Sunday, October 30, 2016

Madea remains #1 over Inferno

For the weekend of October 28-30, 2016, Inferno opened dramatically under expectations, allowing Boo! A Madea Halloween to be #1 for the second straight week.

Considering that the first two Tom Hanks/Ron Howard/Dan Brown movies opened to $77 million (2006's The Da Vinci Code) and $46 million (2009's Angels & Demons), and that it was the only major wide release this weekend, Inferno's $15 million is a massive disappointment.

In limited release, the Oscar-bait movie Moonlight continues to do well.

I expect all of these titles to be wiped out by next week's new releases.

Opens November 4
DR. STRANGE with Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Rachel McAdams.
HACKSAW RIDGE with Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington and Vince Vaughn.
TROLLS with the voices of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake and James Corden.

The Accountant - Movie Review

Starring Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, JK Simmons, Jon Bernthal, John Lithgow, Cynthia Addai-Robinson, Jeffrey Tambor and Jean Smart.
Written by Bill Dubuque.
Directed by Gavin O'Connor.


My anticipation for this movie was dampened by its mixed reviews, and so I saw it under ideal circumstances. With low expectations, I wound up liking it.

Ben Affleck plays Christian Wolff, a genius with Aspergers who uses his accounting skills to help some of the most dangerous people in the world. The movie takes its time establishing him and setting up the plot, all of which I was fine with. I enjoyed watching Affleck in this role and had no problem with the pace, until I realized the movie was almost 2 1/2 hours long. Okay, so they could have trimmed a couple minutes here and there.

Eventually we get to a point where Christian is on the run with some assassins on his trail, and Anna Kendrick plays Dana, the woman who "knows too much" and they're trying to kill her too.

Meanwhile the Feds (JK Simmons, Cynthia Addai-Robinson) are trying to find him as well.

I like a movie that gives veteran actors some decent parts (not just Simmons, but Lithgow, Tambor and Smart all get something to do), and once it was all done, I realized I'd be on board for The Accountant 2. I will say a couple of the twists are telegraphed too early.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Ouija: Origin of Evil - Movie Review

Starring Elizabeth Reaser, Lulu Wilson, Annalise Basso and Henry Thomas.
Written by Mike Flanagan & Jeff Howard.
Directed by Mike Flanagan.


I never saw the original. I watched the first fifteen minutes or so when it was on TV once and gathered I didn't want to waste my time finishing it. Since this is a prequel, I figured it wouldn't be a detriment to my viewing experience. And it wasn't.

I am guessing this movie did so well with critics because the first movie was terrible, and this was so much better by comparison. For me, this movie was competant, but not much more.

A widowed mother (Elizabeth Reaser) in the 1960's works as a medium, complete with gadgets and tricks to make the people think that spirits are visiting them. One day she buys a Ouija board to help with her repertoire, but it conjures a real spirit named Markus who possesses her younger daughter Doris. The spirit gives Doris powers, like telekinesis, and the older daughter Lina (Annalise Basso) seems to be the only one to notice there's something very wrong with Doris.

Lulu Wilson does a fantastic job as Doris. She can probably make her living in horror movies for the rest of her childhood (she'll appear in Annabelle 2 next year) and hopefully can transition to broader work. She reminds me of Mara Wilson (Mrs. Doubtfire, Matilda). (I don't think they're related).

It had a couple good scares, but it had a slow pace and it broke its own rules a couple times.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Boo! Madea Wins the Weekend Box Office

For the weekend of October 21-23, 2016, Tyler Perry is back on the map. Boo! A Madea Halloween is the biggest opening for Perry since 2010's Why Did I Get Married Too? and the fourth biggest opening of his sixteen films.

Tom Cruise went back to mid-budget range for Jack Reacher 2. It opened better than the first film, but only Cruise is returning from the first film.  Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, David Oyelowo and Robert Duvall have been traded for Cobie Smulders (The Avengers), Holt McCallany (Sully), Aldis Hodge (Straight Outta Compton's MC Ren) and Jason Douglas (The Walking Dead's Tobin).

Cruise's last two original movies - expensive sci-fi adventures Oblivion and Edge of Tomorrow - both failed to make their money back. Could be a factor why he made this film after Mission Impossible 5.

Ouija: Origin of Evil did great for its low budget. Doing not so great was Keeping Up with the Joneses, a movie that looked less appealing the closer it got. Maybe Zack Galifianakis should not be top-billed.

Opens October 28
INFERNO with Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Ben Foster, Irrfan Khan and Omar Sy.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Likelihood of Who Negan Kills on The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead returns this Sunday, and the speculation for the past six months has been, so, who is it that Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) beat to death at the end of the season finale?

My odds:

11. RICK (Andrew Lincoln) - No way they kill the lead. The show is still fairly faithful to the skeleton plotlines of the graphic novels, and the back-and-forths between Rick and Negan are too good to sabotage. I won't reveal anything more about the graphic novels though to avoid spoilers. I will say just because a certain character dies a certain way in the graphic novel doesn't mean the show will follow suit. Characters like Herschel and Tyreese died at different times in the comics than they did on the show, and some characters are still alive on the show that already died at this point in comics while some characters are still alive in the comics when they've been killed off on the show.

10. CARL (Chandler Riggs) - He's the main motivation for Rick to do everything he does. Yes, he'd still have Judith, but Carl is going to survive as long as Rick does.

9. AARON (Ross Marquand) - I don't think it's him because I don't think the creators really want to kill off another gay character so quickly, and of the eleven, he's the most recently introduced and therefore would have the least emotional impact, and I do believe the makers are going for impact.

8. SASHA (Sonequa Martin-Green) - The way she fits in with everyone else, I just can't see it being her.

7. ROSITA (Christian Serratos) - Hers would be sad, as she's still dealing with Abraham dumping her, and Eugene still pines for her, but she's one of the more underdeveloped ones and there's still a lot of potential with where they can go with her.

6. MAGGIE (Lauren Cohan) - Killing a pregnant woman would really establish Negan as evil, but Maggie's been the female lead of the show ever since Andrea died, so I can't see it being her. Then again, that would be soooooo evil.

5. MICHONNE (Danai Gurira) - I think this would be terrible, as she is arguably the most popular African-American female character on TV. But man, it would be emotionally gutting.

4. EUGENE (Josh McDermitt) - Eugene is the coward who most recently discovered his inner spine. But he's still a fairly vulnerable guy and to watch him get beaten to death would be so sad and pathetic.

I genuinely believe it's going to be one of these three.

ABRAHAM (Michael Cudlitz) - His recent relations have been thrown in flux. You'd have Sasha grieving over her boyfriend, Rosita grieving over her ex-boyfriend, and Eugene will have lost the friend he leans on most. He's the strongest man on the team, and therefore everyone else would feel that much more vulnerable with him gone.

DARYL (Norman Reedus) - Yes, he's the most popular character on the show. People would riot. It could very well be a shark-jumping death for this show. But it would be bold, and it would definitely have a huge impact on the season and make Negan far more hated than the Governor.

GLENN (Steven Yuen) - He's been there since season 1, episode 1. He and Maggie have the best love story on the show. Everyone would feel his loss. It would be devastating. That's why it's one of the most likely scenarios.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Birth of a Nation - Movie Review

Starring Nate Parker, Armie Hammer, Aja Naomi King, Penelope Ann Miller, Jackie Earle Haley, Aunjanue Ellis, Colman Domingo, Mark Boone Jr., Gabrielle Union and Roger Guenveur Smith.
Written by Nate Parker & Jean McGianni Celestin.
Directed by Nate Parker.


It's 12 Years A Slave meets Braveheart. Now I loved 12 Years a Slave, and I loved Braveheart, but I'm not so sure they should meet.

This is a biopic of Nat Turner, the leader of a slave rebellion in 1831 and resulted in the deaths of about about 65 whites and 200 blacks. We meet Nat as a young slave boy. The white matriarch takes a liking to him and teaches him to read from the Bible. When the patriarch dies, his wishes are that Nat return to the cotton fields.

But Nat gets really good with the Bible and preaches to the other slaves on Sunday. When his current master Sam Turner (Armie Hammer) gets into debt, he's given a profitable idea from the local preacher (Mark Boone Jr.). Other slave-owners would pay him to have Nat preach to their slaves. You know, preach from the verses that justify slavery.

The movie is full of brutality and cruelty. There's more than one rape and many of the expected whippings and torture of slaves. Nat sees that while his own situation is bad, the surrounding plantations are far worse. He starts reading the verses in the Bible that justify fighting injustice, slave revolts, and killing oppressors.

This is all from Nate Parker. He is the writer, director, and star. There are many close-ups putting his face squarely in the middle of the frame. It has a level of admirable messiness from an undisciplined auteur. We see the beauty of the cotton fields at dawn, juxtaposed with blood on the ground where a slave was beaten or killed.

The movie is about how the Bible was misused to justify slavery, or it's about how blind the institution made whites to the inhumanity of the arrangement, or it's about what Black Lives Matter looked like 180 years ago. Or it could be other things. There's a complex relationship between Nat and Sam, but in their final scene together, I wasn't sure what emotions they were experiencing. Just an example where the movie could have benefitted from more polish.

My comparison to Braveheart is if you stretched out the indignities the English inflicted on the Scottish, and then condensed the last two hours into 30 minutes. It also takes many liberties with what the actual historical record shows. (For example, Sam died in 1823, but he's alive during the 1831 rebellion here.)

Overall I liked it. It packs a punch. It has its flaws, but I'd rather a movie had too much to say than nothing to say.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Accountant #1, Kevin Hart #2 at box office

For the weekend of October 14-16, 2016, The Accountant was the easy #1. It had an intriguing marketing hook from the beginning, using Radiohead's "Everything in the Right Place" to focus on an OCD accountant who is also deadly. It opened slightly ahead of Argo and The Town, but reviews suggest it won't quite have the legs of those two films.

Kevin Hart's concert film opened about where it was expected.

Of the holdovers, I'm surprised The Birth of a Nation fell 61% in its second week. Maybe between the brutal subject matter and Nate Parker's controversial backstory, audiences weren't ready to go there.

Next week, I would expect Jack Reacher: Never Go Back to take the top spot.

Opens October 21
JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK with Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders and Aldis Hodge.
BOO! A MADEA HALLOWEEN with Tyler Perry, Cassi Davis and Andre Hall.
OUIJA: ORIGIN OF EVIL with Elizabeth Reaser, Doug Jones and Lin Shaye.
KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES with Zach Galifianakis, Jon Hamm and Isla Fisher.
I'M NOT ASHAMED with Masey McLain, Ben Davies and Cameron McKendry.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Movie Review

Starring Eva Green, Asa Butterfield, Ella Purnell, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris O'Dowd, Judi Dench, Allison Janney, Terence Stamp, Rupert Everett, Kim Dickens, Lauren McCrostie and Finlay MacMillan.
Written by Jane Goldman.
Directed by Tim Burton.


Some actors should just not be forced to try an American accent, and Chris O'Dowd is one such actor. The Irish actor best known for the BBC comedy The IT Crowd makes Ewan McGregor sound like Robert Redford. But that aside he plays Franklin, father of Jake (Asa Butterfield, a Londoner who's slightly more successful at sounding like a native Yank.)

Jake is on a quest. After his grandfather dies, Jake follows a set of clues to find Miss Peregrine. Miss Peregrine is the subject of bedtime stories his grandfather would tell him, but he confides that the stories are true. Jake convinces his father to take him to a small island off of Wales, where Miss Peregrine's house is supposedly hidden.

He finds it, and it's a house in the middle of a magic cave. The house is stuck in a time loop from 1943, and in this house live all sorts of peculiar children. One boy is invisible. One girl has a mouth on the back of her neck. And so on.

But there are another set of mutant peculiars who are hunting them. These are a menacing breed led by Barron (Samuel L. Jackson). The design of the mutants is where you can really tell this is a Tim Burton film.

The movie is breezy and enjoyable. Eva Green tends to be great in everything, and she's darkly bewitching here as Miss Peregrine. Like many Burton films, the ending isn't great. In fact, it gets quite convoluted with jumping from time loop to time loop. I lost track trying to make sense of it.

Deepwater Horizon - Movie Review

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich, Gina Rodriguez, Kate Hudson, Dylan O'Brien, Ethan Suplee, Brad Leland and J.D. Evermore.
Written by Matthew Michael Carnahan & Matthew Sand.
Directed by Peter Berg.


This is a solid, straightforward effort as the star (Mark Wahlberg) and director (Peter Berg) of Lone Survivor are reunited to tell the story of the 12 hours that led up to the explosion on BP's Deepwater Horizon oil rig that led to the biggest oil disaster in history.

It's white-collar vs. blue-collar. Kurt Russell is Jimmy Harrell, the head of the rig and the one who wants to make sure all of the safety tests have been conducted. John Malkovich is Vidrine, the BP exec who feels like they're behind schedule and they don't really need to do all of the tests. While they're the main conflict, the movie also has us get to know Mike (Mark Wahlberg) and Andrea (Gina Rodriguez) and a few other crew members so that we care about these characters before the inevitable disaster hits.

Once it does, it becomes The Towering Inferno at Sea. Berg has already demonstrated himself to be a solid action director, and he makes the stakes harrowing. A few crew members did die that night, and unless you studied the backstory before seeing the movie, you won't which ones might be among them.

At the same time, this does feel respectful to the people who were involved in this tragedy. No Jack & Rose love story thrown in.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Blair Witch - Movie Review

Starring James Allen McCune, Callie Hernandez, Corbin Reid, Brandon Scott, Wes Robinson and Valorie Curry.
Written by Simon Barrett.
Directed by Adam Wingard.


I was excited to see this horror movie. I really liked the Barrett/Wingard collaboration on You're Next, and I figured they could have fun with this. There are two reasons this movie doesn't succeed. It follows too closely to the template of the first Blair Witch movie. And it's not scary.

James is the younger brother of Heather, one of the documentarians who disappeared in the original Blair Witch. A recent tape was discovered in those woods outside Burkittsville, and James believes it contains evidence that Heather is still alive. His documentarian girlfriend Lisa and their friends Peter and Ashley tag along to go visit those woods. They find the couple, Lane and Talia, who originally found the tape to show them the exact location of where they found it.

So this time around we have six young people instead of three, and we have a lot more camera angles, although it is still all done under the found-footage conceit. Most of the jump-scares happen when suddenly someone enters the frame, but that's when the frame is shakiest, so you can't really see what you were supposed to be scared by.

The finale happens in that mysterious house in the middle of the woods, and that's the most suspenseful part of the movie. Once it was all over, I just wanted to give it a gigantic shrug.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Girl on the Train is #1

For the weekend of October 7-9, 2016, The Girl on the Train was the big winner. Not "Gone Girl" level, but still successful, especially considering how the reviews were mixed, and Emily Blunt has never opened a movie on her own. And hey, the severe weather in the southwest didn't help.

When Fox Searchlight bought The Birth of a Nation at Sundance, they thought they were getting an Oscar contender, but then controversy exploded when the story resurfaced that writer/director/star Nate Parker had been acquitted for rape in 1999, and that his accuser had committed suicide in 2012. The marketing just never clicked in for it.

Middle School is based on a children's book series, and with its low budget, anything it got was going to be positive.

There probably won't be another movie to open over $30 million until Inferno (10/28). Then this will be called the Season of Tom Hanks. I do expect The Accountant to open to about $20 million.

Opens October 14
THE ACCOUNTANT with Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, JK Simmons and Jon Bernthal.
KEVIN HART: WHAT NOW? with Kevin Hart and Halle Berry.
MAX STEEL with Ben Winchell, Mario Bello, Andy Garcia and Ana Villafane.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Elvis & Nixon - Movie Review

Starring Michael Shannon, Kevin Spacey, Alex Pettyfer, Johnny Knoxville, Colin Hanks, Evan Peters and Tate Donovan.
Written by Cary Elwes, Joey Sagal & Hanala Sagal.
Directed by Liza Johnson.


This little stage-play of a movie has its own enjoyments. Maybe not enough to fully recommend it. Actually it's worth it to watch the second half.

This is all about how the famous picture came to be of Elvis Presley shaking Richard Nixon's hand. Michael Shannon plays Elvis here, and while he doesn't look or sound like Elvis, he captures his essence. Kevin Spacey's Nixon is better.

There's no consequence to the proceedings here. It's fun to watch Elvis and Nixon interact in the second half. In fact, I don't think you'd miss much by just starting it at the 45-minute mark.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Miss Peregrine #1, Deepwater #2 at box office

For the weekend of September 30-October 2, 2016, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children won the day. Based on the best-selling book, the Tim Burton-directed feature didn't open as high as Fox would have hoped, considering its budget. The book has two sequels, but book-series adaptations haven't proven to be guaranteed hits. For every Harry Potter, there's a Golden Compass. For every Hunger Games, there's a Mortal Instruments. Depending on how well it does overseas, it's more likely than not that this'll be a stand-alone film.

Deepwater Horizon is another solid effort from director Peter Berg, but not enough people could get interested in seeing a movie about an oil-rig explosion. Too bad.

Masterminds was long-delayed due to Relativity's financial woes. It would have opened to twice these numbers had it come out as originally scheduled last year.

Queen of Katwe failed to spark interest with its expansion.

In limited release, Denial (starring Rachel Weisz) and American Honey (starring Shia LaBeouf) found success.

Opens October 7
THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN with Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett and Rebecca Ferguson.
THE BIRTH OF A NATION with Nate Parker, Armie Hammer and Jackie Earle Haley.
MIDDLE SCHOOL with Lauren Graham, Thomas Barbusca and Griffin Gluck.