Category Archives: Movies

Blogger Fantasy Movie League – Week Three

In which we really start to see systemic optimization.

Week three of our blogger Fantasy Movie League once again seemed to present two possible paths forward.

The choice seemed to be between Wonder Woman, still going strong at the box office having outperformed last week’s big release, The Mummy, and Cars 3, the new challenger.

It seemed pretty clear that Cars 3 would take the top spot.  But FML isn’t about picking the box office winner, but picking eight movies based on a budget, with a bonus available for picking the best price/performance movie of the week.  Cars 3 might do better, but would it be worth the price?  It would limit what other movies one could pick.  And you couldn’t pick Cars 3 AND Wonder Woman.

Cars 3                    $719
Wonder Woman              $478
All Eyez On Me            $327
Rough Night               $243
The Mummy                 $167
47 Meters Down            $105
Captain Underpants        $78
Pirates                   $71
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 $60
It Comes At Night         $34
The Book of Henry         $31
Baywatch                  $29
Megan Leavey              $25
Alien Covenant            $11
Everything, Everything    $10

I decided to take a chance this week.

As often happens, as the week progressed I changed my mind and redid my picks.  I do that enough that I would like to be able to save my “shadow” picks just to see how they would have done.

Way back on Tuesday of last week there was a lot of optimism around Rough Night.  Initial guesses put it at $16 million for the week, but that surged past $20 million at one point.  With Cars 3 pegged at $50 million and Wonder Woman less than that, putting Rough Night up on three screens would likely beat either and still leave me room for decent secondary picks.

I was down with three screens of Rough Night.  And then Wednesday rolled around and people who saw previews started talking and reviews started coming out and estimates fell dramatically and ended up being optimistic even then.

So I tinkered around with some other picks.  My daughter was determined to pick Wonder Woman and All Eyez on Me, the latter based on what she was seeing on social media, which turned out to be a decent call.

I ended up sticking with my desire to avoid the two leading contenders.  So when the week’s picks were finalized on Friday morning, the Blogger league had six people going with Cars 3, found people sticking with Wonder Woman, and me all-in on The Mummy.

My Mummy selection and its yield

The Mummy, on five screens!

My logic was that all The Mummy had to do was 50% of its opening week, not an over-optimistic level of performance to my mind, and it could be the optimum pick for the week.

As it turned out, Tom Cruise couldn’t carry that much water and it fell short of the mark, leaving me in 5th place for the week.  However, I was not that far behind the pack as none of us picked the optimum lineup for the week, which was Wonder Woman and seven screens of Pirates of the CaribbeanPotC turned out to be the optimum price/performance choice of the week, rewarding an extra $2 million per showing.

Weekly Top winners

A hell of a way to run a multiplex.

The scores for the week ended up being:

  1. Braxwolf’s Waffleplex – $95,601,042
  2. Pasduil’s Popcorn Picturehouse – $89,038,632
  3. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes – $88,324,978
  4. Wilhelm’s Clockwork Lemon Multiplex – $87,349,717
  5. Void’s Awesomeplex – $85,782,636
  6. Murf’s Matinee Mania – $80,261,527
  7. Moderate Peril’s Sleazy Porno Theatre – $79,249,812
  8. Ocho’s Octoplex – $76,340,371
  9. Bel’s House of Horrors – $75,251,356
  10. Syl’s Fantasy Galore Panopticum – $74,075,088
  11. Clockwork’s Cinesplosion – $50,587,837

Surprisingly, Liore did not finish on top this week, with Braxwolf taking the top spot.

Wonder Woman was not a panacea this week.  While it was the main pick of the top two finishers it was also the anchor of the last place entry.  Picking neither Wonder Woman nor Cars 3 got me 4th place.

Weekly wins so far:

  1. Liore – 2
  2. Braxwolf – 1

Liore did not, however, lose much ground by coming in third and remains firmly out in front of the pack.  Season totals after week three.

  1. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes – $327,705,530
  2. Wilhelm’s Clockwork Lemon Multiplex – $294,905,717
  3. Pasduil’s Popcorn Picturehouse – $294,546,672
  4. Moderate Peril’s Sleazy Porno Theatre – $286,728,185
  5. Braxwolf’s Waffleplex – $281,706,342
  6. Ocho’s Octoplex – $279,942,008
  7. Void’s Awesomeplex – $277,486,309
  8. Bel’s House of Horrors – $260,469,411
  9. Clockwork’s Cinesplosion – $252,962,484
  10. Murf’s Matinee Mania – $243,483,792
  11. Syl’s Fantasy Galore Panopticum – $203,347,469

I managed to just hold on to second place, while Braxwolf’s strong finish for the week jumped him up to fifth.  The race remains for second place as the gap between first and second place is about the same as the gap between second and eighth place.

Still ten weeks left to go, which leads us to the week four lineup.

Transformers              $560
Wonder Woman              $286
Cars 3                    $278
All Eyez On Me            $104
The Mummy                 $73
Pirates                   $58
47 Meters Down            $55
Captain Underpants        $45
Rough Night               $39
Tubelight                 $34
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 $32
Beatriz at Dinner         $17
Megan Leavy               $16
It Comes At Night         $13
The Book of Henry         $11

Transformers: About Last Night is the big fish in this week’s pond with box office estimates ranging between $60 and $75 million.  That is enough to make it the likely anchor for most picks this week I suppose.  If you do go with it you then have to back fill with what you hope will be this week’s Pirates of the Caribbean.

But if you avoid Transformers: The Last Goodnight, then you have considerably flexibility to experiment with screen builds… as I will now call them.

You can go all-in on Tupac… All Screenz on Me

So we shall see if this is a transformative week or not.

I will follow my usual practice of picking what I think is a good screen build, then I will look at the box office predictions and see how badly I have likely erred.

Blogger Fantasy Movie League – Week Two

Week two of our Blogger Fantasy Movie League seemed to present us with two possible paths forward.

The lineup for the week looked to pit the first week’s champion, Wonder Woman, against a new contender for the box office crown, The Mummy.  The choices and prices presented to us were as follows: (Last week’s post mostly explains how this all works)

Wonder Woman              $613
The Mummy                 $526
Captain Underpants        $198
Pirates                   $143
It Comes At Night         $150
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 $70
Baywatch                  $60
Megan Leavey              $59
Everything, Everything    $28
Alien Covenant            $26
My Cousin Rachel          $15
Snatched                  $9
Best of the Rest          $9
Diary of a Wimpy Kid      $8
King Arthur               $7

And then the first reviews and the Thursday night numbers hit and it became pretty clear that The Mummy was going to do well, but not well enough to defeat Wonder Woman.  Only one person bet on The Mummy, and Braxwolf’s decision to back Tom Cruise explains his low ranking in this week’s tally.

So the real question of the week was what should the other seven screens show once you had booked Wonder Woman.

It looked like Liore, the founder of the event and the practiced ringer who will no doubt be the overall winner at the end of the 13th week, opted to put Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on five screens, with My Cousin Rachel on the remaining two, a selection that on the Saturday estimates looked to push her way out in front of the rest of us.  At that point GotG2 looked to have the best cost/performance ratio, which gets you some bonus income for each screen showing it.

My own picks were Wonder Woman, Pirates of the Caribbean on two screens, Everything Everything on two screens, and My Cousin Rachel on three screens, a lineup that spent my entire $1,000 weekly budget. (I setup a spreadsheet to figure out how to spend my whole budget under the theory that the cost reflects the estimated performance.)

My picks and their yields

The Sunday estimates came out and reeled Liore a ways back towards the pack as Wonder Woman was beating projections and took over the cost/performance crown, spreading the wealth to the rest of us who went with that pick.

Then the final results came in and the optimum result was clear.  Liore missed it by failing to pick the right two addon films after GotG.

Week Two’s Perfect Pick

But the win for the week went to Liore all the same, with the rankings for the week as follows:

  1. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes – $94,019,519
  2. Wilhelm’s Clockwork Lemon Multiplex – $88,088,986
  3. Pasduil’s Popcorn Picturehouse – $86,983,478
  4. Ocho’s Octoplex – $86,379,050
  5. Void’s Awesomeplex – $85,978,667
  6. Moderate Peril’s Sleazy Porno Theatre – $85,672,860
  7. Murf’s Matinee Mania – $84,507,305
  8. Clockwork’s Cinesplosion – $82,465,146
  9. Braxwolf’s Waffleplex – $64,527,776
  10. Bel’s House of Horrors – $63,772,205
  11. Syl’s Fantasy Galore Panopticum – $43,155,933

Liore was out in front by a fair margin, followed again by a fairly tight pack of people who picked Wonder Woman and filled out their full lineup.

Trailing behind was Braxwolf, who dared pick The Mummy for his anchor, Belghast, who left three screens empty (which costs $2 million per screen), and Syl, who did not have time to fill our her picks so her picks from the previous week rolled forward.

That leaves the overall rankings after two weeks as:

  1. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes – $239,380,552
  2. Wilhelm’s Clockwork Lemon Multiplex – $207,556,000
  3. Pasduil’s Popcorn Picturehouse – $205,508,040
  4. Moderate Peril’s Sleazy Porno Theatre – $207,478,373
  5. Ocho’s Octoplex – $203,601,637
  6. Clockwork’s Cinesplosion – $202,374,647
  7. Void’s Awesomeplex – $191,703,673
  8. Braxwolf’s Waffleplex – $186,105,300
  9. Bel’s House of Horrors – $185,218,055
  10. Murf’s Matinee Mania – $163,222,265
  11. Syl’s Fantasy Galore Panopticum – $129,272,381

Liore remains solidly out in front, nearly $22 million ahead of the nearest member of the main pack.  There are still 11 weeks left to go, so it is possible somebody might catch her, but she would have to really miss a major pick some week.

Now we are looking towards week three, the lineup for which is:

Cars 3                    $719
Wonder Woman              $478
All Eyez On Me            $327
Rough Night               $243
The Mummy                 $167
47 Meters Down            $105
Captain Underpants        $78
Pirates                   $71
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 $60
It Comes At Night         $34
The Book of Henry         $31
Baywatch                  $29
Megan Leavey              $25
Alien Covenant            $11
Everything, Everything    $10

Cars 3 looks to be the most likely anchor for a winning line up this week.  The trick remains what other titles best supplement that pick.  Or maybe Wonder Woman with some other picks will remain the better choice.  We shall see.

Blogger Fantasy Movie League – Week One

About a week ago Liore of Totally Legit Publishing (formerly Herding Cats) invited some bloggers to form up a Fantasy Movie League for the summer blockbuster movie season.  This was formed on Twitter, so if you were left out it was probably because you don’t hang out in that particular den of iniquity.  Or Liore doesn’t like you.  You’ll have to check with her.

There ended up being 11 of the usual suspects total in for the idea.

As it turns out, there is a site for this.  There is a site for everything on the internet, isn’t there?

The site lacks subtlety and is called Fantasy Movie League and lives at the domain fantasymovieleague.com.

Akin to a fantasy football league, the fantasy movie league is driven by real world events which reward or punish player decisions.

The essential story is this:  You run an 8 screen theater.  Each week of the 13 week season you have to pick which movies to show on the eight screens of your theater.  Easy enough.

But there is a catch.  You have a budget of 1,000 FML Bux to spend each week, and your movie choices each have a per screen price.  For example, last week Wonder Woman was on the list, but had a price of 845 FML Bux.  That means you can only show Wonder Woman on a single screen.  Not only that, but investing 84.5% of your budget into one movie severely limits what else you can show.  You could not, for example, show another of the week’s new releases, Captain Underpants, as it cost 239 FML.

So that is constraint, fill 8 screens but stay within your budget.  You can leave a screen blank, but that costs you $2 million off of your total.  Your score is the US box office take of the movies you picked times the number of screens you have them on.

We all created our accounts and dove in.

The way it works is you get all week to tinker with your picks… I redid mine six times… in private.  When 9am Pacific time on Friday rolls around all picks are locked and become visible to everybody else in your league.  Then you wait for the results.  You get an estimate result on Saturday and Sunday, and the final results when the studios release the numbers on Monday.  Our choices for the week were:

Wonder Woman              $845
Captain Underpants        $239
Pirates of the Car.       $193
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 $74
Baywatch                  $62
Alien Covenant            $31
Everything, Everything    $22
Diary of a Wimpy Kid      $17
3 Idiotas                 $17
Snatched                  $14
King Arthur               $12
Boss Baby                 $7
Beauty and the Beast      $6
Fate of the Furious       $5
Best of the Rest          $5

“Best of the Rest” is a wildcard that will take the numbers from the best performing movie not on the list already.

I made some picks, then adjusted them, as noted, after reading some advice on the forums.  The advice was somewhat general, use all your FML Bux if possible, since the price is an estimate of how well the movie is expected to do, and don’t feel you need to show every movie.

The question of the week seemed to be whether or not to go with Wonder Woman.  Given that it was clearly going to win the week, I went with that and then back filled with 3 showings of Alien Covenant, 2 showings of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: A Wimp will Rise, and one each of 3 Idiotas and Beauty and the Beast.  That left me with just a few FML Bux left and all screens covered.

My picks and their payouts

When the picks locked on Friday I checked out what people chose.  There was a lot of variety in most people’s picks.  A few opted for Captain Underpants over Wonder Woman.  But there were two extreme picks.  Murf went for Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on all screens while Liore went for Wonder Woman with Everything, Everything on the remaining seven screens.

And then the first estimates came out and Liore was way out ahead of the pack.  I checked the overall rankings and the top 200 people, all tied for first place, had all picked the same thing.

Everyone, everyone for Everything, Everything

There was that feeling you get when somebody suggests a game to play and then turns out to be very, very good at it.  Liore the ringer!

She however claims to be innocent and that her picking the optimum lineup for the week was a fluke.  We shall see.  I ended up mid-pack, placing 8th with the Saturday estimate, 7th with the Sunday, and 6th with the final numbers.  The rankings at the end of week one were:

  1. Dr Liore’s Evil House of Pancakes – $145,361,033
  2. Moderate Peril’s Sleazy Porno Theatre – $121,805,513
  3. Braxwolf’s Waffleplex – $121,577,524
  4. Bel’s House of Horrors – $121,445,850
  5. Clockwork’s Cinesplosion – $119,909,501
  6. Wilhelm’s Clockwork Lemon Multiplex – $119,467,014
  7. Pasduil’s Popcorn Picturehouse – $118,524,562
  8. Ocho’s Octoplex – $117,222,587
  9. Void’s Awesomeplex – $105,725,006
  10. Syl’s Fantasy Galore Panopticum – $86,116,448
  11. Murf’s Matinee Mania – $78,714,960

The mid-pack picks… leaving aside Liore the ringer, Syl who didn’t go with either Captain Underpants or Wonder Woman, and Murf who went all Guardians of the Galaxy 2… were pretty close.  And I don’t think even Liore has a completely insurmountable lead unless she is the ringer she appears to be.

Anyway, that was the first week.  Since it is a blogger thing I figure I can blog about it every week.  This isn’t like Fight Club.  The first rule of Blogger FML Club is more like, “Never not Boss Baby.

I also made a home league for my wife, daughter, and myself.  Your picks go for all leagues you are in, so the same movies apply in my case.  My daughter edged me out there for first place, though just barely, while my wife fell into third place having bet on multiple Captain Underpants besting Wonder Woman.

And now we are on to week two.  The options for that are:

Wonder Woman              $613
The Mummy                 $526
Captain Underpants        $198
Pirates                   $143
It Comes At Night         $150
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 $70
Baywatch                  $60
Megan Leavey              $59
Everything, Everything    $28
Alien Covenant            $26
My Cousin Rachel          $15
Snatched                  $9
Best of the Rest          $9
Diary of a Wimpy Kid      $8
King Arthur               $7

This week the main choice looks to be whether or not you think Wonder Woman will continue to dominate or if Tom Cruise and The Mummy will take the top spot… or be close enough that the extra budget leeway will give you an advantage.  You can’t pick both.  And then, of course, what else do you put in your lineup?

Kickstarter MMO Metaphor

There were too many of us, we had access to too much equipment, too much money, and little by little we went insane.

Francis Ford Coppola, not at all describing Star Citizen

There is, even as I write this, a Kickstarer campaign running for a video game based on the movie Apocalypse Now.

ansplash

I have no real opinion when it comes to the game itself.  It might be the best game ever or allow one unique depth and perspective into the movie.  It might be all they promise and more.  I just know that it looks pretty sure that the campaign is not going to make its $900,000 funding goal.

Wilhelm’s Rule of Kickstarter campaigns is that if you don’t make 20% of your funding goal in the first 24 hours, you might as well go home.  You haven’t rallied your base or given enough notice or come up with the right pitch or simply just don’t have the draw to get there.

The campaign sits at 18% and is at day 14 of 30.  The prospects look grim.  They even have a backer in at the $10,000 mark, but not nearly enough backers in at the sane funding levels.

I didn’t even hear about the title through the gaming news media.  I stumbled on it by mistake on the Kickstarter site, and I was only there because I saw Bob Cringley had time to do another post on his blog so was wondering if he might have also found time to update people on when the hell their Mineservers might be showing up. (If ever.)

Still, when I found the campaign I had to laugh.

I wasn’t laughing at the campaign or what it was trying to accomplish.  Like I said, the intent there might be pure.

Rather, I was laughing at what a perfect metaphor the movie was for the big ticket, grandiose plans, uncontrolled feature creeping, perennially behind schedule, and always over budget crowdfunded MMORPG market.

And lets face it, the grand champion poster child for all of that is Star Citizen. You could make this it several others, but Star Citizen is the big fish, so let’s just go straight for the jugular on that one.

Every Star Citizen fan boy about to tell me Chris Roberts is a great man...

Every Star Citizen fan boy about to tell me Chris Roberts is a great man…

How can you have this thought… this mixing of media minds… and not put Chris Roberts up there in the role of Colonel Kurtz?  Surrounded by loyal followers who continue to give him money to driving a project that seems to have gone beyond being a viable venture.

I suppose if he could keep his posts a little more terse I might have to cast Derek Smart as Captain Willard.

They told me that you had gone totally insane, and that your methods were unsound.

-Capt. Willard, on meeting Col. Kurtz

That is a fun mental image to play with, but it is too much.  The movie is too large, too dramatic, too bloody, too wrought with peril to really be a metaphor for Star Citizen.  The real metaphor requires you to pull back a level, to consider the making of Apocalypse Now.

There is a great documentary about the making of the movie, Hearts of Darkness.  It illustrates the parallel between the theme of the movie and the reality of making the movie, with Coppola himself taking on the Kurtzian role, out in the jungle, making a movie that nearly grew beyond his ability to shape.

I can picture Chris Roberts in that situation as well.  He had a vision, but the scope may well have grown beyond his ability to shape and bring to fruition.  Some of the problem is letting things grow because the wider scope is what he really wants.  But not every problem is of his making.  Coppola in the jungle face expensive problems with sets, actors unprepared (Brando) or ill (Sheen had a heart attack) and a range of studio execs back in the states wondering what he was doing with all the money and reminding him that he was past his deadline.

For Chris Roberts you can substitute in technology not up to his vision, the need to build some things from scratch, the need to change engines, and of course a whole range of people wondering what he is doing with the money and pointing out that the promised November 2014 ship date disappeared in the rear view mirror quite a ways back.

Coppola got an enduring classic for all his problems, explosions, and a million feet of film.  We are still waiting to see what Chris Roberts will deliver.

And the irony is that the game that inspired this metaphor in my head, it isn’t going anywhere if it is depending on its crowdfunding run.  But it has been a down time for video game crowdfunding, so they might have to go back to more traditional methods.

Honest Trailers – Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Screen Junkies celebrated their appreciation month by asking viewers what five movies they should send up with their special Honest Trailers treatment.  The picks were all good, but out of the five my favorite was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

For those interested, the other four were:

 

Why Not This George?

The day has arrived.  Star Wars Episode VII – The Force Awakens kicks off the dominion of Disney over the Star Wars empire.  Here on the west coast, operation Box Office Domination officially kicks off at 7pm, when theaters are cleared to roll the first sitting.   A long and profitable reign it will likely be.  The movie has made more than $100 million already.

Seriously, who throws $100 million at something that isn’t even released yet?

*cough*

I mean, I barely saw any ads for the movie itself on television… there wasn’t any room for them with all these other companies throwing money at Disney so THEY could do a Star Wars commercial featuring their products.  It was a bit difficult to tell exactly what, for example, Dodge cars had to do with Star Wars, though I did like the black and white cars representing Vader and Storm Troopers version they ran at one point.

We’re caught up in the excitement at our house… somewhat.  We are fans, though not perhaps huge fans.  I own three versions of the original trilogy (VHS, DVD, and BluRay), which represent, if nothing else, three different Han and Greedo encounters.

Part of the warm up for the new movie has been to go back and watch some of the previous ones.  We skipped the first two (the Cinema Sins review of Episode I and Episode II were enough for me), opting for what is arguably the best of the prequels, Episode III –  Revenge of the Sith.  Also, probably the most difficult to script, since it had to start where Episode II left off and end with everything lined up nicely for the original Star Wars.

But it was watching that classic, Episode IV, so called, that I started to cringe a bit.  The extra additions, the CGI pasted on to the original movie, really hasn’t worn well with me.  I was “meh” on it when I first saw it, and it grates a little harder with each time I see it.  Even my wife said that she didn’t remember the movie having quite so much bad green screen in it.  I could see cleaning up the frames and where you could see the matting, but the extra dirt on the storm troopers or having them ride fat beasts that somehow leave no tracks in the sand, that just seems like a waste.

All the more so since there are some things in the movie that really make it show its age.  Why couldn’t George Lucas have gone after that?  No, I am not talking about the horrible range of side burns that seemed to be so popular in a galaxy far, far away.

But on you it looks good!

But on you it looks good!

Bad taste transcends time.

I am more on about the computer graphics effects.  I can attest that the read out of the death star plans was the state of the art back in 1977, but by the time George Lucas decided to wreck remaster his originals, he could have done a lot better.  I am especially surprised he did not opt to change the targeting computer readouts during the attack on the death star.  You know, this bit:

All together now, "Stay on target!"

All together now, “Stay on target!”

I could see that maybe redoing the horrible old “the death star approacheth!” table display might have been some challenge, what with people being on screen and the angle changing, but the targeting computer readout is literally on screen by itself.  Something super up to date and swishy could have been injected into there.  Yes, the die hard fan boys would have screamed about that, but given what else George was bent on changing, I think this might have been forgiven.  Instead we have CGI road traffic in Mos Eisley trying way too hard to be comedic.

Anyway, that was my heretical thought for this day.  And it is all in Disney’s court now.