Friday, December 31, 2010

Black Sheep's Top 10 of 2010!

(Scroll over any film title to read the full length Black Sheep review.)

It is the first day day of the new year and I'm happy. I'm happy to put certain aspects of the last year behind me, happy to look ahead toward what waits for me and happy to look back at my most celebrated moments as a film critic in 2010 as well. There are three in particular that come to mind ...

I've been published before but never in high gloss colour. My interview with the Academy Award winning documentary filmmaker, Louis Psihoyos, about his first feature, THE COVE, was published in Movie Entertainment magazine, the magazine of The Movie Network in Canada. It was a thrill to see my name in print like that and to know that possibly tens of thousands of film lovers across Canada would be reading my work. Movie Entertainment still publishes my monthly column on their website, letting people know what to watch on TMN that month, and intends to publish my interview with Ryan Reynolds, for his film BURIED, this summer.

If you read Black Sheep at all regularly, you would know that this year I was a fully accredited member of the press at the 2010 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival for the first time. I saw 30 films, met tons of great people, interviewed a variety of filmmakers that I never dreamed I would ever meet and I even worked my first red carpet, for Woody Allen no less. My coverage of the festival on Black Sheep brought in the highest readership numbers I've seen in the five years the site has been around and led to my being published on other great sites, like Toronto Film Scene and The Mark News. I hope TIFF invites me back to the party again next year because I'm not sure I can go back after feeling the power of the press pass.

The third thing is perhaps the most important. I've only lived in Toronto for a year and a half now and I haven't had the easiest of times making friends. In January of this year, I took my first real steps towards changing that when I met a group of local film bloggers for their monthly meeting. It isn't so much a meeting though as it is a bunch of film geeks getting together, drinking and shooting the shit about movies really. And while it may not sound like much to some, it has allowed me the possibility to meet people that make me feel a lot more like I belong here. A big shout out to James McNally of Toronto Screen Shots for the original invite!

Like my personal life, 2010 was a bit of a rocky year for film as well ... or at least I thought it was at the time. I griped all year about how there were no good movies coming out but when it came time to actually narrow down the 120+ films I saw all year to a list of 10, I had a very difficult time doing so. Difficult is relative here as how hard is it really to sit down and think about movies you like? I managed to get her done though and I am ready to share this list with you today.

(insert drum roll here)

Here is Black Sheep Reviews' Top 10 of 2010 ...
(in alphabetical order)

Directed by Darren Aronofsky

I love when I am truly excited for a film and it does not disappoint. BLACK SWAN is that experience for me. The moment it ended, I wanted to watch it again and again. I still do. It effects all who see it, regardless of how much they enjoyed the film. It just crawls under your skin and stays there until you start to sprout feathers of your own.

Directed by David O. Russell

I knew after five minutes of watching THE FIGHTER that I was about to see one of the best pictures of the year. The film has an energy that really gets you in the mood for a good wallop. The entire ensemble knocks the movie out of the ring and Russell finishes by making the best film of his career.

Directed by Luca Guadagnino

Every once in a while, I go to the movies just to go. I don't take notes; I don't write about it afterward. I just sit back and enjoy the experience. I saw I AM LOVE like this and it was like heaven. It is beautiful in every regard it can be - from picture and sound to performance and dialog. I too was love when it was done.

Directed by Christopher Nolan

When I saw INCEPTION in theatres, I was disappointed. I wanted it to be more emotional, to be more revealing about humanity and our collective subconscious. When I watched it again at home, I realized I wanted it to be something it just wasn't. And what it is, is pretty freaking awesome.

Directed by Lisa Cholodenko

Some will say that indie film director, Lisa Cholodenko, sold out when she made THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT but I commend her for making the marginalized, accessible. The incredibly talented cast is so earnest in their love for each other as a family that you can't help but feel it too. This is what a family looks like.

Directed by Tom Hooper

I am very happy to see that THE KING'S SPEECH family is the buzz of awards season this year. Director Tom Hooper's emerging career is so promising and his work here is seemingly effortless. And with Colin Firth on the throne, it wouldn't surprise me to see the film crowned king come Oscar time.

Directed by Martin Scorcese

Martin Scorcese's psychological thriller, SHUTTER ISLAND, was the first truly great picture of 2010. It is not without its flaws but it presents itself and its ambitious agenda with great confidence, so much so that you feel as if you too are thrown right onto the island with everybody else, at the center of an elaborate mind game that you may not survive.

Directed by David Fincher

THE SOCIAL NETWORK is something like a perfect picture. Every element comes together to provide both entertainment and insight in a way that is as astonishing as it is unexpected. People scoffed at the idea of a Facebook movie (I may have done some scoffing myself) but how could we ever have known that this is what they would do?

Directed by Lee Unkrich

For the second year in a row, the Pixar people have made me cry like a baby at the movies. TOY STORY 3 seemed like unnecessary pandering in concept but its execution is so daring and delightful, that it is easily the best of the three. The fact that some of the most tense and emotional film moments of 2010 came from an animated feature is a great feat for many.

Directed by Debra Granik

Debra Granik's chilling thriller, WINTER'S BONE, was one of the year's most unexpected surprises for me. It is an incredible testament to the human spirit and it showed me a side of people in a little corner of the world that I had never imagined. Jennifer Lawrence gives the breakthrough performance of 2010 in this film.

There you have it, folks. My 10 favourite films of 2010. Stay tuned for some very big changes around here and, of course, the announcements of the 2010 Mouton d'Or Awards coming later this month. In the meantime, here are my 2010 honourable mentions:

Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman

Directed by Banksy

Directed by Xavier Dolan

Directed by Jacques Audiard


Written by Derek Cianfrance, Joey Curtis and Cami Delavigne
Directed by Derek Cianfrance
Starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams

Cindy: How do you trust your feelings when they can just disappear like that?
Gramma: I think the only way to find out is to have those feelings.

When they say, “For better of for worse,” in wedding vows, I believe they are referring to BLUE VALENTINE in regards to the worse part. Novice feature filmmaker, Derek Cianfrance’s latest is a very particular snapshot of a very specific place in a relationship that far too many people know far too well. And only few of those people live to tell the tale with their wits still about them. In reality, this space is an incredibly difficult test of the mind, the spirit and the heart and every effort is usually made to avoid getting there. It is one of the darkest stages a relationship can reach but Cianfrance is not the least bit afraid of the dark.

Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, an indie dream couple if I’ve ever heard one before, are Dean and Cindy, a young couple with a little girl, living their married life in rural Pennsylvania. They have been together for six years but those years have been far from kind. At the moment we meet them, Dean is feeding his daughter breakfast while Cindy is getting ready for work – an ordinary morning for many a couple, I’m sure. The difference here is that this kitchen is weighted down with a crushing tension that is evident in every look given and every word spoken. She seems appalled by his every action and influence over their daughter and he seems to know it. The room is rotten with the stench of hatred.

Dean and Cindy know they don’t have much time left and decide to get a room at a cheap motel in New York City for the night in hopes of working through their issues and rekindling their romance. Their intentions are sincere but the fight is so insurmountable at times, they each struggle with their resolve. Gosling, while somewhat overwrought in his character’s intensity, must be commended for the amount of evident effort he made to make Dean real and not just a bad husband. That said, Williams is heartbreaking every moment she is on screen. Even the manner in which she clasps her fists during one of the film’s many sexual moments is emotionally devastating. Together, they genuinely feel like two people who have been oscillating between love and hate for years, so much so that it can be too much to take at times.

Cianfrance is a brave man for going to as many places of despair in BLUE VALENTINE as he does but he’s not stupid. He knows that an audience needs to breathe so he tells the entire story of their relationship in moments so that we can see that there once was a time when these two knew happiness, that there is another reason other than their daughter that they are fighting to stay together. The device is somewhat manipulative at times as its obvious point is to make us feel even worse that their relationship doesn’t seem to be salvageable. BLUE VALENTINE did make me feel pretty bad. I had been in some variation of that relationship in my life and it was hard enough to deal with then so, as fantastic as the film is in its most candid moments, I’m not sure everyone is ready to go back there again.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


Written and Directed by Sofia Coppola
Starring Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning

Johnny Marco: I'm fucking nothing. I'm not even a person.

We are all somewhere. Even nowhere is another form of somewhere, which is good because there is an awful lot of nowhere and nothing going on in Sofia Coppola’s latest attempt at exploring just how mundane life can be, called SOMEWHERE. I’m not sure how Coppola, the Academy Award winning writer/director of LOST IN TRANSLATION and THE VIRGIN SUICIDES manages to get out of bed every morning if this is her view of the world, but at least I can say she knows how to capture that particular feeling of numbness better than most. The trouble is, even that shtick is starting to get boring now.

Stephen Dorff plays an aging movie star named Johnny Marco. It is never really clear just how bright his personal star shines – he is still making movies and he has some international notoriety – but he is stumbling through the motions of success his fame has afforded him. He lives in a hotel, where the party is seemingly never over, and has the same set of stripper twins visit him on a regular basis. These things might seem exciting to some but its all pretty much second hat for Johnny. Coppola uses static shots and repetition to reinforce just how slow everything is moving and how much of it is the same again and again. She makes her point as strongly as she can but I’m not clear how she feels that life being boring is revelatory at this stage. And painting the picture with a celebrity backdrop doesn’t make it any more original.

What does give SOMEWHERE some purpose and heart, albeit strained, is Johnny’s relationship with his 11-year-old girl, Cloe, played with strength and ease by Elle Fanning. Cloe has found herself abandoned by her mother for the summer and has to spend a great deal more time with her father than she is used to. Coppola is smart to allow their relationship to soar in its shared simplicity, whether that be through ice cream indulgence or video game wars, rather than have them just combust in their forced close quarters. Cloe’s increased presence in Johnny’s life is what prompts him to see it for the shallow existence that it is, and even though I did feel a little bad for the guy, I still don’t see why his story mattered any more than any other lonely existence out there.


Written by David Lindsay-Abaire
Directed by John Cameron Mitchell
Starring Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest and Sandra Oh

Becca: I like that thought. Somewhere out there, I'm having a good time.

There are times in our lives where we all find ourselves falling down a hole we didn’t see coming. We are just merrily making our way through the world we know when suddenly, and when we’re not necessarily paying attention, we find ourselves plummeting. While falling alone can be horrifying enough, tumbling down the same hole with your partner can be incredibly difficult and alienating. Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart play parents who have recently lost their young son, Danny, to a car accident, in the delicate drama, RABBIT HOLE. Fortunately for them, director John Cameron Mitchell is there to catch them before they hit the ground.

Mitchell made a name for himself when he first wrote, directed and starred in the film adaptation of his own Off-Broadway show, HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH (click title for review). His exploration of the marginally sexual not only continued its prevalence in his second feature, SHORTBUS, but it would go places most would never dare. In his third and decidedly most accessible work to date, RABBIT HOLE, Mitchell almost abandons sexuality entirely and turns his focus on grief and loss. I use the word, “accessible” loosely, as there is nothing easy about going down this particular hole. David Lindsay-Abaire’s adaptation of his Pulitzer Prize-winning stage play, looks at a couple suffering the unbearable loss of their only child, a story that we have seen a number of times before, and makes it feel like the individual experience it has to be.

Joining Kidman and Eckhart along their journey towards catharsis feels like a privilege, like we don’t really have the right to be there. Each of their experiences is so separate from the other’s, but you can always feel that they are fighting somewhere deep underneath their own hardship to find their way back to each other. Eckhart is strong as a husband who is struggling with doing everything he can not to forget but Kidman is just plain unforgettable. She is doing everything she can to heal, including reaching out to the young boy who was driving the car that killed her son, but she can’t tell if anything is actually working. After all, what level of sadness is needed to let go and see the world the way it once was? That’s the thing about rabbit holes though, both in metaphoric terms and in regards to this film, you’re not the same for having gone down them.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Written and Directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Starring Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin

Rooster Cogburn: I'm a foolish man who has been dragged into a goose chase by a girl in trousers and a nincompoop.

To have grit, one should have an indomitable spirit. For that grit to be true, one would need to subscribe to the theory that grit can achieve some sort of altruistic state of constant existence but that’s just not how grit goes, far as I see it. From where I’m standing, grit is something that, for those fortunate enough to have it inside, shows itself when life requires it, in those situations when you suddenly find yourself needing to get through something you can’t imagine getting through. In TRUE GRIT, directors Joel Coen and Ethan Coen exhibit a whole whack of grit getting through their first “remake” but I’m not convinced they ever reached any real truth along their journey.

TRUE GRIT is said to be an adaptation of the Charles Portis novel and not the 1969 Henry Hathaway film that starred John Wayne and won him an Academy Award for his performance as Rooster Cogburn. The role has now been appropriated by another Oscar winner, Jeff Bridges, and, while I cannot comment on the how the performances differ having not seen the original film, I can say that Bridges definitely lays down the law as a dirty boozer of a U.S. Marshall who has agreed to help one feisty, young lady (Hailee Steinfeld) find the man who killed her father, so that she can have him brought to justice. Matt Damon plays a bounty hunter who is also looking for the same man and so the three reluctantly embark on their mission. This is a western though so the pace of this mission is much more trot than gallop, leaving a lot of time to talk about the weather. The performances drive the film but not fast enough to have kept my interest in achieving the goal.

The Coen Brothers are indisputably two of the most talented contemporary film directors around and this is abundantly evident in TRUE GRIT. They take their craft very seriously and have clearly done their homework here. That said, the aimless nature of the western genre might have been too much for them as it seems to have exacerbated their philosophical tendencies to the point of meandering ramblings. The film can be gorgeous, thrilling and engaging but it took a little grit of my own to get through the leaner parts.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Black Sheep interviews Richard Lewis

Richard's Version
An interview with Richard Lewis,
director of BARNEY'S VERSION

Toronto born filmmaker, Richard Lewis’s written version of BARNEY’S VERSION, based on the 1997 Mordechai Richler novel of the same name, is not the version that made it on to the screen. Lewis doesn’t care though. He’s just happy it finally made it there.

The idea of turning Richler’s character piece about a man named Barney Panofsky, who can almost only see things his way, has been in existence since the book came out in 1997. Famed Hollywood producer, Robert Lantos, had bought the film rights but wanted nothing to do with Lewis, an unproven talent at the time. Whenever Lewis would approach Lantos about the film, Lantos would, “scoff at me and say something like, ‘Peter Weir is going to direct it,’” Lewis tells me over the phone from his home in Los Angeles.

Lewis’s plan worked; Lantos bought the script and hired Lewis to come on as director as well. That’s where things got messy. Another writer, by the name of Michael Konyves, came along with another version of BARNEY’S VERSION, which Lantos loved. Suddenly, Lewis’s script was out and Konyve’s was in. “At first, I was really shocked and pissed,” Lewis confides. “As soon as I read it though, I was elated because Michael’s draft was better.”

It wasn’t until 2006 that Lantos would finally start to take Lewis seriously. Lewis was involved heavily with a little TV show you might know called, “C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation” at the time, directing a little here, producing a little there. In his off hours, of which there were surely few, Lewis decided to write his own script for BARNEY’S VERSION and just make Lantos believe in his connection to the material.

Konyve’s draft focused on Barney, his great love and the smaller experiments with love that led to the great one. The novel’s murder mystery plot is downgraded to subplot in the film, which allows the message of love to flourish. “It was important for us to distill the book down to its essence and that lies really with the love story between Barney and Miriam.”

Barney and Miriam are played by Paul Giamatti and Rosamund Pike. The two meet at Barney’s wedding reception to his second wife (Minnie Driver) and he knows, without any question, that she should be the mother of his child. Meeting her a few hours earlier seems like it would have been much more practical but how often does life afford anyone that kind of convenience?

It isn’t easy to love a man who makes a play for one woman less than an hour after marrying another. Yet somehow, by the time BARNEY’S VERSION comes to a close, there is a great deal of understanding and compassion for the character that was not there before, that seemingly has very little to do with the circumstances Barney finds himself in. “Paul gave me a lot to work with,” Lewis states about his Golden Globe nominated lead actor. “One of the reasons we cast him is because he has a certain likability, even in his curmudgeon-ness, even in his disdain for the world, his variable lack of ease, he is still able to bring real genuineness. That authenticity is something we’re attracted to whether the character is ‘likable’ or not.” Lewis is certain to specify that he used air quotes on the word likable so I suppose the jury is ultimately still out on Barney Panofsky.

And while support for Panofsky himself may be slim, there is no shortage for the man playing him. In fact, Lewis attributes assembling his fantastic cast – from Dustin Hoffman and Rosamund Pike to Minnie Driver and Scott Speedman – simply to Giamatti’s presence, at least in part. “The script pulls the cast. You have a good script and you have one of the finest actors of our time attached to the project and actors seem to come from all directions to play with him."

An impressive cast, romantic locations (Montreal, New York, Rome) and cherished source material make BARNEY’S VERSION a delightful and surprising experience. They also make BARNEY’S VERSION an awards contender. Lewis is new to the game but he isn’t nervous. “If it doesn’t win any Oscars – and I think Paul is quite deserving – I still think it will be regarded as a good film. I’m happy with that.”

And after people see the film, I’m sure they will be happy too.

BARNEY'S VERSION is now playing in select Canadian cities.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shopping with Sheldon

(Scroll over any film title for the original full length Black Sheep review.)

It is but a few days before Christmas and hopefully you've already tackled all your big ticket items and all you have left to purchase are some awesome movie stocking stuffers. Where do you start though? It seems like every movie released in the last little while is a must-own but you can't get them all. This is where I might be able to help you out.

My brother describes the gifts I give him as half what he wants and half my attempt to educate him on what he should want when it comes to film. I thought why not try the same approach with all of you. I have before me five blockbuster Blu-rays that I have paired up with five lesser known titles you might not have ever considered. Get both, why don't you? They'll love you for getting them the movie they wanted and they will thank you later for the the movie they may have never seen. That said, I am still waiting for that "thank you" from my brother.

THE TOWN is Ben Affleck's second directorial effort and what a resounding success it was. This Oscar hopeful is part of 2010's resurgence of the adult drama at the multiplex. It is a taut thriller that is as well written as it is acted by the impressive ensemble, including Affleck himself, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, Black Lively and Jeremy Renner, who has been receiving a few awards season nods for his turn as a loose cannon bank thief in the bank robbery capital of the USA. THE TOWN includes an extended director's cut on Blu-ray and Affleck also takes you on a tour of his hometown, Boston, where the film takes place. He is obviously pretty proud of this one too as he also recorded a commentary track for the film. Dad will love you for it. (Warner Bros.)

While you're already getting your Affleck fix with Ben, why not keep it going with some Casey Affleck as well? The younger Affleck gave us his directorial debut this year, the controversial mockumentary, I'M STILL HERE. Of course, the controversy itself stemmed from speculation that the film, which was being billed as a documentary about Joaquin Phoenix's retirement from acting and new career as a hip hop artist, was in fact a big fabrication. It was eventually announced that it was a big hoax but that doesn't make the film any less engaging. The experience is unlike any I've had this past year and I'm surprised Phoenix isn't getting more awards season love for his dead-on portrayal of his own persona. Includes commentary with Affleck and Phoenix which should be fairly juicy. (Maple Pictures)

I vowed not to watch any more of these vampire movies after that last disaster but I admit it, this TWILIGHT thing fascinates me. The third installment in the series, ECLIPSE, is definitely better than the last, NEW MOON, but that isn't saying much really. Still, instead of a whiny teenage girl pining for her undead boyfriend for two hours, there is plenty more action this time out, including a pretty solid battle climax that should satisfy even the biggest of non-believers. I still fully believe that this TWILIGHT series is going to ruin a whole generation of young women who are obsessed with them, by getting them to subscribe to a completely unrealistic idea of what love is, but it's too late to stop that from happening so why bother? The Blu-ray includes commentary from stars, Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, as well as picture-in-picture options and a 6-part documentary for all you Twihards out there. I can't believe I just used that word. (eOne)

The reason I paired this indie drama with the massive vampire movie is because I think that all the girls out there who think Bella has such a hard life need to take a look at what a hard life really is. I am thrilled to see how much awards season attention is being lavished on WINTER'S BONE, the tense Debra Granik movie about a young girl (Oscar hopeful, Jennifer Lawrence) who must scour the Ozarks to find her meth head dad so that he can show up at his court date and save the home she shares with her incontinent mother and two younger siblings from being possessed by his bail bonds officer. The entire ensemble is chilling and what Lawrence must endure shows her incredible promise as a young actress. This is a part of America that is rarely seen and thanks to all the year end love it is receiving, it may actually get the recognition it deserves. (Maple Pictures)

This doesn't happen too often for me. I sometimes see a movie, like INCEPTION, that is universally loved but yet that I feel reasonably tepid toward. I enjoyed INCEPTION in theatres but what I didn't like about it, took a great deal away from me. Usually when I give a movie like this a second chance, I feel the same way I did when I first saw it. When I watched INCEPTION again recently though, I was floored by how little the things that ruined it for me the first time out mattered to me now. At the time, I wanted it to be more emotionally engaging and less of a straight heist caper but watching it and allowing it to be exactly what it is was a trip and a half. There is no specific commentary track from Christopher Nolan but he does take you through some of the key moments in the film in what is known as Extraction Mode. (Warner Bros.)

I paired this lovely Italian film with INCEPTION because I AM LOVE is absolutely breathtaking. While the latter's beauty stems mostly from visual trickery, the beauty of I AM LOVE simply oozes from every aspect of its creation, from the sumptuous cinematography to the deep poetry of the screenplay. Tilda Swinton stars as the matriarch of a prominent Italian family that is going through a serious period of transition. Her children are going off to college or taking over the family business and it isn't long before she sees how little she knows of her former self. Director Luca Guadagnino contributes a commentary track with Swinton and delivers one of the most genuine works of art I was fortunate enough to experience all year. (Mongrel Media)

This past summer, the three people who are closest to me in my life all told me in the same weekend that they had been to see THE A-TEAM and loved it. I had not wanted to see it that much but thought it might be entertaining. So when I heard such fun things about it, I was very happy to have received a screener for it in the mail. The morning after I watched THE A-TEAM extended cut, I called each of the people who had recommended it and yelled at them. I do believe this would have worked better on the big screen as the action was somewhat chaotic at home but more importantly, I just didn't buy into these elaborate plans that always came off perfectly. Still, obviously quite a few people out there liked it so if you know someone who likes mindless action, and I do mean mindless, it could work out for you. (20th Century Fox)


Now, this indie comedy has absolutely no connection to THE A-TEAM but CYRUS is another 20th Century Fox title and they have been so good to me this year that I cannot crap all over one of their titles without pushing another. CYRUS is hilarious, in a very dark way. John C. Reilly is middle aged and still not over his divorce from Catherine Keener, which took place over 7 years ago. He lives like a slob and would have do so by himself for the rest of his life if he didn't meet Marisa Tomei at a party. The two instantly hit it off but that means trouble for her son, Cyrus (Jonah Hill), who has a complicated relationship with his mother. These are faltered, damaged people and they do not shy away from that but there is hilarity to be found in ruin too. (20th Century Fox)

TOY STORY 3 is the biggest film of 2010 and with very good reason. This closer to the TOY STORY franchise was destined to disappoint but instead it blew everyone away and will likely follow its $1 billion+ success worldwide with an Oscar nomination for Best Picture. It is at times hysterical and at other times, downright devastating. Pixar proves once again that genuine emotion transcends the realm of the physical and new levels of depth can be reached in objects as simple as toys. Disney has released a 4-disc set that contains 2 Blu-rays, a DVD and a digital copy. Special features include the brilliant Pixar short film, DAY & NIGHT, as well as many a detailed featurette about how the film came to be and an interactive trivia game. (Walt Disney)

Well, as it turns out, there is absolutely nothing thematic about buying the summer indie hit, THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT, in conjunction with TOY STORY 3. I just think that the two films are so infectious that anyone would be fortunate enough to own both of them. Perhaps if you are attending a holiday party, you can pick both up for friends who have kids of their own. The parents would then have something watch with their kids as well as something to watch after the kids have gone to bed. This family drama has been praised for its modernity and realism, its starkly original screenplay and its subtle, humanist direction from Lisa Cholodenko. And of course, who can forget that incredible cast - Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson. (Alliance)

There you have it. Get out there and get shopping! I hope Sheldon and I have been able to help make your holiday a little happier. And in case you wanted to get Sheldon and me a little something for our tree, I will gladly accept a copy of EASY A and/or SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD. wink, wink.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Black Sheep @ The Box Office

(Scroll over any film title for the full Black Sheep review.)

There was never any real doubt that TRON: LEGACY would not debut at number one this weekend. Just as there was never any real doubt that it would be anything more than a spectacular light show. Will people want to play the game again and again though? I can't say I don't habe my share of doubt there.

Disney should be happy with the $43.6 million debut TRON: LEGACY pulled in. It is slightly higher than what tracking was suggesting for opening weekend and it is also more than 10 times what the original TRON film earned in its 1982 opening weekend. It is even $10 million more than what the original brought it in its whole theatrical run. Granted, that was nearly 30 years ago. I'm thinking those numbers would be higher with inflation. Does anyone know how to calculate that?

Aside of TRON: LEGACY though, no other blockbuster was able to make a significant impression on audiences again this week. Last week's disappointments, CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER and THE TOURIST continued to do just that, each suffering declines of close to 50%. Then you have YOGI BEAR, a film I've seen the trailer for far too often at this point. Clearly, Warner Bros. was hoping for some chipmunk size numbers here but it will be a Christmas miracle if this animated flop is able to put together a decent picnic after its run finishes. Still, it could be worse. You could be Reese Witherspoon returning to the screen after a 2-year absence or Universal Pictures, the company that laid down a reported $120 million to make HOW DO YOU KNOW, starring Witherspoon. This kind of light hearted romantic fare usually cleans up at the holiday box office but then again, this kind of fare is usually actually funny as well. The James L. Brooks disaster pulled in a dismal $3K per screen average begging the question, how do you know when to give it up?

Christmas is looking dark this year on the indie front, dark green anyway. Prestige pictures continued to impress this weekend as major Golden Globe nominees, THE FIGHTER and BLACK SWAN continued to sell out crowds across the nation. After debuting on 4 screens last week, the David O. Russell directed THE FIGHTER explodes on to 1200+ screens and takes in a solid $4.8K average. Word of mouth will certainly grow past this weekend as it is a knockout of a film. Darren Aronofsky, a producer on THE FIGHTER, should be doubly pleased as his Oscar hopeful, BLACK SWAN, increased its screen count to nearly 1000 after blasting into the Top 10 last week on just a handful. The expansion proved quite fruitful with a very healthy $8.6K per screen average.

Below the Top 10, John Cameron Mitchell's beautiful RABBIT HOLE pulled in decent but not amazing numbers on 5 screens, with an average of $11K. THE TEMPEST saw an increase of 26% with the addition of 21 screens. THE SOCIAL NETWORK even saw a slight 5% bump after being named movie of the year by most every critic in America. It is still THE KING'S SPEECH that is the Oscar front runner, as it pulled in another $25K per screen on just 43 screens. The Tom Hooper film goes wide on Christmas day.

NEXT WEEK: Speaking of Christmas, it starts early this year on Wednesday, with wide releases, LITTLE FOCKERS (3450 screens) and TRUE GRIT (3000 screens). The gift giving continues on Christmas day itself, with Jack Black in GULLIVER'S TRAVELS (2400 screens), nut I might return that one if I were you. And there's something for the art crowd too, with limited runs starting for THE ILLUSIONIST, COUNTRY STRONG and SOMEWHERE.