Hidden Netflix Gems – Everything Must Go

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.

Hollywood has a rich history of well-known comic actors taking on more serious and weighty roles, from Robin Williams to Ben Stiller to Jim Carrey, and now Will Ferrell, in what is probably his very best performance to date. Everything Must Go bears a strong resemblance to Stiller’s work in Noah Baumbach‘s Greenberg, or Adam Sandler‘s in Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Punch-Drunk Love, in its portrayal of a flawed but basically good-hearted man going through difficult times and coming out better for it. The difference between Ferrell and Sandler, of course, is that Ferrell’s comedies generally don’t suck.

Ferrell plays Nick Halsey, an alcoholic who loses his job at the beginning of the film and, after an ill-advised revenge against his boss, Gary (Glenn Howerton), returns home to discover that his wife has left him. Not only that, she has locked him out of the house, frozen their joint bank account, and left all of his possessions out on the front lawn. Nick is understandably upset, and reacts in the defeated way that has apparently become his life’s standard recourse: he buys a lot of beer and camps out in his La-Z-Boy on the lawn for the night. In the morning, having exhausted his beer supply and unable to find his car keys, he borrows a bicycle from his twelve-year-old neighbor, Kenny Loftus (Christopher Jordan Wallace), and heads down to the convenience store for more beer while Kenny keeps an eye on his stuff.

Nick also befriends his new neighbor, Samantha (Rebecca Hall), a beautiful young photographer who has just moved by herself from New York, where her husband is wrapping things up at his company, planning to join her in Arizona as soon as possible. There are hints that their marriage is on the rocks, as when she tells Nick early on that her husband wants to name their unborn baby (with whom she is currently pregnant) Jack, after himself, a practice she thinks is “kind of ridiculous.” I found this especially ironic knowing that the excellent young actor who plays Kenny is in fact the son of the other Christopher Wallace, best known as The Notorious B.I.G. We also meet Nick’s friend and former Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, Frank Garcia (Michael Pena), when he rescues Nick from arrest by virtue of the fact that Frank is himself a higher-ranking officer than the ones sent to Nick’s house on a complaint from his neighbors.

Frank allows Nick to remain living on his lawn for the next few days under the pretense that he is holding a yard sale; after that, if Nick can’t get himself together, Frank will have no choice but to take him to jail. Clearly, this is not a plot-driven film, but that is not to say it isn’t a very well-structured one; the yard sale provides the forward thrust for Nick’s attempt to get his life back on track, and subtle details pay off in unexpected ways throughout. It is to the great credit of first-time writer-director Dan Rush that the film never takes the easy or expected routes, and it also takes its time in developing its characters and their relationships, all of which are nuanced and believable. The approach is well-suited to the author of its source material, the great Raymond Carver, and the film finds a perfect balance between poignancy and humor, both of which are equally effective when employed.

  

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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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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: “The Dark Knight Rises” Continues to Dominate

While it made just shy of $100 million less than its opening weekend figures, “The Dark Knight Rises” continued to demolish the competition. After all, a $100 million drop from the third best opening of all time still left the film with over $62 million by the time things were said and done. I mean, last week “The Dark Knight Rises” grossed $100 million more than the second through tenth place films combined. It couldn’t hope to top that, but in its second week Batman’s $62 million was identical to the combined grosses of the rest of the top 10.

Despite “The Dark Knight Rises” falling a hefty but expected 61.4 percent, the weeks two new wide releases, “The Watch” and “Step Up Revolution,” came in third and fourth place with $13 and $11.8 million respectively. Frankly, that’s embarrassing, especially for “The Watch” given its counter-programming angle and star power. The film was written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the team that brought you “Superbad,” and stars Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, and Richard Ayoade.

It might not have made “Avengers” money, but “The Dark Knight” is here to stay. We’ll see if “Total Recall,” the new “Bourne” film, or “The Campaign,” which stars Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis will be able to top it, but I don’t see it happening. No one messes with the Bat.

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, 2/4,404, Warner Bros., $62.84 million, $287.851 million.
2. Ice Age: Continental Drift, 3/3,886, Fox, $13.3 million, $114.847 million.
3. The Watch, 1/3,168, Fox, $13 million.
4. Step Up Revolution, 1/2,567, Summit, $11.8 million.
5. Ted, 5/3,129 Universal, $7.353 million, $193.619 million.
6. The Amazing Spider-Man, 4/3,160, Sony, $6.8 million, $242.053 million.
7. Brave, 6/2,551, Buena Vista, $4.237 million, $217.261 million.
8. Magic Mike, 5/2,075, Warner Bros., $2.58 million, $107.587 million.
9. Savages, 4/1,414, Universal, $1.753 million, $43.899 million.
10. Moonrise Kingdom, 10/853, Focus, $1.387 million, $38.396 million.

 

  

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Merry Christmas from Premium Hollywood, Part 2

Just a few moments from Jon Favreau’s underrated “Elf.”

The voice of the Polar Bear was done by stop motion animation legend Ray Harryhausen.

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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