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*.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Fate of the Furious is #1

For the weekend of April 14-16, 2017, The Fate of the Furious was the easy winner. It was the second best opener for the franchise, although well short of Furious 7's $147 million opener. It's already earned over $530 million worldwide and should get to the $1 billion mark. Fast & Furious 9 & 10 are already scheduled to open in April 2019 and April 2021.

No other wide releases this weekend. Everyone wanted to stay away from the Diesel. Next week will feature a bunch of lower budget fare. In fact, I expect F8 of the Furious to stay #1 until Guardians of the Galaxy 2 opens in May.

Opens April 21
UNFORGETTABLE with Rosario Dawson, Katherine Heigl and Cheryl Ladd.
FREE FIRE with Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Cillian Murphy and Sharlto Copley.
THE PROMISE with Oscar Isaac, Christian Bale and Charlotte le Bon.
PHOENIX FORGOTTEN with Florence Hartigan and Jeanine Jackson.
BORN IN CHINA directed by Chuan Lu.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Ghost in the Shell - Movie Review

Starring Scarlett Johansson, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche, Michael Pitt, Pilou Asbaek, Chin Han and Danusia Samal.
Written by Jamie Moss, William Wheeler & Ehren Kruger.
Directed by Rupert Sanders.


I remember liking the original, but it's been 20 years, so I didn't have that necessarily bouncing around in my mind the whole time. I couldn't recall much about the story beyond what the trailers already told us.

Scarlett Johansson is Major, a cyborg where her entire body is synthetic except for her brain. (This concept feels more close to being a reality than in it did just a couple decades ago.) Major is now used as a super-soldier to stop criminals and cyber-terrorists. But it winds up turning into a quest for her to discove her real identity.

For those going in fresh, this may bring Blade Runner quickly to mind. Although some of the characters' races have been changed, the setting is still downtown Tokyo. In fact, Takeshi Kitano plays the chief Aramaki, and he says all of his lines in Japanese while everyone else says their lines in English, and everyone acts like they understand each other.

I liked the explanation for Major being a person that looks like ScarJo - her shell may be Caucasian, but her brain is Japanese. My main problem with the movie is how instantly forgettable it is. It's all visuals with no soul.

Boss Baby still #1, Smurfs #3

For the weekend of April 7-9, 2017, The Boss Baby won again. I wonder if its success can be credited to appealing to adults who wouldn't begrudge taking their kids to it (how many kids will get a Glengarry Glen Ross reference?), as opposed to Smurfs: The Lost Village, which looks more like kids-only fare.

It managed to hang on to #1 over Beauty & the Beast thanks to adding a handful of screens while Beauty lost a handful.

Going in Style performed about as expected, just a pleasant cliched movie to appeal to seniors.

The Case for Christ scaled back its screen count, but this allowed its per-screen average to look good. It's also one of the few PureFlix titles to score at least 70% at RottenTomatoes.

Your Name made over $300 million overseas but it's getting its US release now.

Opens April 14
FATE OF THE FURIOUS with Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Charlize Theron and Kurt Russell.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Life - Movie Review

Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada, Ariyon Bakare and Olga Dihovichnaya.
Written by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick.
Directed by Daniel Espinosa.


Yes, Life borrows from many movies that have come before. Gravity, Alien, The Thing, and a dozen other titles. But it's good at what it's doing.

Six people aboard the space station have received some samples from Mars, and within them, they find a dormant organism. It is the first proof of life beyond Earth. Nicknamed "Calvin", the organism grows from microscopic to about the size of a flower until it goes dormant. During this time, we get the wonder of discovery and get to know the people on board.

Once Calvin starts killing people, the movie kicks into high gear. Calvin only gets scarier as he gets bigger, and he feels like a very smart animal determined to kill off anything that would threaten him. It. This sinister plantlike octopus spider thing floating in zero G with everyone else.

It's not as majestic as Gravity or as scary as Alien or as thoughtful as Arrival BUT!... for what it is, it delivers on the thrills and the special effects. I wish it had been more successful at the box office. I would have watched a sequel.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Boss Baby Bests Beauty at Box Office

For the weekend of March 31-April 2, 2017, The Boss Baby was the big winner. It had been tracking to be close with Ghost in the Shell two weeks ago, but it overachieved. Big-studio animation continues to be a cash cow.

Ghost in the Shell might have suffered some last-minute backlash due to the "whitewash" controversy. Taking a popular manga and 1995 animated movie and changing the races of some of the characters from Japanese to Caucasian might have turned some people off. On the other hand, I don't think this movie gets greenlit with this budget unless they had a big name to headline it. Catch 22.

The Zookeeper's Wife went with a smaller opening and managed to best Ghost in the Shell in the per-screen average category.

Beauty & the Beast should cross $400 million domestic tomorrow, and I'd say passing the $1 billion mark worldwide is guaranteed.

Power Rangers had the biggest drop in the top ten. Those who wanted to see it, saw it, and it should plummet quickly in weeks 3, 4 and so on.

Opens April 7
SMURFS: THE LOST VILLAGE with the voices of Mandy Patinkin and Demi Lovato.
GOING IN STYLE with Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Alan Arkin and Matt Dillon.
THE CASE FOR CHRIST with Mike Vogel, Faye Dunaway and Robert Forster.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Belko Experiment - Movie Review

Starring John Gallagher Jr., Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona, John C. McGinley, Melonie Diaz, Michael Rooker, Owain Yeoman, Sean Gunn, Brent Sexton and Josh Brener.
Written by James Gunn.
Directed by Greg McLean.


This lean, mean movie functions as corporate satire while engaging in Hunger Games shenanigans in a high-rise office building. It is kinda like Office Space meets Battle Royale.

Belko is a US corporation based in Colombia. The workers have tracker chips injected in them in case of kidnapping. The building they work in is a fortress. The movie all takes place over one day, where the 80 workers trapped inside are told by an intercom voice that there are three stages to their day. Stage 1: Kill two people in the next half-hour or four people will die. Spoiler: they don't comply and then four random people have their heads explode. Stage 2: Kill 30 people in the next two hours or 60 of them will die.

You have the normal guy Mike (John Gallagher Jr.) who seems to figure out quicker than everyone else what's going on; you have the business-friendly COO (Tony Goldwyn) who turns things into Lord of the Flies faster than what most of his co-workers prefer, while the movie has 80 people, the movie does a good job of making you feel like you can keep track of where most of them are throughout.

My problem is how predictable the final act was. I'm fine with the contrived setup and the journey, but it's too easy to figure out who the final handful of people are going to be.