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The $1 Billion Plus Movie Club

So AVATAR has recently joined the $1 Billion Plus Club making headlines worldwide, smashing box office records and leaving its competition in the dust with its new wave of mesmerising 3D film-making. At this point in time, it has yet to cross the $2 billion mark in gross earnings at the box office, but what about its peers? Which other films have crossed the $1 billion threshold? Well, it's surprising to learn that three of the Top 5 grossing films of all-time are in fact sequels?!


The Dark Knight Movie Poster

Then THE DARK KNIGHT (RANK: 5th) wrangled its way over the $1 billion mark with a brilliant sequel to follow Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins. The Warner Bros. sequel received loads of publicity on the back of The Joker's casting and Heath Ledger's death in the build-up to the film.

This gave The Dark Knight another dimension as audiences watched a posthumous Oscar-winning supporting performance good enough to rattle Jack Nicholson's cage in action. Nolan's crime epic was welcomed by critics and fans alike, ranking in the top 5 of films ever made on IMDB and receiving an extended box office run with repeat waves of interest.


Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest Movie PosterPIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST (RANK: 4th) cruised in on the tidal wave created by Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Disney's theme park ride adaptation starring Johnny Depp. The first 2 1/2 hour film captured everyone's imagination with pirates becoming the in-thing and both kids and adults getting a taste for adventure.

The blockbuster set the scene for a sequel, one which received significant exposure as a new pirate ship, more money and more stars were thrown into the mix. Everyone was poised to see how Disney were going to follow-up on part one. The result was only disappointing since the film ended on a To Be Continued... and it didn't have the magnitude of a J.R.R. Tolkien story to steer its course.


The Lord of the Rings - Return of the King Movie PosterTHE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (RANK: 3rd) marked the culmination in a three part trilogy of films by Peter Jackson, crowning the New Line Cinema series with a 4-hour adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Return of the King, part Ttree of the epic fantasy novel.

This film was ushered in by two critically-acclaimed parts to the trilogy in The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, building up to a grand finale to rule them all. The success of the previous films helped gather enough momentum and public interest to make the completion of the film cycle a must on everyone's film calendars. A defining moment in film history.


Titanic Movie Poster

TITANIC (RANK: 2nd) smashed all records in 1997 with its epic romance and dazzling CGI disaster effects, capturing the famous last moments of the Titanic. The Paramount/20th Century Fox movie was a big hit at awards ceremonies with numerous accolades and nominations and many people watched it 3 or 4 times... despite its 3 hour run time.

Just like Spielberg's Jurassic Park, Titanic was a cutting edge marvel and a demonstration of CGI's impressive capabilities in film at its time led by two rising stars in Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. James Cameron's T2, Aliens and True Lies gave Titanic blockbuster credibility and gave it the impetus to override all previous box office takings... a record that would last 12 years.


Avatar Movie Poster

Then AVATAR (RANK: 1st) rocked the box office (as it continues to do so at the time of this article) with its electrifying display of 3D visuals and its epic saga borrowing narratives from some of Cameron's favourite films over the last decade.

The $500 million tag blockbuster had a long lead time, but in quickly gathered momentum after its worldwide December release through 20th Century Fox. Cameron silenced his critics by capturing the world's imagination all over again - making it his second film to gross in excess of $1 billion!


So the $1 billion plus movie club of top grossing films of all time gets a slight reshuffle... but which of these films truly deserves its prolific money-making spot in the Top 5? Which is your favourite?

 

 
Up in the Air Movie Review: Inbetween Days

Up in the Air Movie Poster

Have you ever been fired or had to fire someone? It's never nice. In fact, it's the reason bosses let people go on a Friday. We think we're defined by our jobs. It's the first thing anyone ever asks upon introduction, "So what do you do for a living?". I guess that's why it's so painful... taking the very thing that defines or establishes us in society and whipping it right out from under us. There's no way to avoid 'retrenchment' and 'being fired' from being anything but personal, and this weightless scenario is where Ryan Bingham finds himself, Up in the Air.

For Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), firing has become something of an art. Companies that want to keep their hands clean and protect themselves from wrongful dismissals and work place incidents contract agencies like Ryan's to let the heads roll and clean up afterward. Bingham is like a traveling salesman, flying from company to company, state to state... letting "firees" down easy and offering hope for their futures. He's an insincere guidance counselor, a buffer for the companies to get a move on with their corporate downsizing and an axe to deadwood.

There's a false sense of intimacy in Ryan's interactions. He gets to be in each candidate's head space for a couple of minutes... without feeling any intrinsic responsibility for his actions. Poverty, suicide, loss of self-esteem... these concerns are best forgotten. His smooth talking and off-the-cuff charm give him the license to operate within this realm with repetitive one-liners, but that's not to say there aren't any serious repercussions.

For one, he himself is on the way out... thanks to a new video conference system designed to make virtual firing a possibility. Bingham's own insecurity and feelings of emptiness and loneliness begin to emerge...continued.

Book Movie Tickets for Up in the Air

 
New Rental Releases This Week (25/01/10)


New DVD rental releases at DVBee this week:

Michael Jackson's This Is It, The Invention of Lying, Winged Creatures, Coco Avant Chanel, The Ugly Truth, Imagine That, The Taking of Pelham 123, Fame, Garfield's Fun Fest and Smokin' Aces 2: Assassin's Ball.


Michael Jackson's This Is It Movie Poster

MICHAEL JACKSON’S THIS IS IT (2009)

Director: Kenny Ortega
Starring: Michael Jackson, Kenny Ortega
Genre: Music, Documentary
Age Restriction: PG

Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, was a dance and music sensation. This music documentary gives audiences a sneak peak at his highly-anticipated This Is It World Tour practice sessions, which were recorded shortly before his untimely death. The film pays homage to Jackson as he belts out some of his most famous hits, while revealing a vulnerable, professional and deeply human side to the music icon.


The Invention of Lying Movie Poster

THE INVENTION OF LYING (2009)

Director: Ricky Gervais, Matthew Robinson
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner, Jonah Hill
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Romance
Age Restriction: 13PG L

This high concept fantasy comedy doesn’t have as many laughs as we’ve come to expect from The Office funny man, Ricky Gervais, but still holds up as a smart, charming and entertaining film with a long list of cameo performances. The Invention of Lying is more like Ghost Town than Liar, Liar and solid casting, subtle humour and good lead chemistry make this movie worth seeing.


Winged Creatures Movie Poster

WINGED CREATURES (2008)

Director: Rowan Woods
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Forest Whitaker, Dakota Fanning
Genre: Drama
Age Restriction: 13NSV

A first-rate cast delve into the fractured lives of several random restaurant customers, who witness an unprovoked shooting. The swirling drama shows how they intersect as they try to cope with grief, recover from their loss and carry on with their lives. While dark and somewhat depressing, Winged Creatures is buoyed by an experienced ensemble.


Coco Avant Chanel Movie Poster

COCO AVANT CHANEL (2009)

Director: Anne Fontaine
Starring: Audrey Tatou
Genre: Biography, Drama
Age Restriction: 13S

Audrey Tatou delivers a solid lead performance in this simplified two-dimensional rendition of Coco Chanel before she was France’s famous mademoiselle. It’s a beautiful and fascinating biographical drama and a tribute, but doesn’t relay any insight or sense of her inner being.


The Ugly Truth Movie Poster

THE UGLY TRUTH (2009)

Director: Robert Luketic
Starring: Katherine Heigl, Gerard Butler
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Age Restriction: 16SL

If “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus”, no wonder it all seems so complicated down here on Earth. This adult romantic comedy takes a cheeky and often funny look at dating, relationships and toys with “what men want” in a 21st Century woman. Great lead chemistry, fun comedy interplay and likable characters add up to some light first date fun.


Imagine That Movie Poster

IMAGINE THAT (2009)

Director: Karey Kirkpatrick
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Thomas Haden Church
Genre: Family, Comedy, Fantasy
Age Restriction: PG

A sweet-natured family fantasy comedy starring Eddie Murphy. This light, fun and upbeat movie features great chemistry between father and daughter, much like The Game Plan with a funny character performance from Haden Church. However, the script lacks comic sparkle and relies too heavily on Murphy’s charisma.


The Taking of Pelham 123

THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3 (2009)

Director: Tony Scott
Starring: Denzel Washington, John Travolta
Genre: Action, Thriller, Drama
Age Restriction: 16LV

Washington and Travolta go head-to-head in this train hostage remake in a dynamic similar to Reeves and Hopper in Speed. The performances are good, Tony Scott’s direction and style is slick, but at the end of the day it’s just another high stakes hostage drama with a stagnant feel and an unsatisfactory ending.


Fame Movie Poster

FAME (2009)

Director: Kevin Tancharoen
Starring: Kelsey Grammar, Kay Panabaker, Naturi Naughton
Genre: Drama, Music, Romance
Age Restriction: 13PG L

Fame, the 1980 musical, inspired a TV series as a performing arts school took the spotlight. This bland 2009 remake features some acting talents such as Naturi Naughton, who can truly perform, but lacks a character development and story focus, making it flat and inconsistent.


SMOKIN’ ACES 2: ASSASSINS’ BALL (2009)

Director: P.J. Pesce
Starring: Tom Berenger, Ernie Hudson, Vinne Jones
Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime
Age Restriction: 16LSV

This prequel sequel tries to mimic the ferocity and style of Smokin' Aces with a shoestring budget, minus the cast, director and novelty. The Tremors return, but the low budget feel, off-beat action and diluted story just don't make the grade.


GARFIELD’S FUN FEST (2009)

Director: Mark A.Z. Dippe, Eondeok Han
Starring: Frank Welker
Genre: Family, Animation, Comedy
Age Restriction: All

Garfield isn’t the same without Bill Murray, as the franchise struggles to find a animation or live-action format that works for everyone’s favourite comic strip cat. Garfield’s Fun Fest is tainted by its simple animation, voice casting and lame script – this one’s strictly for the kiddies.

 
Golden Globes Motion Picture Awards: An Overview

AvatarThe Golden Globe Film Awards are seen as a strong forerunner to who wins at the Oscars each year, which is probably why there’s plenty of buzz around Tinseltown at this time of year. The 67th Golden Globe Awards have created quite a stir, especially with James Cameron’s Avatar taking Best Motion Picture for a Drama. This year, the ceremony was hosted by comedian Ricky Gervais, the man behind The Office and star from such movies as Ghost Town and The Invention of Lying.

Gervais’s edgy humour characterized the evening with a borderline chirp about “enjoying a drink, just as much as any man” while holding a glass of beer, to introduce Mel Gibson. The awards were dominated by the populist choice this year, which can possibly be attributed to the massive worldwide success of James Cameron’s Avatar in recent weeks.

Avatar beat out the critically-acclaimed Up in the Air and The Hurt Locker to win Best Motion Picture for Drama, while Box Office sensation, The Hangover, out-muscled the competition in Best Motion Picture for a Musical or Comedy with its hilarious bachelors misfire in Las Vegas antics. Both choices seemed to be buoyed by their public appeal and success at the Box Office.

Then in the performance category, Jeff Bridges ripped Morgan Freeman (Invictus) and George Clooney’s (Up in the Air) hearts out by winning a Golden Globe for his impressive dramatic performance as an alcoholic country singer on the mend in his role as Bad Blake in Crazy Heart. Sandra Bullock rounded off a good year with a Best Actress win for her touching performance in The Blind Side, dashing hopes for Emily Blunt (Young Victoria), Helen Mirren (The Last Station) and newcomer Carey Mulligan (An Education).

When it came to Musical and Comedy performances, Robert Downey Jr. took the award for Best Actor for his wily performance as Sherlock Holmes ahead of some serious competition in Nine’s Daniel Day-Lewis, while Meryl Streep took the stage for her larger-than-life portrayal of American cooking legend Julia Childs in Julie & Julia, trampling her contenders and other nomination for It’s Complicated.

Inglourious Basterds finally cracked the nod in the Best Supporting Actor category for Christoph Waltz’s much talked about turn in Tarantino’s “Once Upon A Time” take on World War II. Then Mo’Nique foiled Up in the Air’s double nomination in Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick, claiming Best Supporting Actress for her role in Precious.

Best Director went to James Cameron for Avatar amid some serious competition from Jason Reitman and Kathryn Bigelow, while Up in the Air finally struck gold with Best Screenplay going to Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, dislodging District 9’s chances of winning in the process.

Crazy Heart took Best Original Song for that “what every Country & Western performer longs for” kind of song by T Bone Burnett and Ryan Bingham. Best Animated Film went to Up, as did Best Original Score, which went to Michael Giacchino. Das weise Band – Eine Deutsche Kindergeschichte rounded off the Film Awards with Best Foreign Film.

Overall, Avatar triumphed, while Up in the Air and The Hurt Locker seemed to have been snubbed. It would’ve been good to have seen what had happened if Up had been put head-to-head with Avatar, but it’ll probably be a few more years before animated features reach that kind of respect. On that note, it’s easy to see how some of the Best Picture – Drama nominees would have preferred Avatar to have been relegated to Best Animation.
 
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