Sunday, August 13, 2017

Annabelle 2 is #1


For the weekend of August 11-13, 2017, Annabelle: Creation was the big winner. Horror has been underperforming all summer, but when a good one finally came along (RottenTomatoes at 69%), it was rewarded. It's the fourth movie in the Conjuring universe, and it's another profitable chapter. The fifth one comes out next summer and will center on the Nun character from Conjuring 2.

The Nut Job 2 was probably the least anticipated animated sequel since Hoodwinked 2, and it should disappear quickly.

The Glass Castle never could find a way to capitalize it being based on a best-seller and starring recent Oscar winner Brie Larson.


Opens August 18
THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD with Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson and Gary Oldman.
LOGAN LUCKY with Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig and Hilary Swank.
(exp) WIND RIVER with Jeremy Renner, Elisabeth Olsen and Martin Sensmeier.

The Beguiled - Movie Review

Starring Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, Addison Riecke and Emma Howard.
Written & Directed by Sofia Coppola.

★★½

I never did see the Clint Eastwood original, but I can't help but believe there was more to it than what we get here.

Coppola sets up a dreamy plantation-style school in the middle of Civil War-torn Virginia. The fighting is never seen, just the occasional gunfire in the distance, beyond the trees. One day a wounded Union soldier names McBurney winds up at their doorstep. The school is run by two teachers (Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst), and they only have five students. There's a one-sentence reference to the slaves having left.

Colin Farrell is McBurney, and there's some instant amusement from the ladies' swirling hormones when a wounded gentleman is now in their care.

There's a gentle dreaminess to Coppola's movies, and also a delecate portrayal of sheltered women that tends to keep some of them from breaking out. I see a lot of similarities here to Somewhere, a movie where Elle Fanning bounced from hotel to hotel with her dad without much happening. Here the women and girls don't really leave the house, and they don't really know how to cope whne a man shows up.

The movie takes a darker turn in the third act, when McBurney's true nature is revealed. Once it was all over, it felt like another movie with little consequence or lasting impression. At least it wasn't long enough to get boring. What do I still think about? Those trees.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Detroit - Movie Review

Starring John Boyega, Will Poulter, Algee Smith, Jacob Latimore, Anthony Mackie, Jason Mitchell, Hannah Murray, Jack Reynor, Kaitlyn Dever, John Krasinski, Ben O'Toole, Nathan Davis Jr. and Laz Alonzo.
Written by Mark Boal.
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow.

★★★

The point of this movie isn't to entertain you while you watch. It's to punish you and then make that feeling linger long after it's over.

This has a docudrama feel to it, especially in the beginning, going through the history that led to the Detroit riots of 1967, and then we settle into what will be the main plot, the incident at the Algiers Hotel. Once we start meeting the characters that will be pivotal, it has the trappings of a horror movie. This is a home invasion horror flick where we watch six black men and two white women be terrorized for a solid 75 minutes with no reprieve and no room to breathe, and by the end of that 75 minutes, three unarmed black men will be dead.

The third act is courtroom drama, and it feel simultaneously rushed and extemporaneous. The Office's John Krasinski shows up as the cops' defense attorney and it feels like he's doing a Dwight impression.

The Force Awakens' John Boyega is our portal into watching this, a security guard who's just trying to keep everyone alive but naive as to how to keep things from escalating. He really isn't given much to do and doesn't leave much of an impression. The standouts are Will Poulter, as one scary casually racist cop who doesn't seem to register the whole "innocent until proven guilty" part of the law; and Algee Smith, lead singer in an R&B group who must deal with his PTSD after this horrific ordeal.

This might be better to watch at home, where you can take a break; but then again, if you need a break, you might not ever watch the rest.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Dark Tower is #1 in slow week


For the weekend of August 4-6, 2017, The Dark Tower was #1 in the worst box office week of the summer. The first weekend in August is usually a very reliable springboard for box office success. Suicide Squad opened with $133 million here last year.

Detroit opened wide, and it was supposed to be Kathryn Bigelow's Oscar-buzz movie this year, but the studio Annapurna didn't seem to know how to handle the backlash of the true-life portrait of a group of black men being brutalized by white cops in 1967. The good reviews couldn't save it.

Kidnap was filmed almost three years and was finally dumped into theaters. At this point, $10 million seems good.

This is good news for Annabelle: Creation. With a bad week overall and summer not over yet, filmgoers may be poised to give a horror flick a chance. Previous attempts (It Comes at Night, Wish Upon) just didn't click.



Opens August 11
ANNABELLE: CREATION with Miranda Otto, Anthony LaPaglia and Alicia Vela-Bailey.
THE GLASS CASTLE with Brie Larson, Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts.
THE NUT JOB 2 with the voices of Will Arnett, Katherine Heigl and Maya Rudolph.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Dunkirk - Movie Review

Starring Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Jack Lowden, James D'Arcy, Tom Glynn-Carney and Barry Keoghan.
Written & Directed by Christopher Nolan.

★★★½

Nolan's WWII movie doesn't have a signature battle scene. It has men just trying to escape. We never see a Nazi's face. We just get the you-are-there experience of soldiers stranded on a beach, trying to survive from being sitting ducks.

Nolan has made an ensemble, but he's given the main roles to relative unknowns. Harry Styles is pretty famous, but this is his first real acting job, and he's very good at it. The kid has a future. The Jim Caviezel breakout here is Fionn Whitehead as Tommy. It's through his eyes we see the bleakness.

Some of Nolan's ensemble show up for support. Tom Hardy once again spends most of his screentime with his face covered like he did as Bane. Cillian Murphy shows up as a shellshocked soldier, a lone survivor of a sunken ship. Michael Caine's voice makes a cameo. Kenneth Branagh (Conspiracy, Valkyrie) plays a composite character, the admiral in charge, there on the beach with everyone else. Oscar winner Mark Rylance is one of the British citizens with small boats who sail across the channel to rescue however many they can.

The dialogue is sparse. I saw this in IMAX, the way it's meant to be seen, and it is an immersive experience. The viewer is there, standing on the beach, or flying in the plane, or sailing on the ship, or whereever Nolan takes us. He also does an interesting non-linear experiment with time. The Whitehead-led beach scenes take place over a several days. The Rylance-led boat scenes take place over a one day. The Hardy-led aerial scenes take place over an hour. It can create some confusion but all of the timelines meet in the end.

This approach also prevents it from becoming a masterpiece. Other than the flawed bookend Spielberg tacked on Saving Private Ryan, that's a classic that will survive for decades more to come. Nolan sacrifices narrative for immersion, and if he'd managed to throw in some better storytelling on top of everything else he'd provided, that could have been his best film to date. As is, I'd still put Memento, The Dark Knight, and Inception ahead of it.

I also like how Nolan kept it PG-13 so I could take my sons to it.

The Big Sick - Movie Review

Starring Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano, Anupam Kher and Zenobia Shroff.
Written by Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani.
Directed by Michael Showalter.

★★★½

This semi-autobiographical tale was written by real-life husband and wife Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon. Kumail plays himself in the movie, and Zoe Kazan plays Emily. We see he's a stand-up comedian/Uber driver, and she's a therapist. They meet cute, they date, they break up, and then she gets a serious illness that puts her in a coma.

For much of the movie, we watch Kumail fall back in love with Emily while getting to know her parents (Holly Hunter, Ray Romano) at the hospital. It's certainly an awkward way for them to meet.

The movie also explores a lot of Kumail's Pakistani background, and how his own parents keep trying to set him up with a nice Pakistani girl. He can't bring himself to let them know he's fallen for a white girl.

The movie has plenty of laughs, a lot of heart, and it's nice to watch a movie that provides the perspective we don't often get to see in cinema.

Dunkirk is #1 at box office


For the weekend of July 21-23, 2017, Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk was the big hit. Nolan is still one of the most bankable directors in Hollywood, and he has made another critical and commercial success. The WWII drama, which is really about the largest evacuation effort of the war, managed to bring people in despite not having any stars in the main roles.

A notable success in its own right was second-place's Girls Trip. It may have looked like a similar effort to summer's earlier flop Rough Night, but reviews were much kinder and this one didn't have the twist of the girls accidentally killing a guy.

Valerian & the City of 1000 Planets is a bomb in the US. With a production budget exceeding $200 million, it'll need to be a massive overseas hit if it wants to make its money back. Personally I think Luc Besson should have tried to find someone more recognizable than Dane DeHaan in the title role.

Wonder Woman is now officially the domestic winner of summer. It'll pass $400 million soon, and it's been made official that the sequel will arrive in December 2019.



Opens July 28
THE EMOJI MOVIE with the voices of James Corden, TJ Miller and Patrick Stewart.
ATOMIC BLONDE with Charlize Theron, James McAvoy and John Goodman.

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.

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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.