Tag Archives: Equestria Girls

US Box Office Report: 24/10/14 – 26/10/14

Ouija makes contact with idiot spirits who have money to burn, St. Vincent is the kind of clown that’s crying on the inside, Laggies doesn’t lag behind, John Wick underwhelms goddammit, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

The world is a cruel, horrible, and uncaring place where anything good will fail miserably whilst anything bad rakes in the cash hand-over-fist.  That’s my theory, in any case, as to why Ouija triumphed over John Wick at the box office this weekend.  The former, a strongly-marketed PG-13 horror film with dreadful reviews released near-Halloween to capitalise on a seasonal desire to be spooked in some way, took first place with $20 million in ticket sales.  The latter, a lightly-marketed R-rated action film with excellent reviews slotted into a free weekend of a ridiculously cramped release schedule, took second place with $14 million in ticket sales.  Sure, you could point to other factors that would cause a film like John Wick to underwhelm, but I’m sticking with my initial conclusion: people suck.

Ah, well.  At least John Wick wasn’t 23 Blast, the faith-based sports biopic about Larry Freeman, a man who lost his eyesight but still managed to go on and play in the NFL anyway.  That film got its start in 617 theatres, maybe even had big aspirations as to overall total gross and its standing in life, only to have them snatched away from it by a cruel, uncaring public.  It only managed to make $402,000, making its opening weekend the 11th worst for any wide release film ever, and with a dismal $652 per-screen average to boot.  This would be the point where I make cruel tasteless jokes at the film’s expense, but I find this just too sad to crack wise at.  On the bright side, it still opened better than last week’s Men, Women & Children.  So at least it has that going for it.

In limited release news, Laggies, the new film from Lynne Shelton which has been renamed to Say When in the UK for some reason, got its start in 5 theatres and banked a respectable $78,500 – for a per-screen average of $15,700.  Citizenfour, a documentary about Edward Snowden and the NSA spying scandal, did much better, managing to confiscate itself $125,000 from 5 screens worth of people who fancied a change of pace; one has their limits when it comes to buzzed-about Indie Dramedies, after all.  Meanwhile, Studio Ghibli’s The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya expanded to 20 theatres and raked in a far less impressive $63,500, for a per-screen average of $3,175, as a sad reminder that most people don’t seem to give a sh*t about Ghibli if the film isn’t made by Miyazaki.  Dammit.

Finally, we have multiple expanders, the most successful of which was the Bill Murray-led St. Vincent.  Admittedly, it’s the only one that went nationwide and boats the advantage of having Bill Murray in the lead role, but it still managed to crack the Top 10 with $8 million in ticket sales.  Whiplash, which I want in my life now DAMMIT, added 25 more theatres to its slow conquest of America and managed a decent $266,000 from all 46 of them.  The provocative Dear White People, which still looks amazing and still doesn’t have a UK release date for NO GODDAMN REASON, jumped up to 384 screens and finished with a much more down-to-earth and expected total of $1,384,000.   Birdman, meanwhile, expanded to 50 screens and did exactly as well as a film like Birdman is expected to do – $1,436,000 and a per-screen average of $28,720.

ouija 2

This Full List was a final gift from John Wick’s dying wife.

Box Office Results: Friday 24th October 2014 – Sunday 26th October 2014

1] Ouija

$20,006,000 / NEW

This seems like as good a time as any to tell Owen that I will not be coming into “work” for a week commencing on January 23rd.  That’s when Saints Row: Gat Out Of Hell comes out and I sequester myself away from the world for a straight week to do nothing but play it.  I live for the simple things, like a new Saints Row with an increased focus on Kinzie Kensington, the greatest character in anything ever.  So, yeah, sorry Owen.  Can’t say you weren’t notified, though!

2] John Wick

$14,150,000 / NEW

This is no longer coming out in the UK this year.  I have to wait until January 2nd to watch John Wick.  This was NOT THE GODDAMN DEAL, LIONSGATE!!  I was supposed to get John Wick at Christmas!  It was all-but-guaranteed a spot on my Top 10 of 2014!  To withhold it until next year is evil, ya hear?!  Pure evil!  HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?!  (*goes on like this for another 5 or 6 pages*)

3] Fury

$13,000,000 / $46,050,000

OK, that’s not a good hold at all.  Considering the star attached to it, the level of advertising that it’s received, and the fact that pretty much nothing came out this week, this should have held better than a 45% drop.  Owen’s review went live last Tuesday if you want to know if there’s a reason as to why few came back for repeat showings.

4] Gone Girl

$11,100,000 / $124,093,000

Battle lines have been drawn in my Film Studies course over Gone Girl.  You either love it, like I and several students do, or you hate it, like most of our lecturers seem to.  If this doesn’t end with a full-on all-out war, then I am going to be sorely disappointed.  At least I know that I will be on the right side of history if everything does kick off!

5] The Book Of Life

$9,800,000 / $29,913,000

Of course I saw it this weekend, who do you think I am?  The only reason as to why I haven’t reviewed it yet is quite simply because I haven’t had the time.  It’ll be up by Wednesday at the latest.  Short version: really good, best looking animated film I have seen all year, last 30 minutes are incredibly rushed.  It absolutely needs to be seen, definitely way more than it currently is.  If you’re still on the fence though, quite rightly believing that my opinion means sh*t, then know that the film is Lauren Faust and Craig McCracken approved!

6] St. Vincent

$8,058,000 / $9,189,000

There’s a part of me that wants to just talk about the music of Annie Clark instead, but I get the feeling that this one is going to hang around next week, so I’ll hold off on bombarding you with links until then.  You should listen to St. Vincent anyway, though.

7] Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

$7,023,000 / $45,544,000

So I was all set to see this Saturday but, before I’d even set off for the cinema, the screening I was planning on going to had sold out.  That came as a surprise, but rest assured that I will be seeing this at my next free occurrence, which is Wednesday!  I may accidentally miss awards bait dramas, I may miss horror flicks, and I may even accidentally miss awful-looking action flicks, but I shall never miss an insufferable looking live-action family film!  That’s just not my style!

8] The Best Of Me

$4,736,000 / $17,663,000


9] The Judge

$4,345,000 / $34,377,000

Yeah, I ended up missing this one.  I was too busy in its opening week and all showings were pulled this week at my Cineworld, so that was the end of that.  I could have gone to a different cinema and paid money, but my remaining cash went to My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks (review here) and bis gig tickets and like f*ck am I willingly spending money on this cure for insomnia!  So, goodbye, The Judge!  At least be glad that I didn’t make any Arrested Development references during your stay!  That takes restraint!

10] Dracula Untold

$4,302,000 / $48,328,000

… … … …nope.  Can’t do it.  Can’t let The Judge escape without an Arrested Development reference.  Hit it, William Hung & His Hung Jury!

Dropped Out: Annabelle, The Equalizer, The Maze Runner

Callum Petch don’t care if we never come back from the night.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks

It lacks the surprise “this actually works!” factor of the original, but My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks is otherwise a better film in every respect.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

mlp1I really like the first Equestria Girls.  I liked it enough to actually put it on my Top 10 Films of 2013 list in the #10 slot with 47 Ronin (which is always reserved for the nicest surprise I’ve had all film-going year).  I will, however, admit a fair bit of that liking came from the sheer surprise that it actually worked at all.  As a big fan of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, I entered very much worried that the film was just going to be a cash-in, as Hasbro threw the well-respected Friendship Is Magic licence under the bus in search of that sweet sweet Monster High money.  To find the film worked at all, let alone as well as it did, was very much a nice surprise.  It’s not brilliant, it’s too fast-paced and lacks material for much of its cast, but it is very fun and very good.

Rainbow Rocks, which arrives just over a year after the original film, is therefore at the disadvantage of not having the “holy crap, this actually works” card to fall back on for any of its flaws.  Like it or not, the film now has to stand on its own merits.  That’s pretty much the only disadvantage that the film has, though, as Rainbow Rocks is a better film than Equestria Girls in almost every single possible way.  In fact, it’s way more than that.  It’s one of the best animated films of the whole year.  Admittedly, that doesn’t sound like much, what with 2014 being a rather miserable year for animation, but it’s still worthy of the level of respect that such a statement usually holds.

We’re a while removed from the first Equestria Girls, and Canterlot High is getting ready for its first ever musical showcase, which the remaining human members of the Mane Six – Rainbow Dash (Ashleigh Ball), Applejack (also Ashleigh Ball), Pinkie Pie (Andrea Libman), Fluttershy (also Andrea Libman) and Rarity (Tabitha St. Germain) – have started a band to perform in.  Filling in the Twilight Sparkle (Tara Strong) shaped hole in the group is the recently reformed Sunset Shimmer (Rebecca Shoichet) who is finding it hard to integrate into the group and find acceptance at school after the whole “being evil” thing.  But all is not well, for the school has been infiltrated by three Sirens that were banished from Equestria – now taking the human forms of their leader Adagio Dazzle (Kazumi Evans), the airheaded Sonata Dusk (Marÿke Hendrikse), and the permanently irritated Aria Blaze (Diana Kaarina) – who gain power by planting discord and anger in others through their singing.  Realising that the Sirens are up to something, our heroes send a message to Equestria to try and get Twilight to come and help.

One may notice that that summary contained a hefty lack of Twilight Sparkle, a key segment of the character dynamics and the main protagonist of the first film.  That’s actually one of Rainbow Rocks’ many strokes of genius.  Twilight is not the main character, this time.  In fact, she doesn’t even enter the film until about the halfway mark, and even then she’s pushed a bit more to the back than before.  The film instead focuses more on the rest of the main ensemble, the point being to show how these human versions of the pony cast interact with each other as friends without Twilight.  It gives them more of a spotlight, lets the viewer see them as full-on characters, and allows one to relate and love them on levels that aren’t tied to residual love for their pony incarnations, which is why the emotional stakes of the film end up carrying genuine weight this time around.

The other reason for the film’s sliding of Twilight into the “co-lead” position is the film’s best choice: Sunset Shimmer is our main protagonist.  That’s not to say that the rest of the ensemble get left out, on the contrary, but most of the film is viewed from her perspective and its most prominent, not to mention best, plotline revolves around her trying to atone for her many past sins and trying to gain acceptance from other people.  To put it simply; anybody who found, like I did, the main cast’s sudden forgiveness of her at the end of the first film to be extremely unearned for a character who, up until that point, had shown no reason for sympathy or forgiveness should find this more than enough of a course correct.

It, like the best moments of the show it’s spun-off from, taps into real insecurities and worries and feeds them through a character who is very easy to like.  Sunset is somebody who is desperately trying and wanting to change, wanting to become a good person who helps her friends and does the right thing, but she can’t escape her past because nobody will let her forget it.  Even her new and only friends keep inadvertently bringing it up regularly enough for her to be used to it.  Her attempts to fit in, to gather up the courage to help out, and to completely believe that she really is capable of change are extremely well handled, able to be played for big laughs and quiet emotional nuance in equal measure, and it is the best part of the film.  Credit needs to be given to both Meghan McCarthy’s excellent script and Rebecca Shoichet’s brilliant vocal work; they’ve turned a mediocre character who had pretty much no redeeming qualities into somebody I’d like to see more of whenever possible.

Speaking of that script, this is a far better paced film than the first Equestria Girls was.  Whilst that film raced through plot point after plot point, whilst still finding time to work in a whole bunch of character beats to keep it from feeling like a soulless exercise in plot, Rainbow Rocks has much less plot than the first one.  Much of it was actually summarised in that paragraph a while back, and the film is structured in such a way that we get far more time with the cast of characters to make its emotional beats register that much more.  The first film had to tell a story and set-up the world, but the second one is able to relax and breathe more, so it feels like I’ve been able to immerse myself more in Equestria Girls’ dimension than I did the first time.  Nothing is rushed, nothing feels forced excepting one bit in the finale; it all feels natural.

On that note, the humour is less pronounced this time.  Don’t get me wrong, it is still a very funny movie, it’s just that the jokes are much lower-key.  There’s a lack of giant laughs, although they do exist – one is a brilliant self-acknowledgement of how conflicts in the series tend to resolve without it devaluing said thing, another involves the appearance of one of Season 4 of the original show’s best one-shot characters – but the joke ratio is still high, coming from character traits and certain turns of phrase rather than extended sequences of Twilight trying to act like a person.  It fits, the laughs complimenting on-screen events instead of overpowering them.

Animation is great, considering the limitations of Flash.  Due to the restrictive nature of the technology, one shouldn’t expect anything close to the levels of How To Train Your Dragon 2 or The Book Of Life but it’s still very good regardless; director Jayson Thiessen and the folks over at DHX really mastering this form and pushing it to its apparent limits.  Character designs are distinctive without being off-putting, specifically the anthropomorphic features that the main cast take on at points are slightly less pronounced and therefore less awkward than before, whilst the colour scheme is bright and breezy, to a degree that can come across as excessive, but tempers its primary tendencies with good deployment of shades to add an actual spectrum and variety to proceedings.

Camerawork and perspectives are vastly improved, too; there are multiple instances of dollying, focus-shifting and perspective switching – manipulating the camera in a two-dimensional plane in a way that gives off the illusion of three-dimensions – that come off much smoother than they have in many prior instalments of both the show and the last film.  There’s also some great board work going on here, too; sequences that are made thanks to well designed and laid out shots and images.  Most specifically, there’s a musical montage late in the film of the Battle Of The Bands competition that visualises the various clashes like an actual battle with real kinetic energy that makes the sequence a lot of fun.  Also it reminded me of Scott Pilgrim and I love Scott Pilgrim.

Related: the songs, penned primarily as always by Daniel Ingram, are really darn good.  There’s a lack of anything that I’m still humming about 24 hours removed from being exposed to it, like the show’s best numbers ended up doing to me many times, but they also fulfil the more important job of fitting the film.  They hop between genres and moods and tones – the Sirens mostly sing incredibly well-harmonised goth pop, our main cast get earnest but likeable pop rock, whilst The Great And Powerful Trixie performs a brilliantly naff early-00s electropop number – but they always feel consistent and unified whilst still having their own identity.  The final battle ends up incorporating elements of heavy metal, whilst Snips & Snails have to perform an incredibly awkward rap number earlier on, yet they don’t feel out-of-place or blatantly calling out to the older segments of the audience.  They fit and they work, even if the lyrics do sometimes cross the line from “earnestly rubbish” to “just plain rubbish”.

The only real knock I have against Rainbow Rocks, and by which I mean the only part that isn’t improved from the first film in any way, is with regards to the character of Flash Sentry, the teenage boy whom Twilight has a reciprocated but never openly stated crush on.  He’s in the film for about the same amount of time as he was in the first one, but he’s still pointless to overall proceedings.  He mainly seems to exist so that the audience has somebody to worry about when the film needs to show the effects of the hostility that the Sirens bring out in people.  So he spends most of the film being a paper-thin jerk, in stark contrast to Equestria Girls where spent most of that film being a paper-thin pretty boy.  He only seems to be here because nobody was confident enough to admit the character didn’t work and cut him, with his negative characterisation being a way to turn into the skid of nobody liking him.  In a film where Sunset Shimmer was able to be totally redeemed as a character in the space of 75 minutes, Flash sticks out like a sore thumb.

Forget about Flash Sentry, though (heaven knows the film does for long stretches), and My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks is an unqualified triumph.  A major leap forward in nearly every respect, this is what a sequel should be: using a previously established world and characters to tell a new story with character development that actually sticks, a story and set of character arcs that aren’t just rehashing the beats of the original and improving upon their problems to create a film that stands head and shoulders above its predecessor.  Admittedly, if you’re not already on board the super-earnest and occasionally-proudly-cheesy My Little Pony bandwagon, this may not be the movie to convince you, even if it does have a literal music battle for a finale (that is AWESOME).  But if you found yourself disappointed with the first Equestria Girls, then you should give Rainbow Rocks a shot as I guarantee you that you will find it a major leap forward comparatively.

Considering how this series first looked to be a cynical heartless cash-grab driven purely by the need to sell toys, Equestria Girls has turned into quite the fantastic little series.  See, folks!  Heart-on-sleeve sincerity wins out, after all!  Roll on the inevitable third instalment in 12 months’ time!

Callum Petch has a nagging fear someone else is pulling at the strings.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!