Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Get On Up review

James Brown was obviously one of the most influential musicians in history. His songs inspired a whole generation of superstars and shaped the hip-hop/R&B world that we know today. The Godfather of Soul deserves a good movie. Get On Up is not that movie. It's an incredibly messy film that jumps around James Brown's life faster than a kid on crack in a time machine and never even attempts to make the story cohesive. Chadwick Boseman is absolutely terrific, but even he can't save this thing. It's a film without focus and it's a bland and dull one as well. I was really looking forward to this film and I have to say that it was one of the year's biggest letdowns.

Get On Up is the story of James Brown (I think) and his meteoric rise and his downfall into drug-fueled paranoia. James starts out as a young boy in Augusta, Georgia. He lives with his abusive father and his kind mother (Viola Davis), who leaves him when he's quite young. James' father joins the army and drops him off at a brothel run by his Aunt Honey (Octavia Spencer). He works there for a while, then ends up in jail. However, a gospel group led by Bobby Byrd (Nelsan Ellis) comes to visit one day and Byrd immediately recognizes Brown's talent. His family adopts him and then he becomes a superstar.

Sometimes looks can be deceiving. When I saw the previews and commercials, Get On Up looked like a relatively conventional musical biopic. You would get to see Brown's childhood, his big break, his meteoric rise, the epic fall and then the redeeming moment. Get On Up hits all of these beats, but mixes them all up. It starts in 1988 before jumping back to 1968 before jumping back to 1939 then moving forward to 1955 and it just goes on and on from there. Something will happen and then the film will jump forward to something else and then the movie will jump back to that other thing and it all just makes no sense. The film's jumbled style is audacious and interesting, but it doesn't work at all. I was very excited for Get On Up, but its attempt to do something different just falls flat.

Chadwick Boseman is the best thing about this movie by a long shot. His energetic, charismatic performance is absolutely fantastic and I would not mind at all if he was nominated for an Oscar. He brings a swagger to the role that is quite impressive and he carries several scenes throughout the movie. Boseman even manages to dominate some of the emotional beats that the script doesn't really warrant. It's a star-making performance for him after his relatively subtle turn as Jackie Robinson in last year and I really think that this movie will make him a star.

The rest of the cast is serviceable, but they are completely overpowered by Boseman. Viola Davis gives the strongest performance as Brown's mother. She has a great emotional scene with Boseman in the end, but she only appears in the movie for about ten minutes. Nelsan Ellis is okay as Bobby Byrd, but he never truly gets his chance to shine. And Octavia Spencer has what is essentially a one-scene cameo in this movie. She barely makes a dent.

The film also has a decent rhythm at times and some scenes have a strong funky spirit. The music is terrific and the performance scenes are entertaining. And most of the time, Boseman is the reason why the scenes work. I don't know if he actually did his own singing, but if he did, that's quite incredible. The performance scenes are exciting and dynamic, which is quite different from the rest of the film. They occasionally bring the film to life.

But just about every time I thought that this movie was going to stay on the right track and be entertaining, it ended up jumping around Brown's life again and the movie becomes a scrambled mess. Imagine Pulp Fiction as a biopic and you would get this movie. The only difference between the two is that the jumbled chronology works in Pulp Fiction. It doesn't work in Get On Up. I don't understand why the filmmakers felt that changing around the order of the story would work. It just messes the movie up.

Also, for a film about James Brown, this is an incredibly bland film. Boseman brings the energy every once in a while, but most of the time, this movie is just not that entertaining. It's just a forced, tired biopic that decided to mess up the order of the story. I really wanted this film to be good, but it just wasn't.

Get On Up is a PG-13 movie. James Brown did not live a PG-13 life. This movie waters down so many things throughout the story. Brown beat his wife, smoked crack and was just a terrible person at times in general. Get On Up gives you little hints of those things throughout the story, but director Tate Taylor tries to avoid all of Brown's issues completely and it really hurts the film.

When it comes down to it, Get On Up is one of the biggest disappointments of 2014. It's a bland, stale, borderline incomprehensible biopic that thinks it's a lot smarter than it is. Chadwick Boseman is terrific, but the idiotic, jumbled story tries way too hard to be innovative when it is simply another biopic that switched up its story. Simply a mess.

THE FINAL GRADE:  C                                               (5.5/10)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

'Godzilla 2' officially announced with director Gareth Edwards set to return

DC and Marvel really disappointed this year at Comic-Con. Both studios failed to announce anything fresh or new and ended up only confirming things that we knew. However, Legendary Pictures actually did make some interesting surprise announcements and one of those surprises was Godzilla 2. The massive monster movie hit was going to get a sequel, but there were going to be a few speed bumps thanks to recent news. Director Gareth Edwards, who impressed audiences and critics with his reboot of Godzilla earlier this year, recently signed up to direct a Star Wars spin-off movie which will take up a large chunk of his time for the next few years. But it seems that Legendary has found a way to have Edwards direct this movie. They confirmed his return at Comic-Con. 

During the Legendary Pictures Comic-Con panel, CEO Thomas Tull showed a quick video message from Gareth Edwards. In the video, Edwards gave a brief address to the SDCC crowd saying that he was taking a break from Godzilla to work on a "small sci-fi movie" (aka Star Wars), but he wanted to give a quick look at his next monster film. The clip showed grainy newsreel footage (similar to the opening credit scenes from Godzilla) and revealed that Rodan, Mothra and Ghidorah will all appear in future Godzilla sequels. Those three classic Toho monsters will likely appear in Godzilla 2 and future team-up movies and that's an exciting prospect. Nothing else was revealed about Godzilla 2, but I would expect it to hit theaters in summer 2018 thanks to Edwards' commitment to Star Wars. No word on the cast yet since the film is so far out. 

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

'Lucy' tops 'Hercules' with impressive $44 million at weekend box office

Although the box office was still down year-to-year this weekend, both new films that debuted were impressive. Universal's Lucy, an original sci-fi thriller starring Scarlett Johannson, topped the box office with $44 million, which is very strong. The thriller cost only $40 million, which is low for an action film. The film's strong trailer and interesting premise drew audiences in and the star power of Scarlett Johannson was also a draw. However, the "C+" Cinemascore means that the brainy premise might have confused some audience members. Still, I'm betting that this film flies past the $100 million mark.

In second place was Paramount's Hercules, the big-budget mythological adventure pic starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. The $100 million film grossed $29 million, which is higher than the $25 million that most pundits predicted. The marketing campaign for Hercules was ubiquitous, but relatively lackluster and audiences obviously didn't bite. Dwayne Johnson was probably the reason that this film did as good as it did. Hercules also did much better than The Legend of Hercules, the big-budget flop starring Kellan Lutz, which released earlier this year. The film also received a "B+" Cinemascore and could bring in audiences for weeks to come.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes finished in third place and took in another $16.4 million, which raises the film's total to $172 million. That's quite the impressive total and I bet that the film works its way to $200 million, making it one of the biggest hits of the summer. The Purge: Anarchy fell to fourth place this weekend and grossed $9.8 million. The horror thriller has now grossed $51.2 million and will probably pass its predecessor in the coming weeks.

Disney's Planes: Fire and Rescue dropped to fifth place this weekend and made $9.3 million. That's a steep 47% drop from last weekend, which is unusually high for an animated film. The Disney sequel has grossed $35.1 million so far. Relatively disappointing considering the film was set up as one of the biggest animated films of the summer. Sex Tape dropped 59% to sixth place and grossed $5.9 million. The comedy flop has taken in $26.8 million so far and the film will likely crawl its way to $40 million.

In seventh place was Transformers: Age of Extinction, which took in $4.6 million. That raises the film's total to $236.3 million. Still the lowest for a Transformers film in the US, but it currently stands at $966 million worldwide. Quite impressive. And So It Goes, the romantic comedy starring Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton finished in eighth place this weekend with $4.5 million. Considering the film's almost non-existent marketing campaign, that's quite impressive. The film doesn't have a reported budget yet, but I can't imagine it's that high. Look for this film to finish with $15 million.

Tammy finished in ninth place with $3.4 million, which raises the film's total to $78.1 million. Pretty strong considering the awful "C+" Cinemascore. And finally, A Most Wanted Man rounded out the top ten with $2.7 million. The film, which stars Philip Seymour Hoffman in one of his final roles debuted in 361 theaters and had quite the impressive debut. Look for this film to make a lot of money in the future.

Also, Richard Linklater's Boyhood grossed $1.7 million in 107 theaters, which is extraordinary. The film has now grossed $4.1 million. In addition to that, Open Road's The Fluffy Movie grossed $1.3 million in 400 theaters. Not a good debut.

Next weekend sees the release of Guardians of the Galaxy, the terrible Get On Up and the expansion of Boyhood. Here are my predictions:

1. Guardians of the Galaxy- $86.4 million
2. Get On Up- $26.4 million
3. Lucy- $17.6 million
4. Hercules- $15 million
5. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes- $9 million
6. Planes: Fire and Rescue- $6.3 million
7. The Purge: Anarchy- $5 million
8. Sex Tape- $3.1 million
9. Boyhood- $3 million
10. Transformers: Age of Extinction- $2.5 million

Friday, July 25, 2014

'Argo' screenwriter Chris Terrio in talks to pen 'Justice League' for Warner Bros.

Argo was my favorite film of 2012 (it still remains one of my all-time favorites) and one of the best things about that film was the terrific script by Chris Terrio. The film was very taut, but also extremely funny. The credit for that goes to both Terrio and director Ben Affleck, but most people immediately knew that Terrio would have a very successful screenwriting career. Since Argo, Terrio has signed on to write Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (which also stars Ben Affleck), and it appears that he's done such a great job that Warner Bros. wants him to write Justice League as well.

Deadline is reporting that Terrio is in talks with Warner Bros. to pen the script for Justice League, the Avengers-esque team-up that will likely hit theaters in 2017 or 2018. Word from Deadline is that the script for Dawn of Justice is terrific and that Warner Bros. wants Terrio to come on board for their DC Cinematic Universe. I believe that will be the case if the Batman v Superman script is as good as Deadline is reporting.
I'm very impressed that DC is rounding out their newly founded cinematic universe with talented folks and I'm excited that Terrio is coming on. He obviously works well with Affleck and I hope that the films end up being good. They're on the right rack at this point. If only they keep Zack Snyder in check with the insane amounts of destruction....

Edgar Wright to follow up 'Baby Driver' with adaptation of 'Grasshopper Jungle' for Sony

It was recently announced that director Edgar Wright would tackle the crime comedy Baby Driver next, after his exit from the Marvel project Ant-Man. Baby Driver will probably round up its cast relatively soon and should be out in late 2015 or early 2016. However, it looks like that's not the only project that Wright is prepping for. Earlier today, THR (The Hollywood Reporter) reported that Wright will also be tackling Grasshopper Jungle, a novel adaptation for Sony.

Grasshopper Jungle is based on the YA novel by Andrew Smith, which follows a group of Iowa teenagers who accidentally cause a deadly plague that awakens an army of preying mantises. All of this was first reported by THR, but The Wrap noted that Wright will likely direct the film after Baby Driver, his next picture for Working Title. No confirmation has come from Sony, but Wright posted a Vine about the book, telling his followers to pick it up. That's confirmation for me.

Wright is one of Hollywood's best and brightest directors and I was deeply saddened to see him depart from Ant-Man. However, Baby Driver and Grasshopper Jungle sound infinitely more interesting than a superhero film about a man that can transform into an ant. Although I would have loved to see Wright's take on the film, I'd much rather he continue to make brilliant and unique genre films that defy all expectations. Both of Wright's upcoming projects are among my most anticipated films for the next few years.

James Gunn will write and direct 'Guardians of the Galaxy 2'

One of the most anticipated movies for the rest of the year is Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, the epic space opera starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper and more. Director James Gunn (Slither, Super) tackled the project a few years ago and has seemed to fall in love with the material. He even wrote a heartfelt letter after finishing the film that expressed his sadness over having to stop editing the movie and release it. However, James Gunn is far from done with the Guardians of the Galaxy. Even though The Playlist had a report early this week that revealed that Gunn was under contract for another Marvel movie, it seems that The Wrap knows exactly what that movie will be.

Guardians of the Galaxy is going to be one of the biggest hits of the summer. It's tracking for at least $70 million and some believe that the anticipation is so high that it could reach $100 million. It's also currently sitting at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes through 25 reviews and will surely be another critical hit for the studio. Marvel definitely has another franchise on their hands and it looks like James Gunn will be on board as director once again. The Wrap interviewed Guardians co-screenwriter Nicole Perlman who confirmed that Gunn will be helming the sequel. "James will be directing 'Guardians 2', so he should also be writing 'Guardians 2'" she said in the interview. That pretty much confirms it.

I'm extremely excited for Guardians of the Galaxy and I'm betting that Marvel pulls it off. All the positive buzz is encouraging, but honestly, did anyone ever doubt that we would get a Guardians sequel? These characters sound like they're really important to the overall MCU, so I always believed that a sequel was coming. Nonetheless, it's exciting news and I'm betting that the film is officially announced at the Marvel panel in San Diego tomorrow. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Let's Be Cops review

Buddy cop comedies are extremely popular at this point and there have been good and bad ones. The 21 Jump Street series is absolutely brilliant, but Ride Along was formulaic garbage. I wasn't really sure where Fox's new R-rated buddy comedy, Let's Be Cops, would fall. The trailers made the film look pretty funny, but also relatively generic. And that's exactly what this movie ends up being. Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans make for a solid duo, but they're not on the level of Tatum and Hill. There are a few chuckles and some legitimately great laughs, but in the end, it's a bland and unmemorable comedy.

Ryan (Johnson) and Justin (Damon Wayans) are down in the dumps. Ryan was a successful quarterback in high school and college, but a career-ending injury basically sidelined his entire life. Justin has been working on video games forever, but every idea of his is rejected by his bosses on the spot and thrown out for something stupid. One night, both of them decide to dress up as cops for their college reunion party. Once they go out on the streets, they realize that people actually believe that they're cops and they decide to go with it. Ryan impresses all of the people in his apartment complex, Justin gets the girl (Nina Dobrev) he's in love with and they actually start to act like real cops. However, the two buddies get in way too deep and end up tracking down a smuggler and fighting a Russian gang that rules their LA neighborhood. 

Let's Be Cops is a standard buddy comedy. Nothing more. Nothing less. It's relatively bland and honestly not all that interesting. The film is never bad, but there's not a memorable thing about it. The predictability is there from start to finish and this movie feels way longer than it actually is. However, it is actually pretty funny at times and Jake Johnson is a very charismatic actor who fits the lead role really well. There are a few laugh-out-loud laughs, but they're few and far between and it just never saves the film. In the end, Let's Be Cops is a movie that you catch on TBS on a Saturday when you have nothing to do. You'll probably like it better at home.

The performances in this film are relatively serviceable. No one really stands out, but Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans are a solid pairing, and Johnson is especially good. Both have good scenes and both fully commit to their roles, but they just don't have the electric chemistry that you need to pull off a great buddy cop comedy. The supporting cast is astonishingly weak. Rob Riggle is in this movie, but he's honestly not that funny, which is unusual (Riggle is typically dynamite). Nina Dobrev is there as well, but she's just playing the stereotypical girlfriend role. However, Andy Garcia does lend some levity to the film in his villainous role. He probably has only five minutes of screen time, but he stands out.

The actors aren't that great, so if this movie really wanted to be fantastic, it would have needed a solid script. Honestly, it doesn't have one. This movie isn't quite as generically predictable as Ride Along and there are definitely more laughs, but it still is littered with buddy cop tropes. The only difference is that the main characters aren't cops, they're only pretending to be cops. That's sort of a new spin on the genre, but all the usual cliches are there. The unique spin doesn't add anything.

When I saw Neighbors and 22 Jump Street, I laughed every minute. I was laughing really hard. Let's Be Cops was sometimes funny, but there were only a few belly laughs. Most of the jokes I just chuckled at. The humor is mildly funny but it's never that hilarious. A few scenes stand out and the musical choices are somewhat inspired, but this movie just didn't make me laugh that hard. It just doesn't go for it.

If you've ever seen a buddy cop movie, you know where this film is going. The only thing I gave Ride Along credit for was the entertaining final battle. I can't say the same for Let's Be Cops. The action is never exciting and you never truly care about any of the characters on screen. The scenes aren't shot well and the thrills just aren't there.

All that aside, I have to say that the weirdest thing about this movie is that it's the tamest R-rated comedy I've seen in my life. Sure, Damon Wayans smokes crystal meth and has a fully nude man run over him. But that's honestly all. This film truly feels like a PG-13 comedy that threw in some f-bombs and a little dash of raunchy humor just to get that R-rating. And it really doesn't pay off. The crude humor is funny, but the clever character moments are honestly more amusing. If they wanted to make a hard-R comedy, they failed spectacularly. There was nothing shocking, there were no "OMG" moments. It was all rather standard and bland.

This movie also feels really long. It's only 1 hour and 44 minutes, but I could have sworn I was in there for over two hours. That's never a good sign. I was entertained, but it wasn't enough. This film is just basically running through the motions. There are a few inspired sequences and I did laugh at times, but it just never really did it for me.

Let's Be Cops could be worse. But it could be better. The stars have charisma and there are some funny scenes, but let's face it, we've all seen this movie before and way better movies have been made with this same template. There's nothing unique or special and the movie just isn't that funny. The potential is there for something cool, but the film never follows through. It just goes through the motions and hits every cliche in the book.

THE FINAL GRADE:  C                                               (5.7/10)