Monday, April 22, 2013

IGN Top 25 Sci-Fi- Inception (#25) review

Some film experiences you just remember really well. They are memories that just stick with you, of the first time you watch a film. I'll always remember when I first saw Super 8 and was amazed by what I saw on the screen. I remember being in a packed theater for The Avengers with the crowd screaming their way through the film. The first time I watched Singin' in the Rain was on a small iPod screen. But out of all the film experiences that I have been through, watching Inception for the first time on DVD was the most eye-opening and best.

If you haven't seen Inception: go watch it right this instant. It's one of the few films that shows up every few years and gives you a unique and amazing experience. So I'll try my best not to spoil too much. Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an extractor, a dream thief, who is plagued by his past. When a corporate businessman (Ken Watanabe) offers him a job that would bring him back to his kids, he jumps at the opportunity. However, the job is inception, the act of planting a dream in the mind of another. The subject is Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy). Cobb assembles his team and goes deep into the dream world to plant the idea, but eventually reveals something sinister.

In my opinion, there are two types of great films. The ones you watch over and over (Casablanca) and the ones that you can only watch once. Inception falls somewhere in between those two films. It is something that you can rewatch again and again but it will never live up to the first time that you watch it. Inception is a very entertaining thriller however, and I would certainly say that it is one of the landmarks of film through the young 21st Century and a personal favorite of mine (#2 on my list of great movies).

Inception is an ensemble piece and a great one at that. The performances are all superb and Nolan gets great performances out of all of his actors. The standouts for me are DiCaprio and Tom Hardy as Emes. Hardy's more the fun, comic relief role and DiCaprio is the damaged soul fighting his own subconscious. The whole group has great chemistry; due in part to the Nolan team that works together every time that they make a movie.

The script is a masterwork. It is an EXTREMELY complex film and there is so much to look into and so many theories that you can come up with. You will get something different out of it each time. It's always interesting to watch and you can get different interpretations about what it says about our world (is it real?) and the loss of reality in some people. The script is a masterwork because it explains everything so well and in a manner that isn't expository in nature. Inception is never boring. I will say that until the day I die.

Another thing that I noticed this time was the use of music. Like in all of Nolan's movies, the score is fantastic and completely immerses you in the film and raises the tension. Whenever the score comes on, it just puts a smile to my face.

Honestly, I was going to do another paragraph about how great the action is, but I couldn't. I have said what I needed to say about Inception. It's awesome and the first time you watch it, you'll never forget. It is pure cinema and it's a prime example of the kind of worlds that movies can create and the stories that we can tell with the medium. It is a masterwork.

THE FINAL GRADE:





Sunday, April 21, 2013

IGN's Top 25 Sci-Fi Movies: In review

A great place for lists of movies by genre is IGN and with the slate of sci-fi films being released this summer, I decided I would review their favorite sci-fi movies. Tomorrow, there will be a review of Inception, their #25 and I'll just bounce around the list.


"Oblivion" opens the summer season strong with $38 million, "42" holds well

I guess that you could say that the summer movie season has now begun, but some could argue that it started back in March with Oz, The Great and Powerful and G.I. Joe: Retaliation. The line between what's a summer film and one that is not is blurring. But anyways, Oblivion was the official April kick-off movie and based on some projections that I saw earlier this week, it ended up with a great result. The Tom Cruise sci-fi vehicle grossed an estimated $38.2 million, which is Cruise's fifth-highest opening and his second-highest, non-Mission Impossible opening. Pretty good. However, the B- Cinemascore might leave this Tom Cruise vehicle with not much left to do at the box office. I honestly am not going to promise you anytime when you'll get a review of this one. I was so busy and exhausted this week but with my school play over, hopefully I'll post more reviews (note: there will be a new feature coming about sci-fi movies, stay tuned).

In second place was Warner Bros. A+ Cinemascore feature 42. The film dropped pretty hard for a movie with that golden audience approval rating. The last two dramas with A+ Cinemascores (Argo and The Help) dropped 16% and 23% respectively. 42 dropped 34% to $18 million. Again, this is still a small drop, but 42's chances of getting to $100 million have just been dimmed. This is another film that I have no idea when I will get a review out. It could be anytime. The Croods placed in third this weekend with another $9.5 million. It should keep making money until Epic opens in late May. The animated comedy has grossed $154 million so far.

Scary Movie 5 actually held nicely for a spoof movie and ONLY dropped 55.5% with $6.2 million. That's decent for the spoof genre and better than Scary Movie 4. But it still is a terrible drop. G.I. Joe: Retaliation held on for fifth place with $5.7 million. The film has been deemed a success with $111 domestic and $211 foreign. That's a nice total of $322 million.

The Place Beyond the Pines expanded further and grossed another $4.7 million in sixth place. I think that the reason The Place Beyond the Pines is succeeding is because of the heavy demand for mature, adult films. The under-served audience really comes out in force for films that they like during this blockbuster time of year. And I think that the Ryan Gosling drama is a success because of it. The film has grossed $11 million so far. Olympus Has Fallen took less of a hit than I expected (I thought that the situation in Boston might have an effect) and grossed another $4.5 million for a total of $88 million. The actioner should reach $100 million by the end of its run.

And to round out the top ten, Evil Dead placed eighth with another $4.1 million. The horror film has grossed $48 million so far. Jurassic Park 3D grossed another $4 million and can be deemed a success with close to $40 million in the bank. And Oz, The Great and Powerful grossed another $3 million to raise its total to $223 million.

Next week sees the release of Pain & Gain and The Big Wedding. Here are my early projections:

1. Pain & Gain- $25 million
2. Oblivion- $19 million
3. The Big Wedding- $14.5 million
4. 42- $12 million
5. The Place Beyond the Pines- $5 million


Sunday, April 14, 2013

"42" dominates, "Scary Movie V" disappoints at weekend box office

The box office has finally woken up this year with both March and April being solid months. This weekend, it was surprise box office hit 42 that dominated the box office. I'll get a review in later this week. The baseball drama grossed a record $27.3 million, which is the best opening weekend ever for a baseball film. That number is quite remarkable considering the low appeal of baseball films and the lack of stars beyond Harrison Ford. Even more stunning is the A+ Cinemascore that the film received. That is quite the rarity and could mean that 42 will blow past $100 million. It happened with Argo, it could happen here. Now let's move on to something less remarkable: Scary Movie 5. The fifth film in the spoof franchise grossed $15.1 million which is $25 million less than Scary Movie 4's opening. Scary Movie 5 also received a C- Cinemascore which is quite dreadful. The end has come for this franchise (Note: If I can bring myself to watch it, you will have a review). The Croods held decently for a $13.2 million weekend. That is a 36% drop which is okay but not shocking. The animated comedy has now grossed $142 million so far and could pass $200 million if it gets lucky.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation grossed $10.8 million this weekend which isn't bad for an action feature. The action extravaganza has now grossed $102 million and will likely finish around $125 million. In fifth place was last weekend's leader, the horror remake Evil Dead. The film plummeted 63% to a gross of $9.5 million, which is not shocking at all. Evil Dead has grossed $41.5 million thus far. Jurassic Park 3D also dropped big with a 53% drop to $8.8 million. The rerelease has grossed $31 million so far. In seventh place, Olympus Has Fallen grossed another $7.28 million. That's a small drop, signifying that the actioner is still connecting. There's a good chance that the film hits $100 million. Oz, The Great and Powerful is nearing the end of its run with a $4.9 million gross this weekend. It has grossed $219 million so far and will likely finish around $230 million. In ninth place was Tyler Perry's Temptation which grossed another $4.5 million. The somewhat surprise hit has now grossed $45.4 million. And finally, The Place Beyond the Pines rounded out the top ten with a gross of $4 million. The crime drama had the second highest per theater average this weekend (only behind 42).

Next weekend sees the release of Oblivion and The Lords of Salem in limited release. Here are some early projections.

1. Oblivion- $39 million
2. 42- $23 million
3. The Croods- $9 million
4. G.I. Joe: Retaliation- $6.8 million
5. Olympus Has Fallen- $6 million
6. Jurassic Park 3D- $5 million
7. Scary Movie 5- $4.9 million
8. The Lords of Salem- $4.6 million
9. Evil Dead- $4.3 million
10. Oz, The Great and Powerful- $3 million


Blockbusters of Summers Past: Iron Man (2008) review

The film that kicked it all off. To quote Nick Fury in The Avengers, there was an idea to make a group of superhero movies and have them build up to one big film called The Avengers. 2008's Iron Man was the film that kicked off that idea. It's quite a kickoff, but it tonally differs from all the other Marvel films. There's still a wise cracking hero, an evil villain, some great one-liners and explosive action, but somehow Iron Man takes a darker tone, and it's plot is taken more seriously. A lot of people cite The Dark Knight for the exploration of terrorism in action films, but you have to give Iron Man credit as well.

Iron Man tells the story of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), a wealthy weapons magnate. He's in Iraq showing off his new missile, the Jericho to the US Army when he is hit by a bullet and a piece of shrapnel nears his heart. He's saved by a doctor but is now in the custody of a terrorist group called The Ten Rings. They want him to build a missile, but instead he builds a suit of armor to escape. Tony then decides to become Iron Man and fight terrorists instead of building weapons. But Obadiah Stain (Jeff Bridges) isn't keen on that happening.

As I said before, Iron Man is the most mature of all the Marvel films. There is humor and there is comic relief but the first half of the film is rather serious. And I think that's a positive for the film. One of my problems with other Marvel films is that they're too jokey. Iron Man is very funny at times but never falls into the pit of being too campy. That said, Iron Man has a great tone but also sacrifices some of the entertainment value that other Marvel films bring. It's got a slower, more meticulous pace but it all builds up to a satisfying conclusion.

The acting is great. Obviously, Robert Downey Jr. brings a ton of energy and humor to that part of Tony Stark and there is absolutely no way that Kevin Feige and Jon Favreau could have cast that part better. Same with Terrence Howard. It's a pity that he left the franchise because I will always see him as the real James Rhodes. Gwenyth Paltrow is also good but she doesn't have much to do in this film compared to the other sequels. Jeff Bridges is a perfect fit for the villain role.

The action holds up really well. I know this movie came out five years ago, but sometimes the action can seem really dated. But with Iron Man, it doesn't. There isn't much of it, but there are some spectacular sequences, especially the ones in Iraq and the middle east. The final battle is a bit underwhelming but satisfying. I will still say that this is the best ending of a superhero film ever.

Iron Man is Marvel's best film. It's not the best movie (that belongs to The Avengers). But in terms of script, story, characters, dialogue, and tone, Iron Man without a doubt in my mind is the best. It won't always keep your attention but it still is a very good film and one that will not soon be forgotten.

THE FINAL GRADE:





Saturday, April 13, 2013

Updated April review schedule

Here are some updates on when you can expect reviews this month:

42- TBA (Going to see it but don't know when)

Scary Movie 5- April 14

Oblivion- April 21 OR April 27


TBA Reviews

Mud

The Place Beyond the Pines

Olympus Has Fallen

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Most Exciting Movies of Summer- Essay

Most summers, I am super excited for the upcoming films. This year, I am excited, but not as much as I was last year with The Avengers or The Dark Knight Rises. Let's go through the films of summer and I'll tell you what is going on with them. The summer season officially starts off on May 3, when Marvel's Iron Man 3 opens. Iron Man 3 has grown into my most anticipated film of the summer, actually. I love the Marvel films and a new Iron Man film makes me really excited. The new tone of the series looks great and I think that Marvel is going to make a great superhero movie. The Great Gatsby is looking more and more like a trainwreck. I said that earlier and I will say it again. Melodrama doesn't get anywhere and the new trailer sealed the deal. I've lost all excitement for the film. Star Trek Into Darkness is frustrating me, but I'm still geeked for it. JJ Abrams is up to his usual secretive ways and the trailers have revealed little to nothing about the plot. It still looks very good and I can't wait for it. Fast and Furious 6 just looks like a ton of fun. It knows that it's dumb and stupid but it still looks like an awesome time at the movies. The Hangover Part III also seems to look that way. It looks like a lot of fun. On May 31 comes what I am hoping is one of the gems of summer, Now You See Me. It's a low budget caper thriller and I think that it looks very well crafted and it has a great cast. 

Moving on to June, After Earth looks kind of stupid. Honestly, if you're going to put a movie in the summer and call it an action movie: give me what I want. I want explosions. Now you need a good plot as well, but in summer, you really want explosions. After Earth looks like it will have neither and with M. Night Shyamalan aboard, I can't wait to bash it. The Internship looks funny, but not that good. Man of Steel needs to release a second trailer before I forget about it. I love everything about that film so far, but I want more footage! Give me a new trailer. Monsters University looks good. I hope it puts Pixar back on the right track. It does look original enough. World War Z looks awesome. That's one of the film's that I cannot wait for this summer. It looks like two hours of awesome action goodness. White House Down looks too serious and the first trailer did nothing for me. The Lone Ranger looks okay, but nothing special. Despicable Me 2 is my most anticipated animated film of the year. Pacific Rim looks like a stupid good time. It's a perfect summer movie from the looks of it. Turbo looks fun, but I don't know how it's going to compare to the rest of the summer films. The Wolverine looks really good and the style and tone look about right on that one. 

I'm not going to August, but I'll have my thoughts on that one in June, when the first month of summer is over.  
I'm hoping for a good season but I just don't know. I'm hoping that it's great. 

"The Great Gatsby" debuts new posters. Will this movie be any good?

I haven't really reported much on The Great Gatsby lately. But today at my favorite movie blog, Rope of Silicon, there were four new beautiful posters, all of which highlight the style of the film. Take a look.

That's only one of the four posters, but it should give you a good taste of what this film might be like. After a wonderful first trailer, I can't help but think that The Great Gatsby is going to be a disaster. I can't muster any excitement for the film at all. I want to see it, and I will see it, but it looks so melodramatic and overdone. I wasn't a big fan of director Baz Luhrmann's hyperkinetic Romeo + Juliet and while The Great Gatsby certainly looks more polished than that film, I can't help but think that it won't be good. We'll see when The Great Gatsby opens May 10.

"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" goes into production, first image appears

Today, probably my most anticipated of all the Marvel sequels, Captain America: The Winter Soldier went into production. The big budget sequel is currently filming in Los Angeles while it will also film in the towns of Cleveland and Washington DC. The film will center on Steve Rogers' (Chris Evans) transition into the new world. Of all the hero's, Captain America is still with SHIELD and the sequel will find the organization facing a new enemy in presumably, The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan). There are also new reports today that Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) will take on a major role in the film. The Winter Soldier also stars Anthony Mackie, Cobie Smulders, Frank Grillo, Hayley Altwell, Toby Jones, Georges St-Pierre and Emily Van Camp.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier excites me for one main reason: it's supposed to be a more grounded military/political thriller than the rest of Marvel's films. That's the reason that I'm so excited for Iron Man 3. In addition, Captain America: The First Avenger was my favorite Marvel film so far and I'm really excited to be back in that world, even though I'm disappointed that not much will be set in World War II. 

Marvel's Phase 2 currently consists of Iron Man 3, which will hit theaters May 3, Thor: The Dark World (November 8, 2013), Captain America: The Winter Soldier (April 4, 2014), Guardians of the Galaxy (August 1, 2014) and The Avengers 2 (May 1, 2015). All are promising. Here's the first image for The Winter Soldier as well:





Sunday, April 7, 2013

"Evil Dead" tops weekend with strong $26 million, "G.I. Joe", "The Croods" hold well

This weekend was another big one at the box office with four films over $15 million and three over $20 million. In first place was TriStar's Evil Dead, which opened to a big $26 million. That was higher than most industry analysts expected but I went a little high with my $35 million prediction. Unfortunately, thanks to a C+ Cinemascore, this looks like the end of the road for Evil Dead, even though most reviews were positive. Some people are attributing the fact that Evil Dead was so full of gore that most people were repulsed by the film. I don't know if that's true but I don' think Evil Dead will top $60 million. In a dead heat, G.I. Joe: Retaliation and The Croods tied for second place with $21.1 million. That's a spectacular hold for both films in my opinion. Most action films don't hold too well and the fact that Retaliation only dropped 48% is pretty good. Retaliation has hit $86.6 million so far and will likely finish with around $125 million. The Croods, meanwhile, could hit $200 million. The animated comedy dropped 21% this weekend and has grossed close to $126 million thus far. It could actually top the box office next weekend if it stays tough. In fourth place was Jurassic Park 3D. The conversion of the 1993 hit grossed $18.2 million this weekend, which is a bit more than I predicted. That's a decent gross and it could go on to gross up to $50 million. Olympus has Fallen grossed an estimated $10.042 million this weekend, which brings its total up to $71.1 million. Olympus might crawl to $100 million but its far from a sure thing.

Just behind Olympus, in sixth place, was Tyler Perry's Temptation with $10 million. The drama has grossed $38 million so far and will likely finish with something around $60 million. The 54% drop wasn't a good sign however. Oz, The Great and Powerful continued its impressive run with $8.1 million. The action film has grossed $212 million so far, but thanks to unimpressive international numbers, might not turn a profit. The Host made another $5.2 million in 8th place to add to its unimpressive $19.6 million total. The Call finished in 9th place with another $3.5 million. The thriller has now grossed $45 million and will finish with around $50 million. And rounding out the top ten was Focus Features' Admission, which grossed $2 million. The comedy has grossed $15 million so far.

On the indie side of things, Trance had a solid opening in four theaters. The caper thriller grossed $136,000 which translates to a $34,000 per theater average. Not bad. Even more impressive was Upstream Color, Shane Caruth's second feature had a $31,000 opening in 1 theater. The Company You Keep also opened strong and The Place Beyond the Pines continued a good run. The Place Beyond the Pines and Trance expand next weekend.

Here's some brief predictions for next weekend when Scary Movie 5 and 42 open.

1. 42- $18 million
2. Scary Movie- $17 million
3. The Croods- $16.5 million
4. G.I. Joe: Retaliation- $13 million
5. Evil Dead- $10 million
6. Jurassic Park 3D- $9.5 million
7. Olympus Has Fallen- $7 million
8. Oz, The Great And Powerful- $6 million
9. Tyler Perry's Temptation- $5 million
10. The Place Beyond The Pines- $4.5 million



Friday, April 5, 2013

Room 237 review

In 1980, Stanley Kubrick made his masterpiece of modern horror, The Shining. Today, fans are still obsessing over its hidden meanings. That's the tagline for Rodney Ascher's documentary about The Shining, titled Room 237. The fans definitely do obsess over the film, down to the finest detail. What you get is a really entertaining documentary about a film that is bound to frustrate some because of the pure lunacy of some theories, but will intrigue others. Room 237 sucked me in with the hypnotizing score and endlessly fascinating theories that provide a brand new way to look at a frightening horror film.

Room 237 is a documentary about The Shining that is divided into pieces. There is no clear narrative to the film. It is really scattered and all over the place. I will argue that it's ability to flip-flop between theories is a good thing. This synopsis will basically describe a couple of the theories. This movie is not a film that you can spoil. I knew quite a bit about the theories presented in Ascher's film but I was still mesmerized by what was put forth. The most plausible theories are that The Shining is a film about the holocaust, with the number 42 showing up a lot (1942- Hitler put "the final solution" into effect) and a German typewriter. The other plausible theory is that Kubrick faked the moon landing and that The Shining is his confession for faking. All of this is presenting with actually quite a bit of significant evidence. Other theories about a minotaur and Indian genocide, I found less plausible. Room 237 not only presents theories about what The Shining means, but it also digs deep into the film's incongruence and continuity along with its sexual imagery and just a total history of the film.

I honestly don't have a ton of criticisms about the film. Any movie that makes me want to watch it again immediately is good and right after I finished Room 237, I wanted to watch it again (thankfully, I have the rental for 48 hours). It's an endlessly interesting film and you can watch it 500 times and get something different out of it each time. In a lot of ways, it is a autobiography of director Stanley Kubrick and tells of a lot of the reasons he made the films he did. Judging by the 2.5/5 rating on Amazon with a lot of people saying that Room 237 was stupid and that none of the theories made sense. I don't know if it makes me crazy, but it totally convinced me on some of it's theories, especially the moon landing and holocaust. 

Ascher's direction and the way he cuts this film together is phenomenal. For a film that is nothing but people talking over intercut footage, the direction is spectacular. The way that Ascher puts together scenes from films such as Eyes Wide Shut, All the President's Men, 2001: A Space Odyssey and more to tell the story that one of the interviewees might be telling is a truly clever invention. The documentary's pacing is also incredible; thanks to many different things including music, the film moves along at lightning speed. 

The film score for Room 237 is mostly fast paced and intense. But it also includes re-recordings of the original Shining score with a new modern twist. It is absolutely one of the most riveting and terrific film scores ever made and it was mesmerizing. As if Room 237 doesn't suck you in enough, this puts the cherry on top and with this score, you are fully invested in the stories that the interviewees are telling. 

Before I conclude this review, I actually want to review the theories that the film prevents. They do have evidence. Not a ton, but enough to make some of them believable. Let's start with the Minotaur in the maze. This theory makes no sense. The film lost me for a bit here. Apparently, someone decided that due to a Minotaur poster in the background, the film is actually about an evil minotaur or something. I don't know, there's not enough evidence. The genocide of the American Indians is also a bit implausible. The interviewee, Bill Blakemore, claims that due to a Calumet baking soda can in the background, along with pictures of Native Americans, that the film is about the Native American genocide. I felt that there wasn't enough there for that theory to exist. 

The theory that I found plausible was the fake moon landing. There is a ton of evidence to back it up and the storyline fits right with the story that the interviewee presents. The film could very well be about that and the fact that NASA has come after the man who said that puts even more evidence to present that as a plausible theory. I found that throughout the theories that the overarching theme was what the film was about. Coming to terms with the past. Danny can see the past and it's bad but you have to get through that. They address that in the film as well. 

If you like movies, you'll love Room 237. If you like The Shining, you will love Room 237 even more. I will say that I intend to look into this film further and will definitely watch The Shining again. I can say one thing, you won't look at that film the same. All the reviews have said that and they are spot on. 

THE FINAL GRADE:  A-                                            (8.5/10)



APRIL review schedule

Not much confirmed this month so far, but I can give you some rough estimates.

SCARY MOVIE 5- April 13

OBLIVION- April 19


TBA REVIEWS

MUD

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES

42 (definitely a review but waiting for my school to get back to me)

Weekend Predictions: "Evil Dead", "Jurassic Park 3D", "The Croods"

Here's a short post for this weekend's box office.

1. Evil Dead- $35 million

Popular horror franchise gets a reboot AND it has a 63% RT score AND the original filmmaker is producer. People are going to turn out for this one.

2. The Croods- $20 million

No animated films mean that the marketplace is going to be wide open for The Croods to reach $125 million.

3. G.I. Joe: Retaliation- $19 million

Evil Dead might take away some grosses but there is no other PG-13 action film out: this is it. And the A- Cinemascore means it will hold decently.

4. Jurassic Park 3D- $17 million

3D is dying and 3D rereleases are dying. There's why this film won't be a big hit.

5. Olympus Has Fallen- $9 million

R rated action fare will be hurt by the onslaught of G.I. Joe and Evil Dead but still will hold well thanks to fan support.



Thursday, April 4, 2013

Rest In Peace: Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

Today is a sad day of mourning in the film world. Yesterday, world-renowned film critic Roger Ebert posted on his film blog that he would be taking "a leave of presence". What Ebert meant by that statement was that he would still write film reviews for his website but would hand it off to his team of writers led by Richard Roeper, Jim Emerson and Nell Minow. Ebert thanked readers in his posted and ended it with saying: "See you at the movies."

Ebert's trademark phrase would unfortunately be his last published. It is with great sadness that I report that legendary film critic Roger Ebert has died at the age of 70. Ebert had written for the Chicago Sun Times for 46 years and was on television for 31 years. The film critic died of an eleven year battle with thyroid cancer. 
Ebert lost his voice from the battle but had fought it off. After a hip fracture in late 2012, it was discovered that the cancer was back. Ebert had reached a level of fame that very few film critics ever have. Only Gene Siskel, his Chicago Tribune partner has reached the level that Ebert did. Ebert, in addition to writing, was a famed television personality, with At the Movies. He has also written several books including Your Movie Sucks, and The Great Movies I, II, and III. Ebert was a giant of the film world and even hosted his own festival in Illinois called Ebertfest. Roger Ebert's memory is survived by his wife, Chaz, extended family and millions of fans. 

I had just gone out to go grocery shopping. I came back and I saw the news. I was literally shell-shocked. Ebert had been in a fragile state since his voice and jaw was taken away after surgery from his cancer. He had just suffered a hip fracture and I learned that his cancer had returned earlier this week. I knew that Roger Ebert wouldn't be around much longer. But, I had no idea that it would happen this soon. I am saddened beyond words.

Roger Ebert is my inspiration for film criticism. I had always liked reviewing films before this blog was started  but the books and writing of Roger Ebert took my reviews and criticisms to the next level. His book series, The Great Movies, introduced me to a group of films that I now consider my favorites. I would have never expanded my view of films without Roger Ebert. His books influenced me beyond belief. I never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Ebert and I regret not writing to him at this time. I have always loved films but Roger Ebert taught me to love more than just big explosions and go deeper into films. The Movie Guru's Blog was started by me, but my reviews and everything that I do were shaped by the master of film criticism, Roger Ebert.

Summer Box Office Predictions- Part 2

I'm back with part 2 of my Summer Box Office Predictions. We'll be tracking films from World War Z to The Mortal Instruments, our end of summer film. Here we go:

WORLD WAR Z- June 21


Opening Weekend Prediction- $75 million
Total Gross Prediction- $235 million

Zombies are hot. The Walking Dead is the most popular show on television and the genre has seen a massive resurgence in the last few years. World War Z is a zombie film. That gets people interested. But the fact that it's a major blockbuster with Brad Pitt in it is going to drive this film. At my school, interest is high, which makes me think that World War Z is going to be big.

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY- June 21


Opening Weekend Prediction- $90 million
Total Gross Prediction- $350 million

Pixar always makes films that are big money makers. But I have a feeling that the brand recognition of Monsters Inc., plus the fact that the original is beloved, will push Monsters University to be the second highest grossing Pixar film of all time. It looks funny as well. 

THE HEAT- June 28


Opening Weekend Prediction- $50 million
Total Gross Prediction- $180 million

Melissa McCarthy is honestly the biggest comedian in Hollywood. I know that most people don't want to admit that, but when a poorly reviewed comedy like Identity Thief makes $130 million, you know that something drove the film. McCarthy is a sensation and I think that The Heat will be even more popular because of the buddy cop plot and Sandra Bullock. Plus it was moved into the thick of summer by Fox. This year's comedy breakout is The Heat. 

WHITE HOUSE DOWN- June 28


Opening Weekend Prediction- $55 million
Total Gross Prediction- $175 million

There has already been one takeover-the The White House movie this year, but it was rated R. That took away the teen audience that loves that kind of shoot-em up thriller. That is my only slimmer of hope for White House Down but Roland Emmerich's box office track record helps as well. 

THE LONE RANGER- July 3


Opening 5-Day Weekend Prediction- $80 million
Total Gross Prediction- $160 million

My hopes for this film's box office lie solely on the starpower of one man: Johnny Depp. If he's not in this film, it doesn't see the light of day. But I think that due to the fact that Depp is such a big star and that The Lone Ranger is a recognizable property, people will turn out to see it. 

DESPICABLE ME 2- July 3


Opening 5-Day Weekend Prediction- $110 million
Total Gross Prediction- $300 million

Despicable Me is one of the most beloved animated properties of the last few years. And not only was it beloved, it was popular too. I'm excited to go back for more Gru. Look for this to make more than the original.

PACIFIC RIM- July 12


Opening Weekend Prediction- $60 million
Total Gross Prediction- $190 million

Pacific Rim looks like the kind of summer film that can break out. People love to see things explode and this one has the fanboy support more than Transformers did. Hopefully, it can overcome some bad reactions to the first trailer (mostly in my school).

GROWN UPS 2- July 12


Opening Weekend Prediction- $45 million
Total Gross Prediction- $150 million

Ugh, I know. Adam Sandler's shtick has gotten old real fast. But he may have found a franchise here with his men acting like idiots film, Grown Ups. It'll open bigger than the first one but finish with less money is my prediction. Mostly thanks to the competition of the month.

TURBO- July 17


Opening Weekend Prediction- $40 million
Total Gross Prediction- $150 million

Turbo is a film that will have really good legs. That is due to the fact that Despicable Me 2 opens only a few weeks before. But still, it's the absurdist entertainment that we all want in animated films and Turbo seems like it will deliver. It does look good and there are no options until The Smurfs 2, so.

RED 2- July 19


Opening Weekend Prediction- $28 million
Total Gross Prediction- $80 million

The original Red made $90 million. Thanks to the crowded summer schedule, I see Red 2 doing less. It just won't hold up to the massive explosions of Pacific Rim or the supernatural thrills of RIPD. But I think that Red 2 will do just fine.

THE CONJURING- July 19


Opening Weekend Prediction- $35 million
Total Gross Prediction- $80 million

If any film is going to break out this summer, it will be James Wan's new film The Conjuring. A lot will be made of the fact that it was too scary for a PG-13 and Warner Bros. is going to milk that like crazy. But do you remember the last time a film was too scary for a PG-13. It was Don't be Afraid of the Dark. How'd that turn out?

R.I.P.D- July 19


Opening Weekend Prediction- $40 million
Total Gross Prediction- $110 million

I'm hesitant about this one because I think that it might get moved. Three months from the release date and no footage? Not a good sign. But it's still an expensive blockbuster and it's like Men in Black supposedly so I think that some interest will be there.

THE WOLVERINE- July 26


Opening Weekend Prediction- $75 million
Total Gross Prediction- $220 million

The X-Men's most famous character will be a big draw in the late summer. The trailer got modest reception but I think that fans are back on board after the enjoyable debacle that was Origins. This one is a big movie this summer so I think that it will top $200 million.

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE- August 2


Opening Weekend Prediction- $30 million
Total Gross Prediction- $75 million

No Zach Snyder. No Gerald Butler. No $200 million gross. Simple as that.

2 GUNS- August 2


Opening Weekend Prediction- $40 million
Total Gross Prediction- $125 million

Response to the trailer was really good with some drawing comparisons to Lethal Weapon and the star power of the two leads, Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington, I definitely see this topping $100 million.

THE SMURFS 2- August 2


Opening Weekend Prediction- $50 million
Total Gross Prediction- $160 million

Kids eat this stuff up and I think that a sequel to the film that they already know and love is destined to be a hit.

ELYSIUM- August 9


Opening Weekend Prediction- $40 million
Total Gross Prediction- $150 million

In my opinion, Elysium is an early Oscar contender and after what many people consider a masterpiece in District 9, Neil Blomkamp's name will do a lot of good for the grosses of his latest feature.

PLANES- August 9


Opening Weekend Prediction- $26 million
Total Gross Prediction- $70 million

The crossover appeal to Pixar's Cars is what will make this film a hit and I think that family audiences will go for this. But it's already a crowded summer.

KICK- ASS 2- August 16


Opening Weekend Prediction- $25 million
Total Gross- $55 million

The first film wasn't exactly a blockbuster but with the added star power of Jim Carrey, maybe this film will break out. But Burt Wonderstone didn't, so I don't really know.

PERCY JACKSON: THE SEA OF MONSTERS- August 16


Opening Weekend Prediction- $20 million
Total Gross Prediction- $60 million

Another sequel that not a single person wants. The first one was rejected by fans and I don't see Sea of Monsters doing anything better than The Lightning Thief.

THE WORLD'S END- August 23


Opening Weekend Prediction- $10 million
Total Gross Prediction- $40 million

Wright's box office track record is awful and I don't see The World's End breaking out. It's a more niche comedy and I think that it will still succeed despite not making a ton of money.

THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES- August 23


Opening Weekend Prediction- $30 million
Total Gross Prediction- $90 million

Another toss-up. The young adult genre has been flip-flopping lately and The Mortal Instruments is the latest film in a long chain of YA movies. The book is better know so I think that it will do better than any other YA films released this year. Besides Hunger Games. No film is going to do better than that.

That's it for my summer box office predictions. See you later for the fall predictions. 

Searching for Sugar Man review

I watched this film a long time ago, so if I forget something, don't get mad at me. But I wanted to write a review of the Oscar-winning documentary because it's so beloved by film audiences (the DVD box flaunts a 100% audience approval rating. I had a different opinion. I enjoyed the music and the story, but it all felt like a bunch of loose ends that didn't tie together. There are stretches where the film is really good but honestly, if you already were told the story of Searching for Sugar Man because they loved it, then you don't need to see the movie.

Searching for Sugar Man is a documentary about a long-lost Detroit musician named Sixto Rodriguez. He produced a few albums in the early 1970's, with the most famous being Cold Fact, and then disappeared off the map. The albums didn't sell. Somehow, the albums found their way to South Africa and become sensations. Searching for Sugar Man chronicles the search of two South African fans to find Rodriguez and bring him back to the country. The documentary is set in the 1990's.

It is a good story. There are lots of awesome facts in the film and it's a feel good story about a lost musician. The soundtrack is also off the hook. I had never heard of this guy before watching this film and after seeing it, I wanted to buy his music. It's a really good soundtrack for those of you who like classic rock and folk music  like me. The songs "Sugar Man" and "I Wonder" are great tracks and his two biggest albums, Cold Fact and Coming from Reality should be in everyone's iTunes collection.

My problem was the execution of the film. It tries to do way too many things at once. They bounce back and forth between different people who know Rodriguez and there are a lot of elements to this bizarre story that aren't fleshed out enough. There's a subplot about Rodriguez not getting the money he deserved due to corporate greed. There is one interview with a Motown executive. Nothing else. The film's length is nice and compact, but it prevents you from looking at this story deeper and finding more interesting facts about Sixto Rodriguez.

I guess my main problem, which isn't a discredit to the film, was that I knew the story. I had heard from many sources, the tale of Sixto Rodriguez and while watching the film, wasn't amazed by any of the crazy facts that they threw at me. I just was bored the entire time.

I think that people who don't know much about this story should watch this film. Because it is a really cool story. Music fans will love it too because of how great Rodriguez's music is. It's a hidden gem. And historians might like it because it tells of how he impacted apartheid. But if you know this story, there is no need to watch this movie. You'll just be bored.

THE FINAL GRADE:  C                                             (5.6/10)




Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Croods review

Behind Pixar, Dreamworks animation has the best track record when it comes to film quality. These are the people that brought us Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Madagascar and How to Train Your Dragon. But they have also brought us stinkers like Puss in Boots, Madagascar 2 and the last two Shrek films. It's a mixed bag at some point. Out of all of Dreamworks films that I have seen, their latest effort, the prehistoric comedy The Croods is the weirdest. Not in terms of content, but in terms of execution. It's split right in half in terms of quality, with the first half being a mess and the second half being utterly terrific. It's got a lot of good things going on in the second half and if this film is 100% like its second half, it's an instant classic.

The Croods tells the story of a prehistoric family called the Croods. They are comprised of Eep (Emma Stone), Ugga (Catharine Keener), Thunk (Chris Duke), Gran (Cloris Leachman), Sandy (Randy Thom) and their patriarch Grug (Nicolas Cage). Grug is afraid of the world and thinks that the only safe place is the family cave. His rebellious daughter Eep wants to go out and explore the world and try new things, but Grug is strongly against exploration. One night, Eep goes out and follows a light. Then she meets Guy (Ryan Reynolds). He tells her that the world is ending and that they must get to the mountain for survival. The Croods then becomes less exposition heavy and more heartwarming and fun. In my opinion.

The first half of the film is an absolute mess. It's boring, exposition-heavy and just an absolute slog to get through. The best animated movies are the ones that create a world, put good characters in and are clever in their humor. The Croods does two of those things: one throughout the whole movie and one in the second half. But it's pretty odd in terms of creating a fully functional animated world for it's characters and humor to inhabit. It tries to make it seem like a prehistoric comedy and it has some truth to it, but it caters to the ADD generation way too much and sacrifices any sort of accuracy for bright and flashy colors. This is a nitpick but it's noticeable. The characters run around like cheetahs and there are green monkeys, so I figured that I would point it out.

I don't really have many complaints that I can point out besides the sheer and utter stupidity that is the first half of The Croods. There's too much physical humor in a film that wants to be somewhat serious and it's pretty dumb. I was really bored. Halfway through, The Croods wakes up and becomes a Pixar-esque heartwarming family comedy. It just couldn't get the fire started fast enough.

Once The Croods gets going, it really gets going. The second half is the culmination of all the ideas and humor that didn't pan out in the first half of the film. It becomes funny. There are better jokes in the second half. It becomes a very heartwarming animated adventure. The relationship between Grug and Eep becomes fully fleshed out and very enjoyable to watch. It also becomes a commentary on Grug's inability to "evolve" and learn to accept new ideas and become a better person. The second half is just a better movie. It's very entertaining.

The voice cast is good. I don't really judge voice casts because it's a different kind of acting but there were a few actors that I felt were worth mentioning. Emma Stone and Nicolas Cage are really good as Grug and Eep. I don't know why, but they just bring their characters to life.

My only other problem with The Croods is that it caters to all the latest animation stereotypes that have been brought on in the last few years. It's got bright, beautiful colors and a little creature that makes noises like in Despicable Me. It's not a problem, but I think that one of the main problems with the first half of The Croods is that it tries to make a film out of its wonderful animation. Not gonna fly.

The Croods is 1/2 a D movie and one half a B+ movie. I think that the first half is unfortunately necessary to get us introduced to the characters (the execution could certainly be better), but in the end it pays off and I hope that they make a sequel. If you're a parent with kids, you'll find redeeming qualities in the second half of The Croods. It's beautifully animated and it's got a deep enough message. You don't see too many animated films like that.

THE FINAL GRADE:  C                                                (6/10)




APRIL FOOL'S: Justice League Posts were jokes

In case you didn't know, I just wanted to make sure before you went and told all your friends: my Justice League posts yesterday were fake, April Fool's Jokes. Yeah. I'm hoping for more news on Justice League in the future however.


Monday, April 1, 2013

BREAKING NEWS: Reaction from Christopher Nolan, Zach Snyder, Joss Whedon, and Kevin Feige.

I told you earlier today that there would be reaction later from several stars about the breaking Justice League news. Now, I have the quotes from several people in my hand right now.

Christopher Nolan- "Well, today it's official. I'm very excited to work with our talented cast, my brother Johnathan and Zach, who I've worked with on Man of Steel. Our goal is to give you the best superhero movie of all time and I think that where we're going with this, it will be."

Zach Snyder's Tweet- "Super Excited to work with Chris, John and our cast. #JusticeLeague2015"

Jospeh Gordon-Levitt- "The speculation can be put to rest. I am Batman. Really excited to work with Chris and Zach and Henry and Adrianne along with Gary and Michael. Looking forward to working and seeing who else fills out this talented cast."

Kevin Feige- "Don't worry, Marvelites, we've got something coming. But, my props are with DC and Warner Bros. and the job they've done assembling this team. Congrats to everyone involved, hoping for the best."

Joss Whedon's Tweet- "What am I going to do!!!!!! #JusticeLeague2015"

JJ Abrams's Tweet- "Summer 2015 is going to be epic. #StarWars7. #Avengers2. #JusticeLeague2015. WOW."


BREAKING NEWS: Warner Bros. confirms Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Batman in Justice League, sets June 12, 2015 release date, Nolan to write script, Snyder to direct

In what is quite possibly the biggest news of the year, Joseph Gordon- Levitt has officially joined Justice League as Batman. If you remember, Gordon-Levitt's character John Blake is revealed to have the name of Robin at the end of The Dark Knight Rises. And after months of speculation about whether or not Gordon-Levitt would return for the Justice League film, today it has been confirmed by Warner Bros. pictures. Here is an official statement from Warner Bros.:

"Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures are proud to formally announce our latest collaboration with DC Comics, JUSTICE LEAGUE. The film will bring back several legendary superheros such as Superman, Batman and Green Lantern and introduce many others including the Flash, Lobo, and Wonder Woman....

"JUSTICE LEAGUE will bring together those legendary superheros when a threat against mankind is made by two supervillains bent on total world domination. Together, the hero's must fight and become the might JUSTICE LEAGUE to save the world and stop the villains that are trying to destroy it...."

"JUSTICE LEAGUE will be directed by Zach Snyder (300, Man of Steel). We are very happy with Zach's work on Man of Steel and are ecstatic to see what he will do with this world-renowned property. We are also proud to say that the screenplay for JUSTICE LEAGUE will be written by the duo of Christopher and Johnathan Nolan (Inception, The Dark Knight Trilogy). The team has begun drafting the script and it will be ready to shoot in Spring 2014. JUSTICE LEAGUE will star HENRY CAVILL as Superman, JOSEPH GORDON-LEVITT as Batman, ADRIANNE PALICKI as Wonder Woman, DWAYNE JOHNSON as Lobo, GARY OLDMAN as Jim Gordon, and MICHAEL SHANNON as Zod. Our wonderful team of casting directors are hard at work on filling out the rest of the cast. JUSTICE LEAGUE will be released on June 12, 2015."

WOW. That's all I have to say. This movie could end up being the greatest superhero movie ever. The Nolan brothers are just an epic duo and Snyder is a wonderful director. Look for more on this breaking news including reactions later.


"G.I. Joe: Retaliation" opens big, "Temptation" draws audiences, "The Host" flops

This Easter weekend drew big crowds as the summer blockbuster season kicked off (sort of) with Paramount's G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Read my review here. The film was long delayed by Paramount but the general consensus is that it paid off in the end. Retaliation was originally slated to open in June 2012 before Paramount and MGM delayed the film 9 months to March 28, 2013. The film was pretty lucky. That weekend was the weekend that Ted opened to $54 million, Magic Mike opened to $39 million and Madea's Witness Protection opened to $25 million. In addition, three days later, Sony's The Amazing Spider-Man opened and grossed $137 million in its first six days. Odds are, G.I. Joe: Retaliation would have been lost in the fray. So Paramount moved it back and this weekend, over four days, it opened to $51.7 million which is about $10 million less than the first film in the franchise's four day total. Still, $51.7 million was an impressive enough opening for Paramount that it has greenlit G.I. Joe 3. Retaliation received an A- Cinemascore and with little action fare for teens and tweens until Oblivion and Iron Man 3, look for G.I. Joe to keep going and make around $150 million. In second place this weekend was The Croods. Dreamworks animated comedy didn't hold as well as expected but still only dropped 39% to $26.5 million. The Croods has now grossed $88.6 million and should cross the $100 million mark before next weekend.

The other release that clicked with audiences this weekend was Tyler Perry's Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor. Temptation grossed a nice $22.3 million and despite poor reviews, it still hit with Perry's audience. In fourth place, despite direct competition from G.I. Joe: Retaliation, Olympus Has Fallen only dropped 54% to $14 million. Olympus has grossed close to $55 million so far. Oz, The Great and Powerful finished in fifth place this weekend with a nice $11.6 million. It's held pretty well and grossed a total of $198 million through its 24 days in theaters. It could hit $200 million today.

Over the last few months, the young adult genre has taken a significant hit with Warm Bodies only performing decently and Beautiful Creatures flopping on its face. Well, we can now add The Host to that list. The Stephanie Meyer sci-fi drama grossed a meager $11 million which means that nobody cared. Reviews have been awful and audience support is also weak with a B- Cinemascore. A lot of sources are saying that Hollywood is reconsidering the young adult genre. Next up is The Mortal Instruments. It's got a better chance of succeeding than the rest but it still could flop. Cross your fingers, Screen Gems. TriStar's The Call continued its impressive run with a $4.8 million weekend. The film has grossed $39 million thus far and could actually hit $50 million on an $13 million budget. On the other hand, Tina Fey comedy Admission finished in 8th place with a $3.25 million weekend for a total of $11.7 million. There's a bona fide flop for you. Spring Breakers continued to have a decent run with $2.75 million. It's director Harmony Korine's highest grossing film ever, but not a hit. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone fell 70% this weekend to a $1.3 million total. The comedy has grossed $20 million so far. Dreadful.

Next weekend comes the release of Evil Dead and Jurassic Park 3D with limited releases for Trance and The Company You Keep. Here are my early predictions for the top ten.

1. Evil Dead- $31 million
2. G.I. Joe: Retaliation- $22 million
3. Jurassic Park 3D- $20 million
4. The Croods- $18.5 million
5. Tyler Perry's Temptation- $10 million
6. Olympus Has Fallen- $8 million
7. Oz, The Great and Powerful- $7 million
8. The Host- $4.5 million
9. The Call- $2.1 million
10. Spring Breakers- $1.6 million