What’s my name, bitch? Twenty great movie titles

The press release came in early November. In it were four words that came together for the first time like a cinematic Reese’s peanut butter cup of awesomeness. We were powerless to resist, not that we would have tried. The four words:

“Hot Tub Time Machine.”

Bar none the best movie title to come down the pike in years (and hot on its heels is the equally awesomely named “Kick-Ass”), and it had us thinking about what we consider to be the all-time best movie titles. But first, we had to set some ground rules. Porno titles were obviously out (too easy), as were movies named after plays, songs, books or lines of poetry (borrowed material). Bonus points were given to titles that were either startlingly direct or looked like unfinished Mad Libs, thus provoking a reaction along the lines of Lisa Simpson when she saw “Yahoo Serious Film Festival” on a marquee (“I know those words, but that sign makes no sense.”) Horror movie titles were so plentiful that they received their own list, though a few choice selections made the regular list. Lastly, we feel compelled to remind everyone that this list was made purely for fun, so legitimately good titles – “Alien,” “Fight Club,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Drag Me to Hell,” “Kill Bill” – were disqualified. Because really, how boring would that list be? Answer: very.

And so, without further delay, here’s our list. Discuss, debate and dissect amongst yourselves.

best_movie_titles

20. Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus (2009)
Because, you know, a simple battle between a shark and an octopus is on Discovery Channel twice a week. But a mega-shark and a giant octopus, that would be…well, craptacular, actually. And that is why we love the title; It’s eye-catching, but for all the wrong reasons. You want to give it credit for self-awareness – this is, after all, a movie that features a shark taking a plane out of the sky, thousands of feet off the ground – but perhaps that is giving the movie a bit too much credit. Still, there was a point where it was the most viewed trailer on the web, so the filmmakers clearly knew what they were doing when they came up with the title. Or maybe it was the irresistible allure of one Miss Deborah Gibson, one of the two.

19. The Brother From Another Planet (1984)
Using “brother” in this context was relegated solely to the exploitation genre until John Sayles wrote and directed this movie about a mute alien being chased by alien bounty hunters. It may seem harmless now, but it was downright ballsy at the time, even for an independent movie. And we totally have to learn the card trick done by the guy on the subway.

18. The Midnight Meat Train (2008)
Come on, who doesn’t want to ride that? Oh, right: everyone.

The thing is, this tale of a photographer who uncovers a subway serial killer is a pretty damn good movie. (And look at that cast: Bradley Cooper, Leslie Bibb, Roger Bart and Vinnie Jones, to name a few.) But that title was apparently too much for some to handle, to the point where after several release date changes, the movie finally surfaces in the dog days of August, making its first run…in second-run movie theaters. It goes down as another box office miss for Clive Barker, but this is easily the best Barker-related movie since “Candyman.” And you’d be hard pressed to come up with a more descriptive yet grossly unappealing title than that one.

17. Shoot ’em Up (2007)
Sounds like an unholy straight-to-DVD Steven Seagal schlockfest, yes? (Though the preposition is in the wrong place, since Seagal’s movies usually begin with one.) Yes, and then you see Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti are the leads, and Nigel Tufnel’s line about the fine line between clever and stupid comes to mind. “Shoot ’em Up” perfectly encapsulates what the movie is all about, while underselling it at the same time. “Leave your expectations at the door,” it says, so we did, and walked out grinning from ear to ear. And did we mention the lactating hooker?

16. Spanking the Monkey (1994)
Sexual Euphamism Movie Title #1. Hey, we’re dudes. Even though we like high-brow humor, we’re dudes.

Still, don’t let that title fool you. Yes, there is masturbation going on here, but this isn’t some “American Pie”-type sex comedy. It’s a disturbing black comedy where Jeremy Davies ends up having sex with his mother. Oh, that nutty David O. Russell. Only he could find the humor in incest.

For more great movie titles, click here.

  

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Tyler Perry can do well all by himself

Tyler Perry in "I Can Do Bad All By Myself"

Tyler Perry’s latest for Lionsgate, “I Can Do Bad All By Myself,” which once again features his crazed cross-gender alter-ego, Madea, over-performed its expectations by a few million and nabbed the weekend’s top box office spot with an estimated $24 or 25 million. The reason for the discrepancy, by the way, is that it appears that the numbers Nikki Finke nabbed late last night are differing slightly from those being offered by Variety and THR.

Finke is characteristically spinning the gross as a negative for Perry, since his last film made $41 million on its opening run. However, that was “Madea Goes to Jail.” If there’s one thing we’ve learned about film marketing in the current climate in recent years, having a title that explains your premise never hurts. Just ask “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” Of course, that’s not the whole story — just ask “Snakes on a Plane.”

Considering that this film is actually getting okay reviews (58% “fresh” on the RT Meter as of this moment) from the critics who’ve sprung for a film bucks to see the movie this weekend, it seems that Perry is offering a least a modicum of story-and-music based entertainment. Low expectations may also be helping. The good news for him is that it seems to be pleasing his large, predominantly African-American and female, fan base — ensuring that his modestly budgeted films remain profitable. I wonder if Lionsgate is reevaluating its decision not to screen “I Can Do Bad” in advance; they actually might have found some decent quotes to help pull in some newbies. Tyler recently signed a deal to make a film of the 1975 poetry-based Broadway sensation by Ntozake Shange, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.” Is critical respect of some sort in his future?

9With an estimated $15.2-$15.5 for Focus Features over its first five days and an on-track $10.9 million for the weekend, “9” seems to have found its audience. As I recounted last time, it’s only the eighth movie to be so numerically named, if you don’t count the original short film that launched it. (The true no. 9 will be Rob Marshall’s upcoming film of the Broadway musical “Nine.”) Now, I don’t how I missed this before, but the computer animated dystopian tale from newcomer Shane Acker was actually released on Wednesday of last week. That was not simply to get a jump on the competition, but to milk the fact that it was September 9, 2009 — i.e., 09/09/09. I guess the numerical mojo didn’t hurt.

Coming up in the #3 spot was neither of the two remaining major theatrical releases, but…drum roll…”Inglourious Basterds” once again proving wrong those who assumed that a subtitles and cinephilia heavy flick would ward-off rank-and-file filmgoers. At roughly an estimated $6.5 million in its fourth week for the Weinstein Company, Quentin Tarantino‘s latest has accumulated about $104 million so far, which I think is about double what some insiders expected from it. It seems fairly certain now that, with the benefit of at least a few Oscar nominations, it’s going to beat the $108 million take of “Pulp Fiction,” though perhaps not adjusted for inflation.  I can’t wait to see what Tarantino’s next step will be.

The critically dissed Kate Beckinsale “Whiteout” — which Fox tried to pass off as sci-fi horror in the tradition of “The Thing” but is really more of an action-thriller/whodunit — and Summit’s Heathery actual horror/slasher remake, “Sorority Row,” went down to an ignominious, youth-audience splitting, defeat. Each film made just over an estimated $5 million. The real horror film (i.e., “Row”) did slightly better than the fake one set in Alaska, but they were both unable to beat even the second week of the fourth-place “All About Steve,” and came in at the sixth and seventh spot on their opening week. Ouch.

  

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Multiplex Mayhem: Before the Faces Melt

As I write, the weekend still has another couple of nights left in it, at least on the west coast, and the numbers are murkier than usual — complicated not only by the long holiday weekend and one-day early opening of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” but also by recent ticket price increases in some theaters. (The culprit, as Nikki Finke and many others have discussed, appears to be — wait for it — the ethanol clusterfrak. Yes, it’s not just causing food riots, but forcing you to spend another buck for the privilege of enduring a poorly projected flick with talkative teens and sticky floors.) Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that the fourth adventure of swashbuckling Professor Indiana Jones is making enough to keep the money people whistling a happy little John Williams tune for some time.

In any case, Finke, Variety and the Hollywood Reporter‘s Carl DiOrio are reporting an estimated five-day take in the neighborhood of $151 million, with the current tally being somewhere around 126 million smackers. Box Office Mojo, however, reminds us however that, strictly speaking the weekend gross (minus Thursday) is so far a mere $101 million. Sticklers.

For those of you keeping track, this is not quite big enough for a true record breaker. Over a similar five-day weekend run the low expectations/high interest megasuccess of “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” managed more than $20 million above the “Indiana Jones” estimate — at lower ticket prices (though back before the housing market began its free-fall). But, as I mentioned in the pre-weekend post, that film was perhaps more of a “must see” cultural event. In any event, the international numbers look pretty outstanding as well, with $143 million earned (and how does the week dollar play into this?). In any event, at this point it looks as Harrison has the option of going into his golden years as the world’s most macho archeologist, if he desires. Way to act like a baby boomer.

In other news….there is no others, really. The second place runner-up at the box was last weekend’s below-expectations winner, “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” grabbed on to the no. 2 spot and managed to make up some of its ground by being — yes — big in Japan…and Mexico and Russia and….. Meanwhile, “Iron Man” has turned out to be made of strong stuff indeed. It’s holding on nicely weeks into its run with about $20 million this week, adding to its cumulative take of over $252 million so far. Not bad for a second-tier superhero adaptation starring an acclaimed character actor nevertheless more famous for his personal problems than for his film roles, and directed by a guy, Jon Favreau, who in his acting days was once famously almost cast as a character named Fat Ass.

Meanwhile, those looking for a kid’s movie (which some folks actually like) where there won’t be too many noisey kids to be annoyed by are directed toward “Speed Racer,” which once again had its hindquarters handed to it by the advertising slogan/movie “What Happens in Vegas,” which made $9 million compared to the $120 million anime-adaptation’s very sad $4 million. On the other end of the budget telescope, the low-key, small-scale indie drama “The Visitor” continues to surprise by building steam and hanging out in the top 10 with increasing Oscar buzz for its sixty-something star, Richard Jenkins, and netting $4.4 million so far (perhaps already either matching or a multiple of its budget). The critically beloved, spunky-sexy-stylish (well, that’s what I’m hearing) first film from Norway’s Joachim Trier, “Reprise,” is also looking strong with an average of $6,648 on fourteen screens so far.

As for Uwe Boll’s “Postal” (discussed probably in way too much depth in my prior post)…well, it’s no success du scandal so far, it appears, not even making B.O.Mojo’s top twenty-five. And people thought “Snakes on a Plane” was a let down.

But there was somewhat encouraging news for John Cusack’s poorly reviewed (but not by us) “War, Inc.,” which did a very healthy $36,500 on two screens on either coast. (As it happened, I was actually at one of those theaters, West L.A.’s tony, intimate, Landmark multiplex, last night where it’s likely half the audience knew John personally, over the weekend. Since it was my own money, I saw this instead. Still, I didn’t hear anything horrible about Mr. Cusack’s film while I was there.)

  

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And some good impressions…

Really, I just wanted to make use of the SNAKES ON A PLANE subcategory we still have around here. So here we go. Enjoy.

  

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Box Office Roundup: Are you ready for some football?

Based on Sunday’s estimates, courtesy of boxofficemojo.com:

1) Invincible: $15.2 million ($37.8 million, second week)
There is something to be said for a movie’s timing. Unlike, say, “Crossover,” which couldn’t have been released any father out of basketball season.
2) Crank: $13 million (first week)
When told that his movie finished behind a guy who used to do underwear commercials, “Crank” star Jason Statham had this to say.
3) The Wicker Man: $11.7 million (first week)
After seeing “The Wicker Man” over the weekend, Bullz-Eye editor and part-time movie critic Shelley “The Machine” Levine had this to say.
4) Little Miss Sunshine: $9.7 million ($35.8 million, sixth week)
Haven’t seen it yet. I got nothing.
5) The Illusionist: $8 million ($12.1 million, third week)
Did anyone else want to yank Rufus Sewell’s mustache off of his face, or was it just me?

∞) Snakes on a Plane: $0 million. It’s still playing in theaters, but it didn’t even show up on Box Office Mojo’s top 50 movies of the week. Note to the lowest New Line staffer on the totem pole: don’t go to that “surprise” birthday party, if you want to see the sun rise again.

  

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