Monday, June 29, 2015

'Jurassic World' and 'Inside Out' top box office for 2nd straight week, while 'Ted 2' suffers from stiff competition

Although Ted 2 promised to deliver Jurassic World's first direct competition, the dinosaurs still stomped all over the competition to conquer the box office for the third weekend in a row. Colin Trevorrow's reboot/sequel pulled in another $54.5 million in domestic markets, raising the film's total gross to $500.3 million. Jurassic World is now the fifth highest grossing movie of all time in the US (without adjusting for inflation of course), and the sci-fi pic still has The Dark Knight and The Avengers firmly in its sights. Whether or not it passes Titanic is a different story, but by the end of its run, Jurassic World will surely be the highest grossing film of all time not directed by James Cameron. Overseas, the film is now standing at $1.24 billion, which makes it the 8th highest grossing film of all time. In the next few weeks, Frozen and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- Part 2 should collapse under Jurassic's weight and the film will shoot to overtake Furious 7 and both installments of The Avengers franchise. Juggernaut numbers all around and this run isn't stopping anytime soon.

Close behind Jurassic was Inside Out, which took in another $52.3 million in its second weekend. Pixar's biggest hit in years dropped a mere 42% and has now made $185.1 million. With the Independence Day holiday to work with, Inside Out should be able to pass $300 million before Minions rolls into town. This is definitely a massive success for Pixar and it proves that good, original animation still sells in Hollywood. That is very important. Internationally, the film hasn't excelled quite as much ($81.5 million so far), but its worldwide total of $266.6 million and counting should be more than enough to make up the film's budget.

Universal has enjoyed a lot of success with Jurassic World, but it may have come at a cost to Seth MacFarlane and his profane talking teddy bear. Ted 2, one of the most anticipated comedies of the year, grossed $33.5 million in third place, which is over $20 million below what its predecessor opened to three years ago. Universal and many pundits had projected an opening between $45-$50 million and the film just couldn't match up. The CinemaScore was a solid "B+" but I just don't think that the fan excitement was there. Unfortunately, this is two misfires in a row for MacFarlane and I'm starting to think that his career in movies might be running out of gas.

Max was the weekend's other opener and it performed right in line with expectations- a $12.1 million weekend and an "A" CinemaScore. Family and military audiences seemed to be the target for Warner Bros. and I would imagine that they came out in droves. This is no American Sniper, but it's a solid opening for a film that has probably already made back its budget.

The only other big surprise of the weekend was that Spy continued to hold spectacularly well- something that I'm very happy about. Melissa McCarthy's excellent secret agent comedy grossed another $7.9 million this weekend and is firmly on its way to $100 million. Its current total is $88.4 million. A total around $110 million would be very good after a lackluster opening that disappointed many box office pundits.

On Wednesday, Terminator: Genisys and Magic Mike XXL will be hitting theaters for the five-day Independence Day frame. Here are my predictions:

1. Magic Mike XXL- $51 million
2. Terminator Genisys- $45 million
3. Jurassic World- $44.5 million
4. Inside Out- $43 million
5. Ted 2- $25 million
6. Max- $11.4 million
7. Spy- $7 million
8. San Andreas- $4.6 million
9. Dope- $2.3 million
10. Insidious Chapter 3- $1.3 million

Image Credits: Screen Rant, Slash Film 

Ezra Miller joins Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston in Warner Bros.' 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them'

Beyond Star Wars: The Force Awakens and whatever DC has planned for Batman and Superman, one of the most anticipated projects in Hollywood right now is Warner Bros.' Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. A prequel/spin-off trilogy set several years before the events of the Harry Potter saga, Fantastic Beasts hopes to bring back the spirit (and box office riches) of a series that is a cornerstone for an entire generation. With Potter author J.K. Rowling set to pen the script and franchise veteran David Yates in the director's chair, fan interest is definitely starting to increase. There isn't a whole lot that is known about the project as of right now, but we do have some brief character descriptions and a basic plot summary. In addition to that, two of the principle cast members have signed on- Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston. And now, a third star can join that group. 

On Wednesday, Variety reported that The Perks of Being a Wallflower star Ezra Miller has joined Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as Kredan. While no official offer has been made, Variety seems assured that Miller will join the cast of the film. That puts the final touches on three of the film's five main players, with the roles of Queenie and Jacob still left open. According to Variety's sources, Alison Sudol is the favorite for Queenie and Michael Cera and Josh Gad have emerged as the front-runners for Jacob, the villain of the film. While Miller is definitely an excellent pick for this franchise, he's going to have a lot on his plate. Warner Bros. has already appointed Miller to star as The Flash in the Justice League franchise and that is definitely a critical role. Between those two franchises, Miller will have a lot on his plate. But no matter- he's a great actor and I'm sure that he will do a brilliant job with both roles. Miller will likely make his first appearance in the DC universe in Batman v Superman on March 25, 2016 and will jump into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter on November 18, 2016, when Fantastic Beasts is set to hit theaters.

Image Credits: Hitfix, Harry Potter Wikia

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Tom Holland to play Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Jon Watts to direct stand-alone film

After months of ridiculous speculation and supposed confirmations, Marvel finally confirmed on Tuesday that actor Tom Holland will play Spider-Man in an upcoming reboot. Taking over the mantle from Tobey Maguire (who played Spider-Man in a trilogy of films from 2002-2007) and Andrew Garfield (who had two outings as Spidey in 2012 and 2014), Holland will star in a Spider-Man stand-alone reboot that will hit theaters on July 28, 2017, as well as numerous appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Holland's Spidey will have a role in Marvel's Captain America: Civil War, which will feature a massive showdown between Cap and Iron Man, as well as a presumed appearance in Avengers: Infinity War. It's safe to say that Holland has bagged one of the most coveted roles in recent cinematic history and that his Spider-Man is here to stay for the long run.

Although Spidey is back in the MCU, he's still technically a Sony property. Tom Rothman and Amy Pascal both released statements about Holland, who they called "special" and a "vibrant, talented young actor." Holland impressed many critics in 2012's The Impossible and also has a role in Ron Howard's In the Heart of the Sea, which is an early Oscar favorite. Not much is known about the Spider-Man stand-alone reboot, but Marvel and Sony did surprise audiences by announcing that Jon Watts will direct the film. Watts, known best from the indie world, has a lot on his hands with this one, and fans will undoubtedly be picky about the third new series of Spider-Man films since 2002. "As with James Gunn, Joss Whedon, and the Russo brothers, we love finding new and exciting voices to bring these characters to life. We spent a lot of time with Jon and find his work and take inspiring," was the statement from Marvel head Kevin Feige. Marvel fans will get another look at Watts' work in the upcoming thriller Cop Car, but for now, fans have engaged in fervent discussion over the casting of Holland and the choice of Watts to direct the film. Holland was impressive in The Impossible, but I'm not overly familiar with neither him nor Watts. Hopefully we get a good look at the future of the web-slinger in Civil War when it hits on May 6, 2016.

Image Credits: We Got This Covered, Marvel 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Will 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' break all box office records?

Nobody saw Jurassic World's success coming. Although Universal's massive blockbuster was predicted to be one of the biggest hits of the summer, many simply assumed that Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron would top the box office with ease. And while the latest superhero team up flick has done very well (it's currently at $449.4 million in the US and $1.36 billion worldwide), the dinosaurs of Jurassic World have ruled the summer. Through ten days of release, the Colin Trevorrow-directed extravaganza has broken nearly every record in the book, and is currently sitting at $402.8 million in the US and nearly a billion worldwide. With continued success throughout the month of June and through early July, it's quite possible that Jurassic World will end up being the second highest grossing film of all time in the US, behind Avatar, and the third highest grossing film of all time in the worldwide markets. But despite this unprecedented success, fans and prognosticators are already looking to the future and deeming that these records won't hold up for long.

Here is a Twitter conversation that I found today and it got me thinking about quite a few things:

"Even more remarkable than these Jurassic numbers? Knowing they'll all be crushed in December."- Seth Grahame-Smith

"@sethgs yep. An exec tell me the other day he feels STAR WARS does $4 billion including $1 billion in China alone and was being dead serious."- Justin Kroll

Grahame-Smith goes on to say that he thinks that $4 billion is a bit much, but believes that The Force Awakens will be the first film to pass $3 billion at the global box office. Now, I definitely believe that The Force Awakens will be a monster smash. And it will be an even bigger smash if it's good. Currently, it's positioned to open on the exact same day that Avatar debuted on back on 2009, and we all know that the James Cameron sci-fi flick is the highest grossing flick of all time, with box office receipts totaling $760.5 million in the US and $2.78 billion worldwide with $204.1 million of that coming from China. Does The Force Awakens realistically have enough to beat that box office behemoth?

There's no question in my mind that The Force Awakens will be the biggest hit of the year. Even with Jurassic World likely finishing anywhere between $600-$680 million in the US and $1.5-$1.7 billion worldwide, Star Wars should still easily top those numbers. There's a lot of passion surrounding this franchise and it has been 30 years since we've seen some of the characters in this upcoming film. The Force Awakens will see the return of Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and most importantly, Luke Skywalker. It has also had a killer marketing campaign so far, with two teaser trailers that broke records and generated a lot of excitement from fans. Anticipation for The Force Awakens is at an all-time high and people are rabid to know more about this film. With more information expected to hit in the next few weeks at Comic-Con and D23 (Disney's version of Comic-Con), expect the excitement to continue to grow.

The Box Office History of Star Wars

But is the precedent there for Star Wars to gross $2, $3 or even $4 billion dollars? Out of curiosity, I headed over to Box Office Mojo to examine what the previous Star Wars films had grossed at the box office. The comps for the original trilogy are a little messy because of the lack of a true way to adjust. But boy BOM's standards, all of these titles have been adjusted for inflation.

Domestic Totals

Star Wars (1977)- $1,159,000,000

Empire Strikes Back- $640,361,400

Return of the Jedi- $657,585,100

So, basically, every movie in the OT was a big smash hit with Star Wars approaching astronomical levels. Empire and Jedi were big as well, and if they had been released in today's market, the overseas numbers would have been huge as well. Now, let's take a look at what the prequels did at the box office. As always, all numbers adjusted for inflation.

Star Wars: Episode I- The Phantom Menace- $688,785,500

*Does not include 3-D re-release

        Opening Weekend- $103,611,500
        5-day total- $168,891,600

Star Wars: Episode II- Attack of the Clones- $422,339,600

        Opening Weekend- $111,846,100
        4-day total- $153,971,500

Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith- $481,715,600

        Opening Weekend- $137,363,300
        4-day total- $200,719,400

Adjusting international numbers is very difficult due to the true lack of a common currency between nations. So we'll never really know how the prequels can compare to this new trilogy in overseas markets and we'll definitely never know much of anything about the international grosses for the original trilogy. But, for the sake of throwing the numbers out there, here are the unadjusted international totals for each of the prequels.

The Phantom Menace- $493,229,257
Attack of the Clones- $338,721,588
Revenge of the Sith- $468,484,191

Jurassic vs. Star Wars
Those are all big numbers. Each and every Star Wars film made back its money and more. But it does lead me to question Grahame-Smith and Kroll's assumption. Can a Star Wars film really approach $4 billion? Will The Force Awakens even realistically make it to $3 billion? As a fan of the franchise, I say yes, but in the real world, I'm beginning to question that. For a comparison, let's look at the adjusted numbers for Jurassic Park.

*Does not include 3-D re-release

Domestic Total- $699,991,400

Opening Weekend- $92.2 million

International Total (not adjusted for inflation)- $557,623,171

Basically, Jurassic Park lines up very closely with The Phantom Menace. And Jurassic World, in the domestic market, is shaping up to look quite a bit like its predecessor. The important thing to note here is that it is NOT shaping up like The Lost World or Jurassic Park III, the two much-maligned sequels to Steven Spielberg's acclaimed classic. The Lost World snagged $405.2 million in the US and $389.5 million internationally, while Jurassic Park III made a mere $259.9 million in the US and $187.6 million internationally, when adjusted for inflation. To me, this signifies a very important bit of info for Star Wars: The Force Awakens- it's a fresh start.

A New Hope

As many know, people really don't like the prequels. I mean, they REALLY don't like them. Granted, they still made a ton of money, but there is a lot of hatred in the film community and the Star Wars community for the George Lucas-directed films. The Force Awakens promises to not be more of the same. The Force Awakens has a young, fresh director in JJ Abrams, original cast members who were sorely missed in the prequels, new stars set to appeal to a new generation of fans, the Disney marketing machine and the benefit of having released two terrific trailers. People are pumped and ready for a new Star Wars film and the international market has only grown since the last film hit in 2005.

If The Force Awakens is as good as we think it will be, and if it pleases both die hards and casual fans, then the sky is the limit. There will be no telling how high it will go. It could hit those astronomical numbers that Grahame-Smith and Kroll discuss in their respective tweets.

The Records in Jeopardy

Now, in my mind, what records will go down with Star Wars? For one, the seemingly impossible record that could go down is the all-time midnight release record, which currently belongs to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- Part 2, the final chapter that grossed $43.5 million back in 2011. Many have speculated that that number is forever untouchable, but I think that the excitement for The Force Awakens is there. Every fan of Star Wars is going to want to turn out for that (expected) 7:00 PM release, and every theater in the country will be pretty much devoting their entire multiplex to JJ Abrams' space opera. I'm betting on at least $45 million on Thursday night and possibly up to $50 million. The all time widest opening record which currently belongs to The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (4,468 locations) will likely go down as well, as I'm expecting an opening in surplus of 4,500 theaters and over.

After that massive Thursday opening, it will be up to families and casual fans to carry this film to success. The Star Wars crazies (myself included) will see it two or three or four times over the course of the weekend, but it's a matter of getting other critical audiences to check it out like they did for Jurassic World. If everything falls into place correctly, I think that we could see an opening day that nears $135 million and an opening weekend near $250-$300 million. The anticipation is really that high.

Or, something completely different could happen. The Force Awakens could snag around $175-$200 million on its way to a very leggy run a la Avatar. But I just don't see that happening. Even though Christmas releases (like Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies) usually have longer runs and smaller openings, I don't think that The Force Awakens is a film that many people will wait for. People are going to want to see this film as soon as possible, and I think that will result in a worldwide opening of $550-$700 million.

After that, it's unclear exactly what will happen. It could play out like Avatar over the holiday frame, everybody and their entire family could go see this film, and it could end up topping Avatar in the US and nearing $900 million to $1 billion. And in the overseas markets, it could sail as high as $2 billion and play out very well, for a total worldwide gross of close to $3 billion. Or, it could end up being a little front-loaded and end up with $2 billion total worldwide. But in my mind, with the combination of a marketing campaign that really entices fans, and a lot of nostalgia for a Star Wars sequel, there's no way that this doesn't make at least $2 billion and push Titanic and Avatar for those big records. There's just too much going for this film.

Early Predictions

As we near closer to the film's release and see more information, we'll definitely get more insight into the box office prospects of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But for now, my current projections for the movie go like this:

-Thursday night- $46 million
-Opening Day Total- $135.4 million
-Opening Weekend- $289 million
-International Opening Weekend- $425 million
-Worldwide Total Opening Weekend- $714 million
-Total US Gross- $800 million
-Total International Gross-$1.6 billion
-Total Worldwide Gross- $2.4 billion

My predictions will undoubtedly change over time and depending on how Disney works over the next few months, these numbers could go down significantly. But if everything falls into place exactly like it should, then we could be seeing the biggest box office juggernaut of all time by the time that December rolls around.

Image Credits: Hollywood Reporter, The Guardian, Apple Trailers, Flickering Myth, Latino Review, Variety, YouTube, Screen Rant

Sunday, June 21, 2015

'Jurassic World' and 'Inside Out' break records, lead another massive weekend at the box office

UPDATE: Jurassic World, indeed, did break the all time second weekend box office record, grossing a stellar $106.5 million to top The Avengers' previous record. The film will cross the $1 billion mark at the box office today. Inside Out's final tally was $90.4 million.

Original Article

Led by the one-two punch of Universal's Jurassic World and Pixar's Inside Out, the box office was ablaze again with over $236 million in total grosses. At the front of the pack was Jurassic World, the bona fide box office phenomenon that has been tearing it up since it debuted on June 12. Over the course of its second weekend, World grossed $102 million, which was enough to claim the title of the second best second weekend in history (quite an amusing stat). By the time that the dust settles tomorrow, Jurassic World may actually have broken The Avengers' previous record of $103 million. The dinosaur pic surprised last weekend when the actuals rolled in, and I'm betting that it takes the crown again. After 10 days in theaters, Jurassic World has now made an absolutely stunning $398.2 million and it will undoubtedly hit $400 million on Monday. So the question is now- how high can Jurassic World fly?

The word of mouth on Jurassic World from critics was mixed to say the least, but fans have been incredibly enthusiastic. That is proven by the exceptionally strong hold this weekend. Jurassic World has also broken pretty much every record in the book in the speed department, as it became the fastest to $100, $150, $200, $250, $300 and $350 million over the course of its first few days in theaters. It will also end up being the fastest to $400 million regardless of the actual results tomorrow morning, and should end up passing The Avengers for fastest to $450 and $500 million. So it's safe to say that Jurassic World is picking up steam and moving very quickly. With a current standing around $400 million, I firmly believe that it will skyrocket past The Avengers' $623.3 million US total and fly towards the James Cameron duo.

Currently, the two highest grossing films of all time in the US are Titanic and Avatar. Titanic stands at $658.6 million and Avatar is sitting pretty at $760.5 million. In my view, passing Titanic is a possibility, but Avatar is firmly out of reach. If Jurassic World continues at the current pace that it's moving at, it will probably finish near $650 million. With a push, it passes Titanic. Let's say it makes around $50 million this week and another $50 million next weekend. That puts it around $500 million for its first 20 days. Not bad at all and if it keeps up that pace, it should have enough gas left in the tank to pass Titanic.

Now, let's move onto the other success story of the weekend- Pixar's masterpiece Inside Out absolutely crushed it at the box office. The original Pixar film opened to $91 million, which is the second highest opening ever for a film from the California animation house, and it's still near the top if you adjust for inflation. Inside Out is the first Pixar film to open in second place during its opening frame, but it was the highest opening for a second place finisher in all time history, easily topping the $68 million that The Day After Tomorrow pulled in (although inflation makes this one a bit closer). Top that off with a spectacular "A" Cinemascore and Pixar has the makings of a summer smash here.

With no animated competition until Minions comes in to make its killing on July 10, Pixar really has time to destroy the box office. They have next weekend and the Fourth of July period to work with, and thanks to the solid word of mouth, Pixar could be seeing a total around $350 million by the time everything wraps up. In all honesty, I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest to see Inside Out finish in first place next weekend. It should have a very good hold.

Dope was the other new release of the weekend, and it grossed a merely decent $6 million, failing to make back the $7 million that Open Road spent on it. The "A-" Cinemascore is promising, but I don't know how this one will hold up with all of the competition. I wasn't a huge fan of the film, but others seemed to really enjoy it. So maybe it'll find a home with the art house crowd.

Next weekend will see the release of Ted 2 and Max, the dog movie. Not to be confused with Mad Max. Here are my predictions for what should be another massive weekend as the summer box office begins to heat up even more:

1. Inside Out- $61.5 million
2. Ted 2- $55 million
3. Jurassic World- $52.5 million
4. Max- $14 million
5. Spy- $6.9 million
6. San Andreas- $4.8 million
7. Dope- $3.5 million
8. Insidious Chapter 3- $2.4 million
9. Pitch Perfect 2- $2 million
10. Mad Max: Fury Road- $1.6 million

Image Credits: Screen Rant, Forbes, Hypable

2015 Rewind- Focus review

To continue my 2015 rewind series before I wrap up the first half of the year, I took a look at Will Smith's latest movie Focus. Billed as Smith's return to adult filmmaking, Focus also stars the gorgeous Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro and a few other actors in a con man thriller that works at times, and fails miserably at other times. The chemistry between Smith and Robbie is spectacular- in fact, they both give very good performances in this film. But as a movie, Focus is bogged down by a layer of artificiality and a series of twists and turns that will leave you saying "What was the point of all that?" It's an adequately made, occasionally alluring comedy that ultimately fails to deliver much of substance.

Nicky (Will Smith) is a classically trained con man who has spent years perfecting the art and craft of getting people to trust him. One night, he pretends to be conned by a woman (Margot Robbie) who has just entered the game. She tries to con him, but he knows what's going on and the deal falls apart. The woman, who's real name is Jess, sees value in Nicky and wants to learn more about stealing things from. Nicky and Jess travel down to New Orleans to start a job at the Super Bowl. Nicky teaches Jess about how to con people and they sorta start to fall in love, but before you know it, Nicky has left- the job is done, he tells Jess.

Three years later, Nicky is in Spain working on a race car con for Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro). There, he bumps into Jess, who is apparently dating Garriga. Nicky tries to reconnect with Jess, but she seems adamant to leave their past behind them. Through a series of bizarre twists and turns, the movie wraps up......I guess.

I could easily play this review pretty safe, praise Robbie's impressive performance, Smith's charisma and how smoothly made the film is. But I'm not quite going to do that. Because the script for Focus is so bad. Written by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, Focus is so haphazardly and pervasively twisty that it feels almost ridiculous and pointless. Literally, by the end of this movie I was very frustrated by the whole ordeal. You can watch Focus, turn your brain off, and probably enjoy it. But there's no real plot, no true character development. The level of insight is minimal. Focus shows promise at times, and is always mildly amusing, but it doesn't do much that works on a conceptual or story level.

No matter how many problems the movie runs into with its pain-stakingly set up twists and turns, the performances are always stellar. Robbie, who first appeared in 2013's The Wolf of Wall Street, is a terrific leading lady and will certainly get more roles down the line. Smith is impressive enough as well, and the supporting cast fits the bill well. I'm excited to see Robbie and Smith take on Suicide Squad in the near future, with a (hopefully) better script.

The thing that struck me the most about Focus was the pointlessness of it all. The movie is trivial to the point of frustration, settling for a never ending bag of tricks and allusions to distract you from actual character development and story. The movie opens with a thinly detailed con in New Orleans before it moves on to a thinly detailed con in Spain. The twists are either impossible and completely implausible, or obvious from a mile away. And the ending is unsatisfying, leaving our characters in a position that feels awkward and forced.

Focus entertains in spurts, but on a character and story level, it never really comes to fruition. Smith and Robbie are great, the movie looks good and some of the con stuff is fun. But, like any good con, Focus tricks you into thinking that it's a good movie. Look a little beneath the surface and there's really nothing there. The twists start to accumulate and by the time the third act rolls around, there's not much left to give this movie. It starts out flavorful enough, but it becomes dull and preposterous after a while. And that's sad because the talent deserved better.

THE FINAL GRADE:  C-                                             (5.4/10)

Image Credits: Brightest Young Things, Flickering Myth

Saturday, June 20, 2015

2015 Rewind- Chappie review

Before I wrap up the first half of 2015, I'm going back to take a look at some of the titles that I missed earlier this year. Let's call it my 2015 Rewind series. The first movie that I went to check out was Neill Blomkamp's Chappie, which hit theaters in March this year and just debuted on Blu-Ray/On Demand. When Chappie hit theaters, critics pretty much destroyed it, giving it a mere 41 on Metacritic and 31% on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences didn't have much of a reaction either and the film left no cultural footprint, leaving many to question the status of Blomkamp's career after his second straight disappointment. But is the film really as bad as many seem to think? No, but it's definitely not that good. Bogged down by a plot that runs in spurts, performances that aren't very compelling, and an incredibly inconsistent tone, Chappie is certainly a misfire in many aspects. I enjoyed some of Blomkamp's action beats, but I simply didn't believe what the film was going for. 

In the near future, South Africa is policed by a group of robots who keep the streets safe and have sent the crime rate plummeting. The robot scout's creator, Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) loves the machines, but wants to build something more. He wants a machine that can think, feel and become sentient. Basically, Deon wants to create an A.I. and that's his biggest passion in life. Meanwhile, Ninja and Yolandi (played by Ninja and Yo-landi Visser, the two members of South African punk group Die Antwoord), need money to pay off their boss. Ninja comes up with a weird plan to kidnap Deon and force him to shut down the scouts, so that they can go rob a place.

They kidnap Deon, but he tells them that he simply can't do that. So instead, he gives them Chappie, the robot that he was going to use to test his new A.I. against the wishes of his boss, Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver, completely wasted by this script). Chappie begins to talk, and do very creative things, but all Ninja wants is for Chappie to be a gangster. To help them with heists and stuff. A lot of stuff goes down with Chappie, Ninja, Yolandi, and their friend Amerika, but the main plot revolves around Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman), the vengeful weapons designer who really doesn't like Deon or the scouts. He sends the city into mayhem in order to promote his technology, and it just gets more convoluted from there.

I had no idea just how convoluted the plot of Chappie was until I wrote that synopsis. Man, this is a movie that has just way too much going on. And not much of it is very interesting. Blomkamp films the action scenes with a certain pizzazz and flair that makes them interesting, but at the same time, the film shifts in tone all the time, causing the audience to be left in a jarring situation. One minute the film is a rollicking action thriller, and the next, it's a sentimental story about a boy becoming a man. Blomkamp never commits to the idea and everything gets so bizarrely sloppy that nothing in the movie really works. And the ending is magnificently awful, settling for a concept that feels haphazardly handled and not thought out very well. Chappie is not a good film because of this messiness, but it is an interesting miss, and one that continues to show promise for Blomkamp's career.

Blomkamp is, first and foremost, a visual filmmaker. And visually, Chappie is a very interesting film. It continues the rich South African vibe of Blomkamp's previous efforts, with that griminess that has always pervaded through his films. Ninja and Yolandi are incredibly annoying characters, but their warehouse is a sight to behold, accompanied by a lot of weird graffiti and some other cool visual tics. It's just too bad that Blomkamp couldn't carry that visual richness over and create a tight narrative to go with his landscapes.

The performances are all pretty one note, with a lot of great actors doing merely decent work. However, I was unconvinced by Sharlto Copley's performance as Chappie. It felt like a weird dynamic between Chappie and the actors on screen, and that was a problem for me. Patel is pretty good, yet Sigourney Weaver has next to nothing to do. Jackman is solid, but his sideplot felt forced and uninteresting. And Ninja and Yolandi are horrible, just annoying additions to an otherwise mediocre cast.

Chappie's fatal flaw is that it's overlong, overstuffed and tonally jumbled. The tone ranges from serious to sentimental to silly to borderline ludicrous. It never settles down and it never works for the plot or the themes of the film. Also, at two hours long, Chappie feels much longer and that's because of the straight-up atrocious pacing. This movie moves in spurts and it just never catches fire. Too many subplots also cause problems and as much as I enjoyed aspects of this film, it just feels like too much of a mess.

Chappie has some good action scenes, a few tender moments that work and a visual style that is always compelling. But there's simply too much going on, and it's crystal clear that Blomkamp didn't know what kind of film he wanted to make. He still has a promise as a filmmaker and Chappie shows flashes of growth, but the more I think about it, the less sense it makes. However, it does have a sense of style and that is something that can't be said about most sci-fi missteps. But still, this is a bizarre entry into Blomkamp's young portfolio. 

THE FINAL GRADE:  C                                                 (6/10)

Image Credits: Wired, Reddit