4/20/2014

Box Office: 'Transcendence' Fails to Boot Up as Faith-Based Films Surge


1. Captain America: The Winter Soldier- $26.6M/$201.5M
Marvel continues to show dominance as Captain America: The Winter Soldier held on to the top spot in its third week, trumping a new film by Johnny Depp and the powerful faith-based genre. At this point the film has cleared the $200M domestic hurdle and has hit $586M worldwide, far better than the original in both respects.
2. Rio 2- $22.5M/$75.3M
The animated sequel is lagging behind the original slightly on the domestic front, but it continues to do big business internationally where it sits at $199M.
3. Heaven is for Real- $21.5M/$28.5M
Riding the popular wave of Christian-themed films is Heaven is for Real, a Greg Kinnear-led weeper that should have the actor forgetting how badly his Rake series tanked. Of course, it doesn't hurt to open on Good Friday (when many businesses and schools were closed) and Easter weekend. It's probably worth nothing there are three Bible-based movies in the top 10 this week, meaning we're likely to see a lot more of them, because obviously there's a pretty big audience....for now.
4. Transcendence- $11.1M
And the big loser of the week is....generally anything where Johnny Depp isn't Jack Sparrow. Seriously, Depp can't buy a win unless he's dressed as a pirate, and that trend continues with Transcendence, which opened disastrously at $11.5M. Yes, Depp was beaten out by Greg Kinnear this week. Mull over that one. The film boasts some pretty big names on the cast (Morgan Freeman, Rebecca Hall) but the marketing has been awful, failing to pinpoint what it's actually about. Why is Depp all digital and bored looking on those posters? And certainly there's no name value in pumping the name of Wally Pfister, Christopher Nolan's long-time DP making his directorial debut. Basically, this is a sore mark for everybody involved.
5. A Haunted House 2- $9.1M
There was some good-natured rivalry between Marlon Wayans' A Haunted House and the latest Scary Movie film, and that maybe helped bolster the comedy's $18M opening weekend. But there wasn't much of a desire for a sequel, and we see that half of the audiences didn't bother to turn out for A Haunted House 2. Still, at a cost of only $4M, Wayans could probably care less.
6. Draft Day- $5.9M/$19.5M
7. Divergent- $5.75M/$133.9M
8. Oculus- $5.2M/$21.1M
9. Noah- $5M/$93.2M
10. God's Not Dead- $4.8M/$48.3M

In other news, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opened big overseas with $47M, setting the stage for its domestic debut on May 2nd. And Disney dropped another of their nature docs with Bears, earning $5M in the process.

First 'Star Wars: Rebels' Clip Includes a Tie Fighter Battle


This weekend at WonderCon, we got our first clip from what will be Disney's first official Star Wars story, the animated Star Wars: Rebels. Set in the 20-year gap between Episodes III and IV, the series will focus on a small group of characters trying to survive as the Empire is tightening its hold on the galaxy and wiping out the last of the Jedi Knights.

This scene involves the character of Hera (voiced by Vanessa Marshall), pilot of the Ghost, and right away it's obvious the influence of the people behind Star Wars: The Clone Wars. LucasFilm Animation is behind this one, with the plan to debut it in a one-hour special this fall on Disney Channel, followed by the series on Disney XD.

I think this looks pretty cool, but I was not a fan of the most recent version of 'The Clone Wars' (the 2003 version was flawless) and it will take more than this to make me a regular viewer.

Patrick Stewart Teases Xavier's Future Beyond 'X-men: Days of Future Past'


One of the cool things about Patrick Stewart is that he's almost comically bad at playing coy. He tries, quite hard actually, but always ends up giving something away in the process. Just as he did months ago when he let slip that he'd be returning as Charles Xavier in X-men: Days of Future Past, he's now possibly spoiled something about 2016's X-men: Apocalypse, and perhaps something even more.

While talking to MTV, Stewart was asked if Xavier would be back for X-men: Apocalypse, and in the process of answering it he may have spilled the beans on another project....

Stewart: "That is one of the blessings about fantasy and science fiction. You're never really dead. I would love to come back and do some more. There might be something else. A little bird has whispered that there might be something 'X-Men' related." 

So this can be taken a couple of ways. He could be talking about X-men: Apocalypse, perhaps not realizing we already know a great deal about it. Or he's talking about a different film, one that would splinter off the original X-men team from the X-men: First Class squad that will be featured in 'Apocalypse'. It's hard to say. It would be weird if he were talking about X-force, unless 20th Century Fox is planning on going in a wildly different direction with the team. Or maybe it's just the long-rumored fourth X-men movie. Only time will tell, and the answers will start to be revealed when X-men: Days of Future Past opens May 23rd.

4/19/2014

'West of Memphis' Director Reaches Out to Bryan Singer's Sexual Abuse Accuser for Documentary


Well, things haven't gotten worse for Bryan Singer over the last few days, but they have hardly gotten better. A few days ago, 31-year-old Michael Egan filed a federal lawsuit against the X-men: Days of Future Past director, saying he was drugged and raped on numerous occasions back in 1999. All of this occurred while Egan was a teenager, attending various Hollywood parties that Singer also allegedly attended. Singer has denied the charges and revealed his alibi, saying he was filming X-men at the time, but now another situation has cropped up that will require his attention.

Daily Mail reports that Oscar-nominated filmmaker Amy Berg (West of Memphis, Deliver Us from Evil) has reached out to Egan over a documentary she's working on that will reveal the sexual abuse running rampant throughout Hollywood, and the allegations against Singer, which have been whispered about long before now, will be a part of it. Here's what a source close to Egan had to say....

"Just this week, I got a message from Disarming Films, a documentary film company working out of Los Angeles. They said they are making a documentary about a bunch of children molested by somebody in the film industry. I never contacted them back. They wanted videos and pictures of Michael and a few others he knew. The film company said they were working on numerous children, now adults, now coming forward about this."

Berg's Oscar-nominated doc Deliver Us from Evil dealt with the Roman Catholic Church's cover-up of sexual abuse charges, so this is ground she's tread before. She's currently at Tribeca for the premiere of her narrative feature, Every Secret Thing, starring Diane Lane, Dakota Fanning, and Elizabeth Banks.

Meanwhile, Singer has removed himself from all promotion for next month's X-men: Days of Future Past, including his scheduled appearance at this weekend's WonderCon

Review: 'The Machine' Starring Caity Lotz and Toby Stephens


It's only a coincidence that I'm catching The Machine a few short days after Wally Pfister's Transcendence, as both tell a similar, well-worn sci-fi story of artificial intelligences and shadowy agencies. They also flirt with questions of our own humanity, especially our arrogance, in the face of overwhelming technology, but The Machine's obvious adoration for robotic advancement mixed with star Caity Lotz's butt-kicking action make it more of a success than the hapless Transcendence comes close to achieving.

Lotz, who many are familiar with thanks to her acrobatic prowess as Black Canary on Arrow, plays Ava, who has joined with with stick-in-the-mud developer Vincent (Toby Stephens) to create the most advanced artificial intelligence ever seen. The story is largely set inside a mysterious facility during a time when the British are at war with the Chinese, and the first to come up with a sentient machine will have the upper hand. The facility is a cross between a post-apocalyptic bunker and Area 51, where secrets are held as tightly as their cache of weapons. One of those secrets is the human source for all of the failed experiments that have come before, taken from the corpses of fallen soldiers. Hey, this is the defense department, after all, and they intend to use their sentient machines for war.

However, Vincent has his own personal reasons for doing what he does, and they involve helping his mentally-challenged daughter. Ava is a willing participant in this goal, and the two become close just as they achieve a breakthrough. But not long after developing the perfect A.I., Ava's tragic death rocks Vincent to his core. Unwilling to give her up completely, he implants her brainwaves into the sentient robotic shell. The Ava-machine emerges naked and alone, vulnerable, as a child being birthed into this world. Writer/director Caradog James finds many visual connections between the machine's innocent, inquisitive nature and a child's yearning for knowledge, aided by the always-compelling Lotz. At first her movements as the machine are stiff, restricted, like someone unsure of how their joints are supposed to function. But as the machine grows more aware and takes on human emotions, the steadiness evolves to the point where she becomes an effective fighting force-of-one.

And that need to fight definitely emerges in the final act, when the government comes looking to claim their sentient weapon. Lotz is a skilled, fluid combatant, and she puts her talents to good use. However, this is also the portion of the film bereft of anything new, which wouldn't be so bad if a deeper bond between Ava and Vincent had been established. Part of it is Stephens, who lacks Lotz's presence, but it's also that the director is more interested in the machine than the humans. Still, The Machine has a lot going for it and mostly achieves its modest goal of being a thought-provoking film for fans of the genre.

Trav's Tip: We're obviously huge fans of Caity Lotz around here, and if you are too then you'll want to go here

4/18/2014

New Trailer for HBO's 'The Normal Heart' Starring Mark Ruffalo and Julia Roberts



Next month HBO is going to drop something big on us on a Sunday night. No, it's not another episode of Game of Thrones, it'll be Ryan Murphy's AIDS drama, The Normal Heart, featuring a cast as strong as any you'll see on the big screen. And with only a few weeks until it hits, a new trailer has been released.

Starring Julia Roberts, Mark Ruffalo, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer, and based on Larry Kramer's award-winning stageplay, the story is set in 1980s New York amidst the fear and confusion of the HIV/AIDS outbreak. Ruffalo is Ned Weeks, who sees the disease ravaging those in the gay community and seeks to raise awareness while politicians and the media keep silent. HBO has done a lot of great films on the subject (And the Band Played On is a personal favorite) and this looks to be another one.

The Normal Heart airs on May 25th.

See 'The Other Woman' Before It's In Theaters!


Nikolaj Coster-Waldau must be one hell of a guy, not only does he play Jamie Lannister on the awesome Game of Thrones but now he's starring in The Other Woman where he has to make us believe that Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, and Kate Upton are all fighting over...or because of, him. 
After discovering her boyfriend is married, a woman (Cameron Diaz) tries to get her ruined life back on track. But when she accidentally meets the wife he’s been cheating on (Leslie Mann), she realizes they have much in common, and her sworn enemy becomes her greatest friend. When yet another affair is discovered (Kate Upton), all three women team up to plot mutual revenge on their cheating, lying, three-timing SOB.

If you want to see this one before it hits theaters make sure to hurry, the first 40 people who go to GoFoBo via this link get tickets. The screening takes place on Tuesday, April 22nd at 7:00pm at Regal Gallery Place. Hurry up and get them now, they won't last long!

The Talent Show: Jaime Pressly


You know that phrase, "The kind of girl you take home to meet your mom"? Yeah...that ain't Jaime Pressly. The blonde stunner has held the title of "Hottest woman you'd ever find in a trailer park" for almost two decades and still has that market cornered in Hollywood. Her latest endeavor, this weekend's A Haunted House 2 sees her step into the role of Marlon Wayan's new girlfriend after the death of Kisha (the equally hot Essence Atkins). Best known for her role as Joy Turner in the surprisingly funny My Name is Earl, Pressly has been all over Hollywood screens big and small every since she raised eyebrows...yeah...eyebrows, in Poison Ivy 3: The New Seduction....not that I've seen it, this guy I know told me she was hot in it, yeah that's it. You can find Jamie popping up all over the place from Not Another Teen Movie to I Love You, Man, even taking on the role of video game vixen Tina Armstrong in a favorite of Travis's, D.O.A.: Dead or Alive.  Pretty much flawless and one of the few women who can pull off that gravely 40-year smoker voice in a sexy way. Here's hoping Jamie get's picked up for quite a bit more in the coming years!

'Sinister 2' Gets a Director in Ciaran Foy



Scott Derrickson won't be directing the sequel to 2012's horror smash, Sinister, just as we don't know if Ethan Hawke will be returning to star in it. Not that either need to be in place for it to be a hit thanks to the marketing geniuses over at Blumhouse, who turned the $3M film into a $87M success. Now Derrickson has taken to Twitter to reveal that Ciaran Foy, director of the low-budget film Citadel, is the guy to helm Sinister 2 when production begins this summer....

"Sinister 2 news! The script, written by me & @massawyrm, will be directed by the talented Ciaran Foy. I will produce w/Jason Blum @blumhouse"

There are still no plot details or any indication whether it will follow the same path as the original. Hawke played a true crime novelist who moved his family into a home where terrible murders took place, only to unleash a demonic force after watching tapes of the killings.

Win Ticket's to See 'Shatner's World'!!


THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED. THANKS TO THOSE WHO ENTERED!

Who doesn't love William Shatner? I mean really, it doesn't matter if he's fighting a lizard monster on an alien planet or getting you the best deals on travel arrangements, Shatner has inexplicably become one of the most beloved pop-culture phenomenon of our time! It's with great pleasure that we announce a very special contest for 3 of our lucky readers to win guaranteed seating to the Fathom Events special presentation of Shatner's World next Thursday, April 24th at the AMC Tyson's Corner. Here's the official synopsis: 

A larger-than-life presentation of William Shatner’s critically acclaimed one-man show PLUS a special welcome from the man himself.
Fathom Events and priceline.com are thrilled to bring one of the most recognizable actors of our time, William Shatner, to select cinemas nationwide for a hilarious one-night event on Thursday, April 24.
Shatner’s World, the critically acclaimed one-man show, takes audiences on an exhilarating behind-the-scenes voyage through his storied life and career. With an energetic mix of personal anecdotes, laugh-out-loud humor and poignant moments, William Shatner shares his phenomenal journey from classically-trained Shakespearean actor to internationally-known cultural icon, all the while illuminating the unique persona of his most important character, himself.
In addition to a spectacular show, cinema audiences will be treated to an exclusive welcome from the man himself!
Don’t miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience Shatner’s World larger-than-life on the big screen!

Before you enter, please make sure you will be able to attend, we only have 3 pairs to give away and don't want them going to waste! Just email punchdrunkcritics@gmail.com with why you think Shatner is the man as well as where you'd like the tickets sent (they are hard passes so we will need to mail them to you). First three entrants win! Good Luck!