t work. Here it’s Marvel’s challenge to introduce the Guardians to the world and no doubt it would be a huge cost risk: $170 million to be exact. It paid off as it was the #1 movie for a total of five weekends. Its total box office is $313.7 million in North America and $632 million worldwide which is a modest number for a movie of that much success. Nevertheless I’ll save it for when I give my upcoming movie year forecast. The movie’s success also has paved the way for an upcoming sequel in 2017. The question is will they stick to the original five Guardians or will they add some additional Guardians in?

The first person who deserves acclaim for the success is director James Gunn. He hasn’t had too huge of a resume as far as directors go. Actually he has a major blemish as he is one of the many directors with the atrocity Movie 43. However this is his breakthrough and should make a good name for him in the future. Possibly even a director of the sequel. Additional kudos to Nicole Perlman who co-wrote the script with Gunn. The collaboration paid off in giving a story full of action and humor and being what a script for a superhero movie should be.

Chris Pratt was entertaining as Peter Quill. He does a good job of balancing the role of a superhero with adding comedy plus he doesn’t make dealing with his late mother too seriously dramatic. Zoe Saldana seems to be the actress made for sci-fi. First Avatar, then Star Trek and now this. Nevertheless I can’t think of a better choice as she nails it again here. Dave Bautista also did a good job. And it’s good to see since I don’t normally think wrestlers make good movie stars as seen by past wrestlers. Bradley Cooper added great character to the voice of Rocket and Vin Diesel was good as Groot. Actually some of his better acting as of late. Other highlights include the visual effects of the movie which are probably some of the best of the year. Another plus is the inclusion of 70’s music. At first you’d think it was cornball. However it becomes more evident why it’s incorporated as it’s this music that connects Peter to his mother. It also adds to the humor too.

Guardians Of The Galaxy is not just another good movie from the Marvel Comics team but a commercial achievement too in making household names of their lesser-known comic book characters. Good job.

Movie Review: Boyhood

Boyhood is a movie of the growing years of Mason Evans Jr. (played by Ellar Coltrane) shot over a period of twelve years.

Boyhood is a movie of the growing years of Mason Evans Jr. (played by Ellar Coltrane) and was shot over a period of twelve years.

I know there have been a lot of people who liked my World Cup blogs but there are still some who feel like saying: “Jon, when’s your next movie review?” For those wondering about that, yes I have been watching movies over the summer and I have a few reviews to share. To start with, I’ll do Boyhood: a good choice for those who want something different.

The movie starts with six year-old Mason Evans Jr., a boy growing up in a small Texas town who’s more interested in nature and collecting arrowheads than playing football. He lives with his slightly older sister Samantha, single mother Olivia and her boyfriend. Things are not the best as Mason has to share a bedroom with his sister and that causes typical brother-sister issues. Then it changes one day after an argument with Olivia and her boyfriend which she claims she has no free time. She moves to Houston with the children. This causes concern for mason wondering if he’ll ever see his father again.

Life in Houston starts to work out fine for Mason and the family. Olivia is able to attend classes at the University of Houston while Mason and Samantha attend school. They’re able to meet up with their father Mason Sr. but it’s not so frequent. Even as Mason Sr. drops the kids off, friction between him and Olivia come back. In the meantime, Olivia meets up with Professor Bill Welbrock. He appears to be a good man with a head on his shoulders and even takes a liking to Mason, willing to introduce him to his own son Randy who’s a similar like. The two marry and his children Mindy and Randy move in together. The family appears close knit as the stepsiblings have fun together and Bill appears to be the ideal husband. However things turn for the worse as Bill develops a drinking problem he first tries to keep secret only to have it exposed as he becomes abusive to Olivia and the children, even forcing Mason Jr. to get his head shaved. Olivia immediately leaves the household taking Mason and Sam with her.

The three find a new life in a town close to Austin. Olivia becomes a psychology teacher and falls in love with one of her students Jim who’s a former Afghanistan War veteran whom she eventually marries. Mason Sr. has married and has become a father to a newborn. In the meantime, Samantha and Mason Jr begin social interaction of their own as they make friend and start dating. However Mason’s drinking and earrings have gotten on the nerve of a visibly drunken Jim. Not surprisingly Olivia divorces him.

In the meantime Mason has a girlfriend named Sheena, works part-time at a seafood restaurant and has developed a passion for photography. His work in taking pictures and developing in the darkroom inspires him to be an artistic photographer. However it doesn’t sit well with his teacher because he knows how competitive of a field photography is and how gimmicks are easier moneymakers than art. The teacher then makes Mason photographer for the football team.

Grade 12 is a life changing year for Mason Jr. Sam has moved onto college but she does allow Mason and Sheena to ‘visit.’ Sheena soon breaks up with Mason for a boy on the high school lacrosse team. Mason also wins second prize in a photography contest and receives scholarship money. His graduation is celebrated with family and others close in his life like his teacher and his boss at the restaurant. Going to college is the next chapter in Mason’s life. However it’s not without heartache as his mother finds it hard both her children have moved out and wonders of her own life. The film ends with Mason attending college, becoming friends with his roommate and being introduced to his roommate’s girlfriend’s best friend who shares a lot of common interests and common dreams with Mason.

Now this is something. Director Richard Linklater tells a story of Mason Jr. over the years and the people around him. He uses all the same actors, no replacements. This was very chancy because a lot can change over a period of twelve years. It’s possible Ellar could have gotten tired of acting and wanted nothing to do with it anymore within that time. It’s even possible one of the actors in one of the main roles could have died. Any one of them. But it worked. And it wasn’t just simply the technical bits. It was also a story about a boy whose life over the years catches our intrigue. We’re astonished to see Mason Jr. (or should I say Ellar?) grow over a twelve year span. We also see the lives of his mother, father and Sam pave their way too. All those who were part of the film and its ‘aging process’ contributed significantly. Also as it progresses over the time, Linklater doesn’t leave anything out as far as aging goes. He doesn’t get the adult actors to hide their facial aging. He doesn’t replace the child actors if any one of them go through the ‘awkward stage’ or get braces. He keeps it all as is. That’s another quality.

The thing is the film doesn’t really tell the typical story that has a beginning, middle and end. Rather it tries to paint a portrait of Mason Jr. growing up over the years and of the boy he was and would grow up to be. It’s not too thick on a plot but rather lets time unravel itself and tell the story as it goes along. Almost like childhood through Mason Jr’s eyes. It’s common with Richard Linklater’s movies that they’re not too heavy on the plot and give more of an atmosphere. Another thing this film can do is remind audience members of their own childhood growing up. It may tell a story of a boy who’s not into sports and more of a dreamer but I’m sure there are some parts of Mason’s childhood that will remind them of their own.

Another additional element that adds to the film are the surrounding scenes that add to the atmosphere. Linklater has done that in past films where he would show elements in the film that would actually add to it. We see it here too with Sam’s like of popular culture from Britney Spears to High School Musical to Lady Gaga. We see it in the computer technology as the cast go from Apple computers with big box screens to iPhones. We see it in Mason Jr. growing up in highly conservative Texas and the values the state tries to instill with the people and through the schools. We also see it in how it with Mason Sr. being a liberal Democrat in a state that has a lot of staunch conservatives. We also see it with scenes with other artistically-minded people in the film. It all adds to it.

This film also adds to a common theme of Richard Linklater’s movies. Linklater has never been one to dwell into the typical Hollywood fanfare. He’s always been one to do his movies his way. His movies have featured people pursue their passion and even dream out loud. He often focuses on the visionaries and the inspired ones and he presents them as the ones to be admired. I think that’s why he has such a following with Generation X. We can see that in Mason Jr. He falls in love with photography and wants it to be his life passion. The problem is those around him don’t think highly of his choice. The teachers question it and whether it’s a career choice that will allow for a decent living. His father wonders why he doesn’t pursue something that ‘wins chicks.’ His girlfriend drops him for a jock because it doesn’t make him look cool enough. And his friends razz him about it. But it’s his passion. I think that’s what Linklater is showing. About how passion is what matters. Especially for a boy like Mason.

Without a doubt, this is an accomplishment from Linklater. It was a unique idea from him that was creative but risky and it paid off very well. However this is also an accomplishment from actor Ellar Coltrane. It was not an easy job to play the same role over twelve years of filming. Nevertheless he did an excellent job in the role. It wasn’t so much a role filled with emotional range or drama but rather a role that required the actor to grow along with the role and have the personality of the dreamer Linklater intended to have as the central protagonist. Much of it was natural personality but a lot of it was maturity over age. And Ellar did it. Very excellent.

Patricia Arquette was also very good as the mother almost to the point it appeared she stole the movie. The movie was also about the mother over the years improving her life, raising her two children and falling into two marriages that appeared right at the time but would soon make a turn for the worse. Her struggles added to the story not just to add to Mason Jr’s story but to also mix it in as her own story too. Ethan Hawke was also good as the father who makes the annual visit. He too shows maturity over the years but his overall role was not as challenging as his past roles. Lorelei Linklater was also very good. She may have been cast as Sam simply because she’s Richard Linklater’s daughter–much the same way Ethan was cast because of working in his Before Sunrise series– but she wasn’t just simply there. She was given a role too that involved her to grow along with Ellar and also portray Sam as this sister who was liked pop culture, had her own individual style, had ambitions of her own and was a typical older sister in both the fun times and the bad times with Mason.

One thing to note as well. It has been noticed in the last few years the lack of buzz alternative or independent cinema has had over the years. There hasn’t as big of a phenomenon from Sundance or any other film festival promoting independent film in the last while. I don’t know if Boyhood would qualify as a phenomenon but it is one film that has gotten bigger notice over time and has grown with the buzz. It currently has made $22 million in the US and $37 million worldwide. It has also received a lot of critical admiration and a lot of praise for its uniqueness. Definitely a big boost for independent cinema this year.

Boyhood is one of those summer movies one who wants to get off the beaten path of your typical summer movie fanfare would want to see. It’s definitely worth it.