Despite reports of different creative visions for this episode of the Failed Critics Podcast, hosts Steve Norman and Owen Hughes haven’t left the project, but have brought on board Underground Nights co-host Paul Field to delve into some film news and reviews.
The Hobbit sorta loses its battle against its five prior armies, the sun sorta came out today for Annie, sorta not many people wanted to spend one last Night At The Museum… it’s a weekend of qualifiers is what I’m getting at, and Other Box Office News.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
… … … … …hm? Yes? … …oh, shit, Box Office Report! Totally almost forgot! Sorry about that, truly. Just been super, super busy! Films to watch, radio shows to do, essays to write, articles to write. Just the most full plate! And I have absolutely spent all of my free time committing totally to that full plate! Absolutely! Totally didn’t end up spending most of the time that I should have spent working re-watching certain segments of The Legend Of Korra finale and browsing the internet for fan drawings and such to help placate both the new empty hole in my heart and the little skips of joy it performed over the ending. Nope. Not at all. (*furiously closes browser tabs hoping you don’t notice*)
Anyways, this was the last weekend before Christmas and that meant a whole bunch of new releases tripping over themselves to appear as The Family Film Of The Holiday Season or something like that. It also, however, meant counter-programming against The Hobbit for the first time. After Desolation Of Smaug dropped $10 million opening weekend compared to An Unexpected Journey – and closed with $50 million less overall – other studios smelt blood in the water and felt that they could successfully programme against Peter Jackson’s immaculate advert for New Zealand’s finest green screens. Battle Of The Five Armies, though, was having none of that sh*t. Not only did it take $56 million over the weekend, its Wednesday opening added another $34 million to the total, bringing us an opening of $90 million. Now, technically, that’s the lowest weekend opening for any Peter Jackson Lord Of The Rings-related movie ever – with the exception of Fellowship all those years ago – but…
…that’s still more than the rest of the Top 6 put together. So, yeah, I think it’s safe to say that The Hobbit steamrolled the other new releases. Those ended up being Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb, an incredibly meh sequel that quite literally nobody was ever asking for, and Annie, an incredibly horrendous remake that nobody was asking for and failed to do anything with its updated conceit. Technically, Night At The Meh-seum was the winner of the two, as it came in second place and made slightly more money than Annie. But, let’s face it, Annie was only $1 million behind, opened on less screens, had a higher per-screen average than NATM, and is probably going to confiscate a fair amount of Into The Woods’ money next week. The real losers, though, are the film-going audiences, because neither of these films are any good.
In limited release news, Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner – which everybody else adores but did absolutely nothing for me because I am an uncultured cretin who ships cartoon characters and freaks out when everything becomes glorious canon – finally made its way to American shores to sneak in under the deadline for awards consideration (that it won’t get because Mike Leigh never gets noticed in America). From 5 screens, it managed a very respectable $109,000 for a per-screen average of $21,800. Meanwhile, Song Of The Sea, a traditionally animated fantasy OH MY GOD I WANT TO SEE THIS IMMEDIATELY, was dropped onto 2 screens with pretty much zero fanfare and made a very respectable considering the circumstances $21,920. The Nut Job, for comparison, was dumped onto 3,427 screens and opened to $19,423,000 because this world f*cking sucks.
Let’s go there and back again with the Full List.
Box Office Results: Friday 19th December 2014 – Sunday 21st December 2014
1] The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
$56,220,000 / $90,627,000 / NEW
I was on the latest edition of the Failed Critics Podcast where we, eventually, talked about this film! You can get most of my thoughts over there! I’m not hard to miss but, if you’re having trouble, I’m the one that sounds like a drunken fratboy at a conference panel. Yeah, I don’t feel like I did good on that episode.
2] Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb
$17,300,000 / NEW
So this one is weird. It tries to be this big send off for the series as a whole – implying that Night At The Museum is THE series that captured and defined a generation, but sure whatever – but nobody except Dan Stevens as Lancelot seems particularly happy to be here, and the film itself is just going through the motions for large swathes of its runtime. So the final 15 minutes, which aim to be this big backslapping sentimental goodbye, ring hollow and only achieve poignancy when we share our last scenes with a very obviously tired Robin Williams because… well, you know. It just doesn’t give any decent reason to exist, except to further the giant man crush I have on Dan Stevens – his eyes just pierce straight into my heart!
$16,300,000 / NEW
OK, can we officially call a ban on musicals that are embarrassed to be musicals? Annie is a film that spends pretty much every frame of its existence openly apologising to its audience for being a musical. It even has characters in the film call out how lame singing and dancing is after a big musical number. What is this 21st Century cynical bullsh*t? It doesn’t make the film cooler or more appealing, it just insults your audience and exposes your cast and crew as completely disinterested which, last I checked, is a death knell for a musical. Either embrace the fact that you’re a musical or don’t f*cking bother. Musicals are fun! More films should be like musicals!
Yeah, I really didn’t like this one.
4] Exodus: Gods And Kings
$8,065,000 / $38,902,000
Guess everybody found their DVDs of The Prince Of Egypt laying around their house after all and watched them instead. Yay! Good choice, people!
5] The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
$7,750,000 / $289,227,000
The Mockingjay, Part 1 soundtrack is really bloody good, just so you all know. It’s been backing most of my writing sessions this past week and it makes a very good accompaniment to having to metaphorically vomit 3,000 words onto virtual paper about film topics or essay concepts you don’t fully understand before deadline approaches. Pick it up if you get the chance.
$4,150,000 / $7,211,000
I hear this is really good, so I am going to refrain from commenting until I see it in the middle of January. Glad to see that Reese Witherspoon has managed to escape that black hole of suck she got stuck in for most of the late 00s, though! Four Christmases came on TV the other night and, my word, it was dreadful. Just awful.
7] Top Five
$3,570,000 / $12,456,000
Oh. Well. Shit. Dammit, America, you couldn’t have tried turning this into a hit?!
$3,565,258 / NEW
That’s from 272 theatres, by the by. Bollywood may finally be coming a thing in America. Good for Bollywood! Good for it! I should really try more. I saw Bang Bang! for a Cineworld Unlimited screening back in October and I was alternately entertained, amused, baffled, and assaulted with a thumping headache. I’d like to try other Bollywood films and see if that’s an anomaly or the general reaction I’ll end up having.
9] Big Hero 6
$3,563,000 / $190,441,000
Well, it’s been a good run, Big Hero 6. You didn’t make Frozen money, but to expect anything to make Frozen money is to have unreasonably high standards. You did really well, the public loved you, and you may even be fondly remembered. Now, if you could just HURRY THE FUCK UP AND RELEASE OVER HERE ALREADY BECAUSE FORCING ME TO WAIT THREE MONTHS IS DICKWEED BEHAVIOUR I’d much appreciate it.
10] Penguins Of Madagascar
$3,525,000 / $64,172,000
This is officially DreamWorks Animation’s lowest grossing CG film of all-time domestically. I doubt that even a superhuman overseas showing – the film has cracked 11 markets so far and most of those are the ones that prior Madagascar films have performed well in – is going to drag this one anywhere close to the land of profitability. I am now worried, I imagine that studio executives are sweating spinal fluid. This is not good.
Dropped Out: Interstellar, Horrible Bosses 2, Dumb And Dumber To, The Theory Of Everything
The people were rather unmoved by Exodus: Gods And Kings, Top Five thankfully makes the top five, Inherent Vice has the worst opening of anything ever, Wild runs wild on you, brother, and Other Box Office News.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
For those of you keeping track at home, 2014 has only had one faith-based drama that was worth anybody’s time released in its twelve months, despite this sub-genre being strangely thriving this past year. I am of course referring to Darren Aronofsky’s sublime and surprisingly moving and beautiful Noah, and most certainly not Ridley Scott’s, by all accounts, insipid Exodus: Gods And Kings. Fortunately, in this instance, it seems that most of the public agreed and, although Exodus is still our new box office #1 by dint of being the first new wide release in two weeks, it reached that summit with only $24.5 million in ticket sales. Noah, meanwhile and having to follow surprise hit Divergent, opened to $43 million. VICTORY!!
In more good news, Chris Rock’s Top Five, which by most accounts I’ve heard is something really special, was an out-of-the-box success! Playing at 979 theatres, with a full-on nationwide release coming soon, the film broke into the top five with wondrous ease, finishing in fourth with $7.2 million in ticket sales and a $7,000 per-screen average. That’s $1.6 million more than Chris Rock’s last directing gig, 2007’s I Think I Love My Wife, opened with and that film had the luxury of almost double the number of screens that Top Five did! So, not only did Top Five manage to send Chris Rock back on the interview circuit – seriously, I want him to keep making movies purely so he can keep going around giving interviews like this one and this one – it’s also apparently a really damn great movie and managed to make a fair bit of money! DOUBLE VICTORY!!
Unfortunately, it’s not all good news, folks. Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Inherent Vice was released in those five New York and Los Angeles art-house cinemas that all major awards season wannabes have to start off their life in if they want to taken seriously, apparently. It managed $330,000, which sounds really great, and a per-screen average of $66,000, which is probably more than anybody working for this site or reading this article makes in a year. But that’s also less than There Will Be Blood and The Master made opening weekends (per-screen in Blood’s case, overall and per-screen in Master’s case), so therefore Inherent Vice is a colossal failure of epic proportions that has ruined the careers of everyone involved. Sorry Inherent Vice, thanks for trying!
In further limited release news, the Weinstein-backed The Imitation Game – so look for Benedict Cumberbatch to steal the Best Actor awards of whoever we’ve arbitrarily decided as a collective hive mind deserves it this year – continues to rake in the cash like Scrooge McDuck on a hot streak at the casino Blackjack table. Expanding to 25 screens, the film took $875,000 this weekend for a per-screen average of $35,000, so look for it to crack the full list some point soon. And finally, before we get down to business, we have Wild, which added 95 more screens this past weekend, cracked the Top 10 and allowed me to make a dreadful Hulk Hogan reference in the headline. Yay films!
This Full List used to be a visionary, but has spent the past decade phoning it in with boring sh*tty spectacle pieces instead of anything decent.
Box Office Results: Friday 12th December 2014 – Sunday 14th December 2014
1] Exodus: Gods And Kings
$24,500,000 / NEW
Nope, can’t do it. I can’t get over the fact that they cast white actors to play the roles of Middle East natives. Especially since the good leads are lightly tanned, whilst the bad leads are made much darker in skin, and that the slaves are still people of colour. I mean, sweet lord, how f*cking tone deaf do you have to be to not get that?! We were raking The Last Airbender over the coals for trying to pull this sh*t back in 2010, and you thought that you were honestly going to get away with it now?! Ridley Scott’s explanation doesn’t help matters, either, as all it does is remind us all of just how broken the Hollywood system is and… well, it’s not like casting recognisable names has helped much at the box office, has it?
2] The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1
$13,200,000 / $277,398,000
This is going to close around $750 million, I’d say. It’s already at $611 million, it’ll pass The Hunger Games some point in the next week or two, and it shows no real signs of slowing down. It’ll wrap up lower than Catching Fire’s $865 million worldwide, but it’s definitely going to be, in be within spitting distance of being, the biggest grossing film domestically of 2014 when all is wrapped up. Does this mean we’re now done calling this a box office disappointment, even though it never was one to begin with?
3] Penguins Of Madagascar
$7,300,000 / $58,839,000
Well, sh*t. At least I’ll be at the forefront of the “This movie was criminally overlooked at the box office!” brigade in a few years’ time! Or more likely, considering how quickly we are to label things as underrated and “cult classics” and the like nowadays, two months’ time.
4] Top Five
$7,210,000 / NEW
March 20th. March 20th. What did I do to deserve withholding of this level, American film industry? Huh? Got a halfway acceptable answer you’d like to share with me or are you withholding that, too? Look at you, getting off!
5] Big Hero 6
$6,145,000 / $185,325,000
You should see how quickly I sprint out of whatever screen I’m seeing new release movies in when the trailer for this comes on. I refuse, I completely refuse, to have even one second of this film spoiled for me. It’s a new Disney film, I am there. You don’t need to throw jaw-dropping setpieces, trailer-ready quips, Fall Out Boy songs or anything else at me to get me in. Just, “YO! DISNEY PUTTING OUT NEW FILM! IT’S CALLED [X], IT’S OUT [Y]!” and you have my attention.
$5,500,000 / $166,800,000
Next week is The Hobbit, so expect this to sink like a stone as Peter Jackson confiscates all of its IMAX screens. Still, pretty good run, all things considered. In fact, I find it strange that people keep insisting that the box office has been in a horrendous state of affairs this past year when, week in week out, I keep typing out Total Grosses that stretch into 9 figures for many films featured in this list…
7] Horrible Bosses 2
$4,630,000 / $43,601,000
I don’t really have anything to put here. Here’s an It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia clip instead.
8] Dumb And Dumber To
$2,757,000 / $82,117,000
This isn’t tracking particularly well overseas. Still, I do find it rather comforting that the only people who were crying out for a Dumb And Dumber sequel 20 years later are apparently all contained on one mass of land. Good to know the crazy is bottled up, kept from being spread, and not in control of anything particularly important.
9] The Theory Of Everything
$2,525,000 / $17,148,000
Adds 394 screens, to cross the 1,000 screen mark, makes less money than the week before. Maybe this signals the upcoming slide out of my goddamn chart! It’s all going to be OK, folks! It’s all going to be OK.
$1,550,000 / $2,423,000
The Dissolve’s Tasha Robinson, following on from her piece this past Summer about The Trinity Effect (which I referenced in this week’s DreamWorks Retrospective entry, *plugplug*), wrote an excellent piece last Monday about how the new breed of genuinely strong female characters are those that are relatively weak. You should go and read it. Like, right now. Don’t worry about missing anything, we’re done here for the week.
Dropped Out: Gone Girl, The Pyramid, Birdman
Self-fulfilling prophecy comes true as nothing really makes money or switches places since nothing came out, and Other Box Office News.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
Well. Hello, there. Welcome to the Box Office Report, I guess. How are you doing? Not too bad? That’s good to hear. Call your parents recently? See any movies this past weekend? No? Yeah, well, that’s you and everybody else, don’t fret. Post-Thanksgiving weekend is a dead zone according to studios, so nobody ever releases anything that weekend. Kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you ask me, but that’s how it is. Also means that nothing happened in the chart this week, which makes writing up this report rather pointless. I, however, have nothing better to do, so let’s see what scraps we can work with instead, eh?
Ooh, there were two new releases this past weekend! First off we have The Pyramid, a dreadful looking and barely marketed horror movie crapped out at the beginning of December because it’s not like there’s any better weekend for it. Dumped into 589 screens to die a painful death, it did meh-y, raking in $1.3 million for ninth place and a $2,292 per-screen average. Second off we have Wild, an adaptation of the memoir of the same name about a woman who did a solo 1,100 mile hike along the Pacific Coast Trail in order to better herself as a human being and deal with her traumatic life beforehand. Notice how I didn’t make any jokes, there? I am capable of compassion! Anyways, opening on 21 screens, the Reese Witherspoon-starring, Nick Hornby-adapted, Jean-Marc Vallee-directed awards season contender managed a very great $630,000 and a per-screen average of $30,000.
In expanding news, The Imitation Game doubled its screens to 8 and managed another $402,000 for a per-screen average of $50,250. The Homesman jumped up a good 104 screens to 154 total and banked a good $501,000 for the weekend, although its per-screen average was a decidedly not-good $3,253. The Babadook, meanwhile, terrified 19 new screens, bringing its total up to 22 and a weekend haul of $66,600. I will refrain from making the obvious hack joke to instead sadly inform you that the thing’s per-screen average is still only $3,027, which at least is slightly more than The Pyramid’s if nothing else.
And… yeah, that’s about it. Everything else that’s worth mentioning is located in the Top 10 and I don’t much fancy blowing my material all early. Also, Penguins Of Madagascar collapsed 56% between weekends and is now pretty much guaranteed not to cross $100 million. That is really bad news for both DreamWorks as a whole – Christ, even Mr. Peabody & Sherman crossed $100 mil domestic and that was their lowest non-Antz CG earner ever – and for the movie – which is one of the absolute best animated films released this year. For f*ckssake, America, can’t you at least try making decent animated movies successful!? If this ends up finishing lower than The Nut Job domestically, then I am going to take out a vendetta on the lot of you. First The Boxtrolls, then The Book Of Life, now this! When will the bad public film-skipping choices end?!
This Full List… Nope, I got no particularly great puns for this week. Such is the state of the chart. Let’s just get on with it.
Box Office Results: Friday 5th December 2014 – Sunday 7th December 2014
1] The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1
$21,600,000 / $257,700,000
I have actually had a desire to go and see this again recently. A real full-on, “I should find time to go and see this again” desire. Consider me completely amazed at this development. Of course, I’m not sure how much of that is just down to that “Hanging Tree” song randomly worming its way into my brain at every opportunity, but it’s there none the less. I’m referring to both the desire and the song. “Are you, are you…”
2] Penguins Of Madagascar
$11,100,000 / $49,591,000
Saw it first thing on Friday, finished the review the same day, was posted on Saturday, obviously. I loved this movie and need to find the time to go and see it again. Seriously, I haven’t had this much pure fun in a cinema since Lucy, which doesn’t sound like that long but one needs to remember that fun has been in rather short supply this past year in film, so a film that is pure fun is going to get a very high grade from yours truly. Also, my heart went all fuzzy and warm whenever something nice happened to Private and I liked that feeling.
3] Horrible Bosses 2
$8,600,000 / $36,075,000
A pretty strong hold – only a 44% drop – which doesn’t sound too bad until one remembers that the film opened to $15 million and that this thing will be very lucky if it crosses $60 million. Ah, well, least everybody realised they could just stay home and watch It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia on Netflix instead! I call that a win!
4] Big Hero 6
$8,130,000 / $177,548,000
My local Cineworld now has a big inflatable Baymax stood up in some out-of-reach corner of the lobby to advertise this film and it is so freakin’ adorable! I just want to take it home with me, install it in the corner of my uni apartment and give it hugs whenever I feel close to down!
$8,000,000 / $158,657,000
It’s within spitting distance of $600 mil overall, with China and South Korea going wild for the thing, so I think it’s safe to say that Christopher Nolan’s box office rep isn’t going to take that big of a hit after this is all said and done. Weirdly, in real life, most everybody I’ve talked to loves the heck out of this movie and my “Eeeehhhh” keeps getting misconstrued as pure outright hate for the thing. It’s weird, what did I not get when I saw the film?
6] Dumb And Dumber To
$4,169,000 / $78,081,000
Only one more weekend left to go until I get to join in with everyone’s strangely high disappointment to this thing! I mean, it’s a 20 years’ late sequel to a comedy film, The Farrelly Brothers haven’t made anything worthwhile in over a decade, Peter Farrelly helped mastermind Movie 43… and you actually thought this was going to be good? That’s just wilful ignorance, is what that is.
7] The Theory Of Everything
$2,688,000 / $13,613,000
… … … … … That’s how little I care about this thing.
8] Gone Girl
$1,500,000 / $162,861,000
If you had told me back in September that Gone Girl would be one of the year’s most successful films financially and would even make it to double digits on the “Weeks In The Top 10” counter, I genuinely would not have believed you. Yet, that is the world we live in because sometimes, just sometimes, good and just things occur. If it makes it to 11 weeks, I will be utterly astounded but I don’t think it will. Thanks for everything, Gone Girl! Sorry about Life Itself stealing the “My Favourite Film Of The Year” title from you!
9] The Pyramid
$1,350,000 / NEW
Well, that looks like yet another indistinguishable crappy horror movie crapped out for a quick buck! Guess we’ll just mov… wait… is that James Buckley?! Is that… no! No! Jay from The Inbetweeners is not in this thing! He can’t be! He jus… WHAT?!
$1,150,000 / $18,919,000
It’s going to be between this and Boyhood for all Best Picture awards this season, isn’t it? Brilliant. I look forward to seeing Birdman, disliking it immensely and therefore just not giving a shit about all award bodies this coming January and February! I kid, of course; I really want Birdman to be good and I’ve got a good feeling about it! I just really, really, really, really dislike Boyhood and the fact that it’s guaranteed all of the awards forever irritates the living hell out of me. I really want to be proven wrong on this, but we all know what award bodies are like.
Dropped Out: St. Vincent (which was fantastic, by the by)
Mockingjay insults the rest of the chart, Penguins Of Madagascar smile and wave goodbye to a lot of money, nobody particularly like Horrible Bosses now, and Other Box Office News.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
This past weekend, Americans were witness to a dystopian future. One with barely restrained tensions, majorly unfair financial differences, and a complete lack of fairness and generosity. These disparate groups would congregate under one roof to try and make it through proceedings in a civilised fashion, until one side insulted Peeta at which point all bets were off. Proceedings were violent, conflicts escalated, both sides exited wondering who had really won that round, filled with feelings of unsatisfaction, like the resolution had been postponed for another year or something. But enough about Thanksgiving with your family. At the box office, much like my joke construction, The Hunger Games repeated its Thanksgiving first place status to diminishing returns with Mockingjay, Part 1 taking home $56 million this year. Expect history to repeat itself next year and for me to basically copy-paste this dreadfully unfunny paragraph again in the hopes that you won’t notice.
It’s not like Mockingjay, Part 1 had much in the way of competition, though. Continuing an absolutely dismal year for DreamWorks Animation, Penguins Of Madagascar decidedly underwhelmed in its opening weekend. Even with the 5-Day Thanksgiving bump, it could only manage $36 million. Without it, that’s $25 million over the weekend which, for a spin-off of one of the few remaining cash-cows that DreamWorks has and as promoted to hell and back as this film has been, is dismal. The one saving grace for the film is that Annie and Night At The Museum 3 aren’t out for another 3 weeks, so there’s still a chance that it can make up some of that cash before it gets dogpiled. I’m sorry, you were expecting snark? Nope, no snark here, this news genuinely bums me out and has me majorly worried considering the position DreamWorks is in right now.
Still, could be worse. You could be Horrible Bosses 2. Yes, the widely-trashed comedy sequel that quite literally nobody was ever asking for didn’t do so hot. Over the five-day weekend, it barely reached $23 million and over three days it could only make $15.7 million for fifth place. Yeah, safe to say we are all being spared from Horrible Bosses 3: The Final Chapter, Part 1. What we are unfortunately not being spared from, however, is The Theory Of Everything which went nationwide this past weekend and managed to bank $5 million from 800-odd screens. If Eddie Redmayne takes the Best Actor Oscar from Dan Stevens in The Guest (or Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler), then tables will be flipped. Just warning you Academy; you don’t want no part of this shit.
In more limited release news, The Imitation Game finally reached American shores this weekend and the typical Weinstein push ensured a very solid opening. $482,000 from 4 screens for a per-screen average of $120,500, putting it only behind The Grand Budapest Hotel in Best Limited Release Openings of 2014, is most definitely more than “very solid”. One can only imagine how the latter film would have done if it had a legion of Benedict Cumberbatch fangirls and fanboys filling the back rows with their… Yeah, OK, I’m just going to move on. Foxcatcher added another 48 theatres to its run and broke past $1 million, meaning we should see it in the Top 10 soon enough. The Babadook, meanwhile, finally got a release in America and it did OK: $27,000 from 3 theatres for a per-screen average of You Do The Math. In other words, it’s The Guest all over again. Goddammit.
This Full List is gonna take ya riiii-ght in-to the DANGER ZONE!!
Box Office Results: Friday 28th November 2014 – Sunday 30th November 2014
1] The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1
$56,875,000 / $225,693,000
Have you heard the CHVRCHES track from the Mockingjay, Part 1 soundtrack, yet? If not, go do so immediately! It is SO GOOD! Like, “this could’ve gone on their debut album” good, and The Bones Of What You Believe is a bloody damn good album! In fact, from what I’ve experienced of the soundtracks to all three films so far, everybody brings their A-game when they’re called upon for a track. Nobody coasts. I love that about them. Think it’s time I took the plunge and bought the lot.
2] Penguins Of Madagascar
$25,800,000 / $36,000,000 / NEW
Friday. It’s out here Friday, I am seeing it first thing Friday, I will not go to bed that day until there is a review ready to run on Saturday. I’m genuinely really excited for this. In the meanwhile, the DreamWorks! A Retrospective archive is here. Go amuse yourself and make me feel like I haven’t wasted 5 months of my life.
3] Big Hero 6
$18,770,000 / $167,209,000
Only a 7% drop between weekends, which is pretty darn astou-WHY IS THIS MOVIE NOT IN FRONT OF MY EYEBALLS RIGHT NOW?!! IT’S NOT FAIR!! (*proceeds to have a mini-breakdown*)
$15,800,000 / $147,090,000
I would really like to go and see this again on the big screen for a second try, especially since I’m still not 100% solid on my opinions on it. However, six films are coming out this week in the UK and I have way too much work to do to find time to see it again. Plus, I have to give up a good 15 hours of my life to The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit in the next 11 days. I genuinely don’t have the time.
5] Horrible Bosses 2
$15,700,000 / $23,010,000 / NEW
Saw it on Friday and I’ll see if I can find time to get a review out – I’m currently working on one for Paddington in between essay work, DreamWorks work, other articles, and social commitments so this will more than likely fall by the wayside – but the skinny is this: I laughed a good consistent amount, but it is still an utterly pointless sequel and it drops the ball and crosses the line on the Julia stuff spectacularly. Think of it as the American equivalent of The Inbetweeners 2 and you’re about there. If you have nothing better to do or just want to get some easy laughs for 100-odd minutes, this is fine but it’s still ultimately pointless.
6] Dumb And Dumber To
$8,295,000 / $72,205,000
So… Jim Carrey’s not making a full-on box office comeback, is he? (*dejected sigh*)
7] The Theory Of Everything
$5,082,000 / $9,604,000
Still refuse to believe that this is anything other than dreadfully mediocre slop. Still can’t be proven right or wrong until New Year’s Day. Still going to bitch and moan about its existence until then.
8] Gone Girl
$2,470,000 / $160,557,000
I was going to say that we must bid adieu to Gone Girl, but then I looked at the release schedule for next week and saw that nothing at all is coming out. Wild is only in 5 theatres, and The Pyramid is being sent to die on 550 screens, like Fox have been reading the signs with regards to Horror films at the box office this past year or something. So, we’ve got one more week before this inexplicably long-lasting flick finally drops out. Seriously, I love this film to death and I have absolutely no idea how it has managed to make over $330 million worldwide.
$1,880,000 / $17,237,400
10] St. Vincent
$1,773,000 / $39,327,000
So maybe it won’t have the courtesy to stick around for its UK release after all. That sounds very much like Bill Murray. Always leaving the parties that he crashes before I have the chance to book the plane ticket to take me there! That prankster! Of course, this joke only works if I actually went to parties and nobody ever invites me to theirs because I’m… I’m… (*breaks down sobbing*)
Dropped Out: Beyond The Lights, Fury
Mockingjay fails to catch Fire – a headline that literally every other writer has already used in a week where literally nothing else happened, and Other Box Office News.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
Well… Er… Hi. … … …how are you all doing? I am tired, I will tell you that much. I’m currently running on less than six hours sleep, and that is currently the lowest reason on my list as to why I could faceplant this keyboard at any second today. My life has just been non-stop these past few weeks, just one thing after another like “boom, boom, boom” without stopping. So many commitments, films to see, articles to write, essays to prep and pen, lectures to attend, radio stuff to thing-that-you-do-to-stuff… is this what being a responsible adult is like? I both hate and love it, I’ll tell you that much. Anyways, I still have a written review to crank out and a radio show to do before I can collapse onto my bed, so let’s just get this blasted article done and over with, eh?
The good news for my slowly vacating sanity, and my long vacated energy, is that there was literally only one release this past weekend. Seriously; just the one. No other saturation releases, no wide, no limited, nothing. Everything else vacated November the 21st of 2014 in order to avoid The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1. For comparison’s sake, there will be two big saturation releases going up against The Hobbit: Battle Of The Five Armies this December. That should demonstrate just how commanding an amount of power that The Hunger Games currently has, as every other release possible went “f*ck that noise!” and upped sticks. Mockingjay, Part 1, then, would prove just how much those fears were worth by underwhelming majorly opening weekend.
Now, of course, I need to specify that a $123 million opening weekend – the biggest that we have seen, and will see, all year – is not in itself underwhelming. I mean, $123 million is a lot to the likes of you and I. Unfortunately, though, we have to look at that opening through Hollywood Accounting in order to understand why people aren’t exactly rushing to break out the party poppers. For one, there’s the fact that many people had predicted Mockingjay, Part 1 to open in the $150 million range, so seeing it come up short, and so thoroughly at that, is gonna sting. For two, the previous Hunger Games both opened in the $150 mil range, and third instalments in popular franchises are supposed to not retreat so much opening weekend. For three, it didn’t magically cure Hollywood’s haemorrhaging money problem that’s been plaguing it all year, so f*ck the film.
So, yes, unfortunately The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 is a major financial failure. That $123 million domestic and $152 million overseas – which combine to already make both this and Part 2 break even financially – means absolutely nothing. Jennifer Lawrence’s box office clout has been majorly hit, Lionsgate stock is plummeting to an all-time low, Elizabeth Banks will never be involved in another movie ever again because this is all her fault somehow, and it seems that the search for the next true successor to the box office invincibility that Harry Potter held for a full decade goes on!
I mean, that’s what I’m supposed to write, yeah? Because we can’t just congratulate the thing and realise that this dip only exists because it’s “Part 1 of 2”, can we? We have to get out the Doom Parade and have a whinge and a moan, don’t we? I mean, Christ, lighten up, would ya? Sure, it’s been a bad year at the box office. Let’s maybe temper the gloom with some positivity about the few films that are actually making money, eh? Instead of crying about successful movies that make executives rich arseholes not being mega-successful movies that make executives even richer arseholes.
This Full List is locking up everyone that ever laid a finger on it.
Box Office Results: Friday 21st November 2014 – Sunday 23rd November 2014
1] The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1
$123,000,000 / NEW
Saw this Thursday, review will be up tomorrow at some point. Short version: loved what I got, but its one flaw is major, near-fatal, and right there in the title.
2] Big Hero 6
$20,086,000 / $135,708,000
If you live in America and have seen this, know that I hate you. Nothing personal, and I love the fact that you’re making Disney films mega-smashes again, but I am stranded on the wrong side of the Atlantic being punished for something severe that I must’ve done in a past life, and so can’t see this until January as I will keep complaining about until somebody at Disney FIXES THE GODDAMN ISSUE!!
Also, turns out that The Wild, which wasn’t even made by them, is in the Disney Animated Classics canon in the UK. I’ll have to tell you about that sometime.
$15,100,000 / $120,692,000
I wrote a piece last Thursday where I lamented the lack of notable scores from 2014, and somebody wrote back listing a good 4 more than the ones I put in my article. Whilst I appreciate his disagreement and concede that none of the scores he listed jumped out at me during the viewing of those films in question, I think he may have missed the point. It’s not that 2014 hasn’t had any good scores, it’s that the majority of cinema for a good while now hasn’t bothered to try to create scores with any distinct personality. There are exceptions to the rule, but that’s what they are: exceptions, and I want those exceptions to become more frequent than they currently are.
That, or my article was terribly written and I was talking out of my arse. … …it’s probably the second one.
4] Dumb And Dumber To
$13,820,000 / $57,473,000
Mega-steep 62% drop between weekends signalling that everybody has wizened up to the fact that The Farrelly Brothers have been incapable of creating anything good for, ooh, 13 or 14 years now. You know, in case the fact that Peter Farrelly was the diabolical monster responsible for helping Movie 43 come together hadn’t already given that away.
5] Gone Girl
$2,185,000 / $156,823,000
You know what’s amazing? This is Gone Girl’s eighth straight week in the Top Five. You know what’s pretty much unbelievable? I think I’ve found a film from this year that I love more than it. Stay tuned to the site this week, you’ll know when the relevant review goes up.
6] Beyond The Lights
$2,630,000 / $10,124,000
I got nuthin’. Moving on…
7] St. Vincent
$2,354,000 / $36,613,000
I have no idea how this has managed to hang around in the Top 10 for so long. I really, really don’t. Hey! Maybe it’ll stick around for another two weeks, when it actually comes out in the UK and I can therefore actually talk about it, instead of just spouting nonsense! Wouldn’t that be something?
$1,900,000 / $79,150,000
In the most tenuous link possible – Fury, The Furious Five – allow me to use this space to ask you to check out this week’s entry into the DreamWorks Animation Retrospective, Kung Fu Panda! In fact, if you have a spare afternoon or, more accurately, a spare day, why not get caught up on the series so far? Seriously, I put a hell of a lot of effort into those and am really proud of how most of them have turned out – and I am never proud of anything I ever do, so this means a lot – so if you could take time out to give them a read and fling feedback or insults my way, it would be highly appreciated!
$1,855,000 / $14,407,000
So, I guess this isn’t going to break out of the art scene, after all. Figured as much. More pertinent question, is Birdman in any way related to Dayman? These are the questions that need answering, folks!
10] The Theory Of Everything
$1,500,000 / $2,796,000
This film is sh*t until it can prove itself otherwise. Unfortunately for it, the UK release date is New Year’s Day, so I have plenty more time to rag on just how absolutely putrid this film looks until then!
Dropped Out: Nightcrawler, Ouija
Callum Petch takes a look at the film scores of Interstellar and Nightcrawler and looks at the effect they have on their respective films.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
Question: how many films can you name this year where the score was something that actually caught your attention as you were watching it? And I don’t mean licensed music or songs written specifically for the film by the latest hot band (so exclude Guardians Of The Galaxy, The Guest and any musical so far), I mean the actual score that’s sat there helping drive events along. I can count Under The Skin, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Double, Gone Girl and the two films I’m talking about today. That’s really about it. Out of 113 films that I have seen from 2014, I can recall the score from only six.
See, the art of the film score is very much receding in general perception nowadays as they become more about mood setting than attention grabbing. Now, admittedly, this is how it should be to a degree: a film’s score should get the audience into the mood of the film, compliment the visuals and the narrative, and be a cog in the machine that helps elevate the whole of the film. The trouble comes from just how… unmemorable and interchangeable a lot of modern day film scores are. There’s no personality there, no individual touch that makes Film A stand out from Film B aside from some half-assed attempt at a leitmotif.
The reason why, say, that distinctive theme from Jaws managed to break into popular culture is because there is personality. You hear that slow, ominous build and you instantly think Jaws, it can’t be anything else. It’s distinctive, but it also builds mood which is why a whole bunch of other media over the years have lifted it wholesale for their own ends. It’s why hearing it come up in Jaws, despite it having broken into the popular culture and used as joke fodder for a lot of the last four decades, one doesn’t burst out into laughter or get dragged out of the film. It fits the mood, it complements the film, but it’s also distinctive and has its own personality.
Too many films nowadays seem afraid to try and add personality to their scores. They see them as just a cog that can be slapped together and forgotten about. That, or they’re afraid that a big, showy, personality-filled score will detract from the experience. And whilst that is true – as I will demonstrate with one example in a bit – it shouldn’t discourage composers and filmmakers from trying anyway, since a score doesn’t need to be big and showy to have personality or be memorable. Although The Double’s soundtrack commands your attention with its loud, melodramatic and darkly hilarious violins played by what sounds like an orchestra held at gunpoint – which is distinctive and perfectly fits the mood of the film itself – Under The Skin manages to be just as memorable with barely anything more than an uneasy discordant drone – again, distinctive and fitting.
A dull interchangeable score blends into the background and neither helps nor hinders the film that it’s attached to. A distinctive and memorable score grabs the attention and can either enhance a film’s positive attributes or highlight its glaring weaknesses. Lots of filmmakers seem to be afraid of the second half of the latter option, and so opt to go for the former instead. Whilst I understand why, I ultimately prefer the second option, because that shows some semblance of an effort, creativity, and personality in proceedings – the most memorable aspect of any Marvel Studios score that I’ve heard in the last six years has been the one that backs their frickin’ studio logo, for example.
So, in that respect, I’d like to briefly look at two recent film scores that are loud, distinctive, and personality-filled and explain how they embody all of the flaws and enhance the positive aspects of their films, respectively. Specifically: Hans Zimmer’s overwrought and majorly distracting score for Interstellar, and James Newton Howard’s off-kilter and bizarrely brilliant score for Nightcrawler.
Let’s do Interstellar first. Now, I seem to be in the minority on this one – yes, I know, you are bowled over in surprise by this twist – but I detest Zimmer’s score for the film. I find it incredibly overwrought, desperate, and ultimately hollow and insincere. His recurrent leitmotif of incredibly loud church organ notes whenever something “epic” is going down comes off like the keys are being manned by a narcoleptic who nobody can bother to remove from the instrument when he does inadvertently nod off. The constant piling on of instruments when they’re not needed, the cacophonous nature that drowns out a lot of the dialogue (although that’s more of a problem with the sound mixing than anything else), the extreme self-consciousness of its attempts to call back to hard sci-fi, and the fake-ness of it all – at no point did I get the impression that anybody involved truly put emotion into this. It’s like somebody who has never actually felt emotions trying to make other people to feel emotions; it doesn’t convince.
Consequently, this actually ends up being emblematic of Interstellar’s faults at large. The film itself is so cold, so clinical, yet so desperately trying to stir up emotions within its audience that it comes off as phony and awkward. The script lacks characters, but has plenty of time to over-explain every little bit of science that goes on in the film – like it’s worried that Neil deGrasse-Tyson is going to burst in through some nearby window and demand to see the Nolans’ science credentials. Nolan’s filmmaking style, and I’d like to note that I don’t consider it a criticism as long as he’s working within that wheelhouse, is very removed, emotionally distant and intellectual. Unfortunately, he took on a project that doesn’t play to those strengths at all and so spends a lot of the film failing miserably at emulating the style of Steven Spielberg (whom this project was originally meant for). Nolan creates moments and images of wonder and beauty, but fails terribly at making those coalesce in a way that feels genuine or is even sustained for more than a minute or two at a time.
Therefore, since the film is so detached emotionally even though it is trying so hard to grasp that human concept, the job of getting the audience emotionally invested falls on the score. Hence why it goes so all-out so frequently and so heavily. Every second of the thing is trying desperately to pick up the ball that the film drops, trying to overwhelm the audience in the hopes that the kitchen sink will finally elicit some semblance of an appropriate emotional reaction. Like the film itself, it does work in fits and starts, but it can’t keep it up for any longer than a minute or so at a time. For every pretty little dancing synth in the background, there’s seven separate segments where the foregrounded strings and organ are noticeably straining under the weight of the task placed upon them. Hence why the overall product feels thuddingly manipulative and insincere.
Again, I realise that I am in the minority about this. I expressed my thoughts on Interstellar’s score in one of my Film Studies classes shortly after release and one of the guys I know on it looked at me like I just admitted to eating puppies. He tried to counter by stating his belief that the score could tell the story of the film by itself, but I think that just bolsters my view even more. The score has to do the hard work because Interstellar itself fails at its end of the deal, so the score ends up swinging for the fences in order to try and make up for that. The score is certainly distinctive, but it just adds to the distractingly fake nature of a lot of the film and only ends up making its shortcomings more noticeable.
Contrast with James Newton Howard’s score for Nightcrawler. Now, in theory, this thing really should not work – our own Owen Hughes certainly didn’t think it did – and should be one of those soundtracks where you just sit there and go, “just what in the blue hell were they thinking?” Nightcrawler, after all, is a dark and occasionally darkly funny satire about capitalism hidden within a brutally angry takedown of 24 hour commercial news networks. I think the very last thing anybody expected to be backing key scenes was a distractingly out-of-place reverb-soaked guitar that makes it seem like Louis Bloom’s adventure is one that is hopeful and worthy of success. Or take the ending with its strangled Jimi-Hendrix-rendition-of-“Star Spangled Banner”-reminiscent overdriven guitar riff. Or even the scene before that which is backed by something that belongs more in a light-hearted comedy drama than Nightcrawler.
This is not a score that one can tune out, either. Its atypical and ill-fitting nature is constantly calling to the viewer’s attention. Not blatantly, in the sense that it is screaming for your attention, but in the way that one is having a conversation but keeps noticing something abnormal in the background that just won’t stop distracting you. And that, essentially, is the point. Nightcrawler’s score is purposefully atypical and ill-fitting because it wants to be, because it reflects the state of mind of the person whose viewpoint we are experiencing the narrative through at that moment in time.
For example, Owen cites a section around the film’s midpoint where Lou makes a speech towards Nina about his goals in life. It seems genuinely heartfelt and completely sincere – even though we the audience already know that Lou is pretty much incapable of sincerity due to his sociopathic nature – and is the kind of speech that, in a different film, would be a life-affirming inspirational moment as the scrappy underdog outlines their Big City ambitions and desire to win at the game of Capitalism. So that is how the scene is scored. Because the person we are experiencing this scene through is not a detached third party – it’s through Lou. And for Lou, in the film of his life, this is that moment.
It’s why multiple sequences where he watches his footage back on TV are backed by jaunty, bouncy tunes. To us, these are horrifying examples of a complete sociopath exploiting the trauma and fragility of those victimised by our morally bankrupt society in order to raise his own standing within it. To him, these are moments of victory where the people involved are secondary to his own accomplishments, him having that little empathy for those whose tragedy he is filming. It’s why the sequence where he screams into the mirror has this dark foreboding music; for Lou, this is his low point, where he is being unfairly kept from success by bigger people than him. The whole film could have been backed like that, to help scream to the viewer that this is wrong and to keep us at a very comfortable observatory distance from the people and events on screen. But that’s not what happens, and that in turn makes the deployment of those ominous synths carry that much weight.
Or, to case study real quick, there is a reason why the two segments of the sequence that make up “Horror House” are scored so differently. The first, when Lou is shooting it, is given this rather urgent and tense synth rumble – something that combines with the purposeful lacking in focus on the bodies and the violence to show how Lou sees the sequence: a tense race-against-time to document this once-in-a-lifetime footage before the cops show up; the victims being incidental. The second, as the footage hits the air, replaces the urgency with ominous darkness which, coupled with the focus on the bodies and the almost fetishizing of said violence, paints the scene as something from a movie. Fitting seeing as we are experiencing this scene from Nina’s perspective and she’s trying to conduct the sequence into being Must See TV.
Again, the film could have stuck with that the whole way through. It could have backed every scene with ominous synth bass rumbles, to add a few exclamation points to the idea that this is absolutely not something to idolise or aspire to. But not only would the film have lost the impact of when those times do appear – such as just before the film’s action sequence where, coincidentally, we switch narrative perspectives to Rick for a short while – it would also have lost its character study angle. Nightcrawler gets its messages across through its characters, showing how utterly warped their sense of morality and worldview has to be to win at their various games, and that idea would have been lost if the score were endlessly generic and repetitively ominous – much like my usage of that word. Such a prominent and attention-calling score was undoubtedly a risk, because it is so off-beat, but it ends up working gangbusters and elevates the rest of the film as a result.
So, now that we’ve done that, allow me to ask and answer a question: what do the scores for Interstellar and Nightcrawler have in common besides being very noticeable and memorable? Honestly, nothing. One works, one doesn’t, one overcooks proceedings whilst the other seasons them just right, one has to make up for its attached film’s flaws and only ends up making them more glaring whilst the other compliments the excellent film it backs and highlights its strengths even more. In the sense of their being scores, there’s really nothing linking them together, except one key thing…
I’m talking about them. I may hate Hans Zimmer’s work on Interstellar, but I’m talking about it. I’ll know it when some part of it inevitably breaks through into pop culture. I love Nightcrawler’s score, and I find the score such an integral part of that film’s feel that I can’t picture the film without it. Same with Interstellar. Meanwhile, you could switch the soundtracks for Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Transformers: Age Of Extinction and I honestly would likely be unable to tell the difference. Too many films are afraid to try crafting a score with a legitimate personality nowadays, instead settling for a fun licensed soundtrack and Generic Blockbuster Score #264 to trundle proceedings along, and that disheartens me.
Just because you may fail, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t even bother to try. I am of the firm belief that the worst thing a film can do is leave me with no reaction whatsoever. A film can make me angry, offend me, upset me, repulse me, but at least it got a reaction and isn’t that what films are supposed to do? To get a reaction out of us? I prefer a vehemently negative reaction to a shrug of total indifference, because then I don’t feel like I’ve wasted my time. I’ve felt something, and way too few scores nowadays are willing to take that risk because they believe that the risk of a negative reaction far outweighs the reward of a good one.
I’d like to see more film scores try. Try to have some personality, some noticeable thing and quality about it that lends the overall film a specific feel that it can’t get from any other score. Something that does its part to help brand a film as That Film. I want them to try. I want a reaction, more than anything else. Interstellar and Nightcrawler do this. Under The Skin, Gone Girl, The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Double do this. I’d like that list to be longer in today’s films. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
Dumb and Dumber audiences turn up in droves for Dumb And Dumber To, Beyond The Lights exists an imaginary pile of cash, Christmas is doomed, and Other Box Office News.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
Surprisingly, it turns out that the audience size for a sequel to Dumb & Dumber is about equal to that of the audience for a second week Disney film, which I genuinely did not see coming. Dumb And Dumber To ended up taking the top spot this weekend with about $38 million in ticket sales, just $2 million more than what Big Hero 6 managed. For those wondering, my surprise keeps alternating between “that many people turned up for a 20 years later sequel to Dumb And Dumber?” and “only that many people turned up for a 20 years later sequel to Dumb And Dumber?” I dunno. I’m in shock, I just don’t know what I’m in shock at.
In any case, unlike next week, there was more than one new release this weekend. With regards to the wide releases, bottom of the pack was Beyond The Lights – a film whose trailer just caused me to vomit profusely in sickening anger – which could only manage a very mediocre $6.5 million from 1,800 screen for a distant fourth place. Birdman continued its slow expansion nationwide and managed to crack the Top 10, albeit with about the same haul as last week but in more theatres. Whiplash, meanwhile, continues to be punished for NOT BEING IN FRONT OF MY EYEBALLS RIGHT NOW DAMMIT by struggling to find a non-arthouse audience – its expansion to 441 theatres could only manage $801,000.
In limited release land, we have a pair of successes, an OK performer, and a hilarious failure in more ways than one. Most successful of the lot was the speculative fiction drama Foxcatcher which rode a near-literal wave of buzz and good press to a weekend total of $288,000 from six theatres – a ridiculous per-screen average of $48,000. Performing much less great than that – but still great, it must be said – is the Tommy Lee Jones-directed western drama The Homesman which managed a very respectable $48,000 from 4 screens for a $12,000 per-screen average. Whilst in expanding news, The Theory Of Everything infected another 36 theatres and raked in an average of $18,000 from each of them. Yes, I do think that film looks insufferable, don’t act surprised.
Elsewhere, John Stewart of The Daily Show (as every mention of his name must be suffixed with by royal decree) released his directorial debut this past weekend and Rosewater did… OK. It managed $1.2 million from 371 theatres for a per-screen average of $3,325, which is OK. Not great, not poor, OK. It’s fine, could’ve been better but still enough to crack the Top 15. Much less OK, and more closer to straight up “bomb” territory, was Saving Christmas which could only manage $1,012,000 from 410 screens for a dismal $2,468 per-screen average. This means that either Americans don’t give a sh*t about the threat that faces Christmas, or that stoners who want to laugh at inept entertainment with no redeemable value except MST3K sessions were too busy staying at home watching Adult Swim. In either case, America is doomed.
Oh, and The Book Of Life collapsed out of the Top 10 because you people hate good movies.
This Full List is Dumberer than the other box office reports you could be reading elsewhere. Also, it just reminded you that Dumb And Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd existed and now you hate life.
Box Office Results: Friday 14th November 2014 – Sunday 16th November 2014
1] Dumb And Dumber To
$38,053,000 / NEW
So the film that my Secondary School Physics teacher would throw on almost quite literally whenever he couldn’t be bothered to teach us finally got a sequel, eh? Well, if it leads to a late-career resurgence for Jim Carrey then I won’t complain. I still really like Jim Carrey and that streak he had in the mid-to-late 90s still predominately holds up! I’d like to see him get one last run at the spotlight.
2] Big Hero 6
$36,010,000 / $111,653,000
There are people on this world that do not like The Emperor’s New Groove. I do not know who these people are or why they are incapable of experiencing joy, but they exist and I want nothing to do with them. I defy you to watch scenes like this, or this, or this without cracking a smile at least once – I think science has deemed doing so to be physically impossible.
$29,190,000 / $97,810,000
Not too bad a drop, quite frankly, especially considering the near-non-stop toxic word-of-mouth on this thing. Look, folks, I am not Interstellar’s biggest fan either – I barely think it’s good, even if I did enjoy it – but maybe calm the vitriol somewhat, eh? It’s not the worst film ever, it’s nowhere near the worst film this year! It’s just a rather disappointing mess that tried to do too much and failed in its lofty ambitions. Perspective, people!
Now, if you wanna talk Worst Film Of The Year candidates, let me talk to you about Nativity! 3: Dude, Where’s My Donkey?!…
4] Beyond The Lights
$6,500,000 / NEW
Will this be the next Ride Along or the next Obsessed? Well, which do you think it’s going to be? Come on.
5] Gone Girl
$4,625,000 / $152,699,000
Rosamund Pike is not going to get a Best Actress nomination, is she? Let’s get real, we all know that the Academy are not going to go for Gone Girl, despite the fact that I still haven’t seen anything that comes even slightly close to its level so far this year. Since we all know that Scarlett Johannson getting a Best Actress nomination – let alone deservedly running away with the statue before the nominees have even been announced – for Under The Skin isn’t happening, Pike would have been my backup “I approve” choice. But, again, getting realistic, that probably isn’t going to happen. Siiiigh…
6] St. Vincent
$4,025,000 / $33,258,000
You should really listen to St. Vincent’s self-titled album if you haven’t already. It’s one of the best albums of the year.
$3,810,000 / $75,941,000
I… err… don’t really have anything to put here. What can I say? Not every film has an endless bountiful stream of material to mine on a week-by-week basis. And so it goes.
$3,038,000 / $25,000,000
Going back to the cinema to see this again on Tuesday. I’ve wanted to go and see it again for a good while now, but I have just been way too busy and way too swamped. Bright side: cinema screen should basically be empty! Woo! In the meanwhile, and on a related note, Matt Lambourne has a short piece on why we are all to blame for his crappy movie choices up on the site if you have a spare five minutes.
$3,025,000 / $48,105,000
Oh, just fuck off.
$2,450,000 / $11,575,000
As I mentioned last week, this doesn’t hit the UK until January. You know what else I found out doesn’t hit the UK until next year? Chris Rock’s Top Five which looks brilliant and doesn’t get here until March. MARCH. I’ll tell you right now, Penguins Of Madagascar better be next-level amazing because it’s the sole thing making up for this incredibly dull-looking Rest Of 2014 Schedule for me.
Dropped Out: John Wick, Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, The Book Of Life
The main release review this week is Christopher Nolan’s $165m space-time-travelling science fiction thriller Interstellar. A film so long, we extended our podcast an extra 15 minutes with the return of our Spoiler Alert section alongside our regular spoiler-free review.
Despite that, there was even time for Owen to take in the first two (well, one and a half) Lord of the Rings films this week; for Steve to reveal exactly why he’s watching through all seven Harry Potter movies; and for Carole to have a meta-meta experience with 90’s slasher sequel Scream 2.
Jon us again next week as we review the acclaimed wartime drama The Imitation Game.
by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)
Ever since man has first looked up at the stars, the question has been asked: What do you do when you see a space man? Yes, of course the correct answer is “you park in it, man” (please, please, hold your applause, you’re too kind).
However, for thousands of years, man has
written Christmas cracker jokes looked up and wondered what lies beyond the blue skies of our planet’s atmosphere. For most people, it’s only led to further questions. How can “space” exist? Why does it exist? Why do we exist? From religion and faith, to science and theory, everyone seems to have their own opinion on what they like to imagine fills the vast expanse of the Universe and beyond. It takes people way smarter than this bozo to fully comprehend the question, never mind the answer. Luckily, it’s not just people cleverer than me who have thought about this question. There have been people with far more imagination who have been able to put their thoughts and ideas into film and literature.
Most recently Christopher Nolan did so with the terrific Interstellar. Which prompted me to create this article. What other movies are out there that deal with man’s exploration of space and time that are worth watching? Well, here are ten films that I would recommend you start with if you too are into ‘stellar (geddit?!) This list is by no means comprehensive, by the way. I’m fully aware big names such as the Star Trek and Star Wars franchises are missing, as well as this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy. This is just 10 films I’d suggest watching if you enjoyed the adventure into space that was Interstellar!
Event Horizon (1997) Paul W.S. Anderson’s best film, it tells the story of a crew comprising of captain Laurence Fishburne, doctor Sam Neill, (plus others) who investigate of a spaceship that went missing some years ago called the Event Horizon. It miraculously returned with no crew left on board. It transpires that what happened was not quite as simple as they might’ve first thought. Next to Alien, it’s the perfect example of how to create an intelligent, atmospheric, space-horror. Quotes seemed to be almost directly lifted from Event Horizon in Interstellar (particularly the discussion around wormholes). It also raises interesting questions around what Hell is (or could be?) Complete with great performances, especially those of Fishburne and Neill around the descent into madness. Think of it as Hellraiser meets Alien. A real gem of a movie.
Contact (1997) In 1994, Robert Zemeckis released what will probably be the film he is remembered for, Forrest Gump. Well, with the exception of Back To The Future, perhaps. But one film of his that seems to have directly inspired the story of Interstellar is Contact, with its daughter grieving for her father and potential contact with another as yet unidentified life form. Using the relationship between father and daughter, it tries to bridge a gap between science and religion, life and death, between hope and reality. The concept behind Contact and how / what that will be like with other dimensions or lifeforms is handled with grace, whilst Jodie Foster gives a performance worthy of a movie such as this. The cast also features Matthew McConaughey, the star of Nolan’s epic! It’s a shame the ending lets the film down a little, but the rest of Contact is well worth a watch.
Europa Report (2013) After a crew are sent on a fact-finding mission to one of Jupiter’s moons (that would be the one called Europa…) they end up finding a bit more than they bargained for. I almost feel like I should disclaimer this movie to people as besides being a sci-fi set mainly in space, it’s also a found footage movie. If you can name another found footage movie set in space that’s better than this (Apollo 18 shouts will not be recognised) then congratulations, but I probably won’t believe you. It takes its time to find its feet, as the crew (Sharlto Copley, Karolina Wydra, Michael Nyqvist etc) slowly grow into their roles, but for a film that takes place mostly inside a tin can, there’s a fair amount of tension and drama to be found. The structure is slightly unsatisfactory and non-linear, but the ending will be what determines whether or not you’ll like this movie. Personally, I found the slightly existential journey surprisingly entertaining.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) I couldn’t really let the opportunity to recommend one of the greatest ever movies – not just sci-fi movies – pass me by without at least name-checking it. Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, shot one year before the actual moon landings (that if you believe some conspiracy-nuts, the man himself shot in a studio) is more of an exploration of life and being than it is about space travel, but if there’s a sci-fi movie released post 1968 that isn’t at least in some minor way influenced by 2001: A Space Odyssey, I’d be very surprised. Cerebral, contemplative and exceedingly beautiful. If you want to hear me rave about this film yet again, check out our Stanley Kubrick Corridor of Praise podcast.
Solaris (1972) For the more cultured film fan, Tarkovsky’s very – very – art-house science fiction film about a living planets attempts to contact a man orbiting it will be one of your favourite sci-fi movies. The problem is, of course, how do you communicate with something that you have no way of understanding? In my Decade In Film article for 1972, I mention Ludwig Wittgenstein who proposed that “if a lion could speak, we would not be able to understand it”. If our frames of reference are so far apart, so completely different, how could we possibly hope to even know when an alien species is attempting to communicate, never mind actually understand what it’s trying to say? The Fermi Paradox suggests that if aliens exist, why haven’t we heard from them yet? Well, perhaps they do try to contact us, but we don’t realise it. This is one of the driving principles behind Solaris, and beyond its 167 minute run time including lingering shots of ponds and motorways, and absolutely astonishing cinematography, it tries to answer some of these philosophical quandaries.
Moon (2009) A breakthrough semi-indie production in 2009, Moon stars Sam Rockwell as a worker on a lunar station coming to the end of his three-year stint. I suppose he has what can be described as a crisis of personality as his shift draws closer to an end. Atmospheric and remarkably well written, if at times a little bit silly, Moon is a very entertaining movie. Similar to one aspect of Interstellar, it deals with being in space and having no reliable means of contact with Earth. Whilst there’s a heck of a lot more to Duncan Jones‘ relatively low budget British BAFTA nominated movie than simply isolation, it would seem almost rude not to suggest fans of Interstellar give it a go.
This Island Earth (1955) The 1950’s heralded a new age in sci-fi movies. The likes of Don Siegel and Jack Arnold probably led the pack with films like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Creature from the Black Lagoon and It Came From Outer Space (in 3D no less!) However, This Island Earth by Joseph Newman was an incredibly ambitious project. It had a somewhat turbulent production history, which resulted in Jack Arnold himself being brought on board as an uncredited director. The sections of the film set on distant worlds and intergalactic battles became a bit too expensive and was shorter than planned, but it’s still admirable for the intention behind the film as well as its anti-war messages. It’s also a lot of fun in that cult-50’s sci-fi movie kind of way.
A Trip to the Moon (1902) There’s a huge amount of things one could say about this wondrous, imaginative, inventive and wholly original fantasy story made over 110 years ago by the inspirational Georges Méliès. From a technical point of view, Le voyage dans la lune is splendid. Suffice to say, it’s very impressive; from the special effects of the exploding moon people, to the incredible! science!-exclamation!-mark! The illusions Méliès crafted required true imagination and creativity. He was one of the first to create a movie such as this, of course! Even now, this short film is fantastic – in every sense of the word.
Love (2011) After writing my car off in February this year, I began the long commute to and from work via bus. During this time, BBC iPlayer kept me from grinding my teeth to stubs on my journey. I downloaded a lot of movies and documentaries to my tablet from iPlayer, some I’d heard of, some that were completely new to me, such as this mixed bag. I read the premise via the app, thought it sounded like it could be a really neat little indie sci-fi… and in part, it was. There’s strands that run throughout about isolation, human connection and indeed love, that are thought provoking and unique as an astronaut finds himself stranded on a spaceship. But, at the same time, it comes across as a meandering, dull, bewildering mess. You will either love or hate the soundtrack by Angels & Airwaves. It may have worked better as a short film as it does feel like a pop video, but it is atmospheric and definitely unlike a lot of other movies on this list.
Gravity (2013) I’ve purposefully left Gravity until the end of this list for a couple of reasons. One, you’re probably sick of seeing comparisons between Gravity and Interstellar by now. They were after all released by the same studio (Warner Bros) on the same date (7 November) and are both about space and gravity. The other reason is, just about everybody interested in seeing Gravity has by now seen it. However, the second best film of 2013 (according to Sight & Sound’s readers poll) in many ways laid the foundations for Interstellar. A sci-fi story that was taken seriously by critics, particularly at the big award ceremonies, and features some mind-boggling special effects. The story may be pretty simple, threatening to hold back what has the potential to be an all-time classic, but it is one of the best modern sci-fi’s and if you get a kick out of Interstellar, then Alfonso Cuarón’s film (clocking in at just ever so slightly over half the run time of Nolan’s blockbuster) should tick a few boxes for you. Oh, and watch it on as big a screen as possible. In 3D if at all possible. Honestly. 3D.
And that’s that! If you have any suggestions of your own or think I’ve missed some vital inclusions, or even if you have any recommendations for me, just post them below. You can find Owen’s Interstellar review here, and he will also be talking about it with Carole and Steve on the upcoming Failed Critics Podcast!
Interstellar’s opening isn’t so stellar, Big Hero $56 million, The Theory Of Everything lacks an easy pun for this headline, and Other Box Office News.
by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)
A lot of people, myself included, felt that Disney were signing Big Hero 6’s death warrant when they chose to schedule it directly against Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. I mean, it’s Christopher Nolan! You all have seen how much his last films made, right? I get the idea of counter-programming, but Nolan films are events, and you, Disney, have only just solidified your second renaissance! Are you insane?! Those fears, however, conveniently forgot one key part of this equation: Disney always wins. Disney. Always. Wins. No matter how long it takes, no matter the force against them; Disney will always win.
And win they did, quite handily at that. Big Hero 6 opened in first at an excellent $56 million estimated, the second biggest opening for an animated film in 2014 only behind The Lego Movie. Interstellar had to settle for an estimated $50 million, one that more than likely will not hold when the actuals come in, which puts it below Inception, Gravity and even Prometheus – as Box Office Mojo notes, likely whilst applying salt liberally to the film’s various wounds. If one were to include Wednesday and Thursday IMAX-only screenings, then the total would rise to $52 million, but we don’t include such cheat tactics around these here parts! This is the weekend Box Office Report and, last I checked, the weekend doesn’t include Wednesday or Thursday! Nice try, Nolan! Thanks for playing!
Activity elsewhere on the chart is limited, as seemingly everybody else realised that they have better things to do than be crushed by Disney and Nolan and so got the hell out of dodge whilst they were still able to do so. The one major release was the none-more-blatant piece of awards bait known as The Theory Of Everything, in which Eddie Redmayne metaphorically gets down on his hands and knees and begs for awards by playing Stephen Hawking in a biopic about his life. So, naturally, the film also did pretty great in limited release, as folks cued up to have an opinion to spout come Oscars time, taking $207,000 from 5 screens for a $41,400 per-screen average.
That just leaves a trio of documentaries that were likely dumped here because all the prime spots on the release schedule were taken. Doing the best in terms of pure gross, primarily because it played in the most amount of theatres, was On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter, a pseudo-sequel to the 1971 Steve McQueen-fronted doc, which took $344,000 from 231 screens (for a per-screen average of $1,489) full of people with nothing better to do that given Sunday. Next, and most successful in terms of per-screen gross, was National Gallery which made $9,700 from 1 theatre full of people who couldn’t be arsed to just book a plane ticket to London and see the place in person. Finally, Death Metal Angola, about soft rock in the Maldives, made $2,500 from 1 screen populated with people who had a very strangely specific urge that needed scratching.
This Full List is really rather pissed that Big Hero 6 is giving the UK a miss. Hey, that rhymed sorta!
Box Office Results: Friday 7th November 2014 – Sunday 9th November 2014
1] Big Hero 6
$56,200,000 / NEW
Yup, you heard that right! Big Hero 6 doesn’t hit the UK until January of next year, adding to a pile that already includes Whiplash, John Wick, Inherent Vice, Birdman, Foxcatcher and a hell of a lot more. That also means that the only film I’m really excited for from now until the end of the year is – and I kid you not here – Penguins Of Madagascar. Look, American studio execs, I get that you want to capitalise on the inevitable awards hype that all of these films are going to get, and I get that we forcibly colonised your country one f*cking time, but come on! There are giant empty gaps in our release schedules that are being plugged with dreck like a third goddamn Nativity movie! You can do better, dammit!
$50,000,000 / $52,151,000 / NEW
Owen has reviewed it here because I am way too busy to crank out a review right now. But also because, honestly, I’m still not quite sure what to think of it. I did enjoy it, but the film is incredibly fatally flawed in ways that are too numerous and lengthy to explain here. I’ll try and find time go into detail on it at some point, but for now I will say that Hans Zimmer’s score is absolutely atrocious, like a church orchestra that’s being disembowelled and expressing the feelings of said disembowelling via their instruments as they slowly bleed out.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that “overwrought” doesn’t even begin to cover it, and I’m pretty sure the guy in charge of the organ dropped dead at some point and nobody bothered to move his corpse from the keys he face-planted.
3] Gone Girl
$6,100,000 / $145,428,000
I have a friend who works at a cinema and she managed to snag me a Gone Girl poster from work today. I have good friends.
$6,017,000 / $43,472,000
The fact that this hasn’t sunk like a stone since its release genuinely confuses the hell out of me. Like, nobody liked this one, critics and audiences, so who’s still going to this?
5] St. Vincent
$5,707,000 / $27,356,000
Chris O’Dowd’s slow breakthrough into America is one of the more bewildering things that I have come across recently. I mean this in a good way, for once, though. I like Chris O’Dowd, I think he’s a funny actor – although Moone Boy did quite literally nothing for me – but I thought he’d be an exclusively British thing. You know, like how Steve Coogan has never broken through into the US despite being STEVE F*CKING COOGAN?
$5,512,000 / $19,756,000
OUCH. I mean, I really should’ve seen this coming, Nightcrawler is not exactly the kind of film that will sit well with general audiences, but still. This really isn’t the fate that one of the year’s best films deserves. It might survive next week, as Dumb And Dumber To is the only wide release that will make money, but this still deserves way more love. If you’ve yet to see it, go now!
$5,500,000 / $69,268,000
This was pretty darn great. Took a while to warm up and ultimately didn’t do much that many other war dramas haven’t already done better, but its cast is great, its individual scenes are really good, and the whole is the sum of its pretty good parts. Glad to see that Sabotage appeared to be a fluke for David Ayer after all!
8] John Wick
$4,075,000 / $34,745,000
Wha…? Huh…? Wh…? IT’S JOHN WICK, YOU GUYS!! I don’t even know you people anymore.
9] Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
$3,495,000 / $59,208,000
Yes, I did end up seeing this. No, it wasn’t awful. I mean, it’s not that good, but it is pacey, incredibly earnest, and has committed performances from a game cast. It’s that earnestness that keeps it from being an intolerable slog, because the film is that happy and sincere that it overwhelms any cynical boundaries. It’s not a good film, we can’t forget that, but it’s not an awful one so I’m willing to chalk this up as the most minor win possible.
10] The Book Of Life
$2,800,000 / $45,215,000
This has yet to cross $80 million worldwide. Why do you people hate nice things?
Dropped Out: The Judge, Dracula Untold
Incredible visuals, slightly iffy dialogue, a multitude of ideas and thought-provoking concepts orbiting a sentimental plot about a father and daughter relationship told in a slightly non-linear pattern, yet enormously entertaining. Yup, Interstellar is definitely a Christopher Nolan film alright.
by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)
An occupational hazard of reviewing films for Failed Critics, whether on the podcast or on these written reviews, is that you see some films you really wouldn’t have otherwise been arsed about. Whether it’s with a slight resentment over the likes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles last month, Transformers: Age of Extinction a couple months back, or one of the worst films I’ve ever seen, I, Frankenstein, optimistically hoping they’re better than you think they’re going to be, they were all seen by me in the name of this little website.
However, for every time I’ve forced myself out into the cold, reluctantly putting my jacket on and sighing to myself about the next three hours I’ll spend watching something I’ll probably not enjoy, there’s also been times when I’ve made the short walk from the car park to the cinema a bit giddy in anticipation. Given the recent so-called backlash that director Christopher Nolan has received over his $165m project, this past weekend, Interstellar joined the likes of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Guardians of the Galaxy and Godzilla on my “fingers-crossed walk from car park to cinema” list. I really, really, really wanted Interstellar to be good. I have not jumped on the anti-Nolan bandwagon just yet. To my mind, he still makes incredibly enjoyable blockbuster movies with more brains than your average multi-million dollar project. But I’ll come onto whether or not Interstellar lived up to my expectations in a minute.
Firstly, the basic plot revolves around Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a single father of two, in the not too distant future. He was once an educated, highly skilled astronaut-come-engineer, but due to the dwindling population crisis and apparent slow death of our planet, necessitating the need for a focus on agriculture rather than scientific exploration, he is now a farmer of corn; one of the few remaining crops not effected by blight or the constant dust storms. His ten year old daughter, Murph (so named after Murphy’s Law), experiences something she describes as paranormal activity in her bedroom; books fly off shelves, figurines break in half and the dust settles in a peculiar pattern. Eventually, the pattern begins to make sense and Cooper stumbles upon a research centre planning to shoot some folks off into space to find a new home across the galaxy after a message from them – and I don’t mean some giant man-eating ants.
And thus begins one small crews journey across space, time and, erm, gravity in order to save their species.
In all manner of speaking, both in terms of the good and the bad, Interstellar is a very Nolan-esque movie. From his first real breakthrough with Memento, to one of our listeners/readers top 10 movies of 2012 (The Dark Knight Rises), and all that came inbetween, his films have all had a certain visual flair. The way they look and feel can easily be recognised as one of his movies within the opening quarter of an hour. They’re epic in their depictions of scope and scale, yet often contain frames with just one or maybe two characters at a time appearing in them. He creates a fantastic realism, and what with a large proportion of this movie being set in space, on distant planets or inside a shuttle with a wise-cracking robot, that’s no mean feat. You get people interacting with each other, as people do, but all the while there’s an element of fantasy about what’s taking place. Some truly astounding visual effects that might even eclipse those of Gravity, released this time last year. It’s almost a type of poetic realism. You know, that realism that occurs when people travel through worm holes. But poetic.
Continuing along those lines, the dialogue also has a balance of authenticity and complete and utter cobblers. Attempts to weight scripts with what could be seen as real science talk is largely superfluous. This is a ship containing three men, one woman and a bendy iMonolith travelling to another part of the galaxy; it’s safe to say that I have already conceded that my disbelief will need to be suspended in order to enjoy this. There’s really not any need to convince me of the whys and hows that this star hopping is actually possible. Although, that said, it was a nice change to not be treated like a complete idiot by a movie. Sure, there’s the typical exposition that you get in all blockbusters these days, but to have explanations that aid understanding without especially dumbing down, for example David Gyasi embodying the spirit of Laurence Fishburne in Event Horizon to explain to fellow crew members Cooper, Brand (Anne Hathaway) and Doyle (Wes Bentley) how wormholes work, was a nice treat. It was relevant, informative but not bogging the film down in droll pseudo-scientific theory.
Whilst these are two things that you could transfer to pretty much any films in Nolan’s back catalogue, one thing that is virtually out of his hands is that of the performances from the cast. The ever-reliable Matthew McConaughey (who would’ve thought that could be a thing three or four years ago – certainly not James) puts in a performance that is (pardon the pun) out of this world (I did say “pardon”!) It more than likely won’t grant him an Oscar for the second year in a row, but for a film of this magnitude with such high profile stars in it (Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine, Jessica Chastain, Casey Affleck, Matt Damon and so on) who are all on form, for him to outshine them in the way that he does is pretty extraordinary.
As said earlier in the review, I wanted this movie to be good. I can see how that might suggest the potential for me to be lying to you – and maybe even myself. However, I honestly do believe that Interstellar, whilst not without its problems, is quite probably the best film Nolan has created… objectively speaking. Everyone has a favourite Nolan. He has seven movies in the IMDb Top 250, with one of those currently sitting in fourth place and a further two in the top 15! He’s an incredibly popular filmmaker and not without reason. My personal favourite may not be Interstellar, but it’s his most sophisticated, well made, and intelligent movie yet. Yes, better than Memento before anybody suggests it.
Owen, Steve and Carole will be chatting about Interstellar (and no doubt Nolan in general) on the upcoming podcast.