The American summer blockbuster season is upon us and Iron Man 2 will kick things off on April 29.  Over the next few months, we can also expect to see Robin Hood, Prince Of Persia, Sex & The City 2, The A-Team, Shrek Forever After, Toy Story 3, Twilight: Eclipse, Knight & Day and Inception.  That’s just a taste of what will be on offer.


On that note, it’s inspired me to do another box-office trivia game for those after some brain activity.


I’ve done two before which you can try yourself by clicking here (for the one from 2007) and here (for the one from 2005).


There are 10 questions in all and you can check your answers by scrolling to the very bottom.  This year’s questions have a link to famous actors.  All the facts and figures are for the United States only by the way.  Have fun!


1. Which Australian actor appeared in 5 films between 2001 and 2009 which grossed more than $300m at the box-office?

(a) Cate Blanchett

(b) Russell Crowe

(c) Hugo Weaving

(d) Hugh Jackman


2. Tom Hanks has won 2 Oscars but what is his highest grossing movie?

(a) Forrest Gump

(b) Toy Story 2

(c) Saving Private Ryan

(d) The Da Vinci Code


3. Will Smith is one of Hollywood’s most bankable actors.  Since 2002, he has made 9 movies.  All but one grossed more than $100m.  Which one did not?

(a) The Pursuit Of Happyness

(b) I, Robot

(c) Seven Pounds

(d) Men In Black 2


4. Will Ferrell has been churning out comedies for more than 10 years (some good, some bad).  Which of the following made the most at the box-office?

(a) Blades Of Glory

(b) Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgandy

(c) Talladega Nights: The Ballad Of Ricky Bobby

(d) Elf


5. Which star of Charlie’s Angels (I speak of the 2000 remake) has appeared in the most hit films (grossing more than $100m each)?

(a) Drew Barrymore

(b) Lucy Liu

(c) Cameron Diaz

(d) Bill Murray


6. What is the highest grossing Tom Cruise movie?

(a) Top Gun

(b) War Of The Worlds

(c) Mission: Impossible 2

(d) Rain Man


7. Which Kate has starred in the most films that have grossed over $100m?

(a) Kate Bosworth

(b) Kate Winslet

(c) Kate Hudson

(d) Kate Beckinsale


8. Meryl Streep has a million times for every major film award but what is her highest grossing movie?

(a) Mamma Mia!

(b) The Devil Wears Prada

(c) Death Becomes Her

(d) Out Of Africa


9. Which one of these Ocean’s 11 stars has produced the total cumulative box-office from his films?

(a) George Clooney

(b) Brad Pitt

(c) Matt Damon

(d) Andy Garcia


10. Titanic made $600m at the box-office in 1997.  Which of its supporting stars didn’t capitalise on its success and hasn’t featured in a movie since that has grossed more than $3m?

(a) Billy Zane

(b) Bill Paxton

(c) Gloria Stuart

(d) Frances Fisher


Answers down below…












































1. (c) – Always the underrated villain, Weaving provided voices in the two Transformers movies and featured in the three Lord Of The Rings movies.

2. (a) – Forrest Gump made $329m back in 1994.  Impressive even by today’s standards.

3. (c) – Because it was rubbish, Seven Pounds made just $69m.

4. (d) – Elf took in $173m which was must more than it deserved.

5. (c) – Ms Diaz has 9 in total. The three Shrek movies, the two Charlie’s Angels movies, Vanilla Sky, There’s Something About Mary, My Best Friend’s Wedding and The Mask.

6. (b) – War Of The Worlds made $234m in 2005.

7. (d) – I can’t believe it either. Beckinsale was in Click, Van Helsing, The Aviator and Pearl Harbor.

8. (a) – Mamma Mia! was a huge hit in the United States with $144m and did even better overseas.

9. (c) – Matt Damon is the youngest but leads with $2.24 billion. Brad Pitt next best with $1.94 billion.

10. (a) – Poor Billy. His best effort was BloodRayne in 2006 which made $2.4m.




I’ve been meaning to do this for a while but have finally gotten around to it with this week’s blog.


It takes a lot to get me to cry in a movie.  There’s a small part in the back of my brain that says “it’s only a movie” and it prevents the waterworks from flowing.


There are exceptions though.  I sat down over the weekend and went through my database to see if I could remember any films where I’d shed a tear.  The curious thing was that I seemed to come up with exactly one film for each year of release here in Australia.


I haven’t gone back beyond 1999 and so popular tear-jerkers such as Terms Of Endearment, Beaches, Steel Magnolias and Rudy (a personal favourite of mine) have not been included.


Now before I continue, I should point out that these films made me cry (or at least moistened my eyes) in a good way.  It’s not like The Bounty Hunter – which made me cry for the future of the human race.


So if you don’t mind sitting in front of the television with a box of tissues by your side, here’s are some titles which you should soon be acquiring.


I haven’t gone into a lot of detail regarding which scenes in the film made me cry in particular.  In most cases it revolves around the end and I don’t want to give too much away.


Here then is the list...


October Sky (1999)


IMDB Plot Description: “The true story of Homer Hickam, a coal miner's son who was inspired by the first Sputnik launch to take up rocketry against his father's wishes.”


Why I Cried: The scene where Homer launches his rocket into the sky (backed by Mark Isham’s score) is a thing of beauty.


The Cider House Rules (2000)


IMDB Plot Description: “A compassionate young man, raised in an orphanage and trained to be a doctor there, decides to leave to see the world.”


Why I Cried: The ending involving the fate of Tobey Maguire and Michael Caine (in his Oscar winning role).


Cast Away (2001)


IMDB Plot Description: “A FedEx executive must transform himself physically and emotionally to survive a crash landing on a deserted island.”


Why I Cried: I can’t believe I’m saying this but I felt sad for the demise of an inanimate object (as opposed to a living human being).


Last Orders (2002)


IMDB Plot Description: “Jack Dodd was a London butcher who enjoyed a pint with his mates for over 50 years. When he died, he died as he lived, with a smile on his face watching a horse race on which he had bet, with borrowed money.”


Why I Cried: There are plenty of sad moments in this film but it really hits home in the final half-hour.


Seabiscuit (2003)


IMDB Plot Description: “True story of the undersized Depression-era racehorse whose victories lifted not only the spirits of the team behind it but also those of their nation.”


Why I Cried: I had a heads up here in that I’d read the book and it made me cry too. When Seabiscuit wins his last race (against all odds), it was simply incredible.


The Notebook (2004)


IMDB Plot Description: “A poor and passionate young man falls in love with a rich young woman and gives her a sense of freedom. They soon are separated by their social differences.”


Why I Cried: For the same reasons that most people did.  This film shows up in almost every list of tear-jerkers posted by others on the interweb.


Million Dollar Baby (2005)


IMDB Plot Description: “A hardened trainer/manager works with a determined woman in her attempt to establish herself as a boxer.”


Why I Cried: I wouldn’t have picked it half-way through but this film goes off on an unexpected tangent in the final moments and I felt the full emotional impact.


Brokeback Mountain (2006)


IMDB Plot Description: “Based on the 'E. Annie Proulx' story about a forbidden and secretive relationship between two cowboys and their lives over the years.”


Why I Cried: I had friends who refused to see this film but it’s their loss. The final scenes involving Heath Ledger are very sad indeed.


Bridge To Terabithia (2007)


IMDB Plot Description: “A preteen's life is changed after befriending the new girl at school.”


Why I Cried: I didn’t think I’d be crying in a family film but this did catch me off guard. It prompted much discussion about whether people should be warned about the ending before they took kids to see it.


The Diving Bell & The Butterfly (2008)


IMDB Plot Description: “The true story of Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby who suffers a stroke and has to live with an almost totally paralyzed body; only his left eye isn't paralyzed.”


Why I Cried: This whole story is both tragic and uplifting.  Jean-Dominique and his relationship with his father perhaps the saddest of all.


My Sister’s Keeper (2009)


IMDB Plot Description: “Anna Fitzgerald looks to earn medical emancipation from her parents who until now have relied on their youngest child to help their leukemia-stricken daughter Kate remain alive.”


Why I Cried: When I saw this in the cinema, the lady next to me (who I didn’t know) apologised to me for her blubbering as the credits started to roll.  Says it all.



I hope everyone has had a fantastic long weekend.  Mine’s been pretty good – plenty of golf and plenty of movies.  Plenty of sleep too.


Clash Of The Titans – Good Movie Or Good Marketing?


Clash Of The Titans was the number 1 movie at the box-office in the United States with an estimated take in the States is around $61m.  I believe it’s also top in Australia but am just trying to confirm.


So does this mean it was good film?  Absolutely not!  I saw it last Thursday night and couldn’t believe the laughter coming from the audience during some parts of the movie.  The “ease your storm” line will go down in movie folklore as one of the worst.


I don’t think I’m in the minority with my assessment of Clash Of The Titans but the film is hanging in there with a 6.8 out of 10 average grading on the Internet Movie Database.  31% of critics have also given it the thumbs up on Rotten Tomatoes (which may sound low but it’s still surprising given my own thoughts).  I’m just trying to point out that there are some people who have liked it.


I sound like a broken record but there are times when I just can’t understand what goes through the minds of the public.  There are plenty of other good movies in release at the moment.  Why is it that a film like Clash Of The Titans can do so well?  Is it because of all the TV advertisements, movie trailers and posters?  Is it because people are still going ga-ga over 3D?  Is it because it’s being sold as a huge action blockbuster and that’s what people want to see on the big screen these days?  Maybe it’s a combination of all of these reasons.  Maybe there are other factors I’m not thinking of.


Good 3D v Bad 3D


When I walked up to ticket counter at the Event Cinemas in the Myer Centre on Thursday night, I asked for one ticket to Clash Of The Titans.  I was then told the cost was $20.  That my friends is what’s called a “rip off”.  My normal discount card gets me in for $8.50 at the Myer Centre but no such discounts are on offer for any 3D movies.


Many months ago, I wrote about why cinemas need to charge more for 3D.  The projectors are extremely expensive and they have to recover their costs somehow.  It’s the movie studios themselves who end up with the majority of the takings.


My main beef is not with big cinema chains (at least not this time).  I’d gladly pay $20 to see a 3D movie… provided that it gives you a 3D experience!  The two best examples I have this year are Avatar and How To Train Your Dragon.  These two movies were always meant to be in 3D and were filmed as such.  They take full advantage of the format.


In contrast, there are movies like Alice In Wonderland and Clash Of The Titans.  These movies were originally shot in 2D and had the 3D added later on using special effects.  You can tell the difference.  With Clash Of The Titans, the 3D adds next-to-nothing.  There were no scenes where I sat back in my seat saying “wow”.  Warner Brothers is just cashing in on the gimmick.


The only thing that irked me about the cinema I went to is that the 2D version was not offered.  If you do have a desire to see Clash Of The Titans let me strongly suggest you save your cash and find a cinema which is showing it in 2D.


With more and more studios trying to ride the 3D bandwagon, I hope this doesn’t become commonplace.  My plea to studios is that if you want to make a 3D movie then plan it that way!  Don’t use it as a “bolt on” during post-production.  The public will wise up eventually… or so I’d like to hope.


You can read more on this in a better written summary from the great film columnist Anne Thompson right here.


Leading critic Roger Ebert has been much more critical of the 3D format.  He recently said that “3-D is a distracting, annoying, anti-realistic, juvenile abomination to use as an excuse for higher prices.”  I disagree in that some films are better in 3D (e.g. Avatar) but I respect his opinion a great deal.


An April Fool’s Joke


My weekly review spot on 612ABC Brisbane happened to fall on 1 April this year.  Spencer Howson came up with the idea of reviewing a fake film to see if we could “fool” anyone.  You can listen to it by clicking right here.


If you don’t have audio, here’s a quick summary of the review that Spencer and I put together before the show…



I've reviewed some pretty strange movies in my time but I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like this.


Tunnel Vision is a locally made Brisbane film and I’m always happy to support to the local film industry.  But don’t go expecting a cast filled with household names.  In fact, there’s no actual cast.  There aren’t even any locations!


Dutch filmmaker Sloop Lirpa was granted permission to attach a camera to the front of Florence, the boring machine that dug the north-south side of the Clem-7 tunnel.  Filming commenced in December 2007 and went through until April last year.


I love a good film score but sadly, Tunnel Vision doesn’t deliver in that department.  The soundtrack is pretty much the constant grinding of the machine.  It’ll really test your patience.  You may want to take own music player to help drown out the noise. 


I hate to give away the finale but I think we all know how this is going to end.  Florence broke through at Shafston Avenue on 16 April 2009.  There are bright lights and you can make out the sea of photographers waiting on the other side.  And that’s pretty much it.


But what makes this film is its experimental nature.  How long will you be sitting in the movie theatre waiting for the tunnel to bore through?  It is 10 minutes? 30 minutes? 90 minutes? 3 hours?  That’s a secret I won’t reveal.  Like The Crying Game and The Sixth Sense, do see it before someone spoils it for you.


I have to admit I almost walked out.  I’m glad I didn’t though.  I had the stamina to make it through and I now feel like I passed a test or joined a club.


So yes, this film will appeal to a very niche audience.  See it with friends.  Egg each other on.  Take bets on when the boring machine will break through.  Trust me, that scene is worth the wait.


It’s very hard to grade a film like this since we all have different tastes.  Some will give it an A.  Others will give it an F.  So I’ll just have to go with both and give it an A F.



A few were taken in by the joke.  The weekend presenter on 612ABC, Warren Boland, was keen to get the film’s director in for his own show.  I’m not much of a practical joker but it was fun to do.


Oh, and whilst I did also see Clash Of The Titans on April 1, my savage criticisms were NOT a joke.



Marge: “Homer, the plant called. They said if you don't show up tomorrow don't bother showing up on Monday.”

Homer: “Woo-hoo. Four-day weekend.”


It’s the only time of the year I can use that great quote from The Simpsons.  A 4-day long weekend is upon us.  What does that mean for cinema owners?  Big business!  A whopping 9 cinema releases (by my count) will be released this Thursday.  That’s a smidge more than the 8 we had in 2007 and 2008.


It also means that I’ve been very, very busy.  I’ve had a few other things on the go and finally gave up last night suffering from exhaustion.  Was in bed by 8:30pm (ridiculously early for me) and so I missed a preview of the new Coco Chanel movie (out on April 15).  In all, I’ve seen 7 films in the last 6 days.  It’s not BIFF-like but not far away.


The End Of An Era


When I first developed a love of film, we didn’t have the internet.  I wasn’t aware of the talented film critics of the world who spread the word on what was good and what was bad.


There was one exception.  I often watched The Late Show With David Letterman which came on around midnight each week night on Channel 9.  How I loved my uni days.  In bed by 2am.  Up by 1pm.  Happy memories…


Anyway, Mr. Letterman’s show introduced me to the world’s most renowned film critics – Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel.  Their show (called Siskel & Ebert At The Movies) debuted in 1986 and became a smash hit.  Each week, they argued back-and-forth.  It was like something from The Odd Couple.


I loved hearing what they had to say and when the internet arrived in the Toomey household, I read the transcripts from their shows every week.  I’ve got scrapbooks at home of their reviews.  Each film received their trademarked rating – either a thumbs up or a thumbs down.  You could find a huge number of movie posters which simply contain the quote – “Two thumbs up!” – Siskel & Ebert.  They were a brand name and their thoughts meant a great deal to many people.


It all changed in 1999 when Gene Siskel suddenly passed away.  Richard Roeper became Ebert’s new partner and they worked fairly well together (although they were never the duo that Siskel & Ebert were).


In 2006, Roger Ebert took a break from the show to undergo treatment for his thyroid cancer.  He would never return.  He almost died and permanently lost his voice.  He is still the most highly regarded critic in the world though.  He can’t speak but his reviews and blogs are read by millions on the web.  On Twitter, he currently has over 121,000 followers.  Not bad for a film critic!


The show has gone through a number of changes since Roger Ebert departed.  It went through a major revamp in 2008 with two young guys (Ben Lyons and Ben Mankiewicz) brought in as hosts.  They were panned from their first show.  It went through another big change in 2009 with more respected film critics A.O. Scott and Michael Phillips brought in as replacements.


Sadly, the ratings were never the same.  And it was announced last week that the show has been officially cancelled.  It marks the end of an era and the final show will air in August.


The going has been tough for film critics in recent years.  It just got even tougher.  Another window for knowledgeable film folk to critically evaluate movies has been closed.  I find it hard to believe given that the pathetic Richard Wilkins still adorns our television screens.  His reviews on the Today show each morning (where every film seems to get a good review) irk me like nothing else.  I can barely watch.


That said, I shouldn’t be too disheartened because inevitably, things can’t last forever.  Roger Ebert, Gene Siskel and those who have followed in their footsteps on the show have had a great run.  They’ve reviewed plenty of films.


If you want to see them in action, here are two reviews which sum them up perfectly –


Fargo (in 1996) which they both loved – – Quote from Siskel – “There won’t be a better film than this.  You called it a masterpiece, I’ll go on and say that too.” 


North (in 1994) which they both loathed - – Quote from Roger – “I hated this movie as much as any movie we’ve ever reviewed in the 19 years we’ve been doing this show.”


One lesson from all of this is that you can’t re-create the chemistry that Siskel and Ebert forged.  Even if you take just one of them out of the equation, things will never quite be the same.  It’s like a great movie.  As a director, you may think it’s all coming together but until you sit in your seat at the premiere and gauge the response from the audience, you never know for sure.


Hopefully Margaret Pomeranz and David Stratton stay on our own screens for a long time to come.  I don’t have the stamina for another depressing tribute piece.


Poor Uma Thurman


I had to laugh at this story from London over the weekend.


The new Uma Thurman movie, Motherood, had an exclusive release in one British cinema.  In its opening weekend, just 12 people went and saw it.  That’s not a typo.  It took in just 88 pounds in its first 3 days.  I hope they bought popcorn to boost the cinema’s takings!


The irony is that this negative publicity will generate interest in the film.  It’s no longer showing in UK cinemas (it was pulled after just one week naturally) but it might catch the eye of a few when it appears on the shelves of video stores.  Poor Uma.  I guess she’s not quite the box-office draw she once was.  Pulp Fiction was 16 years ago (also hard to believe).