Me and My Nine Iron

July 30, 2010

Illumination Entertainment

More on Despicable Me. It was the first feature film produced by Illumination Entertainment, which should be a name you see quite often in the future. Founded by the President of 20th Century Fox Animation, he recruited some other key players at Fox and DreamWorks and has a deal to produce one to two films per year.

Future project on the list: Despicable Me 2. I can’t see how that can be a franchise and probably shouldn’t be one like The Last Airbender.

I was told by a friend that this was made to be a trilogy from the beginning, and I told my friend that Paramount should pull the plug on this money-losing flop, although disappointingly, you probably want to make your money back with smaller budgets in the next two movies, as is speculated.

The math?

$150 million budget for first film
+ $130 million marketing
– $152 million at the box office
= $128 million loss (not including future sales)
+ $100 million budget for next two films

And, you’ll need the next two to make well over $400 million just to break even, which I don’t see happening. I would haveĀ  thought twice about handing M. Night Shyamalan a blank check even before this movie because if you break down his resume, you’ll find a shaky one with plenty of misses in between his hits. This is his third consecutive critical failure (Lady in the Water, The Happening) and at the very least, he should get back to what he’s best at: mystery thrillers.

Or maybe, they should’ve cast an actual Asian as the male lead in a pan-Asian world. That’s about as sad as Tom Cruise purportedly to have been the real Edwin Salt, before the character underwent a gender change and became Evelyn Salt, played by Angelina Jolie.

Dinner for Schmucks comes out today, thankfully, because that was one of the most heavily-commercialized movies I can remember. I’m talking every single commercial break during my Friends re-runs. It seems to fall short on the comedy level from critics, but then that’s how you want to market a movie because I think it looks hilarious (like Death at a Funeral).

This is the third collaboration between Steve Carell and Paul Rudd (Anchorman, The 40-Year-Old Virgin), and while Carell is one of the funniest comedians around (and my favorite comedian), Rudd plays almost the same annoying smartass that you would hate to hang out with (see Role Models).

I was also disappointed to find out that it’s a remake of a 1998 French black comedy (I love that genre) named The Dinner Game, which did well both critically and financially. It’s one thing to remake an old film (The Karate Kid) to update it, if you will, but to just re-do a foreign film is lazy and kind of pathetic (see My Sassy Girl, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo).

Speaking of the latter, which is expected to come out Christmas 2011, it was in the news the other day about who was in the running to nab the female lead; Ellen Page among the at least half-dozen still in contention. I find that topic usually not in the news, especially for a non-comic book movie (Mark Ruffalo is the new Hulk!) that was made in Sweden just last year!

It’s like they saw this $13 million movie overseas make over $100 million and in the words of Gru say, “Light bulb.” The American version of the first part of the trilogy (The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest) should see, if stayed true to its original, Daniel Craig (Sorry, George Clooney, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt. It’s about time you didn’t get what you want.) going to third base, home and whatever rape is to the lucky female.

I’m rooting for Natalie Portman.



July 26, 2010

Despicable Me review

Filed under: Movie reviews — BJ @ 4:06 pm
Tags: , ,

I’ve been called a f*!&@# by someone I consider a dear friend because Despicable Me is somehow not able to be compared to Up due to being different genres within the animation category. Another friend immediately called for “the old Bryan bombs” to be had at this friend, but having matured, I instead wondered what movies this friend found to be comparable if these two cannot be.

This all came up because I had asked another friend if he liked this movie more than Up, and he said yes. The friend I went to go see this with also agreed, but I’m here to let you know that you can chalk this up as a classic case of liking the more recent product due to short-term memory.

Despicable Me was another solid animated film worth watching, having both its laugh-out-loud moments and emotionally touching moments. Steve Carell really carried this movie like George Clooney carried Fantastic Mr. Fox, and his accent throughout sure impressed me. (Can’t wait for Dinner for Schmucks.)

But this post isn’t about how the movie was–it was good, no doubt–but how it stacked up next to last year’s Best Animated Feature Film or rather, how it doesn’t in my list of ten things to grade in an animated movie.

  • Story

Most importantly, the storyline was shallow. Gru spends the entire movie trying to convince the audience that he wants to be the world’s top villain, but you’re never convinced and don’t really care if he is or not.

Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle sums up my notion perfectly, “”there’s nothing in this to engage an audience. Obviously, no one cares if this guy gets to remain as the world’s top bad guy. Nor is this situation inherently amusing in a character way or even interesting in a satirical or sardonic way. There is simply nothing here, except a pretext for lots of labored, slapstick spy-versus-spy type shenanigans between the two ‘villains.’ Twenty minutes into “Despicable Me,” nothing has happened.”

In Up, you feel for Carl’s story and his attempt to fulfill his wife’s dream. Plus, when you team up Pete Docter and Bob Peterson, you’ll nab a handful of nods for Best Screenplay at Critics Awards. (Between the two of them, they wrote Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, Ratatouille and WALL-E.)

Edge: Up.

  • Great moments/scenes.

There wasn’t a great moment or scene you could take out of the movie. And, that “Box of Shame” was such a rip off of Up‘s “Cone of Shame.”

A.O. Scott of the New York Times agrees, “while there’s nothing worth despising, there’s not much to remember either.”

Edge: Up.

  • Voices

Except for Carell, the star-studded cast was kind of disappointing, considering I could still hear Carl and Russell having a pleasant conversation in my head from the relatively star-less cast of Up. That goes for you, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Will Arnett, Kristin Wiig, Jemaine Clement, Jack McBrayer, Danny McBride, Ken Jeong. Carell almost single-handedly stole the show, but not quite.

Edge: Up.

  • Illumination Entertainment vs. Pixar Animation Studios

After finding out its production budget, it makes me wonder if the art was really second-rate work. Most animated movies cost roughly $150-200 million. Toy Story 3 cost $200 million; Up $175 million. If you stay until the credits at the end of an animated movie, you’d be surprised at the hundreds of artists and hundreds more involved than in a regular movie, which may be even more surprising considering the final product ends up being played and directed on a computer. But to give you Despicable Me‘s number, it’s $69 million.

I’m just as curious as you are. If you’re able to cut some exorbitant costs somehow and keep the quality up, more power to you, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. The difference must surely be the quality of work done by Pixar. When you watch a Pixar work, it’s scary how realistic and detailed these characters are, from Russell’s ever-so-light freckles to the creases on 78-year-old Carl’s forehead.

Edge: Pixar.

  • Hardware, box-office and critical success.

Against five Academy Award nominations, including only the second animated film in history to be nominated for Best Picture (Beauty and the Beast, 1991), and two wins in an absolutely stacked animated year, Despicable Me might struggle even getting a nod, with Toy Story 3, How to Train Your Dragon and Shrek Forever After the favorites in just the first half of the year.

Up is the third-highest grossing Pixar film (Finding Nemo, Toy Story 3), which really says a lot with over $731 million worldwide, $293 million of it domestically. Despicable Me has yet to open in the big international markets and is still rolling at $161 million domestically ($23.7 million this weekend) but would need a miracle to find an international audience like Up did.

Per IMDb, Up is in 8+ territory, which is a guaranteed great, while Despicable Me sits just outside the cherished land. Up is also the T-72 best movie ever.

Edge: Up.

  • Gru vs. Carl

Primarily because of the story (see above), Carl’s character is much more emotionally driven than Gru’s.

Edge: Carl.

  • Three girls vs. Russell

Yes, the girls’ story in getting adopted is much more important, but they never really connect with the main character the way Russell does.

Edge: Russell.

  • Minions vs. Dogs

The minions almost stole the show, which doesn’t say a lot about our main character. There were entire scenes of the minions doing something that added no part to the story whatsoever but were there for comedic effect, which says something about the story, but they were funnier than the annoying dogs.

Edge: Minions

  • Hans Zimmer/Pharrell (of N.E.R.D.) vs. Michael Giacchino

The Academy Award winner for The Lion King (1994) and the 72nd smartest person in the world (look it up) with insane credits (The Dark Knight and Inception to name his last two) and an amazing record producer made a really upbeat, banging hit, but if you could make me cry as soon as I hear your song playing, you’ve done something right.

Edge: Giacchino, who won an Oscar for this score.

  • Kid appeal

After all, this is an animated movie. I’d bet kids enjoyed Up much more than Despicable Me. Why? The balloon house floating away is more exciting, it was faster-paced, the kids loved the dogs and it was more action-packed. There were a few unfunny moments in Despicable Me, where I was thinking, “Wow, this must be painful for a little kid to sit through.”

Plus, remember when the Pixar employee flew to the sick kid’s home to grant her last wish to watch the movie on the unreleased DVD, and she died soon after? I’m tearing up just reading it again. Point, Pixar.

Edge: Up.

Your winner, 9-1. I rest my case.

Oh, and here’s Despicable Me‘s…

Rating: 4 stars out of 4


July 18, 2010

Inception review

Filed under: Movie reviews — BJ @ 5:20 pm
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Yes, Christopher Nolan can make a good movie without Batman (see post). No, Inception was never a sleeper. It had success written on it from the moment the first trailer released.

Sorry, just taking a moment to address some of the idiotic comments made after Inception opened on the high end of expectations on opening weekend at a solid $60.4 million domestically.

As of this writing, Inception sustained its remarkably high rating and remains on IMDb as one of the greatest movies of all-time. My friends didn’t see it that way, but they didn’t deny the masterful story. Easily one of the most intelligent sci-fi films ever made, it also made Yahoo’s Best Movie so far this year.

Leonardo DiCaprio‘s one of my favorite actors, but I found his performance trite and outplayed by his sidekick in the movie, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Or perhaps Nolan presents opportunities to the supporting characters in his stories to shine, like how Heath Ledger won Best Supporting Actor for The Dark Knight. Either way, the entire cast was brilliant; not to be outdone were Nolan’s special effects in the dream world, such as the zero-gravity fight in the hotel hallway involving Gordon-Levitt.

I found out the definition of “epic” after watching this movie, and this is one epic movie you can’t miss.

Rating: 4 stars out of 4


A movie about a scientist couple involved in a cloning case that’s just asking for bad news. Criticized for being released in the summer as a relatively low-budget horror flick ($30 million), it failed to garner much attention, despite positive reviews and being in the running for “Best Film” at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.

The film has some hit, “unconventional” sex scenes that are all very disturbing in their own way, and I enjoyed the film, but the main knock I’d have to say is how much the characters of Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley wavered in their feelings towards their creation. Great moral tale, but no sequel, please.

Also in Yahoo’s article, runner-up for Breakthrough Performance for the first half of this year went to Delphine Chaneac, who plays the disturbing creation, Dren.

Rating: 3 stars out of 4


July 14, 2010

More ‘Avengers’ news

In the star-studded, hero-studded cast of The Avengers, set to come out in

Norton as Bruce Banner

2012, Edward Norton has been booted off from reprising his role as The Incredible Hulk by Marvel for what seems to be financial reasons. This won’t be the first time The Hulk will be played by someone else, as Norton took the role from Eric Bana in 2003’s The Hulk.

A bit surprising considering the abundance of stars commanding possibly more money that would have surrounded Norton: Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man), Scarlett Johansson (Iron Man 2‘s Black Widow), Chris Hemsworth (Thor, 5/6/11), Chris Evans (Captain America: The First Avenger, 7/22/11) and Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury, 2012).

In other news, my friends and I went to Buffalo Wild Wings (it’s the fire hydrant if you click on their website) last Saturday for one of my friends to take on their Blazin’ Challenge, which is to eat twelve of their wings cooked in their hottest hot sauce, their signature Blazin’ sauce, in under six minutes with no liquids.

He did it very impressively in 2 minutes and 4 seconds but not without involuntary shaking (at one point, he dropped one of the wings he was shaking so bad), a swollen tongue, profuse sweating and fireball shits and stomachaches for the next 17 hours! All for his picture on the wall alongside dozens of others, and a t-shirt with something to the effect of “You might have walked on coals, but I ate them.”

Aside from the challenge, it’s a pretty poppin’ place with karaoke so loud that I couldn’t even have a conversation with my friend across the table from me.

My friend wants to hit up all of the SoCal locations. Bless his soul.

Oh, and two more days.


July 12, 2010

Inception hype – it’s for real

Four days.

Four days away from arguably the most anticipated movie of the year. Why that is is because of a certain name attached to the film. No, not Leonardo DiCaprio, who is one of my top five favorite actors and in every right, commands his own audience. This film, and every film for the rest of his career, will belong to a 39-year-old man named Christopher Nolan.

A man who has earned every single step in his filmmaking career to become one of the most marketable names in Hollywood right now. Not a household name until The Dark Knight, I pulled up his resume to find my mouth agape at this guy’s success rate. I don’t even care about box office success, which you all know how well The Dark Knight did; I’m talking critical success. The hardest success to obtain. It’s really only due justice that I list every single movie he’s directed so I will.

Doodlebug (1997) – 6.9
Following (1998) – 7.6
Memento (2000) – 8.6 (T-25)
Insomnia (2002) – 7.2
Batman Begins (2005) – 8.3 (T-71)
The Prestige (2006) – 8.3 (T-71)
The Dark Knight (2008) – 8.8 (T-8)
Inception (2010)
Untitled Batman Project (2012)

*IMDb ratings and all-time movie rankings.

It’s almost unfathomable for someone to have four of his first seven films in the top 100, including his last three. If he stopped today, I would be hard-pressed to find why he doesn’t deserve both the Academy Honorary Award and every other Lifetime Achievement Award available. James Cameron has a way of getting people into the theaters, but Nolan is on another level from even Cameron, critically. That’s saying something. His achievement goes beyond directing, as he’s written every one of his movies except for Insomnia (and produced most), so you can throw out the reasoning that he only selected excellent screenplays.

Inception already holds an IMDb rating of 9.6, which easily makes it the greatest movie of all-time. When it opens this weekend, that’ll surely change, but it looks like it’ll meet all of the high expectations and add to Nolan’s flawless resume. Looking forward to the $200 million budget, two and a half hour movie.

In other news, Paranormal Activity 2, which is due out Oct. 22, released its official trailer a few weeks ago, with Katie and Micah set to return. The trailer, which was being shown with The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, was pulled from Twilight showings after its fans found it too scary. Watch it here.


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