Water For Elephants

Culture Warrior

Editor’s Note: With Landon Palmer busy (read: probably writing a thesis on Sexual Deviancy in John Wayne Films in the Greater Context of Post-WWII America As Seen Through the Work of Southern Filmmakers), the excellent, insightful Adam Charles has stepped in to write this week’s entry. Enjoy. Few things have been as equally discussed and deliberated over the past few weeks than that of who Lionsgate was going to choose to take the reigns from Gary Ross to direct the second installment in The Hunger Games franchise. The first film had one of the biggest opening weekends in history (and it didn’t even require 3D price-hikes to get there), earned a positive majority from critics, and has a dedicated fanbase that defies demographic lines of fandom; and they’re chomping at the bit to see the next adaptation in the series, Catching Fire, as quickly as possible. Neither Lucas, Spielberg, or even Peter Jackson’s franchises could replicate just how much of the domestic populous is waiting for the next picture.

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Amidst the pinky-out prestige of awards season sits the manic pixie of The People’s Choice Awards. Perhaps they can easily be dismissed by the cinephile crowd for not being nearly well-rounded or interesting enough, but looking at the nominees and the winners can provide a bird’s eye view into the abyss of mass-entertainment. With over 200 million votes cast, according to a press release, the winners included Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds as The Green Lantern, Adam Sandler‘s comedy and Bridesmaids. To put that into perspective, that’s a ridiculous amount of people. To really put it into perspective, it’s 7.6 million more people than the entire population of Brazil, and it’s 2/3rds the population of the United States. The giant, faceless wad of “the people” have made these their movie champions of 2011:

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Culture Warrior

Warning: Some of the links included in this article depict disturbing real-life violence against animals. When we talk about movies, we often talk about representation. And when we talk about representation, we’re most likely talking about people. How does this character’s personality fit in with my understanding of people in my daily life? What are the roles that men and women of different races, sexualities, and ethnic backgrounds play in a given narrative? What does an old film tell me about people during a different era? Who are the people that made a given film possible, and how did they contribute creatively? Simply put, cinema is a medium made by people, about people, and for people. But we often represent and depict other living beings through our narratives as well. We may be human, but we often identify with things that aren’t. This weekend I co-hosted a repertory screening of F. W. Murnau’s silent American classic Sunrise (1927). One of the film’s most memorable scenes features George O’Brien chasing after a precocious circus pig. The pig stumbles into a quiet kitchen and, through a series of screwball antics, causes a cook to drop a glass of wine onto the ground. It shatters, and the pig drinks the wine. What follows is a brilliant close-up of the pig, its eyes slowly drooping and its snout out-of-focus, which rather effectively conveys the animal’s state of inebriation. Through an intuitive implementation of form, the human audience is permitted to identify with the subjectivity […]

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When faced with impending doom, people fit into two camps: fight or flight. Most basic instincts tell them to run from disaster, while risk takers and crazies instead rush right into the line of fire. In film, it’s a lot more exciting to watch those lacking common sense battle Armageddon, pirates, or hired thugs. We pick our sides and sit back as other people fight against an unreal force. However, movies have led us to believe that we must outlive the baddie in less than two and a half hours, or we’ll just become collateral damage. The world coming to an end has such a sense of urgency that it is almost impossible to avoid getting swept away by films like War of the Worlds, Zombieland, and Deep Impact, regardless of quality. Uncontrollable circumstances make it both exciting and unbelievable, but what about the films trying to be more than just an action piece? Romantic relationships shoved into the subplot of any film can feel contrived more often than not, and it’s most noticeably offensive when the world is coming to an end. Using whatever ingrained war skills or developing a game plan for the impending (and completely likely) zombie apocalypse should be priority number one over hanky panky. Or making it out of the dilemma zone of a volcano should take precedent over locking lips. Sometimes sex furthers the plot, rounds out a genre, or is just straight up gratuitous, but sex has its place in action films. However, […]

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The Reject Report

They set sail. They walked the plank. They scuttled some…things you might scuttle. And in the end, whether it lived up to expectations of analysts or the openings for the previous two films, Pirates of the Caribbean: On stranger Tides ripped into theaters with an impressive debut. Unlike Dead Man’s Chest or At World’s End, this fourth entry in the Disney franchise didn’t smash any records, but it ranked fairly well on charts such as biggest May opening and biggest opening day gross. Where On Stranger Tides goes from here is curious. The film ended up costing a reported $250 million despite Disney’s claims they were “cutting back” on the visual grandeur and overall budget. Regardless, the film has already punched out $346.4 million in worldwide ticket sales, so the future seems to be in order for Captain Jack Sparrow to return for Pirates 5.

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The Reject Report

What the hell does that even mean? Of course, you’ll have plenty of time to contemplate that phrase for all it’s worth, as the Reject Report this week is going to be a little lean this week. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides hits theaters far and wide, and that’s it, folks. No one dared step up to the May 20th date for counter-programming, because, really, how do you counter-program Johnny Depp? You don’t. That’s how. Even the limited releases this week don’t have anything noteworthy to brush upon. So shiver those timbers, and when you find out what that means, let me know.

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The Reject Report

Sure, Thor came in at the #1 spot for the second weekend in a row. Sure, the big debut of the weekend, Bridesmaids, had to settle for the #2 spot with a little over $10 million less than the summer blockbuster. Sure, the rankings are out there, but it’s hard to deny Bridesmaids the big winner spot of the weekend. For one, the R-rated comedy had a lot more to overcome in terms of mass appeal than Thor. The Marvel fandom is pretty widespread, and a number of comic book fanatics who are frothing at the mouth for The Avengers were certain to head back in and see Thor a second time around. Also, a number of tickets sold for Thor cost more than those sold for Bridesmaids between the price swell for 3D tickets and IMAX. An evening ticket to an IMAX screening of Thor could cost $5-10 more than an evening ticket to Bridesmaids. It’s a factor that is always in effect when a movie is playing in IMAX theaters, but it’s not one that gets considered too often.

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The Reject Report

Hello, May weddings. Hello, May wedding movies. Those maids of the bride sure are going to rake in a boat load of cash this weekend, but a certain God of thunder might have a thing or two to say about them taking his throne. There’s also a 3-D movie coming out from the guy who directed Legion. You remember that movie, right? The worst of 2010 until Jonah Hex came out. Sorry, Jonah. We won’t be invoking your name for too much longer. It’s all part of the Reject Report this week. Now where’s that bag of rice?

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The Reject Report

It wasn’t the record-smashing, jaw-dropping opening Marvel was hoping for. They probably weren’t even expecting as such, but Thor kicked off the Summer movie season with a decent opening. Time will tell if its longevity makes it an Iron Man-like success or a Hulk-like disappointment. The reality will probably fall somewhere in between those two. Thor has a broader appeal than 2003′s Hulk, which ended up dropping 69.7% in its second weekend of release after a $62.1-million opening. Iron Man, on the other hand, opened Summer 2008 with $98.6 million and went on to pull in $318.4 million domestic. Thor‘s sustainability won’t be anywhere near that even though it’s chances of topping the charts next weekend as well seem doable.

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The Reject Report

Furious sits alone on a hill underneath a single tree that shades it. Its buddy Fast is out gallivanting around town with Vin Diesel and Paul Walker, jacking Supras and drinking Corona like it holds the key to eternal youth, and Furious is sad. That’s okay, Furious, we still like you. And it’s not like Fast Five is going to open huge. It’s not as if we’re looking at another $70+-million opening for a Fast and Furious entry. Fast couldn’t do that without you. Oh, wait, the Rock is in this one, too. Yeah. It probably will. Sorry, Furious. We’ll catch you next time. Maybe.

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The Reject Report

The birds of Rio and the sugar-infused children were too much for the family crowd headed to see Madea’s latest outing this weekend. Madea’s Big Happy Family had anything but the worst opening for a Tyler Perry film, but it is the lowest opening film of his since 2007. It’s also the lowest of the three in terms of Tyler Perry films with Madea’s name branded on the marquee. That’s not to say Madea’s Big Happy Family had a bad opening. You can’t really scoff at over $25 million, and it isn’t like Rio completely trounced the #2 film. The gap is wide enough that we won’t be analyzing Monday’s official numbers to determine a clear-cut winner, but it’s way too soon to start the Madea retirement rumors. Big Happy Family is sure to be viewed as a success for everyone involved especially Perry who is sure to have another Madea film in the works by, say…oh, what time is it?

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Whether you’re trying to avoid the releases this week or augment them with even more movies, Your Alternate Box Office offers some options for movies that would play perfectly alongside of (or instead of) the stuff studios are shoving into the megaplex this weekend. This week features a ring master with an anger problem, a cross-dressing grandma(n) with a big family, French Canadians in the Middle East and enough product placement to choke an E-CyboPooch.

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Let’s say you’re a greasy-haired young man of the 1930s, on the cusp of completing your Ivy League studies in veterinary medicine (which is apparently animal doctoring and not war fighter doctoring), when tragedy strikes. Your whole life is stolen away. Your first instinct is to hop on the first train out of town, right? Of course it is. That’s exactly what happens to young Jacob (Robert Pattinson) in Water For Elephants. He loses his parents (the only family he has) and jumps aboard a train in the dark of night only to find out he’s accidentally joined the circus. He proves his worth enough to stay by impressing the iron-fisted ring master August (Christoph Waltz), but he ends up impressing August’s wife, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon), a bit too much, and the elephant pile gets higher just in time for the company to buy an elephant meant to save all of them.

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The Reject Report

…for Elephants! But seriously, that’s a lot of possessive apostrophes going on in that title. If I wanted to do a remake of this movie – I could. I have the funds – who would I have to get the rights from? Madea? Tyler Perry? Oprah? There’s a lot of ownage going on in here. Lionsgate is hoping for a lot of ownage at the box office this weekend, too. I know you saw what I did there. That I’m pointing it out is chalked up to arrogance. The elephants, cats, and birds of the world might have something to say about it, but there’s little chance they’ll be able to do anything about it. Let’s see how everything breaks down. That is, if Tyler Perry allows it.

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We realize that you’re probably sitting at home right now, chewing your own nails off and wondering what movies are coming out this month. Maybe you’re even wondering why no one on the entire internet has said anything about them. Strange, we know. How will you know what to watch this month? Fortunately, Rob Hunter and Cole Abaius spent the entire month of March, taking naps, playing tether-ball, and researching movies at the last minute to keep you informed about what’s coming out in April. You watch movies, so this guide’s for you.

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There’s a splash of Big Fish somewhere in there as well, but the trailer for Water For Elephants, based on the incredibly popular novel of the same name, displays a tone straight out of a watered down (for elephants) Moulin Rouge and a just-as-schmaltzy version of The Notebook. There’s even the Old Man Remembering His Antique Past element. This movie could turn out to be an incredible spectacle, and the presence of two Oscar winners is nothing to scoff at, but there’s something inherently soporific about Robert Pattinson that it will have to overcome. The trailer isn’t as exciting as it should have been, and hopefully the film will triumph despite its disjointed advertising. Water For Elephants hits theaters April 15, 2011, and you can see the trailer in even higher def at Apple.

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