Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Transformers - way more than meets the eye.

Finally getting back to the business of the movies. And that business hasn't by any measure been sitting still.
Here are some things we'll no longer be making fun of... Hasbro, Michael Bay films, Shia LaBoeuf, and movies based on old toys. And at the top of the list - Decepticions, Autobots, Optimus Prime, Bumble Bee and that new Chevy Camero. No idea what I'm talking about? You may be part of the smallest segment of moviegoers since "fans who rallied for Chevy Chase to make a sequel to Cops and Robbersons".

This is sooo about the numbers, because to our eye, there's just not much else there. But the numbers are staggering.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen opened last Wednesday, June 24th. On its opening day it grossed $62,016,476.00. For most of the year's cinematic output that's pretty much, "thanks for the 24 hours, we'll be taking the rest of our calls in Tahiti". For Transformers, it was just the warm up. Before Friday kicked off weekend grosses, $91,110,948.00 was in the till, Shia LaBeouf was feeling cockier than Tony Manero wearing a disco white three-piece in 1977 and Michael Bay could have been picking the leather options in a fleet of Lamborghinis. In the most reserved of assessments for the weekend box-office, things were looking promising.

And then there was Friday, Saturday and Sunday. In that traditional box-office reporting window, Transformers earned another $108,966,307.00. For a little perspective, the number 2 movie at the box-office those three days was Sandra Bullock in The Proposal with just under $18.6 million. The only other new movie on the slate that opened in wide release was Cameron Diaz with My Sister's Keeper. That film earned under $12.5 million and placed 5th in box-office receipts.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen simply blew away even the most ambitious expectations for a summer opening. Expanding our perspective worldwide, its first five days of release grabbed $362 million. That puts it squarely in the company of last year's mega-hit The Dark Knight, that by the end of its first run had pulled in more than a billion dollars. And this is where we're going to jump away from the stratospheric numbers and make a bold prediction - Transformers will not hit The Dark Knight's mark. We'll go on record as saying that the new Transformers will never have the "legs" of the last landmark Batman film. Simply because there is absolutely nothing about Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen that suggests the substance or repeat viewing that Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker and Chris Nolan's biting script and direction commanded.

Transformers is as empty a popcorn flick as we have seen. Blurs of CGI made nearly indiscernible by the overly complicated character design of a dizzying array of Autobots and Decepticons, that were immediately lost in countless explosions of fuller's earth and gasoline bags. Though most of the "blowing up s*%t" was real, CGI barrages of robot fighting defied any sense of keeping track, keeping score, or likely, keeping your hearing.

In a word, this Transformers is spectacle. (Even more so than the first edition a couple of year's back.) Megan Fox as a gratuitous sex prop and an inexplicably foul-mouthed mother for Shia LeBoeuf's character won't pull out repeat business. It'll sell DVDs and video games and that product planning is surely already in high gear. But it takes repeat ticket sales to crack the billion dollar mark and we just don't see it coming.

Then again, we're still blinking at only 5 days of numbers and there are only two more big franchise flicks on the horizon. Young audiences jonesing for an action adrenalin rush in July or August may not be able to resist a second or even third dose.

Paramount and the folks behind G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra have to be pissing their pants with anticipation for their August 7th release. A film based on a toy from... wait for it, Hasbro. Who knew Hasbro would be 2009's Marvel? That gives the entire month of July to Transformers. That is, unless a certain boy wizard can conjure the biggest magic act of his movie career on July 15th (just 3 days short of the 1 year anniversary of The Dark Knight's release). I can almost hear the market research guys trying to convince J.K. Rowling to make Voldermort a morphing robot and let Harry drive the new 'Vette.

The tagline on the very first Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince poster may indeed say it all... "Once again I must ask too much of you, Harry". We'll see.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Glorious artistry.

The soul urges us to sing and dance. The heart compels us to give and to love. We create because it allows a doorway to release the emotions within us that refuse to be restrained.

We admire artistry because these traits inside of us are universal among us, regardless of our own talents or our own insufficiencies. In feeling a need to create, we are one. We find kinship to those who achieve so high a pinnacle of creative expression as a glorious release of our own need to feel creative.

It has been a day of reflection. A day that will lead to many more days. Days that will stretch out over the remaining years of our lives, now sad, but sure to resound as joyous with time.

The list of these people who have so incredibly graced a world, regretfully given too often to the mundane and the grotesque, is far reaching through near and long past history. It is a list though, when considered against time, that is startlingly brief. There seem so few who attain a meeting of soul and consciousness, who discover the means and will to find a path to public expression. How many more die with that spark still struggling within them?

We are a better people for each who pour out their gift. We can only try to thank them and to recognize them before they pass from our presence. We may have failed in that effort to some degree with Michael Jackson, but in the best times, when each new song, each new dance step and each revelation of artistry passed between instinct to performance, we were gifted too, to witness the glorious release of pure artistry.

I hope for all of you, that gift is indelible and you're personal connection to it, never ending.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson, 1958-2009.

The pioneer of short form film in music video, Michael Jackson set the music world on fire and redirected the industry with numerous videos for songs like Beat It, Remember the Time, Smooth Criminal, Ghosts and of course, Thriller. He appeared in film as the Scarecrow in 1978's The Wiz with Diana Ross. His performance in Captain EO, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, was a Disney theme park attraction and ushered in new technologies for 3D camera work. His legacy is worldwide, undeniable and unforgettable.

Over the space of just 48 hours, the entertainment world has been forced to contend with the death of three icons of pop culture and three unique and irreplaceable talents. We join all in mourning this extraordinary period of loss.

Farrah Fawcett, 1947-2009.

Farah Fawcett began starring on the silver screen the same year she was about to become a television screen icon, 1976.

Her first starring role came in the science fiction classic Logan's Run. A couple of years later, a chance to showcase her humor and television fame landed her opposite Charles Grodin in Sunburn. In 1986 she would be honored with a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in the emotionally chilling Extremities.

Over her career, she brought a vitality and a perhaps unanticipated depth to her film roles that only added to the iconic stature she achieved in television.

With respect and condolences to her family and friends, we join all of her fans in saying goodbye.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ed McMahon, 1923-2009.

Though Ed McMahon will be remembered as the ever present voice and laughter that added the warmth of camaraderie to Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show, he also appeared in nearly a dozen films. I most remember watching him play George Segal's boss, Charlie Blanchard, in the 1977's Fun with Dick and Jane. A film in many ways far funnier than its remake that followed by some 28 years.

Years ago while working for the Disney Company, I had the good fortune to meet Mr. McMahon while he was filming his pioneering Star Search talent show at the Disney studio complex in Orlando, FL. In particular, I was privileged to spend time with him at a season ending wrap party, where he seemed most delighted to introduce to me to his very special guest of honor, his mom. Ed McMahon was a warm and engaging man who's graciousness I've spoken of often.

On behalf of Moviedozer.com, we wish his family comfort in their loss and we share with his friends and fans our appreciation of a life that was for so many years unreservedly shared with so many millions.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

An unexpected Hangover.

Wow, was it really two weeks ago? On its opening weekend, The Hangover surprised Hollywood and depressed the folks at Disney by knocking Up one notch down and staking out the number one box-office spot for two straight weeks. (The only film to do that so far this year.) We never saw it coming. Yeah, it was an obvious mid-level hit, but The Hangover, with a $35 million production budget and a bit more than that added for marketing has already turned a profit by tallying up $135 million, and the weekend has just started.

Where were we? Actually we were in Hollywood. Well, damn near, just over the hill in Burbank, on a bit of a movie mission ourselves. On its first weekend of release we did call the utter failure of Land of the Lost and we're feeling just a bit smug about Will Ferrell's challenge to Mike Myer's stupidity supremacy of last year's The Love Guru. All that's left to say on that score is that we hope both actors will work a little harder on the concept phase of releasing their next movies. Unfortunately our gut tells us that it will just mean a trip back to the sequel trunk to rehash old characters. We count just a summer or two until Austin Powers and Ricky Bobby are rebooted. Here's an idea - save us from half of the endless marketing and join forces for one film - maybe Austin Powers investigating NASCAR?

In the meantime, The Hangover tackled the likes of Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian and lots of held over Star Trek popularity, then a week later absolutely blew Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 off it's hanger straps, a film we really thought would open at number one and instead turned in a very disappointing $23 mil. opening weekend. It's worth noting that last weekend was also the opening of Eddie Murphy's latest family film offering, Imagine That, that no one imagined was going to land in the top three but didn't really expect to not make the top five. With only a $5.5 mil take, Imagine That made less than 2 grand for each theater it opened in. What's it going to take for Eddie Murphy to get back into a great movie?

And that brings us to yesterday's start of a three way showdown. Will The Hangover... hangover or will one of the newcomers, Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds in The Proposal or Jack Black and Michael Cera in Year One, make a dent. Right now the good news is at Disney (whose Pixar release UP has now crossed the $200 million mark) who have the floor with The Proposal which placed first in it's first day of release. That bumped The Hangover down to number two for it's first time in 10 days and Year One, appropriately we think, bringing up third. Our bet is that's the way it's going to stay through Sunday. But hey, we can't say we were out screwing around on the West Coast if we're wrong this time.

The weekend's still young - get out and buy a ticket and help us out here.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Land of the Lost Interest

No. I'm not going. Not if I were tied to a time machine piloted by Ferrell himself. Welcome to week six of Blockbuster Summer '09. It's taken this long to get to the stupid stuff.

Yeah, we get that these films usually make money, but since our bets have done pretty well so far this summer, we'll put another one out there. Land of The Lost is not going to be a hit. There, that actually felt good.

Ferrell was hit and miss last year - Semi-Pro released in at the end of February did less than 35 mil stateside while Step Brothers, released in July just broke the 100 million mark. We're figuring it's likely that Land of the Lost may have already lost a first place opening to Pixar Up's second weekend in 3D. That would mean a sub 30 million opening at best and if that's all it does, it will have gotten what it deserves. Pardon us for dragging out the soapbox but we really are partly exhausted / partly disgusted by filmmakers and big stars who are content with churning out lowest common denominator product and getting rich off it.

While we're wandering from statistical analysis and projections based on facts over to the
"we're just really wishing it would happen this way" counter, we hope that by the time Monday roles around, every sentient being associated with the creation, manufacturing and distribution of The Hangover, also opening today, will feel like they tied one on beyond belief. If the movie gods are doling out fair desserts, the headaches and regrets should last weeks. Are we the only ones who remember Christian Slater, Jeremy Piven, Cameron Diaz and Jon Favreau in a film from 1998 called Very Bad Things? Let me refresh your memory - Las Vegas, bachelor party, things go very very wrong - dead hooker and the like - you get the idea. Well so did the "creative" team of The Hangover. What's worse is where the earlier film was genuinely funny in a dark and twisted story, Hangover goes for obvious laughs and punch lines that can be seen from other continents. When the funniest thing in a trailer is seeing Mike Tyson play air drums to Phil Collins, it's a fair bet that seeing the movie is about as much fun as getting your ear... ok, that's pretty obvious too.

So we'll leave you with a May recap instead. Unfortunately, in this first week of June, you're best bet for enjoying a summer movie is seeing one released last month. There were 6 big releases - here's how they stack up.

X-Men Wolverine Origins yadayada - We sooo skipped it. Man, who hasn't had the fill of looking at these same films again and again? The trailer for this film made us want to put the DVDs for the first three in a yard sale. Seriously, what was new here? About as entertaining as Jackman doing the Oscars again.

Star Trek - You can't go wrong unless you absolutely despise sci-fi. And even then, you're missing out on a great story with a superb cast. Then there's the fact that it was a really well made movie. Anymore from us about how much we really liked this new version of the classic and we're going to start expecting a piece of the take. The best popcorn flick this summer.

Angels and Demons - If Tom Hanks would have shut up more often, at least when he was running all over the place, we would have liked it even more. As it stands, if you're into Dan Brown novels or the kind of subject matter he writes, this film was the film The Da Vinci Code should have been. Far more entertaining, faster paced and without any prolonged exposition delivered by actors just sitting around a dimly lit set. Smart, action packed and a nicely trimmed version of the story from the novel. Solid.

Terminator Salvation - is not the salvation of the franchise. In fact, it's just a lot of nonsensical, future-tinged, post apocalyptic battle sequences. This movie has all of the disjointed continuity of a poorly written video game. Christian Bale as John Connor was a waste of payroll in a role that should have stuck to its original intent and played to support newcomer Sam Worthington's Marcus Wright. Just an example - in the beginning of the movie, much time is spent as a new way of disabling "teminators" is developed and tested to great success. It then disappears from the story as terminators run rampant for the rest of the film. Skip it. God knows the earlier movies are on cable often enough.

Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian - Fun. We laughed and enjoyed, that is until we remembered how much more fun the first film was. Then we were not so impressed. First film -Larry's son gets to be in on the big crazy finale. Cool. Second film - some lame thing with the son guiding Larry into the Smithsonian from a computer, then nothing. First film - bad guys are old geezer night guards that are an absolute hoot (Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney and Bill Cobbs). Second film - some lame excuse to make the plot line work in the Smithsonian. First film - a genuine love interest played by Carla Gugino. Second film - a really bizarre and impossible love interest in the form of a mannequin of Amelia Earhart come to temporary life, though played wonderfully by Amy Adams. If there's a third, we're far less interested than we used to be.

Up - Go. Go in 3D if you can, but it's great regardless. A movie studio, leave it to Pixar, has finally come to understand that 3D is a cinematic tool, like VistaVision or Dolby audio that enhances the experience for the audience. Gimmicks be damned. The movie is stunningly gorgeous, leave it to Pixar again, and benefits in every way from outstanding voice performances (special nod to Mr. Ed Asner), creative story telling and a terrific three dimensional script. The best movie to use your kids as an excuse for seeing - but kids won't see everything you will. And you'll throughly enjoy it all.

Hope that makes for you having a better shot at having a great time at a movie theater this weekend. Glad to be of service.