Sunday, June 30, 2013

Warm Bodies review

I know this movie came out five months ago as of tomorrow, but before my first half of the year wrap-up, which will be published sometime between July 5 and July 12, I figured that I would visit some of the films that I hadn't seen yet at home and see what I thought of them. One of those films was Johnathan Levine's hit Warm Bodies. A lot of people liked this film when it came, including a lot of people that I knew. I missed it in theaters and on short notice, rented it on Time Warner Cable's crappy on-demand service. Safe to say that I don't quite agree with everyone else.

Warm Bodies is the story of R (Nicholas Hoult), a zombie who wanders aimlessly around an airport after the zombie apocalypse strikes the world. Julie (Teresa Palmer) is a sort of zombie hunter; her father (John Malkovich) is the leader of the human resistance. When Julie and her friends Nora (Analeigh Tipton) and Perry (Dave Franco) head to a facility to get medicine, R and a horde of corpses show up and eat most of the people except for Julie, who R saves. The two fall and love and we have our movie.

I don't really have much positive to say about this film. I thought that it was really passable, not necessarily bad, but just not really worthy of your time. However, there were a few things that I did like. Despite my love for World War Z, that movie is very serious. Warm Bodies is actually serious most of the time, which really annoyed me. But when it touches on this nice, light, comic tone, it's a pleasure to watch. The opening scene of this movie is both good and terrible (for a petty reason that the opening credits go on forever). It opens with a funny, satirical scene of zombies just walking around the airport, and it is funny for reasons that I can't really explain. And when the movie is a comedy in the vein of Shaun of the Dead, it is funny. But when it is Twilight, it is not.

The leads have decent chemistry. Teresa Palmer gives a solid performance and Nicholas Hoult does the best he can do with inaudible grunting. But their romance is really underdeveloped and there is about an hour of the movie where it seems that the plot goes nowhere. It isn't until the last ten minutes that everything kind of picks up, with the movie scrambling to wrap things up. The last few minutes are a nice wrap-up and I think that a sequel would be funny to see, but the rest of the film is such an ignorant mess. When it isn't wrapping things up or setting things up, it's a pretty poor film. It takes itself too seriously and has major tonal issues.

The main problem with the movie is that it isn't sure whether or not it wants to be Twilight or if it wants to be Zombieland. It just can't decide and that was a big problem for me. I can deal with plot holes and I can deal with some stupidity, but if you don't find a nice balance of drama and comedy, you fail in my eyes. I didn't think that Warm Bodies found that balance. There would be a nice scene that was funny and started to develop a relationship between Julie and R that was believable, and then the next scene would try to do a Twilight mimic.

In addition, the zombies in most horror films are not the protagonists of the story. In Warm Bodies, they are, which in some ways is a nice cinematic risk, but in some ways frustrated me to death. The dialogue by all the zombies was barely audible and it just annoyed me. It seemed like the filmmakers just told Nicholas Hoult and Rob Coddry (who plays his friend M) to go on screen and just grunt. Just grunt. It just frustrated me.

The plot just goes in circles for about 55% of the film and doesn't really build anything up. It isn't until the last twenty or so minutes that the film realizes that it has a story to wrap up. If the film was funny during that time in the middle, it wouldn't be such a problem. But it isn't. It's drab, and depressing at times and just not much fun.

When it boils down to it, you need to believe the love story to like a romance film. I didn't believe the romance in Warm Bodies. It's a film that tries to be a zombie film that tries to be one that everyone can enjoy but it still ends up being a Harlequin romance that only die hard fans can enjoy. The leads have chemistry but the script, despite its occasional cleverness, lets them down.

Warm Bodies is a disappointing film in my eyes that only provided me with scarce amounts of enjoyment. If you're a fan of books like Twilight, odds are that you will like this movie. If you are a fan of zombies, go with World War Z or rewatch the latest season of The Walking Dead. Warm Bodies never fully commits to anything; it never knows what it wants to be or the story that it wants to tell. Everything in this film was just too messy for me to give it a recommendation.

THE FINAL GRADE:   C-                                          (4.9/10)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Blockbusters of Summers Past: The Simpsons Movie- 2007

Yes, I know that I started this series back in May and it might be a bit weird to resume it now, but it's better late than never. So starting with 2007, here are the blockbusters of summers past. The Simpsons is one of the best sitcoms on television. It's bold, it's colorful, it's crude, and most importantly, it is extremely intelligent and tells its stories with charming wit and irony. So making a movie would be a tough task, considering the high bar that has been set from the show. But I can't think of a more watchable film than The Simpsons Movie. It was clear to me while watching this film tonight for about the fifteenth time, that Matt Groening and his team put everything into this movie and did their best to make it great. And they succeeded, they 100% succeeded. The Simpsons Movie belongs in an elite category of films. I would call that category: the funniest movies of all time.

The Simpsons Movie IS an extended TV episode, but with better animation, and a bunch of downright hilarious jokes. The story follows Homer (Dan Castellaneta), as his reckless behavior eventually causes something bigger than himself. He adopts a pet pig and then dumps his crap in Lake Springfield which is when the EPA steps in. Russ Cargill (A. Brooks) puts a dome over Springfield and traps the people inside it. The Simpsons become fugitives and the family must go on the run and right the wrongs of their idiot husband/father.

Airplane! Dodgeball. Anchorman. Those are the films I think of when I consider the funniest films of all time. I knew that The Simpsons Movie was funny, because it's one of those films that I watch at least once or twice a year, but, wow, it is REALLY funny. I mean, out of about a thousand jokes that are thrown on the screen, only one or two fall flat (which is funny, because the two I didn't laugh at this time were the highlights when I was nine). It is downright hilarious and a real pleasure to watch.

In addition to all the humor, there are some nice emotional beats in the film. You like these characters and it keeps the movie going. It is just so entertaining to watch. Plus, it has a nice, compact running time of 1 hour and 27 minutes, which makes it a nice, breezy watch that flies by.

Also, the story is both relevant and intriguing. It tries to pound in a good message about the environment, but also takes a more sarcastic approach to it. Russ Cargill is a great character, voiced by the wonderful Albert Brooks. In addition to the sight gags, it is brooks and the voice cast that adds the most to the overall hilarity of the film.

The animation is also stunning. It's hand drawn, and it still holds up today. That's one of the things that I like about hand-drawn animation. It never ages. Beauty and the Beast still looks as good as it did in 1991. The Iron Giant still looks as good as it did in 1999. Hand-drawn animation never ages and unlike the Pixar films from the late 90's/early 2000's, you aren't distracted by the animation quality and it lets you fully enjoy the story.

Honestly, I don't hate anything more than grading animated movies. You can't really judge performance and there isn't a lot to say about the animation, so I'll just leave it at this. The Simpsons Movie is one of the funniest films ever made. It's entertaining, irreverent, intelligent and just hilarious. There are tons of laugh-out loud moments and a nice storyline that progresses nicely throughout the film. There are good sets, cool locations and nice interesting characters. The Simpsons Movie is one of the crown jewels of adult animated films, and I will always look at it as a classic.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A




Columbia Pictures in trouble? White House Down second flop of summer for studio

In a thriving summer full of good films (World War Z, Now You See Me, Fast 6, Iron Man 3), there were bound to be some flops. Unfortunately for one of Hollywood's top studios, who already had the biggest flop of the year so far (After Earth), it looks like a second flop will be coming from them. According to BoxOffice, Roland Emmerich's destroy the White House actioner, White House Down, will open to $27 million, which is an extremely disappointing total for a film that cost around $150 million, not including marketing or distribution, to my knowledge. In addition, this film is distinctly American. There is little chance of it breaking out big overseas. But, it could still happen. Unless word of mouth is sensational, if that weekend number keeps up, White House Down will finish around $75 million domestically. Not good. So, with two massive turkeys cooking at the box office, where is Columbia's salvation.

The answer: La La La La La. While Grown Ups 2 will turn a solid profit, The Smurfs 2 is going to save Sony Pictures this summer from going too far under. The first film made $563 million worldwide and I would expect the sequel to finish around $600 million. That'll at least make up for one of the flops, but, despite my anticipation for it, Sony/TriStar could have another flop on their hands later in the summer. Elysium looks like a ground-breaking sci-fi picture but it's got a big budget ($120 million) and barely any assurance that it will be a hit. Plus, there is no information currently on its rating and director Neill Blomkamp's last feature was R rated. If it goes that route, it could be doomed. After that, you have The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, which should at least break even. 

Sony has two assured hits in the summer and two unknowns. So what's going to happen in the fall? Well, there's the One Direction Concert Movie, which is too 2012 for anyone substantial to see it. Then there's Battle of the Year, which no one knows anything about. And then there's Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, which will be a hit, but not by much. After that, Sony has three awards season films in Captain Phillips, American Hustle and Foxcatcher, any of which could be successes or failures. 

Columbia will survive, there's no doubt about that. But who's greenlighting this stuff? Why did anyone think that After Earth or White House Down was a good idea? I'll be seeing White House Down in the next week, so I'll let you know if it is any good, but for now, let's just bask in the idiocy on display here by whoever approved the budgets on those films. 



"Terminator" reboot to hit theaters June 2015: Are we looking at the next great franchise?

A lot of times, franchise reboots are really bad ideas. They're stupid. There was no reason for Spider-Man to be resurrected in 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man (read my review here) and there was no reason to reboot Conan the Barbarian and the list goes on and on from there. But if you look at the reboots of the last few years, most of them have been successful. Very successful. Batman Begins opened the doors for the greatest trilogy of all time. Star Trek gave birth to one of our superstar franchises. Casino Royale reinvented our favorite spy for the modern era. Rise of the Planet of the Apes humanized a formerly kitschy franchise. Most of the time, I would say that reboots work. 

Yesterday, it was announced that a Terminator reboot will be hitting theaters on June 26, 2015 and will lead into a standalone trilogy with no relation to the other four films. I'll let you know that I am now super excited for this movie. It's supposedly set in the 1940's and will star Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dwayne Johnson. I think that with Megan Ellison and David Ellison involved, we could have something special.  Here is the official press release from Paramount Pictures: 

"Skydance Productions, Annapurna Pictures and Paramount Pictures have jointly announced they will partner on a rebooted “TERMINATOR” movie, to be released by Paramount Pictures on June 26, 2015.
The first in a stand-alone trilogy, “TERMINATOR” will be produced by Megan Ellison of Annapurna and David Ellison of Skydance. Dana Goldberg and Paul Schwake of Skydance will serve as executive producers. Laeta Kalorgridis (“Avatar,” “Shutter Island”) and Patrick Lussier (“Drive Angry”) are attached to write the screenplay.
Launched in 1984 with star Arnold Schwarzenegger as the title character, “TERMINATOR” spanned 3 subsequent films, which have earned over $1 billion at the worldwide box office.
David Ellison most recently executive produced, along with his partners at Paramount, “World War Z,” “Star Trek Into Darkness,” “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” and “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”. A 5th installment of in the “Mission: Impossible” franchise is in active development, along with a 3rd film in the “G.I. Joe” franchise, among other films.
Megan Ellison most recently produced the Academy Award®-nominated “Zero Dark Thirty,” “The Master” and executive produced “Spring Breakers” via her Annapurna Pictures banner and has David O. Russell’s “American Hustle,” Spike Jonze’s “Her,” and Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher” set for release later this year."

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Is the summer box office about to fall apart?

Every summer, in addition to getting a plethora of movies that have rampant explosions and gunfire, the big story is typically how much money each of those movies has made at the box office. Summer 2013 has been no exception. May 2013 broke the all-time record for its respective month with a $1.141 billion gross and June 2013 is also looking to beat the monthly record for June as we head into the final weekend with The Heat and White House Down. And next week is the blockbuster 4th of July weekend where we have the biggest animated movie of the year in Despicable Me 2 and a gamble that is likely to pay off in The Lone Ranger. Despicable Me is a guaranteed blockbuster but The Lone Ranger could very well be a disaster. However, I think that there are enough Lone Ranger fans and Johnny Depp fans that want an action movie on the holiday that it will survive. I can't see it doing more than $175 million at the US box office though. So I think that through that weekend, the box office is in good shape. But after that, where are we headed?

The next weekend we've got Pacific Rim and Grown Ups 2. The Adam Sandler comedy will do just fine but right now, Pacific Rim is being labeled as "the next Battleship" and "2013's first huge flop", and I will admit that it is not looking good. But I am still holding out hope that Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, who put up a lot of the money, will do something special with the marketing and keep this film afloat. The problem is that, in my opinion, America is so flooded with special effects blockbusters that they just don't really care that much about crap blowing up anymore. It still is a good marketing tool, but it doesn't automatically get people in seats, like it did in 1998. And the problem is that the marketing for Pacific Rim has been nothing but explosions and carnage. Show people some depth and they will see your movie. Inception didn't get people to see it because of its explosions, it did it by story. Pacific Rim has a story, I know it, I've seen the WonderCon trailer (Go watch it). But unless Warner Bros. does something to spice it up, I see Pacific Rim only making $125 million. 

The following weekend, you have Red 2, Turbo, The Conjuring and R.I.P.D. Two of those films are relatively safe. Red 2 has a built in audience and will likely build on the original film and make around $100 million. The Conjuring is also going to be a smash and will likely build on WOM. But Turbo and R.I.P.D. could be very problematic. After Monsters University and Despicable Me 2, are families really going to go for Turbo? The answer is some, but not nearly as many as if they had put this film in early November. $120 million is the bar for that film. There is zero audience interest in R.I.P.D. I'm pretty sure that, like, five people will go see it. I think that it looks like a really fun time at the movies, but I could be very, very wrong and it does look like a Men in Black rip off. Plus, rumors have put the budget at $200 million, which is insane. No way this makes over $60 million. 

The final weekend sees the release of The Wolverine. Finally, there will be a hit. $190 million could be the number on that one if it is as good as everyone says. I'm not going to comment on August yet because it is a bit too far out but I'll tell you that the month will get by on sheer quantity- and so will the rest of summer. It will survive, but there will be some flops. I don't think that box office will fall apart, but don't look for the months to be as strong as May or June. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Monsters University review

Pixar's been in a bit of a slump. After fifteen years of absolute masterpieces, their last two films have been able to prove one thing: Pixar is human. They made two decent films in a row (Cars 2 and Brave), a shocker for the animation company that brought us some of the greatest films ever. However, those films were both plagued by production woes such as director swaps and arguments with Disney. Now, their latest film, Monsters University, went through a clean production, with no major problems. But can it bring back that Pixar magic that made Toy Story 3, Monsters Inc. and Up so memorable? There is one short answer to that question. Despite providing solid entertainment value for two hours, Monsters University's first half shows a lack of emotional depth and plays right into an audience that Pixar has never really strictly targeted before: kids.

Monsters University is the origin story of our two favorite monsters: Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman). Mike has wanted to be a scarer all his life and has to work extremely hard, but Sully is a natural. Unsurprisingly, they butt heads when they first meet at Monsters University, a prestigious college for monsters. They also get on the bad side of Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren) and end up having to work with the loser fraternity, Oozma Kappa, to stay in school. This all leads up to an epic scaring competition where six fraternities and sororities have to duel it out through an obstacle course to find out who the scariest is. And despite their differences, all of Oozma Kappa has to work together to be the best scarers they can be.

Let me get this out of the way right off the bat. I saw this movie in 3D. Don't see it in 3D. I think I'm going to go on a rant here for a second. It was my fault that my family saw the movie in 3D, but I'm not going to a 3D, non-IMAX movie again. It's just a waste. The format brings nothing but a slight headache and a murky projection. Based on the amount of 3D admissions sold this weekend for World War Z and Monsters University, it's clear that the format is dying. Good.

Monsters University is a kids movie. If you are going to watch this movie, as an intelligent adult, you have to know that. Now, it does have a lot of funny parts and a nice second half which delves into some interesting emotional territory. But it is obvious that Pixar and Disney tailor-made this movie for kids. The first half is a fire-storm of colorful characters, loud noises and rhyming dialogue. Up until the games begin, this movie was a bit of a chore to watch. Just like the first half of The Croods, it relies too much on colors and stupid humor (although Monsters is a bit smarter in the humor department).

The second half of Monsters University is a much better film overall. The 3D is less annoying, the characters more fleshed out, the humor funnier, it has the feel of a real Pixar movie. See, the great thing about the Pixar classics is that they don't feel like animated movies. I relate more to the characters in Toy Story than any other film and that brings this emotional punch. Same with Up. Same with Monsters Inc. Monsters University never breaks that boundary where you can really relate to the characters.

But not every film can be Toy Story 3. That's the problem with Pixar. They made too many great movies. I hope that with the next few films they can get back to making films that appeal to both ages throughout the whole film. That's the thing with Monsters University: there are parts of it that are entertaining for all audiences. There are parts of it that contain to wit and charm of classic Pixar. But not all of it does. And for that, it's lesser than the best Pixar films.

The animation is splendid. Director Don Scanlon and his team really build on the Monsters universe and provide a lot of interesting new characters and cool stuff to bring to the table. The voice cast is amazing as usual and the storyline is solid, but not spectacular. A lot of the college humor falls flat but some of it is pretty funny.

Well, I honestly don't have much else to say. Monsters University is an entertaining movie, but nothing special. It's a fun time if you've got kids and if you are a fan of the first one, you will definitely find something to enjoy (especially in the second half). And it almost brings Pixar back to form. There's inventiveness not present in the world of Brave along with a sense of fun. But the lackluster first half that is tailor-made for kids and is rather hard to get into takes Monsters University down a notch. I like what they've done here, but it's all rather forgettable, which is new territory for Pixar and co.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B-                                           (6.9/10)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

"Monsters University" and "World War Z" surprise, "Man of Steel" falls hard

It's hard not to get excited when you have one of the biggest box office weekends of all time. With three major blockbusters in theaters, the total box office this weekend reached $236 million, which is a June record. Thanks to decent reviews and an extreme level of pent-up demand, Monsters University topped the box office this weekend with $82 million, the second highest Pixar opening of all time. Along with the great opening weekend, Pixar movies also typically have great word of mouth which was indicated by the A Cinemascore. If Monsters University follows Brave's 3.59 multiplier, it will end up with $294 million, but with the release of Despicable Me 2 in two weeks, I see Monsters University headed for a total closer to $250 million.

Despite Monsters University's big opening weekend, the real story this weekend was the shocking over-performance of Brad Pitt's zombie epic World War Z. The very good zombie apocalypse film (read my review here) grossed an estimated $66 million which is the best opening for an original feature (although it was loosely based off a book) since Avatar's $77 million weekend. Along with the awesome opening, World War Z received a B+ Cinemascore, which indicates that the film will have legs headed into the Fourth of July weekend. Look for World War Z to reach $200 million.

And, to everyone's surprise except mine, Man of Steel dropped like a rock this weekend (65%) to $41.2 million. Warner Bros. superhero epic could now be in trouble, as the studio was expecting a better hold. Some are saying that the film will now not get a sequel. I doubt that but I didn't think that the film was very good, as shown in my review, but I wouldn't mind seeing where they go with a sequel. Through ten days, Man of Steel has grossed $210 million.

Behind Man of Steel is where we see the big drop-off in box office numbers, although there were some strong holds, one of them being This is the End. The apocalypse comedy grossed another $13 million easing only 37 million. The comedy has now grossed $57.7 million and could see grosses as high as $90 million by the end of its run. Also holding strong was Now You See Me. The magician thriller grossed another $7.8 million raising its total to an awesome $94.4 million. I see the film finishing as high as $120 million. It's safe to say that Now You See Me is the surprise of the summer so far (alongside World War Z).

In sixth, Fast and Furious 6 grossed another $4.7 million, which was enough to raise its total to $228 million. The action drama (and my favorite movie of the year so far) will eventually finish around $240-$245 million. The Internship continued its unimpressive run in seventh with $3.4 million. The comedy flop has now grossed $38 million. And rounding out the top ten, we had The Purge in eighth with another $3.4 million to raise its total to $59 million. Star Trek Into Darkness finished in ninth with another $3 million, which was enough to raise its total to $216 million. And Iron Man 3 finished in tenth with another $2.17 million. That film became the first of 2013 to cross $400 million.

Now for next weekend. In all likelihood, it won't be as big as this one, but it could come close. Here's how I see things playing out:

1. Monsters University- $51 million
2. The Heat- $49 million
3. White House Down- $39 million
4. World War Z- $35 million
5. Man of Steel- $21 million
6. This is the End- $9 million
7. Now You See Me- $5.1 million
8. Fast and Furious 6- $2.5 million
9. Star Trek Into Darkness- $2 million
10. The Bling Ring- $1.5 million

Saturday, June 22, 2013

World War Z review

Zombies have had a long and fruitful life on the big screen so far. Even though I haven't watched that many zombie films, I wrote a research paper on them for school and am pretty knowledgeable about the subject. It all began with 1932's White Zombie, and has continued on through 1968's Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead (1979 and 2004), Dead Alive (1992), Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Zombieland (2009). Most zombie films are low budget affairs. Gory special effects, typically inexperienced actors, buckets of blood. So you have to give Brad Pitt and director Marc Forster kudos points for trying something new and original with the zombie genre. With World War Z, they have created an epic so big that it takes a global look at the zombie apocalypse. Now, the film had a troubled production and extensive reshoots. The question was: Can this film be any good?

World War Z tells the story of a former UN officer named Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt), who has retired for an unknown reason and is now making pancakes for his kids (Sterling Jerins and Abigail Hargrove) and wife Karin (Mireille Enos). When the Lanes are headed somewhere on a normal day, they learn that the zombie apocalypse has spread to their hometown of Philadelphia and the world falls to chaos. They escape to a Navy ship and find refuge after thirty minutes roaming the East coast. Soon after, a Navy Captain tells Gerry that he must go to South Korea with a doctor to find a cure. Soon, Gerry is off a journey to discover the origin of the virus that is dropping the population and causing chaos.

World War Z is probably among the most intense, dead serious things you're going to see this summer. However, the tension and gravitas of the screenplay demand it be that way, unlike other films that take that approach (hi, Superman). It maintains a level of chaos, tension and intrigue throughout and has a pretty high standard of quality. The only real problem with this film is that it settles for a level of mediocrity in its second act. It picks up speed in Jerusalem, but the mid-section isn't as tensely terrifying and fun as the other two acts. The second act feels more like something in a solidly entertaining March thriller than a big blockbuster. But the other two acts provide enough thrills and chills to outweigh the mediocrity of the scenes in Korea and some of the early stuff in Israel.

Now for the first and last acts. They are amazing. The film jumps right in at the start which can be startling but it ends up working for the films advantage. It puts you immediately in the action with an effective opening credits scene and it works up to the chaos of Philadelphia. Most zombie films take place in locations. World War Z is probably the first attempt (maybe 28 Days Later as well) to show a full on zombie apocalypse. And it is terrifying. There's looting, attempted rape, shooting, theft and general, frightening insanity. The first 30 minutes move so fast, it can be a little daunting to keep up.

The third act. It's is what saves this film from a few mediocre scenes in Korea and on a Belarus airplane that would have brought down its eventual grade. I won't say what the final act consists of, but it is full on horror. There's tension, zombie murders and a lot of cool, nice atmosphere. To fully understand why this final act is so spectacular, you need to know the history. The final act of the original cut of the film had Gerry Lane as like a zombie avenger, killing all of them. They realized it didn't work for a satisfying ending to the film. They got Damon Lindelof to rewrite it. Yeah, Damon Lindelof, the guy that screwed up Prometheus. But he benefits this film. It really is a killer finale and it concludes this film while setting up a sequel, which is going to happen based on the films opening weekend. I'm a born-again Lindelof fan.

The acting is pretty standard for an action film. A lot of this film is big action scenes and atmosphere so it doesn't really need great or colorful performances. There isn't much humor. However, Pitt gives a good performance and sets up Gerry Lane as an action hero that is going to be around for a while. He also has good chemistry Daniella Kertesz who plays an Israeli soldier named Segen.

Another problem with the film that I'm not quite sure was the print or Forster's direction. I'm going with the later. Marc Forster is the same guy who directed that James Bond debacle known as Quantum of Solace likes to move the camera around a lot. And in the harrowing first act, it works. But during the big setpieces in the middle in Israel, I was just hoping that he would calm the camera down and just let the movie tell its story and let the action scenes do their work. But until the final third, he doesn't calm it down at all. It gets a little annoying and I wish that the trend of shaky-cam would just end.

There is nothing bad in World War Z. There is just great parts and standard parts. The great outweighs the standard in the end. No, it's not as fun as Fast and Furious 6, Iron Man 3 or maybe even Now You See Me. But it is an effectively frightening zombie thriller with enough big budget scale and action to go around and despite a mediocre middle act, it's third and first are great. World War Z is definitely worth a watch whether you are a horror fan or a thriller fan or an action fan or whoever. It's an enjoyable film all around. But if you're looking for blood, you won't find it here.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B+                                          (7.7/10)



Friday, June 21, 2013

Platoon review

War is hell. Oliver Stone's anti-war feature can be described with three simple words. Stone's directorial breakthrough is a sucker punch of a war film, one that made me have strong feelings about the Vietnam War and elicited a reaction from me that I hadn't felt. His film isn't necessarily graphic in its violence, but its well-executed tension and shock value make for an emotion roller-coaster. Not to mention a delectably odd performance by Willem Dafoe and the pure evil of Tom Berenger, Platoon sends you on an incredibly interesting, but not always wholly satisfactory ride. That said, if you want to experience the horrors of war on film to know what these soldiers went through: start with Platoon.

Platoon is a non-narrative feature. I really didn't know that going into watching it, but I realized that Platoon had much more interesting things up its sleeve. However, if you're expecting a fully-fleshed story, you won't get it. Platoon is a message movie. But unlike other message movies that pound you over the head with what they want to get across, Platoon actually convinces you of what it wants. Essentially, the plot is that Chris Taylor (Charlie Sheen) joins the army and witnesses the horrors of war and the frightening ubiquity of the Vietnam war: you can't trust anyone. Not even your own Staff Sargent, Barnes (Tom Berenger), a ruthless thug who kills with ease.

At first, I was a bit confused by Platoon. It feels like a bit of mash-up of brutally bloodless violence, marijuana use and profane language, trying to fully elicit a reaction out of you that war is hell. However, you will eventually fall under the disturbing spell of Platoon, as it really is a perfect portrayal of the way that we fought in Vietnam. It's taut, tense and frighteningly indecisive. You really aren't sure who to root for. Even Chris, our hero, kills a man character and screams obscenities at poor Vietnamese farmers. It's a really interesting premise.

My favorite thing about this movie is the way that it depicts the Vietnam war. The enemy was unclear and danger was always present. Platoon is perfect in its depiction of that guerrilla war. The tension is present throughout the film as most scenes, the soldiers are wandering around the jungle. Also, the last half of the movie truly convinces you that war is hell. The final battle sequence is powerful and harrowing and when the final title card hits the screen saying: "This film is dedicated to the men who fought and died in Vietnam", it hits you like a sucker punch. It's powerful. By the end of this film, I was ready to say that the Vietnam war was a complete atrocity both for the Americans who had to suffer through the pain and suffering but the Vietnamese people who were raped and murdered because of the war.

This film also proved to me that war movies can be harrowing and disturbing by sometimes showing less not more. Platoon's most graphic scene is a shot of a man's arms blown off, but its most disturbing is one where you don't see a single thing. It's intense and graphically frightening without actually showing the horrific act done by the soldier with a rifle. Oliver Stone's film is very well constructed in that respect.

The acting's fine. Nothing great, nothing abysmal. Willem Dafoe is always fun to watch, but he essentially plays the same character in a lot of his movies. His Elias is a sympathetic character who is one of the few purely good characters in the film. He has morals, he has values and while Charlie Sheen's Chris has those as well, he still has rage-filled outbursts and murders a man in cold blood. Tom Berenger is delectably evil but his performance is more steely cold than anything.

The major problem I had with this film, besides the complete lack of a real narrative, was the script. While the movie is well constructed in its form, and features weighty and interesting themes, the dialogue borders on a disaster at times. I'm not an anti-swear word person, I frankly don't care if you curse or not, but Platoon takes it to an extreme that frankly got pretty annoying. The dialogue is so peppered with profanity, that it becomes distracting. There isn't a ton of dialogue, but when there is, I can guarantee you that every sentence will have a f**k or a s**t in it. It's borderline ridiculous.

But in the end, I really found Platoon to be an emotionally affecting film and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. It's very 80's with some cheesy war effects and things of the sort. Honestly, if you want story, go somewhere else. But if you want a war film that is going to give you something to think about, go with Platoon. It's not an entertaining one, but not all the great ones are. It's emotional, raw (a little too raw at times), and tough to watch. It sends its message clearly: war is hell and anyone who likes it is sick.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A-


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Massive release date shift: "Independence Day 2" for 2015, "August: Osage Country", "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" pushed back

I've gotten out of the habit of posting massive release date shifts but in the last week, there have just been so many. Let's just run through them all.

SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR

The sequel to 2005's beloved Sin City was originally set for October 4, 2013 but will now debut on August 22, 2014. No reason has been given for the change, but considering that the production was rushed in last year, this is no surprise. A whole year is a pretty long time to wait however. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For stars Josh Brolin, Eva Green, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Jessica Alba, Juno Temple, Mickey Rourke, Christopher Meloni, Rosario Dawson, and Ray Liotta. 

MACHETE KILLS

Taking the place of the Sin City sequel is a sequel to another Robert Rodriguez property. Machete Kills will now debut on October 4, 2013 instead of September 13. The release change is a bit puzzling considering the lack of action competition in September. Machete Kills stars Danny Trejo, Amber Heard, Michelle Rodriguez, Alexa Vega, Sofia Vergara, Jessica Alba, Antonio Banderas,  Cuba Gooding Jr., William Sadler and Carlos Estevez. 

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 3 and 4

The most controversial news this week was probably the news that Sony was dating The Amazing Spider-Man 3 and 4 for June 10, 2016 and May 4, 2018 respectively, an odd strategy considering that the first sequel has not even come out yet (May 2, 2014). Neither sequel has an official cast list yet. 

DOLPHIN TALE 2

One of the surprise hits of 2011 was Dolphin Tale and Warner Bros. has now put a sequel on the calender. Dolphin Tale 2 will hit theaters on September 19, 2014. No cast list is available yet. 

X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST

This is basically a full swap between two blockbuster Fox franchises. Instead of a mid-summer release, Fox will now open its X-Men epic, Days of Future Past on May 23, 2014. The film features a large ensemble cast including James McAvoy, Michael Fassebender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Peter Dinklage, Ellen Page, Patrick Stewart, Anna Paquin, Hugh Jackman, Evan Peters, Halle Berry, and Shawn Ashmore. 

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES


Taking the X-Men sequel's place is the sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The sequel to the massively successful reboot will now hit theaters July 18, 2014. The film stars Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Judy Greer.

ASSASSIN'S CREED

The adaptation of the highly successful video game franchise starring Michael Fassebender was originally supposed to hit theaters Memorial Day 2015 but it has now been moved to June 19, 2015. 

GRACE OF MONACO

Originally The Weinstein Company's Oscar contender Grace of Monaco, starring Grace Kelly, Tim Roth, Paz Vega, Parker Posey, Derek Jacobi, and Frank Langella was going to be released at the end of the Oscar season on December 27. But now it will hit theaters approximately one month earlier, on November 27. 

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

I take this latest release date change from TWC to be a sign of confidence that their latest star-studded family drama can be a mainstream success akin to Silver Linings Playbook. They have moved their primary Oscar contender from November to Christmas day, as August: Osage County now has a ton of competition to work with. The film's large ensemble is highlighted by Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Abigail Breslin, Ewan McGregor and Benedict Cumberbatch. 

INDEPENDENCE DAY 2

And the final addition to our calender is a film that we know nothing about besides that it is called Independence Day 2, is the sequel to the 1996 smash hit and will be released on July 3, 2015. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Franchise Machine: Which films off the summer schedule will get sequels?

First, before I start my lengthy, numbers-based dissertation of which films from summer 2013's slate will get sequels, I'll start with which films from the last two summers received sequels, either coming soon or already released.

2011

Fast Five- YES
Thor- YES
Bridesmaids- NO
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides- YES
Kung Fu Panda 2- YES
X-Men: First Class- YES
Super 8- NO
Green Lantern- NO
Cars 2- NO
Transformers: Dark of the Moon- YES
Zookeeper- NO
Horrible Bosses- YES
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II- NO
Captain America: The First Avenger- YES
The Smurfs- YES
Cowboys and Aliens- NO
Rise of the Planet of the Apes- YES
Final Destination 5- NO
Spy Kids: All the Time in the World- NO
Conan the Barbarian- NO

2012

The Avengers- YES
Dark Shadows- NO
The Dictator- NO
Battleship- NO
Men In Black 3- POSSIBLE
Snow White and the Huntsman- POSSIBLE
Prometheus- POSSIBLE
Madagascar 3- NO
That's My Boy- NO
Brave- NO
Magic Mike- POSSIBLE
Ted- POSSIBLE
The Amazing Spider-Man- YES
Ice Age: Continental Drift- NO
The Dark Knight Rises- NO
Total Recall- NO
The Bourne Legacy- NO
The Expendables 2- YES

So, as you can see, summer is franchise breeding time for studios. They put all their money into making movies that will draw in big bucks and then make sequels after sequels. A lot of 2012 films are still up in their but I'm betting on Ted and Snow White sequels. Now let's take a look at 2013's summer slate and the films that are most ripe for franchising (The Great Gatsby not included).

PART I: Films in Theaters

For these films, I will give their worldwide box office so far and guess if there will be a sequel.

IRON MAN 3

Budget- $200 million
Worldwide Box Office- $1.2 billion
Sequel Likelihood- As Marvel's most popular hero, a sequel seems like a no brainer here. But odds are, standalone Iron Man movies are done. The character will return in a sort-of-sequel. But Iron Man 4 is unlikely.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 33%

STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS

Budget- $190 million
Worldwide Box Office- $412 million
Sequel Likelihood- This installment was generally well received and if Paramount can lower the budget a bit this time, there's no reason why Star Trek 3 won't hit theaters in 2016.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 85%

FAST AND FURIOUS 6

Budget- $160 million
Worldwide Box Office- $636 million
Sequel Likelihood- Fast Seven is already dated for July 11, 2014 so only the end of the world could stop it.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 99.9999%

THE HANGOVER PART III

Budget- $103 million
Worldwide Box Office- $309 million
Sequel Likelihood- Even though this film is turning a profit, the odds of a sequel are slim as Todd Phillips and the cast have pretty much stated that this is the end.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 10%

EPIC

Budget- $100 million
Worldwide Box Office- $212 million
Sequel Likelihood- Probable. Blue Sky likes their franchises and Epic is probably going to break even in the end.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 75%

AFTER EARTH

Budget- $130 million
Worldwide Box Office- $102 million
Sequel Likelihood- This is already being considered a John Carter-style flop, so the odds of any more films in this universe are slim.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 3%

NOW YOU SEE ME

Budget- $75 million
Worldwide Box Office- $108 million
Sequel Likelihood- Now You See Me has been the box office sensation of the summer, but the end of the film is pretty definitive. I'm not liking the chances of this one.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 20%

THE PURGE

Budget- $3 million
Worldwide Box Office- $58 million
Sequel Likelihood- Odds are, The Purge is going to be around for a while. But poor word of mouth might doom the sequel.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 95%

THE INTERNSHIP

Budget- $58 million
Worldwide Box Office- $36 million
Sequel Likelihood- Very small. This movie is not going to turn a profit after all the marketing that Fox did for it to still fail at the box office.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 1%

THIS IS THE END

Budget- $32 million
Worldwide Box Office- $33 million
Sequel Likelihood- The ending of the film is pretty definitive so unless Rogen and Goldberg do "Adventures in Heaven", there will be no sequel
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 10%

MAN OF STEEL

Budget- $225 million
Worldwide Box Office- $214 million
Sequel Likelihood- Almost assured. This movie was too big not to get a sequel.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 99.999999999999999999999999999999999999999%

PART II: The Upcoming Summer Films

For these, I will make a worldwide box office projection based on Box Office Mojo, Box Office and my own knowledge.

WORLD WAR Z

Budget- $175 million
Projected Worldwide Box Office- $450 million
Sequel Likelihood- A good chance. Pitt wanted to make a trilogy the whole time. But Paramount might not be so certain after the first one went over budget. But I think there's a good chance.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 70%

WHITE HOUSE DOWN

Budget- $150 million
Projected Worldwide Box Office- $320 million
Sequel Likelihood- Not good. White House Down should do fine in the states but its not really a worldwide property. But it is a marketable franchise. "Disney World Down"
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 30%

THE HEAT

Budget- N/A
Projected Worldwide Box Office- $300 million
Sequel Likelihood- Almost certain. Fox has already announced plans for The Heat 2.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 98%

THE LONE RANGER

Budget- $250 million
Projected Worldwide Box Office- $430 million
Sequel Likelihood- Ugh. The budget is just so, so high.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 49%

DESPICABLE ME 2

Budget- N/A
Projected Worldwide Box Office- $700 million
Sequel Likelihood- Really, really high. A spinoff is headed to theaters in 2014 and Despicable Me 3 can't be far behind.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 99%

PACIFIC RIM

Budget- $200 million
Projected Worldwide Box Office- $500 million
Sequel Likelihood- Good. I think that the Foreign box office will carry this one to the finish line.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 75%

GROWN UPS 2

Budget- N/A
Projected Worldwide Box Office- $200 million
Sequel Likelihood- Although the odds are this movie will be bashed, the odds are there will be a Grown Ups 3.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 85%

RED 2

Budget- N/A
Projected Worldwide Box Office- $200 million
Sequel Likelihood- Probable. The budgets aren't horrible on these things, so look for Red 3 soon.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 90%

R.I.P.D

Budget- Estimated $200 million
Projected Worldwide Box Office- $120 million
Sequel Likelihood- The slimmest of any film this summer.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 0.000000001%

THE WOLVERINE

Budget- $100 million +
Projected Worldwide Box Office- $400 million
Sequel Likelihood- We'll see more Wolverine, but I don't know if there will be a direct sequel.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 32%

THE SMURFS 2

Budget- NA
Projected Worldwide Box Office- $600 million
Sequel Likelihood- La la la la la la, Smurfs 3 in 2015.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 99.99%

2 GUNS

Budget- $90 million
Projected Worldwide Box Office- $250 million
Sequel Likelihood- I think that this will get real traction domestically so this will get franchised.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 90%

PERCY JACKSON: THE SEA OF MONSTERS

Budget- N/A
Projected Worldwide Box Office- $200 million
Sequel Likelihood- They'll probably finish this off with a third movie.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 55%

ELYSIUM

Budget- $100 million-$120 million
Projected Worldwide Box Office- $300 million
Sequel Likelihood- This doesn't look like a franchise thing.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 3%

PLANES

Budget- N/A
Projected Worldwide Box Office- $120 million
Sequel Likelihood- It's already on the schedule for next year so it's almost a certainty.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 99%

KICK-ASS 2

Budget- N/A
Projected Worldwide Box Office- $140 million
Sequel Likelihood- Meh. I don't know. It just seems like it could really flop after a summer of superheros.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 33%

THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS

Budget- NA
Projected Worldwide Box Office- $150 million
Sequel Likelihood- Good. This seems like it could be a big YA franchise.
Percent Chance of a Sequel- 60%

So, if I'm right here, there will be a:

Star Trek 3
Fast and Furious 7
Epic 2
The Purge 2
Man of Steel 2
World War Z 2
The Heat 2
Despicable Me 2
Pacific Rim 2
Grown Ups 3
Red 3
The Smurfs 3
2 Guns 2
Percy Jackson 3
Planes 2
The Mortal Instruments 2

Look for a wrap-up at the end of summer.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

"Man of Steel" soars, "The Purge" drops hard and "This is the End" has solid grosses at weekend box office

Warner Bros. has got to be jumping for joy right now. After somewhat successfully reinvigorating Batman in 2005 with Batman Begins and putting him on the map with 2008's The Dark Knight, the studio has done the same with Superman and saved him from dormancy after the 2006 debacle that was Superman Returns. Zack Snyder's Man of Steel opened to $125 million over its first "four" days (more on that in a minute). That's a huge opening for a reboot and it proves that Warner's "Dark Knight-esque" marketing really payed off. In addition, Man of Steel now holds the record for highest June opening of all time, ahead of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Toy Story 3. While I wasn't a fan of the film, audiences gave it an A- Cinemascore, which is really good but not as spectacular as Star Trek Into Darkness or Iron Man 3. It's a divisive film and I think that it won't hold over as well as people are expecting. But still, the film is on track for $300 million and you should look for Man of Steel 2 and Justice League at a theater near you soon.

In second place was Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's directorial debut, the apocalypse comedy, This is the End. The film actually opened on Wednesday and in its 5-day debut has grossed $32.8 million. That's a really solid start for the comedy and the promising B+ Cinemascore means that this thing isn't going away. The next competition for This is the End comes in the form of The Heat on June 28, so expect this film to be around to gross close to $90 million. In third place, Now You See Me continued its spectacular run with $10.3 million, raising its total to $80 million. The magician thriller is pretty darn good, so I'm happy that it's making good money. It should pass $100 million in the next few weeks. Fast and Furious 6 placed in fourth with $9.4 million as it raised its total to $219.5 million.

However, behind those film, it's a bit of a trainwreck. In fifth place, with a 75.9% drop was Universal's The Purge. The horror thriller hybrid grossed $8.2 million after a spectacular opening in the $30 million range last weekend. It has $51.8 million in the bank so far and could finish with around $70 million. The Internship, which was in sixth this weekend, also fell hard to $7 million. The comedy flop has grossed $30.9 million so far. Epic held well for its final hurrah before Monsters University hits theaters next weekend with another $6 million to raise its total to $95 million.

And to round out the top ten, Star Trek Into Darkness placed 8th with another $5.6 million. It has made $210.4 million so far. After Earth finished in 9th with $3.7 million. The mega-flop has now grossed $54.2 million. And Iron Man 3 inches towards $400 million with another $2.9 million. The film is now $390,000 away from $400 million. In limited release, The Bling Ring also shined with $210,000, a nice total in five theaters.

This weekend finished around a total of $196 million. Here's my early predictions for next weekend as World War Z and Monsters University head into theaters.

1. Monsters University- $83.3 million
2. Man of Steel- $49.5 million
3. World War Z- $48 million
4. This is the End- $14 million
5. Now You See Me- $6.5 million
6. Fast and Furious 6- $5.5 million
7. The Purge- $4 million
8. The Internship- $3.6 million
9. Star Trek Into Darkness- $3 million
10. The Bling Ring- $2.5 million


Friday, June 14, 2013

Man of Steel review

DC is a very interesting topic when it comes to films. Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy is one of the masterpieces of 21st Century film, and The Dark Knight will at some point join the ranks of the greatest films of all time. But, when you look beyond Nolan's trilogy, DC films is a really mixed bag. They were the first studio to put comic book movies into theaters, but they almost killed them as well (Batman and Robin). Superman (1978) is dated, Batman (1989) is a pretty good comic book film, but Superman Returns (2006) and Green Lantern (2011) are two of the worst comic book films ever made.

Let's take a look now at Zach Snyder's career. He's made five films and I've seen none of them in their entirety. He's had one flop (Sucker Punch), one legitimate success (300), and three middle of the road features (Watchmen, Dawn of the Dead, Legends of the Guardians). I've seen part of 300 and Watchmen and I'll say that they're slow, but have great special effects. DC and Snyder have now combined to make Man of Steel along with Dark Knight writer David Goyer and Christopher Nolan as a producer. Is it more like The Dark Knight or Superman Returns? 

The story is known to anyone who has ever picked up a comic book. Jor-El (Russell Crowe), a leading scientist on the planet Krypton discovers that his planet will fall apart and be destroyed. Jor-El has the Codex which contains the ability to regenerate Kryptonians after the death of the planet. General Zod (Michael Shannon) wants the Codex, but Jor-El wants it out of his hands. The planet falls apart, but Jor-El gets his son off the planet first. His son Kal-El (Henry Cavill) eventually reaches Earth and with the nurturing help of Ma and Pa Kent (Diane Lane and Kevin Costner) becomes Superman. 

Man of Steel has the best opening scene of the year. It's fast-paced, epic, intense, but also very personal and sucks you into the world immediately. When I saw the first twenty minutes of this movie, I was so happy. I was like, this is going to be the best superhero movie ever. Hans Zimmer's score is humming, the action is explosive but you are more invested in those action scenes than any in the rest of the film. I was seriously thinking that this movie was going to be an A after the first scene. How wrong I was.

The rest of the first hour is also pretty good. The way that the story is told is a bit messy, but it still is tragic and immerses you in the film. It's got some moments that are almost tear-worthy. Snyder did a fantastic job showing the pain and loneliness that Clark Kent feels and the way that his parents try to make him feel better.  The way that Man of Steel sets up its story is painstaking at times, but it works. It's the rest of the film that makes Man of Steel fall apart. 

There is a moment in Man of Steel where Zod comes back to get the Codex from Superman. He requires that he turn himself in and come with him. This is the precise moment where Man of Steel falls apart. The point where Clark decides to become Superman is quite jarring. It isn't a long transition into him becoming Superman and he fully becomes the character in a cut or two. 

Then you've got the last hour of the film, which is a complete and utter disaster. Let me explain how movie battle scenes work. Look at the biggest battles of all time in movies. I would say Avengers, Dark of the Moon, and Return of the King. All of those film are climatic installments in a series. Man of Steel joins the ranks of those films. Except Man of Steel is a first installment in a series. It's such a terrible stupid battle scene and the principle flaw in DC films. They think that all their films need to be huge (see: Green Lantern) and they have no sense of building to the climatic battle. 

There are many flaws in the climactic battle. One is that it's stupid. It's ridiculous, it's borderline incomprehensible and all that is features is destructive action. The reason that this film features so much action is that Superman Returns didn't have enough and the fans complained. Man of Steel is a major exercise in excess, and is practically Warner Bros. telling Snyder to just put as much action in the movie as possible. It's where the movie falls apart. I was so crushingly disappointed. 

The other major flaw in Man of Steel is how messy the narrative is. It jumps through so many different decades and doesn't exactly follow a clear narrative. It tries to follow the Batman Begins route of flashback storytelling, but it doesn't actually work. It just comes off as messy. I think that a straight origin story would have benefited the film and would have made me enjoy it a bit more. If they had built up all the characters through a straight narrative, I might have felt more prepared for the climatic battle. 

One more thing before I move on to the performances. Man of Steel is ultimately not a good movie because it is a messy, ridiculous, empty hodgepodge of different action films of the last ten years. Here are some examples:

-The flashback style of storytelling/character tries to hide in working class areas- Batman Begins
-"You're not my real father"- Spider-Man
-"Take a leap of faith"- Inception
-Battle in a small town- Thor
-Villain attempting to bring planet to Earth- Transformers: Dark of the Moon

Three cheers for creativity! It didn't exactly bug me, but it is noticeable. 

Last thing: the acting. The standout performance for me is Russell Crowe as Jor-El. He makes every single scene he's in memorable and delivers a standout performance. Antje Traue is also the best villainous performance in the film, as she dominates every scene that she is in. Diane Lane and Kevin Costner, along with Amy Adams don't have much to do and Perry White is extremely underdeveloped. Michael Shannon's Zod is overdone and Henry Cavill's Superman is just standard. He's a good actor and I just don't think that he was given much to work with. 

Man of Steel has some fun moments and some great emotional bits, but in the end it's nothing but a crushing disappointment. Hans Zimmer's score and Crowe's performance are worth a $5 ticket, but this is not something that you should pay full price for. This movie, in the end, truly proves that more isn't always more. Hopefully, the fantastic final five minutes of Man of Steel will set up a sequel that is really worth watching. 

THE FINAL GRADE:  C                                            (5.5/10)


Monday, June 10, 2013

Beverly Hills Cop review

Wow. Eddie Murphy really has fallen hard. Believe it or not, the comedian used to be in good movies. He was never in any masterpieces, but at least he wasn't making stuff like A Thousand Words or Meet Dave. Now, the film that I'm about to review, Beverly Hills Cop, is no masterpiece. But it's a decently funny, entertaining, cool as ice action comedy that keeps your attention for 105 minutes. It has flaws, and I honestly didn't think that it was that funny, but I was consistently entertained and that was all that mattered.

Beverly Hills Cop tells the story of Detroit detective Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) who is a fast-talking, profane, mischief-causing problem for his Chief. After the murder of his ex-con friend Mikey (James Russo), he heads out to Beverly Hills, where Mikey was working. Axel investigates the art dealer (Steven Berkoff) that Mikey was working for and ends up in trouble with the police. But eventually the Beverly Hills Police Department realize that they're all on the same team and send out Axel and detectives Rosewood and Taggart (Judge Reinhold and John Ashton) to take down the crooked art dealer.

This was the film that finally put Eddie Murphy on the map as a star. He had already cemented himself as an A-Lister in Trading Places and 48 Hrs., but Beverly Hills Cop took him to superstar levels of fame. And it's easy to see why. It's a quick, fast paced, comedic thriller with a cool setting and a distinctly awesome vibe. I love movies set in California and I also like 80's movies, so Beverly Hills Cop is a good combination. Plus, Eddie Murphy actually has some comedic wit to him in this movie, unlike in his later films.

However, as much as I liked this movie, I can't really say that I laughed. It's not overly hilarious. There were no jokes that had me bursting out laughing. Actually, I'm not even sure that the movie got a chuckle out of me. That proves that it isn't a great comedy. Heck, I wouldn't even say that it's a good comedy, but the pacing and the action aspect of the film are what carry it to new heights.

You can't talk about Beverly Hills Cop without talking about the iconic score, however. It's pretty awesome and one of the best things about the film. It's the pulsing beat of the film and it drives the whole movie from beginning to end. I really loved it.

The plot is decent for this kind of film. The villain is plausible enough and the reasons that he commits his actions make relative sense. The acting is nothing spectacular. Murphy's funny as the fast-talking Foley but it's not a great performance. I liked Reinhold and Ashton but they weren't spectacular.

All I can say about Beverly Hills Cop is that it's entertaining. It's a nice, two-hour diversion from the world. But it's not a great film. The humor isn't gut-bustingly hilarious and the plot is a bit repetitive at times. Again, comedies are hard to review due to the fact that comedy is subjective, but I'll say that even if you don't find the movie funny, you'll enjoy this one because of the action and the accessibility of the plot and actors. It's a nice slice of the time period it was made.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B

Sunday, June 9, 2013

"The Purge" leads, "The Internship" performs solid and "After Earth" drops on surprise weekend

Ah, the weekend before a big blockbuster. It's always relatively quiet. There aren't a lot of films released and people typically wait for next weekend's film. But not this weekend. Man of Steel is released next weekend and the general consensus on the internet is that everyone and their dog is going to be paying money for that movie. But with the big grosses of this weekend, I'm not sure that Man of Steel is going to be the biggest movie of all time, or even crack the top ten all time. Now, this weekend. The Purge opened with a massive $36.4 million opening. Now it came with a C Cinemascore, but still, that's an impressive total for a $3 million film. Look for The Purge to finish around $70 million.

Fast and Furious 6 continued its impressive run in second place this weekend with another $19.7 million to add to the total. That's a 44% drop, but its total is now $202 million, and the film will surpass Fast Five in a few days. In third place with a spectacular hold was Louis Letterier's Now You See Me. The fantastic magician caper must have had good word of mouth because it dropped only 33% this weekend to $19.5 million. That's a really great drop in a crowded summer. The thriller has now made $61.3 million. At this point, $100 million does not seem out of reach.

The Internship performed slightly above expectations this weekend with an $18.1 million total. That's above most peoples $15 million expectations but below mine. The film also received a B+ Cinemascore which could carry the film to $50 or $60 million. Look for a review by Wednesday. Epic placed in fifth this weekend with another $12.1 million and a small drop. The animated actioner has now grossed $84 million. Star Trek Into Darkness was the second film this weekend to pass $200 million, as it grossed another $11.7 million. Look for this film to finish around $230 million. After Earth placed in seventh with $11.2 million.

And to round out the top ten this weekend, in eighth was The Hangover Part III with $7.3 million and crossed the $100 million mark. Iron Man 3 finished in 9th with $5.7 million and will cross $400 million in the next week or so. It is currently at $394 million. The Great Gatsby placed 10th with another $4.2 million. Much Ado About Nothing also opened big with $183,000 in 5 theaters.

The total weekend gross was $153 million.

Next weekend sees the release of This is the End on Wednesday and Man of Steel on Friday. Here are my early predictions:

1. Man of Steel- $105 million
2. This is the End- $29 million
3. The Purge- $16 million
4. Now You See Me- $13.4 million
5. Fast and Furious 6- $12 million
6. The Internship- $9 million
7. Epic- $8.8  million
8. Star Trek Into Darkness- $7 million
9. The Hangover Part III- $4.5 million
10. After Earth- $4 million


Monday, June 3, 2013

Lost in Translation review

Bill Murray has had a long and storied career. From Stripes to Ghostbusters to Groundhog Day, Murray is one of the legends of comedy. But Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation was really the first time that he had experimented in drama. And while Lost in Translation is really funny, it definitely is a weighty, serious film. Some might think that Murray would be a misfit in the film but he's spot-on. Murray has the right amount of humor and wit to put into the role along with the agonizing pain that comes with it. Lost in Translation was not a film that I immediately loved. It takes a while to get into the story, but once the two main characters meet, the film comes alive. And then I realized that Lost in Translation was more than just pretty Japanese imagery. It's a love story, but it's not. It's a different kind of love.

Lost in Translation is the story of Bob Harris (Bill Murray), a mid-50s movie star who is kind of sick of his life of stardom. He goes to Japan to film a commercial for a Japanese whiskey company and finds himself more depressed with his life. But while there, he meets a woman named Charlotte (Scarlett Johannson), who is equally lost in life. They meet and fall in love and become young again through the course of a week in Tokyo.

Lost in Translation gets off to a slow start. After the now famous opening shot of Scarlett Johannson's butt, we are taken through around 40 minutes of awkwardly hilarious encounters between Bob and Japanese people who laugh at his inability to understand their language along with longing looks into the distance by Murray and Johannson. It's somewhat entertaining, but all in all, kind of boring to watch. The cinematography is great but it's not enough to carry the movie.

However, when they finally meet and go around Japan together, you can sense it coming on: the movie is becoming fantastic. Johannson's performance is one for the ages and Murray's is full of his traditional wit and sarcastic humor, but just a bit deeper than his usual performances. The two have great chemistry together and really carry the film through it's second half. You can sense that the two depressed characters are loosening up and becoming alive.

Coppola's direction and camerawork is stunning. The beauty of Japan is fully shown through her great direction. Whenever I left the room to get food, or go to the bathroom, I felt like I was leaving the world, which is the sign of a great movie. I really like the way that she built up the plot too. And that ending is fantastic. Heartbreaking, bittersweet, yet optimistic. I love it.

While this maybe a short review, I wanted to recommend this film to people and I really don't have that much to say. It's a very good movie, with a good plot and is well-executed. It's one of the most unique love stories that I have ever seen, because I couldn't really tell if they were in love or if they were just helping each other. But whatever the case, it's a great story and one that I would recommend. It's pretty funny as well and there are a couple of scenes that are truly hilarious. I really love movies that inject humor into serious matters. Those are often the best. While Lost in Translation isn't one of the best movies ever, it's well-made and a heartbreaking story that will entertain you for two hours, while making you think.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B+


Sunday, June 2, 2013

"Fast and Furious 6" drops, but leads, "Now You See Me" surprises, "After Earth" flops

Despite big disappoints and steep falls, the box office was still big this weekend with six films over $15 million and a few over performances. In first place for the second weekend in a row was Fast and Furious 6. The sixth installment in the action franchise grossed another $34.5 million, which is a 65% drop from last weekend. That's a bit worse than Fast Five and considering that Fast Six has less competition than Fast Five did (Thor), it's disappointing. However, Fast and Furious 6 has grossed $170 million so far. Second place was the over performing caper, Now You See Me. The fun action caper grossed $28 million, which is much better than the $19 million tracking suggested. Along with the A- Cinemascore, this movie should be around a while.

Now to the bomb of the week. After Earth grossed $27 million which is a horrible start for the critically reviled Jaden Smith vehicle. This movie is a flop at the level of John Carter and Battleship and could be the second Scientology-related vehicle to die (Battlefield Earth). The previous statement is just a rumor, but it could be true. What isn't a rumor is that along with a B Cinemascore, this movie is going to tank.

In fourth place was Fox's Epic which grossed another $16.5 million this weekend to raise its total to $65.1 million. The animated actioner should keep strong until Monsters University. Paramount's Star Trek Into Darkness fell behind a bit this weekend after pacing ahead of its predecessor all week. The sci-fi film grossed $16.5 million as well, raising its total to $181.1 million. Into Darkness should finish around $225 million.

In a shocking sixth place finish, The Hangover Part III plummeted to $15.9 million, which is about a 62% drop and a bit better than Part II. However, with an $88 million total so far, this movie shouldn't do much better than $130 million. Iron Man 3 was farther behind in seventh with $8 million, raising its total to $384.7 million. It should pass $400 million in mere weeks. The Great Gatsby was eighth with another $6.2 million, raising its total to $128 million. The drama could get to $145 million if its lucky. And rounding out the top ten were Bollywood film Yei Jawaani Hai Deewani in ninth place with $1.6 million and Mud in tenth with $1.2 million.

Next weekend is The Internship, which has been previewed to death and The Purge. Here are my predictions.

1. The Internship- $30 million
2. The Purge- $21 million
3. Fast and Furious 6- $19 million
4. Now You See Me- $15 million
5. After Earth- $11 million
6. Epic- $10 million
7. Star Trek Into Darkness- $8 million
8. The Hangover Part III- $6.5 million
9. Iron Man 3- $5 million
10. The Great Gatsby- $4 million