March 2008 Archives

Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who dominated the Box Office Power Rankings the past two weekends, but it was Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns that taught us an important lesson: It’s good to not suck as much as everybody else.

Perry’s latest scored 29 on Rotten Tomatoes and 47 on Metacritic, and it’s still an upper-division finisher in both criteria in this week’s rankings — helping it to second place overall. The Rotten Tomatoes scores for some of its competition: 8 (Shutter), 9 (10,000 B.C.), 14 (College Road Trip), 24 (Drillbit Taylor), and 25 (Never Back Down). That’s fully half of this week’s box-office top 10 that received a favorable review from a quarter or less of surveyed critics.

Continue reading for the weeks’ full rankings and the methodology.

candyman-3.jpgCandyman is an A movie desperately trying to break out of its B-movie body, like a 12-year-old boy wanting to prove his manhood. It is a slasher film, but it pushes and tugs and stretches to become something more. That it succeeds at all is pretty amazing.

As a horror movie, its primary strength is its conceit: putting a monster from urban folklore (“Candyman ... Candyman ... Candyman ... “) into a genuinely urban setting. There’s a sense of danger and dread everywhere, created by the evocative photography of the Cabrini Green public-housing complex and the cold, culturally out-of-place Philip Glass score. The polished and carefully constructed academic music clashes with the palpable poverty and decay of the setting, revealing an unexpected rigor.

Under the movie’s trashy surface, writer/director Bernard Rose (working from a story by executive producer Clive Barker) has crafted an honest meditation on race and fear in contemporary society — from both the white and black perspectives. The unease between well-to-do whites and poor blacks envelops nearly every relationship.

foolsgold.jpgThe Bank Job won this week’s Box Office Power Rankings title, but I’d prefer to talk about Fool’s Gold, which has the distinction of being the first three-time 10th-place finisher in the history of our calculations.

It’s not as easy as it sounds. You have to really suck — Fool’s Gold has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 10, and a Metacritic score of 29 — but you can’t suck so badly that nobody wants to see you. You must hang around in the box-office top 10.

So congratulations, Matthew and Kate! You’re actually quite accomplished at not being particularly accomplished.

Continue reading for the week’s full rankings and the methodology.

nolan.jpgOn January 28, Ed Howard at Only the Cinema demanded that I ask somebody to dinner. That’s a bit rude, but I had imposed upon Ed last year, so he was well within his rights.

(By the way, this whole have-someone-over-for-dinner business was apparently started by Piper at Lazy Eye Theatre. While I will participate, I shan’t perpetuate; socializing shouldn’t be forced on anyone.)

I’ve been otherwise occupied for a while, but I finally got around to inviting Christopher Nolan to dinner. (Not literally, of course. Still, that invitation should be clear.) He hasn’t accepted yet, but I hear he’s busy, too.

Goodbye to Cynicism

wire-mcnulty.jpgThe 58th — and second-to-last — episode of The Wire, David Simon’s sociological HBO drama about Baltimore, is titled “Clarifications,” and one scene succinctly serves that purpose.

When McNulty takes his faked serial killer of homeless men to FBI profilers, they nail the detective’s character in a few sentences based on his “evidence”: The murderer, they say, is a high-functioning alcoholic who works in a bureaucracy and has a problem with authority. McNulty — in Dominic West’s performance, always lacking self-awareness — can barely cloak his petrified amusement. He seems to be thinking: Am I that easy?

The scene confirmed for me that the fifth season of the lauded show is a comedy. More crucially, it summarized The Wire’s outlook: It knows people, and believes that you can know them, too, with just a few clues. It has a storyteller’s belief in the telling detail, and the reporter’s faith that people are consistent, and reducible to a few key traits.

semi-pro.jpgThe lesson from this week’s Box Office Power Rankings is that sometimes the winner tells you more about its competitors than itself.

The Spiderwick Chronicles, in its third week in release, topped the rankings this week after finishing third last week. That could mean that its relative box-office fortunes have improved — that audiences have finally found it — or it could mean that it had shitty competition. It had shitty competition. (Spiderwick’s per-theater average has dropped each week.)

Semi-Pro or The Other Boleyn Girl could have easily won this week’s contest with anything better than middling reviews. Alas, “middling” is somewhat generous.

Continue reading for the week’s full rankings and the methodology.