Friday, August 31, 2007

Summer Review

The Summer movie season is over. The results are interesting.

Revenge of the threes. Six movies were the third installment of a series. Half of these ( Spider-Man, Shrek,and Pirates) broke $300 million. Of these, none were the best example of the series and none made as much money as the second installment but they still brought in just under a billion dollars in the US alone. Strangely, only Pirates has been singled out as a disappointment even though all three made the current top 10 box office with their second release and the box office of the three is within 10% of each other. Also, Pirates was the only one of the three that had a better third movie than the second.

Of the other 3rds, Bourne might break $200 million. Ocean's 13 only brought in $118 million - not bad but not what they were hoping for. The same is true for Rush Hour 3 at $118 million which is still pretty good for a 50-something action hero.

Along the same lines, Harry Potter 5 failed to break $300 million despite massive publicity from the book release and a solid movie but, at $280 million, the franchise hasn't run out of gas.

Source material. All of the top movies were adapted from some other medium but this year is surprising for the sources. We have Spider-Man (comic book), Shrek (children's book), Pirates (amusement park ride), Transformers (toy/comic book/tv show), and Harry Potter (children's book) before we get to the first original production - Ratatoille. The next two after that are Bourne (spy novel) and the Simpsons (cartoon) before adult films Knocked Up and Live Free or Die Hard . Clearly the days when studios had to release a violent R-rated movie in order to score big at the box office are over. Only one of these was rated R although most of the rest were PG13.

Disappointments. Ocean's 13 made money but didn't live up to expectations. Audiences didn't want to see remakes of the first movie. Evan Almighty did even worse, not quite breaking $100 million. No surprise here since the original had a different cast and premise and was a chick-flick/date movie. Evan had a completely different cast (the star was a bit-player in the original) and premise. It was aimed at families and Christians. Sicko was probably the biggest disappointment. It only brought in $23 million and failed to make national health care the topic of the year.

Overlooked. Ratatoille might break $200 million but it made less than Cars which made less than The Incredibles which made less than Finding Nemo. Ratatoille deserves better. Stardust has only brought in around $27 million. It is much better than that - one of the best movies of the year.

Sunday, August 26, 2007


We finally had a chance to see Stardust this weekend. I would rate this as the summer's most overlooked movie and possibly its best (although I still rank Ratatouille pretty high).

The plot is complex. We have Tristan who is trying to win Victoria by fetching a fallen star for her. It turns out the fallen star fell in a magic kingdom where stars look like people, but with some unusual properties.

There is a trio of witches who want the star for some of these properties. There is also a quartet of princes (down from seven) who are fighting over who will inherit the kingdom.

The paths of all of these characters cross repeatedly.

The plot twists aren't that hard to see coming. I saw one of the biggest coming two hours before it happened. This doesn't matter. It's not the destination, it's the journey and this one is a lot of fun.

My prediction is that 20 years from now, this is the movie coming out in special collector's edition, not any of the big blockbusters of the Summer. This is the one that will attain cult status.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Best and Worst of Time on TVq

I saw a local newspaper column yesterday complain about this being TV's dead month. It may be if you limit yourself to network TV. Most of the good shows have been retired for the Summer and the replacements aren't any good.

Basic cable, on the other hand, is at its best. There's at least one good thing on every weeknight.

History Detectives. I'm cheating a bit here since this is PBS instead of cable. The show takes four experts from Antique Roadshow. Each of them investigates an item with an interesting story to see if the story is true.

Eureka. The adventures of a sheriff in a small town, but, unlike Mayberry, this in the smartest town in the country full of people doing top secret and dangerous work for the government. THings go wrong regularly and the sheriff has to figure out how to clean it up, often saving the town or the world in the process.

Mythbusters. Still going strong.

Who Wants to be a Superhero? The best reality/game show on TV. It's goofy enough to work as a parody of Survivor but the contestants are so likable you hate to see anyone eliminated (except the bald guy - you don't back-talk to Stan Lee).

Dr. Who. More fun than the original series (that one's tough) with great production values but still enough cheese to be enjoyable.
Flash Gordon. I missed the pilot so this one is still a question
Monk. The best detective show since Columbo. The show has been on the decline, concentrating more on putting Monk in uncomfortable situations than in having a real mystery.
Psych. The second best detective show since Columbo. A fake psychic and his buddy Gus solve crimes while pretending that the answers just come to them.

No wonder network TV is having trouble. They no longer have a monopoly on quality programming.