That Was Okay I Guess podcast: ‘The Core’

Time to get deep.

It’s that time of week, everyone, when the most spectacular podcast about the least spectacular movies releases an episode.

That’s right.

Tucker and I join forces yet again to dissipate the pungent mediocrity that is the 2003 disaster/adventure film, The Core, starring Aaron Eckhart and Hilary Swank.

The Earth’s liquid outer-core has stopped moving for some reason. It’s up to a rag-tag group of plot-devices masquerading as scientists and astronauts to get in a giant tube, drill to the center of the planet, and kick-start the core with, you guessed it, nukes.

Everyone dies and lightning blows up the Colosseum in Rome.

Listen below or on iTunes.

Until next time.

Review: Game of Thrones – Season 8

This review contains spoilers

The end of an era

Well, that was . . . something. Game of Thrones, HBO’s landmark television series, has cut to black for the final time. Much has and will be said about the final season in the weeks, months, even years to come. Though, likely not as HBO and co-writring showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss anticipated.

Game of Thrones has long been cherished for its cinematography, score, pioneering television special effects, and the precarious nature of every episode. The show, as with author George R. R. Martin’s series of books upon which it’s based, was renowned for subverting the tropes often associated with fantasy/blockbuster entertainment. Thrones delighted in punishing its viewers and instilling a sense of dread, foreboding, and anxiety in millions of living rooms across the world a few weeks per year.

Of specific praise was its writing, as Benioff and Weiss’ Emmys can attest. Fans the world over were in agreement, the drama of Throne‘s fantasy world was a compelling escape to the drama of our own. Prophecy, political intrigue, and the macabre were interwoven and set to a low-burning flame, churning ominously throughout entire seasons before bursting forth in explosive bouts of violence and world-shaking consequences. Entire episodes were needed to re-establish boundaries, factions, alliances, and personal relationships – while others existed solely to wipe the board clean.

These observations apply more so to the books now than the show, seeing as Martin has yet to finish his renowned series and the seasons which surpassed their source material have stumbled their way to this: The most disappointing anti-climax of pop-television since Dexter.

HBO

All’s well that ends well

The final episode of the series, titled “The Iron Throne”, isn’t the worst of the eighth season, not at all. In fact, few of the episodes on their own merits should be considered of poor quality. From a technical perspective, especially, Thrones has never looked or sounded this good. The production values are elevated beyond that of most Hollywood films – that much is evident from this season’s opening moments, when the Unsullied army marches across a wide landscape into Winterfell, falling snow landing gently on bystanders’ faces. Obviously, the scale of the final season was enormous, but large-scale battles and digital-effects work mean little without the proper stakes and narrative developments to contextualize them.

That isn’t to say there wasn’t adequate foreshadowing of the events of the final few episodes. Daenarys’ fall from grace and into madness has long been understood as a possibility; if not by the validation of her often violent actions, then by her Targaryan blood. However, season six left us with the image of a liberator sailing westward with the intent to do good, and the entirety of season seven was spent convincing Daenarys and her armies to fight for the living, rather than succumb to petty squabbling over a pointy chair. There were exactly two episodes in season eight to appropriately convey Daenarys’ descent into madness. Two. For comparison, Daenarys spent more screen-time sitting in tents, pondering over how best to deal with slave-masters, than she did before massacring thousands of innocent lives in King’s Landing.

What followed the sacking of King’s Landing isn’t illogical. Jon Snow and Tyrion take matters into their own hands, kill Daenarys to avoid another tyrant ruler. Yadda-yadda-yadda, badda-boom badda-bing, Bran’s the new king. Tyrion is the hand yet again, Bronn wants new brothels, there’s an overt attempt to mirror the end of The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, and Jon Snow finally gets to pet his dog.

Happy day.

Put another way: The events of the final season are not the problem. Under normal circumstances and with proper time allotted to developing and contextualizing these major revelations and plot points, the legions of fans calling for the final season to be remade probably wouldn’t have much to complain about. That’s the Achilles Heel of the end to this once great series: Baffling time management. An odd complaint to have considering the extended delay between seasons seven and eight.

Time is no ally

Following the sixth season, Benioff and Weiss announced that seasons seven and eight would wrap in a total of thirteen episodes. At that point in the narrative, there were two wars yet to be fought: One against the living, and one against the dead. Great lengths had been taken to ensure that the viewer understood the stakes of both (read: sixty episodes’ worth of storytelling.)

Season seven provided elevated, though occasionally lopsided, stakes and action, not to mention the most important reveal of the series up to that point – that of Jon Snow’s superior claim to the Iron Throne. It delivered, for the most part, but of its seven episodes, few felt as if they weren’t barreling toward the season finale in a whirlwind of broken ships and dragon-fire. Where the season excelled, however, was in inching every prior prophecy and character conflict up to its natural breaking point, then shying away in time for the credits to roll. This left audiences in baited anticipation for the final six episodes.

Jaime Lannister had seemingly betrayed Cersei; Jon and Daenarys were fully allied; the south finally understood the threat of the undead; the Night King had acquired a dragon and destroyed the wall; and the long-simmering tensions in Westeros seemed poised to finally boil over.

Which is where poor plot management and haphazard thematic assimilation come in and singlehandedly dismantle season eight from the inside out.

Season eight is a looker, as I’ve mentioned. That extended production schedule was certainly put to good use as far as dragon-effects and clashing armies were concerned, but something was missing throughout the entirety. That bloody beating heart of the show was absent.

Characters, freshly detached from any deliberate attempt at inter-episodic continuity, behave in accordance with a checklist of plot-points as opposed to influencing said plot-points themselves. The romance between Jon and Daenarys is especially flat and unfulfilled, as it’s given next to no adequate screen-time to develop. For comparison, Jon and Ygritte were allowed multiple seasons of interplay and concessions, the payoff of which was emotionally charged and satisfyingly tragic. The sound of Jon’s dagger plunging into Daenarys’ heart, ending her long saga of conquest and liberation, felt about as poignant as if he had jabbed a fork into a baked potato. Made so by the fact that two episodes prior, Daenarys and her army were essential allies in saving the land of the living from the dead. Three significant deaths and a few scowling close-ups do not a good villain make. Daenarys deserved to be a better villain. Were this a tragedy, as is suggested by the framing of her death, the seeds sown prior to this would have bloomed long ago.

The sin of the final season is that of wasted potential, not of bad ideas. Had we another few episodes, all of which dedicated to the massive ramifications of larger events, such as the battle against the dead, the sting of this final season would be dulled exponentially.

One needn’t look further for comparison than the Red Wedding and the Freys’ slaughter of the Starks. The geopolitical landscape of the entire series needed to be re-established. Under the time-lapse dictum set forth by seasons seven and eight, Winterfell would’ve been back in Stark hands within a handful of episodes, not thirty. The image of Stark Banners flying from the walls of Winterfell was a moment so long delayed, yet so well earned. Seasons of build up, of torment, and of perseverance informed that single shot of a sigil unfurling onto frost-bitten stone.

HBO

Hollow Spectacle

The problem then, is that during the six episodes of season eight, we are treated to visual spectacle the likes of which television has never seen. However, so very little of it managed any impact. “The Long Night” was every bit as bleak and dire as fans could have hoped for, but for one fatal error – it reduced the greatest threat known to the seven kingdoms into a one-off skirmish, ended in mere hours by a repurposed prophecy and a fancy knife trick.

The Great War, as it’s referred to in the show, was no more than a single siege on a single castle, with casualties landing in the significant-but-inconsequential range. What resulted was a massive showcase of special effects and nauseating tension, one that ended with the deaths of only one secondary character, and two tertiary characters – a far cry from the bloodletting viewers have come to expect from these titanic showdowns. The dead: A thread cutting through the entirety of the show, pulled at and revealed to be no more than an inconvenience. Which is to say nothing of the other plot elements left entirely out to dry by the show’s end, but that’s an article for another time.

For all its bombast and striking visuals, the core of the conflict was lost. The existential threat diminished overnight, those left living could resume their game of lordship and backstabbing. Characters known solely for their dedication to issues above their personage were suddenly cut down to serve as means to a structural end. Jon is told of his true lineage in no convincing manner, divulges this information to others for reasons born completely from a need to propel the narrative to a foregone conclusion, and then he suffers the consequences of these actions in no satisfying way.

There was a way to heighten the drama between Jon and Daenarys, tease out its elements and have it culminate in something other than a trite romance and heel-turn character moment. There was a way to pull Daenarys down from atop her wheel-crushing moral pedestal, but it would’ve taken far longer than the structure of the final season allowed. There was a way to maintain internal consistency, episode to episode, without phantom fleets appearing suddenly to “even the odds” (poor Rhaegal.)

There was a way to slowly build tension, to lay plans, and have it erupt like the Sept of Baelor. The show, once holding the longest of daggers under its sleeve, has been stripped to reveal the anemic framework of this by-the-numbers final season.

Valar Dohaeris

Rather than subvert the trappings of its genre, season eight of Thrones seemed content to revel in them. The lethargic earnestness on display in the closing hour of “The Iron Throne” ran counter to the nature of the show as we’ve come to understand it. Westeros and Essos were governed by a brutal pragmatism, the ends being power and the means being death. Daenarys succumbing to that fault isn’t a problem, but her doing so without much time for her (or the audience) to reach that point, or mull over the consequences, is.

There were no happy endings on the horizon, especially following “The Bells.” Daenarys uttered only a handful of lines to Jon Snow during their final interaction, each of which seemed tailor-made to comply with the lengthy speech Tyrion had given him moments earlier, where he begs Jon to end Daenarys’ life for the sake of the realm. How . . . convenient. For a show with a foundation of blood and bones, plot-conveniences certainly found an inopportune time to rear their heads, and they were a plague on this season.

Be it Euron emerging from the sea as Jaime happens to be strolling by, or Arya travelling all the way to King’s Landing to kill Cersei Lannister, only to change her mind and act as a ground-level vessel through which the audience can view the needlessly excessive destruction of King’s Landing. Tensions must mount before the showdown between Cersei and Daenarys, so Euron’s fleet arrives from nowhere to shoot down Rhaegal. An act of little importance, as the final battle was as one-sided a victory as we’d seen in the show.

What’s worse, due more to its context and presentation than its content, is the ending. A council of sorts is formed in King’s Landing of the remaining lords and ladies of Westeros. Played for a heart-warming (read: eye-rolling) chuckle is the notion that the next King or Queen ought be democratically elected. How bizarre, given the speechifying by one reformed misanthrope, Tyrion, to duly choose what is best for the realm and her people. Notably absent from this episode? The common people of Westeros. Absent from the season? Each of these lords save for the Starks, Sam, and (sort of) Yara. Representatives of the other kingdoms played no part in the events of the season as a whole – no role in fighting the dead or of sacking King’s Landing. Pity they think their judgement is requisite enough to elect a new king.

The idea of Bran on the throne is, actually, a solid one. Generations of knowledge would inform each of his decisions. It’s unfortunate, then, that the show does little to justify Bran’s existence as the Three-Eyed Raven until this point, and refuses to extrapolate on the benefits of such a ruler, other than Tyrion’s incessant monologing. The only scene in which Bran has assumed this role involves little dialogue and a hammy scene of wish-fulfillment in which all of our favorite characters were appointed to posts on the King’s Council.

Viewers are given a sermon, a list of morals for which to choose a king, one is chosen, and the realm lives happily ever after. It’s neat and clean and it even has a little Jon-pets-Ghost bow on top.

It is, at best, an uncharacteristically benign finale to one of the most audacious, gut-wrenching, and boundary-leaping shows ever made. Reminiscent more of the amber-hued farewells of The Lord of the Rings trilogy than of a work once emblazoned with the phrase, “All men must die.” A show that promised no easy solutions from its opening scene, ends near bloodlessly, and without pause for reflection. Not that it had the time to do so.

Conclusion

Viewers are well within their rights to exhume the corpse of this show and parade it around for as long as they’d like. Use it to justify abstinence from Benioff and Weiss’ Star Wars trilogy if you wish. Despite my criticisms of the eighth season, it’s no secret the impact Game of Thrones has had on television. What The Sopranos did for drama, Thrones did for sheer scale. Argue among yourselves as to whether either of them stuck their landing, but it goes without saying that with the passing of this entertainment titan, there will certainly be an arms-race of studio cash-burning trying to replace it.

Season eight, though, earns no seal of approval from me. As a technical marvel, it was well worth the ride. The issue with sticking the landing is an issue of legacy. Great works are defined by their endings. What is Blade Runner without “Tears in the rain?” What is Breaking Bad without “I did it for me?” Gatsby without bearing back ceaselessly into the past? These might not be fair comparisons, but they ought to be. At one point, Game of Thrones was in the conversation for the television Mount Rushmore. No longer. Poorly executed endings, protracted or otherwise, good ideas or none, tarnish the events preceding them.

Verdict: 2/5 – An incredible disappointment.

Solid directing, acting, score, and visual effects can’t overcome vapid, expeditious writing. Plot-contrivances and schematic characterizations overpower most dramatic potential. There is little of consequence to the proceedings, and it might well taint the stellar reputation this show has enjoyed for nearly a decade.

HBO

Thank you so much for stopping by the blog today. Be sure to check back soon for more reviews, commentary, podcasts, YouTube videos, and the new webcomic, Scribble Sardonic. Follow along on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.

Until next time.

PODCAST: New Episode of ‘That Was Okay I Guess’

Kept you waiting did I?

I may have neglected to mention that I’m currently co-hosting the That Was Okay I Guess podcast, where Tucker Warner and I discuss some mediocre/forgotten movies with all the appropriate cynicism you’d expect from two tarty millennial film enthusiasts.

Which is what made our latest episode such a treat. In this most recent episode of the podcast, we discuss the film Death to Smoochy, the 2002 black-comedy starring Robin Williams and Ed Norton. Directed by Danny DeVito, the film centers on a batch of jaded, money-hungry TV executives and the idealistic, though naive, mascot they adopt to replace the hostile former lead of their flagship children’s television show (eerily reminiscent of a certain purple dinosaur.)

It’s good fun, though not necessarily a good film. Come listen!

iTunes:
https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/that-was-okay-i-guess/id1396558782

Soundcloud:
https://soundcloud.com/user-694437583/death-to-smoochy

Avengers: Endgame could earn $3 Billion worldwide

It was inevitable

I’ll cut straight to the chase, dear reader, I’m not here to give my usual weekend box office breakdown. Normally I’d wait for Tuesday to roll around (when previous weekend totals are set in stone and a Monday total is released), hop on BoxOfficeMojo.com, then write about said results while assuming the same coffee-house enmity many large publications adopt when discussing the dearth of trough-quality films dominating the public interest year in and year out.

But, I don’t want to do that today.

Instead, I’d rather grab my extrapolation cap, fit it firmly to my head, and try to, um, extrapolate just how much money Avengers: Endgame will make over the course of its theatrical run.

It should come as no surprise that the long-awaited “conclusion” to Marvel’s massive movie experiment – the MCU – made a gob-smacking amount of money this past weekend. In fact, it broke every record currently held regarding opening weekends. No insignificant feat, as I’m sure many out there assumed passing Infinity War‘s then-record $257.6m opening weekend just wasn’t possible. Why? Because Star Wars: The Force Awakens had set the record only three years prior with $247.9m after some of the most intense mass anticipation ever seen. It stood to reason, then, that like The Force Awakens‘ sequel, The Last Jedi (a well reviewed film, though incredibly divisive among series fans), Endgame would fall somewhat shy of that initial record, but perform admirably all the same. More so, even, when one considers the 181-minute runtime.

Well, here’s a brief breakdown of just how much money Endgame wound up making compared to Infinity War, The Force Awakens, and The Last Jedi. Those films being the easiest point of comparison because only seven films have ever grossed more than $200m on their opening weekends, and these represent the top four:

  • Avengers: Endgame: $357.1m
  • Avengers: Infinity War: $257.6m
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens: $247.9
  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi: $220m

So, yeah. The numbers speak for themselves. All but the most ardently pessimistic of analysts predicted this thing to maybe come within sniffing distance of $300m, with those pessimists (like me) figuring the thing would gross probably closer to $265-280m. It was a safe bet considering that every one of these behemoths is met with the same fanfare from studios and advertisers. It wasn’t until websites began crashing trying to process preordered tickets that people started to catch on and even then, no one expected this. It’s a record that, like James Cameron’s now shaking Avatar could attest, will stand for quite some time.

Now, I bring up Avatar for a reason and here’s why. Unlike the other four films I’ve gone over, Avatar was a monster overseas as much as it was in North America. Endgame, however front-loaded it winds up being, could stand to beat a few seemingly untouchable records. It’s odd, really, thinking about a film crossing $2 billion globally as a certainty, but here we are.

Avatar currently holds the all-time worldwide gross at $2.7 billion. Which is freakish mainly for its absurd (and record) international gross of over $2 billion, clearing $100m in receipts in over nine territories abroad. It’s domestic total of $760m, though bolstered slightly by re-release, was thought to be untouchable until The Force Awakens breezed by it in *checks notes* twenty days.

Which takes us to the next record Endgame might be in the running for: The North American domestic total. The Force Awakens currently holds the crown with an unfathomable $936.6m, just shy of the big B-word. At the time, TFA broke every domestic box office record there was. It was the fastest to earn every cent of its total. Infinity War swiped away the opening weekend record, but failed to deliver the week-over-week consistency, eventually stalling out for a domestic total of $678.8m, which was only enough to make it the second-highest domestic earner of 2017.

Wakanda Forever.

It did, however, go on to gross $1.36 billion overseas for a worldwide total of $2.04 billion. That’s an important number, not only because that passes The Force Awakens$1.1 billion overseas, but because Endgame, in less than a week, has already grossed $948.7m internationally. By close of business Thursday (when its official first week at the box office ends) we could be looking at well over $1 billion in receipts overseas.

Crunching the numbers

The results at the end of this first week, both domestic and abroad, are important in predicting whether Endgame makes history or not. That eye-popping $357.1m opening weekend and enormous $36.8m first Monday are really great and all, but to stand the test of time, and shove an infinity gauntlet down Jim Cameron’s throat (you’re the king of nothing, James), it needs to top The Force Awakens in North America, and Avatar overseas.

This is where multipliers come into play. You may hear these thrown around every now again, but essentially it’s just a nifty little tool to extrapolate a film’s potential earnings according to the money it’s already made. For example:

The Force Awakens had a domestic opening weekend of $247.9m and a final domestic total of $936.6m. Which means that it’s opening weekend accounted for roughly 26% of its total North American earnings. This is really good; the rare example of a massive opening weekender stretching some gloriously striated legs and sprinting like a maniac. This would give the film a 3.7x multiplier. Very rare for blockbusters such as these, which tend to earn most of their money earlier on and taper off more quickly (front-loaded.)

The Last Jedi opened well enough, $220m, but only went on to gross $620.1m at the domestic box office. The opening weekend constitutes over 35% of the film’s total domestic earnings, much more typical, and represents about a 2.8x multipler. That’s still an above average multiplier, all things considered.

The closest and most likely point of comparison is Infinity War, which tapered quickly from its $257.6m opener to gross only $678.8m. It’s launch accounted for around 38% of its total North American earnings, or roughly 2.6x the opening weekend. Good, but not legendary. Legendary would be Avatar‘s 9.7x its opening, turning its unassuming $77m first weekend into a then-record $749.7m before its initial theatrical run concluded.

Here’s where I’d argue Endgame has the right stuff, but to be honest I don’t think I have to. Simply due its unimaginably massive opening weekend, applying Infinity War‘s 2.6x multiplier gives Endgame a domestic total of around $928.4m. THAT’S A MODEST ESTIMATE, one that assumes it tapers off exactly as Infinity War did and plays the same over twenty weeks.

Let’s play devil’s advocate and apply the zeitgeist-capturing multiplier of The Force Awakens, 3.7x. That results in an unbelievable $1.3 billion domestic total. I just . . . I just really don’t think that’ll happen. It’d be cool, sure. Disney would appreciate it. What’s that people say about Tom Brady? “Everyone loves a winner?”

It’s at this point I need to reassure everyone that this is a tremendously unscientific thing I’m doing right now, using numbers I found online and plugging them into my phone’s calculator. Okay? Good. Back to the hack-science.

Here’s why I brought The Last Jedi into the equation, and where that first week total really becomes important. Both Star Wars films opened over the winter holiday season, allowing plenty of teenagers and kids to see the movies. It isn’t quite summer vacation yet, and Endgame is already pulling in some impressive numbers, but the first few weeks of TFA and TLJ really solidified the trajectory of their domestic earnings.

It’s critical that Endgame maintain momentum during workdays, Monday through Thursday, if it wants a serious chance at beating the all-time domestic record. It might do just that. Looking at the film’s first Monday, Endgame earned a third-place all time $36.8m, which represents a 59.2% drop from its first-place all time Sunday of $90.3m. The percentage drop from Infinity War‘s first Sunday and first Monday was 64.3%, whereas The Last Jedi‘s was 58%. So, based on that, I’m going to assume that Endgame‘s drops until Thursday will fall somewhere between those two films, give or take a percentage point.

My predictions

If we assumed outright that Endgame would follow The Last Jedi‘s trajectory, applying a multiplier of 2.8x to its opening weekend would give us a domestic total of $999.8m. But multipliers are more reliable once the first week is through, so let’s look at that.

TLJ‘s first Mon-Thurs drops: -58%, -6%, -16.6%, and +5.9%

Infinity War‘s first Mon-Thurs drops: -64.3%, -5.3%, -27.6%, and -8.6%

Endgame has already dropped 59.2% for it’s Monday, so let’s take the time of year into account and propose the following:

Endgame‘s potential Mon-Thurs drops: -59.2%, -6%, -20%, -7%.

Endgame‘s potential Mon-Thurs earnings: $36.8m, $34.6m, $27.7m, and $25.7m.

Endgame‘s potential first week earnings: $481.9m (That’s opening weekend and opening week combined.)

Using that prediction, we can extrapolate it’s weekly percentage drop by fudging some numbers that fall somewhere between Infinity War and The Last Jedi. OR, and hear me out, we could not do that and instead apply a new multiplier.

The Last Jedi‘s multiplier after its first full week was almost 2.1x, down from The Force Awakens2.4x multiplier. Infinity War‘s sits at a damn-near flat 2x multiplier. So, say Endgame makes $481.9m in its first full week. We then apply a fair and balanced (as all things should be) multiplier of 2.05x, and look at that: $987.8m domestic total.

As far as the overseas total? The only films to pass $1 billion internationally are Avatar ($2b), Titanic ($1.5b), Infinity War ($1.3b), Furious 7 ($1.16b), The Force Awakens ($1.13b), Jurassic World ($1.019b), and The Fate of the Furious ($1.01b). It took each of them around twenty weeks to amass those numbers, other than Avatar, which stayed in theaters for months and months and really, who even remembers that movie? Do you? Did you buy the BluRay?

Endgame opened internationally to $866.5m, a record. In the brief time since it’s increased to $948.7m. As of right now, 8:30pm EST on April 30, 2019 – Avengers: Endgame is already the tenth highest grossing film of all time with $1.34 billion. In my heart of jaded hearts I believe we’re witnessing history. Endgame will have earned $1.05 billion overseas by Thursday, pass Titanic‘s foreign gross over the next week or so, and challenge Avatar‘s by week fifteen or sixteen, though I don’t know if it’ll cross it. Overseas markets are tricky. It’s hard to tell if they’ll remain as enthralled with the end of Marvel’s Infinity Saga as we will here in North America, dwindle as they did with The Force Awakens, or surpass it as with Avatar. As a final point of reference, I’ll provide Infinity War‘s overseas opening versus its overseas total. Infinity War opened overseas with $382.8m, which made up 28% of it’s eventual $1.3b – a powerful 3.57x multiplier. Taking into account that Endgame has opened in all but one of its projected territories (Russia being the hold-out), I’ll lower that to a more conservative 2.57x multiplier. Sound fair? Let’s wrap this up.

My verdict, Avengers: Endgame:

Domestic: $481.9m first week and generous 2.1 multiplier = $1.01b billion total

International: $866.5m opening and 2.57 multiplier = $2.22 billion total

Worldwide: $3.23 billion total

There. It’s possible by precedent alone. Plus, I did the math and showed my work. I’m probably over-estimating the hell out of this thing, but it’s fun. If I’m wrong, it wouldn’t be the first time.

I’ll be back with more content in the near future, dear reader. Stay tuned.

Until next time.

The new Avengers: Endgame trailer is missing one important thing

“We’re in the endgame now . . .”

Just your average Thursday.

A few hours ago, Marvel dropped the latest trailer for the upcoming Avengers: Endgame. Though it regurgitates a handful of scenes from last year’s trailer, we finally have a fully fledged glimpse at our remaining superheros as they prepare to take the fight to Thanos and, hopefully, find a way to rescue those who perished when the mad titan fired his infinity gauntlet. We even get a fun look at Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel and Chris Hemsworth’s Thor. Notably missing from the trailer, however, is the big bad himself. First, let’s talk about what iin the trailer.

Screenshot_20190314-100431_Facebook

The trailer wisely presents our heroes where they’re likely to be at the onset of the film. Which is important considering how quickly Infinity War had to get the ball rolling to wrap up at around the 2hr 45m mark. Though the Russos have gone on record stating that Endgame will finish at around three hours, there’s no doubting that the film will use every available inch of real estate to provide us with the kind of spongy CGI action, superhero power-poses interspersed with witty dialogue, and the surprisingly effective emotional beats we’ve come to expect from this franchise.

The trailer opens with a montage of color-corrected scenes from previous films, more than likely to invoke the sort of “how the hell has it been eleven years since Iron Man” nostalgia many a nerd is feeling right now. We see Tony Stark escape the desert cave in his prototype Iron Man suit and Steve Rogers ruminating on his journey from gun-ho soldier to the de facto leader of the Avengers. It’s a pleasing transition, one that occurs so quickly that it’s easy to forget the massive gamble Marvel took trying to make this cinematic universe happen.

Screenshot_20190314-100204_Facebook

We can’t linger on the nature of contemporary blockbuster entertainment, however. The trailer needs to reacquaint us with those most notably absent from the previous Avengers, mainly Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye and Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man – both receiving a fair bit of screen time.

Screenshot_20190314-100237_Facebook

Screenshot_20190314-100311_Facebook

Que the bombastic brass of that mighty Avenger’s theme song. The remainder of the trailer has Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow issuing the mission statement for the group. They have to try and take down Thanos, they owe it to those “not in the room.” And it’s interesting that ScarJo has such a presence in this trailer. Chris Evan’s Cap is given particular reverence, especially as the music swells, but it’s Johansson’s narration that pushes forward the darker, near desperate tone of the images.

Screenshot_20190314-100324_Facebook

The way these shots are framed (remaining fully aware that the scenes selected for a trailer strike that alluring balance between aesthetically pleasing and intentionally ambiguous), definitely suggest that the sinking feeling audiences felt as Thanos snapped is fingers won’t be letting up until (hopefully) the credits role. They’re desperate and, from what I can see, are approaching this decade-in-the-making climax with the kind of fatalist sobriety that only an expired contract could provide. As far as the color palette and composition of the trailer is concerned, don’t expect this film to let up on the doom and gloom.

And then, in the final few shots, heroes clad in fresh white armor ready themselves, repeating “Whatever it takes!” as quick splashes of action lead in to the title card. Fanfare. And scene.

Screenshot_20190314-100229_Facebook

But where’s Thanos? The big purple world eater? Sunbathing in that cornfield from the teaser?

Honestly? It doesn’t matter.

That’s my thesis. We know the threat, we’ve seen what this particular big bad (who finally proved Marvel’s villain problem had more to do with the aforementioned nature of blockbuster entertainment than the aptitude of their writers) is capable of. The threat is cosmic, omnipresent. The teaser gave us a hint as to his current whereabouts, and we know he took an axe to the chest thanks to Thor, but so long as he has that infinity gauntlet, we need only bask in the forlorn temperaments of the heroes left standing.

Screenshot_20190314-100342_Facebook

Marvel’s marketing department is smart. Infinity War was only the third movie in history to earn over two-billion dollars at the worldwide box office during its initial release. The world over is familiar with Thanos and the threat he poses. Marvel needs only to remind us all that the film hits theaters April 26th, 2019. In fact, his absence from the promotional material lends an added anticipation for his reveal in the film. Marvel’s made billions veiling this character until the last possible minute. Why would they change course now?

Additionally, at this point in the franchise the presumed quality of the film is irrelevant – this is cinematic history. As the trailer seems to suggest, look how far we’ve come. Whether by formula or genuine innovation, this franchise is culminating into something we’ve never seen before.

Superhero fatigue be damned, I’ll be there opening night.

Screenshot_20190314-100402_Facebook

Thanks for stopping by the blog today. I’ll have more content available for you soon.

Until next time.

BOX OFFICE: Captain Marvel Scores Huge $153 Million Opening Weekend

Happy Monday

Good morning, dear reader. I hope your weekend went as well as Disney’s. If you were one of the many in attendance at theaters across the country this weekend, you may have noticed a fun little movie (or a familiar face passing out Snow Caps) by the name of Captain Marvel causing quite the stir.

According to Brad Brevet and the crack-team of money-trackers over at Box Office Mojo, the twenty-first entry in the Marvel’s super-powered cinematic universe opened to a whopping $153 million dollars in North America. This represents not only the third highest March opening of all-time not accounting for inflation (like the big-wigs give a damn), and represents the seventh largest opening weekend in the franchise. Brevet & Co. are quick to point out comparable openings in The Dark Knight ($158.4m), The Hunger Games: Catching Fire ($158m), and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ($155m) – the latter of which went on to gross north of $500 million domestically and over $1 billion worldwide. We’ll get in to Captain Marvel‘s potential in just a moment.

Based on current estimates, here’s the weekend top ten, March 8-10, 2019:

Film – Weekend: Total Domestic / International / Global | *New Release
  1. *Captain Marvel – $155m: $155m / $302m / $455m
  2. How to Train Your Dragon 3 – $14.6m: $119.6m / $315.5m / $435.1m
  3. Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral – $12.05m: $45.8m / $235k / $46.1m
  4. The LEGO Movie 2 – $3.8m: $97.1m / $67.3m / $164.4m
  5. Alita: Battle Angel – $3.2m: $78.3m / $304.3m / $382.6m
  6. Green Book – $2.48m: $80.1m / $162.1m / $242.2m
  7. Isn’t it Romantic – $2.41m: $44.1m 
  8. Fighting with My Family – $2.18m: $18.6m 
  9. Greta – $2.16m: $8.2m / $800k / $9.05m
  10. Apollo 11 – $1.3m: $3.7m

Total Weekend Box Office: $206.8m

Yes, it’s startling to see a single Disney vehicle comprise over 70% of the total weekend gross, but remember – they own us it’s worth remembering that this film had a lot hinging on its success. Brie Larson’s titular character, one Carol Danvers, is rumored to play an integral role in the upcoming Avengers: Endgame. The hype train started for Captain Marvel will invariably carry us up to the ensemble’s next clash with the universe-rending Thanos. As far as the numbers are concerned, the rest of the MCU has a 2.76x multiplier when calculating their final domestic runs – which Brevet suggests will land Captain Marvel somewhere around $420 million by the time it leaves theaters. That’s a far cry from the phemon that was Black Panther, and well short of Wonder Woman’s final domestic cume, but still worth celebrating. It also has the rest of March to itself, as DC’s much-anticipated Shazam! won’t hit theaters until April 5.

Universal’s How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World came in second place. So far, the film is tracking to outpace its predecessor, How to Train Your Dragon 2, which ended its domestic run with $177 million. However, at the same point in its release, How to Train Your Dragon was $20 million ahead of where The Hidden World sits now. The first film ended with a North American total of $217.5 million unadjusted for inflation – it’s doubtful that the third will pass it. As far as Worldwide totals, with only three weeks under its belt The Hidden World sits only $30 million behind the first film and has plenty of time to catch the impressive $621.5 million global total of the second.

In third is Tyler Perry’s latest Madea romp. It somehow made over $12 million. It currently sits just $2 million shy of the $47.3 million domestic total of Boo 2! A Madea Halloween, and will more than likely pass it by next week. Assuming it takes another 55% drop in revenue week over week, we can expect it to pass the original Madea, A Madea Christmas, and Big Happy Family – which finished its run with $53.3 million.

In fourth is the Phil Lord and Chris Miller written The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, which has already outpaced the $59.2 million domestic total of the Ninjago movie – surprising exactly no one – but it has a ways to go before approaching the $175.7 million take of LEGO Batman, or the $257.7 million of the original LEGO Movie. Even the considerable wit of Lord and Miller, paired with the less-than-considerable charm of Chris Pratt, is struggling to reach its audience (comparatively speaking, of course.)

In fifth is the Robert Rodriguez directed, James Cameron produced, Alita: Battle Angel. Early reports had this film pegged as a flop, seeing as its domestic haul has yet to approach 50% of its huge $170 million production budget. What’s saving it, and is surely pleasing the executives at Fox, is the considerable attention the film is getting overseas. It’s so far amassed $304 million outside of North America, over a third of which earned from China.

Coming in at sixth is the Academy Award for Best Picture winning film Green Book. The film, which has seen considerable controversy for not only its portrayal of racism in the south, racism in general, its depiction of Dr. Don Shirley, the silencing of Shirley’s surviving family, its production values, its script, its acting, its directors, and the Best Picture acceptance speech failing to mention Victor Hugo Green, Dr. Don Shirley or his family in any way. Regardless, people are still seeing it, enough so that it has managed to earn nearly $250 million at the worldwide box office. Remember folks, the man who forced Jason Alexander to wear a prosthetic elongated tailbone in Shallow Hal now has an Academy Award for Best Picture. Dark times, indeed . . .

In seventh is the Warner Bros. / New Line “what if?” comedy, Isn’t it Romantic, starring Rebel Wilson. I know nothing about this movie.

In eighth is the MGM “indie” film Fighting with My Family, which has relied almost entirely on Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Instagram account for marketing. Props to director Stephen Merchant (talented in his own right) for recognizing that the single greatest marketing tool he had at his disposal was The Rock, who stars in the film as himself – a true departure for him. He’s surrounded by actual talent in Lena Headey, Nick Frost, and newcomer Florence Pugh. So far it’s managed $18.6 million in the states, and could manage closer to $30 million by the end of its run.

Rounding out the top ten is the Neil Jordan drama, Greta, which I hadn’t heard of before writing this, and the riveting, previously IMAX-exclusive NASA documentary Apollo 11. If you saw First Man and found yourself yearning for more – go see this film.

Next week we have a slew of early year doozies seeing wide release:

The animated Wonder Park hits theaters, and maybe you’ll take your kid? Maybe? Perhaps just find a sitter? Go out on the town? Enjoy yourself, for once? Don’t you deserve it?

Haley Lu Richardson and Cole Sprouse star in the teenager-with-illnesses-fall-in-love-or-whatever film, Five Feet Apart. One of them dies.

And then we have the film clogging your social media feeds and preventing your YouTube videos from loading, Captive State. Aliens attack the planet. Do you remember Chronicle? Battle: Los Angeles? No? Just checking.

That’s it for this box office update, everyone. Thank you so much for stopping by. I do hope you enjoy the rest of your week. Stay tuned for more content from yours truly.

Until next time.

REVIEW: Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel

Rated PG-13 : 124 min : Released March 8, 2018

Higher, further, faster . . .

Hello, dear reader. Me again.

I know, it’s been a few months since you’ve heard from me. I feel like I’ll spend a decent amount of time in the future doing so, so for the sake of brevity let’s consider this apology a standing declaration.

Moving on.

A few months ago we were hit with the trailer above after it had been announced that Brie Larson was to play the incredibly powerful Carol Danvers, ostensibly the one figure in the current MCU who could stand toe-to-toe with Thanos and win (something our gallery of heroes is in dire need of at the moment.) The trailer charmed, it intrigued, it confused (Larson decks an old lady for a fraction of a second), and more than anything it gave moviegoers a glimpse at the receiving end of that ominous signal Nick Fury sent as he dematerialized into dust at the tail end of Infinity War.

Well, now I’ve seen the movie and I’m here to tell you, dear reader and prospective Marvel viewer – Thanos has reason to worry.

Screenshot_20180918-094011_YouTube

Captain Marvel is an early-year treat, for sure, but not in the same way that Black Panther was to kick off 2018. Brie Larson’s Carol Danvers and Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury investigate the invasion of Earth by the Skrull, a shape shifting alien race at war with the Kree – for whom Danvers is a soldier. Together and with the help of a few friends, they hit their requisite plot beats and throw in enough of that trademark Marvel humor to ensure at least a billion worldwide when this thing finally closes shop.

I’d wager good money that Marvel will dominate its opening weekend and every weekend until Endgame premiers, but audiences won’t propel this to the stratospheric domestic run akin to last year’s slate of superhero flicks; Nor do I see this receiving a “placate the masses” nod at the 92nd Academy Awards. It’s a great time, really, but nearly disappointing considering the massive hype machine leading up to release.

I’ll try my hardest not to spoil anything, though there really isn’t much to spoil. Writer and Co-Director Anna Boden imbues the proceedings with a fair bit of levity, cheeky dialogue, twists and turns, and a generally coherent narrative arc that culminates in one hell of a fireworks show; but this film exhibits one of the more common complaints levied against Marvel, particularly for its recent slew of origin stories: It’s too safe.

Screenshot_20180918-093841_YouTube

I’m not referring to the fact that this is Marvel’s first ever female-led superhero film. And I’d be a fool to ignore the social narrative surrounding the film. It’s in the promotional material, the junkets, and is spewing angrily from the slobbering horde of incels that have been tanking the film’s user reviews on sites such as IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. However, it isn’t really in the movie – not in the terms said incels are accusing Marvel of. It’s present, to be absolutely clear, but in no way does it tackle it’s broader social commentary as explicitly as Black Panther. To be completely honest, any messaging is hidden into the very presentation of Captain Marvel very skillfully.

Danvers’ is often sparring with her superior officer, played by Jude Law, with his frequent instruction being that she remove herself from her emotional impulses – that she restrain herself and play a role. As the film transpires, Danvers’ eventually succeeds specifically because she embraces the traits that make her who she is. The film does this without ever explicitly stating so. Again, very well done. Proponents of this film needn’t worry of a Mary-Sue type argument being thrown their way, either. Danvers struggles tremendously in this film, and relies on her skills and some clever ingenuity early on. Her charisma and strength are two forces working in her favor, but it isn’t until she discovers who she really is, how she earned her powers, that we see her in top form.

No, when I call this movie safe, I’m instead referring to narrative devices, a lack of genuine stakes, and the over-reliance of Marvel on blurry CGI, a muted color palette, and incredibly generic brass wailing for a musical score.

Screenshot_20180918-093710_YouTube

It’s a shame, because by and large the film does so much right. Brie Larson’s Danvers is great. While she may not spout off a whip-smart one-liner every few moments, or growl in anger at her enemies, what she does embody is a kind of resolute heroism. She has fallen often – as a montage late in the film shows – but each and every time she rises to meet her adversary face to face. It’s a blunt tool, her perseverance, but an effective one. She has noticeable star power, a real presence opposite co-stars Sam Jackson, Jude Law, and Ben Mendelsohn. Would we expect anything less of an Academy Award winning actress?

The acting isn’t the problem here. While the dialogue is light and fun, so too are the stakes. At no point are we to believe that Danvers is in genuine danger. This has little to do with her portrayal and more to do with the lack of context surrounding this Kree vs Skrull war going on, and her role in it. After a lengthy and frankly uninspired train chase, the middle of the film commits to fleshing out what we already know of Danvers – that she is from Earth and had a life here prior to intergalactic warfare. Though we are generally aware of her past, we aren’t allowed much time to dwell on it.

The more interesting elements of the plot – Mar Vell, the lightspeed drive, Danvers’ time in the military, her relationship with her best friend Wendy, her childhood – are all given their seemingly mandated five minutes of exposition before we are whisked away toward the next set-piece, or a dig at the antiquated technology of the 90’s (when the film is set.) We see Danvers during her transition from super-powered, to more super-powered, which would fall incredibly flat if we weren’t allowed access to a handful of her memories. We are enlightened to her struggle, enough to dispel arguments to the contrary, but we don’t experience them in a manner that endears us to her as a character – at least as well as it could have.

That these narrative beats feel more like a checklist, however well composed on the screen, stands testament to my next point: This film doesn’t feel like the project of an artist, though it is and of many. There’s no voice. Somewhere during production I have to imagine a memo from corporate circulated with demands for an exact count of humorous character exchanges, some gross-out scenes, the requisite plot twist at around the 2/3rd’s mark, and four or five scenes that be shot with the specific intention of using them for the trailer.

Screenshot_20180918-093945_YouTube

This is an inoffensive movie. One without risk or noteworthy creative flourishes. Explosions are bassy, the CGI flamboyant and excessive, the superhero is punch-happy and posed triumphantly at every occasion. These things exist because they should, no modern superhero film is without them, but the result is a film that leaves one imagining the insane potential of every scene, rather than fall into a unique and engrossing movie-going experience.

I’d liken Captain Marvel to 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, rather than to Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman.

Homecoming was the return of the Spider-Man character to the MCU, and for the most part did its job. The action was uninspired, the CGI apparent, and it was positively stuffed to the brim with lighthearted character interactions. It was . . . fine. It’s villain was introduced with one hell of a twist, but the climax of the film is just a loud, flame-broiled bout of fisticuffs between two steely eyed supers. Which, again, is fine. It just isn’t particularly memorable.

DC’s Wonder Woman stole Marvel’s thunder, admittedly, releasing their female-led adventure a full two years before their rival studio. But at the core of Wonder Woman was a vibrant character, a more compelling fish-out-of-water narrative, genuine stakes in the trenches of The Great War, and one incredible show-stopper of a scene with Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince rising to meet a hail of gunfire with nothing but her shield.

 

Screenshot_20180918-093910_YouTube

Captain Marvel relies too heavily on Marvel’s already well-worn formula. It introduces little more than a handful of quirky revelations as to the larger plot of the MCU, a few fun scenes, and features an endless string of easter eggs and fan-service. It’s fun, easily worth the cost of entry. The film is more than competent in every department, but a lack of weaknesses does not a strong or memorable movie make. More than a solo outing, this is a stepping stone, a necessary introduction to a character needed to help win the battle coming April 26th.

However, despite these gripes, my lack of enthusiasm for what is obviously the product of studio mandates – and the continued depression of creative expression in Hollywood blockbusters – shouldn’t dissuade you from seeing the movie yourself. This is not a poorly made or uninteresting film. I was thoroughly placated throughout its entirety. Go on and head to the theater. Eat it up.

You’ll see it and smile like a buffoon at the adorable cat, Goose, as well as the many quips and jabs between Danvers and Fury. You’ll cheer as Danvers overcomes her opponents, “aw!” at the Stan Lee cameo, and poke your seat-neighbor each time you spot a reference to another film in the franchise. You’ll also leave the theater having expected a fair bit more. Disappointed but not dismayed by how whisper-close this film came to saying something, to being something more than it was – competent, but certainly not marvelous.

Verdict: 3.25/5

Screenshot_20180918-093644_YouTube

Thank you for stopping by the blog today! I know it’s been a while. I’ve taken on a few projects recently, and will be sure to update you all on those once I can.

In the next few days, look forward to reviews on a few games that I’ve played, maybe a video or two on the Black Beanie Gaming YouTube channel, and new episodes of the That Was Okay I Guess podcast. Other than those projects, I’m working on two long-form pieces of fiction and have started writing freelance.

It’s an exciting time.

Later on.