Friday, February 15, 2019

The Prodigy - Movie Review

Starring Taylor Schilling, Jackson Robert Scott, Colm Feore, Peter Mooney, Brittany Allen, Paul Fauteux and Elisa Moolecherry.
Written by Jeff Buhler.
Directed by Nicholas McCarthy.

★½

Each movie, I give them one big rule they've established, as long as the movie then follows the rules it set up in the universe. For this movie, I will give them that reincarnation is a thing. But, the movie still has to follow basic logic, and there are some dumb decisions made by a couple main characters late in the movie that yanked me out.

The film focuses on Miles, an 8-year-old boy who has the spirit of a serial killer slowly taking over. We see the killer die right before Miles is born, so there's no mystery there. It's a matter of waiting for characters to catch up to what we know. Miles keeps doing creepy things. He mutters Hungarian in his sleep. He likes sharpening knives and tools.

There are a couple effective jump-scares, but more often, director Nicholas McCarthy telegraphs what's coming. We get tropes like the close-up on the boiling tea kettle. In many ways, the movie is set up to live or die by the third act, and that's where the movie really jumps off the rails. How stupid are these people?

Jackson Robert Scott is really good at switching between being normal and malevolent as Miles. So at least there's that.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Glass #1 for third week


For the weekend of February 1-3, 2019, Glass was #1 for the third week in a row. No studio wanted to put their big guns out in its wake, so there wasn't much competition. Plus the expansion of some Oscar-nominated movies didn't get much bump. And this little thing called the Super Bowl might affect Sunday tickets.

Miss Bala is a poorly-reviewed remake, so it didn't do much business. Theater chains have to be thrilled that four new wide releases are coming next week. I expect them to be the top four.

The Upside had been considered an awards movie, but when it got mixed reviews at early screeners, it got dumped in January, and yet here it is, hitting the $75 million mark.

The Mule crossed $100 million domestic.

Opens February 8
THE LEGO MOVIE 2 with the voices of Chris Pratt and Elizabeth Banks.
WHAT MEN WANT with Taraji P. Henson, Max Greenfield and Tracy Morgan.
COLD PURSUIT with Liam Neeson, Emmy Rossum and Laura Dern.
THE PRODIGY with Taylor Schilling, Colm Feore and Jackson Robert Scott.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The 91st Academy Award Nominations

BEST PICTURE
BlacKkKlansman
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book
Roma
A Star Is Born
Vice

BEST DIRECTOR
Alfonso Cuaron (Roma)
Yorgos Lanthimos (The Favourite)
Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman)
Adam McKay (Vice)
Pawel Pawlikowski (Cold War)

BEST ACTRESS
Yalitza Aparicio (Roma)
Glenn Close (The Wife)
Olivia Colman (The Favourite)
Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born)
Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)

BEST ACTOR
Christian Bale (Vice)
Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born)
Willem Dafoe (At Eternity's Gate)
Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody)
Viggo Mortensen (Green Book)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams (Vice)
Marina de Tavira (Roma)
Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Emma Stone (The Favourite)
Rachel Weisz (The Favourite)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Mahershala Ali (Green Book)
Adam Driver (BlacKkKlansman)
Sam Elliott (A Star Is Born)
Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Sam Rockwell (Vice)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The Favourite (Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara)
First Reformed (Paul Schrader)
Green Book (Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly and Nick Vallelonga)
Roma (Alfonso Cuaron)
Vice (Adam McKay)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
A Star Is Born (Bradley Cooper, Will Fetters and Eric Roth)
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen)
BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee, David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel and Kevin Willmott)
If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins)
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty)

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
Border
Mary Queen of Scots
Vice

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Mary Zophres)
Black Panther (Ruth E. Carter)
The Favourite (Sandy Powell)
Mary Poppins Returns (Sandy Powell)
Mary Queen of Scots (Alexandra Byrne)

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
The Favourite (Robbie Ryan)
Never Look Away (Caleb Deschanel)
Roma (Alfonso Cuaron)
A Star Is Born (Matty Libatique)
Cold War (Lukasz Zal)

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
"All the Stars" (Black Panther, written by Kendrick Lamar, Al Shux, Sounwave, SZA and Anthony Tiffith)
Performed by Kendrick Lamar and SZA

"I'll Fight" (RBG, written by Diane Warren)
Performed by Jennifer Hudson

"The Place Where Lost Things Go" (Mary Poppins Returns, written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman)
Performed by Emily Blunt

"Shallow" (A Star Is Born, written by Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt)
Performed by Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga

"When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings" (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, written by Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch)
Performed by Tim Blake Nelson and Willie Watson

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Black Panther (Ludwig Goransson)
BlacKkKlansman (Terence Blanchard)
If Beale Street Could Talk (Nicholas Britell)
Isle of Dogs (Alexandre Desplat)
Mary Poppins Returns (Marc Shaiman)

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Free Solo
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Minding the Gap
Of Fathers and Sons
RBG

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Incredibles 2
Isle of Dogs
Mirai
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM
Capernaum (Lebanon)
Cold War (Poland)
Never Look Away (Germany)
Roma (Mexico)
Shoplifters (Japan)

BEST SOUND MIXING
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
Roma
A Star Is Born

BEST SOUND EDITING
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
First Man
A Quiet Place
Roma

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Black Panther (Hannah Beachler and Jay Hart)
The Favourite (Fiona Crombie and Alice Felton)
First Man (Nathan Crowley and Kathy Lucas)
Mary Poppins Returns (John Myhre and Gordon Sim)
Roma (Eugenio Caballero and Barbara Enriquez)

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Avengers: Infinity War
Christopher Robin
First Man
Ready Player One
Solo: A Star Wars Story

BEST FILM EDITING
BlacKkKlansman (Barry Alexander Brown)
Bohemian Rhapsody (John Ottman)
The Favourite (Yorgos Mavropsaridis)
Green Book (Patrick J. Don Vito)
Vice (Hank Corwin)

BEST ANIMATED SHORT
Animal Behaviour
Bao
Late Afternoon
One Small Step
Weekends

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT
Detainment
Fauve
Marguerite
Mother
Skin

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Black Sheep
End Game
Lifeboat
A Night at the Garden
Period. End of Sentence.

I'm cool with Vice getting nominated for Actor, Supporting Actress, and Make-Up, but all of the other nominations are a joke. I think the one that is most upsetting is giving Adam McKay a nomination for Director over Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born) and Peter Farrelly (Green Book).

I can't believe Won't You Be My Neighbor? wasn't nominated for Best Documentary Feature. That's the worst snub of all.

I love that Roma and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs got nominations. Netflix's plan to release their titles in a theater or two right before it hits the platform is paying off.

Nomination totals
10 - The Favourite, Roma
8 - A Star is Born, Vice
7 - Black Panther
6 - BlacKkKlansman
5 - Bohemian Rhapsody, Green Book
4 - First Man, Mary Poppins Returns
3 - The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Cold War, If Beale Street Could Talk
2 - Isle of Dogs, Mary Queen of Scots, Never Look Away, RBG

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Glass - Movie Review

Starring James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Anya Taylor-Joy, Sarah Paulson, Spencer Treat Clark and Charlayne Woodard.
Written & Directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

★★½

I loved Unbreakable. I liked Split. After the hit of Split and the buzz afterwards, the studio would have happily financed Glass, but Shyamalan wanted to do it himself so he could have 100% control. This is a movie that really could have used a producer to reign him in and give script notes. The last time Shyamalan got too full of himself and refused to accept what the studio was telling him was when he ended his Disney deal and took his next film elsewhere under condition he could make it the way he wanted. That movie was Lady in the Water.

This movie isn't as bad as that one, but I really wanted to like this movie and it had too many issues to ignore. I am glad I saw the reviews were bad so I went in with low expectations.

I really liked this movie for a good while. Past the hour-mark, it was still a solid thumbs-up for me. We get reintroduced to the unbreakable David Dunn (Bruce Willis), still fighting bad guys in his poncho. We see what he and his grown son (Spencer Treat Clark) are up to. We also see that split-personalitied Kevin (James McAvoy) is free, and that the more malevolent ones in the Horde (what all the personalities who aren't Kevin are called) are running the show, as he's holding four teenage girls hostage in some abandoned brick factory. (I love abandoned brick factories as a movie setting. Almost as much as catwalk-and-steam factories for Act 3 action showdowns.)

David brushes up against Kevin and sees where the girls are. They have a showdown, but both wind up getting arrested and tranquilized and taken to a mental health facility. Enter Dr. Staple (Sarah Paulson), a psychiatrist who specializes in patients with delusions of being superheroes. It's a very narrow field of research. Oh, and also at this facility? Elijah Price, aka Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson).

Now if you haven't seen Split, like my wife, this movie is very confusing and terrible. I have, so I understood everything about the lights switching personalities in Kevin, or why former kidnap victim Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) has sympathy for a couple of the personalities inside there. But there are other ways the movie goes wrong.

First of all, Shyamalan is very fond of characters looking right in the camera to give their dialogue, giving the audience the POV of the character he/she is talking to. This is done quite a bit with Paulson, and we are unable to look away when her dialogue starts getting really clunky and repetitive. "Stop making Paulson look at us and explain everything!" The more she's forced to give over-expository dialogue, the worse it gets. Which is exactly how I felt when watching Lady in the Water. This makes the middle of the movie lose a lot of its pacing, but I was still okay with that.

Act 3 comes, and Shyamalan builds up to this twist that isn't really that great, or at least if he hadn't hung SUCH a lantern on it. But even as we get there, the climax is start-stop-start-stop, like a car that starts but dies as soon as you hit the gas. We also lose track of what everyone's doing during the final showdown. The last half-hour could have been done in fifteen minutes just as effectively, and it wouldn't have felt so clumsy. It also would have been nice if he'd had a couple more million in the budget to make the special effects look better.

Now I really enjoyed the three main guys in their roles. McAvoy bounces around all of the personalities with precision. One line and I have no doubt which of the dozen or so from the Horde is currently in charge. Willis looks more engaged here that he has in at least a decade, and Jackson really buries himself nicely into the role of Mr. Glass. It's one of my favorite characters of his.

Glass is a movie easy to pick apart. I could really rip on a lot more elements in this movie, but after I've slept on it, I'm still glad I saw it, as it mostly lived up to my low expectations. It's an entertainingly bad movie. But man, the potential it had... It could have been so much better.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Vice - Movie Review

Starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Tyler Perry, Alison Pill, Lily Rabe, Jesse Plemons, LisaGay Hamilton, Eddie Marsan, Justin Kirk, Shea Whigham, and Bill Camp.
Written & Directed by Adam McKay.

★★½

There's a certain flavor of political movie Hollywood likes to churn out. There's the HBO model, that likes to retell recent history under the prism of "Democrats are the good guys; Republicans are the bad guys." This one escalates it to "Democrats are righteous but naive; Republicans are pure evil."

The angry fervor Adam McKay brought to The Big Short worked well. He wanted to inform and enrage but also entertain. I would argue it worked on a bipartisan level. But that movie was based on a book and he had a co-writer. Here he's doing writing duties by himself with no book blueprint, and he can't help himself. It's an angry, sloppy diatribe that blames everything that's wrong with this world on Dick Cheney (Christian Bale), whom he will have you know is the most evil human being on the planet today. At one point, he puts the creation of ISIS fully on Cheney's shoulders.

Bale thanked Satan for inspiration in how to play Cheney, and he wasn't kidding.

It jumps around on the timeline, but we see how influential Lynne (Amy Adams) is in getting Dick to have some ambition and be a better husband and father than her own father was. We at least see that Dick loves his daughters, but that would be a human thing, so naturally they have to sabotage that by the end.

All the characters in this movie are evil or stupid or Democrats. It's like watching House of Cards where Frank Underwood doesn't say anything to the camera or other people, but we get this narrator (Jesse Plemons) who assures us that Dick is evil and here's what he was probably plotting. (The ultimate reveal as to who the narrator is another cheapening trick.)

Even the most minor of characters like pollster Frank Luntz are blasted as evil. When Luntz figures out that "death tax" works better in focus groups than "estate tax" he practically twirls his mustache and cackles "Mwa ha ha!"

Granted, Cheney did enormous damage to this country and the world with some of his misguided policies and cherry-picking of intelligence. And I was certainly never bored by what was going on. Bale and Adams deserve the nomination buzz they've been getting. Bale transforms himself, and Adams just feels like she's due. Carell's Donald Rumsfeld is an amoral clown, and Sam Rockwell's George W. Bush might as well drool and wear a propeller hat. Tyler Perry captures the indignity of Colin Powell recognizing he's in the minority of an increasingly wrong-headed Cabinet.

Even in the middle of the closing credits we get one final self-congratulatory scene from McKay that undercuts whatever points he thought he was making.

Deep down, what is Cheney's motivation? His personal ethic? His driving force? McKay doesn't know and doesn't care. Cheney's just evil. If these are why events transpired the way they did, yes, it's horrifying. But this makes Michael Moore look like Dinesh D'Souza.

Bumblebee - Movie Review

Starring Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, John Ortiz, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Jason Drucker, Pamela Adlon, Stephen Schneider, Len Cariou, Glynn Turman, Edwin Hodge, the voices of Angela Bassett, Justin Theroux, Peter Cullan and Dylan O'Brien.
Written by Christina Hodson.
Directed by Travis Knight.

★★★

Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) stars in what is easily the best Transformers movie to date. It's a prequel to Michael Bay's five films, featuring Bumblebee on his initial landing on Earth in 1987. After narrowly escaping a couple Decepticons, he has no memory and no ability to speak. There he befriends a girl with her own issues.

I liked how the movie leans into 1980's cinematic cliches. The mean girls from school. The militant jock-villain. Big Government's desire to kill aliens first, ask questions later. A good song changing everything. When Bumblebee is fumbling around a house, it had a distinct Harry & the Hendersons vibe.

I can't help but think that giving screenplay duties to Christina Hodson (Shut In) as opposed to Dudebro McSplosions contributed to it being the first Transformers movie with a heart. Someone give her the He-Man live-action movie. We'll know then that Teela, Sorceress, and Evil-Lyn will be characters that actresses would want to play besides for just the paycheck. (And who knows. John Cena as He-Man? I digress.)

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Golden Globes Winners

MOVIES

BEST DRAMA - Bohemian Rhapsody
BEST MUSICAL OR COMEDY - Green Book
BEST ACTOR DRAMA - Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
BEST ACTRESS DRAMA - Glenn Close, The Wife
BEST ACTOR COMEDY - Christian Bale, Vice
BEST ACTRESS COMEDY - Olivia Colman, The Favourite
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR - Mahershala Ali, Green Book
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS - Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
BEST DIRECTOR - Alfonso Cuaron, Roma
BEST ANIMATED FILM - Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM - Roma
BEST SCREENPLAY - Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie, Peter Farrelly - Green Book
BEST SOUNDTRACK - Justin Horowitz, First Man
BEST SONG - "Shallow", A Star Is Born

TV

BEST DRAMA - The Americans
BEST COMEDY - The Kominsky Method
BEST ACTOR DRAMA - Richard Madden, Bodyguard
BEST ACTRESS DRAMA - Sandra Oh, Killing Eve
BEST ACTOR COMEDY - Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method
BEST ACTRESS COMEDY - Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
BEST MINISERIES/TV-MOVIE - The Assassination of Gianni Versace
BEST ACTOR MINISERIES/TV-MOVIE - Darren Criss, The Assassination of Gianni Versace
BEST ACTRESS MINISERIES/TV-MOVIE - Patricia Clarkson, Sharp Objects
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR - Ben Whishaw, A Very English Scandal
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS - Patricia Arquette, Escape at Dannemora

Cecil B. DeMille Award - Jeff Bridges
Carol Burnett Award - Carol Burnett

Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh were hosts. In this post-comedy era, they weren't allowed to do jokes, so they did this half-ironic shtick where they showered the guests with praise. The show had some heartfelt moments and some definite wackiness.

Aquaman #1, Escape Room #2 at box office


For the weekend of January 4-6, 2019, Aquaman was #1 for the third week in a row. It's now passed $940 million worldwide and is on course to become the fifth 2018 release to cross the $1 billion mark.

The only new release was Escape Room, and for its budget, it's a hit. Don't be surprised if we get Escape Room 2 next year.

Everything else is sliding down. Some films will be able to boast Golden Globe wins after tonight, and then the Oscar nominations coming soon will help with films like Mary Poppins Returns, Vice, If Beale Street Could Talk, etc., in their advertising.



Opens January 11
A DOG'S WAY HOME with Ashley Judd, Edward James Olmos and Barry Watson.
THE UPSIDE with Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston, Nicole Kidman and Julianna Marguiles.
REPLICAS with Keanu Reeves, Alice Eve, Emily Alyn Lind and Thomas Middleditch.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Aquaman wins final box office weekend of 2018


For the weekend of December 28-30, 2018, Aquaman was the clear winner and it's on pace to outgross Justice League. It's already at $750 million worldwide.

Mary Poppins Returns didn't have the big upfront it would have liked, but it appears it should be able to have similar longevity to The Greatest Showman.

Bumblebee is doing about what it was designed to do. If it hits $100 million domestic, great, but its real business will be overseas.

The new releases from Christmas Day haven't been able to make a splash. Vice boasts a great cast, but how many film-goers really want to watch a two-hour rage screed about how what an evil mastermind Dick Cheney is? Doesn't quite have the bipartisan appeal of Adam McKay's previous political comedy-drama The Big Short. (I still want to see it.)

Holmes & Watson is one of the worst-reviewed films of Will Ferrell's career, and it will die an ignominious death.

In limited release, the three new ones all made between $15k-$21k per screen. They are On the Basis of Sex, starring Felicity Jones as young RBG; Destroyer, a gritty undercover drama starring Nicole Kidman; and Stan & Ollie, starring Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly as Laurel & Hardy during the final years of their career.



Opens January 4
ESCAPE ROOM with Deborah Ann Woll, Taylor Russell and Tyler Labine.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Worst 7 Movies I Saw in 2018


I've seen 67 movies so far that are of 2018, which is a little low for me at this point in the year. I was going to do a Worst Ten, but in trying to come up with that number, I had some movies I thumbed down but wouldn't go so far as to put them on a Worst list. Plus there are a lot of scathingly-reviewed movies this year that I just didn't see, nor do I plan to. (Winchester, Fifty Shades Freed, Action Point, Slender Man, The Happytime Murders, Peppermint, Hunter Killer, Robin Hood, Mortal Engines, Welcome to Marwen, Holmes & Watson are among the suspected bad movies that I just didn't see.)

So of what I did see, these were the worst.

7. THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX - This was intended for theaters, but at the last second it became a Netflix release. It was a viewing hit and it had an interesting cast, but it wound up being a rip-off mish-mash of Interstellar, Arrival, and Alien in all of the worst ways.

6. A WRINKLE IN TIME - Loved the book as a kid. Deeply disappointed in this adaptation that cared more about special effects than heart. I liked the kid actors and Chris Pine, but the three Mrs. (Oprah, Reese and Mindy) never quite sunk into the ethereal quirkiness of their characters, and it felt like a series of CGI scenes strung together rather than one great adventure.

5. STRANGERS: PREY AT NIGHT - The first movie played with minimal suspense well. This one strained credibility, as the Strangers seem to be able to teleport, which makes them less scary.

4. GRINGO - This is one of those movies where it feels like a bunch of favors were called in. Director Nash Edgerton gets more talent than the script warrants, with his brother Joel, Charlize Theron, David Oyelowo, Amanda Seyfried, Sharlto Copley, and more in this disjointed black comedy about corporate greed. Oyelowo is game as the fish out of water, a Nigerian-American immigrant stuck in Mexico, and he has a decent chemistry with Copley as a hitman. That's about it.

3. THE NUN - The Conjuring universe is hit or miss. This was a miss. The movie is so darkly lit, I had a hard time seeing what was going on. The only decent jump-scare was in the trailer, and that's what this movie is: a series of ineffective jump-scares.

2. THE 15:17 TO PARIS - Director Clint Eastwood made a bold move to have the three real-life heroes play themselves. It wound up being a massive miscalculation. This is easily the worst movie he's ever directed. If you're really curious about it, the last 15 minutes are good. Everything before that is painful. Even normally good actresses like Judy Greer and Jenna Fischer come off badly.

1. TERMINAL - Margot Robbie's pet project is long on style and short on substance. That doesn't have to be a bad thing, but it's full of scenes that don't feel connected, and then a twist ending that requires eight minutes of explanatory dialogue so convoluted, it makes the whole affair feel like a pointless exercise.

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Grinch opens to $66 million


For the weekend of November 9-11, 2018, The Grinch easily won the week. Illumination has had success with taking on Dr. Seuss (like Horton Hears a Who and The Lorax), so can an animated Cat in the Hat movie be on its way?

The other two wide releases - Overlord and The Girl in the Spider's Web - look like they'll be quickly forgotten.

Meanwhile, Bohemian Rhapsody had a mere -39.6% drop-off in its second week, which is good because the big guns of Thanksgiving releases are on their way.

In limited release, The Front Runner did okay. It stars Hugh Jackman as Gary Hart, the Colorado senator once considered the favorite to get the Democratic nomination for president in 1988 until rumors of extramarital affairs brought him down.

Meanwhile add Beautiful Boy and Can You Ever Forgive Me? to the long list of prestige limited release movies to come out this fall that haven't caught on when they open to more screens. (See also Suspiria, Wildlife, A Private War, Colette.)



Opens November 16
FANTASTIC BEASTS 2 with Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston and Johnny Depp.
WIDOWS with Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Robert Duvall and Daniel Kaluuya.
INSTANT FAMILY with Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne and Octavia Spencer.
GREEN BOOK with Viggo Mortensen, Mahershala Ali and Linda Cardellini.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

First Man - Movie Review

Starring Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Corey Stoll, Patrick Fugit, Ciaran Hinds, Olivia Hamilton, Shea Whigham, Pablo Schreiber, Lukas Haas and Ethan Embry.
Written by Josh Singer.
Directed by Damien Chazelle.

★★½

The good stuff first. Everything in space is great. This movie makes you feel like you are in that shuttle. That creeky "are you sure this thing will hold up?" shuttle. So half of the movie is good stuff.

The other half is a real drag. Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) was a depressed guy, and here he is making history, but there doesn't seem to be much joy or wonder. Buzz Aldrin (Corey Stoll) is portrayed as a jerk, but at least he's stoked about space travel.

A lot of Neil's tightness is around the death of his young daughter. There's also the issues of accidents that kill some of his friends. Outside pressures ask NASA, "Is space travel really worth the cost?"

I saw it in IMAX, and that's the best way to see it. It has a lot of positive qualities, even if it's low on actual joy.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween still #1 at box office


For the weekend of October 26-28, 2018, Halloween held on easily to the #1 spot for the second week. No other studios dared put a competing horror movie on the calendar.

The new releases are did predictably bad. Gerard Butler's long-delayed Hunter Killer finally got dumped in theaters. (How long has it been on the shelf? One of its co-stars, Michael Nyqvist, died in June 2017.) Other films were dumped into a few hundred theaters. Johnny English Strikes Back and Indivisible were ignored, but London Fields was reviled with a per-screen average of $275.


Opens November 2
BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY with Rami Malek, Joe Mazzello, Ben Hardy and Mike Myers.
THE NUTCRACKER with Keira Knightley, Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren.
NOBODY'S FOOL with Tiffany Haddish, Tika Sumpter and Whoopi Goldberg.
(wide) SUSPIRIA with Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton and Chloe Grace Moretz.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Bad Times at the El Royale - Movie Review

Starring Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth, Cailee Spaeny, Lewis Pullman and Nick Offerman.
Written & Directed by Drew Goddard.

★★★

This is the second film from Cabin in the Woods' Drew Goddard, and he has as much fund playing with mystery thriller tropes here as he did with horror tropes there.

A few strangers descend on the El Royale hotel (its own character), a once-thriving resort that lies on the California-Nevada border. Now in 1969, it hasn't had guests in days. We meet the nervous bellboy (Lewis Pullman) while he greets a grizzled priest (Jeff Bridges), a chatty salesman (Jon Hamm), a forlorn singer (Cynthia Erivo), a hostile hippie (Dakota Johnson) and so on. The players each get their own room, and one by one we learn more of their stories, and that none of them are as they seem. All the while the hotel's jukebox plays just the right song for every occasion.

The cast is great, and each actor gets their own moment to shine. The way it unravels reminded me of Tarantino's The Hateful Eight, though I would say El Royale is a better movie. It may not have much substance, but it has style up the wazoo.

The Nun - Movie Review

Starring Demian Bichir, Taissa Farmiga, Jonas Bloquet, Ingrid Bisu, Charlotte Hope and Bonnie Aarons.
Written by Gary Dauberman & James Wan.
Directed by Corin Hardy.

★½

The Conjuring-verse is hit or miss. This is a miss.

The "Nun" in The Conjuring 2 was one of its more scary elements. Now she gets her own origin story. Unfortunately this movie doesn't have much imagination beyond keeping everything dark and having stuff jump out and go "ROWR!" every once in a while.

The trailer was very effective. The trailer also featured the best scare in the movie.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Venom still #1, First Man #3 at box office


For the weekend of October 12-14, 2018, Venom held on to the #1 spot, and A Star Is Born had a shallow drop in its second week to help it keep the #2 spot and stave off all newcomers.

First Man had a good resume, and it's getting good reviews, but it got lost opening between the 1-2 punch of Venom and A Star is Born last week, and Halloween next week. Goosebumps 2 did about as well as expected. Meanwhile, Fox could not figure out how to market Bad Times at the El Royale despite having Jeff Bridges, Chris Hemsworth, Jon Hamm and Dakota Johnson in its cast and good reviews.

Gosnell is the directorial debut of Nick Searcy (Justified) and was aimed at the MAGA crowd.

In limited release, Beautiful Boy was the big winner. It stars Steve Carell as a dad trying to cope with his son's drug addiction. Jane & Emma and The Happy Prince did okay. The Oath, written by, directed by and starring Ike Barinholtz (Blockers) bombed.

It hasn't been a good season for limited release movies. The Sisters Brothers, a Western starring Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal and John C. Reilly, expanded to over 100 screens, but it's only getting $2000 per screen and will therefore not likely expand further. Colette, starring Keira Knightley, expanded to 593 screens, but couldn't even get $2000 per screen.



Opens October 19
HALLOWEEN with Jamie Lee Curtis, Danny McBride and Judy Greer.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

The Predator - Movie Review

Starring Boyd Holbrook, Trevante Rhodes, Jacob Tremblay, Sterling K. Brown, Keegan Michael-Key, Olivia Munn, Thomas Jane, Alfie Allen, Jake Busey, Yvonne Strahovski and Augusto Aguilera.
Written by Shane Black & Fred Dekker.
Directed by Shane Black.

★★½

None of the Predator movies have been high art, but the original 1987 classic with Arnold has enjoyed good will over the decades. Predator 2 was okay, but people rarely talk about it. The Alien v. Predator movies are wisely ignored by the Alien and Predator franchises, and Predators (starring Adrien Brody) wasn't bad, even though it did feel like the script was the winner of a fan-fic contest.

The Predator is about on par with Predators. I was entertained. It's fine. It has some unique kills; it has some Shane Black dialogue. Some members of the cast are better than others. When you have Jake Busey show up as a scientist, you know how unseriously it's taking itself. The ending is bad, in the way most "keep things open for sequels!" endings are.

But for me, the weak parts were the giant leaps in expositional logic. Humans keep figuring out what the plot is without enough evidence to support their theories. "This must be his motivation!" Wait, based on what exactly?

Boyd Holbrook (Logan, Narcos) is good as the lead. He's a soldier who winds up getting lumped in with some other crazy ex-soldiers called the Loonies. I appreciated how none of them started dying until late in the movie so we could get to know them, and each of them are interesting. (Moonlight's Travente Rhodes shows he was no fluke. Keegan-Michael Key can credibly fire a gun. Augusto Aguilera's going to start getting offered "younger Michael Pena" roles. Etc.)

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Predator #1, Simple Favor #3 at box office


For the weekend of September 14-16, 2018, The Predator was #1, but it came in much lower than it was tracking. It had to have been hurt by bad reviews, plus no real star to hook audiences with.

Of the other new releases, A Simple Favor did well, considering. Marketing had the unenviable task of publicizing a movie that combines comedic elements with a mystery thriller, and it also needs to not give any of the significant twists away. White Boy Rick, meanwhile, continues to show that Matthew McConaughey's star power is pretty diminished.

The Nun had a big drop-off but that was to be expected. It'll easily hit $100 million next week and still has potential to be the highest grosser in the Conjuring universe.



September 21
THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS with Jack Black and Cate Blanchett.
LIFE ITSELF with Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas.
FAHRENHEIT 11/9 with Michael Moore.