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Entries in Holidays (95)

Sunday
Jul062014

Box Office: The Studios Fail America on the 4th of July

Amir here with the weekend’s box office report. ‘twas quite a sad one at the multiplex; Positive adjectives were hard to come by. Tran4mers topped the charts again, but even that franchise has tired its audience so much that it now lags significantly behind the previous installments. Tammy came in second, but this one is also way behind last year’s Melissa McCarthy vehicles like The Heat. Maybe people are finally realising that having a superstar who doesn't fit Hollywood's notions of traditional beauty is completely different from having a superstar who doesn't fit Hollywood's notions of traditional beauty solely to make fat jokes about her.

 

Deliver Us From Evil was a big flop, this one falling behind director Scott Derrickson’s previous films, despite finding some major champions among critics. And if those are not enough underachievers for one week, there was also Earth to Echo, not just beating Deliver Us... as the weekend’s most awkwardly titled offering, but also beating it on the disappointment scale. This was the only new family option of the weekend, but it finished behind the leftover How to Train Your Dragon 2, which is another massive disappointment in its own right.

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE
01 TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION $36.4 (cum. $174.7)
02 TAMMY $21.1 NEW (cum. $32.9) Review
03 DELIVER US FROM EVIL $9.5 (cum. $15)
04 22 JUMP STREET $9.4 (cum. $158.8) Podcast
05 HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 $8.7 (cum. $140) best movie dragons
06 EARTH TO ECHO $8.2 NEW (cum. $13.5) 
07 MALEFICENT $6.1 (cum. $213.8) Podcast
08 JERSEY BOYS $5.1 (cum. $36.7) Review
09 THINK LIKE A MAN TOO $4.9 (cum. $57.1)
10 EDGE OF TOMORROW $3.6 (cum. $90.8) Capsule / Top Ten Thus Far

Perhaps Begin Again and Snowpiercer could have emitted some positive vibes with their relatively strong expansions, but no, hang on a minute! Dinesh D’Souza’s America – a sequel to Obama’s America? Oh, who cares anyway? It’s not like that first film made any damn sense – beat both of them to finish just outside the top ten. Yes, Dinesh D’Souza! Enough has been written about the hypocrisy and sheer stupidity of this man to make one think that a multimillion dollar opening and an A-Fucking-Plus Cinemascore is out of reach for his films, but no. It’s still possible. America has disappointed us all. The silver lining is that he, too, is lagging far behind his previous film.

What did you watch this weekend? Please give us some positive vibes to counteract Hollywood's failure to schedule anything worthwhile on such a big moviegoing weekend.

See Also: Nathaniel's Top Ten at the Halfway Mark

Friday
Jul042014

Baby You're a Firework

 Happy Fourth of July !!!

Watch an unexpected but quite American movie, enjoy the fireworks and your long weekend, and we'll see you here again Sunday night.

(On Monday morning we continue our Halfway Mark celebration surveying cinematic achievements of 2014 thus far)

Thursday
Jul032014

Tim's Toons: Celebrating Independence Day with Disney

Tim here. It’s Independence Day weekend here in the States, which means that most of you undoubtedly have something better to do than read about old cartoons. But if I promise to keep things short, hopefully you’ll indulge me in chatting up an odd little animated short perfectly timed to the holiday.

I have in mind Ben and Me, one of the oddest one-offs in the history of Walt Disney Productions. Released in November, 1953, it was the studio’s first two-reel animated short, and one of the initial releases under Disney’s own Buena Vista Distribution label, part of a package deal with the nature documentary The Living Desert. But more to the point, for our present purposes, it’s about how a mouse helps Benjamin Franklin write the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. We can wait a minute if you want to process all the ways in which that’s a perversion of history.

Okay, sure, there’s more to it than that.

Based on a 1939 children’s book by Robert Lawson, Ben and Me follows the life of Amos, a mouse voiced by Disney mainstay Sterling Holloway, who set off from his impoverished home in wall of a Philadelphia church in 1745 to make his fortune, ending up in the home of the absent-minded inventor and writer Ben Franklin (Charles Ruggles). Over the course of one night, the two are able to invent bifocals, indoor heating stoves, and the American news media.

Ben’s penchant for playing tricks on the mouse, sending him up on kites during thunderstorms and such, puts a wedge between them. Eventually, in 1776, they finally mend fences just about the time that Ben’s young colleague Thomas Jefferson (Hans Conreid) is having an impossible time finding the right opening for his otherwise-complete Declaration. More through accident than anything else, Amos ends up providing the legendary “When in the Course of human events…” The perversity having not let up, I will let you take another minute to process (it’s the 31-year-old mouse that bothers me the most).

Daft fantasy nonsense, for sure, but Ben and Me is actually pretty charming. Holloway and Ruggles are delightful in their roles, playing a kind of gentle riff on the traditional odd couple dynamic (Conreid, who voiced Captain Hook in the same year’s Peter Pan, is unfortunately distracting for that reason, but he’s not in it very much). It wasn’t an A-list project, and it lacks anything resembling the visual lushness of Disney’s contemporaneous features, like Alice in Wonderland or Cinderella – the latter of which obviously inspired Ben’s design; he looks exactly like the talking mice helpers from that film, though thankfully without their annoying pidgin English – but the simple style based on 18th Century painting brings the setting to life in a very specific, effective way. It’s not a colorful film, as such, but it has a clarity and warmth that fit the “historical bedtime story” mood.

Given Disney’s corporate proclivity for all-American nostalgia, it’s perhaps a bit surprising that the story ends up being so disinterested in any kind of soaring patriotism or overwrought long-view about Great Moments in History. It’s actually quite an ordinary platonic romantic comedy between a mouse and a man. Most of its energies are dedicated to building solid but hardly revolutionary cartoon sight gags out of 18th Century material (a lengthy printing press scene is by far the most ambitious part of the movie), but that ends up being enough.

At 21 minutes, it’s short enough that having genial humor built on a playfully impossible history lesson hasn’t run out of steam, while long enough to build character relationships with a depth that isn’t possible in a 7-minute animated short that only has enough time to plow through its gags. It’s not one of the timeless masterpieces of Disney animation, or anything equally silly, but it’s one of their best ‘50s shorts and a fun 4th of July pastiche that’s not really like anything else.

Tuesday
Jul012014

Tuesday Top Ten: Unconventional Fourth of July Movie Selections

Glenn here with this week's Tuesday Top Ten. Wikipedia tells this Australian that the Fourth of July, Independence Day, is a day usually celebrated with “fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions and political speeches and ceremonies.” Curious that they don’t include movies since, at least since 1991 when James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day premiered to one of the then biggest opening weekends of all time, the big July 4th blockbuster is an annual trend with the likes of Independence Day, the Transformers franchise, Superman Returns and seemingly anything starring Will Smith.

With the holiday this Friday, most lists of movies to watch over the long holiday weekend will feature masculine, almost brutish titles that celebrate America’s achievements in war and rah-rah bravura (The Patriot, Saving Private Ryan, Top Gun) or the coming of age of a nation and its people in almost gooey fashion (Field of Dreams, Forrest Gump, The Grapes of Wrath). So let's have fun and mix it up. Some of these titles are a bit off of the beaten path and others are outright bonkers, but I think they perform a somewhat patriotic service in one way or another.

TEN UNCONVENTIONAL 4TH OF JULY RECOMMENDATIONS

10. Mulholland Drive
David Lynch loves America. If we all lived in his world then people in small towns would never have to dream of moving to New York or Los Angeles because they’d all be just as interesting as each other. In Lynch’s world – predominantly the (overlapping?) universes of Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet, Lost Highway and this, arguably his magnum opus – America is full of weird people doing weird things and he wouldn’t change a thing. Mulholland Drive is the film of a director who loves his home and wants everyone to be as entranced by it as he. In Lynch’s world, the magic of the American dream is alive and well, and even if it doesn’t work out (as, let’s face it, it rarely does) then he’s going to portray it with as much dreamy, sensual beauty as possible.

9 more after the jump...

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Sunday
Jun152014

Happy Father's Day! What's Your Favorite Dad Movie?

My dad died two years ago so Father's Day is a melancholy abstraction now. I don't have my own kids but I love being a godfather, an uncle, and an honorary uncle. If you're father is still with you, take him to a movie or out somewhere for culture!

My point is this: Our parents aren't with us forever. Cherish them while they are.

What's your favorite dad movie? Mine just might be Beginners (2011) though my own dad certainly would not have liked it - we were very different people. I just find it so moving in its depiction of forging new more loving relationships adult to adult with your aging parent (and others). Christopher Plummer amply earned that Oscar.

There are so many memorable dads in movies, though. Two other semi-recent paterfamilias that really affected me were Donald Sutherland in Pride & Prejudice (2005) and Brad Pitt in The Tree of Life (2011).

How about you?

Tuesday
May272014

Box Office Holiday: Mutants, Reunited Stars, and Immigrants

Amir here, with the long weekend’s box office actuals. All was well in America (and all other markets in the world) as audiences stormed to see X-Men: Days of Future Past. The film’s haul was impressive, even though it fell short of the series’ best (The Last Stand) despite the inflation of 3D tickets, but it’s safe to say fatigue hasn’t yet kicked in with this group of superheroes. In the process, X-Men knocked Godzilla off the top spot perch. Nathaniel quite liked the film, despite its limitations. I haven’t yet seen it, and with the news that Edgar Wright has been kicked off the director’s chair of Ant Man, have vowed never to see another superhero film, but that’s a gripe for another article.

X-Men: Weekend of Godzilla Past

MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND BOX OFFICE
01 X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST $110.5 *new* Review
02 GODZILLA $38.4 (cum. $155.7) Review & Podcast
03 BLENDED $17.7 *new*
04 NEIGHBORS $17.1 (cum. $116.8) Review & Podcast
05 THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 $10 (cum. $187.1)

06 MILLION DOLLAR ARM $9.1 (cum. $22.7)
07 THE OTHER WOMAN $4.5 (cum. $78.6)  
08 RIO 2 $3.4 (cum. $122.5)
09 CHEF $2.9 new (cum. $4.2)
10 HEAVEN IS FOR REAL $2.7 (cum. $86.5)
11 CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER $2.2 (cum. $254.1) Review
12 BELLE $2.1 (cum. $4.3) Review

The other big opening of the weekend was Blended, for which the $18m dollar sales is being branded a flop but this isn’t true when you stop to consider just how unappealing everything about this film is. The title sounds like a youtube compilation of mishaps to people who are making smoothies. The trailer sucked the life out of every single theatre I saw it in, and a lot has changed for the leading duo since they starred together in their hit 50 First Dates and The Wedding Singer, most notably the fact that they weren’t has-beens then.

Marion Cotillard in The ImmigrantOn the limited side, the Sundance critical hit Cold in July was the most significant release, but without much advertising muscle or star power, it managed a modest $4k per screen average. James Gray’s The Immigrant pulled in similar averages but on a much larger scale as it expanded to 147 theatres. If you live in the vicinity of any of those 147 screens, you Must. Go. Now! It is one of the best of the year.

Nathaniel was on a viewing/reviewing spree this weekend with X-Men, The Normal Heart, Mad Men, and some 1941 pictures (vote!) but I didn’t watch a film. Instead I had the pleasure of talking to Godfrey Cheshire for a few hours! Amazing, right? It was a hoot!

How did you spend the weekend?