Archive for the ‘Morgan Freeman’ Category

Weekend Preview: Princess And The Frog Should Leap To #1; Delays…

December 11, 2009

My predictions are at the tail end of the video, but that’s all I’ve got for now. I really need to work. After a week of real-world work, I’ll re-focus here. Thanks for being patient, guys.


New And News: This Week Brings Disney’s First Black Princess And Nelson Mandela; Coincidence?

December 7, 2009

Welcome to the Monday column, New And News, where I go over this week’s new releases, as well as some of the best news articles from the past week.  Opening in theaters this week we have two movies that deal interestingly with race.  The oft-criticized black-princess-showcasing Disney release, The Princess And The Frog, and the racially themed Nelson Mandela biopic, Invictus.  After summarizing those two films, keep on reading for news about sequels in the Harry Potter, Twilight, and Bourne franchises.


The Princess And The Frog (Disney) – 3,300 theaters – Reviews

The Disney we all know and love is back to doing what it does best: telling romanticized fairy tales with beautiful music and traditional animation.  Five years after Disney’s rather foolish statement that it would no longer produce traditional 2D animation, the studio is back with another sure-to-be-a-classic princess tale, The Princess And The Frog.  Equipped with jazzy New Orleans music, iconic Louisiana bayou scenery, a voodoo witch-doctor villain, cute animated animals, and the first black Disney princess, this film has a lot of buzz around it, and it’s sure to get nostalgia points from audiences of all ages.  I mean, who wasn’t excited by the first five animated minutes of Enchanted back in 2007?  As a college student, I know that tons of my friends are ready to go see this, and parents and kids alike are sure to be drawn to the theaters.  I know I’ll be taking my little sister once I come home for Christmas!  The Princess And The Frog has done extremely well in its limited release of just two theaters, and it will play very well over the holidays.  My very early estimate for this has it earning somewhere between $150-$200 million, with a $50 million opening.  That will probably change over the course of the week as I do some more research, but for now, that’s what I’ve got.

Invictus (Warner Brothers) – 2,150 theaters – Reviews

Morgan Freeman portrays South African President Nelson Mandela in this presitigious Oscar-bait.  Freeman is beloved by audiences, though he rarely has a major leading role, so there’s a considerable amount of excitement around this feature.  Matt Damon also stars as famous rugby player Francois Pienaar, and between star power, good reviews, strong advertising, Clint Eastwood (who the academy loves… see Million Dollar Baby‘s win for Best Picture in 2004), and racial drama (which the Academy loves…. see Crash‘s win for Best Picture in 2005), this should be a considerable hit for Warner Brothers.  If it does well in the beginning of its run, strong word-of-mouth and awards nominations will carry Invictus to becoming a major financial victory.


Final Twilight To Be Split Into Two Movies

Following in the footsteps of The Hobbit and the final Harry Potter (more on that below), Summit has decided that it will split the final Twilight film, Breaking Dawn, into two films.  Unfortunately, whereas the book versions of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows and The Hobbit have extremely dense and complex plotsthat merit such a split, it appears that Breaking Dawn will simply be an even more drawn out affair, in which Bella and Jacob stare meaninglessly out into the drab, rainy forest.

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Teaser

Warner Brothers has attached a new teaser for the first part of their final Harry Potter installment.  It’s getting me pretty excited!  A little less than a year away, Deathly Hallows is coming out next Winter.

Greengrass Backs Out Of Fourth Bourne Movie

This news broke out on The Playlist blog, and far too many people on the internet have scooped it up, claimed it as their own, and failed to give credit where credit is due.  Paul Greengrass, director of all three films in the Bourne franchise, has backed out of directing a fourth edition.  Where this puts the state of the franchise and Matt Damon’s involvement is unknown at this point.  Personally, I’m cool with this.  The Bourne Ultimatum was a tremendous ending to the stellar action franchise.  I say, why not end on a high note?!

Uncommon Common Movie Conventions That I’m Growing Tired Of

June 4, 2009

Ah the movie cliche. The cop that has to turn in his badge but solves the case anyway, the two guys of different race/belief/background who go from bitter enemies to the closest of friends, the romances that start strong, hit a snag, and result in a chase through downtown on a motorcycle, the car chase where the beautiful sports car is hardly damaged (or damaged so bad there’s no way it could still drive but still does); everyone has their favorite. And they are all over the place, hence ‘cliche.’ Now there are those that people always complain about:

“Of COURSE she drops the car keys when she has to hurry to start the car.”
“NOW her cell phone won’t work!”
“Now EVERYONE is a computer hacker!”
And of course, “The bad guys fire six thousand bullet and NEVER hit him! How bad is their aim?”

Yeah, these are really bad. That last one is perhaps most common, but I’ll let it slide. Why? Because I don’t want to see my hero’s temple explode and the credits roll. Sure it’s a bad convention, but there’s really no other alternative unless you want people to pretend they don’t have guns, or have them all simultaneously jam (another bad convention), or have them throw apples or something.

But there are others, plenty of them, that are rarely commented on but irk me to the point it distracts me from the movie. Here’s my list, in no particular order, of common movie conventions that have grown old, but are not spoke of all that often.

10. Romance in the Rain
The two players in the lovestruck couple have resisted each other at every turn, leaving only longing stares and sexual tension so thick you could choke on it. They annoy each other, sure, but only because their deep, sometimes forbidden love forces them to push away, because they don’t want to get hurt, or because some other stupid reason. Then, thunder rolls in the background. It starts to pour. They argue. She storms away in anger. He yells over the pounding water and roaring thunder, “Because I love you [girl’s name].” She half turns to him, a surprised look on her face. And then they’re kissing furiously.

Okay, so they don’t all play out exactly like this, but the rainy kiss has been exploited far too frequently. We get it, rain is chaotic, emotional, and beautiful, just like love. But their love does not control the weather, damn it. Pride and Prejudice, The Notebook, Spider-Man, Every B-movie romance ever made ever. It would be kind of awesome if Storm did it in the next X-Men movie, but other than that it’s gotten redundant.

9. The Super Secret Tunnel to a Super Public Place OR Why You Should Go In Through The Out Door
This is actually what first got my mind working on this in the first place. I saw Angels and
Demons, and there’s a point where they’re looking for this secret room that the Illuminati used to meet in. The police and Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), find a car parked in a circular dead end. After a quick search they find nothing and leave. But Langdon isn’t convinced, and sure enough finds a super secret passageway tucked behind a huge slab. He takes it and finds the room, events happen (I won’t spoil it), and then it’s time to leave. Do they go the way they came? No, they take the back door, which exits right into the middle of Rome.

What? How did this place stay secret for so long? Did people really follow the ‘exit only’ sign that literally? The Indiana Jones series, classic though it is, uses this exploit far worse, twice. In Raiders of the Lost Ark, recall that they finally find the Well of the Souls. Pretty damn secret, no? Hiding place of the lost ark of the covenant? Now recall that Indy and Marion are sealed into the snake infested tomb to die. It looks bad, until Indy notices some snakes crawling through some holes in the wall. There must be something behind it, right? He smashes through the wall riding that huge statue, gets through the skull infested pit, and thank goodness finds his exit. Which issssssss….. A single stone block, that he pushes out of place, and finds himself in the middle of a Nazi air military base, air-strip and and all. Did nobody think to excavate that strange structure there? Evidently, to get to the ark, all they had to do was shift the rock, move through a very small room, and blow a hole in a very thin wall. Did the people who buried the ark really want to leave such an obvious entrance? Oh, that’s right, it’s only the emergency exit.

But my favorite happens in The Last Crusade. Indy’s at it again, and this time he’s found the secret tomb of the mythical last knight to return from the holy grail, the one whose shield reveals all the clues. How does Indy find it? He has to punch through a library marble floor and swim through a rat infested catacomb. But since this secret is supposed to be kept safe, some people torch the tomb and set the whole thing ablaze. In desperation, Indy covers he and Elsa with the coffin. But how is he going to get out? He goes underwater for ten seconds, come back and says, “I think I found a way.” Cut scene, they arise in a nice dining courtyard out of the sewer grate that was right under their feet. This super-secret tomb was a branch off the Venice sewer system. It took Indiana Jones three seconds to spot the entrance, how was that tomb secret for so long? Also, why did that nice restaurant put their dining area right over a sewer grate?! Okay, so that’s not as important.

I’m sure this was used in movies such as National Treasure or Tomb Raider as well, but bottom line is it’s getting ridiculous.

8. The Wise Blue-Collar Worker
This one has been beat to death. The lowly worker, typically a janitor, and typically black, who pushes our struggling hero to achieve his goals, or helps him in some fashion. Occasionally he’ll be endowed with powers, as in 17 Again. But typically he’s just a wise old philosopher who sweeps floors. He’s most prominently featured in Rudy, but you can find him everywhere. I appreciated Bruce Almighty, because they slightly spoofed it by having Morgan Freeman play the wise, black janitor who was actually God himself. But then Morgan Freeman played the exact role in Million Dollar Baby… But Damn. he played it well didn’t he?

7. Follow Your Heart
It’s the wisest advice that I’m sick and tired of hearing. This line cannot be said without sounding cheesy and ridiculous. Find another way to say it, I beg of you. And just putting ‘heart’ with synonyms doesn’t help. “You’re heart won’t lead you astray,” or, “Do what your heart tells you,” sound just as bad. From now on, mentors are not allowed to mention cardiac pumps whilst aiding the protagonist in difficult decisions.

Sidenote: When did the brain become such a second stringer? No one ever says, “follow your brain.”

6. James Marseden Losing the Girl in Every Movie He’s In
This one’s pretty self explanatory, but I’ve never seen such typecasting. X-Men, The Notebook, Superman Returns, Enchanted, he’s always losing the girl he loves to whomever the focus of the movie is. Ridiculous. I’m a straight guy, but I’ll admit James is a pretty damn handsome fella. Why are girls so ready to leave him?

Though, I’ll add a positive to this, however. In many romantic comedies, the lead girl is in a relationship with a man who the audience knows she isn’t meant to be. Why? Because he’s a total douche-bag, a general jack-ass, and almost always unfaithful (think Wedding Crashers or The Wedding Singer or perhaps some other Wedding movie. Wow I can’t wait til the Waynes brothers make Wedding Movie…). He has to be, right? Or else we’d feel bad when the girl leaves him for the male lead.

Except this is not how real life always is. A woman can love another man for inexplicable reasons, and sometimes the person she’s with isn’t a bad guy at all, it just wasn’t (cliche warning) meant to be. Also, when we see this woman in a long term, often betrothed relationship, with this ass-muncher, it takes away her credibility and intelligence as a character. It’s been three years and he’s had forty hickeys, and you don’t like the taste of his aftershave, figure it out. But James Marsden plays good characters, good men whom you should care for, and it does add a hint of realism to the relationships. But can’t we get another actor to play the part sometimes?

5. Horror Movies: Their Entirety
Some of these are common complaints, but I found too many cliches in this genre to narrow it down. There is the aforementioned “fumbling of the car keys,” but other conventions flood through the genre like herpes. Here are a few of my least favorites:

1. How fast can he walk? The masked killer never breaks stride, while the victims sprint as fast as they can. Somehow he catches up to disembowel them.
2. The dog in the trashcan. Generally this will happen in the beginning of the movie. There’s a rattling outside, and the protagonist tenses up, though s/he really has no reason to be scared at this point other than the fact that s/he’s in what will become a horror movie. S/he slowly goes to investigate, nervous as a whore in church, until a dog or some other harmless animal sprints out of the bushes or trashcans or whatever and sprints into the night. Whew! This is a cheap and stupid horror trick, done for a quick scare and nothing more. It’s even worse, when the camera will switch point of views to make it look like someone is watching the character creep up, until we learn we were looking through dog eyes.
3. Eerie musi-BANG. The animal scare is often used with this little horror gimmick as well. The suspense in the scene is mirrored by the eerie music that is getting more and more intense, rising to a climax we know will scare us. Suddenly, the eerie music increase in volume four-fold and there is a loud beat from the strings. Everyone jumps! Oh it was a dog, or it was just the friend of the character behind the door. This BANG is another cheap, artificial scare. I want the movie to scare me, not its soundtrack.
4. The helpless victim. Too often in horror movies, the people do nothing but scream. They don’t grab weapons, they don’t make good decisions, they just scream. Why not grab an effing shovel and smack that stupid punk with the mask in the forehead? He won’t walk so fast, then.

The fact that Silence of the Lambs uses none of these gimmicks, and is still scary and unsettling, is what makes it such a great movie. And you know what cliche will never get old? Creepy little girls. Those bitches are horrifying.

4. How Far Can You Fall?
I don’t want my heroes dead, I’ve said that already, so I don’t want them to be crushed when they plummet from great heights. But if they DO take that plunge, I wouldn’t mind a believable way for them to not splatter. In The Dark Knight Batman and Rachel are plummeted from a ridiculously high penthouse, and walk away without a scratch. Yeah, yeah he stuck out his cape, but that really didn’t slow them down much it just made them spin. And they landed hard enough to damage the car they used as a pillow, so you can’t tell me that wouldn’t break a leg or something. They could have done a lot to save this, all they needed was to make his wing slow them down enough to NOT cave in a buick.

You’ll see this in a lot of movies. In Spider-Man 2 a completely human Peter Parker falls and bangs off the walls and cars like we was a bouncy ball and walks off, just holding his slightly bruised back. In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull they go over not one, but three waterfalls in their little floating car, no problem. It’s completely absurd! What’s worse is when they land in a dumpster and the trash acts like a magical cushion that completely absorbs their force. “Thank God this pile of broken glass was here. That really could have hurt.”

3. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!
Much like “Follow your heart,” this little gem has been polished a few too many thousand times. The desperate fall to the knees followed by the gut wrenching yell is just too cliche to be dramatic any more. Now it just comes off as silly. Especially when Darth Vader does it in Episode III.

Not exactly what I was looking for, but it gets the job done.

2. Shooting Everything But The Hero
What? I thought you weren’t going to mention this one, because you don’t want your hero dead? Don’t worry, guys, I’m talking about a subtle difference.

To illustrate I’m going to back to the only Indiana Jones movie I haven’t mentioned yet, Temple of Doom. There’s a scene where Indiana is up on a wooden catwalk, with wooden railings so thin they’re hardly visible on camera. But once the shooting starts, they seem to be all these bad guys can hit. As he runs along it, bullets pelt this little railing like crazy, and therefore barely save his life. What I’m trying to say is: I can handle the bad guys missing the hero. My suspension of disbelief ends, however, when the hero is protected by using that little wooden railing for body armor. You can find ‘rail bullets’ like this in a lot of movies (see: every James Bond). How about you just don’t show me where the bullet hit. I can imagine how it missed.

Similarly, when the aircraft (be it helicopter or airplane) takes its big ass machine gun and points it at the frantic hero running away, it’s always the case that the spray of bullets will be behind him and quickly catching up, only to pull up right before his legs are clipped. You gotta lead him, dammit!

1. Walk Away from that Big Ass Explosion
Either the hero or villain, depending, has set off a chain of events that he knows will result in a cataclysmic explosion. To show his stone hearted, bad ass indifference, he just walks away from it. Once it blows up? He keeps walking. He doesn’t flinch, he doesn’t look back, he just walks. Cause he’s cool. This little clip shows that this has run it’s course, or should I say walked.

MTV Shows

What else? What are some other great movie conventions that irk you? Let me know!

Weekend Fix: Bucket List On Top, First Sunday Strong

January 13, 2008

    Four new films opened this weekend.  Two did quite well, but two did quite poorly.  In the end, though, the box office this weekend was very healthy for January, which is usually a tragic month in terms of dollars.  The Top 12 films earned a nice $108.8 million, which represents an understandable 35% drop from last weekend, when many kids had not yet gone back to school.  Year to year, however, things looked much brighter, as the Top 12 were up 12% from last year’s frame, when dance drama Stomp The Yard led the charts with $21.8 million.

     Debuting in the top spot, The Bucket List reaffirmed that when it comes to the box office, going by the formula can be a good choice.  With a feel-good concept, an easily understood (and advertised) story, and some true blue film stars, The Bucket List was full of life, earning $19.5 million over the weekend.    The film’s entire advertising campaign was based around its two leading men, and in this case, the strategy proved very effective because these two men are movie stars, and not just celebrities.  Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson are famous because of their film work- not because of tabloid fodder, and because of this, they can successfully open a film.  Consequently, stars like Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Alba, and Angelina Jolie are inconsistent at the box office because people care more about their personal lives than their acting skills.  For The Bucket List, moviegoers flocked to the theaters to watch Freeman and Nicholson interact, and there are very few actors who still have that kind of drawing power.  The Warner Brothers buddy comedy had a good, though unspectacular, venue average of $6,750.  Reviews largely criticize the film for being too schmaltzy, but audiences love cheesy, feel-good tearjerkers, and this could have some pretty good legs.  Based on the opening, I’m thinking The Bucket List might end its run around $80 million, but you’ll have to stay tuned to find out.

     In second place, First Sunday opened with a very good $19 million, proving for the umpteenth time that the African American market is lucrative and underutilized by Hollywood.  The ScreenGems film starring Ice Cube and Tracy Morgan had a great $8,586 per theater average, which was the best in the Top 12.  Bad reviews didn’t have an effect on First Sunday‘s opening, and since it was targeted a young audience, their negative effect should be minimal; however, this is not to say it will endure for very long.  Movies that target African American audiences tend to have horrible legs at the box office, and I’m expecting this to top off at about $50 million, which would still represent a respectable total.

    Indie darling Juno came in at third.  The Ellen Page comedy that won no Golden Globes(!) pulled in a sturdy $14 million this weekend, giving it $71.2 million overall.  This total means that Juno is just $0.3 million away from passing Sideways as Fox Searchlight’s highest grossing film ever, and it should earn that title on Monday.  Though Juno expanded into 2,448 theaters this weekend, it dropped 12% from the last frame, but this is nothing to worry about.  In its sixth weekend, it still managed a very good $5,719 venue average, and the teen pregnancy comedy has a lot of life left in it.  According to last week’s poll, 20% of you think that Juno will not break $100 million, but I’m going to have to say that you are sorely incorrect.  It seems headed for a $120+ million finish.

     In fourth, fifth, and sixth, we have the big three holiday films that have dominated the box office (and this blog) for weeks.  Down 43% from last weekend, Disney’s National Treasure: Book of Secrets found another $11.5 million, giving it a strong $187.3 million after four weekends.  Meanwhile, Fox’s Alvin and the Chipmunks fell 41% to $9.1 million, which gives the rodent comedy a $187.7 million total after five weeks.  Also in its fifth weekend, Warner Brothers’ I Am Legend pulled in $8.1 million, a 48% drop.  With $240.2 million overall, I Am Legend is set to become Will Smith’s second-highest grossing film behind Independence Day ($306 million).
     In its second weekend, One Missed Call behaved exactly like most other derivative horror movies, dropping a large 51% to $6.1 million.  This drop was the steepest in the Top 12, which is not surprising given the reviews (it 0/53 with critics!).  The Warner Brothers film had a weak $2,737 per theater average, and it will disappear from theaters and memories in the very near future.  After two weeks, One Missed Call has earned $20.6 million.

     You know how I said that tearjerkers have great legs at the box office?  P.S. I Love You is a prime example of this.  The weapy Hilary Swank romance earned $5 million this weekend, down just 36% from the previous frame.  Its venue average of $2,155 is nothing to get excited about, but this is a Warner Brothers film that has done very well for itself.  After opening with an awful $6.5 million, P.S. I Love You has really caught on with audiences, for when it comes to romantic movies, reviews often don’t line up with the collective consciousness (case in point: The Notebook).  After four weekends, it’s pulled in a very solid $47 million.

     Back in ninth place, The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything opened poorly with just $4.4 million.  With a low theater count of 1,337, and a low per theater average of $3,305, the VeggieTales picture will certainly finish below Jonah’s $25.5 million total, and it won’t last in theaters for long.   This is a disappointing start for the Universal film.
     Atonement expanded into 950 theaters this weekend, and it pulled in $4.3 million, down a small 15% from last weekend.  This Focus Features film has quietly earned $25.2 million so far, and its Golden Globe win for Best Picture on Sunday will certainly help it in the weeks to come.  (By the way, watch this this lovely interview from with Keira Knightley and James McAvoy.  It’s nice to see actors who act to tell stories, not to get awards or fame…)
     Charlie Wilson’s War, the Tom Hanks/Julia Roberts film that just didn’t quite click, fell 47% to $4.3 million this weekend.  With a low $1,775 venue average, Charlie Wilson’s War should start shedding theaters pretty quickly now.  The Universal film has earned a moderately disappointing $59.5 million after four weekends.

     In the number twelve spot, Sweeney Todd (which picked up a Best Picture – Musical or Comedy and Best Actor award on Sunday) falls 39% to $3.4 million over the last three days.  With $44.1 million in four weekends, it will be interesting to see how much further the DreamWorks musical can go now that it has received some major awards attention.
    The final new opener, In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, debuted outside the Top 12 with a tiny $3.3 million, and a paltry $2,002 per theater average.  I’m rather proud of North America for its blatant rejection of Uwe Boll’s latest terribly reviewed film.  Though this will be his most unsuccessful film to date, I’m sure it will result in an even bigger budget for his next one…
     Next weekend should be very interesting.  We’ve got Katherine Heigl and James Marsden in the romantic comedy 27 Dresses, the uber-hyped old-school monster movie, Cloverfield, and the female heist flick, Mad Money.  Check back on Friday for the Weekend Preview.
Top 12 for January 11-13

# Movie Title Weekend Gross Total
1 The Bucket List $19,540,000 $20,964,000
2 First Sunday $19,000,000 $19,000,000
3 Juno $14,000,000 $71,249,796
4 National Treasure: Book of Secrets $11,482,000 $187,295,000
5 Alvin and the Chipmunks $9,100,000 $187,740,479
6 I Am Leged $8,130,000 $240,234,000
7 One Missed Call $6,130,000 $20,642,000
8 P.S. I Love You $5,005,000 $47,008,000
9 The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything $4,418,785 $4,418,785
10 Atonement $4,299,670 $25,208,460
11 Charlie Wilson’s War $4,274,200 $59,498,270
12 Sweeney Todd $3,402,000 $44,070,000

All Numbers Courtesy of Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.