Monday, March 24, 2014

Fox announces "Taken 3" for 2015, New Ridley Scott film in 2016, "Fantastic Four" and "Wolverine" sequels for 2017 and new Marvel film for 2018

After a big week of movie release date changes, the schedule gets even more crazier with Fox dropping a whole bunch of Marvel on us. There's practically a new Marvel film every five months for Fox at this point. Also, Fox announced Taken 3 and a mystery Ridley Scott project, which could end up being Prometheus 2. Let's break it down.

First, The Secret Service, a comic book adaptation from director Matthew Vaughn, was moved from March 6, 2015 to October 24, 2014. The March release shows more confidence by the studio, but I really don't care about this one. There don't seem to be many confirmed cast members at this point and the fact that it's from Mark Millar doesn't excite me one bit. Hopeful that this might turn out to be good, but I seriously doubt it.


Fox also announced that Taken 3 will be released on January 9, 2015, which is similar to the time of year in which the original film was released. The film will star Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace and Famke Janssen and will be directed by Oliver Megaton, but other than that, nothing is known about the film's plot. Obviously, someone's going to get taken. I really have little interest in this film, even though Neeson's last film (Non-Stop) was extremely impressive.


Next up is Frankenstein, the Daniel Radcliffe-starred reboot of the classic Universal monster property. The film was originally slated for release on January 16, 2015, but now it will hit theaters on October 2, 2015. This film is written by Max Landis, which piques my interest a little, and casting Daniel Radcliffe as Igor was a smart move. This one is a wait-and-see for me. It could be good, but we know way too little about it at this point.

Before we get to the big announcements from Fox, I also discovered that Columbia and Universal both made a couple of release date changes as well. Columbia announced that Chappie, the latest film from Neill Blomkamp, will now be released on March 6, 2015, instead of its original March 27 date. Chappie stars Hugh Jackman, Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel and Sigourney Weaver. I'm very excited. Universal also moved their action epic Everest, which stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Josh Brolin, Jason Clarke, Robin Wright and Sam Worthington. Everest will now be released on September 18, 2015 instead of February 27. It really doesn't make much of a difference to me. Maybe Universal's positioning it as an Oscar contender though. That would be interesting.

Also, Fox announced that a new film from Ridley Scott will hit theaters on March 4, 2016. There's no information about the film, but most people suspect that it's Prometheus 2. Even though I wasn't a fan of the original Prometheus, I still am very much looking forward to the possibility of a sequel. I hope that it happens because there's a lot of stuff that still needs explaining.

Now, here's the big news. Last week, Fox announced three new Marvel films. The first movie up is an untitled sequel to The Wolverine, which will hit theaters on March 3, 2017. There's no information on the film beyond that. Next up is The Fantastic Four 2, the sequel to 2015's Fantastic Four. The sequel will hit theaters on July 14, 2017. And finally, Fox announced an untitled Marvel film for July 13, 2018. So, quite a bit to digest there. Let's break it down.


To get things started, let me say that I absolutely HATE the move of announcing The Fantastic Four 2 more than a year before the first one has even been released. It's so ignorant. Fox doesn't even have a clue if people are going to like this movie, yet they've greenlit a sequel. It's idiotic. I also hate the move of greenlighting a Wolverine sequel, but that's primarily because I hated the last Wolverine movie. Finally, I really don't care about the untitled Marvel film. It's just a ploy to scare off other studios and mark your territory on a date. None of this really matters. We're two, three, even four years away from these movies. Just focus on the spectacular-looking Days of Future Past for now.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Grand Budapest Hotel review

In Hollywood, there are only a few filmmakers who have a distinctive style. Most directors bounce around from film to film with little to no emotional attachment to the project. A select few write, produce and direct their own films, but even they can chance the style of their films every once in a while. It takes a special director to establish his own style. Stanley Kubrick did it. Quentin Tarantino did it. And now, I think that we most certainly can add Wes Anderson to that category. Anderson has been in the film business for a long time, making films like The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic and Fantastic Mr. Fox. Anderson truly captured audiences back in 2012 with Moonrise Kingdom and now, he's done it again with The Grand Budapest Hotel. This quirky, hilarious comedy has already captured audiences, making almost a million dollars in four theaters on its opening weekend. It's one of the flat out best films I've seen this year, filled with unique humor, great action and a spectacular plot. This film is an instant classic.

The Grand Budapest Hotel tells its story in multiple flashbacks. We start with an old writer (Tom Wilkinson) who flashes back to the time when he met Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) as a younger man, played by Jude Law. As a young writer, he stayed at the Grand Budapest Hotel and met Zero, who tells him the story of how he became the owner of the hotel. Zero then flashes back to the time when he was a young man (Tony Revolori), working as a lobby boy at the Grand Budapest Hotel. While working there, Zero befriends Gustave (Ralph Fiennes), the popular concierge at the hotel. Gustave knows all the guests at the hotel and is friends with all of them. However, Gustave and Zero eventually get trapped in a murder mystery as Gustave is accused of killing his friend Madame D (Tilda Swinton). Soon, Gustave and Zero are fugitives on a journey across Europe to prove Gustave's innocence and protect a prize painting. 

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a tough movie to summarize, because there's just so much going on. In that synopsis, I didn't even mention Madame D's son Dmitri (Adrien Brody), the Society of the Crossed Keys, or Deputy Kovacs (Jeff Goldblum). There are a lot of small, yet integral characters in this film and they all serve some sort of purpose to the plot. It's a tough movie to try to summarize in one paragraph. But it doesn't take a whole paragraph to say that this movie is absolutely brilliant. It gets off to a bit of a rough start as Anderson tries to acclimate you to the multiple narrator thing and the ending is a little shaky, but other than that, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a brilliant film. 

Let's start with the performances, because it really does take a specific type of actor to pull off Anderson's style of humor. Ralph Fiennes is Oscar worthy as Gustave. He really does give a brilliant performance in this film and he is hilarious throughout. If there are five performances better than that at the end of the year, I'll be shocked. The supporting cast is also terrific. Revolori gives a strong performance as Zero and he has quite a few funny moments as well. Jeff Goldblum is terrific as Kovacs and he has some of the best lines of the film. Willem Dafoe is also brilliant as Jopling and Harvey Keitel has a small, but hilarious role. All in all, Anderson assembled a stunning cast here and gave all of the actors a little something to do. 

This film is actually an action film of sorts, which I found to be pretty funny. There are ridiculous chase scenes, a prison break and a huge gunfight at the end of the film. Anderson stages all of these scenes to perfection and proves that he's really a great director of action. His candy-colored universe is the perfect setting for the kind of action that Anderson films and all of the scenes are perfect. 

The technical elements of this film are also so insanely good. This movie looks, sounds and feels awesome and I loved every single detail. The miniatures that Anderson uses are gorgeous and the exquisitely made sets are even more amazing. Everything has its own specific quirk and I could go on and on about just how spectacular these sets and miniatures are. And yet, I have more great things to get to. The score for this film is also brilliant. It's a classical score, but it conveys both a lighthearted and yet slightly mysterious tone, which works perfect for this film. 

Anderson's style of humor is very distinct and it definitely shows in this movie. It's quirky and witty and even a little dark at times. Actually, there's quite a bit of dark humor in this film, from a severed head to a series of brutal stabbings to a dead cat, this movie has a lot of violence that I found to be pretty hilarious. The person I saw it with thought that the humor was morbid and not all that funny. I strongly disagreed. The best comparison is Hot Fuzz, which has the same morbid sense of dark humor with exploding heads and decapitations. If you like Hot Fuzz or any of Tarantino's films, you'll definitely appreciate the style of humor in The Grand Budapest Hotel. 

However, despite the beautiful production design and the laugh-out-loud humor, the reason why I liked this movie so much was the story. It's a compelling, engaging film from beginning to end. It never stops moving and there's always a new plot point to deal with. I found the film constantly entertaining and the mystery to be quite interesting. There's one little thing at the end of the movie that isn't explained well enough, but it's not a big deal. 

The only problems I had with this movie were the beginning and the end. It starts out well enough, but it takes a minute to understand exactly what Anderson is doing. That wasn't a huge problem for me, but it was enough of a nitpick for me to want to mention it. Also, the film just didn't quite stick the landing. If it had, this movie would probably be perfect, but it just didn't quite get it right. I don't know. It just wrapped up too fast at first and then ended up drawing out the ending for quite a while. 

In the end, The Grand Budapest Hotel is an almost perfect film that features terrific performances, an exciting story and some great humor. I really loved this film and it's already one of my favorites of the year. Wes Anderson is two for two so far (Fantastic Mr. Fox being the only other one of his films that I've seen) and he really impressed me with this one. I loved it. 

THE FINAL GRADE:  A                                               (8.8/10)




"Divergent" leads with $56 million, "Muppets Most Wanted" disappoints, "God's Not Dead" surprises at weekend box office

After two years of YA disappoints at the box office (Beautiful Creatures, Vampire Academy), we finally have found another franchise that might be able to go toe-to-toe with The Hunger Games and Twilight. Divergent, the first film in a planned trilogy, opened to $56 million, which is by far the highest opening for a YA book adaptation that wasn't related to The Hunger Games, Harry Potter or Twilight. And while box office pundits were expecting a little bit more from Divergent, it's still a great opening. The film also received an "A" Cinemascore, which points to good word of mouth in the future. With only an $85 million budget, Divergent should be able to make more than enough money for Summit. They're obviously counting on that because the sequel, Insurgent, goes into production in May and is set for a March 20, 2015 release.

Disney's Muppets Most Wanted finished in second place with an underwhelming $16.5 million. That's lower than its predecessor's $29 million opening and a pretty disappointing start for the film. The film also received a weak "B+" Cinemascore, which isn't a good sign. With a $50 million budget and the possibility of weak international grosses, it will be interesting to see if The Muppets get another sequel. Another contributing factor to Muppets Most Wanted's disappointing opener was the competition of films like Mr. Peabody and Sherman, which finished in third place this weekend with $11.7 million. That's a 46% drop from last weekend. Mr. Peabody and Sherman has now grossed $81 million. It should finish with $100 million or more.

300: Rise of an Empire took a 55% hit and fell to fourth place this weekend with $8.6 million. The $110 million Warner Bros. release has now grossed $93.7 million and will surely finish with around $115 million. Rise of an Empire's international grosses have also been strong and the film has now grossed $289.1 million. In fifth place was God's Not Dead, the weekend's biggest surprise. The faith based Freestyle release grossed $8.5 million, which was very impressive. Freestyle says that they intend to expand the film into more theaters next weekend.

Need for Speed took a steep hit this weekend and finished in sixth place with $7.7 million. The action film has now grossed $30.4 million domestically, but worldwide, Need for Speed has grossed a total of $126.5 million. With only a $66 million budget, I'm betting on a sequel for Need for Speed. In seventh place was Fox Searchlight's The Grand Budapest Hotel, which impressed again this weekend with $6.7 million in 304 theaters. I really loved the film despite a couple of flaws and hope that it continues to be a success. The Grand Budapest Hotel is expanding into over 800 theaters next weekend and has grossed $12.9 million so far.

Non-Stop finished in eighth place with $6.3 million. The Universal release has now grossed $78.6 million, which is very impressive. If you haven't seen the film, I highly recommend checking it out before it leaves theaters. The LEGO Movie finished in ninth place with $4.1 million. The film has now grossed $243.3 million and will probably crawl its way to $250 million. Finally, Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club rounded out the top ten with $3.1 million, which was enough to raise its total to $12.9 million.

Next weekend sees the release of Noah and Sabotage along with the expansion of Bad Words and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Here are my predictions:

1. Noah- $49.5 million
2. Divergent- $27.5 million
3. The Grand Budapest Hotel- $10.1 million
4. Muppets Most Wanted- $8.9 million
5. Sabotage- $8.5 million
6. Bad Words- $7.6 million
7. God's Not Dead- $7.5 million
8. Mr. Peabody and Sherman- $7 million
9. 300: Rise of an Empire- $5.1 million
10. Need for Speed- $3.9 million


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Sequels to "The Purge," "Ride Along," and "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" receive release dates, Fox Searchlight and Weinstein also announce new release dates

This is only part one of my release dates update for today (part 2 will feature some really interesting films) but there are already quite a few films worth talking about. From Sundance hits like Calvary and Wish I Was Here to major commercial blockbusters like The Purge: Anarchy to acclaimed films like Snowpiercer, there are already quite a few films in this batch that are worth looking forward to. Let's take a closer look:

First up on our list is The Purge: Anarchy. This sequel to 2013's The Purge tells a completely different story with different actors. Originally slated for release on June 20, 2014, Universal has now moved Anarchy to July 18, 2014. The film will now face off against Jupiter Ascending, Warner Bros. big-budget sci-fi film. I'm much more interested in the latter film, but the trailer for Anarchy looked promising as well. All in all, look for The Purge 2 to be a sizable hit. 

Next up is Ride Along 2 from Universal. This sequel to the dreadful comedy Ride Along will reunite stars Kevin Hart, Ice Cube and Tika Sumpter for more cliche-ridden garbage. Three cheers for Hollywood! Ride Along 2 will be released on January 15, 2016, which is identical to the date that is predecessor was released on earlier this year. 

Focus Features announced the release dates for two of their most interesting upcoming films recently. First is Zach Braff's Wish I Was Here, the Sundance smash which has received a lot of buzz over the last year or so for Braff's controversial use of Kickstarter to fund the film. Focus Features picked the film up at Sundance and it will now be released on July 18, 2014. Wish I Was Here stars Braff, Josh Gad, Kate Hudson, Ashley Greene, Jim Parson, Mandy Patinkin, Joey King and many more stars and will almost certainly be a limited release hit. 

Next up for Focus is Kill the Messenger, a film which will most definitely be an Oscar contender. Kill the Messenger stars Jeremy Renner as Gary Webb, the journalist who exposed the CIA's role in arming the Contra rebels. The film tells the story of how Webb was driven to suicide because of the CIA's aggressive campaign to discredit him. Kill the Messenger will be released on October 10, 2014, which is a prime Oscar date. I'm really looking forward to this one. 

Popular indie studio A24 also set the release dates for two of their most exciting upcoming properties. First is Laggies, a comedy from director Lynn Shelton that stars Keira Knightley, Chloe Moretz and Sam Rockwell. Laggies received solid reviews at Sundance and is now set for a September 26, 2014 release date. A24's other film is one that interests me much more, The Rover. The film stars Robert Pattinson, Guy Pearce and David Field and is set in a post-apocalyptic future. The Rover is now set for a June 13, 2014 release date. 

This seems to be the time of year for the major independent studios to set up release dates for their summer releases, as Harvey Weinstein seems to be putting everything on the table. First, TWC announced that The Railway Man, a Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman-starred WWII drama will be released on April 11, 2014, which is only a few weeks away. I doubt that this one will be a serious Oscar contender. A May 23, 2014 release date for Tracks, an adventure drama starring Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver was also announced by Weinstein. Finally, Radius-TWC, Harvey's VOD division, announced that Snowpiercer, the much-anticipated sci-fi drama will be released on June 27, 2014. I'm really pumped for that one. 

Finally, Fox Searchlight announced the release date for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 2, the sequel to the 2012 surprise hit. Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Richard Gere, Bill Nighy, David Strathairn and Dev Patel will all appear in this sequel, which is set to release on March 6, 2015. I never saw the first one but I heard a lot of good things from friends. 

That's it for now, but I'll be back later with some interesting Marvel news!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Divergent review

Ever since Twilight became a nationwide sensation back in 2008, Hollywood production companies have scooped up as many young adult properties as possible to varying degrees of success. Lionsgate had a massive hit with The Hunger Games, but there have also been major flops like The Mortal Instruments, Beautiful Creatures, The Host, and even last month's Vampire Academy. However, Summit appears to have a hit with Divergent. The book series written by Veronica Roth is immensely popular and a lot of people are pumped for the movie. Before seeing the film, I had little to no interest. I was completely expecting a bad movie. To my surprise, Divergent was actually good. It's a solid flick with some good performances and some stunning action. I really enjoyed this movie and that was more than enough for me as I was expecting absolutely nothing.

Divergent is set in a futuristic Chicago after a massive war that ravaged most of the planet. The government decided to split the people into five factions with different roles: Erudite, Abnegation, Amity, Cantor, and Dauntless. When people become a certain age, they must take a test that tells them which faction they belong in. After that, they choose which one they want to enter. Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) is almost ready to choose her faction and is nervous about what might happen. She takes the test and the administrator tells her that she doesn't fit into one faction. She's divergent. Beatrice is afraid of what might happen and decides to join Dauntless. In that group, she meets Four (Theo James), the group leader, who she quickly realizes that she has a lot in common with. Beatrice is just trying to survive until a sinister coup is set up by one of the factions that threatens everything. Now, Beatrice must team up with friends and enemies to save everything.

Divergent has been marketed poorly, in my opinion. The trailers and TV spots have made it look like a generic Hunger Games rip-off with second-rate special effects. And while it certainly takes elements from The Hunger Games and many other book series', Divergent is actually a very entertaining movie. Sure, there are some cliches and it's a little too generic in parts, but Divergent thrives on the emotion involved in the plot and the engrossing storyline.

Divergent is led by a cast full of rising stars who are giving quite a bit to work with. There are quite a few cliches in the script, but most of the actors manage to overcome that fact and create some believable characters. Shailene Woodley really is great in this movie. She kills it as Tris Prior, our heroine and central character. Woodley understands the heart and soul of this character and it makes for a terrific performance. Theo James plays the lead love interest and is actually pretty decent. He does a good job. The other standouts come from the supporting cast. Miles Teller and Jai Courtney are great at playing total jerks and I was happy with how both of their characters turned out. Zoe Kravitz also does a good job in her scenes.

The other great thing about this movie is the technical elements. One problem that I've always had with these dystopian YA adaptations is that the special effects always look cheesy and fake. The Hunger Games even ran into that problem at times. Divergent, with the exception of one scene, does not. The futuristic Chicago depicted in the film looks brilliant and everything in the film has a crisp, clean look. The cinematography was also pretty solid for this kind of film.

The action in this film is also very good. The sequences are tense, well-directed, and a lot of fun to watch. I would even say that the action is better than in The Hunger Games. There are a lot of gun battles and typical YA stuff, but Divergent finds a way to make it fresh and exciting. That's what makes this movie good. It takes the cliches, and manages to make them feel new and entertaining.

Now, as much as I enjoyed Divergent, there are undoubtedly some problems. It's essentially a mash-up of different cliches and is slightly generic at times. It takes different things from The Hunger Games, Twilight and Harry Potter and that's a little sad. It's also poorly paced at times and is nearly two and a half hours long. The runtime isn't a huge problem, but the film isn't paced well at all. That was my main problem. Director Neil Burger really needed to rearrange some of the pieces to make the film flow better.

Despite the fact that Divergent is paced poorly and is nearly 2.5 hours long, I really actually enjoyed this movie. I can't say that I understand the hate for this movie at all. It's a fun, slightly generic film that features a strong performance of Shailene Woodley, some spectacular action scenes, and a really fun plot. I enjoyed this film a lot. I think that a lot of people will like it and I hope that the sequels expand on the world and are even better than this one. But for now, Divergent is a perfectly good, sufficient franchise opener.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B                                              (7.4/10)

Monday, March 17, 2014

"Mr. Peabody and Sherman" leads with $21.8 million, "Need for Speed" disappoints at weekend box office

The box office took a slight hit this weekend with only two new releases in theaters. That left room for Dreamworks' Mr. Peabody and Sherman to take the top spot in its second weekend. The animated comedy grossed $21.8 million, which was enough to raise its total to $63.7 million. That's a solid second weekend for the film, which was deemed a flop after its debut. In addition, Mr. Peabody has now grossed an additional $85 million overseas, which totals up to $148.7 million. If Mr. Peabody can keep going, it will definitely end up breaking even. Second place belonged to 300: Rise of an Empire, which dropped 57% to $19.2 million in its second weekend. The gruesome action film has now grossed $78.4 million, which is decent, but not spectacular for the $110 million film. However, Rise of an Empire has done great overseas and has a worldwide total of $236.4 million.

Dreamworks' Need for Speed was the biggest release of last weekend and it ended up grossing $17.8 million in third place along with a "B+" Cinemascore. That's a relatively weak opening for the $66 million film. The marketing relied on the car races and the star power of Aaron Paul, but it just couldn't break through in the crowded market. I don't expect this one to go too far. Look for it to finish with $50 million. Universal's Non-Stop continued its strong run this weekend in fourth place with $10.6 million. The surprise action hit has now grossed $68.8 million and will likely finish with $90 million or more.

The other new release of the weekend, Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club, was also a flop. The comedy finished in fifth place with $8 million, which is one of Perry's lowest openings. The film did receive an "A-" Cinemascore, but I seriously doubt that it will end up with a gross higher than $20 million. The LEGO Movie also continued its stellar run in sixth place with $7.7 million. The animated smash has now grossed $236.9 million and will probably finish with around $260 million. Not to mention that The LEGO Movie has now grossed $378.4 million worldwide. That's impressive, but hopefully it opens in some more markets and makes even more money.

Son of God finished in seventh place this weekend with $5.5 million. The religious drama has now grossed $51 million, which isn't bad for a movie that cost nothing to make. The Grand Budapest Hotel was one of the biggest surprises of the weekend, finishing in eighth place with $3.6 million. The Wes Anderson-directed comedy has now grossed $4.7 million. Frozen finished in ninth place with $2.1 million, which raises its total to $396.3 million. Hopefully Frozen can finish off its run with over $400 million. And finally, The Monuments Men rounded out the top ten with $2 million, which was enough to raise its total to $73.8 million.

On a side note, Veronica Mars finished in eleventh place with $1.9 million in 291 theaters. That's a solid start for the low budget flick.

Next weekend sees the expansion of The Grand Budapest Hotel along with the opening of Divergent and Muppets Most Wanted. Here are my predictions:

1. Divergent- $46.6 million
2. Muppets Most Wanted- $29.4 million
3. Mr. Peabody and Sherman- $15.1 million
4. 300: Rise of an Empire- $10.1 million
5. Need for Speed- $9.4 million
6. Non-Stop- $6.2 million
7. The Grand Budapest Hotel- $5.6 million
8. The LEGO Movie- $4.3 million
9. The Single Moms Club- $3.9 million
10. Son of God- $3.4 million

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

300: Rise of an Empire review

Back in 2007, 300 was a legitimate cultural phenomenon. As most people have noted, 300 is almost solely responsible for making March a "blockbuster" month. It also paved the way for films like Watchmen, The Spirit and Sucker Punch to be released. Slow-motion action was all the rage and people were quoting "This is Sparta!" constantly. Typically, when there's a hit in Hollywood, a sequel gets made almost immediately. With 300, that didn't happen. Director Zack Snyder went on to direct films like Watchmen and Man of Steel and Warner Bros. pretty much forgot about 300. However, like all studios do, Warner Bros. ran out of original ideas and decided to turn to a 300 sequel. Zack Snyder signed on as a producer and Noam Murro was hired as the director. 300: Rise of an Empire is very much like the original film, except that there's less of a story and less of a focused plot. It works good if you want insane amounts of blood and gore, but if you're looking for anything else, go see another movie.

300: Rise of an Empire is a prequel, a companion piece and a sequel. This film tells the story of how the war with the Persians started. Ten years before the Battle of Thermopylae, Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton) of Athens led troops at the Battle of Marathon. He killed the Persian king Darius and his son Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his leading general Artemesia (Eva Green) wanted revenge. They begin a quest to end Greece's reign and conquer the land. Then, the action shifts to the naval battles going on during the Battle of Thermopylae. And finally, Rise of an Empire concludes with the final battle between the Persians and Greeks led by Themistokles and Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey).

The first 300 was one of those crowd pleasing films that told a story that you could really get behind as an audience member. Like Braveheart and Gladiator before it, 300 told a revenge story with moments of brutal carnage that also invested you in the story. 300: Rise of an Empire attempts to do that again, but it ends up getting bogged down in its own pool of blood. There's barely a moment in Rise of an Empire where someone isn't getting stabbed with a geyser of blood spraying out. It gets to the point where it's hilarious. This is corny, ridiculous filmmaking at its finest.

Rise of an Empire is held afloat by a couple of interesting characters, but the cast is still not nearly as impressive as last time. Eva Green gives a strong performance at times, but she's also extremely over the top and it gets to be ridiculous at a point. Sullivan Stapleton is our lead and he's alright. The film does a good job of making him a likable, inspirational hero, but doesn't care enough about him to give him any backstory. The supporting cast is mostly forgettable, except for an inspired turn by Jack O'Connell as an Athenian solider. O'Connell is going to be in the upcoming film Unbroken, which I'm very excited about. He could end up being the Michael Fassbender of this movie: a little known actor at the time, who breaks out later on (Fassbender was in 300 before he was an Oscar-nominated star).

The technical aspects of this film are mostly brilliant. Sometimes, there's a little too much green screen and you definitely notice it, but other times, the film looks absolutely stunning and is visually spectacular. The sound is great, the visual effects are beautiful and the production design is gorgeous. All in all, this is a beautifully crafted film. Except for the buckets of obvious CGI blood which are ridiculously fake looking.

Let's not kid ourselves though: the only reason anyone wants to see this movie is for the brutal, bloody action. And if that's what you're looking for, that's what you'll get. There's literally non-stop gore in this film. From the very first scene to the very last scene, buckets of CGI blood fly in almost unimaginable ways. People are decapitated, stabbed, dismembered. You name a way to die by sword or arrow, it's in this movie somewhere.

Now look, I love brutal carnage as much as the next guy, but 300: Rise of an Empire takes it to an extreme. The carnage in this movie is so outlandish and so prevalent, that you just can't help but laugh. Literally, I was laughing during many scenes in this movie. From the two minute staredown between the two armies to the scene where a man's head is crushed by a horse to the constant flying gore, Rise of an Empire is laughably ridiculous in every way imaginable. Dialogue is so cliched and predictable and there's a line towards the end of the film that I can't believe made the final cut.

The story is blandly forgettable as well. I seriously can't remember much about it mere hours after watching the film. That's a terrible sign for a film. The dialogue is pretty awful and the plotting gets bogged down at times. Simply put, it's not a well-written movie and it's not intended to be. It's a gorefest from beginning to end and it's not ashamed of that.

People will certainly have a lot of fun with Rise of an Empire. Just in a different way. It's unintentionally hilarious and filled with stunning, yet laughable action scenes that are so pervasive that you just start to laugh uncontrollably at some point. The film doesn't mean to be funny, but when you have a movie that is so cliched and so violent, you're bound to get some laughs. 300: Rise of an Empire is one of those movies that is strictly a rental. It's a film that you can certainly have some fun making fun of and would be a lot of fun to watch with friends. But there's no escaping that it's a bad movie. It's just one of those movies that is so bad that it's unintentionally decent.

THE FINAL SCORE:  C-                                              (5.7/10)

Image Credit: Rama Screen

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Non-Stop review

Liam Neeson has really been on a roll lately churning out a lot of films in a short period of time. Not all of them have been good, but a lot of them have been commercial successes and he's even had some critical hits. Non-Stop lies somewhere in the middle when it comes to the critical side of things, but it has actually been a pretty big hit. Of course, it won't reach the level of the Taken films, but Non-Stop is a solid hit in its own right. And it's actually a really good movie. I was surprised by how much I liked this film. Non-Stop is a superbly entertaining thriller that feels a bit long, but also enthralls and compels you throughout. It was a very nice surprise.

Non-Stop tells the story of Bill Marks (Neeson), an alcoholic Federal Air Marshall who ends up being assigned on a flight from New York to London. After talking with one of the female passengers (Julianne Moore) for a little while, Marks begins to receive a series of text messages from an unknown man threatening to kill someone on the plane every twenty minutes if Marks doesn't pay him $150 million. Marks takes the threats seriously and soon, people start dying. In what soon becomes an international crisis, Marks becomes known to news outlets as the hijacker of the plane and must do everything in his power to save the plane and stop the man responsible.

If you haven't noticed, Liam Neeson has been doing a lot of action movies lately. From dumb blockbusters like The A-Team and Battleship to dead serious revenge thrillers like Taken and Unknown, Neeson is one of the premiere action stars these days. For me, Non-Stop is one of his best. It's a dark, intense mystery and one that is a lot of fun. Despite some questionable role choices, Neeson really is a great actor and he turns in a pretty good central turn here. I really liked him in the role and his character isn't flat. Bill Marks changes from beginning to end and that's always a good thing.

Non-Stop is first and foremost a mystery tale. I've heard some people compare it to a Hitchcock thriller, and while I really didn't get that vibe from it, Non-Stop definitely is a thriller. This is much more of a plot-driven thriller and isn't very similar to some of the other Neeson movies like Taken. However, that's one of the best things about this movie. Any movie can have an action star punching people and doing insane action stunts. Non-Stop has the guts to throw a plot in there too. It's a very well-written and well-directed film despite a few plot holes.

The cast in this movie is impressive even though some of the members of the cast are given nothing to do. Neeson is great in the lead role and Julianne Moore turns in a pretty good supporting turn. Famous faces like Michelle Dockery, Lupita Nyong'o, and Shea Wigham also show up throughout the film in limited roles. Dockery actually is an integral part of the story, but she isn't in there all that much. Scoot McNairy is also pretty good in an important supporting role. I'm loving the increased number of roles for McNairy since Argo. He's a really good actor and I love seeing him in these good movies.

*Side Note: If you haven't watched All Hail the King on the Thor 2 Blu-Ray, go do that now. McNairy is in that film as well and he's great in it. Ben Kingsley steals the show, but McNairy is great in it too.

One of the other things that I loved about this movie is that it's well directed and has a very distinct style. While it isn't necessarily a super-dark film in terms of tone, the color palette is extremely dark. That really helps the film maintain a dark, intense mood throughout. Director Jaume Collet-Serra keeps a serious tone throughout and a lot of that is because the cinematography is so good. In terms of how the film is shot, Non-Stop mixes a little shaky cam in with the regular camerawork. Overall, it's a well directed film and I was very impressed with what Collet-Serra did here.

However, without a doubt, the best part about this movie is that it's really, really entertaining. This is a movie that remains edge-of-your-seat thrilling from beginning to end and never lets up. It's always interesting, it's always thrilling and although it does feel a little long, it's always entertaining. I was really surprised by this film. While it isn't high art, Non-Stop is a great piece of entertainment and a well-written, well-directed movie. Sometimes, that's all you need. Non-Stop was everything that I wanted and needed when I stepped into the theater to watch it. That's when you truly know that a movie has done its job.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A-                                              (8.1/10)


Sunday, March 9, 2014

"300: Rise of An Empire" leads with impressive $45 million, "Mr. Peabody" finishes in second at weekend box office

With two strong releases, this weekend's overall gross was $141.99 million which is higher than last year at the same time. Much of that can be contributed to the somewhat surprising success of 300: Rise of an Empire, the belated sequel to 300. The R-rated action flick grossed $45 million this weekend, which is much higher than most prognosticators expected. Rise of an Empire received a "B" Cinemascore, but I still believe that it will stay strong for at least a few more weeks. I'm betting that the film will finish around $120 million. Rise of an Empire had an especially strong start considering that 300 came out seven years ago. That's a long time ago and audiences have short memories. Rise of an Empire also opened to $87.8 million overseas, which adds up to a total worldwide opening of $132.8 million. I'm pretty excited to see the movie next weekend.

Dreamworks Animation might have another disappointment on their hands with Mr. Peabody and Sherman. The animated comedy grossed $32.5 million this weekend, which is one of the lowest debuts in the company's history. Mr. Peabody and Sherman is also budgeted at $145 million, which could spell disaster for the company. Turbo and Rise of the Guardians already disappointed in recent years and another flop could mean serious financial trouble. It did receive an "A" Cinemascore, but I'm not sure that will do much. Peabody will probably finish over $100 million, but it won't break even.

Non-Stop also continued its strong run in third place with $15.3 million. That's a pretty solid second weekend for the thriller which has now grossed $52.1 million. The action flick will probably finish with around $80 million. The LEGO Movie took a bit of a hit this weekend, finishing in fourth place with $11 million. The animated comedy has now grossed $224.9 million and will likely struggle to hit $250 million. Son of God also took a substantial hit this weekend, finishing in fifth place with $10 million. That's a 61% drop from last weekend. The religious drama has now grossed $41.4 million.

The Monuments Men finished in sixth place with $3.1 million. The drama has had a strong run so far and has now grossed $70.6 million. 3 Days to Kill finished in seventh place with $3 million. The action drama has been a bit of a disappointment and has only grossed $25.5 million. Good thing it only cost $28 million to make. Frozen continued its amazing run in eighth place with $3 million. The animated film has now $393 million and will probably reach $400 million by the end of its run.

One of the more interesting stories this weekend was the 12 Years A Slave finished in ninth place with $2.1 million. The Best Picture-winning drama has now grossed $53.1 million. It jumped 123% from last weekend. And finally, Ride Along rounded out the top ten with $2 million. The buddy cop comedy has now grossed $129.9 million. Also, The Grand Budapest Hotel grossed $800,000 in limited release for a massive $200,000 per theater average. That's one of the best averages ever and an amazing debut for the film.

Next weekend sees the release of Need for Speed, Veronica Mars and The Single Moms Club. Here are my predictions:

1. Need for Speed- $25.3 million
2. 300: Rise of an Empire- $22 million
3. Mr. Peabody and Sherman- $18 million
4. The Single Moms Club- $12.1 million
5. Non-Stop-$9.1 million
6. The LEGO Movie- $6 million
7. Son of God- $4.9 million
8. The Monuments Men- $2.1 million
9. Frozen- $2 million
10. 12 Years A Slave- $1.8 million

Spring Box Office Predictions

The Oscar season is done and while I soon will do a preview of next year's Oscars, I'm focusing on the current movies right now. After a pretty strong January and February, the box office really ramps up in March and April with some big time hits and some movies that could flop really badly. Here are my predictions for the spring box office. I'll have reviews of some of these films shortly as well.

MR. PEABODY AND SHERMAN- March 7

Opening Weekend Prediction- $32.5 million
Total Gross Prediction- $126.4 million

I'm kind of cheating on this one since I already have a rough estimate of the box office gross of Mr. Peabody and Sherman, but I decided to put this prediction on here anyways. Mr. Peabody and Sherman received an "A" Cinemascore last night, which means that stellar word of mouth is ahead. With no other family films in theaters until Muppets Most Wanted, I can definitely see Mr. Peabody and Sherman nearing $130 million.

300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE- March 7

Opening Weekend Prediction- $47 million
Total Gross Prediction- $110.5 million

I'm cheating a bit on this one as well, but the interesting part is whether or not Rise of An Empire will received any good word of mouth. The film received a "B" Cinemascore, but hits like Bad Grandpa and Anchorman 2 also received "B" Cinemascores and went on to make a lot of money. I really have no clue. I think that 300 will top out just above $100 million.

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL- March 7

Opening Weekend Prediction- $700,000
Total Gross Prediction- $32 million

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a movie that I'm super excited to see. It looks like a lot of fun and Wes Anderson always creates films that are incredibly creative. And with a spectacular limited release opening this weekend, The Grand Budapest Hotel seems destined for great things. I think that a grand total above $30 million is a sure thing.

NEED FOR SPEED- March 14

Opening Weekend Prediction- $24 million
Total Gross Prediction- $67 million

Need for Speed is essentially two things. Firstly, it's a Fast and Furious ripoff. It's essentially the same setup. Lots of car chases, angry people, etc. Secondly, it's an attempt to capitalize on Aaron Paul's newfound fame after Breaking Bad. Both seem like they could draw people in, but at the same time, they could turn people away from the movie as well. It looks like fun, but Need for Speed could end up being too generic for its own good.

TYLER PERRY'S THE SINGLE MOMS CLUB- March 14

Opening Weekend Prediction- $10 million
Total Gross Prediction- $24 million

It's sad to say, but if it's a Tyler Perry movie and it doesn't have Madea, the film doesn't make as much money. Last year, Perry had success in March with Temptation, but I see this film ending up more like Peeples, the film that flopped miserably last May. The film looks like it could be something that a lot of women see, but I just don't know. This one is a real toss-up. It could go either way.

DIVERGENT- March 21

Opening Weekend Prediction- $81 million
Total Gross Prediction- $190 million

There have been many YA adaptations recently and they all have flopped. Divergent will not be a failure. This film is going to be a major, major hit. My predictions are extremely conservative. Divergent is tracking very highly on Fandango and could end up being as big as The Hunger Games. For now, I'm pegging it at $190 million total. But that could definitely change.

MUPPETS MOST WANTED- March 21

Opening Weekend Prediction- $21.5 million
Total Gross Prediction- $74 million

Without the star power of Jason Segel and Amy Adams, Muppets Most Wanted will not be as big of a success. However, the marketing campaign has been hilarious and people love the Muppets, so I wouldn't be surprised if this became as big as the original film. Right now though, I see this film grossing just a little bit less than its predecessor.

SABOTAGE- March 28

Opening Weekend Prediction- $12 million
Total Gross Prediction- $41 million

Sabotage could actually revive Arnold Schwarzenegger's career if it's a success. He's working with David Ayer and a talented cast and Sabotage looks like a pretty hardcore action movie. However, I doubt that this film will be a big hit. This is not the type of film that makes a ton of money, but it doesn't really need to be a blockbuster. Sabotage needs to be a decent sized hit and get good reviews, then maybe Schwarzenegger's career will get back on track.

BAD WORDS- March 14 (limited), March 28 (wide)

Opening Weekend Prediction- $345,000
Total Gross Prediction- $35 million

Bad Words is a pretty funny looking comedy and I really do think that people like Jason Bateman. The film has him as a man-child who enters a spelling bee for children. The foul-mouthed protagonist teams up with a young scholar and they run around and have fun. Looks like a pretty cool movie and I think that people will take to it. Bateman's popularity has risen and the movie looks funny. It'll be a hit for sure.

NOAH- March 28

Opening Weekend Prediction- $50 million
Total Gross Prediction- $170 million

This is surely one of the most controversial films of the year so far. Noah is based on the Bible and now there are all sorts of disclaimers and everything saying that this is not an exact adaptation of the Biblical tale. I don't really get all the fuss, but the movie is getting a lot of publicity, and I think that all the coverage is going to pique the interest of a lot of people. Plus, it stars Russell Crowe and has cool special effects. This is going to be a pretty big hit if everything goes right.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER- April 4

Opening Weekend Prediction- $95 million
Total Gross Prediction- $210 million

Captain America and Thor were both introduced to us in 2011 and both films ended up with similar grosses ($65 million opening weekend). When Thor: The Dark World opened in late 2013, it got the so-called "Avengers Boost" and ended up opening to $85 million. Now, I would say that Captain America: The Winter Soldier will end up with around the same gross, but I just don't believe it. I think that The Winter Soldier has the possibility to make a lot more money than Thor 2 did. It has a stronger connection to The Avengers and I believe that more people will turn out for this one.

RIO 2- April 11

Opening Weekend Prediction- $30.5 million
Total Gross Prediction- $115 million

The original Rio wasn't an instant classic when it came out back in 2011, but apparently the $143 million it made in the US was enough for a sequel. Rio 2 should be a sizable hit, but I don't think that it will reach the heights of the original. There's just not enough buzz around the film and the original isn't exactly a classic. Rio 2 will do good business, but it won't be a hit.

ST. VINCENT- April 11

Opening Weekend Prediction- $5.6 million
Total Gross Prediction- $15.2 million

I had never heard of this movie until now, but it actually sounds like something that I will really like. St. Vincent is the story of a young boy who befriends a bawdy, hedonistic war veteran while his parents go through a divorce. Bill Murray, Naomi Watts and Melissa McCarthy star and if The Weinstein Company pumps this movie enough, I think that it could be a big hit. For now though, I'm going low. There just isn't any public awareness for this film.

OCULUS- April 11

Opening Weekend Prediction- $11.4 million
Total Gross Prediction- $24.5 million

Oculus stars Karen Gillan and Katee Sackhoff and is about a woman trying to exonerate her brother by proving that his crime was supernaturally related. That's according to IMDb and this is another movie that I had never heard of. It's a horror movie, so it could be a hit. But I just don't think that this has much of a shot of being a big hit.

DRAFT DAY- April 11

Opening Weekend Prediction- $25 million
Total Gross Prediction- $60 million

America loves football and maybe America will like a movie about the NFL Draft. I don't really know. Draft Day stars Kevin Costner, who is basically trying to revive his career. It didn't work with Jack Ryan, it didn't work with 3 Days to Kill, could it work with Draft Day? I don't know. This movie is a complete toss-up.

HEAVEN IS FOR REAL- April 16

Five-Day Opening Weekend Prediction- $30 million
Total Gross Prediction-$55 million

Heaven is For Real is based on a best-selling book. I don't know if anyone remembers the book anymore, but that's irrelevant. I think that there are enough fans for a solid opening weekend. Plus, a lot of church groups will go see the film as well. But I just think that the movie will tap out after that. This just doesn't seem like the type of movie that will have strong word of mouth for weeks.

BEARS- April 18

Opening Weekend Prediction- $8.6 million
Total Gross Prediction- $27.4 million

The Disneynature series never makes a lot of money, but the movies don't cost anything either. So no matter how much money Bears makes, it will be a success. Typically, these movies open small and have good word of mouth in the future. I'm actually interested in this one and it could end up being a small hit.

A HAUNTED HOUSE 2- April 18

Opening Weekend Prediction- $13.2 million
Total Gross Prediction- $25 million

The first Haunted House movie grossed about $40 million and I really don't think that many people are clamoring for a sequel. This sequel probably was made for nothing, but I still doubt that it will make over $25 million.

TRANSCENDENCE- April 18

Opening Weekend Prediction- $32 million
Total Gross Prediction- $110 million

This is a really interesting film, box office-wise. Transcendence stars Johnny Depp, Rebecca Hall, Morgan Freeman, Paul Bettany, Kate Mara and Cillian Murphy and is produced by Christopher Nolan. That seems to give it enough star power for it to be a hit. However, I'm just not too sure on this one. Wally Pfister is a first time director and this could end up being a misfire. But I'll stick to my $100 million+ prediction.

BRICK MANSIONS- April 25

Opening Weekend Prediction- $4.5 million
Total Gross Prediction- $11 million

Don't you love April? There are about four films off of the release schedule in April that I had actually heard of and Brick Mansions isn't one of them. This Relativity action film stars RZA and the late Paul Walker and is pretty much another generic Luc Besson thriller. It'll probably make a bit of money, but not that much.

THE QUIET ONES- April 25

Opening Weekend Prediction- $11 million
Total Gross Prediction- $19 million

Another movie that I hadn't heard of until now. The Quiet Ones stars Jared Harris and Sam Clafin as scientists who try to create a poltergeist. Sounds like an interesting premise, but I seriously doubt that this film will be any good. The word of mouth will be terrible and being released the weekend before The Amazing Spider Man 2 is not going to help the film.

THE OTHER WOMAN- April 25

Opening Weekend Prediction- $21.4 million
Total Gross Prediction- $50 million

This Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton-starred romantic comedy could end up being a decent hit. However, I really doubt that it's going to make more than $50 million at the box office. None of the three leads are exactly a draw and the first trailer was really not that funny. The Other Woman will probably make some decent money, but I'm not counting on a hit with this one.

That's it for my Spring box office predictions. Come back in late May for part 1 of my summer box office predictions.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Oscars Live Blog!

The day is finally here! The Oscars have finally arrived after months of awards season. I'm ready to find out who's going to win these awards. Here we go!

-Red carpet stuff right now. Not too much going on. We're half an hour away from the show.

-Really idiotic skit with Jimmy Kimmel. Don't know what they were thinking with that one.

-Wonder if they'll ask Will Smith about the Razzies. Jaden and Will Smith both won (or lost) Razzies last night.

-About twelve minutes until the start of the show. I've heard that the first award that will be presented is Best Supporting Actress. I have JLaw, but Nyong'o is the favorite. We shall see.

-Love these commercials for the new ABC show Resurrection. "Everyone on Twitter agrees....." Hilarious.

-My upset watches for the night:

     -Barkhad Abdi over Jared Leto
     -Amy Adams over Cate Blanchett
     -Leonardo DiCaprio over Matthew McConaughey

-Not that any of these will actually happen, but I'm looking for those upsets.

-The Red Carpet pre-show has ended and the show is about to begin. I'm so excited.

-The OSCARS have begun! Love the Hooray for Hollywood intro!

-Ellen comes out with her opening monologue. Let's see how this goes.

-Jokes are coming fast now and this monologue is picking up steam.

-Is is Best Supporting Actor or Best Supporting Actress? We shall find out.

-And it's Best Supporting Actor, one of the most predictable awards of the night.

-And the Oscar goes to Jared Leto for Dallas Buyers Club.

-Leto is truly deserving of this award. He's the standout in Dallas Buyers Club.

-Ellen is really on a roll now. Love Carrey's blue suit.

-Looks like the Academy is getting all of the predictable awards out of the way now. Best Animated Feature is up now.

-Never mind. It's some part of the Hero Celebration that the academy is doing this year.

-Kerry Washington is our next presenter and she is now introducing Pharrell.

-"Happy" has actually grown on me.

-Good performance from Pharrell but this show is moving really slow.

-Next up is Costume Design. I've got American Hustle. Could be wrong.

-And it's Catherine Martin for The Great Gatsby. Way to give an award to a crappy film.

-Now we're jumping right into Makeup and Hairstyling. Good, let's get this thing going.

-I'm two for three so far. Only got American Hustle wrong. Very disappointed in the choice of The Great Gatsby there.

-Why is Harrison Ford introducing three movies? And why do they do this anyways?

-It has been a half hour and there have been three awards handed out. This thing is moving very slow.

-No surprises so far. Let's hope that this night gets more interesting.

-Ellen is doing a fantastic job hosting so far. Really digging this show.

-Really hoping for Get A Horse! here.

-And the Oscar goes to Mr. Hublot. First real surprise of the night here.

-Frozen is going to win this category. Would be shocked if anything else won.

-And the Oscar goes to Frozen! Little shock there. Very happy though.

-And the next category is not even a category. It's another one of these hero things.

-Actually liked that whole hero montage. Emma Watson and JGL are up to present now.

-Once again, we have a category where we know that outcome: Gravity will win Visual Effects.

-And Gravity wins its first award of the night. Best Visual Effects goes to Gravity.

-Zac Efron is now introducing something. But it isn't a category.

-Poor Efron butchered that intro. Karen O is now performing.

-Sorry for the slight delay. 20 Feet From Stardom just won Best Documentary Feature.

-Wow. The show is moving a little faster now, but it's still a slow show. Kevin Spacey is on stage now.

-The Honorary Oscars are being handed out now. Apparently, they already handed out these awards, but they announce them anyways. That doesn't make much sense.

-Good, concise montage. Congrats to the winners.

-Spacey decided to stay in character as Francis Underwood and present the awards. Genius.

-Ewan McGregor and Viola Davis are here to present.

-Best Foreign Language Film is up next. This is a toss up, but I have The Great Beauty.

-And The Movie Guru prevails again! The Great Beauty wins Best Foreign Language Film.

-Tyler Perry presents the next three Best Picture contenders: Her, Nebraska and Gravity.

-Brad Pitt is now on stage introducing U2. Like the hair. I assume that's for Fury, but who knows.

-If the Oscars just presented the awards, I can't even imagine how much shorter the show would be.

-An hour and a half in and I'm still waiting on the supporting actress award. Very interested to see how that turns out.

-"An Open Letter to the Armpit" is a great way to start a commercial. Nice job, Dove.

-And we're back. We're getting near the big awards now. I hope.

-Now we have Michael B. Jordan and Kristen Bell presenting.....nothing. Great. Let's see if Ellen's photo gets the most retweets ever.

-Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth are now presenting the sound categories. These are always very tough.

-Gravity wins Best Sound Mixing, its second Oscar of the night.

-Gravity wins Best Sound Editing as well, its third Oscar of the night.

-Best Supporting Actress is up next. Can't wait. Let's see if JLaw can win. I've got my money on her.

-And the Oscar goes to....Lupita Nyong'o for 12 Years A Slave. Good performance. Not terribly surprised. But a little disappointed.

-And this also means that my pick of American Hustle is not going to happen. There's a real chance that Hustle goes 0/10 tonight.

-Hearing "Pure Imagination" puts a smile to my face.

-I'm putting my money on 12 Years A Slave at this point. It seems to have all of the momentum.

-And now Ellen is passing out pizza. This is quite entertaining.

-Cheryl Boone Isaacs is now on stage. She's the president of the academy. This is the time when everyone leaves to go to the bathroom.

-Not even kidding.

-"This is a state of the art motion picture destination that is set to open by the end of 2017."

-Wow. I have to wait until 2017 to see that. Great.

-Cinematography is next and that means another award for Gravity.

-And the Oscar goes to....Emmanuel Lubezki  for Gravity.

-It's film editing now and the Oscar goes to Gravity. This is quite incredible. Gravity could go on a clean sweep here if Bullock can pull off a shocking upset.

-Pink is performing now? She's not even nominated for anything! I love the Wizard of Oz but this is corny.

-This actually is going pretty well. Liking this performance. I would like it even more if the show wasn't so long.

-Beautiful tribute to The Wizard of Oz. Really enjoyed it.

-Loved that Godzilla Snickers commercial. That was fantastic.

-And now, Ellen is dressed up as Glinda. Hoping that these next categories are screenplay related.

-Nope. Best Production Design is the next category. Visual effects driven The Great Gatsby is going to take this one.

-Catherine Martin wins her second Oscar of the night for The Great Gatsby. Groan.

-And now Chris Evans is going to do the hero thing again. Enjoyable, but too drawn out.

-Love seeing Casablanca in the hero montage! I don't love seeing Jaden Smith as The Karate Kid.

-Another good montage. I really liked the theme of the show. It's running pretty long though. They're going to have to sped it up fast.

-That was the best Pepsi commercial I've ever seen.

-Will American Hustle get shut out? Or will it take Best Original Screenplay?

-Looks like Glenn Close is on stage for the In Memoriam section.

-We lost a lot of people this year. RIP to Roger Ebert, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Harold Ramis, Paul Walker, James Gandolfini and so many others.

-And we have probably gone thirty minutes without an award being presented. This is pretty sad.

-Best Original Song is next, but first, we must listen to "Let it Go" again. Great.

-Great song, but it's overplayed at this point. Menzel really can sing.

-Who's ready to give "Let It Go" the Oscar?

-Best Original Song and Best Original Score are pretty obvious categories. Score is slightly closer than Song. But I've still got Gravity. Would like to see Philomena win.

-And.....Gravity takes the Oscar again. If Bullock manages to pull off an upset, a clean sweep could happen.

-Gravity wins its sixth Oscar of the night. Frozen will very soon win its second.

-Frozen wins the Oscar. And the Lopez' give the single best speech of the night.

-The big awards are up next and there hasn't been a single surprise. This is wonderful.

-Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Original Screenplay are interesting categories. I'm feeling a win for Spike Jonze in the original category.

-Ellen is actually doing a good job hosting this thing.

-Love the typewriters in the background. That's quite the interesting set.

-I've got 12 Years A Slave winning its second Oscar of the night for adapted screenplay. We'll see.

-And Ridley wins the Oscar for 12 Years A Slave!

-If Hustle loses here, there's a zero percent chance that the film wins Best Picture.

-And the Oscar goes to......Spike Jonze for Her. Hustle is now out of the Best Picture race completely and will probably go 0 for 10 for the evening.

-With four awards left, there are practically no surprises left.

-Sidney Poitier and Angelina Jolie are now here to present an award.

-And the award is Best Director. I've got Cuaron here. I don't think that there will be any surprises on this one.

-Cuaron wins the Oscar for Best Director, his first Oscar and the seventh of the night for Gravity.

-Cuaron is such a charismatic guy. He's a lot of fun to watch.

-Wow, it is pretty amazing how long this film took to make. Will it win Best Picture as well? We shall see.

-ANOTHER COMMERCIAL BREAK!

-And the Oscar goes to Cate Blanchett! Oh wait, they didn't announce it yet. Never mind.

-Did anyone notice that there was virtually no applause for Sandra Bullock?

-And there was very little applause for Judi Dench as well.

-Cate Blanchett wins the Oscar for Best Actress for Blue Jasmine.

-So that means no clean sweep for Gravity. Too bad. It still could win Best Picture.

-Alright, this speech is going on way too long. Wrap it up.

-Jennifer Lawarence will now be presenting Best Actor to either Matthew McConaughey or Leonardo DiCaprio or Chiwetel Ejiofor.

-DiCaprio is going to get his Oscar. I feel it. I could be wrong, but I feel it.

-And I was wrong. McConaughey wins for Dallas Buyers Club. Best Picture is up next and it is either going to be 12 Years A Slave or Gravity.

-Even though I didn't love McConaughey's performance, he is probably the most awesome person in the world. Well deserved win.

-"Alright, alright, alright!"

-This has been an incredibly predictable Oscars. Kind of disappointed.

-Finally, Best Picture is here!

-Will Smith is presenting for Best Picture? No Jack Nicholson this year?

-And Best Picture goes to 12 Years A Slave!

-This is Josh Martin signing off the live blog! Thanks for tuning in! See you soon.

Winners of the 2nd Movie Guru Awards

I just decided who would win these awards today, so I'm writing this up quickly. My live blog is about to begin and I'm so excited for the Oscars. Can't wait to see who will finally win this crazy race. Here are my picks for the best of the year.

BEST PICTURE- RUSH and THE WORLD'S END (tie)
BEST ACTOR- Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 YEARS A SLAVE
BEST ACTRESS- Sandra Bullock, GRAVITY
BEST DIRECTOR- Ron Howard, RUSH
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR- Jake Gyllenhaal, PRISONERS
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS- Jennifer Lawrence, AMERICAN HUSTLE
BEST SCREENPLAY- Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, THE WORLD'S END
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN- RUSH


BEST FILM EDITING- THE WORLD'S END
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE- Ramin Djawadi, PACIFIC RIM
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE- FROZEN
BEST COSTUME DESIGN- Michael Wilkinson, AMERICAN HUSTLE
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY- Roger Deakins, PRISONERS
BEST MUSICAL SOUNDTRACK- INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS- GRAVITY
BEST ORIGINAL SONG- "Please Mr. Kennedy" from INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
WORST PICTURE- THE GREAT GATSBY
BEST TRAILER- AMERICAN HUSTLE
MOST ANTICIPATED FILM OF 2014- INTERSTELLAR


"Non-Stop" and "Son of God" get off to good starts at weekend box office

With two intriguing new releases and a holdover that is still raking in cash, the box office was very strong this weekend. Throw the Oscars into the mix and movie going is up substantially. Universal's thriller Non-Stop led the box office this weekend with $30 million. That's a solid start for the Liam Neeson flick, which only cost $50 million to make. Non-Stop opened higher than both the original Taken and Unknown, two relatively comparable flicks. In addition, Non-Stop received an "A-" Cinemascore, which is pretty good. Non-Stop should finish with about $80 million. However, direct competition from 300: Rise of an Empire and Need for Speed is coming and could cause problems for Non-Stop in the future.

Fox's Son of God opened in second place with $26.5 million, which is pretty good for a film that cost almost nothing to make. With Lent and Easter coming, it's possible that this film could pick up even more steam and with an "A-" Cinemascore, Son of God could end up with grosses as high as $75 million. The LEGO Movie also stayed strong this weekend in third place with $21 million. The animated comedy dropped only 33% and has now grossed $209.3 million. That's pretty great for a film that only cost $50 million and I'm betting that the film will not stop here. The LEGO Movie will probably finish with around $260 million.

After that, the box office was pretty empty. Fourth place belonged to The Monuments Men, which grossed $5 million this weekend to raise its total to $65.6 million. That's pretty impressive for a film with a lackluster Cinemascore. I guess that proves that those scores don't mean anything. In fifth place was 3 Days to Kill, which grossed $4.9 million in its second weekend. That's a rather large 60% drop for the film, which has now grossed $20.7 million on a $28 million budget. In sixth place was Sony's RoboCop which grossed $4.5 million to raise its total to $51.2 million. Hopefully Sony gets good overseas returns on this one. They're going to need it.

Pompeii dropped 58% for a weekend total of $4.3 million in seventh place. With only $17.7 million in the bank on a $100 million budget, Pompeii is the first massive flop of 2014. Frozen finished in eighth place this weekend with $3.6 million. The animated comedy has now grossed $388.7 million in the US and over $1 billion worldwide. Congratulations to Disney on that one. In ninth place was About Last Night, which took another steep drop and only grossed $3.4 million. The romantic comedy has now grossed $43.7 million, which is pretty disappointing considering that it had such a strong opening. And finally, Ride Along rounded out the top ten with $3 million, which was enough to raise the film's total to $127.1 million.

Next weekend sees the release of Mr. Peabody and Sherman and 300: Rise of an Empire. Here are my predictions:

1. 300: Rise of an Empire- $32.5 million
2. Mr. Peabody and Sherman- $27.8 million
3. Non-Stop- $16.4 million
4. Son of God- $15.7 million
5. The LEGO Movie- $14.2 million
6. The Monuments Men- $3.1 million
7. RoboCop- $2.7 million
8. Frozen- $2.65 million
9. 3 Days to Kill- $1.9 million
10. Pompeii- $1.8 million


Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Movie Guru's Oscar Predictions: Who Will Win and Who Should Win

This is the end. After a year of predictions, precursor shows and awards buzz, the awards season is finally coming to a close with the 86th Academy Awards on Sunday. Before I get to my predictions, I wanted to review what I had originally picked last year in March when the 85th Oscars had just wrapped up. I picked American Hustle to win Best Picture, which could still happen. I picked Leonardo DiCaprio to win Best Actor, which still could happen. And then I went on to pick Amy Adams for Supporting Actress, Mark Ruffalo for Supporting Actor, Russell for Director and shockingly, Naomi Watts for Best Actress. So yeah, I didn't do too hot. Anyways, just thought that would be fun to bring up. Here are my predictions for the Oscars:

BEST PICTURE

Will Win: AMERICAN HUSTLE
Should Win: 12 YEARS A SLAVE

I seriously would not be upset if any of the main three contenders won on Sunday (Gravity, 12 Years A Slave, American Hustle). Even though 12 Years A Slave was fifth on my end of the year list, I still think that it's the movie that is most deserving of the Oscar. However, with the preferential ballot system, American Hustle will win. It's going to be an exact repeat of 1998. That year, Saving Private Ryan, the gritty and brutal yet important war film lost to Shakespeare In Love, a rather light romantic comedy. The preferential voting system wasn't introduced until the early 2010's so Shakespeare in Love did get the most votes in general.

First, let me explain how the preferential ballot system works. The Oscar voters are now required to rank their films from #1-#9. If no film collects a clear majority of #1 votes (51%), then the Academy looks at the choices the voters made from #2-#9. I believe that American Hustle will almost assuredly get the most #2 and #3 votes. It's a well-liked, well-acted film and it's easy to digest. I believe that about 15% of the Academy will give the film their #1 vote and a lot of people will give it their #2 and #3 votes. It's just a gut feeling. The movie with the smallest chance is Gravity. This race is down to American Hustle and 12 Years A Slave. And while 12 Years A Slave would certainly be the better choice, American Hustle will pretty much fall in line with the Academy's recent choices.

BEST ACTOR

Will Win: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Should Win: Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years A Slave
Dark Horse: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street

For the last week, I've been thinking that Leonardo DiCaprio will win Best Actor. I don't really know why, but it has to have something to do with the fact that DiCaprio hasn't won before and he's been nominated so many times. But in the end, I don't think that's going to matter. McConaughey has this one. He's had the momentum since he won the Golden Globe and he's going to take that momentum all the way to the Oscars. He's good, but not great in the film and I'll be slightly disappointed if he wins, but hey, what can you do. He's been on quite the roll lately which helps his case a lot.

BEST ACTRESS

Will Win: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Should Win: Sandra Bullock, Gravity
Dark Horse: Amy Adams, American Hustle

Amy Adams has a very small chance of winning this award, but I do believe that chance is there. However, Cate Blanchett has had the momentum since July and not even a scandal involving her director will change that. She's going to win the Best Actress award on Sunday.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

Will Win: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Should Win: Bradley Cooper, American Hustle
Dark Horse: Barkhad Abdi, Captain Phillips

This is a category that some people are starting to throw out random predictions in, but I'm pretty certain that Leto is going to win. He's the best part of Dallas Buyers Club and it's a pretty stellar performance. Barkhad Abdi has the best chance of an upset, but I think that it's a stretch to say that he's going to win. I think that it might be close than people believe it will be, but I'm pretty sure that Jared Leto is going to pull it out.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Will Win: Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle
Should Win: June Squibb, Nebraska or Lawrence

I know that a lot of people think that Lupita Nyong'o will win for 12 Years A Slave. I have not bought into that at any point during the Oscar season. I wasn't a huge fan of her performance, but there's just not the evidence to back up a prediction that Nyong'o will win. She won the SAG award, but Jennifer Lawrence took the BAFTA and the Golden Globe. I believe that Lawrence gave the better performance and will win the Oscar, her second in a row.

BEST DIRECTOR

Will Win: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Should Win: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
Dark Horse: Steve McQueen, 12 Years A Slave

This is one of the easiest categories to predict as Cuaron has pretty much won everything. McQueen has a small chance of defeating Cuaron, but the feat that Cuaron pulled off with Gravity is extraordinary. It's a truly great film and a lot of that is owed to Cuaron. He's going to win the Oscar. That's pretty much set in stone.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Will Win: Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, American Hustle
Should Win: Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, American Hustle
Dark Horse: Spike Jonze, Her

This is the closest race of the night as Her and American Hustle have fought it out all season. Her has the support from the hipper, younger crowd, but I do think that American Hustle has the support of the majority of the academy. The film is one that a lot of people like and it's certainly not going to alienate anyone. Her is a bit weird and I doubt that the Academy is going to broadly support that film.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Will Win: John Ridley, 12 Years A Slave
Should Win: John Ridley, 12 Years A Slave
Dark Horse: Jeff Pope and Steve Coogan, Philomena

This is almost a sure thing. Ridley's screenplay is quite fantastic and has the widespread support of the Academy. With a lot of categories where 12 Years A Slave is getting shut out, I think that the Academy will certain honor the film here.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

Will Win: Frozen
Should Win: Frozen
Dark Horse: The Wind Rises

This category is almost 100% as Frozen has had the support of everyone all year. The Wind Rises could have a shot as it is acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki's last film, but Frozen just seems like too strong of a contender.

BEST FILM EDITING

Will Win: Captain Phillips
Should Win: Captain Phillips
Dark Horse: Gravity

A lot of Oscars will be under Gravity's belt by the end of the night and I really think that the Academy will want to honor the stellar Captain Phillips in one way or another. Gravity has a good chance to win here and I realize that I'm going out here a little bit, but I really do think that Captain Phillips' crazy editing will take the prize.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

Will Win: The Great Beauty
Should Win: No clue
Dark Horse: The Broken Circle Breakdown

This is a three-way race between The Great Beauty, The Hunt and The Broken Circle Breakdown, but I think that this is a surefire win for The Great Beauty. The film has been compared to films by Fellini so the film has that going for it. The Broken Circle Breakdown is the dark horse here, but I'm pretty sure that The Great Beauty is going to take this.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

Will Win: 20 Feet from Stardom
Should Win: No clue
Dark Horse: The Square

The Act of Killing is the popular favorite, but I still believe that 20 Feet From Stardom will win. This is a category where my opinion has changed over the last week and I'm not pretty sure that 20 Feet From Stardom will win. It's an uplifting film and that's right up the Academy's alley.

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

Will Win: Catherine Martin, The Great Gatsby
Should Win: Adam Stockhausen, 12 Years A Slave

I really have no idea what Production Design entails, but I'm really not a fan of giving it to films that are just visual effects. However, Catherine Martin will most certainly win for The Great Gatsby, one of the worst films of last year. It's lavish and ridiculous and outlandish, but it'll win anyways.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Will Win: Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity
Should Win: Roger Deakins, Prisoners

This is one of the easiest categories to predict as Gravity pretty much has this one locked up. I'm really not sure how much actual cinematography was involved with the film, but I'm pretty sure that Gravity is going to win this one. Roger Deakins should win for his stellar cinematography in Prisoners, but he's not going to.

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Will Win: Michael Wilkinson, American Hustle
Should Win: Michael Wilkinson, American Hustle

This is another tough category as both American Hustle and The Great Gatsby have a really strong shot to win. I believe that American Hustle will take the Oscar for its outlandish costumes, but Gatsby is a well designed movie as well. However, Hustle is a better movie than Gatsby and I think that's why Gatsby will lose and Hustle will win.

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING

Will Win: Dallas Buyers Club
Should Win: Dallas Buyers Club

The $250 makeup budget for Dallas Buyers Club is going to win the film the Oscar. It's a great campaign move by Focus and I don't really see anyone coming close. It would be hilarious if Jackass won, but it's not going to.

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Will Win: Steven Price, Gravity
Should Win: Steven Price, Gravity

This is another surefire win for Gravity as the score is leagues better than most of the other nominees. While Alexander Desplat's score for Philomena is tough competition, Price's score for Gravity is really stellar and it was even better on second and third viewings. He's pretty much got this category locked up.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

Will Win: "Let It Go," Frozen
Should Win: "Happy," Despicable Me 2

There are so many other songs that should have been nominated, but Frozen is going to win this one for sure. It's not even a question.

BEST SOUND EDITING

Will Win: Gravity
Should Win: Gravity

The sound in Gravity is really stellar and even though Captain Phillips is a strong contender as well, I believe that Gravity takes this one.

BEST SOUND MIXING

Will Win: Gravity
Should Win: Inside Llewyn Davis

I want Inside Llewyn Davis to win because it's a great film and it needs to get something, but Gravity is going to take this one as well. There's no question. The sound in this film is magnificent.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Will Win: Gravity
Should Win: Gravity

Is there any question on this one? Gravity won this before anyone saw the movie.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT

Will Win: "Get A Horse!"
Should Win: "Get A Horse!"
Dark Horse: Mr. Hublot

I loved "Get A Horse!" and with Disney's marketing ability, there's no question that this one wins for me. However, some people are calling Mr. Hublot a dark horse, so watch out for that.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT

Will Win: The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Should Win: No clue

The Lady In Number 6 is the story of a Holocaust survivor who just passed away last week. A lot of people like this short and I really don't think that anything else can win.

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT

Will Win: Helium
Should Win: No clue

I only heard about Helium on the Rope of Silicon podcast the other day and I'm just going to take a shot in the dark and predict it to win. It sounds fun, but I don't really know. Not my most educated pick.

Those are my bold, fearless Oscar predictions. Be sure to come back tomorrow for my Oscars live blog!

Dallas Buyers Club review

I've been pretty invested in this Oscar season. I've been following it since the Toronto Film Festival and have done my best to make sure I see every single film that is up for Best Picture. As of yesterday, I'd seen six: American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Gravity, Nebraska, Philomena and 12 Years A Slave. Now, I'm adding Dallas Buyers Club to the mix after watching it last night. Much to my disappointment, I never saw The Wolf of Wall Street or Her, but I guess I'll have to deal with it. Dallas Buyers Club was pretty much the last film that I had to watch so that I could say that my Oscar watchlist was complete. And I was actually pretty disappointed. Maybe it's because Dallas Buyers Club has been built up in my mind so much, but I really didn't think that it was that great. It's a fine movie with some good performances, but I have to say that I've seen many films this awards season that were better than this one.

Dallas Buyers Club tells the story of Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), a hard-partying, homophobic electrician who recklessly catches HIV from unprotected sex. The doctors tell Woodroof that he has thirty days to live. Eve (Jennifer Garner) is testing out AZT at her clinic and Woodroof gets it illegally from a worker at the hospital. After discovering that the AZT isn't helping him at all, Ron decides to find treatment elsewhere. He learns from a doctor in Mexico that pumping alcohol, meth and cocaine into his system is only going to make it worse, so he stops for the most part and decides to live a healthy life. He teams up with a transgender woman named Rayon (Jared Leto) to set up a buyers club that will help AIDS patients get healthy without AZT.

Maybe it's the fact that the movie is poised to win three Oscars on Sunday and has had a lot of buzz for many months, but I was just not that impressed with this movie. Don't get me wrong, it's a solid flick, but I think that it was marketed wrong and I think that the movie is a little choppy. If you think that there's really going to be any humor or lightheartedness in this movie, you'll be disappointed. Dallas Buyers Club is like a slow march towards death the whole time and that makes for an interesting, but slightly disappointing experience.

The one thing that I will certainly give this movie is that it's unique. This is not your conventional biopic in the slightest sense and it takes a very different approach than it could have. There's really no big sentimental moment in the end and the film comes to a conclusion quite abruptly. All this makes for an interesting experience that can be a positive if you look at it a certain way. But if you're looking for a film that flows well and has uplifting music moments and all the standard biopic stuff, you'll be disappointed. That's kind of what I was looking for and I didn't get it.

The performances are very good, but I didn't really feel that either was super spectacular. Leto is definitely the standout as AIDS patient Rayon. He gives a splendid performance highlighted by a couple moments of genuine emotion. McConaughey is good, but I his performance didn't really grab me. I was always hooked by Leto, but I never truly connected to McConaughey's Woodroof. I honestly feel that he's going to win the Oscar because he lost a lot of weight. Leto, on the other hand, is deserving, although it's probably not my favorite performance of the year.

The direction on this movie is good at times and mediocre at others. My main problem with this movie is the editing. It's a choppily edited film that seems to repeat itself a lot and then it becomes really choppy at other times. The film becomes repetitive after a while and the emotion is marred by a lack of a good musical score and the lack of a strong editor. The film doesn't have much energy. It's pretty drab and depressing, but that tone actually does make the movie more interesting at times.

Even though I didn't expect the tone of the film to be what it was, it was a good decision by director Jean-Marc Vallee. AIDS is a serious topic and to try to make an uplifting film about the crisis would have been really hard. The tone actually makes the movie more emotional at times even better. I know that all of this might sound contradictory, but I really did have mixed feelings on the film.

All in all, Dallas Buyers Club is a good film, even if it is extremely overrated at this point. Leto gives a standout performance and McConaughey is pretty solid as well. The tone is both a positive and a negative and the movie moves along pretty fast. I did enjoy Dallas Buyers Club in the end, even if it's by far my least favorite of the best picture nominees.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B                                                 (7/10)