Monday, November 28, 2016

Moana is #1 at box office

For the weekend of November 25-27, 2016, Disney's Moana was able to overcome the Potterverse and claim the #1 spot for Thanksgiving weekend. Its five-day haul of $81 million means that $150 million domestic is guaranteed, and it'll rule over the next couple weeks, as the first weekend of December is usually one of the biggest box-office drop-offs of the year. It should ultimately be about as successful as Wreck-It-Ralph.

Fantastic Beasts is chugging along nicely. It has already crossed $470 million worldwide.

Of the other new releases, Brad Pitt's WWII movie Allied doesn't look like it'll do as well as previous Pitt WWII movies like Inglourious Basterds and Fury.

Bad Santa 2 is doing about as well as one could expect for a sequel no one wanted, and if they did, they wanted it ten years ago.

Warren Beatty's Rules Don't Apply is a big bomb, even for a movie made cheaply. It was Beatty's first directorial effort since 1998's Bulworth, and maybe audiences didn't really need to go back to Howard Hughes.

Opens December 2
INCARNATE with Aaron Eckhart, Carice van Houten and David Mazouz.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Arrival - Movie Review

Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker and Michael Stuhlbarg.
Written by Eric Heisserer.
Directed by Denis Villenueve.


Denis Villenueve (Incendies, Prisoners, Enemy, Sicario) is quickly becoming one of my must-see directors. Actually, he's already there. I'm excited for where he could go.

This film is about an alien invasion of Earth, but it's really about Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams). In the beginning we watch her with her daughter. We watch her daughter grow to be a teenager and then die from disease. The next time we see Louise, we see the sadness in her eyes, and we see the semi-lonely existence she's carved out for herself as a college linguistics professor. But as she goes to teach, most of her class is gone. Why? There's been an invasion.

Due to previous work she'd done for the government, Louise is at the top of the list for the military to seek as a linguistic expert. The aliens are making sounds, and they want her to determine if Earthlings can somehow communicate with them.

The movie takes a slow, reverant approach to the reveal of the aliens. (I'm really glad the previews never spoiled what they fully look like.) Once she sees them, she goes through the process of trying to figure out how they communicate.

The movie is about the process, about finding common trends or signals in order to establish communication. There are 12 alien ships hovering over different parts of the globe. Each country that has one is trying to determine the best course of action. Should we preemptively strike in case their intentions are malevolent?

This movie is the antidote to Independence Day: Resurgence's summer stupidity. It's smart sci-fi that you hear about from time to time.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

'Fantastic Beasts' Devours the Box Office

For the weekend of November 18-20, 2016, the Potterverse still has some juice. The semi-prequel Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them opened to $75 million here and is already above $200 million worldwide. Pretty good for the Rogue One of the wizarding world. (If you go by per-screen average, it opened about as well as Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix.)

The other wide new releases should have chosen a different weekend. The Edge of Seventeen is getting fantastic reviews, but it probably would have been better off waiting a couple weeks or until March. Bleed for This can join Hands of Stone in letting Hollywood know there's no real audience for true-story boxing movies right now.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk had a moving trailer, but brutal reviews sunk whatever it was aspiring to be.

In limited release, Manchester by the Sea did great while Nocturnal Animals did okay.

Opens November 23
MOANA with the voices of Dwayne Johnson, Auli'i Cravalho and Alan Tudyk.
ALLIED with Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris and Matthew Goode.
BAD SANTA 2 with Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates and Tony Cox.
RULES DON'T APPLY with Warren Beatty, Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Doctor Strange - Movie Review

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Tilda Swinton, Mads Mikkelsen, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg and Benjamin Bratt.
Written by Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson & C. Robert Cargill.
Directed by Scott Derrickson.


The Marvel Cinematic Universe is like the most expensive binge-worthy series. Iron Man was just the first two episodes. And in a way, it's like the reverse Orange Is the New Black. Instead of meeting everyone and then getting their backstory, every other episode is an origin story, and we know they'll mingle with other cast members later. Like after the credits.

This time around we meet Dr. Steven Strange, a brilliant, arrogant surgeon whose hands get screwed up in an auto accident. He seeks every possible method of surgical healing, but in a moment of desperation, he goes East to pursue more mystical methods. There he meets the Ancient One (a Tibetan monk in the comics, but to make the movie more palatable for China, he's been changed to a Celtic one). Tilda Swinton plays the Ancient One, and she elevates every scene she's in.

It's one of the funnier entries in the MCU, and it would have to be since it's full of magic and bending reality and interdimensional travel. The visuals are great. Very reminiscent of Inception, but it feels like it's its own thing.

I also enjoyed his sentient cape. Reminded me of the magic carpet from Aladdin.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Hacksaw Ridge - Movie Review

Starring Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Vince Vaughn, Luke Bracey, Teresa Palmer, Hugo Weaving and Rachel Griffiths.
Written by Andrew Knight & Robert Schenkkan.
Directed by Mel Gibson.


I wish Mel Gibson wasn't so messed up in his personal life, because he is one talented director.

This is the true story of Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), a WWII medic who was also a conscientious objector and refused to carry a weapon during war. We see Doss join the army, wanting to serve, but he also faces resistance and abuse when he goes through basic training and will not pick up a rifle.

His drill sergeant (Vince Vaughn) wants him to quit. His captain (Sam Worthington) wants him to quit. But Doss endures everything they throw at him, even the threat of court-martial. He refuses to quit, and he refuses to touch a weapon.

The second half of the movie deals with the title. Hacksaw Ridge is the landing point for his company's participation in the Battle of Okinawa. The battle scenes are as intense and gory as anything from Saving Private Ryan or Fury. As men are torn to pieces by bullets and bombs, Doss hops from trench to trench, tending the wounded and saving lives.

This movie hits all of the feel-good notes, but I don't see how it could work if we didn't buy Doss, and Garfield does a wonderful job as a man with sincere beliefs and an aw-shucks goodness about him. It's a performance that never feels forced, never gets cloying. There's a lot of good support in here. I haven't enjoyed a Vince Vaughn role like this in years. Hugo Weaving probably has the most to work with, as Desmond's WWI-vet father who's become an alcoholic wracked with survivors remorse. Teresa Palmer brings an earthy sweetness to Dorothy, Desmond's bride-to-be.

(It's amusing to me that this American story is full of Australians in the cast. Of the major roles, only Garfield and Vaughn are American, and Garfield grew up in the UK.)

Feels nice in these troubled times to be able to celebrate someone's heroism.

Doctor Strange is #1 at box office

For the weekend of November 4-6, 2016, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is still going strong. Doctor Strange opened at about the same number as Thor: The Dark World. Sometimes it feels like the MCU is the world's most expensive binge-watch show. Just watch them in chronological order, with Iron Man, Incredible Hulk (pretend it's Ruffalo), Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America, Avengers, Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers 2, Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War, and then Doctor Strange. (And then you know, coming soon will be Guardians 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor 3, Black Panther, Avengers 3, Ant-Man 2, Captain Marvel, Avengers 4...)

Despite this competition, the animated Trolls movie did well in its own right. This left Hacksaw Ridge to be the outside new release that suffered.

Moonlight is continuing to soar. Another Oscar-bait movie, Loving, did well.

Opens November 11
ARRIVAL with Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker.
BILLY LYNN'S LONG HALFTIME WALK with Joe Alwyn and Kristen Stewart.
ALMOST CHRISTMAS with Gabrielle Union, Danny Glover and Mo'Nique.
SHUT IN with Naomi Watts, Jacob Tremblay, Charlie Heaton and Oliver Platt.