Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Hangover III: Why Did it Not Bring in the Big Bucks on Opening Weekend?

The Hangover III opened this past weekend to box office receipts that totaled half that of the Hangover II. The first Hangover proved to be a comedic box office juggernaut, earning over $277 million domestically and over $462 million worldwide. While Fast and Furious 6 conquered the Memorial Weekend box office, proving that audiences can never get enough of watching people steal cars, the poor performance of Hangover III, ($52 million over the four day weekend) begs the question, “What kept the crowds away?”

darthmaz314 was among those who saw The Hangover III during the long weekend and has since read a slew of online reviews, most of which blasted the film with both barrels, a hidden pistol tucked in their sock, and a slingshot and a bag of rocks for good measure. Does it deserve the crucifixion it is enduring in cyberspace and being placed on the “pay no mind list” by those who were once fans of the original and it’s wildly successful sequel? darthmaz314 will offer his opinion, but as always, leave it up to you to decide.


His opinion and the basics: If you liked The Hangover I and II, the third installment is at least worth a try. The basic recipe is the same in this film as it was in the first two. The Wolfpack get themselves into a huge mess, Doug is kidnapped (this time for real,) Chow nearly gets them all killed, and Alan acts like the socially inept and unpredictable lunatic that makes you wonder how we can be the dominant species on the planet if he is one of us. Throw in some action, some cameos, and a whole lot of profanity and inappropriate humor, and you have the Hangover, a third time. Two things that were missing were an Ed Helms song (one of the highlights of both the first and second films) and an appearance by Mike Tyson. Perhaps Iron Mike’s newfound career as a stage thespian prevented him from appearing in this third installment.

darthmaz314There is a wedding in the film and yes, there is also a scene where they wake up “hungover,” except it does not factor into the main plot of the movie. There are plenty of laughs, even if some of the premises are old and tired by now. There was some romance and even a touch of emotion and sentimentality. Be on the lookout for the scene with Alan and little “Carlos” from the first film. Can a scene by touching, humorous, and uncomfortable all at once? Was this Hangover III: The Search for Box Office Bucks? Of course. But so was every other sequel ever made.

darthmaz314 helpful hint: The movie’s biggest laughs and most surprising moment come during the credits, so be sure to stay in your seat.


So why did this film not break the bank this past weekend? The lackluster box office for Hangover III can hardly be attributed to critic reviews. Critics hated the last film as well and it pulled in a domestic take of $254 million. Lack of promotion and press certainly were not the culprit either considering the juggernaut franchise that the Hangover has become. Could competition from other films all gnawing at each other’s heels for a piece of the Memorial Day Weekend box office have stunted the premier of Hangover III? There may be some credence to that theory.  

In today’s box office economy, films are made or broken on their opening weekend. Rare are the flicks that catch on and endure through a long and steady run. A forty percent drop off in box office receipts is not uncommon from the first to second week of a film’s release. Therefore, it is ideal for a film to open against as little competition as possible, so that it can soak up as much of the market share as possible in week one. The Hangover III did not benefit from such a box office climate this weekend.
Fast and Furious 6 (yes, 6) ran over the competition with a huge opening over the four day weekend, making a getaway with $117 million of theater goers’ money. Combine that with a strong showing for Fox’s star-studded animated feature Epic ($42 million,) a solid second week for Star Trek Into Darkness ($47 million), Iron Man 3 hanging in at $24 million, and The Great Gatsby’s $17 million take, and it is clear that the Hangover III had a lot of competition at the box office this weekend.  These other films combined for nearly $250 million in box office receipts this weekend. The Hangover III’s $52 million accounted for only 20% of the grosses among the top six films. With theater goers spreading their money around amongst so many films and with a brutish opening like Fast and Furious 6 (yes, that’s 6,) you can certainly make a case for competition affecting the Hangover III’s performance. 

Yet what may have impacted the Hangover just as much is word of mouth, or more appropriately stated, word of web. Early screenings of Hangover III on Thursday may have actually harmed the film’s chances of a bigger weekend. Lukewarm reviews on the net by the blogging world may have stemmed the tide of anticipation for the third installment of director Todd Phillips’ franchise. For some reason, some of the audience expected the third Hangover to follow in the footsteps of the Great Bard William Shakespeare’s finest works instead of being a 100 minute string of fart and F-bomb jokes.


In fact, some of the criticisms to be found on the net for Hangover III are funnier than a few of the best gags in the film. One such criticism was that the plot for the movie was weak and full of holes. Has anyone seen the other two movies? In the second installment, the “Wolfpack” are led to the scene of the riot they caused during their “forgotten night” by Alan’s savant-like ability to journey on a transcendental flashback tour of the previous night’s events while he’s meditating in the garden of a Thai monastery. And we’re looking for intense cause and effect whodunit clues in the third film? Really? Mindless entertainment is what we are looking for when we go see a movie like this.
darthmaz314Another criticism referred to Ken Jeong’s over-the-top portrayal of international criminal and sick party animal, Leslie (Mr.) Chow. Over-the-top is actually understating Jeong’s performance. Yet that is exactly what made millions love the character in the first film. A more understated Chow?
You might as well just write him out of the movie.

Other criticism also points to the fact that the movie is just more of the same. That is a criticism that is hard to dispute. But isn’t that why sequels are made? As an audience, there was something about that first film that grabbed us by the wrist and took us for a ride. Whether it was the premise, the character relationships, the plot, the shock value of some of the gags, the performances, or the script, the fact is that for many people, it worked in 2009…and again in 2011. So why would we not expect Todd Phillips to throw those same ingredients in a big pot, stir it up, and serve it to us again in 2013? 
The Hangover III most likely suffered from a case of a franchise just running its course. The original Hangover made a splash with its brash, inappropriate, in-your-face shock humor and its twisted melding of buddy comedy and a road trip movie. It was hard to imagine one sequel that did not tread on the same ground as the first, let alone two. But the characters and their chemistry together made a sequel worth seeing for many movie goers. Rolling the dice a third time, the filmmakers ran an even bigger risk of being accused of going back to the well one time too many. To their credit, they crafted a plot that does deviate from that of the first two films, only to be chastised by some fans as having created a hard to believe storyline that gets away from the formula that worked for the original. For some reason, the audiences didn’t seem to embrace Hangover III in its first week. Perhaps it will pick up steam and have a strong run through the summer.  If not, we can fault this film for giving the people what they seemed to love the first two times.
darthmaz314 welcomes your comments on this and any of our posts and shamelessly asks you to share them with your friends (or enemies) if you like what you see.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show at Disney's Hollywood Studios

The Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show at Disney Hollywood Studios

Tucked away in the far end of Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando, beyond The Streets of America, is the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show attraction, one of the "must sees" of the park. Disney brought the attraction to the then named Disney-MGM Studios in 2005, hoping to recreate the success of the Moteurs...Action! Stunt Show Spectacular attraction at their Disneyland Paris park.

darthmaz314The attraction is an auto stunt show that features specially designed stunt cars equipped with motorcycle engines and hand-operated stunt brakes, capable of performing amazing maneuvers. The premise of the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show is that the audience has been permitted "backstage" to witness the filming of several key stunt and special effects scenes that will complete an upcoming action film. The forty minute show features motorcycles, jet-skis, stunt performers, and the film crew charged with capturing all the extreme stunt action scenes. These scenes include motorcycle and car chases, stunt falls from a four story building, and dazzling pyrotechnics. 

A Daring Motorcycle Jump...Just one of the many thrills in the
Lights, Motor, Action! Stunt Show

The show is hosted by the director of the fictitious movie being filmed and members of his/her crew. A huge video screen mounted atop the facade of the French village set enables the audience to watch footage of the live action being filmed by the crew during each take.
This footage is edited together with pre-recorded segments featuring the fictitious film’s “star” so that by the end of the show, the audience is able to view the completed action sequences that were on the crew’s shooting schedule.
Lightning McQueen Makes a Cameo
The Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt features interesting peeks behind the scenes after each of the stunt sequences, as the crew shares how they perform some of their movie stunt magic. At every show, one lucky audience member is selected to participate in one of the show’s more comical moments. In another
darthmaz314lighthearted moment, audience members are treated to a cameo appearance by Disney/Pixar superstar Lightning McQueen, who has replaced the previous vehicular cameo of traditional Disney star Herbie the Love Bug. 

The Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show should be on your list of must sees at Disney Hollywood Studios. It is packed with action and special effects and offers a unique glimpse into the making of movie magic. There are some laughs sprinkled into the show and it is truly a unique theme park experience, as always, done Disney style.


darthmaz314’s "Helpful Hints”
  • “Extreme” is in the name, so be warned that the show can be very loud at times (screeching cars, revving engines, explosions, etc.) and is not suited for infants and very young children who may become frightened.  


  • The show’s theater seats 5,000 and there really aren’t any bad seats in the house. But if you want to sit in the center section or up front, you will have to time it right, as Disney always employs the “keep moving down as far as you can” seating method, which may mean that if you are one of the first few hundred people to be seated, you will be coerced by Disney cast members to move to the far left seating section of the theater to “fill in all available space.”

  • If you are looking for photo opportunities, this show definitely has them. You have to be quick to quick to capture some of them, so be ready. If you are a real photo enthusiast, this the place to take your digital SLR with the telephoto lens and the high shutter speed settings.
  • Set aside time for this show in your park plans for the day. Showing up at the very last minute can leave you out in the cold (or perhaps more appropriately, the heat), so you will need to arrive at least 15-30 minutes before show time. During high volume attendance, you may need to arrive earlier. The best bet is to ask cast members for guidance when entering the park. The show itself if 35-40 minutes long and it takes some time for all of that humanity to spill out of the theater and back out into the park.


  • The bottom line is that you need to set aside a minimum of an hour for the whole process. This may play into your decision of whether or not to include the Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show into your Disney Hollywood Studios itinerary.

  • For those beaten down by trekking through the park all day in the oppressive Orlando heat, the show offers a chance to sit and unwind for a nice chunk of time.

  • There are some rumors swirling around online that in the future, this attraction and the nearby Studios Backlot Tour could be replaced with an Orlando version of Disneyland's very successful Carsland.
all photos courtesy darthmaz314

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Once Upon a Time - Watch It and Live Happily Ever After

If you are have an extra hour in your week and you’re looking for a new television show to watch that doesn’t involve “real” people humiliating and embarrassing themselves by revealing to the world what a waste of molecules they really are, then you may want to give ABC’s Once Upon a Time a try. The show is the product of former Lost screenwriters/producers Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz and airs on Sundays at 8:00pm. The plot centers on classic storybook characters that have been transported to a modern day small town in Maine by a curse cast by the Evil Queen (played brilliantly by Lana Parilla) of Snow White fame. The Queen’s curse also stripped the storybook characters of the memories of their former selves and locked them in a perpetual freeze frame in time in which they never grow old or age. All this changes after twenty-eight years when Emma Swan (played by Jennifer Morrison) is drawn to the sleepy town of Storybrooke, Maine by her son Henry, who she gave up for adoption at birth. Henry sneaks out of Storybrooke and heads to New York at age ten in search of his real mom. Henry brings Emma to Storybrooke because he knows that she is the key to breaking the curse cast by his adopted mom, the Evil Queen herself, who happens to also be the town mayor, Regina Mills. Oh, and by the way, Emma is the daughter of storybook characters Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) who were the main reason for the casting of the Evil Queen’s wicked curse. Got all that? Well, that’s only part of what’s revealed in the Season One pilot!  

Once Upon a Time is a rich and complex series that has the potential to resonate with a broad audience. From the title, you might think that the show is sugar-coated Disneyfied prime time kiddie programming. True, most of the characters are familiar to us from the fairy-tale stories of our youth. But this show has a dark side to it and although you can gather the whole family around the TV for it, it definitely leans more to the PG than the G side of the traditional rating scale.

The show's characters are uniquely developed in a complex way that takes them beyond the black and white, good and evil versions that we remember from our youth. The Once Upon a Time versions of the storybook characters are a composite of elements from traditional fairy tales, the Disney versions, and some new wrinkles added by the show’s talented writing team. In fact, during the first season, all of the characters are developed along two different story lines; the storybook timeline, which takes place in the past in fantastical settings like the Enchanted Forest, and the Storybrooke cursed timeline, in which the characters do not recall their former selves and live as average citizens in the boring town of Storybrooke, Maine. 

Each episode of Once Upon a Time follows a select handful of characters in both story lines, through a series of interwoven current timeline and flashback sequences. Every episode reveals layers of the characters in both story lines, allowing the writers to develop rich and complex personas for each that reach far beyond the vanilla versions we know from the stories of our childhood. The writers masterfully link the show’s many characters together in clever back stories in both time lines so that you really never truly know what to expect from some of them.
The show's creative team has erected an enormous canvas  
on which to paint the story of this series. They have incorporated characters from Rumpelstiltskin to Jiminy Cricket, Red Riding Hood to Pinocchio, and from Captain Hook to Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Each week characters are drawn into the plot line from one of several “worlds” such as the Enchanted Forest, Never Land, Wonderland, and of course, our own current day reality. There are endless surprises and twists and no shortage of all of the elements that anyone could desire from a series including action, adventure, comedy, deceit, deception, romance, the ever popular battle of good versus evil. Each week, the show seems to take a storybook cliché and turn it on its ear, providing a new a fresh twist on an old theme. 

Once is chock full of great performances from cast members like Ginnifer Goodwin, whose Snow White is a kick-ass fairy tale heroine that departs drastically from any Disney Princess version you may have in mind, to present a strong female character that every little girl will want to emulate. Jennifer Morrison’s Emma Swan is another strong and confident heroine whose tough and suspicious exterior protects her vulnerability and inherent goodness. In Season One, the audience can live the adventure through Emma's perspective as she journeys from her solitary life as a bail bonds person in New York to the realization that she is the daughter of what she formerly believed to be fictional storybook characters and that the fate of a town rests on her shoulders.

 Emma could be any one of us at home who suddenly becomes swept up in this insanely unbelievable storyline in which we learn that we are much more important than we once thought, and that although we believed ourselves to be alone, are part of something much bigger than we were prepared for. On her journey of opening her mind and her heart, Emma learns, much like we all have in life, that when we love others, there are risks and dangers that test the very fabric of who we are and how much we are willing to sacrifice.

Although there is a wealth of top-notch performances, the true joys of Once Upon a Time are Robert Carlyle’s Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold and Lana Parilla’s Evil
Queen/Regina Mills. Over two seasons, the audience has teetered almost weekly between despising and embracing these two characters as they are written so well and fleshed-out so brilliantly. They both flash heinous cruelty and exude pure evil in their darkest hours, yet have within them a vulnerability and desire to be loved that motivates them to perpetrate both vile deeds and virtuous acts. These characters are cleverly written and brilliantly brought to life by Carlyle and Parilla, both of whom are reason enough to watch the show. 

Be warned...Once Upon a Time is what I call "intelligent television." You truly need to invest in this show to get the most out of it. To keep up with the endless tidal wave of plot twists and details that wash over you as a viewer, you need to pay attention in order to appreciate the journey that the creative team is attempting to take you on. There are real life themes of regret and loss, family dynamics, true love, the duality and inner conflict of people, and the dangers of the consequences that inherent in the choices we make. All that is there for you if you look for it. Or you can just mentally flat line it and enjoy it on a simpler level.  

Once Upon a Time is definitely not a show that you want to start watching from its current point without backtracking to watch the series from its inception. Season Two is drawing to a close, but Season One is available on Netflix and Hulu Plus offers both Season One and the Season Two episodes aired to this point. To truly appreciate Once, you need to start from the beginning. Chances are, you will be hooked from Episode One and will devour the forty-plus already aired episodes and still be hungry for more. So check it out now and stop missing out on one of the best shows on television.

.........and if you get hooked, you may have more to enjoy soon. ABC has approved a Once spin off entitled, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, which will focus on Alice, who oddly has never made an appearance on the original "Once."