Summer Box Office losers…

We’re rapidly nearing the end of summer and in these times some, such as myself, look back at the summer movie season and wonder: Which films succeeded and which proved costly flops?

While I don’t have anywhere near a complete list, two significant box office flops -at least in terms of revenue made versus invested- are clear.

The first is the Duncan Jones directed Warcraft.  Over on Steve Watts writes about this film’s losses:

Warcraft: This is How Much the Film Will Lose Even With Massive Success in China

I’m going to offer a really big SPOILER here (though you should read the article) and note the film is expected to lose approximately 15 million dollars when all is said and done.  Now, Hollywood accounting being what it is, I suspect the film will eventually go into the green thanks to DVD/BluRay sales as this film hasn’t yet appeared on the store shelves.

While I haven’t seen Warcraft nor, I have to be honest, am interested in doing so, my understanding is that the film felt disjointed and cut up in its theatrical incarnation.  I understand some 40 plus minutes of the film were trimmed to get it into a more reasonable runtime and, like what perhaps happened with Batman v Superman, the end result might have impacted the film’s cohesion.

The second big box office failure, and its a far bigger one, is Ghostbusters.  According to Pamela McClintock at The Hollywood Reporter…

Ghostbusters heading for a 70 million dollars plus loss, sequel unlikely

I reviewed the film shortly after it was released (you can read the review here) and found it was an amusing time killer which absolutely did not deserve all the negative comments directed at it in the run-up to the film’s release.  Unfortunately for the movie, China refused to allow its release in that country as they apparently do not want any movies which feature the “supernatural” so one large potential source of revenue was cut from the film right off the bat.  I suspect the negative comments also hurt the film in the end as there were likely a sizable amount of people who simply did not give it a chance.

In the end, there’s little, however, to argue about.  While I most certainly enjoyed Ghostbusters, clearly the film wasn’t good enough to bring in the hoped for droves of moviegoers.  Certainly it wasn’t good enough to overcome the many pre-release negative perceptions.

When all is said and done, I wonder how both Star Trek Beyond and Jason Bourne, films that both received decent reviews, will ultimately perform.  Both films had strong openings but appear to be stalling.  For that matter, will Suicide Squad also recoup its investments?

I suppose we’ll see soon enough.

Optimistic future…

Couple of interesting articles which, in these days of depressing news regarding global warming and the main cause, the use of fossil fuels, highlight the fact that progress on moving away from these dirty fuels is happening.

First up, Ian Johnson at the Independent offers the following article:

Scotland just produced enough wind energy to power it for an entire day

The headline is self evident, but a few details: Scotland experienced heavy gale-force winds on that day and, being summer, electricity demands were low to begin with.  Nonetheless, the end result was that wind energy amounted to 106% of the energy used by Scotland that day.

Meanwhile, the always fascinating Elon Musk offered the following in an article by Seth Feigerman and found on CNNmoney:

Elon Musk wants to sell you an entire “solar roof”

Living in Florida as I do, I’ve long wondered why the use of solar power -a no-brainer given the amount of sunshine we get- wasn’t even more popular.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that until recently solar panels were prohibitively expensive and, frankly, not all that good.  This is changing.

What I like most about Mr. Musk is that he’s a futurist with an eye on many things, not least of which is developing cleaner, more efficient forms of energy.

His Tesla electric cars are, to date, the gold standard for these vehicles and I’m incredibly eager to see if his company can fulfill the promise of electric cars with a 250 mile range (he says this will happen with his next, inexpensive model).

But I’m equally intrigued by his ideas of putting, in essence, a large electrical storage battery in a person’s home and the above idea, creating solar panels that are essentially your home’s new roof.

Again, because I’m in sunny Florida, I’d jump at the chance to have a solar roof.  Given the amount of money I spent last month cooling this place down, I’d be most welcome to the idea of using the blistering sun to -ironically- cool me down.

Meanwhile, at the Olympics…

There’s been plenty of -mostly bad- press regarding Brazil in the build up to the Olympics.  The focus on the pollution, crime, etc. present in that country have been depressing.

However, the Olympics themselves appear to be, at least so far, well presented with only a minimal amount of “bad” news regarding the venue.

One of the stranger things to come was reported in this article:

Olympic kayaker capsizes after hitting a sofa

There is some question as to the validity of this story, that a kayaker on a practice run capsized after bumping into a submerged sofa, but it was a weird/amusing story so there you have it.

If the above isn’t true, the following most certainly is:

No one knows why the Rio Olympics diving pool has mysteriously turned green

Here are some images of the pools.  As you can see, the water in one of them is indeed green:

This wasn’t always the case as it seems the color changed overnight.  Here is a comparison of the pool’s color from one day to the next:

And here’s a longer shot of what the diving pool looked like before the color change:

I’ve read that this could be related to copper tubing but what do I know.

Fascinating stuff, though!


Politics again…

Yesterday, Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump had another speech and, wouldn’t you know it, again said something stupid and/or idiotic and/or dangerous and/or ill-informed and/or all the above:

CNN, among other news outlets, were quick to point out the fact that in his words above, Mr. Trump sure does appear to suggest 2nd Amendment (read: Gun folks) can “solve” the Hillary Clinton “problem” and/or her Supreme Court appointees.

How should “gun folks” solve the problem, one wonders?

Joe Scarborough, a conservative TV personality (and former congressman), wrote the following for The Washington Post regarding Mr. Trump’s latest comments:

The GOP must dump Trump

I’ll give Mr. Scarborough credit: He doesn’t mince words like far too many Republicans have done.  From the article:

The GOP nominee was clearly suggesting that some of the “Second Amendment people” among his supporters could kill his Democratic opponent were she to be elected.

While current polls show support for Trump cratering, we are still a mind-boggling 89 days from the election and, sadly, there is still time for the race to tighten or *gasp* for Trump to possibly/maybe make a race of this yet…

Then again, given the way Mr. Trump habitually self-immolates every other day, perhaps there is nothing to fear.

By the Gods I hope so.

The future creeping up on us…

I’ve written plenty of times regarding interest in self-driving car technology.  Of the car manufacturers out there, electric-car maker Tesla is clearly one of the companies most interested in bringing such technology to the masses.

Their vehicles already have self-driving technology on them, though drivers are warned to use this tech as an aid and to be aware/in control of their vehicle even when using this system.

Despite this, my understanding is the system is quite advanced and it doesn’t surprise me that Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, feels the self-driving cars will be a reality for everyone in just a few more years.

He should know.

Anyway, I bring all this up to present the following fascinating story which appeared on BBC…

Tesla car drives owner to hospital after he suffers a pulmonary embolism

As I said in the heading, the future is creeping up on us.

Thoughts on Suicide Squad (2016)

Haven’t watched Suicide Squad yet so no review (belated or not) to offer, just my observations regarding the reaction to the movie’s debut:

  1. Critics hated the film, at least according to  At this point, the film has a pretty terrible 26% approval overall from critics.
  2. On the other hand, audiences like the film to the tune of 72%, again via
  3. The movie made a ton of money, breaking all records for a premiere at this particular time of the year…
  4. On the other hand, there is some indication that the film may fall hard in its earnings after a very robust debut.
  5. People appear to be divided into two camps: Those that enjoyed the film and can’t understand why all the hate is directed toward it and do not feel it deserves such a low overall critical rating.  There are others who feel the film is a big mess and is another huge DC disappointment.

No, you are not experiencing deja vu.

Each of these five points could -and have been!- applied to Batman v Superman.  The critics hated it?  Check.  Audiences liked it considerably more than the critics?  Check.  The movie made a ton of money?  Check.  Afterwards, the film lost steam, revenue-wise?  Check.  People dividing into two camps, one hating hating hating it while another defends the film?  Check.

I don’t know what to make of this.  I certainly don’t believe the whole “critics hate DC movies and love Marvel movies” some have professed yet I can’t quite understand the extreme differences in opinion.

I’ve stated before I really liked Batman v Superman and feel over time the film will be reassessed and recognized as a very ambitious work.  Did it succeed completely?  No.  Even in the “Ultimate Edition” there were a few things I felt the movie came up short on.  For example, I feel Bruce Wayne/Batman’s apocalypse dream sequence could and probably should have been removed from the film.  Mind you, there was nothing wrong with the sequence itself, it just didn’t much matter in the context of the story being told and had it been left on the cutting room floor (or presented as a bonus sequence on the DVD/BluRay) I don’t think anyone would have minded.

I will eventually catch Suicide Squad, though I don’t know if it will be while its still in the theaters.  Will my reaction to this movie mirror Batman v Superman?

Time will tell.

Absolutely fascinating…

Stumbled upon this article, written by Robert Krulwich and presented on the other day regarding the following:

Who’s the first person in history whose name we know?

Historians and archaeologists have, of course, worked hard to find and document lost human history.

Their work, to me, is fascinating and surprising and I have to admit this article had high levels of both.

Honestly, I never considered the idea of who is the first person in history whose name we actually know, and this article offers the answer to that question as well as several other very early historical names.

I don’t want to give away the information as I truly believe the article is worth reading, but not only the names presented are interesting, but so too are their stations in life.

That much I’ll give away:  The name was found on this tablet which was, in turn, found in Iraq:

Picture of an ancient tablet depicting beer production Inanna Temple in Uruk

The tablet describes a shipment of barley and the first person in history whose name we know acknowledges receipt of this shipment and “signs” for it on the tablet.  Get this: The first person in history whose name we know was essentially…an accountant.

The article goes on to describe the second, third, and fourth oldest names ever found, also on a tablet found in Iraq.  The people named on this second tablet are a slave owner and the names of his/her two slaves.

But enough of me offering a Cliff’s Notes version of the article.  Click on the link and read what the oldest known, as well as the second, third, and fourth oldest names, known to us!

Clint Eastwood…

If you had met me in the 1970’s, 80’s, or 90’s and asked my opinion of Clint Eastwood, I would have said something similar to what I’d say now:

He’s one of those very few actors with a screen presence so magnetic/electric that no matter how bad the film he’s in is, his mere presence makes it better.

Looking over my digital films, I suspect I have more Clint Eastwood films in my collection than films featuring any other actor.  I have almost all of them, from his “Man With No Name” trilogy to Where Eagles Dare (a criminally underrated WWII action fantasy) to Kelly’s Heroes (a criminally underrated WWII…comedy?!) to his Dirty Harry films to The Eiger Sanction (Mr. Eastwood doing an “American” James Bond) to High Plains Drifter to The Outlaw Josey Wales to…

Well, I could go on and on but hopefully you understand: I’m a HUGE fan of Clint Eastwood, actor.  And while I may not like all his directed works quite as much, he’s proven to be at the very least a good -and at times great- director as well.

But what my younger self probably never would have conceived of is the fact that as he’s aged, Mr. Eastwood, the individual, has become the living embodiment of the cranky “get off my grass” old man.  Or, as the Simpson’s so ingeniously put it:

“It will happen to you”.

It seems to most certainly have happened to Mr. Eastwood and it seems to have started a few years back, when he famously tried to bash President Obama at the Republican Convention nominating Mitt Romney for President by speaking to an empty chair…

The speech, which Mr. Eastwood later stated was intended to be absurd humor, instead landed with a wet thud and, reportedly, Ann Romney, Mitt Romney’s wife, was furious as the speech was happening as she knew it would be -along with Mr. Romney’s campaign- ridiculed.

I suppose those were the good old days when it comes to Mr. Eastwood as he’s given an interview to Esquire magazine and some of the things he says are…jeeze…how to put it?  Weird.  Strident.

Ed Mazza for Huffington Post (yes, a for the most part liberal publication so take that as you will) highlights some of Mr. Eastwood’s comments:

Clint Eastwood rips “pussy generation”, says he’ll vote for Donald Trump

Among some of the highlights of what Mr. Eastwood said:

“You know, (Donald Trump)’s a racist now because he’s talked about this judge. And yeah, it’s a dumb thing to say. I mean, to predicate your opinion on the fact that the guy was born to Mexican parents or something. He’s said a lot of dumb things. So have all of them. Both sides. But everybody—the press and everybody’s going, ‘Oh, well, that’s racist,’ and they’re making a big hoodoo out of it. Just fucking get over it. It’s a sad time in history.”

First, Donald Trump hasn’t just stated one insulting thing against one judge.  He has offered multiple racist statements.  While “both sides” say dumb things, Donald Trump specifically, has made multiple inflammatory comments regarding Mexicans and Muslims.  So far the worst I’ve heard from Hillary Clinton against Mr. Trump was that he was “ill tempered” to be President (something I agree with, btw).  Meanwhile, Mr. Trump and his crowds that have called her a “bitch”, someone who should go to jail, or, in at least one case, labeled her the “devil.”

This quote, also presented in the above article, is even more illuminating:

“(S)ecretly everybody’s getting tired of political correctness, kissing up. That’s the kiss-ass generation we’re in right now. We’re really in a pussy generation. Everybody’s walking on eggshells. We see people accusing people of being racist and all kinds of stuff. When I grew up, those things weren’t called racist. And then when I did Gran Torino, even my associate said, ‘This is a really good script, but it’s politically incorrect.’ And I said, ‘Good. Let me read it tonight.’ The next morning, I came in and I threw it on his desk and I said, ‘We’re starting this immediately.’”

Curious how he mentions Gran Torino in the article.  While I enjoyed the film and thought it was intended to be a “final” Dirty Harry film in all but name, what I found most intriguing and disappointing about it was the fact that it didn’t have the “guts” Mr. Eastwood seems to imply it has to “go there” with political incorrectness.

What I’m referring to is the fact the character of Walt Kowalski is presented as an old generation person who, like Mr. Eastwood in real time today, bemoans political correctness and is perfectly fine spewing racial epithets yet curiously never once says the biggest racial epithet of them all.

You know, the one referring to black people that starts with the letter “n”.

I wondered why this “politically incorrect” film would, in Mr. Eastwood’s vernacular, “pussy” out of doing that.  I mean, the character was meant to be a gruff, politically incorrect “old school” man who didn’t give a shit about all that stuff, yet at no point in the film does Clint Eastwood have his character say the “n” word.

Why?  Its only too obvious.

Racism, like many things in the world, is tolerated by some as a matter of degree.  For Mr. Eastwood, people like Donald Trump can get away with calling a woman a “bitch” or a “devil”.  He can get away with labeling Mexicans “murderers” and “rapists”.

But even someone like Mr. Eastwood who decries “political correctness” knows there’s this bright line drawn when calling black people the “n” word.  Suddenly, the stark, revolting reality of racism is apparent for all to see.

I suspect had Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino said such a word even once during the course of that film audiences might well have turned on his character.

Instead of finding Mr. Kowalski a crumudgeon with a “heart of gold”, we’d might well have cast him as a vile racist.

Nobody knows…

One of my all time favorite quotes comes from noted screen writer William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) which goes:

“Nobody knows anything…Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for certainty what’s going to work.  Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.”

While the quote was intended to offer insight into the movie making process, it relates to almost every artistic endeavor out there.

One could make a very long list of writers, for example, who lived their lives in poverty and/or obscurity, releasing works that would, unfortunately for them, be considered classics long after they were dead (offhand, people like Edgar Allan Poe, H. P. Lovecraft, and Robert E. Howard are but three examples).

It amuses me to read the latest negative reactions to Suicide Squad and see people write something along the lines of “Why can’t DC make a good movie?”

As if they’re trying desperately to make a bad one?  If anything, Suicide Squad may prove a great example of a studio trying desperately -and with too little time to do so- make a film based on the negative reactions to a previous one, Batman v Superman.

Moving away from that, there are plenty of examples of artistic creations the artist making them didn’t think all that much about but which blew up on them and became signature works.

For example, its been stated the members of Nirvana were not happy with the released version of their seminal album Nevermind, that they felt the production made the album sound too vanilla.

I point these things out because I’m absolutely fascinated by these stories and, while listening to the radio the other day, I found another delightful example of just such a thing.

On the radio station I was listening to they played a snippet of an interview with Rod Stewart.  Now, I’m not a huge Rod Stewart fan.  I know plenty of his songs and consider some of them quite good but his work never really thrilled me enough to pursue.

Anyway, in that snippet of the interview Mr. Stewart talks about what is perhaps his biggest, most well known hit, Maggie May, which first appeared on his 1971 album Every Picture Tells a Story.  Here’s the song for those who don’t know it:

Anyway, I can only paraphrase what Mr. Stewart said, but it went something like this:

Mr. Stewart noted that when he was making Every Picture Tells a Story, he recorded the song Maggie May last and was ambivalent as to whether to include it in the album.  He presented it to friends to get their opinion as to whether to include it or not and these friends said he shouldn’t include the song, that it “meandered” and didn’t have a “hook”.

(Interestingly, I believe his friends were correct, the song does indeed not have a “hook” and it does meander.  Yet even I, an admitted not-very-big fan of Mr. Stewart, nonetheless believe it is a terrific song anyway.)

Mr. Stewart then states that because the album was so very close to being released and he had no other songs ready to put into the album to replace Maggie May, he wound up including it in the album.

In that snippet of the interview Mr. Stewart then laughed and said something along the lines of “Good thing too as I wouldn’t be here today if I had cut the song out!”

As I said, nobody knows nothing.


So the early reviews of Suicide Squad are out aaaaaannnnnnddddd

Critics aren’t loving what they’re seeing.  Forrest Wickman and David Canfield over at offer a mix of critical reactions to the film:

Here’s What Critics Have to Say About Suicide Squad

Over on, the film is scoring a not very good 33% positive among critics (24 of 48 critics so far have enjoyed the film).

Reading through some of the negative reviews, the main thing I’m getting from the critics is that the film presents far too much in too messy a fashion.

I suppose that makes sense.  The film is a team movie and it presents many of these characters for the very first time, though it appears they do so at the expense of a tighter storyline.

While negative, these same critics offer praise for Margot Robbie (who plays Harley Quinn) and Will Smith (who portrays Deadshot).  There also seems to be a general consensus that Jaret Leto’s Joker was both a cameo performance and ultimately extraneous to the story.

I haven’t seen the film so I obviously have no opinion one way or another.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

I find myself in the curious position not unlike many who were predisposed to not like Batman v Superman.  In the case of BvS, I saw only one film directed by Zach Snyder before that one, Dawn of the Dead, and therefore came into the film with far fewer negatives than others who had seen -and not enjoyed- more of his films.

With Suicide Squad’s director David Ayer, I have seen more of his works and, frankly, his career has been kind of hit and miss for me.  He’s written some good works (especially Training Day) but his two films previous to this one, 2014’s Fury and Sabotage, were to my mind a) only ok and b) a real missed opportunity.

Of these two films, the one I most looked forward to was Sabotage and, based on the trailers, found the And Then There Were None concept applied to testosterone fueled uber-agressive drug hunting cops an intriguing idea…but after a decent start the film simply didn’t have much of a payoff, IMHO.

Fury, as I said above, was in my mind a decent film but when all was said and done it didn’t really add all that much to the voluminous WWII film genre, despite some great effects and for the most part very good acting.

I will see Suicide Squad, though I’m not sure if I get a chance to do so in the theaters.  At this point I want to catch Star Trek Beyond and Jason Bourne and its been hard to find the free time to see one of those films, much less all three.

We’ll see.