Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Justice League - Movie Review

Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Gal Gadot, Ezra Miller, Jason Momoa, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, JK Simmons, Ciaran Hinds, Diane Lane, Connie Nielsen, Joe Morton, Billy Crudup and Amber Heard.
Written by Chris Tessio & Joss Whedon.
Directed by Zack Snyder.

★★

Justice League was deep into pre-production when Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice opened. Zack Snyder had Dawn of Justice, Justice League, and Justice League 2 mapped out when he dove in. Darkseid was going to be DC's Thanos, the superpowerful villain who takes a few movies before he steps forward as the main villain. After the reviews of BvJ came out, Justice League plowed ahead as planned. After a personal tragedy, Zack Snyder had to bow out in the final weeks of shooting, leading to Joss Whedon stepping in and finishing the job, doing extensive rewrites and reshoots to try to save it. It shows.

The Frankenstein's monster of a movie that emerges is ultimately better than BvJ or Suicide Squad, but not by much. It's weaker than Man of Steel, and seeing Gal Gadot try to make this work after the far superior Wonder Woman dominated the summer is a little embarrassing.

Let me go into what I liked. I thought Flash (Ezra Miller) was hilarious. He was my favorite character, and he should get his own movie. Henry Cavill, who is billed second so you know Superman won't stay dead, has the best scene in the movie during those first few minutes after he's been resurrected. When he shows up, I thought to myself, "Yeah, Superman's been missed." I kinda liked Jason Momoa's Aquaman. The tiny tiny amount of work Jeremy Irons and JK Simmons were given as Alfred and Gordon respectively made me hope Matt Reeves keeps them when he makes his own Batman movie.

Now for what I didn't like. And this will take longer.

1. Steppenwolf. He is the main villain. He's a lesser DC entity, and as soon as he showed up, I was disappointed. You've got the great Ciaran Hinds playing him; why not use more than his voice? Steppenwolf had this generic CGI monster face complete with a double axehead for a helmet. Why not put Hinds in makeup? Or at least try to look like him a little? Plus he has those dragonfly zombie monsters from the dumb dream sequence in Batman v. Superman as his minions. As his CGI creatures that are easily killed by the dozens. Flying orcs, they.

2. The plot. Steppenwolf has three magic boxes, called mother boxes, that he must unite and it'll give him ultimate power. Feels like the same thing in Marvel with Thanos collecting infinity stones, right? Wonder Woman gives this expositional monologue about this space battle that brought Steppenwolf to power, and I remember thinking, "Did the women from Wonder Woman know all about space battles before this movie? Sure, they're goddesses, but they marveled at a WWI plane." They must have, because apparently they've been guarding one of the three mother boxes for thousands of years. Yeah yeah.

3. Cyborg. I don't know if he's the most poorly written character, or if Ray Fisher is just boring playing him. Probably a bit of both. He's definitely the Hawkeye of this bunch, where there's no desire to see him get his own stand-alone movie.

4. The direction. Snyder loves to do the slo-mo freeze frame speed-it-up-again shots in action sequences, and there are a lot of them. Plus once again, most of this movie takes place at night. Or in darkness, or shadow. Or maybe most days are cloudy.  Brighten this world up already. I love Batman in darkness, but Superman? Wonder Woman? Flash? These are DAY characters!

The post-credits teaser is kinda cool, but I just hope the fruits of that teaser are allowed to breathe a little, grow more organically.

As a kid I always thought DC had overall cooler heroes and villains than Marvel. Marvel movies have blown DC out of the water lately, and I'd like DC to get back on track. Wonder Woman showed they can be just as good, now for the people in charge of the other characters to catch up and elevate their games.

Coco is #1 for 2nd week


For the weekend of December 1-3, 2017, Coco remained on top. Pixar continues to profit on every single movie it makes (even The Good Dinosaur eventually broke even.)

Justice League had another big drop, and it's in danger of not even making $700 million worldwide. That might not sound like a catastrophic milestone to miss, but considering how Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad managed to get there with worse reviews, it just highlights what has been obvious since BvJ came out - DC needs to de-Snyder their brand.

The plan had been to have Darkseid be the Big Bad of Justice League 2, complete with those zombie dragonfly minion guys, but were it me, JL2 should just be put on hiatus until some more of these stand-alone movies come out and they see how they perform. Wonder Woman was a hit. See if its sequel does just as well. They should see how Aquaman does, and how Man of Steel 2 does with a different director. See what Matt Reeves does with The Batman.

Wonder is a feel-good make-you-cry word-of-mouth hit.

Thor: Ragnarok has already passed $810 million worldwide.

Murder on the Orient Express had a $55 million production budget and has passed $230 million worldwide. Yes, let's get that next Hercule Poirot movie made (Death on the Nile has been greenlit).

Oscar hopefuls Lady Bird and Three Billboards Outside Ebbings Missouri didn't cause much of a splash in expansion, but after Golden Globe nominations are announced next week, maybe it'll help them stay afloat. General consensus among the Award Gurus is that both will be Best Picture nominees.

Meanwhile, The Disaster Artist did great in limited release. This should do for Tommy Wiseau's The Room what 1994's Ed Wood did for Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space. It expands to 800 screens next week, wisely so. Also performing strongly in limited release: Call Me By Your Name, The Shape of Water, and to lesser but still successful degrees, Darkest Hour and Wonder Wheel.



Opens December 8
JUST GETTING STARTED with Morgan Freeman, Tommy Lee Jones and Rene Russo.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Jigsaw is #1


For the weekend of October 27-29, 2017, Jigsaw was the Halloween weekend winner. After a seven-year hiatus, the Saw franchise is back with this eighth installment, but it doesn't look like there's much interest in keeping this thing going. They're cheap to produce, but Jigsaw only had a better opening than Saw VI.

Meanwhile positive reviews didn't help Thank You for Your Service, the second well-reviewed movie in two weeks starring Miles Teller that bombed anyway.

Bad reviews sunk Suburbicon. George Clooney's directing skills have regressed.

Meanwhile Let There Be Light, a Sean Hannity-produced Christian drama starring Kevin Sorbo, had the second-best per-screen average in the top 20.

Also, Amityville: The Awakening, which has been on the shelf for four years, was finally dumped into a handful of theaters, and hardly anyone went.



Opens November 3
THOR: RAGNAROK with Chris Hemsworth, Cate Blanchett and Mark Ruffalo.
A BAD MOMS CHRISTMAS with Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Tyler Perry's Boo 2! is #1


For the weekend of October 20-22, 2017, Tyler Perry scared away all newcomers with Boo 2!, a profitable Madea outing savaged by critics. With Perry, the Rotten Tomatoes ranking never seems to matter.

The most expensive opener was Geostorm, a disaster movie from Dean Devlin,who usually produces these sorts of things (Independence Day 1 & 2, Godzilla) but now he's directing. Most people could see the stench on this project from a mile away, or six months ago, around when the first trailer came out.

The best reviewed movie of the weekend was Only the Brave, but the generic hero title probably didn't do it favors.

Meanwhile The Snowman and Same Kind of Different as Me were other poorly-reviewed titles that should disappear quickly from theaters.

In limited release, Wonderstruck and The Killing of the Sacred Deer had solid per-screen averages, as well as the documentary Jane, about Jane Goodall.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle can now claim to be profitable. It's grossed over $340 million worldwide.



Opens October 27
JIGSAW with Tobin Bell, Laura Vandervoort, Callum Keith Rennie and Brittany Allen.
SUBURBICON with Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Oscar Isaac and Glenn Fleshler.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE with Miles Teller, Haley Bennett and Amy Schumer.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Valerian & the City of 1000 Planets - Movie Review

Starring Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Ethan Hawke, Rihanna, Herbie Hancock, Kris Wu, Sam Spruell, Rutger Hauer and John Goodman.
Written & Directed by Luc Besson.

★★½

The director of The Fifth Element gets even more crazy in this visually wonderful, narratively clunky movie that goes to some weird corners of the galaxy to tell its unique tale. In many ways, I admire some of the original avenues it wanders down, though ultimately its shallow story and questionable casting prevents it from being a hit.

I'm debating whether or not to even explain the plot. The plot doesn't really matter. We see an alien homeworld where everything is peaceful, like the Na'vi on a beach. Then a space battle above results in ships crashing into their ocean, on to their shores. Most of them are wiped out. That's the prologue. We cut to Valerian and Lauraline, a boyfriend-girlfriend unit where he also outranks her, and they're basically space cops. Eh, it doesn't matter. It's an excuse to go from world to world, retrieving a Macguffin to save the universe. Something like that.

The fun parts are the detours. Ethan Hawke popping up as some sort of space pimp, introducing Valerian to a shape-shifting erotic dancer whose favorite form happens to look just like Rihanna. There's another scene where Lauraline gets stuck in the cosmic kitchen from hell. There's a dimension-hopping chase scene. This is a video game I want to play.

Dane DeHaan is usually best as creeps. He doesn't have the Young Indiana Jones charisma the role of Valerian would call for. Let's just say Cara Delevingne as Lauraline fares better here than she did as Enchantress in Suicide Squad. There's not much chemistry between them, and I would have been cool with Valerian getting killed off halfway through and letting Lauraline finishing the adventure herself. I should be rooting for these two like Han and Leia, or Wesley and Buttercup, or Clark and Lois. Didn't really care.

If you missed it on the big screen, and you still want to see it, see on the largest TV or monitor you can. Otherwise you'd miss its point of existing.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Annabelle: Creation - Movie Review


Starring Stephanie Sigman, Anthony LaPaglia, Lulu Wilson, Talitha Bateman, Miranda Otto and Samara Lee.
Written by Gary Dauberman.
Directed by David F. Sandberg.

★★½

The first Annabelle movie profited from goodwill from The Conjuring franchise. It made enough money to justify a sequel, even though it was terrible. The sequel is a vast improvement primarily due to getting a new director, David F. Sandberg (Lights Out).

This is actually a prequel to a prequel. Don't get those often.

A little girl named Annabelle is killed by a car. Years later, her grieving parents open up their home as a boarding school for a group of Catholic girls, with one supervising nun. The girls start hearing things going bump in the night, and there's one particular doll that seems to move around on its own.

The dialogue here is as bad as the first movie, but the jump-scares are much more effective.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Kingsman 2 hangs on to #1 at box office


For the weekend of September 29-October 1, 2017, Kingsman: The Golden Circle managed to hold off American Made to stay #1 for the second week. Kingsman is already almost to $200 million worldwide and is on pace to be profitable.

American Made, following The Mummy, demonstrates that Tom Cruise isn't as bankable as he used to be in non-Mission Impossible movies. He's still big overseas, so this'll eventually break even (as did The Mummy), but it's the lowest domestic opener for him since Jack Reacher.

Flatliners had bad reviews and a weak opener and I imagine it will disappear from our collective memory the way unmemorable remakes like Fame and Footloose have. Other new releases (Til Death Do Us Part, A Question of Faith) didn't make much of a dent.

It continues to be a juggernaut, grossing over $550 million worldwide.

Battle of the Sexes and Stronger are getting great reviews, but they haven't been able to find their audiences. Victoria & Abdul is staying strong after adding some screens.



Opens October 6
BLADE RUNNER 2049 with Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright and Jared Leto.
THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US with Idris Elba and Kate Winslet.
MY LITTLE PONY with the voices of Emily Blunt and Kristen Chenoweth.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Big Brother 19 - TV Review


This was one of the worst seasons of the show overall, but the finale wound up being very satisfying and redeemed it a little bit.

This season's twist was having a veteran return (Paul) and having someone else go home on the first night (Cameron). What made this more and more frustrating as the season went on is that Cameron seemed like he would be an interesting player. Meanwhile Paul was given three weeks of safety and in that time he was able to mesmerize over half of the house. From Ramses' eviction on, every week was predictable. Jessica, Cody, Elena, Mark, Matt, Jason, Raven, Alex, Kevin all went in the order we'd guess. Mix that in with serious mob-mentality bullying and harassing, and it was unpleasant. Each year there are houseguests who display loathsome behavior, but this just felt worse than most. And yet, equally annoying were the ones who refused to play the game.

The best thing about the finale was the jury interaction. Mark blasting his frustration at Matt's terrible gameplay, Raven actually making decent arguments, Cody just staring straight ahead, occassionally shaking his head.

Now that it's all over, I think the producers and future players will learn a lot from this. Get players who actually want to win, not just make jury and coast. Get players who aren't idiots. And no more mixing of vets and newbies. I mean, if they want to bring back vets, bring back ones who were eliminated too early, like Cameron.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Kingsman: The Golden Circle - Movie Review

Starring Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Mark Strong, Halle Berry, Pedro Pascal, Elton John, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Bruce Greenwood, Hanna Alstrom, Emily Watson, Edward Holcroft, Sophie Cookson, Poppy Delevingne and Michael Gambon.
Written by Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn.
Directed by Matthew Vaughn.

★★

The first movie definitely left it open for a sequel, but this one goes directions I didn't care for.

1. If Eggsy was such a gentleman at the end of Secret Service, why is he still such a potty-mouth?
2. We invested a lot emotionally into Roxy last movie. Why kill her in the first few minutes here?
3. They did kill Galahad (Colin Firth) in the first movie. Why bring him back and in such a convoluted way?
4. The Stateman organization is set up like it's going to be a big deal, but Tatum and Bridges are barely in this movie. Elton John as himself gets more screen time.
5. There's a weird nastiness with the tone here. Two different people get shoved into a meat grinder.
6. This is the second movie in two months that features Tatum and John Denver's "Country Road."
7. Julianne Moore's villain is ill-conceived. At least she had a cool diaolical plan.

There's still a lot of fun to be had. The action sequences are still CGI'd to look like it's one amazing take, and allowing guys like Firth and Pedro Pascal (Narcos) to look like skilled fighters. Egerton's charismatic enough to make us forgive some slimy things Eggsy does (stuff I remind myself that James Bond wouldn't think twice about).

First movie was better.

Monday, September 18, 2017

mother! - Movie Review

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Brian Gleeson, Kristen Wiig and Stephen McHattie.
Written & Directed by Darren Aronofsky.

★★★★

This is a balls-to-the-wall tour-de-force by Darren Aronofsky. He had a vision and he dives right in.

We know something wild's going to happen because we see the movie start with a woman on fire. It zooms back to a burned house being restored, until everything is pristine, and then Jennifer Lawrence wakes from her bed to go make her husband (Javier Bardem) breakfast. Surely this will be a lovely day. Then strangers show up unannounced. Her husband just lets them in, lets them stay, and she's too polite a hostess to say anything, but why exactly are they here?

No one is ever given a name in this movie. In the credits she is referred to as "mother" and Bardem as "Him." The movie drops several clues where it's going, and I just watched with a giant grin when the action amps up to its psychotic, Biblical, uncompromising conclusion.

I'd say more than half the people in our audience hated it. When I started explaining to some people, I could tell their enjoyment increased. (Except for one guy, who tried to argue Appeal to Authority to me because he works in TV.) I think it's best an experience knowing as little as possible, and it's one I love debating and discussing with people.

**

**SPOILER SECTION**

**

This is what I believe the movie meant.

It reimagines God as a selfish male deity who creates life for his own ego. The beginning shows the ending of a cycle. The female deity/Gaia/Mother Earth destroys herself, and when all is renewed, she comes back with no memory and in the form of Jennifer Lawrence.

She serves him, and he is a poet, an artist who can't think of what next to create. Then the man (Ed Harris) shows up. He has nowhere to go. He has a rib injury. He's Adam. He goes to see Bardem's den, his place for creation. He shows him a molten rock that he keeps on display, the soul surviving item from the previous fire. It is forbidden fruit that Adam may not touch. Then the man's wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) shows up. She wants to see the rock more than Adam does. She finally touches it and accidentally breaks it. Bardem banishes them from the den and boards it up so no one may re-enter. (Cherubim and a flaming sword.)

Later the couple's two sons show up, arguing over a will. They fight, and the older brother kills the younger one. Cain and Abel. The older one even winds up with a mark on his forehead after the fight. Then dozens of people show up to mourn with the grieving parents. Bardem just lets them all in, and naturally, since they all seem to be familiar with his poetry and sing his praises. The more people that come, the ruder and more entitled they get. They also keep sitting on a sink until it bursts from the wall and floods the kitchen. This gives Lawrence the courage to yell "Get out!" and all of the people leave. Noah's flood. The humans are gone. She can now repair the damage done.

They fight and then have sex. She wakes up in the morning and knows she's pregnant. She's delighted. This inspires Him to write. He writes something beautiful. Scripture. People come from far and wide to hear and read his words. They come too quickly. They come with zealotry. He eats up the praise. She can't believe he keeps letting all of these people in. They start destroying the house. She goes into labor, and with each labor pang, the whole house shakes. The house is Earth, and she is tied to the Earth in ways He is not.

The baby is Jesus, and he wants to show the baby to the world, but she does not. She refuses to let Him hold the baby. She tries staying awake, but as soon as she nods off, her baby is gone. The houseguests carry the baby like a rock star over the crowd but someone accidentally kills him. Jesus is dead. Then they rip the baby apart and eat of his flesh. This is the sacrament of communion. The people start putting ashes on their foreheads to mark their devotion.

The movie speeds ahead until we finally get to the Book of Revelation. The apocalypse. She cleanses the earth with fire, killing everyone. In the end, only He and she remain. She's given everything. He wants the last drop of love in her. In the end, she's Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. She gives the last part of her existence to him. Her heart. He pulls it from her ribcage. It looks exactly like the molten rock we saw at the beginning. We gets all of the opening imagery again. The burning woman. The rock on a pedestal. The house being renewed. A different young woman waking up in bed. The cycle has started over.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

It Movie Breaks September's Box Office Record


For the weekend of September 8-10, 2017, It had the third-highest opening of the year. It shattered box office records for September (previous record was Hotel Transylvania 2 at $48 million). and is the highest opening ever for a Stephen King adaptation. It also has the chance of breaking The Exorcist's record of highest-grossing R-rated horror film of all time.

(Would now be a good time for a Killer Klowns from Outer Space reboot?)

The other new wide release was Home Again, a rom-com paycheck for Reese Witherspoon. It's the lowest opening for her since 2010's How Do You Know.



Opens September 15
MOTHER! with Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer.
AMERICAN ASSASSIN with Dylan O'Brien, Michael Keaton, Taylor Kitsch and Sanaa Lathan.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

It - Movie Review

Starring Jaeden Lieberher, Bill Skarsgard, Finn Wolfhard, Jack Dylan Grazer, Sophia Lillis, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Chosen Jacobs, Wyatt Oleff and Nicholas Hamilton.
Written by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga & Gary Dauberman.
Directed by Andy Muschietti.

★★★

It's tempting to say It reminded me of Stranger Things, but really, Stranger Things reminded me of It. Stephen King's classic 1986 novel remains one of his best, and the influence of King is felt everywhere.

It's an emormous feat to adapt an 1138-page book to the screen, but the first smart step was to cut focus only on the half that deals with the seven protagonists as kids. So you've pared it down to 569 pages. Still quite a task. (It 2 about the adults will surely come out in 2019.)

They've streamlined the book, left a lot out, changed a lot, but it's still true to the heart of the story. Seven 12-year-olds come together, known as the Losers Club. Their leader is stuttering Bill (St. Vincent's Jaeden Lieberher), whose younger brother is the first victim of It. He's joined by loudmouth Richie (Stranger Things' Finn Wolfhard), sickly Eddie (Me Myself & I's Jack Dylan Grazer), ostracized Beverly, fat kid Ben, worrying Stan, and parentless Mike. Each of them is visited in one way or another by It, usually in the creepy form of Pennywise the Dancing Clown, played with unsettling menace by Bill Skarsgard (son of Stellan, brother of Alexander).

The strongest parts of the movie are when the seven are just hanging out. It's about comraderie and community, and there's not a weak link in the performances.

I'd say it was a little funnier than I thought it would be, it wasn't as scary as I thought it would be (though it does have a couple really good ones), and it was a satisfying fun summer movie that just happened to open in September.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Logan Lucky - Movie Review

Starring Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Seth MacFarlane, Katie Holmes, Hilary Swank, Katherine Waterston, Sebastian Stan, Jack Quaid, Brian Gleeson, Dwight Yoakum, Jon Eyez, Macon Blair, Farrah Mackenzie and David Denman.
Written by Rebecca Blunt.
Directed by Steven Soderbergh.

★★★½

This isn't as glitzy as Soderbergh's Ocean's 11 movies, but it's definitely better than the Ocean's sequels. By setting it in West Virginia instead of Vegas, it feels like the stakes are more real. These people actually need the money.

Channing Tatum plays Jimmy Logan, a blue-collar worker who can't seem to get ahead. "Logan lucky" refers to how unlucky his family is. He and his one-armed brother Clyde (Adam Driver) decide to rob a NASCAR event. They enlist their sister (Riley Keough) for help, and the plan grows from there.

There is such an ease to the flow of a Soderbergh movie. Throwaway scenes in any other film feel new here. he plays with timelines in a way that doesn't feel like cheating. There's also something about watching Daniel Craig let loose as a Southern safecracker. I can't remember the last time he looked like he was having this much fun onscreen.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Labor Day Box Office Lowest in 12 Years

For the weekend of September 1-3, 2017, it was the worst Labor Day weekend in 12 years, and this is after doing surprisingly better than last week's record low. No new movies cracked the top ten, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind re-release did better than any of them. The winner would still be The Hitman's Bodyguard, actually being profitable due to lack of competition.

The box office just seems on hold until Stephen King's It opens next week.

The IMAX release of the first episode of ABC's Inhumans had the highest per-screen average in the top thirty.

Tulip Fever bombed. Alicia Vikander has chosen it after her Oscar win for The Danish Girl, but Oscar dust did not sprinkle over the project, even with fellow winners Christoph Waltz and Judi Dench in the cast.



Opens September 8
IT with Bill Skarsgard, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard and Jack Dylan Grazer.
HOME AGAIN with Reese Witherspoon, Michael Sheen, Lake Bell and Nat Wolff.

Atomic Blonde - Movie Review

Starring Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, John Goodman, Toby Jones, Sofia Boutella, Eddie Marsan, Til Schweiger and Bill Skarsgard.
Written by Kurt Johnstad.
Directed by David Leitch.

★★★

There is a fight scene in a stairway that lasts for over ten minutes, and it's all in one take. That alone is worth the price of admission.

This feels like a crime thriller that could have been a bad John Le Carre adaptation, but it's been amped up with stunts and swagger. Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, an MI6 agent sent to Berlin during the week in 1989 that the Wall is expected to fall. She needs to track down a spy who supposedly has a list of double-agents, and that could be dangerous if it falls into the wrong hands.

The soundtrack's full of 1980's goodness, and Theron knows how to combine sensuality and martial artistry. James McAvoy also has a good time in his very non-Professor X role as her contact in Berlin who may or may not be looking for an opportunity to betray her.

It's from the co-director of John Wick, and it shows.

The Mummy - Movie Review

Starring Tom Cruise, Annabelle Wallis, Russell Crowe, Sofia Boutella, Jake Johnson, Courtney B. Vance and Marwan Kenzari.
Written by David Koepp, Christopher McQuarrie, Dylan Kussman, Jon Spaihts, Alex Kurtzman & Jenny Lumet.
Directed by Alex Kurtzman.

★½

This is the first movie in a planned Dark Universe franchise. Their first priority should have been to just make a good movie that can stand on its own. All it needed to do was be better than the Brendan Fraser version, and this is not.

Tom Cruise plays Nick, a soldier who happens to steal ancient artifacts in the Middle East. He and his buddy (Jake Johnson) are fleeing some insurgents when they stumble upon the tomb of Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), an evil ancient Egyptian princess who was buried 1000 miles away from home.

This movie isn't sure what it is. Is it horror? Is it action? What is its aim here? Nick is supposed to be this selfish weasel, and it's the first time I feel like the 55-year-old Cruise has been miscast. 39-year-old Jake Johnson as Nick would have been more like it.

Russell Crowe shows up as Dr. Jekyll, and the Oscar winner did not elevate the material. This is just a confused project that in trying to be many things winds up being nothing.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes - Movie Review

Starring Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Amiah Miller, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Judy Greer, Gabriel Chavarria, Toby Kebbel and Sara Canning.
Written by Mark Bomback & Matt Reeves.
Directed by Matt Reeves.

★★★

Andy Serkis & company do a wonderful job in the motion-capture performance area, the special effects are top-notch, and Matt Reeves has made another movie, as the first two, that follows but could still stand on its own.

Caeser and his apes are still dealing with the betrayal of Koba, the ape that set off the chain reaction meant war between apes and humans. The main threat these days are a base of soldiers in northern California being led by a maniac. Woody Harrelson has a lot of fun playing a Col. Kurtz type in charge of these soldiers (and in case you miss the reference, there's "Ape-ocalpyse Now" graffiti in a tunnel).

I liked it, but I have to address five problems I had with this movie:

1. This conclusion to the prequel trilogy to Planet of the Apes isn't just about how the smart humans were wiped out. This movie is designed for you to root for the extermination of the human race. That may be why there were hardly any black or female soldiers. Easier to root for white US soldiers acting like Nazis toward the apes. There is one Hispanic soldier sent up to be somewhat sympathetic, but that's it. If A.I. ever rises up and wipes out humans, I blame this movie more than The Matrix.

2. Where are the females? Among the humans and apes, they were over 90% male. Is the next movie going to be Planet of the Dolphins because the other smart races went extinct over having so few females?

3. A little girl walks through the middle of a prison camp of soldiers on high alert, and they even have spotlights shine over her, and yet no one notices? These soldiers are terrrrible.

4. They say the simian flu, the disease that's robbing humans of speech and intelligence, is dormant in everyone, but the triggering of it is highly contagious. That felt like a yada-yada explanation hat-tipping the Walking Dead's logic.

5. Why at this point is Caeser the only ape who can talk in complete, unawkward sentences? Almost all of the apes stick to sign language. Didn't more apes speak in the last movie?

The Hitman's Bodyguard is #1

For the weekend of August 18-20, 2017, The Hitman's Bodyguard was the last hurrah for summer. The reviews weren't great, but the trailer was funny enough that the star power of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson helped this movie find an audience.

Logan Lucky had better reviews, but the marketing never quite crackled. I hope it finds an audience. It's a fun heist movie.

Notable was the expansion of Wind River, the next crime drama from Taylor Sheridan, who wrote last year's Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water.


Opens August 25
LEAP! with the voices of Elle Fanning, Dane DeHaan and Carly Rae Jepsen.
BIRTH OF THE DRAGON with Philip Ng, Terry Chen and Billy Magnussen.
ALL SAINTS with John Corbett, Cara Buono and Barry Corbin.