Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Kung Fu Panda 2 AND All Hail Thraxus, Box Office Champ

So I was a little brow beaten after not loving The Hangover Part II. Fortunately, I did have the opportunity to take in Kung Fu Panda 2 on Sunday. Wow…what a fun movie. The concept of a world full of animals that talk, interact, and even do Kung Fu, is not new. But this film overshadows the first film, with the feel of a more true to word martial arts film.

The original Panda was very much a coming of age story for Po, voiced by Jack Black, as he journeyed towards his place as the Dragon Warrior. In Panda 2, the Dragon Warrior is in full effect and while there is still a great deal of physical comedy to his fighting style, his skills are also more refined.

All of the original voice cast is back…Angelina Jolie (Tigress), Seth Rogen (Mantis), Lucy Lui (Snake), Jackie Chan (Monkey) and David Cross (Crane), reprising their role as the Furious Five.

Done with perfection are the choreographed running scenes, usually followed by epic battles.

The main baddie in this offering is Shen, a Peacock, who is voiced by Gary Oldman. Great bad guy that plays intricately in Po’s history and the resolution of that conflict certainly has opened the door for Panda 3. If they can create something on par with this one, I’m in.

The remainder of the supporting voice cast is also excellent, Vincent Garber, Dennis Haysbert, Michelle Yeoh, Danny McBride, and even Jean-Claude Van Damme, and James Hong.

A truly enjoyable trip to the theater, I think the boys behind Hangover Part II could have learned something from Dreamworks. Shrek may have toppled off the tracks, but this second outing for Panda both upped the ante and created a new world for the viewers to enjoy.

4 of 5 Horns for Kung Fu Panda 2.

I will hopefully get the Box Office Challenge for the week up soon, but I may be sporadic in my posts through next Friday as I have a busy week coming up. You may be surprised to learn that this little writing gig doesn’t pay all the bills. Sometimes a boy’s gotta work.

For this week…

1. The Hangover Part II $85.9 million
2. Kung Fu Panda 2 $47.6 million
3. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides $39.8 million
4. Bridesmaids $16.5 million
5. Thor $9.5 million
6. Fast Five $6.4 million
7. Midnight in Paris $1.9 million (YOWZA: $33,268 per screen average!)
8. Something Borrowed $1.8 million
9. Jumping the Broom $1.82 million
10 . Rio $1.8 million

1. The Hangover 2 (3)
2. Kung-Fu Panda 2 (3)
3. Pirates 4 (3)
4. Bridesmaids (3)
5. Thor (3)

1. Kung-Fu Panda 2 (2)
2. The Hangover 2 (2)
3. Pirates 4 (3)
4. Bridesmaids (3)
5. Thor (3)

1. Kung-Fu Panda (2)
2. Pirates 4 (2)
3. Hangover 2 (1)
4. Bridesmaids (3)
5. Thor (3)

1. The Hangover 2 (3)2. Pirates of the Caribbean (2)
3. Kung Fu Panda 2 (2)
4. Thor (2)
5. Bridesmaids (2)

Congratulations Thraxxus…you have the first ever perfect score. At your bidding, I will prepare a review for a movie of your choice. I am your humble servant…for this week…

(cue maniacal laughter while I tap my fingers together in a menacing way)

Till later, take care…

Reel Rhino

Saturday, May 28, 2011

HANGOVER PART II Review and Reel Rhino Quest for 1000

The quest for 1000 marches on! The official tally, including last evening’s outing, stands at 995. My plan for the next few weeks is pretty simple.

I will discuss my man-date with my Wolfpack below, but between today and my 1000th film, the road is pretty clear.

I am guessing that Kung-Fu Panda (996) will be in my weekend plans and next Friday, X-Men: First Class (997) is on the filmic agenda. The week that follows will probably hold one to two more flicks and if all goes according to plan, I will hit 1000 the weekend of June 10th – June 12th.

So what are my options for that weekend? What shall I see for the big uno-trip-zero?

I see no other option…SUPER 8 will be the way to go. This thing looks stellar and I can think of no better way to enjoy this major milestone as a cinema-freak than taking in some fare from wunderkind director J.J. Abrams and his mentor in this case, the grandpapa of epic tales, Steven Spielberg. This film seems to be filled with a sense of wonder and adventure, the likes of which we haven’t seen in some time, harkening back to the days of Spielberg’s youth.

What say you my friends? How should I do it? Evites? Facebook invites? A quiet night out with the wife? Regardless, a babysitter will be in order so the Reel Rhiness can help me celebrate proper on this grand of evenings.

I am thinking steak? Maybe Italian? Who knows…what goes well with celluloid and movie popcorn?

Soon, 1000 movies will be mine and I have so many memories along the way. I’m glad to have started this blog, so I can share my adventures with you…

Speaking of memories, me thinks I have formed a new WOLFPACK.

I think that I could watch Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, and Bradley Cooper in anything…children’s theater, Shakespeare in the Park, anything…

The Hangover is in my top 10 films of all-time. It is #2 to Ghostbusters in my favorite comedic films of all-time. It blew my mind. I am watching it as I type this and I find some of the laughs as fresh as the first time I saw it. I saw The Hangover five times at the theater…that was a record for me. I loved this movie.

THE HANGOVER PART II is not the original, but it is still a funny movie. Todd Phillips has a watchable sense of direction and as I said, I love this set of actors…Justin Bartha as well…all the ladies of the series and of course, Mr. Chow.

That’s right, everyone but Heather Graham’s Jade is back for this entry, and of course, with The Hangover Part II focusing on ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK as a celebration for Stu’s wedding, it made sense that Jade would be out. It’s a shame too, because Heather Graham is adorable. Although Jamie Chung’s Lauren, Stu’s new bride to be, is quite an acceptable substitute.

So what is crazier than Vegas? For most males in North America, nothing...and this is the fundamental problem with this film. Yes, I laughed quite a bit and I had a good time with my friends, but this was not the magical experience that The Hangover was. Bangkok is foreign to me, both figuratively and literally. I am sure that Bangkok seemed like a logical place to set the next-level misadventures of Phil, Allen, and Stu, as I am sure many Hollywood big timers have had their share of debauchery in this world class city of sin.

The premise is the same as the first. The celebration before a wedding leads to a blackout blotto night and we find our heroes in peril, waking up with their memory of the preceding night erased. Doug (Bartha) smartly sits out the night on the town and becomes the anchor back at base, keeping the families at bay. With Doug safe and secure, who could be missing? Well that would be Teddy (Mason Lee), Lauren’s 17 year old brother, who was sent innocently to the beach to enjoy the one beer our hapless fellows had planned on enjoying.

We do learn how these guys, who truly planned on a one-beer night, ended up again in the throes of chaos, but that is a spoiler and I will save it for your night at the theater.

The story from here runs very similar to the first film. It becomes a mystery and a thriller within the comedy of the film.

Yes, the danger is ramped up and this is a darker outing for these guys, and in Bangkok, there is nothing off-limits in the service of comedy.

The Hangover was a relatively lighthearted film in the midst of a very adult set of misadventures. The Hangover Part II gets laughs from a much darker place. In the first, we laughed because we could relate; here we laugh some at the pure comedy of the moment, but more times than not the laughs come from the discomfort of the foreign nature of the terrible things we are seeing on screen.

I say The Hangover was lighthearted and that comes through much in the crispness of the image on screen and the bright lights that Vegas offers as a setting.

The Hangover Part II has a grittiness that matches the setting of some of the rougher parts of Bangkok. They filmed this on-location, so that drab appearance was real. It seems as though the choice of filters and lighting was intentional and while that may be so, I think it was a very drastic artistic change from the first film.

So yes, I am comparing these two movies, when in fact it would be far fairer to hold Part II on its own to see how it measures up within the overall realm of comedic films. When you older brother is the State Champ, you have to be ready to endure that comparion.

You may have noticed that Paul Giamatti is listed prominently in the credits on IMDB and elsewhere. His involvement in the film is rather limited and for his part, I thought the use of Giamatti was rather jarring. He plays this type of role (semi-lighthearted heavy) well, but perhaps his recent turns as extraordinarily well-played leading men, caused his presence to be more jarring than organic.

There were rumors aplenty concerning the appearance of Mel Gibson, Liam Neeson, and even former President Bill Clinton as cameos in the film. I won’t tell who is in it and who isn’t, but there is as least one cameo that was a highlight for the film.

There is a monkey in this film and this monkey becomes a character in and of himself. Todd Phillips has taken some heat on this point, as it is still unclear as to whether or not this monkey actual became addicted to cigarettes while shooting this flick. Phillips said it was so when he was interviewed by EW for a piece on the film… he later retracted it as a joke. There is a monkey in this film and he does appear to really smoke cigarettes…but addicted? Whatever the truth may be, I am sure we will never know. But I can say this, The Hangover Part II does not carry the American Humane Society’s “no animal harmed” attachment in the credits. Oh boy.

This movie takes crazy to the next level, occasionally perhaps to a scale that is a little too grand. And for those mad highs, some of the slower moments seemed too lull to long on the other side of the spectrum. I didn’t feel a single draggy bit in the original, while there were several spots here in Part II where I was waiting too long for the next beat.

I liked this movie. I didn’t love it and it doesn’t hold a candle to the original. I said in 2009 after seeing The Hangover for the first time…please God, don’t them make a sequel.

I will see Part II again and I hope that it grows on me. For now, the best I can do is a 3 of 5 Horn rating and I do suggest that you see it.

Oh yeah, my WOLFPACK…I saw this with Dustin, Ross, Bob, Troy, Kevin, and Kevin…we laughed like madmen and then we dined like Kings…well we ate tacos. Bottom line, see this movie with friends. Laughter is infectious and the enjoyment level will be accentuated by the presence of friends. My Wolfpack rated it at its lowest, at 2.5…there was mine and one other 3, then everyone else ran the Spectrum between 3.5 and 4.5. One of our guys gave it a 4.5 instead of a 5 because there was not enough T-n-A and there was a little too much penis for his tastes. Also, another of my pack said this offering is superior to the Original. Yikes…not so much as far as I’m concerned.

For Part II, there was also too much revealed in the trailers. You will laugh again at the pig smash scene, but how great would it have been not to have seen that coming. The Hangover was epic. They didn’t need a lick of advertising for this film and it was completely a disservice for all.

I attribute much I liked about this film to my overwhelming affection for these actors. Ed Helms is great as an everyman in hilarious peril. Every time I see him as Stu, I see a little of the Nard Dog in there as well. I also loved his turn in Cedar Rapids and I think he will continue to shine.

I am happy that Ryan Reynolds is the Green Lantern and I guess Chris Evans will make an acceptable Captain America. But I wonder how Bradley Cooper would have done in that role. He has some juice and it is surprising that as far as super heroes go, that Cooper is yet to pick up anything respectible. He did give us Face Man in The A-Team and he is rumored for Eric Draven in the rumored 2013 remake of The Crow, but I figured someone would have picked him up for something significant. (By the way, The Crow does not need remade. The sequels are not so great from what I have heard, but the original with the fantastic soundtrack and the aura of death in Brandon Lee’s passing while filming, that movie is a cult classic and doesn’t need a re-envisioning. But as always, Hollywood just can’t leave good enough alone – CASE IN POINT: THE HANGOVER PART II.)

Speaking of music…another facet of The Hangover that was so great were the accompanying songs. The soundtrack was epic and few people know that this was essentially when we first get to meet Ke$ha, as she is the female backing vocals in the Flo Rida song that capped the film in that iconic “lost night” photo montage. Part II gives us some Johnny Cash and some cutting-edge hip-hop that gets your toe tapping, but it too falls short from the offerings in the first flick. We are fortunate enough to get another original song from the music styling of Ed Helms, but not as memorable as “What Do Tigers Dream Of.”

The Hangover Part II is worth your dollar and you will find some laughs, but it is not The Hangover, but really, it will be quite some time before that level of comic gold is found again on the silver screen.

See you next time…

Reel Rhino

“Ahhh come on man…I’ll be your Doug”

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Box Office CHALLENGE and Weekend Preview MEMORIAL DAY

There are only two new releases worth mentioning this weekend. They will most likely be #1 and #2, but it is a crapshoot as to which will be which!

Will the R-rated HANGOVER 2 and the return of the WOLFPACK be enough to keep the FURIOUS FIVE and the chosen one, PO, from taking the weekend? The screen count is comparable (PANDA: 3,925 VS. HANGOVER: 3,615), but Kung-Fu Panda is playing in both 2-D and 3-D, so of course there would be more. Also, Panda 2 does have an IMAX version, but it seems as though Pirates is holding onto the IMAX screens and that Panda will be hitting IMAX next week.

Other X-Factors?  Both PANDA and HANGOVER were released today.  It is essentially a 5-day movie weekend.  I will be curious to see how Box Office Mojo ranks it all out, but you can guarantee it is going to be a bog box office weekend.

Here were last week’s results:

Weekend Box Office Results
1. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides $90.1 million
2. Bridesmaids $20.8 million
3. Thor $15.4 million
4. Fast Five $10.5 million
5. Priest $4.7 million
6. Rio $4.6 million
7. Jumping the Broom $3,7 million
8. Something Borrowed $3.5 million
9. Water for Elephants $2.1 million
10. Madea’s Big Happy Family $956,000

Since there has been fairly little response to the contest…I will keep the whole message relatively short. Here are my picks, and the rules and ways to enter follow after…

1. Kung-Fu Panda 2
2. The Hangover 2
3. Pirates 4
4. Bridesmaids
5. Thor

Bridesmaids and Hangover 2 would make a hell of a double feature. I will catch up with you soon…

THE RULES: Scoring…for every correct guess, you get 3 points. For every guess within one pick of the movie’s weekend slot gets you 2 points. Finally, two picks away gets you 1 point.

Yeah…if you can’t figure out who is the winner, it isn’t really a contest, right? Any ties will be determined first by whoever has the highest correct answer or series of correct answers. If the tie persists, the winner will be determined by whoever submitted their picks first…yes, you are correct…I have the home field advantage. Deal with it.

The format will be simple with each week’s challenge. I will post the week’s opening films, the # of screens the film is playing (when known), and the RottenTomatoes.com score, if it has one at the time of the post. I am going to omit listing those movies opening in extreme limited release, because they won’t have the seats to fight for one of the top five slots. Fair enough, agreed?

That will be followed by the top ten from last week. “Choose wisely.” Remember that German commander in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade… it didn’t work out so well for him, learn from his lesson my friends.

The final segment of each week’s contest will be me, offering my picks.

You may submit your picks in one of three ways:

1. Enter your picks in the comments field of this post at http://www.blinkinblogs.com/
2. Enter your picks in the comments field of this post at http://reelrhino.com/
3. E-mail your picks to ReelRhino@gmail.com

I will compile the week’s entries and post the winners at both BlinkinBlogs and ReelRhino as soon as possible, but hopefully by Monday evening at the latest.

THE PRIZE: For now, my friends, in the humble beginnings of the BOX OFFICE CHALLENGE, the prize is this: the champion of the week will have their selection of any film, which I will watch and review on both sites. Don’t believe me? See also: http://reelrhino.blogspot.com/2011/04/biebers-never-say-never-redux-watch.html

Yep…that happened.


Reel Rhino

Monday, May 23, 2011

Reviews: Pirates 4: On Stranger Tides and Morgan Spurlock's New Documentary

Reviewed this post…

Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
So I really don’t have much to say about this movie, other than I watched it.
I can only muster a 2.5 of 5 horn offering, as this flick was so very mundane compared to the original three or really mundane when compared to anything.

Johnny Depp was excited to breathe new life into this role, but it is really just much of the same, just now with an “X” scar on his right temple. How did it get there…oooooh…so mysterious.

There is no chemistry whatsoever in the love story between Depp’s Sparrow and Angelique (Penelope Cruz), daughter of feared Pirate Blackbeard (Ian McShane).

FEARED Pirate Blackbeard…oooooh…so scary! Blackbeard’s most fear-inducing maneuver is to wave his sword and puppetize the rigging of his ship, scaring his crew into servitude.

The film starts with Jack Sparrow being dragged to court to be put on trial…except it isn’t Jack Sparrow, it’s Master Gibbs, Sparrow’s trusty first mate. Worry not, though, because Captain Jack is afoot and he does execute an escape plan for Gibbs. Alas, instead of making a clean getaway, Sparrow and Gibbs ends up in the hands of the British government. It is here that we learn that the government has hired a privateer, read: government sanctioned pirate, in Captain Barbosa.

Barbosa is called to service by the British monarchy to compete with the Spaniards in the race to the Fountain of Youth, previously discovered by Ponce de Leon.

In the span of time between Pirates 3 and now, it appears as though Jack has been searching for the fountain, with no luck in finding it.

In short order, a triumvirate of groups are racing for the Fountain. Barbosa and his crew of British sailors for hire; Blackbeard and his crew, which now includes Jack Sparrow and first mate to Blackbeard, Angelique; and the unnamed stone-faced Spaniards, who are machine-like in their quest for the lost location of de Leon’s find.

Yes, there is one decent battle that gives us a new perspective on the concept of the mermaid. And the aforementioned jail break scene turns into a decent action set piece in the opening moments of the film. But other than these two scenes, there is buttkiss for action in this flick.

There was no sense of peril, no sense of excitement. I think some of it comes back to the blasé interaction between Depp and Cruz coupled with the truly benign presentation of Blackbeard, this supposedly deadly Captain of the high seas.

The only interesting character was that of missionary, Philip (Sam Claflin), who seems to be filling the void of Orlando Bloom’s departure. The girlie part left vacant by Knightley, was more aptly filled by Astrid Berges-Frisbey, as Syrena the mermaid, than by Cruz.

Really the failure of this movie stems from the lack of a respectable baddie! Blackbeard is a nice enough guy for what you would expect; Barbosa and Jack are more like former frat brothers than the enemies we recall; and we are left with only the Spaniards, who again, are decent enough in terms of being completely reasonable as friendly adversaries, insomuch as they are basically indifferent towards the groups in the race.

There is not a single battle at sea, but for an attempted mutiny on Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge.

Folks, this was a weak entry into an otherwise decent adventure series. Except someone forgot the adventure…

Rob Marshall has directed a handful of films, most of which fall well into the genre of musical moviemaking. The absence of Gore Verbinski is felt more than I can really describe. Even the less than perfect original trilogy had a grandeur to them that gave them flair. That was missing completely here.

The same writing team behind the first trilogy was at work here, so are we left to believe that it was Marshall who couldn’t pull it off? I guess that depends on how many fight scenes were left on the cutting room floor. Is it possible that they forgot to write in anything with even the slightest bit of action or peril? I don’t know…

Oh yeah, I forgot about the 3-D. I think that was because the 3-D was completely forgettable. Another failed attempt at manipulating our sense of space to spice up a movie. I thought the 3-D was cheesy and other than a few sword tips making way towards the crowd, it was mediocre at best.

There is a stinger after the credits…all the way at the end. It really isn’t worth it, but I am sure it is a sign that we are in for yet another Pirates flick. If you are interested in knowing the nature of the post-credits scene, check here at moviestinger.com database: http://moviestinger.com/pirates-of-the-caribbean-on-stranger-tides-2011-extra-scene-after-the-credits/

This movie stinger site is the premiere site for knowing when you should stay seated and when you can run for the bathroom.

Of course there is also the RunGoPee app for iOS users. Is there an Android equivalent? I couldn’t find one.

Like I said above…2.5 of 5 Horns for POTC: On Boring Tides.

Morgan Spurlock hasn’t sold out…he’s bought in. That is the tagline for this documentary on product placement and brand partnering, in mainstream entertainment.

Spurlock’s film is the definition of meta as he delves into product placement via a first-person perspective on the advertising machine that is pervasive in virtually every aspect of our waking lives. Spurlock reaches out for sponsors to fund the making of the film, and from these meetings and the process of gaining financial support in brand partners, he eventually garners the meat and potatoes of the movie that we the viewer see on the screen.

I love movies, this is no secret. I think the obvious use of brand partnering can at times be distracting, but as director Brett Ratner put it in an interview in the film, sometimes you do what you have to in order to see your film made.

There are great perspectives put forth by Quentin Tarantino, Ratner, Peter Berg, and my favorite in this flick, Ralph Nadar.

Peter Berg may have put it best when he relates that his boss of the moment is General Electric and for their business sense, they don’t know an effing thing about art.

Spurlock secures, as the title of the film indicates, a title sponsor in Pom Wonderful, a pomegranate juice company.

Spurlock also secures for sponsorships: Sheetz (home of the collectible cup for the movie), Jet Blue, Hyatt hotels and suites, Merrell shoes, Mini automobiles, Ban deodorant, Amy’s organic foods, and several others, including trailer favorite, MANE and TAIL, a human/equine cross-over shampoo.

What blows my mind is how many folks flat out denied funding to Spurlock and denied him with a fervent no. This guy is a pretty established documentarian; I would have expected a warmer reception from some of the companies he talked to. I guess there are some politics at play and the fact that Spurlock, like Michael Moore, often uses heavy-handed action to demonstrate the extremes of his point.

Spurlock discusses in the film, the thin ice on which he treads by creating allegiances to the sponsor companies, in a work that serves to some extent to criticize the process, even if only by presenting both sides of the story.

As is customary with Spurlock’s work, comedy plays a big part. I wouldn’t be surprised if Spurlock moonlights doing stand-up, as his delivery is solid and his comedic beats usually hit their intended target, which is also due to slick editing in the film itself.

The film is thorough in examining roles at different steps in the process of developing brand partners in popular culture. In addition to experts, we get a man on the street perspective in some of the interviews.

An interesting component of the film are the three 30-Second commercials that Spurlock shot and included throughout the run of the movie, as a deal struck with the three top sponsors. His story boarded ideas for the POM commercials were a bit hilarious. I would love to see them make it to production, but they are a little dicey for a family friendly beverage.

Did you know, after four weeks of daily consumption, POM pomegranate juice is 40% as effective as Viagra?  I had no idea that POM was so versatile…and you know what? It must be true, because I saw it at the movies.

Another very interesting concept was the piece in the film on the Broward County School District in Florida. Every year the district is faced with cuts and they have taken to selling advertising within school buses and on the fences of their athletic fields to try and generate income to supplement deficits in funding. Spurlock runs a fairly decent length piece on this as a concept of advertising to students and within the realm of school systems. In fact, to support Broward County, Spurlock buys a banner and some vehicle wraps to help promote his film and delve further into the meta aspect of becoming the very concept he is studying.

Spurlock examines the other side of the spectrum as well, when he heads south for Sao Paolo, Brazil. This Brazilian city has passed a local ordinance preventing outdoor advertising anywhere in the city. You would be surprised how stark a city can be when the banners and billboards are ripped down.

There are also some great artistic expressions, including a series of street art pieces and a re-envisioning of DaVinci’s The Last Supper with some very interesting renderings of the Jesus and his disciples.

Spurlock’s acquiring of POM as the title sponsor came with some pretty thick stipulations, including ticket sales, number of screens, and DVD sales. As of right now, this film has at its widest, played at 81 theaters, and this past weekend, eked out a miserable $507 per screen average with only a meager $478,000 for the domestic box office so far. Things don’t look good, but I hope he pulls it off. Generally speaking, I enjoy Spurlock’s work and I appreciate the completely internal look at this process that he has given us.

The stipulations as the movie presents them are as follows:

• $10 million gross at the box office (hopefully that includes the international take)
• Sell 500,000 DVD’s and downloads
• Generate 600 million “media impressions”

While the concept of media impression isn’t defined, I would hope that it includes Twitter, MySpace, FaceBook, etc. Hey Morgan, I’m doing my part...can I get a whoop whoop!

I have an interesting thought that wasn’t touched on in the film. I wonder what the product placement folks think of pirated movies? Not that they would ever outwardly approve of them, but by hook or by crook, the viewer sees their product and in the end, whether or not the artist gets paid, the brand sponsors end up satisfied. I wonder how that factors into the deal making with these companies and whether or not the production companies up the costs to enter into these brand partnerships. Just an aside to this otherwise well covered topic.

This is an enjoyable film that is essential a documentary on one component of movie making, television production, and really any and every form of media that we consume. As Ralph Nadar says in the trailer and the film, the only time we are free of the burden of advertising, is when we close our eyes and go to sleep. While this shouldn’t necessarily be a component of art…it is, and I am quite sure, it is here to stay.

I give POM WONDERFUL: THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD a 4 of 5 Horn rating and I urge you as fans of cinema and consumers of media to go and see this movie.  Morgan Spurlock is an entertaining documentarian and ladies and gents, he has done it again.

For now, I think I’ll go and enjoy a POM Wonderful beverage while wearing my BAN deodorant, washing my hair with MANE and TAIL, checking in at the HYATT after my JET BLUE flight and valet parking my MINI…etc.

Well you know that’s not true, there’s no way in hell a Rhino would fit in a mini…but it would make for damn fine comedy.

That’s all for now...Until later, take care!

Reel Rhino

PS…Enjoy the REEL RHINO enjoying Morgan’s brand partners. Hey, maybe this advertising in movie thing actually works?!?!

BOX OFFICE RECAP 05-20--05-22

The BOX OFFICE CHALLENGE was met with its lowest entries to date…three. Now that is of course, counting me in the mix and also not counting Thraxxus, who flatters me yet again by offering as his picks, a resounding of mine. Oh Thraxxus, you silly goose.

The weekend gave us pretty much exactly what we expected. Pirates took the weekend, which was no suprise. The numbers came back a little lower than expected for this monster franchise, much of which can be attributed to opening against nothing else this weekend and pulling in pretty weak critical reviews. The booty for this Pirates is bound to be less than the studio hope, but these films typically crush overseas, so perhaps the worldwide take will keep them on course.

For #2 this week, Bridesmaids held on strong, dropping only $5 million from last weekend’s haul. I suppose good word of mouth and little other options for movie entertainment helped fuel a solid week two for this very funny outing being headlined by Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig.

#3 and #4 are no real surprise, but I was very pleased to hit #5 on the nose with my picks. With little competition in the kiddie flick department, Rio seemed like the only option. Of course next week gives all the adults a reasonable only choice in The Hangover 2, but you can be sure that every kid in America will be scrambling for Kung Fu Panda 2.

Weekend Box Office Results
1. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides $90.1 million
2. Bridesmaids $21 million
3. Thor $15.5 million
4. Fast Five $10.6 million
5. Rio $4.65 million
6. Priest $4.60 million
7. Jumping the Broom $3,7 million
8. Something Borrowed $3.4 million
9. Water for Elephants $2.1 million
10. Madea’s Big Happy Family $990,000

Reel Rhino’s Picks for This Weekend: Total Points – 13
1. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (3)
2. Thor (2)
3. Bridesmaids (2)
4. Fast Five (3)
5. Rio (3)

Junior’s Picks: Total Points – 10
1. Pirates of the Caribbean (3)
2. Thor (2)
3. Fast Five (2)
4. Bridesmaids (1)
5. Priest (2)

Kenfu’s Picks: Total Points – 10
1. Pirates (3)
2. Thor (2)
3. Fast Five (2)
4. Bridesmaids (1)
5. Priest (2)

So I took the weekend again, but my hats off to both Junior and Kenfu for again playing. I hope that this thing takes off and we can add some more players. Thraxxus...my coat-tails are available for your enjoyment every week.

Coming soon…a Reel Rhino Review for both PIRATES and POM WONDERFUL: THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD.

Until later, take care!

Reel Rhino

Friday, May 20, 2011

Weekend Preview, Box Office Challenge, and Pirates, ARGGGGH!

Oh the Box Office Challenge is here! Hooray, hooray!  The rules and ways to enter can be found at the bottom of this post....

What a strange week we have at hand…Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is essentially the only new film opening this weekend. There are a few flicks that are expanding into more theaters this week, but for the most part, the folks in charge of scheduling releases were intimidated by Jack Sparrow. Oh, sorry sir…CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow.

On Stranger Tides will be the twelfth largest release of all-time in these great United States, playing on 4,155 screens domestically this weekend. POTC: At World’s End played on 4,362 to come in 4th all time for big release. Praise Jesus, that the largest release of all-time was The Twilight Sage: Eclipse, which played 4,468 screens. Yeesh!
So Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is coming at you in the following forms:
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides An IMAX 3-D Experience
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides In Disney 3-D
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides in AMC ETX
Yikes, no wonder they need so many screens!!!
I am quite positive that this will be the #1 movie of the weekend…there you go folks. A gimme from the Reel Rhino. Only four more picks right and you may be our winner!

Domestically speaking, POTC: The Curse of the Black Pearl is #34 all-time at $305 million; POTC: At World’s End is #31 all-time at $309.4 million; and POTC: Dead Man’s Chest is #8 all-time at $423.3.

Where will On Stranger Tides land overall? How will it be held against its predecessors? Did we really need this film at all? Johnny Depp seems excited and he claims to be breathing new life into the role. Maybe it will work?

What does every-gal moviegoer Danni-California have to say? As a seasoned moviegoer and film buff, she is one who may be trusted. But she is an admitted Johnny Depp superfan, so keep that in mind. Here is what she has to say:
Alright so here goes. My run down, opinion, synopsis on Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides. First off I'm a huge Johnny Depp fan and Captain Jack Sparrow happens to be one of my favorite characters of his. I have enjoyed the previous movies and I enjoyed this one as well. I watched it in AMC Theaters ETX 3D. I'm really not a fan of 3D movies in general. This one had a couple cool scenes for 3D but other than that I personally don't think it was worth making it in 3D or seeing it in 3D. The movie for the most part keeps your attention but at times I felt like it just kept dragging on. I am a little disappointed that the original cast including Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly are not in this one. I knew going into it that that they were out, but I still had hopes that they would make some kind of cameo. Instead we have Ian McShane and Penelope Cruz. I was disappointed in Blackbeard’s character. I think I expected more from him. The movie is still filled with the random adult humor and one-liners. But I don't think it was as funny as the others...maybe because there was a marked absence of rum involved. They give a new perspective to the concepts of mermaids, which is much darker than our normal ideas as lovely half-fish ladies. This I did like. Overall, I enjoyed the movie. It will be something that I will have to watch again just so I can breathe and enjoy the movie. I would give it 4 outta 5.
There you have it folks…one girls take on the film. While I do think Danni-California knows movies, I still say hold out for the Reel Rhino’s take. I for one am not smitten with any of the characters in this film, which inherently gives me a more unbiased approach.

Last Weekend’s Box Office Results
1. Thor $34.5 million
2. Bridesmaids $24.4 million
3. Fast Five $19.5 million
4. Priest $14.5 million
5. Rio $8 million
6. Jumping the Broom $7.3 million
7. Something Borrowed $7 million
8. Water for Elephants $4.1 million
9. Madea’s Big Happy Family $2.2 million
10. Soul Surfer $1.8 million

Opening this week…Brother’s Justice? Not so much. Sorry Thraxxus! We are left with only Pirates. Even Woody Allen’s triumphant return to the big screen is limited to only 6 screens this week. You can assume that will be in New York in Los Angeles. Perhaps it is a shame as Pirates is coming in as of this writing at 37% rotten on 119 reviews at Rotten Tomatoes. As for Midnight in Paris…88% fresh on 43 reviews. Hopefully we will get Midnight soon.

Keep your eyes peeled, though….THE BEAVER expands this week. Yes, I know: THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID. I know this movie is supposedly great and that Jodie Foster is a truly talented gem in Hollywood…but Mel Gibson. Enough said.

Reel Rhino’s Picks for This Weekend:
1. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
2. Thor
3. Bridesmaids
4. Fast Five
5. Rio

Confidence is low for these picks folks…confidence is low.

THE RULES: Scoring…for every correct guess, you get 3 points. For every guess within one pick of the movie’s weekend slot gets you 2 points. Finally, two picks away gets you 1 point.

Yeah…if you can’t figure out who is the winner, it isn’t really a contest, right? Any ties will be determined first by whoever has the highest correct answer or series of correct answers. If the tie persists, the winner will be determined by whoever submitted their picks first…yes, you are correct…I have the home field advantage. Deal with it.

The format will be simple with each week’s challenge. I will post the week’s opening films, the # of screens the film is playing (when known), and the RottenTomatoes.com score, if it has one at the time of the post. I am going to omit listing those movies opening in extreme limited release, because they won’t have the seats to fight for one of the top five slots. Fair enough, agreed?

That will be followed by the top ten from last week. “Choose wisely.” Remember that German commander in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade… it didn’t work out so well for him, learn from his lesson my friends.
The final segment of each week’s contest will be me, offering my picks.

You may submit your picks in one of three ways:

1. Enter your picks in the comments field of this post at BlinkinBlogs.com
2. Enter your picks in the comments field of this post at ReelRhino.com
3. E-mail your picks to ReelRhino@gmail.com

I will compile the week’s entries and post the winners at both BlinkinBlogs and ReelRhino as soon as possible, but hopefully by Monday evening at the latest.

THE PRIZE: For now, my friends, in the humble beginnings of the BOX OFFICE CHALLENGE, the prize is this: the champion of the week will have their selection of any film, which I will watch and review on both sites. Don’t believe me? See also: http://reelrhino.blogspot.com/2011/04/biebers-never-say-never-redux-watch.html

Yep…that happened.


Reel Rhino

Thursday, May 19, 2011


The BOX OFFICE CHALLENGE is coming soon, but I wanted to give everyone a chance to read the RRR (Reel Rhino Review) for both Everything Must Go and Bridesmaids, before the weekend got too close. With Pirates 4 being the only new release this week, I think folks are going to be wondering what else is out there worth their hard earned dollar! Here we go…

EVERYTHING MUST GO: 4.5 Horns of 5This film absolutely snuck up on me! For the first time in a long time, I hadn’t seen the trailer for the film I was watching. I went in stone cold, knowing only that Will Ferrell was the star and that it was supposedly uncharacteristic for his normal type of films.

What a great film and what a great experience being completely cold to the material!

This is the absolute first credit for Dan Rush, who both wrote and directed this film, which is based on a short story by Raymond Carver, a major figure in American literature of the late 20th century.

I tried to poke around the internet and found very little on Dan Rush…giving you a peek into the extent of some of my research, I couldn’t even find a Wikipedia page on this guy. That is saying a lot because Wikipedia is NEVER wrong.

A guy who definitely does have a Wiki page is Will Ferrell. A big one, in fact…and an IMDB page that is pretty long as well. Ferrell in my opinion is an extremely bankable star who over the past few years has lost a little luster. I got just plain sick of the Will Ferrell comedy. I can’t explain it, but it got old for me. I did not like The Other Guys when I saw it, but like Anchorman before it, it has grown on me a little bit. But that doesn’t change the fact that 5 or 6 years ago everything from Ferrell was golden. These days he has to really work for it. This film was no exception, but the change in tone of genre suits Ferrell here.

EVERYTHING MUST GO is not really funny man material...this is stone faced serious business.

This film, which premiered at TIFF in 2010, has been met with mostly positive reviews (77% on Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing). Will Ferrell stars as Nick Halsey, a (partially) recovering alcoholic, who within very short order of the start credits, loses his job, loses his wife, and starts slipping back down towards life with the bottle.

The day he is fired, Halsey comes home to find out his wife has left him, leaving everything he owns on the front lawn of their house.

Halsey really doesn’t know how to react. Well actually, he knows how to react: he gets pissy drunk. But emotionally, he is lost. He takes up camp on his front lawn, living with his stuff as if the world is his living room.

Halsey ends up befriending a local boy, who is living with an elderly woman being cared for by his mother. Kenny Loftus is played by Christopher Jordan Wallace…that would be the son of Biggie Smalls…yep, this is The Notorious B.I.G.’s son. Guess what…he is pretty great. Subtle but bold in his role, standing right up there with Ferrell. That’s a tall task in that this is second movie ever. He’s 14 and his only previous role was playing his slain father as a child. I didn’t see Notorious, but based on this feature, I think this kid has a future.

Nick makes another new friend in his brand new neighbor, Samantha, played by the always enjoyable Rebecca Hall. As we meet her, Samantha is moving into the house across the street. She is pregnant and has moved to New Mexico ahead of her husband, who is being transferred there for work. Samantha is shy but Ferrell reaches out to her and they make a connection…not like that, but in a good way.

Along the way, for every moment where you think Nick is going to get his business in order, he slides a little further into the hole. Along the way, his AA sponsor and friend, Detective Frank Garcia (Michael Pena) comes by to help him get back on his feet. While Nick tried to deflect the help that Frank is offering, he does let the good detective keep the local police from arresting him for living on his lawn.

There are a couple great cameos in this flick…Laura Dern plays former high school classmate Delilah, the epitome of chameleon like character acting is here in Stephen Root (you know, Milton from Office Space), and finally, Glenn Howerton has a couple scenes as well as Nick’s boss (from the HILARIOUS It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia).

This film is darker than I would have expected. There is less comedy and more drama than I would have expected. Folks, this is a great film. I would call it feel good, but only for the catharsis that you experience alongside Nick as he fights off his demons. Through Nick, we learn about life from his sequence of tragedy of errors, but never really to the point that we pity him, but instead mostly where we actually will root for him to succeed.

For as much detail as I offer above, I have discussed really only the themes of this movie. See it…it deserves to be seen. If for no other reason as to give Ferrell a achance to show us something new.

I loved this movie and without sounding too cheesy, it has given me new perspective on life. I have a problem letting things go. I would save shit if it had a handle, as father has told me for years. I want to cleanse myself of the garbage that I have accumulated. My life is not the mess that Nick’s is, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t take away a parallel to my own.

4.5 Horns of 5 for this film. Over the past month, this film and WIN WIN strike me as two EXCELLENT indie dramas worth a watch.

BRIDESMAIDS: 4 of 5 Horns
The latest film from the Judd Apatow camp stars two of my favorite all-time SNL ladies in Kristen Wiig (Annie) and Maya Rudolph (Lillian). These are some very funny ladies and when teamed with a group of also very funny ladies, hilarity does in fact, ensue.

Who are those supporting ladies, you may ask?

Wendi McLendon-Covey is Rita – you know her as Deputy Clementine Johnson from Reno 911!  Ellie Kemper as Becca – you know as the oh so cute Erin from The Office.  Melissa McCarthy as Megan – you may know her from the Gilmour Girls or more recently from Mike and Molly.  Rose Byrne as Helen – she was most recently in Insidious, but also had big roles in Get Him to the Greek and in the upcoming X-Men: First Class.

It is a great group of gals and they get their funny on in a big way.

Perhaps I was most surprised by how much I liked this movie as a whole, as opposed to just the parts with the yuks. This film is not The Hangover. Yes, there are some gross-out, potty humor parts that are executed with perfection. But it is really the character development and overriding story of friendship that held my interest. At just over two hours, this film has plenty of time to get us to know these folks. I would for other films argue that the running time is a hair too long, but for Bridesmaids, it seems just right.

This is a movie about the few crazy days that lead up to a wedding. The groom…ummm, what’s his name here? Dougie….he has nary a single word uttered from start to finish. This film focuses on the relationships of these women and it seems wholly believable as a presentation of real women who are real friends.

Yes, some of the cast are here solely to serve their comic purpose and little else, which is both a shame and a blessing. Where our primaries are given ample character construction, some of the could be fluff is shaved in favor of straight up laughs. For that we lose screen time for Ellie Kemper and Wendi McLendon-Covey – both very funny gals, but their time on screen is relegated to delivering one-liners.

That is except for Rose Bynre as Helen, a lonely housewife who is both rich and tasteful. Her efforts to become the lead friend in Lillian’s life is what sets the action in motion. Helen’s efforts to fill the role of Maid of Honor - a task that has actually been given to Annie (Wiig) who is Lillian’s best friend - inserts so much conflict into a situation that is already rife with problems. Yes, weddings typically equal headaches.

Helen is rich, Annie is poor. Her cake shop was run out of business and she ekes out a living hawking jewelry, a job her mom got for her by sponsoring a recovering alcoholic who happens to run the shop. She is not much of a saleswoman…hilariously so, even. Helen is a prim and proper housewife and she’s got dough to blow…she is the exact opposite of Annie.

Annie lives with a Brit who is a tad bit overweight…no judgment, but it is played for comedy, so I mention it. His also overweight and very dull sister is visiting and living with the two of them. The brother/sister combo makes for some very funny scenes, even if just for the visual presentation they provide as characters.

So Annie is upset at the attempt to usurp her role as Maid of Honor…at least she has a man in her life…in the form of none other than Jon Hamm. What a dream, right ladies? Nope. He is a big douche and treats her like dirt, using her only a sex toy for whom he has no respect. I actually despised his character in this film, perhaps because I came to like Wiig’s Annie so damn much!

As the plot rolls forward, we see Annie and Lillian grow apart. Both Wiig and Rudolph execute every scene they are in with great skill. They have impeccable delivery and timing and their facial expressions alone often deliver more laughs than some other “comedic” films. I could watch them in anything!

In addition to slowly losing her friend, Annie rues the lack of a good man in her life. Enter the extremely affable Chris O’Dowd, who we meet as Officer Rhodes. Rhodes pulls Annie over for reckless driving and she manages to talk her way out of a ticket. There is a spark between them that is explored throughout the rest of the film. I enjoyed every time he appeared and every scene added a bit more to the complexities of the story and the world of confusion that Annie was wondering through.

Annie’s life spirals quite quickly out of control and this film dips dangerously close into utterly depressing fare. There were moments where the laughs were few and the drama was thick. In an out and out comedy, these moments were quite surprising. But as I said, the character development was plentiful and because I really cared for these characters, I was as interested as much in the drama as I was the laughs.

Kristen Wiig wrote this film with friend Annie Mumolo. Mumolo had a great cameo as the “dreamer” on the plane. I had the chance to listen to Mumola on Jeff Goldsmith’s podcast (http://www.unlikely.com/screenings.html) and the tale of how this film came to exist is much worth the listen!

Director Paul Feig has a history that rich with modern classic television comedy. He does have a few featured films from through the years, but his game has mostly been TV. I think this is a great first effort for Feig at the “adult” aduly comedy that Apatow has helped refine through the years and I like that Apatow is working as a Producer on projects now, adding bits of his style to other films and shows. I do look forward to whatever becomes of the 2012 “Untitled Judd Apatow Project” and I am sad we don’t have a Judd-film this summer. He was on an every other year schedule, but I think the lackluster performance of his Funny People took the wind from his sails a bit. Get mack on that horse old boy, and ride….ride like the wind.


Before I wrap it up, a bit of trivia about Melissa McCarthy as Megan, who absolutely steals every scene that she is in. We will be seeing more of her, I am sure! Her seat mate on the airplane scene was her real-life husband, character actor, Ben Falcone. Their scenes alone are worth the trip to the theater and make sure to stay after the credits for a Bridesmaids-stinger with Melissa.

This is a fun movie. This film is not The Hangover. It is not better or worse than the 2009 classic; it is its own thing all together that is definitely worth a watch. Every scene has something to offer and when you’re not laughing, you will likely feel actual compassion for the well-being of our leads. What a great film that draws you in with laughs and sends you home with warm fuzzy.

4 of 5 Horns.

Check back soon for a chance to enter the BOX OFFICE CHALLENGE!! Until then, take care.

Reel Rhino