Well, it's the start of a new month, and you know what that means on Screen It Now- a new batch of movies to binge on all month long! March is the month we dedicate to animation here on the site, so we have ten (plus a bonus pick) of our favorite animated films represented in the March movie page. Everything from classic Disney and Pixar to Japanese anime and an underrated Batman cartoon from the 90's (seriously, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is quite a little treat). All eleven selections now come complete with either the original or re-release trailers (and in one case an excellent fan-made one that has the appropriate subtitles), so sit back and enjoy this month long celebration of great animated films, which are often overlooked and underappreciated in the annals of movie history. Head to the Movies for Every Month page to read the full description for March, and then click here for the full list of eleven.
Will Smith's drawing power has diminished a bit, but it's still enough to launch his romantic caper Focus into the top spot, beating Fifty Shades, which fell from first to fourth place this week, as interest in the erotic drama continues to fade fast. The new film, which got mixed reviews and co-stars Wolf of Wall Street bombshell Margot Robbie, opened with $19 million, a bit less than the expected $20-23 million for the weekend. It got a "B" Cinemascore from audiences, so it may not hold well, probably finishing with under $60 million total.
The other new release this weekend was the long-delayed The Lazarus Effect, was a total misfire critically and commercially, earning just $10 million for the number five slot, while the rest of the top earners were holdovers, some of which continue to show strength, like Kingsman, which has now made a solid $85 million. SpongeBob was in third, with $140 million total, and Fifty Shades of Grey tumbled to fourth, with a new domestic total of $147 million, but its global numbers continues to soar (it's at $486 million worldwide). Meanwhile, American Sniper pulled in another $7 million, which means it will now be passing Hunger Games by next week to claim the new title of the biggest movie of 2014. Last time a war movie was able to claim that spot it was Saving Private Ryan in 1998.
- Focus- $19.1 million
- Kingsman: The Secret Service- $11.7 million
- SpongeBob- $11.2 million
- Fifty Shades of Grey- $10.9 million
- The Lazarus Effect- $10.6 million
In Oscar bump news, Birdman was re-released and shot up 125%, which takes it over the $40 million mark, while more impressively, Still Alice sneaked into the top ten this weekend, earning $2.5 million from people curious to see if the movie that won Best Actress actually existed. Best Actor winner Theory of Everything also managed a bump, taking its gross to $35 million. Next weekend it's another slow one, with the robot thriller Chappie on deck, as well as The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It's looking pretty dry out there right now- what I wouldn't give for another Grand Budapest this time of year, but it doesn't look in the cards for 2015.
If there's one thing that can accurately be said about the films of David Cronenberg, it's that they're...well, they're not for everyone. His latest fits nicely into a long filmography that's often times absorbed by tales of monsters, either spiritual or literal (sometimes both), and kinky sexuality exposing the inner layers of dark and twisted characters. He can be cold and removed, and I've often found that with his movies, you fall into a love it or hate it camp. You either get him or you don't, which makes any Cronenberg film difficult to recommend to just anyone.
I do get him though- I've always considered myself a fan and found his films wildly entertaining; the dark, disturbing nature of them to be exciting and most of all, different from anything that any other filmmaker can dream up. To me, his intriguingly twisted sensibilities are so singular as to render him a truly unique visionary, who remains more accessible than the abstract tendencies of his contemporaries like David Lynch or Jim Jarmusch. He always tells a surface story, albeit a weird one and you either respond to it or you don't. Here he directs a screenplay by veteran screenwriter Bruce Wagner that combines vicious Hollywood satire with high camp and the dark melodrama of one entrenched celebrity family harboring secrets that enable them to fit right at home in their surroundings, and the soulless denizens that live and work in Tinseltown.
This is a version of the mythmaking factory that really burns it to the ground (literally, as you'll see in the story) and falls more in line with Robert Altman's The Player in terms of just how cynical, corrupt and amoral the depiction of glamor is in this film. Wagner and Cronenberg seem to want to actively debunk those myths, using some of the actors for scenes of grotesque exploitation that serve up their images as less glamorous than you would ever want to see (kudos to Julianne Moore for her willingness to be filmed moaning on a toilet seat while whining about laxatives). Mia Wasikowska is the entry point to this world, as Agatha Weiss, a teenage burn victim who uses her recently claimed Twitter "friendship" with Carrie Fisher to her advantage, landing herself a job as a personal assistant to aging movie star Havana Segrand (Moore), in order to ingratiate herself in the industry. She then waffles between following Segrand around, romancing chauffeur and wannabe actor Robert Pattinson, and eventually meeting up with her long estranged family members, who are the ones sheltering the tragic backstory revealed later in the film.
But before we get to all that, we follow another person ensconced in the Hollywood bubble, Benjie Weiss, former Bieber-esque child star and Agatha's little brother, who's already been in and out of rehab at age thirteen and lords over his costars and parents as the entitled little shit he is (newcomer Evan Bird gets some of the most hilarious lines, as Benjie casually puts down everyone he meets with one concocted insult after another). His parents are played by Olivia Williams as the smothering stage mom and John Cusack as a new age therapist to the stars, who also retains Segrand as one of his clients. All the performances are pitch perfect, with the actors ready to deliver the dark humor and surreal one liners of Wagner's dialogue, peppered with topical references and inside jokes, but Julianne Moore is the one who really stands apart form the ensemble as the shallow and aging former starlet. Showing off how Hollywood casts away its actresses once they hit a certain age and no longer have use for them, Moore conveys the desperation and ugly side of post-stardom, a woman who's haunted by her own mother's film career and tragic past, while giving a physically brave and gutsy performance as she seems game for more anything that's asked of her, from the aforementioned toilet scene to a hollow threeway with two younger partners, and the hesitant joy she feels when the death of a child forces another actor to drop out of a movie, thus gifting her the part instead. It's a despicable character in a lot of ways, but Moore so inhabits her, and is so funny and edgy while doing it that you just kind of sit back in awe while gawking at her grotesque and pitiful Norma Desmond- style antics.
Even though the movie is never less than entertaining and even shocking in its pointed commentary about celebrity and pop culture, not all of the material works completely, as once the Weiss family melodrama starts to take over the movie in the last third, the focus seems to shift in ways that aren't nearly as compelling as earlier in the film. The mix of genres is a bit uneven in the climax, and you might leave the movie wondering what it was even about after the ending. There are ghostly, almost supernatural moments that render the film closer to something like Black Swan (or perhaps Lynch's Mulholland Dr.) than Sunset Boulevard, which is a bit jarring as well, but still in a uniquely watchable way. You really couldn't expect Cronenberg's take on Hollywood myths to be anything less, right? Not a perfect movie, but inherently interesting and consistently provocative- a can't miss for fans of the director, who refuses to sell out, well into his later years, making him one of the lone, stalwart visionaries in a town he so clearly reviles.
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Some very sad news today, as Star Trek legend Leonard Nimoy passed away at the age of 83. He had been in weak health for some time, due to the after effects of longtime smoking, even though he'd quit over 30 years ago. Obviously, he's immortalized as the iconic Spock, the half-Vulcan he played on the original Star Trek television series from 1966-69, and then again in six of the Trek movies from 1979-1991, followed by appearances in the last two films from the current rebooted franchise. After Star Trek, he starred in two seasons of Mission: Impossible, hosted the documentary series In Search Of..., and even directed some movies, including Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and 1987's smash hit Three Men and a Baby. He had been given casting approval for whoever was to take over the role of Spock for the 2009 reboot, and became friends with Zachary Quinto in the last few years, but for most Trek fans, he could never truly be replaced, and he'll live on forever as the character in the hearts of millions.
Spock's death scene in 1982's Wrath of Khan:
The teaser for this Brian Wilson biopic makes you want to see it because of the music alone (how could it not?), but luckily the film is actually supposed to be quite good. It premiered at Toronto last year to rave reviews for Paul Dano's performance (surprisingly enough) as the tortured Beach Boy, who's also played by John Cusack in his later years. I know those two don't look anything alike, but I guess we just have to suspend disbelief on that one. It comes out June 5th.
This week's blu-ray choice is a newly minted Oscar winner, having just won Supporting Actor, Editing and Sound Mixing at the Academy Awards on Sunday. I actually wasn't the biggest fan of this movie, even though Simmons is great and it gets your heart pounding like crazy, which is an achievement for a film about jazz music, right? But many who did see it really loved it, which is how such a tiny film won 3 Oscars in the first place. As far as general audiences go however, hardly anyone saw this movie in theaters, so now might be the time to check it out- it's quite an adrenaline rush.
Just in case you thought we were done with 2014 awards coverage, here comes one of the last stragglers with their completely unsurprising results (yay Top Five!). Actually, this might be the last one for awhile- at least until the always relevant (not) MTV Movie Award nominations come out next week. Yeah, I'm waiting on pins and needles for that one too.
Actor: David Oyelowo, Selma
Actress: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Belle
Supporting Actor: Wendell Pierce, Selma
Supporting Actress: Carmen Ejogo, Selma
Director: Ava DuVernay, Selma
Screenplay: Top Five
Documentary: Anita: Speak Truth to Power
Foreign Film: Fishing Without Nets (Kenya)
Breakthrough Performance, Male: Tyler James Williams, Dear White People
Breakthrough Performance, Female: Teyonah Parris, Dear White People
Voice Performance: Morgan Freeman, The Lego Movie
Song: "Glory," Selma
Independent Feature: The Retrieval
Independent Documentary: 25 to Life
Independent Short: #AmeriCan
Okay, so the show this year started off promising, with a pretty decent musical opening number that did its best to tribute significant movies. But then it went downhill pretty quickly. I hope this can finally put to rest the myth that Neil Patrick Harris is some kind of amazing awards show host, because he was a disaster tonight. But we'll start out with the positive.
The Musical Numbers- I was not looking forward to all the musical numbers planned for the ceremony, but you know what? They were actually pretty good, most of them. Or maybe it was just that they were better than NPH and his dying comedic "bits." Actually, his opener about movies was good, the one that incorporated Anna Kendrick and Jack Black, but that was the highlight for him personally. After that, Common and John Legend's Selma performance brought everyone to their feet (and to tears), while Lady Gaga overcame the pointlessness of the Sound of Music tribute by just being really, fucking good. I've been a fan of hers for years, and this is the reason, people. Because she's talented and can actually sing. If you never knew that, you do now.
The Speeches- this was a night of emotional, political speeches from several of the winners, and thank goodness, because when you've got a bad host and slow pacing by the producers, you'd better hope the people on stage can make things interesting. Patricia Arquette of course, started things off by using her time at the podium to make a loud defiant call for women's equality (something she didn't do at any other stage this year), and then John Legend made a speech after winning Best Song, that publicly noted America's insanely high incarceration rate for black men. When Graham Moore won Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game, he used his mic time to admit to having attempted suicide as a teen and calling on younger kids to "stay weird and different," and finally, Best Director Alejandro Inarritu tributed Mexican immigrants and hoped for them to build a better government here that they deserve. Sorta reminds you of the 1970's, doesn't it? I say bring on all the right wing hatred.
The Host- Sorry guys, but Neil Patrick Harris fell flat on his face tonight. After the opening number, he made us all suffer through a god awful predictions box gag that ran all night even though it was dead from the start, his attempted interactions with every audience member was cringeworthy at best (yikes, David Oyelowo and Oprah were not into that Annie joke), and he just wasn't able to get that uptight audience in the room to relax one bit (not to mention he himself looked utterly terrified for at least half the night on that stage). I'd rank him just a notch above the notorious James Franco/Anne Hathaway year. I think the lesson they need to learn here is to hire a fucking COMEDIAN for this thing. It has to be done, otherwise the stuffiness will be unbearable and last all night long. We need jokes that work, and the Oscar show writers are not the people to provide that. Or at least some presenters who do a funny bit in place of the flailing host- we got nothing this year.
The Categories- what do I mean by that? Well, how about the fact that every category save for acting showed nothing but a still of the movie's name as the nominees were read? Are you kidding me? Um, how about clips that showed off the production design? Or the costumes? Or the scripts? You may think that doesn't make a difference, but it actually does, especially when most people don't even know what 80% of these categories mean. Seriously, all it would take is to flash some stills of the sets, people. It made the awards themselves even more boring than usual.
In Memorium- this kind of ties into the category thing, but why show drawings of the people who died, instead of actual clips from the movies they were in? Again, that would remind people who they were and what they'd actually done. Also, Joan Rivers probably should have been included, despite the fact that most of her career was as a TV personality- but hey, that TV work including popularizing the Oscar red carpet, right? Talk about ungrateful.
Well, Birdman pulled it off! The film walked away with four Oscars tonight, including Picture and Director, while all four acting frontrunners won, and most of the techs as well, save for a couple of upsets, like Big Hero 6 in Animated Feature. I gotta take a second to cheer about my own predictions this year, which were actually pretty good! I got 21 out of 24 this time around (if I had only stuck with frontrunner Ida in Foreign Film- grrr!), and the biggest lesson I learned from the winners tonight was to always trust the guilds. They prevailed once again and remain the most important precursor awards when it comes to Best Picture and Best Director. As for the show itself? Well...tune in for my recap to see what I thought of that this year (hint: it was not good).
BEST ANIMATED SHORT: Feast
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT: The Phone Call
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Interstellar
BEST SOUND MIXING: Whiplash
BEST SOUND EDITING: American Sniper
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Birdman
BEST COSTUME DESIGN: The Grand Budapest Hotel
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: The Grand Budapest Hotel
BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING: The Grand Budapest Hotel
BEST ORIGINAL SONG: "Glory," Selma
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: The Grand Budapest Hotel
BEST DOCUMENTARY: Citizenfour
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: Big Hero 6
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: Ida
BEST EDITING: Whiplash
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: The Imitation Game
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Birdman
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
BEST ACTRESS: Julianne Moore, Still Alice
BEST ACTOR: Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
BEST DIRECTOR: Alejandro Inarritu, Birdman
BEST PICTURE: Birdman
So, unsurprisingly (at least to me), Fifty Shades of Grey fell off a cliff this weekend, falling 73%, thanks to the crappy Cinemascore and also without a Valentine's Day boost, which brings its total to $130 million, and it will likely struggle to reach $200 million now. But obviously it wasn't made on a massive budget, so few tears are being shed behind the scenes. Even fewer when you see that its worldwide total comes to a staggering $410 million already (I didn't realize these books were a worldwide success too?). That's pretty insane. Meanwhile, the other new release, Hot Tub Time Machine 2, turned out to be an epic flop, earning just $5 million over the weekend, so I guess this was a sequel that very few people wanted to see.
Kevin Costner's McFarland, USA pulled in a respectable $11 million, while Mae Whitman's teen comedy The Duff also came in with a decent $11 million, thanks to good reviews, so that could turn into a minor success, having been produced for just $8.5 million. Also in the top five was Kingsman: Secret Service, which held a bit better than 50 Shades at No. 2, earning $17.5 million over this Oscar weekend, as SpongeBob came in at No. 3 with $15 million. The family movie has now earned over $125 million in a successful 3D relaunch of the SpongeBob franchise.
- 50 Shades of Grey- $23.2 million
- Kingsman: Secret Service- $17.5 million
- The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water- $15.5 million
- McFarland, USA- $11.3 million
- The Duff- $11 million
Meanwhile, American Sniper made another $9.6 million, which means the smash has now grossed $319 million and is the biggest Oscar nominee since 2009's Toy Story 3, believe it or not. Next week it's the Will Smith-Margot Robbie heist flick Focus, which is looking to be Will Smith's first hit since the failure of After Earth, while the Oscars will officially be over after this weekend, a season that didn't bring a huge boost to many of the nominated films, since most of them were low earning indies (besides Sniper of course). Tune in tonight to find out what wins Best Picture, everyone!
So, yeah- the Razzies were held on the night before the Oscars, and they took the opportunity to dump on Kirk Cameron as much as possible for his barely released Saving Christmas movie. Look, I know that it sucks and probably deserves every one of its Razzie awards, but frankly I think the Razzies should aim a little higher with their "worst" honors, and reserve them for some of the bigger, popular, shitty movies that make money every year. I mean what fun is it to take shots at somebody who's already languishing in irrelevance anyway? Cameron Diaz is a little more in the right direction- now there's a Cameron who needs the career check.
Worst Picture: Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas
Worst Actor: Kirk Cameron, Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas
Worst Actress: Cameron Diaz, The Other Woman/Sex Tape
Worst Supporting Actor: Kelsey Grammer, Expendables 3/Legends of Oz/Think Like a Man Too/Transformers: Age of Extinction
Worst Supporting Actress: Megan Fox, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Worst Director: Michael Bay, Transformers: Age of Extinction
Worst Screenplay: Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas
Worst Screen Combo: Kirk Cameron & his ego, Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas
Worst Remake, Rip-Off or Sequel: Annie
The Razzie Redeemer Award: Ben Affleck, from Gigli to Argo and Gone Girl
Birdman closed its precursor run strong today, by winning Best Feature and Best Actor from the Independent Spirit Awards, which became the first legitimate awards body to vote for the Linklater/Birdman split in Picture and Director. Hmmm- I feel fairly confident about Birdman winning tomorrow, but I'm also right on the edge of thinking Keaton can still win Best Actor, despite Eddie Redmayne's dominance in the precursor run. I think that must have been a really close vote. I'm also wary of predicting Boyhood now for editing- I'm starting to think those flashy cuts in Whiplash is just too much for people to resist in that category.
- Editing: Whiplash
- Cinematography: Birdman
- Supporting Female: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
- First Screenplay: Justin Simien, Dear White People
- International Film: Ida
- John Cassavetes Award (Feature produced for under $5 million): Land Ho!
- First Feature: Nightcrawler
- Supporting Male: J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
- Screenplay: Dan Gilroy, Nightcrawler
- Documentary: Citizenfour
- Director: Richard Linklater, Boyhood
- Female Lead: Julianne Moore, Still Alice
- Male Lead: Michael Keaton, Birdman
- Feature: Birdman