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So maybe I never actually said "I'll be back" but after about 4 months away from my blog, I have made my official return. So where have I been? Well, I've just been busy with life. Since my readership is MAYBE one or two people, (if I'm lucky) I'll just leave it there and move into phase 2 of taking over the blogosphere!

MANIACAL LAUGH! MANIACAL LAUGH!

So Muppets references aside, I am back and don't plan on taking another long term blog break anytime soon. Look for my next blog post going up this weekend, a sort of brief fill-in-the-blanks synopsis of my summer movie-going/viewing experiences.
 
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When I heard there would be a movie titled Gambit scheduled for release in October of this year, I got psyched. Gambit was always one of my favorite of the X-Men and while I thought Taylor Kitsh was fine playing the Cajun mutant in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the part was very small and the movie, while entertaining, is not great. I thought to myself 'with a whole film to himself, origin story and all, this character can be incredible.' However...

Turns out Gambit is a romantic comedy starring Cameron Diaz and Colin Firth. It is written by the Coen brothers so not a 100% letdown, but pretty disappointing nonetheless. Well, I guess I'll just have to wait for the X-Men reboot around 2028.

-Jay 

 
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I said in my predictions this weekend's box office race could be close. Well, it looks like I was very wrong. Snow White and the Huntsman put up an estimated $20million on Friday alone! I didn't expect it to crack $40million for the whole weekend, and now it would appear to be a lock to pass $50mil. Very impressive; I guess I wasn't the only one who thought it looked very entertaining.

MIB 3, meanwhile put up a solid $8.3mil while the Avengers took in an additional $5.6mil which is enough to pass The Dark Knight for 3rd on the all-time domestic chart. I figured it would do well but if you told me in April that the Avengers would be top 3 all-time I would have called you nuts. Congrats to Whedon and Co.

-Jay

 
While far from perfect last week, I think I did a pretty good job on my predictions overall. Figured I'd try again.
Now onto the predicting...

Can Snow White and the Huntsman take #1 this weekend? I think so but it could end up being close. The biggest question with this film as I see it is "who is it's audience?" Twilight fans who like Kristen Stewart? Thor fans who like Chris Hemsworth? Fans of the 1937 classic? Maybe it is just those looking for an action-adventure escape this weekend? I don't really know, but I do know that I will be part of that audience. I think it looks like a cool, exciting movie. I expect it to put up a nice number, but so will MIB 3 in its second weekend and Avengers in its fifth. We shall see.

Here is my top 10 Box Office Predictions for June 1-3
1. Snow White and the Huntsman, $37million
2. The Avengers, $25.5million
3. MIB 3, $25million
4. Battleship, $6million
5. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, $5million
6. What to Expect When You're Expecting, $4.5million
7. The Dictator, $4.25million
8. For Greater Glory, $4million
9. Chernobyl Diaries, $3.75million
10. Dark Shadows, $3.5million

How will Snow White and the Huntsman perform in its opening weekend? Does The Avengers have a shot at regaining the top spot? Will the Hunger Games finally drop out of the top 10 in its eleventh(!) weekend? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

-Jay
 
_It’s pretty remarkable how much the landscape of comic book movies has changed in the last 13 years. If this list was made in 1999, clunkers like Superman III and Batman & Robin would likely have been (dis?)honorable mentions because there weren’t enough options. Starting with 2000’s X-men, and working our way up until today, the world of comic book films has flourished. As I am a fanatic of these types of movies, I figured now was as good a time as any to present my list of the top 10 comic book movies… ever.

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_ 10. X-Men (2000)

When Bryan Singer sat in the director’s chair for the mutant heroes’ first foray onto the big screen, comic book movies weren’t exactly thriving.  1997’s Batman & Robin had been the last major motion picture involving a top-tier comics character, and I’m sure everyone remembers that veritable classic. While Raimi’s Spiderman and it’s $114 million opening weekend, is more often referenced as being the start of the comic book movie revolution, without this film’s comparatively modest success, it’s tough for me to believe so many of these films would get the green-light.

The action and effects of this film are spectacular, especially when one considers it was made over a decade ago on a budget half as large as that of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. This, along with Singer’s focus on the mutant/human dynamic as a story of hate and an allegory for civil rights helped to make this film both a critical and financial success.


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_9. Spiderman 2 (2004)

Take 2002’s debut of the web-slinger, a fun entertaining movie in its own right, add in a better villain, better script, and better action, and you get Spiderman 2.  One of the funnier comic book movies, this Spidey adventure knows when to turn on the serious and when to lighten up, something Spiderman 3 had no idea how to do. In addition to its sharp script, exciting action sequences abound. One needs only to watch the subway scene to know how exhilarating this movie can be.


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_ 8. Superman (1978)

The originator. There had been other films based on comic books to come before Superman, but all paled in comparison. Superman was the first time a studio put in the necessary time, effort, and money into a superhero flick, and boy did it ever pay off. Christopher Reeve is perfect as both the Man of Steel, and his mild-mannered reporter alter-ego. Toss in excellent direction from a great action-adventure movie director, Richard Donner, the perfect amount of over-the-top villainy from Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor, wonderful effects for the film’s time, and a script that spends just enough time focusing  on Superman’s origins, and this was the perfect paver for all great comic book movies to come.


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_7. Superman II (1980)

Kneel before ZOD. Superman II has quite a bit going for it. Christopher Reeve is as awesome as he was in Superman 1, and it has great action and humor in spades. There is one thing however that raises it so high that led it to be the top comic book movie for over 20 years, and that is Terrence Stamp as one of the best villains in cinema history, General Zod. This dude is as bad-ass as they come. If you have not seen this I cannot recommend it highly enough. I believe it is on Netflix Instant, check it out as soon as possible.


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_ 6. The Avengers (2012)

I think some people may have caught this one. It recently passed $500 million in the US alone, less than a month into its release. So is it worth the hype? Well, the short answer is yes.

Its script is as sharp as they come, and its action as exciting as it gets. I’ve been a fan of Joss Whedon for years and his writing is just as great as it was when he wrote Toy Story in 1995 and the pilot to his cult classic tv show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Plus, while most movies have a climactic action sequence that is five to twenty minutes long, The Avengers’ climax is about 45 minutes. FORTY-FIVE MINUTES! Of almost non-stop action!  So yeah… the hype is warranted.


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_ 5. X-Men First Class (2011)

Michael Fassbender is nothing short of incredible in his tour-de-force portrayal of Eric Lensherr, the man who would become Magneto. Add in terrific performances from James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence and Kevin Bacon, an intriguing storyline of historical science fiction, and fantastic special effects, and this film has all you could want in a comic book prequel. I am eagerly awaiting the 2013 sequel, which is bringing back Matthew Vaughn as director as well as most of the cast, set to begin filming in January.


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_ 4. Iron Man (2008)

I have to admit I had very low expectations for this one. I knew little about the character and aside from Spiderman and the X-Men was always more of a DC Comics guy. But wow, this one just blows you away. Iron Man has a wonderful origin story and the decision to start with the “fun-vee” exploding and then going back to show us a couple days in the life of Tony Stark was brilliant.

Robert Downey Jr. gives one of the most charismatic performances I’ve ever seen and is often hysterical. The special effects are phenomenal and the flying scenes in particular, along with those in the Avengers, are the “most believable” I can ever remember seeing in a movie. What an incredible ride.


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_ 3. Batman Begins (2005)

Batman and Robin was the first movie I can remember leaving the theater truly disappointed. I was about 10 or 11 and even I knew it was idiotic and not what a Batman movie should be about. I loved Burton’s Batman movies and still enjoy them to this day, but Joel Shumacher did something so many villains had tried over the years, he killed Batman. Then, less than a decade after that toy commercial of a movie had been released, Christopher Nolan did the impossible. He made a Batman movie that was not only in a different league than B & R, it was better than Tim Burton’s 1989 classic.

With perhaps the best ensemble cast of the last decade, led by Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, and Michael Caine, and one of the best directors of this generation,Batman Begins was the Batman movie I had always been hoping for; I just never truly expected it to come to fruition.  


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_ 2. X2: X-Men United (2003)

The opening Nightcrawler-assassination-attempt sequence still stands today as my pick for the best action sequence in any of these movies. That scene set the tone for what would turn out to be one hell of a ride. Bryan Singer once again puts forth a great effort as director, as well as story developer. 

What I enjoy most about this film is that it doesn’t waste any of its 133 minutes, while really giving all its main players a chance to shine. From Shawn Ashmore as Bobby Drake “coming out” to his parents, to Alan Cumming’s Nightcrawler describing his circus origins, to every second Patrick Stewart and Ian Mckellen spend on screen together, this movie is just chockfull of wonderful scenes, and terrific performances. In addition, I have never left a theater as excited for a sequel as I did here. Of course Brett Ratner came along, and Last Stand, while not a terrible film was a huge let-down. Fortunately we’ll always have the more subtle and excellent Singer X-Men flicks.  


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_ 1. The Dark Knight (2008)

If it wasn’t clear when he made Memento, The Prestige, and Batman Begins, The Dark Knight left no doubt; Nolan is as good as it gets. It is not a coincidence that he is the director of two of the top three on this list. Not only is the Dark Knight my pick for the greatest comic book film ever, I see it as one of the best FILMS of the last 25 years, PERIOD. Most of the same players are back for this sequel, with two major additions to the cast. Aaron Eckhart brings that sly charisma that Harvey Dent needs and manages to seamlessly transition to play the sadness-to-anger-to-madness that is Two-face. Heath Ledger, meanwhile, portrays the Joker in one of the most flawless acting jobs I have ever seen. The Oscar he won for his role was well-deserved. From the script, to the acting, to Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard's wonderful score, to the amazing use of IMAX cameras, this is truly a classic.


_ So what do you think? Is your favorite comic book film on the list? Is something misplaced? Do you think The Amazing Spiderman and/or The Dark Knight Rises will make the cut? Let me know in the comments.

-Jay

 
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Men in Black 3 took in $70million, well below my personal expectations but still a pretty nice haul over the 4-day Memorial Day weekend for the latest installment in a series whose last film was poorly received a decade ago.

The Avengers meanwhile not only held on tight for second place but put up an excellent $46.9million. It is now only about $10million away from passing the Dark Knight for 3rd all-time domestic and worldwide it has now put up an insane $1.3BILLION(!), good for 4th all-time.

Chernobyl Diaries on the other hand grossed only $9.3million, opening in sixth place, below MIB 3 and four movies in their 2nd-4th weekends. I don't think that's exactly what Warner Brothers was hoping for.

Here is the entire top 10 Box-Office numbers for the 4-day Memorial Day Weekend (Studio Estimates):
1. Men in Black 3, $70million
2. The Avengers, $46.9million
3. Battleship, $13.8million
4. The Dictator, $11.8million
5. Dark Shadows, $9.4million
6. Chernobyl Diaries $9.3million
7. What to Expect When You're Expecting, $8.9million
8. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, $8.2million
9. The Hunger Games, $2.9million
10. Think Like a Man, $1.8million

-Jay


 
Well, I think it is finally time for The Avengers to let go of the top spot. While it should easily cruise to number 2, it is MIB III's turn at #1 with its highly anticipated debut on this extra-long Holiday weekend.

Men In Black III is a tough one to judge. It will open big, the only question is whether it will be a huge blockbuster opening or just a modest hit. Some say Will Smith's star has faded. Perhaps a tiny bit, but for the most part I think he is still one of a very small group of actors/actresses that can all-but-guarantee a hit. Plus, this new one looks like it has added another dimension not included in the first two, time travel. More importantly however, it has been focusing on this aspect of the movie along with the usual light-hearted sci-fi in its advertising. Is the franchise a little bit tired? Maybe. But it is definitely a proven brand and I would expect it to at least take down Smith's previous opening high of $77 million with I Am Legend, and more likely open in the low-80s to low-90s over the 4-day frame.

Avengers will still bring in crowds though this weekend will be its first true staying-power test. Boosted by the long weekend, I would expect it to have a modest drop to somewhere in the mid-high-30s.

Chernobyl Diaries is probably the hardest to predict. The two biggest advantages it has: (A) it is definitely not a family film and as such could be good counter-programming to Men in Black III and the other light-hearted fare that is out right now and (B) the commercials have stressed its connection to the very successful Paranormal Activities series, for which it shares a writer and producer. But it is not supernatural and does not included a slashing monster villain, which are often the case when modern horror movies open big. I would expect it to have a decent opening, but nothing at all like its producer/writers Paranormal films.

Here is my full list of top 10 predictions (Over the 4 days):

Men In Black III $85 million
Avengers $39 million
Chernobyl Diaries $16 million
Battleship $14.5 million
The Dictator $11 million
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel  $9.5 million
Dark Shadows $7 million
What to Expect When Your Expecting $6.5 million
Hunger Games $2.5 million
Think Like A Man/ The Lucky One $1 million

What do you think? How big will MIB III open?

-Jay
 
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Paramount has decided to delay the release of their action sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation from June 29, 2012 to March 29, 2013. Their reasoning? They plan on post-converting the movie to 3D and presumably did not want to (A) rush that process, and (B) have to go up against The Dark Knight Rises. This is understandable, but certainly very risky.

They did spend a ton of money on a Superbowl ad, and have had numerous TV spots for the movie as well. I don't understand why this decision was made so close to the release of the movie. Plus, I have to admit I've been looking forward to it. I was one of the minority that enjoyed G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra. When viewed purely as popcorn entertainment, it is a fun movie, and in my opinion, what the Transformers should have been. The action scenes between Ray Park's Snake Eyes and Byung-Hun Lee's Storm Shadow were particularly exciting. When you factor in that this new one has added in Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, the closest thing we have to a Schwarzenegger-like action star nowadays, and Bruce Willis, it looked like it could end up being even more fun than the first. Plus the trailer has a much more dark, gritty feel than Rise of the Cobra.

Here is the trailer:

Looks pretty good right?
So what do you think about Paramount's decision to delay it's release by nine months?

-Jay
 
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The Hunger Games, edges closer and closer to $400 million.  The Gary Ross adventure-drama needs $8.5mil the rest of its run to make it over the hump.  It would then need another $2.5mil to pass Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which as a fan of the Hunger Games, and someone who despises the Transformers movies,  I would be very happy with this result.  Even if it can't make it over though, it has had a valiant effort.  The expectations were quite high, but I don't think ANYBODY expected it to pass all the Twilight, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings films to become the highest grossing non-comic book film based on a book.  As I loved the books I am very glad for Suzanne Collins, Jennifer Lawrence, Gary Ross and all involved.

-Jay

 
Well, I can't say that was very surprising.  Battleship, based loosely on the board game of the same name, had a pretty weak opening weekend here in the US.  The action film took in approximately $25 million.  Considering the film cost over 200mil to make, I don't think this was the debut Universal was hoping for.  Taylor Kitsch meanwhile, cannot catch a break. He's now been in the biggest flop of the year, John Carter, and it looks like he'll have a great shot at being in a second one here. 

Kitsch can't exactly be the one to blame in either instance however.  Disney put far too much money into a film that they gave a pretty bad marketing effort to, and worse yet, the worst name of any adventure film in a long time.  John Carter?  Even John Carter of Mars, though awful as well, would have sounded a little more interesting. With Battleship meanwhile, I'm confident this was pitched as "Transformers with boats," and seeing dollar signs, Universal just kept throwing money to a director, Peter Berg, who had a huge worldwide hit with Hancock in 2008.  I haven't seen it and have heard some of the CG is pretty great, but 200+mil is too much to spend unless its a relatively proven commodity, (Dark Knight Rises, Avengers, Whatever craziness James Cameron wants to do, etc.)

Speaking of the Avengers, it brought in another $55 million in its third weekend. This brings its domestic total to $457 million, and worldwide gross to $1.18 billion!  I don't see it slowing down any time soon, and should glide past $500mil domestic by the end of the month.  Incredible!

-Jay