Wednesday, April 16, 2014

There is More to the Summer Than Giant Robots and Web-Slingers

The summer blockbuster movie seasons has been hyped for months now. Even if you don't eagerly anticipate your next trip to the cinema, you probably are well-aware we have superheroes, a giant lizards, battling robots, and adventures in space all lined up for the next several months. The heavy diet of special effect spectacles can be sensory over-load and enough to make one hide away until Oscar season. Even though I'm all for an exciting blockbuster, there are times you want something different. Luckily, there are several character-driven stories that will be quietly making their way into cinemas this summer too. Over at the Collective Publishing, I look at a few of them that I think you should check out.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Captain America Battles Blue Macaws, NFL Draft and Possessed Mirrors in an Attempt to Retain Top Spot at Box Office

Scott looks at the chances that three new releases have against Marvel's latest red hot juggernaut.

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After being absent from my weekend analysis on Tuesday due to some nasty bit of sickness, I am attempting to return to stake my predictions for this week’s box office top five. However, writing from a den of illness and pestilence today means that there may be a little less intellect behind my thoughts as the majority of my waning brain power has been spent on making sure I keep drinking my orange juice and other such simplicities. I do apologize ahead of time for the lack of critical thinking this week.

First Place – Captain America: The Winter Soldier – $41 Million

After having a strong opening weekend that saw the largest percentage increase for an Avengers franchise post The Avengers (it scored an opening weekend 46% higher than the first movie), and there is a good chance that it could take the number one spot again. Other Disney Marvel movies generally hit a decline of around 60% in their second week (Iron Man 3 had a drop of 58% and Thor: The Dark World dropped 57%), and it is safe to say that something similar should be happening again here. It is hard for a film that makes so much money in its opening weekend to maintain such a pace, even when both audiences and critics are enjoying it as much as they are The Winter Soldier.

Second Place – Rio 2 - $40 Million

In 2011, Rio (starring Anne Hathaway and Jesse Eisenberg) opened to $39 million and signalled the start of a franchise. Three years later, Rio 2 comes out in a year where only two family movies have opened north of $30 million (The LEGO Movie $69 million and Mr. Peabody & Sherman $32 million), which could indicate that there is plenty of room for a the right type of movie to do well as parents may not have already broken the bank on movie tickets for 2014.

Third Place – Draft Day - $11 Million

Audiences love a great sports movie, and Draft Day looks to try a bit of a non-traditional approach to the genre by focusing on decisions made around the day of the NFL draft, and stars Kevin Costner. Costner’s ability to draw solid opening weekend numbers is not incredibly reliable. Most recently, 3 Days to Kill opened at $12 million, which perhaps showed a little glimmer of hope for the actor’s chances, especially in a role that may be more suited to his fan base and not one as an action star. The reviews have not been overly kind to this movie, which currently it has 47% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Fourth Place – Oculus - $10 Million

Out of the three new wide release movies this weekend, it is the horror flick that currently has the best critical reception. Oculus is boasting a decent 77% rating right now on Rotten Tomatoes, with a possibility of that dropping over the weekend as more critics see it. However, a solidly reviewed horror never means that it will fare well in theatres, as fans tend to be drawn more to the style of a horror than to its substance.

Fifth Place – Noah - $7.5 Million

While some films are able to hang around and secure solid numbers for a while, I am not seeing that as the case for poor Noah. After falling 61% in its second weekend (probably thanks to the attention that Captain America received) it will most likely see a fall this weekend of around 55%. That would mean that this film that opened to an impressive $43 million will only have two weekends in double digit millions.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

It Is Never Too Early to Get Excited About the New Fall TV Season

The Network Upfront is a major one week event where the TV networks reveal their new TV fall season (and often also their potential mid-season and summer season) in hope to attract big sponsorship dollars and generate excitement amongst the TV audience. There are always large batches of new TV series that get thrown into the mix. But for the last few months, there has been news pouring in about pilot orders and possible new series that will get picked up. Over at the Collective Publishing, I select a few of these potential series that I think are worth getting very excited about.

Friday, April 04, 2014

'Captain America: The Winter Soldier' Looking at a Super Heroic Win at the Box Office

One of the biggest potential blockbusters of the year comes out in one of the traditionally quieter movie months. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is looking to kick-off the big box office season early and become another massive hit for Marvel. Scott looks at its chances along with the pictures he predicts will land in the top 5 spot for this weekend.

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This year the blockbuster season has an early start as Disney pulls out the big guns the first weekend of April as opposed to the customary beginning of May kick-off weekend. Captain America: The Winter Soldier stands as the only new wide release, which is a smart move by competing studios who know that going against a Marvel super hero who was in The Avengers could be a dangerous game. This week I will be looking at how it will do, as well as making predictions on what the films will be in the box office’s top five will be.

First Place – Captain America: The Winter Soldier - $90 Million

A sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger, The Winter Soldier comes after 2012’s The Avengers, a super hero ensemble film that was able to prove solid in boosting the selling power of the Marvel brand. Iron Man 3 saw an opening weekend increase of 36% over Iron Man 2, showing just how great the increased popularity had become. As well, Thor: The Dark World had an $85 million opening weekend, a jump of 30% from the $65 million that Thor brought in. It has become quite clear that The Avengers has added a lot of interest into the movies of its individual components, the main question will be just how much Captain America: The Winter Soldier is able to grow by.

Similarly to the first Thor movie, The First Avenger had a solid opening frame of $65 million and online tracking of social media shows that it is ahead of where The Dark World was at the same point in its release cycle. It also has a much better critical reception when compared to the sophomore showing of Thor (which had 65% on Rotten Tomatoes compared to Captain America’s current rating of 88%). The trailers for the film have looked great, and the inclusion of Scarlett Johansson in her role as Black Widow should assist the film as well.

Second Place – Noah - $18.5 Million

After having a very successful opening weekend of $43 million, the Darren Aronofsky directed interpretation of the Biblical flood account really stands no chance of competing with a Marvel super hero from The Avengers. If it was just an ordinary weekend I could see the film holding up well with perhaps a drop of only 50% or so, but because of its competition it will most likely be dropping close to 60% from its opening weekend numbers. It has already cracked $100 million worldwide, and it should be able to secure second place quite easily this weekend.

Third Place – Divergent - $12.5 Million

After so many young adult movies had failed to capture audiences and become the next Twilight or The Hunger Games, Divergent was able to establish itself as a viable franchise moving forward. After opening to $54 million, it dropped by 53% for its second weekend, and I could easily see a drop of 50% in its future for this weekend. It may not have made the same amount of money that other successful young adult films have pocketed, but it has done well enough that it should be able to grab third spot without much competition.

Fourth Place – God’s Not Dead -$7.9 Million

While the top three movies this weekend feel like clear cut predictions as far as how they will order, the lower half of the top five sees three movies (God’s Not Dead, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Muppets Most Wanted) that could all land within one million dollars of one another. The faith based film God’s Not Dead debuted at number four and then dropped to fifth place last weekend. It is expanding its theatre count this weekend to 1,765 theatres from last week’s 1,178. I am predicting that it will be able to make a per theatre average of around $4,500 (down from last week’s average of $7,468) and could end up nabbing fourth place in the process.

Fifth Place – The Grand Budapest Hotel - $7.5 Million

Also expanding this weekend is Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, which has seen great support from both audiences and critics so far. It has been working its way slowly towards wide release, and this weekend will be screening at 1,263 locations. It started its run at four theatres on March 7, and made an enormous $202,000 per theatre average. Since then, it has kept the critics happy (currently it has a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and the fans keep flocking out to see it. I do not think a per theatre average this weekend of $6,000 is out of the question (down from $8,741) which could keep it fending off Muppets Most Wanted who will be possibly landing right around the same mark.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

"The Walking Dead" Have Made Zombies Cool

Zombies have always been more of a "cult hit" thing. The lumbering, foul-smelling, brain-eaters just haven't had the charm to win over the mainstream. Or at least that has been the case for the last several decades, and before a TV ratings smash hit known as The Walking Dead came barging in. Zombies have had their moment such as with George Romero's critically successful The Night of the Living Dead franchise, which has a very strong following. It never was guaranteed gold at the box office and seemed more like something college guys occupied themselves with while emptying a keg. But now zombies are a prowling about in the mainstream, and it has changed the perception of what is considered broad entertainment. In my latest Collective Publishing article, I look at the major impact The Walking Dead and other once niche sci-fi/fantasy entertainment have had on modern pop culture.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Since Snow is Finally Taking a Vacation, Here is a Pictorial Reminder of Winter's Wonders

In honour of Noah coming out this weekend, the rain is coming down at a furious pace at the moment. The once white snow that dominated the landscape for several months is now becoming a grey slush. The outside isn't beckoning for us to wear shorts and tank tops yet, but it appears to be trying to encourage one to think about pulling out a lighter jacket. It looks like spring is finally going on the offensive and winter may be at its last stand.

Even though it got tiring pushing the snow off the driveway, and my habit to misplace gloves and hats means I played around with frostbite on my long walks with Summit, and most of all a pain in having to endure people whine about the thing that comes every single year, winter wasn't all bad. It is actually quite a fun time of year when the weather doesn't freeze off your limbs, especially when you have a young child and a bouncing dog that take plenty of pleasure in the great white.

Winter sometimes is a wonderland. So, since it finally seems to be gone, I am ready to talk nice about it. Here are some photos from a few months back where the Spicer clan got to embrace the joys of winter in our new backyard. Winter is extra fun when you have a tobogganing hill on your property.




























If you so desire, you can gander at these picture all weekend. I'm planning to be off the blog yet again. I've got the typical pay copy and family obligations to eat up all my hours. I'm aiming for a much busier week on the blog next week in order to kick off that wonderful month we all love to call April. I'll likely be back on Tuesday Wednesday.

'Noah' Hopes for Movie-Goers to Flood the Cinemas This Weekend

It's a weekend where studios are banking on icons from the past to draw out movie-goers. Paramount goes way back to present a Biblical epic that they hope can capture the imaginations of audience like they did back in the 1950s. A smaller studio in Open Road Films only trots back to the 1980s to find their iconic star and hope Arnold along with rising action director David Ayer can bring out the paying customers. Scott looks at the chances of both pictures.

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After months of controversy stirred up from unhappy religious groups, as well as a show of support from other clusters of the religious world, Darren Aronofsky’s Noah comes out in theatres and attempts to claim king of the weekend over Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Sabotage. While Divergent had a very strong opening last weekend, there is little chance that it will able to remain the number one film, although crazy happenings are never off the table.

There has been a lot of talk about Noah over the last number of months, but not so much around the typical hype that a film gets prior to its release. A lot of words have been said from some segments of the Christian faith regarding the lack of biblical accuracy in the film, and they have railed against it fairly hard. Paramount, the backing studio of the film, has responded by adding context to the beginning of their trailers and pointing out that this is an interpreted version of the Old Testament account. They have screened it to a number of church leaders, and there has been some very positive feedback.

If you look at the small amount of source material provided in the bible, it is pretty clear that there needs to be some more put into the story to make it a feature film. Aronofsky, a director with a distinct style with a personal flare, set out to tell a tale that was inspired by the scripture. It was never meant to be an accurate account, and, if anything, all of this commotion that has come out of protesting groups has amounted to an enormous amount of free publicity for the film. Back in the summer, the legal case over the name rights of The Weinstein Company’s Lee Daniel’s The Butler (originally titled, The Butler) was estimated to have increased its gross by over $10 million.

Whether or not it is a good film, it is one that has been discussed on websites and news broadcasts, and that amount of discussion is bound to raise both awareness and curiosity for the movie. While Aronofsky has had major financial success in Black Swan, his name involvement is not likely to be the driving promotional force in this film. As well, even though it stars Russell Crowe there is little stability behind that name anymore. The film will be relying on people’s intrigue in seeing an adaptation of the well-known story, as well as banking on all of the free press that it has gotten from opponents of the film (Note: if you are against a movie, sometimes the best thing to do is not bring a large amount of attention to said movie).

Noah Opening Weekend Prediction - $38 Million

From a man battling the rain we go to Arnold Schwarzenegger battling… well, does it really even matter who he battles in films? Fans just want to see explosions, big guns, and hear charismatic one-liners. Sadly for Arnold, the pool of people desiring those three things from him has declined a lot over the years, and big opening weekends do not seem to be a sure thing for the Austrian. Outside of the ensemble based The Expendables, Schwarzenegger’s The Last Stand opened to only $6 million, and the Escape Plan (where he starred alongside Sylvester Stallone) made just south of $10 million.

Arnold has proven in the past that he is able to turn his career around after it seemed dead in the water when Last Action Hero hit theatres, and then Junior did not do much to help his case either. His future holds a return to multiple franchise roles in The Expendables 3, Terminator: Genesis, Triplets, and The Legend of Conan. While brand recognition may help a bit with some of those titles (I don’t really know how much the world wants a sequel to Twins), he does not have that sort of support to lean against with Sabotage.

Sabotage Opening Weekend Prediction - $8 Million


(Christopher: It is also interesting to note that the once mega-blockbuster king seemingly can't even get his picture into a major wide release as it isn't screening anywhere near where I live with nearby cinemas opting for The Grand Budapest Hotel or Bad Words instead.)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Everett's Adventures with Public Washrooms and Red Shoes

My stories about my adventures with Everett are some of the most popular articles on the blog. I thought it was time to share some more wonderful Everett experiences.

As I've mentioned on here in the past and in my old "Dad's Eye View" columns, we started plopping Everett on the toilet really early. Without bothering to do something frivolous like fact checking, I believe it was around six months that we started having Everett sit on a toilet. Though for the first month we didn't have a "potty seat", so it was more like holding the small infant over the chasm known as the "toilet hole" (does it actually have a name?). Though hovering over a giant hole that occasionally made large flushing noises and seemingly was threatening to consume him was probably not on Everett's list of favourite things in the world, he did handle that initial ordeal well. I can't remember if he actually ever did anything as he precariously dangling over the abyss.

We eventually got Everett a "potty seat." It allowed him a new spot to look at his upside down book while we made peeing noises and rooted him on to take a poop. For those first few months, it was more just about getting him comfortable with the toilet rather than actual training.

Before Everett's first birthday he had got pretty comfortable with the toilet and even sometimes was beginning to do things other than shake his little body while I sang "Baa Baa Black Sheep." It was decided to keep up the momentum that we'd get a second "potty seat" so we could keep up the pure joy of cheering on a half-naked boy as he busted a move on top of the porcelain throne at places outside our home.

The problem turned out to be grandma. Not that grandma would bust into public washrooms and snatch our son in a mid-poop. That isn't really my mom's style, and we rarely notified her when we were out to cover our tracks, just in case. The issues was that Everett would go over to grandma's house on occasion (since that time it has been upped to at least once a week so I have a day to focus on writing), but she didn't have a "potty seat" nor a shrink ray gun to make the toilet less scary for our small son. It meant if we wanted to keep up the habit of Everett going on the toilet then we'd need to remember to bring the portable "potty seat" each time. Between trying to remember to pack his diaper bag and have some "back-up" clothes, we usually ended up leaving the "potty seat" right at the door while we rushed off to the car (usually late to wherever we wanted but armed with Everett as our excuse).

Eventually, we remembered to bring the portable "potty seat" and in order to avoid that annoying habit of forgetting it, we ordained it a permanent resident of grandma's house. That covered the Everett and Grandma parties, but it once again left us without anything for Everett to sit on when we went to restaurants or day trips. Initially, we voted to avoid buying a third "potty seat" and instead opt to either try to remember to pick up the one from Grandma's (yeah right) or convince Everett it was really fun to float over a giant hole that could suck you into the great unknown.

The faulty belief was that hovering over the toilet hole was how we did it at the start and Everett never seemed to be too scared then. It seems our son grew comfortable with the life of being perched up on a toilet with a secure "potty seat." He wasn't about to return to the adventurous lifestyle of feeling like he could fall in, and he had got quite adept at arm waving and foot kicking through all his improvised dance sessions, so it made it hard to keep him in the dangle position.

For a bit, we just gave up on trying to get him to use the toilet at public places. Luckily, it wasn't like we made many forays out as a family (or should that have been sadly -- my introvert is showing again), so the toilet training wasn't completely destroyed. As Everett started to approach the mature age of 2, we began to discuss really elevating the "get Everett to not poop in his pants" game. At home we would try to get him on the toilet every hour. We would start offering rewards if he peed or pooed on the "potty." While he wasn't fully trained and he wouldn't tell us when he had to pee, we did get to a spot where he'd let us know if a "poo poo" was on the way.

At this point, it was decided to finally go for portable potty number 3. Though since Everett was still in diapers, there still wasn't the same urgency when we were out. Though the new portable "potty seat" was grand and used often, there would be time that we just left fate do its thing rather than make constant visits to the washroom.

Then it all changed on Christmas when Santa stuffed Everett's stocking full of "big boy underwear." Of course, underwear isn't worth anything if it isn't plastered with monkeys and cars. Such things are exactly what a little boy wants on his bottom. We transitioned from diapers all day to only diapers during naps and nighttime sleeping.

This now meant we were staging our own mini-Olympics at home. Everett would utter a word that sounded close to "pee" or "poop", and we'd sweep him up and charge for the washroom. It sometimes was a false alarm. Sometimes it was a massive success that led to Everett getting a reward. Sometimes evidence of what he was doing would be all over my shirt and his pants. The accidents decreased as the weeks went on. At one point I could even brag that I had a spotless record when Everett was strictly on my watch. Though the moment I started trumpeting that fact, it of course led to a disastrously wet week.

Eventually the home situation was under control. I still wouldn't declare Everett to be potty trained. He often will run and hide behind a chair the moment I ask if he has to "go potty." For the most part, Everett's business is conducted on the toilet. I'm confident he'll tell us he has to go without prompting before he's a teenager.

The real workout has been our time at restaurants or other public places. We've got a pretty good record. When we first started going out with an underwear clad Everett, there were several rushes towards the facilities. Many places aren't the best for changing a diaper, and they're even worse for trying to clean and change an energetic boy from his urine drenched pants. I always felt having an underwear adorned Everett go out to restaurants to be a bit of a high-stakes game of chance. It was that small fear that likely avoided any major accidents by constantly taking him but also meant I had a lot of cold meals (of course, we normally just ate sushi and sashimi, so that may have been part of the reason too).

While it was a bit of a challenge to convince Everett to "go potty" at home, it turned out to be much easier to do at restaurants. The big advantage was that being out was an adventure. It allowed Everett to leave his table and say "hi" to every patron on the way to the washroom. He also normally helpfully notified them of what he planned to do. It was a visit to the local Indian cuisine restaurant that really convinced Everett that washroom trips at restaurants are a wonderful thing.

I had done my normal panicked rush to the washroom, as Everett had warned that something was brewing. As was usual, I had my arms in a pretzel and Everett's pants flung on my head in an attempted to manage all the stuff in his bag, put on his "potty seat" and get him on the toilet on time. It was a success, but I was still feeling like I'd just been in a war. It was then, for what I think was one of the first times, another person entered the washroom while I tried to coax Everett into making the mad dash worthwhile.

Everett instantly perked up when he heard the door open. You could see his face deep in concentration as he tried to listen for what the door opening would lead to next. It was then that we heard footsteps. Quickly after that, red shoes became visible beside our stall.

This is when Everett made his first insightful observation in the washroom.

"Red shoes walking."

Then he looked down to realize that the walking was now done. The shoes were now sedentary. It was now time for the next big insight.

"Red shoes standing."

Then for the next few seconds, Everett regaled me with a tale about how the red shoes both walked and now stood. The owner of the red shoes seemed to appreciate this conversation, so he slid a red shoe into the stall.

"Red shows walking."

Then the owner of the red shoes did what he had planned all along.

"Red shoes peeing! Red shoes peeing!"

This led to laughter from both I and the mysterious red shoes. This of course encouraged Everett to become even more emphatic about what was being done by the red shoes. This led to much more laughter. And I'm sure my son just made the evening of Mr. Red Shoes.

After the red shoes left, Everett let me know they did indeed walk, stand and pee. It was quite a marvelous event that red shoes would pee. Everett thought this may have been the greatest moment of his short life. I'm not entirely convinced that Everett believed there was someone attached to those red shoes. For the next few days, he would let anyone who would listen know that red shoes were peeing and he witnessed this iconic moment.

The red shoes event meant now that peeing and pooing at restaurants were far more exciting than at home. It was now a mandatory ritual that Everett got at least one visit to the washroom. I am pretty sure he was seeking out those red shoes. Though he never did get to encounter his dear friends ever again. He was now much more alert, just in case someone even more exciting would cross his path.

I don't think any person could possible match the pure thrill and excitement of red shoes. It was an impossible expectation. One day Everett did get yet another visitor in a public washroom. Except this time we weren't able to know the colour of the shoes. This washroom was designed differently, and you couldn't see the feet of the patron at the urinal unless you decided to hop off the toilet and poke your head underneath the door. Now, this is something I think Everett was willing to do, but I wasn't in the mood to wash my shirt in the public sink.

It was the usual public "potty" routine, until we heard the door open. This time Everett not only sat at attention but was stretching out his neck in hope he'd turn into a giraffe and see who had entered. It was crucial that the new person be seen in hopes they were as captivating as a pair of red shoes. Luckily, we were about done the business, and we were able to finish up before the man was done.

I lifted Everett off the toilet and held him, and he instantly peered over the stall walls to finally discover who had entered. It was an older gentleman. He was a man with a full head of white hair. He was completely unaware that someone was watching him like a famished hawk. During this stare-a-thon, Everett made an important observation.

"New gampa!"

"New gampa peeing!"

Clearly, the man had to be a grandpa. Everett was well aware it wasn't the same grandpa who tickled and played with him. It had to be a new grandpa.

"Hi new gampa!"

The man realized his sole hope for a private pee had been vanquished. He acknowledged Everett and gave the chuckle that I'm sure my son expected. After he wandered out the door, Everett reminded me what the man had being doing. I'm glad I have my son to make me aware of the purpose of washrooms.

This is what going to the washroom is like when you're a parent. It is fun and educational. You even have the chance to talk to people that you'd never in any other situation have a conversation. Plus those last minute warnings are a great work out and a good test to see how my heart is doing.