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World Water Day 2017: WasteWater


World Water Day 2017: WasteWater

Today is World Water Day, a day focused on bringing attention and awareness to the global water crisis. Despite the many advances in technology, a rapidly expanding global economy, and various social justice initiatives in just the last decade alone, there are still 1.8 billion of the world's population who use a source of drinking water contaminated with waste, putting men, women, and countless children at risk of contracting deadly diseases like cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and even polio.

Since 1993 World Water Day (formally World Day of Water) has chosen a theme centered around this crisis to help educate the global community on how we might together work to end the injustice of unclean water which is a key contributor to extreme poverty. This year's theme is WasteWater, a growing and systemic issue which is threatening the environment and putting future generations at even great risk than they currently already are at. Wastewater comes largely from our homes, the cities we live in, and from both industry and agricultural development which then flows back into the natural world without being cleaned, treated, or reused first.

According to the UN Water council, by reducing the amount of our wastewater, and then also reusing it in our homes, gardens, city green spaces, and so on we as a planet can create even more sustainable water habits and bring this crisis one step closer to being a begone era.

In response to the crisis of unsafe drinking water there are many organizations and non profits who are working diligently and tirelessly to bring access to this safe water to everyone around globe by 2030. Just a few of these organizations include:

With our support, from people like you and me, we can make that goal a reality and not just a benchmark. Together through partners such as these we can bring an end to the water crisis in our life time and provide safe and clean drinking water for billions of children the world over.


Making Dollars and Sense at the Box Office: Weekend One


Making Dollars and Sense at the Box Office: Weekend One

It was a race that ironically resembled the space race this weekend at theatres across the country as the two top movies of the box office had a narrow finish. In the end, Hidden Figures stepped boldly out into the spotlight and claimed the best number at the box office.

Hidden Figures expanded into 2,471 theatres this weekend and ended its first weekend nationwide with $22.8 million dollars, dethroning the galactic empire that is Star Wars by a mere $700,000. While this wasn’t exactly the height of success that either Rogue One or Hidden Figures were hoping for, unfavorable weather across the eastern seaboard and various southern states ended up leading to an overall poor performance for the first official weekend of the 2017 Box Office, the lowest performing first weekend of the new year since 2011. But despite that, Hidden Figures was still able to crunch the numbers and crank out a win. So far its domestic cume after two weeks in limited released and now this nationwide weekend, has already surpassed its budget of $25 million.

We asked our friend Breannah Alexander who is a co-founder of Women reVamped, a Grand Rapids based non-profit and  think tank that advocates for female socioeconomic mobility through education and mentorship, to share her thoughts on this powerful film on the subject of race and gender equality. Here's what Breannah had to say;

The amazing thing about Hidden Figures is that it's a story that a lot of people are unfamiliar with, including a lot of people from NASA. Almost no ones knows that the minds that were behind the scenes and ultimately responsible for helping get us into space were black women in a very segregated south. So the beauty behind Hidden Figures as a film, when talking about engaging narratives such as race in what is truly a new civil rights decade that we are steaming rolling into at the moment, is that it helps us to understand that our shared goals are often shaded by our individual experiences. Often leading to collective outcomes more or less being missed, or at best just delayed because we are only thinking about the rules and the perceptions that we have about people in diffident spaces. Hidden Figures really elevated that narrative well.
The biggest piece that I think people seeing the movie will walk away with is that it's a film about black women, but over more it is a story about women who were affected by the gender dynamics of their time. They went home to husbands who were still "heads of the home" at the time. They went into a work place where women were still very much disregarded. But they also went into a work place where their blackness affected that experience even further. So as people process this film and what this story means and why it is important it is because remembering that there are layers to people's experiences, and there are layers to how we treat one another, and there are also layers to how our impact happens the workplace matters.
I think all in all people enjoy this movie because you have a large audience that has a newly rekindled interested in understanding history. They want to better grasp the reason as to why everything is happening in todays society the way it is. Hidden Figures is a good place to start because the film reminds us that it has always mattered whether or not you are a woman, and it has always mattered whether or not your are a person of color.

Well, despite a decent weekend for most of our top five, our lone newcomer of the weekend, Screen Gem’s Underworld: Blood Wars struggled to finish the weekend with $13.7 million leading to a fourth place finish for the franchise sequel. While that doesn’t mean it’s on its way straight to Hell given that is just $5 million shy of making back half its budget opening weekend, that does mean that this is the weakest opening in the vampire franchise yet. Weather again played a factor in this, but even had more people been able to get out to theatres I doubt it would have changed anything as the film had significant competition from Rogue One still, and a slew of Oscar films that audiences seem to be far more infatuated with.

Keeping perspective though, Underworld has been slaying it at the foreign Box Office as it has pulled in an international cume of $45+ million from over four dozen markets and territories. Additionally, out of all of those (50 to be exact) only two of those territories released this film this weekend. Most began releasing the film back in mid-December and the film has continued to perform well there. Given the upcoming extended holiday weekend for Martin Luther King Jr. day, and better weather conditions in the forecast for the states, all of the top five, including Underworld specifically, have a chance to have a stronger hold over next weekend’s Box Office.

The final film worth noting this weekend is Focus Features A Monster Calls which expanded nationwide this weekend into 1,523 theaters. This heartbreaking, loss of innocence film despite having wonderful and amazing reviews and ratings only finished the weekend with $2 million dollars, leading to an overall domestic cume of only $2.2 million. From where I stand I think this is all to do with the situation Monster Calls finds itself in and not the story itself. While having gone nationwide 1,500 hundred theatres is still on the lower end for theatre count. It was also adversely affected by weather, and there are no shortage of aggressively powerful awards contenders vying for the same audience. A Monster Calls is without question a quieter film in the manner in which it tells its story when compared to films like Fences or La La Land and yet its story is a powerful one that follows you home more so than say the likes of La La Land. Anyone who watches the trailer knows they are in for an emotional ride and perhaps audiences aren’t ready just yet for that, but if this film snags the Oscar nominations it so very much deserves I am hoping this film will see a resurgence in attention.

Looking ahead to next weekend we have continued expansions of various other award nominee hopefuls like Martin Scorsese’s Silence, Ben Affleck’s Live By Night, and Peter Berg’s Patriots Day.

Silence still looks like a profoundly moving and difficult story to watch and given that it’s Scorsese, I haven’t a question in my mind that it’ll break me and make me question what it means to have faith without ceasing. This particular film will be expanding into about 750 theatres this weekend so I’m not expecting an amazing finish but I’m sure it’ll be gaining a good amount of new and energetic buzz.

Live By Night has had a nearly nonexistent start to its life as the film which has been in limited release for the last 15 days has only pulled in $170,000 from four theatres. This new Affleck film which stars him in a film written and directed by him (flashbacks to Argo anyone?) is the story of Joe Coughlin who, despite his proper upbringing as the son of the Boston Police superintendent, turns to a life of crime and outlaw during the raging 1920’s prohibition days. The creators want to make us think things get interesting when Coughlin steals the mob boss’ money and girl, but really, this film feels like an utter waste of time. Sure, don’t get me wrong, I love period pieces and though this film looks like it’ll catch the essence of the era, that appears to be the only thing it’ll be catching as it stands on Rotten Tomatoes with a 33%.

Finally the last film to expand this weekend is Patriots Day starring Mark Walberg and is the story of the Boston Marathon bombing and all the events that quickly unraveled after that horrific incident. Despite initial estimates placing this film at a $15-20 million performance this coming weekend, I’m thinking it will perform just below those expectations. It has decently average ratings and while the critical feedback is mostly positive I have a hard time jumping on board with this film. It feels like it’s playing to an already sensationalized national identity and playing on the emotions of a very tragic and heartbreaking moment in our country’s recent past. I’m not ruling the film out immediately, but I will be honest that Berg has really got to convince me/say something worth remembering in this film or it’ll be an injustice to the event itself.

The weekend will also see the release of three newcomers, The Bye Bye Man, Sleepless and Monster Trucks.

The Bye Bye Man is a horror film about three college friends who stumble upon the unsettling origins of the Bye Bye Man and they quickly discover his possession powers and the unspeakable evil he drives his victims to do. It feels like this film is stuck between the mainstream and artsy subgenres of thriller horror films, and while it might do decently given that audiences have been looking for a horror film worth their time after the letdown that was Incarnate, I am very much unconvinced it’ll do all that well.

Sleepless looks even less interesting as it’s a gritty cop-crime drama and story of Vincent Downs who is an undercover Las Vegas police officer who ends up in the middle of the intense and dangerous cross-hairs of corrupt cops, internal affairs, and murderous gangsters after his son is kidnapped. At the risk of saying I feel like I have seen this film before, all I will say is this film will most likely have a seriously difficult uphill battle keeping its audience awake even though its structured very much like a summer blockbuster that has gotten slated for a cold and slow death in January.

But regardless of that, the film looking to finish the weekend as the first major flop of 2017 is Paramount Pictures Monster Trucks. The film was originally slated for a release in May of 2015, got pushed to a December 2015 release, and then after a couple more reschedules now finds itself opening as sloppy seconds to the post-holiday box office season. The studio has literally already marked-down the value of this film and are anticipating some major financial hits because of this. Plus, they completely misjudged what the heck they were making in the first place as they originally thought it was a story that would be a wide audience appealer but has ended up literally nothing more than a shorty, oddly CGed kids film that has nothing memorable about it.

But, even though there looks like there isn’t anything worth our time coming from the newcomers, all our awards contenders that are continuing their expansion, plus those that have already begun their nationwide journey, are films that are 100% worth your time and attention. And what the heck, if you’re looking for some easy movie watching that gives you some quick thrills and flash in the pan, you’re stocked up there too.

So this weekend, no matter your movie tastes, head out and catch a movie or two!

Again, a special thank you to our guest host, Breannah from Women reVamped. Make sure to check out Women reVamped on Facebook and Twitter!



Making Dollars and Sense at the Box Office: Weekend Fifty-three


Making Dollars and Sense at the Box Office: Weekend Fifty-three

Closing out the year this past holiday weekend, Disney’s Rogue One claimed spot #1 again for a third straight weekend in a row! But that’s just the beginning of the good news. Now that the books have closed on 2016 it's official that this past year was the most successful and profitable year for the box office ever! From the 725 films that released over the past twelve months, the domestic box office pulled in 11.3 billion in revenue. For Disney, over a quarter of this was all from their 16 films which combined brought in a cume of $3 billion. On top of that, Finding Dory ended up being the number one movie of the entire year.

Over the 3-day weekend Rogue One brought in $49.5 million domestically, only seeing a 22.6% decline from its second weekend performance. That’s actually a better performance than Force Awakens saw last year with its 39.5% decline the same respective weekend. But, with that said, Force Awakens did pull in nearly double what Rogue One did this weekend. When you zoom out to the four day holiday weekend the film ended up closing out the year with $64.3 million bringing its overall domestic cume in three weeks to $439.7 million, currently making it the thirteenth largest domestic release film ever. Internationally Rogue One has pulled in $350 million as well and its global cume is now just shy of $790 million.

It’s hard to say how Rogue One will compete next weekend as it’ll be going up against a solid Oscar contender releasing nationwide, Hidden Figures, and the lone nationwide newcomer, Underworld: Blood Wars, but there is a chance the Star Wars success could again take the top of the box office.

Also finishing the weekend strong was Illumination Studios Sing, which had a super successful 3-day weekend with $42.8 million. Given that its opening 3-day weekend last week was only $35.2 million, Sing performed 21.4% better domestically. But Sing’s high notes aren’t done there because by the end of the extended 4-day weekend the film finished with $56.4 which was a 3% better performance than its 4-day Christmas weekend results. It certainly doesn't come as any shock that Sing was able to pull of this level of success even after a strong Christmas opening. The film has a solid story, plenty of fun songs to sing along to, and no shortage of fun colors and animals to fall in love with. Plus this weekend was less encumbered by family get togethers and festivities allowing parents even more time to take their kids out to see this new animated film that is sure to inspire all of our little stars to shine and get the courage to chase their dreams. Overall Sing now has a $180 million domestically to its name and is nearly $280 million globally.

Continuing in the holiday success news, Disney’s Moana climbed up the charts with a fourth place finish of $14.3 million this weekend, thus effectively bumping 20th Century Fox’s Why Him down to spot number five. Assassin's Creed, 20th Century Fox’s other Christmas holiday release, dropped to spot number eight this weekend finishing the 3-day weekend with just over $8.6 million. The film whose total global cume now stands at $86 million (still $40 million away from making back its budget) had the worst sophomore weekend performance of the weekend, and will unquestionably stand little to no chance of taking out some hits and remaining in the top ten after this coming weekend.

Looking ahead to this weekend the landscape of the top five looks to get a bit of a shake up with 20th Century Fox’s academy award hopeful, Hidden Figures, going nationwide, as well as the lone newcomer of the weekend, Screen Gem’s Underworld: Blood Wars.

Underworld: Blood Wars is the fifth installment in the Underworld franchise series starring Kate Beckinsale. With the exception of the very first Underworld film, all the films have released in the cold void of January and have had openings ranging from $45-62 million. These films always promise their cult following and other action/thriller/monster movie lovers a great time so it might honestly have a chance of dethroning Rogue One this coming weekend. With that said, the exact reverse might happen and Rogue One could end up hurting Blood Wars’ performance as there’s always the possibility it’ll steal some of its audience away instead.

Hidden Figures which began its limited release roll out back on Christmas Day will expand into just under 2,300 theatres across the country. Hidden Figures is the true, untold story of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson who were three brilliant African-American woman working in the NASA program and played a fundamental role in helping launch John Glenn into orbit, which would later become the first US astronaut to travel and return from space. Through their struggle and fight to overcome the still prevalent racism and gender oppression that was present in 1950 and 60s America, these three women helped lead the way to inspiring countless generations to dream big and never let someone else’s opinions of them define them. Despite only having a 6.9 out of 10 on IMDb, the film is garnering glowing reviews from critics already and is currently standing strong on Rotten Tomatoes with a 92%, as well as a 91% from Google users. I have been eagerly awaiting the release of this film for some months now as the film has an amazing cast starring Taraji Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, and that's just to name a few. Hidden Figures is without a doubt a film I’m urging everyone to go see this weekend because it is yet another powerful and important film on the subject of race and why unity offers us more when we stand together than division or hatred ever will.

Well that’s it for this week! Despite some serious records set by the 2016 Box Office, 2017 is looking promising. So this weekend, as you’re thinking of what to do in order to get out of the house and avoid cabin fever sitting in too much, think about heading out to your local film house and help support storytellers and their stories alike.

As always, if you liked this film don’t forget to hit subscribe so you can keep up with us, comment or like if you want to join the conversation, and we’ll see you next week on Making Dollars and Sense at the Box Office!



Bye Felicia... I mean, 2016


Bye Felicia... I mean, 2016

2016 has in the most literal sense been one heck of a year. Both with high points and moments of moruning and sorrow. For our team we celebrated 5 years of storytelling and had the opportunity to help tell so many stories of some wonderful and amazing people around our world. While some days were more difficult than others (as that's just life some times) we each enjoyed the many lessons we learned along the way these past twelve months. But if we are being honest, nothing can quite sum up how excited we are for all the promise and hope held within 2017! Here are just a few of the things that our team is looking forward to this coming year...


In 2017, I am looking forward to new creative endeavors... to growth, discovery, and wonder. I look forward to connecting with old friends and making new ones. To learning more about myself and the world around me. And not least of all, trying new local pizzas!



The fresh start of a new year is what I am most excited for in 2017. Most people fear the unknown, but I am excited for the opportunity that it brings. The opportunity for growth and change. We can't go backwards, but here's to going forward and all the stories that lie before us!



While I'm without a doubt looking forward to the bigger things 2017 has lined up, like traveling to new places, finishing up projects that I'm eager to show to the world, and creating new ones that are just ideas as of right now. I find myself almost being more excited for the quiet moments- walks through the forest, movie nights, grabbing a cup of coffee, and doing so with the people that have grown very near and dear to my heart.



The things I'm looking forward to the most in 2017 are watching films I've never seen, hearing songs I've never heard, reading books I've never read, and creating more stories about love and hope, all with friends or in solitude. Newness, that's what I'm looking forward to the most. Oh, and the new Chik-fil-A locations within short driving distance.



This past year has been quite the adventure, both in good ways and not so amazing ways also. But through it all I am thankful for the blessings that I was able to receive and the lessons that I learned. More than anything I  am looking forward to the many ways that my passions, my art, and my faith will be stretched in 2017. Growth isn't always easy, but it is necessary. While I am uncertain all of what this year will bring with it, I pray that 2017 would continue to teach me ever more what it is to care for my neighbor both here and abroad.



In 2017, I’m most looking forward to exploring new places, meeting new people, learning about other’s passions, deepening the relationships I’ve already been so blessed with, and taking time to ponder more. I’m also equally excited and terrified to be graduating and figuring out how to be a real person too I suppose. Onward and upward!



2017 is going to be great, because my eyes will see new places, my heart will bond with new people, my ears will hear new music, my hands will experience new art and new stories and new connections, as well as hold my very first college degree, which means that I will be in the beginning of a new stage of my life. 2017 is going to be great, because it's a fresh opportunity for all things new!




Silver and (Squad) Goals: A ShadowShine Christmas Story


Silver and (Squad) Goals: A ShadowShine Christmas Story

Christmas is such a fun and joyous time of year. From the bright colorful decorations and displays, to the nostalgic feelings of child like wonder that the season stirs within each of us - this is honestly one of the most wonderful times of the year. And while presents and gifts and material things tend to be on our minds for the holidays, the truth is that it isn't what you get that makes the day so festive and bright, it's who you have by your side.

As we begin to look toward the end of this year and think back on all the journeys, adventures, and stories we've been able to share in telling - just this year alone - we are incredibly thankful for this team. These wonderful people and artists that make up our family. The real present is being able to call them friends. 

From our squad to yours this Christmas season, Merry Christmas and may you all have a very blessed holiday season and New Year!


Making Dollars and Sense at the Box Office: Weekend Fifty-one


Making Dollars and Sense at the Box Office: Weekend Fifty-one

Making the jump to hyperspace and spot number one this week, Rogue One - the latest installment in the Star Wars Universe franchise pulled in $155 million domestically, which already makes it the 15th highest grossing release of 2016. Let me say that a different way so you under stand the full accomplishment of that feat - in it's first three days, Rogue One is already the 15th highest grossing film! On top of that the list of records and honorable mentions for the film include:

  • 4th largest December three-day weekend ever
  • 3rd largest opening of 2016
  • 12th largest opening of all time
  • 2nd December opener to debut over $100 million (second only to Star Wars: The Force Awakens from last year)

More over Rogue One made $90 million more it's opening weekend from the domestic box office than literally every other film that was screened last weekend combined! Internationally the film had nearly as successful of an opening as it did here in the states as it made just under $135 million from 54 markets, delivering a $290 million worldwide release. Which means the film has nearly made $100 million in profit off this film in the first few days of its release and the film promises to be the name to beat at least for the next weekend or two. 

After waiting an ENTIRE YEAR to see this film I saw it Friday night opening weekend and I was blown away. All I knew going into this film was that it was a one-off film based on a simple reference made in the very first Star Wars film, A New Hope. It’s the story of a group of Rebels who track down, fight, and steal the plans for the Death Star that then eventually lead to the events that transpire in New Hope. Without giving too much away in regards to plot or twists, I will say this film finally put to rest the decades long joke and critique that the Death Star was too easy to destroy. And if you really want the reason as to why GO SEE THIS FILM! That or check out our Rogue One review for an in-depth look at the film and story which has some spoilers for you all. COMING SOON!

The proceeding weeks for this film will be interesting as it really is setting a precedent that I know studio executives at Disney our monitoring closely. If it does exceptionally well there's no doubt in my mind that this will just be the first of many spin offs for this franchise. But the film might actually have an uphill battle to still climb. First, the film has a decent bit of competition going against it this weekend with the release of five other newcomers. Second, the film while still being a Star Wars film, doesn't advance the canonized saga the way its 7 predecessors  did and that could lend itself to bringing about a sharper decline than for say Force Awakens as fans might feel less connected to this storyline. It could end up dropping by 40% next weekend similarly to how Force performed, but honestly 50% is most likely where it will end up. That would still place it atop the box office, though, as it would pull in $75-$80 million and not a single other film stands a chance of pulling that much in on its own.

Especially not this week’s other newcomer, Collateral Beauty, whose opening weekend wasn’t so pretty. The film opened to spot number four this weekend with $7.1 million from over 3,000 theaters, effectively making it the worst opening for a Will Smith-led film – trailing behind last year’s Concussion which only managed to hit the the $10 million threshold opening weekend. Surprisingly opening day audiences gave it an A- on Cinemascore, but I suppose if your jam is holiday sob fest films, this one's your go to. There’s nothing wrong with that either, but what I will point out is that the film played as counter programming to Rogue One and didn’t do that hot, and it’s certainly getting left out in the cold this coming weekend.

But the festivities get kicked off extra early this week for most starting on Wednesday with titles such as Sony’s Passengers, the film adaptation of Assassin’s Creed, and Illumination Studios newest animated feature, Sing. That’s not even including Fox’s Why Him which will start screening Friday and Paramount’s nationwide expansion of Fences on Christmas Day.

The film that arguably stands the best chance of scoring a second place finish this weekend is Illumination’s Sing. Sing is the story of an ensemble of animals who get thrust together on a journey of talent discovery as they each compete in a massively publicized talent show hosted by Buster Moon, a Koala who is making a last ditch attempt to save the failing theatre he operates. As the only real family friendly film this weekend (aside from Moana), and with a great cast of voice actors, including such talent as Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johnansoon, John C. Reilly, and Taron Egerton, Sing is going to be hitting some high notes with audiences this weekend.

For films like Assassin’s Creed and Passengers, the forecast isn’t so clear. Assassin’s Creed stars Michael Fassbender and is based off the massively successful video game series of the same title. For those unfamiliar with the basic story line this film will be about a man going back in time using the memories locked within his ancestral DNA so that he can discover secrets and answers to mysteries that will help him to fight an oppressive order known as the Templers in his present day. And while that probably sounds like the weirdest plot ever – as a huge fan of the game series – I promise you it’s actually really well executed in the video games. The film however I am less hopeful of given its 18% on Rotten Tomatoes. Perhaps the critics aren’t a huge fan of the games and therefore this is going over their heads, but with statements like,

“In the end, the real mystery has little to do with the Assassins, the Templars or the Apple of Eden and more to do with why so many talented thespians thought this was a good idea.” - Lindsey Bahr

I am skeptical to say the least of the film adaptation. But maybe it’ll surprise us all and have massive success overseas like War Craft saw earlier this year.

But now to Passengers, a film I was actually looking forward to until I saw Arrival, is the third and final film making an early bid on the Christmas box office. Passengers is the story of Jim and Aurora who are travelers aboard a space ship on their way to a new home world. But after being woken up 90 years too early by a malfunction on the ship, the two of them begin falling for one another as they are the only two awake. Soon they discover the ship is in grave danger and they together must work to save not just their lives but the 5,000 other lives aboard the ship. Aside from being a space flix the film doesn’t look like it’s offering me or its target audience anything other than some flash in the pan and some star power that’ll be forgettable within a week’s time. If you want my opinion, I’d pass on Passengers this weekend.

Releasing then on Friday we have Why Him? Starring Bryan Cranston and James Franco. This one looks like it’ll be the holiday adult comedy option for the 18 and older crowd and arguably possess the best chance at third place this weekend if we are being honest. The film currently has a 36% and 46% on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic respectively.

And our final wide release newcomer this weekend will be Paramount’s Fences starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis. Fences is a strong, bold looking Oscar contender with what appears to be powerful performances from Washington, Davis, and a slew of other tried and true actors in this 1950s race, regret, and equality film. This film no doubt is going to be a hard, difficult one to watch, but I love this cast so much I'll go through any amount of painful emotions they want to throw at me. This is going to be a beautiful film which will sadly most likely not be getting the full attention it so adamantly deserves. Fences most likely won’t make over $6 million given all the other competition both on the major and minor studio levels, but it’s one that I know I’ll be making a point to see this week, along with going to see Rogue One a couple more (read dozen) times.

So all in all our Christmas movie stockings are going to be full this holiday weekend with some major talent spread across a whole assortment of different films and genre topics. I know I say this a lot, but there’s arguably something for everyone this weekend. So after enjoying Christmas morning with your loved ones, head out to your local theatre and show these films some love!

-Matthew Miller


Making Dollars and Sense at the Box Office: Weekend Forty-eight


Making Dollars and Sense at the Box Office: Weekend Forty-eight

It was a wet and wild ride at the box office this past weekend as Disney’s Moana sailed to the top of the charts with $56.6 million from the three-day weekend, and $81.1 million from the holiday five-day weekend. This makes Moana the second largest Thanksgiving 5-day opening of all time, second only to Disney’s 2013 Frozen. On top of that the film pulled in $17.1 million from international markets like Chine, New Zealand, and Portugal.

This isn’t just great news for Moana itself, but also Disney of course as this now becomes their 9th film in the top ten five-day and three-day Thanksgiving openings. The only other film on either of those lists is New Line’s Four Christmas. Moana’s three-day opening is also the second largest opening for a Walt Disney Animation Studios premiere, trailing behind this year’s Zootopia by a mere $20 million.

Moana is a gorgeous film with bright colors, rich heritage, and charming and completely lovable characters. It’s the story of a young girl named Moana, the daughter of a Pacific Island Chief, who sets out on a journey that will take her far away from the only Island she has ever known so that she, along with the help of a demigod named Maui, can help restore balance and life to the ocean and save her people from the death and destruction that is consuming their home land.

This film is wonderful in almost every conceivable way, and yes, animated Disney princess films may not be your jam, but this film is really important. First, the film is set in a location that Disney has never ventured to before, dives into a lush and overflowing cultural heritage that has been greatly ignored or forgotten about for some time, and more over the film’s voice actors are for the most part all representative of this heritage and cultural identify. WHICH IS AWESOME! Don’t get me wrong, I loved Kubo and the Two Strings, but I was disappointed to see a film that was set in ancient Japan, borrowing from their lures, beliefs, and culture, have a completely white-washed cast. Charlize Theron, Art Parkinson and Matthew McConaughey were all wonderful and great, but it did leave something wanting. But then we have Moana, which boosts its racial diversity and proper representation and it’s just such a breath of fresh air to see. Guys, we need more movies like that!

On top of all of that this film is great because for the first time we have  Disney Princess that doesn’t need a romantic love interest by her side to either complete her or help her to become who she is destined to be. Arguably, Maui is just a sidekick. A fully fleshed out character for sure, but Moana is our hero, and the absence of a romantic subplot in this film was a true testament to the fact that woman don’t need to be someone’s love interest, or even need to be bothered with a love interest in order to save the day in cinematic storytelling. This is probably the number one reason why I liked this film more than I did with Frozen. Not that Frozen conformed to those ideas of needing a romantic interest, in fact they poked fun at them and tried to break the mold, but Moana fully without question did that. I personally can’t wait to have kids and, God-willing a little girl, that I can share this wonderful, beautiful story with about a strong, independent woman who was able to overcome fear and the unknown to be a hero.

If you haven’t gone to see this film yet, please do so. This is a fun film that appeals to a wide arrange of audiences, not just kids and families. If you’re open to it there is a lot we can all learn from this story and I honestly hope this is the first of many more films with stronger and stronger female characters, and evermore evident and intentional ethnic diversity.

Coming in second place this weekend was Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them which pulled in $45.1 million from the three-day holiday weekend, seeing only a 39.4% decline in ticket sales. That alone is impressive as this film should have performed 50%, maybe even pushing 60%, less than it did opening weekend, but it didn’t and this now makes it the second best second weekend performance for a Harry Potter universe based film since the very first Harry Potter film, the Philosopher’s Stone which released back in 2001.

Over the five-day weekend the film saw a $65.76 million performance bringing its domestic cume to over $156 million, and the film also brought in $132 million internationally this weekend in addition to all that. Fueling the international success of the film this weekend was a China-Japan premiere where the film brought in $40.8 million and $15.5 million respectively. For China Fantastic Beasts’ thee-day opening already surpasses the lifetime grosses of all other films in the J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World Franchise, all but for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 which had a lifetime run in China of $60.8 million. Globally the film’s current cume stands at $473.7 million ranking it the 13th among all of the 2016 releases.

Jumping down to spot #4 this week we find our second newcomer for the week, Robert Zemeckis’ Allied which managed to pull in $12.7 million from the three-day weekend. This isn’t great news for Zemeckis or the Studio in the slightest given the film carries an $85 million budget, only has a B rating on Cinemascore, and is currently sitting at a 62% on Rotten Tomatoes. For me after having seeing the film I’m not surprised in the slightest that the film only opened to $12 million. The film really never expanded much beyond the general premises and obvious conclusion that just about anyone could assume given its latest trailers, and this is a film that could have said a couple different things towards the end, but stumbled to make even a well thought out concluding thesis statement.

Allied is the story of two spies who fall in love while on assignment in Casablanca during World War 2, get married after their mission is completed, start to settle down when they return home, have a baby, and then have their lives turned upside down when Max, played by Brad Pitt, gets unsettling news that his wife, Marianne, played by Marion Cotillard, may not be who she says she is. Aside from the wonderful performances from Pitt and Cotillard because, like obviously, its Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel like these two talented actors were limited by the weak and rushed writing. I was intrigued up through the end of the first Act, was skeptical but on the edge of my seat for the second, but then completely put off by the third because this film literally offered nothing that the trailers hadn't already told me. And with such an obvious ending you could call it about 20 minutes into this 2 hour long forgettable war, period-piece, thriller, love story that is clearly just begging for an Oscar nomination.

I know that sounds quite decided and a bit mean, but seriously, this film could have been something and unfortunately it’s just going to be forgotten about by next week.

And getting a lump of coal for Christmas this year is Band Santa 2 because it’s got no money to pay the bills to keep the heat on this winter given a subpar opening weekend and little prospects of going up from here. The film landed at spot #7 with $6.1 million this weekend and though it was made on a $26 million budget, it wasn’t the worst performing film of the weekend.

That title belongs solely to Rules Don’t Apply which couldn’t even crack the top ten with a 12th place finish of $1.5 million from 2,382 theatres. This makes the Fox Searchlight film the sixth worst all time opening for any film opening in 2,000+ theatres. EVER. The major letdown that Rules Don’t Apply saw is largely to do with its lack of relevance for a modern day audience, and really, this film seems hard to get on board with given it reduces Howard Hughes to little more than a punch line after the beautiful and painful The Aviator from 2004. The film might have done better had the studio done a slow roll out release which is typical of similar type films this time of year, but clearly Fox’s disregard for the rules of low budget Oscar contender films didn’t pay off.

But looking ahead to next weekend we have the release of High Top’s Incarnate which is the story about an exorcist who enters the subconscious of the possessed to safe them. And I ask you, what’s scarier for a studio than a misplaced horror film in the midst of the holiday and Oscar season? I’d be surprised if this film cracks $10 million, and I might end up being surprised, but it looks a like a mainstream jump-scare thriller that no one will be talking about after this weekend.

If you want my opinion on a film to go see this weekend, continuing its expansion towards a nationwide release is Focus Features’ Loving which just played to 421 theatres this past weekend. Yes, this is a lower profile film that is currently still building up steam, but I just saw it this weekend and I can’t express enough how important this film is. It’s the hard, real, and inspiring true story of Richard and Mildred Loving who were an interracial couple from Virginia who after getting married were persecuted and ran out of the state by socially and lawfully enforced racism. Through their fight to overturn the laws throughout the country that prevented the marrying between races we get to see a beautifully sculpted story with some truly powerful performances and thought provoking takeaways. Honestly, with no hesitation, I could see this film going on to win Best Picture at the Oscars this year and I would fully stand behind that. I’m excited to get more into why this is such a great film in the coming weeks as it ups its theatre count, but for now, this is one I would HIGHLY recommend going to see this weekend.

That’s it for this week. We have a lot of wonderful cinema to go and see right now in theatres so don’t forget to go out and support your local film house this coming weekend so that you can join the conversation with us on Making Dollars and Sense at the Box office!

-Matthew Miller