Film Noir: The Asphalt Jungle

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We open on a lone man walking through the empty streets of grimy, unnamed Midwest city. It appears to be dawn. He has just pulled a stick-up and stashes his weapon with a pal who operates a diner. He’s still pulled in by the cops, but in the lineup gives the witness such a malicious stare than the witness won’t identify him. A small smile crosses the man’s face. (No wonder they changed to one-way glass for lineups).

He’s Dix Handley, played by Sterling Hayden, in the 1950 classic The Asphalt Jungle. I love heist films, and this is perhaps the best (some may argue that it is Rififi, but this one came first). It’s about a bunch of lowlifes that attempt to rob a jewelry store, but of course a perfect plan is never perfect. In an introduction by the director John Huston, he says “You may not like these people, but I think you’ll be fascinated by them.” He’s right.

The plot in set in motion when “Doc” Reidenschneider is released from prison. Played beautifully by Sam Jaffe, he’s a master criminal, and already has another score dreamed up. He contacts a local bookmaker (Marc Lawrence), who is his conduit to a crooked lawyer (Louis Calhern). Calhern is intrigued by the notion of a half-million dollar payday, but he doesn’t have the money to front Jaffe. So he lies and says he does and decides to double-cross them.

The crew includes Anthony Caruso as the “box man” (safe cracker), and he has just had a baby so you know he’s a marked man. The guy in the diner, James Whitmore, is recruited as the driver, and Hayden is taken on as the “hooligan,” which in those days meant the muscle, the guy who wasn’t afraid to use his “heater.”

The plan works and in a nine-minute sequence the men crack the safe and have the jewels. But using nitro (“the soup”) sets off alarms in nearby stores. A security guard comes by, and though Hayden takes him out he drops his gun, which happens to go off and hits Caruso. So much for perfect plans.

When Hayden and Jaffe find out about the double-cross, they try to get Calhern to fix things. But he’s in enough trouble, as Lawrence, a weak-willed drunkard, is forced to confess by a tough corrupt cop (Barry Kelley). Now the crooks are on the lam.

I’ve seen The Asphalt Jungle three or four times and it’s just magnificent every time. It is a wallow in human immorality, as there is no one with any integrity except the crusty old police commissioner (John McIntyre). Each character has a particular vice, and as Jaffe says, “One way or another, we all work for our vice.” His happens to be young women, and it will cost him his freedom in a brilliantly done scene in a diner that involves a pretty girl dancing to tunes on a jukebox.

Hayden has a thing for the ponies, but his dream is to go back to his family’s horse farm in Kentucky. He has woman who loves him (Jean Hagen), and it’s pathetic the way she hangs on to him. His ending is particularly poignant, and closes the picture, but I won’t give it away here. Suffice it to say a doctor says, “He hasn’t got enough blood in him to keep a chicken alive.”

Calhern also plays a great character. He’s a dignified lawyer but finds it easy to play both sides of the law. “Crime is only a left-handed form of human endeavor.” He has a bed-ridden wife, but keeps a mistress, who happens to be played by Marilyn Monroe in her first major role (she gets no billing on the original poster, but in subsequent releases is prominently featured in the marketing). She creepily calls Calhern “Uncle Lon,” and in two scenes shows why she became a star. In the first she oozes sex, and in the second she shows her vulnerability. She can’t lie for Calhern. She apologizes, and he says, “You did very well, given the circumstances.”

This is noir at its finest, with morally ambiguous characters and almost all scenes shot at night (the ending is the glaring exception). The cinematography, by Harold Rosson, shows the filth of the city. Caruso says his wife wants to expose their baby to fresh air. “I tell her, if she wants fresh air, she should get out of this city!”

The Asphalt Jungle is crackerjack entertainment, taut and suspenseful and without a wasted moment. As good as it is, though, it’s probably only Huston’s third-best film (after The Maltese Falcon and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre). The guy had a remarkable career.

Opening in Las Vegas, Weekend of July 3, 2015

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Is it just me, or does seem like a really sucky weekend, given that it’s a holiday? Maybe the studios figure people will be at the beach or the mountains. I have free time, and there’s nothing I want to fork over nine dollars for.

The big new opening this is yet another Terminator movie, this one titled Terminator Genisys (39). Supposedly it completely ignores the third and fourth movies (which I haven’t seen), or so says James Cameron, who had nothing to do with it,  but approves. It’s getting lousy reviews, despite the recent good will exibited by star Arnold Schwarzenegger. James Luxford: “Terminator Genisys’ ambition overrides sense and depth in the pursuit of a new direction, and then unwittingly proves how little life there is left in this franchise.”

For the ladies is Magic Mike XXL (60) which is getting decent reviews and is the place to go to see ripped abs. James Mottram: “Packed tight, Jacobs’ straightforward sequel may boast less up top than the Soderbergh-directed original, but still bulges where it counts.”

The bomb of the week would seem to be Faith of Our Fathers (19), a Vietnam war story. Stephen Baldwin stars, which is a tip off that it has a Christian point of view. Christians can do a lot of things well, but making good movies is not one of them. Vadim Rizov: “It’s obnoxious, to say the least, to use the Vietnam War as an excuse to affirm the importance of telling all and sundry about Jesus at all times (i.e., “testifying”), under all circumstances.”

In Stereo (37) is an indie romance that i’ve never heard of, but I loved this description by Josh Bell: “Two smarmy douchebags fall in love in this irritating indie drama.”

Another indie is The Overnight (64), the best-reviewed new film this week. It stars mostly TV actors like Adam Scott and Taylor Schilling, and even after reading the synopsis I’m not sure what it’s about. Two couples and their children, it seems. Mike D’Angelo: “It’s an unusual but surprisingly effective mix of outrageousness and sincerity, in which the four anxious revelers somehow function both as broad caricatures and as real, complex human beings.”

Films that opened in America, June 26-28 2015

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Ted 2 (imdb rating 7.1) – I saw the first Ted film and largely loathed it. And while that film was a big hit and mysteriously well received by fans and critics, I’m not surprised this sequel has underperformed. Not just because the reviews have been nowhere near as positive and not just because this has all the hallmarks of a lazy, cash-in sequel. But because Seth MacFarlane is such a smug personality that it’s easy for people to go off him and his films (as occurred with his flop western).

Max (7.3) – About a dog who worked with the US military overseas who has challenges when it returns home. In previous generations this probably would’ve starred a Lassie-type (or Benji, or Rin Tin Tin) in a much gentler context but these are different times we live in.

Escobar: Paradise Lost (6.6) – A young man holidaying in Colombia falls in love with a young lady… who happens to be related to infamous drug kingpin Pablo Esobar

Big Game (5.4) – Produced in Finland, a young teenager in the Finnish woods has to help save the US President when his plane is crashed, with Samuel L Jackson as the President no less. Looking at the plot and trailer, this looks like slop from all angles but that doesn’t surprise as Jackson has appeared in a lot of junk for years and is still lazily trading off his persona from Pulp Fiction

Runoff (8.4) – US rural drama which has gotten some good reviews.

A Borrowed Identity (7.4) –  Israeli film about a boy of Palestinan-Israeli descent dealing with various challenges and difficulties while at a boarding school

A Little Chaos (6.3) – A British period drama starring Kate Winslet (although set in France) has at first glance all the makings of being an acclaimed prestige picture, even an Oscar contender. But this film had its US release delayed, has had a lukewarm critical reception and now suffers the fate of getting a VOD release at the same time of its cinema release, so this is likely to sink without trace.

Kate Winslet had a great run of quality (and financial) film work from the mid 1990s to late 2000s, but hasn’t had anything of real note so far this decade.

AGEBOC ’15 July 3-5

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Jackrabbit Slim pulls way out in front with a 7-pointer.

***HOLIDAY WEEKEND***

Predict the #1 film of the weekend.

The one who predicts closest to the total Friday to Sunday gross for the #1 film wins 4 points. Runner-up gains 2 points. Predicting within half a million earns 2 extra points.

Bonus Questions:

1. Sequels are running rampant at the box office. How many original films (non- prequel/sequel/reboot/reimagined franchise/etc…) will be in the top 10 this weekend – LESS THAN 5 or 5 OR MORE?

2. Will Magic Mike XXL earn more this weekend than the first did in its opening weekend 3 years ago ($39,127,170)?

Deadline is Thursday July 2nd 11:59pm blog time

To find out the rules of the game, go to the main thread for AGEBOC 09.

Current Rankings:

Jackrabbit Slim – 25

Rob – 19
James – 18
Joe – 14
Marco – 14
Juan – 11
Nick – 5.5

Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

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Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was the big winner at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, nabbing both the Grand Prize and the Audience Prize. Indeed, there is a lot to like about it and I give it a solid thumbs up. I just didn’t like it as much as I wanted to.

I think the problem lies in the direction, by Alfonso Gomez-Ramon. He tries almost every directorial trick in the book, ranging from animation to tilting the camera sideways to whirling the camera 360 degrees to making images out of focus. The script, by Jesse Andrews based on his novel, is a winner, but Gomez-Ramon doesn’t seem to trust it. It’s as if he’s looking over his shoulder at the audience, willing us to like the film (and him).

The story concerns a high-school senior (Thomas Mann) whose strategy for surviving is to get along with all groups but not belong to any single group, thus remaining as invisible as possible. He also avoids the cafeteria, depicted as a jungle of sorts, and instead eats lunch in his history teacher’s office with his best friend, Earl (RJ Cyler). But he doesn’t call Earl his friend, he refers to him as a “co-worker.” Earl explains this later in the film, while both boys are high.

The plot is moved forward rather dubiously when a girl in Mann’s school (Olivia Cooke) is diagnosed with leukemia. Mann’s mother (Connie Britton) forces him to go over to her house to hang out with her. Now, without this there’s no movie, but I wonder at the whole thing, since Cooke is a girl who has friends and shouldn’t need just about strangers to come hang out with her.

A friendship forms between the two, and meanwhile she is shown the films that Mann and Cyler make. They remake classic films in a very stupid way, and snippets of these films are used as transitions, and are often quite funny (I laughed out loud seeing Cyler in a cowboy hat in “2:48 Cowboy.”) A classmate that Mann has a crush on asks him to make a film for Cooke.

The characters here are all very likable. I include Nick Offerman as Mann’s father, who is a college professor that doesn’t seem to teach any classes. He is always in a bathrobe, introducing the boys to exotic foods, like cuttlefish and andouille rabbit sausage. Almost everything Cyler says is funny, although at times, since he is an inner-city black kid, he’s kind of treated like the exotic other.

But the film just tries too hard. There’s a shot late in the film in which Mann is in Cooke’s room, and it is milked for every maudlin moment that it can get. Though the boys’ movies are funny, at times they weigh things down, and when we finally see the movie made for Cooke, it isn’t all that great (this is a common problem in films or plays–when someone is creating something, it often is no great shakes, which lets down the whole enterprise).

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl has a lot of heart, and is often laugh-out-loud funny. But it’s not the great film that some are heralding it as.

My grade for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl: B.

AGEBOC ’15 June 26-28

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The deckchairs get rearranged at the top!

Predict the #1 film of the weekend.

The one who predicts closest to the total Friday to Sunday gross for the #1 film wins 4 points. Runner-up gains 2 points. Predicting within half a million earns 2 extra points.

Bonus Questions:

1. Which movie will fall farther (have a higher percentage drop vs. last weekend) – Jurassic World in its 3rd weekend or Inside Out in its 2nd?

2. Will Ted 2 outperform Ted‘s opening (meaning will it gross more than $54,415,205 this weekend)?

Deadline is Thursday June 25th 11:59pm blog time

To find out the rules of the game, go to the main thread for AGEBOC 09.

Current Rankings:

Rob – 18.5
Jackrabbit Slim – 18
James – 17
Joe – 14
Marco – 11
Juan – 10
Nick – 5.5

Films that opened June 19-21 2015 in America

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Inside Out (IMDB rating 8.9) – Already a huge critical and financial success, this animated film seems to have allayed fears among many that Pixar’s best days were behind it. Highly favourable review from our own Joe Webb as well.

Dope (7.4) – This teen story has gotten very good critical responses and while the film subject doesn’t really interest me much, I can’t deny the trailer is pretty snappy. One thing that confused me about the trailer is that I wasn’t sure whether it was set in the 1990s or in the present day (and populated by characters with 90s stylings).

Any Body Can Dance 2 (6.2) – Sequel to a popular Indian dance film from 2013.

The Overnight (6.9) – Two couples meet and bond through their young children, which leads to an overnight party at one of their homes which soon turns pretty wild. Starring a goateed Adam Scott and Jason Schwartzman (haven’t watched him in a film for a while), going by the trailer it looks a fairly intriguing piece although there’s no guarantee it will get a cinema release in Australia.

Infinitely Polar Bear (7.1) – A manic-depressive father needs to save his family by showing himself as a responsible father (and as the trailer says incessantly, takes his lithium). Despite starring the always welcome Mark Ruffalo, the trailer seems so manipulative and corny that I would give this a pass. As an aside, 2001 star Keir Dullea makes a rare acting appearance in this film.

Eden (6.1) – French film about youth in the underground music scene of the 1990s.

Manglehorn (6.2) – As recently as the early 2000s, any new Al Pacino film would’ve been noteworthy due to his stature as an actor and that the film would be at least an attempt at something substantial. But he’s starred in a lot of dross in recent years so it’s little surprise this is getting such a limited release (and not great critical reaction either). Going by the trailer, Pacino’s performance seems atypically understated and Pacino seems like he should be Holly Hunter’s father, not trying to have a romantic relationship with her.

The Tribe (7.4) – Ukraine drama about a deaf teenager trying to adjust to a boarding school.

The New Rijksmuseum – The Film (7.5) – Dutch documentary about the renovation and rebuilding of a famous national museum.

Gabriel (6.7) – Drama starring Rory Culkin as a disturbed young man searching for his love. Going by the trailer, this seems to be set right in the middle of the cliches of indy cinema.

Jaws

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Today is the 40th anniversary of the release of Jaws, which, in addition to being one of the greatest adventure films of all time, is also a watershed film in the history of the business, being the first summer “blockbuster” and changing the way films are distributed. It also made the career of a fellow named Steven Spielberg.

My memories of Jaws are vivid. I am old enough to not only have seen it in its first release, I read the book first. I was fourteen when I saw it, when my dad took me. I was a little nervous, as there had been tales about the gruesomeness of it all. I do remember my stomach gurgling a little bit when Quint gets chomped, but managed to hang on to my lunch.

Even at that age I was a critic, and I remember writing a review of the film for a school class (some time later, since I did see the film in summer). I remember that I noticed how well they made changes to the book, which was really a potboiler (it’s very similar to what Francis Coppola did with a bad book in The Godfather). The subplot of Hooper having an affair with Mrs. Brody, and the compression of time in the last act–in the book, the hunters return each night to the island, but in the film, they stay out there for the duration–made the film much more thrilling and gave the characters a desperation that is palpable.

The stories about the making of Jaws are legion. The Wikipedia entry is fascinating–Spielberg was thinking about doing Lucky Lady instead of Jaws (a dodged bullet if there ever was one) and actors like Robert Duvall and Lee Marvin passed. Charlton Heston was interested in playing Brody. When you read casting history like this for any film that turns out to be a classic you wonder if there’s just a little stardust being sprinkled, because Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, and Richard Dreyfuss are perfect. I wonder if Dreyfuss basically invented the nerdy scientist’s beard–it’s the same beard that Paul Giamatti wears in San Andreas.

The most famous story is about the trouble with the animatronic sharks. They were another gift from the movie gods, as out of necessity Spielberg had to make do with the suggestion of the shark, a la Val Lewton and Cat People. This was enormously helped by John Williams’ score, based on two notes that sound like a heartbeat (the shark’s, or our trembling hearts?) That music, plus a shadow, or, at the end of the film, ominous yellow barrels, put the image of the shark in our heads. The fish himself only gets a few close-ups, including his famous debut, which prompts Scheider to utter the great line (supposedly ad-libbed) “You’re going to need a bigger boat.”

Another great speech is that of Shaw’s as Quint recalling his experiences after the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis, during which hundreds of seamen were killed by sharks. Carl Gottlieb, the ostensible writer of Jaws, gives most of the credit to Shaw, who was also a playwright, although John Milius takes some credit. This speech, along with the note-perfect second act, gives the film a Melville or Hemingway feel–man against nature, the leviathan, the perfect eating machine.

It’s amazing to read that before Jaws, summer was the dumping ground for films. It was the first summer blockbuster. For example, The Godfather was released in March. But Jaws changed the game plan, altering the studio’s way of thinking. Jaws, along with Star Wars, has left a bitter taste in many cineaste’s minds, who bemoan that these good films gave way to a bean-counting culture in Hollywood that is more about making loads of money than actually making good films. In the following years, box office results would be published in papers other than Variety, and these totals were like the sports pages, removed from the quality of the film.

Jaws also changed marketing, as it had an extensive TV push and various tie-ins. It was released on 450 screens, a phenomenal amount for 1975. Before then, wide releases were usually for marginal-quality films, but Universal instead put it everywhere, upending the “road show” model that most prestigious pictures used.

The legacies of Jaws are many, and a mixed bag. It spawned some horrible sequels, for one. But who could have known that it would launch Spielberg to a status that no one in Hollywood had had before–the talent that ended up calling the shots. His great talent was evident then. He had made one release, The Sugarland Express, and a well-regarded TV film, Duel (he had also done some TV, notably an episode of Night Gallery). After Jaws, not only was his ticket punched, the keys to Hollywood were practically handed to him. But what was evident about Spielberg then, and still today (mostly) is his ability to tell a story on screen. His temptation to go sentimental was not yet on display in 1975, a plus (the fact that Matt Hooper survives was due to some stock footage shot of real sharks, not a dispensation for saving him).

After last night’s viewing, I’ve now seen Jaws five or six times, and it holds up beautifully each time. It does truly seem to be a film that, like Casablanca, just fell together out of chaos to form a magical entity. Perhaps the most significant shot in the film in this regard is the two-shot of Scheider and Dreyfuss on the Orca, at night, as a meteor passes behind them. This was not a special effect–it was an actual heavenly body, coincidentally caught on film. What could auger better?

Review: Inside Out

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Inside Out (Pixar)Bring tissues. If you’ve ever been an 11-year-old girl, bring tissues. If you’ve ever had a child become an 11-year-old girl, bring tissues. If you’ve ever known an 11-year-old girl, bring tissues. In fact, if you are human who’s alive and has a heart, bring tissues.

One of the apocryphal quotes floating around the internet attributed to Albert Einstein is “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” At first blush Inside Out may seem like a surface-level generalization of what goes on inside our minds but I’m pretty sure that’s the point. The people behind the scenes (including writers/directors Pete Docter & Ronaldo del Carmen) have relied upon professional research and done much of their own to craft a simple explanation to the complex issue that is human emotion. I’ve read that the idea came to Docter when his own daughter was in the roller coaster throes of adolescence and he couldn’t understand why.

The film opens with a voiceover from Joy (Amy Poehler, who is already a star but this could turn out to be her iconic role) who appears ex nihilo to describe the birth of a young girl named Riley. Joy (who has equal amounts love, wonder & whimsy as well) is responsible for all of the happiness in Riley’s life. Her room inside Riley’s mind is quickly crowded in by the other emotions you have seen in the trailers and on posters. Without anyone else to guide them, the emotions all learn what they are, together, as Riley grows up. Joy is usually in charge and, with a fair amount of aplomb, keeps the other emotions in check. There are some old boring manuals in a corner that describe the intricacies of the brain and how it all works, but only Sadness (Phyllis Smith) has the time & patience (& loneliness) required to read them.

Shortly after Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) turns 11 her parents drop a bombshell on her: they are moving from Minnesota and every friend & every thing she’s ever known to San Francisco. The why can be summed up as “dad’s job” though specifics are never given. Outside of the brain things go wrong almost immediately as the family arrives in town. Their moving van with most of their stuff has been delayed 3 days (which turns into a week or longer) meaning that there is almost no furniture in the house and Riley has to sleep on the ground in a sleeping bag. Inside her head Joy is still in charge so Riley is able to make the best of it. But something is brewing with Sadness and there is a curiosity and a desire for this emotion to touch every memory possible and cast a pall over them – especially at the worst time, like the first day at a new school.

The conflict between Sadness & Joy makes the blue one seem quite annoying for a while but this is absolutely done on purpose to yield a deep emotional effect in/on the audience later on (it succeeds). One of the skirmishes between Joy and Sadness ends up rocketing them out of “Headquarters” (where the emotions can each affect Riley in their own way thereby creating color-coded memories) and into various recesses of the brain. This leaves Riley devoid of her true personality and Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) & Disgust (Mindy Kaling) in control with no idea what to do. So Joy puts it upon herself to find a way back to Headquarters and save Riley. And thus begins our adventure.

I’ve heard some reviewers call this Pixar’s best film ever, but I can’t quite go that far. It’s definitely up there, but I don’t even know if it’s Pete Docter’s best. When Monsters Inc, Up and the first two Toy Story films are on your resume, it’s hard to top yourself. There’s plenty of humor on many levels as well as a wholesome sense of family without being cloying. However, since the main focus of the story is on the emotions inside the brain, the “real world” story gets the short shrift. We really don’t know the real Riley or Mom & Dad because we only get glimpses of them inside memories and for a few lines here & there outside the brain. This means we also don’t get to know Riley’s personality because the emotions are constantly playing with her. While this gives us the main thrust of the movie, we don’t have a very deep investment in Riley outside of her happy emotion: Joy. The time spent with Joy & Sadness racing through the brain trying to get back to headquarters is brilliant enough to forgive those minor quibbles. The emotions of other characters are also played to great comedic effect (stay through the first half of the credits).

Voice acting is top notch as always (Richard Kind as an imaginary friend was a very pleasant surprise and wisely kept out of trailers). Animation is brilliant with Joy giving off a Tinkerbelle-like pixie dust whenever she moves. I saw it in 3D and while mostly unnecessary, it gave things like Joy’s “pixie dust” an added magical quality.

I can only hope that Disgust was not in control of the teenage girls sat near me in the theater as a middle-aged man (me) tried to hold in the tears & sniffling during the last 30 minutes of the film. I was caught off guard once Joy finally breaks down & I realized the sacrifice a character was about to make. This then left me wide open for the point when everything comes to a head (see what I did there?) and I could not stop the slow tears from coming. Your mileage may vary.

My grade: A-

NOTE: Lava is the short that opens the movie. It’s a very cute premise and has quite a catchy song, but it left me geologically confused. That’s not my area of expertise, though, so I went along with it. Enjoy!

Review: San Andreas

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San Andreas is a film about how to repair your marriage through the use of a major catastrophe. It also is one of those movies that implies the deaths of thousands of people in a kind of awe-struck way, what I guess you could call mass-destruction porn.

Named after the fault that runs up the spine of California, San Adreas hearkens back to the disaster movies of yore. But in a switch, unlike the Irwin Allen films of the ’70s (including Earthquake), San Andreas does not have a large, all-star cast, with one of those posters with small photos of all the recognizable actors. Those films jumped from actor to actor–one may be stuck in an elevator, or one may be incinerated while having an affair. Instead, San Andreas basically focuses on only three characters.

Dwayne Johnson is the big name here, as it were. He is a super-duper rescue helicopter pilot for the L.A. fire department. In a prologue, we see him and his team rescue a young woman from a a car teetering on the edge of an abyss. Forget about the team, though, as when the “big one” hits he completely abdicates his duties to the citizens of Los Angeles to save his ex-wife and daughter.

Before that though, we get Paul Giamatti as a seismologist who is developing a way to predict earthquakes. He happens to be right on top of Hoover Dam when an earthquake rocks it. In films, disasters like this only happen at recognizable landmarks. Giamatti has the sad task of giving us all the scientific info in grave tones, including, in a warning to San Franciscans, “God help you all.” How he was able to give his lines without laughing is testament to his talent.

So we see L.A. destroyed, and Johnson (and his biceps) rescue his estranged wife (Carla Gugino). She’s now living with an architect (Ioan Ruffud) who is building the tallest building in San Francisco (foreshadowing!) Johnson’s daughter (played by Alexandra Daddario and her spectacular breasts) is up in Frisco when she’s trapped in parking garage. Her would-be step-father abandons her, but a plucky young Englishman and his even pluckier kid brother rescue her, and try to get to high ground.

Meanwhile, Johnson and Gugino play a game of planes, trains, and automobiles getting from L.A. to San Francisco. This is all intertwined with some pretty great special effects of buildings crumbling, a cargo ship crashing into the Golden Gate Bridge, and the TransAmerica building falling over. (where’s the shot of Alcatraz dissolving to dust?) I read an article on how scientifically accurate San Andreas is, and of course, not much. There is no concession to the way buildings are built in California now–they wouldn’t topple like houses of cards. Also, an earthquake along the San Andreas would not cause a tsunami because it is not underneath the water.

San Andreas is pretty dumb but fun, as long as you view it in the right circumstances. My girlfriend and her son enjoyed it, and I got into it, identifying all the cliches that abound (Johnson and Gugino had another daughter who drowned–foreshadowing!). Johnson may not be suited for Shakespeare, but he is perfect for lines like, “Let’s go get our daughter.”

My grade for San Andreas: C.

AGEBOC ’15 June 19-21

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Welcome back Nick!

Predict the #1 film of the weekend.

The one who predicts closest to the total Friday to Sunday gross for the #1 film wins 4 points. Runner-up gains 2 points. Predicting within half a million earns 2 extra points.

Bonus Questions:

1. Will Jurassic World gross OVER or UNDER $100m in its second weekend?

2. Which movie will be #2 for the weekend?

Deadline is Thursday June 18th 11:59pm blog time

To find out the rules of the game, go to the main thread for AGEBOC 09.

Current Rankings:

James – 16
Rob – 15.5
Joe – 13
Jackrabbit Slim – 13
Marco – 10.5
Juan – 9.5
Nick – 5

Opened in America June 12-14, 2015

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Only a couple of films this week:

Jurassic World (IMDB rating 7.7) – The success of this film reminds me of the record cover of a Fatboy Slim 1990s cover where a young man was wearing a t-shirt saying “I’m No. 1 so why try harder”.

After all, the word-of-mouth in the leadup to its release suggested it was going to be underwhelming. This has been followed up by the  reviews and public reaction ranging from “You’ll have a good time but it’s no match for the original” to “forgettable tripe”. And our very own contributor Nick was hostile in his brief views of the film

And yet despite that it’s exceeded all box office expectations (which were very high to begin with) and is close to being the biggest opening ever! If the studios can get this type of revenue from a film that seems to be coasting on the original 1993 film, why bother putting in the effort and money to make it a couple of levels better? It’s impossible to judge this without seeing it (which I probably won’t) but all signs point this to being a depressing success.

Me And Earl And the Dying Girl (8.3) – A high-school kid has his life changed when he befriends (is forced to by his parents) a teenage girl who is diagnosed with cancer. A popular hit at Sundance and doing very well critically, this could potentially be a breakout hit. I must admit going by the trailer it doesn’t seem particularly appealing to me; starting with the title it seems self-consciously clever and ‘culty’. And I notice that the lead characters spend their time doing parodies of classic films; is this something to get film critics (who would surely lap it up) onside?

AGEBOC ’15 June 12-14

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Sorry for the delay…I’m sulking since James dropped me to 3rd place

Predict the #1 film of the weekend.

The one who predicts closest to the total Friday to Sunday gross for the #1 film wins 4 points. Runner-up gains 2 points. Predicting within half a million earns 2 extra points.

Bonus Questions:

1. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl opens in limited release this weekend and those usually get higher-than-normal per-theater averages. Will its per-theater average be MORE or LESS than DOUBLE last year’s teen cancer (not to make light of a serious illness) drama The Fault In Our Stars?  ($15,128 average, so $30,256 is the number to beat)

2. Will Jurassic World have the highest-grossing opening weekend of the franchise (currently The Lost World with $72,132,785) – YES or NO?

Deadline is Thursday June 11th 11:59pm blog time

To find out the rules of the game, go to the main thread for AGEBOC 09.

Current Rankings:

James – 15
Rob – 14.5
Joe – 12
Jackrabbit Slim – 10
Marco – 9.5
Juan – 8.5

Opened in America Jun 5-7, 2015

Standard

Spy (IMDB rating 7.6) – While at first glance the 95% RT this has gotten seems highly significant, considering the same director/star got 90% RT for the highly overrated Bridesmaids, I doubt it. And Melissa McCarthy’s other starring comedies I’ve seen of her including Tammy & especially Identity Thief have been crude, inept and unfunny. I sense that some critics are prepared to grade this higher because a mainstream comedy headlined by a female is so rare that it makes it seem fresher than it actually is.

Insidious Chapter 3 (7) – Apart from the fact that the director of this film is a fellow Melbournite, I know nothing about this series and considering the decent box office this film has gotten, I’ll probably be ignoring several future chapters in this series as well.

Entourage (7.6) – I watched a couple of episodes of the early series of this TV show and enjoyed it as a time-waster but never really followed it closely. It hardly seemed an obvious candidate for the big-screen treatment and the trailer felt rather desperate so it’s not surprising the critical response has been negative.

But more interesting than the film itself has been the type of critical hostility to it with virtually every review admonishing the film for glorifying the hedonistic, mindless lives of these Hollywood types. That’s all well and good, but where is this criticism when the insanely indulgent and over-drawn awards season occurs every year? It all seems a bit tokenistic and self-serving to me.

Love & Mercy (7.8) – Back in the early 2000s I read an autobiography of central Beach Boys member Brian Wilson and found it an interesting read… only to find out afterwards that not only had his doctor Eugene Landy had written large chunks of it (especially the later years), Wilson himself said in court that he didn’t know what was in the book!

In anycase, this biopic of Brian Wilson has been getting rave reviews and after over a decade of career stagnation and some seriously lazy performances, John Cusack as the older Brian has done some work of note. However, I find Cusack in the clips I’ve seen disconcerting as he has virtually no make up and doesn’t look like Brian Wilson at all.

As popular as the Beach Boys have been, I doubt this will be a breakout hit as it probably needed to be made a couple of decades earlier than this. Audiences haven’t exactly rushed to cinemas to see biopics of The Four Seasons or James Brown; perhaps there just isn’t the audience there anymore for films based on musicians from the 1960s. But I’ll probably give this a look when it opens in Oz.

Dil Dhadakne Do (6.9) – Indian comedy-drama set on a cruise ship. Despite its length (170 mins) this film has made a bit of a splash than usual at the worldwide BO more than Indian films usually do, almost breaking into the top 10 in America last weekend and opening at 9 in the UK.

Testament Of Youth (7.2) – The true story of British writer & pacifist Vera Brittain, especially how her experiences are defined by The Great War.

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (7.3) – Swedish absurdist comedy/drama which if nothing else, has the best title of any film this year.

Charlie’s Country (7.3) – Australian film starring David Gulpilil, a veteran actor who had such a great start in films acting opposite Jenny Agutter in Nicholas Roeg’s 1971 film Walkabout.

Hungry Hearts (6.4) – Relationship drama which is labelled as Italian made but seems to be set in America.

United Passions (2.1 Currently #38 in IMDB Bottom 100!) – We saved the best for last. Has there been a film with worse timing than this film, largely funded by FIFA with its reputation in tatters (not that it was particularly good beforehand anyway)?

At first glance, the story of how soccer was built to become the global game seems interesting but as the trailer shows, this is largely about boardroom debates and sponsorship deals and money battles behind the scenes… in the hilarious trailer there’s even someone saying “Our accounts are disastrous!” Yep, that’s the essence of soccer right there.

Even without the FIFA arrests, I think this film would’ve been a laughing stock anyway. Tim Roth has done well to be in a bigger turkey than ‘Grace Of Monaco’.