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Hidden Netflix Gems – Session 9

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.

Most films classified within the horror genre are not so much truly scary as they are fun in a sort of morbid way, at least to true horror fans. A real horror fan is too jaded to actually jump when the killer jumps out of the shadows, and certainly most monster movies are more eye candy to the true fan than they are actually frightening. The one thing most of the scariest films ever made have in common is a strong atmosphere of claustrophobia, a sense of no escape from a terrifying situation. Whether it’s in outer space (Alien), a remote arctic wilderness (The Thing), or an isolated building haunted by the past (The Shining), the feeling of being either physically or psychologically trapped is essential to real terror.

Brad Anderson‘s Session 9 has this atmosphere in spades, which is one reason it is probably the scariest film of the past decade. Though its characters can and do leave the location of the horror, a defunct mental hospital from which they have been contracted to remove asbestos, once they have set foot in it the horror never really leaves them. Gordon Fleming (Peter Mullan) is the owner of the company, a man troubled by a failing marriage and seemingly a lack of proper sleep. The rest of his team has their problems as well, all integral to the horror that befalls them. Mike (Stephen Gevedon, the film’s co-writer) is a law school dropout who has some prior knowledge of the asylum, which gradually begins to seem like an unhealthy obsession. Phil (David Caruso) and Hank (Josh Lucas) have an uncomfortable shared history, in that Phil’s former girlfriend is now with Hank, and Gordon’s nephew, Jeff (Brendan Sexton III), has a severe case of nyctophobia, or fear of the dark.

The rising terror of this film is wonderfully slow-burning, as all great haunted house stories should be, but this is ultimately more than just a haunted house story. As Mike begins to obsessively listen to the session tapes of former patient Mary Hobbes, from which the film gets its title, the others begin to gradually sense that something is wrong in this place and that all of their lives may be in danger. It is almost as though the playing of the tapes has summoned an ancient evil that has been lying dormant in the hospital, though the true revelation is far more intelligent and less cheesy than that might sound. Session 9 never takes the easy or expected way out, instead opting to sink its claws deep into the viewer’s brain for a more deeply haunting experience. The film’s final moments especially will really stick with you, and may even give you your own case of nyctophobia for days afterward.

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Box Office Recap: A Lot of New Releases, for the First Time in a While

After a few weeks in which there were never more than a few new releases at a time, mostly out of fear of “The Dark Knight Rises,” this weekend saw four new pictures enter theaters. As a result, there was major turnover in the domestic box office charts for the first time in what seems like a while.

The most successful new release was action sequel “The Expendables 2,” starring way too many people to name. The film brought in approximately $28.6 million after debuting in 3,316 theaters. Unsurprisingly, the film skewed to older males, 63 three percent of the audience was male and 65 percent was over 25. While the sequel fell off 18 percent from the debut of the original “Expendables” ($34.8 million), $28.6 million is a modest but acceptable opening mark.

The stop-motion animated feature “ParaNorman” took third place with $14.1 million. After production studio LAIKA received a great deal of critical acclaim for its first film, “Coraline,” many thought the studio might become a Pixar competitor. While LAIKA may arguably be putting out films of similar quality (each was certified fresh, with “ParaNorman” receiving an 88 percent and “Coraline” a 90 percent rating on the Tomatometer), they’re still lagging far behind in terms of box office success. Ten of the thirteen Pixar films have ended up with total domestic grosses over $200 million. LAIKA has a long way to go before they can compete with that.

As for the weekend’s other two new release, the musical “Sparkle” rounded out the top 5 with $11.6 million, while “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” came in seventh with $10.8 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. The Expendables 2, 1/3,316, LGF, $28.591 million.
2. The Bourne Legacy, 2/3,753, Universal, $17.057 million, $69.618 million.
3. ParaNorman, 1/3,429, Focus, $14.087 million.
4. The Campaign, 2/3,255, Warner Bros., $13.127 million, $51.435 million.
5. Sparkle, 1/2,244, TriStar Pictures, $11.643 million.
6. The Dark Knight Rises, 5/3,157, Warner Bros., $11.011 million, $409.787 million.
7. The Odd Life of Timothy Green, 1/2,598, Buena Vista, $10.822 million.
8. Hope Springs, 2/2,361, Sony, $9.111 million, $35.063 million.
9. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, 3/2,737, Fox, $3.834 million, $38.747 million.
10. Total Recall, 3/2,434, Sony, $3.472 million, $51.755 million.

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Ultimate Movie-Goers Experiences: From Cruises to Alaskan Resorts

Even as cinematography reaches new heights never before dreamed of by movie goers or movie makers, many modern theaters lack what the aficionado might refer to as atmosphere. Gone are the grandiose 18th Century theaters with elaborate molding or fabulous Art Deco architecture that reigned when live performances were the norm. Go into most any theatre from Baltimore to San Diego and it’s virtually impossible to distinguish one from another. If ambiance is an important part of the movie going experience for you, consider one of these venues.


Image via The Globe Theatre

5. Cine Thisio in Athens, Greece

Many outdoor movie theaters call Athens home during the summer months, but for the most spectacular view, try the Cine Thisio. Opened in 1935, it is also the oldest outdoor theater in Athens. Patrons enjoy the night viewing the best, but at any time of day or night you can see the Acropolis and the Parthenon.

4. Alamo Drafthouse in Alamo, Texas, United States

This theater combines a guaranteed quiet viewing along with great food and excellent beer. No children under the age of six are permitted, and there is a zero tolerance policy for interruptions during the film. Patrons also enjoy no advertisements before the film.

3. Prasads in Hyderabad, India

More than just one of the world’s many entertainment complexes, the Prasadas boasts the unique title of being the largest 3D IMAX theatre in the entire world. Not to be confused with the largest IMAX screen in Sydney, Australia, the Prasads is in possession of a 3D IMAX screen that measures a whopping 72 x 92 ft. This venue is also great for children of all ages.

2. The Castro Theatre in San Francisco, United States

Among the palace theaters that became popular during the first half of the 20th Century, The Castro Theatre entered the scene in 1922 and remains as one of the few relics of this grand era of architecture. Its Mexican cathedral-inspired styling embodies detail rarely seen in today’s buildings.

1. Celebrity Cruises

To see the latest blockbuster films as well as enjoy live entertainers like musicians, magicians, vocalists and more – the best possible overall experiences are Alaskan Cruises. Here, guests can enjoy days of dancing, listening to music, seeing the best films, dressing up, partying, dining and generally having a blast. The joy of celebrity cruises is how guests are pampered. This is an experience that truly must be enjoyed to be believed.

For movie and cinema enthusiasts, these venues offer the best experience possible – adding the benefit of ambiance to an already spectacular flick.

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Hidden Netflix Gems – Earth Girls Are Easy

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.

In an oddball blend of ’50s science fiction classics like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Day the Earth Stood Still, combined with much stronger elements of beach musicals and screwball comedy, director Julien Temple‘s Earth Girls Are Easy explores interplanetary sexual politics with a light and infectiously fun touch. This is one of those ’80s movies, much like The Lost Boys, that is objectively silly and perhaps unimportant to the history of cinema, but is nonetheless one of my favorite movies of all time.

Valerie (Geena Davis) is a sort of ditzy manicurist who works at beauty parlor in San Fernando Valley with her gloriously superficial and oversexed friend Candy (co-writer Julie Brown). After discovering her physician fiancée, Ted (Charles Rocket), attempting to cheat on her with a nurse he brings home, she kicks him out and wrecks most of his belongings in a musical montage of destruction and bittersweet flashbacks of the better times they spent together. Of all the film’s musical numbers, this is the weakest, but still great visual fun and prime ’80s nostalgia, as when Valerie shoves a box of Ted’s cigars into the VCR, or when she sends a bowling ball crashing into his Commodore 64 computer. As if her relationship troubles aren’t bad enough, the next morning a spaceship full of furry, horny aliens lands in her pool, and Valerie has to figure out how to keep them secret until they can fix their flooded ship and head back to their home planet.

The aliens are Mac (Jeff Goldblum), Zeebo (Damon Wayans) and Wiploc (Jim Carrey), and of course the solution to the problem of how to hide their alien identity is a makeover. Candy assists, removing the aliens’ colorful fur and revealing “three major cute guys” underneath. Valerie falls for Mac in particular, becoming enamored with his innocent, childlike ways, a result of the culture clash experienced by all three aliens, which is a major source of the film’s comedy. In perhaps the funniest scene in the movie, Zeebo and Wiploc, en route to a beach trip with Valerie’s aging surfer pool cleaner, Woody (Michael McKean), take his suggestion that they pick up “bread and junk” for sandwiches very literally. Brandishing a realistic toy gun accidentally stolen from a child earlier, they tell the frightened cashier, “Give us bread. We need junk.”

Though Earth Girls Are Easy could fairly be labeled predictable and certainly inconsequential, it has an undeniable charm, and only the severely humor-deficient will be unable to find something to like about it. For whatever reason, this movie is actually something of an addiction for me, a film I have to rewatch at least once a year or so in order to feel that all is right with the universe, to remind me that even with all the problems of the planet earth, at least its female humans don’t play too hard to get.

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Box Office Preview: ‘The Expendables 2,’ ‘ParaNorman,’ and ‘The Odd Life of Timothy Green’

The Expendables 2

Come on, look at all the names in this one: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Chuck Norris, Mickey Rourke, Terry Crews, Liam Hemsworth, Jean Claude Van-Damme, John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Dolph Lundgren, and of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger. If you need me to tell you what to expect you’re nearly 40 years behind the Hollywood action scene (and have likely never voted in a California gubernatorial election).

If you saw the first “Expendables” movie, then you know what’s coming here: action, action, and more action. Seriously, watch the trailer, it’s just the names of the stars intercut with explosions, guns firing, and chase scenes. It gives literally no information relating to the plot, which tells you just about all you need to know regarding its importance to the film. Nonetheless, here’s the official synopsis:

The Expendables are back and this time it’s personal… Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren),Toll Road (Randy Couture) and Hale Caesar (Terry Crews) — with newest members Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) and Maggie (Yu Nan) aboard — are reunited when Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) enlists the Expendables to take on a seemingly simple job. The task looks like an easy paycheck for Barney and his band of old-school mercenaries. But when things go wrong and one of their own is viciously killed, the Expendables are compelled to seek revenge in hostile territory where the odds are stacked against them.

“The Expendables 2″ has a 65 percent rating on the Tomatometer. Check it out if you’d like, just don’t expect much in the way of plot or character development.

ParaNorman

“ParaNorman” is the second feature film made by stop-motion animation studio LAIKA, the first being 2009′s “Coraline.” Both films have been met with a great deal of critical acclaim, and each has been “certified fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes, with “ParaNorman” garnering an 86 percent rating on the Tomatometer and “Coraline” sitting pretty at 90 percent. Not to mention that in the year of its release, “Coraline” was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. With all the accolades the two films have received, LAIKA may be the first studio that can really compete with Pixar if it can keep producing films of high enough quality that they transcend the box animated films are so often put in.

Anyway, let’s talk about “ParaNorman.” Kodi Smit-Mcphee stars as Norman Babcock, an oft-misunderstood young man with the uncanny ability to communicate with the dead, a talent that comes in handy when his small town is overrun by zombies. The official synopsis tells us “In addition to the zombies, he’ll have to take on ghosts, witches and, worst, of all, grown-ups, to save his town from a centuries-old curse. But this young ghoul whisperer may find his paranormal activities pushed to their otherworldly limits.” Smit-Mcphee’s co-stars include Casey Affleck, Jeff Garlin, John Goodman, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse.

Many adults discard animated films, believing them to be childish or incapable of conveying the same emotion and character that live action films can. But like Pixar, LAIKA makes films that relay all those elements in spades, the fact that they’re animated isn’t a detractor. As such, despite its PG rating, ‘ParaNorman” is a kid’s movie that isn’t really for kids. As Bullz-Eye’s Jason Zingale put it, the film is a “journey into the weird and macabre that will likely play well with pre-teens and older, but may be too frightening for younger audiences. Though parents should use discretion when deciding whether their children can handle the scarier moments, “ParaNorman” is packed with enough comedy that it helps dampen the effect.” It seems “ParaNorman” is a film more for those who are children at heart than actual children, and deserves to be checked out.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green

The last film seeing a wide release this weekend is “The Odd Life of Timothy Green.” Let’s check out the official synopsis from Disney:

Director/writer Peter Hedges brings enchantment to the screen with The Odd Life of Timothy Green, an inspiring, magical story about a happily married couple, Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton), who can’t wait to start a family but can only dream about what their child would be like. When young Timothy (CJ Adams) shows up on their doorstep one stormy night, Cindy and Jim — and their small town of Stanleyville — learn that sometimes the unexpected can bring some of life’s greatest gifts.

Given that its a Disney movie with a 41 percent rating on the Tomatometer, “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” appears to be a try-hard heartwarmer that is ultimately more “style” (in the most Disneyfied sense of the word) than substance. Check it out only if you’re the overly-emotional type susceptible to that kind of drivel.

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Box Office Recap: New Releases Take Down ‘The Dark Knight Rises’

After three weeks at the top of the charts, “The Dark Knight Rises” fell to third place with just under $19 million after being beaten by two new releases this weekend. In its opening weekend, “The Bourne Legacy” grossed just over $38 million domestically. That figure is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Sure, “The Dark Knight Rises” made nearly that amount ($35.737 million) last week, but then we’re talking about the movie that had the third biggest opening weekend of all-time with nearly $161 million.

As I predicted in my Box Office Preview, “The Bourne Legacy” did break the pattern of each “Bourne” film being more successful than the last. But that’s to be expected in a third sequel, or is it a spin-off/reboot? I really don’t know what to call this thing. What I do know is that despite sticking Jeremy Renner in Matt Damon’s place, “Legacy’s” $38.1 million debut fell in between the series’ first film, “The Bourne Identity” ($27.1 million), and the second, “Supremacy” ($52.5 million), and dropped 45 percent off “Ultimatum” ($69.2 million), the last entry with Damon in the lead.

In second place with $26.588 million was the new political comedy “The Campaign,” which starred Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis. Although it’s not exactly a terrifically common genre, that is the highest opening mark for a movie centered around a political campaign according to Box Office Mojo.

The weekend’s final new release, “Hope Springs,” opened in fourth place with $14.65 million. The film, which stars Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones, is definitely targeting an older audience than most, so while it won’t have any flashy single weekend numbers, I expect it to slowly chug along in much the same way “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” did.

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. The Bourne Legacy, 1/3,745, Universal, $38.142 million.
2. The Campaign, 1/3,205, Warner Bros., $26.588 million.
3. The Dark Knight Rises, 4/3,690, Warner Bros., $18.979 million, $389.588 million.
4. Hope Springs, 1/2,361, Sony, $14.65 million.
5. Total Recall, 2/3,601, Sony, $8.013 million, $44.101 million.
6. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, 2/3,398, Fox, $8.002 million, $30.356 million.
7. Ice Age: Continental Drift, 5/3,102, Fox, $6.38 million, $143.694 million.
8. Ted, 7/2,208, Universal, $3.223 million, $209.848 million.
9. Step Up Revolution, 3/1,898, Summit, $2.941 million, $30.256 million.
10. The Watch, 3/2,461, Fox, $2.221 million, $31.396 million.

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Hidden Netflix Gems – Red State

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 always excited to see my favorite filmmakers stretch beyond what they normally produce and explore other genres. For that reason, I applaud Kevin Smith for stepping away from the talky, visually underwhelming comedies for which he is known with his latest film, Red State, a nasty, tense, visceral thriller that, while satirical and occasionally funny, is miles away from a comedy.

Red State is a cinematic middle finger to the vicious, hateful Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church, an organization best known for the highly tasteful and respectable practice of protesting funerals in order to garner controversy. Though Phelps is eventually mentioned by name in the film’s narrative, his overt fictional surrogate is one Abin Cooper (Michael Parks), a malevolent, fire-and-brimstone preacher who looks a bit like a more diminutive Kris Kristofferson with eyeglasses. Cooper and his followers regularly hold demonstrations in which they hold up signs offering such charming sentiments as “Anal Penetration = Eternal Damnation.”

As the film begins, it tricks the audience into expecting the kind of lame teen sex comedy that detractors of Smith’s Mallrats or Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back might expect from him. High school students Travis (Michael Angarano), Jarod (Kyle Gallner) and Billy-Ray (Nicholas Braun) receive an invitation for group sex from a mysterious woman Jarod met on a sex chat site. Being the horny teen boys that they are, they borrow a car from Travis’s parents and head out to the trailer home of the woman, whose name just so happens to be Sarah Cooper (Melissa Leo). Of course, Cooper is a common name and the boys are way too horny to think twice about it, nor do they seem disturbed by her insistence that they chug a couple of beers before getting down to the “devil’s business,” so of course they are quickly drugged into unconsciousness and wake up in a world of horror. The boys soon find out the hard way that the Coopers hate not only homosexuals, but any type of “deviant” sexuality or immorality, which includes teen boys curious about group sex with an older woman.

One of the things that works so well about Smith veering so sharply away from the type of film for which he is known is how unpredictable the film quickly becomes. We assume from the start of the film that Travis is the main protagonist, but quickly find that no one is safe in this nasty, uncompromising movie. Likewise, ATF agent Joseph Keenan (John Goodman) doesn’t show up until the beginning of the film’s second act, at which point he becomes the main protagonist. Goodman is excellent in the film, but the true star of the show is undoubtedly Michael Parks as Abin. He manages to be hateful enough to boil the viewer’s blood while simultaneously displaying the kind of natural charisma that makes his followers’ hero-worship all too believable.

Throughout his career, Smith has been criticized for a lack of visual style as a director, and he seems to have taken this particular criticism to heart. In some of his later period films, he seems to have been actively trying to step up to this challenge, but this is the first film I’ve seen from him that really knocks the visual style out of the park. This is easily my favorite Smith film since Chasing Amy, a film that Smith claims he made for his gay brother to make up for a shortage of gay characters in romantic comedies, and that same sympathy for issues of civil rights for homosexuals is at the heart of this one. Part torture-porn, part action movie and part satire, Red State is a very mature work for Smith, a film that shows his tremendous growth as a writer and filmmaker without being pretentious about it.

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Box Office Preview: ‘Bourne’ (sans Damon), ‘The Campaign,’ and ‘Hope Springs’

The Bourne Legacy

After the first three “Bourne” movies grossed a combined $945 million worldwide, Universal Studios wasn’t going to let something as “petty” as the series’ star, Matt Damon, walking away stop the cash from flowing in. Even though “The Bourne Legacy” will likely break an impressive pattern—that each of the trilogy’s installments was more successful than the last in terms of both opening and cumulative grosses (“The Bourne Identity” debuted to $27.1 million and had a domestic total gross of nearly $122 million, “Supremacy” made $52.5 million in its opening weekend, winding up with $176 million, while “Ultimatum” opened to $69.3 million and had $227 million to its name when things were all said and done)—the studio can still expect to make a pretty penny. Plus, given that “The Dark Knight Rises” was last week’s top earner with just shy of $36 million in its third week, Universal can expect to own the nation’s number one movie, as “Legacy” will have no problem clearing $30 million over its first three days at the box office.

Anyway, let’s talk about the film itself, shall we? With Damon gone, writer/director Tony Gilroy, who also wrote the screenplays for the first three “Bourne” movies, had to come up with some way to introduce a new main character. As we find out from the trailer, “There was never just one… Jason Bourne was the tip of the iceberg.” Enter Jeremy Renner (“The Hurt Locker,” “The Avengers“) as Aaron Cross, who’s essentially another Jason Bourne.

Overlapping with the ending of the last film, the story has broken that the CIA has been conducting top-secret experiments involving genetically enhanced spies. As a result, they’re putting an end to all such programs, which means killing all of the various programs’ agents. With the exception of the new leading man, “Legacy” has everything we’ve come to expect from the series: a super spy on the run from the government with a damsel in distress in tow. Only this time, Renner’s playing the hero, the damsel has a doctorate, and newcomer Edward Norton steps in as Colonel Eric Byer, who’s in charge of hunting Renner’s character down. It seems he’s escaped the government’s attempt on his life and needs to find Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) so he can get a hold of the medications that help him function at superhuman levels.

The film has split critics right down the middle, it currently sits at a 50 percent on the Tomatometer. It’s sure to be entertaining, but like so many of the reboot/sequel/spin-offs coming along these days, it leaves something to be desired because you can’t escape the feeling that you’ve seen this film before. I think Bullz-Eye’s David Medsker put it best:

“The Bourne Legacy” shares a sentiment with a couple of other movies released this year (“American Reunion,” “Men in Black 3” [and I'll add "The Amazing Spider-Man" to the list]) in that it was not at all necessary, yet still enjoyable. That might be damning the movie with faint praise, but considering the lengths that Universal is going to in order to keep the Bourne cash cow mooing – really, everything about the movie’s existence is pretty damn cynical – they would be wise to take any praise people are willing to give them. They get a pass this time, but they’re going to need to raise the stakes for the next one.

The Campaign

From director Jay Roach (best known for directing the “Austin Powers” films as well as “Meet the Parents” and “Meet the Fockers”) comes “The Campaign,” a satirical political comedy boasting big name stars like Will Ferrell, Zach Galfianakis, Jason Sudeikis, John Lithgow, and Dan Akroyd. With actors like that and a premise as easily mockable as American politics, this one’s sure to be a slam dunk, right?

Not this time. Although it’s got a 65 percent rating on the Tomatometer, the general consensus seems to be that the film is one big missed opportunity. In an election year, the filmmakers could’ve gotten a bit edgier, really putting our political system on trial while still generating big laughs from Ferrell and Galifianakis. In fact, one might wonder why this wasn’t the case, given that Roach has pushed some boundaries in his HBO election dramas “The Recount” and “Game Change.” To quote Bullz-Eye’s Jason Zingale:

Though the film is actually much better than expected, it never fully takes advantage of its satirical premise, especially with the 2012 elections only months away. There are a number of good laughs sprinkled throughout, but it’s not nearly enough to warrant sitting through all the dry spells. And try as director Jay Roach might to make his characters more absurd than our real-life politicians, that’s a lot easier said than done.

Oh yes, you’re probably wondering about the plot. Here it is: Incumbent North Carolina Congressman Cam Brady (Ferrell) is essentially running on auto-pilot until a sex scandal puts his campaign under a microscope. As a result, two corrupt businessmen played by Lithgow and Akroyd, the Motch brothers (whose similarities with the real-life Koch brothers are no coincidence) decide to back country bumpkin Marty Huggins (Galifianakis) who will turn a blind eye to their plan to use import Chinese factory workers on the cheap.

Hope Springs

Last but not least this week is “Hope Springs,” a dramedy that is sure to skew older than the previous two films. It stars Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as a couple who despite being loving and devoted have watched as their relationship gets somewhat stale over the decades. Streep’s character, Kay, hears of Dr. Feld (Steve Carell), a widely renowned relationship specialist and tries to persuade her husband, Arnold, to embark on a trip to the small town of Hope Springs to meet him.

The film has been certified fresh with a 77 percent rating on the Tomatometer. The site had this to say about the film: “Led by a pair of mesmerizing performances from Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones, Hope Springs offers filmgoers some grown-up laughs — and a thoughtful look at mature relationships.” Bullz-Eye’s David Medsker offers a different perspective: “How much you enjoy ‘Hope Springs’ will depend largely on how much you enjoy watching older people have sex.” It’s pretty easy to figure out whether you’re part of “Hope Springs” target audience, and as a result, whether or not you’ll enjoy the film.

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Box Office Recap: In its Third Week, New Releases Still Can’t Top ‘The Dark Knight Rises’

In its third week in release, “The Dark Knight Rises” is once again the nation’s number one movie after grossing nearly $36 million. On Sunday, its 17th day at the box office, the film’s total domestic gross passed the $350 million mark, making it the third fastest movie to reach that plateau, behind only “The Avengers” (10 days) and “The Dark Knight” (14 days).

The weekend’s two new releases, “Total Recall” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days” struggled, grossing only $25.5 and $14.6 million, respectively. The two films’ audiences skewed in opposite directions, with “Total Recall” tracking 58 percent male and 53 percent 30 years of age or older. Moviegoers gave the film a woeful “C+” CinemaScore. On the other hand, “Wimpy Kid” skewed 58 percent female and 62 percent 25 or younger, while receiving an “A-” CinemaScore. However, the movie’s $14.6 million debut was far behind the series previous installments, which grossed $22.1 million and $23.8 million, respectively.

The box office charts remained remarkably static behind the new releases and “The Dark Knight.” Last week’s second through eighth place films each moved back two spots to make room for “Total Recall” and “Wimpy Kid,” but remained in the same order to fill out this week’s fourth through tenth place positions.

“The Dark Knight Rises” faces a new challenger in “The Bourne Legacy” next week. We’ll just have to see if it can sustain its dominance against another big name franchise in its fourth week.

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. The Dark Knight Rises, 2/4,242, Warner Bros., $35.737 million, $359.935 million.
2. Total Recall, 1/3,601, Sony, $25.577 million.
3. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days, 1/3,391, Fox, $14.623 million.
4. Ice Age: Continental Drift, 4/3,542, Fox, $8.609 million, $132.071 million.
5. The Watch, 2/3,168, Fox, $6.527 million, $25.541 million.
6. Step Up Revolution, 2/2,606, Summit, $5.927 million, $23.724 million.
7. Ted, 6/2,767 Universal, $5.644 million, $203.579 million.
8. The Amazing Spider-Man, 5/2,425, Sony, $4.4 million, $250.74 million.
9. Brave, 7/2,110, Buena Vista, $2.986 million, $223.42 million.
10. Magic Mike, 6/1,202, Warner Bros., $1.414 million, $110.928 million.

 

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Hidden Netflix Gems – The Man Who Fell to Earth

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.

For all of his musical influence and his famous/infamous turn as Jareth the Goblin King in the Jim Henson production Labyrinth, my original introduction to the cultural phenomenon that is David Bowie came from a strange, somewhat disjointed British science fiction film from the 1970s. The first film in which Bowie ever appeared as a leading actor, The Man Who Fell to Earth is a surreal, satirical, and ultimately very bleak look at American values, as seen through the eyes of a visitor from another world. In much the same way that the Martians in H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds find themselves vulnerable to Earth’s diseases, Bowie’s alien finds himself far from immune to the destructive allure of earthly pleasures like alcohol, sex and television.

Thomas Jerome Newton, as Bowie’s alien calls himself while on Earth, lands in the New Mexico desert in search of water to bring back to his home planet, Anthea, where his wife and children are in danger of dying from a sever drought. Using the advanced technology of Anthea, he gains incredible wealth and a great deal of notoriety by patenting various inventions and becoming the head of World Enterprises Corporation, a technological conglomerate he forms with the help of patent attorney Oliver Farnsworth (Buck Henry). Newton’s ulterior motive with the company is to construct a space vehicle with which to ship water back to Anthea, but he soon becomes distracted from this purpose by a dalliance with Mary-Lou (Candy Clark), a hotel chambermaid who introduces Newton to alcohol and sex, and with whom he eventually moves into a house in New Mexico.

Meanwhile, Nathan Bryce (Rip Torn), Newton’s confidante at World Enterprises, suspects that Newton is not of this world and manages to find proof via an X-ray photo he takes without Newton’s knowledge. As Bryce considers what to do with his newfound knowledge, Newton sinks deeper into an alcohol-fueled haze of despair, doing little more with his days than drinking and watching multiple television screens at once and finally driving both Bryce and Mary-Lou away from him as his true, alien self is revealed to them. It is not that Newton is portrayed as an evil alien, however, but rather that the temptations of earthly existence have corrupted him and his original, purely good intentions.

Director Nicolas Roeg tells this strange, slowly paced story with the distinctively mesmerizing visual style and unusual editing techniques he brought to other great films such as Walkabout and Bad Timing. Like these films, The Man Who Fell to Earth is so subtle and contemplative that it may require multiple viewings to parse out all of its meaning, but its bold and daring imagery and quietly menacing, otherworldly atmosphere make it a joy to behold, and well worth more than one viewing.

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