katsu: (Default)

Saw this piece from the Hill crowing about the Benghazi film flopping at the box office. A Michael Bay movie about an annoying conspiracy theory not doing well? Doesn’t break my heart.

Though of course there’s arguments going on (generally drawn along political lines, unsurprisingly) about if it actually is a flop, because hey, $19.6 million is not an amount of money to sneeze at. So I got curious and decided to look a little more into the context. What exactly does constitute a flop?

To begin with, the operational definition of a “flop” seems to be: a movie that fails to make back its production budget. This is actually fairly generous, considering that advertising/distribution/marketing isn’t included in that number and would make the bar notably higher. For 13 Hours, the production budget is $50 million. So on opening weekend, it got back about 40% of its production budget, which is… not great.

It means that in the following weeks (and with whatever [unlikely] international success the movie might enjoy) 13 Hours could conceivably make back its budget, though this is by no means assured. It’s been getting middling reviews at 58% on Rotten Tomatoes, but audiences have it at 88% and word of mouth is a thing. And it’s not like good reviews are required for a movie to make money, just look at Ride Along 2 at 13%. Oof.

Now, if you look at the biggest opening weekend flops of 2015, which made less than $4 million their first weekend, it could have been a lot worse, yes, though I’m not sure “it had an opening weekend five times better than Victor Frankenstein” is really that much of a comfort. But it is fair to say that burying 13 Hours next to Jem and the Holograms might be a tad premature. It could still hobble to the finish line!

On the other hand, consider that American Sniper ($58.8 million production budget), which presumably had a similar target audience, scored $105.3 million on the same opening weekend in 2015. And 13 Hours is a film by Michael Bay who, love him or hate him like I do, normally brings in the money. That cinematic effluvia that almost destroyed my liver, Transformers 4, made $100 million domestic its first weekend on a film with a $210 million budget. While that might sound comfortingly closer, percentage-of-production-budget-wise (47% versus 39%) to what’s going on with 13 Hours, keep in mind that Transformers 4 was an international powerhouse. Almost 80% of its money got made internationally, which is highly unlikely for 13 Hours. Domestically, Transformers 4 only made $35 million over its budget. (See Box Office Mojo for where I’m getting my numbers.)

Anyway, there’s some serious mental gymnastics (and a deep desire to see one’s favorite conspiracy theory on the big screen, I suppose) required to see $19.6 million as anything other than highly disappointing.

Another thing to consider: the movie that blew 13 Hours out of the water this weekend, Ride Along 2, made $48.6 million upon opening, on a movie that had a $40 million production budget. (And I’d be curious what its advertising budget looked like in comparison to 13 Hours as well.) See, that’s what success looks like.

(Just for funsies, I looked up the opening domestic weekend for The Force Awakens. $248 million on a film with a $200 million budget.)

So anyway, is it fair to crow about 13 Hours being the floppingest flop that ever flopped, take that Benghazi conspiracy theorists? Eh, it could have been much worse, and it’s not inconceivable that it’ll at least recover its production budget, which is more than a lot of other movies with bigger budgets (ahem, 47 Ronin) ever manage. But you’ve got to be kidding yourself if you think $19.6 million is “good.” Maybe in the same universe where 13 Hours isn’t conspiracy fanfiction.

Just a little update on 3/18/16: Per the BoxOfficeMojo numbers, 13 Hours has managed to make back its production budget and score a little besides. (Numbers here.)  $63.6 million on a $50 million production budget. So technically, it has clawed its way out of being a flop, barely! Definitely not anything to write home about, financially.

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

katsu: (Default)

I’m going with… not yay.

So this is the thing. Apparently Wonder Woman is going to make an appearance in the Batman vs. Superman movie.

Numbered list, go!

  1. I seriously could not give less of a shit about this movie if I tried, Wonder Woman or no Wonder Woman. I’ve honestly never been that in to Superman as a hero, and then when it’s going to be Zack Snyder’s wangsty collateral-damage-what-collateral-damage Superman from Man of Steel, my levels of meh reach dangerous proportions that might threaten my ability to continue breathing as I am crushed by ennui.
  2. We have been bitching and moaning and asking and begging for a female superhero movie, (but action movies with women in the lead don’t work ever except oh hi Catching Fire) and this is what we get? If you want to win our hearts back from Marvel, DC, make a fucking Wonder Woman headlined movie. Otherwise it’s more well Black Widow doesn’t get her own movie but she’s totally in Captain America 2 and that counts right? bullshit. Forgive me for not being excited that Wonder Woman is going to be the third wheel in a movie where two other heroes get billing. It’s not like it’s going to be a team movie like Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy.
  3. So when you add 1 and 2 together to get 3, I’m STILL not in the least bit excited about this movie.
  4. This is all the more hilarisad considering you know who is getting her own movie? Maleficent. Yes, she isn’t a comic book character. But she’s a powerful female icon and a villain. This just strikes me as even funnier considering the song and dance Marvel has given fans who want a Loki movie because villain movies Just Aren’t Done. But there is a villain movie, about a female villain, and arguably the greatest female superhero of all time is still an afterthought to Orphan McBroody versus Orphan McShouldn’t-Be-Broody-But-Angst-Stands-In-For-Character-Development-Right.
  5. And then the Zack Snyder thing. I (shockingly) don’t have quite the hateboner for Snyder as others do, though god knows why. I think it’s because I actually kind of enjoyed Sucker Punch, quite possibly because it was SUPER PRETTY and I went in with such low expectations to begin with. I also think anyone who thought Sucker Punch was anything approaching a female empowerment narrative needs their damn head examined. Which circles us back to… gosh, yeah, I don’t trust Zack Snyder with the superhero whose underoos I wore as a child. (Could be worse, I guess. Could be Michael Bay. Amirite?)

The reason I even heard about this was a friend of mine posting the above linked article and saying that she really didn’t think Gal Gadot looked like Wonder Woman to her. And that was honestly my initial reaction as well, because Gal is a very pretty but very thin lady in that picture. Which upon sober reflection, kind of makes me cringe at my own thoughts, considering I’d be going fucking ballistic if anyone was saying she was too fat to play Wonder Woman.

I think the reason I had that reaction is Wonder Woman is… buff. Amazonian. And while I don’t have any right to be judging thin ladies, at the same time there is already such a conflation of fitness and thinness (I mean for god’s sake, people are still getting on Jennifer Lawrence about being too “fat” when she concentrated on looking really fit for Katniss) and it already feels like “very thin pretty woman” is the default setting. I desperately want to see some more diversity in body type for women in film, and superhero movies are a great opportunity for, I don’t know, at least some LADY MUSCLES or something. (They are non-threatening because they are lady-like!)

I had a brief Twitter conversation with Chuck Wendig about this (thanks, Chuck! And here is his post on the topic by the way), and he nicely deflated me a bit, which I appreciate. Also, apparently some people in the Twitter-verse are bitching because Gal Gadot is a model? So fucking what? (She’s an actress too. Fast & Furious, hello.) He also pointed out that Gadot was a soldier, which I hadn’t known before. (And hey, I know woman train up for roles like this; Jaimie Alexander did for Lady Sif!) So I will shut up about that now and have a good think about my knee jerk reaction.
My feelings toward the movie in general are still an uncomplicated BLEH. Considering it’s Zack Snyder we’ll probably get something like BONDAGE WONDER WOMAN because that looks strong, right? Gah.
Please feel free to prove me wrong. That would be awesome. And I’d see the movie twice. Okay, at least once.

Originally published at Rachael Acks: Sound and Nerdery. You can comment here or there.

katsu: (Default)

So, I saw three movies this weekend because we’re finally back to having movies I actually want to see in the theaters woohoo! I don’t have a problem shut up no you have the problem That made for an excellent weekend. There is seriously nothing I love more in the world than sitting down to watch a movie with popcorn and maybe a beer if I’ve got enough room in my calories for the day.

That meant I also got to see a lot of previews this weekend. And yay, there are more movies coming that I want to see! But I noticed something else… of all the previews I saw this weekend–for eight different movies!–literally only one of them had a female main character. And that one would be Gravity, with a trailer that prominently featured Sandra Bullock. (Way more than the previous trailers, actually.) I’m already just geeked to see this movie, and I’m sure it’s going to scare the shit out of me.

But all of the other trailers for new movies were basically one or two or three male characters, and at some point you’d get to see a woman briefly so you’d know she was the love interest for the hero. Oh, and quite a few women in bikinis in the background of some of the movies, of course. I’m… really disappointed.

Just… sigh. I’m still excited for some of the new movies and I’m sure I’ll go see quite a few of them. But would it cause the world to spin out of control and threaten all of humanity if women got to be in the lead and not have to take their shirts off occasionally?

Could be worse, I suppose. I could have been hoping for a queer main character to pop up. HAHAHA RIGHT. And keep in mind, I didn’t set out this weekend to count boobs versus penises in the previews. It just got to be so glaring I couldn’t not notice.

Also, I saw the preview for the new Robocop. I’m kind of interested sort of maybe, I think there’s a good chance I’ll see it, particularly if nothing more exciting is out that weekend. But I will note, I had about thirty seconds where I thought oh holy shit is the black guy that just got shot going to be Robocop oh no wait never mind. Because that would have been unexpected. (Please note, not that well acquainted with the original film; I was only 7 when it came out. But if I do end up seeing this new version I’ll make sure to give the old one a full watch.)

Anyway. Looking forward to the next round of movies, just… not as much as I could.

Originally published at The sound and nerdery of Rachael Acks. You can comment here or there.

katsu: (Tragic cherry on my woe cake)
Originally at blogger.

I have been in a state of nerd DEFCON 2 all year, I swear. 2012 is starting to feel like the apology for the (other than Thor) rather thin offerings of things that to watch in 2011. But I haven't just been vibrating with barely controlled glee over the various extravaganzas of shit blowing up and bad things getting punched in the throat (slow motion optional). I've been counting the days until the start of the BBC's The Hollow Crown, which is their presentation of four of Shakespeare's history plays: Richard II, Henry IV part 1 and part 2, and Henry V. The name "The Hollow Crown" actually comes from a line in Richard II (act 3 scene 2):


For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings;
How some have been deposed; some slain in war,
Some haunted by the ghosts they have deposed;
Some poison'd by their wives: some sleeping kill'd;
All murder'd: for within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits...

Nice pick for three plays about the life and death of kings.



I love Shakespeare. I have since my mother had me watch Kenneth Branagh's Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing. I regularly go for plays in Boulder's summer Shakespeare festival, though unfortunately none for me this year since I'm in Houston. But hey, the BBC is helping me out with this one.



I actually took Shakespeare for non-majors to get my upper division literature credit for my BA. We ended up reading Richard II and both parts of Henry IV, though to my eternal sadness didn't continue on to Henry V which is still my favorite out of all the plays. That class is also the source of one of the worst sentences I've ever written in my life (in a paper about Macbeth) but I digress. We did get to watch a video of the production of Richard II that Derek Jacobi starred in, and I liked it well enough.



Full disclosure: I probably would have just been at nerd DEFCON 3, if it weren't for the fact that Tom Hiddleston is playing Prince Hal/Henry V in the next plays. Favorite actor in favorite play ever? Gosh BBC, I would have just been happy with a box of chocolates and a stilted love letter, you didn't have to go to all this trouble, but THANKS.



I will admit that of the four plays listed, Richard II is probably my least favorite. I'm not really wowed by the fact that it's written in full verse, since I feel like the rhyming gets a little tedious or strained at times. I feel like it's got some structural weaknesses in the plot - for example, I've been trying for years to actually give a crap one way or the other when Richard's sycophants get put to death, but it's pretty hard to do so when they don't actually do anything as far as we can tell. We only hear about their misdeeds as a quick litany right before the head chopping happens. (I'm thinking this might have been less of an issue for audiences who were historically closer to the events being described, and also likely less picky.)



There's also the fact that it ends up feeling very uneven; Richard is basically deposed at the end of Act 3, and it takes two more acts (which feel a bit drawn out) of him emoting before the thing is really done. I watched the #TheHollowCrown twitter tag the entire time the play was going, and saw quite a few people who were unacquainted with the play feeling very confused that Richard was deposed with something like another 40 minutes to go, because that really does feel like the end right there. A lot of action happens offstage that makes it much less satisfying than what we get out of Henry IV and Henry V. And so on.



Which is not to say that I dislike the play. Obviously, I was still utterly geeked to sit down and watch it via streaming. I'm just setting what I feel are flaws of the play out because I went in expecting those flaws to be in evidence. They're structural to the play and can't really be escaped.



So with that in mind, I thought the production was excellent, and I enjoyed it even more than I expected to.



Costumes and sets were just fine for my untrained eye; to me it looked better than a lot of BBC shows I've seen in the past thanks to the magic of PBS.



Really what blew me away was the casting. There wasn't a single actor in there that I'd even begin to complain about. There were actually several non-white actors cast, which I thought was excellent. Lucian Msamati was the Bishop of Carlisle, and I thought he did great. Someone actually complained on twitter about it, which gave me some serious rageface1.



Ben Whishaw did an absolutely amazing job as Richard, handling all of his lightning fast swings between manic hope and rage and utter despair deftly. On one hand he made me want to punch Richard in the throat for being such a self-absorbed, petty tyrant, and on the other he still managed to make Richard a sympathetic character at the end, because you really could feel his complete loss of all hope. There was some commentary on twitter that he was getting a rather effeminate treatment; maybe a little, but that seems pretty in keeping with the play, I think, particularly since it makes Henry look like more of a badass.



David Suchet made an amazing Duke of York. I loved him to pieces in every scene he was in. He had all the internal conflict of choosing between Richard (the rightful but total crap king) and Henry (the usurper but much better king) and it came through very powerfully.



And of course, Patrick Stewart as John of Gaunt just stole it completely. Which I guess is what you'd expect from Patrick Stewart. John of Gaunt's big speech in Act 2 scene 1 just gave me chills.



The only thing for the production I really didn't care for was I felt like the divine imagery got hammered on a little too much. Yes, I get it. Richard being deposed was a massive blow against the idea of the divine right of kings. And he certainly felt himself persecuted. But somewhere between him laying out on the floor of the throne room in his white robe and being tucked in a coffin with some very well-placed wounds, it got to be just a bit too much for my taste. At the point the coffin was open and we got a full view of mostly naked Richard with his knees bent in a bit in a rather familiar post, I turned to Mike and said, "He just went the full Jesus. Never go the full Jesus." So obviously, this did not have the desired effect on me as a viewer if my reaction was sarcastic paraphrasing of Kirk Lazarus.



Anyway, if you like Shakespeare, definitely give this one a whirl. If you want to try Shakespeare out, it's not a bad place to start, though the verse can be a little rough if you're not used to it. The actors are all excellent, though, so you can get a good idea of what's going on even if you have a hard time following some of the dialog - though I'd recommend perhaps reading a summary of the play first just in case since that does help.



What this has really done is given me a massive case of anticipatory squee for the next three installments. If they managed to impress me this much with a play I'm pretty lukewarm toward, I may just explode in a shower of sugary sparkles of happiness by the time we get to the Battle of Agincourt in Henry V. 







1 - Obviously in his day, everything was about white dudes, and all the actors were white dudes, because duh. I'm really happy that non-white actors are finally scoring parts, and within the context of the plays it's being treated as a complete non-issue. I just keep wondering when women are finally going to get that chance in mainstream productions. There are obviously some places where that wouldn't work, but for example in Richard II it doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of a difference if Bagot is played by a man or a woman. This is just a thing I think about on occasion, because if this were fantasy mirror world where I could actually magically be an actress, I would still never get to play any of the parts Shakespeare wrote that I love best, because back in his day women didn't get to do a whole hell of a lot. (Including acting, so hey at least we've gotten that far!) So it just makes me sad. Not that it stops me from reading scenes to my cats when no one is around and I feel like making dramatic pronouncements.
katsu: (Hatching an evil plot)
Because of this:


THE JOSS WHEDON BANTER. God, Joss and Roberty Downey Jr, why did it take you two so long to get together? AND LOKI!

Can't wait for May 2012. Just can't wait. I sense a midnight showing in my future.



(Man, I wish I had the sheer sack required to RP Loki somewhere. But I so, so don't. XD)

And currently brainstorming about the Law of Unintended Consequences. Sometimes I feel like there are stories I'm just not smart enough to write.

Off to write things I AM smart enough to write. MAGICAL ASSASSINS FUCK YEAH.

Thor

May. 8th, 2011 11:24 pm
katsu: (Loki broods)
I liked the hell out of Thor; it's a fun movie, and I hope I'll get to see it again while it's still in theaters.

And now I will say some spoilery things, since this movie has filled me with squee. Mostly obsessing about Loki, I admit. )

I love it. Wonderful stuff. Makes me wish I still wrote fanfic, to be honest.

Off the topic of my new fan obsession, Heimdall was amazing as well. Even without taking in to account that casting Idris Elba pissed off the white supremacists to no end (WIN!) he did a really good performance as an immensely intimidating and exceptionally patient god. I loved it.
katsu: (It's not what you think)
I saw Sucker Punch yesterday.

And I really liked it.

Which actually came as something of a surprise to me, since I generally tend to agree with the reviews over at io9 when it comes to saying mean things about movies, and Sucker Punch got a solid thumbs down there.

Now, part of it might be that I went into the movie with extremely low expectations. I'd already read a couple of reviews which, to summarize with nice words, characterized the movie as completely vacuous. And boring. I actually felt more than a little shocked that I found it neither boring, nor vacuous.

Now, to be clear, I am in no way claiming that Sucker Punch is a great movie. It's no Inception. But as Zack Snyder movies go, this one was - as expected - extremely pretty, and much, much better than, say, 300. If you like that sort of eye candy, I think it's worth spending the money to see it. If you don't like that kind of movie, don't waste your time.

Also, the soundtrack is excellent.

I've got a few thoughts about it, so there are going to be SPOILERS all over the place. You have been warned.

SPOILERS AHOY! )

It's a pretty movie where women shoot and stab things. Occasionally at the same time. It's got an interesting concept and a great soundtrack. I specifically bought a small popcorn so I could munch along with the movie, because that's just the sort of film it is. There's really no need to make it out as more than that, is there?
katsu: (Bankai)
The Adjustment Bureau is two hours of lovely fun laced with just enough suspense and paranoia and Matt Damon looking both earnest and tasty, which is then completely ruined by the last three minutes of ridiculous feel-good cop out ending.

Seriously. If you're going to make a movie out of a fucking Philip K. Dick story, DON'T GIVE IT A FUCKING HAPPY ENDING.

If you do go see the movie - and I actually recommend that you do, since it's mostly very good - I recommend just walking out of the theater when the two people are kissing on the roof. (Being intentionally vague since it could be spoilery.) Just pretend the movie ends there, and you won't get that moment of enraging let-down that comes with the credits rolling.

Also, and this is a SPOILER: )
/SPOILER

Day was a lot of fun, and something I desperately needed after the hellish, stressful, and morale destroying week I've had. It's been one of those weeks where I spent a lot of time asking myself why the hell I'm in grad school. Though I did manage to finally beat the cold that's been hanging on to me for two weeks, after I decided I was exhausted and just didn't give a shit any more and then went home and slept for nearly ten hours. So yes, kids, sleep is still important, even when you're a (sort of) grown up.

Today Mike and I saw Kat and Aki and Mina, ate food, watched a movie, talked a bunch. Much relaxation had by all, I think. Normally Mina wants Mike to read to her, but it was my turn today I guess. I spent quite a bit of the day stretched out on the floor next to her, reading her little picture books and adding occasional sarcastic commentary.

Most amusing part of the day: Showed up in the morning while Mina was watching Sesame Street. Bert was singing a song about how he couldn't find Ernie in their bedroom. I suggested, "He's probably in the closet."
katsu: (Oregon trail FAIL)
Toward the end of this movie, there's an odd scene that takes place in the passenger area of the Expendables' ass-kicking cargo plane of doom, where the token black guy (Terry Crews) shows off his weapons to one of his fellow mercenaries. His final weapon is an extremely shiny straight razor with a handle made of transparent, neon-yellow plastic. The sight of that weapon literally made me say, "What the fuck?"

This is pretty much a metaphor for the entire movie experience.

I really wanted to like this movie. I really did. It had the hallmarks of the ridiculous but fun action flick. Kind of like The Scorpion King, a movie that I like in a sort of shame-filled way.

There was a good amount of fake, spraying blood. There was a gun that, at the beginning of the movie, literally tore someone in half and left the legs comically standing alone for a moment while the torso splattered against a wall. There were a dizzying array of knives (most of them wielded by Jason Statham's character) which were apparently made with steel with such a strong anti-reality resonance that bone simply ceased to exist as soon as it contacted the blade.

But. But.

I don't ask for a lot of plot out of my action movies. But I do like what little plot there is to be, I don't know, coherent.

The Expendables feels less like a film and more like a series of loosely collected scenes that have been arranged randomly. And all of the dialog was drawn, half a line at a time, from a box. I think that some of the scenes were supposed to be character development. Instead, it normally amounted to two characters saying random things to each other for about three minutes, at which point the spraying blood and explosions would mercifully resume.

I wish I could give you a plot summary, but I really can't. The best I can manage is that Stallone and his group are mercenaries. Except one of them burns out and goes crazy and tries to kill Stallone in the middle of the movie, after miraculously transporting himself to and from the tiny Latin American island hell hole where the Evil General lives. There is a douchey guy in a suit, who I initially guessed must be an American politician; I was close, he was an ex-FBI agent gone evil. There was the crazy general, who spent most of his time oscillating randomly between spanish and nonsensical English. He is sort of the pawn of the douchey suit guy, who wants him to grow drugs, or something, except nothing is getting done because the general's soldiers keep kidnapping civilians and then not putting them to work in the plantations. There was the evil general's daughter, who was Stallone's love interest. There was Charisma Carpenter as Jason Statham's girlfriend, causing a strange little sideplot where Mr. Statham beats the ever-loving shit out of a bunch of jerks on a basketball court.

The movie culminates in an orgy of gunfire, stabbing, and explosions, where the douchey suit guy shoots the general and then tries to kidnap his daughter for no apparent reason, despite the fact that earlier in the movie he was all for just killing her and having done with it. And I can't even say the spraying bullets and blood were all that interesting, because on several occasions during the climactic action sequence the focus was jumping between three or four individual fight scenes with no logic or warning.

That's also how the two major car chase scenes go as well. They actually become boring because it's impossible to tell where the vehicles are relative to each other, and it's really just an unnecessary pause in the bloodletting anyway.

The movie is an exercise in wasted potential. Jet Li appears in the film, but spends most of his time getting his ass handed to him by much taller white guys. Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger appear in the movie for a combined total of five minutes and then, no doubt feeling the threat to their careers, never appear again. Mickey Rourke plays a tattoo artist who was presumably once a mercenary himself - he's quite good at throwing knives - but spends most of his time trying to develop a character that is wholly uninvolved in the plot (such as it is) and has about as much depth and charm as Sarah Palin anyway.

The movie doesn't so much end as drop in its tracks, exhausted by its own meaningless existence, with Statham making up a "poem" that had me trying to crawl between the couch cushions to escape it.

You will notice that at no point do I name any of the characters. This is because, over the course of the movie, I simply could not be bothered to learn them. The names, like the characters themselves, felt like an afterthought, a formality added to the mix to justify this as a movie rather than one hundred minutes of random people getting shot and stabbed and blown up.

Before it was over, I tried to convince myself that The Expendables was some sort of high-level satire of the action genre. What convinced me this couldn't be possible was a scene in the middle of the movie where the general's daughter is waterboarded by the douchey suit guy. That one scene in the midst of the ridiculous mess of a movie was disturbing and strong. And it also made me realize that, to a certain extent, the movie was meant seriously. Which somehow makes it worse.

We don't ask much of our action movies, but this one fails on all counts. You're better off watching nearly any other movie that any of these actors have been in. My personal recommendation would be Die Hard. Or, failing that, you'll still get better quality story and acting from - and it pains me to say this - The Scorpion King.

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