Friday, April 18, 2014

Why R-rated comedies will rule Summer 2014 at the box office

In past summers, major blockbusters with insane amounts of action and carnage have ruled the summer box office. And odds are, the same will be said for Summer 2014. The top films will probably end up being X-Men: Days of Future Past, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Godzilla, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and possibly Guardians of the Galaxy and Maleficent. The only surefire megahit that isn't an action film is How to Train Your Dragon 2. However, the problem is that for every successful big-budget tentpole, there's one that doesn't do so hot. Edge of Tomorrow is already looking like a risky bet and Jupiter Ascending could spell trouble as well. Last summer, The Lone Ranger, After Earth, White House Down and (to a lesser degree) Pacific Rim all disappointed at the box office. Despite all of these $100 million+ flops, there's one low risk genre that consistently makes money: comedies. For years now, comedies have made a killing at the summer box office, providing us with some of the biggest smash hits in recent memory. Recently, the more specific genre of R-rated comedies has brought us films like The Hangover ($277 million), Bridesmaids ($169 million), Ted ($218 million), We're the Millers ($150 million) and The Heat ($159 million). All of those films made more than $150 million at the box office. And none of them cost more than $50 million.

Summer 2014 looks to be the strongest summer yet for R-rated comedies with five R-rated comedies that have the potential to do strong business. First up is Neighbors, the hilarious new Seth Rogen comedy that sees his character face off against a fraternity led by Teddy (Zac Efron). Having already seen the film, I can tell you that it's raunchy, crude and absolutely hilarious. With no competition for two or three weeks, this film will make a killing at the box office. A total of over $150 million is almost a given at this point in my opinion. Last summer, Rogen and friends teamed up for This is the End, which made $101 million domestically. Neighbors will make much more than that.

After that, Universal will release another comedy, A Million Ways To Die In The West, on May 30. This is the latest film from Seth MacFarlane who directed Ted. A Million Ways is probably a harder sell, but it has a great cast led by MacFarlane, Charlize Theron, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson and Neil Patrick Harris and it looks pretty funny. A total above $130 million wouldn't be surprising, but if this film ends up being good, I wouldn't be shocked to see it make more.

The next R-rated comedy will come in June with 22 Jump Street. Its predecessor, 21 Jump Street, made $138 million and with a prime summer release spot, 22 Jump Street is poised to make even more. The film looks pretty funny and a lot of people who saw the first one are going to want to see this one. Critically, the first film was a success as well, and if this one can get good reviews again, 22 Jump Street could end up being the biggest R-rated comedy of the summer. In addition, Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum are both bigger draws now than they were when 21 Jump Street came out. In the end, this movie is going to make a boatload of money.

The biggest July 4th release this year is Tammy, also an R-rated comedy. This Warner Bros. Melissa McCarthy vehicle is sure to be a hit, simply because McCarthy is starring. Her last two films made more than $130 million at the box office and she is pretty much a household name at this point. In Tammy, she plays a fast-food worker who goes on a road trip with her foul-mouthed mother. The first trailer was comedy gold and I'm really looking forward to seeing what McCarthy and her husband, director Ben Falcone, cooked up with this one. Look for this to be a huge hit as well.

The final R-rated comedy of the summer is Sony's Sex Tape, which probably will end up being the smallest hit of the bunch. Sex Tape stars Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel as a married couple who make a sex tape which ends up going to the cloud. They have to embark on a journey to get back all of the iPads that they gave out for Christmas which the video was uploaded onto. This film probably best compares to Bad Teacher, which still grossed $100 million back in 2011. The film looks funny, but I'm still not sure how it will end up doing at the box office. Keep an eye on this one.

All in all, you're going to have a lot of smaller films making shocking amounts of money this summer. The Fault in Our Stars is going to be a huge hit, Jersey Boys and Get On Up could end up being good counter-programming and Deliver Us From Evil will be this year's version of The Conjuring. Hollywood might not get the highest grossing summer of all time, but they sure will make a lot of money.

Bears review

Back in 2008, when Disney announced that they were starting the Disneynature franchise, I was very excited. And while I haven't necessarily kept up with the recent Disneynature films, I decided to check out Bears simply because I love bears. That's pretty much the only reason why I wanted to see this movie. And I did end up enjoying this movie. Bears is a pretty standard nature film, but there's beautiful cinematography and an interesting storyline. John C. Reilly's narration is slightly overbearing at times, but it's a really great-looking film and the filmmaking is breathtakingly good.

Bears tells the story of a bear family in Alaska. Sky is a new mother who is now raising her children, shy Amber and adventurous Scout, in the wilderness. The bears need food and yet, it's a very long trek to get to the salmon that they desperately need. In addition, Sky and her cubs must endure wolves, avalanches and two male bears who pose a direct threat to the cubs including the leader of the domain, a bear named Magnus. Basically, this film depicts the journey of Sky, Amber and Scout to get food and survive the harsh wilderness.

This is going to be a pretty short review since there really isn't much for me to judge about this film. In general, I enjoyed this film. Bears is a nature documentary and if you don't like nature documentaries, you won't like this film. The film can be a little slow at times and there are parts where there are a lot of walking montages with not much going on. But in the end, this is a movie that I enjoyed especially because of the cinematography and the way that the filmmakers captured the story of this family and the way that they interact. 

The first thing that most people have said about this movie is how great the cinematography and I will have to agree. The cinematography on Bears is absolutely breathtaking and captures the Alaskan wilderness and the life of the bears with spectacular clarity and detail. This is a well-made movie and I loved how the credits showed how the directors made the film. Co-directors Keith Scholey and Alastair Fothergill got up close and personal with the bears and it shows. The film is beautiful and detailed and I really loved how this movie looked. 

The narration is a bit of a problem at times. John C. Reilly narrates this film and he actually does a pretty good job. However, there are times where Reilly tries to add dialogue into the film and it really doesn't work. There were times in which the narration became slightly overbearing and it just annoyed me. In the end, Reilly does a good job, but it just ends up being a problem every once in a while. 

The story is good, and while some critics have claimed that it was "Disney-fied", I strongly disagreed. The story was natural, interesting and engrossing and I was never sure which way this film would go. The peril of the film is around every corner and I was in suspense at times. 

In the end, there really isn't that much to say about Bears. It's short at 78 minutes long and it's a typical nature documentary. It's breathtaking at times, slow at others but entertaining when it comes down to it. Families will enjoy this film and animal lovers will probably enjoy it even more. The bears are cute so maybe this film will appeal to an even broader audience. All in all, I really did end up enjoying this film. It was cool, engrossing documentary. 

THE FINAL GRADE:  B                                                  (7/10)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Neighbors review

Over the last few years, there hasn't been a more powerful comedic force in Hollywood than Seth Rogen. After starting his career with small roles in Judd Apatow productions like Anchorman and The 40 Year Old Virgin, Rogen eventually became a star in his own right, headlining films like Pineapple Express and The Green Hornet while also writing Superbad and directing This is the End with partner Evan Goldberg. Over the years, Rogen and friends Jonah Hill, James Franco, Jay Baruchel, and writer Nicholas Stoller have expanded their horizons a bit. They're tackled animated comedies, The Muppets and Hill has even picked up some Oscar nominations along the way. However, Rogen's latest film, Neighbors (out on May 9), definitely takes them back to R-rated territory. Directed by Nicholas Stoller, Neighbors plays as both a raunchy modern version of Animal House and a war movie where a suburban family and a fraternity do their best to destroy each other. With stellar performances from Zac Efron, Rose Byrne and Dave Franco, Neighbors is undoubtedly one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. It's hilarious from beginning to end and one of the best comedies in recent years.

Neighbors focuses on Mac and Kelly Radner (Rogen and Rose Byrne), a nice suburban family who are trying to adjust to life with their new baby. They miss their old days of partying, but they seem content at the same time. However, when a fraternity moves in next door, Mac and Kelly see an opportunity to prove their coolness to the frat. They go over and introduce themselves to Teddy (Zac Efron) and Pete (Dave Franco) and end up partying with them all night long. The party ends and the couple goes home, but then Teddy and Pete throw another giant party the next night. Mac ends up calling the cops and a war between the fraternity and Mac's family begins. Madness, drinking, partying and mass chaos ensues.

Neighbors is very much a Seth Rogen comedy. It's raunchy, there's a lot of marijuana use and the profanity is extremely consistent. However, Rogen and director Nicholas Stoller definitely stepped up their game here delivering a movie that feels out of control, yet meticulously mapped out at the same time. Just like the frat classic Animal House, Neighbors is a bit too messy and mostly plays out as a series of parties and pranks. But you can tell that Rogen didn't want to just do that. As many critics have already said, there are some really interesting themes in here about moving on past your young life and so on. However, you'll probably miss some of those underlying themes just from laughing so hard. By far, the best part about this movie is that it's funny and that's really all that matters. The characters and story are extremely interesting and funny and Rogen and Stoller do everything they can to make you laugh out loud at every scene. Neighbors is an absolute blast.

Comedy never works if the performers aren't up to the task. In Neighbors, all of the actors play an integral part in making this film so hilarious. Rogen is good as usual, but he definitely has moments of pure genius. Rose Byrne is really funny as well and does a great job of playing a character who is really evil at times. Efron was the stand out for me. He fits in really well with this style of comedy and is a great fit for the part. The supporting cast is also unusually strong. Dave Franco does a pretty good job, but I don't remember a ton of funny moments with him. Ike Barinholtz does a great job as Mac and Kelly's friend Jimmy. His character has some great moments.

The plot is pretty thin in terms of story, but the characters do change over the course of the film. All of these characters grow up a little bit because of what they do in this film. Plot-wise, this film is essentially a war movie between a group of immature fraternity brothers and a group of immature adults. However, just like Animal House, an elaborate plot isn't really integral to the film. Neighbors contains a bunch of small subplots that take place during this "war" that the film depicts. All of the subplots are either interesting or absolutely hilarious and they make the film better.

The script for Neighbors was written by Andrew J. Cohen and Brendan O'Brien. Neither one has ever written a script before. Heck, Cohen and O'Brien's most prominent credit is that they were co-producers on Funny People and assistant producers on The 40 Year Old Virgin. That's very little experience, but they kill it with this script. You can definitely feel Rogen and Stoller's touch on the script, but credit is due to Cohen and O'Brien as well. The characters are well-developed and their motivations are clear. But most importantly, this script never ceases to amaze with more and more outrageous jokes and features so much non-stop hilarity, that you'll probably be tired by the end of this movie.

Nicholas Stoller directed Forgetting Sarah Marshll, Get Him To The Greek and The Five Year Engagement before directing Neighbors. He also wrote the fantastic reboot The Muppets and its awful sequel Muppets Most Wanted. All in all, Stoller has had a mixed track record critically, but the energy his direction brings to this film is amazing. This film never slows down and Stoller has crafted some of the most elaborately outlandish and hilariously insane party sequences ever. This film almost never stops and Stoller captures everything so well.

When it comes to comedies, the thing that I consider to be most important is how much I laughed. I practically couldn't stop laughing in Neighbors. There are so many funny jokes sprinkled throughout this movie and the manic energy makes it all the more enjoyable. I seriously think that this is one of the funniest movies that I've ever seen. Whether it was Rogen and Efron dance fighting or the absolutely insane party at the end or the airbag scenes, this movie was making me laugh.

Neighbors is exactly what you'd expect from Rogen and his team: vulgar, crude and insanely funny. Do Stoller and Rogen take a couple jokes too far every once in a while? Definitely. Is the story a little weak at times and does the movie have a few scenes that just don't quite fit? Yes, also. However, none of that will matter to you when you're watching this movie and laughing your butt off. It's pure comic insanity from beginning to end and a great start to what is sure to be one of the best summers for R-rated comedies in recent memory.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A-                                              (8.6/10)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

MTV Movie Awards Live Blog

The MTV Movie Awards are probably not what first comes to mind when you think about awards shows. However, they're actually pretty funny and entertaining and I've been enjoying them so far this evening so I decided to bring out the live blog. Here we go:

-Conan O'Brien is doing a good job as a host. The product placement gag was brilliant.

-Jared Leto wins Best Transformation for Dallas Buyers Club.

-Does Jared Leto have to give a long speech about the importance of Dallas Buyers Club every time he wins an award?

-That Taco Bell commercial that's been running lately is absolutely hilarious.

-And we're back with Amanda Seyfried and Seth MacFarlane, the stars of A Million Ways to Die in the West.

-Jonah Hill wins for Best Comedic Performance at the MTV Movie Awards for The Wolf of Wall Street.

-After watching this show for about twenty minutes, I've realized that the MTV Movie Awards are essentially one big promotional item.

-Interesting performance by 21 Pilots. Never really heard of the band before, but it was still pretty compelling to watch.

-Leto is pretty annoying at this point. Best Villain is up next.

-Fassbender should totally win this, but Cumberbatch will take it. He deserves it too.

-And the award goes to.....Mila Kunis?

-Seriously, I forgot that Oz even came out this year.

-YouTube sponsors stuff now? That's weird.

-Conan is now introducing Rita Ora and Jessica Alba. With a muscle suit on. This show just keeps getting more bizarre.

-And now we have Best Shirtless Performance. Wow. This just gets more ridiculous every second.

-Zac Efron wins Best Shirtless Performance for a movie that nobody saw. And they basically forced the shirt off of him.

-Ellen Page with a large bit of product placement for X-Men: Days of Future Past in the background. This just further solidifies this show as one large marketing showcase.

-That was pretty cool. Well-edited and well-directed. Very excited for Days of Future Past.

-So many movie commercials. It's one big marketing push. However, it's still pretty entertaining. Channing Tatum is now getting the Trailblazer award. With more ads for his summer movies.

-Tatum's gonna have a huge summer if Jupiter Ascending is a success.

-This show is really dragging. Eminem and Rihanna are performing "The Monster" right now.

-Good performance, but this show is extremely tedious. The stars of Neighbors (which I'm seeing this week) are coming on stage now.

-Best Kiss is up next. It'd be great if J-Law and Amy Adams won.

-Why are all the acceptance speeches at this show so awkward?

-Since nothing remotely interesting has happened at this show in the last thirty minutes, I think that I'm going to cut the live blog off here. I'll be back later this week with reviews of Draft Day, Neighbors and more. I'll probably keep posting on Twitter, so stay posted there.

"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" tops "Rio 2" in closest race of the year at weekend box office

In a tough race at the box office, Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out on top over Fox's animated comedy Rio 2. The Winter Soldier debuted to a spectacular $95 million last weekend and dropped around 56% for a $41.4 million weekend finish. That's a pretty decent hold for Captain America 2 and with $159 million in the bank so far, it's now ahead Thor: The Dark World at the same point in its run. In addition, Captain America 2 has made a spectacular $317.7 million overseas for a worldwide total of $476.7 million. That's higher than both the original Thor and Captain America films and The Winter Soldier could end up passing the first two Iron Man films and The Dark World in the next few weeks.

Rio 2 finished in second place this weekend with a decent $39 million. That's pretty much on par with the original film, which isn't a bad thing. In addition, the film received an "A" Cinemascore and with a lot of kids on spring break this week, look for Rio 2 to end up holding especially well. It did come into a competitive marketplace with both Mr. Peabody and Sherman and Muppets Most Wanted competing for the family dollar. Look for Rio 2 to finish with around $130 million. Relativity's horror flick Oculus finished in third this weekend with $12 million. The low budget acquisition from Tiff received a "C" Cinemascore from audiences, which indicates that nobody really liked this movie. I don't see it holding on too well, even with weak competition in the horror marketplace.

The biggest disappointment of the weekend by far was Summit's Draft Day which grossed $9.7 million in fourth place. The Kevin Costner-starred sports drama received a solid marketing push from Summit, with a Super Bowl spot and tons of advance screenings for fans. However, the film just couldn't compete in the marketplace and ended up disappointing big time. No word on what the budget is, but the "B+" Cinemascore isn't really going to help the film. I'll be seeing it tomorrow, so I'll let you know soon if it's actually worth checking out.

Divergent finished in fifth place this weekend with $7.5 million. The action drama has now grossed $124.8 million. It hasn't fared quite as well overseas, but this franchise isn't going anywhere with three sequels (!) on the way from Summit. Noah finished in sixth place this weekend with $7.4 million which is a pretty steep drop from last weekend. The action blockbuster has obviously suffered from weak word of mouth and will probably crawl its way to $100 million. The film's total domestic gross currently stands at $84.8 million. However, with strong foreign grosses, Noah's total stands at $246.8 million worldwide. Not too bad.

Indie smash God's Not Dead finished in seventh place this weekend with $5.4 million. The small hit has now grossed a stellar $40.7 million, which is pretty impressive considering that nobody knew what this movie was a few weeks ago. Another indie hit, The Grand Budapest Hotel, finished in eighth this weekend with $4 million. The Wes Anderson film has now grossed $39.4 million and will likely finish with around $50 million. Muppets Most Wanted finished in ninth place with $2.1 million, which was enough to raise the film's total to $45.6 million. I love the Muppets, but I can't say that I'm sad to see this movie tank. It's just terrible. Mr. Peabody and Sherman rounded out the top ten this weekend with $1.8 million. The animated film has now grossed $105.2 million.

The Raid 2 also had a solid showing, grossing $1 million in eleventh place. In addition, Frozen is now the eighth highest grossing movie of all time at the worldwide box office and will probably pass The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and Transformers: Dark of the Moon in the coming weeks.

Next week sees the release of Heaven is for Real on Wednesday and Bears, Transcendence and A Haunted House 2 on Friday. Here are my predictions:

1. Transcendence- $26.7 million
2. Rio 2- $25 million
3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier- $21.4 million
4. Heaven is for Real- $19.1 million ($26.3 million Five-Day weekend)
5. A Haunted House 2- $14.2 million
6. Oculus- $5.9 million
7. Bears- $5.8 million
8. Draft Day- $5.3 million
9. Divergent- $5.1 million
10. Noah- $4.6 million

Muppets Most Wanted review

Very rarely do I hate a movie even more after I've seen it, but as I rewatched 2011's The Muppets last night, I couldn't help but despise the lackluster Muppets Most Wanted at a whole new level. After all that Jason Segel, Nicholas Stoller and James Bobin did to bring this franchise back from the dead in 2011 with The Muppets (one of my favorite films of that year), the latter two destroy it with Muppets Most Wanted, a boring, unfunny, misguided sequel that makes all the wrong moves. The inspired humor is gone, the emotion isn't there and the Muppets take a back seat to the human characters, played by actors who think that they're doing a good job just because of the "funny" accent that they're doing. As much as it pains me to say this, Muppets Most Wanted has probably killed this franchise. It's a cheap-looking, uninspired, mistake-ridden sequel with not much to offer to anyone.

Muppets Most Wanted continues the story of Kermit, Fozzie, Gonzo, Miss Piggy and all the Muppets. The film picks up right where the last one left off with a hilarious number titled "We're Doing a Sequel!" that pretty much exactly predicts how terrible this movie will be with lines like "and everybody knows the sequel's never quite as good." After that one bit of inspired humor, we head off to a cafe where the Muppets are meeting with Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais) who is offering to take the Muppets on a world tour. Kermit reluctantly accepts and the gang heads to Berlin for their first show. However, it turns out that Dominic is a bad guy working for the evil frog Constantine, who looks exactly like Kermit with the exception of a small mole. While Kermit is walking through the streets of Berlin, he runs into Constantine, who slaps a mole on his face and runs off. Kermit is arrested by Russian prison chief Nadya (Tina Fey) and sent to Siberia while Constantine pretends to be Kermit for a while. Meanwhile, Sam Eagle and an INTERPOL agent (Ty Burrell) also have a subplot about tracking down Constantine.

That's far from a bad premise, but it's one that relies too heavily on the boring human characters and not enough on the Muppets. Tina Fey and Ty Burrell are flat-out bad in this movie at times (especially Fey) and Gervais looks bored out of his mind. I didn't mind the human characters in the last film because they were developed and added to the plot in some way. In this film, the three main human characters are so criminally underdeveloped that you don't care about them at all. Fey and Burrell's characters seem to have one trait (a funny accent) and Gervais seems to always be stealing stuff. You get no backstory for them, there's no emotional connection, they're just there.

The biggest problem this movie encounters is that it isn't that funny. Heck, I wouldn't even say that it's that entertaining. There's no emotional investment in the plot and the new characters are all extremely annoying. Especially Constantine, who is the lead villain of the film. Whoever came up with that idea needs to not work on the next movie (if there is one). Constantine is boring and such an inherently bad idea. There's nothing remotely funny about him. In fact, there's barely anything remotely funny about this movie. While the first film featured clever humor and inspired gags, this one features extreme overacting and ridiculous accents. The songs are by far the best aspect of this movie and even they pale in comparison with the first film.

This film also looks extremely cheap. There are so many ridiculously noticeable mistakes thrown throughout this movie that it distracts from the overall product. There are times where Tina Fey or Ricky Gervais will be singing and you can obviously tell that they're lip-syncing. It doesn't even look like they're singing. The CGI looks cheap, the locations look ridiculous and the green-screen is awful at times. It just looks cheap. There's no other way to put it.

The one good thing about this movie is the music. Music supervisor Bret McKenzie does a great job again here crafting songs that really fit the tone of the film and are actually pretty funny. "We're Doing a Sequel," was a favorite of mine, but I also enjoyed Burrell and Sam Eagle's "Interrogation Song," and I even mildly enjoyed Fey's rendition of "The Big House." Now, the songs are not nearly as memorable as they were in the first film, but they still provide a spark of life in a lifeless film.

In the end, I was so disappointing by this movie and even slightly mad. After such a brilliant opening chapter, Disney, Stoller and Bobin could have gone anywhere with this franchise, so it pains me to see them go in such a boring, unfunny direction. Characters like Walter and Fozzie, who were so integral to the first film are barely in this one. It was such a huge mistake not to focus on some of the Muppets who are much more entertaining than the humans.  If there is a third film (which I doubt there will be), I can only hope that it will be a whole lot better than this disastrous mess.

THE FINAL GRADE:  D+                                            (4.5/10)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Hollywood legend Mickey Rooney dies at 93

Some very sad news today as the story broke that legendary actor Mickey Rooney had died at age 93. The star died of natural causes over the weekend. Rooney had a long spanning career in Hollywood that began in the year 1926 with various short films before evolving into a large, successful movie career. Some of the highlights of Rooney's career include Disney's The Fox and the Hound, National Velvet, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and more recently, films like Night at the Museum and The Muppets. Rooney began as a child actor and eventually became a star who appealed to many generations. 

I remember Rooney best as the villainous Gus in Night at the Museum. I saw that movie when I was pretty young and Rooney, along with Dick Van Dyke and Bill Cobbs, stole the show for me. His character was hilarious and tough as nails and I loved him throughout that whole movie. It was a terrific performance by the star and one that appealed to a whole new generation. In addition, Rooney also appeared in The Muppets, if only for a brief cameo. I remember that one as well. All in all, today is a very sad day for the movie industry. Mickey Rooney was truly a legend.