June 5th, 2014 — “Cruise” Control and “Stars” Power

Theater ThursdaysHello again, my fellow geeks! We’ve made it! June is here and summer is upon us in no uncertain terms at last. Memorial day weekend was not quite a record breaker at the movies, but it did pack a decent enough wallop. The big news, of course, was X-Men: Days of Future Past pulling in 111 Million-Dollars over the four-day holiday weekend, and over the last week and a half, with worldwide ticket sales factoring in, this newest X-Men is the highest grossing film of the franchise already and it’s still got a good deal of life in it.

For loud and proud Geeks who, much like myself, follow these kinds of things, this is indeed great news. I am always pleased when well written and well made genre films, and X-Men: DOFP is all of these things, do well at the Box-Office. It means that down the line, some studio executive won’t be able to say “Why waste money and time on hiring great writers? The fanboys (and girls) will go see anything, no matter how good it is“.

Last weekend saw the release of two highly anticipated geek-friendly flicks. One did better than hoped and the other did exactly the opposite.

Seth MacFarlane’s big screen follow-up to 2012’s surprise hit, TED opened to general disinterest. A Million Ways to Die in the West  (R  116 Minutes) was expected to at least open big, even if it did fall fast. It was tracking to open in the mid 20-million dollar range, but actually took in less than 17-million dollars over the holiday weekend. I haven’t seen the film yet, but I have heard wildly different opinions about it. Some say it’s on par with Blazing Saddle’s and others saying all the best jokes were in the trailer, especially a very genre friendly cameo by Emmett Brown, or as Marty called him, “Doc“.

Disney’s updated retelling of Sleeping Beauty, the 200 Million dollar MALEFICENT (PG  97 Minutes) on the other hand, blew away projections. It was tracking to open around 45-50 Million for the Holiday weekend. When the dust settled and all the beans were counted, it came in just short of 70 Million for the holiday weekend. I saw this one on the Thursday night it opened in IMAX 3D and I actually enjoyed it. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but my expectations were low. It turns the entire Sleeping Beauty story upside down and shakes it side to side and what comes out bears very little resemblance to the story we all knew as kids. In fact, if any other studio other than Disney had done this film, the Disney Purist would be having what my mother used to call a conniption fit. They would not be happy. Not happy at all. In fact, they may not be happy, I haven’t really paid attention to the reactions. It is not as dark and scary as the trailers led us to believe, but it is darker than you usually get in a PG rated film now days. I would imagine Disney had to twist some arms and call in some favors to secure a PG rating for this one.

If you embrace the film for what it is, namely a fun, dark and sometimes trippy retelling of a story we all know for the most part, then you will enjoy it. One thing for certain though, it is the Angelina Jolie show, start to finish. Unless you are a fan of hers, or at least not an avowed hater, you might want to skip this one. If you are reading this now and thinking But, Michael, I hate Angelina Jolie, and since she’s playing Maleficent who is the evil witch who curses sweet and kind young sleeping beauty, I’ll have fun hating her all the way through this.

Um…No. First off, you shouldn’t be talking to your computer screen like that. I can’t hear you. And second, while the character of Maleficent is evil in the original story and cartoon, the filmmakers go a different way here. I’m not going to venture into spoiler territory here, so lets just leave it at that. All the pieces of the classic story are there, they are just arranged into a somewhat different version here. The visuals are really good. Some of the POV flying scenes are scary in a good way and, like her or hate her, Angelina Jolie is a good actress and she gives a solid, committed performance here. She didn’t phone it in and at no time does she act like she is better than the material. Quite the opposite actually, she really digs into the role with gusto and is the single best thing about the film. It has a lot of humor, some of it silly and slapstick, but there are some subtle jokes here and there that made me smile.

The 3D is decent, but nothing special enough that I would suggest paying the extra price for it unless you just really enjoy that. I am always in favor of seeing a film in IMAX if it’s possible because I love the full immersion of the format, but in this area at least, the only IMAX version playing is the IMAX 3D, so if you really don’t like 3D, just catch it at a regular screen at a matinée.

That brings us to this coming weekend.

We have two films opening up in wide release and both are primed to make a big noise at the box-office. First up we have Tom Cruise starring in THE EDGE OF TOMORROW  (PG-13 113 Minutes) which has a lot of elements we’ve seen before in other films, but still looks interesting. It is based on the novel “All You Need is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. The trailers have shown it to have the same kind of monochrome, blown out grey color scheme as so many other films of this kind, but the advanced word has been building and is looking better and better. One reviewer on Twitter said it is a return to the kind of high-minded blockbuster science-fiction that Hollywood doesn’t make enough of anymore.

If you’ve seen the trailers, you already know the basic premise. Tom Cruise plays an, in name only, soldier in the future who has actually been chosen by the government to do Public Relations and make the military look good. He somehow gets a tiny bit of training and winds up in the first wave of an allied attack on France to retake the Country from the invading aliens that have occupied the country. (I know, based on the trailers, I thought they were invading an alien planet too).

The problem is, the mission is a complete fiasco and he dies in the first five-minutes of battle only to wake up several days earlier, on his first day of training. It seems he has somehow been infected with the alien virus that allows him to relive the mistake that led to his death over and over until he figures out how to survive. This is how the aliens have managed to take over half the world.

Admit it. That sounds pretty good, right?

Director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Mr and Mrs Smith) knows his way around a high concept film that still has a brain and a heart, so I am going into this one with high hopes. I will see it tonight and I’ll let you know my thoughts in the next column or maybe in the new….wait, I can’t get ahead of myself. I’ll tell you about that in a minute. I am a horrible tease, aren’t I?

The film opens tonight at 7pm in 2D, RealD 3D and IMAX 3D.

The other big film release this week is THE FAULT IN OUR STARS  (PG-13  125 Minutes) which is based on the runaway bestselling novel of the same name that came out in 2012. I actually know very little about this film except the basic premise, which is that a young girl who is dying of cancer meets and falls in love with a young boy who tries to convince her to live as much as she can in the time she has left.

That is what I got from the trailer anyway. I know (because I’ve been told 234 times) that this is a film in which very audible sobs will be heard. I have been told, repeatedly, by girls I work with that they cried constantly through the book. That information, plus the trailer, is telling me that this is a very sad tear-jerker of a film. Except the makers of the film keep telling me it isn’t. They keep saying that it’s not melodramatic in the least and that there are just as many laughs as there are tears.

I am confused actually. I’m not sure what the film is going to be. Well, that’s not completely true. I know the film is going to be a success. If advanced sales and the amount of phone calls we have taken about it at the theater over the last couple of weeks. Probably not Hunger Games or Twilight levels of success, but the film only cost twelve-million dollars to make, so it doesn’t have to do much to really make money.

I guess we will find out if the movie world is still on “Cruise” control or if there is “Stars power” of another kind at work now. See how I worked the title of the column in there? Pretty slick, no?

The film opens tonight at 7pm at theaters everywhere. I warn you though, tonight will be ruled by teenage girls. This is their AVENGERS.

Okay, this is where I start wrapping it up but before I do I would like to reveal something really cool to you guys. Late last year I started dropping hints about the fact I was working on something special but I didn’t want to talk about it until it was ready. Schedules didn’t line up and the cool thing was put on hold for a while.

Well, the stars have finally aligned and I can now tell you what the cool thing was and I can tell you the cool thing is real and it’s already started! I would like to invite all my Geek Friends who love film (and why would you read this column if you didn’t?) to check out my new PODCAST!

That’s right. Myself and a couple other friends from the Movie Theater world have gotten together and made a podcast called FilmGeeks. It’s going to be a weekly podcast and it’s going to be available in both Audio and Video editions. So you can either download it from the site I’m going to give you in a minute, or you can watch it streaming on YouTube, our Facebook page, or for the right price, we will come to your house and do it live for you while you have dinner.

Don’t worry, I’m not leaving my family and home here at The Charlotte Geeks, this column will still be here every week for your pleasure. This is just a side, geek friendly project that I am excited about.

As most people do, I spend a lot of time at work. I happen to work at a very large Theater so the people I work with have become great friends and we spend hours…way more time than we should….talking about movies. Giving each other our takes on whats out now and also talking about flicks that mean something to us from the past. A couple of friends, Todd and David, finally said “Hey, why don’t we do that podcast we were talking about?” One thing, as it does, lead to another and before I knew it, we were shooting it and now its ready for your viewing and listening pleasure.

I would love to hear your thoughts, suggestions and even your complaints, so after you give it a spin, contact me and let me know what you think.

You can find the FilmGeeks Podcast here: www.FilmGeeks384.wix.com/filmgeeks. or on Facebook at Facebook.com/filmgeeks. Or if you are my friend on Facebook already, I will be posting it on there as well. We are working on getting it on Itunes, and when we do, I’ll let you know.

That just about does it for this week, but next week, we will find out yet again, how to teach our giant, winged beasts to follow directions. Maybe this time, he’ll stay trained.

Until then, Keep the Projector Threaded.