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Hidden Netflix Gems – Project X

Hidden Netflix Gems is a new feature designed to help readers answer that burning question, “What should I watch tonight?” It will be updated every Saturday before the sun goes down.

The 1987 film Project X (not to be confused with this year’s raunchy, over-the-top party comedy of the same name) is a strange but charming little oddity of a movie. Directed by Jonathan Kaplan, who is known for socially conscious films such as The Accused and Brokedown Palace, as well as more conventional genre fare such as Unlawful Entry and Bad Girls, Project X is a blend of these two types of filmmaking. It is a comedic science fiction movie that ultimately becomes a sort of political thriller, taking a stance against cruelty to animals in the name of science. It is also a movie for the Homer Simpson in all of us, because who doesn’t enjoy watching chimpanzees behave like human beings?

Jimmy Garrett (Matthew Broderick) is an Air Force pilot assigned to an experimental project as punishment for illegally bringing a date into the cockpit of a government plane. It turns out that the project involves using chimpanzees in simulated flight scenarios, and that one of the chimps, Virgil (Willie), knows sign language, which he was taught by his beloved trainer, Teri (Helen Hunt). Jimmy is impressed by Virgil’s abilities, but his hard-ass superior, Dr. Carroll (Bill Sadler) doesn’t seem to care. As Jimmy eventually finds out to his horror, this is because the chimps in the experiment are being killed y radiation poisoning, in an effort to determine how long a pilot could survive a nuclear exchange known as the “second-strike scenario.” Jimmy manages to contact Teri, and they team up to try and save Virgil and the other chimps who haven’t been killed yet.

The coolest thing about Project X is how much the chimps themselves become the true stars of the movie. In fact, they are listed first on the film’s IMDb page, with Broderick in a distant 11th place. They each have distinct personalities, too, like a sort of simian wild bunch, with Virgil as the leader and hero, Goofy (Okko) as the comic relief, and Goliath (Karanja) as the grizzled old bad-ass, the type of role Mickey Rourke might play in a movie entirely cast with human actors. This successfully makes the audience root for Jimmy, Teri and their primate friends over the mean old military scientist baddies, and the film’s climax is a triumphant, feel-good adventure sequence made all the more joyful by the aforementioned Homer Simpson factor.

 

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Box Office Preview: Breaking Up with a Teddy Bear Roommate, Male Strippers, and Tyler Perry

Ted

This one isn’t going to win any most original premise of all time awards, but those who claim originality equals greatness are kidding themselves. After all, there have only been seven basic plots in storytelling over the history of all mankind. “Ted” falls fairly clearly into number five on that list, the comedy: “Hero and Heroine are destined to get together, but a dark force is preventing them from doing so; the story conspires to make the dark force repent, and suddenly the Hero and Heroine are free to get together. This is part of a cascade of effects that shows everyone for who they really are, and allows two or more other relationships to correctly form.”

When you think about it like that, it almost seems like you’ve seen this movie before. The dark force is a roommate who needs to grow up and move out, so the straight-faced main character, in this case Mark Wahlberg as John Bennett, and his lady love (played by Mila Kunis) can live happily ever after. Along the way the relationship with the roommate matures as well, and he grows to be mature and “straight-faced” in his own right. This is where “Ted” plays with the trope, as the roommate character is not in fact a person, but a stuffed teddy bear (I wonder how they thought of the title) magically brought to life.

But these days, when everything’s been done a thousand times over, originality is useless, especially when the chosen genre is comedy. People aren’t there for story, but to laugh, any dramatic twists and turns are an added bonus. When you think about it that way “Ted” actually offers more than your standard comedy fare.

It really doesn’t matter that we’ve heard this story before, that Ted sounds exactly like Peter Griffin, or that Seth McFarlane is voicing another talking animal (of sorts). What does matter is that in his debut in both film and live-action, Seth McFarlane has been able to make a funny movie that doesn’t rely (too much) on his trademark cutaway gags and pop culture riffs. Furthermore, he deftly handles the few dramatic sequences the film does employ, and manages to justify Mila Kunis’ character’s demands rather than making her seem like an uppity bitch doing a Yoko Ono impression.

“Ted” currently sits at a 69 percent on the Tomatometer. Although it may seem like a live-action version of “Family Guy” at times, it’s well worth the price of admission for fans of McFarlane’s or anyone looking to have a laugh.

Magic Mike

The official synopsis reads: “Set in the world of male strippers, Magic Mike is directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars Channing Tatum in a story inspired by his real life. The film follows Mike (Tatum) as he takes a young dancer called The Kid (Alex Pettyfer) under his wing and schools him in the fine arts of partying, picking up women, and making easy money.”

But director Steven Soderbergh’s newest production just might be better than you’d expect, even if you do have XY chromosomes. “Magic Mike” has been certified fresh and currently sits at a 79 percent on the Tomatometer. Film.com’s Eric D. Snider says it “does a better job of mixing Chippendales-style guilty pleasures with reality-based cautionary tales than you might expect.” But Bullz-eye’s David Medsker wrote, “There are lots of things to like about ‘Magic Mike,’ but a few key ingredients, mostly story-related, prevent the film from hitting its mark. You can almost see director Steven Soderbergh at odds with himself, torn between making a mainstream film or a gritty indie, and ultimately doing neither.”

A film starring Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, and a bunch of other are tanned and ripped young fellas loosely based on the former’s real life beginnings as a Chippendale’s “employee” who made it big. It’s hard to say whether or not this film’s for you. But what with all the dancing and the Tatum, I’d say this one’s probably going to skew female in all the ways “Boogie Nights” didn’t. And that’s more or less what “Magic Mike” is, “Boogie Nights” with male strippers.

Madea’s Witness Protection

I can’t even talk about this one. I really can’t. Tyler Perry, Madea, and something about a ponzi scheme. This movie isn’t for anyone. Even if you’re a huge (and I mean huge) fan of Tyler Perry, and I can’t imagine why you would be, “Madea’s Witness Protection” is currently sitting at a 29 percent on the Tomatometer. As Peter Howell of the Toronto Star put it: this is “less a movie than it is an exercise in product branding.”

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Box Office Recap: Pixar ‘Braves’ its way to the top yet again

Nearly every review of Pixar’s “Brave” has been quick to point out that while the film is decent, it does not uphold the impossibly high standards the studio has set for itself. Indeed, ‘Brave” is one of just three Pixar films to earn a score of less than 90 percent on the Tomatometer. The picture currently stands at 74 percent. “Cars” earned the same rating while its sequel garnered an abysmal 38 percent.

That said, “Brave” had no trouble in the money making department, grossing $66.7 million in its opening weekend. That makes it Pixar’s fifth-best debut and perhaps more importantly, the number one movie in America.

But unfortunately for Fox Studios and Focus Features, the weekend’s other new releases didn’t fare nearly as well. The former’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” came in third with $16.5 million, which in this blogger’s humble opinion is $16.5 million too much, while the latter’s “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” found itself at the end of the charts, coming in tenth place with just $3.8 million. The indie production’s numbers are especially disappointing given its two big name stars in Steve Carell and Keira Knightley and the fact that it just barely beat out Focus’s other current release, Wes Anderson’sMoonrise Kingdom,” despite playing in 1,230 more theaters.

In between the two and ten spots, things remained largely static. “Prometheus” and “Rock of Ages” slid from last week’s second and third spots into fourth and fifth, respectively. Ridley Scott’s return to sci-fi grossed $10 million, while the troubled hair metal musical took in $8 million.

Among the weekend charts’ two fluctuations was the genre-mashing (or rather clashing) “Snow White and the Huntsman” hopping over “That’s my Boy,” which is in only its second week. “Snow White” slid back one spot into sixth place with $8 million, but inched past the Adam Sandler comedy by a mere $100,000. Likewise, “Men in Black 3,” which stands at ninth on the charts with $5.6 million, fell behind “The Avengers” for the first time since its release. The superhero flick came in the eighth after grossing $7 million.

Here are the results for this weekend’s top 10 at the box office:

Title/Weeks in release/Theater count, Studio/Three-day weekend total/Cume
1. Brave, 1/4,164, Buena Vista, $66.739 million.
2. Madagascar 3, 3/3,920, Paramount/Dreamworks, $20.2 million, $157.572 million.
3. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, 1/3,108, $16.5 million.
4. Prometheus, 3/2,862, Fox, $10 million, $108.547 million.
5. Rock of Ages, 2/3,470, Warner Bros., $8 million, $28.763 million.
6. Snow White and the Huntsman, 4/2,919, Universal, $8 million, $137.1 million.
7. That’s My Boy, 5/3,030, Sony, $7.9 million, $28.18 million.
8. The Avengers, 8/2,230, Disney/Marvel Studios, $7.04 million, $598.3million.
9. Men in Black 3, 5/2,462, Sony, $5.6 million, $163.339 million.
10. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, 1/1,625, Focus, $3.836 million.

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Hidden Netflix Gems – Tucker and Dale vs Evil

Hidden Netflix Gems is a new feature designed to help readers answer that burning question, “What should I watch tonight?” It will be updated every Saturday before the sun goes down.

I am notorious for my willingness to watch pretty much any movie, so it is always a joy to find one that wildly exceeds my expectations. This is often not a great movie, by any means, but one that flew under the critical radar for the most part, and provided some unexpected pleasure, a film that I can enjoy recommending to friends in the knowledge that they have probably not encountered it. Eli Craig’s debut feature Tucker and Dale vs Evil is one of those films, especially for horror fans. Though it is relatively slight and far from perfect, this is an enormously fun and clever riff on the slasher genre, a film that will undoubtedly be especially enjoyed by fans of the recent horror deconstruction masterpiece The Cabin in the Woods, or the mostly overlooked 2006 mockumentary, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (also available on Netflix).

Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are two well-meaning but poorly educated good ol’ boys who have recently purchased a rundown cabin in the woods as a vacation home. En route to their paradise of relaxation and fishing, they encounter a group of mostly obnoxious college kids who are creeped out by them based on Dale’s innocent but ungainly attempt to talk to the prettiest girl among them, Allison (Katrina Bowden). Chad (Jesse Moss) in particular shows extraordinary prejudice against the two well-meaning bumpkins, and it becomes clear that he is the character who would be the hero in a more conventional horror film. Instead, he is presented as a vicious, bloodthirsty maniac – the very type of person he believes Tucker and Dale to be.

After Chad attempts to put the moves on Allison at his family’s cabin, adjacent to Tucker and Dale’s, she leaves to take a walk by herself down by the lake, only to slip and fall in, hitting her head. Tucker and Dale, of course, save her from drowning, but are perceived by the other college students to be kidnapping her. This is just the beginning of a series of unfortunate accidents and misunderstandings that leads Chad and the others to think the two good-natured hillbillies are psycho killers. Though it ultimately takes a less interesting route (and I may be giving this bloody but relatively light comedy too much credit), at a certain point the film seems to be making the surprisingly intelligent case that, often, those obsessed with finding and destroying evil are, in fact, the truly evil ones. It undercuts this philosophical thesis with a lot of silliness and a somewhat problematic ending, but this movie is nonetheless a lot of fun, and a far better film than the title led me to believe.

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Box Office Preview: Blasphemy, Pre-apocalyptic Comedy, and Pixar

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

I hate to use the same reference twice, but the situation calls for it. So, it has come to this. As if “The Raven” wasn’t enough, a film about Abraham Lincoln hunting vampires is fully produced and coming to a theater near you. Before you ask, yes, it’s that Abraham Lincoln. Unfortunately, it’s not a coincidence that the titular character has the same name as the sixteenth president of these United States. This may lend credence to the popular theory that Douglas Adams is not actually dead, but has gone into seclusion with a magic typewriter which allows him to write the script of reality. Mr. Adams, if you’re out there, “Would it save you a lot of time if I just gave up and went mad now?”

Those of you who remember the brilliant but short-lived Showtime comedy “Party Down” might think the idea for “Vampire Hunter” arose from a joke in the episode “Taylor Stiltskin Sweet Sixteen.” Breckin Meyer wants to get Adam Scott back into acting by landing him the role of young Lincoln in a film in which Meyer’s character plays Edgar Allan Poe. The two steal an amulet from the Smithsonian, and, of course, fight vampires. As far as evidence, some Google searching shows claims that at one point, the Wikipedia page for the book on which the film is based said Seth Grahame-Smith did in fact get the idea from “Party Down.” It’s no longer there, and it’s Wikipedia, so who knows? Another question, “are we having fun yet?” No. No we are not.

I beg of you, do not see this movie, lest you lead us to such films as “George Washington: Werewolf,” “Anne Boelyn: Intergalactic Pilot,” and indeed, the end of the world. As if my pleas weren’t enough (I know how much you all love me), “AL: VH” currently sits at a 30 percent on the Tomatometer, and it’s gone down every time I’ve refreshed whilst writing this post.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Speaking of the end of the world, Steve Carrell and Keira Knightley star in a genre bending comedy about just that. What we have here is not just a pre-apocalypse film (don’t see too many of those), but a comedy(ish) to boot. The official synopsis tells us this: “Set in a too-near future, the movie explores what people will do when humanity’s last days are at hand. As the respective journeys of Dodge and Penny converge, the two spark to each other and their outlooks – if not the world’s – brighten.” Before the end of their lives, Penny wants to see her family one last time and Dodge wants to find the one that got away. Is anyone taking bets that he ends up with Penny instead?

So far reviews are mixed. “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” has earned a rating of 58 on the Tomatometer. Based on the trailer, (perhaps too) much of the film’s humor derives from the idea that certain people, like cops and T.G.I. Fridays employees, would not change their lives in any way if they knew the end of days was at hand. But with it’s star-studded (sort of) cast, which includes Adam Brody, Gillian Jacobs, Rob Corddry, Patton Oswalt, and Martin Sheen alongside stars Carell and Knightley, perhaps that number will spike and “End of the World” will surprise us all. I doubt it, but all this apocalypse talk and the mere existence of “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” has me in a foul mood.

Brave

Pixar has set some lofty standards for itself, so although “Brave” currently sits at a 79 on the Tomatometer, I don’t entertain any fantasies about it being the studio’s best work. In fact, it might not even be the studio’s best work in a fantasy setting with a redheaded female lead. I’m talking about Shrek people. Well the first two Shreks. Anyway, let’s turn to the synopsis:

Merida is a skilled archer and impetuous daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). Determined to carve her own path in life, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the uproarious lords of the land: massive Lord MacGuffin (Kevin McKidd), surly Lord Macintosh (Craig Ferguson) and cantankerous Lord Dingwall (Robbie Coltrane). Merida’s actions inadvertently unleash chaos and fury in the kingdom, and when she turns to an eccentric old Witch (Julie Walters) for help, she is granted an ill-fated wish. The ensuing peril forces Merida to discover the meaning of true bravery in order to undo a beastly curse before it’s too late.

What I can surmise from the trailer is that the age old custom is marriage to the eldest son of one of those “uproarious lords,” and the ill-fated wish, ironically enough, is to “change her fate.” Come on now, Merida. Everyone knows you don’t say something that vague to a witch. That’s how we end up with things like “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” OK, OK, I’m done.

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Box Office Recap: It’s All the Same, Only the Names (from 3-10) have Changed

Last week, two new releases, “Madgascar 3” and “Prometheus,” occupied the top two spots on the domestic box office charts for the first time since April 22, when “Think Like a Man” and “The Lucky One” knocked out “The Hunger Games” after four weeks on top. This weekend, something else that hadn’t happened in some time occurred: the nation’s two highest grossing movies remained static. “Madgascar 3″ and “Prometheus” remain cemented at the top of the charts with $35.5 million and $20.2 million, respectively. The last films to accomplish that feat: “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” and “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” over the last two weekends of 2011, Dec. 23-25 and Dec. 30-Jan. 1.

Hair metal musical “Rock of Ages” came in third place with $15 million. Now, I could make that sound like a lot by pointing out that’s the sixth best opening of all-time for a musical and the third highest for a film adapted from the stage. But let’s be frank here, given the film’s prime summer release date, huge release (it played in 74 more theaters than “Prometheus” did in its first week), and most importantly its star-studded cast, “Rock of Ages” was a supreme disappointment. Seriously, this is a film with names like Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Malin Akerman, Mary J. Blige, Alec Baldwin, Bryan Cranston, Will Forte, Eli Roth and of course, Tom Cruise in its end credits. It should have made more money.

So what was the problem? Well, as I hypothesized in my Box Office Preview, nobody, and I mean nobody likes hair metal, the genre this film was banking on. Kids don’t like it, of that I can assure you, and baby boomers were the ones telling their children to turn that garbage down during the lost decade that was the 1980′s. As I said on Friday, the target audience here was the tiny sliver of the American population that was both a teenager during the 1980′s and enjoyed the crap at the top of the pop charts at the time.

All that showed in the demographics. For some reason, whoever keeps track of this stuff divides the entire population of the country into only two groups: above 25 and below 25. Nearly 75 percent of the audience for “Rock of Ages” was in the above category, and females made up 62 percent. Those numbers are staggeringly skewed.

Unsurprisingly, the demographics for the weekend’s other new release, Adam Sandler’s “That’s My Boy,” were distorted in the opposite direction. Sandler, of course, is known for his high-brow humor, stuff like “If peeing your pants is cool, consider me Miles Davis.” That’s sarcasm folks. Anyway, 52 percent of the comedy’s audience was under 25, and 54 percent was male. I know that doesn’t sound like much after what you just read, but in general, that’s not an insignificant skew towards teenage boys. “That’s My Boy” came in fifth place with $13 million.

The remainder of the chart offered few surprises. Sandwiched between the two new releases, “Snow White and the Huntsman” made $13.8 million, and “That’s My Boy” was followed by “Men in Black 3” and “The Avengers.”

Meanwhile, Wes Anderson’sMoonrise Kingdom” continues to chug along at the specialty box office. With nearly $2.2 million, the film moved into ninth place this weekend despite being shown in just 178 theaters (compare that to Rock of Ages’” 3,470 and tenth place finisher “What to Expect When You’re Expecting’s” 1,216).

Here are the results for this weekend’s top 10 at the box office:

Title/Weeks in release/Theater count, Studio/Three-day weekend total/Cume
1. Madagascar 3, 2/4,263, Paramount/Dreamworks, $35.5 million, $120.451 million.
2. Prometheus, 2/3,442, Fox, $20.2 million, $88.858 million.
3. Rock of Ages, 1/3,470, Warner Bros., $15 million.
4. Snow White and the Huntsman, 3/3,701, Universal, $13.805 million, $122.602 million.
5. That’s My Boy, 1/3,030, Sony, $13 million.
6. Men in Black 3, 4/3,135, Sony, $10 million, $152.679 million.
7. The Avengers, 7/2,582, Disney/Marvel Studios, $8.848 million, $586.737 million.
8. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, 7/1,184, Fox Searchlight, $2.2 million, $35.133 million.
9. Moonrise Kingdom, 4/178, Focus, $2.181 million, $6.779 million.
10.What to Expect When You’re Expecting, 5/1,216, $1.33 million, $38.766 million.

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Hidden Netflix Gems – Humpday

Hidden Netflix Gems is a new feature designed to help readers answer that burning question, “What should I watch tonight?” It will be updated every Saturday before the sun goes down.

This is undoubtedly one of the most insightful films ever made about friendship between straight males. Though it has a rather high concept hook, Humpday is far from gimmicky, instead opting to explore its characters’ relationships in a loose, naturalistic way. Director Lynn Shelton – whose latest film, Your Sister’s Sister, also explores unusual dynamics of friendship and sex – crafts a coherent, thoughtful and very funny film out of directed improvisations centering around a doozy of a “will they or won’t they” proposition.

Humpday is endearingly honest right from the start, as it opens with a scene that should be familiar to anyone who’s ever been in a long-term relationship, especially one that involves living with a partner. Ben (Mark Duplass) and his wife, Anna (Alycia Delmore), lie in bed together, each half-heartedly trying to initiate sex before they both admit, with a sense of relief, that they’re too tired. They are awakened a few hours later by the late-night arrival of Ben’s old college buddy, Andrew (Joshua Leonard, best known as “Joshua Leonard” in The Blair Witch Project), who has continued to live the freewheeling life he and Ben shared in their college days. As the two rekindle their friendship, they discover that each has a certain degree of envy for the other’s life, despite the fact that they wouldn’t actually want to trade places.

Things get more complicated on the second night of Andrew’s stay, when he hooks up with an artist named Monica (Shelton) and invites Ben to have dinner and drinks at her anarchistic, communal home, known as “Dionysus.” It is here that Ben learns of the HUMP! festival, a real-life amateur porn fest that takes place annually in Seattle. As explained by the bohemian artists at Dionysus, it’s more about artistic expression than pornography, and Ben and Andrew joke about the idea of shooting a scene together, despite the fact that they are both straight. In their eyes, this would somehow be a truly unique artistic statement, while also providing an intense and unusual bonding experience for them as friends. When they discuss the idea again in the sober light of day, it becomes a challenge from which neither of them wants to back down; Ben wants to prove he’s not as domesticated as he seems, and Andrew wants to live up to the free spirit Ben believes him to be.

It is fitting that this misbegotten plan begins as a somewhat testosterone-fueled dare, the modern adult male equivalent of sorority sisters being encouraged to make out despite having no real attraction to one another. The eventual porn shoot attempt is brilliantly conceived and executed, a realistic and hilariously awkward sequence that perfectly encapsulates not only the truth of platonic male friendship pushed to its limits, but also the bittersweet revelation that the golden age of that friendship has passed, leaving only fond and funny memories.

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Box Office Preview: ‘Rock of Ages’ and ‘That’s My Boy’

Rock of Ages

OK, so “Rock of Ages” is an adaptation of a Broadway musical that uses hair metal the way “Across the Universe” used The Beatles. First problem: who the hell likes hair metal? It’s certainly not baby boomers or kids these days. The target audience seems to be the tiny sliver of the American population that was both a teenager during the 1980′s and enjoyed the crap, excuse me, music, at the top of the pop charts at the time. Maybe that’s a decent amount of people, but I sincerely hope not.

Anyway, on to the plot. Small town girl Sherrie (Julianne Hough), who’s presumably living in a lonely world, boards a midnight er, bus, going specifically to Los Angeles, which I suppose is close enough to “anywhere.” She’s mugged soon after arriving, but is saved by city boy Drew (origins unknown). Cue love story. Drew (Diego Boneta) is a busboy at Alec Baldwin and Russell Brand’s (character’s) nightclub, The Bourbon Room, but dreams of being a rock star (imagine that). The club is struggling, but its owner hopes Stacee Jaxx’s (Tom Cruise) final show before going solo will help spark revenues. That may just be the one upside in this movie, anyone who’s seen “Tropic Thunder” knows when Cruise gets a little self-deprecating it can earn major laughs. Meanwhile, Mayor Mike Whitmore (Bryan Cranston), along with his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) are launching a campaign to clean up the city, starting with The Bourbon Room. You disappoint me Bryan Cranston, but I doubt I’ll see this movie and “Breaking Bad” starts in a month, so my love for you shall survive.

Despite its star-studded cast and Cruise making an ass of himself, “Rock of Ages” is at a 44 percent on the Tomatometer, and Bullz-eye’s David Medsker had this to say:

If you look at “Rock of Ages” as a movie that knows it’s beyond salvation and is interested in finding out just far down the rabbit hole it can go, then it might earn some respect as the next cult classic in the making. Unfortunately, this is far closer to “The Apple” (look it up, if you dare) than it is to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” In the end, it’s just one of those movies that was never going to work. Pity no one realized this before they spent tens of millions to make it.

There you have it, if you’re a huge and I mean huge fan of musicals, hair metal, or any of the actors involved (Paul Giamatti’s in there too, somehow it never came up) then see this movie. But you’ve probably got better things to do.

That’s My Boy

So, it has come to this. Andy Samberg is Adam Sandler’s son, laughs ensue, or they would if this movie didn’t look so god awful. Also, is it just me or is the above picture a really bad photoshop job? Anyway, let’s just stick to the official synopsis:

While still in his teens, Donny (Adam Sandler) fathered a son, Todd (Andy Samberg), and raised him as a single parent up until Todd’s 18th birthday. Now, after not seeing each other for years, Todd’s world comes crashing down on the eve of his wedding when an uninvited Donny suddenly shows up. Trying desperately to reconnect with his son, Donny is now forced to deal with the repercussions of his bad parenting skills.

Specifically, Donny shows up because Todd is a hot shot hedge fund manager and he owes $43,000 to the IRS. He recieves this information from lawyer Jim Nance, played by Rex Ryan. That’s right, Rex Ryan, head coach of the New York Jets. I love sexy Rexy but c’mon, what does a football coach with no acting experience getting a part tell you about this movie?

If you didn’t get it from a thousand other hints, it tells you that it sucks. “That’s My Boy” is at an abysmal 23 percent on the Tomatometer. The best line of a review I’ve read so far comes from Adam Graham of The Detroit News: “Sandler’s Berger is the most loutish, annoying character he’s come up with since ‘Little Nicky.’ Nicky came from hell; viewers of ‘That’s My Boy’ will feel like they’re in it.”

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Box Office Recap: New Releases Take the Cake

For the first time since April 22, two new releases occupy the top two spots on the weekend box office charts. That weekend, “Think Like a Man” and “The Lucky One” knocked out “The Hunger Games” after four weeks on top. This time around, “Madagascar 3” and “Prometheus” sank “Snow White and the Huntsman” to number three in just its second week.

There’s been an absence of family features of late, and it showed in “Madagascar’s” strong $60.35 million showing, which is the fourth-highest opening of the year. The film just missed the $63.1 million the second film in the series made in its opening weekend, but remained in line with the first “Madgascar’s” $61 million over a long Memorial Day weekend in 2005.

The audience for “Madagascar 3″ was mostly young (54 percent under 25) and female (56 percent), which makes sense considering its top competition, “Prometheus.” Ridley Scott’s return to sci-fi made $50 million with the exact opposite demographics. Sixty-four percent of its audience was over 25, and 57 percent was male. Although “Prometheus” didn’t quite reach the massive levels some predicted, it still had the fourth-highest second place debut in history.

The new releases got some help from the continued slippage of “Men in Black 3” and “The Avengers,” which now sit at numbers four and five, respectively. Although “slippage” for those two pictures would be considered strong weekends for most other films, as they each cleared the $10 million mark with ease. Worldwide, the two films’ numbers are staggering. “Men in Black 3″ is just $12.5 million short of half a billion in total gross after three weeks, while “Avengers” cleared $1.4 billion in its sixth weekend.

Behind them, “What to Expect when You’re Expecting” and “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” remained cemented in the six and seven spots. “Battleship” and “The Dictator” tumbled from numbers four and five last weekend to the eight and nine slots. Perhaps the most notable part of that development is “Battleship’s” steep drop in theater count. After being show in 3,144 locations last weekend, the film was on nearly 1,200 fewer screens.

Finally, in tenth place was Wes Anderson’sMoonrise Kingdom.” The film took in nearly $1.6 million despite playing in only 96 theaters, giving it a weekend-best $16,448 per-theater average. The film has now earned $3.8 million after showing in 16 theaters last weekend and just two during its debut.

Here are the results for this weekend’s top 10 at the box office:

Title/Weeks in release/Theater count, Studio/Three-day weekend total/Cume
1. Madagascar 3, 1/4,258, Paramount/Dreamworks, $60.35 million.
2. Prometheus, 1/3,396, Fox, $50 million.
3. Snow White and the Huntsman, 2/3,777, Universal, $23.021 million, $98.5 million.
4. Men in Black 3, 3/3,792, Sony, $13.5 million, $135.505 million.
5. The Avengers, 6/3,129, Disney/Marvel Studios, $10.809 million, $571.86 million.
6. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, 6/1,298, Fox Searchlight, $3.235 million, $31.009 million.
7.What to Expect When You’re Expecting, 4/2,087, $2.71 million, $35.745 million
8. Battleship, 4/1,954, Universal/Hasbro, $2.286 million, $59.83 million.
9. The Dictator, 4/1,651, Paramount, $2.15 million, $55.189 million.
10. Moonrise Kingdom, 3/96, Focus, $1.579 million, 3.75 million.

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Hidden Netflix Gems – The Grand

Hidden Netflix Gems is a new feature designed to help readers answer that burning question, “What should I watch tonight?” It will be updated every Saturday before the sun goes down.

While most sports movies tend to take themselves very seriously, with triumphant underdogs and platitude-filled speeches in their third acts, some sports just inherently lend themselves to comedy. Bowling is a great example of this, as evidenced by the success of films like the Farrelly brothers’ Kingpin and the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski. Poker is another, though the game itself is so relatively inactive that it’s debatable whether it should even be called a sport, and Zak Penn‘s underrated improvisational comedy The Grand takes full advantage of a poker tournament’s many humorous possibilities.

Similar to the revered work of Christopher Guest and his regular ensemble of actors in films like Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show, Penn assembles a talented ensemble cast and gives them direction on who their characters are, then leaves the dialogue and the development of situations largely up to them. In fact, the poker tournament at the center of the film is a real tournament, and its outcome was undetermined in the script; the winner at the end of the film actually just beat the other actors, regardless of narrative expectations. This approach gives the film extra vitality and excitement, and with so much room to breathe, the cast creates lively, hilarious characters that often riff on and expand their real public personae.

Woody Harrelson stars as “One Eyed” Jack Faro, the owner of The Rabbit’s Foot casino, which he hopes to save by winning an annual tournament called The Grand. Of course, it is the drug-addled, 74-time divorcée Jack’s own bad investments and reckless behavior that has jeopardized his ownership of the casino in the first place, but despite his many vices, Jack is a charming and lovable rogue worth rooting for. His main competition in the tournament includes the Schwartzman twins, Larry (David Cross, who had a good real-life run on Celebrity Poker Showdown) and Lainie (Cheryl Hines); the Rain Man-like genius Harold Melvin (Chris Parnell, best known as 30 Rock‘s incompetent Dr. Leo Spaceman); and oblivious newcomer Andy Andrews (Richard Kind).

As funny and well-developed as all these primary characters are, however, it is the bit parts that really shine in The Grand. Legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog brings a deadpan menace to his character, “The German,” a ruthless cheat who brings a small menagerie of animals with him to the casino’s hotel because, as he says, “To feel alive and to get this energy, it is essential for me to kill something each day.” Dennis Farina is also particularly memorable as LBJ “Deuce” Fairbanks, a Las Vegas veteran nostalgic for a less family-friendly time in the city’s history; as he fondly remembers it, “It was a place where the Jews and the blacks had to enter the casinos through rear entrances. By the way, on this corner right here, I stabbed a bum.” Though barely released in theaters and largely ignored, The Grand is a consistently funny, anarchistic good time for poker fans and novices alike.

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