Thursday, February 16, 2017

John Wick 2 - Movie Review

Starring Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, Common, Laurence Fishburne, Riccardo Scamarcio, Ruby Rose, John Leguizamo, Franco Nero, Lance Reddick, Claudia Gerini, Peter Stormare, Peter Serafinowicz and Thomas Sadowski.
Written by Derek Kolstad.
Directed by Chad Stahelski.

★★★

Maybe not as good as the first one, as it trades in an emotional hook (they killed his dog!) for non-stop action. But I still enjoyed it.

John Wick (Keanu Reeves), after getting revenge for the death of his dog, is ready to re-retire and enjoy a quiet life with his new dog. But his recent activities have caught the attention of an old acquaintence who holds his marker. In the world of underground assassins, they have a code of conduct, and one is that you must always honor a marker. A marker is a job you owe someone, and this acquiantence Santino (Riccardo Scamarcio) wants to Wick to assassinate his sister, a powerful crime boss.

This movie takes us further in this world and expands it. A good deal of it takes place in Rome, and it turns out they have their own Continental Hotel, where assassins can rest and refuel.

What I liked most about this movie was Common, as an assassin named Cassian. Cassian and John Wick are equals, and their fight scenes are evenly matched. It's the most effective Common has ever been in a movie.

(Side-note: For what it's worth, my wife was bored and said it was like watching someone else play a shoot-em-up video game for two hours.)

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I also recently saw...

THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER'S WAR (★★) Starring Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Jessica Chastain and Emily Blunt.

A Snow White sequel without Snow White turns out to be a bad idea. It feels like the same misguided thinking behind that James Franco in Oz movie. Why have three gorgeous actresses revolve around a less interesting male hero? It retains some of the elements that made the first movie enjoyable, but I really don't get why the producers thought this approach would work.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The LEGO Batman Movie - Movie Review

Starring the voices of Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Cera, Ralph Fiennes, Rosario Dawson, Jenny Slate, Susan "Siri" Bennett, Hector Elizondo, Channing Tatum, Billy Dee Williams and Zoe Kravitz.
Written by Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern & John Whittingham.
Directed by Chris McKay.

★★★

This is a tail-eating meta-feast of pop-culture jokes and superhero cliches. It's like the Naked Gun for kids.

Will Arnett is back as (deep-voice) Batman. He kicks butt and can beat all of his arch-enemies at once. (We even get Calendar Man!) He life gets turned upside-down when he absentmindedly adopts Dick Grayson. Meanwhile, the Joker decides he needs better villains around him, since he and Riddler and Two-Face and Bane and Poison Ivy and... Condiments Man... are too easy to defeat.

Plot doesn't really matter (though it is fun). It's all about deconstructing what makes Lego Batman tick. There are a ton of cameos (everyone from King Kong to the Wonder Twins), and if anything I'd say the movie is too overstuffed. I was amused at quite a few of the gags, which is the main point and therefore the most important point.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

LEGO Batman is #1 at box office


For the weekend of February 10-12, 2017, John Wick Chapter 2 had a terrific opening at $30 million, doubling the amount the first movie opened. This now franchise started under modest means but was a massive hit in rentals. But it wasn't #1.

Fifty Shades Darker opened to half of what the first movie did, but with these mid-level budgets, who's counting? It will still be massively profitable and justifies greenlighting the third movie. Wisely, the producers will not be splitting the final book in the trilogy into two movies either. But this wasn't #1 either.

The LEGO Batman Movie was the spinoff to the massive popular LEGO Movie, and while it didn't open quite as well, it's still a big success.

The holdovers had to be happy, with modest declines for Split and A Dog's Purpose, as well as Oscar nominees like Hidden Figures, La La Land and Lion.



Opens February 17
FIST FIGHT with Ice Cube, Charlie Day, Tracy Morgan and Christina Hendricks.
THE GREAT WALL with Matt Damon, Andy Lau, Tian Jing and Willem Dafoe.
A CURE FOR WELLNESS with Dane DeHaan, Jason Isaacs and Mia Goth.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Founder - Movie Review

Starring Michael Keaton, Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Laura Dern, Linda Cardellini, Patrick Wilson, BJ Novak and Kate Kneeland.
Written by Robert Siegel.
Directed by John Lee Hancock.

★★★

This has the plucky appeal of a Frank Capra movie that ultimately turns subversive when our hero Ray Kroc winds up being the villain.

Keaton plays Kroc, a middle-aged hustling salesman of restaurant products who comes across McDonald's in 1954. It's run by two salt-of-the-earth brothers (Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch) who have tried and failed to franchise their brand. Kroc begs and pleads to expand them, and they finally give in.

Kroc sees himself as a man living the American dream, and he does, but he is so driven, he doesn't care who he crushes to accomplish his goals, and in the end, he screws over the very brothers whose business made Kroc a success.

I came out admiring it, but with a bad taste in my mouth. It's a clever twist on determination and hard work. I wish the director had been able to stick the landing better, but I can see why there was a lot of belief that Keaton would get another Oscar nomination for this role.

----

Other 2016 Movies I Saw


EQUALS (★★) Starring Nicholas Hoult, Kristen Stewart and Guy Pearce.

Sterile, dystopian film that never really explores new ideas. It's a future where all emotions are suppressed and everyone wears white while they do "work" on giant iPads. Two individuals fall in love, which is forbidden, so they must hide their love. It never goes to the next level with the story.

FINDING DORY (★★★) Starring the voices of Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks and Ed O'Neill.

It's bright and bubbly and contains several moments of Pixar magic, but it also violates the rules it had set up from the first movie. We accept anthromorphized fish, but they were kept within certain bounds. Remember how hard it was to escape the tank in the first movie? This movie the fish hop from tank to tank with no problem, and there's an octopus that apparently went through Navy SEAL training, because he can do anything. Why would an octopus be able to drive a truck? I liked it, but by Pixar standards, it's one of their weaker entries.

NOW YOU SEE ME 2 (★★) Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo and Woody Harrelson.

This movie takes what didn't work in the first movie and makes it worse. There's more CGI used in place of actual magic tricks, more contrivances to get characters from Point A to Point B, and an ending that falls even farther apart than the last one. In the first one, the fact that Mark Ruffalo's Dylan was revealed to be an ally didn't make sense. What they do with a character at the end here is even worse.

RISEN (★★★) Starring Joseph Fiennes, Tom Felton and Cliff Curtis.

One of those Christian movies that doesn't feel like it's pandering. It centers on a Roman centurion (Fiennes) who is ordered to find the body of Jesus, which disappeared from the tomb three days after his crucifixion. It's a part of the Christ story rarely dramatized - the post-resurrection part - but done so to decent effect here.

STORKS (★★★) Starring the voices of Andy Samberg, Kelsey Grammer and Jennifer Aniston.

It's got a thin plot, but the gags come fast and furious. A lot of your enjoyment will depend on how much you like Samberg's style of humor. I happen to be a big fan of Brooklyn Nine-Nine so I liked it.

WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT (★★★) Starring Tina Fey, Margot Robbie and Martin Freeman.

This fact-based comedy-drama plops Tina Fey as a reporter in the middle of Afghanistan. These are the type of movies that are difficult to market, and while it's not great, it is good, and I'm glad movies like this can still get made.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Split is #1 for third week, Rings #2


For the weekend of February 3-5, 2017, M. Night Shyamalan's Split managed to stay #1 for the third week in a row. I hope he and James McAvoy had decent back-end percentage deals because they should make a lot of money from this movie, which had a modest $9 million production budget.

Of the new releases, Rings did best. For it to be yanked out of October and dumped here was the first signal it probably wasn't good. Its current 5% at RottenTomatoes would indicate it's going to disappear fast from theaters.

The Space Between Us was originally going to open in August, then December, and now finally here. Its 18% RottenTomatoes score tells me it'll disappear even faster than Rings.

Robert DeNiro's labor of love, The Comedian, opened on less than 900 screens and it still had a lower per-screen average than The Space Between Us.

Of the holdovers, Oscar darlings Hidden Figures and La La Land are still finding audiences. I'm rooting for Arrival to cross the $100 million domestic mark; it'll probably get there once it hits more discount theaters.

Where the current nine best picture nominees stand:

Hidden Figures - $119.4 million
La La Land - $118.3 million
Arrival - $98.64 million
Hacksaw Ridge - $66.36 million
Fences - $52.71 million
Manchester by the Sea - $43.91 million
Hell or High Water - $27.01 million
Lion - $24.71 million
Moonlight - $19.64 million


Opens February 10
LEGO BATMAN MOVIE with the voices of Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis and Jenny Slate.
FIFTY SHADES DARKER with Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan and Marcia Gay Harden.
JOHN WICK 2 with Keanu Reeves, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo and Laurence Fishburne.

Friday, February 3, 2017

My Top Ten Films of 2016

Of the 104 movies I saw in 2016, these were the best.

Honorable Mentions: Deadpool, Don't Breathe, Fences, Florence Foster Jenkins, Hail Caesar!, I Am Not A Serial Killer, The Jungle Book, Life Animated, The Lobster, Loving, Midnight Special, Sully, 10 Cloverfield Lane, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, The Witch.

My Top 11-20 (in alphabetical order):

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR - DC Comics may not have figured out the movie business post-Nolan, but Marvel's humming along. Civil War brought together some old favorites and new and featured one of my favorite fight-scenes ever in a comic book movie.

DEEPWATER HORIZON - Director Peter Berg's tribute to blue-collar consequences to white-collar greed may be the most respectful disaster movie ever.

THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN - Hailee Steinfeld has arrived.

GREEN ROOM - This claustrophobic thriller stars Anton Yelchin as a band member where he and his mates barricade themselves in a green room at a Nazi club after they witness a murder. Patrick Stewart is the skinhead leader who just wants these rockers disposed of. The sense of dread builds at the right pace and there's a realistic feel to how everything goes down.

THE INVITATION - Low-budget indie drama that starts like a thriller and keeps audiences guessing where it's going.

THE NICE GUYS - Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling made for 2016's most surprisingly funny comedy duo.

ROGUE ONE - This Star Wars stand-alone answers one of the big questions from the original trilogy and just adds depth to the franchise in general.

SING STREET - John Carney once again writes and directs a movie about people writing music, but by setting this in high school in the 1980's, there's the extra pleasure of nostalgia.

WEINER - Fascinating documentary about one of the most self-destructive politicians of the decade.

ZOOTOPIA - Disney had great success with an all-animal cast for Robin Hood, so they do it again with Chinatown.

And now....

..... My Top Ten:

10. HIDDEN FIGURES - Inspirational true story about the African-American women who helped put John Glenn into space.

9. LOVE & FRIENDSHIP - Kate Beckinsale blazes through this Jane Austen adaptation from her old pal Whit Stillman. She says so many cruel things but with such a smile on her face that no one around her knows how to handle it.

8. MOONLIGHT - A very distinct, unique character study of a boy who doesn't say much, but we can still get what he's going through. Writer/director Barry Jenkins is going to be someone to follow.

7. MANCHESTER BY THE SEA - Heartbreaking drama about a messed-up guy who's named guardian of his nephew after his brother dies. Career-best work from Casey Affleck.

6. HACKSAW RIDGE - Director Mel Gibson is back, giving us a story of a conscientious objector to WWII who still found a way to serve in the military without firing a shot.

5. LA LA LAND - This throwback to old musicals is delightful, but especially when you consider it's from the guy who made the verrrry different Whiplash.

4. NOCTURNAL ANIMALS - Tom Ford knows exactly what story he wants to tell here and I was on board. On its surface it's just a story-within-a-story about a woman reading a new novel by her ex-husband, but the way that story weaves in with flashbacks of their relationship is superbly done.

3. LION - Moving true story of a little boy lost in India, and how as an adult he tries to find his mother.

2. ARRIVAL - This contemplative movie makes an alien arrival almost a subplot, to the more focussed story of how a linguist (Amy Adams) deals with the complications of trying to decipher an alien language.

1. HELL OR HIGH WATER - This modern-day Western is perfectly paced, with a pair of young bankrobbers and a pair of old cops trying to stay ahead of the other. it was my favorite movie of the year.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

SAG Award Winners


Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
“Hidden Figures”

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role
Denzel Washington, “Fences”

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
Emma Stone, “La La Land”

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight”

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role
Viola Davis, “Fences”


Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
“Stranger Things”

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
“Orange is the New Black”

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries
Bryan Cranston, “All the Way”

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a TV Movie or Miniseries
Sarah Paulson, “The People v. O.J. Simpson”

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series
John Lithgow, “The Crown”

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series
Claire Foy, “The Crown”

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series
William H. Macy, “Shameless”

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Split stays #1, A Dog's Purpose #2


For the weekend of January 27-29, 2017, M. Night Shyamalan's Split held on to the top spot, with a very good 34.2% drop. Any time your second week is less than 40%, you know you have a word-of-mouth hit. By comparison, xXx 3 had a 59% drop.

Of the new releases, the Oscar-qualifying Gold fell on its face. Viewers weren't ready to watch a balding-capped Matthew McConaughey in a pale version of Wolf of Wall Street. The Founder found itself in a similar boat, but only dropping 21% without adding a single screen is a very good sign of people seeking it out.

The winner of the new releases was A Dog's Purpose, a family film opening right when December's releases are ready to dwindle and leave.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter ends the franchise with a whimper instead of a bang.

Hidden Figures, meanwhile, in its fourth week of wide release, only dropped 11%.


Opens February 3
RINGS with Aimee Teegarden, Alex Roe, Vincent D'Onofrio and Johnny Galecki.
THE SPACE BETWEEN US with Gary Oldman, Asa Butterfield and Britt Robertson.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Full List of Oscar Nominations

BEST PICTURE
Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Lion
Manchester by the Sea
Moonlight

BEST DIRECTOR
Denis Villeneuve, Arrival
Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
Damien Chazelle, La La Land
Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

BEST ACTOR
Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling, La La Land
Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
Denzel Washington, Fences

BEST ACTRESS
Isabelle Huppert, Elle
Ruth Negga, Loving
Natalie Portman, Jackie
Emma Stone, La La Land
Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel, Lion
Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Viola Davis, Fences
Naomie Harris, Moonlight
Nicole Kidman, Lion
Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Hell or High Water
La La Land
The Lobster
Manchester by the Sea
20th Century Women

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Arrival
Fences
Hidden Figures
Lion
Moonlight

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
Arrival
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Silence

BEST FILM EDITING
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
La La Land
Moonlight

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Deepwater Horizon
Doctor Strange
The Jungle Book
Kubo and the Two Strings
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Arrival
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Hail, Caesar!
La La Land
Passengers

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Allied
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Florence Foster Jenkins
Jackie
La La Land

BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
A Man Called Ove
Star Trek Beyond
Suicide Squad

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Jackie
La La Land
Lion
Moonlight
Passengers

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” La La Land
“Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Trolls
“City of Stars,” La La Land
“The Empty Chair,” Jim: The James Foley Story
“How Far I’ll Go,” Moana

BEST SOUND EDITING
Arrival
Deepwater Horizon
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Sully

BEST SOUND MIXING
Arrival
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Kubo and the Two Strings
Moana
My Life as a Zucchini
The Red Turtle
Zootopia

BEST DOCUMENTARY
Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated
O.J.: Made in America
13th

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
Land of Mine
A Man Called Ove
The Salesman
Tanna
Toni Erdmann

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
Extremis
4.1 Miles
Joe's Violin
Watani: My Homeland
The White Helmets

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
Ennemis Entreniers
La Femme et le TGV
Silent Nights
Sing
Timecode

BEST ANIMATED SHORT
Blind Vaysha
Borrowed Time
Pear Cider and Cigarettes
Pearl
Piper

Monday, January 23, 2017

Split - Movie Review

Starring James McAvoy, Ana Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Sebastian Arcelus and Brad William Henke.
Written & Directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

★★★

I don't really want to say M. Night Shyamalan is back, since that what The Visit said. I'd say Split confirms that he's back, that the twist-happy director of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable is making good movies again.

This film centers on Kevin (James McAvoy), a DID patient who has that extra movie-trope level of multiple personalities. (Just go with it.) We learn that Kevin has 23 distinct personalities. We don't meet all of them, but we meet enough to watch McAvoy have a grand old time.

The 3 personalities we deal with most are Dennis, who kidnaps three girls; Patricia, who is in charge; and Hedwig, a 9-year-old who's amused by everything.

The main one of the three girls we deal with is Casey, played by Ana Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Morgan). She has her own issues, dealt with in flashbacks, that help her manipulate Kevin more easily than the other two.

It doesn't have a lot of jump-scares, but imminent danger is omnipresent. And I liked the twist ending, although I'd really classify it more as a stinger that adds a dimension to the movie.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Split Wins Box-Office Weekend


For the weekend of January 20-22, 2017, M. Night Shyamalan's Split overachieved over its tracking and solidifies between this and The Visit that Shyamalan in back.

xXx: The Return of Xander Cage didn't do quite as well. It was projected to win the weekend a couple weeks ago. Vin Diesel is a name, and even though it doesn't look good to open at $20 when you have an $85 million budget, but it's already made $50 million overseas and looks like it will ultimately break even if not be a little profitable.

Other new releases/expanses that have Oscar hopes (The Founder, 20th Century Women) couldn't really make a dent.

For the other titles, Hidden Figures is now on course to cross the $100 million mark domestically. It has yet to be released overseas, so anything it makes out of the US will be gravy.



Opens January 27
RESIDENT EVIL 6 with Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Iain Glen and Mike Epps.
A DOG'S PURPOSE with Dennis Quaid, Britt Robertson, John Ortiz and Josh Gad.
GOLD with Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramirez and Bryce Dallas Howard.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Silence - Movie Review

Starring Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Tadanobu Asano, Ciaran Hinds, Issei Ogata, Yosuke Kobuzuka, Yoshi Oida, Shin'ya Tsukamoto and Nana Komatsu.
Written by Jay Cocks & Martin Scorsese.
Directed by Martin Scorsese.

★★½

Silence is adapted from a 1966 novel of the same name by Shusaku Endo. Martin Scorsese has been trying to get this film made for over two decades. It's clear he respects his source material. It feels like he respected it too much. There's a sprawling quality to it where the movie suffers from repetitive narrative beats.

The first half is the strongest. In 1640, two Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver) request to go to Japan, where their mentor Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) is rumored to have left the faith. As Christianity is illegal in Japan, the priests must be hid by secret members. The Japanese Christians are grateful to finally have priests among them. The last few they had were killed or apostasized.

The second half is mostly filled with people getting tortured and/or killed, Garfield's Father Rodrigues speaking with the torturers, angst, rain, cruelty, and unanswered prayers.

I almost had this Apocalypse Now anticipation for when Ferreira might show up, but he shows up late, and it's pretty anti-climactic. In fact, I didn't like his character. And while I like Garfield - he was excellent in Hacksaw Ridge - he isn't quite up to the task of what he's supposed to be here.

There are many questions of faith wrestled with here. Does it really mean anything if you say you renounce God when you still believe in your heart? The movie does not make cartoon villains of the Japanese torturers either. My mind kept going back to how heretics were getting tortured and killed back home.

The last ten minutes felt like a lengthy denouement a novel would have, but the same beats could have been done in two minutes.

Moonlight - Movie Review

Starring Trevante Rhodes, Andre Holland, Mahershala Ali, Naomie Harris, Janelle Monae, Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, Jharrel Jerome and Jaden Piner.
Written & Directed by Barry Jenkins.

★★★½

I went into this not knowing much about it, on purpose. I knew it was about three different points in this one boy's life, but there's so much more there. This is a very personal project from Barry Jenkins.

We meet the character of Chiron at age 9 (Alex Hibbert), age 16 (Ashton Sanders), and age 26 (Trevante Rhodes).  At age 9, Chiron goes by the nickname Little. We see he has no father, his mother's a drug addict, and Little finds a father figure in his mom's drug dealer Juan (Mahershala Ali). Despite his choice of careers, Juan is a decent man to Little, and his wife Theresa (Janelle Monae) becomes the positive mother figure in his life too. Little is a shy kid around his peers, not into athletics like the other boys.

I won't go into the other two stages, but all three actors playing Chiron are really good. They may not look like they could all be the same person, but each seems like he studied the performances of the other two so this could feel like the same person.

The acting nomination buzz has been around Ali, and deservedly so, but I'd also champion Naomie Harris (a British actress!) as Chiron's Miami-native mother. (She's nominated for a SAG award.) In fact, Best Supporting Actress is shaping up to be one competitive field with Viola Davis, Michelle Williams and Nicole Kidman.

Lion - Movie Review

Starring Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Rooney Mara, David Wenham, Sunny Pawar, Abhishek Bharate and Priyanka Bose.
Written by Luke Davies.
Directed by Garth Davis.

★★★★

There was a really good Australian mini-series from 2013 called Top of the Lake (which is getting a season 2 later this year). Garth Davis, who directed half of its episodes (the others by Jane Campion), is now making his big-screen directorial debut, and it's an impressive one.

This is the true story of Saroo, a 4-year-old boy (Sunny Pawar) who gets lost in India and can't communicate well enough with adults to get back home. Eventually he's put in an orphanage and later adopted by a Tasmanian couple (Nicole Kidman, David Wenham).

As an adult (Dev Patel), Saroo has vague memories of his childhood home but has accepted his life. Then one day he's triggered by a memory, and he then feels the undeniable pull to find his mother and let them know he's still alive.

The first 40 minutes or so are carried by Pawar, and it's a terrific natural performance. Davis holds the camera at Pawar's level, and we see the great variety of India through his eyes. As the story shifts, Patel picks up the baton seemlessly. And maybe it's because we're adoptive parents but my wife cried for the last half-hour of this movie. Powerful stuff.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Hidden Figures stays #1


For the weekend of January 13-15, 2017, the holdovers hung on despite a slew of new competition, and some of these titles would probably like the Academy Award nominations to be announced sooner than January 24th.

Hidden Figures easily held on to the #1 spot. Sometimes marketing is about timing, and by expanding a week earlier, Figures was poised to stay strong for the MLK weekend. La La Land added a few screens and won the #2 spot with the best per-screen average of the top 10.

Sing actually passed Moana in domestic gross. Never would have guessed that three months ago.

Rogue One is finally ready to drop, but it'll hit the $500 million domestic mark tomorrow, and it'll cross the $1 billion mark worldwide sometime this week.

So of the seven titles new or opening wide, the most successful one was the PG-13 thriller The Bye Bye Man. STX had delayed this from November and it looks like that was a good call. It opened a little bit better than The Forest did this time last year.

Monster Trucks had a $100 million production budget, so Paramount's known for six months they were going to lose a lot of money on it.

Sleepless is the lowest opener for a Jamie Foxx movie since 2004's Breakin' All the Rules. It's also his worst-reviewed movie since 2005's Stealth.

The Oscar-qualifying expanders all have to be disappointed. A few weeks ago, it looked like Patriots Day would be a $20 million opener, but the buzz around other movies drowned it out. Live By Night was supposed to be Ben Affleck's next award-worthy movie, but the director of Gone Baby Gone, Argo, and The Town has his first critical and commercial flop. (As a director, I said!)

Martin Scorsese's Silence is another movie that really needed award-buzz to help it out, and while it probably will get some peripheral nominations, it won't be enough to buoy it. Moonlight re-expanded to squeeze out another $1 million, but I see it leaving towns soon and then maybe doing one more burst after the Oscars.

Next week I see being a race between Split and the third xXx movie for #1.



Opens January 20
XXX: THE RETURN OF XANDER CAGE with Vin Diesel, Samuel L. Jackson and Donnie Yen.
SPLIT with James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson and Betty Buckley.
THE FOUNDER with Michael Keaton, Laura Dern, Nick Offerman and John Carroll Lynch.
THE RESURRECTION OF GAVIN STONE with Brett Dalton and Shawn Michaels.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Criminal - DVD Review

Starring Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, Gal Gadot, Ryan Reynolds, Alice Eve, Michael Pitt, Jordi Molla, Scott Adkins and Amaury Nolasco.
Written by Douglas Cook & David Weisberg.
Directed by Ariel Vromen.

★★

A centrally interesting idea is at the center of this otherwise dumb movie.

Ryan Reynolds plays Bill Pope, a CIA agent who gets killed in the line of duty. He has vital information so his boss (Gary Oldman) orders a doctor who's been experimenting on memory transfers in mice brains, to do his first human test. They need someone with poor frontal lobe development, so their subject is Jericho Stewart (Kevin Costner), a sociopath doing a life sentence.

The memory transfer works, but Jericho escapes from CIA custody before divulging the memories that they want.

Costner's performance is really good. It's not quite the character we've seen from him before. He's a man who's never felt remorse or felt a sense of right and wrong, but a side effect of getting Bill's memories is getting his emotions. But Oldman's CIA director is so moronic through this whole movie that it felt like artificial antagonism. There's a gritty messiness to it I kinda enjoyed, but I can't really say it was good. More of a painless time-killer.

The Brothers Grimsby - DVD Review

Starring Sacha Baron Cohen, Mark Strong, Isla Fisher, Ian McShane, Rebel Wilson, Penelope Cruz, Gabourey Sidibe, Barkhad Abdi, Annabelle Wallis and Scott Adkins.
Written by Sacha Baron Cohen, Phil Johnston & Peter Baynham.
Directed by Louis Leterrier.

★½

I think this movie redefines the gross-out comedy. We've had vulgar comedies in the past, but this one's trying to out-crude them all.

Sacha Baron Cohen plays Nobby, a slobbish football fan living the trashiest of white-trash life. But he finds out his long-lost brother Sebastian (Mark Strong) is alive, and so he seeks to find him. Trouble is, Sebastian's an MI6 secret agent, and right when he's about to stop an assassin, Nobby arrives and screws it all up.

The two go on the run, and they globetrot trying to avoid MI6 - who now believe Sebastian's a traitor - while stopping the actual assassin. They uncover a conspiracy to wipe out a large portion of the human race. The plot and villain could be easily altered to be a standard James Bond plot. But here, the plot's a side thing. It's really an excuse to string together a series of gags involving body parts, body fluids, and the most repulsive elephant sex scene ever filmed.

Have I sold you?

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Passengers - Movie Review

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen and Laurence Fishburne.
Written by Jon Spaihts.
Directed by Morten Tyldum.

★★

I had the blessing of seeing this with low expectations. After the savage reviews came out, I thought I might just skip it altogether, but I'm a fan of Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt and it seemed like an okay gamble on $5 Tuesday.

Overall, I liked most of the movie. It all takes place aboard the spaceship Avalon, which is heading toward Homestead II, a colony planet. There are 5000 passengers on board and 230 crew members, but they're all put in hibernation for all but four months of a 120-year journey.

A system malfunction wakes up Jim (Pratt) 90 years too early. He does everything he can to figure out how to put himself back in hibernation or look up what to do in case of emergency but to no avail. For a year, he lives by himself, with only an android bartender (a terrific Michael Sheen) to talk to. The loneliness makes Jim suicidal.

He ultimately decides to wake up another passenger, Aurora (get it?) He claims it was a malfunction like his, and slowly, as the only two people on the ship, they fall in love. Until she learns the truth.

I liked the design of the ship. I liked the performers. I liked its leisurely pace. I liked how you could see both sides, where Jim's selfishness isn't necessarily excused, and Aurora reacts with the horror of someone who realizes their life has been stolen. All of that was fine.

But I hated the ending. Absolutely hated it.

And as a side note, maybe Andy Garcia had a bigger part in the first draft, but he gets fifth billing, and he has no lines, and about ten seconds of screen time.