Thursday, December 30, 2010

Movie Openings: Week of December 31st/January 1st, 2010 - Happy New Year!

2010 is almost over and the annual year-end box office results are in. After a record-setting 2009 that produced an astounding domestic box-office take of $10.6 billion (courtesy of AvatarTransformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince), 2010 fell just short of that number, coming in at a still-impressive $10.556 billion. 2010 marked only the second time in box-office history that revenues zoomed past the $10 billion mark, making it the second-highest grossing year ever. And the top 5 movies that contributed largely to that number are Toy Story 3 ($415 mil), Alice in Wonderland (334.2 mil), Iron Man 2 ($312.1 mil), The Twilight Saga: Eclipse ($300.5 mil) and Inception ($292.5 mil). These numbers are staggering considering that 2010 was also the second-lowest attended year of the decade (after 2008), down 5.36% from last year and had the single lowest summer attendance since 2000. This summer was a flop as big blockbusters churned out disappointing numbers, with Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time ($90.8 mil), Knight and Day ($76.4 mil) and The A-Team ($77.2 mil) being the biggest culprits. Also a disappointment was the critically received Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which only earned a paltry $31.5 mil. Although 2010 had a much lower attendance record, it pushed past the $10 billion mark due to higher ticket prices and even higher prices for 3-D and IMAX showings, with the latter contributing a big chunk of the profits.

Now on to last week's box office battle between the Fockers and the Coens. Despite lackluster reviews for "Little Fockers," it beat out the much acclaimed Coen brothers Western "True Grit," pulling in $34 million ($48 million if you count its debut on Wednesday) over the weekend versus $25.6 million ($36.8 mil since Weds) for the latter. "Tron: Legacy" grabbed $20 million in box office business, an alarming 54% drop from the week before, bringing its total to just over $80 million. This is certainly not what Disney had hoped for with this uber-marketed sci-fi reboot.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Raw Bar: Oysters 3 Ways to Ring in the New Year

I can't believe that it is already that time of year again and there is no better way to ring in the New Year than with some raw oysters. Here are some ideas, well, 3 of them specifically, on how you can prepare them. But wait, aren't raw oysters best when simply prepared with just a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or a dash or two of tabasco sauce? Well, yes and no. On one hand, yes, they taste delicious just like that. On the other hand, no, you don't have to stick to conventional wisdom to enjoy your oysters. There are other methods of preparation that will bring the best out of your favorite bivalve. Here are three of them:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Blu-ray Releases: The Week of Dec 27th, 2010 - Final Week of Releases

This is Week 52, the last week of 2010. My, my, my, how time flies. While we've seen plenty of great Blu-ray releases this year, both new and catalog titles, I'm afraid 2010 will close with just a whimper. Only two slightly known titles get a release this week, together with a couple of largely forgettable ones and some live-action ninja stories. So let's get to it, shall we?

Resident Evil: Afterlife [Blu-ray]Resident Evil: Afterlife [Blu-ray 3D]The American [Blu-ray]Battlestar Galactica: Razor [Blu-ray]Twelve [Blu-ray]And Soon the Darkness [Blu-ray]Kamui Gaiden: Movie [Blu-ray]Shinobi - Heart Under Blade [Blu-ray]

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bánh mì - My Bastardized Version!

Look, before you start throwing expletives at me about this not being anything near an original bánh mì, the yummy Vietnamese sandwich with heavy French influences, please let me explain. A few days ago, I was craving for a bánh mì but I was not anywhere near a shop that sells one. So, I looked around the house for ingredients that would help me assemble the Vietnamese sub, which became quite an exercise in resourcefulness.

OK, so here is what we know about goes into a bánh mì:
- Baguette (a lighter and crispier version with the addition of rice flour)
- pickled daikon and carrots
- fresh cilantro, scallions, cucumber and jalapeño
- mayonnaise and butter
- pork pâté
- grilled/roasted pork belly

I did not have most of the above but we'll make do.......

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Movie Openings: Week of December 24th, 2010 - Merry Christmas!

Here in Massachusetts, people have been wondering when the white stuff would arrive. We walked around in anticipation for weeks, waiting for a sign, any sign. First we had rain, and lots of it too. Then when the flakes did come, they were just in the form of passing flurries. Nothing stuck around long enough to coat the trees or grass. Then, dramatically, just days before Christmas, we had snow! Not a lot of it but enough to have a white Christmas.

Just by coincidence, Christmas this year falls on the weekend and what better time to spend the holidays than at the movies. Last week, "Tron: Legacy", as I predicted, made quite a splash at the box-office despite so-so reviews. It earned over $43 million on its opening weekend, with a quarter of that amount coming from its IMAX showings. The movie's 3-D showings also helped to boost its numbers by quite a bit. The Natalie Portman psychological thriller "Black Swan" continues to impress despite the fact that it is still in limited release mode (that should change soon). It has already raked in a total of $15 million over three weekends (on much, much fewer screens than "Tron: Legacy"). This number may sound pretty insignificant but consider this fact: the budget for "Tron: Legacy" and "Black Swan" stand at approximately $300 million and $17 million respectively. Now you see my point? Christmastime should see a rise in the number of people heading to the cinemas and all movies should get a boost, including the following new movies opening this weekend:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Blu-ray Releases: The Week of Dec. 20th, 2010 - The Town

Aaaah, the final week before Christmas. Yes, time sure flies and for all you procrastinators out there, there is still enough time to get your shopping done (well, barely). But maybe waiting until now wasn't such a bad thing after all, as this week there are a few more great Blu-ray choices to add to your shopping list. So, without wasting anymore time, let's get to them, shall we?

The Town (Extended Cut Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)Salt (Deluxe Unrated Edition) [Blu-ray]Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (Blu-ray + Digital Copy)Easy A [Blu-ray]Devil [Blu-ray]Laugh It Up Fuzzball: The Family Guy Trilogy (It's A Trap / Something Something Something Dark Side / Blue Harvest) [Blu-ray]Family Guy: It's A Trap! [Blu-ray]Futurama: Volume 5 [Blu-ray]

Friday, December 17, 2010

Movie Openings: Week of December 17th, 2010 - The TRON Juggernaut

I hate to say it but here comes the "Tron" juggernaut. With Disney's massive PR machine in full swing, there is no hiding from the so-called "movie event" of the year. Just like some of the big blockbuster movies already released this year, people will be going en masse to watch this film no matter what critics say. Bad or not, it looks so cool, so neon blue and oh so shiny. How can one resist?

However, before we get to the new movie releases for this week, let me first talk about the just-announced nominees for the upcoming 2011 Golden Globe Awards, which is sort of a weathervane and a pre-cursor to the more prestigious Oscars. Voted by members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the Golden Globes encompass awards for both television and movies. Here are some of the highlights of the movie categories:

Best Motion Picture - Drama: "Black Swan," "The Fighter," "Inception," "The King's Speech," "The Social Network"
Best Actress - Drama: Halle Berry "Frankie and Alice," Nicole Kidman "Rabbit Hole," Jennifer Lawrence "Winter's Bone," Natalie Portman "Black Swan," Michelle Williams "Blue Valentine"
Best Actor - Drama: Jesse Eisenberg "The Social Network," Colin Firth "The King's Speech," James Franco "127 Hours," Ryan Gosling "Blue Valentine," Mark Wahlberg "The Fighter"
Best Director: Darren Aronofsky "Black Swan," David Fincher "The Social Network," Tom Hooper "The King's Speech," Christopher Nolan "Inception," David O. Russell "The Fighter"

As you can see, most the award nominees are dominated by a select group of movies and this trend should continue as we move into Oscar season. OK, enough of that. Now let's get on with this week's movie releases, shall we?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Non-Traditional Christmas Movies List

Christmas time is all about traditions: the Christmas tree, mistletoes, wrapping presents, baking cookies, hanging the Christmas stockings, family get-togethers, etc. But sometimes, don't you wish you could just say, "Bah! Humbug!" to it all and just crawl under the coffee table and wish that all the holiday stresses would just go away? When it comes to holiday movies, there are plenty of traditions to adhere to as well. You have films like It's a Wonderful LifeA Christmas CarolWhite ChristmasA Charlie Brown ChristmasA Christmas Story or even Scrooge. But for those who just want to buck tradition for the fun of it, here is my list of non-traditional Christmas movies for your viewing pleasure:

The first movie on my list has got to be Die Hard. When Detective John McClane sends a bad guy he just killed down the elevator with the immortal words, "Now I have a machine gun. Ho-Ho-Ho!" scrawled onto his sweatshirt, you just know the real fun is just beginning. The first in a series of 4 really good action flicks, Die Hard starts with some really bad dudes crashing an office Christmas party and taking hostages. However, what they didn't realize was they had the best cop in New York City trapped inside the building as well. Bruce Willis made the role totally his own, battling all sorts of bad guys with just his resourcefulness and plenty of bravado. A must-see holiday action classic. Also look for Ben Affleck's Reindeer Games if you like your Christmas to be full of gunfights and double-crosses.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Daft Punk - Tron: Legacy Soundtrack - Incredible!

I will be the first to admit that I'm not a big fan of electronica/house music but my recent brush with the just-released Tron Legacy movie soundtrack might just change my outlook for that music genre. With music exclusively composed by the French duo, known collectively as Daft Punk, the soundtrack is a solid amalgam of electronica and symphonic melodies taken to the nth degree. This blending of synthesizers with a full-blown orchestra is nothing new but on this soundtrack, the bar is definitely raised.

Daft Punk is made up of musicians Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter and were considered pioneers in the French house music scene when they first appeared in the 90's. Their debut album, Homework, released in 1997, contains the hit singles "Da Funk" and "Alive," and went on to become one of the most influential dance music albums of the 90's. In 2009, Daft Punk won their first Grammys for Best Dance Recording and Best Dance/Electronic Album.


This soundtrack reminds me so much of Vangelis' compositions from the Blade Runner soundtrack or even John Carpenter's Escape From New York tracks. But on Tron Legacy, Daft Punk brings a certain attitude to the sound, both foreboding and dark. The duo's electro-punk sound comes up big on the track "Derezzed" but they mellow out on the track "The Game Has Changed," pushing the horns and violins in the orchestra to layer a melodious tune on top of a pulsating beat. On other tracks like "Recognizer," "Outlands" and "Adagio for TRON," a similarity in the outlying melody can be detected but they differ by letting a different instrument be the star. Overall, this is a very intriguing soundtrack by Daft Punk that puts their musical range on display in a manner that is dramatic and creative. Sometimes the album feels a little restrictive in its overall sound but it is after all based on a single movie, so that is to be expected.

Daft Punk's work on all the 22 tracks on this soundtrack CD is amazing and one of the best soundtrack albums to come along in a long time. You can sample the songs on either iTunes or on Amazon.com. Let the CD spin on your stereo, turn off all the lights and let the music take you into the world of Tron Legacy. be careful, you might never want to leave. Recommendation: Buy It!