March 2009 Archives

Twitter Review: Milk

‘Milk’ - It neither over-simplifies nor beatifies, but in a largely glowing portrait, Harvey Milk remains a mystery. Still, a great pleasure

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‘Quantum of Solace’: Uniformly incoherent action but a surprising emotional pull. Craig’s Bond remains a magnetic force but is too cloaked.

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Apple of My I

in-dreams06.jpgShe dreams of them. She fills her computer screen with digital drawings of them. One is left on a swing at her house. Snow White is poisoned by one in her daughter’s play just before the abduction. In her kitchen are dozens of them that she chucks into the kitchen sink, which then explodes with brown muck. She cannot escape them, but she also surrounds herself with them.

Claire is torturing herself with the fucking apples.

Overripe and finally fetid, Neil Jordan’s In Dreams goes very, very wrong as a thriller in its final act (and even wronger in its epilogue), but if you fall asleep the first time you see Robert Downey Jr.’s face, you might think you’ve seen something weirdly special.

Actually, it is pretty special, but you need to dive below the silly surface.

watchmen.jpgHow do we evaluate Watchmen’s box-office performance, given that most of the assessments so far are based on unrealistic expectations that it would do Batman or Spider-Man business?

Fear not: I am watching those watching the Watchmen. Even though I haven’t watched Watchmen.

Zack Snyder’s adaptation of the legendary comic won the Box Office Power Rankings in its first two weekends, but it’s widely considered a commercial disappointment. As Box Office Mojo put it:

Watchmen disintegrated 68 percent to $17.8 million for $85.8 million in 10 days, trailing all previous superhero movies that debuted in the $50-million range through the same point. ... [A]mong major comic-book movies, only Hellboy II: The Golden Army and Hulk had steeper drop-offs.”

That sounds damning, but notice the caveats: “superhero movies that debuted in the $50-million range,” “major comic-book movies.” Notice the quick-read contradiction of “trailing all previous superhero movies” with other superhero movies then performing worse.

Box Office Mojo concluded that its box-office performance

“further cemented Watchmen’s status as a movie with much more limited appeal than other superhero pictures, rooted in its non-mainstream source material and its diffuse storyline and marketing.”

But isn’t all that self-evident, and hasn’t it always been? Anybody who expected Watchmen to be a mainstream hit probably also envisioned big things for Speed Racer.

Watchmen will cross the $100-million mark domestically in the next few days, and no movie that makes that much money in three weeks is a flop.

Yes, its second-weekend performance was weak, compared to other comic-book movies not attached to a holiday weekend in their first two weeks: Iron Man, down 48 percent; The Dark Knight, 53 percent; The Incredible Hulk, 60 percent; Spider-Man 3, 62 percent.

So Watchmen dropped 68 percent. Given the vaunted status of the graphic novel and its devoted audience, should anybody be surprised that those who wanted to see it had to see it on its opening weekend? Given the ambivalence about Snyder’s meticulous re-creation, and given the challenges of translation from page to screen, should anybody be surprised that it generated more curiosity than excitement?

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

‘Let the Right One in’ - Tonally coy, it expands on Romero’s ‘Martin,’ crosses it with Poe’s ‘William Wilson,’ and haunts retrospectively.

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‘Rachel Getting Married’ - Contrivances of setup and situation are, by the end, obliterated by unerring emotional authenticity. Truth-filled

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‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’ - Pretty, obvious, tiresome, and cynical, Allen’s latest starts literally golden and fades to a trite ‘reality.’

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Feeling Blu, Ray?

blu-ray.jpgUp to six times the resolution of DVD! Perfect picture and sound! Sparkling high definition!

The marketing push for Blu-ray players and discs has been full of these and similar pronouncements, trying in a shitty economy to get you to upgrade your DVD player and (ideally) replace your current movie collection with this relatively new format. Concurrent with that has been the debate about whether Blu-ray will “survive” after winning the “format war” with HD DVD in February 2008. Concurrent with that have been silly partisan arguments using adoption rates and sales figures to show that Blu-ray reigns victorious! or that Blu-ray is already dead!

If you’re anything like me — and my sincerest condolences if you are — that’s a lot of noise to filter, and experts only add to it. Read a wonky review of a Blu-ray disc, and it’s easy to be baffled by jargon such as “edge enhancement” and “DNR.” Read enough of them and you’ll get sick of the phrase “inky blacks.” Read reviews of players and you’ll be buried in technical specs, from supported sound formats to analysis of upconversion to connection types.

But you want an answer to a simple question: Should I upgrade to Blu-ray?

A simple answer from this layperson’s perspective: not yet, unless you have cash to burn.


Poll: What best describes your relationship with Blu-ray?

View results

madea-jail.jpgI’ve often pointed out in the Box Office Power Rankings when I’ve thought a movie had a poor release strategy, and in that spirit I have to wonder why Tyler Perry’s movies are still only being released at 2,000 sites. His last five movies have opened in about that many theaters, and their first-weekend grosses have ranged from $17 million to $41 million.

The worst performer among those movies earned nearly $8,400 per theater in its opening weekend, which is just a hair shy of what The Day the Earth Stood Still did in its debut. The new Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail topped $20,000 per theater, better than anything since Milk the last weekend of November and barely eclipsed by Twilight in its first three days. Give Tyler Perry some damned screens!

Requisite negativity aside, has there been a movie in recent memory that’s had a better release pattern than Slumdog Millionaire? It has earned $115 million on a production budget of $15 million, and its domestic gross has risen in 12 of the 15 weekends (80 percent) since its debut. Yes, it has been opportunistic, taking advantage of well-timed awards and nominations, but it takes a special touch to navigate the vagaries of the cinematic marketplace so well over such a long period of time.

For Best Picture comparison’s sake, Milk’s gross has gone up in eight of its 13 post-debut weekends (62 percent); The Reader six or eight (depending on whether you count holiday Mondays) of 11 (55 or 73 percent); Frost/Nixon five of its 12 (42 percent); and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button one of nine (11 percent).

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


How much will Watchmen earn in the United States in its first weekend?

Voting is now closed for this poll, but here are the results:

Total votes: 10

‘Diving Bell & the Butterfly’ - Aggressive direction overcompensates for decidedly uncinematic material, but it doesn’t matter. Still lovely

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‘Frozen River’ - Gripping, authentic, tight, and heartbreaking, this working-class thriller strangely derails with two tries at high drama.

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