Jun 5, 2016

WIWTW #49

Disney has had its first misstep in some time with Alice Through the Looking Glass and so here we are with everybody jumping to the conclusion that Hollywood is dying and everything is flopping left, right and center. Right.

It's true that there seem to be way more flops than there used to. I'm not going to go compile a bunch of box office data and prove that right or wrong, but it doesn't take much to remember movies like Gods of Egypt, Allegiant or Zoolander 2. There are many other examples and on the flipside, it's only a select handful of movies that are collecting all the box office dough like Star Wars and Captain America.

THIS is what truly concerns me. I like Star Wars as much as the next guy, but if all we're going to get are save, risk-adverse tentpoles than we're in trouble. It's stuff like this that leads to filmmakers like David Cronenberg going into retirement because he can't get financing for his projects. Different and smaller is good sometimes and all I can say is that I hope studios get a little bit smarter in what they sign off on because audiences aren't stupid (not all of them anyway) and they're going to get tired of being fed the same thing over and over again eventually.

Now on to this week's WIWTW.

But first...
 

Some News (That I Actually Care About)

  • Really cool Roger Ebert article as he reviews Rocky II in the company of Muhammad Ali. @rogerebert.com
  • Box office report: Both X-Men: Apocalypse and Alice Through the Looking Glass disappointed their parent studios last week (one not as much as the other obviously) and this week is looking no different. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows won the weekend with $35.3 million, but that's pretty off from the $65.6 that the original 2014 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made in its opening weekend. Meanwhile, X-Men: Apocalypse did nothing to really disapprove that it's under-performing with $22.3 million this weekend. Newcomer Me Before You almost managed to almost cover its entire budget with a healthy $18.3 million. The surprise of the week was Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, which only drummed up $4.6 million from 2,311 theatres. That's not going to hurt a low budget mockumentary ($21 million) too much, but it better hope to be embraced by the home video/streaming market. 
  • I don't usually post reviews, but this was an entertaining one for Warcraft courtesy of David Ehrlich of IndieWire. He's far from the only one who's ripping the video game adaptation to shreds, but this one does feel a bit exaggerated. @IndieWire
  • A remake/reboot of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen has sprung up over at Fox. Hate to sound like a Debbie Downer here, but is this our next big flop? @Variety
  • A recently published list over at BBC with the top 100 American films using a poll from critics around the world. @BBC
Video of the week: Guess most of the audience was scared away during this bizarre promotional event in Japan.

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Number of movies watched: 7

Average rating: 5.43
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May 29th

 

Omohide poro poro [Only Yesterday] (1991): Best Movie of the Week Award

Rating: 8/10

What is it: A Studio Ghibli film about a city-dwelling woman and her love of the country

While Studio Ghibli movies are usually children's movies that double as fantastic entertainment for anybody of any age, Isao Takahata's Only Yesterday isn't quite the same beast. While it's still very much still family-friendly, it has a very different feel from any Studio Ghibli movie I've ever seen. Focusing on Taeko as she reminisces about her childhood in the 60's, it's a very personal story that builds itself up to a very touching finale. The animation is flawless and I really appreciated the two different styles that differentiated the two time periods. Only Yesterday only recently got its first US theatrical release and it deserves a lot more attention.

May 30th

 

Won't Back Down (2012)

Rating: 5/10

What is it: A "true story" inspired film about a parents-led school reform

The sentiment in Won't Back Down is one I can certainly appreciate. Letting your child suffer the consequences of poor teaching and administration isn't something parents should stand for and Jamie Fitzpatrick (Maggie Gyllenhaal) certainly doesn't. It's just a shame that Daniel Barnz oversimplifies and overdramatizes pretty much everything. The script is also to blame for that. There's pretty much no character who has any depth besides the characters played by Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis. You're either good, bad or you're inadvertently stopping someone's children from getting the education they deserve. WBD is nothing else but an agenda pushing tool and a bad one at that.

May 31st

 

Whiplash (2013)

Rating: 7.5/10

What is it: The short film that got the 2014 feature film financed

I think we can all count ourselves lucky that we got a movie as intense as Damien Chazelle's Whiplash. To think that he had trouble getting it financed is almost enraging, but thanks to this short film, he got to make it into a feature. First and foremost, J.K. Simmons is indeed playing the role of Fletcher. It would be hard to see anybody else play the character and he's as good here as he is in the actual film. In fact, this 18-minute short is the exact scene from the film where Andrew Neiman (Johnny Simmons) has his first class with Fletcher. It's a brilliant scene, but it is a little less polished in this short unfortunately. Still, if you feel like watching the short that gave us Whiplash, you can't go wrong.

June 1st

 

Tiptoes (2003)

Rating: 4/10

What is it: A romantic drama centered around dwarfism

Days after having seen Tiptoes, I'm still kind of shocked that I actually saw this. Shocked that it even got made really. To be honest, Tiptoes is not as bad as you might think. I'd even say that it has some very good ideas and it has its heart in the right place. It's just so horribly executed and probably should never have seen the light of day. I'd say the only actor who gets out of this one unscarred for the most part is Gary Oldman playing a little person named Rolfe if you can believe it. Sadly, it's kind of like watching an Olympic rower try to row through quicksand. Watching Tiptoes is a weird, uncomfortable experience and it's not even one I'd recommend to people looking for a bad movie.

June 2nd

 

Jonah Hex (2010): Worst Movie of the Week Award

Rating: 4/10

What is it: Laziness incarnate

I could go on and on about how terrible Jonah Hex is and how badly it messes around with its source material, but this is a movie that doesn't deserve it. Despite the sizable amount of on-screen talent (minus Megan Fox obviously), there is nothing about Jonah Hex that is worth seeing. Thankfully, it flopped hard, but it still made $10,903,312 more than it deserved. The pain that Jonah Hex comic book fans must have felt when watching this was probably similar to having that crazy cult guy from Temple of Doom rip your heart out. JH doesn't even have the decency like most major feature films to be 90-minutes long. Or does not making you have to sit through 90 minutes of garbage the decent thing to have done?

June 3rd

 

Hide and Seek (2005)

Rating: 4.5/10

What is it: A psychological horror/drama about a seemingly mentally disturbed young girl

Hide and Seek appears to have good intentions at the beginning, making me think of The Shining even during its opening credits. Trouble is, the film loses its way in the middle and loses its mind by the end. As the credits rolled, I couldn't help but be a bit irritated with all the red herrings and the illogicality of the story. Hide and Seek doesn't hold up to even a little bit of scrutiny and that's a big problem. There's maybe only one scene that's actually scary and the drama is definitely on the heavy-handed side. Dakota Fanning does give a pretty good performance however and it does seem like Robert De Niro was trying for at least around 70% of the movie. 

June 4th

 

Green Arrow (2010)

Rating: 5/10

What is it: A DC Showcase animated short centered around Green Arrow

This is unfortunately the first DC Showcase animated short that disappointed me. Like the Jonah Hex one, Green Arrow is "a day in the life" type of short and it follows Green Arrow's (Neal McDonough) attempt at keeping a princess from being assassinated in an airport. It sounds a little ridiculous, but it is a little bit less so when you actually watch it. Point is, director Joaquim Dos Santos fails in getting that tension/excitement meter up and the action sequences are pretty uninspired from an animation standpoint. Malcolm McDowell as the voice of the main villain (Merlyn the Magnificent) is the main draw here, but he's not enough to change the dull nature of GA.