The Wandering Earth Review

So this is where we are…

China’s second highest-grossing film of all time, 2019’s third highest-grossing film worldwide, the second highest-grossing non-English film of all time, and one of the top 20 highest-grossing science fiction films of all time….

Is based off a idea that when Superman had it, Batman rejected it out of hand two seconds later.

Superman: Maybe I could move the Earth out of the Way

Batman: If we had a week I couldn’t list all the reasons that won’t work.

(Justice League: Doom 2012.)

Because that’s the plot of this film. Based on a novel which apparently went the Starship Troopers route as aside from the title they appear to be completely separate things sharing only the loosest of themes and possibly a few characters- I would’t know.

But, comparing this to Starship Troopers doesn’t help anybody (aside from reminding me that I am in dire need of a Verhoeven binge) as Starship Troopers was made in the corrupt, decadent, debauched, Capitalistic west. Whereas The Wandering Earth was made in the glorious peoples Republic of China and as such operates under some relatively minor restrictions which are including but not limited to the following:

1)Defamation of revolutionary leaders, heroes, People’s Liberation Army, armed police, national security apparatus, public security apparatus, and the judiciary branch, etc;
P2) ornography and cheap taste: prostitution, rape, masturbation, incest, homosexuality, hentai, sexual assault, sexual violence, extramarital affairs, one-night stand, sexual freedom, wife swapping, prolonged or provocative scenes of physical intimacy;
3) Feudalistic ideology which is pseudoscience: spirit possession, reincarnation, witchcraft, etc.

4) Showcase excessive horror, psychological pain, hysteria, causing strong stimulation to senses and emotions with uncomfortable pictures, lines, music, and sound effects, etc.

And since a lot of big films these days need Chinese box office Renminbi to turn a profit that means hey have to abide by these rules as well. And you wondered why blockbusters have gotten so bland and simplistic in recent years

But back to The Wandering Earth and we discover that the sun was dying out so we built a giant bomb and sent Cilian Murphy to go and debate God with a man made out of pepperoni for some reason.

Oh no, sorry, that was Sunshine- Danny Boyle’s attempt to do the same. I think. That film was weird.

Here, the solution is to instead build 10’000 giant thrusters on the Earth and then push it to a new solar system. A journey which will take 2’500 years, kill everything on the surface which means that giant citys have been built underground to ensure that humanity/morlocks will survive, all the while following… I think one of the space ships from 2001 A Space Odyssey.

As you could imagine with such a simple plan, things go south, a lot of VERY SERIOUS PEOPLE along with an irritating ‘comic’ relief seem to be in a competition to see who can have the noblest death scene set off to try and put things right. By journeying through a load of CGI with a McGuffin in the back of their truck.

And that’s one of the main issues with this film i that there’s no antagonist. No sign of anyone asking if this massive sacrifice is worth it or even a movement to turn the Earth around. Which I gather was a massive part of the book. Instead it’s simply nature as the main villain of the piece which is a shame as without other points of view or even someone to oppose, the films slightly dull. All the characters are generic one dimensional slabs of cardboard who’s ultimate fate you can guess at without much trouble, the CGI ranges from looking like a PS3 cut-scene to slightly above average and it’s all very dull to look at.

Which is a shame as I do like the idea of  a film or TV series about people of a long journey who will die and be forgotten long before the mission is over. The idea of people working towards a goal that they will never see and might be nothing more than a pipe dream to that humanity can go on eking out an existence underground for a few more years is a fascinating idea.

But everyone here is so determined, so committed to this plan that I wound up playing a game of who’s the next to die? Which is never a good sign.

The Wandering Earth is a film that I think would be better as a TV Series. There is a lot of potential in this idea but it needed more interesting, developed, conflicted characters, something to oppose other than the weather and to be honest some more money spent on the special effects.

Which is a shame because seeing films from a different cultures point of view is fascinating but this is just a slightly dull, generic film which wastes a very interesting if slightly far-fetched premise.

My Score- If Nothing Else 

The Grinch Review

It was with some trepidation

that I approached the latest offering from Illumination

(Those who unleashed those infernal minions upon every poor, blighted nation)

mediocrity is their stock in trade

so, through that is what I expected to wade.

“But”, said a voice inside my head

Your optimism should not need to be be dead.

After all, this film should be a sinch

pretty much everyone knows the story of The Grinch

It’s been made as a film twice before

and only one of those was a colossal bore

starring an unleashed Jim Carrey

and Who’s that veered between creepy and scary.

It was dull and grimy, padded to no end

and watching it again almost sent me around the bend.

But this is new and shiny and nice.

It’s also in 3d which for someone, somewhere is nice.

It stars Sherlock Holmes, Angela Lansbury and more.

wanting trained voice actors? What a bore!

And stepping into the role of narrator,

played by Boris karloff and Hannibal Lector, who could be greater

Than Pharrell Williams (who made that song happy)

Although as narator he’s really quite sappy.

Giving Danny Elfman the score is a decision I adore

but getting someone called Tyler, the Creator to make a Grinchy rap song?

Whoever decided that will have a career that’s not long.

And who the hell decided to put in the Christmas rap from Die Hard?

I have questions which I don’t know I want answered.

But leaving weird, random music choices aside,

there’s some stuff here of which illumination could almost feel pride.

At 86 minutes, the run-time is nearly perfect.

So that box is most defiantly checked.

It’s so bright and breezy,

that I don’t feel uneasy

about saying that a few times I chuckled

but at times my cheer buckled

because at points my own heart grew at least a half size!

The key stories still there

so please don’t despair

when the film takes a quick detour

Because what little this film adds means more

than the Carrey version did before.

And with a run-time far less than that 106 minute bore.

{Doing this review in rhyme

seemed like such a good idea at the time

still, it won’t be the first that a pub was the start point for a crime)

So i’m told anyway.

But if dragged to this film don’t pray.

There are far worse ways to spend part of the day.

It’s animation is fluid, no moment was bad,

The heart wringing moments made me feel sad.

I laughed at it’s jokes

and it never provokes

any rude or crude moments as it’s rating is U!

The perfect rating for a film by Dr Seuss it’s true.

So as I come to my end,

this film will not drive you round the bend.

On the 1966 original it’s not a patch.

but as a cash-grab it’s not that much of a snatch.

Illumination you’ve done it again!

90 minutes of beige to keep the kids quiet

so if you want to prevent a riot

There’s worse you could see

but take it from me

it has no plans to stay long in your head

And you’ll forget it’s small charms before you lay down in bed.

My Score – If Nothing Else

‘Ben Hur’ to ‘BFG’: Hollywood’s Biggest Box-Office Bombs of 2016

Three films in 2016 broke through the 1 billion dollar barrier at the box office ( Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory and Zootopia) and in a year when even a 50 million dollar film like Deadpool can return  $783 million you would think that film makers would be ordering a larger swimming pool to fill with money.

(Note, Star Wars: Rogue One has not at time of recording broken 1 billion dollars. I have no doubt that it will, it just hasn’t done it yet.)

But not every film can make untold piles of money, and with blockbusters requiring more and more CGI (and therefore larger budgets) it’s easier and easier for a film to return a good amount of money and still be regarded as a bomb. And of course it’s still as easy as ever for a film made on a shoestring to make nothing and be a bomb.

And naturally it’s still next to impossible to find out how much is spent on advertising anything so I still prefer to double whatever number Wikipedia says was spent on the film.

Oh and before you ask Monster Trucks does not feature on this list because it hasn’t flopped yet. It’s going to, at time of writing it has made 4 million dollars back against a $125 million dollar budget (which will also get you 1 Assassins Creed or 1 Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and 10 million dollars for popcorn) it just hasn’t done so yet.

 

In order to do the maths on this,  The Hollywood Reporter consulted with several box-office experts in calculating losses, factoring in production budgets and marketing spends, which can vary wildly, and ancillary revenue, including home entertainment. In some cases, losses are given as a range. THR also calculated how much of a film’s production budget was covered by worldwide box-office returns. Studios get back only about 50 percent of the box office total, known as “rentals.”

Got that?

But first, some dishonorable mentions.  Sacha Baron’s Cohen’s The Brother’s Grimsby, which grossed $25.3 million on a $35 million budget, making the film the worst in Cohen’s career; Andy Samberg’s Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, which grossed $9.4 million on a $20 million budget; sequel Zoolander 2, which grossed $55 million on a $50 million budget; and the Matthew McConaughey-starring Free State of Jones, which grossed $25 million on a $50 million budget.

And now onto the really big flops… (in no particular order).

Ben-Hur – Russian filmmaker Timur Bekmambetov’s Biblical-themed epic grossed only $26.4 million at the domestic box office following its August release. It fared somewhat better at the international box office, bringing in $67.7 million for a global total of $94.1 million. But the movie cost at least $110 million to make and required a major marketing spend, meaning it lost as much as $120 million, making it the biggest loser of 2016, according to box office analysts. MGM and other partners financed more than 80 percent of the budget, taking the biggest hit. Paramount, which distributed the film, lost about $13 million.

Portion of budget covered by box-office rentals: 43 percent.

The BFG-  Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the classic children’s book marked one of the biggest box office bombs of the acclaimed director’s career. The July 4th tentpole topped out at $55.8 million domestically and $178 million worldwide after costing a hefty $140 million to make before a major marketing spend. The BFG lost $90 million-$100 million for partners Disney, Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment and Participant Media.

Portion of budget covered by box-office rentals: 64 percent.

Gods Of Egypt- Lionsgate’s ancient fantasy epic derailed at the box office following its late February release. The pricey $140 million movie grossed $31.1 million domestically and $119 million internationally for a global total of $150.7 million. Gods of Egypt likely lost as much as $90 million, but Lionsgate’s loss is mitigated dramatically via its foreign output deals. (Also, Lionsgate doesn’t spend as much on marketing as the six major Hollywood studios.)

Portion of budget covered by box-office rentals: 53 percent.

The Huntsman: Winters War- Sans Snow White — played by Kristen Stewart in the first film — Unviersal’s sequel/spinoff The Huntsman: Winter’s War failed to cast a magic spell at the box office following its late April release. The movie, which saw Chris Hemsworth reprise his role as the Huntsman opposite Charlize Theron, Jessica Chastain and Emily Blunt, topped out at $164.6 million despite costing at least $115 million to make, plus a major marketing spend. Box-office analysts put the loss in the $75 million-plus range. The first film, Snow White and the Hunstman, grossed $396.6 million in 2012.

Portion of budget covered by box-office rentals: 71 percent.

Allied – Director Robert Zemeckis’ WWII spy adventure was one of several big misses for Paramount in 2016, and could lose $75 million to $90 million. The Thanksgiving release, costing at least $85 million to make, is all but done with its North American run with a lowly total of $39.3 milion. The news isn’t much better overseas, where Allied has grossed $41 million (it’s now opened in all of its major markets) for a global total of $80.3 million. It certainly didn’t help that Brad Pitt had to scale back a major publicity push because of his divorce from Angelina Jolie.

Portion of budget covered by box-office rentals: 47 percent.

The Finest Hours- In March, Disney chairman Bob Iger told investors the company was taking a $75 million hit for The Finest Hours. The U.S. Coast Guard historical drama, released in January, cost $80 million but only earned $52.1 mililon at the global box office, including $25.6 million domestically. It’s rare to announce a write down, since the loss of a specific movie can generally be absorbed.

Portion of budget covered by box-office rentals: 33 percent.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows limped to $82.1 million domestically and $245 million worldwide — half as much as what the first film earned in 2014 ($493.3 milion). The June release, costing $135 million to make before a major summer marketing spend, lost at least $75 million for Paramount.

Portion of budget covered by box-office rentals: 64 percent.

Ghostbusters- The remake of the classic comedy, featuring female leads, topped out at $229 million worldwide on a $144 million production budget and a major marketing spend. Sony insiders had said the movie would need to do $300 million to break even. Losses were in the $70 million range, although Sony’s hit is closer to $50 million because of various partners, including Village Roadshow.

Portion of budget covered by box-office rentals: 80 percent.

Alice Through The Looking Glass- In spring 2010, Disney and director Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland grossed a fantastical $1.025 billion. But the follow-up, Alice Through the Looking Glass, was a major bomb, topping out at $299.4 million globally after its late May release. (While stars Johnny Depp and Mia Wasikowska returned, Burton did not.). The $170 million — which lost at least $70 million for Disney — was among a slew of sequels, requels and reboots that were struck by the sequelitis virus. It came in 70 percent behind the first film.

Portion of budget covered by box-office rentals: 88 percent.

The Divergent Series: Allegiant- The Divergent Series: Allegiant was a devastating blow since its poor box-office performance resulted in Lionsgate announcing that it would produce the final film in the YA franchise, The Divergent Series: Ascendant, for television rather than the big screen. Allegiant grossed $66.2 million domestically and $179.2 million worldwide against a $110 million budget and marketing spend. (The first film, The Divergent Series: Insurgent, grossed $297.2 million globally.) Allegiant likely lost Lionsgate $50 million.

Portion of budget covered by box-office rentals: 81 percent.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk-  Ang Lee’s technological wonder, Life of Pi, grossed $600 million worldwide in 2012 but his follow-up, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, was entirely rejected by audiences. Lee used cutting edge frame-rate technology to shoot the film, but only a few theaters were equpped to play Billy Lynn in its intended format, so it played in the usual format everywhere else. Billy Lynn, costing at least $40 million to make, earned an abymsal $1.7 million in North America following its Nov. 11 release and $26.2 million globally, meaning it could lose $40 million or more for Sony/TriStar Pictures and its partners. Part of the reason the loss is so high is that — even though Sony cut its marketing spend — Billy Lynn is likely to do little business on home entertainment or TV.

Portion of budget covered by box-office rentals: 33 percent.

Rules Don’t Apply- Warren Beatty’s passion project, which he spent a decade developing, finished its short domestic theatrical run with just $3.65 million. New Regency and a host of influential Hollywood names and billionaires — including Donald Trump’s pick for Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin — backed the $25 million film, which stands to lose most of its budget, although the loss will be spread around. Fox released the movie, which is one of its lowest-grossing wide releases of all time.

Portion of budget covered by box-office rentals: Less than 1 percent.

What did you guys think? Any films you thought would appear but didn’t? And what do you think will be the biggest flop of 2017?

 

The Girl On The Train Review

The Girl On The Train wants to be Gone Girl 2: Gone harder so much it hurts.

Like its predecessor, this film is based on a novel that was a worldwide smash- in fact, The Girl On The Train is the fastest selling adult novel of all time. Annoyingly though Train has been relocated from London to the US for the film version, its cast are giving powerful performances, the tone is somber and bleak with unreliable narrators, flashbacks and a series of alternate takes on events are constantly happening and yet….

It just doesn’t work.

Not on any level is this the compelling thriller that it wants to be. Not on any level is it compelling. This is a dull, depressing film in which every moment of levity or black humor or even a single solitary smile has been stripped out with almost surgical precision. And the dialogue is off. It sounds not like natural speech but dialogue meaning that we never understand, like or even care about any of the characters.

The film fails on smaller levels as well. We learn that several characters are unemployed but no-body seems to have any money worries in any way shape or form.

And the camerawork, oh boy the camerawork in this film. I am aware that Emily Blunt is a talented actress even though the sole direction she seems to have been given was “look like your on the verge of but not quite ready to break out into tears.” I seriously hope that there were plenty of water bottles on set. But the cameraman seems less interested in capturing the performance than in seeing the mysteries of the universe via everyone’s nose. Seriously, the zoom out button is your friend.

The plots simple enough, Hayley Bennet (who is allegedly NOT  a clone of Jennifer Laurence) vanishes and an alcoholic decides to solve the case. Simple enough, and this film could have worked as a tense thriller. It was so close but it just went the line and succeeded in making my audience laugh more at this than at some comedies I’ve seen!

Oh, and for THE TWIST to make sense, we need to have seen the clues before hand so that it make sense. It should not invoke the audience response of “I guess that could work”

Zoom the camera out slightly, put in a joke or two, get Emily Blunt a tissue for the love of Zhoul lighten up a bit and you’ll  have started to put things right. As is? Skip and re-watch Gone Girl. similar idea but done so much better. Just don’t watch either on a first date

My Score- Poor 

 

Does Elsa ‘Need’ A Girlfriend?

I’ve never managed to see Frozen, the one time I tried to watch it my laptop insisted that I watch a rather good 2010 survival horror film of the same name instead.

However, it must have done something right- it it the highest grossing animated film  of all time after all.

And now, inevitably it’s getting a sequel which is due to be released in 2018 and there’s a campaign to make  the lead character Elsa come out as gay and acquire a girlfriend.

Now I’m going to sidestep the potential Elsa is a strong independent woman and therefore must be a lesbian debate.’ Much as i’m going to sidestep that Frozen to make has always looked like a bit of an X-Men rip-off to me. Instead i’m going to focus on LGBT representation in Disney products.

Because there isn’t any.

Not in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Marvel is owned by Disney)

Nor in the Star Wars universe (Ditto)

Nor (as far as I am aware) in any of the millions of films Disney has released, stretching all the way back to Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs 

And that’s ridiculous.

I understand that to make Elsa (or indeed any other character) gay would cause some controversy, but we live in a world in which Zootopia was released and if Disney can released something as ‘adult’ as that, how can making a character gay hurt?

Indeed, the people that would be upset about this ‘revelation’ have already tried to make this controversial and failed completely. And I honestly feel that it wouldn’t affect ticket sales in a negative fashion. Most people have gay friends/family and the world hasn’t ended. And it would be good for children struggling with their sexuality and feeling isolated to know that they are not alone and that there are other people out there like them.

Because now that I think about it, I really can’t think of any gay characters in films or TV aged at children.

Can you?

What Happened to Batman V Superman?

Whats that?

Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Migraines is tanking at the box office despite having the seventh biggest opening of all-time in the US, (ahead of The Dark Knight Rises), the biggest opening for a superhero film (ahead of all three Avengers films) and then…. broke Fan4stics record for the worst Friday to Sunday drop in modern box office history with a 58% decline.

It’s almost as if the critics know what the’re talking about!

No-body was surprised at the opening weekends gross. A gazillion dollar film starring two of the most bankable characters in history had no right to be anything else. And no-body should have been surprised at the drop-off.

The film suffered from toxic word of mouth and reviews, most of which cited bizarre casting decisions, a sloppy script, tonal shifts, was no fun to watch and generally left audiences bewildered and numb. (Purely from personal experience, whilst everybody that I know who wanted to see the film have seen it, no-body wants to go and see it again. Compare that to The Force Awakens where people were seeing it multiple times.)

However, the film has still made a mind tormentingly huge pile of money (785.5 million dollars as of 13/4/05) but that is no-where near as much as it was expected to make. Remember, this film cost 250 million and allegedly had another 150 million spent on marketing and advertising. Meaning that, adjusted for inflation, Man Of Steel made a higher profit.

Don’t forget, that this film featured DC’s superstars. With more obscure heroes to get their own films before the mega crossover film Justice League Warner Brothers should be sweating.

And yet the wrong lessons seem to have been learnt.

Warner Brothers has cultivated a reputation for mid-budget, adult-oriented filmmaking. And it’s a strategy that’s continued to reap rewards; their recent hits have included Magic Mike ($167 million worldwide box office on a $7 million budget), Magic Mike XXL ($122 million on $14.8 million), Argo($232 million on $44.5 million), 42 ($95 million on $40 million), Her ($47 million on $23 million), American Sniper ($547 million on $58.8 million), The Intern ($194 million on $35 million), and Creed ($137 million on $35 million). Which means that the odd flop such as the frankly baffling Inherent Vice hasn’t really hurt anybody.

However, Warner Brothers has decided to opt for the high risk, high reward strategy of tent-pole or franchise launching films. And for every one that works, theres half a dozen that flop taking that risk taking studios with them, (E.g. Jack the Giant Slayer, Pan, In the Heart of the Sea, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Jupiter Ascending, Seventh Son….) an approach that is working for Marvel since that studio took its time and remembered to produce enjoyable films that people can stand to re-watch but take WB away from the adult films that it has been producing.

In time, this film will probably make a decent sized profit, and nothing will stop the mega-budget blockbusters from coming, but with the amount of money that was lavished upon this film, to say nothing of the rumors that Suicide Squad is having millions spent on re-shoots to make it funny, we have to ask, do we want nothing bu the occasional event film and micro-indie budget films or do we want some mid-budget but good films as well?

And no, a 3 hour ‘Hard R’ rated version of Batman V Superman being released to theaters isn’t going to help anybody.

Attack in Brussels- A Response

I don’t feel like writing about films today.

I did when I got up.

When I was in the shower.

When I was brushing my teeth and having my first cup of tea.

My friend who proofreads all my articles before I hit ‘Publish’ was good to go.

And then I turned the news.

And saw what was happening in Brussels

And all of a sudden my opinion of 10 Cloverfield Lane and High Rise (which I had spent hours crafting and perfecting) seemed… irrelevant somehow.

And, as always when I see these types of events, my heart went out to the victims, and, as always, quotes from The Siege came to my mind.

Anthony ‘Hub’ Hubbard: Come on General, you’ve lost men, I’ve lost men, but you – you, you *can’t* do this! What, what if they don’t even want the sheik, have you considered that? What if what they really want is for us to herd our children into stadiums like we’re doing? And put soldiers on the street and have Americans looking over their shoulders? Bend the law, shred the Constitution just a little bit? Because if we torture him, General, we do that and everything we have fought, and bled, and died for is over. And they’ve won. They’ve already won!

Anthony ‘Hub’ Hubbard: [to General Devereaux during the Mexican standoff] You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to a fair trial. You have the right not to be tortured, not to be murdered, rights that you took away from Tariq Husseini. You have those rights because of the men who came before you who wore that uniform. Because of the men and women who are standing here right now waiting for you to give them the order to fire. Give them the order, General.

Elise Kraft: It’s easy to tell the difference between right and wrong. What’s hard is choosing the wrong that’s more right.

However, like a TV show I’ve seen one to many times, I know the next few scenes. Sing with me now.

Sympathy, Muslim blaming (even though terrorists are a fraction of a fraction of a %), tighter regulations, more fear, more attacks, the wheel keeps on spinning. Long after you, me, and probably even our children are cold in the grave things like this will still keep happening.

There must be a way to stop things like this from happening. From labeling all those different to us as ‘wrong’ or ‘evil’ until then, we just do what we would normally do, we go out, eat, drink, see films. Do all the things that the people attacking us don’t wan’t us to do.

Because if we give in to fear, then the attacks today were successful

If we give in to hate then the attacks today were successful

If we blame those different to us with only our prejudice as evidence then the attacks today were successful.

These were not the first attacks on an innocent city and they will not be the last but we can make them the exercise in barbaric impotence that they deserve to be treated as.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some reviews to write.