Saturday, August 31, 2013

Summer 2013 in review

Summer 2013 is over. The pool that I went to about twenty-five times this summer is about to close, the baseball season is winding down, school has started back up (hello, high school!) and the blockbuster season is over at the movie theater. This weekend is one of the biggest dumping grounds of the year, with One Direction: This is Us, the infomercial about the band, and Getaway, a car thriller with a 2% RT score the only films opening. And then, like that, the summer season is officially over. Now, this is my wrap-up of Summer 2013, but I haven't seen everything. This weekend I plan on seeing Lee Daniels' The Butler, Blue Jasmine, and The Spectacular Now, but I don't really consider any of those films to be summer movies.

In total, I saw fourteen movies this summer which is a pretty good total. As I said, there's a lot of stuff that I wanted to see that I didn't but that's okay. Here we go with my rundown of the summer, including some of the things we learned, what went wrong, some awards, and a final summer 2013 ranking.

SUMMER 2013 AWARDS

Best Picture- FAST AND FURIOUS 6

While I thoroughly enjoyed Elysium and truly considered The World's End as the best film of the summer, I always go back to Fast and Furious 6, a popcorn blockbuster in its essence, it's far and away the best film this summer and so far the best film of the year. Fast and Furious 6 is fun from beginning to end; it's like a mix of The Avengers and The Dark Knight with everything that you expect from the Fast franchise. A lot of people consider Fast Five to be the crowning achievement of the franchise, but I think that Fast and Furious 6 outdoes that film with pacing, wit, action, and characters that you care about. It's the best film of the summer and one of the best action films in recent years.

Honorable Mentions: ELYSIUM, THE WORLD'S END

Best Actor- Simon Pegg, THE WORLD'S END


Look, summer isn't known for performances, but I felt that I needed to hand out some performance awards. For best actor, I considered Robert Downey Jr. and actually wrote a paragraph about why I chose him. But instead, I went back to Simon Pegg, who is just great in The World's End. He's hilarious, and while I didn't feel that he stood out among all the stellar performances in that film, he definitely stood out as one of the best leading actors during the whole summer. The World's End is something that I will be watching for years to come and that's all thanks to Pegg, Nick Frost, the script and the supporting cast.

Best Actress- Rinko Kikuchi, PACIFIC RIM


Pretty much by default, Rinko Kikuchi was the only female actress that I saw during the entire blockbuster season in which their character had a leading role. She was fine but nothing special. So, yeah, Kikuchi gets the award by default.

Best Supporting Actor/Actress- Wagner Moura, ELYSIUM


This is a more personal choice than any other that I will make this whole list, I thought that Wagner Moura was fantastic in Elysium. If you don't know, Moura played Spider, Max's friend who is constantly trying to make Elysium available to the public. I thought that Moura was incredibly charismatic and did such a fantastic job in the movie. I was always so interested in his character and he made Matt Damon's character, who was slightly under-written feel complete. Wagner Moura's name is now on my radar and I'm happy about that.

Honorable Mentions: Anybody in Pacific Rim

Best Director- Edgar Wright, THE WORLD'S END



If you didn't get that Fast and Furious 6 was my favorite movie of the summer yet, you need to learn to read. But I'm not going to give the director award to Justin Lin. I felt that he did a good job, but I'm not sure that he put enough of a directorial stamp on it. However, Edgar Wright certainly did. The World's End is interestingly directed, fast paced and funny throughout. It's incredibly well edited and well made with some great fight scenes. Fast and Furious 6 delivered off the fun of the characters, and was also well directed, but Edgar Wright's unique style blows it out of the water.

Honorable Mentions- Justin Lin, Shane Black

Best Screenplay- Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, THE WORLD'S END


Edgar Wright wins again. The World's End undoubtedly had the best script of the summer, as it mixed comedy with real issues and some dark subject matter. In addition, it's the funniest movie of the year, and possibly one of the funniest ever. It's so well scripted and so funny that there is absolutely no way that it doesn't win the award for best screenplay.

Honorable Mentions: Iron Man 3

Best Action Scene- The Final Hour of FAST AND FURIOUS 6


As I said, Fast and Furious 6 was a blockbuster in its essence and it delivered the battle scene of the end. Honestly, this summer was weak on finales. Pacific Rim had some fight scenes that were awesome, but none that stood out as great. Elysium's climax was entertaining, but more in a story way. The World's End had some great fight scenes, but none that were show-stopping. However, Fast 6 delivered. That whole runway thing was awesome, I don't care what anyone says.

Honorable Mentions: The World's End

Best Visual Effects- PACIFIC RIM


I thought about giving this award to Man of Steel, but it's not a very good film. And I'm really not sure how many visual effects were in Elysium. But Pacific Rim is a fully realized visual world and has fantastic special effects from beginning to end. I truly believe that they are some of the best ever.

Best Ending- ELYSIUM

SPOILERS


Elysium kills its main character. The end of the movie results in the end of Max's journey: both his journey to Elysium and the journey of his life. I love it when movies kill characters, especially main ones. It just shows guts and just shows that you don't want to make a franchise out of your movie. Elysium's ending is satisfying, gratifying and gives closure. There's no loose ends to tie up that relate to the main characters. It's perfect.

Best Franchise Starter- WORLD WAR Z


A movie that surprised the heck out of me, World War Z was really, really good. Although it sags into standard thriller territory with its second act, it bounces back with some great action sequences and some really dark stuff. It's a thriller that delivers best when it doubles as a horror film and it frequently does. This is a franchise that we will be seeing for a while and one that I think will deliver time and time again with Brad Pitt in charge.

Biggest Disappointment- MAN OF STEEL


Man of Steel was at one time my most anticipated film of the year. As it approached its release date, I became less and less confident about the film. But I couldn't have expected what I got. It's a flat out bad movie, one that doesn't even work as a standard superhero film. It just proves that Superman is not a hero that can fit well in this generation, Man of Steel puts tons of destruction on the screen in the hope of making you like the film. But it ends up failing on so many other levels. It's a misstep in terms of tone and an action extravaganza that never comes to fruition.

Worst Picture- THE GREAT GATSBY


The Great Gatsby is far from great, it's ghastly. A terrible film in every respect, I have never seen anything that bored me as much as The Great Gatsby did. It puts me in a state of disbelief that I gave this movie a C on its initial release. There's nothing redeeming in The Great Gatsby, not even the presence of some of my favorite actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire.

Now, for my final ranking of the summer 2013 films:

1. FAST AND FURIOUS 6
2. THE WORLD'S END
3. ELYSIUM
4. IRON MAN 3
5. WORLD WAR Z
6. STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS
7. PACIFIC RIM
8. DESPICABLE ME 2
9. MONSTERS UNIVERSITY
10. NOW YOU SEE ME
11. THE WAY, WAY BACK
12. MAN OF STEEL
13. THE WOLVERINE
14. THE GREAT GATSBY

Alright, so that's it for my end of summer wrap up. We saw four movies that I would put on my best of list for the end of the year, so now, I turn to the fall with the hopes that we get a bit more substance. Overall, I consider summer 2013 to be good, far superior to 2012, but not as pitch-perfect as 2011. But still, an impressive season nonetheless.

Fall Box Office Predictions- Part 1

With the summer season practically over (my wrap-up is coming later this week), it's time to look ahead to the fall. I already did a most anticipated list for the second half of the year, and I'm not going to do that again. Instead, I will look ahead to the box office for the fall season. And it has the potential to be big. We'll start with Labor Day weekend, even though that is still technically summer. Here we go.

GETAWAY- August 30

Four-Day Weekend Prediction- $14 million
Total Gross Prediction- $35 million


Getaway is a film that looks entertaining enough for a cable watch, but not something to see in theaters. However, it does star Selena Gomez and Ethan Hawke, who are decent draws, but it also looks like a rehash of Fast Five and Drive blended with The Transporter. Anyways, this film won't do much, but it's the only action offering on Labor Day weekend, so I see it doing decent business.

ONE DIRECTION: THIS IS US- August 30

Four-Day Weekend Prediction- $21 million
Total Gross Prediction- $43 million


This will be an extremely front-loaded film as the main audience is teen girls, who typically rush out to see everything opening weekend. The only potential for an expanded audience on this film is director Morgan Spurlock, who is a respected director of documentaries. Still, his name is unfamiliar to general audiences and I think that the driving force behind this will be the 1D fans.

RIDDICK- September 6

Opening Weekend Prediction- $34 million
Total Gross Prediction- $89 million


Riddick is a film that will succeed on the basis that its main star, Vin Diesel, has a major geek presence and a huge twitter following. The Fast and Furious franchise has expanded in a major way since its origin and I think that gives Riddick some hope. However, it is an R-rated sci-fi film, which never really break out at the box office (Elysium is a recent example). Still, with a strong marketing effort, Riddick should do just fine.

THE FAMILY- September 13

Opening Weekend Predictions- $15 million
Total Gross Predictions- $46 million

The Family is the new film from director Luc Besson, a respected filmmaker that has made both art house hits (The Professional) and blockbusters (Taken, Taken 2). Besson's The Family has two major stars but an unsure premise and an R rating. I think that the marketing needs to set in a strong strategy if they want this film to be a success, because otherwise it will end up being another middle of the road action flick.

INSIDIOUS-CHAPTER 2- September 13

Opening Weekend Prediction- $49 million
Total Gross Prediction- $115 million



Back in 2011, Insidious was a minor hit, making $54 million in the US. However, now its director, James Wan, is a major star and has directed a horror mega-hit in The Conjuring. Chapter 2 is already out pacing that film on Facebook and Twitter and it's the first PG-13 horror film in a long time. Plus, with little options for horror in the usually robust fall season, people will flock to this.

BATTLE OF THE YEAR- September 20

Opening Weekend Prediction- $7 million
Total Gross Prediction- $17 million


A dance movie with no major stars and a feeling of complete redundancy. Count me in! Just kidding. Screen Gems has held a lot of advanced screenings for this film, but I really don't know who the audience is. They better pull off a major marketing push if they want this to be a hit. However, the budget couldn't be that big so even if it flops, the film won't hurt the company.

PRISONERS- September 20

Opening Weekend Prediction- $19 million
Total Gross Prediction- $84 million


Prisoners is a movie that looks very good. It looks like a sure-fire Oscar contender. However, I think that this is a film that looks extremely dark and depressing which may turn some people off. I think that the closest comparable film is Se7en, which grossed $187 million when adjusted for inflation. That had three major stars to its advantage though, which Prisoners doesn't. Another comparable would be Zodiac, which grossed $33 million in 2006.

RUSH- September 27

Opening Weekend Prediction- $24 million
Total Gross Prediction- $114 million


Rush is the first major Oscar contender of the year. Some might say that Prisoners has a chance and that The World's End, Frutivale Station and Blue Jasmine could slip in there, but I firmly believe that Ron Howard's Rush has a good shot at several nominations. Rush has a major rising star and a clear plotline, along with a cool 70's look. I see a big hit coming with this one.

DON JON- September 27

Opening Weekend Prediction- $6.5 million
Total Gross Prediction- $20 million

Pornography is probably not the most accessible of topics to make a film about. Porn addiction is even less accessible. And if you couldn't guess by now, that's what Don Jon is about. That could turn people away from it or it could turn people to it. Don Jon has two major stars in its writer/director Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Scarlett Johannson and a good trailer. But still, the subject might be too taboo for some audiences.

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS 2- September 27

Opening Weekend Prediction- $44 million
Total Gross Prediction- $156 million


Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs was a surprise hit back in 2009 with $124 million. Now, four years later, the film has expanded thanks to home video. I see this film being a massive hit thanks mostly to the fact that it is the only animated for an entire month, and it's a name brand film. Plus, it looks zany, funny and cool, so it could appeal to teenagers as well. I know I'm looking forward to it.

BAGGAGE CLAIM- September 27

Opening Weekend Prediction- $8 million
Total Gross Prediction- $25 million


It's a romantic comedy, and there aren't many of those nowadays, but it doesn't look particularly good. It could be a nice middle of the road diversion, but I don't see it expanding beyond the female audience that it is targeting.

GRAVITY- October 4

Opening Weekend Prediction- $31 million
Total Gross Prediction- $120 million


Gravity could really be something special. It's something of a sci-fi/horror hybrid with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. It's got the best of both worlds: special effects that will draw in teens and substance and big stars for older folks. It's my most anticipated for the rest of the year and I see it getting good word of mouth. I really hope that we're in for something innovative here.

RUNNER RUNNER- October 4

Opening Weekend Prediction- $23 million
Total Gross Prediction- $67 million


For my predictions on Runner, Runner, I looked to 21, a film that came out in 2008 about gambling. Now, the only thing that these two films share in common is gambling, but I wasn't sure how many films that there were about that subject. However, Runner Runner has two major stars in Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake and could be a nice fall action flick.

METALLICA THROUGH THE NEVER- October 4

Opening Weekend Prediction- $11 million
Total Gross Prediction- $35 million

This looks like a cool concept, but will it deliver outside of Metallica's fanbase. It's doubtful, but the fact that the band is mixing a story with a concert that they shot purposefully for the movie could be something that draws in others that are not loyal fans of the bands music. Either way, there's no chance this movie is a financial failure. The budget can't be that big.

CAPTAIN PHILLIPS- October 11

Opening Weekend Prediction- $29 million
Total Gross Prediction- $110 million



Tom Hanks plus the director of The Bourne Supremacy seems like a sure box office hit. I like the prospects of this movie simply because of how many demographics that it can cover. It will appeal to older audiences looking for some good Oscar fare, along with appealing to teenagers who want a tense action thriller. Plus, if the awards buzz on this one blows up, you could see this skyrocket past the total I currently have it at.

MACHETE KILLS- October 11

Opening Weekend Prediction- $15 million
Total Gross Prediction- $37 million


Machete was a small success in 2011, grossed $26 million in the US. But, it had a small budget and that managed to justify a sequel. This one has a bigger cast and if fans of Robert Rodriguez show up, you could see a small increase on the gross. However, the film is still very violent and that takes away the appeal for adult fans of say, Mel Gibson. But with more gimmicks, I don't see why Machete Kills isn't a slightly bigger hit.

ESCAPE PLAN- October 18

Opening Weekend Prediction- $6 million
Total Gross Prediction- $14 million

Look, this film would have been a massive success, say, twenty five years ago. But now, these two stars, Stallone and Schwarzenegger, are just not box office draws. Plus, this movie was screened at Comic-Con for fans, who proceeded to bash the film after they actually saw it. Both of these actors proved that they can't drive films by themselves with Bullet to the Head and The Last Stand, so why would Escape Plan be any different.

THE FIFTH ESTATE- October 18

Opening Weekend Prediction- $13 million
Total Gross Prediction- $50 million

This will be a word of mouth success if the film is good, but it's not something that I see breaking out opening weekend. Benedict Cumberbatch has fans, but not enough to drive a movie to massive opening weekend results. However, I believe that this movie will be good and I think that word of mouth will drive this biopic about Julian Assange to strong results.

CARRIE- October 18

Opening Weekend Prediction- $25 million
Total Gross Prediction- $70 million


This movie looks like garbage, and there's little to no point for a remake, but I believe that this film will become a hit based on the fact that it's the only horror film in the blockbuster horror month of October. Plus, Chloe Grace Moretz is a rising star and it does have that name brand recognition that horror fans love. But it isn't something that will rise above $100 million.

THE COUNSELOR- October 25

Opening Weekend Prediction- $20 million
Total Gross Prediction- $70 million


I don't know about this one. Everyone has mentioned this as an Oscar contender, and I believe that it could be, but I don't think that it has commercial appeal and I don't think that it's subject matter will appeal to adults. But, it does have big name stars with Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Javier Bardem, Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz, along with a big name director in Ridley Scott. But in the end, it's going to need major Oscar buzz to overcome its dark subject matter.

JACKASS PRESENTS: BAD GRANDPA- October 25

Opening Weekend Prediction- $39 million
Total Gross Prediction- $90 million


The Jackass franchise is very popular it seems and everyone also seems to like the brand of gross-out, real people comedy, but I don't see this being as much of a success as Jackass 3-D. Bad Grandpa doesn't have the ensemble cast or the same amount of gross-out gags, but it does still have outrageous humor and Johnny Knoxville dressed up like an old man, so it'll be a hit.

Well, that's it for part one. Come back soon for part 2 of my Fall Box Office Predictions.

This Week in Movie News: James Spader in "The Avengers 2", "Gravity" gets raves, "Labor Day" mixed, "Now You See Me 2", "Dallas Buyers Club" trailer

With school starting this week, I was so busy and stressed that I was not able to blog at all. However, I wanted to give a summary of the movie news of this week now that I have a three-day weekend. In addition, reviews are coming as I intend on seeing several movies this weekend. This was a rather light week for movie news as the internet after the aftermath of Batfleck, but there were some casting bits, plot details and film festival premieres that I wanted to cover. Here we go:

-James Spader is Ultron in "The Avengers: Age of Ultron"

Famous character actor James Spader will be playing the villain in the sequel to the 2012 smash hit. I am not familiar with any of Spader's work, but the indifference with which the internet responded to the casting doesn't encourage me that much. I think that Spader will do fine in the role, but I believe that Spader will just be providing the voice for the film. I don't see Spader doing much acting in the role, but I think that this is an interesting choice due to the fact that the rumor is that Jarvis will be turned into Ultron. I think that this could smash that theory, but who knows.

-Rumored "Interstellar" plot details released, shock internet

Look, I think that it's become pretty obvious at this point that Christopher Nolan is the internet's favorite director. He's made a lot of instant classics and not one bad film yet. So, it's a sure bet that Nolanites will be following every piece of news that relates to Interstellar, Nolan's new film dated for November 7, 2014. This week brought news on two fronts: casting and plot details. First off, Matt Damon has joined the film in a small, unspecified role. That just adds more credence to the already stunning cast that includes Matthew McCounaghey, Jessica Chastain, and Anne Hathaway. But the news that came as more shocking was the rumored plot synopsis. Here it is:

"Set in the future, the movie details the toll climate change has taken on agriculture, with corn the last crop to be cultivated. The scientists embark on a journey through a wormhole into other dimensions in search of somewhere other crops can be grown."

I doubt that these details are authentic, but I felt like throwing them out there.

-Venice Film Festival begins: "Gravity", "Philomena" get raves


Somehow, what used to be a massive film festival has taken a back seat to Toronto and Telluride in terms of predicting the Oscars. But, Venice still has the power to get the conversation going as it did with two Oscar contenders earlier this week. First off is Philomena, a small British drama about a woman (Judi Dench) and her search for the son she put up for adoption. The film had it's world premiere at Venice last night and unsurprisingly, the film was a success with the Venice crowd. Thompson on Hollywood said this about the film: "Dench takes your breath away, and so does Philomena." The film should have some success in the acting categories with Dench being a surefire contender.

But onto the bigger news out of Venice: the rave reviews for Gravity. The space drama, which is my most anticipated film for the rest of the year, held its world premiere in Venice and received practically unanimous praise. The Hollywood Reporter gave the film a 100, saying: "Gravity is a thrillingly realized survival story spike with interludes of breath-catching tension and startling surprise." The Telegraph gave the film a 5/5 saying that Gravity is a "science fiction thriller of rare and diamond-hard brilliance." The lowest grade given to the film off the Lido was a 4/5 by HeyUGuys and The Guardian. We're in for something special with this one.

-Telluride Film Festival begins: "Labor Day" review mixed, "Prisoners", "12 Years a Slave" wow fest in sneak screenings


The film world's smallest pre-Oscar party still has the power to get the conversation moving. Labor Day, the new film from Jason Reitman kicked off the small Colorado festival with raves from some critics, and mixed reviews from others. William Goss at Film.com called it "as consistently assured a film as any we've seen from Jason Reitman" and gave it a 7.7/10. Meanwhile, Chris Willman at The Playlist gave the film a C and said that it was a "full immersion exercise in the old-fashioned women's weepie that skews far closer to Nicholas Sparks' brand of contrivance than Diablo Cody territory." Labor Day also plays at Toronto this coming week, so we'll see how the response is there.



Meanwhile, as traditional, Telluride held a few "secret screenings" of films that will release in the coming months. Two of the films this year were Prisoners and 12 Years a Slave. Both received heaps of praise. There has been only one official review published from Variety, which proceeded to say that the film "immediately enters the ring as an awards season heavyweight" while THR and HitFix proceeded to agree that the film blew the roof off the fest. Meanwhile, 12 Years a Slave, Steve McQueen's harsh picture of American Slavery was met to unanimous praise from Variety, HitFix and IndieWire alike. Variety said that the epic film makes "Scarlett O'Hara's troubles seem petty by comparison", while HitFix gave the film an A- saying that "no film has ever depicted the sheer brutality and horror that was American Slavery as Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave." However, the highest grade came from IndieWire. Eric Kohn gave the film an A+ and called it a "slavery movie for the ages." Look for this one to be an Oscar heavyweight.

-"Now You See Me 2" on its way with director Letterier at the helm


Now You See Me was one of the surprise films to hit theaters this summer. On a $75 million budget, it grossed $293 million worldwide. I gave the film an A- on its initial release, but I now find that it's easily forgettable. However, I'm slightly shocked to see that a sequel is on the way. It had a pretty definitive ending in my book, and I'm not sure if the public interest is there, but with director Louis Letterier returning, it seems that Summit has a viable hit franchise on its hands. Expect the sequel to hit theaters in 2015.

-"Dallas Buyers Club" premieres first trailer, tries to work its way into the Oscar race

There are obviously a lot of Oscar contenders this year. Already, we've had three films that received heaps of praise (12 Years A Slave, Prisoners, Gravity) and one that received some outstanding reviews and some mixed (Labor Day). So it seems certain that a lot of smaller films will be knocked out of the race by the studio-backed heavyweights. One of those films could be Dallas Buyers Club, the AIDS drama that stars Matthew McCounaghey and Jared Leto. Here's the first trailer:

McCounaghey seems to be a sure bet for a best actor nominee, but the trailer didn't blow me away. In the end, I think that there are just too many heavyweights that are being released that I'm not sure what some of these smaller films are going to do.

Alright, so that's the weekly news wrap-up, something that I will try to do more often on this site. But for now, I'll see you next week on This Week in Movie News.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The World's End review

One small film, released back in 2004, changed everything when it came to niche, genre cinema: Edgar Wright's Shaun of the Dead. Now, Shaun of the Dead didn't necessarily change movies, but it showed us three great new comedic talents in the form of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright. Since then, we've seen Pegg in Star Trek and Mission: Impossible, Frost in Paul and The Adventures of Tintin, and Edgar Wright has directed Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and now, The World's End. Although Star Trek and Mission: Impossible are blockbuster franchises, all of the other films that Pegg and Frost have starred in have not been major financial successes. With all that aside, we come to The World's End, the final film in Wright's Three Flavors Cornetto trilogy. I haven't seen Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, but I thought the trailer for The World's End looked hilarious. So I went in with cautious optimism for The World's End and it definitely met my expectations in some aspects and blew me away in others.

The World's End is the story of five friends: Gary (Simon Pegg), Andy (Nick Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine), and Peter (Eddie Marsan). When they were teenagers, the group tried to complete an epic pub crawl called The Golden Mile, in which you must drink twelve pints at twelve pubs, from The First Post to The World's End. The group failed, and they all went their separate ways. Four of the guys grew up, but Gary didn't and now he wants to get the group back together to try the pub crawl again. Somehow, Gary manages to convince everyone to come back to Newton Haven, their hometown to attempt to finish the Golden Mile. However, when they get back, not everything is how they remembered. 

The World's End was one of my most anticipated films for the second half of the year. Not because I loved Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz (as I said, I haven't seen either), but because the trailer looked great and it kind of reminded me of a 1950's B-movie where there's just total ridiculousness all around mixed with a quirky, raunchy comedy. And it is that movie. The World's End is the funniest movie that I have seen in theaters this year. Hands down. It's the funniest movie that I have seen in years, and probably one of the funniest that I have ever seen. This movie made me laugh almost constantly. However, despite being packed with hilarity, it isn't without its problems. 

The World's End puts Simon Pegg in the lead role once again, this time as Gary King. Pegg fully embodies this character and does a great job in the role. Pegg is hilarious but the standout performances come from Nick Frost and Eddie Marsan. About half of this movie takes place while the characters are drunk, which actually adds a lot of comedic value to it. You would think that it would make the movie excessively stupid, but it doesn't. Marsan just has some great lines when he is drunk and it was a lot of fun to watch Frost play the stuck-up guy who eventually gets drunk and goes crazy. Pierce Brosnan and Bill Nighy also have fun cameo roles. 

The plot is well-executed in some aspects, but it isn't so great in others. The film is set up incredibly well, with a series of scenes with Gary and his friends before they head to Newton Haven. Once they get there, it also keeps going strong. It's fast, funny and hilarious. But for that first half hour, it has a bit of a serious edge to it, and once the "apocalypse" comes in, it sort of loses that. It's a little scattered in its set-up of the invasion in Newton Haven, but it ultimately sticks the landing for that plotline in one stunning scene. And it almost loses you with its super-fast pacing in the second act, but during the third act, it finally bring in some dramatic moments to make the film feel a bit more even. It's clear that Edgar Wright wanted to make a comedy with drama, unlike other comedies where the drama is forced. So in the end, that is my major complaint about this film. It's second act is slightly messy and sometimes unfunny, but it is kept afloat by some stunning action scenes during that time and first and third acts that blew me away. 

So, the movie is a little scatter-brained at times. Did I have any other problems with the film? No. I didn't. I really didn't. This is a great comedy, and when a comedy becomes slightly overwhelming, you know that it did its job well. The jokes come fast and furiously and they all pay off. It's just a funny movie. I think that I had another problem with the film that isn't the films fault. It's too smart. This is an insanely smart comedy, but it is also so, so funny. That kind of clashes at times. You're too busy laughing to pay attention to the fine details. But, I'm glad to say that Edgar Wright has made an intelligent comedy because there aren't many comedies that can do that without being insanely depressing. 

This was my first taste of Edgar Wright's filmmaking style, and I really loved it. Wright not only can write a hilarious comedy, but he also can direct too. This guy does some really interesting stuff with the camera, he puts in some cool shots, and his action sequences are filmed very well. Wright has directing chops and The World's End made me really excited for Ant-Man (I hope Simon Pegg stars in it). Plus, Edgar Wright does a fantastic job with all the action scenes. 

Look, unless your expectations were insanely high and as long you can laugh at a slightly different style of humor, you will likely at the least, enjoy The World's End. It's fast, funny and a whole lot of fun. That's the word to describe this movie: fun. It's just loads of fun. It's a movie that I will pop in the Blu-Ray player and watch with friends at parties. And if you really like this duo and Edgar Wright, you will love this movie. 

In the end, despite a few narrative problems, The World's End is an extremely well-made, well-executed mix of genres. It's pretty R-rated in the language section and of course there's loads of drinking, but everywhere else the film is pretty tame. Edgar Wright is a fantastic action director and I can't wait to see him do more stuff. But for now, just sit back, relax and enjoy the best comedy of the last several years, and one of the best films of 2013, a film that has interesting themes, a smart story, and tons of fun action: The World's End.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A                                            (9.7/10)



Friday, August 23, 2013

Ben Affleck is the new Batman, film set for July 17, 2015

Last night, I got a text from a friend that simply said: "WHAT. THE HECK." I had no idea what the text was for, but soon he said: "They cast Batman." I ran over to Imdb to check it out and soon saw that director/actor Ben Affleck was cast as Bruce Wayne/Batman in the 2015 film that is tentatively titled Batman vs. Superman. I was in shock. Really? The guy that directed Argo and The Town, was going back to star in a superhero movie. It was incredibly odd.

Honestly, I'm not the right person to ask about this matter. Despite my love for Batman, I really don't care about a Batman/Superman film. I hated Man of Steel, and even Christopher Nolan's touch couldn't save it. The Dark Knight trilogy is fantastic but it has become obvious now that those films will have nothing to do with the new film. And unless Warner Bros. suddenly announced that Affleck was also directing this film, I still am only mildly interested. There's just no way that anything Snyder does with the character will top what Nolan did. Unless Snyder goes back and does something a bit more comically zany, similar to the Burton films, I don't see this being interesting. Plus, he already set the tone for DC's future films with Man of Steel, an insanely dark take on the hero.

Anyways, despite my overall disinterest in a new Batman, I don't like Ben Affleck as Batman, and it is not because I don't think that he's a great fit for the role. I think that he'll be fine as Batman, and I think that he'll do fine as Bruce Wayne. I thought that his performance was the only slight knock on Argo, a film that I still would put on a list of all time favorites. But it had more to do with the writing than it did Affleck's performances. My problem with this choice is that Affleck is a phenomenal director. He's fantastic. Argo was the best film of last year and from what I hear, The Town and Gone Baby Gone are also very good films. I just wish that he would stick to directing. He's good in what he does, and I just don't think that being a superhero is it.

However, I'm sure that it will be a very entertaining film, as long as Affleck and Nolan keep Snyder's destruction levels in check. I don't know what they're going to do with this but I just hope that it's good. I still wish that they would have cast some one like Josh Brolin, but we're not always going to get what we want.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

"Elysium" disappoints in first, "We're the Millers" strong in second at weekend box office

The end of the summer blockbuster season has come. While smaller films such as Kick-Ass 2 and The Mortal Instruments are yet to be released, the last $100 million+ blockbuster opened this weekend in the form of Elysium. The science fiction film, from director Neill Blomkamp grossed a decent $30.4 million in its debut frame, along with an "B" Cinemascore. The box office number is disappointing. Blomkamp's District 9 grossed $37.3 million in its first weekend, and with a bigger budget and a mega-star in the form of Matt Damon, there's no reason that Elysium shouldn't have opened bigger. However, there are a couple of things that prevented it from getting to that higher number: the massive amount of action films this summer and the R-rating. The restrictive rating means that teenagers can't get into the theater easily and must have a parent accompany them, which is never good for box office. However, The Conjuring had a "R" rating last month and that opened higher than Elysium, which means that there was another problem. That problem was the abundance of action choices over the last month and the fact that most people are tired of these types of movies. Elysium's marketing didn't do enough to separate itself from any other action film, and it suffered because of it. Hopefully, the film will have good word of mouth, but that Cinemascore is a major disappointment. Sony better pray for great international grosses, because otherwise, they'll have their third flop of the summer. Too bad that it's one of the summers better films.

In second place this weekend was New Line's We're The Millers. That film grossed a strong $26.5 over the three-day weekend, in addition to $11.4 million on Wednesday and Thursday for a $38 million five-day opening. Add that up with an "A-" Cinemascore, and Warner Bros. and New Line have another hit on their hands. The film should hold well over the coming weeks, as there are no broad comedies until The World's End, if you consider that to be a broad comedy. Look for an $85 million finish. Third place belonged to Disney's Planes, a direct to DVD film that was put in theaters. However, it proved to be a smart move by Disney as the film grossed $22.5 million. That's a strong opening for the film, which will hold strong thanks to an "A-" Cinemascore and no animated films until late September.

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters finished in last place out of the four new releases with $14.6 million over the weekend. That makes for a $23.4 million weekend. The "B+" Cinemascore will help word of mouth, but in the end, the budget on this film is a big $90 million, so the international grosses will need to be very strong for the film to make its money back. 2 Guns dropped 59% to fifth place and a $11.1 million finish this weekend. The film has now grossed $48.5 million and should make a solid profit for Universal. The Smurfs 2 suffered at the hands of Planes, with a sixth place finish and $9.5 million in grosses. That's a 46% drop, which is pretty high for an animated film. Still, The Smurfs are huge overseas so expect The Smurfs 3 to stay on track. The Smurfs 2 has grossed $46.6 million in the US.

The Wolverine also continued its freefall down the box office charts with a $8 million weekend in seventh place. The soon-to-be lowest grossing installment in the X-Men franchise has grossed $111.9 million so far. Meanwhile, The Conjuring finished in 8th place with a $6.7 million weekend. The horror smash has now grossed $120.7 million and will likely finish with around $140 million by the end of its run. Despicable Me 2, to my disbelief, is still playing in theaters and finished in ninth this weekend with $5.7 million. The animated mega-hit has grossed $338 million in the US. And rounding out the top ten was Grown Ups 2 with $3.7 million for a total of $123.8 million.

In addition, Blue Jasmine finished in eleventh place in limited release with another $2.5 million for a $6.2 million total. And Chennai Express also opened strong with $2.2 million in 196 theaters.

Next week sees the release of Kick-Ass 2, Lee Daniels' The Butler, Paranoia, and Jobs. Here are some early predictions.

1. Kick-Ass 2- $24.1 million
2. Lee Daniels' The Butler- $22.4 million
3. Paranoia- $15 million
4. Elysium- $14.1 million
5. We're The Millers- $14 million
6. Planes- $12.9 million
7. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters- $6.9 million
8. Jobs- $6.7 million
9. The Smurfs 2- $5.1 million
10. The Wolverine- $4 million


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Elysium review

This has been a weird summer for movies. It's contained several good films, with the standouts being Iron Man 3 and Fast Six, along with some satisfying hits in World War Z, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Pacific Rim. But there have also been a ton of crushing disappointments including The Great Gatsby, Oblivion, Monsters University, Man of Steel and The Wolverine. Even some of the good films were disappointments. Now, we arrive at the final blockbuster of the summer: Neill Blomkamp's Elysium. Blomkamp is following up the highly praised science fiction feature, District 9, with a bigger, badder science fiction project. Once again, Blomkamp mixes dazzling sci-fi effects with excellent action and great characters. Elysium is definitely one of the better, more memorable films of the summer.

Elysium tells the story of Max (Matt Damon), a factory worker who lives on the barren wasteland of Earth. The rich, powerful and beautiful have left Earth and now live on the space station Elysium, which is a complete utopia. On Elysium, the rich and powerful are served by droids, live in luxurious mansions, and best of all, are instantly cured of any ailment thanks to a Medi-Pod. Max is a former felon, who is trying to go down the straight path and avoid the temptations of the organized crime led by the underground revolutionary Spider (Wagner Moura). When at the factory one day, Max is exposed to a lethal dose of radiation and is given five days to live. Unless he reaches a medi-pod on Elysium, Max will die. He contacts Spider, who hooks him up to an exoskeleton suit and sends him on his mission to Elysium, which could change everything.

Recently, I saw Blomkamp's District 9 for the first time. I wrote a review and enjoyed it a lot, but it never really had any characters I cared about, and its visual style seemed to be nothing but barren wastelands and disgusting aliens. And while you may hear that Blomkamp's Elysium is very similar to his debut feature, I don't believe that's the case. Elysium is much more visually polished, much more entertaining and has a more interesting story. It doesn't quite have that universal message in the subtext like District 9 did, but I feel like it's a much more polished film. In addition, this film not only provides a sympathetic hero, it also has a colorful cast of supporting characters that drive the film.

Elysium is very much a film that is done in three acts. The first act does a great job setting up the plot and has a magnificent opening shot of downtown Los Angeles in ruin. It sets up Max's storyline, it sets up the story on Elysium and it does it well. I wasn't instantly hooked, but I was very intrigued. Once Max is exposed to the radiation is when the story really kicks into gear. Blomkamp does do some of the shaky-cam work in Elysium, but overall I felt that the action scenes were extremely effective. They're intense, sometimes bloody and often a lot of fun. The third act is the most entertaining, tense and effective as it builds off of everything that the first two acts set up and it delivers a rousing, explosive conclusion.

The performances in this film are pretty solid, some spectacular. I liked Matt Damon as the hero, and you do sympathize for him slightly, but he's not all that memorable. I didn't find Jodie Foster to be all that bad, she's fine in her role, but not exactly great. The best performances lie with the supporting cast. While I didn't find Foster as bad as everyone else did, I also didn't think that Sharlto Copley was as great as he has been hyped as in the role of Kruger. His villain is great in the last few minutes and is definitely menacing, but not necessarily a character that I'm going to remember years from now. William Fichtner is fantastic in his small role. I really thought that he had great screen presence and was enjoyable to watch. My favorite performance in the film came from Wagner Moura, an actor that I was not aware of before this movie. He's always exciting to watch and I really cared about his character.

While I really enjoyed the film overall, by far my favorite part of the film was Blomkamp's ability to set up the story, put in some good action sequences and colorful characters to keep you interested and invest you in the plot that when the action came around, you cared. There's my problem with this summers crop of films. You just don't care. Man of Steel had impressive action, but I didn't care, because the story was not set up well. Same with The Wolverine and Pacific Rim to an extent. However, in the final moments, when Max and Spider are up against the wall, I cared. When Frey (Alice Braga), Max's childhood friend, was in peril, I cared. When Max and Kruger are fighting to the death, I cared. Blomkamp made me care about everyone involved and that's why I loved the final third of the film. Anything on Elysium is instantly captivating. Plus, I loved the action scenes during that section.

In addition to great practical stunts and fight scenes that don't involve blowing up buildings, the visual look of the film is amazing. Blomkamp mixed the practical action and visual effects so well in District 9 and he does it again in Elysium. The robots in this film look amazing, the exo-suits look amazing, and Elysium looks amazing. I wish that I could have seen this film on a bigger screen, but unfortunately, I got one of the smaller theaters at my multiplex.

Let's talk a little bit more about the action in this film. This summer has not had that show-stopping action scene that everybody talks about for years to come. Last year it was the final battle in The Avengers and the year before that, it was Transformers 3. Now, Elysium still doesn't have that awesome action sequence that blows you away, but it still has some impressive ones. The final fights in the hallways of Elysium is impressive and so is the fight between Kruger and Max. Blomkamp knows how to shoot gritty, bloody action and does it in a spectacular fashion.

I really don't have much negative to say about Elysium. It is far from a perfect film, it has a lot of problems and a lot of flaws, but none of them are too big. I guess I could point out that the film could have trimmed ten minutes or so and that a couple characters were underused and unnecessary, but I'm not going to because none of it drags down the film. It's a rollicking ride that really gets your heart beating. Plus, underlying themes that could possibly start a conversation never hurt. I'll just point out that this is an R-rated science fiction film, so anyone expecting a Pacific Rim is going to be shocked when they see the first gory scene. Overall, the gore isn't pervasive or extreme, but it is there.

In the end, I found Elysium to be an extremely satisfying end to the summer blockbuster season. It's got action, wit, humor, and a cast of colorful, fun characters and some great fight scenes. The visual effects are splendid and the themes are interesting if you are drawn to that kind of thing. Elysium is one of the better films of the summer and a better film than District 9 for many reasons, despite not being quite as innovative as that film. Still, innovation isn't all that matters and on all other fronts, I felt that Elysium was more daring, will certainly be more divisive and is a much more entertaining film.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A-                                              (8/10)



Friday, August 9, 2013

First Oscar Post- Pre-Toronto Rankings, Predictions and Buzz

With the summer movie season winding down (the final blockbuster comes out this weekend in the form of Elysium), it's time to start looking ahead to the season where we typically get the best movies. Back in February, I did some early predictions for the film. Now, after most of the trailers for the biggest contenders have been released, it's time for me to throw out some predictions before the Telluride, Venice and Toronto film festivals.

BEST PICTURE


1. American Hustle
2. The Wolf of Wall Street
3. Captain Phillips
4. The Monuments Men
5. Labor Day
6. Gravity
7. Her
8. Inside Llewyn Davis
9. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
10. Prisoners

I have some oddball choices in here. But I don't think that they're too far off. All three of my genre choices (Her, Gravity, Walter Mitty), are premiering at various festivals and I think that the academy is making some smarter choices in terms of genre films (just look at the past three years: Inception, District 9, Life of Pi). But honestly, I don't think that any of them will win. The clear front-runner for best picture has to be American Hustle. It had a spectacular trailer, a great cast, and a director who's due for an Oscar. Captain Phillips and The Wolf of Wall Street are also candidates, so keep an eye on them. 

BEST DIRECTOR

1. David O. Russell, American Hustle
2. Martin Scorsese, The Wolf of Wall Street
3. George Clooney, The Monuments Men
4. Paul Greengrass, Captain Phillips
5. Spike Jonze, Her

Last year, Ang Lee won best director for Life of Pi and Argo won best picture. Two different films. That won't happen this year. If American Hustle is as good as I anticipate, he will win for best director as well. I think that Spike Jonze will be nominated as well; the Academy likes to throw an oddball in the mix. 

BEST ACTOR

1. Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street
2. Tom Hanks, Captain Phillips
3. Oscar Isaac, Inside Llewyn Davis
4. Idris Elba, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
5. Christian Bale, American Hustle

All five of these guys are legitimate contenders. But Tom Hanks has won twice before, Bale got a supporting win for another David O. Russell movie three years ago, and if the other two actors were nominated, it would be their first time. Now, let's look at Leonardo DiCaprio. He's been nominated before (What's Eating Gilbert Grape?, The Aviator, Blood Diamond) and he has gotten snubbed for other performances before. This is DiCaprio's year, and I think that the Academy will finally give him his Oscar, especially if he really goes through with his five year acting hiatus. 

BEST ACTRESS


1. Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
2. Kate Winslet, Labor Day
3. Nicole Kidman, Grace of Monaco
4. Sandra Bullock, Gravity
5. Emma Thompson, Saving Mr. Banks

Right now, all the buzz is with Cate Blanchett, so I have to go with her. We haven't seen anything from Labor Day or Grace of Monaco, but I anticipate both Winslet and Kidman will turn in good performances. Emma Thompson is going to be a powerhouse contender and Sandra Bullock could get nominated for Gravity. But right now, this Blanchett's to lose. 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

1. Javier Bardem, The Counselor
2. Tom Hanks, Saving Mr. Banks
3. Josh Brolin, Labor Day
4. Jeremy Renner, American Hustle
5. Michael Fassbender, 12 Years A Slave

Despite the fact that Bardem won before for No Country for Old Men, I think that Bardem has turned in enough great performances over the last few years to get another Oscar. He looks like one of the highlights of the film, and his ability to steal scenes in films are spectacular. The Counselor isn't something I see getting a lot of wins but I think that Bardem will take the prize in this category. 

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS


1. Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
2. Cameron Diaz, The Counselor
3. Carey Mulligan, Inside Llewyn Davis
4. Catherine Keener, Captain Phillips
5. Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels' The Butler

Let's talk about the other nominees before I talk about the chances of J-Law winning for the second year in a row. Carey Mulligan is probably the least likely of the contenders, but Llewyn Davis is going to get recognized somewhere. In addition, Oprah's getting nominated no matter what, and Keener sounds like she'll give a good performance in the film. Now, Cameron Diaz has a really good chance at a nomination. But judging by the trailer, Lawrence is going to deliver a powerhouse performance in American Hustle. It looks like a role that will fit her perfectly, and I think that she could steal the movie. Plus, David O. Russell movies typically get one actor win. 

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

1. Joel and Ethan Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis
2. Cormac McCarthy, The Counselor
3. David O. Russell and Eric Singer, American Hustle
4. JC Chandor, All is Lost
5. Richard Linklater, Before Midnight

This race comes down to McCarthy and the Coens. Inside Llewyn Davis has already won heaps of praise out of the Cannes film festival and is sure to build once audiences see it. And McCarthy is a Pulitzer prize winning author, who's most famous novel was the basis for No Country For Old Men. I see the Coens taking this. If all of these films are good, the awards will be spread out. 

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY


1. Terence Winter, The Wolf of Wall Street
2. Billy Ray, Captain Phillips
3. Jason Reitman, Labor Day
4. George Clooney and Grant Heslov, The Monuments Men
5. Steve Conrad, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Any of these five screenplays could win at this point. It all depends on which films end up the most popular. Right now, I'll go with The Wolf of Wall Street. I think that Captain Phillips and Labor Day are definitely strong contenders, but from the looks of the first trailer, it seems that The Wolf of Wall Street will mix comedy and drama seamlessly while Captain Phillips is a straight drama and Labor Day is a quirky dramedy. So I have The Wolf of Wall Street winning. 

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE


1. Monsters University
2. Frozen
3. Despicable Me 2
4. Turbo
5. The Croods

I really can't think of a ton of animated films beyond these, but I think that MU is the clear contender. Unless Frozen is a major powerhouse, I doubt that Monsters will lose. 

So, that's all I've got for now. Telluride is in a couple weeks and Toronto follows shortly, so look to get a clearer, less speculative look soon. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Trailer Reviews: "Her", "Monuments Men", "Captain Phillips"

Here are some more trailer reviews, mostly for Oscar favorites:

THE MONUMENTS MEN

The new film from George Clooney starring himself, Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett and that guy from The Artist. Check out the first trailer for the Oscar favorite: 



Trailer Grade: C+

I'm still very excited for The Monuments Men. It's got a great cast, a nice look to it, and it sort of seems like it's trying to mix Inglourious Basterds and Argo, which can't really go wrong. But this was a really poor trailer. It starts off solid, mixing a bit of wartime intensity with a quirky, comedic vibe. But as the song in the trailer kicks in, I didn't know what the heck this movie was. The trailer just didn't get me excited to see the film, and thus, didn't do it's job. I still look forward to seeing this film, but my anticipation has been lowered slightly. 

The Monuments Men hits theaters on December 18. 


HER

Spike Jonze's new film about a man who falls in love with an operating system starring Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara, Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde, and Scarlett Johannson. Check it out: 




Trailer Grade: A

This is a film that I had been slightly intrigued in before watching this trailer. I hated Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are, but the oddball sci-fi romance sounded cool. Plus, the cast is full of great actors and actresses. But based on the synopsis, I thought that this might be a little dark and a little crazy. Nothing wrong with that, it had me excited. The trailer goes in a completely different direction, making the romance feel real and believable. Her looks visually fantastic with a slick, pleasing look. That's always a plus. But when you add to that a cool, innovative story and what looks like a great performance from Joaquin Phoenix. Now, you have my attention. 

Her opens in theaters November 20. 


CAPTAIN PHILLIPS

Captain Phillips tells the story of Richard Phillips, a sea captain who's ship was hijacked by Somalian pirates in 2009. The film is directed by Paul Greengrass and stars Tom Hanks, Catherine Keener and Max Martini. Check out the second trailer: 



Trailer Grade: A-

This was a great trailer and the film is surely one of my most anticipated of the year. I love the last two Bourne movies that Greengrass directed and it looks like he's taking those films and mixing them with the procedural drama of Zero Dark Thirty, which can't be a bad thing. However, while I think that the film is going to be very good, I'm slightly nervous about the way that the narrative will be handled. It could be a film that lags in its middle section. If Greengrass can keep the pace solid throughout, and get good performances from Hanks and the rest of the cast, we could be in for an awards season treat with Captain Phillips. 

Captain Phillips hits theaters October 11.

That's it for today. 

Trailer Review: "American Hustle"

A new feature on The Movie Guru's Blog is trailer reviews. A lot of sites already do this, so I figured that I would get in on the fun and start reviewing trailers. Today's trailer: American Hustle. Take a look:


Trailer Grade: A+

I was already massively excited for David O. Russell's follow-up to the fantastic Silver Linings Playbook. But watching the trailer for American Hustle, my anticipation went through the roof. This is a spectacular trailer. It doesn't give away every plot point. It says almost nothing about the story. This is how trailers should be made. They shouldn't go through the story. They should get you excited, get you to want to pay $10, and then tell you the story once you get to the theater. 

American Hustle is my current front-runner for Best Picture. Nobody has seen the film yet, but then again, did anyone need to see Lincoln to know that Daniel Day-Lewis would win an Oscar? I'm not saying that this film will win. I'm just saying that right now, it looks like it's a heavy front-runner. Hopefully, the awards season will save a rather lackluster cinematic year. 

Back to the trailer. It has very little dialogue. But the dialogue it does have is showstopping. 

"If you ever took a quarter from a phone booth, you stole. I just got bigger balls than you." 

That's a fantastic line and one that I think we'll be hearing for a while. In addition, it looks like Russell has gone crazy when it comes to the costume design, set design, and overall look of the film. In a way, I would compare this to the excess of The Wolf of Wall Street trailer mixed with Argo's period setting, which sounds fantastic. 

Before this trailer was released, I was thinking that it would be Amy Adams taking home the Oscar. And she still could. But by the looks of it, Jennifer Lawrence could once again steal the show. It looks like the character she is playing is right in her wheelhouse: an emotionally damaged person with an intense personality. Also, Christian Bale looked great and Jeremy Renner could definitely get supporting attention. We haven't heard the last of American Hustle. This film is going to be talked about until it gets released and probably well after. 

American Hustle will be in limited release on December 13 before going wide on December 25. 



Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Oblivion review

Back in 2010, there couldn't be more excitement for Joseph Kosinski's Tron: Legacy. The sequel to the 1980's cult classic, Tron: Legacy was a stylish looking film that seemed to have some of the greatest special effects ever. However, when people saw the film, most were disappointed. The visual style of the film was stunning, but the film dropped the ball with its narrative and featured a bland story and a cast of uninteresting characters. The film was a hit, but Disney chose not to direct his next film, Oblivion. That film came out in April of this year and was neither a hit or a film, just making its budget back. I finally saw the film with its Blu-Ray release today, and I have my thoughts ready to share.

Oblivion is the story of Jack Harper (Tom Cruise), a drone maintenance officer in a post-apocalyptic future. The world has been destroyed by an alien army called the Scavs and all humans have left the planet. Jack and his assistant/girlfriend Victoria (Andrea Risenborough) stay on the Earth to make sure that the drones stay in good shape and hunt the Scavs. However, things change when a ship crashes on Earth and a drone attempts to assassinate Jack and the survivors of the crash. Soon, Jack realizes that the truth has evaded him and that nothing is actually what it seems.

Oblivion is a bad movie. There is no doubt in my mind about that. The world that the film sets up makes little sense and there's nothing really there that makes you care when a characters is about to be blown to bits. There are lots of plot threads, a lot of times that you'll be asking yourself "Huh? That doesn't make any sense!", and the supporting characters and villains are about as under-developed as you can get. The reasons behind what the villain has done are muddled, confusing and the conclusion raises more questions than it answers. In addition, the performances are typically weak featuring a Razzie-worthy turn by Andrea Risenborough. She's incredibly awful and gives an over-acted performance at every turn. Tom Cruise and Olga Kurylenko are both fine, but the star turn is unsurprisingly given by Morgan Freeman. He gives some much-needed comic wit to a confusing and overly serious film in a role that I don't wish to say too much about.

The bar for mind-bending science fiction has been set by two very different films: 2001: A Space Odyssey and Inception. While 2001 gives you not a single answer, Inception spells out everything very carefully so that you can understand the awesome thrill ride you're about to take. Oblivion tries to take the Inception route of explaining everything, but at the same time it wants to be ambiguous and make the audience thing. Look, I have no problem with thinking; I would actually like to think more at the movies. But Oblivion suffers from too much weirdness, too many script problems and a lot of underdeveloped plot threads and characters.

I could stop the review right there. There's not a ton more that you need to know about Oblivion. But, despite my overall dislike of this film, I felt that there were a lot of good things about it. First off, the film is very entertaining overall. If you don't care about narrative flaws, then you will love this movie. It can be pretty captivating at times. I really liked the first hour. It felt interesting. It was intriguing. Most of all, it was beautifully rendered. This is the best looking movie that I've probably seen this year, with the exception of Pacific Rim. It's got great CGI and great practical sets, a rarity in big summer blockbusters.

In addition, the musical score was fantastic by M83. The score feels very natural and fits right into the movie. The music brings gravity to the sets with a nice futuristic sound. All of these different elements carry the film through its sort of slow first half, but honestly, that was the half that I liked. It just was a lot more interesting than the mysteriously odd second half.

But in the end, if you're looking for narrative cohesion, you won't find it in Oblivion. It's a disposable summer blockbuster that I'm glad was made, simply because it is original, and it is daring and it takes risks. It isn't great, and it isn't anything worth buying on Blu-Ray, but it's still an original, interesting film at times that just goes down too many wrong paths. Oblivion could have been a great time at the movies but it ended up being a merely forgettable one.

THE FINAL GRADE:  C+                                             (6/10)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

"2 Guns" leads with $27.4 million, "The Smurfs 2" suffers from glut of family films

The summer box office season is calming down and the Oscar season is just about ready to arrive. But first, we have to get through a bunch of movies that not a single person cares about. Now, there are a few exceptions like Elysium, The Butler, Paranoia, The World's End, etc. But seriously, for the most part, August 2- September 20 is an absolute dumping ground of cinema. Thankfully, Jean-Marc Vallee's Prisoners shows up to save us on September 20. However, back to the subject. Two films that it seems no one cares about came out in theaters this weekend in the form of 2 Guns and The Smurfs 2. The former took the weekend with $27.3 million. That's a decent start for the R-rated actioner starring Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington. The film opened above Universal's expectations, but is still only a modest start. 2 Guns should finish with around $80 million. The film received a "B+" Cinemascore.

In second place was The Wolverine, which added $21.7 million this weekend and raised its total to $95 million. That's a decent hold of 59% but still not enough to call this film an uncontested success. The Wolverine should finish with around $140 million, with little competition left in the summer slate. The Smurfs 2 debuted in third place with a disastrous $18.2 million. The film opened on Wednesday for a 5-day total of $27.6 million. This film is a total flop in the US, unsurprisingly. The film looked awful. There was nothing in it that made me want to see it. It looked like a total throwaway. And honestly, I would much rather see Planes. Disney better hope that families are holding off for that, but I have a feeling that Planes will be a flop too. Family fatigue is setting in worse than blockbuster fatigue.

The Conjuring held onto fourth place this weekend with a 38% drop and a $13.6 million weekend. The horror smash, which I likely won't see, has grossed $108.5 million so far. That's a stunning total and it will probably end up around $150 million. Despicable Me 2 also remained strong in fifth place with a $10.3 million weekend. The animated event film has now grossed $326 million. Grown Ups 2 held onto sixth place this weekend with $8.1 million. The groan-worthy sequel has grossed an appalling $116 million so far.

Turbo finished in seventh place and took a significant hit thanks to The Smurfs 2 with a $6.4 million weekend. Turbo has now grossed $69.4 million in the US and has almost zero chance of making it to $100 million. With a budget of $135 million, Turbo has to get stronger internationally to make its budget back. Red 2 also continued its terrible run with $5.6 million. The $85 million actioner has grossed $45 million so far in the US. Even the international might not save this one. The Heat maintained its impressive summer run in ninth place with $4.7 million. The action comedy has grossed $149.5 million so far in the US. And rounding out the top ten was Pacific Rim with $4.5 million. The destruct-a-thon has grossed $92 million so far.

A couple of side notes: The Way, Way Back continued its strong limited run with $2.85 million. That was good enough for eleventh place and the film raised its total to $13.6 million so far. The film is on its way to becoming the highest grossing limited release of the year. Fruitvale Station also remained strong with another $2.7 million. I'm trying to find a time to see the film but thanks to my theaters' extensive ID checks, I'll have to find another way to see it. The Oscar contender has grossed $10.9 million so far. In addition, Blue Jasmine grossed $2 million in 50 theaters. That film has grossed $3 million so far. And finally, The Spectacular Now made $200,000 in 4 theaters for a strong $50,000 per theater average.

Internationally, Pacific Rim grossed a stunning $45.2 million in China. That's a great total for the film which it seems will gross $400 million worldwide, enough to likely warrant a sequel. That's good news for anyone who likes original sci-fi ideas.

Next weekend sees the release of Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters and We're The Millers on Wednesday along with Elysium and Planes on Friday. Here are some early predictions:

1. Elysium- $43.7 million
2. Planes- $22.3 million
3. We're The Millers- $20 million ($31 million 5-day)
4. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters- $17.6 million ($25 million 5-day)
5. 2 Guns- $13.6 million
6. The Smurfs 2- $10.4 million
7. The Wolverine- $9.9 million
8. The Conjuring- $8.2 million
9. Despicable Me 2- $6.9 million
10. Grown Ups 2- $5 million


Saturday, August 3, 2013

August Review Schedule

PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS- August 9

PLANES- August 9

ELYSIUM- August 10

JOBS- August 19

THE BUTLER- August 21

PARANOIA- August 21

THE SPECTACULAR NOW- August 23

GETAWAY- August 30


TBA REVIEWS

TURBO

THE WORLD'S END

FRUITVALE STATION

BLUE JASMINE


District 9 review

Back in 2009, a first time feature film director named Neill Blomkamp released a small science fiction film that doubled as a metaphor for apartheid, into theaters. Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson was a producer on the film, but still, nobody expected Blomkamp's District 9 to become a hit film. However, the reviews were stellar, and fans loved the bloody, raw thrills of Blomkamp's film. District 9 went on to be nominated for Best Picture, and also made a total of $212 million worldwide on a $30 million budget. Next week is the release of the new Blomkamp picture, Elysium, a big-budget, R-rated sci-fi thrill ride. In preparation for that film, I decided that it was time for me to head to District 9.

District 9 is the story of an alien race that lands over Earth, specifically Johannesburg, South Africa. The government soon puts the alien race, known as prawns by the people, into a special sector after violence between humans and prawns escalates. The sector is known as District 9, which soon becomes a dirty slum, in which the aliens become addicted to cat food, live in shacks, and deal weapons. MNU (Multi-National United), the company in charge of dealing with alien creatures, decides to eventually move the prawns, to a cleaner camp, Wikus Van De Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is put in charge of evicting the aliens. However, things go terribly wrong when Wikus starts to become an alien thanks to an alien cylinder. Wikus must go on the run as MNU, the District 9 black market and a group of soldiers all want Wikus dead. 

District 9 is one of the most unique science fiction films I have ever seen. It is quite brutal, with exploding bodies, gruesome transformations and ugly alien creatures. It also has a message, albeit, a very apparent one. The special effects are great. The films visual style is cool. The actors do a great job with what they are given. I liked this movie quite a bit. Yet, something didn't quite click for me. After watching the film, I both felt excited and disappointed. Excited because, at times, District 9 is one heck of a ride. But disappointed because the film had been built up by so many people, and it just didn't live up to my expectations. One of my problems lies in the film's level of violence (District 9 is very gory, not my favorite thing in a popcorn movie), the other has to do with the pacing. 

The pacing in this film can be a bit tedious at times. It takes a while to get into the story and it can be a hard road to get there as well. The first ten minutes are instantly gripping. It tells the story effectively of how the aliens got to Earth and it is extremely compelling. The next twenty minutes set up the story nicely. However, it gets a bit tedious once Wikus and his team have gone and knocked on at least ten doors in District 9. The next stage of the plot had to deal with Wikus' transformation, which was handled well but very disturbing. The final stage of the plot is exciting, edge of your seat action that is directed well by Neill Blomkamp. The pacing is good, but for a film to be great, the pacing needs to be better than just good. I think that if Blomkamp could have paced the film slightly better and toned down a bit of the violence, it would have been great. Look, I don't mind violence at all, but Blomkamp takes it to the extreme at times. It's disturbing for sure and not the most fun to watch. District 9 is very good, but not quite the easily digestible popcorn film that you might thing.

However, the action is stunning. There are lots of entertaining sequences in the film. Blomkamp's style of action is extremely entertaining, focusing not as much on the technical wizardry/destruction, but on real stakes. That's one of the things I can't wait for about Elysium. The most entertaining sequence in the film is a raid on MNU and the final battle is shockingly violent/gory. Blomkamp definitely has a talent for action. Another thing that I found to be great about this film is the relationship between Wikus and Christopher, one of the prawns. Blomkamp and his team made me feel for the prawns, even though they're disgusting, ugly creatures.

Overall, District 9 is a stunningly original, action-packed, dazzling ride. It's a really tough film to watch at times, especially during Wikus' transformation, but it's so entertaining that you don't mind. Sharlto Copley is very good, there's emotion among the action, and an interesting message when you look deeper. There are some really interesting themes going on in this film and I think that both action fans and film fans can find something to love in District 9.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B+