Eric D. Snider

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All the wide releases of 2011

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Do you like lists of things? Then here is one! It is a list of the 141 movies that 1) opened in the United States in 2011 and 2) played on at least 600 screens. Movies that opened smaller but eventually got to 600 screens are included, as long as their first release was in 2011. Re-releases of older movies don’t count, even if they were converted to 3D and called “The Lion King.”

I saw 113 of the 141 movies. The ones I missed have asterisks. Links are to my reviews. Sometimes I saw a movie but didn’t review it. That’s how life is sometimes. Dates are when the film opened, not necessarily when it went wide.

How many did you see? It is a contest.

1/7 Season of the Witch
1/14 The Dilemma
1/14 The Green Hornet
*1/21 No Strings Attached
*1/28 The Rite
1/28 The Mechanic
2/4 Sanctum
2/4 The Roommate
2/11 Just Go with It
*2/11 Justin Bieber: Never Say Never
*2/11 Gnomeo and Juliet
2/11 The Eagle
2/18 Unknown
2/18 I Am Number Four
2/18 Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son
2/25 Hall Pass
2/25 Drive Angry
3/4 Rango
3/4 The Adjustment Bureau
3/4 Beastly
3/4 Take Me Home Tonight
3/11 Battle Los Angeles
3/11 Red Riding Hood
3/11 Mars Needs Moms
3/18 Limitless
*3/18 The Lincoln Lawyer
3/18 Paul
3/25 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
3/25 Sucker Punch

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‘Airplane!’ director David Zucker on comedy

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Last week I wrote something for about “Duck Soup,” the loony Marx Brothers movie from 1933. In discussing the influence the Marxes had on modern comedy, I mentioned the Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker team that made “Airplane!,” “Naked Gun,” and “Top Secret,” among other fine spoofs. To my great delight, David Zucker read the column and sent me an e-mail. With his permission, I reprint it here. Fans of comedy may find it instructive.


I enjoyed reading your article on the Marx Bros.’ “Duck Soup.” I was particularly intrigued by the reasons you listed for the movie’s failure at the box office.  But I can tell you from personal experience the most important reason:

I first saw “Duck Soup” in 1967 in a packed lecture hall at the University of Wisconsin where I was majoring in film. I loved it, the audience howled, but the Marxes and their writers made a critical mistake when they assumed a movie packed with great jokes would automatically gain box office success.  What the movie lacked was a story grounded in reality, with real characters for the audience to root for.

After it flopped, Irving Thalberg told Chico Marx during a card game one night that he and his brothers could have twice the success with half the jokes. Bringing the brothers to MGM, Thalberg suggested a real ballet setting, and added Allen Jones and Kitty Carlisle to the mix — main characters that the audience could care about. “A Night at the Opera” opened to the Marxes biggest grosses ever.  The ZAZ team went through the same process, (although in reverse) basing our “Airplane!” script on an Arthur Haley B movie, “Zero Hour.”  Audiences actually cared about Bob Hays and Julie Haggerty, so the movie was quite satisfying in the last five minutes when Ted Striker actually lands the plane and wins the love of Elaine Dickinson.

Taking the wrong lessons from the success of “Airplane!” we then created “Top Secret!”, on the assumption that, like Duck soup, if we just filled 85 minutes with great jokes, we would have another big hit.  We were wrong.  Many people consider “Top Secret!” to be as good or better a movie than “Airplane!” but I know different. It was 85 minutes of jokes without a real plot, character, or situations.  After it flopped at the box office, Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg took us in (without the card game) to Disney to direct “Ruthless People,” a movie ABOUT plot and character.  We learned the lesson, had another big hit, and subsequently applied it to all of our films after that.

While following the rule never guaranteed success, ignoring it certainly guaranteed failure.

David Zucker

Everything Ricky Gervais said last night

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Here is a transcript of everything Ricky Gervais said at the 2011 Golden Globes on Sunday night. This hardly does it justice, of course, since timing and delivery are so important. (You can see a video of the first four minutes — up through the Hugh Hefner bit — over here.) But you get the idea, and at least now it’s entered into the record. Also, except where it’s otherwise noted, everything that was supposed to get a laugh got one. You can watch the tape and see for yourself.

Everything Ricky Gervais said:

Hello, welcome to the 68th annual Golden Globe awards, live from the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles. It’s gonna be a night of partying and heavy drinking. Or as Charlie Sheen calls it, breakfast.

Wow. Woo. So, let’s get this straight. What he did was, he picked up a porn star, paid her to have dinner with him, introduced her to his ex-wife — as you do — went to a hotel, got drunk, got naked, trashed the place while she was locked in a cupboard. And, uh, that was a Monday! What did he do New Year’s Eve?

Anyway, welcome. The Golden Globes is a celebration of the best in TV and movies over the last year, voted for by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. It was a big year for 3D movies. “Toy Story,” “Despicable Me,” “Tron.” Seems like everything this year was three-dimensional. Except the characters in “The Tourist.”

[There is no immediate reaction from the crowd. It takes a second for it to sink in.]


[Now there are some groans.]

I feel bad about that joke. No, I’ll tell you why. I’m jumping on the bandwagon, ’cause I haven’t even SEEN “The Tourist.” Who has?

Continue reading…

All the wide releases of 2010

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

For people who like lists of things, here is a list of the 137 movies that opened in wide release in the United States in 2010. “Wide release” means it played in at least 1,000 theaters. Some movies started much smaller than that and expanded; this list includes those, as long as they eventually made it to 1,000. Missing are the 300+ movies that opened this year but didn’t go into wide release. That isn’t a judgment against those movies, just a way of sorting them. Information is according to Box Office Mojo. Links are to my reviews.

I saw 117 of them. How many did you see?

1/8 Daybreakers
1/8 Leap Year
1/8 Youth in Revolt
1/15 The Book of Eli
1/15 The Spy Next Door
1/22 Tooth Fairy
1/22 Extraordinary Measures
1/22 Legion
1/29 Edge of Darkness
1/29 When in Rome

2/5 From Paris with Love
2/5 Dear John
2/12 Valentine’s Day
2/12 Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief
2/12 The Wolfman
2/19 Shutter Island
2/26 Cop Out
2/26 The Crazies

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Vote in the TSR Movie Awards

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

My friend Jeff Bayer’s site, The Scorecard Review, is hosting its 8th annual TSR Movie Awards, in which the films of 2009 are judged not by snooty, knowledgeable, well-informed members of the Academy, but by YOU, whoever you are. They’re arranged by categories: Funniest, Saddest, Scariest, etc. And it doesn’t matter how many movies you’ve seen, because you’re simply giving each nominee a score of 1 to 10, and you skip the ones you haven’t seen. So go vote here.

Funny story about the TSR Movie Awards. Jeff put up the nominees a couple weeks ago, and the “Twilight” sequel, “New Moon,” was mentioned a few times. This caught the attention of the Twilighters, who vigilantly scour the Internet for all references to their sparkle-monster franchise, and hundreds of them showed up to vote in the TSR Movie Awards. In one day, Jeff said he got twice as many votes as he’d gotten in last year’s entire contest. But the way these people “voted” was to give everything “Twilight”-related a 10 and everything else in the category a 1. In the Best Supporting Actress category, they gave Anna Kendrick high scores for her work in “Up in the Air” while giving her fellow nominees low scores. Why? Because Kendrick is also in “New Moon.”

That’s the mentality we’re talking about. “It’s a movie we love! We need to go stuff the ballot box so that it will win awards so that we can love it more!!” As punishment, Jeff deleted all those frivolous votes and removed most “New Moon” mentions from the ballot. You want to vote for “New Moon”? Too bad. Your loser friends ruined it for everyone.

The rest of you, go ahead and vote.

Update on the bad movie suggestions

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Thank you, one and all, for your suggestions for the Eric’s Bad Movies column (Thursdays at!). As always, my call to action has yielded many viable choices for future editions. More on that below.

First, let me explain (again) why I said I didn’t want any comedies. Some of you seemed to think it was OK to suggest a comedy as long as it wasn’t funny, which kind of misses the point. The point is that it’s very hard to make fun of comedies because they already don’t take themselves seriously. Often, all the satirist can say is variations of, “Boy, this sure isn’t funny!” Ask anyone who makes fun of things for a living — the people at “Mystery Science Theater,” MAD Magazine, The Onion, “Saturday Night Live” — and they will tell you the same thing. Satirizing comedy is very, very difficult.

That’s not to say it can’t be done. My experience has been that it helps if a comedy has supernatural, fantasy, or sci-fi elements. The problem is that I usually have to commit to a film before I’ve had time to watch it, not after. So I need to be pretty confident going in that it’s going to be suitable for the column, and comedies are so fraught with peril that I’ve mostly avoided them. When I have attempted them, I have often not been satisfied with the results.

Continue reading…

The scrapped ‘Transformers’ parody

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

I started to write a parody of “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” in the spirit of my “Twilight” and “Titanic” screenplays, but stopped before I got very far. I soon realized that, after less than a week of release, the movie had already been so thoroughly dissected, mocked, ridiculed, and satirized on the Interwebs that there wasn’t anything left for me to say. In the interest of completeness, however, here’s what I came up with before I abandoned the project.

My Rejected “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” Screenplay


(voice over) For the last two years, the Autobots have secretly been working with the U.S. military to hunt down and destroy the remaining Decepticons. We work in secret not because people would freak out if they knew alien robots were real, but because they’d be angry over how different the alien robots are from the alien robots they used to see in cartoons. Luckily, there were no witnesses to the large-scale, broad-daylight destruction of Los Angeles in the last film, so we’ve been able to keep the whole thing hush-hush.
ARMY GUY: Optimus! Shut up with your narrating and get to work! The Decepticons are attacking Beijing!
OPTIMUS PRIME: OK, OK. Hey, do I need to put in for overtime on this?
ARMY GUY: No, just mark it on your time card and we’ll let H.R. sort it out. And save your receipts!

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A truly indecent ‘Proposal’

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

While walking through Union Square in New York on Saturday, I passed a man handing out fliers for a preview screening of the upcoming Sandra Bullock/Ryan Reynolds romantic comedy “The Proposal.” Here is what the flier says, with italics, bold, and underlining reproduced accordingly.


THE PROPOSAL is an all-new fun-filled comedy starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds.

Margaret, a powerful female executive (played by Bullock), oversees a glamorous New York City publishing firm — while Andrew, her under-appreciated, stressed-out male assistant (played by Reynolds) dreams of getting promoted. But the tables get quickly turned when Margaret stunningly learns that she faces deportation back to her native Canada. Faced with no other way to stay in the country, Margaret is forced to marry her assistant Andrew! Now with the upper-hand, Andrew goes along with the sham marriage and takes Margaret to rugged Alaska to meet his quirky family. But as the mismatched couple bicker up North — they just might be able to find love where they least expected it.

Featuring hilarious comedy and charming romance, THE PROPOSAL also stars Craig T. Nelson, Mary Steenburgen, Malin Akerman, Betty White, and is from Anne Fletcher, the director of 27 Dresses and Step Up.

This invitation will admit you and one guest.
Both you and your guest must be ages 16 to 54. There will be no admission charge.

DATE: Monday, April 27, 2009

TIME: 12:00 PM noon Start Time. Please arrive early as seating is available on a “first come, first served” basis and no one will be admitted once the movie begins.

PLACE: Regal E-Walk Stadium 13 Theatres
247 West 42nd Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues)
New York, NY 10036

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Various items for your amusement

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Happy April 20 to you! For some of you, 4/20 means celebrating marijuana. For others, it means celebrating Hitler’s birthday. For still others, it means celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Columbine shootings. Whatever your celebration of choice, I hope you are able to spend it with friends and loved ones, stoned.

Speaking of Columbine, one of the movies that got blamed for it was “The Basketball Diaries” — which, coincidentally was released April 21, 1995, and is the subject of this week’s edition of Eric’s Time Capsule at

Last week’s Time Capsule was “James and the Giant Peach.” You may recall that this film was blamed when a disturbed youth hijacked a giant peach and rolled over his aunts with it.

Filling in for the ailing Mike Russell, I appeared on KUFO’s Cort & Fatboy program Friday to discuss “State of Play” and “Crank: High Voltage.” You can hear it in the C&F podcast, available here. I show up about two-thirds of the way in. (If you download it, I’m at 38:45.)

My late reviews of “Crank: High Voltage” and “17 Again” are also online, for your approval.

Elsewhere, Eugene Novikov summarizes the weekend box office in the style of H.P. Lovecraft.

Here’s FX’s safe-for-TV edit of Samuel L. Jackson’s famous line from “Snakes on a Plane.”

At Post Modern Barney, there is a list of uncomfortable plot summaries (some of them involving adult language). For example, “The Empire Strikes Back”: Boy is abused by midget, kisses sister, attempts patricide.

Finally, my 2-year-old nephew Logan says: “Wait, what?”

Why, yes. Yes I did.

Monday, March 30th, 2009

This is what I got when I searched for “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” on Amazon:

As a matter of fact, I did mean “Paul Bear: All Cop.”


Meet Paul. He’s a regular police officer, with a regular partner and a regular life. Except for just one little thing: His father was a bear! [record scratch]

PAUL: Rroowwr!

Now he’s the only one who can stop an evil corporation from destroying a national park — if he can stop thinking about honey, that is!

He’s exercising his right to bear arms — and his right to arm bears!

Put your food in a bag and hang it from a tree branch, because here comes “Paul Bear: All Cop”! He’s part ursine, but he’s all police officer!

“Paul Bear: All Cop” — in theaters this summer! You’ll bear-ly be able to stop laughing!

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