04 July 2008

The Spiderwick Chronicles

The Year: 2008

The Players: That Charlie kid from the new Chocolate Factory (2 of him)

The Take: $71 million

Is this one of those Narnia Movies?: No, those would be the Chronicles of Narnia. These be the Chronicles of Spiderwick.

Why you should see it: This is one of the few fantasy movies of late that doesn't try and be epic. There is no panning scene of armies with trebuchets. There is no epic quest. Its just about a few kids fighting off some little goblins with tomato sauce. The little creatures in the movie are pretty cool like the little Stuart Littleesque Thimbletack - a browni with an affinity for honey. Alos, the movie isnt long enough to over stay its welcome. Surely not a great film, but a fun diversion, especially one that kids can also enjoy.

03 July 2008

$#!+ Happens

This poster pretty much speaks for itself.

Ink Blots - The Emperor's New Groove

The Emperors New Groove busted into movie theaters in 2000 earning $89 million on a $100 million budget... a loser after a long string of profitable animated features stretching back to 1991's Beauty and the Beast (well Fantasia 2000 also lost money, but it was its own kind of animal). Also, many people argue about when the Disney 90's Golden Era ended. Some say after the Lion King, others argue that it stretched all the way through Tarzan, but most would agree, New Groove lands after that era. One of the reasons for that is that New Groove marked the split from the successful Disney musical.

The Emperors New Groove was originally conceived as a musical, South American take on the Prince and the Pauper titled Kingdom of the Sun. Much like Elton John did for The Lion King and Phil Collins did for Tarzan, Sting was going to write songs for the movie, but that version of the film never came together and the whole project was nearly scrapped. In the end, Sting wrote the closing credits song My Funny Friend and Me, and the movie became a buddy comedy. This turned out to be one of those instances where Disney was the copycat as The Road to El Dorado, a similarly themed Dreamworks movie had been released 9 months prior - though I do not know which went into production first. Anyways, El Dorado was also a box office disappointment. After New Groove came a trio of Sci-Fi themed movies, Atlantis, Lilo and Stitch, and Treasure Planet, all which lacked the hallmark Disney musical aspect.

Well, that was a lot of background, but the truth is, New Groove may be overlooked for being atypical. It really is kinda funny and unique. I would easily rank it above other non-classics like The Great Mouse Detective, The Sword in the Stone, or Aristocats. The whole story revolves around an evil sorceress who wants to kill the king, but her henchman (more bumbling than evil) Kronk keeps fouling things up, for example, he turns him into a llama instead of killing him. It stars David Spade, perfect for the sarcastic tone of the film, as the selfish king Kuzco turned llama, John Goodman as the common man Pacha, and Patrick Warburton as the bumbling Kronk who steals the show. There is one scene in which Kronk goes to order some food at a restaurant, and through a series of events jumps in during lunch rush and serves out orders like a pro. He is also adept at speaking squirrel. Kuzco and Pacha start off as adversaries but as you would expect, end up as friends.

Anyways, the movie is vibrant and manic, but ultimately a little to predictable in plot in spite of a fresh style of humor. The Emperors New Groove may not be remembered as a classic, but it shouldn't be totally forgotten. B-

02 July 2008

Hancock is Here

Kicking off Superhero month is Hancock. I think its safe to say he will come out on top of Hellboy 2, but can Will Smith give the smack down to The Dark Knight? Dare I ask, can he challenge Iron Man. Bad reviews suggest nay, but never count out Big Will. Another interesting question, can the unknown hero Hancock top the recent mild earnings of our oldest hero Superman? Box office experts are suggesting that Hancock will collect around $120 million or more by Monday. Thats quite a chunk of change, and we shall see.

The Babylonian Captivity - Babylon Squared (1x20)

Babylon 4 suddenly reappeared. It has been in a time rift and the real twist is that future Sinclair seems to be in behind the whole thing. Quite an intriguing episode. Still, terrible effects, but I am a sucker for compelling time travel episodes.


The Babylonian Captivity - A Voice in the Wilderness (1x18-19)

Turns out that the planet Babylon 5 has been orbiting is an ancient machine that is armed to the teeth. There is a dude's brain running the whole thing, but the guy is old and about to die, so they recruit a Minbari to take over as machine brain. This was a pretty interesting two parter and I suspect we will be seeing more of this giant war machine.


01 July 2008

Superheroes on Screen - Retrospective 1993

A year that time could forget, almost


What started a promising franchise in 1990 quickly went downhill. By the time Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3 came, the Turtles were time travelers, and instead of turtles they looked more like frogs with shells. The film was still a hit, but not to the level of the first 2. It would be 14 years before the animated follow-up TMNT.

I wont say much about the parody Meteor Man, but at least it made more than its copycat Blankman, which is sad since it only earned $8 million. Anyways, if I were writing an SAT question of "Blankman:Batman as Meteor Man: ?" the answer would be Superman. Among other powers, he had:
* Absorbing book content by touch
* Superhuman Strength
* Flight
* Laser Vision
* X-ray Vision
* Freezing Breath
* Healing Factor
* Imbue Fertility
* Telekinesis
* Animal Communication
* Superhuman Speed

That's one tough dude. He didn't get a sequel, but did get a Marvel comic mini series.

Opening on Christmas 1993 was what many consider the best Batman movie - though since Batman Begins, the proponents have quieted down a bit. Made by the team that brought us the classic Batman: The Animated Series, this movie explored the origins of Batman in a way that had previously been skipped over. My review of the movie is here. This was easily the years high point as far as Superheroes on screen are considered.

1993 also saw the premier of the 4 season running Lois and Clark. The show built up a good following by focusing more on the romance between the titular characters, but in season3, when trying to drag out the tension that made the show popular, they really "jumped the shark," or using a current term "nuked the fridge." After 60 years, Superman and Lois finally got married... but it wasn't really Lois, it was a frog eating clone. This twist sent viewers scrambling and the show never recovered. Even a real wedding couldn't save the show which got quite silly before ending on a cliffhanger in 1997.

There you have it folks, a light serving of cheese with a nice Batman on top. That was 1993.

30 June 2008

Radar Blips - Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

The Year: 2001

The Players: Magneto, Count Dooku, Rudy, Alec Trevelyan, Huck Finn, Charlie Pace, Sallah, Will Turner, Betty Ross, and many more.

The Take: $313 million

Is this based on a book?: But of course, except the film's last sequence was actually lifted from the 2nd book and put in here.

Why you should see it: First off, if you aren't watching the extended version, whats wrong with you. I mean, you are already committed to 3 plus hours. Whats a few more minutes. The action in this movie, tame compared to the subsequent films, is still great. The best parts being the battle in the mines of Moria, the collapsing stairs, and the final battle in the woods. The nine members of the fellowship are also all great. Alas, even Boromir goes out a hero... though trading a couple of hobbits for another elf may have been a smart move. What really makes this film great is how it can open with a light and cheery mood and subtly but quickly escalate into an engrossing and nearly hopeless epic quest full of rich and complex characters. One of the all-time greats.

WALL-E Avoids Imminent Destruction

We all know that Wall-E opened strong and will carry on the flawless record of Pixar studios for producing hits, BUT the real amazing perspective comes if you look at the history of Animated Sci-Fi. The only films of that genre that didnt bomb were Lilo-and Stitch ($145 million) and Robots ($128 million). Disasters included Disney's very own Atlantis and Treasure Planet. Treasure planet earned $38 million on a budget of $140 million. Oops. That movie also has the distinction of killing traditional animation at Disney. Its performance convinced the Mouse to go CG and to churn out fare like Chicken Little.

Other notable disasters include Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (devestating loss of over $100 million of SquareSoft, killing their cinematic pursuits), The Iron Giant(Bye bye Warner Animation), and Titan A.E. (killed Don Bluth's chances of a comeback after Anastasia) I am sure people can come up with all sorts of explainations for these films failires, but the fact is that WALL-E has done something pretty significant. This could easily have been the one to end Pixar's streak, and though it remains to be seen how well the film will do, it looks like WALL-E will safely take first place in this sub-genre littered with disappointments and bankrupted studios.

29 June 2008

The Babylonian Captivity - Legacies (1x17)

The Minbari weren't all happy about surrendering on the dawn of victory in the was against Earth. One of their great leaders has died and political tension are abounding. The next episode is a two-parter. here is to hoping it has a decent or at least relevant story to tell.


The Babylonian Captivity - Eyes (1x16)

Commander Sinclair once again shows his cunning while under inquiry for some of his questionable decisions. Turns out the guy leading the inquiry was mad about getting passed over for Babylon 5 commander and Sinclair exposes him.


The Babylonian Captivity - Grail (1x15)

Some guy is looking for the Holy Grail, in space. He gets killed but luckily had taken a pickpocket under his wing who will carry on the quest. Pretty pointless, but we do learn that Babylon 1 - 3 all exploded without known cause and 4 just disappeared. Bad news for Bab 5.


The Babylonian Captivity - TKO (1x14)

Some washed up Earth boxer dude infiltrates the Ultimate Fighters ring and get pummeled while pummeling to a stalemate. Exciting.


Whale Sized Opening for WALL-E

With $62.5 million, WALL-E has taken the top spot over a surprisingly strong 2nd place Wanted ($51 million). This ranks as the 3rd highest ever Pixar opening. Its also a huge opening for an R-Rated movie that many dismissed as a silly Matrix rip-off. Unfortunately, due to Get Smarts continued, though mild, performance, we will have to wait until next week to add these movies to the list (and to bump Get Smart back off the list).

Hulk has joined the Green blockbusters and Indy is darned close to a RED 300 mil plus status. Also, Panda looks like he will get to the $200 million mark, an impressive feat for non-Pixar or non-Shrek CG films these days.

Next week, the list should change a lot with a monster opening from Will Smith's Hancock, and jumps from Wanted and Wall-E. And sadly, it may not be too long before Narnia gets dumped.


#1 Iron Man - $309,176,000
#2 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - $299,936,000
#3 Kung Fu Panda - $179,330,000
#4 Sex and the City - $140,132,000
#5 The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian - $137,687,000
#6 The Incredible Hulk - $115,508,000
#7 You Don't Mess With the Zohan - $91,215,000
#8 What Happens in Vegas - $77,973,837
#9 Get Smart - $77,266,000