Tag Archives: The Hunger Games

Insurgent

A step-up from Divergent, if nothing else, Insurgent still isn’t compelling or really any good.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

51587.cr2I can remember nothing about Divergent.  I remember that it was terrible and boring, and that a character in it voluntarily calls himself “Four” which makes any scene in which somebody calls out to him resemble that of an overly emotional balloted deli counter, but I don’t remember any specifics about the film.  I couldn’t tell you any character names besides Tris and Four – and, look, I’m sorry, I really did try taking his name seriously this time, but I just can’t, I can’t – I couldn’t tell you any plot points, I couldn’t tell you any personality traits of any of the characters, I couldn’t tell you anything that happened in the finale that, direct quote from my review, “is practically the film ticking off the last free spots on its [genre] bingo card in quick succession”.  Nothing.

That, I think, might be the biggest problem with Divergent.  It’s a bad boring movie, but it is so utterly blandly forgettable that I cannot remember a single damn thing about it besides its bizarrely strong cast and the feeling of having had my time wasted.  It didn’t even have the decency to be interestingly or entertainingly bad, with the exception of the ridiculous and mostly inexplicable nature of the Faction system that its world is based around, because it was too busy blandly cribbing from every single successful, and even some of the non-successful, Young Adult franchise ever in the hopes that money will magically fall from the sky and into the studio and filmmakers’ laps.  Unfortunately for all, it did (sorta) and so now here’s Insurgent, soon to be followed by Allegiant, Parts 1 & 2 because, hey, why not also steal the “unnecessarily split your last book into two separate films for twice the cash money” part too, eh?

Actually, I’m being unnecessarily mean.  If nothing else, Insurgent is a far better movie than Divergent ever was.  Where that movie plodded and dragged onwards with no end in sight, Insurgent moves with some semblance of a pace and clearly builds to a logical end game that doesn’t feel like it takes multiple goddamn days to reach.  The scope expands – which stretches the already thin narrative credibility to beyond breaking point – which managed to keep me somewhat engaged, even whilst the film mostly just loops back on itself constantly, and with the exceptions of Kate Winslet – who was already checked out in the first film and who is acted off the screen by Ansel Elgort in a sentence I never thought I would ever type – and Shailene Woodley – whose patience for this series visibly drains the further into the film we get – the cast is still trying their damndest to make the crap they’re given work.

I mean, it’s still not a good film, I cannot make that more abundantly clear, but it’s not offensively boring, this time.  You know when you’re watching something on TV and you’re not bored but you’re also not completely engaged?  Like, you don’t connect emotionally in the slightest with what’s going on and you’re really not bothered about what happens, but you also have absolutely no urge to change the channel or check your phone excessively or what have you?  That’s the level that Insurgent is operating on, which is at least a step up from Divergent’s mind-numbing boringness, even though it’s got so little going on and is spread so narratively thin that it’s basically the final third of Divergent that was withheld because DOLLA DOLLA BILLS, Y’ALL!!

The big problem, the thing that continues to kill this series the further along it goes because it becomes more and more apparent, with its refusal to even attempt fixing it feeling even more like a deliberate act of pure laziness, is that Insurgent still has no characters.  None of its cast have any definable personalities, nobody goes on any real arc, and most beings (which is the best way that I can describe these lumps of mould) have no consistency at all.  Characters hot-foot between allegiances as the plot demands with no adequate explanation, many characters are excessively angsty for no particular reason, and the finale of the film occurs as if Tris is being told off-camera in-universe that she needs to do something real stupid because otherwise the film won’t have an ending.

It’s all best encompassed by Tris herself, our nominal protagonist, who is less a character and more a blank slate who has a whole bunch of emotional problems that the story’s target audience might have thrown onto her.  Unlike, say, Katniss Everdeen, Tris’ near-total lack of agency, with the exception of maybe two instances late on in the film, has no narrative or thematic reason other than lazy-ass storytelling, that only serves to call attention to the fact that I have no idea what she wants or who she is as a person outside of the plot pushing her forward.  I have spent two films and nearly 4 and a half hours in her company and I still have absolutely no idea what makes her tick or what makes her so special – the film’s constant repetition of “She is the one!  The special one!” feels more and more like attempted indoctrination the further and further on it goes.

She is a cipher, nothing more.  This is especially problematic as the final third of the film, which is where Insurgent’s big and incredibly cheap-looking CG action sequences reside, is all about her working through her emotional baggage, her insecurities and fears.  Not one moment of it resonates, though, because it’s all artificial, conflict thrown onto a character without any true grounding through prior character work or actions.  Tris has survivor’s guilt from the last film but it only manifests when the specific sequence of film calls for it, compared to Katniss’ survivor’s guilt which informs her entire character, ditto her desire to not be Divergent and “special” which literally only comes up in one extremely ham-fisted sequence during the film’s first climax before being unceremoniously punted off-screen.

When a character does manage to make an impression, it’s either down to themselves being the equivalent of Saturday morning cartoon villains – Miles Teller, who is better than Hollywood, has a noticeable blast indulging his inner-Draco Malfoy, whilst Sam Worthington Jai Courtney is well-cast as an entertainingly smug prick that the film shuffles off Stage Left way too early – or the actors and actresses just happening to be actors and actresses who have inexplicably decided that this is where they want to pick up their paycheques for a year or two – notable newcomers this time are Daniel Dae Kim as the leader of Candour, Naomi Watts as the leader of the Factionless and also Four’s long-thought dead mother (because OF COURSE), and Octavia Spencer who is the leader of Amity and is third-billed despite being on-screen for about 428 seconds max.  Otherwise, it’s just people-shaped husks doing stuff that’s apparently important but that I never once truly cared about.

Incidentally, if you’re coming to Insurgent in search of more of that sweet insipid stupidity that powered Divergent, then you will get more than your money’s worth by the finale.  It’s the kind of finale that purports to explain things, specifically why The City is ran in the idiotic faction system and why the Divergents are such a big deal, but doesn’t actually explain anything, instead offering the illusion that answers and explanations are being given whilst actually skirting around everything in favour of a separate reveal that is unbelievably stupid.

It also poses the exact opposite problem of Divergent’s ending: where that left more loose ends than a police corruption investigation headed by a corrupt cop, this one leaves no loose ends.  This is An Ending, in the most definite sense one can manage, where everything is tied up and there is really nothing else to do.  The final shot of the film even does what should have been done in the finale of the first film, for crying out loud!  Like, I do not know where Allegiant could go for barely 2 minutes, let alone two 2 hour films!  I also can’t really say I’m excited by this prospect either cos, well, I really don’t care about any of these non-entities masquerading as characters that I’m supposedly supposed to give a crap about.  So, all we’re really going to be doing is coming back to line Summit Entertainment’s pockets with even more cashola.

Again, I don’t strongly dislike Insurgent.  It’s OK.  In its best moments, I could sit and pretend like I was watching a better Young Adult adaptation or sci-fi film – Teller’s Malfoy impression calling to mind Harry Potter, Tris’ occasional extremely unconvincing (can we launch a Kickstarter to rescue a genuinely miserable-looking Shailene Woodley from this franchise, please) rage against the machine reminding me that Mockingjay, Part 2 is out in just 8 too-long months, the simulations being a bargain-basement Matrix – than this Frankenstein’s Monster of a series, and shaving off 20 minutes and having a clear end goal does wonders for the film’s pacing.  However, the plotting is still a mess, the world is still stupid, and there are still no characters, which makes being emotionally invested in anything that goes on a completely fruitless endeavour.

It’s a baby step forward and nothing more, is what I’m getting at.  Making the presentation less drearily dull without actually fixing the underlying problems that caused that symptom.  The equivalent of putting a child’s Band-Aid over a gaping shotgun wound.  The Divergent Series still has given no adequate reason as to why it should exist, other than to give some studio execs, a seemingly creatively-bankrupt novelist, and otherwise talented actors a nice large steady paycheque for four-or-so years, and Insurgent gives no evidence of that changing any time soon.

But, hey, I wasn’t bored stiff this time.  That’s progress, I guess?

Callum Petch will kiss the ground where you kneel.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio every Monday at 9PM BST (site link)!

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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.


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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)!

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)!

US Box Office Report: 5/12/14 – 7/12/14

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?!


the pyramid

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!

5] Interstellar

$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?!

10] Birdman

$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)

Callum Petch (*crushing guitar riff*).  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio every Monday at 9PM BST (site link)!

US Box Office Report: 28/11/14 – 30/11/14

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.


hunger games

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*)

4] Interstellar

$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.

9] Birdman

$1,880,000 / $17,237,400

“Dayman, AAAHHHHH!!  Fighter of the Nightman!  AAAHHHH!!  Champion of the sun!  AAAHHHH!!  You’re a master of karate and friendship for everyone, Dayman!”

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

Callum Petch will hold up to an idea.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio every Monday at 9PM BST (site link)!

Failed Critics Podcast: Teaser, Trailer, Mockingjay, Spy

Notice: Apologies for the return of our audio issues this week. We’re currently investigating the issue and will update this page in due course.

jurassic worldA few days ago, in a galaxy quite close to where you are right now, three people got together to record this podcast!

This week, as you’ve probably guessed already, the team mull over the teaser / trailer / pre-trailer-teaser / clip things for Jurassic World and Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and decide if they’re ‘clever girls’ or just stinky old nerf herders. Also on this episode, we have a review of the first part of the third part of the Hunger Games series with Mockingjay, Part 1; as well as brand new docu-drama about the life of the titular artist, Hockney.

Amongst all of this and the mayhem that is the dramatic conclusion to our ongoing quiz, there’s still time for Carole to review the gorgeous new Guardians of the Galaxy steelbook; Steve questions dodgy accents in Ocean’s Eleven; and Owen explains why he “quite liked” Life Is Beautiful.

Join us again next week for more news and reviews. Until then, may the force be–no sorry I can’t do it. Just.. come back next week. I’m sure you’ll find a way.

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 has only one major flaw, and it’s right there in the title.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

mocking jay 3Do you think that The Wachowskis and Quentin Tarantino ever regret splitting up The Matrix 2 and Kill Bill respectively?  I mean, considering what it hath wrought on today’s blockbuster landscape where nothing ends anymore and everything is always building towards a thing that’s being held off until the next film.  Were their various artistic decisions, driven by their split films being stylistically and distinctly different from one another – Kill Bill Vol. 1 being an action packed Asian-influenced martial arts flick and Vol. 2 being a slow-moving character-driven Spaghetti Western, whilst The Matrix Reloaded was the openly philosophical and purposefully cock-teasing one and The Matrix Revolutions was the sh*t one – now solely reduced to green money-shaped lights in hungry movie executives’ eyes?

In this recent wave of films that abuse an audience’s patience in order to swindle them out of more of their hard-earned cash, only Harry Potter has truly gotten it right.  The Deathly Hallows films, overlong as they may be (which is a criticism you can apply to pretty much any Harry Potter film really), had two distinct parts.  Part 1 was the slow-moving character piece, where the growing distance between the core trio was finally addressed head-on and done in such a way that it essentially completed the majority of their character arcs in time for the final film; ending on a solemn, downbeat note that re-enforces stakes and provides a vital character beat to send viewers home with.  Part 2 is the glorious, excessive blow-out party celebrating the franchise’s existence that, quite honestly, it deserved and would have felt weird if it went out any other way.  There’s a clear distinction.

Most films nowadays that do The Split, however, don’t craft two distinct parts.  They don’t use this creative opportunity to tell a story that was simply too in-depth for a standard 2 hour 30 minute runtime, or to create two parts that stylistically and creatively do different things from one another.  They just occur to make some cold hard cash, and the films suffer majorly from the bloat and lack of any real satisfying closure at the end of Part 1.  Twilight did it.  The Hobbit did it.  Divergent is doing it – which amazes me as there was barely enough material in the first frickin’ film.  The Maze Runner is going to do it and you are deluding yourself if you believe otherwise.  And, now, The Hunger Games has done it.

Quite honestly, the Part 1 segment of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 title is the best and worst thing about the film.  See, I have been of the opinion that prior Hunger Games movies are always two-thirds of an outstanding movie, and one-third of a really good but relatively uninteresting movie.  That one-third, surprisingly, has always been the Games part.  They’re not bad, they’re just incredibly perfunctory and uninteresting compared to the non-Games stuff: the propaganda, the class warfare, the media satirising, the emotional state of Katniss who is one of the most dynamic and interesting lead characters I have seen in a franchise in a long while, oppressive governments… all that stuff, and The Games just got in the way of that.

Mockingjay, Part 1 dispenses with them entirely.  Katniss Everdeen’s (Jennifer Lawrence) breaking of the 75th Hunger Games ended up being the spark that lit the powder-keg and now a full-on revolution has broken out in Panem.  The despotic head of The Capital, President Snow (Donald Sutherland), has razed her home, District 12, to the ground, its streets lined with the rotting skeletons of those caught in its bomb blasts, whilst Katniss herself has been “rescued” by District 13, long thought to have disappeared.  Its leader, President Coin (Julianne Moore) with the help of Plutarch Heavensbee (the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman), wants to mould Katniss into a symbol of hope for the revelation, to rally all of the Districts around for a full-scale invasion of The Capital, but Katniss wants absolutely nothing to do with it – only wishing to be reunited with Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), who has been captured by The Capital to act as the figurehead for their side of the war.

And that is pretty much Mockingjay, Part 1; two hours of moving characters into place for Part 2 where everything will likely pay off with lots of explosions.  That sounds bad on paper, but in actuality this breathing room allows the film to really dig deep into the stuff I mentioned that I loved earlier.  The main thrust of the film comes from Katniss slowly but surely, and even a tinge regretfully, coming into and accepting the role of the symbol of the revolution, but it’s not something she immediately hops on board with – she spends a good stretch of the film just begging to be let out and for them to rescue Peeta so that she and him can just sequester themselves away from the mess she inadvertently caused.

It’s a completely understandable viewpoint, too.  Katniss is basically broken by this point – having been thrown into the Games twice, shoved into the public spotlight and being constantly reminded of the horrors she has unwittingly caused at every turn.  It makes sense that she latches onto Peeta and a desire to run away and just be happy; the poor girl deserves it.  But she can’t, she could never, and the film goes to great lengths to show that her eventual embracing of her position is just as much, if not more so, down to her strength of character when the chips are down as it is the propaganda folk carefully manoeuvring her into position behind-the-scenes.  This means that she flip-flops constantly, but it comes across in a believable way instead of mere padding.

Credit can go to Danny Strong and Peter Craig’s screenplay for this, but the plaudits should mostly be thrown the way of Jennifer Lawrence.  The series is pretty much The Jennifer Lawrence Show anyway, due to the narrative’s hyper-specific focus on Katniss, but such an observation is more of a compliment when you consider just how good she is.  Much of Katniss’ PTSD and completely frazzled emotional state is left as subtext – or possibly been cut for time, I haven’t read the books so I don’t know – but Lawrence hones in on it and just runs with it.  She keeps finding new spins on Katniss’ icy demeanour, her emotional distress, the heartbreak that Katniss suffers whenever The Capital drags up Peeta to, essentially, taunt her that the film never feels like it’s going round in circles.  And when she gets big showy material – like a rousing speech for District 8 that reads as utterly ridiculous on paper – she knocks it out of the park and elevates it significantly.

Mind you, the film is almost stolen out from under her by, who else, Philip Seymour Hoffman who essentially gets to defiantly answer those of us who went “Well, why would you cast the incredible Philip Seymour Hoffman in a role that looks that minor and inconsequential?” in Catching Fire with a firm and defiant “THAT’S why!”  As is the usual case for a lot of his best roles, Hoffman plays Heavensbee very understatedly, as the guy who prefers to blend into the background and say the right things at the right time, rather than openly standing forward and controlling the scene – which is what ends up happening to Hoffman, too.  He commands one’s attention purely by saying the right things at the right time and knowing when to cede the spotlight back to everyone else.  As final performances go, it’s obviously not up there with his turn in A Most Wanted Man from earlier this year – because it’s not trying to be – but it’s the kind of performance that reminds me of just how much talent this guy had and how much of a shame it is that we lost him so soon.

It probably also helps that the propaganda stuff that Plutarch is helping mastermind is the best part of the film by a good country mile.  Action is minimised significantly in Mockingjay, Part 1 which ends up emphasising how important aesthetics and propaganda are to a successful military effort, and the battle of the propaganda between District 13 and The Capital, each represented by one half of the series’ end-game couple for extra dramatic weight, ends up as the thematic thrust of the film.  The scenes of Haymitch, Effie, Plutarch, and Coin brainstorming ways in which to present Katniss as a fitting hero for the revolution – noting her hard-to-like uncut self as deadly in the game of propaganda – carries a lot of parallels towards the modern celebrity PR machine that are especially fitting considering the actress playing Katniss.  Whilst Peeta’s scenes at The Capital, primarily being interviewed in a very leading fashion by Caesar Flickerman, recall similar style interviews on talk shows and such.

It’s that depth – seriously, the film really goes hard for this concept, I’m not doing it justice – thematically that has always made The Hunger Games stand out from the pack and a full film based on that really is as good as it sounds.  Yes, I wish that I got to see more of the actual revolution ongoing in order to better contextualise District 13’s struggle, but that only reinforces how little the actual fighting matters in the game of war and would also take away from Katniss’ story.  Yes, I wish that characters like Effie got a more expanded screen-time to better integrate themselves into the story, but that’s the sort of thing that Part 2 could pay off.  I even found the film to be incredibly well-paced, the two hours just breezing by!

Then, at two hours, Mockingjay, Part 1 stops.mocking jay 5

It just stops.  It smash cuts to credits, shouts “Right, that’s your lot!  Get out!” and then forcibly removes you from the theatre.  There is a cliffhanger, but it’s not a great one.  To put it another way: Catching Fire’s cliffhanger felt like an exclamation point.  The adventures of Katniss Everdeen clearly weren’t done, but the story there clearly was – coming to a halt by following through on President Snow’s promise to destroy her life if she continued to rebel.  It makes sense as a stopping point.  Mockingjay, Part 1’s cliffhanger is like if the author telling you the story had been shot halfway through and you had to wait a year for them to come out of their coma.  Oh, and you need to pay another £10 for the privilege of hearing them finish the story because they conveniently forgot that you already paid them once before.

There’s no closure, no sense that this is where we get off, no satisfaction.  Just blue balls and a whole lot of withholding.  I don’t feel like I’ve seen a full movie, I feel like I’ve seen two-thirds of a movie and somebody’s misplaced the final reel.  It’s especially troubling and irritating because the film that Part 1 is setting Part 2 up to be – a big action blow-out where stuff goes bang – is not the film that I want to see.  It’s the film that I could not be less interested in seeing.  This, quite simply, should have been one three-hour movie.  Cut a few scenes from Part 1, scale down what would be Part 2 into that third hour, and you would have a film that more than likely would have been excellent and a fantastic send-off for the franchise.

Instead, Lionsgate have near-fatally kneecapped The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 to be able to double their goes at the money pump.  I love the film that I have – I really, really do; I think it’s outstanding – but I haven’t got a full film.  I’ve gotten two-thirds of a full film, and that fact is why my dissatisfaction and personal lack of closure is only festering and growing with time.  If Mockingjay, Part 2 does, in fact, have so much quality material and stuff to fill both of the hours that it is going to take up, and pays off everything in this film spectacularly and moves me to tears, then I will take back all of these negative thoughts and worship at the series’ altar.  However, I have the feeling that even a transcendental Part 2 will not make up for a film that’s not finished and a conclusion that

Callum Petch is not in the swing of things yet.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio every Monday at 9PM BST (site link)!

US Box Office Report: 21/11/14 – 23/11/14

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.


mocking jay 1

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.

3] Interstellar

$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?

8] Fury

$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!

9] Birdman

$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 is just a child whenever you show up.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch) and listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio every Monday at 9PM BST (site link)!

Failed Critics Podcast: Catching Fire, Saving Mr Banks, and watching Walter Mitty

Catching FireWelcome to our 90th (NINETIETH!) podcast, and this one is rammed full of new release reviews, disagreements, and top, top film bantz*

*contains no actual bantz

James was the lone surviving pod critic from the first Hunger Games film, and this week returns to the arena to tackle The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, as well as reviewing Saving Mr Banks, a new Disney film about the making of Mary Poppins. We’ve also go a review the new Ben Stiller film, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and we discuss the twists, turns, and timey-wimeyness of the 50th anniversary Doctor Who special, The Day of the Doctor.

Join us next week for reviews of Carrie and Blue is the Warmest Colour.

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT DOWNLOAD LINK

Failed Critics Review: Bowiefest and Total Recall

The return of the Fat White Duke – yep, James is back from London and is here to tell us about Bowiefest, the first film festival devoted to the cinematic work of David Bowie.

Also this week, the Failed Critics review Total Recall, a film that is definitely a remake of the 1990 Arnie classic, regardless of what the studio tells us.

We also discuss what we’ve been watching this week including The Hunger Games, Labyrinth, Very Bad Things, and Jean Claude van Damme’s classic Time Cop.

Join us on Friday for Triple Bill, where we choose our favourite true-life stories that we would love to see made into films.

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

DIRECT DOWNLOAD LINK