Friday, May 25, 2012

Bernie

Bernie was not at all what I thought it would be, even though I read a few reviews and what some might consider "spoilers" online before seeing it. The movie is based on real events that happened in Texas in 1996, when the companion of a wealthy elderly woman (Marjorie Nugent) shot her four times in the back. He then hid the body and pretended that she was still alive for the next several months until people eventually became suspicious and the police searched his home and found Marjorie's body. The story itself is fascinating, but unfortunately the movie, in my opinion, falls a little flat.

39-year-old Bernie Tiede (Jack Black, The Big Year) is a pillar of the community in Carthage, Texas, the small town where he resides. He's the assistant funeral director at the local funeral home, and he always follows up with the grieving widows afterwards to make sure they are doing okay. He sings in the church choir and everybody in town loves him. He eventually meets 81-year-old Marjorie Nugent (Shirley MacLaine, Valentine's Day) when her husband passes away, and he takes a special interest in her. She has children, but is estranged from them, and she takes Bernie on as her companion - not lover, as he was rumored to be gay - and they take many trips together, including vacations to New York City, Russia, and Paris. Soon, however, Marjorie begins to isolate Bernie from his friends and the town, and one day Bernie snaps and shoots her in the back. He then pretends she is sick whenever the townspeople begin to get curious, and he gets away with this charade for the next nine months.

Men in Black III


It's a surprise to see a new film in the Men In Black franchise, given that the last movie, Men in Black II, came out ten years ago. However, the premise for this one seemed interesting, and although it slows down in the middle of it, overall it's a fun film and worth seeing.

Agent J (Will Smith, Seven Pounds) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones, The Company Men) have been partners for a while now, but K still has secrets he's keeping from J. When they meet Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement, Rio) and K seems to have a past with him, J is not surprised. What does surprise J, however, is when he wakes up the next day and goes to work, and no one even remembers who K is. Agent O (Emma Thompson, Nanny McPhee Returns) tells J that Agent K was killed in Cape Canaveral, Florida, over forty years ago. J deduces that something happened in the past that did not happen originally - originally, K shot off one of Boris's arms and was able to establish the ArcNet, which protects Earth from aliens - so J decides to go back into the past to make things right again.

Cowgirls 'n Angels


I was invited to an online screening of Cowgirls 'n Angels, and when I saw that Bailee Madison (Just Go With It and TV's Once Upon a Time) and Jackson Rathbone (the Twilight series) were in the film, I immediately accepted. Though I missed out on the live Q&A with Madison and Rathbone, I was able to watch the screening online at my convenience, and the movie started off well, with a first-person narration by Madison's character. As the film goes on, however, it starts to become a little cheesy, though it's not a bad choice overall as compared to other "family-friendly" films currently in theaters.

Ida Clayton (Bailee Madison) loves the rodeo, although her mother (Alicia Witt, TV's Friday Night Lights) hates it because it reminds her of Ida's dad, a rodeo man who left them before Ida was born. Ida tries to teach herself how to ride a horse, and rodeo expert Terence Parker (James Cromwell, The Artist) sees her passion for rodeo and offers her a spot as the youngest member of the Sweethearts of the Rodeo, a group of girls who love to ride. Her mother is against her traveling with them, but relents when she learns that Ida will be paid to ride, and so Ida joins the Sweethearts on their tour of the West. While on the tour, she tries to find her father, whose name she knows to be Walker, and she enlists the Sweethearts in helping her find him.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Michigan Theater announces 2012 Summer Classics Film Series schedule

Creature from the Black Lagoon, 1954
The Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor announced its summer classic films line-up today, and it includes many popular movies. The series will feature fifteen films, starting on June 3rd with Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), now in 3D, and ending on September 3rd with Casablanca (1942), which is free for students. Mash (1970), on July 1st and 3rd, is free for veterans, as are all regular films at the Michigan on July 4th.

Prices for each vary, and can be bought online at the Michigan Theater's website.

Read the rest of the article at Examiner.com.

Pixar favorites returning to select AMC Theaters over Memorial Day Weekend

I just received a press release saying that a few Pixar family favorites will be returning to the big screen this weekend, at AMC Theaters. Toy Story 3, Ratatouille, Up, and Wall-E will be playing, and tickets are $6 but vary per location.

In the metro Detroit area, the following theaters will be participating:

  • AMC Fairlane
  • AMC Forum
  • AMC Gratiot
  • AMC Great Lakes
  • AMC Star John R
  • AMC Livonia
  • AMC Southfield

The films will also be accompanied by a "behind-the scenes look" at Pixar's newest movie to be released next month, Brave.

From the press release:

With the summer movie season heating up, four popular Disney•Pixar movies are returning exclusively to AMC Theatres for the Memorial Day holiday weekend. From May 25 through May 28, “Toy Story 3,” “Ratatouille,” “Up” and “WALL•E” will be featured at AMC locations around the country. Each film will be accompanied by a classic Pixar short film and an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the upcoming movie, “Brave.”

“There are some great films coming out Memorial Day weekend but nothing specifically for families and young children,” said Sun Dee Larson, vice president of Film Marketing at AMC. “We’re excited to provide our guests with an opportunity to take the whole family out to the theatre to enjoy some of the most treasured movies of all time, plus give our guests the chance to see a behind-the-scenes look at ‘Brave.’”

Priced at $6 per movie (pricing may vary), each movie will play once every day on a rotating schedule. Participating locations, showtime information and advance tickets are available now at amctheatres.com/pixar.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Battleship


What's funny about the movie Battleship is that I really liked the beginning and the ending; but the middle part of it, where the cast is literally playing the game Battleship with the so-called harmful aliens, was just so-so, minus the cool special effects. At the beginning, we meet our slacker, who will, of course, later turn into a hero, and the dialogue is pretty funny - I was thinking at that point that this would be the first blockbuster of the summer. Unfortunately, the dialogue later in the film becomes dumb and insipid, and although the action scenes will keep you interested, the movie starts to feel long (which it is - it's 2 hours 10 minutes, approximately) and wear out its welcome, until the very end.

Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch, John Carter) is a bum who lives with his brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgard, TV's True Blood), a Commander in the Navy. When he meets a cute girl (Brooklyn Decker, What to Expect When You're Expecting) at a bar, Alex is willing to do anything to attract her attention, including breaking into a convenience store for her when she says she's hungry for a burrito and the bar's kitchen is closed. Stone has had enough of Alex's antics, and he forces him to enroll in the Navy, hoping that this will provide more discipline in his life. Soon, his girlfriend Sam wants him to ask permission from her father (Liam Neeson, The Grey) to marry him, and Alex says he will, at some point; but first he has to get through the naval exercises that Navy men from all around the world have gathered in Hawaii to complete. During these supposedly routine exercises, something happens that is decidedly not routine, and soon Alex finds himself leading a ship against a crop of aliens who have invaded Hawaii.

What To Expect When You're Expecting


One thing I will say of What to Expect When You're Expecting is this: most of its comedic moments were very funny. Unfortunately, many of the best gags were revealed in the trailer, and there were plenty of others that fell flat with the audience. As a result, WTEWYE is better off being seen at a matinee or on DVD.

WTEWYE is in the vein of other movies like Valentine's Day or New Year's Eve, where it follows a few couples who are all connected in some way or another. Jules (Cameron Diaz, Bad Teacher) is a celebrity fitness guru who has her own show, and the film opens with her and her dance partner, Evan (Matthew Morrison, TV's Glee) on Celebrity Dance Factor, a TV show similar to Dancing with the Stars. She and Evan win the competition, and receive a big trophy ... which she promptly vomits into. Could she be pregnant, perhaps?

Holly (Jennifer Lopez, The Back-up Plan) and her husband Alex (Rodrigo Santoro, Love Actually) are looking into adopting, and the counselor they meet with says it will be a year or more before they will be able to do so. Suddenly, that date is moved up, and Alex doesn't know if he's ready to be a dad. They make plans to travel to Ethiopia to meet their new son, and so Alex has to get ready for fatherhood sooner than expected.

The other couples include Gary and Wendy (Ben Falcone, Bridesmaids, and Elizabeth Banks, TV's 30 Rock), who had been trying to get pregnant for a long time and finally have accomplished it; unfortunately, Gary's uber-competitive former race-car driver father (Dennis Quaid, Soul Surfer) and his younger-than-him "mom" (Brooklyn Decker, Just Go With It) are also pregnant, with twins. The film also features Anna Kendrick (Breaking Dawn Part 1) and Chace Crawford (TV's Gossip Girl) as a couple that hooked up once, and now Kendrick's character is pregnant, though their circumstances will change later in the movie.

First Position


The last dance film I saw was Pina, which was a bit too "artsy" for me, though the 3D in it was great. First Position is completely different from that type of movie, as it follows six ballet students as they vie for a spot in the finals of the Youth America Grand Prix competition. The film was a lot better than I thought it was going to be, and I would recommend it to anyone, even if you are not interested in movies about dance, as the movie was really about these kids and the sacrifices they make every day so they can pursue their passion.

The six dancers that the film follows are from all over the world. Aran lives in Italy with his parents, and he is American but his dad is in the Navy, so they move around a lot. He commutes two hours to Milan with his mother so that he can take dance lessons. He also has a friend, Gaya, from Israel, who is an intense little girl who loves ballet and is competing in the YAGP (Youth America Grand Prix) as well. The Fogarty children, Miko and her brother Jules, or J.J., both are ballet students, but Miko is a lot more serious about it than Jules, who provides some comic relief throughout the movie.

Rebecca, from the U.S., is the oldest student that the documentary focuses on, and her goal in the YAGP is to be offered a job contract with one of the ballet companies. Michaela, originally from Sierra Leone, was adopted by American parents after her own parents were murdered by the regime there, and she feels lucky to be alive and able to dance. Finally, Joan Sebastian is living in New York City and taking dance lessons, but it is hard for him because he is from Colombia and has had to leave his mother, father, and brother there while he tries to accomplish his dreams.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Dark Shadows


The TV spots for Dark Shadows make it seem like it's going to be a comedy, but in reality, it's more like a drama with some laughs thrown in; an extremely campy drama, too, although the TV show upon which it is based was supposedly very campy as well. The show ran from 1966 to 1971, and Johnny Depp himself wanted to bring it to the big screen. The performances in Dark Shadows are all spot-on, but unfortunately the movie tends to move slowly and wear out its welcome at times.

Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp, The Rum Diary) lives in the 1700s and has found his one true love; before finding her, however, he had the misfortune of fooling around with one of the family maids, Angelique (Eva Green, Casino Royale), who is actually a witch. Angelique decides that if she can't have Barnabas, no one can, and she puts a curse on his beloved, who throws herself off a cliff. Barnabas does as well, in order to save her, but then realizes that Angelique has turned him into a vampire. Angelique leads the townspeople on a witchhunt to the Collins mansion, where they wrap Barnabas in chains and bury him in a coffin.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a Fox Searchlight film with many actors whom you will recognize, regardless of your age: Maggie Smith (from the Harry Potter movies), Bill Nighy, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, to name the top few. It also has Dev Patel, from Slumdog Millionaire, as an entrepreneurial young man who is trying to run the Marigold Hotel - or, to use its full title, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful. The movie has a lot of heart, as well as great music and cinematography, but it tended to run a bit slow throughout.

All of the above characters end up staying at the Marigold Hotel, but all for different reasons. Muriel (Maggie Smith) needs a hip replacement, and if she doesn't fly to India to get one at a fraction of the price, she will be on a long waiting list in the U.S. instead. Douglas (Bill Nighy, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End) and his wife Jean (Penelope Wilton, TV's Dr. Who) are broke, and go to the hotel instead of living in a tiny apartment. Evelyn (Judi Dench, My Week with Marilyn) is newly single, as her husband just passed away, and wants to go on an adventure in India. Graham (Tom Wilkinson, The Debt) has just retired from being a judge, and grew up in India; he hasn't been back in forty years, but there is someone special whom he wants to look up there. Madge (Celia Imrie, TV's Kingdom) comes to India to have a good time. And finally, Norman (Ronald Pickup, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time), doesn't really have a clear reason, but it seems like he wants to find a girlfriend there, even at his "advanced age."

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Avengers takes in $200.3 million in U.S. debut

credit: Disney
I just received this press release from Disney today, and all I have to say is WOW. The Avengers took in $200.3 million its opening weekend here in the U.S., which gives it an estimated $641.8 million cumulative box office gross (here + overseas) for the 12 days it's been in theaters. I guess there are more fanboys and fangirls out there than Harry Potter fans, because to become the #1 movie (with the biggest opening weekend EVER), it beat out Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, which took in $169.2 in its U.S. opening weekend.

Sequels to Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor now have expected release dates, as well as Iron Man 3. Captain America will be released on April 4, 2014; Thor 2 on November 15, 2013; and Iron Man 3 in a year's time, on May 3, 2013.

Are you planning on seeing The Avengers now that's it's broken box office records? Or have you already seen it? (perhaps multiple times?)

Here's the full press release:


The Walt Disney Studios announced today that Marvel’s The Avengers posted an estimated $200.3 million in its domestic debut May 4-6, shattering previous records and positioning the film as the highest-grossing domestic debut of all time. The film’s cumulative global box office gross is an estimated $641.8 million over 12 days in release.

In just three days, Marvel’s the Avengers is the fastest movie to reach $200 million domestically. The domestic debut kicked off Friday, May 4 and marks the second highest single day take of all time at $80.5 million. Saturday’s box office gross of $69.7 million is the highest Saturday take of all time. Moviegoers gave Marvel’s The Avengers a rare and perfect A+ CinemaScore.

Marvel’s The Avengers began opening internationally April 25 and crossed the $600 million mark globally May 6 after just 12 days in release.

International box office highlights include:

  • Opened May 3 in Russia with $17.9 million, the biggest Marvel opening weekend ever
  • Opened May 5 in China with $17.4 million
  • Biggest opening weekend of all time in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, Central America, Bolivia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Philippines

Marvel’s The Avengers has now opened in all major markets except Israel, Poland, and Japan.

The film’s success comes a month after Marvel and Disney announced that a sequel to 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger will be released April 4, 2014. A sequel to last summer’s Thor is scheduled for release November 15, 2013, and the third installment of the hit Iron Man series, which has earned over $1.2 billion worldwide, will arrive in theaters May 3, 2013.

Marvel’s The Avengers is the first Marvel Studios film to be marketed and distributed by The Walt Disney Studios.

Review: Timeless Family Classics DVD set

credit: amazon.com
I did a giveaway about a week ago for a boxed set of Timeless Family Classics, which includes 50 DVDs of various family-friendly films, and this weekend I received a copy for myself for reviewing purposes.

Some of the actors and actresses in the movies on the collection will be instantly recognizable - John Wayne, Shirley Temple, and Charlie Chaplin, for instance - and some are a little more obscure. I watched Jane Eyre (1934) from the collection, and it starred Virginia Bruce as Jane and Colin Clive as Mr. Rochester, two actors that were highly successful and popular in their heydays. Although the box said it was in black and white, it was actually in color, which was nice; it is possible that the color could have been added afterwards, as such older films are prone to have done.

Read the rest of the review on Examiner.com.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Avengers


The Avengers is the first big movie of the summer blockbuster season, and there was a lot of hype leading up to its release. Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America have already had their own movies, and you can say that The Hulk has as well (though not played by Mark Ruffalo then), all of which premiered to much box office success. The Avengers will most likely smash these records, and the numbers already coming in from its international premiere show that it's off to a good start.

Thor's brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston, War Horse), comes to Earth to retrieve the Tesseract, which has enough energy to blow up the continent, if used improperly. He tries to take out Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, Captain America: The First Avenger) and his crew, but Nick has a better plan, and assembles The Avengers to try and capture him. The Avengers consist of Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Natasha Romanoff, aka The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, We Bought a Zoo), Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), and Dr. Bruce Banner, aka The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, Shutter Island). These superheroes don't always like each other, but when it comes to teaming up against forces of evil, they work very well together, and they must find Loki and the Tesseract before he starts a war on Earth and destroys New York City.