May 2009 Archives

Twitter Review: JCVD

‘JCVD’ - Not as smart as it thinks it is, but still potent. Van Damme effectively exploits his irrelevance for laughs & pathos. Too stylized

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star-trek.jpgThe conventional wisdom says that among the early entrants in the summer 2009 sweepstakes, Star Trek is a hit (and a winner in its first three weekends in our Box Office Power Rankings), Wolverine is a disappointment, and nobody cares about Angels and Demons. Yet X-Men Origins: Wolverine had the biggest North American opening of the three: $85 million.

These evaluations are muddied by so many variables — buzz, expectations, marketing, screen saturation, critical assessment — that it’s difficult to cut through the crap. This leads to some conventional wisdom that is anything but wise, such as the idea that the 2008 Hulk reboot was, in box-office terms, a triumph over its nearly identically performing 2003 forebear.

But I think we can say with some quantifiable certainty that our first impressions of the 2009 summer movie season are correct.

One simple measure is second-weekend drop-off, generally considered a reliable indicator of a movie’s staying power.

So: Wolverine dropped 69.0 percent from $85 million; Star Trek dropped 42.8 percent from $75 million; and Angels and Demons dropped 53.0 percent (not counting the Monday holiday) from $46 million.

The combination of opening box office and relative performance in the second weekend seems to support the consensus. Solid openings for both Wolverine and Star Trek suggest excitement about the titles, and they diverge from there. Angels and Demons debuted 40 percent lower than The Da Vinci code, confirming apathy.

But you can’t take either factor independent of the other. The Dark Knight’s second-weekend percentage drop (52.5) is rubbing up against Angels and Demons’, but you must consider the height ($158 million) from which it fell.

And these numbers probably work best in one-on-one comparisons. Last summer, both Iron Man and Indiana Jones had three-day opening grosses around $100 million; identifying which dropped 55.3 percent the next weekend and which dropped 48.1 percent would just confirm what you already know in your gut.

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

‘The Wrester’: Rourke lives the role beautifully, but the first-half character-study authenticity devolves into inevitable, overplayed story

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‘Lost’ S5 finale: Josh Holloway proves himself the worst among many bad actors; the suspense is less “What happens next?!” than “Where now?”

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A Life More Ordinary

(A submission to Counting Down the Zeroes, a project by Ibetolis at Film for the Soul.)

lantana1.jpgMuch to my surprise, I can find no reference to the nearly universal cinematic “wedding-ring rule”: Any time a wedding ring is a prominent prop or visual motif in a movie, infidelity will be a central theme. The obverse: Any movie with infidelity as a central theme will feature the wedding ring as a prop or visual motif.

I could offer dozens of examples, but the best might be Lantana, which is obviously about sexual straying but has a greater interest in marriage overall, especially the underlying, intertwined issues of trust and honesty. Although it’s nearly too blunt in its themes, the movie feels continuously right, nailing not only relationship dynamics but interred grief and pain. Throughout, it gets the tone, nuance, and scale of life correct.

wolverine.jpgThank Gods (I’ve been watching Battlestar Galactica, although to say I’ve been enjoying it would be an overstatement) that with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the summer movie season is finally here. Normally, I would need Entertainment Weekly to tell me this, but our subscription lapsed. So I have to rely on the Wolverine television ads, which actually claim that those muttonchops are the first sign of the season.

Wolverine did well enough in its opening weekend, with $85 million domestically, but I’m afraid it might actually be an appropriate opener for summer 2009: the next installment of an established brand, and a movie that seems to excite very few people. Yes, they show up and pay their money the first weekend, but I think it’s out of habit. Call it obligation cinema.

Perhaps I’m just being old and sour, because it’s not like this is a new trend. But this summer seems particularly grim from a movie perspective. A Transformers sequel and G.I. Joe mean that we’re long past my nostalgia period, while Land of the Lost as a summer movie seems like an unfathomably bad idea. We have the fourth Terminator, the sixth Harry Potter, the 11th Star Trek, the 10th Halloween, the third Ice Age, the second Night at the Museum, and the Da Vinci Code prequel Angels and Demons.

How many people actually loved the most-recent chapter in any of these series? I’m not complaining that the season is sequel-heavy, in other words; I’m complaining that the summer tent poles belong to franchises that should have been allowed to die with a modicum of dignity. (Yes, I recognize that one can’t euthanize Harry Potter before J.K. Rowling intended, but I’ve been underwhelmed since that which we call Ass Cabin.)

Remember Godzilla, from 1998? It stank, and was heard from nevermore. But with a worldwide gross of almost $380 million, it would certainly merit a sequel or the fashionable “re-launch” these days, because the name recognition is simply too high.

All this has nothing to do with the two sets of Box Office Power Rankings included here, won by State of Play and Earth.

Unless, of course, you want to make a joke about these Box Office Power Rankings being completely unnecessary and unwanted sequels.

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