Tag: The Dilemma

2011 Year End Movie Review: David Medsker

A funny thing happened at the movies this year: absolutely nothing blew me away.

There were things I really liked, but my list of favorite movies is kind of a joke, really. They’re not bad movies (not in my mind, anyway), but there are few, if any, Best Picture candidates in the bunch. Compare that to last year, where six of my top 10 movies were nominated for Best Picture. This time around, that’s just not happening. Just want to lay that out up front.

Worse, there isn’t one movie that stands above the others. I liked my favorite movies equally, more or less. That might sound like a copout, but it’s true. Of the movies I’ve seen so far, this was the year where movies were just sort of…there. Maybe we’ll have better luck next year.

My Favorite Movies of 2011


Margin Call
Selling one’s soul is a popular subject in movies, since no two people are willing to settle for the same amount. “Margin Call” explores the subject on a massive scale, since the ripple effect of the actions of a few will be felt around the world. It’s not a thriller in the traditional sense, but it’s absolutely gripping. Kevin Spacey shines here, as does the ever-reliable Stanley Tucci.


Super 8
It probably helped that I grew up in a small Ohio town not terribly unlike the one in “Super 8” (though no one used the word ‘mint’ the way Riley Griffiths’ character does here), but “Super 8” wasn’t merely an exercise in nostalgia; the movie delivered top-notch thrills, well-drawn characters, and the most spectacular sequence of the year with that jaw-dropping train crash. Elle Fanning, meanwhile, put on an acting clinic, and she’s only 13. Wow.


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Rooney Mara gives it all, and shows it all, too. Did she really get her nipples pierced for the part? That’s dedication, right there.


Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
Oh, is this movie fun. A pair of back woods regular guys are mistaken for serial killers by a group of college kids, who begin dying in horrific accidents that look like the work of, yep, a pair of serial killers. Tyler Labine and the great Alan Tudyk have terrific chemistry, and Katrina Bowden just might be the cutest thing on the planet.


Source Code
Despite the fact that the movie ends with one giant unanswered question, this is one hell of a time travel ride. Duncan Jones (yep, he’s David Bowie’s son) is proving himself to be quite the director, and getting Scott Bakula to play Jake Gyllenhaal’s father was a great in-joke.


The Adjustment Bureau
You just met the girl of your dreams. Now imagine a group of “agents” telling you that they’ll turn you into a vegetable if you pursue her, because that is not your fate. What a neat idea, merging a chase movie with the concept of divine intervention, and peppering it with some of the most realistic boy/girl dialogue the movies have seen in years. The scene between Matt Damon and Emily Blunt in the bathroom is one of the greatest meet cutes of all time.


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II
Not only was this a blast from start to finish, it contained the most emotional weight of any “Potter” movie, namely the moment where Severus Snape reveals to Harry why he’s been so hard on him all these years. Still, Harry really names his son Albus Severus Potter? It’s a heartfelt gesture, but that’s almost as bad a name as Renesmee. More on that later.


The Ides of March
Was the movie an exploration of how quickly idealism gives way to survivalism, or a subtle promotional film for George Clooney’s eventual transition into politics? Either way, it was a well crafted, if not wildly original, exploration of how everyone in politics eventually gets his hands dirty.


Kung Fu Panda 2
Rare is the animated sequel that ups the action ante while fleshing out the back story in such a fulfilling way. “Kung Fu Panda 2” kicked ass, took names, and opened the door for a more grown-up “KFP3.” Also, Gary Oldman was awesome as the evil peacock.


The Artist
The scene of Berenice Bejo pretending to be felt up by Jean Dujardin by slipping her arm into one of his jacket sleeves is pure poetry.


Horrible Bosses
“The Hangover 2” may have taken in twice as much money, but I’ll take Bateman, Sudeikis and Day over the wolf pack any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Likewise, people are still going nuts over “Bridesmaids,” and while it has its good points, it isn’t a tenth as clever as the writing here (both EW critics put “Bridesmaids” in their Top 10? Really?). And just try looking at a Prius on the highway without thinking to yourself, “I don’t win much.”

Movies I still need to see

Drive
Martha Marcy May Marlene
The Tree of Life (though I’d rather not)
Young Adult
Hugo
Melancholia

My Least Favorite Movies of 2011

This list was much easier to assemble than the first one. Isn’t that always the way.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Ugly, mean and pointless, and they destroyed the beautiful Chicago skyline in the process. There was one cool shot, and that was Char the Beef getting thrown out of, and back into, Bumblebee. Everything else was masturbation.

New Year’s Eve
Did you like how they used one Warner Bros. movie to promote another Warner Bros. movie opening the following week (“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows“)? And to think, that was actually one of the least obnoxious things about this movie.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part I
“Sleep with me.” “I really shouldn’t.” “Come on, we’re married now.” “Yeah, but I could, you know…” “What?” “Nothing.” “Cool. (*hot sex*) Hey, that was awesome, if a bit rough. Hey, why do I feel like I’m about to die?” “Oh, I guess I should have told you…” Are you fucking kidding me? And they named their daughter Renesmee? Like the world isn’t already overloaded with people who will saddle their kids with the worst, most idiotic names ever invented simply because they’re trendy? This is your cross to bear, Stephenie Meyer.

Cowboys and Aliens
This could have been so, so cool. Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde and Jon Favreau together on a movie, and it isn’t awesome? Huge, huge disappointment.

Battle: Los Angeles
The cinematic equivalent of a migraine headache. I’m not one to be snarky, but this movie is painful, in the worst way.

The Dilemma
How did so much talent make a movie so aggressively mediocre? At least we had the Fratellis and “Chelsea Dagger” to pick us up at the end.

Hop
I was about to say that you have to think that James Marsden and Russell Brand gave each other a knowing look before every scene, the “Yeah, this sucks, but we’ll be able to buy vacation houses with the money” look. And then I think, “Wait, Russell was just doing voice work, meaning Marsden was on his own.” Tsk tsk.

Puss in Boots
My kids love this movie. They’re also 4 and 2. They like everything.

The Eagle
I feel bad ripping on something that clearly has noble intentions, but who wants to see this movie? Judging by the box office, no one.

Movies I didn’t see (nor could you make me)

Jack and Jill
I Don’t Know How She Does It
Drive Angry
Season of the Witch
Big Momma: Like Mother, Like Son
I Am Number Four
Johnny English Reborn

Weekend box office: “No Strings Attached” receives benefits from female filmgoers

Things this weekend went pretty much exactly according to what I wrote on Thursday. Still, there was some nervousness out there.

Ashton Kutcher, Natalie Portman, and Cary Elwes in Nikki Finke tells us the studios were skittish because of the commercial track record of leading man Ashton Kutcher; it seems I’m not the only male audience member to have a deep, lizard-brain level allergy to the Kutcher. Fortunately for Paramount, young women are the dominant (70%, possibly) audience here. The simplicity of the premise and the balancing presence of the widely beloved, sure-to-be-Oscar-nominated Natalie Portman seems to have been enough to earn “No Strings Attached” — originally, presumably very tentatively, titled “Fuckbuddies” — an estimated $20.3 million for Paramount. I didn’t care for the movie, pretty obviously, but I sort of expected it to do reasonably well. It delivers what’s advertised, has some mildly funny moments, and we’ve all been trained to think of romantic comedies as light-brained affairs. That last part just makes me sad.

Scrolling down the Box Office Mojo chart, “The Green Hornet” suffered a very typical 46% drop it’s second week. It therefore managed a respectable $18.1 million estimate for Sony, putting more than it half-way to making back its $120 million production budget. Ron Howard’s first comedy in many moons, “The Dilemma,” dropped roughly the same amount and continued on track with its soft opening at an estimate of $9.7 million for luckless but now ultra-powerful Universal, thanks to the mega-merger with Comcast.

A cluster of likely Oscar contenders are holding down the next several spots, led by “The King’s Speech.” The press loves a horserace and speculation on the very real possibility of an Oscar sweep for “The Social Network” has been slowed somewhat by the Producer’s Guild awarding of its top prize to the historical tale last night.

Colin Firth and Helena Bonham Carter in

With a first-rate combination of director (Tom Hooper) and star (Colin Firth) the drama is apparently getting some outstanding word of mouth. It suffered almost no drop at all from last week and it’s estimate for the Weinstein Company is bubbling under $9.2 million. It’s going to be crossing the $60 million threshold probably by mid-week, many times it’s $15 million budget.

It was kind of a funny week in limited release. Indiewire has the details, but Peter Weir’s “The Way Back” disappointed somewhat in about 600 theaters. Probably getting a significant boost from star Paul Giamatti‘s surprise Golden Globe win, “Barney’s Version” led the week in per-screen averages, earning about $10,000 each on 16 screens. Not bad for a movie about a creature thought to be as hard to find as a yeti, an occasionally rude Canadian.

Weekend box office: “The Green Hornet” packs some financial punch; “The Dilemma” is problematic

Seth Rogen really is Yes, the Golden Globes are tonight, and I’m sure you’re all devastated to hear that I’ve had to can any thoughts of live blogging it tonight — I’ll barely have time to watch it much of it, and then with a heavy hand on fast-forward button.  On the other hand, Anne Thompson will be blogging and tweeting away, she promises. Also, the box office beat goes on and this week the masses voted with their wallets for the over-serious fanboy’s bane, “The Green Hornet.”

Apparently, while the character from an old-time radio show and short-lived television series is really not all that well known, something about the idea of spoiled rich brat Seth Rogen and his vastly more disciplined and smart employee/buddy kicking the bad guys’ butts in comical fashion appealed to the masses. Ironically doing much better than films that have been pre-praised by geeks that we can all name, “The Green Hornet” has earned an estimated $34 million for Sony according to Box Office Mojo.

Nikki Finke writes that that makes it one of the stronger January openings for any movie. On the other hand, because that’s who she is, she also reminds us that the film still performed softly in comparison to some of the higher figures that were being touted on Thursday night. Still, the long Martin Luther King day weekend has one more day and night on it, so there’s more green ahead for the Hornet, perhaps $40 million, La Finke estimates.

Vince Vaughn and Kevin James are on the horns of Despite a “high concept,” big stars, and a director whose name might actually mean something to what remains of America’s Mayberrys, “The Dilemma” only managed a squishy second place showing of an estimated $17.4 milllion this weekend for unlucky Universal. That is significantly lower than post opening weekends for movies starring Vince Vaughn or Kevin James.

There was something about this movie that people just didn’t want to see all that much and I kind of get that. The fact that critics at least were finding the movie surprisingly dramatic, could not have helped. As far as I can think, audiences never seem to respond well to a bait and switch even when the movie is actually good. On the other hand, “The Dilemma” cost maybe 50 percent of what “The Green Hornet” did — but was still expensive for a comedy at $70 million.

In the #3 spot, “True Grit” is holding up nicely and has passed the $125 million mark this weekend with an estimated $11.2 million for Paramount. #4 is an interesting semi-surprise: Weinstein’s “The King’s Speech” doubled the number of theaters it was in this weekend and made something like $9 million and change, just ahead of this year’s other big art house crossover, “Black Swan,” which grossed an estimated $8.1 million for Fox Searchlight.

Meanwhile, among limited releases my attendance at the junket for Sony Classic’s “Barney’s Version” seems to have awarded the film the previously non-existent Bob Westal bump, even if my review was mixed. It earned the nation’s highest per-screen average with a very respectable $17,925 in four theaters in L.A. and New York, for a total of $71,700.

Paul Giamatti and Dustin Hoffman in

Box office preview: Will “The Green Hornet” sting? Will anyone want to solve “The Dilemma”?

Time is at a total premium tonight, so I’ll be keeping the bad puns and what not brief.

There’s some disagreement about whether it’ll make an amount in the $30 millions or $40 millions at my usual sources. However, I don’t think there’s any way around the likelihood that this will be the weekend in which Seth Rogen, co-writer Evan Goldberg, and director Michel Gondry’s take on “The Green Hornet” will dominate things.

Seth Green and Jay Chou lose their cool in

If only because the trollish fanboys who pre-decided to hate this movie irritate me no end, I’ve been rooting for this action comedy approach to the masked hero of old-time radio and a short-lived sixties TV program, remembered today mainly for the presence of Bruce Lee. In fact, there’s been some positive buzz on it lately and our own Jason Zingale mostly likes it. Overall, however, the overall critical reaction is disappointing, with top critics being significantly harsher. Even the usually rather gentle Roger Ebert calls it “almost unendurable” and gives it the one-star rating qualifying it for his next edition of Your Movie Sucks.

Still, I’ll probably check this one out eventually, if only to see new-Kato Jay Chou, who I really think might be a very big U.S. star in the making (he’s already huge in Asia), do his stuff. I’ll probably avoid the extra price tag for an extra dimension, however. The 3D on this is getting a negative reaction from at least some. It’ll be interesting to see whether audiences who’ve been stung by sub-par 3D before steer more towards the 2D “Hornet.”

Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly and Winona Ryder think about their odds in With Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Jennifer Connelly, and Winona Ryder starring and Ron Howard directing and a easily understandable premise, you might expect big things from a comedy like “The Dilemma.” However, the box office gurus tell us that not a gigantic people will actually go to see it this weekend. The critics mostly tell us they shouldn’t.

Maybe see one of those potential Oscar nominees you’ve missed so far this weekend. Perhaps “Black Swan,” which is still expanding several weeks into it’s run and expected to continue its strong run. That’s what I’ll do if I can find the time. If you’ve seen all of those and live in New York or L.A., there’s “Barney’s Version” featuring a great lead performance by Paul Giamatti and an outstanding supporting cast and getting mostly good reviews, if only for the great acting. Of course, I didn’t think even the cast made up for the drab second half of the film. Still, you could easily do worse in this or any January.

Oh f*ck, it’s a foul-pixelled end of the week movie news dump

It’s been a personally rather stressful week in a good-news/bad-news kind of a way and Hollywood ain’t doin’ nothing to relax me. And so, we begin with a deep breath…

* The first half of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” will be in a mere 2D. Two dimensions were good enough for Rick Blaine, they’re good enough for Harry. Especially if they really were facing serious technical difficulties, smart move. No studio needs another “Clash of the Titans” fiasco.

* It’s pretty rare that I know for sure I want to see a movie just from simply knowing the topic, the star, and the director, but when it’s a biopic/docudrama about the great-but-homicidal Phil Specter, it’s being directed by David Mamet, and it’s starring Al Pacino, that’s when I know. (Here’s the original NYT post that broke the story, which gives a bit more background on Specter for you youngsters.)

* Classic film lover that I am, I also feel pretty good about “My Week with Marilyn” which has Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe, Dougray Scott as her beleaguered husband, playwright Arthur Miller, Kenneth Branagh (who else?) as Laurence Olivier, and Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh (!) among others. And check out the pic of Ms. Williams/Monroe that’s been circulating all over the net today.

michelle-williams-marilyn-monroe

Aren’t you glad I used that pictures instead of something of Phil “Mr. Fright Wit” Specter or Al Pacino?

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