Monday, May 27, 2013

Fast and Furious 6 review

Who would have thought. After twelve years and two presidents, we've come to a point where The Fast and The Furious franchise is opening over $100 million AND producing a great action movie while they're at it. During a summer where thrills have been hard to come by and the action blockbusters have felt rather safe, Fast and Furious 6 is a burst of high-octane adrenaline. It's got some of the greatest action scenes ever done and the action is so out of control that it IS thrilling, which has become hard to find in action films. If Louis Letterier's Now You See Me was the first smart, exciting actioner of the season, then Fast and Furious 6 is the first awesome, thrilling, jaw-dropping film of the year. It's a bit messy in spots, but it delivers exactly what you want and a bit more.

Fast and Furious 6 reconciles us with the gang that we've come to know and love. Special Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) is tracking a race crew across the world and their next job is going to be a big one. To stop the crew led by Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), Hobbs must find Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Brian O'Connor (Paul Walker) to get their gang together and help stop Shaw. Hobbs' offer: full pardons and the chance to find Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Dom's ex-girl who was presumed dead but is now working for Shaw. Car and tank related mayhem ensue. 

I think that I should get something out of the way first: I'm not a devoted fan of the Fast franchise. I've seen Fast Five (thought it was good, but overrated) but I haven't seen the rest of the franchise. So when I say that Fast and Furious 6 is the best action movie of the year and the best since Skyfall, you know I mean it. I'll be watching this movie for years. There is just so much to like about it. If you've been hearing from people that this movie is a check-your-brain-at-the-door film, don't listen. It's got a plot, the motive of Shaw is a bit shaky and the reasons for everything that the characters do get messy but I'll be darned if this movie isn't the most entertaining and thrilling film this year. My problem with the action in Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness is that it never feels very crazy. It's big and colorful and done with beautiful special effects but it's never so crazy that you think that any of the characters could die. Fast and Furious 6 solves that problem. 

The acting is not something that you're seeing this movie for but I'll point it out anyways. Diesel, Walker and Johnson have essentially become their characters in some shape or form and are pretty good at it now. Michelle Rodriguez brings some emotional depth to Letty in a way that I didn't see in any characters in Fast Five. Luke Evans is villainous, Jordana Brewster is under-used, Gina Carano is a nice addition, and Gal Gadot and Sung Kang are good in their roles. The standouts for me were Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris as Roman and Tej. This was a very smart move by screenwriter Chris Morgan. He got rid of the annoying, useless Tego and Rico and gave more screentime to Roman and Tej. They're truly hilarious and help Fast and Furious 6 reach that amazing tone that makes it one part Skyfall, one part Dark Knight and one part Avengers. It's a nice balance and it really helped the film. 

The story was the only place where the movie slipped up a bit was in the story. I'm getting a little sick of these villains that have absolutely no motive besides creating chaos. Just because it worked in The Dark Knight doesn't mean it has to work in every single movie. Owen Shaw's main goal is to create chaos and it makes him a forgettable villain. But, it might actually work to the film's advantage, because it makes him simple and easy villain. While Khan did have a motive in Star Trek Into Darkness, he was majorly underwritten, and it made him confusing. Shaw is plain and simple, a bad guy. 

There were also a couple of times in the story when I was confused as to why certain characters were doing what. Like, Brian goes back to Los Angeles to get information from a drug dealer (John Ortiz) about Shaw and ends up getting something different. It's crazy. However, when you think about the movie afterwards, every development in the plot makes sense. Partially thanks to a late twist, partially thanks to extra time to go over everything, it all will make sense. 

One thing that I thought was missing from Fast Five was any emotional depth. Even if they tried, it fell flat. However, the whole Letty subplot made this movie have some extra depth emotionally and I thought that those scenes were quite good. 

Now for the reason that you're going to this movie: action. It's pretty freaking awesome. All the sequences are insane and defy the laws of gravity completely, but I didn't care: it just made me laugh and clap (there was clapping during my showing, a true crowd-pleaser). The action is well-executed and well-placed. The one thing about Star Trek Into Darkness that I didn't like was how the climax was essentially an hour and the biggest action sequence was in the first ten minutes. Fast and Furious 6 has a steady stream of action throughout but it's well-placed so that it never seems like too much or too little. Plus the last forty minutes are pure awesomeness. Those are the most entertaining forty minutes I've had in a theater in a while. 

So, if you haven't already, take a trip out to see Fast and Furious 6. It's pretty awesome. I got out of the movie and I really felt that summer had come alive. Fast and Furious 6 is a pure blockbuster showcase and one that you will enjoy every minute of. It's got epic action, well-executed humor and it's a lot of fun. Read on after the grade rating for a dissertation on the after credits scene and some SPOILERS. 

THE FINAL GRADE:  A-                                           (8.6/10)

So about that ending. Apparently, Jason Statham is Shaw's brother and is now out for revenge. I have to say, my theater that was about 1/4 full, was buzzing with excitement. Fast and Furious 7 or whatever they call it is going to be awesome. But with two deaths in the last ten minutes (Gisele and Han), I'm wondering who's going to fill those spots in the crew. 

Post Note: I keep comparing this movie to G.I. Joe: Retaliation for some reason (I think the ridiculousness and Dwayne Johnson) in my mind. I will say that this is a much better movie than Retaliation. I realized that the movie IS much better. It's a more exciting, more complete film and while Retaliation delivered big action, it is bankrupt on thrills. Plus, the characters are fleshed out and the action is bigger and better. Everything about it is better and more memorable. 

"Fast and Furious 6" zooms to first, "Hangover Part III" disappoints, "Epic" suprises at long weekend box office

After a disappointing start to the year that left several big budget blockbusters with bad starts, it's safe to say that people were just holding out for the summer months. Iron Man 3, The Great Gatsby and Star Trek Into Darkness got the summer off to a great start but it truly exploded this weekend with three proven blockbusters and three newcomers. The box office was "Fast and Furious". The sixth installment in the car racing/heist/war franchise grossed a blockbuster $120 million over the long weekend, which is a franchise best. The film also received an A Cinemascore and with a relatively quiet couple of weeks until Man of Steel, it's safe to say that Fast and Furious 6 has a good chance at crossing $300 million in the US. If you're heading out to a movie tonight with family or friends, I would go see Fast and Furious 6 in a heartbeat. I'll have my review done later but I think that it's better than Fast Five and a heck of an action movie. Best of the summer so far.

In second place was Warner Bros. The Hangover Part III. The sequel disappointed big time at the box office with a $51.2 million long weekend. That's far below expectations but I can't really feel bad for the film. It got a 21% approval on Rotten Tomatoes, a disappointing B Cinemascore AND Warner Bros decided to open it against a big time blockbuster when there were a few weekends where it could do better. The film has grossed $63 million for five days. A finish around $140 million sounds plausible.

Third place belonged to Paramount's Star Trek Into Darkness. The decent space epic grossed a big $47 million to add to its now $155.8 million total. The blockbuster could finish with around $220 million if all goes well. Epic overperformed this weekend in fourth place with $42.6 million and an A Cinemascore. With no animated competition until Monsters University, look for this one to be around for a while.

Iron Man 3 continued its impressive run in fifth this weekend with another $24.3 million. The biggest film of the year so far has grossed $372.4 million in the US and is now the fifth highest grossing film worldwide. The Great Gatsby also continued to rake in cash with a $17 million holiday weekend.

And to round out the last four positions, we had Mud in seventh with $2.4 million for a $15 million total, The Croods in eighth with $1.6 million for a $179 million total, 42 in ninth with $1.6 million for a $91 million total and Oblivion with $1.1 million for an $87 million total.

Next weekend sees the release of After Earth and Now You See Me. Here are my early predictions.

1. Fast and Furious 6- $56 million
2. After Earth- $37 million
3. Now You See Me- $26 million
4. Epic- $23 million
5. The Hangover Part III- $21 million
6. Star Trek Into Darkness- $19 million
7. Iron Man 3- $12 million
8. The Great Gatsby- $8 million
9. Mud- $2 million
10. The Croods- $800,000

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Now You See Me review

While I can't say that this summer has been a total bust, I can't say that I've found much fresh content in the films that have been offered. I liked Iron Man 3 quite a bit and also enjoyed Star Trek Into Darkness, but I didn't like The Great Gatsby at all. So when I saw Now You See Me at a preview screening last night, I breathed a big sigh of relief. The summer has saved itself. Now You See Me is a well-executed, tense, thrilling, funny, twisty movie. It's everything I wanted from it. In addition, it's the rare movie that gets better as it goes along and doesn't drop off at the end. In addition, there are so many twists and turns that it keeps the plot fresh and inventive including one final twist that is the best since "Wait, Bruce Willis is dead!". It had my saying "WHAT!!!!" out loud. The movie just kept getting better. Now You See Me is a great summer movie.

I can't say much about the plot without spoiling but I will say that the plot revolves around a team of magicians named The Four Horseman (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco) who catch the attention of the FBI by pulling off an amazing bank robbery at one of their magic shows. The FBI assigns special agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Interpol shows up with an agent of their own (Melanie Laurent). They track the case as they follow the Horseman as they pull off more robberies while receiving the advice of magic guru Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman).

That may seem like a simple plot that has been done over and over but with the talent of the spectacular cast, Now You See Me feels fresh and exciting throughout. The script by Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin and Edward Ricourt keeps the right mixture of humor, action and suspense throughout. And they make it feel like it's a high-stakes film. I was always engaged because it was suspenseful and you weren't always sure what's going on. Virtually the only knock I had on this film was the fact that the screenplay gets a bit messy at times. It reaches for the Inception level of explaining a complex plot perfectly but it ends up a bit rushed. That is a huge nitpick though and I think that you get so wrapped up in the plot of this movie that any holes are easy to overlook.

Let's talk about the cast. They're fantastic. I can't point out one performance because this was really an ensemble performance. The Horseman have a great chemistry together and Woody Harrelson has some pretty hilarious bits in his role. Ruffalo and Laurent also have some nice chemistry on screen and their relationship feels pretty real throughout. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are, well, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman. Although the performances are great, they do feel like its just the actors doing what they do in all films at times.

However, despite all my quibbles and the scorching heat of my jam-packed advance screening, along with a cold I'm fighting off, I enjoyed the heck out of this film. It's right in my wheelhouse. A high-stakes, action-packed, witty caper. I love these types of movies and Now You See Me is incredibly smart, which makes it a cut above the rest.

The best thing about this film is how it consistently gets better as you watch it. I typically grade films in my head as I go along and this movie started at a B. Then it went up to a B+. Then it went up to an A- and stayed there. The pacing just got faster, the stakes got higher, and the twists got twistier. Now You See Me sends you on a wonderful thrill ride that doesn't quit until the end. I checked my watch a couple times out of habit and I was shocked to see how fast the film was moving. It moves at a rollicking pace and has quite the fun.

My biggest concern was how it was going to end. And while I won't spoil anything, I'll say that it ends in perfect fashion. They wrap up some of the loose ends while leaving the rest to the imagination. In a lesser film, that would have bothered me. But in a film that has so much action packed, high stakes entertainment as Now You See Me, it was a good thing.

So, despite a few nitpicks and some slow scenes, Now You See Me is an entertaining thrill ride from start to finish. I really think that this film will be a hit once people see it. It's immensely entertaining and from the first scenes introducing the magicians to the final twist, this film is great. I truly recommend that you go see it. I guess there is hope for Summer 2013 after all. Now You See Me opens May 31. See it opening day and AVOID SPOILERS.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A-                                             (8/10)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness review

Star Trek of 2009 is an absolute masterpiece of the sci-fi genre. It's one of the best films of the previous decade and a heck of a rollicking thrill ride. I'm getting excited just talking about it. JJ Abrams brought the Star Trek series back to life and gave it a spectacular, witty, action-packed homecoming. I've watched it twice in the past week and I can confirm that it is a great film. Four years later. We're now seeing the release of Star Trek Into Darkness, the highly anticipated sequel to the original Trek. And while Into Darkness fell just a bit short of my sky-high expectations, it's still a fun thrill ride that delivers despite a horrendous 3D post-conversion.

Star Trek Into Darkness was bound to succeed. The characters are just so great and what the actors do with them is even better. This installment follows the adventures of the starship Enterprise as it explores new worlds. However, after breaking Starfleet protocol, Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) finds himself in a tricky situation. But darkness is coming in the form of John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a terrorist who happens to be a high-ranking member of Starfleet. After an attack on the high-ranking officials of the Federation, Kirk and his first officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) find themselves on a manhunt for the terrorist responsible for the attacks.

I want to get something out of the way. I knew the true identity of the villain before I even saw the movie. And it didn't impact my viewing experience one bit. The villain of the film is Khan Noonien Singh. Anyone who really cared about that already saw the movie. It is revealed less than an hour into the film and isn't a spoiler in the slightest.

Star Trek Into Darkness succeeds almost solely on the fact that it has great actors playing great characters with a great script to work with (in terms of dialogue). In addition, this movie has some really spectacular moments, along with great special effects and some great action sequences that could have been greater. But it will always come back to the characters and I can't help but think that these actors will be playing these characters for a long time. There are great moments for every character, and they always come to save the day. During the muddy, plot-heavy second act, I started to have doubts about the quality of the film. And it's far from perfect. But all the great character moments that come from Sulu (John Cho) or Checkov (Anton Yelchin) or even Khan himself put away any problems that I had about the movie.

Once again, Abrams and his screenwriters (Kurtsman, Orci and Lindelof) create a terrific balancing act focusing on three or four characters primarily and giving the rest of the supporting cast a good amount of time on screen to shine. In 2009's Star Trek, Abrams gave more screen time to Bones to develop his character. This time it's Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg) with an increased role. However, the rest of the cast isn't overshadowed and nobody feels wasted.

The performances are all great. They come through perfectly and during a more tender, sad moment in the film, I actually felt something because of what these actors have done. The standout for me is Zachary Quinto as Spock. He really is that character and he is given a lot of room to shine while his character progresses in the film. Karl Urban doesn't have as much to do as Bones, but he gives a good performance. And while Cumberbatch is a good villain, his backstory and motives are too messy for him to be truly great.

The visual palette is great again. This film has a darker, more visceral style than the glossy first installment but it works for the mood that the film is trying to go for. There are also some great action sequences. My personal favorites both involve Khan. The first one he's fighting a group of Klingons and the second one, he's flying through space with Kirk. I have to say though, this may be the last straw when it comes to me watching every single trailer for a movie. Every spectacular action scene is showcased in the film and I was disappointed by that, because I wasn't exactly thrilled.

While Star Trek Into Darkness is even better than the original when it comes to character development and witty dialogue, it can't hold a finger to its predecessor in the story department. It's a messy story that should be straight forward and it has a messy villain that should be much better. There is a long setpiece in the middle of the film with two dueling spacecrafts. Most of the time they are not fighting, but that sequence just goes on and on and on until the end of the film. While the first half of the film jumps around from planet to planet, the second half is rather stationary. Not a compliment (however that half is pretty entertaining and contains some great character moments).

Also, it takes too many unnecessary twist and turns. The plot of this film could have been really straight-forward but Abrams made it more complicated by adding a second baddie and a long and complicated section in the middle that is too messy and plot-heavy at times to be enjoyable. It also feels like a very long movie, but it's not.

Khan is an interesting villain because he is played with such frightening focus by Benedict Cumberbatch but is ultimately empty. I reference this earlier in my review and I truly think that Abrams could have created a truly despicable villain but instead you're not sure if he's a good guy or bad guy at times. I think that Abrams wanted to make him a multi-dimensional villain, but it doesn't quite work. Also, skip the 3D. I just found it distracting in a rather entertaining film.

Despite having a ton of problems, Star Trek Into Darkness is a very entertaining film nonetheless, but it doesn't live up to its predecessor. Something about that film is just magical and there was almost no way that Abrams could repeat it. Star Trek Into Darkness is a lesser Abrams film, but it still works its popcorn blockbuster charm and brings the goods in terms of fast-paced, character-driven action cinema.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B                                            (7.4/10)

"Star Trek Into Darkness" under-performs, "Iron Man 3", "Gatsby" stay strong

After two weeks of box office over-performances, there was bound to be a film that didn't quite live up to its heavy box office expectations. That film is Star Trek Into Darkness. While the 3D sequel had big, blockbuster grosses, it didn't have the four-day $100 million start that most box office prognosticators were expecting. That said, the $84 million that Star Trek Into Darkness grossed is definitely a solid start. The film also received an A Cinemascore, which indicates that the four-day Memorial day weekend could be huge for the sequel. I have seen the film, and in all likelihood, I'll have a review today. Over the three-day weekend, Star Trek Into Darkness grossed $70.55 million, which doesn't match up to its 2009 predecessor.

In second place was Marvel's Iron Man 3, which had a somewhat steep drop, but considering the competition, didn't. It grossed another $35 million this weekend, which raises its total to $337 million. The actioner crossed $1 billion worldwide this week and is now the ninth highest grossing film of all time. The Great Gatsby built on its buzzy opening in third place with a $23.4 million weekend. That's a 53% drop, which is better than other recent female-driven films.

After third place, the box office is practically deserted. Pain and Gain finished in fourth with a $3.1 million weekend, raising its total to $46 million. The Paramount actioner should finish with around $55 million when all is said and done. The Croods had its last, $2.75 million hurrah this weekend, with Epic next weekend. The film has now grossed $176.7 million and will likely finish with $185 million by the end of its run. 42 wasn't far behind in sixth place with $2.73 million. The baseball drama has crawled its way to $88 million and will not likely reach $100 million.

Universal's Oblivion had another huge drop this weekend with $2.2 million in grosses. The sci-fi actioner has been shut out over the last few weeks with a lot of new action in the sci-fi marketplace. The indie smash hit Mud wasn't far behind in eighth place with $2.16 million. The drama has grossed $11.5 million so far. And to round out the top ten, Peeples made $2.15 million to raise its total to $7.8 million. Wow. And The Big Wedding finished in tenth place with another $1.1 million. The romantic comedy has now grossed $20 million so far.

Next weekend is going to be the biggest Memorial day weekend ever. I can practically guarantee it. It'll be interesting to see what happens though, with so many big films in the marketplace. Here are my predix for the four-day weekend:

1. Fast and Furious 6- $110 million
2. The Hangover Part III- $74 million
3. Epic- $65 million
4. Star Trek Into Darkness- $50 million
5. Iron Man 3- $22 million
6. The Great Gatsby- $15 million
7. Pain & Gain- $1.4 million
8. The Croods- $1.3 million
9. 42- $1.2 million
10. Oblivion- $1 million

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Great Gatsby review

Many times over the course of movie history have directors attempted to adapt F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Many times they have failed. The 1926 version is lost, the 1949 version is rarely seen and the 1974 version starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow is critically reviled. Enter Baz Luhrmann, the glamorous director of Romeo+Juliet and Moulin Rouge! Can he make Gatsby a tragic love story with relevance in the 21st century. While Luhrmann's version of The Great Gatsby does have its moments, it ends up being a rather boring romance drama with little or no tension, passion or drama. Add that to an ADHD, breakneck pace that skips over important details to get to the next glitzy scene and you've got a film that captures the era of the film, but not the story that it's trying to tell.

The Great Gatsby tells the story of Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), a man who comes to Long Island to be a stockbroker. Carraway is instantly thrust into the world of Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), a mysterious millionaire who throws ridiculous, drunken parties in his backyard. Soon, Carraway uncovers a secret world that involves adultery, murder, gambling, bootlegging and illegal activity that is all centered around his cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan). The cast also includes Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan and Isla Fisher and Jason Clarke as Myrtle and George Wilson.

The first part of The Great Gatsby is very well done. It's very entertaining with glitter-filled parties, good acting by Maguire and Mulligan, and is a good start to the movie. However, if you look back at the very entertaining first half hour of the film, you'll see that it sets the film up for disaster. The whole film moves quickly, shuffling from one scene to the next without a second to talk it all in. The first half hour sets that up and while it's a blessing during that section of the film, it's a curse when the secrets are finally uncovered in the second half of the film.

The worst part about Luhrmann's style is how overwhelming it is and how it often overwhelms everything else in the film. When a romance is filled with lavish sets and extreme costumes, it often overshadows the intricacies of the acting and the plot. That's the exact problem in The Great Gatsby. Luhrmann's style is so distinct that it distracts from the rest of the film which is not a good thing. There are good performances in Gatsby, I know there are. Joel Edgeton is good, Tobey Maguire is good and for the first half of the film, Gatsby is like a mythical persona, and DiCaprio is good in the role. However, none of them stand out. The lackluster script doesn't help either.

Old sport. That line is used in the film numerous times. Now, I've never read the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, so I have no idea if the usage is accurate. But, my gosh, is it annoying. There's barely a line that Gatsby utters that is not accompanied by old sport. DiCaprio does his best, but at times the script is just too terrible to save it.

But beyond all the script issues, and Luhrmann's overwhelming style, lies a greater problem. A problem that I have no idea if Luhrmann or the filmmakers could have fixed. It's boring. From the first, ridiculous scene with Gatsby and Daisy to the over-dramatized climax, The Great Gatsby is a boring movie. It's well acted and has some nice touches added to it, making it accessible to younger audiences (mostly teen girls). But even with all the glitzy ridiculousness, Gatsby is boring. The first half is fine but the second half is a soap opera of tedium. I was trying to like this movie that I had been so anticipating. But I couldn't. I hate to use boredom as an excuse for not liking a movie, but in this case, I had to.

Luhrmann is going to make a great movie someday. He's got a great visual eye and his mixture of pop music and old themes is fantastic and a lot of fun to watch. He is going to make a masterpiece and I think that the success of this film is going to open doors for more Luhrmann. I really wanted to enjoy Gatsby but the romance angle was thinly overdone and too much of the film. All I can look at Gatsby as is a disappointment. With the actors of this caliber and the visuals, I expected more. But it would take a great screenwriter to adapt Gatsby into a compelling, dramatic film.

THE FINAL GRADE:  C                                             (5.5/10)

"Iron Man 3" wins weekend, but "Gatsby" a close second

The summer battle has begun. I have a feeling that this weekend is going to be a foreshadow for the entire summer. Here we are with two massive, glitzy blockbusters: Iron Man 3 and The Great Gatsby. They are both box office juggernauts. But don't forget a smaller film, Peeples, a Tyler Perry romantic comedy. It wants to make money too. Unfortunately, the other two films will shut out any possibility of that film making money.

Iron Man 3, Marvel's latest flick, dropped 58% this weekend for a $72.4 million weekend. The blockbuster's drop was steep, but honestly, expected. The big story is how fast Iron Man 3 is approaching $1 billion. The film has grossed $949 million worldwide with $284 million coming from the US. In the next week, Iron Man 3 will hit $1 billion. However, the film will face stiff competition next week in the US with the release of Star Trek Into Darkness. It will be interesting to see how far it falls.

Despite Iron Man 3's win, the bigger story was the massive opening for Warner Bros. romantic drama The Great Gatsby. The film tapped right in as glittery counter-programming for the rest of the summer blockbusters, grossing $51.1 million in its opening weekend. I did see the film and my review will be released today. To give you a taste, I will say that my sky-high expectations were not met. The film received a B Cinemascore, which is extremely weak and could mean that the film plummets next weekend. However, I don't think that there is something for Gatsby's female audience next weekend.

The rest of the field was extremely weak this weekend. In third place was Paramount's Pain & Gain, which grossed a solid $5 million this weekend. Paramount's poorly reviewed comedy has grossed $41 million so far, which is a paltry amount. The bigger story was the fourth place finish of Tyler Perry-produced Peeples. The film was practically forgotten, grossing only $4.8 million, in fourth place. Most predictions had this film around $15 million. Wow. What a flop.

In fifth place was Warner Bros. other hit this year, 42. I still haven't seen the film and actually don't think that I will. It grossed $4.65 million this weekend and has now made $84 million. It should close in on $100 million if it keeps up the pace. Oblivion finished in 6th this weekend with another $3.8 million in box office revenue. The science fiction actioner (that I still might see) has grossed $81.6 million thus far. The Croods also maintained some momentum in seventh place, with another $3.6 million. The animated comedy has grossed $173.2 million so far.

In eighth place, The Big Wedding dropped to $2.5 million. The romantic comedy flop has grossed $18.2 million in three weeks. Mud placed in ninth with another $2.3 million. The indie smash has grossed more than $8 million so far. And to round out the top ten is the movie that won't go away, Oz, The Great and Powerful. That film has grossed $230 million and added another $800,000 this weekend.

Next weekend sees the release of Star Trek Into Darkness. Here are my early predictions:

1. Star Trek Into Darkness- $93.7 million (3-Day Weekend)
2. Iron Man 3- $34 million
3. The Great Gatsby- $23 million
4. 42- $3.9 million
5. Pain and Gain- $2.3 million

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Another grading change

I can never make up my mind. But it is now official, I am going back to letter grades.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Iron Man 3 review

Last year at this time, Marvel's The Avengers was just hitting theaters. Odds you are that you saw it and were blown away by it. Marvel's Kevin Feige did a great job making five good films to set up one that on first watch is pretty great. Now he had the task of coming back to reality, where six superheros don't team up with each other. His first test was Iron Man 3. It could have very well been more of the same and been really boring. Besides the first half hour and a tepid conclusion, it isn't. Marvel's Iron Man 3 breaks somewhat new ground for a superhero movie and ends up being a good but not great start to Phase 2.

Iron Man 3 continues the adventures of Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), who is a nervous wreck after the events of The Avengers. He built 42 suits in his basement after the fights and can't sleep at all. Meanwhile, the country is faced with the terrorist attacks of The Mandarin (Sir Ben Kingsley), an unseen villain whose bombs have no trace. When the Mandarin destroys Tony's Malibu home, he must track down the Mandarin and face a few old enemies along the way.

I'm going to get something off right away. Iron Man 3 is not perfect. It has flaws, it has bad sections, but a large chunk of Iron Man 3 finds the right tone and is the best work that Marvel has ever done. Period. It's fantastic. Unfortunately, the first half hour is ridiculously stupid and is more like the second film than the first one. It focuses mostly on Happy (Jon Favreau) and some other stupid scenes with Stark. It's just ignorant and feels rather unrealistic and choppy. Once Tony's house is destroyed (not a spoiler) is when the movie gets great. It's about an hour and a half of the best cinema the year has had to offer so far and the final five minutes of the movie are great as well. But, the final battle is a huge letdown. Everything that the film builds up throughout the runtime comes together and barely meshes to create a rather unspectacular finale.  But, I guess that it does do a good job of lowering the ante from The Avengers, which was a grand bit of spectacle.

I want to focus on the good though. 85% of this film is flippin fantastic. Iron Man 3 overcomes the bad and makes for a ridiculously entertaining movie. The Iron Man series is best when Tony Stark isn't flying around in a suit fighting ridiculous villains. It's better when it's grounded. 2008's Iron Man is part of that great generation of action and superhero films that were essentially a response to 911 and the War on Terror. The best parts of that movie are not the explosive finale of the last twenty minutes, but when Tony is building and perfecting the suit and when he uses it on terrorists. The best part of Iron Man 3 is when Tony is teaming up with Rhodey (Don Cheadle), who finally has something to do and Harley (Ty Simpkins), a young kid who dominates several scenes with Stark, to find the Mandarin. The twists and turns of the second half add to the quality and it just keeps getting better up until the generic conclusion.

In terms of acting and use of characters, the standouts are Kingsley, Guy Pearce as a villainous corporate leader, and of course Downey. With great co-stars and a better script, Downey is given room to play and this is his movie. He is in about every scene and the movie is about Stark and not Iron Man. Gwenyth Paltrow is once again slightly irritating as Pepper Potts, but Don Cheadle is finally given a role that he can work with and while he felt awkward in Iron Man 2, he feels natural in the threequel. Kingsley is great for a reason you can't know, and Pearce plays a character very similar to Loki in terms of mannerisms.

The script is terrific. Drew Pearce and Shane Black have created a masterful blend of comedy and intense action in this film. While not infinitely quotable like The Avengers, there are some great lines and what Pearce and Black do with the characters in these films is either hilarious or the right step forward in their progression.  I think that Marvel has finally found what they want with a tone. We can finally classify Marvel movies as action comedies which is really what the comics are.

This was also the first film to give Iron Man a real theme as a superhero. All the great hero's have themes. Batman has one. Superman has one. Spider-Man has one. Now Iron Man has a less memorable, but still good musical theme.

If you look at the last few years of action cinema (specifically superhero), you'll notice that a common theme has been terrorism and how the world can't see the villains we face anymore. Skyfall focused on this theme in the field of cyberterrorism, while The Dark Knight showed how terrorism and our reaction to it dictates our lives in a way that isn't good and the means we go to stop it. Iron Man 3 is a welcome addition to the canon that is a lighter version of The Dark Knight that instead of focusing in on our reactions, focuses on the anonymous nature of today's terrorist groups. I may be overanalyzing but with the Iron Man franchises nature to deal with terrorism, I wouldn't be surprised if it was intentional.

I will say though, the final battle is a let down. It's boring and crazy and unlike Joss Whedon, Shane Black doesn't have quite the control over the action scenes. At this point, I've seen all the spectacle in the world and a battle on a dock isn't going to excite me. However, it is exciting to see the conclusion between Tony and The Mandarin.

Go see Iron Man 3. You will have fun. You will enjoy it more than I did. And I really did enjoy it. It's a lot of fun and on par with the rest of the series (I'm a defender of Iron Man 2) and maybe even better. But I think that if the beginning and end were touched up, Marvel could have had something great on their hands.

THE FINAL GRADE:   B+                                          (7.5/10)

May Review Schedule

Iron Man 3- Today

The Great Gatsby- May 10

42- May 10

Mud- May 11

Star Trek Into Darkness- May 18

Fast and Furious 6- May 25

Now You See Me- May 31

After Earth- May 31

TBA Reviews

The Hangover Part III

"Iron Man 3" opens with $175.3 million for the second highest opening weekend of all time

Marvel has taken over the world. After a record breaking run last year with The Avengers, the superhero studio returned with Iron Man 3 and in terms of box office, it didn't disappoint. Iron Man 3 opened last week in foreign countries with $198 million. It didn't do quite as well domestically but it still made $175.3 million, which is the second highest opening weekend of all time. Pretty good for just one superhero. Iron Man 3 had a $68 million opening day, a $64 million Saturday, and $44 million on Sunday. It also received an A Cinemascore, which means that Iron Man 3 could break $400 million. If it goes at the same pace as The Avengers, it will make $527 million, which would make it the fifth highest grossing film ever. In all terms, Iron Man 3's opening is pretty spectacular.

Other than Iron Man 3, the box office was dormant this weekend, leaving the overall year-to-year comparison in decline. In second place was Paramount's Pain & Gain which made another $7.6 million which is a nice 62.5% drop. The film, which received a C+ Cinemascore last weekend, has made $34 million thus far. 42 finished in 3rd with a decent $6.2 million. The baseball drama, which many expected to fly to $100 million, has only grossed $78 million so far. It could reach $100 million, but it's going to need to stay really strong. In fourth place, with another big action movie out, Oblivion dropped 67% to $5.7 million. The film has a decent chance of reaching the $100 million milestone, but with the summer onslaught, it doesn't seem likely. 

The Croods continued to dominate the family market with another $4.2 million this weekend. The Croods has grossed a very good $168 million in the US, which is enough to warrant a sequel. Lionsgate's The Big Wedding held decently, and grossed another $3.8 million. The critically reviled rom-com has grossed $13 million so far. In seventh place this weekend, Mud continued to prove that indies can break into the top ten. The drama grossed another $2.1 million. To round out the top 10, Oz, The Great and Powerful grossed another $1.8 million to make its total an impressive $228 million, Scary Movie 5 grossed another $1.4 million for a $29 million total and The Place Beyond The Pines grossed $1.2 million to make its total gross $18.6 million. 

Next weekend sees the release of The Great Gatsby and Peeples. Both should be nice sleeper counter-programming. 

1. Iron Man 3- $88 million
2. The Great Gatsby- $55 million
3. Peeples- $21 million
4. 42- $4.6 million
5. Pain and Gain- $3.6 million