Tag Archives: Wild

Failed Critics Podcast: Talkin’ ’bout Picking Our Globes

foxcatcherDISCLAIMER: If you’ve downloaded this podcast in order to torture ears belonging to either you or somebody else with horrendous screeching sounds and unbearably loud-then-quiet distortion, then you’ve come to the wrong place. Steve and Owen somehow managed to keep the podcast from trying to destroy itself and have produced their first actual audible episode of 2015. Quite the achievement, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Not only is the sound quality bearable, but our debutant guest this week, Andrew Brooker, chimes in with some great reviews of Foxcatcher, Into The Woods and The Salvation that are well worth a listen.

The trio also mull over the results of last weekend’s Golden Globes;  review the upcoming Reese Witherspoon movie Wild;  and lay into Olivier Megaton for somehow making Taken 3 worse than it was expected to be. There’s even time for Steve and American sports fan Brooker to discuss Draft Day and for Owen to go on even more about Bruce Lee with Enter The Dragon.

Join us next week for reviews of new releases American Sniper and Whiplash.

LISTEN VIA ACAST FOR THE MOST INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCE

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Wild

Beautiful natural American scenery, a wonderful heart-felt performance from Reese Witherspoon and an honest, interesting story help stop Wild from becoming yet another boring yarn of self-discovery.

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

Reese Witherspoon as "Cheryl Strayed" in WILD.Have you ever been travelling? Like, really travelling, not just spending three weeks camping? I haven’t. The thought of walking a thousand miles through a desert on my own, wearing ill-fitting boots, lugging around a back-breakingly heavy ruck sack and eating cold watery porridge does not appeal to me, funnily enough.

However, I am lazy and contented. I am also more than willing to give up a little time up to spend an evening in a cinema watching somebody else struggle with all of the aforementioned. Particularly when that film is directed by the Oscar nominated Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club, The Young Victoria etc) and stars multiple award winning actress Reese Witherspoon in the lead role.

Wild is adapted for the screen by Nick Hornby (An Education) from the memoirs of best-selling writer Cheryl Strayed as she hiked 1,100 miles up the Pacific Crest Trail from California to Oregon during the 90’s. A personal challenge that the 26 year old embarked on to liberate herself from her life as a divorced heroin addicted grieving daughter, in order to (for want of a better phrase) find herself. It was a test of faith; not in God but in her own nature. To know that by the time she reached the end of her path, she would not only have moved on from her problems in a literal geographical sense, but also metaphorically.

As strange as it may seem, the story really isn’t about running away from your problems. Cheryl isn’t quitting her life, rather she is just on a different and new path. That’s mostly why I enjoyed Wild. Anybody could tell a story about walking from one place to another. Some people have and in the process bored the tits off of everyone listening. A journey isn’t just about moving your physical presence from one location to another, it’s about a change. A visible and honest growth of personality, maturity and character. It’s not even about Cheryl returning to the person she was before her recent traumatic experiences, because through the use of flashbacks to the time spent with the love of her life, her mother (Laura Dern), we see how she could sometimes be a pain the arse. It’s about accepting and overcoming what has happened. As painful as it is, the grieving process is not yet over for her and as she walks, with each step and bruise on her body, we can see a visible detox from lost, to slowly understanding, to almost-found.

It’s not an entirely satisfactory experience watching Reese Witherspoon’s progression. Nor, do I believe, is it fully intended to be. Scenes leading up to the start of her trek seen in flashbacks, showing Cheryl at her lowest ebbs, such as her marriage falling apart after having affairs with multiple complete strangers, or lying naked in a crack den, mirror aspects of her journey a bit too well. Vallée avoids being explicit in terms of laying things out for you or using too much exposition, but by the same token, images and songs used over and over to beat you into submission is not all too necessary when you get it the first time around.

To expand on that point for a second, the soundtrack is used two-fold. Firstly, cuts of tracks such as the (quite frankly brilliant) haunting folk song El Condor Pasa by Simon & Garfunkel is used to generate atmosphere as it plays over the opening title credits… and then quite a lot of other scenes afterwards. Secondly, as with a lot of other songs throughout, it is emotionally connected to Cheryl’s relationship with her mother and brother. Therefore, whenever you hear it, you too are then brought back to various other scenes without the need to literally see them again. It’s a cleverly employed technique, but can become distracting or artificial in its insistence on frequently relating experiences to one another.

When Carole Petts saw the film at the London Film Festival in October last year, she commented that “the film is a little thin on plot but worth seeing for its redemptive nature and for Witherspoon’s excellent performance”. It’s quite difficult to disagree with any of that. Particularly the final comment. As much as I loved Witherspoon in Election, this performance tops it.

Yes, the path trodden is well worn and despite some dark undertones and genuinely uplifting triumphs that penetrate both the flashbacks and the actual hike, it doesn’t really have a lot new to tell us. Of course that doesn’t automatically equate to an unoriginal and bland film; it’s still a competently delivered story with an actress unlucky to miss out on the best actress award at the Golden Globes this weekend. What I would say is, as a word of warning, if this doesn’t sound like your kind of film before going in, then it most likely won’t be your kind of film once you come out. If you’ve enjoyed the director, writer or actresses previous work at their best, then chances are this will also be of interest to you too.

Wild hits UK cinemas this Friday 16 January and will be featured on the upcoming Failed Critics podcast.

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)!

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)!

London Film Festival 2014 – Westerns, Whiplash, Wrestling, Weird Austrians

A full week in and my London Film Festival starts here.  Huzzah!  Actually it started on Tuesday, when I dragged my very jet-lagged self to the UK premiere of The Salvation.  This film was going to have to be something special to prevent me from dozing off in my seat, and it didn’t disappoint.

salvationMads Mikkelsen plays Jon, a Danish settler in 1870s America.  Tragedy strikes shortly after a long-awaited reunion, and the locals he has surrounded himself with for the past seven years betray him, leaving him to his own devices against a notorious outlaw.  You may not have heard of Danish director Kristian Levring, but you’ll recognise many of the cast – along with Mikkelsen there are fellow Bond alumni Eva Green and Jonathan Pryce, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Douglas Henshall, and a small but striking performance by no less than Eric Cantona.  It’s a lean, tense film with great performances throughout the cast – special mentions to Mikkelsen who is excellent as ever, but also to Green, who handles a difficult role exceptionally well.  The usual Western tropes – revenge, horses, the climatic shootout – are no less effective in a Danish film made in South Africa than they would be in a Hollywood production.  Reviews appear to be mixed with many correspondents bemoaning the films clichés, but surely their existence in a film made by someone outside the inner circle is a promising sign.

Wednesday saw the screening of Wild, which I wasn’t sure about seeing initially, but decided to go for based on Oscar buzz around Reese Witherspoon’s performance.  She plays Cheryl Strayed, a divorced drug addict who decides to hike 1000 miles solo on the Pacific Crest Trail, and we learn about her life so far in flashbacks along the way.  As you’d expect, most of the film is hung on Witherspoon’s performance, and she doesn’t disappoint, channelling the obvious talent which has already seen her win a Best Actress Oscar to produce a portrayal of a woman damaged by circumstance and her own decisions, both in the hiking sequences and in flashbacks which go back many years.  Obviously the film is a little thin on plot but worth seeing for its redemptive nature and for Witherspoon’s excellent performance – I would not be surprised to see her name on many Best Actress shortlists between now and February.

After that uplifting tale came In The Basement, bringing me back down to (below) Earth with a bump.  Simply put, this is a documentary about what Austrian people do in their basements, presumably to convince the world that not all of them are like Josef Fritzl.  The participants range from the fairly normal (model train set, drums, teenage hangout, tiny swimming pool) to the truly odd and disturbing.  There’s the middle-aged woman who has an endless line of unsettling, lifelike dolls of babies, and coos over them as if they were real, in scenes reminiscent of Dawn French’s character in Psychoville.  There’s the couple who are in an S&M relationship for whom, it is ominously explained, the basement is where the really nasty stuff (graphically shown) happens.  And there’s the nice-seeming elderly man who plays in a brass band, but likes to relax in his basement surrounded by his fellow players and his large collection of Nazi memorabilia.  The film is presented without narration, and in some sequences without any interaction at all from the participants, which means you sometimes don’t have enough information about them (one couple stand still surrounded by various scenes, including their bar) while the film lingers too long on others – the aforementioned Nazi and S&M couple being prime examples.  I wanted to hear more from certain people who only got a few minutes of screen time, but what we got instead were gratuitous long takes of people being tortured for their own pleasure, which leads me to wonder whether the point of this documentary was really to give a wide-ranging perspective or just to go for cheap thrills.  It was a noble experiment, but it very much came off as the latter.

Finally on Wednesday I attended the UK première of Whiplash.  I’m happy to admit I knew nothing about this film until I got the programme.  Upon attending the festival preview, where we got a brief clip, I immediately decided I wanted to see this film, and I’m so glad I did as it’s been my highlight so far. It’s the story of a young jazz drumming protégé, Neyman (Miles Teller), his brutal teacher Fletcher (JK Simmons) and the lengths people will go to in order to be, discover and mould truly brilliant artists from raw talent.  The film is structured much like a thriller and is steeped in a clear love of jazz and music – it’s based on director Damien Chazelle’s own experiences – but is never inaccessible, the musical jargon employed is explained and demonstrated perfectly.  We’ve seen Simmons as the tyrannical boss in Spider-Man, but this performance is on another level – blistering and searing, Fletcher looms over the whole film even when he’s not on screen, driving Neyman to practise until his fingers bleed.  Even up against Simmons’ Oscar-worthy performance, Miles Teller more than holds his own as the talented young drummer who is obsessed with perfecting his craft.  It all builds to an exhilarating climax which is filmed so wonderfully that it is more heart-pumping than any film about jazz has the right to be.  No wonder it took the Audience Award at Sundance this year – I would be very surprised if that’s the only accolade it ends up with.

foxcatcherThursday saw just one film – the UK première of Foxcatcher, another true story about brothers and Olympic gold medallist wrestlers Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum – yes, that one) and Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo).  Mark is the younger brother and feels overshadowed by Dave, until he is offered a chance by John du Pont (Steve Carrell) to train at the Foxcatcher facility in du Pont’s enormous, inherited estate.  Du Pont is not a self made man, and the shadow of his elderly mother looms large in his life; he desperately wants to impress her by training a wrestling team for the World Championships and Olympics, led by Mark.  He wants Dave on the team as well, but Dave initially resists, puzzling du Pont as he is unable to buy something for once.  I don’t want to give away too much; although this is a true story, try not to read about it before you see this film.  Instead, let’s focus on the three performances from Carrell, Ruffalo and Tatum (Vanessa Redgrave and Sienna Miller make brief appearances, but this is primarily a film about sporting relationships).  Ruffalo is excellent as the warm, steady older brother Dave, but you knew that anyway.  Tatum is a great surprise as the overshadowed younger brother who is in many ways his own worst enemy.  But the real revelation is Carrell, an actor known primarily for his comedy roles.  If you’ve seen The Way, Way Back, you already know he is a convincing jerk.  But this is a performance on another level – barely recognisable under a raft of prosthetics and reptilian false teeth, he excels as the other man who can’t escape the shadow of an older family member.  He’s unpredictable, celebrating a win with his team one moment and them firing a gun in the gym the next.  He’s a truly terrifying creation – a man who has never known what it’s like to not have what he wants, and you wait nervously to find out how he reacts.  Again, all three performances here could be Oscar worthy, even Channing Tatum (yes, that one).

That’s all for today.  Join me in a few days as I conclude this year’s LFF with reviews including Love is Strange, Kill Me Three Times and Fury.