Sunday, August 13, 2017

Annabelle 2 is #1


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

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

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


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

The Beguiled - Movie Review

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

★★½

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Detroit - Movie Review

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

★★★

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 7, 2017

The Dark Tower is #1 in slow week


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

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

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

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



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

Friday, July 28, 2017

Dunkirk - Movie Review

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

★★★½

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Big Sick - Movie Review

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

★★★½

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

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

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

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

Dunkirk is #1 at box office


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

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

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

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



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

Monday, July 17, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes is #1


For the weekend of July 14-16, 2017, War for the Planet of the Apes was the big winner, able to take first place from Spider-Man. it was a slightly better opening than Rise of POTA but not as well as Dawn of POTA.

The other new wide release was Wish Upon, a forgettable low-budget horror movie that will appear on some streaming service in a few months.

The staying power of Wonder Woman is the story of the summer. It's on pace to pass Guardians of the Galaxy 2, and I don't see Spider-Man: Homecoming catching it.



Opens July 21
DUNKIRK with Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance.
VALERIAN with Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevinge, Ethan Hawke and Clive Owen.
GIRLS TRIP with Regina Hall, Jada Pinckett Smith, Queen Latifah and Larenz Tate.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming - Movie Review

Starring Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr., Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Bokeem Woodbine, Martin Starr, Martin Chernus, Abraham Attah, Michael Mando, Donald Glover, Tyne Daly, Logan Marshall-Green, Tony Revolori, Garcelle Beauvais, Chris Evans and the voice of Jennifer Connelly.
Written by Jonathan Goldstein, John Francis Daley, Jon Watts, Christopher Ford, Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers.
Directed by Jon Watts.

★★★½

Tom Holland is the third actor in less than ten years to play Spider-Man. He's also the youngest, and that's a good thing. This felt like a high school movie that happened to be a superhero movie too. There's a breezy fun to everything going on.

Fortunately since we've already met this Peter Parker during Captain America: Civil War, we don't have to go through his origin story again. I don't need to see Uncle Ben get killed anymore than I need to see Batman's parents gunned down again.

Director Jon Watts (Cop Car) does a good job of weaving together all of the character relationships, and while there isn't too much action compared to most other superhero movies, the giant set pieces he does have, he handles well. The ferry splitting in half scene in particular.

Michael Keaton's blue-collar Vulture has an understandable POV, as he and his crew go from legitimate demolition workers to underground traffickers of alien technology to get ahead. The arrogance of billionaire Tony Stark lingers over everything, and Stark's in this movie almost as much as he was in Captain America: Civil War.

My favorite scene is one in the car. You've seen the clip in the trailer of Keaton in the driver's seat looking back at Holland, but the way that whole scene plays just crackles. Keaton doesn't go for scenery-chewing; he goes for much more subtle menace. And hey, he has a family, so he can be reasoned with.

Hoping somewhere down the road we can get a Spider-Man/Ant-Man buddy movie.

P.S. Favorite Easter egg is Jennifer Connelly voicing an A.I., following in the footsteps of her husband Paul Bettany who voiced Jarvis for a few movies before he became Vision.

---

Also saw in 2017:

THE LOST CITY OF Z (★★½)
Starring Charlie Hunnam, Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland, Angus Macfayden and Ian McDiarmid.
Written & directed by James Gray.

This old-fashioned "By Jove!" colonial travelogue of a movie tells the true story of Percy Fawcett, a man commissioned to help map the Amazon River in South America before and after World War I and came across what he believed was evidence of a lost city, an ancient civilized city. I liked some of the supporting work from Robert Pattinson (Twilight) and Angus Macfayden (Braveheart), but it ultimately got too repetitive.

IT COMES AT NIGHT (★★½)
Starring Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, Christopher Abbott and Riley Keough.
Written & Directed by Trey Stults.

This post-apocalyptic domestic thriller was marketed as a horror movie, and while it does have some horrifying things, it doesn't go in predictable directions. It raises more questions than it has answers for, and ultimately I felt hollow when it was over. It does a good job playing off of paranoia and suspicion, but it's also a cautionary tale on just how tribal people can still be.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is #1


For the weekend of July 7-9, 2017, Spider-Man: Homecoming had the second-highest opening of a Spider-Man movie, and with no competition, it easily won the weekend. It's the third highest opening of the year. Sony showed wisdom beyond its years in making a deal with the MCU to allow Spider-Man crossover.

The Big Sick is looking like the summer indie you might want to catch in theaters because it'll be nominated for Best Screenplay during award season in five months.



Opens July 14
WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES with Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson.
WISH UPON with Joey King, Ryan Philippe, Sherilyn Fenn and Elisabeth Rohm.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Despicable Me 3 is #1


For the weekend of June 30-July 2, 2017, Despicable Me 3 was the big winner. Not as big an opener as DM2 or Minions, but these movies cost almost half what Pixar puts into theirs, so it'll be super-profitable. It's going to easily pass Cars 3 to be the biggest animated movie of the summer.

Baby Driver made $30 million through its first five days. It's the biggest opening ever for an Edgar Wright movie, and I'm glad he's found commercial success.

The House tanked. On paper, it looked like a surefire hit. Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler? But the reviews were terrible.

Wonder Woman and Pirates 5 have both hit $700 million worldwide. Cars 3 is on pace to be Pixar's second-lowest grossing movie (ahead of only The Good Dinosaur).



Opens July 7
SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING with Tom Holland, Michael Keaton and Robert Downey Jr.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Baby Driver - Movie Review


Starring Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, Eiza Gonzalez, Flea and Lanny Joon.
Written & Directed by Edgar Wright.

★★★½

Edgar Wright has directed Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The World's End, and now this. He's 5 for 5 in my book.

Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars) plays Baby, a guy who's one of the best drivers on Earth. He's deeply indebted to a criminal kingpin named Doc (Kevin Spacey), so to pay off what he owes, he drives getaway for different groups that Doc hires. Mostly bank robberies. Baby has tinnitis and listens to music at all times to drown out the ringing, but the music is the soundtrack for his life. Everything that happens in the movie is done to the beat of whatever Baby's listening to. It's a cinematic trick that works.

Wright's talent is to take familiar genres and add thrilling new twists to them, and he does for car chase heist movies here what he did for zombies in Shaun, for buddy-cops in Fuzz, teen romance in Scott Pilgrim, and alien invasions in World's End. I really enjoyed what he did with Foxx and Hamm as two smooth yet dangerous bankrobbers. Baby's deep down a good guy who shouldn't be among these criminals, but he has no choice.

I had a blast watching it.

GLOW - Netflix Review


Starring Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, Marc Maron, Sydelle Noel, Britney Young, Britt Baron, Gayle Rankin, Ellen Wong, Chris Lowell and Rich Sommer.
Created by Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch.

This Netflix show is utterly bingeable, a bright, campy 1980's comedy-drama that winds up having a lot of heart and interesting characters beneath the stereotypes they're supposed to play. I went through it in a week, then watched the 2012 GLOW documentary.

Alison Brie is Ruth, a workaholic actress who can't seem to catch a break. She shows up at an open audition, but she and the others don't know what it's for until they arrive. One thing I liked about the show after seeing the real story is how faithful the show was to the sisterhood and the audacity of the whole project.

Former WWE stars like John Morrison, Brodus Clay, Carlito, and Alex Riley show up. Chavo Guerrero Jr. trained the actresses for this TV show, just like his uncle Mando Guerrero trained the original GLOW ladies.

Marc Maron is great as the deeply cynical Hollywood director in charge of this project, and there are some other unexpected appearances along the way.

I also liked how we had a mini-Mad Men reunion between Brie (Trudy Campbell) and Rich Sommer (Harry).

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Transformers 5 is #1 at box office


For the weekend of June 23-25, 2017, Transformers: The Last Knight grossed $5 million ($69 million in its first five days), making it $265 million worldwide. The last two Transformers movie grossed over $1 billion each. This one will likely not get there. I don't know if the negative reviews would be much of a factor. These movies have never had a Fresh rating at RottenTomatoes. (In fact, Michael Bay's only managed one fresh rating his entire directing career, with 1996's The Rock.)

It'll be interesting to see where final numbers land for Cars 3 and Wonder Woman. I think WW will have the edge and hold on to #2. In fact, WW is on pace to pass Guardians of the Galaxy 2 to be summer's highest domestic grossing film. The only two upcoming titles that might have a chance to catch them are Despicable Me 3 and Spider-Man: Homecoming.

All Eyez on Me had a colossal 77.9% drop in its second week. Straight Outta Compton, it is not.

The Mummy is tanking in the US, but it's doing well enough overseas to be profitable. Just not by much.

In limited released, Sofia Coppola's The Beguiled and Michael Showalter's The Big Sick did great.


Opens June 30
DESPICABLE ME 3 with the voices of Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig and Trey Parker.
THE HOUSE with Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler, Allison Tolman and Jason Mantzoukas.
BABY DRIVER with Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Wonder Woman buries Mummy at box office


For the weekend of June 9-11, 2017, Wonder Woman managed to hold off Tom Cruise and any other challengers to her box office throne. Anything less than a 50% drop in a second week is a great sign for longevity.

The Mummy is off to a rough start for the planned Dark Universe, where Frankenstein, Wolf-Man, Creature of the Black Lagoon, etc., are supposed to be part of this eventual franchise. It's the first big-budget movie Alex Kurtzman has directed. He's known mainly for producing films like Cowboys & Aliens and Star Trek into Darkness. Critics hated it. I expect it to break even thanks to overseas business.

Lower-budget fare like It Comes at Night and Megan Leavey didn't break out either.




Opens June 16
CARS 3 with the voices of Owen Wilson, Bonnie Hunt and Larry the Cable Guy.
ROUGH NIGHT with Scarlett Johansson, Kate McKinnon and Jillian Bell.
ALL EYEZ ON ME with Demetrius Shipp Jr., Danai Gurira and Kat Graham.
47 METERS DOWN with Mandy Moore, Claire Holt and Matthew Modine.

Get Me Roger Stone - Netflix Review


Directed by Dylan Bank, Daniel DiMauro & Morgan Pehme.

★★★

Roger Stone has been a political operative for decades. Most people know him as the Dirty Trickster, that weird, sloping forehead guy who dresses in fancy pinstripe suits and is good friends with Donald Trump. This documentary shows just how long he's been involved, how deeeply he's been involved, and how he helped build a swamp that Trump claims he can drain.

Stone was a young man who first got into politics under Richard Nixon after being inspired by Barry Goldwater. His rapid ascension meant he could get any jobs he wanted, and he worked on the campaigns of Reagan, Bush, Dole, Bush, and now Trump. The doc does a good job of letting Stone be Stone, a charming snake-oil salesman who also has done more to corrupt politics in DC than just about anyone.

The movie does a good job of outlining the trajectory of his career, and also showing that since 1988, he's wanted Donald Trump to run for president.

When I got to the end, I still wasn't sure what Stone really cares about. He's about winning, he's about keeping his name in headlines, he's about ruining other people, crushing his enemies. Is there any soul there? He's the ultimate Machiavellian sociopath. It doesn't matter how low he goes as long as he accomplishes his goals.

He says that he welcomes those who hate him, because if he was unsuccessful, they wouldn't hate him. True. He knows exactly how to exploit people's fears, anxieties and weaknesses.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Wonder Woman - Movie Review

Starring Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, David Thewlis, Danny Huston, Elena Anaya, Ewen Bremner, Said Taghmaoui, Eugene Brave Rock and Lucy Davis.
Written by Allan Heinberg, Zack Snyder & Jason Fuchs.
Directed by Patty Jenkins.

★★★½

After she stole the show in Batman v. Superman, I'm not surprised Wonder Woman is still winning in her own movie. The real surprise is that DC has delivered its first really good movie since The Dark Knight.

We met Diana (Gal Gadot) in modern times, but this is her origin story. Diana is being raised to be the next queen of the Amazons, but when WWI pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes on to their beach, these women need to confront the outside world they've been able to ignore for millenia.

Patty Jenkins (Monster) does a good job balancing action and humor. Act I has the beach fight; terrific. Act II has No Man's Land; excellent. Act III has the big-explosions showdown with the main villain. Honestly that might be the movie's weak link, in that all of these movies tend to end with big-explosions showdowns.

Gadot captures the combination of fierceness and naivete of Wonder Woman. She has the physiciality down, but she's quite charming in her fish-out-of-water scenes where this Amazon, who's never met a man before, must now fit in 1917 England. The chemistry between Gadot and Pine is solid. Like Christopher Reeve/Margot Kidder solid.

Really enjoyed it. It's in my top five for 2017 so far.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Wonder Woman opens to over $103 million


For the weekend of June 2-4, 2017, Wonder Woman broke some records. Highest opening ever for a female superhero movie. Highest opening ever for a live-action female-directed movie. And while it didn't open as well as previous DCEU movies, it wasn't expected to. In the long run, Warner Bros can see this as their biggest hit for all of the positive word-of-mouth this film will generate.

Wonder Woman is also the third-highest opening of 2017, behind Beauty & the Beast and Guardians of the Galaxy 2.

The other new wide release was Captain Underpants, based on a kids book series. I saw hardly any publicity for this, and its budget doesn't look like it was too much, so Fox is probably happy with these numbers, particularly when they saw the Wonder Woman wave coming.

Everything else dropped dramatically. Everything Everything was the only movie in the top 12 that didn't drop by more than 50%.

Next week Wonder Woman has a good chance of holding off The Mummy to be #1 for a second week. Pro.BoxOffice currently projects that film to open to $39 million.



Opens June 9
THE MUMMY with Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Sofia Boutella and Jake Johnson.
IT COMES AT NIGHT with Joel Edgerton, Riley Keough and Christopher Abbott.
MEGAN LEAVEY with Kate Mara, Tom Felton, Common and Bradley Whitford.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales - Movie Review

Starring Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Brendon Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario, Kevin R. McNally, David Wenham, Stephen Graham, Golshifteh Farahani and Orlando Bloom.
Written by Jeff Nathanson & Terry Rossio.
Directed by Joachim Ronning & Espen Sandberg.

★★½

Johnny Depp's mincing Captain Jack Sparrow is a constant. He never seems to grow or learn, regardless of what's thrown at him. Even death left him unchanged. Maybe that's part of the charm.

This fifth movie has Sparrow facing an old rival, Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem), a Spanish soldier who'd tried to rid the sea of priates, only to be cursed for decades in the Devil's Triangle, tricked into there by a young Jack. When a destitute Jack gives away his magic compass, the spell that kept Salazar trapped is broken, and now he is free to seek revenge.

The first movie is still the best in the series, but it's arguable which one is the best sequel. I think this one ranks ahead of 3 & 4 and is about on par with 2. The knives were out for this one but it's actually enjoyable in many parts.

First, Bardem's Salazar is a great villain. A Javert who's been cursed to be the living dead, trapped in the Devil's Triangle. Second, the chemistry between the young love interests (Brendon Thwaites, Kaya Scodelario) is better than those two from 4, and maybe better than Bloom & Knightley. If anything, what used to be the best part of these movies is now its weakest. There's a lot of humor around Jack Sparrow that falls flat.

Oh, and after the credits, we get a stinger that signifies where Pirates 6 is going.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Pirates 5 is #1, Baywatch #3


For the weekend of May 26-28, 2017, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales sailed to first place, showing there's still life in the franchise. Unfortunately its budget was so large, it won't break even until about $700 million worldwide. Should be doable.

The other new release was Baywatch, which critics hated, and that killed it. It was tracking to open in the $30's last week, but too many people caught wind of how bad it was supposed to be.

In holdovers, the big surprise was Alien Covenant dropping 70% in its second week. Die-hard fans saw it in the first week, and it is not expanding its appeal. Its worldwide gross should still help it turning a profit and justifying another sequel, but probably just one more.

So, you ask, why are we getting live-action treatments of The Lion King, Aladdin, Dumbo, Pinocchio, Mulan, and The Little Mermaid, as well as a Cruella movie starring Emma Stone? Beauty & the Beast just $500 million domestic and $1.23 billion worldwide.



Opens June 2
WONDER WOMAN with Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright and Connie Nielsen.
CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS with the voices of Ed Helms, Kevin Hart and Jordan Peele.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 - Movie Review

Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Kurt Russell, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki, Sean Gunn, Ben Browder and Sylvester Stallone.
Written & Directed by James Gunn.

★★★

This movie is faithful to the original formula. It's a fan-pleasing sequel where some of the returning characters get more to do this time around while others don't.

Family is a big theme this time around, to the point that I started to wonder if Vin Diesel was going to pull up in a shiny new car. (Nah, he'll just voice baby Groot.) Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot still fly around the galaxy as paid mercenaries. But Quill runs into who turns out to be his father, a celestial being named Ego (Kurt Russell).

I liked the sisters subplot with Gamora and Nebula, where that relationship/rivalry is fleshed out more. I was amused by the antics of baby Groot. In particular I like how the opening battle was secondary to Groot chasing a space-rat, all to the tune of ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky." I like the addition of Mantis (Pom Klementieff) to the team.

Sylvester Stallone felt like he was wasted, but if what they did with him pays off in a future movie, then it was worth it.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage - DVD Review

Starring Vin Diesel, Donnie Yen, Toni Collette, Deepika Padukone, Ruby Rose, Tony Jaa, Nina Dobrev, Rory McCann, Kris Wu, Michael Bisping and Samuel L. Jackson.
Written by F. Scott Frazier.
Directed by D.J. Caruso.

★½

I must admit this movie was even cheesier than I thought it would be. When xXx first came out in 2002, it was supposed to be an edgier, hipper US antidote to James Bond, with a focus more on extreme sports and stunts rather than unreal gadgets. Vin Diesel thought he was too big a star to return for the sequel, so a quickly forgotten xXx 2 with Ice Cube looked like the end of a franchise before it could even begin.

Fast-forward a few years, where Vin Diesel movies that aren't part of the Fast & Furious franchise lose money, and it made sense for him to see if he could resurrect this. Domestically no, but overseas it made enough money to justify another movie, if the producers are so inclined.

Cage is a rebel, and when he's recruited to stop a handful of xXx-trained mercenaries who steal a superpowerful device called Pandora's Box (which is very similar to the Eye from F&F), there's always that edge of when he's going to ditch the government agents watching him and go rogue. It's the type of movie where whereever he goes, he's greeted by sexy young women who want to sleep with him. When he meets other people, they are surrounded by scantily-clad young women who serve as eye-candy, security, or whatever else excuse the filmmakers can conjure.

Even the geeky IT girl is played by the gorgeous Nina Dobrev, and she can't wait to tell Cage her safeword. Seriously.

So there are some cool stunts, some bad green-screens, and the whole thing felt so full of cliches that if they'd cast everyone 25 years older, you'd have The Expendables 4.

At least it had Donnie Yen as the antagonist. He was by far the best part of the movie.

Monday, May 22, 2017

'Alien Covenant' Topples 'Guardians 2' at Box Office


For the weekend of May 19-21, 2017, Alien Covenant took the top spot. Not quite as big an opening that Prometheus had, but this one had slightly better reviews and it also benefitted from last week's new releases opening poorly. It also grabbed an additional $81 million overseas, so it looks like it's on its way to profitability, just not by very much.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 got to $300 million domestic, and getting to $400 million is not unrealistic. It's now past $730 million worldwide.

Of the other new releases, Everything Everything did okay, considering its budget. I never saw any marketing for this outside of a poster. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul showed that despite the recasting of all the parts, maybe they should end this franchise.

Further down the chart, Smurfs: The Lost Village is now in the black thanks to its success overseas. Kong: Skull Island is finally in the black for the same reason.

Remember when it was announced they had 6-7 Power Rangers movies planned? Yeah, not happening. It tanked overseas.

And side note: Prayers for Zack Snyder, who dropped out of directing Justice League after his 20-year-old daughter committed suicide. Joss Whedon, who's prepping a Batgirl movie, will finish directing Justice League for Snyder.



Opens May 26
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DMTNT with Johnny Depp and Javier Bardem.
BAYWATCH with Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron and Alexandria Daddario.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Alien Covenant - Movie Review

Starring Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demian Bichir, Carmen Egojo, Amy Siemetz, Jussie Smollett and Callie Hernandez.
Written by John Logan & Dante Harper.
Directed by Ridley Scott.

★★★

This is a sequel to Prometheus, while still being a prequel to Alien, and while the familiar xenomorph does show up, along with the face-grabber, this is still more in the vein of Prometheus.

At the end of that movie, the survivors Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and David (Michael Fassbender) set out to find the home planet of the Creators, the large white creatures that apparently designed the aliens. We eventually learn their fate in this movie.

Meanwhile a colonalization crew aboard the Covenant is headed for a new planet to colonize, but they receive what may be a distress signal from a different, habitable planet that they were unaware of. The captain dies in his hibernation pod due to malfunction, and the second-in-command Oram (Billy Crudup) doesn't seem to be up to the job. Daniels (Katherine Waterston) is his backup, and she happens to be the wife of the now-dead captain. This crew of 14 decides to explore the new planet, and if they like it, they may use it to settle as their new home instead.

And on that planet, they meet David.

Now the Prometheus crew has their own synthetic with them named Walter. Fassbender plays both, and he does a great job of making them two complete characters. We can always tell who's who when David cuts his hair to match Walter's. (Which seems a little weird that no one questions it.)

It features some pretty gory deaths once the action kicks in, aliens bursting out of people's chests, backs, and mouths, and then when the main alien grows to its usual height, more people die in body-shredding ways. This movie filled in some holes that Prometheus left, and it's still very open for another film, which director Ridley Scott plans to be the final bridge between these prequels and 1979's Alien.

My biggest problem with this is the giant fluxuations in continuity, as far as how quickly these aliens incubate and grow. Remember when John Hurt had that thing on his face for 24 hours before it let go, and it took a few more hours before something burst out of his chest? This one has a face-grab to chest-burst in about one hour. And I can't say it was that scary. It's monster-movie fun, with a Hammer horror flavor to David, but the first two movies may never be topped.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Guardians 2 still #1, King Arthur flops


For the weekend of May 12-14, 2017, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 continues to roll. It's already in the black, having grossed over $630 million worldwide so far. The first one topped out at $773 million; this one should get to the $1 billion mark fairly easily.

Of the newcomers, King Arthur is a giant bomb. They keep retelling this story every decade or so; if Clive Owen couldn't make a franchise of it in 2004, I don't know why they thought Charlie Hunnam could in 2017. On a related note, we're getting another Robin Hood movie next year.

Snatched did a little better, but considering how successful Trainwreck was, this is a disappointing opening for Amy Schumer, especially when it's Goldie Hawn's first movie in 15 years.

Lowriders did well on limited screens; The Wall was all but forgotten on a few more.



Opens May 19
ALIEN: COVENANT with Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston and James Franco.
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: THE LONG HAUL with Alicia Silverstone and Tom Everett Scott.
EVERYTHING EVERYTHING with Nick Robinson and Taylor Hickson.

Your Name. - Movie Review

Starring the voices of Ryunosuke Kamiki and Mone Kamishiraishi.
Written & directed by Makoto Shinkai.

★★★★

We have an early frontrunner for the Best Animated Film of 2017.

This Japanese entrant takes a cliched plot device (body-switching comedy), but it's so inventive with where it takes it that it makes the concept seem fresh.

It centers on a teenage boy Taki and a teenage girl Mitsuha who don't know each other, but they wake up in each other's bodies. Then the next day they're back in their own, but with most of their memory of it gone. And then back again the next day. And they leave notes for each other to give clues as to what they did, but still, how did this happen, and why them?

The movie adds a twist halfway through that elevates this to a whole other level. The stakes of the mystery rise, as does the emotional weight.

Free Fire - Movie Review

Starring Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Sharlto Copley, Jack Reynor, Sam Riley, Noah Taylor, Babou Ceesay, Michael Smiley and Patrick Bergin.
Written by Amy Jump & Ben Wheatley.
Directed by Ben Wheatley.

★★½

This is a fun little gangster flick, probably more worthy to be watched on Netflix or Amazon Prime when it shows up in a few months.

The plot is very simple. In the 1970's, some IRA members are meeting some arms dealers in an abandoned warehouse to buy some guns. Room full of antsy people with guns and money? Eventually someone's trigger-happy finger sets things in motion.

Picture the Mexican standoff in Reservoir Dogs. Now picture there's about ten of them, and it's in a much bigger warehouse with more places to hide and take cover. And you have 45 minutes of movie to go. Now this does lead to a lot of scenes of shot people crawling on their elbows to get from this place of cover to that, but the dialogue and exchanges remain funny.

Wheatley said he was aiming to write a standoff movie realistically, and I can see that. In real life, these guys would miss most of their shots, and most of the ones that hit wouldn't be fatal.

Rings - DVD Review

Starring Matilda Lutz, Alex Roe, Johnny Galecki, Vincent D'Onofrio and Aimee Teegarden.
Written by David Loucka, Jacob Estes & Akiva Goldsman.
Directed by F. Javier Guitierrez.



Few things are more frustrating than watching a sequel and knowing - knowing! - that you yourself could have written a better story.

This is basically The Ring 3. Samara is still having her video passed around, but now in a world where people can copy and send MPEGs instead of VHS tapes.

It commits the cardinal sin of horror films. It is never at any point scary. It goes through the motions people jumping when they don't notice someone behind them and whatnot, but it's like no one involved knows why that's scary. It has the feel of watching a live sitcom where the expected laugh-track is broken. This is a horrorcom that pauses for screams that never come. It even has a "twist" that it gives away half an hour before we get to the reveal.

The acting is terrible, the direction is unimaginative, and it's a real shame that they'd take a franchise with potential like this and kill it.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is #1


For the weekend of May 5-7, 2017, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was the easy, obvious winner. It out-opened the original one by a significant margin, and the MCU just keeps rolling out the hits. We're now 15 movies in, and the only one that wasn't profitable was the Edward Norton-led Incredible Hulk in 2008. GotG2 was the fifth-highest opener for the MCU, behind only Avengers 1 & 2, Iron Man 3, and Captain America: Civil War.

Beauty & the Beast and The Fate of the Furious have both grossed over $1.1 billion worldwide.


Opens May 12
SNATCHED with Amy Schumer, Goldie Hawn, Ike Barinholtz and Joan Cusack.
KING ARTHUR with Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Eric Bana and Astrid Berges-Frisbey.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Summer 2017 Box Office Predictions


Another summer of big-budget blockbuster sequels, remakes and spinoffs!  Here's how I see the summer going with domestic grosses.

1. SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING (7/7) - $470 million - As long as it's good, it'll be huge. It's been only three years since the disappointing Amazing Spider-Man 2, but now with a younger Spidey who's part of the official MCU, complete with Iron Man as his co-star, I see this being the biggest winner, as much as any Avengers movie.

2. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2 (5/5) - $400 million - Oh look, another huge comic-book movie. Most of the reviews seem to be "as good or almost as good as the first one" which is usually the best a sequel can hope for. (The Dark Knight is a unicorn.) Someday a Disney/Marvel flick will flop. BUT NOT THIS DAY.

3. DESPICABLE ME 3 (6/30) - $355 million - The first two were huge, and Minions spinoff was even bigger. There's always one animated film that rises above the others, and I see this one as the most likely.

4. WONDER WOMAN (6/2) - $225 million - I'm betting on this being the first good DC movie since it became Zack Snyder's universe. And ironically I don't see it making as much as disappointments like Batman v. Superman and Suicide Squad, but it'll show itself to be a step in the right direction. If this movie sucks, I see some heads rolling.

5. TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT (6/23) - $210 million - People keep seeing these nmovies, so they keep getting made. Is there something special about this script that tricked Anthony Hopkins into joining the cast?

6. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES (5/26) - $184 million - Johnny Depp's star power has taken a hit lately, with big flops (Mortdecai, Alice Through the Looking Glass) and the allegations he abused his ex-wife Amber Heard. I think it helps this movie's chances that Javier Bardem looks like a formidable villain.

7. CARS 3 (6/16) - $178 million - It looks like it's going to take a wildly different direction that the spy caper that was Cars 2. A final trailer for it should drop this week that lays out the story more, but the basics are that Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) gets into an accident and realizes he's having a hard time keeping up with the younger racing cars.

8. WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (7/14) - $156 million - I don't see this being quite as big as the first two, but it also feels like the completion of the Caesar trilogy. Once again, none of the humans from the previous film return, but the supporting apes (Cornelia, Rocket, Blue Eyes, etc.) are all still there.

9. THE MUMMY (6/9) - $148 million - Tom Cruise is a good beginning for an anticipated Monster Cinematic Universe. This will tie to Johnny Depp as the Invisible Man (in development), and presumably Dracula and Frankenstein will eventually join them.

10. DUNKIRK (7/21) - $140 million - WWII dramas are generally reliable, but with director Christopher Nolan attached, I expect this to be an event. Nolan faves Tom Hardy (Bane) and Cillian Murphy (Scarecrow) star with Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance and Harry Styles. Yes, THAT Harry Styles. This is also the first movie on the list that isn't a sequel/spinoff/remake.

11. THE EMOJI MOVIE (7/28) - $120 million - Hey, if the Angry Birds movie can make over $100 million, why can't this, with slightly more timely characters? It has four weeks of space after Despicable Me 3, and you have to either be really original (Kubo & the Two Strings) or really bad (Ice Age 5) to be an animated movie in summer and not make money.

12. BAYWATCH (5/26) - $118 million - Dwayne Johnson is a hit machine. It continues the trend of taking old TV shows and turning them into raunchy R-rated comedies, and for every 21 Jump Street, we get a CHiPs, but this looks like it'll work. The Rock and Zac Efron look like they have good chemistry.

13. ALIEN: COVENANT (5/19) - $115 million - While Prometheus may have disappointed some people, this looks like it's getting back to its vicious roots. My only fear is it looks a little too much like the original, and one thing that worked about the original is that it was a true ensemble and it wasn't clear that Ripley was the main character until after the captain died. From the trailers I already feel like I know who's left alive at the end of the movie.

14. ROUGH NIGHT (6/16) - $101 million - I see this attempt to find the Bad Moms audience as a successful one. Scarlett Johansson, Kate mcKinnon, Zoe Kravitz and Jillian Bell are a group of friends having a bachelorette party when they accidentally kill their male stripper. Hijinks ensue.

15. THE HOUSE (6/30) - $100 million - Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler play a couple with money problems who decide to open an illegal casino in their basement.

16. THE DARK TOWER (8/4) - $95 million - I think there are enough fans of the books that this should do okay, though I'm gathering fans are really divided by the trailer. (Felt a lot more sci-fi than I thought the first movie should.)

17. CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS (6/2) - $94 million - Haven't seen much advertising for this, but it is the first animated movie of the summer, so it should have a decent opening regardless of quality.

18. ANNABELLE: CREATION (8/11) - $77 million - Hated the first one, but the marketing for this has been smart. I see it being like Ouija 2 where the sequel is a vast improvement over the predecessor.

19. ATOMIC BLONDE (7/28) - $72 million - Charlize Theron kicking butt. That's not a guaranteed hit formula, but it looks like the movie's taking the right approach.

20. SNATCHED (5/12) - $70 million - I used to think this would do better, but there seems to be this backlash against Amy Schumer right now.

Other Notable Releases:

ALL EYEZ ON ME (6/16) - The Tupac Shakur bio.

BABY DRIVER (6/30) - Snazzy preview but looks too niche to do much better than The Nice Guys.

DETROIT (8/4) - Kathryn Bigelow's hotbed drama about the 1967 Detroit Riots could be a surprise hit.

GIRLS TRIP (7/21) - Another entry in the Bad Moms/Rough Night genre, this one starring Regina Hall and Jada Pinkett Smith.

THE HITMAN'S BODYGUARD (8/18) - Ryan Reynolds is the bodyguard of Samuel L. Jackson's hitman. Mother-effin hijinks ensue.

KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD (5/12) - Been hearing this is a mess, so I'm going to guess it doesn't crack the top 20.

VALERIAN & THE CITY OF 1000 PLANETS (7/21) - Looks like a gloriously expensive bomb. But I'm rooting for it.

Horror Flicks:

47 METERS DOWN (6/16) - This year's The Shallows.

AMITYVILLE: THE AWAKENING (6/30) - It's been in the can for three years, so I don't have much faith in it being good.

IT COMES AT NIGHT (6/9) - Thriller looks like it's about paranoia but there might actually be something out there.

POLAROID (8/25) - Don't know anything about it but it's opening in the Don't Breathe slot.

WISH UPON (7/14) - Joey King (The Conjuring) finds a box that grants wishes but things start to go horribly awry.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Furious still #, Latin Lover #2


For the weekend of April 28-30, 2017, The Fate of the Furious had another big drop, but no new release was going to touch it. It's already passed $1 billion worldwide.

Of the new releases, the biggest hit has to be Baahubali 2, with a per-screen average that tentpole releases would pray for on opening weekend. The first one made $6.7 million in the US in 2015, decent for an India release in the US, but word-of-mouth in the right markets helped propel this to a bonafide hit.

How to Be a Latin Lover succeeded by putting Mexican star Eugenio Derbez (Instructions Not Included) with a name supporting cast (Salma Hayek, Kristen Bell, Rob Lowe). Niche titles tend to do well in these dead spaces the week before a big title opens.

On paper, any movie that starred Tom Hanks (Sully), Emma Watson (Beauty & the Beast), John Boyega (The Force Awakens), Bill Paxton (in one of his final roles), etc., should be successful, right? Especially with a critically-acclaimed director in James Ponsolt (The Spectacular Now, The End of the Tour) making his first mainstream movie. But after lukewarm reactions to the trailer, it looks like the studio knew they had a dud on their hands and dumped it here without screening it for critics. (It's currently at 16% on RottenTomatoes).

Beauty & the Beast is now the 13th highest grossing movie of all time. It should pass Captain America: Civil War for 12th place sometime next week.



Opens May 5
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2 with Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista.

Beauty & the Beast - Movie Review

Starring Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Stanley Tucci, Audra McDonald and Gugu Mbatha-Raw.
Written by Stephen Chbosky & Evan Spiliotopoulos.
Directed by Bill Condon.

★★★

This movie for the most part balanced that fine line between being faithful to the original but finding parts where it can be its own thing. If anything, it's too faithful to the original, so that variances stuck out more.

Emma Watson is Belle, our French bookworm who longs for adventure. Dan Stevens is the Beast, a spoiled prince living in a cursed castle. One element they added that I appreciated was an explanation on why the townspeople didn't seem to know about this castle or this alleged prince.

The "Be Our Guest" number was a highlight, no small thanks to Ewan McGregor's capable vocals. Luke Evans as Gaston does the best among the human actors.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Fate of the Furious - Movie Review

Starring Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Charlize Theron, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez, Kurt Russell, Tyrese Gibson, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Scott Eastwood, Nathalie Emmanuel, Kristofer Hivju, Elsa Pataky, Luke Evans and Helen Mirren.
Written by Chris Morgan.
Directed by F. Gary Gray.

★★

These movies are now so loud, so huge, so spectacular, so stunt-reliant, the plot matters less and less each time. Maybe the plot never mattered. They're dangerously close to venturing into Tranformers territory. Would it surprise anyone if this franchise wound up going to space?

This centers around Dom (Vin Diesel) who's been a criminal since the first movie, but he keeps getting pardoned for weird reasons, or just on the lam with no official desire to bring him in. The latest giant international incident that's worthy of a Mission Impossible movie has the world's most dangerous cyberterrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron) blackmailing Dom into helping steal the God's Eye device (the high-tech thingy from the last movie that allows the user to see what's going on at any location on Earth), and once she has that, she's going to use to steal nuclear codes.

It's a late reveal what leverage Cipher has on Dom, but you know, not only do people die over the course of events, but he's giving her the power to start World War III. What possible leverage would make Dom do that?

Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) enlists Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Dom's crew to stop Cipher, and he even gets Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), the main villain from the last movie, to help them out. Now this franchise likes to say it's about family. Han was part of the family for a few movies, and in Furious 7, Deckard killed Han. Killed him. And no one brings it up. Han's name is never said. By the end of the movie, Deckerd is embraced as a full member of the crew.

He killed Han!

I'll give you Dom not once but twice driving a car that's engulfed in flames and not getting a single burn, or Dom outdriving a heat-seeking missile, but you can't just have everyone forget that Deckard killed one of their members.

I suppose in the next movie, Cipher will return and help the crew fight a different villain. And Han will come back from the dead because *shrug emoji*.