Monday, July 17, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes is #1


For the weekend of July 14-16, 2017, War for the Planet of the Apes was the big winner, able to take first place from Spider-Man. it was a slightly better opening than Rise of POTA but not as well as Dawn of POTA.

The other new wide release was Wish Upon, a forgettable low-budget horror movie that will appear on some streaming service in a few months.

The staying power of Wonder Woman is the story of the summer. It's on pace to pass Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and I don't see Spider-Man: Homecoming catching it.



Opens July 21
DUNKIRK with Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance.
VALERIAN with Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevinge, Ethan Hawke and Clive Owen.
GIRLS TRIP with Regina Hall, Jada Pinckett Smith, Queen Latifah and Larenz Tate.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming - Movie Review

Starring Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Bokeem Woodbine, Martin Starr, Martin Chernus, Abraham Attah, Michael Mando, Donald Glover, Tyne Daly, Logan Marshall-Green, Tony Revolori, Garcelle Beauvais, Chris Evans and the voice of Jennifer Connelly.
Written by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers.
Directed by Jon Watts.

★★★½

Tom Holland is the third actor in less than ten years to play Spider-Man. He's also the youngest, and that's a good thing. This felt like a high school movie that happened to be a superhero movie too. There's a breezy fun to everything going on.

Fortunately since we've already met this Peter Parker during Captain America: Civil War, we don't have to go through his origin story again. I don't need to see Uncle Ben get killed anymore than I need to see Batman's parents gunned down again.

Director Jon Watts (Cop Car) does a good job of weaving together all of the character relationships, and while there isn't too much action compared to most other superhero movies, the giant set pieces he does have, he handles well. The ferry splitting in half scene in particular.

Michael Keaton's blue-collar Vulture has an understandable POV, as he and his crew go from legitimate demolition workers to underground traffickers of alien technology to get ahead. The arrogance of billionaire Tony Stark lingers over everything, and Stark's in this movie almost as much as he was in Captain America: Civil War.

My favorite scene is one in the car. You've seen the clip in the trailer of Keaton in the driver's seat looking back at Holland, but the way that whole scene plays just crackles. Keaton doesn't go for scenery-chewing; he goes for much more subtle menace. And hey, he has a family, so he can be reasoned with.

Hoping somewhere down the road we can get a Spider-Man/Ant-Man buddy movie.

P.S. Favorite Easter egg is Jennifer Connelly voicing an A.I., following in the footsteps of her husband Paul Bettany who voiced Jarvis for a few movies before he became Vision.

---

Also saw in 2017:

THE LOST CITY OF Z (★★½)
Starring Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland, Angus Macfayden and Ian McDiarmid.
Written & directed by James Gray.

This old-fashioned "By Jove!" colonial travelogue of a movie tells the true story of Percy Fawcett, a man commissioned to help map the Amazon River in South America before and after World War I and came across what he believed was evidence of a lost city, an ancient civilized city. I liked some of the supporting work from Robert Pattinson (Twilight) and Angus Macfayden (Braveheart), but it ultimately got too repetitive.

IT COMES AT NIGHT (★★½)
Starring Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, Christopher Abbott and Riley Keough.
Written & Directed by Trey Stults.

This post-apocalyptic domestic thriller was marketed as a horror movie, and while it does have some horrifying things, it doesn't go in predictable directions. It raises more questions than it has answers for, and ultimately I felt hollow when it was over. It does a good job playing off of paranoia and suspicion, but it's also a cautionary tale on just how tribal people can still be.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is #1


For the weekend of July 7-9, 2017, Spider-Man: Homecoming had the second-highest opening of a Spider-Man movie, and with no competition, it easily won the weekend. It's the third highest opening of the year. Sony showed wisdom beyond its years in making a deal with the MCU to allow Spider-Man crossover.

The Big Sick is looking like the summer indie you might want to catch in theaters because it'll be nominated for Best Screenplay during award season in five months.



Opens July 14
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES with Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson.
WISH UPON with Joey King, Ryan Philippe, Sherilyn Fenn and Elisabeth Rohm.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Despicable Me 3 is #1


For the weekend of June 30-July 2, 2017, Despicable Me 3 was the big winner. Not as big an opener as DM2 or Minions, but these movies cost almost half what Pixar puts into theirs, so it'll be super-profitable. It's going to easily pass Cars 3 to be the biggest animated movie of the summer.

Baby Driver made $30 million through its first five days. It's the biggest opening ever for an Edgar Wright movie, and I'm glad he's found commercial success.

The House tanked. On paper, it looked like a surefire hit. Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler? But the reviews were terrible.

Wonder Woman and Pirates 5 have both hit $700 million worldwide. Cars 3 is on pace to be Pixar's second-lowest grossing movie (ahead of only The Good Dinosaur).



Opens July 7
SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING with Tom Holland, Michael Keaton and Robert Downey Jr.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Baby Driver - Movie Review


Starring Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, Eiza Gonzalez, Flea and Lanny Joon.
Written & Directed by Edgar Wright.

★★★½

Edgar Wright has directed Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The World's End, and now this. He's 5 for 5 in my book.

Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars) plays Baby, a guy who's one of the best drivers on Earth. He's deeply indebted to a criminal kingpin named Doc (Kevin Spacey), so to pay off what he owes, he drives getaway for different groups that Doc hires. Mostly bank robberies. Baby has tinnitis and listens to music at all times to drown out the ringing, but the music is the soundtrack for his life. Everything that happens in the movie is done to the beat of whatever Baby's listening to. It's a cinematic trick that works.

Wright's talent is to take familiar genres and add thrilling new twists to them, and he does for car chase heist movies here what he did for zombies in Shaun, for buddy-cops in Fuzz, teen romance in Scott Pilgrim, and alien invasions in World's End. I really enjoyed what he did with Foxx and Hamm as two smooth yet dangerous bankrobbers. Baby's deep down a good guy who shouldn't be among these criminals, but he has no choice.

I had a blast watching it.

GLOW - Netflix Review


Starring Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, Marc Maron, Sydelle Noel, Britney Young, Britt Baron, Gayle Rankin, Ellen Wong, Chris Lowell and Rich Sommer.
Created by Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch.

This Netflix show is utterly bingeable, a bright, campy 1980's comedy-drama that winds up having a lot of heart and interesting characters beneath the stereotypes they're supposed to play. I went through it in a week, then watched the 2012 GLOW documentary.

Alison Brie is Ruth, a workaholic actress who can't seem to catch a break. She shows up at an open audition, but she and the others don't know what it's for until they arrive. One thing I liked about the show after seeing the real story is how faithful the show was to the sisterhood and the audacity of the whole project.

Former WWE stars like John Morrison, Brodus Clay, Carlito, and Alex Riley show up. Chavo Guerrero Jr. trained the actresses for this TV show, just like his uncle Mando Guerrero trained the original GLOW ladies.

Marc Maron is great as the deeply cynical Hollywood director in charge of this project, and there are some other unexpected appearances along the way.

I also liked how we had a mini-Mad Men reunion between Brie (Trudy Campbell) and Rich Sommer (Harry).

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Transformers 5 is #1 at box office


For the weekend of June 23-25, 2017, Transformers: The Last Knight grossed $5 million ($69 million in its first five days), making it $265 million worldwide. The last two Transformers movie grossed over $1 billion each. This one will likely not get there. I don't know if the negative reviews would be much of a factor. These movies have never had a Fresh rating at RottenTomatoes. (In fact, Michael Bay's only managed one fresh rating his entire directing career, with 1996's The Rock.)

It'll be interesting to see where final numbers land for Cars 3 and Wonder Woman. I think WW will have the edge and hold on to #2. In fact, WW is on pace to pass Guardians of the Galaxy 2 to be summer's highest domestic grossing film. The only two upcoming titles that might have a chance to catch them are Despicable Me 3 and Spider-Man: Homecoming.

All Eyez on Me had a colossal 77.9% drop in its second week. Straight Outta Compton, it is not.

The Mummy is tanking in the US, but it's doing well enough overseas to be profitable. Just not by much.

In limited released, Sofia Coppola's The Beguiled and Michael Showalter's The Big Sick did great.


Opens June 30
DESPICABLE ME 3 with the voices of Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig and Trey Parker.
THE HOUSE with Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Allison Tolman and Jason Mantzoukas.
BABY DRIVER with Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Wonder Woman buries Mummy at box office


For the weekend of June 9-11, 2017, Wonder Woman managed to hold off Tom Cruise and any other challengers to her box office throne. Anything less than a 50% drop in a second week is a great sign for longevity.

The Mummy is off to a rough start for the planned Dark Universe, where Frankenstein, Wolf-Man, Creature of the Black Lagoon, etc., are supposed to be part of this eventual franchise. It's the first big-budget movie Alex Kurtzman has directed. He's known mainly for producing films like Cowboys & Aliens and Star Trek into Darkness. Critics hated it. I expect it to break even thanks to overseas business.

Lower-budget fare like It Comes at Night and Megan Leavey didn't break out either.




Opens June 16
CARS 3 with the voices of Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt and Larry the Cable Guy.
ROUGH NIGHT with Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon and Jillian Bell.
ALL EYEZ ON ME with Demetrius Shipp Jr., Danai Gurira and Kat Graham.
47 METERS DOWN with Mandy Moore, Claire Holt and Matthew Modine.

Get Me Roger Stone - Netflix Review


Directed by Dylan Bank, Daniel DiMauro & Morgan Pehme.

★★★

Roger Stone has been a political operative for decades. Most people know him as the Dirty Trickster, that weird, sloping forehead guy who dresses in fancy pinstripe suits and is good friends with Donald Trump. This documentary shows just how long he's been involved, how deeeply he's been involved, and how he helped build a swamp that Trump claims he can drain.

Stone was a young man who first got into politics under Richard Nixon after being inspired by Barry Goldwater. His rapid ascension meant he could get any jobs he wanted, and he worked on the campaigns of Reagan, Bush, Dole, Bush, and now Trump. The doc does a good job of letting Stone be Stone, a charming snake-oil salesman who also has done more to corrupt politics in DC than just about anyone.

The movie does a good job of outlining the trajectory of his career, and also showing that since 1988, he's wanted Donald Trump to run for president.

When I got to the end, I still wasn't sure what Stone really cares about. He's about winning, he's about keeping his name in headlines, he's about ruining other people, crushing his enemies. Is there any soul there? He's the ultimate Machiavellian sociopath. It doesn't matter how low he goes as long as he accomplishes his goals.

He says that he welcomes those who hate him, because if he was unsuccessful, they wouldn't hate him. True. He knows exactly how to exploit people's fears, anxieties and weaknesses.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Wonder Woman - Movie Review

Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, David Thewlis, Danny Huston, Elena Anaya, Ewen Bremner, Said Taghmaoui, Eugene Brave Rock and Lucy Davis.
Written by Allan Heinberg, Zack Snyder & Jason Fuchs.
Directed by Patty Jenkins.

★★★½

After she stole the show in Batman v. Superman, I'm not surprised Wonder Woman is still winning in her own movie. The real surprise is that DC has delivered its first really good movie since The Dark Knight.

We met Diana (Gal Gadot) in modern times, but this is her origin story. Diana is being raised to be the next queen of the Amazons, but when WWI pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes on to their beach, these women need to confront the outside world they've been able to ignore for millenia.

Patty Jenkins (Monster) does a good job balancing action and humor. Act I has the beach fight; terrific. Act II has No Man's Land; excellent. Act III has the big-explosions showdown with the main villain. Honestly that might be the movie's weak link, in that all of these movies tend to end with big-explosions showdowns.

Gadot captures the combination of fierceness and naivete of Wonder Woman. She has the physiciality down, but she's quite charming in her fish-out-of-water scenes where this Amazon, who's never met a man before, must now fit in 1917 England. The chemistry between Gadot and Pine is solid. Like Christopher Reeve/Margot Kidder solid.

Really enjoyed it. It's in my top five for 2017 so far.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Wonder Woman opens to over $103 million


For the weekend of June 2-4, 2017, Wonder Woman broke some records. Highest opening ever for a female superhero movie. Highest opening ever for a live-action female-directed movie. And while it didn't open as well as previous DCEU movies, it wasn't expected to. In the long run, Warner Bros can see this as their biggest hit for all of the positive word-of-mouth this film will generate.

Wonder Woman is also the third-highest opening of 2017, behind Beauty & the Beast and Guardians of the Galaxy 2.

The other new wide release was Captain Underpants, based on a kids book series. I saw hardly any publicity for this, and its budget doesn't look like it was too much, so Fox is probably happy with these numbers, particularly when they saw the Wonder Woman wave coming.

Everything else dropped dramatically. Everything Everything was the only movie in the top 12 that didn't drop by more than 50%.

Next week Wonder Woman has a good chance of holding off The Mummy to be #1 for a second week. Pro.BoxOffice currently projects that film to open to $39 million.



Opens June 9
THE MUMMY with Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Sofia Boutella and Jake Johnson.
IT COMES AT NIGHT with Joel Edgerton, Riley Keough and Christopher Abbott.
MEGAN LEAVEY with Kate Mara, Tom Felton, Common and Bradley Whitford.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales - Movie Review

Starring Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Brendon Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin R. McNally, David Wenham, Stephen Graham, Golshifteh Farahani and Orlando Bloom.
Written by Jeff Nathanson & Terry Rossio.
Directed by Joachim Ronning & Espen Sandberg.

★★½

Johnny Depp's mincing Captain Jack Sparrow is a constant. He never seems to grow or learn, regardless of what's thrown at him. Even death left him unchanged. Maybe that's part of the charm.

This fifth movie has Sparrow facing an old rival, Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), a Spanish soldier who'd tried to rid the sea of priates, only to be cursed for decades in the Devil's Triangle, tricked into there by a young Jack. When a destitute Jack gives away his magic compass, the spell that kept Salazar trapped is broken, and now he is free to seek revenge.

The first movie is still the best in the series, but it's arguable which one is the best sequel. I think this one ranks ahead of 3 & 4 and is about on par with 2. The knives were out for this one but it's actually enjoyable in many parts.

First, Bardem's Salazar is a great villain. A Javert who's been cursed to be the living dead, trapped in the Devil's Triangle. Second, the chemistry between the young love interests (Brendon Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario) is better than those two from 4, and maybe better than Bloom & Knightley. If anything, what used to be the best part of these movies is now its weakest. There's a lot of humor around Jack Sparrow that falls flat.

Oh, and after the credits, we get a stinger that signifies where Pirates 6 is going.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Pirates 5 is #1, Baywatch #3


For the weekend of May 26-28, 2017, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales sailed to first place, showing there's still life in the franchise. Unfortunately its budget was so large, it won't break even until about $700 million worldwide. Should be doable.

The other new release was Baywatch, which critics hated, and that killed it. It was tracking to open in the $30's last week, but too many people caught wind of how bad it was supposed to be.

In holdovers, the big surprise was Alien Covenant dropping 70% in its second week. Die-hard fans saw it in the first week, and it is not expanding its appeal. Its worldwide gross should still help it turning a profit and justifying another sequel, but probably just one more.

So, you ask, why are we getting live-action treatments of The Lion King, Aladdin, Dumbo, Pinocchio, Mulan, and The Little Mermaid, as well as a Cruella movie starring Emma Stone? Beauty & the Beast just $500 million domestic and $1.23 billion worldwide.



Opens June 2
WONDER WOMAN with Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen.
CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS with the voices of Ed Helms, Kevin Hart and Jordan Peele.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Movie Review

Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Kurt Russell, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Sean Gunn, Ben Browder and Sylvester Stallone.
Written & Directed by James Gunn.

★★★

This movie is faithful to the original formula. It's a fan-pleasing sequel where some of the returning characters get more to do this time around while others don't.

Family is a big theme this time around, to the point that I started to wonder if Vin Diesel was going to pull up in a shiny new car. (Nah, he'll just voice baby Groot.) Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot still fly around the galaxy as paid mercenaries. But Quill runs into who turns out to be his father, a celestial being named Ego (Kurt Russell).

I liked the sisters subplot with Gamora and Nebula, where that relationship/rivalry is fleshed out more. I was amused by the antics of baby Groot. In particular I like how the opening battle was secondary to Groot chasing a space-rat, all to the tune of ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky." I like the addition of Mantis (Pom Klementieff) to the team.

Sylvester Stallone felt like he was wasted, but if what they did with him pays off in a future movie, then it was worth it.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage - DVD Review

Starring Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Toni Collette, Deepika Padukone, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Rory McCann, Kris Wu, Michael Bisping and Samuel L. Jackson.
Written by F. Scott Frazier.
Directed by D.J. Caruso.

★½

I must admit this movie was even cheesier than I thought it would be. When xXx first came out in 2002, it was supposed to be an edgier, hipper US antidote to James Bond, with a focus more on extreme sports and stunts rather than unreal gadgets. Vin Diesel thought he was too big a star to return for the sequel, so a quickly forgotten xXx 2 with Ice Cube looked like the end of a franchise before it could even begin.

Fast-forward a few years, where Vin Diesel movies that aren't part of the Fast & Furious franchise lose money, and it made sense for him to see if he could resurrect this. Domestically no, but overseas it made enough money to justify another movie, if the producers are so inclined.

Cage is a rebel, and when he's recruited to stop a handful of xXx-trained mercenaries who steal a superpowerful device called Pandora's Box (which is very similar to the Eye from F&F), there's always that edge of when he's going to ditch the government agents watching him and go rogue. It's the type of movie where whereever he goes, he's greeted by sexy young women who want to sleep with him. When he meets other people, they are surrounded by scantily-clad young women who serve as eye-candy, security, or whatever else excuse the filmmakers can conjure.

Even the geeky IT girl is played by the gorgeous Nina Dobrev, and she can't wait to tell Cage her safeword. Seriously.

So there are some cool stunts, some bad green-screens, and the whole thing felt so full of cliches that if they'd cast everyone 25 years older, you'd have The Expendables 4.

At least it had Donnie Yen as the antagonist. He was by far the best part of the movie.

Monday, May 22, 2017

'Alien Covenant' Topples 'Guardians 2' at Box Office


For the weekend of May 19-21, 2017, Alien Covenant took the top spot. Not quite as big an opening that Prometheus had, but this one had slightly better reviews and it also benefitted from last week's new releases opening poorly. It also grabbed an additional $81 million overseas, so it looks like it's on its way to profitability, just not by very much.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 got to $300 million domestic, and getting to $400 million is not unrealistic. It's now past $730 million worldwide.

Of the other new releases, Everything Everything did okay, considering its budget. I never saw any marketing for this outside of a poster. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul showed that despite the recasting of all the parts, maybe they should end this franchise.

Further down the chart, Smurfs: The Lost Village is now in the black thanks to its success overseas. Kong: Skull Island is finally in the black for the same reason.

Remember when it was announced they had 6-7 Power Rangers movies planned? Yeah, not happening. It tanked overseas.

And side note: Prayers for Zack Snyder, who dropped out of directing Justice League after his 20-year-old daughter committed suicide. Joss Whedon, who's prepping a Batgirl movie, will finish directing Justice League for Snyder.



Opens May 26
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DMTNT with Johnny Depp and Javier Bardem.
BAYWATCH with Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron and Alexandria Daddario.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Alien Covenant - Movie Review

Starring Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demian Bichir, Carmen Egojo, Amy Siemetz, Jussie Smollett and Callie Hernandez.
Written by John Logan & Dante Harper.
Directed by Ridley Scott.

★★★

This is a sequel to Prometheus, while still being a prequel to Alien, and while the familiar xenomorph does show up, along with the face-grabber, this is still more in the vein of Prometheus.

At the end of that movie, the survivors Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and David (Michael Fassbender) set out to find the home planet of the Creators, the large white creatures that apparently designed the aliens. We eventually learn their fate in this movie.

Meanwhile a colonalization crew aboard the Covenant is headed for a new planet to colonize, but they receive what may be a distress signal from a different, habitable planet that they were unaware of. The captain dies in his hibernation pod due to malfunction, and the second-in-command Oram (Billy Crudup) doesn't seem to be up to the job. Daniels (Katherine Waterston) is his backup, and she happens to be the wife of the now-dead captain. This crew of 14 decides to explore the new planet, and if they like it, they may use it to settle as their new home instead.

And on that planet, they meet David.

Now the Prometheus crew has their own synthetic with them named Walter. Fassbender plays both, and he does a great job of making them two complete characters. We can always tell who's who when David cuts his hair to match Walter's. (Which seems a little weird that no one questions it.)

It features some pretty gory deaths once the action kicks in, aliens bursting out of people's chests, backs, and mouths, and then when the main alien grows to its usual height, more people die in body-shredding ways. This movie filled in some holes that Prometheus left, and it's still very open for another film, which director Ridley Scott plans to be the final bridge between these prequels and 1979's Alien.

My biggest problem with this is the giant fluxuations in continuity, as far as how quickly these aliens incubate and grow. Remember when John Hurt had that thing on his face for 24 hours before it let go, and it took a few more hours before something burst out of his chest? This one has a face-grab to chest-burst in about one hour. And I can't say it was that scary. It's monster-movie fun, with a Hammer horror flavor to David, but the first two movies may never be topped.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Guardians 2 still #1, King Arthur flops


For the weekend of May 12-14, 2017, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 continues to roll. It's already in the black, having grossed over $630 million worldwide so far. The first one topped out at $773 million; this one should get to the $1 billion mark fairly easily.

Of the newcomers, King Arthur is a giant bomb. They keep retelling this story every decade or so; if Clive Owen couldn't make a franchise of it in 2004, I don't know why they thought Charlie Hunnam could in 2017. On a related note, we're getting another Robin Hood movie next year.

Snatched did a little better, but considering how successful Trainwreck was, this is a disappointing opening for Amy Schumer, especially when it's Goldie Hawn's first movie in 15 years.

Lowriders did well on limited screens; The Wall was all but forgotten on a few more.



Opens May 19
ALIEN: COVENANT with Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston and James Franco.
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: THE LONG HAUL with Alicia Silverstone and Tom Everett Scott.
EVERYTHING EVERYTHING with Nick Robinson and Taylor Hickson.