Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. review

2015 is, without a doubt in my mind, the year of the spy movie. The year kicked off with Matthew Vaughn's terrific Kingsman: The Secret Service, and continued with Paul Feig's Spy, Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation, and now, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., the latest film from acclaimed director Guy Ritchie. And while this flick isn't quite as fresh or compelling as those other espionage adventures, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is still a stylish and enjoyable film. With a tone that feels like a mishmash of Kingsman, Bond and Quentin Tarantino, U.N.C.L.E. is held together very loosely by its story while the direction and performances elevate it. There's not much substance underneath all of the 1960s gloss, but when a film looks and feels as good as U.N.C.L.E., there's no need for much depth.

Set in the tumultuous time of the early 60s, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. follows two secret agents- American Napoleon Solo (Henry Cavill) and Russian Illya Kuryakin (Armie Hammer)- as they search for a nuclear weapon that has the potential to fall into the wrong hands. Solo and Kuryakin duel at first, but shortly after, their superiors inform them that they'll have to team up with each other for their next mission, along with Gaby (Alicia Vikander), the niece of a former Nazi scientist (Sylvester Groth) with the potential to develop an Atom bomb. Napoleon, Illya and Gaby will need to infiltrate the organization of Victoria Vinciguerra (Elizabeth Debicki), the head of a powerful family that intends to use Gaby's Uncle to create the bomb. The uneasy alliance blossoms into a real friendship as the film unfolds, leading the trio into a unique and insane series of adventures.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. isn't a very challenging film, nor is it one that specializes in a complex plot or excessively compelling characters. The plot is pretty basic spy territory- bad guys have nuclear bomb. Bad guys want to use nuke. Good guys must stop them. And while the film does attempt to have some genuine character moments, there isn't a lot beneath the surface for the principal leads of this trio. But to say that this film isn't very smart or complex would be underestimating the charm of the film. What makes The Man from U.N.C.L.E. work is the style and ultimately, the characters. The style is brilliant and it keeps the movie flowing, while the characters are simply likable, which is refreshing in the world of darkly motivated anti-heroes. This film might be the weakest of the 2015 spy films, but there's plenty of fun to be had with Ritchie's spy extravaganza.

At the start of the film, I didn't really care about Napoleon, Illya or Gaby. And on their own, I'm still not sure that I care that much about them. They're pretty generic characters and there's not much there to make them interesting. However, when you put the trio together, that's when there's something special. While The Man from U.N.C.L.E. can often be a shaky origin story, by the end of the film, I was impressed by how much Ritchie had made me like the characters, and how badly I wanted to see more adventures with them. There's this odd chemistry between the three that simply works and it brings a human element to the stylistic and colorful direction.

Henry Cavill is best known for playing Superman in Man of Steel and I have to admit, when I first saw that film, I didn't think much of his acting abilities. His Clark Kent/Superman is pretty lifeless and there's not much emotion or energy to make that character interesting. In The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Cavill seems to be having much more fun and because of that, the audience is having more fun too. The sarcastic suaveness of Cavill's Solo works on every level and I think he brought a lot to this movie. Hammer is very good as well, making Illya a brutish, but lovable character that has a rather amusing relationship with Solo. Cavill and Hammer have terrific chemistry in the film and I really loved the dynamic between the two characters.

Alicia Vikander is the final link of the trio of leads, and she continues her very impressive run of performances. After her dazzling and terrifying in Alex Garland's Ex Machina, the beautiful Vikander manages to be sweet and down-to-Earth as Gaby, who's cunning and smart with questionable motivations. Vikander is the gel between Cavill and Hammer that makes the whole thing work, and I can personally guarantee you that The Man from U.N.C.L.E. would not work without its three leads.

The other aspect that makes U.N.C.L.E. stand out from the pack is the jazzy and polished direction of Guy Ritchie. While not quite as hyper-violent as Kingsman or as thrillingly Hitchcockian as Rogue Nation, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a high-energy burst of Tarantino-esque music ques, fast and borderline comical editing, and dry comedic tension that makes each scene pop with a freshness that makes the film memorable. The style is almost so overwhelming at times that it can become a bit generic, but as the film moves on, it becomes more and more comfortable with its smooth flow and modern look. The music by Daniel Pemberton is also quite great, giving the film a flashy sensibility that really works. All in all, Ritchie's direction and the elements that he manages to bring together work terrifically, overwhelming the film's flaws.

Despite the fact that it's ultimately a pretty good film, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. isn't as good as it should be. It's undoubtedly good to look at and energetically performed, but the script is a failure in many aspects. It's tough to care too much about any of the going-ons in the film, with a plot that is undercooked in more ways than one. Elizabeth Debicki's Victoria is a vague and poorly developed villain and some of the twists feel forced and unnecessary. And there are moments where the film's sensibilities feel fake and phony, similar to the way that they felt in Focus, the mediocre Will Smith vehicle from earlier this year.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. may be narratively and thematically empty, but that doesn't stop it from being a rollicking good time. Even though this film is struggling at the box office, I can't help but want to see more films with these characters and more movies like this. Because despite its derivative elements, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. feels like a wholly unique creation and one that becomes memorable because of its direction and performances. For an August blockbuster, this film is everything that you could possibly want.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B                                              (7.5/10)

Image Credits: YouTube, Hollywood Reporter,

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Christian Bale will star as Enzo Ferrari in Michael Mann-directed biopic

Michael Mann has had a pretty rough run lately. The acclaimed director of modern crime classics such as Heat, The Insider and Collateral went on to make some less critically acclaimed films like Miami Vice, the Johnny Depp-starred Public Enemies, and most recently, the critical and box office disaster Blackhat. Some may question if Mann has lost his touch, but with such a strong range of films, most cinephiles still put their faith in the director. While Mann has struggled commercially in recent years, Public Enemies star Christian Bale has been on the rise. Bale has had the occasional flop- Exodus: Gods and Kings is the most notable example- but for the most part, he has been racking up hits at the box office (The Dark Knight Trilogy) and plenty of Oscar nominations, with a win for The Fighter. So what happens next for these two? Mann needs a career rebound and Bale needs to continue his Oscar momentum, and with this new report, it looks like the two just may do that.

According to a new report, Christian Bale has agreed to star as Enzo Ferrari in Michael Mann's next film, which will tell the story of the Italian sports car magnate. The pic is aiming to shoot next summer and will likely be available for purchase at some of the upcoming film festivals, as it currently is without a distributor. In the report over at Deadline, the trade site reports that Mann has been working on this project for a very long time (15 years), and previously collaborated with Sydney Pollack in an attempt to get the film made. The logline says that the Ferrari biopic will take place in 1957, a year "where passion, success and death and life all collided." Sounds like a fascinating project and I'm excited to see Mann take it on. Bale doesn't look much like Ferrari, but that hasn't stopped him before. I have no doubt that he'll give a dynamic performance and garner a lot of Oscar attention. This biopic seems like a change of pace for the director and for any Michael Mann fans out there, that should prove to be quite exciting. With the shoot aimed for next summer, I would estimate a Fall 2016 or 2017 release date for this flick.

Image Credits: Super Compressor,

Straight Outta Compton review

We've seen an insane amount of music biopics over the years, but oddly enough, there has been a surprising lack of films chronicling the success stories of famous rappers. With two superstar figures behind it, Straight Outta Compton is the first major, big-budget rap biopic in what could end up being a large string of them. A very comprehensive look at the career of Compton-based rap group N.W.A., Straight Outta Compton is packed with plenty of engaging material- from the group's street origins, to the first N.W.A. tour, to the break up and diss tracks, and finally, to the betrayal of their manager, and the tragic death of Eazy E. The film covers a lot of ground over the 147 minute runtime, and it is a tad overlong. But no matter- Straight Outta Compton is an exhilarating film. Both an endlessly fascinating look at the hip-hop world and the people who created it, and a look at the racial problems that have plagued America for years, this film is complex, nuanced and most of all, entertaining from start to finish. It's a pure blast of energy.

Directed by F. Gary Gray, Compton is the story of N.W.A., the famous rap gang from the 1980's that created the genre of gangsta rap and kickstarted the careers of icons like Ice Cube (played by O'Shea Jackson Jr.), Eazy E (Jason Mitchell) and Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins). The group didn't last long, but their impact was enormous and their bond remained tight as the years went on. The film begins in Compton and gives us a look at the environment that helped to form the group's famous songs. We see the gangs, the drugs (Easy E actually starts as a drug dealer), the violence and the police brutality that shaped the members of N.W.A. as they grew up. It gives some important perspective to why songs like "F**k tha Police" and "Dopeman" resonated like they did.

From there, the film explores a lot of conventional biopic territory and plenty of fresh new ground. This is undoubtedly the story of Cube, Dre and Eazy (with a little bit of screentime for DJ Yella and MC Ren), but it's also a reflection on the time period that created this genre, and the reverberations that we're still feeling in America today. This is not an intimate, quiet character study like Love & Mercy. This is an expansive film with a massively epic scope that covers a daunting amount of territory, creating a fascinating picture of the world of the 1980's and 1990's. As Ice Cube said about the film "I don't know any other movie where you can mix Gangster Rap, the F.B.I., L.A. Riots, H.I.V. and f**king feuding with each other." This fundamental cultural scope provides the basis for this film and it's what makes Straight Outta Compton one of the best films of the year.

The soundtrack certainly helps. N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton is probably one of the best rap albums of all time, with a variety of fresh beats and terrific lyrics. The energy of the music carries over to the film, with a constant, pulsing soundtrack in the background. When Ice Cube performs "Gangsta Gangsta" at a club early in the film, there's a power to it that is undeniable. And while the focus is on the characters and the developing rap scene, the music is always there. The way that Gray matches the songs with the way that the film is unfolding is simply masterful (I particularly loved the scene that depicted the creation of "F**k tha Police" in the aftermath of a brutal police attack).

The one troubling aspect about this film for many people will be how close the subjects were to the production. F. Gary Gray has been a friend of Ice Cube for a long time (he directed Friday, which starred Cube), Dre and Cube produced the film, and O'Shea Jackson Jr., Cube's son, plays him in the film. It's all a bit self-congratulatory and that has already proven controversial with many people, as the film doesn't exactly dwell on the negative aspects of the group's personalities- Dre's domestic violence incidents, lyrics accused of being homophobic and sexist, etc.

But as problematic as that may be, I can't help but believe that these were the right people to tell this story. F. Gary Gray, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre were all there when the events of this film were going down. They saw the Rodney King aftermath, they witnessed the birth of hip-hop, they went on tour as the FBI went after them. All of these things happened to them, and although the film is ultimately about the relationship between the members of this group, it's also a celebration and reflection of the world we live in today and the way that these guys shaped that world. Straight Outta Compton is less about focusing on the men behind the act than it is about depicting a changing world and telling the story of the five guys who were at the center of it all.

The result of that is a grounded realism to the film that counters the flashy rap performances and lavish parties. The opening scenes of Straight Outta Compton depict a dark and violent place. When we first meet Ice Cube, he's on a bus as a gang member threatens to shoot a teenager in the head. And when we're introduced to Eazy E, he's in the middle of a drug deal gone wrong, as the police are busting through the house with a tank. That's the world that we're thrust into right away. And even though the film becomes more and more outlandish as it goes on, there's an element of authenticity to it that makes it work.

The performances are incredibly authentic as well, with all three actors doing a terrific job of both channeling the men that they're playing and bringing an element of depth to their role. Dre, as portrayed by Corey Hawkins, is the center of the group, surrounding by the more explosive Cube and Eazy. Hawkins does a good job of making Dre feel like the most human of the group. O'Shea Jackson Jr. looks remarkably like his dad, and that similarity comes across in his performance in ways beyond appearance. He captures the anger, the frustration and ultimately, the tenderness of Ice Cube and it's a terrific portrayal overall.

If Hawkins's Dre is the center of group, then Eazy E is the volatile, whipsmart emotional core of the film. Jason Mitchell is brilliant as Eazy and he brings a lot to character. Eazy comes off as small, but mighty- of all the guys in the group, he'd be the quickest to get into a fight. He's the businessman and in the end, he's the guy that divides the group and brings it back together. Mitchell has a scene late in the film that is emotionally devastating, and his relationship with Jerry Heller, played by Paul Giamatti, is equally tragic. Heller was a father figure to Eazy, but he betrayed the group in many ways and his actions kickstart the second half of the film. Heller and Mitchell have a natural chemistry and it works during both the good and bad times.

If the film is a tad overlong, it's not because of a lack of interesting material. After N.W.A. crumbles (which happens about halfway through the film), Straight Outta Compton pushes on and focuses on the aftermath of that seminal album. Death Row Records, Suge Knight, Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur, Friday, L.A. Riots, Rodney King- we see all of this over the nine year span that the film covers and it's equal parts invigorating and daunting. The second half of the film gives us the chance to examine the importance of that tour and that album and how N.W.A. shaped the decade that followed, which makes for some truly compelling scenes.

The relevance of this story is also critical. While critics touted the way that 42 and Selma felt relevant to today's society, I didn't quite feel the same way. With Straight Outta Compton, I truly felt that there was a deliberate attempt to make this film feel not like a period piece, but a movie about today's issues. We're dealing with a world where police officers are looking worse and worse every week and protests are erupting across the country. N.W.A's messages have never felt more relevant than they have now. And even though the film's latter half deals mostly with the characters, the infighting and the rap world, there's a constant ripple effect of real-life events that is truly felt by the people on screen.

Straight Outta Compton combines great performances, fantastic music and a topical message for a firecracker of a film that is entertaining throughout. Some biopics and dramas delve deep into their subjects without much entertainment value or emotional reward in the end. Straight Outta Compton is a certifiable summer blockbuster and it's one that packs an emotional wallop. Succeeding on a character, atmospheric and sonic level, Straight Outta Compton is one of the most purely enjoyable biopics I've seen recently.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A                                                 (9/10)

Image Credits: Forbes, Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Indiewire, Joblo

Friday, August 21, 2015

'Mad Max' director George Miller rumored to helm 'Man of Steel 2'

Although films like Jurassic World and Avengers: Age of Ultron were magnificent pieces of popcorn entertainment this summer, the action blockbuster that stunned, surprised and wowed the entire film world was undoubtedly George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road. The stunt extravaganza was light on dialogue and heavy on some of the most brilliant action scenes in recent memory, a spectacular symphony of lights, sounds and desolate landscapes. The film did solid business at the box office ($373.2 million worldwide) and is already generating quite a bit of Oscar buzz, for not only the sets and visual effects, but for Miller and the film itself. So with all of that being said, what is Miller going to tackle next? While the 70-year old director has announced plans to make Mad Max: The Wasteland, there is another property on the horizon that could be much more interesting to comic book fans, according to filmmaker and Collider movie talk host Jon Schnepp.

Schnepp, who recently directed The Death of Superman Lives: What Happened, a documentary about Nicolas Cage's failed Superman movie in the 1980's, is reporting that Miller will be directing Man of Steel 2 for Warner Bros., which will likely be released after Batman v Superman and Justice League. There is no confirmation, but according to Joblo, Schnepp seems very assured of this claim in his conversation with Popcorn Talk. Schnepp is the same guy who saw an early test screening of Mad Max: Fury Road and reported how incredible it was to everyone, so I definitely trust him. This also doesn't surprise me because of Miller's long-in-development Justice League film, entitled Mortal, which fell through back in 2007.

As much as I want a Mad Max sequel sooner rather than later, I definitely think that Miller could fit both into his schedule. Man of Steel 2 likely won't hit until 2020 or later, thanks to all of Cavill's commitments to Justice League, so Miller could film The Wasteland in the meantime and tackle the Superman sequel after that. But if taking on this film means sacrificing more Mad Max films, then I definitely don't want to see it happen. It's great to have a variety of directorial voices in the DC universe, but Miller created the Mad Max universe and I don't want to see it fade away because of other films.

Image Credits: Coming Soon, Hey U Guys

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Gift review

Sometimes it's good for a movie to subvert your expectations. In a culture where we predict everything in advance, it can be good to have a movie that comes out of nowhere to surprise us. I have to admit that I was never all that excited for Joel Edgerton's directorial debut, The Gift, which hit theaters last week. The trailers were decent, but the film seemed like the kind of late-summer B-movie that wouldn't really amount to much. Yet as The Gift's release drew nearer, the buzz began to build and I was suddenly fascinated by this thriller that was drawing rave reviews from critics and fans alike. Could it possibly live up to the hype? The answer to that question is a simple yes. Beyond the last-minute twist, The Gift is a glossy and compelling piece of filmmaking that benefits from a nail-biting sense of suspense and a trio of fantastic performances with actors cast to perfection. The Gift doesn't need the gore or the shocks of other thrillers- this one succeeds with its story and characters and it does so in a way that is absolutely brilliant.

A psychological thriller with a killer twist, The Gift is the story of Simon and Robyn (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall), a young married couple who move to California after Simon receives a big promotion. With a beautiful house and a new start, everything seems to be going fine. But one day, a chance encounter between Simon and an old friend will change everything. When shopping for furniture, Simon runs into Gordon "Gordo" Mosley, who he attended high school with. He vaguely remembers Gordo and moves on. However, Gordo continues to show up time and time again, leaving random gifts at their doorstep and showing up at their house in the middle of the day. What is Gordo's true intention? Is he a friend, or is there something more sinister at play? And is Simon as great as he's believed to be?

Joel Edgerton is best known for playing brash, arrogant, sleazy characters who get their comeuppance in the end. Exodus: Gods and Kings, The Great Gatsby and from the looks of it, Black Mass, are prime examples of films where Edgerton has played that kind of character. Jason Bateman, on the other hand, is better known for his likable, if prickly everymen. Arrested Development and Horrible Bosses are great illustrations of Bateman's traditional style, and it's how I best knew him. The genius of The Gift is that it flips the casting completely. I won't discuss how, in order to avoid spoilers, but I will tell you this- you will question who you sympathize with several times throughout this movie.

While Alison Tolman, PJ Byrne and Busy Philipps all have small roles in The Gift, this film belongs to Bateman, Edgerton and Rebecca Hall, who is the true emotional center of the movie. The marketing makes you think that the film will revolve around Bateman, but in all honesty, we follow Hall's emotionally damaged Robyn for a good chunk of the film. This is her story, told completely from her point-of-view. And Hall does a very good job with the material, making Robyn a likable character. Bateman is fantastic as well, creating a dynamic character that shifts and changes throughout the entire running time. Simon is a brilliantly designed, fully developed character and I applaud what Edgerton did with what could have been something much less difficult.

The best performance comes from Edgerton, who seriously deserves some Oscar attention for this role. It's hard to make a stalker sympathetic, but it's exactly what Edgerton does. And it's mostly thanks to his closely measured writing and directing, which allows the audience to consider Gordo's actions and think about whether or not they're right. This isn't a simple drama about a stalker and a family- this is a complex and intricately woven film about bullying, revenge and a blurred line that makes you truly use your brain and consider these questions.

The Gift is a methodically paced film, and that's part of the brilliance of it. Edgerton never goes for anything cheap. There are only a few jump scares in this movie, and most of the jumps have absolutely nothing to do with the actual plot. Instead, Edgerton spends his time building suspense. You see Gordo and you understand how something isn't quite right with him, but you don't see what he's capable of and you don't understand his past. You meet Robyn, but you don't know what makes her character tick. And you know Simon, but do you really know him?

There is no filler in The Gift. Every slower moment is topped off by something of intrigue, something that develops the characters further. This is a psychological thriller, but most importantly, it's a character drama and a film that truly examines themes of bullying, past mistakes and the true colors of a person's character. Even though The Gift was produced by Blumhouse, the production company behind films like Sinister and Insidious (and oddly enough, Whiplash), this film could not be more different than those chillers. There is one big scare in The Gift, and if you've seen the trailers, you'll know when it's coming.

The Gift is more unsettling- it gets under your skin in creepy ways. The buildup is part of the fun and the way that the film keeps you in suspense works wonders. You know something is wrong, and every scene has a palpable sense of danger that puts you on edge. Gordo, Simon and Robyn all could snap at any moment, which brings an element of tension to the whole thing. As an audience member, you truly don't know what to expect, and the twist is one that you really can't see coming.

Something else struck me about The Gift and that was the artificiality of it. This is a film that is glossy and it very much feels like it made with the production values of a thriller about the rich and wealthy. Everything about it spells smooth and calm, when in reality, there's something darker. Unlike a bad film like Focus, The Gift uses this artificial flavoring as theme enhancement in order to show how we often get caught up by what things look like on the surface, and not what's underneath. Simon's a nice guy on the surface, but deep down, who is he really? And is Gordo as purely evil and creepy as we're led to believe?

Huge props belong to Edgerton, who really crafted something interesting here. Nobody saw this one coming when the year started, but The Gift is truly one of the most magnificent surprises of the year- a slick, low budget thriller with a lot under the surface. Bateman and Edgerton make a formidable duo and it was refreshing to see such a character-based drama in the heat of the summer action season, where character and substance comes second to flash and special effects. I can't wait to see where Edgerton goes from here, but one thing is for certain- this is a very impressive debut.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A-                                            (8.6/10)

Image Credits: Variety, Beaumont Enterprise, The Gift Movie, Coming Soon

Sunday, August 16, 2015

'Straight Outta Compton' stuns with $60.2 million, 'Man From U.N.C.L.E.' disappoints at weekend box office

Although the summer is coming to an end, the season had one last big hit in it, and that hit was Universal's N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton. The true story of the hip-hop group that revolutionized the genre and changed America grossed $60.2 million, which is a hugely impressive number. I expected the film to be big, but this is definitely another important win for Universal. Riding a wave of buzz and good reviews, Straight Outta Compton snagged an "A" Cinemascore from audiences and did all of this in a relatively small amount of theaters (2,757). Compton had a brilliant marketing campaign from Universal that utilized the timeliness of the film's themes (police brutality, free speech) and the superstar power of the group's members (Ice Cube, Dr. Dre). It's a great film and one that I hope continues to see box office success and awards season attention. Chalk this up as another smart move by Universal in a year that has already been quite exceptional for the studio, with hits like Fifty Shades of Grey, Furious 7, Jurassic World and Minions.

Paramount's Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation finished in second place with $17 million, which was enough to raise the film's total to $138.1 million. In all likelihood, Rogue Nation won't reach the heights of Ghost Protocol or Mission: Impossible 2, but strong overseas numbers (the film currently stands at $373.4 million worldwide) and a domestic total around $160-$170 million should be more than enough for Paramount to keep this franchise alive. If you haven't checked it out yet, it's definitely worth a watch.

Unfortunately, Straight Outta Compton and Rogue Nation's success was doomed to hurt some films and this weekend, Warner Bros.' The Man From U.N.C.L.E. took the big hit. The Guy Ritchie spy adventure grossed $13.5 million, lower than even the most conservative estimates. The "B" Cinemascore doesn't hint at a lot of audience support, and the critics didn't go crazy over it either (it landed at 67% on Rotten Tomatoes, which isn't bad, but certainly not great). The film cost $80 million, so Warner Bros. is in danger of a pretty major disaster here. A writedown is probably coming, but hopefully overseas receipts will save it. I'm going to check out the film soon, but I definitely had higher box office hopes for this one.

In 4,000 theaters this weekend, Fantastic Four finished in four place with $8 million. That's laughably bad and a major 68.9% drop from last weekend. The poorly reviewed superhero flick has now grossed $41.9 million off a $120 million budget, which should prove disastrous for Fox. This is honestly one of the biggest fiascoes in recent years. Just insane. The Gift was close behind in fifth place with $6.5 million. The terrific Joel Edgerton drama has made $23.5 million so far- very impressive considering that the flick cost a mere $5 million to produce. This is a hidden gem in a pretty putrid lineup of films, so if you've already headed to Straight Outta Compton and Rogue Nation, this is a film that you should definitely check out. My review will be up soon.

Marvel's Ant-Man dropped to sixth place this weekend and took in another $5.5 million, raising its total to $157.5 million. This will ultimately be one of Marvel's smallest hits, but nobody's crying for them- they've had a pretty solid year. Close behind Ant-Man was Vacation, which snagged $5.3 million. The film has now made $46.8 million, and I have to say, that's pretty disappointing. Right behind that film was Minions, which took in $5.2 million in eighth place. Minions has $312.9 million in the US and currently stands at $957.4 million worldwide. Stunning stuff.

In ninth place was Ricki and the Flash which took a small tumble and made $4.5 million. The Meryl Streep drama has made $14.6 million so far- disappointing, but not surprising because of the indifferent reviews and non-existent marketing campaign. And finally, Trainwreck rounded out the top ten with $3.8 million. The Amy Schumer comedy has made $97.9 million so far and will cross $100 million in the next week.

Next weekend sees the release of Hitman: Agent 47, American Ultra and Sinister 2. Here are my predictions:

1. Straight Outta Compton- $31.2 million
2. American Ultra- $16 million
3. Sinister 2- $14.8 million
4. Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation- $11.5 million
5. Hitman: Agent 47- $8.1 million
6. The Man From U.N.C.L.E.- $6.8 million
7. The Gift- $4.9 million
8. Ant-Man- $4 million
9. Vacation- $3.7 million
10. Fantastic Four- $3.5 million

Image Credits: Forbes, Joblo

Saturday, August 15, 2015

First official cast photo revealed for 'Rogue One- A Star Wars Story'; cast includes Mads Mikkelsen, Donnie Yen and more

The Star Wars section of Disney's live-action panel at D23 today was short and sweet, but a solid bunch of tidbits were revealed about the company's future plans for the saga. In addition to confirming that Colin Trevorrow is directing Star Wars: Episode IX, the studio revealed a new Drew Struzan-designed poster for The Force Awakens (exclusive to D23 members) and some big news about Star Wars: Rogue One. Now officially titled Rogue One- A Star Wars Story, this film will chronicle the daring mission that the rebels embark on in order to steal the Death Star plans. There has been a slow trickle of news in regards to Rogue One, with a brief teaser at Star Wars Celebration, as well as few cast announcements including reports that Felicity Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Riz Ahmed and more had joined the cast of the film. Today, we got our first look at the full cast for Gareth Edwards' film, which including some pretty big reveals. Check out the first cast image below.

Produced by Kathleen Kennedy and directed by Gareth Edwards (Godzilla, Monsters), it was announced at D23 today that Rogue One- A Star Wars Story has commenced principal photography. The cast is led by Oscar-nominated actress Felicity Jones, as well as Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk and Riz Ahmed. The first cast image includes Jones, Luna, Yen, Wen and Ahmed in costume as rebels who will take on the villainous Empire in the hopes of stealing the plans to their superweapon.

In a statement about the film, Kennedy said "Rogue One takes place before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope and will be a departure from the saga films but have elements that are familiar to the Star Wars universe. It goes into new territory, exploring the galactic struggle from a ground-war perspective while maintaining that essential Star Wars feel that fans have come to know. Gareth is such an innovative director and I'm so excited to be working with him and the extraordinary ensemble cast he's selected for Rogue One."

When I look at this cast image for Rogue One, the first thing that I notice is how drastically different it is from anything we've ever seen in the Star Wars universe. It looks dirty and grungy, with a very unique visual flair. I can still tell that these are rebels, but they don't look to be in good shape at this point. The ground war perspective plan is interesting, and I have to say that I really like the direction that Edwards has taken for this film. I absolutely love the cast and I can't wait to see more from Rogue One. The film hits theaters on December 16, 2016.

Image Credits: Star Wars, The Wrap