Thursday, August 24, 2017

War for the Planet of the Apes - Movie Review

Starring Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Amiah Miller, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Judy Greer, Gabriel Chavarria, Toby Kebbel and Sara Canning.
Written by Mark Bomback & Matt Reeves.
Directed by Matt Reeves.


Andy Serkis & company do a wonderful job in the motion-capture performance area, the special effects are top-notch, and Matt Reeves has made another movie, as the first two, that follows but could still stand on its own.

Caeser and his apes are still dealing with the betrayal of Koba, the ape that set off the chain reaction meant war between apes and humans. The main threat these days are a base of soldiers in northern California being led by a maniac. Woody Harrelson has a lot of fun playing a Col. Kurtz type in charge of these soldiers (and in case you miss the reference, there's "Ape-ocalpyse Now" graffiti in a tunnel).

I liked it, but I have to address five problems I had with this movie:

1. This conclusion to the prequel trilogy to Planet of the Apes isn't just about how the smart humans were wiped out. This movie is designed for you to root for the extermination of the human race. That may be why there were hardly any black or female soldiers. Easier to root for white US soldiers acting like Nazis toward the apes. There is one Hispanic soldier sent up to be somewhat sympathetic, but that's it. If A.I. ever rises up and wipes out humans, I blame this movie more than The Matrix.

2. Where are the females? Among the humans and apes, they were over 90% male. Is the next movie going to be Planet of the Dolphins because the other smart races went extinct over having so few females?

3. A little girl walks through the middle of a prison camp of soldiers on high alert, and they even have spotlights shine over her, and yet no one notices? These soldiers are terrrrible.

4. They say the simian flu, the disease that's robbing humans of speech and intelligence, is dormant in everyone, but the triggering of it is highly contagious. That felt like a yada-yada explanation hat-tipping the Walking Dead's logic.

5. Why at this point is Caeser the only ape who can talk in complete, unawkward sentences? Almost all of the apes stick to sign language. Didn't more apes speak in the last movie?

The Hitman's Bodyguard is #1

For the weekend of August 18-20, 2017, The Hitman's Bodyguard was the last hurrah for summer. The reviews weren't great, but the trailer was funny enough that the star power of Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson helped this movie find an audience.

Logan Lucky had better reviews, but the marketing never quite crackled. I hope it finds an audience. It's a fun heist movie.

Notable was the expansion of Wind River, the next crime drama from Taylor Sheridan, who wrote last year's Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water.

Opens August 25
LEAP! with the voices of Elle Fanning, Dane DeHaan and Carly Rae Jepsen.
BIRTH OF THE DRAGON with Philip Ng, Terry Chen and Billy Magnussen.
ALL SAINTS with John Corbett, Cara Buono and Barry Corbin.

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.


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.