Archive for August, 2008



14
Aug
08

Predicting the Box Office, Part III

When we last left off, Big Willie-style Fourth o’ July was goin’ on, and “Hancock” had one of the largest opening weekends of the summer. Let’s see how other movies have fared…

 

The next weekend released one of the better movies of July: “Hellboy 2: The Golden Army.” What shocked me were the differing opinions between the critics and the audience on the weekends. The critics hated “Hancock,” but loved “Hellboy 2”; conversely, the public went and saw “Hancock” and didn’t turn out for “Hellboy 2” like I had expected. Another release for that weekend was Brendan Fraser in “Journey to the Center of the Earth in 3-D,” which I was told you really DID need 3-D glasses for.

 

Eddie Murphy’s comedy “Meet Dave” opened at $5.2 million.

 

“Mamma Mia!” had an impressive opening as it could have hoped: $27,751,240. Why? Because of its competition: “The Dark Knight.” “TDK” kicked “Iron Man” and “Indy 4”’s opening weekends, raking in $158 million. It has since set box office records the least of which was biggest weekend box office opening. Whether it was the fact that it was a sequel to “Batman Begins,” or Heath Ledger’s last movie, or simply people who enjoy the work of Christopher Nolan, “The Dark Knight” has held the number one spot at the box office for the last month.

 

Believe it or not, I really DID want to believe, but the new “X-Files” movie let me down. With an opening of $10 million for the weekend, it was beaten out by the Will Ferrell/ John C. Reilly comedy “Step Brothers.” Whether it was the plot of “X-Files,” the fact that it’s been years since the series has been on the air, or maybe there are that many more fans for Ferrell and company as opposed to “The X-Files.”

 

We got a third “Mummy” movie, which was a slight disappointment at the B.O., only taking in $40 million. Its competition, “Swing Vote,” had one of the lowest openings for the summer as well. Was it the reviews of “Mummy 3” that kept people away, or are we already done with the franchise?

 

Batman continued his grip on the number one spot and if any movie could thwart him, it was “Pineapple Express.” However, Judd Apatow and company couldn’t pull that off, but did take in $23 mil for the weekend. Their competition, “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2,” brought in $10 mil.

 

Will anything break Batman’s stranglehold on the number one spot? This week we have the premiere of “Tropic Thunder.” If “Pineapple Express” couldn’t do it, this is the last chance.

 

Here are the rundown of the numbers for the summer:

 

Biggest Openings of the Summer:

 

“The Dark Knight”                    $158,411,483

“Indy 4”                                   $126,917,373

“Iron Man”                               $102,118,668

“Wall*E”                                  $63,087,526

“Hancock”                               $62,603,879

“”Kung Fu Panda”                    $60,239,130

“Sex and the City”                    $56,848,056

“The Incredible Hulk”               $55,414,050

“Narnia: Prince Caspian”          $55,034,805

“Wanted”                                 $50,927,085

 

 

And the Top Ten Cumulative for the Summer:

 

“The Dark Knight”                    $448,886,084

“Iron Man”                               $316,590,841

“Indy 4”                                   $314,819,219

“Hancock”                               $222,625,918

“Kung Fu Panda”                     $211,507,723

“Wall*E”                                  $211,332,152

“Sex and the City”                    $151,838,609

“Narnia: Prince Caspian”          $140,117,978

“The Incredible Hulk”               $133,932,430

“Wanted”                                 $132,802,780

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13
Aug
08

Movies on DVD Review: The Seven-Ups (1973 )

 

 

Starring Roy Scheider and Tony Bianco. Directed by Philip D’Antoni.

 

Based on a story provided by Sonny Grasso (“The French Connection”), Roy Scheider is Buddy, the head of an underground police organization known as the “Seven-Ups.” They are called this because whatever criminal they catch receives a sentence of seven years or more. Mobsters around the city are being kidnapped and extorted for money, a plot that Scheider’s team finds out after a team member is accidentally killed. Playing both sides against the middle is Vito (Tony Bianco), Buddy’s friend and underworld informant.

 

This film could easily be considered a “sequel” to “The French Connection,” but don’t confuse it with “French Connection II.” For starters, there’s almost no dialogue whatsoever; outside of a few scenes between Scheider and Bianco, there’s just raw visual filmmaking. Using “French Connection” as a blueprint, the film is the classic “70’s style:” pseudo-documentary/ hand-held shots, wide angles, sparse dialog; an almost “being there” feel to it. Plus being directed by Philip D’Antoni (who produced “Bullitt” and “The French Connection”) there is the obligatory car chase.

 

Screeching tires? Check. Disobeying traffic laws? Check. Car continues to fishtail? Check. Trying to improve on “Bullitt” and “French Connection,” imagine a chase scene that is a marriage of the chase scenes from those movies; Roy Scheider in a Pontiac Ventura ripping through the streets of New York City following the bad guys driving a Pontiac Grand Ville. Throw in some traffic, kids playing in the streets, an extra police patrol car and a semi-truck at the end and while it may not be the best, it’s worthy of the Car Chase Hall of Excellence.

 

Should you rent this movie? If you’re a fan of Seventies cinema, yes. If you liked the “French Connection,” yes. If you’re a Roy Scheider fan, definitely.

 

My grade: B

11
Aug
08

In Passing… Isaac Hayes (1942-2008)

 

 

Soundtrack composer and actor Isaac Hayes passed away on Sunday, August 10, 2008 at the age of 65. Hayes has composed and/or performed music for 65 movie and TV shows, as well as acted in 66. He’s renowned for his roles in such films as “Truck Turner,” “Escape from New York,” and as Chef in the cartoon series, “South Park.” He is also the first Black American to win an Oscar for Best Original Song for the Theme of “Shaft.”

 

For more information, click on the link:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0005002/

 

Thoughts and prayers go to his family and friends.

11
Aug
08

In Passing… Bernie Mac (1957-2008)

 

 

Comedian Bernie Mac passed away at the age of 50 on Saturday, August 9, 2008. Born Bernard Jeffrey McCollough in Chicago, he grew-up in one of the rougher neighborhoods while trying to pursue his dream of standup comedy. At the age of 19, he left to become a professional comedian. His first breakthroughs came in 1992 when he had a role in the film “Mo’ Money,” as well as “Def Comedy Jam.” Since then he has went on to be in such films as “Friday,” “Booty Call,” “Ocean’s Eleven,” “Head of State,” “Mr. 3000,” “Guess Who,” and “Transformers,” as well as having his own sitcom, “The Bernie Mac Show.”

 

For more information, click on the link:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0005170/

 

Thoughts and prayers go to his family and friends.

07
Aug
08

Movies about Making Movies

“Adaptation” (2002 ) – Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) is struggling to adapt a book called, “The Orchid Thief.” The author Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep) looks for something more in life and finds renegade botanist John Laroche (Chris Cooper). And tagging along trying to be like his twin brother is Donald Kaufman (also Nicolas Cage). Directed by Spike Jonze. Favorite moment: Brian Cox playing screenwriter Robert McKee.

 

“Baadasssss!” (2003 ) – Mario Van Peebles directed this half-documentary/ half-homage to his father’s movie, “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.” The movie is based on his dad’s experience with making “Sweetback,” Mario’s experiences in/around the set of the movie, and other remembrances of what happened. Also titled: “How to Get the Man’s Foot Outta Your Ass.”

 

 

“Barton Fink” (1991 ) – Barton Fink (John Turturro) is a New York playwright summoned by Capital Pictures President Jack Lipnick to write a B-movie “wrestling picture” for Wallace Beery. His only “friend” on the West Coast is Charlie Meadows (John Goodman), his next-room neighbor at the hotel he’s staying at. As he struggles to write the B-picture the world closes in; his mentor W.P. Mayhew (John Mahoney) offers little help and police detectives want to know more about Charlie Meadows. One of my favorites from the Coen Bros. Favorite scene: the hotel hallway is on fire and Charlie Meadows is running down it, cocking his shotgun.

 

“Bowfinger” (1999 ) – Directed by Frank Oz, “Bowfinger” has Steve Martin (who also wrote) as Bobby Bowfinger, a down-and-almost-out B-movie director/producer. When his friend Afrim produces a script called “Chubby Rain,” Bowfinger sets out to get the biggest name in town to “star”: Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy). Attending the cast auditions are his regulars including an aspiring actress who sleeps to the top (Heather Graham) and Kit’s younger brother Jiff (also played by Eddie Murphy). Favorite moment: Bowfinger driving into Mexico to pick up his “crew” (all illegals).

 

“CQ” (2001 ) – Roman Coppolla (son of Francis and brother to Sofia) directed this film set in the late-Sixties about an American filmmaker who moves to Paris to make a sci-fi film, and maybe find his purpose in life. Starring Jeremy Davies, Angela Lindvall, Gerard Depardieu, Jason Schwartzman, and Billy Zane, it’s a fun little movie. Favorite moments: anything with agent Dragonfly.

 

 

“Get Shorty” (1995 ) – Based on the character created by Elmore Leonard, “Get Shorty” is about mobster Chili Palmer (John Travolta) who goes out to Hollywood to collect on a debt from low-budget horror producer Harry Zimm. Palmer uses his mobster skills to survive and finds that what he really wants is to be a Producer. Good movie overall. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld.

 

 

“The Player” (1992 ) – Tim Robbins is a studio exec who receives postcards threatening his life from a screenwriter whose script he rejected. As he tries to find the screenwriter to pay him off, he delves further and further into deceit, blackmail, and murder. Full of inside jokes and cameos, this one is worth checking out. Favorite moment: Buck Henry, writer of, “The Graduate,” pitching “The Graduate 2;”something about a ménage a trios… Directed by Robert Altman.

 

“Shadow of the Vampire” (2000 ) – Historical-based movie with John Malkovich playing F.W. Marnau and Willem Dafoe playing the enigmatic “Shreck” as Marnau was directing his “Dracula”-based movie, “Nosferatu.” When crew members die or disappear, Marnau sees that Shreck has been taking more and more advantage of him. Favorite moments: Willem Dafoe as Shreck.

 

 

“State and Main” (2000 ) – When a “big” movie comes to the small town of Waterford, Vermont, all chaos ensues: an actor chases after young girls, a starlet won’t go topless, the “Old Mill” burned down in 1960, and the locals aren’t easily conned. Directed by David Mamet.

 

 

 

“The Stunt Man” (1980 ) – Steve Railsback is a fugitive who stumbles upon the set of a movie being film by Eli Cross (Peter O’Toole). Since the movie needs a new stunt man, Railsback takes the job and falls for the leading lady, Nina Franklin (Barbara Hershey). Favorite moment: at the end of the credits Peter O’Toole yells, “Sam, rewrite the opening reel! Crush the little bastard in the first act!

06
Aug
08

For Those About to Film: Five Docs on Filmmaking

Where would the world be without the crazed “filmmaking” instinct? Grabbing a camera and some friends you know, making them do things they would normally not do, then sit back and watch it all unfold. Priceless.

 

Then again there is bad weather, actor and actress personalities, lack of funding, events you can’t control, script problems… you name it.

 

Below are the Officially Endorsed Top Five Documentaries on Filmmaking. Watch and enjoy, and maybe learn.

 

5. “Mule Skinner Blues” – I initially caught this one on Cable, and I put it on my Netflix queue. This is truly the little indie movie that could, or rather, the little group of indie people that tried to. Jacksonville, FL is not your typical filmmaking hotbed but several of the locals could cite to you when and where the “Creature from the Black Lagoon” was shot. A group of them living in/around a trailer park get together and make a film called “Turn About Is Fair Play,” about an armless guitar player who turns into a gorilla swamp creature from “pre-history” in order to exact revenge. Note: you can watch the film on the DVD.

 

4. “American Movie” – For those struggling to make the Greatest Horror Movie Ever Made, this is your doc. Struggling Wisconsin filmmaker Mark Borchardt has a dream: filming his horror opus “Coven” (pronounced Cove-in). Through documentary footage we see that Mark has made several small films, but this is his baby. He wants to be the next George Romero, and will do it at all costs (including cashing-in his life savings). For those who have dared to dream, Mark Borchardt joins the cause. Note: you can watch the film on the DVD.

 

3. “Full Tilt Boogie” – Robert Rodriguez (“Desperado,” “Spy Kids”) gave Sarah Kelly the opportunity to capture the ups, and downs, of independent filmmaking on his collaboration with Quentin Tarantino called “From Dusk Till Dawn.” Watching this film gives you a new respect on what Rodriguez/Tarantino had to do to get where they are. Favorite part: when production assistants built the bar (“The Titty Twister”) in Barstow, CA before Rodriguez has secured the location from the town.

 

2. “Lost in La Mancha” – Terry Gilliam invited filmmakers Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe to film the “making-of” “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” since they had done a “making-of” for his previous film, “Twelve Monkeys.” Murphy’s Law is in full effect and what follows is equipment being washed away, jets flying over during a pivotal shot, nearly all of the people funding the film pulling out, etc. On a plus note, there was good footage from Johnny Depp. Speaking of which, he is trying to get the project off the ground again.

 

1. “Hearts of Darkness” – The “behind-the-scenes” of behind-the-scenes movies. Filmmakers Fax Bahr and George Hickenlooper chronicled the 3-year making of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now.” From dug use to mistresses to budget and script problems, this is the ultimate documentary of a movie that just barely made it to the screen. I’ll shut up now; the movie speaks for itself.

05
Aug
08

A Primer for the Indies: Ten Must Watch Independent Films

After a small break, the Film Guys Online / Chasfilm Productions Office of Cinematic Research brings you the

 

TOP TEN MUST WATCH INDEPENDENT FILMS

 

Note: This is a “primer” for watching indie movies. It was difficult coming up with the right ten, but it’s just my opinion, right?

 

10. “Sling Blade” (1996 ) – Billy Bob Thornton was just a supporting actor when he plucked his money down and came up with this tale of a mentally-challenged guy named Carl who is released from the mental hospital. Walking back to his hometown he befriends a kid and his mom, whom he tries protecting them from the mom’s boyfriend (Dwight Yoakum). Thornton was and probably is the first Billy Bob to win an Oscar for Best Screenplay.

 

9. “Reservoir Dogs” (1992 ) – Sure, he’s better known for “Pulp Fiction,” “Kill Bill,” and “Jackie Brown,” but I still enjoy “Reservoir Dogs.” This film, based on the Honk Kong action flick “City on Fire,” is about a jewel heist gone wrong. Starring Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel, Steve Buscemi, Chris Penn, Michael Madsen, Lawrence Tierney and even QT himself, this is arguably one of the best independent gangster movies. And once you’ve watched it, you’ll never think of the song “Stuck in the Middle with You,” in the same way again.

 

8. “Trainspotting” (1996 ) – Danny Boyle’s follow-up to “Shallow Grave” gave us this UK story of Scottish folk on the score for heroin and other drugs and how their lives turn upside down. It introduced those of us here, “across the pond,” to Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle. This movie was nominated for an Oscar for Best Screenplay. Boyle would go on to direct “28 days later,” Ewan would become “Obi Wan Kenobi,” and Carlyle would be seen in another indie favorite, “The Full Monty.”

 

7. “Swingers” (1996 ) – “You’re money, baby.” Directed by Doug Liman and written by Jon Favreau, “Swingers” is a look at a group of wannabe actors trying to break into the Hollywood scene. The film ushered the above catchphrase into the culture’s vernacular and re-introduced swing dancing to the masses. Liman would go on to direct “Go,” and “The Bourne Identity,” Favreau would later direct, “Iron Man,” and Vince Vaughn would become a leading man in films such as “The Break-Up,” and “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story.”

 

6. “Boondock Saints” (1999 )– Once I bought this film on DVD, I loved it. “Boondock Saints” is about two brothers (played by Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus) who become the “protectors” of their neighborhood as the Russian mob tries to slowly take it over. They are being tracked/ watched by effete FBI agent Paul Smecker (Willem Dafoe). The coolest part of the film is when Dafoe’s character actively “describes” how different events took place.

 

5. “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004 ) – Ever have a girlfriend/ boyfriend that you wanted to erase from your memory? Check out this tale from director Michael Gondry about a guy (Jim Carrey) whose girlfriend (Kate Winslet) erases him from her memory. When he goes to do likewise, he finds that he’s made a mistake and tries to stop the erasure from completing. Also stars Mark Ruffalo, Elijah Wood, Kirsten Dunst, and Tom Wilkinson. It won an Oscar for Best Screenplay.

 

4. “Brick” (2005 ) – “Lunch is a lot of things. Lunch is complicated.” Take Dashiell Hammett dialog and put it in a modern SoCal High School environment where Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is investigating the mess his ex-girlfriend Emily (Emilie de Ravin) has gotten into. Once she is found dead, Brendan is inside a maelstrom of drugs, thugs, and assorted low-lives. Hardboiled noir has never been better. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is best known for playing Tommy in “3rd Rock from the Sun.”

 

3. “Snatch” (2000 ) – A search for a caravan (trailer) leads to two unlicensed boxing promoters into a madcap tale involving a diamond as large as your fist, a compulsive gambler named Franky Four-Fingers (Benicio del Toro), a jeweler named Doug the Head, and a Pikey bare-knuckles boxing champ named Mickey O’Neil (Brad Pitt). Great editing, soundtrack, and comedy make this a must-see. This film propelled stars Vinnie Jones and Jason Statham.

 

2. “Gone Baby Gone” (2007 ) – Ben Affleck’s directorial debut of Dennis Lehane’s novel about a little girl missing from her crack-addict mother and the cover-up of the disappearance was nothing short of impressive. Of all the indie films of 2007, this was my favorite. Starring Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, Amy Ryan, and John Ashton, this movie is worth it for the cast alone. Of note, Amy Ryan’s Boston accent was so convincing that a security guard kept her from entering the filming lot; a fellow actor had to let her in.

 

1. “Memento” (2000 ) – “Remember Sammy Jankis.” With these words tattooed on his skin, former insurance fraud investigator Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) is on the hunt for his wife’s killer, one “John G.” Problem is, his memory only lasts for 15 minutes and he can’t create any new memories. His only kinship comes from “Teddy” (Joe Pantoliano) and “Natalie” (Carrie-Anne Moss), both Leonard has trouble trusting. Director Christopher Nolan’s indie opus cost $300,000 to make, and he raised the money while showing his film “The Following.” After “Memento,” Nolan signed a contract with Warner Bros. and has since directed, “Insomnia,” “Batman Begins,” “The Prestige,” and “The Dark Knight.”