Sunday, July 14, 2019

SciFi Fantasy Flicks You Should Watch

Because John just watched "Transcendence" on Netflix, which proves he REALLY needs this list! Now if only I could jump into a TARDIS to get this to him by yesterday....


SCI-FI AND FANTASY FLICKS FANS OF THE GENRE SHOULD SEE

The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The Eighth Dimension (1984)
Akira (1988)
Aladdin (1992)
Alien (1979) (Top Five of that year)
Aliens (1986) (Top Five of that year)
Babe (1995) (the best film of that year)
Babe: Pig In The City (1998) (Top Five of that year)
Back To The Future (1985) (Top Five of that year)
Blade Runner (1982) (Top Five of that year)
Blade Runner: 2049 (2017)
Brazil (1985)
The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935) (the best film of that year)
The Brother From Another Planet (1984)
A Clockwork Orange (1971) (Top Five of that year)
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind (1977) (Top Five of that year)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) (the best film of that year)
Dawn Of The Dead (1978)
Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014)
District 9 (2009)
Donnie Darko (2001)
Edge Of Tomorrow (2014)
The Empire Strikes Back (1980) (Top Five of that year)
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) (the best film of that year)
Evil Dead II (1987)
The Fly (1986) (Top Five of that year)
Frankenstein (1931) (Top Five of that year)
Gattaca (1997)
Ghostbusters (1984) (Top Five of that year)
Godzilla, King Of The Monsters aka Gojira (1954)
Her (2013) (the best film of that year)
The Hidden (1987)
Highlander (1986)
The Host (2007)
Howl's Moving Castle (2005)
Inception (2010)
The Incredibles (2004) (the best film of that year)
Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956) (The best film of that year)
I Walked With A Zombie (1943)
Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
Kaboom (2011)
Kick-Ass (2010)
King Kong (1933) (Top Five of that year)
Let The Right One In (2008, Swedish language film)
The Lobster (2016)
Logan (2018)
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (but NOT The Hobbit) (Two Towers the best film of 2002)
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) (Top Five of that year)
Metropolis (1927) (Top Five of that year)
My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
Nosferatu (1922) (the best film of that year)
Pan's Labyrinth (2006) (the best film of that year)
Planet Of The Apes (1968)
The Princess Bride (1987)
Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes (2011)
The Road Warrior (1981)
Scott Pilgrim Vs The World (2010)
Somos Lo Que Hay/ We Are What We Are horror flick (2011)
Spider-Man (2002)
Spider-Man 2 (2004) (Top Five of that year)
Spider-Man: Into The Spiderverse (2018)
Spirited Away (2002) (Top Five of that year)
Starship Troopers (1997)
Star Trek (2009) (Top Five of that year)
Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982)
Star Wars (1977) (the best film of that year)
Superman: The Movie (1978) (the best film of that year)
The Terminator
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) (Top Five of that year)
The Thief Of Baghdad (1940)
Time Bandits (1981)
28 Days Later (2003)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) (the best film of that year)
WALL-E (2008) (Top Five of that year)
War For The Planet Of The Apes (2018)
Where The Wild Things Are (2009)
The Wizard Of Oz (1939)
Young Frankenstein (1974) (the best film of that year)


77 films as of July 13, 2019

BOLD: the best film of that year
ITALICS: Top Five film of that year



Tuesday, June 25, 2019

"TOY STORY 4" IS #1 AT THE WORLDWIDE BOX OFFICE...AND NO DISAPPOINTMENT

Showbiz Sandbox is the only one that looks at the worldwide box office for the ENTIRE week. That can tell a very different story from everyone else -- they're comparing new movies to current releases and compare four days of box office from new movies to THREE days of box office from movies that are already out. Huh? We compare the TOTAL box office from the entire week.

That means Aladdin was the #1 movie worldwide for four weeks in a row. Now it has been dethroned by another Disney movie, Toy Story 4.



And anyone who suggests Toy Story 4 is a disappointment is bonkers. They're comparing the flawed tracking that shows what they THINK a movie might make to its actual opening and then  comparing that to prior Pixar releases over a holiday weekend. Nonsense. All that matters is a movie's budget and how much it grosses when all is said and done. Toy Story 4 cost a reported $200m and will almost certainly gross $800m worldwide. In what universe is that a disappointment? Check out the exclusive Showbiz Sandbox figures for the week.

WEEK OF JUNE 23 SHOWBIZ SANDBOX WORLDWIDE BOX OFFICE CHARTS FOR THE PREVIOUS SEVEN DAYS


  1. TOY STORY 4 ($200mb) -- $238m (opening week)
  2. ALADDIN ($180mb) -- $  85m/ $810m (last seven days/worldwide )
  3. MEN IN BLACK INTERNATIONAL ($110mb) - $  80m/ $182m
  4. SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2 ($80mb) -- $  39m/ $194m
  5. SPIRITED AWAY ($19mb) -- $  28m/ $ 51m? ($290m?)
  6. DARK PHOENIX ($200mb) -- $  28m/ $233m
  7. ROCKETMAN ($40mb) -- $  20m/ $153m
  8. CHILD’S PLAY ($10mb) -- $  17m (opening week)
  9. JOHN WICK 3 ($75m + $40 p&a) -- $  13m/ $289m
  10. GODZILLA KING MONSTERS ($170mb) -- $  12m/ $352m (?)
  11. MY BEST SUMMER (Chi rom drama) -- $    9m/ $54m
  12. PARASITE (K Palme d’Or) -- $     8m/ $70m
  13. SHAFT ($30mb) -- $     8m/ $16m
  14. AVENGERS: ENDGAME ($360mb) -- $     7m/ $2.749b (needs $39m)
  15. GOING VERTICAL (Russian; $11mb) $     6m/ $62m
  16. LATE NIGHT ($13mb pickup Amazon) -- $     5m/ $10m
  17. LONG LIVE THE KING -- $     4m (opening week)
18. ANNA (Luc Besson; $30mb) -- $     4m (opening week)

Monday, June 17, 2019

"ALADDIN" #1 AT WORLDWIDE BOX OFFICE FOR FOURTH WEEK IN A ROW

Hey kids,

Just because Sperling is playing in Europe doesn't mean you shouldn't get an update on the worldwide box office. Here are the biggest films of the week ending June 16. Remember, we are talking about the worldwide box office. And unlike everyone else, we don't just look at the grosses from the last four days for new movies (which usually open on Thursday) or the grosses from the last three days for movies that have been out for a week or more. We add up all the grosses for the ENTIRE week. And that tells a surprisingly different story.



If you listen to everyone else, the #1 movie at the box office worldwide has changed every single week for the past four weeks. They've been:

Week ending May 26, 2019 -- ALADDIN
Week ending June 2, 2019 --  GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS
Week ending June 9, 2019 --  DARK PHOENIX
Week ending June 16, 2019 -- MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL

But if you look at the total box office for the entire week (and remember, this is summer time when weekday box office is especially robust), if you add up the money made Monday through Sunday rather than just the money made over the weekend, here's what you find....



Week ending May 26, 2019 -- ALADDIN!
Week ending June 2, 2019 --   ALADDIN!!
Week ending June 9, 2019 --   ALADDIN!!!
Week ending June 16, 2019 -- ALADDIN!!!!

Yes, Aladdin has been the most popular movie in the world for the past four weeks. That's going to change next week when Toy Story 4 jumps to the top of the charts. But Aladdin's dominance is notable and it's a story you hear ONLY from Showbiz Sandbox. Here is our chart listing the top grossing movies worldwide for the ENTIRE week ending June 16. Enjoy! And we'll see you next week!

WEEK OF JUNE 16 SHOWBIZ SANDBOX WORLDWIDE BOX OFFICE CHARTS FOR THE PREVIOUS SEVEN DAYS


  1. ALADDIN ($180mb) (Fourth week in a row) -- $120m/ $725m (week/total)  
  2. MEN IN BLACK INTERNATIONAL ($110mb -- $102m (opening week)
  3. DARK PHOENIX ($200mb) -- $ 60m/ $204m
  4. SECRET LIFE OF PETS 2 ($80mb) -- $ 57m/ $155m
  5. GODZILLA KING MONSTERS ($170mb) -- $ 47m/ $340m
  6. ROCKETMAN ($40mb) -- $ 31m/ $133m
  7. JOHN WICK 3 ($75m + $40m p&a) -- $ 24m/ $276m
  8. MY BEST SUMMER (Chi rom dram) -- $ 19m/ $45m
  9. PARASITE (K Palme d’Or winner) -- $ 16m/ $62m
  10. AVENGERS: ENDGAME ($360mb) -- $ 12m/ $2.742b (needs $46m)
  11. MA ($5mb) -- $ 11m/ $52m
  12. POKEMON DET PICACHU ($150mb) -- $ 10m/ $420m
  13. CHASING THE DRAGON 2 (Chi action) -- $ 10m/ $40m
  14. SHAFT $30mb) $  8m/ $8m
  15. LATE NIGHT ($13m Amazon pickup) -- $  5.4m/ $5.7m
  16. A CITY CALLED MACAU (Chi gambling drama) $  4m/ $4m (opening week)
  17. WHISPER OF SILENT BODY (Chi med mys) $  3m/ $3m (opening week)
  18. THE DEAD DON’T DIE (Jarmusch zombie) $  3m/ $5.4m
  19. GOING VERTICAL ($11m; Russian basketball) $  2m/ $56m (highest grossing Russian film in nation’s history)

https://www.comscore.com/Insights/Rankings




Thursday, May 09, 2019

THEATER: 'BLKS' IS SERIOUSLY FUNNY

BLKS ** 1/2 out of ****
THE ROBERT W. WILSON MCC THEATER SPACE

To the growing list of playwrights of color pushing the boundaries of contemporary theater, you can happily add the name of Aziza Barnes. Is it any wonder they attracted the attention of director Robert O'Hara? No, it is not. He's given BLKS a solid showcase that also shows off the versatility of the mainstage at the relatively new Robert W. Wilson MCC Theater Space. This was my first visit to the latest addition in NYC's collection of artistic spaces but it won't be my last. And this was my first chance to see a work by Barnes but it surely won't be my last for that either.

In this broad but pointed comedy, Octavia is having a bad day. She (Paige Gilbert) freaks out over a mole on her clitoris; it wasn't there yesterday. When her lover/friend with benefits/whatever Ry (Coral Peña) demurs when asked to play amateur gynecologist and see what's what, Octavia has had enough. She ends their brief fling/burgeoning romance (I don't know what to call it because neither does Octavia). When her roommate June Antoinette Crowe-Legacy) barges in and reveals her boyfriend has cheated on her (again) and a relative of Octavia says the potentially cancerous mole needs to be dealt with right away, they and fellow roomie Imani (Alfie Fuller) agree there's only one solution. Day drinking, rolling a blunt and generally partying up.

What follows is almost a roundelay of sexual entanglements, hilarious banter and the unwelcome but inevitable downer of reality intruding in on the fun via a violent confrontation on the streets and social media updates on the latest killing of a young black man.

Unlike other recent plays, BLKS doesn't become extravagantly out there or form-breaking. It's not a series of sketches but a well-constructed play with characters bouncing off one another in unexpected, revealing ways and a joyous sense of sisterhood. Even when they are practically swapping potential partners, you never doubt Octavia, June and Imani have each others backs. And while the humor is broad and turned up, unlike Barnes we never doubt its essential seriousness either.



O'Hara oversees the show with affection but several elements hold it back. This is probably a three star play hemmed in by certain choices. The scenic design by Clint Ramos is a trickster in its own right. The stage is wide and deep but the central space of the shared living room in their apartment is presented at a cramped, odd angle. It's puzzling until it rotates again and again, almost going widescreen as Ramos reveals a bathroom, bedrooms, a club and even a city street with subway entrances. And yet it both felt over-elaborate and attention-grabbing to me. You shouldn't be thinking about the sets as much as you do here.

Worse, two roles are poorly cast. Marié Botha as That Bitch On The Couch is merely ok as a clueless white woman bedeviled by what's appropriate for her to say. She's not bad and her interaction with Imani turns that character from a seemingly dippy sort into someone much more interesting. And yet, I couldn't help feeling the part deserved someone stronger. And Octavia's love interest Ry was mishandled entirely by Peña, who is making her Off Broadway debut and proved very uncomfortable onstage. Her body movement, her line deliveries, literally everything about her proved awkward, never more so than a key monologue at the climax she barely delivered much less brought to life.

The three leads were much better, with Fuller revealing depths to Imani, Crowe-Legacy full-on Amazonian as she straddled the stage with her personality and take-command voice and Gilbert anchored it all with ease as the conflicted but decent Octavia. Playing a string of male characters but mostly the nerdy, off-beat Justin (a guy who befriends June in a club), Chris Myers is scene-stealing good from start to finish. For a play centered on women, Barnes gifts him with a terrific showcase and Myers (and his abs, a key visual punchline in one scene) makes the most of it.

I wish Barnes had trusted their own talents as much. News alerts about the gunning down of young black men by the police both early on and at the end felt like an unnecessary attempt to prove the play had serious intent. I never doubted it, thanks to that more organic inclusion of a burst of violence on the street and the wickedly funny taunting Imani gives to the white woman she flirts with. Yet even at the end, Barnes insists on a string of monologues that come from a different world than the colorful comedy they created and made us care about.

Indeed, Barnes has a gift for character and dialogue -- when the the man Justin interacts with June but then feels even more complex after following her home and then interacts hilariously with Octavia in yet another unexpected but believable way, it's a sign of great potential. Barnes is a promising playwright but after delivering three women in a setting I'd be glad to return to, TV might just be in their future too.

NOTE: It's not every day NYC gets a new theater space. Check out this quick peek of The Robert W Wilson MCC Theater Space.



THEATER OF 2019

Frankenstein: Under The Radar Fest at the Public ** 1/2
Minor Character: Under The Radar Festival at the Public ***
Ink: Under The Radar  Festival at the Public  ** 1/2
Choir Boy ** 1/2
White Noise ** 1/2
Kiss Me, Kate ***
Ain't No Mo' *** 1/2
Ain't Too Proud **
The Cradle Will Rock * 1/2
Mrs. Murray's Menagerie *** 1/2
Oklahoma! (on Broadway) ** 1/2
Socrates **
The Pain Of My Belligerence *
Burn This **
Hadestown *** 1/2
All My Sons * 1/2
Tootsie ** 1/2
Ink ***
Beetlejuice **
Estado Vegetal ***
Hans Christian Andersen * 1/2
Cirque du Soleil: Luzia ***
BLKS ** 1/2

Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the creator of BookFilter, a book lover’s best friend. It’s a website that lets you browse for books online the way you do in a physical bookstore, provides comprehensive info on new releases every week in every category and offers passionate personal recommendations every step of the way. He’s also the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day with top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It’s available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes.

MUSIC: CHRIS THILE CAPS CARNEGIE HALL RESIDENCY WITH OLD FRIENDS

NICKEL CREEK/PUNCH BROTHERS *** 1/2 out of ****
CARNEGIE HALL 

Did musician Chris Thile just conquer New York? I think he did! The multi-talented, mandolin-brandishing entertainer capped off a residency at Carnegie Hall with a delightful concert celebrating his two key bands: Nickel Creek, the bluegrass rabble rousers (but with respect!) that started it all for him and Punch Brothers, the ongoing group helping Thile to push boundaries of that genre ever further. (Thile won Grammys with both of them, including just this February.) The sold-out crowd was both enthusiastic and attentive, a rare and welcome attribute. The music was accomplished, lovely, lively and naturally climaxed with both groups merging on stage for a raucous hoedown and a final bow.

As if all this weren't enough, Thile just announced that in the future his radio show will record all its episodes in New York City. Yes, Live From Here -- the Show Formerly Known As A Prairie Home Companion -- that mainstay of public radio and a bastion of heartland humor, will be broadcast from the Big Apple. And with Live From Here already test-driven live from Town Hall featuring guests like jazz singer Cécile McLorin Salvant and Jeff Daniels doing a monologue from the Broadway show To Kill A Mockingbird, Thile makes this transition seem natural and unforced. Longtime fans can rest assured the show is still sponsored by Powdermilk Biscuits while newcomers will discover a sharper, more encompassing mix of humor and music.

If you don't know Thile, you've got a lot of catching up to do. He began performing as a pre-teen (and even guested on A Prairie Home Companion at just 15 years old). Nickel Creek has six studio album and Punch Brothers have five. But wait! Thile also has seven solo albums AND seven collaborative albums, including two especially good ones with respectively Edgar Meyer and Brad Mehldau.  (You can start right now with this 20m set by Nickel Creek for NPR's Tiny Desk concert series.)



The audience at Carnegie Hall clearly had no catching up to do. They began applauding songs the moment a particular beat or familiar melody was introduced. They shouted "Ahoy!" and "Oh boy!" at the right times. And generally they held off on applause until the sound of a song faded mostly away, though one man up front couldn't quite help himself and offered up a quiet but fervent "Yes!" just as one gorgeous tune ended in otherwise perfect silence.  The night began with the slightly more intellectual endeavor Punch Brothers, with songs that often contained distinct movements along with dynamics more often found in rock. After about 80m and a break, the somewhat more traditional Nickel Creek delivered fan favorites audiences have been cherishing for the past 20 years. The concert could happily have run twice as long.

The Punch Brothers set showed off their versatility, from "Julep" to the marvelous and haunting "Another World" from the EP Ahoy. The Nickel Creek set was even better, especially since fans haven't seen them in concert as much in recent years. Sara Watkins delivered especially piercing versions of "Anthony" and Bob Dylan's "Tomorrow Is A Long Time." Sean Watkins (her brother) offered an amusing intro to his own "21st of May." And Thile was sometimes a showman (making like Joe Cocker on one especially rocking mandolin solo),  sometimes immersed in the group of musicians at hand and sometimes sitting back and taking it all in with delight. His voice weaved in and out of the evening with its high lonesome sound, from Nickel Creek's 2001 debut album heartbreaker "The Lighthouse's Tale" right up to his most recent work with PB.

Time and again, the artists on stage crowded around one mike, shoulder to shoulder, making music. They did it just like the Weavers did at Carnegie Hall nearly 65 years ago...and just like Thile will surely be doing at Carnegie Hall for decades to come.



Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the creator of BookFilter, a book lover’s best friend. It’s a website that lets you browse for books online the way you do in a physical bookstore, provides comprehensive info on new releases every week in every category and offers passionate personal recommendations every step of the way. He’s also the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day with top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It’s available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes.

Monday, May 06, 2019

THEATER: CIRQUE DU SOLEIL GETS ITS MOJO BACK

CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: LUZIA -- A WAKING DREAM OF MEXICO *** out of ****
NEXT TO CITI FIELD IN QUEENS, NYC 

I skipped the last few Cirque du Soleil shows that passed through New York City. After revolutionizing the circus, this Montreal-based company fell into a bit of a rut. Every show was an amorphous, New Age-y sort of experience. Worse, they kept trying to shoehorn a collection of fine circus acts (trapeze work, juggling and the like) into a narrative. This misguided idea about how to keep their shows fresh culminated in the godawful Broadway show Paramour. Perhaps that disaster sobered the company up. That show was followed immediately by this one, which comes to the city three years after its debut in Montreal. Luzia runs through June 9 before moving on to Connecticut, Canada and then London's Royal Albert Hall in January.

Here Cirque breaks its own "rules" but far more effectively. They take inspiration from a particular country, in this case Mexico. That gives the costumes and colors a focus their more outlandish  and conceptually vague shows lack. Many of the songs are sung in Spanish, rather than just the usual made-up Cirque nonsense language meant to be "exotic" and yet not alienate any of its worldwide audience. (Sure, a number of tunes are still vocalized with wordless ooh-oohing, but it's an improvement.) Plus the score is bursting with brass that -- again -- step away from New Age and create a friendlier, livelier more human vibe.

Indeed, the entire show has a warm, inviting feel that draws the audience in. It's human-scaled and all the better for it. This video gives highlights of the many acts on display.



I wasn't surprised for a second by anything in Luzia but I smiled with pleasure the entire time. A treadmill is used effectively early on. A woman/butterfly runs forward as her wings fill up the stage and a War Horse-like puppet of a stallion gallops behind her. It's not ground-breaking or unusual in any way -- just a lovely, simple effect. The same goes for the troupe (my favorite of the lot) dressed in bird-like costumes who tumble through hoops as those move forward and backward along the treadmill. One or two or three hoops are stacked up, while tumblers go alone or two or three at a time in both directions . Again, the routine is simplicity itself but done with elegance and charm. Of course, I say "simple" but of course it's only simple for folk who devote a lifetime to developing their skills and their bodies. (Many performers come from Eastern Europe, which boasts a deep circus tradition while others were competitive gymnasts, swimmers, wrestlers and the like in college.)

Start to finish, Luzia has an easy charm. True, it never wowed me with some outrageous never-seen-before feat of derring-do. But I don't relish truly death-defying acts for my afternoon's entertainment so that low-key vibe was a bonus. While the clown act usually had me cringing over his "antics" in Cirque shows from the past, Luzia's performer was top-notch, especially in an act-one bit where he engaged the audience in a beach ball competition. When a juggler had a disastrous outing (he lost his rhythm early on and dropped pins four or five times), it was a welcome reminder how difficult their skills are. And while the contortionist appearing towards the climax was unsettling rather than entertaining (he seemed more appropriate for Coney Island), his big routine was staged beautifully with a parade of performers placing candles all around the stage while the lights dimmed.

If an aerialist dipping into a pool of water proved kitschy (his Fabio-like hair was flipped so often and so dramatically it deserved its own trailer backstage), this was all part of the fun. A curtain of water also played a prominent role throughout the show and created some very cool cascading pictures indeed. At the end, the cast gathered around a table to celebrate and even this felt right, especially how they froze into place at various points to allow the clown a final bit of nonsense. If you've never been to Cirque du Soleil or, like me, you took a break when it became repetitive or just too omnipresent, Luzia is a good reminder of why they conquered the world in the first place.


THEATER OF 2019

Frankenstein: Under The Radar Fest at the Public ** 1/2
Minor Character: Under The Radar Festival at the Public ***
Ink: Under The Radar  Festival at the Public  ** 1/2
Choir Boy ** 1/2
White Noise ** 1/2
Kiss Me, Kate ***
Ain't No Mo' *** 1/2
Ain't Too Proud **
The Cradle Will Rock * 1/2
Mrs. Murray's Menagerie *** 1/2
Oklahoma! (on Broadway) ** 1/2
Socrates **
The Pain Of My Belligerence *
Burn This **
Hadestown *** 1/2
All My Sons * 1/2
Tootsie ** 1/2
Ink ***
Beetlejuice **
Estado Vegetal ***
Hans Christian Andersen * 1/2
Cirque du Soleil: Luzia ***

Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the creator of BookFilter, a book lover’s best friend. It’s a website that lets you browse for books online the way you do in a physical bookstore, provides comprehensive info on new releases every week in every category and offers passionate personal recommendations every step of the way. He’s also the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day with top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It’s available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes.