Oscar pools add to fun during awards show

I have to admit I was expecting a more entertaining Oscars show with Seth McFarlane handling the hosting duties. He did fine despite what the haters on Twitter said, but it’s still The Oscars, and much of the show can still be very boring. I switched over to watch “The Walking Dead” and the Showtime Sunday shows instead.

But, with the popularity of Oscar pools and betting on the winners, plenty of people were still glued to the screen waiting for the announcements. That’s not surprising, as the huge popularity of football has a lot to do with our desire to bet on sports and the exploding popularity of fantasy football.

There were plenty of surprises on Oscar night to keep everyone excited. Things got started with Christoph Waltz winning for Best Supporting Actor for Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.” He definitely was not the favorite, with Nate Silver and others having him as the third most likely winner in the category with Tommy Lee Jones as the favorite. So right off the bat, many had a miss in their Oscar pool, while a few had a huge early win to start the evening.

Anne Hathaway and Jennifer Lawrence were favorites, so that had to reassure those who were less adventurous in their picks, but the Best Director and Best Picture results definitely had to blow up most pools. Ang Lee was a big surprise. As for “Argo,” it did pick up steam with people like Silver picking it to win, and the snub of Ben Affleck by the Academy may have even helped its cause. “Lincoln” was an excellent film, but I didn’t leave the theater thinking it was a lock for Best Picture. Daniel Day-Lewis was probably the biggest lock of the night, as his portrayal of Lincoln was inspiring.

So next year I think I’m finally going to enter a pool so it’s a little easier to sit through some of the contrived dance numbers and lame jokes.

  

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Top 5 reasons you should watch the Oscars

Guess who's got his hands full.

1. Seth MacFarlane – Finally, there’s a reason for straight guys to care. Sure, it’s nice to see the comedic stylings of 102 year-old Billy Crystal show us how you can tap dance while being attached to an iron lung, but it’s time to move on. If you haven’t laughed at MacFarlane during Family Guy, Ted or a comedy roast, then you probably flat-lined years ago.

2. It could get you laid – Nothing says “honey, I love you” more than sitting through something she knows you hate. Women enjoy the little things like kindness, consideration, chocolate and diamonds. Just don’t let on that you like it or you won’t be able to cash in later.

3. It’s not the Grammys – A sign you’re old is when you don’t recognize half of the songs nominated at the Grammys. It’s a fact and I’ve got the 8-track to prove it. Everyone has heard of most of the movies at the Oscars and it’s acceptable to lie about the rest. As a matter of fact, lying about the movies makes you an official Academy voter.

4. It’s not real life – Between the Sequester, natural disasters, commercials convincing you that you’re far more sick than you realize and Facebook reminding you how everyone is having more fun than you are, it can be a welcome relief to know that even for one night, millionaires can be called “losers”.

5. A 3rd Grader could be the story of the night – That’s right. Nominated for best actress is Quvenzhane Wallis for “Beasts of the Southern Wild”. I don’t even think hockey announcers can pronounce her name. It’s her first role and I can’t wait to see the shock on people’s faces when they find out next week that she traded in the Oscar for Jay-Z tickets and a Playstation 4.

  

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Box Office Recap: “Spider-Man” on the top of the charts… For the Seventh Time in the past Decade

Yes, you read the title right. For the seventh time in the past decade (well, ten years and two months), a Spider-Man film is on the top of the weekend domestic box office charts. Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” stayed at number one for two weeks in 2002, and its sequels did the same in 2004 and 2007, respectively. Now, here in 2012, director Marc Webb’s “The Amazing Spider-Man” is on top once again after making $65 million this weekend and $140 million over the course of its six-day opening.

“Spider-Man’s” $65 million debut weekend is the fifth largest opening of the year, behind only “The Avengers” ($207 million), “The Hunger Games” ($155 million), “The Lorax” ($70 million), and “Brave” ($66 million). But “Spidey’s” $140 million did allow it to beat out the six-day gross of some other recent comic book reboots, namely “Batman Begins” and “X-Men: First Class,” which made $79.5 million and $69.9 million over their first six days, respectively.

However, perhaps the best way to judge “The Amazing Spider-Man’s” success is to compare it to that of Sam Raimi’s trilogy. The reboot found itself right behind the first “Spider-Man’s” six day total of $144.2 million. However, “Spider-Man 2” grossed $180.1 million and “Spider-Man 3” $176.2 million, meaning the newest film actually made the least of any “Spidey” movie to date. And while “The Amazing Spider-Man” beat out “Batman Begins” in terms of gross, Christopher Nolan’s film had the best six-day start of any Batman film at the time. Of course, “The Dark Knight” later upped the ante.

After breaking “The Hangover’s” record for best debut by an original R-rated comedy (i.e. not counting “The Hangover Part II“) last weekend,  Seth McFarlane’s “Ted,” remained strong, grossing $32.6 million in its second weekend. For comparison’s sake, “The Hangover” made just under $32.8 million in its second weekend, and “Ted’s” ten-day total of $120.2 million bests “The Hangover” over the same period.

In its third weekend, “Brave” remained in third place with $20.162 million. The Pixar flick has now grossed $174.5 million to date, which means it’s all but assured to be the studio’s tenth movie to accumulate $200 million.

Oliver Stone’s “Savages” came in fourth place with $16 million in its opening weekend, which isn’t all that bad considering its competition. Behind it, “Magic Mike,” “Madea’s Witness Protection,” and “Madagascar 3” slid into the fifth, sixth, and seventh spots with $15.6, $10.1, and $7.5 million, respectively.

The weekend’s soft release was “Katy Perry: Part of Me,” which came in eighth place with $7.1 million. In ninth and tenth place we saw a couple strong showings from films teetering on the edge of the “specialty box office” label. Wes Anderson’sMoonrise Kingdom” grossed $4.5 million from 884 theaters, while in its third week Woody Allen’s “To Rome with Love” added 777 theaters, giving it a total of 806 and making $3.5 million.

Overall, it was a strong weekend at the box office. The nation’s top 12 films grossed $187.1 million, a 28 percent bump from this time last year.

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 Amazing Spider-Man, 1/4,318, Sony, $65 million, $140 million.
2. Ted, 2/3,256, Universal, $32.593 million, $120.24 million.
3. Brave, 3/3,891, Buena Vista, $20.162 million, $174.519 million.
4. Savages, 1/2,628, Universal, $16.162 million.
5. Magic Mike, 2/3,120, Warner Bros., $15.61 million, $72.797 million.
6. Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection, 2/2,161, $10.2 million, $45.846 million.
7. Madagascar 3, 5/2,861, Paramount/Dreamworks, $7.7 million, $196.02 million.
8. Katy Perry: Part of Me, 1/3,730, Paramount, $7.15 million.
9. Moonrise Kingdom, 7/884, Focus, $4.642 million, $26.893 million.
10. To Rome with Love, 3/806, SPC, $3.502 million, $5.621 million.

  

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Box Office Recap: Ted on Top, Numbers Surge Across the Board

Things are looking bright in Hollywood, and not just because of pre-holiday fireworks displays. Seth McFarlane’s “Ted” is sitting pretty on the top of the charts after grossing $54.1 million, which makes it the biggest weekend ever for an R-rated original comedy (it beat out “The Hangover’s” $44.98 million debut) as well as the eighth best R-rated debut ever. The film, which stars Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, and McFarlane himself, is the “Family Guy” creator’s first foray into feature films (how ’bout that for for alliteration?), and its success has many wondering why it took studios so long to give McFarlane a chance at the helm of a Hollywood project.

But “Ted” wasn’t the only triumph at the box office, as numbers surged across the board. The weekend’s top 12 films raked in a combined total of approximately $197 million, the highest weekend total ever in the month of June.

So how do we account for all this success? Well, two other new releases, Steven Soderbergh’s male stripper dramedy “Magic Mike” and Tyler Perry’s “Madea’s Witness Protection” had some relatively massive openings of their own, exceeding expectations and coming in second and fourth place with $39 million and $25 million, respectively.

It shouldn’t be discounted that a good portion of the summer’s blockbusters have targeted younger audiences. Just look this weekend’s third and fifth place finishers, “Brave” and “Madagascar 3,” each debuted at number one. But after animated films have ruled the box office for three straight weeks, the simultaneously successful releases of the R-rated “Ted” and “Magic Mike” serve as a good reminder that adults go to the movies too, and not just to sit in the AC and keep the damn kids quiet for 90 minutes.

I’m pleased to say “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” endured a larger than usual 63 percent slide this weekend, falling to sixth place and grossing just $6 million. The film’s now grossed a cumulative total of $29 million, and likely won’t make it past the $40 million mark, well below its budget of $69 million. Hopefully, studios will learn to leave our great historical figures alone from now on, unless Daniel Day-Lewis is playing them (“Lincoln” is scheduled for release in the fourth quarter of 2012), or at the very least to leave vampires out of the picture.

Meanwhile, Wes Anderson’sMoonrise Kingdom” came back into view after falling out of the top ten last weekend. The film finally saw a nationwide release, adding another 459 theaters, giving it a total of 854, and came in seventh place with just under $5 million.

The weekend’s soft release was “People Like Us,” a drama starring Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks. Early estimates had the film in tenth place, but more recent reports show it falling into eleventh. “The Avengers” took its place, moving up to round out the top ten. It’s likely to be the last time we’ll see those particular superheros there, but comic book fans need not fear. Peter Parker’s being rebooted, “The Amazing Spider-Man” comes out on July 3.

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. Ted, 1/3,239, Universal, $54.1 million.
2. Magic Mike, 1/2,930, Warner Bros., $39.155 million.
3. Brave, 2/4,164, Buena Vista, $34.011 million, $131.685 million.
4. Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection, 1/2,161, $26.35 million.
5. Madagascar 3, 4/3,715, Paramount/Dreamworks, $11.815 million, $180.012 million.
6. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, 2/3,109, $6 million, $29.034 million.
7. Moonrise Kingdom, 6/854, Focus, $4.926 million, $18.406 million.
8. Prometheus, 4/1,951, Fox, $4.921 million, $118.262 million.
9. Snow White and the Huntsman, 5/2,337, Universal, $4.498 million, $145.591 million.
10. The Avengers, 9/1,757, Disney/Marvel Studios, $4.421 million, $606.505 million.

  

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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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