erik lundegaard

Tuesday September 02, 2014

Box Office: How 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Became the No. 1 Movie of the Year

Guardians of the Galaxy — number one movie of the year

Come and get your love.

Here are portraits of three summer blockbusters:

Movie A

Week Rank Wknd Box Office % Drop
1 1 $91,608,337  
2 2 $35,501,212 -61.2%
3 3 $16,803,227 -52.7%
4 5 $7,823,388 -53.4%
5 7 $3,778,605 -51.7%

 Movie B

Week Rank Wknd Box Office % Drop
1 1 $100,038,390 -
2 1 $37,050,185 -63.0%
3 2 $16,302,415 -56.0%
4 5 $9,845,720 -39.6%
5 7 $4,702,553 -52.2%

Movie C

Week Rank Wknd Box Office % Drop
1 1 $94,320,883 -
2 2 $42,124,922 -55.3%
3 2 $25,115,564 -40.4%
4 1 $17,202,212 -31.5%
5 1 $17,077,000 -0.70%

They all start out about the same place but different things happen. Movie A drops off fast, and keeps dropping at the same heavy pace until it’s irrelevant. Movie B starts out a little higher, drops off a little faster, bounces around a bit; but by the fifth weekend, it, too, is yesterday’s news.

Movie C? It drops off marginally, but then shores itself up. Each weekend it drops off less and less until by the fourth and fifth weekends it reclaims the No. 1 spot.

Movie A is “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” which, domestically, grossed barely half of its opening weekend total ($202 million, currently 8th for the year). Movie B is “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” which ... ditto ($244 million, 4th).

And Movie C? “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which has now grossed $280 million and is currently the No. 1 movie of the year. It also looks to save Hollywood from the ignominy of the first summer without a $300 million movie since 2001. It’s also the first August release to be the No. 1 movie of the summer since ... I don’t know when. Probably B.J. (Before “Jaws”).

How did it happen? Here are the Rotten Tomatoes scores (critics/audience) for all three:

Movie Critics Audience
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 53% 69%
Transformers: Age of Extinction 18% 54%
Guardians of the Galaxy 92% 95%

It’s called word of mouth, kids.

It helped that the new wide releases were nothing to take your family to over Labor Day weekend. “As Above/So Below,” a thriller with a 39% RT rating, debuted in fourth with $8.6 million, while “The November Man,” starring Pierce Brosnan (37% RT), debuted in sixth with $7.8 million.

“Frank Miller’s Sin City 2,” meanwhile, continued to fall like a rock. It debuted horribly and still fell off 65% in its second weekend. After 11 days, it's grossed a total of $11 million, which the first “Sin City,” back in 2005, grossed in one day.

It’s called word of mouth, kids.

Posted at 06:20 AM on Sep 02, 2014 in category Movies - Box Office
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Monday September 01, 2014

Quote of the Day

From David Carr's review of Nick Davies' book, “Hack Attack: The Inside Story of How the Truth Caught Up With Rupert Murdoch”:

While Davies is a populist and a partisan who loves catching out the rich and punishing elites, he clearly believes that the common folk of Britain have gotten exactly the government and media they deserve.

This is my feeling about the U.S. as well—particularly the folks who voted for Reagan then wondered where the middle class went.

Posted at 06:20 PM on Sep 01, 2014 in category Quote of the Day
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Ronald Reagan's Message to George Clooney, Matt Damon, Et al.

“Some people think an actor should keep his mouth shut. I think that is wrong. An actor should be careful to know that no group is using him for a selfish purpose, but if he sincerely believes in something he should use his voice.”

-- Ronald Reagan, Democrat, in an AP column in 1945, as reported in Rick Perlstein's “The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan.”

Posted at 01:59 PM on Sep 01, 2014 in category Books
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Wednesday August 27, 2014

Movie Review: The Immigrant (2013)

WARNING: SPOILERS

I think of the word “traduced” when I think of this movie. As in: Someone must have traduced Ewa C., for without having done anything wrong she found herself in America one fine morning.

Marion Cotillard plays Ewa Cybulska, a Polish immigrant arriving in America in 1921 with her sister Magda (Angela Sarafyan), who is suffering from tuberculosis and thus taken out of line at Ellis Island and placed into quarantine. She disappears into the bowels of an uncaring, faceless bureaucracy. Ewa, meanwhile, is traduced: declared a woman of low morals because of a shipboard incident. But she is saved from disappearing into bureaucratic bowels by Bruno Weiss (Joaquin Phoenix), a man who insinuates himself into every situation and exudes ickiness from the get-go. The Immigrant Marion CotillardHe declares he will vouch for her, does, and off they go into the uncaring bowels of New York City: the lower east side.

Bruno, it turns out (and big surprise), runs a kind of burlesque show. He’s half barker, half pimp, and our concern for Ewa is of a traditional nature: Will she be forced into prostitution? What of her virtue? Oh, what of it? My concern for the movie, meanwhile, was graver: Would this just be a sad, downward-trajectory film or would it veer in unexpected directions? Could it retain our interest and still feel true?

The good news is it’s not simply a downward-trajectory film. Ewa isn’t just a victim and Bruno isn’t just a victimizer; but the prostitution thing still happens. Off camera, mostly.

Unraveled, Ewa’s story is a sad one:

  • Her parents were killed during the Great War.
  • On the ship to America, she is raped, which is why she is declared “a woman of low morals.”
  • Her uncle, who is supposed to meet her at the dock, abandons her when he discovers her new, traduced reputation. When she finds her way to his and his wife’s place in Brooklyn, he hands her over to the cops, who hand her back to Bruno. She’s trapped.

The arrival of Emil (Jeremy Renner), a Houdini wannabe, cousin to Bruno and rival for Ewa’s affections, adds energy and comedy to the story. Ultimately tragedy, too. The cousins fight over her and Emil is killed. For some reason that I can’t quite fathom, Ewa immediately becomes a suspect in his murder. It was Emil’s knife, they had been seen fighting publicly, yet somehow she is suspect. She could wind up in prison. Or worse.

It’s almost the Perils of Ewa. We’re just missing the traintracks.

Two wrongs, two rights
“The Immigrant” does two things wrong. One is that poster. Look at that thing. Who designed it? How incompetent do you have to be to make Marion Cotillard look both airbrushed and unattractive? You airbrush people to make them look more attractive, but she looks better in any frame of this film than she does in this lifeless thing. (Mouse over for a better version of the poster.)

The second thing the movie does wrong—and I hate to mention this because I’m a fan—is Joaquin Phoenix. He does not seem to be the man he’s supposed to be. He’s supposed to be slick but he’s not, a salesman but no, a user of women but how? Instead he gives us his usual, muddled, self-hating Joaquin schtick. This is a character who fended for himself as a kid on the lower east side? Since when?

But the movie also does two things right. First, it cast Marion Cotillard as Ewa. She’s a wonder to watch. She’s not only makes us feel this woman’s vulnerability, her toughness, her dedication to her sister, but she’s beautiful enough that you understand why both men fall in love with her. Yeah, I know: the movies are full of beautiful actresses. But ... Maybe it’s just me. We lust after actresses (Halle Berry, et al.), we get smitten by others (Carey Mulligan, et al.), but she’s the only one that makes my stomach do little flips. I get joy just out of watching her face. You know the line about how you’d pay to hear John Houseman read the phone book? I think I’d pay to watch Marion Cotillard read the phone book.

There’s also the film’s message of forgiveness. Throughout, Ewa is repulsed by Bruno; she despises him. But when she’s wanted for murder (which, of course, he committed), Bruno hides her. The cops beat him and he doesn’t talk. They steal everything he’s saved; ditto. Shortly thereafter, Ewa returns to her aunt’s home to ask for the money to free her sister. She asks this: “Is it a sin to want to survive when I have done so many bad things?” She says this. It’s like a break in the clouds:

God has sent me to someone so very lost, someone who made my life a sin. And now, this person suffers for me. So I am learning the power of forgiveness.

“The Immigrant” was written and directed by James Gray, who’s made, among others,  “We Own the Night,” “Two Lovers,” and “The Yards.” Those are gritty, “good effort” movies. They’re trying for something and don’t quite get there. You want to like them more. This is another one.

Posted at 07:08 AM on Aug 27, 2014 in category Movie Reviews - 2013
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Tuesday August 26, 2014

Lancelot Links

Matthew McConaughey in True Detective

McConaughey as Det. Rust Cohle. “What do you think the average IQ of the Emmy voter is, huh?”

  • Jay Leno at the Emmys: “And the winner is ... Modern Family!” Patricia: “Oh, for god's sake.” My feeling, too. And I love me some “Breaking Bad” but Matthew McConaughey was on another plane with “True Detective.” Nathaniel Rogers suggests some Emmy fixes, regardless of your rooting interests.
  • A friend of a friend, under the nom de Twit “One Observation a Day,” offered up just that for 365 straight days. The year's done and here are the results.
  • From Digital Music News, how the music industry has changed in one gif. The change refers to the thing we buy (vinyl, CD, download), not the music that's on the thing.
  • I wrote my last movie review for The Seattle Times, on “Coach Carter,” in January 2005—I was moving to Minnneapolis—but I returned to their pages last Friday with a short review of “When the Game Stands Tall.” What do these movies have in common? Besides being about coaches and sports? They were both directed by Thomas Carter, Heywood on “The White Shadow,” and he didn't directed any feature films in between. Odd serendipity, no? Plus they're both not good.
  • Have you been following Grantland's “Battle for the Best SNL Cast Member”? Have you been casting your votes? I have, nerd that I am. I really thought it would be Carvey vs. Myers in the “Lorne's Return” era (1986-1994) but it turned out to be Farley vs. Hartman. Here are my assumptions going forward: Murphy vs. Farley in the first 20 year bracket, Ferrell vs. Wiig in the second. The championship will be Murphy vs. Ferrell. Ferrell will win. And more cowbell will be heard throughout the land. But I've always been bad at prognositications. 
  • Why are the big-payroll teams losing so much this year? (Dodgers/Angels excepted.) Joe Posnanski thinks it ties to PEDs or their lack. He thinks it relates to what PEDs allowed players to do ... which they don't do anymore. M's fans take note. Spells doom, shortly. As I warned.
  • You often hear things like “John Oliver explained that better than any journalist ever has!” But how often do you hear it from the Columbia Journalism Review?
  • From the Onion: Judge orders pretty white girl will be tried as 300-lb. black man. Parody, but spot on. Father: “This is America: Nobody deserves to be treated as a black man!”
  • The passing of a family friend. Rest in peace, Mark Saunders.
Posted at 03:47 PM on Aug 26, 2014 in category Lancelot Links
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Quote of the Day

“But here was a lesson Democrats would have all too much occasion to contemplate in the years ahead: to claim the mantle of purity is always a risky business. It just gives voters an excuse to be disillusioned once your ordinary humanity us exposed.”

-- Rick Perlstein on the Congressional class of 1974, the so-called “Watergate babies,” in his book, “The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan”

Posted at 01:41 PM on Aug 26, 2014 in category Quote of the Day
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Siskel, Ebert, and Top 10 Woodys

Woody Allen in Love and Death

Woody Allen, with one of the title characters, in “Love and Death.” Gene Siskel recognized the genius before others.

At the end of the 1970s, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert did a “Sneak Previews” episode arguing over who was the funnier filmmaker: Woody Allen or Mel Brooks. Siskel went Allen, Ebert went Brooks. I remember back then talking about it with my dad, the film critic for The Minneapolis Tribune. How could anyone choose Mel Brooks over Woody Allen? Sure he was funny, but ... Brooks has made only five movies in the ’70s, almost all parodies of film genres, and the last two, “Silent Movie” and “High Anxiety,” were hardly winners. Allen made a movie a year. He’d won two Academy Awards. His movie, “Annie Hall,” had won the Oscar for best picture. He kept growing. Plus I thought he was just funnier. Mel over Woody? Was Roger nuts?

“They probably flipped a coin,” my father said, agreeing, “and Ebert lost.”

Looking over Siskel and Ebert’s annual top 10 lists recently, I see now that Siskel was in fact a bigger Allen fan than Ebert. “Annie Hall” was Siskel’s No. 1 movie of 1977. (No. 8 for Ebert.) “Manhattan” was No. 5 for Siskel in ’79. (It didn’t make Ebert’s list.) Siskel included “Annie Hall” among his best films of the decade and Ebert didn’t. Siskel included “The Purple Rose of Cairo” among his best films of 1985 and Ebert didn’t.

From 1975 to 1989, Woody Allen wrote and directed 14 movies, and half of them, seven, made Siskel’s annual top 10 list. My favorite inclusion is probably “Love and Death” as the third-best movie of 1975—ahead of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Barry Lyndon” and “Jaws." That’s still when Woody was doing broad comedy, too. But Gene always liked broad comedy.

Roger included five Allen movies during this period: Three at the end of the ‘80s—“Hannah and Her Sisters,” “Radio Days” and “Crimes and Misdemeanors”—and two from the ‘70s: “Annie Hall” and “Interiors.” Ebert would go on to include one more Allen movie on his top 10 list, “Everyone Says I Love You” from 1996, but Siskel’s list is almost the canon, isn’t it?

Anyway it's interesting to sort it all out this way. Might do more with other directors soon. 

Siskel's Top 10 Woodys Ebert's Top 10 Woodys
Love and Death, 1975 (#3) Annie Hall, 1977 (#8)
Annie Hall, 1977 (#1) Interiors, 1978 (#6)
Manhattan, 1979 (#5) Hannah and Her Sisters, 1986 (#3)
The Purple Rose of Cairo, 1985 (#10) Radio Days, 1987 (#7)
Hannah and Her Sisters, 1986 (#1) Crimes and Misdemeanors, 1989 (#8)
Radio Days, 1987 (#7) Everyone Says I Love You, 1996 (#8)
Crimes and Misdemeanors, 1989 (#7)  

Anyway it's interesting to sort it all out this way.

Posted at 06:04 AM on Aug 26, 2014 in category Movies
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Monday August 25, 2014

Annette Lake, August 2014

P and I went on a hike with our friends Ben and Diana yesterday. This was our destination and lunch spot.

CLICK ON THE PHOTO FOR A BIGGER VERSION.

Annette Lake, August 2014

This is the third time I've hiked Annette Lake. It's not a bad hike, almost always under a canopy of trees so cooler than most, but hardly something to write a blog about. It's medium length (3 miles one way), without much elevation gain (1,000 feet or so), and fairly accessible: less than a mile from Exit 47 off of I-90. It's also not very crowded. The ending is pretty but hardly Snow Lake. 

I think about it, though, because the first time I hiked it, in Sept. 2011, I was done almost before noon. It felt like child's play to me: too easy. I felt super strong. A month later I came down with what was diagnosed, a month later, as subacute thyroiditis. I've been in the wake of that ever since. Life gives and life takes, and this is one of the things it took. It'll take more. 

Posted at 08:54 AM on Aug 25, 2014 in category Hiking
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Hollywood B.O.: 'Guardians' Returns to No. 1; 'Sin City' Suffers for Its Many Sins

Guardians of the Galaxy

The good guys.

This is the kind of weekend box office that restores your faith in weekend box office. It’s a weekend straight out of a Hollywood movie: i.e., the good guys win, the bad guys get theirs, and some order is restored to the universe.

The good guys are “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which, in its fourth weekend of release, after two weekends at No. 2, returned to the No. 1 spot with another $17.6 million. In doing so, it surpassed “Transformers: Age of Extinction” (one of the bad guys) as the summer’s big hit with a domestic total of $251.8 million. And it will soon be the highest-grossing movie of the year, surpassing another good guy, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” which grossed $259.7 million in spring and early summer. Might “Guardians” reach $300 million now? It seems likely.

(What it won’t do is surpass “Transformers” as the highest-grossing 2014 film worldwide. Michael Bay’s robots have earned $1.065 billion around the world, way ahead of No. 2, “Maleficent” ($747.6 million) and more than twice as much as “Guardians” ($489.5 million), which has earned most of its money in the U.S. Effin’ foreigners.)

Meanwhile, “Frank Miller’s Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” one of the worst movies of the year, got deservedly killed at the box office. It opened in 2,894 theaters but grossed only $6.4 million for 8th place. In April 2005, the first “Sin City” grossed $29 million (adjusted: $37 million) on its way to a $74 million domestic gross (adjusted: $94 million), so this is quite a comedown. Why? Most pundits are assuming:

  • Nine years is too long between sequels.
  • The comic book/pulpish style of its art direction, once innovative, is ho-hum now.

I might add :

  • Frank Miller, in the interim, has revealed himself to be a reactionary asshole.
  • The movie sucked.

Elsewhere, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” fell off 41% for $16.8 million and second place, “If I Stay,” Chloë Grace Moretz’s weepy teen flick, earned back its budget plus some with $16.3 million and third place, the second weekend of “Let’s Be Cops” made another $11 million for fourth, and the debut weekend of the Christian-football flick “When the Game Stands Tall” grossed $9 million for fifth place. I reviewed this last one for The Seattle Times. Here.

Finally, in limited release, Richard Linklater’s “Boyhood,” the best American movie of the year, lost 37 theaters but fell off only 6% for a $1.7 million haul. It’s now grossed $16.5 million. Have you seen it yet?

Posted at 05:25 AM on Aug 25, 2014 in category Movies - Box Office
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Saturday August 23, 2014

The Real Howard Beale

Throughout his book, “The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan,” author Rick Perlstein talks about how all elements of the culture, including movies, were influencing other elements, but he is more reticent in drawing lines (or bridges, invisible or otherwise) between specific political acts and subsequent films. Thus the way Nixon talked about POWs led to the notion that we still had MIA over there, which led, 10 years later, to the awfulness of “Rambo: First Blood Part II.”

Then there was this cultural tidbit about Christine Chubbuck that I don't remember ever hearing about:

Two weeks before the impeachment hearings, the perky hostess of the chat show Suncoast Digest, who incorporated homemade puppets into the program, was angry that the station owner had told the staff to concentrate on “blood and guts,” and had cut away from her show to cover a shoot-out at a local restaurant. She began her broadcast with an uncharacteristic hard-news segment, with film from the restaurant shooting—which jammed in the projector, at which point she announced, “In keeping with Channel 40’s policy of bringing the latest in blood and guts, and in living color, you are going to see another first—attempted suicide.” She then shot herself in the head and died, leaving behind the script she had been reading from, which included a postscript: a third-person account of the breaking news story, to be read by whomever took over the news desk next.

Yes, Virginia (or Florida), there really is (or was) a Howard Beale.

Christine Chubbuck: inspiration for Network?

Posted at 02:30 PM on Aug 23, 2014 in category Books
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