Tag Archives: the hobbit: the battle of the five armies

The Legacy of Christopher Lee

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

Earlier today it was announced that the legendary film star recognised the world over, Sir Christopher Lee, had passed away. Famed for his iconic movie roles, many of which were villains in the horror and sci-fi genre, unfortunately no amount of virgin’s blood, ancient Egyptian curses or black magic will bring him back this time. The world of cinema has lost one of its true greats.

Star of over 200 movies in total, stretching as far back as his pre-Hammer Horror collaborations with Terence Fisher in the 1940’s, right the way through to last year’s multi-million pound blockbuster The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, it’s fair to say that he has left behind a rich legacy of films. Whatever age you are, you will know Christopher Lee for one role or another. As Scott Weinberg said on Twitter: “Do you have kids? They know who Christopher Lee is. Are your grandparents around? So do they“. And it’s completely true. Whether you grew up with Lee burning wicker effigies in the 70’s, or whether he’s Saruman the White wizard to you, he’s known to multiple generations.

To honour his remarkable talent and to hopefully reflect even a smidgen of the impact he’s had on the movie industry, here’s a quick list (in no particular order) of ten of his films that he is undoubtedly the star of.


Dracula (1958)

draculaLon Chaney, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, Peter Cushing and… Christopher Lee. Whoever your favourite classic horror film icon may be, in the mid-50’s the genre was flagging. Surpressed by its flashy American counterparts, or the subject of ribbing over Universal’s cartoonish nature. Without this full colour Hammer Horror film, who knows what might have happened to the independent British horror genre. Notoriously difficult to finance due to the legal wrangles with Universal over the rights to the Transylvanian Count, Dracula was shot on a budget of just £81,000. And yet, over a million people flocked to see the debonair giant Christopher Lee (at 6 ft 5 in) devour buxom hapless ladies. Much, much darker and more gruesome in tone than Lugosi’s take on the aristocratic vampire some 25-30 years earlier, Lee’s imposing presence terrified audiences back then and possibly still does even now. Of course, he would go onto play the character quite a few more times with …. less success. Nevertheless, Dracula still ranks amongst his finest performances.


The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

JOHN JAY80Lest we forget, of course, that it was actually this film released the year before Dracula that actually shot Christopher Lee to stardom. Hammer’s first colour feature film, after the relative success of X-rated black and white horror The Quatermass Xperiment and its sequel, it took until 1957 for director Terence Fisher to join the studio for them to really be propelled into the big leagues. Whether it was the result of a genius at work, or just sheer dumb luck, they seemed to stumble upon the perfect formula with Lee as the monster and Cushing as the hero. As you can read in my Horrorble Month article from last year, they’re two genuinely impressive performances that elevate The Curse of Frankenstein from being simply ‘quite good’, to ‘immensely entertaining’, virtually by themselves.


The Mummy (1959)

the mummyAnd whilst we’re talking about Fisher, Lee and Cushing during Hammer Horror’s golden period, one last pick of their movies together that’s worth a mention is The Mummy. Mainly because, ahem, I haven’t seen The Hound of the Baskervilles. Sorry. Er, swiftly moving on. Unfortunately, whilst the overall quality of The Mummy is debatable, not quite at the level of the previous two – and whilst I’d never bad mouth Peter Cushing! Ever! – there’s only really one reason to watch this. Yep, you guessed it; Christopher Lee. From the make-up and practical effects used on the creepy silent ancient mummy coming to life, “bringing terror and death across 4000 years”, to Lee’s slow lumbering stalking, it really makes you appreciate just how great he was. It’s worth watching purely to see him do one of the things he did best (and perhaps somewhat underratedly these days?), which is just simply being the unstoppable terrifying monster. There’s probably none better, before or since. And there probably never will be, either.


Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)

gremlinsIt wasn’t all serious horror films for Christopher Lee throughout his career. Sometimes, he displayed his famous wicked sense of humour in the choice of characters he made. Take, for example, his part Joe Dante’s Disney comedy sequel, Gremlins 2. In this, he pops up as a bit-part character, Doctor Catheter, a mad scientist experimenting on mutating animals. Something rather obviously playing on Lee’s reputation for constantly portraying the villain, his over the top performance steals the scene almost every single time he’s on screen. Even though the film is a cartoony little fluff piece to pass a Sunday afternoon, Lee himself is magnificent and huge amounts of fun.


Sleepy Hollow (1999)

sleepy hollowOne director, whatever your opinion of him, who truly loves the classic horror genre like few others is Tim Burton. From casting Vincent Price in Edward Scissorhands, to creating a whole film about Ed Wood, to give him credit, the guy clearly loves the b-movie. Which is why, even though I may not be a fan of most of his latter films, it’s great to see Christopher Lee honoured by Burton with a handful of slightly larger cameo roles every now and again. He pops up in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Dark Shadows, Corpse Bride and probably my favourite of his surprise roles, the town Burgomaster in Sleepy Hollow who sends Johnny Depp off to carry out his investigations into the town’s recent murders. And once again he can be found displaying the lighter humour that he was both renowned and admired for. He’s quite frequently been the highlight in some of Burton’s less critically acclaimed movies.


The Wicker Man (1973)

'The Wicker Man' film - 1973Proving he could pull off just about any role available to him and turn it into something incredibly memorable, even when wearing women’s clothes and dancing around a field burning a policeman to death, The Wicker Man is one of his most beloved low budget British movies. There’s more to The Wicker Man that makes it such a classic than simply the performance of Christopher Lee… but it certainly helps! As Lord Summerisle, head of a small cultish Scottish town with some rather bizarre rituals, his charisma makes him seem both likable and dangerous. It’s absolutely perfect casting to pit him alongside the sterner Edward Woodward as the two have chemistry together that emulates that shared between Lee & Cushing in his earlier films. A kind of wary friction that permeates through the screen and infects the viewer.


The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)

scaramangaThere’s probably three things you need to know about The Man with the Golden Gun. Firstly, it’s a Roger Moore James Bond film, so set your expectations to “goofy”. Secondly, there’s a man with a gun made of gold (evident from the title, I imagine?) Finally, it has Scaramanga, played by Christopher Lee, who is probably one of the most recognisable villains in the Bond back catalogue. Let’s just say, in a line up of topless decapitated Bond villains, his distinguishing feature will probably make him the first one you can identify. Surprisingly though, Scaramanga actually gets a lot less screen time than you probably remember. He certainly had less than I remembered back when I rewatched The Man with the Golden Gun for the first time as an adult ahead of our Bond special podcast in 2012. It was a shame he didn’t appear on screen more, as he lit up the picture frequently. It’s great to see Lee play a slightly more nuanced and complex villain with an in depth backstory for a change and still be fantastic at it.


Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966)

rasputinProbably less well known of Christopher Lee’s films behind even the likes of Fu Manchu and Howling II (neither of which are making it on this list!) but still one of my personal favourite performances of his is as the crazy Russian advisor, Rasputin. Sure, OK, the film is so very melodramatic and wildly inaccurate (historically speaking); it would be understandable for someone to expect very little going into Rasputin. It does not deserve to be as brilliant as it actually, honestly, God-help-me is. Lee as the mad Russian monk with his supernatural healing powers and hairy face utterly dominates. Horse-and-cart-jacking his way from one drinking game to the next, womanising, hypnotising and bellowing all the way to the top, Lee is absolutely superb. I know it sounds like I’m overstating his role, but I genuinely believe this is perhaps his most unappreciated performance. It’s more than just a schlocky mid-60’s Hammer Horror film because Sir Christopher Frank Carandini Lee makes it thus.


Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002)

count dookuRepeating my long-held opinion on the Star Wars films will be a massive waste of time for all involved here. As has been established plenty of times during the 160 episodes of our podcast, George Lucas’s space adventure films just aren’t for me, I’m afraid. However, I don’t think I would be forgiven if I made this list and left out Count Dooku. Even I can’t deny that he deserves his place here. He’s actually one of the more sympathetic characters in the Star Wars universe, having basically turned to the dark side of the force because he hated the Kafka-esque bureaucracy of the Jedi’s. In fairness, it’s enough to turn anybody to the dark side. I suppose the fact that he’s also a massive arrogant dick probably made the job easier for Darth Sidious. Starting a full scale war might also count against him too. Regardless, it’s not a completely wild accusation for me to say this film is basically carried by Christopher Lee’s broad shoulders.


The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)

sarumanI could’ve picked any of his performances as Saruman the White from Peter Jackson’s middle earth films. In The Two Towers, that’s probably his finest accomplishment throughout the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films combined as he and Sir Ian McKellan’s Gandalf the Grey clash during a siege. But just think about this for a second. Last year, some sixty six years after making his big screen debut, now a 90+ year old man, he was still making huge blockbuster films! And in the third instalment of The Hobbit, which is at time of publishing his last on screen performance, he convincingly portrayed an arse-kicking heroic wizard with all the enthusiasm you’d have expected a fresh faced 26 year old to muster. To have had such a verve for life after having already lived such a full and truly astonishing 93 years on this planet, and to still have gotten excited about doing his job as excellently as he possibly could, he’s just a credit to everyone and I for one will sorely miss seeing him in new movies.

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US Box Office Report: 26/12/14 – 28/12/14

Unbroken takes home a silver medal, Into The Woods busts out The Gambler, Big Eyes sees little money, The Interview did alright, [Insert Tasteless Joke About American Sniper Beating Selma Here], and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

Ah, yes!  That great American tradition of spending Christmas and its surrounding weekend at the cinema in order to try and force the family to shut up for 2 hours!  As a Brit, I don’t get to experience this joy as all of our cinemas inconsiderately shut down on Christmas Day, like the people who work there have families they’d rather go home to or something.  In any case, the majority of Americans chose to spend their Christmas returning to the cinema to re-watch that film they all saw last week.  The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies easily beat off all comers to retain the #1 spot with $41 million in ticket sales and only a 24% drop between weekends, the softest for any instalment of The Hobbit trilogy (sort of, considering the fact that last weekend came after a Wednesday opening that burnt off some demand).

In fact, Americans chose to spend a lot of their moneys re-seeing films from prior weekends over the holidays, even the ones that don’t deserve it.  Night At The Museum 3 leapt up 20% between weekends because being sad about the passing of Robin Williams really does bring families closer together (not sarcasm, I’m speaking from experience), The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 jumped up 27% in its sixth week to prove that, yes, this series is still a juggernaut that will make all of the money despite what the haters will say, and Annie increased by 5% presumably because a whole bunch of confused families didn’t realise Into The Woods came out this week.  Elsewhere, The Imitation Game went nationwide in 747 theatres and smashed its way into the Top 10 because everybody is in love with Benedict Cumberbatch.  I don’t quite get why, but it’s a thing nonetheless.

The holiday weekend was also the last opportunity for studios to get their films out in time to be considered for awards season, hence the flood of new releases.  Leading the charge was Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken which surprisingly smashed its way to the Christmas Day number 1 slot and then rode that momentum to a strong number 2 finish.  That, however, only happened because Into The Woods opened on 600 less screens; it ended up losing the battle for second by only $700,000 even though it had a higher per-screen average, so these two may switch places when the actuals come in.  Much less successful was the Mark Wahlberg-fronted The Gambler which only managed $9 million over the three-day weekend, sinking after a strong $5 million Christmas Day performance.

In limited release news, Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper ran rampant on the competition, making $610,000 from 4 theatres over the weekend ($850,000 including Christmas Day) for a per-screen average of $152,000, the third highest opening per-screen average of any live-action film ever.  Slightly less successfully but still a major success nonetheless was the opening of Selma, which took $590,000 from 19 screens ($912,000 incl. Christmas Day) for a per-screen average of $31,053.  The inexplicably-not-nominated-for-Best-Foreign-Film Two Days, One Night finally received a US release and took $30,600 ($48,200 incl. Christmas Day) from two screens, whilst Leviathan managed $15,200 ($23,000 incl. Christmas Day) from two screens.  FILMS!!!

And lastly – good lord, this was a busy weekend – The Interview, after a whole bunch of utterly ridiculously insane and awful events, finally got a last minute go-ahead to be screened in select cinemas.  So, after all of that hoopla, the film managed to take $1,811,000 ($2,851,000 including Christmas Day) from 331 screens for an average of $5,471 per-screen.  Decidedly average, but that doesn’t count the fact that many of these were hastily-arranged at the last minute with few showings and the fact that the film has apparently made an extra $15 million over the weekend with its simultaneous VOD release.  Depending on how that holds, we could be looking at the start of something new in film distribution, here.  Time will tell, but for now I’m pretty sure Sony will be calling this somewhat of a success.

Oh, and lastly lastly, Big Eyes, the new Tim Burton film and the best thing he’s made in at least 7 years (if you like Sweeney Todd) as well as a pretty bloody good movie in its own right, collapsed on 1,307 theatres with just under $3 million for 15th place.  Dammit.


hobbit

Will the circle be Unbroken by this Full List?  Let’s go Into The Woods for the last time this year to find out!

Box Office Results: Friday 26th December 2014 – Sunday 28th December 2014

1] The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies

$41,420,000 / $168,522,000

The more I think back on The Hobbit trilogy, the less and less I like it.  I find more faults, the stuff I like rescinds further into the background, and the stuff I dislike becomes more pronounced in my mind.  The Lord Of The Rings, meanwhile and which I saw for the first time in the same two week period in which I saw The Hobbit, rises more and more and more in my estimations the more I think back on it, and I really, really liked The Lord Of The Rings when I saw it.  I still don’t hate The Hobbit, but man I wish Peter Jackson had just moved on from LOTR instead of making a lower-quality facsimile of it.

2] Unbroken

$31,748,000 / $47,341,000 / NEW

Saw this on Friday and ultimately left rather cold.  Its intentions are pure and Jack O’Connell gives another commanding lead performance – now making him 3 for 3 this year – but its structure is a complete mess, any influence The Coen Brothers may have had on the screenplay has been near-totally scrubbed away by endless rewrites that make it more awards-baity and Jolie just doesn’t know when to stop overcooking certain scenes.  Nothing about the film gives me any indication that Jolie was purely aiming for awards with this one, but the finished product seems perennially missing a “For Your Consideration” watermark over 75% of its reels and so nothing truly landed for me.  Shame.

3] Into The Woods

$31,021,000 / $46,105,000 / NEW

Drops here in two weeks, which is a surprisingly quick turn-around for a Disney film, I gotta say.  Still, really looking forward to this; there’s a lot of actors and actresses that I really like in it and I am dying for a musical that’s damn proud of its musical foundations and nature right about now.  Yes, I am still angry about Annie.

4] Night At The Museum: Secret Of The Tomb

$20,600,000 / $55,307,000

Still not an outstanding performance since the film inexplicably cost $127 million to make – and if you’ve actually seen the film, you’ll get why I refuse to believe that figure – but any film that increases its weekend takings by 20% from opening weekend at least deserves a modicum of respect tipped in its direction.

5] Annie

$16,600,000 / $45,835,000

Speaking of Into The Woods, The 2014 Failed Critics Awards results were revealed last week (*plug plug*) and Emily Blunt in Edge Of Tomorrow didn’t even make the shortlist for Best Actress in yet another example of why democracy doesn’t work.  (*flips table in disgust and storms out*)

6] The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

$10,000,000 / $306,656,000

Just $26 million away from taking the #1 Domestic Movie of 2014 spot away from Guardians Of The Galaxy.  It’s got a good chance at making it, too, since Tak3n isn’t due out for another two weeks and the general dead zone of January (although it actually doesn’t look that bad this year) means that there’s a large opportunity for it to slowly earn small increments each week in the cinemas that keep it around.  I think this is actually going to be rather close, folks!

7] The Gambler

$9,300,000 / $14,300,000 / NEW

Transformers: Age Of Extinction is still the highest grossing film of the year worldwide by a good margin.  Just thought I’d bring the mood down a little bit.  Thanks for nothing, Mark Wahlberg!

8] The Imitation Game

$7,930,000 / $14,631,000

The wrong Benedict Cumberbatch movie is getting all of the money.  Yes, you damn well perfectly know which film I am talking about.

9] Exodus: Gods And Kings

$6,750,000 / $52,517,000

So, this came out in the UK this past weekend and I was circle-jerked to hell and back.  The Cineworld website said that there were only 3D screenings, but when I got there on Friday they insisted that there were actually 2D screenings, but those ended up overlapping with Unbroken so I pushed Exodus to Saturday instead.  By the time I had finished Unbroken, however, I felt more than a little burnt out when it came to watching movies.  It’s been The Great List Blitz 2014, you see, where I watch a whole bunch of films I missed and re-watch some films that fell out of my memory somewhat over the course of a very cramped couple of weeks to prepare for list-making season, and it had taken its toll on me somewhat.  So I got to thinking, “Do I really want to give over 3 hours of my life to a film I am 95% certain is going to be horrendous tripe?  Big Eyes at least has the potential to be good.”

And, in the end, on that Saturday, I decided that no, I didn’t much fancy giving over 3 hours of my life to Exodus: Gods And Kings.  So I saw Big Eyes and then went home.  And you know what?  I feel great about that!  Now let’s all point and laugh at Exodus one last time before moving on with our lives.  HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

10] Wild

$5,415,000 / $16,364,000

I suspect that this will experience a resurgence of major proportions when the Academy comes a-calling for Reese Witherspoon, much like what happened when Dallas Buyers Club kept revolving door-ing its way in and out of the list this time last year.  So this is not a farewell, this is a see you tomorrow.  Christ, I just sounded so f*cking pretentious…

Dropped Out: Big Hero 6, Top Five (goddammit, America), P.K., Penguins Of Madagascar (GODDAMMIT, AMERICA!)

Callum Petch got time to kill, got folks to kill, on overkill.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

US Box Office Report: 19/12/14 – 21/12/14

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.


THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF FIVE ARMIES

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!

3] Annie

$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.

6] Wild

$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?!

8] P.K.

$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

Callum Petch would dial the numbers just to hear your breath.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

Failed Critics Podcast: The Battle of the Four Critics

get santaWelcome one and all to a very merry penultimate edition of the Failed Critics Podcast 2014! We took a couple of weeks off in a bid to resolve our audio issues, but have returned just in time for Christmas. Joining stalwarts Owen and Steve are our special guests Matt Lambourne and Callum Petch.

Foregoing any news this week, mainly in an effort to keep spirits high, we kick off the festivities with a twist on the regular quiz theme. The team run through which Christmas movies they’ve been watching on the run up to the big day and there’s even time to squeeze in a review of the most anticipated December blockbuster The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, Peter Jackson’s final journey into Middle Earth.

We’ve even brought you an early triple bill shaped present for such a joyous occasion as this. Steve, Owen, Matt and Calum pick their three favourite films featuring actors who have famously played Santa Claus on the big screen; Tim Allen (The Santa Clause), Richard Attenborough (Miracle on 34th Street), James Cosmo (The Chronicles of Narnia) and Tom Hanks (The Polar Express) respectively.

Join us next week for the end of year special as we reveal the winners (and losers) of the Failed Critics Awards 2014!

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US Box Office Report: 12/12/14 – 14/12/14

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!


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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.

6] Interstellar

$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.

10] Wild

$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

Callum Petch has the microphone but you can sing it as well!  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Not quite the triumphant fanfare that the epic fantasy adventure series deserved to bow out on, but still an impressive conclusion to an entertaining series.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

hobbitDuring the week, you may have read an article that I published on here expressing my excitement at the release of Peter Jackson’s final jaunt through Middle Earth. After I recently watched all three of the extended edition DVD’s of The Lord of the Rings and rewatched the two Hobbit films, the most unexpected thing happened. I found out that despite previously believing these fantasy adventure films to be little more than Hobbity-tosh, they were actually rather marvellous. Full of character, personality and thrills, I could not wait to complete the set by taking myself off to the cinema and spending 144 minutes with Bilbo & Friends one final time.

In fact, I’ve actually been holding out voting on our end of year awards just yet in case The Battle of the Five Armies made my top 10, as both An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug had done in 2012 and 2013 respectively. (Yes, that is a plug for our Failed Critics Awards 2014! Finish reading this and then scroll back up the page and click this link to vote for your choices!)

So, where does this third and final Hobbit film begin? It picks up directly from where the previous film left off without pausing for breath or to stroke its long and lusciously thick beard. As we saw in the closing scenes of the second movie in the series, Smaug the dragon has taken flight and is on his way to burn Lake-town to cinders to inflict revenge on the company of dwarves out to steal back their home. Perhaps an even bigger threat to our heroes is the impending arrival of an army of orcs marching towards the Lonely Mountain ready for all out war.

Maybe I made a rod for my own back by over hyping the film to myself beforehand, but I genuinely was looking forward to this. However, as disappointing as it is for me to say, it was something of a let down. Whereas the previous two movies feel like lots of mini-adventures all taking place within one movie, the final part is.. well.. it’s just the third act to the second film. From the arrival of the dwarves at Bag End and Bilbo’s confrontation with Gollum in An Unexpected Journey, to the barrel riding escape plan and awakening of the dragon in The Desolation of Smaug, there’s always one more perilous quest awaiting Gandalf’s party of homeless dwarves and burglars. In that regard, this is lacking somewhat, which is no surprise when you consider the original plan was for JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit to be adapted into two movies rather than three. The main issue is that isn’t very well concealed. This may be the shortest movie of all six films, but that’s because it’s essentially just one long battle sequence with a bit of story at the beginning and a bit more at the end.

Don’t get me wrong, the battle is well shot. There’s the epic scale that is to be expected and director Peter Jackson doesn’t deny the viewer some absolutely fantastic and imaginative set pieces. It’s not like Jackson doesn’t have experience in how to shoot them by now. However, it just wasn’t satisfying like The Return of the King was. Calling it a battle sounds quite grand but it was more of a brawl with thousands of unidentifiable generic soldiers.

My biggest gripe lies with the lack of humour. It’s not completely without comedy; indeed, I chuckled and sniggered during some amusing scenes. However,  the dwarves simply weren’t fun characters to be around any more. A (100% CGI) Billy Connolly pops up to deliver one or two funny lines, but generally they are more concerned with the darkness enveloping their rightful king, Thorin Oakenshield, played brilliantly by Richard Armitage. In fact, the performances across the board were of a high standard again. Evangeline Lilly, Aidan Turner, Lee Pace and of course Sir Ian McKellen were all positive aspects, as was Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins. The only problem with Martin Freeman is that he really should’ve had more screen time. All of the best lines and most interesting plot lines come from the little hobbit. Unless of course you count Legolas declaring that “these bats are bred for one purpose; for war” to be the best line in a so-bad-it’s-good way.

Finally, on the subject of characters and their respective actors, I really think Luke Evans as Bard is one of the best human characters from any of the Lord of the Rings / The Hobbit films so far. An honourable character whose sentiment is not over-egged, with a performance that does not seem to be discussed as much as it should. He carries the story on his own during some of the lesser moments and does so admirably.

Overall, it’s still an occasionally exciting and impressive film, but undeniably lacklustre. The first two films made me laugh and had their own identity as fun, fantasy adventure films. Oddly The Battle of the Fives Armies only managed to make me laugh on a handful of occasions and as such, regardless of the fact the run time flies by (unlike An Unexpected Journey), unfortunately it just feels like Lord of the Rings-lite as opposed to the conclusion to an original and new Hobbit trilogy.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is in cinemas right now and will be featured as the main review on our next episode of the Failed Critics Podcast, a Christmas special.