Inside Pulse » War Horse A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Sat, 18 Oct 2014 19:00:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Inside Pulse no A pop culture mega-site with Movies, TV, Music, Sports, Comics, Video Games coverage for diehards, including news, reviews, live event coverage, audio podcasts, exclusive interviews and commentary. Inside Pulse » War Horse In Stores Now: Chinatown, War Horse, and Jason Bourne Buys a Zoo Sat, 07 Apr 2012 16:00:25 +0000 Welcome to the first column of what we hope becomes a weekly feature here at Inside Pulse Movies. While the title designator may read “In Stores Now” it may just as well be “This Week on DVD and Blu-ray.” The week of April 3rd was fairly calm when it came to new releases but it had a few notable titles including the debut of Chinatown on Blu-ray, Steven Spielberg’s ode to John Ford and 1950s cinema, War Horse, and the perfect companion to the recent Muppets release, Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey.

As a friendly reminder, if you see anything in this article you like, click on the image and purchase it.

Title of the Week


Okay, we all know Roman Polanski is a controversial director. Not in the arena of filmmaking, but because he has managed to continue his profession overseas having fled to France to avoid imprisonment and deportation for his rape of a 13-year-old girl. While he may have won an Oscar for his direction of The Pianist (2002), you could probably count on one hand how many of works are truly exemplary. And it just so happens that this week saw one of his greatest films make its arrival to Blu-ray. Chinatown was a neo-noir released back in 1974 starring Jack Nicholson as private investigator J.J. “Jake” Gittes. When his assignment of tailing a husband for a suspicious wife (Diane Ladd) who thinks he’s having affair turns out to be a ruse, a bigger mystery takes shape when the husband is found dead and the real wife (Faye Dunaway) enters the picture and hires Gittes to solve the crime.

The first time I saw Chinatown was late at night on TNT some years back, when the network got tired of showing some special-effects train wreck in favor of something different – maybe it was to drum up anticipation of Southland. Even with commercials I didn’t want to change the channel for fear that I would miss some important detail or clue. Chinatown reinforces everything that is great about the film noir genre, with jaded characters (antiheroes and femme fatales) and hard-boiled prose with cryptic lines (what the hell does “It’s just Chinatown, Jake” really mean?). When you hear that it was nominated for eleven Oscars but Robert Towne’s screenplay was the only winner, you have to double check and see why. Then you see that it was up against The Godfather Part II in the Best Picture race – Paramount was on fire that year with three of the five Best Picture nominees (Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation was the other one).

Why You Should Own It: Besides the fact that Chinatown is a great film, the Blu-ray has incredible audio and visuals along with a bevy of extras ported over from the original 2007 and 2009 DVD releases. Of particular interest is a commentary track that has screenwriter Towne and filmmaker David Fincher tag-teaming it, discussing the entire production, from the direction and acting performances to what distinguishes it from others in the film noir genre. I’m a sucker for documentaries and/or commentaries featuring other filmmakers commenting on a film, because regardless of what you think about the film personally, it’s always interesting to hear the opinions of your favorite filmmakers. So you can see it in a different light.

Title(s) Worth Purchasing

Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey

Who could have imagined that the most annoying Muppet character – some would attest – would provide cinematic fodder for an endearing story about one man’s love of puppetry.

Remember when the Tickle Me Elmo dolls took the toy stores by storm back in 1996? You had parents fighting other parents to purchase the doll for Christmas. The aisles were awash in boxes strewn on the ground, with mangled Barbie dolls (will Ken still love me with my disfigured face?) and yet above the yelling and hair-pulling was this red doll chortling thinking the entire situation was a laugh riot. But enough about Tickle Me Elmo – this is about the man behind the famous TV character. Kevin Clash, while still a young boy growing up in Baltimore, discovered a love of puppetry that has yet to diminish. Having taken that love of puppets to heart, going as far as making his own, Clash would find himself in Jim Henson’s workshop. And you can see his genuine appreciation of the artistry and joy when he meets Henson in person and begins working on projects like Labyrinth. But it is the reintroduction of the Elmo character on Sesame Street that would change his life. Imbuing him with a sense of personality and speaking with a falsetto, Clash’s Elmo is one the public knows and loves (loathes?). Whatever your opinion of Elmo, it is Clash’s dedication to the character and his workhorse schedule – from public appearances to overseeing how Elmo is handled in foreign productions of Sesame Street – that is to be admired.

Title(s) Worth Renting

War Horse

Spielberg. Everybody knows the name. The director of Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park and that shark movie. But the new millennium hasn’t been too kind to the director who instilled in us to always call home. Aside from Minority Report and Munich, he hasn’t had many films you could lump in with his classics from the late-‘70s through mid-‘90s. Sadly, War Horse is another case of it looks good, but doesn’t leave a lasting impression.

The film, based on the award-winning play and book, is about a young man in pre-World War I England who raises a horse, Joey, but sees it off to war at the behest of his father who needs the money to save the family farm. From there we follow the Joey’s journey to be reunited with the boy, where he finds peril and solace in the form of the people it encounters – some good, some bad. Steven Spielberg, no stranger to including saccharine sweet moments in his films, paints a beautiful, if broad canvas that beguiles our eyes with Janusz Kaminski’s luscious visuals – a piece of art it is – that do their best to keep everything light-hearted. War Horse is overly sentimental, but that’s sort of the idea – to observe how this horse impacts the lives of those it encounters, especially in the wake of the War to End All Wars.

If you do decide to buy, go for the 4-disc combo release that contains a Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy along with some strong high-def exclusives. The biggest extra is the making-of feature “A Filmmaking Journey” which runs a little over an hour in length and gives a complete overview of the production including locations, special effects, to even the horses used.

We Bought a Zoo

The initial impression of Cameron Crowe’s return to directing was that 20th Century Fox showed him the money to make We Bought a Zoo. It looked cheesy. A father uproots the family from the city to move to a zoo in the country. Surely, this is something dreamt up by a screenwriter who got caught up watching a Bourne Identity-Green Acres marathon. Then you discover that We Bought a Zoo is inspired by a true story.

Matt Damon stars as Benjamin Mee, a recently-widowed single father who feels a fresh start is what the family needs to few anew. So he quits his newspaper job and buys a rural farmhouse outside the smog and cacophony of Los Angeles. And it just so happens the house includes a special add-on: a zoo.
With no formal experience in operating a zoo or tending animals, time constraints and a small budget, Mee and his family, along with a tries-to-be-homely-but-can’t Scarlett Johansson (as the head zookeeper Kelly Foster) look to restore the zoo to its former glory.

We Bought a Zoo is a film that took me by surprise when I reviewed it initially in theaters. I may have been a little strong with my initial score, but it was hard to resist Matt Damon’s strong performance. One of the year’s best, I tell ya. The story is mostly the emotional journey he goes through, still grieving the loss of his wife. But it is also about first love. Both are on opposite ends from one another, but are paired well here in the form of Ben’s eldest son and the googly eyes he shares with Kelly’s niece, Lilly (Elle Fanning).

While it should have been a bigger box office smash than its earnings indicate (only $75 million), 20th Century Fox gave it the type of Blu-ray release that is usually reserved to the works of David Fincher. The DVD side of the Blu-ray combo is mostly light (just an audio commentary and a featurette). But pop in the Blu-ray and you have more than two hours of material to sift through. More than a half hour of deleted and deleted scenes, a gag reel, and a photo gallery for starters. Add some features on Jónsi’s musical score and thirty minutes with the real Benjamin Mee, then top it off with a five-part, 75-minute documentary on the making of the film, which includes such Did You Knows like it took three months to build the zoo set from scratch. Yeah, this is a packed release, offering plenty for fans and non-fans alike.

That does it for this week. Join us next time as we look at some of the titles arriving the week of April 10th.×120.jpg

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Just Seen It Movie Review: 2011 Oscar Best Picture Picks and Predictions [Video] Mon, 06 Feb 2012 06:47:25 +0000 Our Picks and Predictions for the 2011 Academy Award for BEST PICTURE. The nominees are: The Artist The Descendants Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close The Help Hugo Midnight in Paris Moneyball The Tree of Life War Horse

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Oscar Nomination Fallout: A Few Surprises, Omissions, Plus Hugo & The Artist’s Domination Tue, 24 Jan 2012 19:00:38 +0000 As you may already know, nominations for the 84th Academy Awards went out today. Hollywood’s Super Bowl, the Oscars, is always something worthy of water cooler chater. Just today I was discussing nominations at work with colleagues, trying the assuage concerns on why certain performers or films were selected versus those that were overlooked.

Listen, sometimes the deciding factor in a person or film being nominated relies on the two P’s: politics and popularity. The Academy Awards is a glorified popularity contest, only instead of deciding the prom queen and king at a high school, they decide on who’s the best actor and actress, which film had the best original and unoriginal (adapted) stories, and technical merit.

Personally, my predictions were pretty good with a few exceptions. I was brave and tried to decide the animated feature films category, only to see two of my three picks make it. The Academy had the field go to five and included two features that have escaped my viewing. Those would be Chico & Rita and A Cat in Paris. I had heard rumblings of Chico & Rita, but the Parisian feline I was at a loss.

In the Best Actor and Actress races it seems that the current Academy members are not keen on recognizing dark, brooding characters. Recent exceptions may be for Forrest Whitaker’s portrayal of Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland, who was a flamboyant bad hombre, and Daniel Day-Lewis for drinking milkshakes in There Will Be Blood, but overlooking Michael Fassbender’s seering performance of a sex addict in Shame is, well, a shame. But totally understandable considering the subject matter and Academy members being reluctant to watch. For the Best Actress race, there were a bunch of lay-ups with one exception: Rooney Mara for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I may be in the minority in liking Noomi Rapace’s performance from the Swedish original better, but at least I was smart enough to have her playing spoiler should one of the other actress nominees miss the cut. My speculation is that she most likely got the nomination that would have gone to Tilda Swinton for her work in We Need to Talk About Kevin. Her omission was for a lack of Oscar push from distributor Oscilloscope Laboratories. A little more marketing and screenings could have helped it in the Supporting Actor and Adapted Screenplay races, as well.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close‘s appearance in the Best Picture race was a shock. As was the total number of films selected. A total of nine films. Nine! Like Ferris Bueller’s mom finding it a surprise that her son had been absent from school on nine different occasions, I was stunned to see nine films selected. Seven films was my guess – including everything but Extremely Close and War Horse – but the voters must have really liked a lot films in 2011 to give them first-place votes for Best Picture consideration. So a year after people balked at the dilution of the Best Picture field when it was at ten, is nine a perfect – or at least better – number?

In terms of surprises, whoever had J.C. Chandor’s screenplay for Margin Call as one of the scripts picked for the Original Screenplay category, consider yourself blessed. 50/50, which was riding a fave of awards buzz do to Will Reiser’s screenplay, got no love from the Academy, but congratulations should be given to Asghar Farhadi for his A Separation screenplay. Though my knowledge of Iranian cinema is limited, I could go all hyperbole and say that it may be the best to ever come out of the country.

How about Terrence Malick getting some love for The Tree of Life? In a category that sees a recluse (Malick) and a habitual skipper of award proceedings (Woody Allen) getting nominated, you also have Martin Scorsese getting his seventh directing nom for his family feature Hugo, which also doubles as a metaphor for film preservation.

Hugo and The Artist both tied with the most nominations with 11 each. Both are callbacks to the days of early cinema, where stories were told with music and body inflections instead of words. Considering both were featured in my yearly top ten, it’s easy to see why the Academy fell in love with both films and their “new is old again” approach.

George Clooney is a double nominee for his acting in The Descendants and for adapted screenplay (The Ides of March). So if this year’s ceremony turns out anything like the year his film Good Night, and Good Luck were up for a slew of awards, he’ll be rewarded for his acting rather than his writing. Brad Pitt, who was part of Clooney’s crew in Ocean’s Eleven, gets his second leading actor nomination for Moneyball and he’s joined by Jonah Hill, who is up for supporting actor. It just sounds weird to say “and starring Academy Award nominee Jonah Hill.”

Other surprises of note include The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo being recognized for sound editing and mixing, yet Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s score went unacknowledged. The editing category is always confusing to the extent that a majority of the time the films nominated are Best Picture contenders. Martha Marcy May Marlene would have been a definite surprise, as aside from its direction and performance of lead actress Elizabeth Olsen, the editing was also crucial to the film’s brilliance, seemingly moving from present to past to events that we don’t know are real or dreams.

Random thought: How weird would it be to see Dean Pelton from Community (Jim Rash) accept an award for his contribution to the screenplay of The Descendants?

In terms of omissions, Albert Brooks for Drive seems strange. He had been up for a number of critics awards, include the recent Globes, but his name went uncalled. Instead, we heard the names of Nick Nolte (for Warrior) and Max Von Sydow (for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close). Both were the highlights for their respective films, but Brooks playing against type in an adversarial role was just too juicy to ignore. Sadly, it was.

Also ignored, you had the likes of Steven Spielberg – War Horse had quite a few nominations but none for directing. The Adventures of Tintin missed the cut for animation, more likely due to the fact that most found fault with its use of motion-capture (same for Andy Serkis in Rise of the Planet of the Apes). Buck and Project Nim were missing in action in the Documentary race, as was Hoyte van Hoytema’s cinematography in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

It was a clean sweep for Supporting Actresses. My gut to go with Janet McTeer over The Descendants‘ Shailene Woodley was the key. Because if you are going to nominate Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs, then you have to consider the performance of her much better co-star.

Finally, in what was likely the biggest surprise of the day, we had Demian Bichir getting acknowledged for his performance in A Better Life. Bichir, who also was nominated for a SAG Award, bested the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio (for his showier portrayal of J. Edgar Hoover), Ryan Gosling (a double threat for Drive and The Ides of March), Fassbender as already stated above, and even Michael Shannon (a nom for his performance in Take Shelter would have been too sweet).

Complete list of Oscar nominees.×120.jpg

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Weekend Box Office: Contraband Steals One; The Devil Inside Dies A Quick Death Mon, 16 Jan 2012 13:00:15 +0000

So where’s the silver lining with the recent trend at the box office? Theater attendance dropped dramatically last year – the lowest attendance numbers seen in sixteen years – so you know the studios are looking for a success story when they can find it. Last week it was The Devil Inside and its $34 million opening. But because of a bad CinemaScore (it got an “F”) and badder word of mouth, this found footage exorcism movie saw its box office receipts wither away as its percentage change in attendance was -77%.

With The Devil Inside bumped from the top spot that left the Mark Wahlberg heist vehicle Contraband to contend with Disney’s revival of Beauty and the Beast in three dimensions. The Dolly Parton/Queen Latifah gleeful Christian reprise, Joyful Noise didn’t have a chance. In the end, the victor was Universal and Mark Wahlberg. A solid $24.1 million opening versus $40 million to produce is a win for the studio. Wahlberg, though a tough sell on certain films, is absolute money when it comes to making mid-level budget films and getting a return on investment. However the once underwear model’s biggest success as a lead came at killing the lucrative Planet of the Apes franchise directed by Tim Burton.

Beauty and the Beast 3D, which had exhibitors whining last week because the film’s Blu-ray 3D came out last October, opened lower than The Lion King but don’t blame those who have a 3-D ready TV with Blu-ray 3D player. An almost $19 million opening for a twenty-year-old film isn’t nothing to sneeze at. It only ensures that there is a market for mainstream revival releases in the marketplace. Other studios would love to replicate Disney’s success with re-releasing catalog titles in 3-D. Why else do you think we’re getting Star Wars: Episode 1, Titanic and Finding Nemo in 3D this year. With DVD purchases dwindling, studios need to do find ways to make good use of their catalog. Currently, 3D is it.

Taking third for the weekend was Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol which has passed the original film’s domestic gross. Now it has its aiming to outgross the worldwide total of the second film in the series. The question remains on what will it take Paramount to get Tom Cruise back to do a fifth installment. He’s already lining up productions for the next few years. If he gets any older and he’ll be one reading off the “Your mission if you choose to accept it” messages.

Part Glee, part Christian musical, Joyful Noise did better than it probably should. Parton hasn’t been truly relevant in movies since 1992’s Straight Talk. And for Latifah, outside of Bringing Down the House and Last Holiday and her vocal work in the Ice Age movies, she hasn’t really had any leading role successes of note.

Following the Latifah-Parton joint was Sherlock Holmes 2. Benefiting from not much competition in the marketplace, the sequel should finish in the range of its predecessor domestically, but be an even bigger hit on the international level. And despite early concerns that it would catch on with viewers, Sony Pictures’ American adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is getting up there and could cross $100 million in a few weeks. It’s early returns overseas is a good sign, too.

Fox cuts close to 600 screen for Alvin and the Chipmunks signaling that it has run its course theatrically, much to the delight of parents everywhere. War Horse has spent four weeks in the top ten and has only amassed figures in the mid-$60s. Not exactly a breakout success, but it is still attracting eyes. Finally, rounding out the list is a title that is likely going to be take it or leave it offering. The Iron Lady with Meryl Streep is getting serious Oscar buzz for her performance, but the film is a hard sell. Thanks to solid expansion, though, it netted a decent per-screen despite playing on only 802 screens.

In limited release, we had expansions for The Artist, Carnage and A Dangerous Method. Of those, Method is still seeing a nice $5k per-screen return in its eighth week of release. The Weinstein Company’s silent film homage netted $1.1 million from 216 locations, while SPC’s Carnage made $786k. Angelina Jolie’s In the Land of Blood and Honey collected $40k from 18 locations, and another Oscar hopeful, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close saw only $88k earned from six screens. Keep tabs on what’s playing at your closest arthouse. You might find something that surprises you.

1. Contraband – $24.1 million

2. Beauty And The Beast 3D – $18.5 million

3. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol – $11.5 million ($506.7 million worldwide)

4. Joyful Noise – $11.3 million

5. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – $8.4 million ($392 million worldwide)

6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – $8.3 million ($88 million)

7. The Devil Inside – $7.9 million ($46 million)

8. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked – $5.8 million ($119 million)

9. War Horse – $5.6 million ($66 million)

10. The Iron Lady – $5.4 million ($6 million)

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Weekend Box Office: Audiences Make The Devil Inside #1, But Give It An ‘F’ Tue, 10 Jan 2012 13:00:29 +0000

People who want to criticize why certain movies succeed while others fail, well just look at who’s going to the movies. A movie like The Devil Inside is geared toward teens and urban viewers first and foremost, so it’s understandable why, as a horror release, it would do well on a Friday night. Even as the new year starts out with a new release getting a big number, it’s also worth noting the initial reactions to the film. Paramount’s found footage film got a CinemaScore rating of ‘F’. Horror releases typically get low grades, but an ‘F’ is rare. Playing on 2,285 screens, the The Devil Inside made an estimated $34.5 million. That’s $23.9 million better than last year’s major release at the same time, Nicolas Cage’s Season of the Witch.

Consider Paramount Pictures lucky to pull a fast one on audiences. The found footage genre is akin to reality shows on TV. Cheap and easy to make that audiences tend to gravitate towards. That’s not to imply that anyone who watches the Kardashians would watch an exorcism pic. Though both are scary propositions in terms of viewing.

Falling to second is Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, which is nearing $500 million globally. Withstanding public scrutiny to his couch-jumping episode prior to the release of Mission: Impossible III, Cruise shows that the M:I series still has a lot to offer as well as prove he’s still beloved by general audiences. The release of Ghost Protocol was a gamble that proved lucrative for Paramount. What was built as a summer tentpole event, the film has made a nice profit opening in the winter months. Perhaps other studios will experiment in the coming years by giving audiences on of their summer blockbusters for Christmas.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows won’t match the totals of its predecessor, but its week by week drop off isn’t nearly as big. Look for it to be a big seller on the home market, thus ensuring Mr. Holmes vitality for another mystery-adventure with Watson. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo got off to an inauspicious start, but has held steady with each passing week. In between holiday purchases and ringing the New Year, adults just cross “see sexy serial killer thriller” off their to do list. Nearing $80 million domestic, the real test is how it will do overseas.

Pickings are slim for small viewers, so that explains Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked presence in the top 10. With an opening weekend that was half its predecessors, and an estimated cumulative total of $111 million, the franchise has lost some steam. But success on the international level will ensure we get to see these characters again and again in the coming years.

Steven Spielberg may not have a stateside blockbuster with The Adventures of Tintin, but its earnings in the U.S. have propelled the CG-animated flick past $300 million worldwide. His other film, War Horse, is a safe picture aimed at kids and adults alike, but audiences aren’t coming out in droves. Awards season will help dictate its success. Print and TV spots showcasing its Golden Globes wins and Oscar nominations could give it a boost in the coming weeks.

Universal and Focus Features’ expansion of Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy boosted its earnings from $1 million last week to $5.8 million this weekend. The Brit period thriller has been hailed internationally, though it is one of those films where it will take more than a single viewing to appreciate. And finishing off the top 10 this week was New Year’s Eve. Crossing $50 million in five weeks, it has yet to surpass the first three day total of Valentine’s Day. So much for a Happy New Year.

Checking out the art house scene, The Weinstein Company’s The Artist adds another $1 million to its box office and continues to grow. Meryl Streep’s The Iron Lady earned $172k at five locations, while Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close finished with $96k collected from six screens.

1. The Devil Inside – $34.5 million

2. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol – $20.5 million ($170.2 million)

3. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – $14.1 million ($157.4 million)

4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – $11.4 million ($76.8 million)

5. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked – $9.5 million ($111.6 million)

6. War Horse – $8.7 million ($57 million)

7. We Bought Zoo – $8.5 million ($57 million)

8. The Adventures of Tintin – $7.2 million ($62 million)

9. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – $5.8 million ($10.3 million)

10. New Year’s Eve – $3.3 million ($52 million)

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R0BTRAIN’s Top 10 Movies of 2011 Wed, 04 Jan 2012 02:00:11 +0000 When I look back at my time watching the films in 2011, I can’t deny that I’ve had a terrific experience these past 12 months. While I feel like the year might have been devoid of the sort of transcendent movie or game changer the likes of Avatar or The Dark Knight or Inception, we’ve been lucky to have gotten a ton of great pictures, so much so that it was tough to narrow this list down to just ten. In fact, December alone yielded two films that ended up on my list, and had a few more that were terribly close. Pictures such as Moneyball, Contagion , and Midnight in Paris were all films that could have easily made this list, but when it comes down to getting to a final 10, you’ve got to make big sacrifices no matter how bad it hurts.

Now to be sure, the year had its share of big disappointments as well. Season of the Witch got us off on the wrong foot early, but did anyone expect duds like Sucker Punch and the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean outing to be so boring, or for Pixar to release their first out and out bad film with Cars 2? Thankfully, we got some pleasant surprises to even things out, especially Fast Five, which kind of blew the roof off every other action film that came out for the rest of the summer movie season. And who knew Rise of the Planet of the Apes was going to be so awesome?

My point is, is that while it wasn’t perfect, 2011 was still able to give us a lot of great cinema. While 2012 looks to be busting at the seams with huge epics that are right around the corner, 2011 gave me enough films that I’m really not ready to stop thinking about them yet.

R0BTRAIN’s Top 10 of 2011

10. Captain America: The First Avenger

If you love comic book films, especially those based on Marvel superheroes, then 2011 was a heck of a good time for you. Thor surprised with its liberal amounts of humor and its epic fantasy sequences, and X-Men: First Class was so good it made us forget about every lousy X film since the second one. If I had to pick a favorite though, Captain America: The First Avenger wins out with its combination of high adventure, nonstop action, and tons of heart.

Director Joe Johnston went back to his roots on this picture, showing us the protégé of Spielberg and Lucas who worked on the crews of classic adventures such as Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Captain America has the director in his oldschool action wheelhouse; producing a true follow-up to Johnston’s best film, The Rocketeer. With its plucky hero, gorgeous damsel, and villains so bad even the Nazis won’t take them, this is a picture that would have fit the bill perfectly during a Saturday afternoon serial, but as it is, it makes a wonderful final piece to Marvel’s Avengers puzzle.

9. War Horse

There were several blockbusters in 2011 that managed to pay homage to the works of Steven Spielberg, many of which were produced by The Beard himself. For most filmmakers that would have been enough of a creative output for one year; but not for the creator of Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, and Jaws. 2011 saw the release of two films with Steven Spielberg as director, and while some might not know what to make of the motion capture epic The Adventures of Tintin, Warhorse gives us Spielberg at his schmaltzy best. The director tugs at your heartstrings with expert precision as we watch the picture’s main character, a horse named Joey, travel from the farms of Britain to the battlefields of WWI. Spielberg wrings every bit of emotion out of the story with amazing setpieces, gorgeous photography, and a John Williams score that just won’t quit.

8. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

I had some doubts as to whether Brad Bird could show the same sort of creativity and humor he was able to infuse into his animated films such as The Incredibles and The Iron Giant. About five minutes into Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, those doubts were a distant memory. Once Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt and his IMF team were globetrotting through exotic locales and Cruise himself was hanging from the tallest building on earth, I couldn’t wait to see what Bird had up his sleeve next. The new Mission: Impossible is mind boggling awesome, with enough chases and fights to make it the best American action film of 2011 with very little competition.

Think Tom Cruise is too old to be playing super spies? Think again. Even with other cast members like Jeremy Renner and Paula Patton doing more of the heavy lifting than ever before, Cruise plays his intense superman as well as he ever has. Nearing age 50, he’s still the hardest working action star in Hollywood, putting his body on the line, and doing whatever it takes to get you into the theater. Mission: Impossible 5 can’t come fast enough.

7. Rango

In a year when Pixar disappointed us for the first time, Rango was there to take up the slack. Hilarious and weird, Rango seemed to free director Gore Verbinski like never before, showing us more wit and eye candy than ten Pirates of the Carribean films put together. With incredible character models from top to bottom, this spaghetti western homage is a wonder to behold with its one glorious sequence after another. Without question, my favorite collaboration between Verbinski and star Johnny Depp; this movie had me in stitches and on the edge of my seat all the way up to its final showdown.

6. The Muppets

The Muppets is a like a sledgehammer of nostalgia; wearing its heart unabashedly on its sleeve as it dares you not to sing along with its silly songs, laugh at its nonstop hilarity and get misty eyed at its earnest love for all of its characters. Director James Bobin and star Jason Seagal have created a loving tribute to Jim Henson’s madcap creations, and even if the voices aren’t 100% right, the heart the film gives us definitely hits it mark. As Kermit and the gang try to put on one last show to save their beloved theater, I sat in amazement as I got to watch The Muppet Show performed anew, which is something I thought I’d never see again. For all involved, I simply say “thank you”.

5. I Saw the Devil

Kim Ji-woon’s tale of sadistic revenge seems to put the nail in the coffin of the Korean revenge thriller genre once and for all, but what a way to go. Kim Ji-woon is relentless here, as stars Lee Byung-hun and Choi Min-sik face off in the ultimate battle of cop and serial killer with a nonstop barrage of knife fights, gun fights, murder and mayhem. The flick barely lets you catch your breath as it effortlessly swings one way and then the next. You honestly have no way of knowing what’s going to happen all the way up to the film’s final insane moments, and thank goodness for it, because you might just want to turn off the movie too early.

4. 13 Assassins

There’s something that just stirs inside of me when I watch 13 Assassins. Takashi Miike’s throwback samurai epic about 13 warriors who conspire to take down an evil lord is the most visceral action film to come out of any country in the last year. Everything about the film is just classic “men on a mission” formula, but Miike puts the movie together with such care and expertise that it all feels fresh. Goro Inagaki’s murdering rapist, Lord Naritsugu, is a villain that earns a plot against him of this magnitude with his over the top madness, and while Miike simply doesn’t have the time to delve too deeply into the lives of all of his heroes, veteran actors such as Kōji Yakusho and Tsuyoshi Ihara get the job done, and give us plenty of badassery to unapologetically root for.

Best of all, Miike lets it all hang out for the final hour of this movie, putting together a final battle that puts the conclusion of Transformers: Dark of the Moon to shame. Sure, Miike doesn’t have hundreds of millions of dollars to play with, so instead we get a screen filled with wall to wall bloodshed. This battle featuring our mighty 13 vs.200 samurai aligned with the evil Naritsugu is a showstopper of a sequence, reminding me of the best of Kurosawa or vintage John Woo. You want classic action without modern over-editing or CGI overload? Then 13 Assassins has you covered.

3. Attack the Block

If classic ‘80s John Carpenter had decided to make an “anti-E.T.”, I’m pretty sure Attack the Block is pretty close to what that would be like. The movie is just a flat out blast, as we see these rough city kids from a London slum who decide to take it to a pack of alien invaders with wild results. The movie is brutal and unforgiving to some of the kids, but there’s still a lot of humor and heart to go around when this group of lovable miscreants isn’t fighting off alien hordes using only fireworks and flea market samurai swords.

The monsters in the movie are particularly wonderful and creative, like pitch-black bears with glowing teeth, and Cornish gets the most he can out of every scare in the flick. It’s our alien fighting street thugs though, that really make this movie work. John Boyega as the group’s leader Moses is a particular standout, showing a cool confidence and vulnerability that you wouldn’t expect from a guy starring in his first film. Top to bottom, Attack the Block is cult movie heaven, and I think we’re going to be hearing a lot from everyone involved for years to come.

2. Super 8

Do you ever feel like a film maker is making movies specifically for you? Like the director is able to tap right into your brain and pull out everything you love about movies and then just put it up onscreen. That’s the feeling I get every time I go to see a J.J. Abrams movie these days. I suppose we live in a time when movie geeks are growing up become film makers themselves, and that explains a lot of the success of directors like Tarantino and Edgar Wright, but with Abrams its seems like he’s going just that extra step. I love spy movies dearly, and Abrams’ underappreciated Mission: Impossible III is a film that has grown in leaps and bounds for me in the last few years. My devotion to Star Wars, Star Trek and space adventures in general is no secret, so to say that I loved every minute of Abram’s new Star Trek reboot would be a giant understatement to say the least.

With Super 8, it’s just same song, different verse. The part of me that has never stopped loving early Spielberg, especially E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, took in this film with open arms and loved every second of it. Abrams and composer Michael Giacchino simply had my number anytime that they were after it and I couldn’t have been happier. The group of kids at the heart of this story are so good together and so naturally charismatic onscreen that I would gladly watch them in a picture even without aliens. Fortunately, I think the alien storyline still works like gangbusters, creating a total package for this film that I found completely undeniable. Add in Kyle Chandler as a modern day Roy Scheider, and Super 8 is a total winner in my eyes.

1. Drive

When was the last time you saw a character that was as effortlessly cool as Ryan Gosling’s driver in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive? 2011 was an incredible year for Ryan Gosling, who seemed to knock it out of the park with each successive project, but for me, I felt like Drive was his coming out party. His nameless character in this ultra-cool crime thriller was like getting to see the second coming of Steve McQueen. Perhaps simply the strong, silent type or maybe an autistic maniac, Drive shows us an actor in complete control of his craft every moment he’s onscreen. From his subtly sweet love scenes with Carey Mulligan to his ultra-violent, hammer wielding showdowns, we see the full range of Gosling’s screen power and he’s pretty mesmerizing.

Of course, the picture set around the driver is also fairly amazing from top to bottom. Nicolas Refn’s film is like an ode to ‘80s Michael Mann and veterans like Ron Pearlman and Albert Brooks do some of their best work ever. This goes especially for Brooks; cast against type as one of the scariest villains I’ve seen in some time, surprising us with his brilliantly subtle menace. Bryan Cranston and Carey Mulligan are also exceptional here, crafting characters that you have genuine emotional investments in, desperately hoping they stay out of harm’s way.

The film is so meticulously crafted, from its look, to its music, costumes, and to even the fonts of the opening credits, that it’s all a little dizzying. Director Refn stages beautiful, operatic mayhem, but does so with incredibly intense buildup and character work, so the action is never just about being noisy. The love scenes are dreamlike, the action is violent and savage, and the final result is nothing short of a masterpiece.×120.jpg

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Weekend Box Office: Top 10 Gets A Boost, Mission: Impossible Still #1 Mon, 02 Jan 2012 13:00:26 +0000

Before getting to this weekend’s box office take, let’s reflect on last year just a bit. What did 2011 teach us? Well, it showed that inflation helped boost sales, while attendance was at a level it hasn’t been since Clinton was President. Once again, people gravitated to sequels more than anything else. The seven highest-grossing films were all sequels. The remainder of the top ten consisted of brands (Marvel Comics’ Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, plus Fox’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes). What this tell us that even if people complain about films being unoriginal nowadays, the majority gravitate to familiar properties. And that won’t change until people stop purchasing a ticket. Even then, Hollywood will revive the property several years later, especially if it is horror (see Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street – we most likely won’t see sequels spawned of the current reboot, but we’ll probably get a third revival at some point).

If there’s one thing I have learned about movies is that advertising and the hype machine can only push a film so far, it’s up to the audience to go. Before the summer, if you would have told me that Super 8 would outgross the likes of Green Lantern and Cowboys & Aliens I would have said no way. But it truly was the summer where if you had a big budget and a high concept idea, you were more likely to fail than to succeed. The same, sadly, could also be said of Martin Scorsese’s Hugo. A film that in no way will make its money back in theaters, but could very well become one of films people talk about in the years to come.

2011 also saw a paradigm shift in attracting the Comic Con crowd. Granted, most of the top 10 appealed to the comic-book/genre-centric faithful, but then you have the already mentioned Green Lantern and Cowboys & Aliens duds, along with a revamped Conan the Barbarian and Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch. 2012 should be better overall with The Avengers, Prometheus, The Hobbit and, of course, The Dark Knight Rises, but beware the likes of John Carter (I’m sorry the trailers have done nothing for me) and The Amazing Spider-Man.

Last year also showed how well women react to movies. Outside of sequels and brands, both Bridesmaids and The Help finished at #11 and #12. Nobody was expecting much from either. Hell, the advertising for Bridesmaids wasn’t anything remarkable, but the two films just clicked. Part of it was timing – The Help opened the second week of August and stayed in the top 10 for 10 consecutive weeks – and a little bit of luck – Bridesmaids remained in the top five for five consecutive weeks while facing stiff competition like The Hangover Part II, a Kung Fu Panda sequel, and Johnny Depp in Search of More Booty. It also helped that both had incredible word of mouth. Remarkably, neither were rom-com material that is usually boyfriend kryptonite. For the first half of 2012, women will most likely venture to see This Means War (does Reese Witherspoon still got it?), The Hunger Games, The Five-Year Engagement, and a revival of Titanic in 3-D.

Will females line up to see The Five-Year Engagement in 2012?

Even though 2011 saw its lowest theater attendance since the ’90s, you have to admit that there are just some movies that have to be seen on the big screen. Quantify it by visuals or pop culture resonance, as much as it pains me to say it, Michael Bay’s latest Transformers monstrosity is best enjoyed on a giant wall in a theater full of chairs and holes in the armrests big enough to hold a 64 oz. drink. The films that really stood out on the big screen from 2011 include Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (specifically the IMAX presentation), The Tree of Life and Hugo.

That concludes my musings on last year’s box office performance. Now on with our feature presentation.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol takes the top spot again improving on its overall take last week. Now it zeros in on surpassing the domestic haul of Mission: Impossible III. Worldwide the film has crossed the $300 million mark and should cross $400 million in the coming weeks. Once again, Tom Cruise’s career has shifted out of cruise control and is firing on all cylinders. With Rock of Ages forthcoming (the film overall will most likely suck, but he will own his role) and projects with Christopher McQuarrie (writer-director of The Way of the Gun and writer of Cruise’s Valkyrie) and Doug Liman look for his star power to grow – as long as he can avoid couches.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows takes silver once again. Just like I wrote about earlier, audiences tend to gravitate to properties that have a proven track record. While it got off to a slow start, this sequel to the 2010 hit film looks to have legs. It may not have the benefit of getting an added boost from those who couldn’t get into seeing Avatar like Sherlock Holmes had, A Game of Shadows will most likely finish around the same gross as the original. Once it its more markets overseas, look for its international gross to do gangbusters.

The continued the success of Alvin and the Chipmunks in theaters just proves that parents don’t give two flips about what their children watch. Honestly, what’s the fascination with CGI chipmunks voiced by Justin Long and Anna Faris? Showing that she’s still a fighter, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is well on its way to topping $60 million. Still $40 million short of its estimated $100 million budget, but it wouldn’t surprise if the film makes it to nine figures. In a few weeks Oscar nominations come out and if Dragon Tattoo is up for some major awards, look out, as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo might be ready to play with fire and kick the hornet’s nest next.

Last year proved that the old guard of film-makers are not infallible. Martin Scorsese’s Hugo has struggled, and Steven Spielberg’s one-two punch of War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin have had mixed results thus far. Horse galloped to theaters on Christmas and has earned $42 million after a week in release. Not a bad figure, but maybe I’m just expecting more from a Spielberg picture nowadays, despite the fact the last Spielberg film of any substantial merit, Munich, didn’t set the theater ablaze with traffic. Still, word of mouth will help War Horse‘s totals and Tintin, which only grossed an estimated $12 million this past weekend, is already a success worldwide with more than $239 million earned already.

Getting a sizable bump in its second week was We Bought a Zoo. With $41.7 million earned, Cameron Crowe’s film has already outgrossed such Matt Damon star vehicles as The Informant!, Hereafter and Green Zone. At this rate it should eclipse The Adjustment Bureau, Damon’s biggest non-franchise or ensemble project release since The Talented Mr. Ripley. Newsflash: There were people that actually went to see New Year’s Eve on New Year’s Eve. Really?

The Darkest Hour, though not a great film, just needs to leave the top 10 so it can arrive to DVD already. Then people can stop calling it an alien invasion flick to what it really is – the unofficial spin-off of The Social Network. Once again Max Minghella’s brilliant web-based idea is stolen. Like John McClane so eloquently put it, “How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?”

Re-entering top 10 is Fox Searchlight’s The Descendants. At $40 million, matching Sideways‘ $71 million gross seems like a foregone conclusion. But the film for general audiences is only playing on 878 screens. Success at the Golden Globes and SAG Awards could lift its changes for even more awards and box office dollars.

As far as indies go, Meryl Streep’s The Iron Lady played at four locations for Oscar consideration and averaged $55k per-screen. The foreign release from Iran, A Separation, grossed $66k on three screens.

It was very active for the arthouse holdovers as well. While “The Artist” didn’t expand, it still improved heavily on last weekend’s numbers with $1.4 million on 167 screens, passing the $5 million mark in the process. Even more spectacular is the continuned $20k per-screen performance of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” which pulled in $1.2 million at fifty seven locations, incredible numbers for a four-week-old release. In its second weekend, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close averaged $17k at six locations. Outside of The Artist‘s continued success on 167 screens (with numbers totaling $1.4 million), the story of the moment is at how well Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy has managed to perform after four weeks. Playing at 57 locations, the spy thriller pulled in another $1.2 million.

1. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol: – $31.5 million ($324 million worldwide)

2. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – $22 million ($132.1 million)

3. Alvin And The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked – $18.25 million ($94.6 million)

4. War Horse – $16.9 million ($42.9 million)

5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – $16.3 million ($57 million)

6. We Bought a Zoo – $14.3 million ($41.7 million)

7. The Adventures of Tintin – $12 million ($287 million worldwide)

8. New Years Eve – $6.7 million ($46.3 million)

9. The Darkest Hour – $4.3 million ($13.2 million)

10. The Descendants – $3.7 million ($40 million)

What’s on tap for this coming week: will audiences take to The Devil Inside or will Mission: Impossible and Sherlock Holmes reign supreme once again?

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Friday Box Office: Mission: Impossible Remains Strong; We Bought a Zoo Opens Soft Sat, 24 Dec 2011 14:00:05 +0000 With today being Christmas Eve and all, which is typically one of the best days to go to the movies free of crowds (unless your theater is located at a mall, then you’re screwed), you probably want to get an idea of what people are watching this holiday. This Christmas holiday has proved interesting as studios have been releasing their films on different days. Starting last week with IMAX’s early week engagement of Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo‘s Tuesday night drop, to Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo‘s traditional Friday opening.

So far, Paramount’s decision to give Mission: Impossible a one-week head start has proven to be a key to its success. A strong first weekend in limited release matched with strong critical praise (currently 93% on RT) has helped to build word of mouth among theatergoers.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows trailed Ghost Protocol by an estimated $3 million to place second, while We Bought a Zoo could only manage $3 million gross with its Friday opening.

Still, the question remains on how well Steven Spielberg’s dual threat of The Adventures of Tintin and War Horse will do. Tintin has made $8.4 million since opening on Wednesday, but is already an international hit with more than $235 million in earnings. His World War I drama War Horse opens Sunday, Christmas Day.

Here are the current box office estimations, according to Deadline Hollywood.

1. Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol (Paramount) Week 2 [3,448 Theaters]
Debuted Friday December 16 in limited release; Expanded Tuesday night December 20; Officially went wide Wednesday December 21
Tuesday $1.7M, Wednesday $8.9M (including $2M midnights), Thursday $6.2M, Friday $9.5M
Estimated 3-Day Weekend $20.1M, Estimated 4-day Holiday $37.5M
Estimated Domestic Cume $61.5M, Estimated International Cume $105M

2. Sherlock Holmes: Game Of Shadows (Warner Bros) Week 2 [3,703 Theaters]

Opened wide Friday December 16
Wednesday $4.2M, Thursday $4.8M, Friday $6.5M
Estimated 3-Day Weekend $16.6M (-58%), Estimated 4-Day Holiday $26.7M
Estimated Domestic Cume $83.6M, Estimated International Cume $27.1M

3. Alvin & The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (Fox) Week 1 [3,726 Theaters]
Opened wide Friday December 16
Wednesday $3.5M, Thursday $3.9M, Friday $5.4M
Estimated 3-Day Weekend $12.2M (-47%), Estimated 4-Day Holiday $21.6M
Estimated Domestic Cume $57.1M

4. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Sony) NEW [2,914 Theaters]
Debuted Tuesday night December 20; Opened Wednesday December 21
Tuesday $1.6M, Wednesday $5M, Thursday $3.1M, Friday $4.6M
Estimated 3-Day Weekend $12.3M, Estimated 4-Day Holiday $19.2M
Estimated Domestic Cume $26.9M, Estimated International Cume $950K

5. The Adventures Of Tintin (Paramount) NEW [3,087 Theaters]

Opened Wednesday December 21
Wednesday $2.3M, Thursday $2.4M, Friday $3.7M
Estimated 3-Day Weekend $9.3M, Estimated 4-Day Holiday $14.5M
Estimated Domestic Cume $24M, Estimated International Cume (Sony) $241M

6. We Bought A Zoo (Fox) NEW [3,117 Theaters]
Friday $3M,
Estimated 3-Day Weekend $7.9M, Estimated 4-Day Holiday $12.3M

7. New Year’s Eve (Warner Bros) Week 3 [2,585 Theaters]

Friday $1.1M,
Estimated 3-Day Weekend $3.1M, Estimated 4-Day Holiday $4.7M, Cume $34.1M

8. Arthur Christmas (Sony) Week 5 [1,804 Theaters]
Friday $1M,
Estimated 3-Day Weekend $2.5M, Estimated 4-Day Holiday $4.2M
Estimated Cume $45.7M

9. The Muppets (Disney) Week 5 [1,859 Theaters]

Friday $983K,
Estimated 3-Day Weekend $2.3M, Estimated 4-Day Holiday $3.8M
Estimated Cume $77.4M

10) Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 (Summit) Week 6 [1,603 Theaters]
Friday $639K,
Estimated 3-Day Weekend $1.5M, Estimated 4-Day Holiday $2.3M
Estimated Cume $271.1M×120.jpg

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Just Seen It Movie Review: War Horse [Video] Sat, 17 Dec 2011 07:13:20 +0000 From director Steven Spielberg comes the tale of Joey, a young horse and the boy Albert who raises him in the British farmlands. But when Albert is forced to sell Joey, the horse is thrown into the madness of battle. As Albert joins the fight, the two desperately try to survive the horrors of World War One. Starring Jeremy Irvine, Emily Watson and David Thewlis. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Written by Lee Hall and Richard Curtis. Produced by Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy and Steven Spielberg. Genre: War Drama.

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Steven Spielberg Goes Fishing With 8 Oscar-Baity Clips For War Horse Mon, 05 Dec 2011 22:15:56 +0000 So you might have heard that Steven Spielberg has two films coming out later this month days a part from one another. The trailers and advertising for War Horse thus far has set out to make it be that beautifully-shot Oscar contender with a sappy narrative, unlike Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. Eight new clips for the film have made their way online looking to further instill in viewers that it will be a promising war drama that just happens to center on a horse.

War Horse is based on the Michael Morpurgo novel and the award-winning Broadway show from which it inspired. The story centers on a young man named Albert (Jeremy Irvine) and his horse, Joey, and how their bond is broken when Joey is sold to the cavalry and sent to the trenches of World War I. Albert, despite being too young to enlist, heads to France to save his friend.

War Horse gallops to theaters on Christmas Day.×120.jpg

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