Sunday, June 29, 2014

'Transformers: Age of Extinction' dominates with $100 million at weekend box office

No film but Transformers: Age of Extinction was going to lead the box office this weekend. The big question was- would the film top $100 million? According to Paramount, it did. Age of Extinction topped the box office with exactly $100 million (it will be interesting to see if it actually grossed $100 million once the final results come in). That's a solid result, but it would have been more interesting to see the result if Age of Extinction had opened on Wednesday, like the other films in the series. The film also received an "A-" Cinemascore, which means that word of mouth will keep this film afloat. Also note that there is no major blockbuster being released on the Fourth of July weekend, which means that Transformers will be the top dog once again. 

However, the big news for Transformers came from the international markets, specifically China. The mega-blockbuster grossed an additional $201 million overseas, which is good for a $301 million worldwide opening. Age of Extinction had an especially stellar result in China. The film grossed $90 million in the country, which is the best ever for a foreign film. It's not surprising, considering that the film's final battle is set in the middle of Hong Kong and prominently features many Chinese products, but it's impressive nonetheless. 

Sony's 22 Jump Street finished in second place this weekend with $15.4 million. The R-rated comedy has now grossed $139.8 million in the US. The film passed its predecessor this weekend and will likely finish with $170 million. How to Train Your Dragon 2 stayed in third place this weekend and took in $13.1 million. The animated sequel has now grossed $121.8 million, which is shockingly low. The film was projected to go much higher and has had no direct competition. I can't say that I'm sad since the film isn't good, but it's a relatively surprising result. 

Think Like A Man Too dropped nearly 64% to fourth place this weekend and grossed $10.4 million. The comedy sequel has now grossed $48.1 million and is nearly $12 million behind its predecessor at the same point in its run. A very disappointing result, but not that surprising considering the sequel opened during the crowded Summer instead of the wide open Spring. If there is a third film, I wouldn't be surprised to see it released in the Spring. 

Disney's Maleficent finished in fifth place this weekend and took in $8.2 million. The revisionist fairy tale crossed the $200 million mark this weekend and has grossed exactly $201.8 million. If you haven't seen the film yet, don't. It's so incredibly bad. Clint Eastwood's Jersey Boys finished in sixth place and took in another $7.6 million. The musical has taken in $27.3 million so far and will probably end up with $50 million. 

The brilliant sci-fi film Edge of Tomorrow finished in seventh place this weekend with $5.2 million. The film is crawling its way to $100 million, with $84.1 million in the bank already. A finish around $90 million seems more reasonable at this point, but I would be very happy if Edge crossed the $100 million mark. The good news is that the film has taken in $318.6 million worldwide, which should help offset the $178 million budget. Hopefully this film gets some good word of mouth on home video and really takes off. I would love to see more films like Edge of Tomorrow

The Fault in Our Stars finished in eighth place this weekend and it took in another $4.8 million. Fox's romantic drama has crossed the $100 million mark and has grossed $109.5 million. Very impressive for a film that only cost $12 million to make. X-Men: Days of Future Past ended up in ninth place this weekend with a solid $3.3 million. The superhero hit has now grossed $223.3 million. And finally, Chef rounded out the top ten with $1.6 million. The indie hit has now grossed $19.4 million. 

Also, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 crossed the $200 million mark this weekend, becoming the fifth 2014 film to cross that mark. In addition to that, Radius-TWC's Snowpiercer grossed $162,100 in eight theaters and Begin Again took in $148,000 in five theaters. Both films will expand in the coming weeks. 

Next weekend sees the release of Tammy, Deliver Us From Evil and Earth to Echo. All of those films will be released on Wednesday. Begin Again and Snowpiercer are also expanding. Here are my predictions for the five-day weekend. 

1. Transformers: Age of Extinction- $65.7 million
2. Tammy- $32.8 million
3. Deliver Us From Evil- $28.6 million
4. 22 Jump Street- $12.1 million
5. Earth to Echo- $10.9 million
6. How To Train Your Dragon 2- $8.6 million
7. Jersey Boys- $8 million
8. Think Like A Man Too- $6.9 million
9. Edge of Tomorrow- $5.1 million
10. The Fault in Our Stars- $3.1 million

Friday, June 27, 2014

Guillermo del Toro's 'Pacific Rim 2' to hit theaters on April 7, 2017

Good news for fans of big-budget sci-fi. Guillermo del Toro announced today that Pacific Rim 2, a sequel to the 2013 film Pacific Rim, will be hitting theaters on April 7, 2017.

According to the filmmaker, the script is currently being written by Zak Penn, Travis Beachem and Del Toro himself. The film will be released by Universal Pictures and Legendary Pictures (the original film was distributed by Warner Bros.). Del Toro also announced that a Pacific Rim animated series is in the works. No timetable was given for when that will debut. And finally, del Toro also announced that the Pacific Rim comic book series that began last year will continue. All in all, this is exciting news if you're a fan of the original film.

Del Toro is currently at work on Crimson Peak, his Gothic horror tale, which will hit theaters in October 2015. He also directed several episodes of The Strain, a new TV series that is debuting on FX on July 13. Del Toro also has many other projects in the works, but it looks like he will finish Crimson Peak and then get straight to work on Pacific Rim 2. I enjoyed the first film, although it certainly does have its flaws. However, the awesome fight scenes and the great musical score made up for the lack of strong dialogue and unique central characters. It was just good to see an original blockbuster. Even though the first film wasn't the greatest film ever, I still held out hope that del Toro would make a sequel because I think that there's so much more to explore in this world. In addition to that, del Toro has suggested many storylines for the sequel and most of them seem incredibly interesting. I'm really excited to see what del Toro has in store for us here. It's safe to say that I'm excited for 2017.

Frank Darabont in talks to direct 'The Huntsman', Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron to reprise their roles

2012's Snow White and the Huntsman was not a good movie. The film was a boring, tired slog with uninspired action scenes and lifeless performances. Of course, once the Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth-starred feature was a hit, talk of a sequel immediately began. However, a release date was never set and most film bloggers seemed to think that the project had been shelved. Apparently not. Another film in the Snow White and the Huntsman franchise has been greenlit and Universal is now in talks with director Frank Darabont to take over for Rupert Sanders, who directed the first film. According to the Hollywood Reporter, The Huntsman will be a spin-off and will star Chris Hemsworth as the titular character. Charlize Theron will also reprise her role but Kristen Stewart will not be returning. No details are currently available about the film's story, but it will obviously focus on Chris Hemsworth's character.

Frank Darabont is not officially the director yet, but THR is treating this as if it's a sure thing. I can definitely say that I do not like this move. Not that I think Darabont will do a bad job. I just think that his talents could be used better. Darabont is an executive producer on The Walking Dead right now, but he also created the TNT miniseries Mob City and directed films such as The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. His last film was 2007's The Mist. He's obviously directed great things in the past and unless The Huntsman has a really stellar script, I would rather see Darabont do other things. No release date has been announced yet, but expect The Huntsman to hit theaters in 2016 or 2017.

Scoot McNairy joins the cast of 'Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice'

Some rather exciting news broke yesterday regarding one of the most anticipated superhero movies ever. Deadline reported that actor Scoot McNairy would be joining Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice for an unspecified role. McNairy has appeared in two Best Picture winners (Argo and 12 Years A Slave) along with the acclaimed AMC show Halt and Catch Fire and smaller roles in films such as Non-Stop and The Rover. McNairy is joining the film's massive cast in an unspecified role. The Wrap confirmed Deadline's story, but would not specify which role McNairy would be taking on. Some have speculated that McNairy will be playing the Flash, while Latino Review's El Mayimbe is saying that the role might be Nightwing. In the end, I'm just happy that McNairy is joining the cast.

Scoot McNairy is one of the best character actors of this generation. He was brilliant in Argo and his turn in Non-Stop was pretty good as well. And although I haven't been hooked by Halt and Catch Fire quite yet, he is still very good in the show. I can't really see McNairy as the Flash or Green Lantern, but Mayimbe's Nightwing theory makes sense to me. McNairy and Ben Affleck (who is playing Batman) have good chemistry together (they starred together in Argo) and I really think that having McNairy play Nightwing is a good idea. Now, I will say that I still don't think Batman v. Superman will be a good movie. The cast is just way too huge. At this point, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice will star Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Amy Adams, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jesse Eisenberg, Ray Fisher, Jeremy Irons, Jason Momoa, Scoot McNairy, Holly Hunter and Tao Okamato and will be released on May 6, 2016. The cast is looking good, but it will be interesting to see if Zack Snyder can balance all of these characters. We shall see.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Actor Eli Wallach dies at age 98

Some sad news out of Hollywood, as it was reported late last night that Eli Wallach, who appeared in films such as The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and The Magnificent Seven, had died at the age of 98. Wallach's death was confirmed by his daughter. No official cause of death was listed. Wallach was an EGOT winner, which is one of the biggest achievements in Hollywood. Wallach won an honorary Oscar in 2010 for his work on several films throughout history. He first television role was in 1951. Late in 1956, he appeared in Baby Doll, which was his first film role. During his nearly 60-year Hollywood career, he also appeared in The Holiday, The Godfather Part III and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. All in all, Wallach had an incredibly successful career in Hollywood.

I've been meaning to watch The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and The Magnificent Seven for quite some time now, but I never have gotten around to watching either film. That's something that I most certainly will change. I really don't know much more about Wallach than what I have read today, but he obviously has had quite an impact on Hollywood history. He's one of the few EGOT winners, which is an amazing feat. All in all, Wallach acted in 167 films and television shows over the course of his 59-year career. That is extraordinary. He most certainly will be missed by everyone in Hollywood and by film fans across the globe.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

'Think Like A Man Too' leads with disappointing $30 million, 'Jersey Boys' finishes in fourth at weekend box office

I'm writing this in the aftermath of a devastating draw in the US-Portugal match, which was extremely disappointing. Still, I'm proud of the US team and we're in really good shape for the match against Germany on Thursday and we should still advance out of the group. Meanwhile, the box office was pretty quiet this weekend. Sony's Think Like A Man Too topped the charts with a decent $30 million, which is actually a step down from its predecessor (the 2012 film opened to $33.6 million). However, there was certainly less competition for that film, which opened in April. The film also received an "A-" Cinemascore and is budgeted modestly at $24 million, so the film should still be a big success. A third film may be in the cards. Look for a review of this one on Tuesday.

Not far behind was 22 Jump Street, which finished in second place with $29 million. By the time all is said and done, Jump Street could end up in first place, but for now it is estimated to have finished in second. The R-rated comedy took only a 49% drop, which is pretty good for a movie targeted at teens and young adults. 22 Jump Street has now taken in $111.4 million and will likely finish with $180 million. That's an extraordinary result. Even though the end credits promise otherwise, expect 23 Jump Street in the near future.

In third place was Dreamworks' How To Train Your Dragon 2, which grossed a lackluster $25.3 million this weekend. Typically, animated films will have really good holds, but Dragon 2 is just not having the luck. Maybe it's the dark tone. Maybe it's the fact that the movie is not all that good. All I know is that How To Train Your Dragon 2 has only taken in $95.1 million and will likely end up with $155 million. That's a severely disappointing result.

Clint Eastwood's Jersey Boys finished in fourth place with $13.5 million. The final tally for the musical biopic was slightly above tracking and the "A-" Cinemascore points at good things for this film in the future. Many pointed out that this film did a lot of matinee business and made very little money at night. 71% of the audience was over the age of 50. However, this film should end up being a modest success with good word of mouth in the future.

Disney's Maleficent finished in fifth place this weekend with $13 million. The horrendous fantasy film has now taken in a shocking $185.9 million. I'm honestly baffled by the amount of money this movie has made. Is Angelina Jolie really that much of a box office draw? It just makes no sense. The film has also caught on internationally. The total worldwide gross for Maleficent is $521.5 million. Very impressive and saddening at the same time. Now, let's talk about a film that I love. Edge of Tomorrow ended up in sixth place with $10.3 million. The sci-fi thriller has had exceptional legs and with $74.5 million in the bank already, this film should make it to $100 million.

The Fault in Our Stars also took only a small dip this weekend, finishing in seventh place with $8.6 million. Amazingly, this film has not yet crossed $100 million and its total currently stands at $98.7 million. That should change in a day or two. In eighth place was X-Men: Days of Future Past, which took in $6.2 million to raise its total to $216.7 million. The stellar blockbuster should finish with $230 million.

Chef finished in ninth place this weekend, taking in $1.8 million, which was enough to raise its total to $16.9 million. This film has had great word of mouth and will likely finish with at least $30 million. Finally, Godzilla rounded out the top ten with $1.8 million. The monster flick has now grossed $194.9 million and will end up falling short of $200 million.

Next weekend sees the release of Transformers: Age of Extinction. Here are my predictions:

1. Transformers: Age of Extinction- $104.5 million
2. Think Like A Man Too- $15.5 million
3. 22 Jump Street- $14.9 million
4. How To Train Your Dragon 2- $13.5 million
5. Jersey Boys- $9.1 million
6. Maleficent- $8.9 million
7. Edge of Tomorrow- $7.9 million
8. The Fault in Our Stars- $4.3 million
9. X-Men: Days of Future Past- $3 million
10. Chef- $1.7 million

Saturday, June 21, 2014

'22 Jump Street' review

Back in 2009, nobody would have thought that an adaptation of a children's novel about food falling from the sky would work. However, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs ended up being an incredibly satisfying animated film. In 2012, the idea of adapting a police show from the 1980's and making a comedy out of it sounded ludicrous. But in the end, 21 Jump Street was a mostly enjoyable comedy. And if you had asked most people if they thought The LEGO Movie would be good before it became a smash hit in February 2014, the answer you would get the most is "no." Finally, if you had asked those same people if a sequel to 21 Jump Street that essentially repeats the entire plot of the first would work, they probably would have said no as well. What I'm trying to say here is that directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have been doubted all their life and yet, they consistently deliver. 22 Jump Street is another great addition to the Lord and Miller canon and one of the better films of 2014 so far. It's a film that is incredibly self-aware, but also hilarious from start to finish. I didn't expect to like this film, but I ended up loving every minute of it. 22 Jump Street is an absolutely fantastic comedy.

If you've seen 21 Jump Street, you know the plot of 22 Jump Street. Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are feeling good after the success of their undercover drug bust at a local high school. However, the Police Captain (Ice Cube) needs the two cops to go undercover again to stop the spread of a new synthetic drug called "WHYPHY" at a local college. The story is then repeated beat-for-beat, except that the screenwriters shake some things up. Instead of Schmidt being super popular, Jenko becomes a football star and ends up being best friends with Zook (Wyatt Russell), who might just be involved with the spread of the drug. On the other hand, Schmidt isn't so popular, but he does find a new love in Maya (Amber Stevens), an art student. Schmidt and Jenko fight, but end up teaming for a massive gunfight in Puerto, Mexico for Spring Break.

22 Jump Street is about as good as a comedy sequel can be. In fact, it's one of the stronger comedies I've seen in a long time (with the brilliant Neighbors and the awesome A Million Ways to Die in the West already under our belt, it's turning out to be a great summer for R-rated comedies). It's a whip-smart film that takes no prisoners. It makes fun of Hollywood, it makes fun of sequels, and it makes fun of itself. The fact that this movie is also just flat-out better than the original also helps. Lord and Miller keep most of the same beats, but throw a few twists in that had me laughing really, really hard. However, when they keep the same beats, they keep them exactly the same. The film repeats scenarios from the first film completely and it does it while making fun of the fact that the movie is exactly the same this time around. 22 Jump Street is simply a blast from start to finish. I loved this movie.

The main problem with the first Jump Street movie was that it was a little too long and the middle section was overly serious at times. 22 Jump Street is actually longer than its predecessor, and while you do feel the length at times, it's just so much funnier and so much more entertaining than 21 Jump Street that you won't mind. However, my second problem with 21 Jump Street was not a problem in this one. Of course, it goes through the exact same story, so Schmidt and Jenko are bound to fight at some point, which was a plot device that didn't work in the original. In 22 Jump Street, Schmidt and Jenko's relationship is treated in a much more humorous fashion and it makes the petty fights between the two very funny.

The great thing about 22 Jump Street is that it tells the exact same story as 21 Jump Street, but it tells it in a much better fashion. The film just feels so much cleaner and more polished and some of the new story twists help to add suspense to the film. The way that Lord and Miller switch up what happens to which character is also very refreshing and hilarious. For example, the way that Jenko's friends always ignore Schmidt is the exactly opposite of the original film, where Schmidt's friends ignored Jenko. That was just comic genius. The little self-aware jokes also helped. Sometimes I wished that there was more of that humor, just to make sure that Lord and Miller still knew that they were making a sequel that was almost completely identical to the original. However, if there had been more self-deprecating humor, it might have been detrimental to the film. All that matters is that the self-awareness is there and is incredibly funny.

The performances in this film are great. Jonah Hill is very funny in this movie, but I've never really found him to be that impressive in these movies. He's always doing his usual shtick. On the other hand, Channing Tatum is once again incredibly impressive and steals the movie. This dude just has the right comedic timing and his jokes consistently land. His character is dumb as rocks, but it's pretty obvious that Tatum is a very smart guy and a great comedian. Also, Ice Cube is so brilliant in this movie. He's not my favorite actor in the world, but he has a scene in this movie that is insanely funny. It had me laughing very hard. The supporting cast is also strong. Jillian Bell is one of the standouts as Mercedes, the awkward roommate of the girl who was killed by "WHYPHY." Wyatt Russell also delivers a breakout performance as Zook, the idiotic best friend of Jenko. All in all, this is a fantastic cast with a lot of comedic talent.

Phil Lord and Christopher Miller make movies like nobody else. In all of their films, there is an electric, palpable energy to all of the scenes. I took another look at The LEGO Movie and I really think that movie is so good because of the insane amount of energy injected into every scene. Watching a Lord and Miller movie is like watching a movie after drinking seventeen cups of coffee. 22 Jump Street is no different. They slow down for some quieter scenes every once in a while, but for the most part, the energetic feel is still there. From the opening scene set to "Turn Down for What" to the brilliant closing credits, 22 Jump Street is a fast-paced, high-energy piece of filmmaking.

One thing I can't stress enough about this movie is how funny it is. 22 Jump Street is insanely funny. If Neighbors hadn't already hit theaters, this would be the funniest movie of the year. No contest. It just happened to be released in a year where a lot of strong comedies are hitting theaters. But anyways, 22 Jump Street is a movie that will have you laughing constantly. If you don't understand that Lord and Miller are making fun of franchises and Hollywood, you might not get quite as much enjoyment out of this movie. But you will still laugh very, very hard.

22 Jump Street is just an extremely fun time at the movies. Several of the movies that I've seen recently have been lifeless and boring, so it was refreshing to see a movie that was just so much plain fun. However, 22 Jump Street wouldn't have worked if Lord and Miller weren't ready to make fun of themselves, while also repeating the exact same plot, only with a few new twists. The cast doesn't hurt as well and the brilliant action scenes only make the movie more fun. Plus, the end credits are amazing. I had a great time with 22 Jump Street and I really think that anybody who watches it will love the heck out of it.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A                                              (8.8/10)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Rian Johnson to direct 'Star Wars: Episode VIII', will write script for 'Episode IX'

The Star Wars news just keeps coming. After the big cast announcements earlier this Spring opened the floodgates, directors have been signing on for new Star Wars projects like there's no tomorrow. The first one to jump on board was Godzilla director Gareth Edwards, who will direct a Star Wars spin-off movie that will hit theaters on December 18, 2016. After that, Josh Trank (Chronicle, the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot) signed on for another spin-off, which will presumably be released in December of 2018. Today, we received news that Rian Johnson, the director of Brick and Looper, will be in the director's chair for Star Wars: Episode VIII and maybe even Episode IX.

While nothing has been confirmed by the Lucasfilm camp yet, Johnson has all but confirmed the rumor. When asked by a fan about the rumor, Johnson responded by posting a clip from The Right Stuff that has one of the astronauts saying this line of dialogue: "Please lord, don't let me f*** this up", which hints at the fact that Johnson is obviously a little bit frightened about doing a Star Wars movie. Deadline was first to report the news earlier today. In the article by Mike Fleming, it says that Lucasfilm is making a deal with Johnson and I wouldn't be surprised to see an official announcement soon. In addition to the news that Johnson will be directing Episode VIII, Rope of Silicon reported that Johnson will be writing Episode IX as well, with the option to direct. All of this is unconfirmed but it sounds like it could be true.

I haven't seen Looper, but after hearing this news, I plan to change that. I'm very excited that Disney is hiring fresh new talent for these films and as long as they let these guys do what they want to do, we should be in good shape. Safe to say that this new Star Wars trilogy is looking and sounding pretty good right now.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Paramount will release 'Transformers 5', 'Beverly Hills Cop', 'Star Trek 3' and more in 2016, Universal delays new 'Bourne' movie

Apparently CineEurope is going on right now, which is some sort of industry convention. While most of the news coming out of the event is pretty useless, Paramount revealed some very interesting details about their upcoming release slates. The studio really seems to have a lot of this stuff locked down and they seem to have a good idea of what will be released and when. Here's a breakdown of Paramount's 2014, 2015 and 2016 schedules, which seem to be confirmed at this point.

In 2014, Paramount has already released Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and Noah. None of those films have been smash hits, but it looks like Paramount might be able to turn a profit pretty soon. Next week, the studio will release Transformers: Age of Extinction, which will likely make over $1 billion worldwide. In July, Hercules will hit theaters. The film looks like it could flop, but Dwayne Johnson is a huge box office draw. And finally, Paramount will release the last blockbuster of the summer with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. After that, Paranormal Activity 5 is scheduled to hit theaters in October, but I'm not sure that PA5 will actually stay on the release schedule for 2014. Finally, Paramount will close out the year with Interstellar (the studio is co-producing with Warner Bros.) and Hot Tub Time Machine 2. However, the Hollywood Reporter is currently saying that Hot Tub Time Machine 2 will actually debut in 2015. Nevertheless, both films should turn a solid profit.

In 2015, Paramount will release eight films. The studio currently hasn't scheduled The Gambler with Mark Wahlberg or Project Almanac, but footage from both films was shown at CineEurope, which means that they will be hitting theaters soon. In terms of films with confirmed release dates, The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water will hit theaters in February, followed by the horror spoof Scouts vs. Zombies in March. After that, the animated film Monsters Trucks will debut in May and Terminator: Genesis will hit theaters in July. Finally, the Friday the 13th reboot will arrive in November and Mission: Impossible 5 is going to hit theaters in December.

During the CineEurope convention this week, Paramount also decided to reveal what films will be hitting theaters in 2016 as well. On the 2016 calender for Paramount, we have a new Paranormal Activity movie, a reboot of Beverly Hills Cop with Eddie Murphy, Transformers 5, G.I. Joe 3, Star Trek 3, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters 2 and a remake of Ben-Hur. Three cheers for originality! If these movies are good, I won't care, but originality really is becoming non-existent in Hollywood these days.

Also, Universal delayed their new Bourne film, which was originally supposed to hit theaters in August 2015, but will now debut on July 15, 2016. Justin Lin of the Fast and Furious franchise is directing and Jeremy Renner will return. I really don't care about this film at all, but for whatever reason, Universal seems to still think that they have a huge franchise on their hands, despite the disappointment that was The Bourne Legacy.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Jersey Boys review

Movie musicals are hard to come by these days and a movie musical hit is even harder to come by. Les Miserables was a huge hit in 2012 and Mamma Mia rocked theaters in 2008, but does anybody remember Rock of Ages? I don't think so. The latest stage-to-screen adaptation hitting the multiplexes is Jersey Boys, a film about the rise and fall of The Four Seasons, a popular band in the early 1960's. Clint Eastwood tackles the material with a group of seasoned theater pros at his back and does a decent job. This is essentially a lovable mess of a movie. It is incredibly choppy at times and about a half hour too long, but Jersey Boys' saving grace is the fact that it feels like an authentic movie and the period production values are astounding. Not to mention that the cast is top-notch. Jersey Boys may need to do some more edits to trim off all the excess fat, but in its current state, the musical adaptation is a fun, but forgettable film.

Jersey Boys is a musical biopic about the Four Seasons, a phenomenon in the early 1960's. The film tracks the humble beginnings of the band as Frankie Valli (John Lloyd Young), Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza) and Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda) play at various bars and nightclubs to try to get themselves famous. Tommy and Nick are both convicts and Frankie is always doing his best to stay out of trouble. Eventually, with the help of mob boss Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken), record producer Bob Crewe (Mike Doyle) and lyricist/keyboard player Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen), the Four Seasons become a household name and end up topping the charts. However, the erratic behavior of Tommy gets in the way, which could signal the end of the band.

Jersey Boys is a movie that could be great, but ends up being just passably entertaining. In many ways, Jersey Boys seems like a perfect mash-up of genres that could work together to create a stunning film. It's one part mob drama, one part biopic and one part stage musical. For the most part, the mix-up of genres works. It's just the fact that the film has poor pacing at times, doesn't know when to end and lacks that cohesion necessary to take a film with a lot of characters and elevate it to the next level. Jersey Boys is still a solid film, but it could have been so much better.

One thing that I won't complain about is the acting. For a movie being released in June, this has some absolutely fantastic performances. Erich Bergen is brilliant as Bob Gaudio who is the character the audience can relate to the most in the entire movie. Bergen is the emotional core at times and he handles that role well. Michael Lomenda also does a solid job as Nick Massi, who isn't exactly the smartest guy. Oddly enough, the weakest link in the whole cast is John Lloyd Young, who plays the main character in the film. Young just doesn't have enough confidence to pull this role off and seems outmatched when facing off against the rest of the cast. However, Young sings his heart out and is fantastic during the musical performances. In fact, Bergen, Lomenda and Piazza also do a great job.

Even if the film adaptation of Jersey Boys is lost forever and nobody remembers this movie twenty years from now, one good thing will surely come out of this movie and that thing is actor Vincent Piazza. I'm telling you, this guy is going to be a star. It might sound like exaggeration, but Piazza flat-out steals this movie. He's definitely playing the stereotypical mobster hothead, but he does it so convincingly and has this demeanor and swagger that most of the other actors don't have. He does a better job than anybody else in this cast and is quite spectacular. I'll be shocked if we don't see Vincent Piazza in other movies in the near future.

The production values on this movie are also very impressive. The sets and the cinematography do a good job of conveying the era that this story takes place in and that's always an important part of period dramas. Eastwood's style can seem a little drab but the dialogue and the music pops off the screen with such energy that it overwhelms any sort of dullness the movie falls into.

I'll say this too: Jersey Boys is not a musical. Jersey Boys is a musical biopic with one big musical number at the end. If you're looking for spontaneous singing and dancing, you're not going to get it with this film. However, the musical number at the end is infectious and well-choreographed. After a shaky third act, the musical number ends the movie on a high note.

Jersey Boys has a real problem with its editing. Some scenes are just completely misplaced. The scenes don't always logically flow and it just feels off. However, despite the choppiness, for its first two acts, Jersey Boys is a very entertaining movie that just always feels a little shaky. It's the third act that really deflates the movie.

The third act of this movie starts out spectacular, with a verbal fight scene between the band that is incredibly visceral and entertaining. However, things soon die out and Jersey Boys just wears out its welcome. After the band breaks up, Jersey Boys switches from being a Four Seasons movie to being a Frankie Valli movie. And I'm sorry, but Valli is not the most interesting character in the movie.

The film focuses a lot on the solo career of Frankie Valli that helps to fix a problem that the band runs into earlier. A lot of the solo could have been cut completely. Especially all of the subplots that involved Valli's mistress, wife and daughter. All of it did nothing to advance the story that the movie was telling for two acts. There were little things about the family during the first part of the movie, but it eventually becomes the central focus, which is a big problem.

Also, Jersey Boys has a case of what I like to call "Peter Jackson Syndrome" which essentially means that it doesn't know how to end the film. The last musical number is good, but there are three or four scenes before that when you think that it's going to end and it doesn't. Maybe I just felt this way because the third act was so tedious, but it was definitely a problem for me. The length was just a huge problem in general.

I pretty much enjoyed this film for what it was: a decent, well-acted, authentic biopic. It's so darn likable, but it's just too long and a little too messy. In the end, I'll remember this film for the great musical numbers, the stellar performances and the crisp, vivid dialogue. This is a well-made film that's just simply too long and too scattered to be the classic film it so desperately wants to be.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B-                                             (6.6/10)

Steven Spielberg's Cold War thriller to hit theaters in 2015, 'The BFG' will debut in 2016

Steven Spielberg's last film was the political drama Lincoln, which was released in November 2012. Spielberg has been signed on to direct many projects over the course of the last year and a half. For a while, Robopocalypse was on the schedule for July 2013, but Spielberg has indefinitely postponed the project due to the fact that the special effects are too difficult with the technology these days. According to Wikipedia, Spielberg is also contemplating tons of other projects including The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara and a remake of West Side Story. However, it looks like he's finally locked down which ones he will direct first.

According to many sources, Spielberg will be directing a Cold War spy thriller next. That film will be released on October 16, 2015, just in time for Oscar season. The film will star Tom Hanks and will be scripted by Joel and Ethan Coen. The plot synopsis on IMDb says that the film will tell the story of an American lawyer who is recruited by the CIA during the Cold War to help rescue a pilot in the Soviet Union. This sounds like a really interesting film and it is surely going to be an Oscar favorite.

After that, Spielberg will direct an adaptation of Roald Dahl's book The BFG, which stands for Big Friendly Giant. The BFG is still without a cast, but we do know that Melissa Mathison is writing the script. Mathison has worked on many Spielberg projects before and was a screenwriter on E.T. As of right now, The BFG will be released on July 1, 2016, where it will face off against Independence Day 2, Tarzan and Angry Birds. I guarantee you that one of those films will move. I read The BFG when I was younger and I enjoyed it. I don't see it as being a particularly good fit for Spielberg, nor do I really want to see a film adaptation of it, but I can see it being good. Spielberg rarely makes a bad movie.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Maleficent review

This has been an extraordinarily strong and diverse summer for movies. We've had a great film in just about every genre. There have been two great action flicks (Edge of Tomorrow and X-Men: Days of Future Past), a good romance movie (The Fault in Our Stars), and three raucous comedies (Neighbors, A Million Ways to Die in the West and 22 Jump Street). However, we were bound to go on a cold streak eventually and I believe that we have now hit that streak. How to Train Your Dragon 2 was incredibly disappointing and now I finally got around to seeing Maleficent, which takes the cake as the worst movie of the summer. Outside of a few moments of genuine, heartfelt emotion, Maleficent is an absolute mess. There's no entertainment to be had here. It's just a painful movie to sit through.

Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) is a young, beautiful fairy with a sunny outlook on life. She lives in the Moors with magical creatures and all sorts of other fairies. One day, she meets Stefan, a young boy who is caught stealing from the diamond river or whatever. The two become friends and develop a bond. However, the older Stefan (played by Sharlto Copley) wants to be king in the future and then betrays Maleficent in a nasty way. In return, Maleficent curses Stefan's child and then wanders off into the forest. Stefan sends his daughter, Aurora, off into the woods for protection and she grows up there with the help of three fairies (Imelda Staunton, Juno Temple and Lesley Manville). Aurora grows up (she is then played by Elle Fanning) and she meets Maleficent. The two bond and Maleficent must decide if she will right her wrongs or stay dark and heartless forever.

Maleficent is bad from the get-go and it almost never stops being bad, with the exception of a scene or two. The CGI is well-done at times, but also obviously fake at other times, making for an almost laughable movie experience. There's no edginess to the script, which is mostly bland and substance-less. And worst of all, Angelina Jolie is really terrible, with the exception of one very good, well-done scene. Almost everything with her performance is so overdone and she's trying so hard that it just ends up being ridiculous and laughable. This movie is just an all-around snooze-fest.

The film begins with narration and the narration continues throughout. Now, I've got nothing against voice-over and narration, but there's a point where it just needs to stop. The narration was fine for setting up the story, but after that, it's just in place to explain the points of the plot to us. It irked me from the beginning and just gets worse as the movie goes on.

When I was watching Maleficent, it felt like a two hour movie, which is bad since it's only an hour and forty minutes. However, the film still feels too short. It takes five minutes for Maleficent to decide that she shouldn't have gotten so mad and cursed Aurora only after she hangs out with the kid for a day. Seriously? Their relationship is without a doubt one of the most believable and realistic parts in the whole overcooked affair, but it still feels underdeveloped. In fact, everything feels underdeveloped. You're watching these characters and nothing is understood about them. They are just up on the screen and the magic voice in the background is telling you little bits and pieces about them. It's ridiculous.

The performances in this movie are either blandly forgettable or flat-out bad. Elle Fanning (Super 8, Somewhere) is a great young actress, but all she has to do is act happy and pretend to be dead. There's really not much to her performance. Sharlto Copley does the same shtick that he's done since District 9, which is talk with a South African accent and act weird. Sam Riley plays Maleficent's useless bird assistant, but actually infuses a little bit of humor and charm into the movie. Not a bad performance from Riley.

Angelina Jolie is undoubtedly the star of this movie and the whole thing rests on her soldiers. And while she has her moments of greatness, the performance is so melodramatic and annoying for most of the runtime. I think that Jolie believed she was playing a much weightier role than she is and it shows in the performance. It's so over-dramatic and is pretty much the type of performance you'd expect from a bad Shakespeare actor. However, she does have a few moments. Any time that humor is injected into the film, it sparks to life for a moment, and Jolie handles those moments well. Also, she has a great, emotional scene with Elle Fanning towards the end which moved me despite the fact that I didn't care about any of the characters.

The script doesn't do much to help the movie either. It's so devoid of any sense of fun and the dialogue is cringe-worthy at times. Characters are thrown in for no apparent reason at idiotic times and do nothing to advance the plot. Take Prince Philip (Brenton Thwaites) for example. He's in there for one or two scenes and then pops back up at the end. It's a screenplay that never decides what it wants to do and the movie ends up playing like a giant montage. With the constant narration and the fact that no scene lasts longer than a minute or two, it's hard to get across too much of a cohesive story.

The technical aspects are both good and bad. The CGI is stunning at times and the landscapes are brilliant. However, the CGI can often look so obviously fake that it distracts from the movie and makes this film look worse than it already is. The visual effects team did a decent job, but the mistakes were apparent.

Maleficent is just not a good movie. Every once in a while, there's a good scene, which only made me more mad because I know that this could have been an interesting flick. But at this point, it's an underdeveloped, over-done mess. We've seen a lot of good ones this summer and I really was not surprised that this movie was awful. It just looked terrible from the beginning. Some may complain that it messes with the story too much or that it's a weird take on a classic, but I would just say that it's a bad movie. There's nothing else you really can say to that. There are just very few redeemable factors to this movie. Hopefully Disney can do a better job with their next revisionist fairy tale, Cinderella, which comes out next year. For now, we just have Maleficent. Great.

THE FINAL GRADE:  D                                               (4.3/10)

Monday, June 16, 2014

What's next for Dreamworks Animation after the disappointing opening for How to Train Your Dragon 2?

Dreamworks Animation has been on a cold streak recently that they just can't seem to shake. It started in November 2012, with Rise of the Guardians. The holiday-themed film cost $145 million and only made $306 million.To some that might sound like a profitable film, but odds are that Dreamworks took a loss on that one with the addition of marketing and distribution costs. After that disappointment, Dreamworks released The Croods, which is their only recent hit. The prehistoric comedy took in an impressive $587 million worldwide off a $135 million budget. However, Dreamworks ran into another disappointment in July 2013 with Turbo, which grossed a meager $282 million off a $135 million budget. And finally, Mr. Peabody and Sherman opened in March 2014 and grossed a disappointing $267 million with a budget of $145 million. Those are three films that likely lost money for Dreamworks in a very short amount of time. Not good for any company.

The common thought among box office prognosticators was that Dreamworks would finally bounce back this month with How to Train Your Dragon 2, the sequel to one of the biggest hits in the company's history. However, the film has disappointed at the box office so far, taking in $49.4 million in the US and an additional $26.1 million overseas. For a franchise film, that's a shocking result. Now, keep in mind that there is no competition for Dragon 2 and it will still likely finish with around $180 million in the US and around $460 million worldwide, but with a fan-favorite predecessor and a big budget, this film should have done a lot better.

Dreamworks Animation stock fell from $27.35 to $24.35 this morning after the disappointing performance of Dragon 2 and I'm not sure if that stock will rise any time soon. The question on everyone's mind in Hollywood is: Where does DWA go from here? The answer is that a lot of sequels and sure-fire hits are in the pipeline and less risky gambles, which could save the studio.

It turns out that Dreamworks has all of their films planned out until 2018, which is interesting. Their next film is only five months away and that film is The Penguins of Madagascar. The Madagascar franchise is one of the few left that can still make a ton of money for the studio and I'm sure that The Penguins of Madagascar will be a hit. The last Madagascar film (released in 2012) took in over $700 million worldwide and while this film will likely make less, it should still make enough profit to offset some of the losses taken from recent Dreamworks movies.

After that is when things get really dicey. Dreamworks' next film is Home, which tells the story of a little girl (Rihanna) and an young alien (Jim Parsons). The trailer was semi-annoying, but I still see the potential for a hit here. The film is hitting theaters in March of next year, a month where many original properties have succeeded in the past. If the marketing campaign is good enough, Home should be in decent shape.

June sees the release of another risky original property from the studio in the form of B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations. The flick sounds like a new take on Ghostbusters, which should be appealing to kids. However, it's hitting theaters in the thick of summer; one week after Paramount's Monster Trucks and two weeks before Pixar's Inside Out. That's a tough spot for the film and I really think that it would be a smart move for Dreamworks to move to a date in late July or early August.

After two risky films, Dreamworks will release Kung Fu Panda 3 in December 2015, which should make a solid amount of money for the studio. The China-set series doesn't do big business in the US, but typically makes up for it overseas, which makes Kung Fu Panda 3 a sure thing for Dreamworks. After that, the studio will debut Boss Baby on March 18, 2016. There is literally no information about that flick, so I really can't give an opinion on it.

Next, in June 2016, How to Train Your Dragon 3 will debut, which should close out that franchise. With the disappointing results for the recent sequel, I wouldn't be surprised if that film got scrapped, but in the end, it should pull in enough grosses to justify a third film. Finally, Dreamworks will release Trolls as their final film of 2016, which is apparently a movie about the toy dolls with the spiky hair. Interesting. I have no comment.

In 2017, Dreamworks will once again release three films, but the fact that one is in January is something that really interests me. The studio will debut Captain Underpants in January 2017, which might end up being a great idea. I have no clue if the film will be any good, but the film could end up thriving with little competition in the month of January.

After the release of Captain Underpants, Dreamworks will unleash a Kevin Lima Bollywood Musical in March, which sounds interesting enough and could do great business internationally. Finally, The Croods 2 will hit theaters in November 2017, which should make a boatload of money.

And believe it or not, Dreamworks has more movies on the release schedule for 2018. First is Larrikins in February, which I know nothing about. They'll follow that up in May with Madagascar 4 which should be a massive hit. And finally, Dreamworks will release Puss In Boots 2: Nine Lives and 40 Thieves, which should make a lot of money as well.

In the end, Dreamworks could survive by using some savvy business moves and experimenting with different months on the release date calender. However, if one or two more films flop, the studio could really be in trouble. Hopefully they can hold on and continue to create original animated films.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

How to Train Your Dragon 2 review

Ever since Dreamworks' new animated film, How to Train Your Dragon 2, debuted at Cannes, the praise has been almost unanimous, with many critics calling the film one of the best animated sequels ever and a step up from its predecessor. 2010's How to Train Your Dragon was an impressive feature, but I really wasn't sure that a sequel was all that necessary. The original film told its story well and could have just ended the saga right there. However, the corporate leaders at Dreamworks saw a lot of potential in the franchise and decided to greenlight this far inferior sequel. I seriously do not understand all the praise for this movie. The action is breathtaking and there are genuine moments of wonder, but in a summer with so many great movies that just pop right off the screen, How to Train Your Dragon 2 just feels flat and dull. It's both too long and too rushed and the story is never compelling. Not much works in How to Train Your Dragon 2 and it's quite a shame given that the characters are still very entertaining.

The adventures of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon Toothless continue in How to Train Your Dragon 2 five years after the events of the first film. Hiccup is all grown up now and is engaged to Astrid (America Ferrera) while the town of Berk has come to embrace dragons. Meanwhile, Hiccup is off exploring, trying to find new lands with new dragons. One day, Hiccup, Astrid and a couple friends fly by a frozen base and are captured by Eret (Kit Harrington) and his men. Eret believes that they froze the base and tells them that Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou) will be coming for their dragons. When Hiccup tells his father (Gerard Butler) about Bludvist, he freaks out and tries to stop Hiccup from trying to reason with him. However, Hiccup leaves anyways and ends up running into a woman named Valka (Cate Blanchett), who is actually his long-lost mother. Family drama and mass chaos ensues.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a movie where not much happens. Not much of consequence at least. Sure, there's a critical death and by the end of the film, a little bit has changed in regards to Hiccup and Toothless, but there were infinitely better ways to get to the critical points in this film. The first twenty minutes are a little slow and pretty random, jumping around with little cohesion. The film really struggles to get its feet planted, but once the exposition is done, the story that How to Train Your Dragon 2 tells is just not all that interesting.

Most of the story involving Hiccup's mother is tedious. The family drama isn't all that interesting and it takes up such a large section of the runtime that director Dean DeBlois has to rush through the rest. Now, I don't know if this film would have been much better if there were an extra ten minutes added. It's just an over-serious, melodramatic affair in general. However, the third act could definitely be ten minutes longer, which would give enough time between the big battle scenes to develop a cohesive plan and maybe even add a couple layers to the flat, bland villain. In the film, there's a massive battle and a traumatic death followed by a brief lag that lasts less than five minutes before we're whisked back to Berk for another action scene. It just moves way too fast. The pacing was off.

Humor isn't always an essential part of animated movies and I've had people argue that this wasn't meant to be a comedy, but the fact is that the movie has attempts at humor and all of those attempts fall flat. A subplot involving Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) being in love with Eren is supposed to be funny, but ends up being just flat-out embarrassing. It's not hard to get a laugh out of me, but I'll admit that I did not laugh once in this movie. Actually, that's a lie. I laughed during the unintentionally hilarious song and dance number involving Hiccup's mother and father. That was just hilarious and not in a good way.

The interesting thing with How to Train Your Dragon 2 is that it has several problems and not a single one is the main reason why I didn't like the movie. It's just lackluster across the board, except in the animation department. The animation in this film is stunningly beautiful and quite extraordinary. DeBlois also does a solid job with the action scenes and Toothless is still a fun character to watch. But beyond that, there's not much that's overwhelmingly good in this movie. There's nothing that's extremely terrible either, but just a lot that could have been done better.

The tone is a major reason why this movie is so lackluster. Animated sequels that try to go darker just do not work. Kung Fu Panda 2 was a solid outing, but not even close to its predecessor in terms of quality. How to Train Your Dragon 2 is melodramatic and over-cooked and everything is just so serious. It's almost joyless. There's a sense of wonder in some of the scenes, but most of the time, the movie is just bland and I really believe that the tone is a major factor. There's no exuberant energy to this film and it doesn't have the heart of the original. The only moving moment in the film is the result of goodwill from the first film.

The villain of this film is also a huge problem. I'm so incredibly sick of villains whose main motive is that they're just evil. Nolan did a great job with the Joker, but there have just been so many villains in recent movie history that have used the "they just want chaos" excuse as a crutch. Drago Bludvist is just evil according to Hiccup's father and I could see The Dark Knight's influence in this film. And that could have worked if DeBlois went in a completely different direction. If I was directing this film, the mother would have been scratched, Drago would be straight-up attacking Berk and Hiccup would be dealing with his new responsibility to protect the village. That would be a much better movie. It would allow for the darker story that DeBlois wanted while allowing for the supporting characters and even Hiccup to be more developed.

However, I can't say that I really hated watching How to Train Your Dragon 2. It's a disappointment for sure, but it's not an actively bad film. It's just one that could have been a lot better. Hopefully DeBlois can finish off this trilogy in style with How to Train Your Dragon 3, which has already been greenlit. I can only hope that it's a cleaner, better film than this film, which is one of the most disappointing films to be released in 2014 so far.

THE FINAL GRADE:  C                                                  (6/10)

'22 Jump Street' tops 'How to Train Your Dragon 2' with impressive $60 million at the weekend box office

One of the biggest box office weekends of the year so far occurred over the last few days, with Sony's R-rated comedy 22 Jump Street and Fox's animated film How to Train Your Dragon 2 going head to head. In the end, R-rated raunchiness prevailed. Sony's 22 Jump Street topped the box office with $60 million, the fifth highest opening for an R-rated film and the second highest opening for an R-rated comedy in history. None of this is really all that surprising since the first film in the franchise is incredibly beloved by audiences and the sequel received strong critical remarks. The "A-" Cinemascore should help word of mouth in the future as well. After the disappointing performance of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Sony has to be happy with this result. 22 Jump Street will likely end up with about $155 million.

Fox's How to Train Your Dragon 2 had a somewhat low opening this weekend, finishing in second place with $50 million. That opening is only $7 million higher than the opening of 2010's How to Train Your Dragon, which has to be a bit of a letdown for Dreamworks. The film did receive an "A" Cinemascore from audiences and will likely hang around for quite a while thanks to the lack of family fare until Disney's Planes: Fire and Rescue hits theaters in mid-July. I'm still very shocked by this opening. Even though the film isn't good, I still thought that the lack of family fare would push Dragon to at least $70 million.

Disney's Maleficent fell one spot to third place this weekend and took in another $19 million. The epic fantasy flick has held extraordinarily well and has taken in $163.5 million so far. Look for Maleficent to surely cross $200 million in the near future. It looks like this one will be quite profitable after all. In fourth place was Warner Bros.' Edge of Tomorrow, which fell only 44% to $16.1 million. That's a fantastic hold for the action flick, which has now taken in $56.6 million. If Edge can hold on a little bit longer, a finish around $90 million is not out of reach. Please check Edge of Tomorrow out if you haven't already. It's one of the year's best.

The Fault In Our Stars ended up in fifth place this weekend, plummeting nearly 67%. The film added another $15.7 million to its now $81.7 million total. The YA adaptation has been well received, but was also incredibly front-loaded. It will surely finish above $100 million, but will probably end up with only a 2x multiplier. It's a pretty good movie, so I would encourage you to check it out if you're hesitant.

In sixth place was X-Men: Days of Future Past, which took in another $9.5 million this weekend. The superhero hit has now grossed $205.9 million, which is somewhat disappointing given its strong opening. However, the film is doing gangbusters overseas and will likely end up being the highest grossing superhero movie of the year. And deservedly so (although The Winter Soldier is brilliant as well).

Godzilla finished in seventh place with $3.1 million. The monster flick has now grossed $191.3 million and will almost surely finish below $200 million, becoming the first film to do that with an opening weekend above $90 million. Pretty disappointing for Godzilla. If it was a better movie, it might have made more money. A Million Ways to Die in the West finished in eighth place with $3 million, which was enough to raise the film's total to $38.9 million. A final total around $45 million seems probable.

Universal's Neighbors ended up in ninth place with $2.4 million, which raises the film's total to $143.1 million. A final total close to $150 million is probable. And finally, Jon Favreau's Chef rounded out the top ten with $2.2 million. The low-budget hit has now grossed $14 million.

Next weekend sees the release of Think Like A Man Too, Jersey Boys and The Rover. Here are my predictions:

1. Think Like A Man Too- $35.6 million
2. 22 Jump Street- $29.5 million
3. How To Train Your Dragon 2- $28.7 million
4. Jersey Boys- $22 million
5. Maleficent- $12.5 million
6. Edge of Tomorrow- $10.5 million
7. The Fault In Our Stars- $6.9 million
8. X-Men: Days of Future Past- $5.6 million
9. Chef- $2.1 million
10. The Rover- $1.9 million

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Jason Momoa to play Aquaman in 'Batman v Superman' and 'Justice League'

The cast list for the upcoming superhero extravaganza Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is only continuing to grow. Henry Cavill, Amy Adams and Diane Lane are reprising their roles from Man of Steel, Ben Affleck is playing Batman, Jesse Eisenberg is tackling Lex Luthor, Jeremy Irons is our new Alfred, Emily Blunt is rumored to be playing Catwoman and Gal Gadot and Ray Fisher will have small roles as Wonder Woman and Cyborg, respectively. Now, according to Hitfix, that cast just got bigger. The entertainment site is reporting that Jason Momoa will be joining the cast of Dawn of Justice as Aquaman and will reprise that role in Justice League, which according to Hollywood journalist Nikki Finke, will be hitting theaters in 2017.

According to Hitfix, they can confirm that Momoa is in the film and that Zack Snyder will be shooting his scenes very soon. In addition, they are saying that the character arc for Aquaman in Dawn of Justice involves being upset about what the World Engine did to the Indian Ocean. I really disliked Man of Steel and don't even remember what this World Engine thing was, so I honestly have no idea what they're talking about. Batman v Superman seems extremely overstuffed at this point, but I like the casting of Momoa. He seems perfect for the role. As of right now, Dawn of Justice will be hitting theaters on May 6, 2016.

Warner Bros.' DC slate rumored to include 'Justice League', 'Shazam' and more

None of this is official yet, but Nikki Finke is typically a pretty reliable source. The infamous Hollywood journalist reported on Thursday that the following release date slate is what Warner Bros. is planning on announcing at Comic-Con. The films reported to be in development and their release dates are as followed:

May 2016- Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice
July 2016- Shazam
December 2016- Sandman
May 2017- Justice League
July 2017- Wonder Woman
December 2017- Flash and Green Lantern Team-Up
May 2018- Man of Steel 2

There were also some other interesting notes in Finke's report. For example, according to her sources, Ryan Reynolds won't be reprising the role of Green Lantern in the future Justice League films. All in all, the studio is putting together the final touches on this slate and will likely announce everything at Comic-Con.

This is quite a bit to take in and is a tad overwhelming when you remember that Marvel will be releasing superhero films during this time as well. My major problem is that because Dawn of Justice will have to set up everything, odds are that it will end up being a mess with too many cameos, too many characters and just too much going on (much like The Amazing Spider-Man 2). However, some of these stand-alone projects seem very interesting. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is spearheading Sandman, so that will surely be an interesting project. And I love the idea of a Flash and Green Lantern team-up movie. I just hope that Warner makes sure that quality comes before quantity.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Fault In Our Stars review

Every once in a while, a tragic romance seems to captivate a generation. Love Story was big in the 70's, Ghost was a huge success in the 90's and The Notebook reduced Americans to tears in the early 2000's. With The Fault in Our Stars, it appears that there is now a love story to define this generation. The tragic, yet witty cancer drama based off of the book by John Green has become a sensation. The film took in $48 million last weekend and will likely be one of the bigger dramatic hits of the summer. And for good reason. The Fault in Our Stars is a conventional romance in every sense of the word, but it's an incredibly well-made film, a well-executed romance drama that succeeds on every level. Strong performances by the entire cast help and the warm, optimistic tone elevates the material as well. The Fault in Our Stars is just a very solid film all-around.

Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) is a whip-smart teenager who just happens to have cancer. She started off with thyroid cancer at a young age, which eventually spread to her lungs. Now, she has to walk around with an oxygen tank everywhere she goes. Only problem is that she's depressed. She has survived a lot but she does that death is inevitable. Her doctor recommends that she go to support groups and she does, much to her dismay. However, when she meets the charming Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), her fortunes might just be turning. Augustus and Hazel bond together and end up falling in love while also experiencing the horror and tragedy of cancer.

The Fault in Our Stars is a sad movie, but it is almost always an enjoyable one. The film has an optimistic view on life with cancer and really shows that cancer patients are just people with another obstacle in life. It clocks in at around two hours, but moves at a solid pace throughout. The tonally uncertain third act has some problems and the characters personality quirks wear thin after a while, but overall, The Fault in Our Stars is a nice change of pace from the action spectacles that have graced the screen so far this summer.

Performances are key to The Fault in Our Stars and the two leads do a very solid job with what they're given. The characters, on paper, are quirky and that can become a little tedious after while. Hazel is a little too pessimistic, but Shailene Woodley puts real emotion into the performance and you can feel it. Augustus' tendency to dangle an unlit cigarette out of his mouth and pontificate aloud like an 18th century scholar make him slightly tedious, but Ansel Elgort still plays him with a sweet charm that makes Augustus a fun character to watch. Laura Dern and Nat Wolff are the standouts of the supporting cast. Dern plays probably the most loving mother in cinematic history and Wolff is a charismatic young actor who adds a lot to a somewhat disposable supporting character.

For a movie about cancer, The Fault in Our Stars' greatest strength is that it's just good, breezy entertainment. This is a movie that you can watch for two hours without checking your watch once or wondering when it'll end. It's entertaining and captivating from start to finish. Director Josh Boone (Stuck in Love) is a good storyteller and knows how to make the audience invested in the plot. The film is still rather conventional but you really feel for the characters throughout this movie.

Many fans of the book have tried to sell the fact that The Fault in Our Stars is a better love story because it has a sharp wit and an ironic sense of humor that most other sappy love stories don't have. And while it does have a sense of humor, the humor and the cutesy irony actually become tedious after a little while. It's good to have a sense of humor and it's good to have fun, but there were times where I felt that this movie needed to be a bit more serious.

*Mild SPOILERS for the rest of this review

For example, during the third act, a character's cancer comes back and spreads throughout their body. There's a really weighty conversation about this and the film is suddenly a lot more serious. A few scenes later, the three main teenage characters are egging a car and joking around. It was just too tonally inconsistent during the third act. There were moments of sadness, there were moments of humor and there were moments of nostalgia, but none of it balanced out well. It was just a little messy.

My biggest problem with the movie lied with the character of Peter Van Houten, played by Willem Dafoe. In the movie, Van Houten is the author of An Imperial Affliction, a book about cancer that Hazel reads over and over and over. Eventually, Hazel and Augustus find their way to Amsterdam to meet Van Houten. He proceeds to be a total jerk, belittling them and causing them to run off in tears. Van Houten is then introduced again at the very end of the movie to "redeem himself." The only problem is that he serves no purpose to the plot. There's just no reason for him to be in the movie. He's really only a plot device to get Hazel and Gus to Amsterdam. And there are millions of ways for Hazel and Gus to get to the city without wasting time on Peter Van Houten. From what I can tell, the Van Houten stuff is in the book also, which doesn't make this entirely the fault of the filmmakers. I just thought that it was all rather pointless.

The Fault in Our Stars is a breezy, extremely enjoyable movie with a messy, tonally inconsistent third act and a character that only adds extra fat to the movie. It's a movie that you won't remember for very long, but it's very, very entertaining while you're watching it. At its core, The Fault in Our Stars is a genuine, moving love story with beautiful characters, a strong soundtrack and a sad, tragic story. Woodley, Elgort and Wolff are all impressive in their roles and I have a feeling that we'll be seeing these guys for a long time to come.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B+                                             (7.9/10)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

First trailer and poster for 'The Interview' starring Seth Rogen and James Franco

Seth Rogen is truly on a roll lately. His all-star team-up, This is the End, made $126 million worldwide and garnered a ton of critical acclaim. He followed it up with Neighbors, a raunchy modern-day take on Animal House. The film (one of my favorites of the year so far) has also received strong reviews and taken in $226 million worldwide on an $18 million budget. And now, Rogen and James Franco (co-star in This is the End) are teaming up again for one of their most creative projects yet: The Interview. Check out the trailer below:

For one, I had no idea that Rogen would be releasing another movie so quickly. I knew that Sausage Party was in the near future and that he would be doing a new Christmas movie with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but I didn't even know about The Interview until last night, which is amazing considering that it looks to be another ambitious, awesome comedy. The plot is incredibly creative and the visuals look great. Rogen and his partner Evan Goldberg are directing as well, which is a good sign. I'm really excited for this movie. The trailer was great and the tagline on the poster ("From the Western Capitalist Pigs who brought you...") is even better. This is definitely one of my most anticipated movies of the fall.

21 Jump Street review

When Sony's 21 Jump Street was released in March 2012, it was a surprise hit with critics and audiences, becoming one of the most acclaimed studio comedies in recent memory. Everybody was once again shocked by the pure directorial talent of Phil Lord and Chris Miller, two directors who can elevate material to another level thanks to their wit and sarcastic, self-referential type of humor. I missed 21 Jump Street when it came out in 2012, but with the sequel, 22 Jump Street, hitting theaters tomorrow, I figured that now was a good time to check the original out. And for me, it ended up being a prime example of having expectations that were way too high.

21 Jump Street stars Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as young cops Schmidt and Jenko, respectively. Schmidt was incredibly unpopular in high school, while Jenko was the popular football player. The two reunite at the police academy where they decide to help each other with the part of police training that they excel in (Jenko's good with the physical stuff, Schmidt is more book smart). Eventually, the two graduate and work as cops at a park. After screwing up their first arrest, Schmidt and Jenko are sent to 21 Jump Street, which is now being used as an undercover program to bring down high school drug rings.

Schmidt and Jenko are then sent back to high school to contain a new synthetic drug that has caused the death of one student. Schmidt immediately becomes one of the popular kids, befriending Eric and Molly (Dave Franco and Brie Larson) who might just be the drug dealers he's going after. Jenko, on the other hand, fits in better with the nerds. Schmidt and Jenko fight and it all culminates in a massive showdown between the drug gang and the undercover cops at the prom.

21 Jump Street is considered by many to be one of the funniest comedies in recent years. I have a lot of friends who just think that this movie is awesome. And I ended up having fun with this movie. 21 Jump Street is a funny film that has a strong ending and an awesome start, but also long stretches where it's not that funny. Lord and Miller are extremely creative guys, but I can still feel that they were trying to find their way in this movie. The madcap insanity that they are now known for is still developing here. The flashes of creativity and hilarity are there, but the film is just still stuck in the trappings of a sometimes tedious buddy cop comedy.

Lord and Miller directed Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and The LEGO Movie in addition to this film, and I can't help but think that their talents are better suited for animation. They're good directors and they add a lot to 21 Jump Street, but what they can do with animated movies is amazing. I really hope that they do an R-rated animated comedy someday. That is something that I would pay to see. But like I said, their innovative, creative touches often elevate 21 Jump Street to another level. They do have some help from Hill and Tatum, but I definitely think that this film is better than your average buddy cop movie because of Lord and Miller.

Of course, Hill and Tatum are brilliant in the film as well. Although the conflict while the two are in school is one of the more tedious parts of the movie, they're very funny actors who can do a lot with the material. The screenplay by Michael Bacall is perfect for them and Tatum was especially impressive. The two actors have great chemistry together and are able to do a lot of funny stuff. The supporting cast is also pretty strong. Dave Franco has been funnier in other stuff, but he's still pretty decent here. Rob Riggle is great as the off-kilter gym teacher and Ice Cube is a perfect fit for the role of the angry sergeant.

The action scenes are quite spectacular. They're well-filmed, well-choreographed and actually mildly suspenseful. Lord and Miller are at their best when the jokes hit quickly and the action is moving fast, which is why the third act of this movie is so insanely great. The fast pace works so well in this movie and it's when the movie slows down that it becomes somewhat dull.

The problem that I have with this movie lies in the middle section of the film. For the first act, the odd-couple stuff works great and the directing is on point. The high school stuff is really cliched though. It's a fairly typical buddy cop movie by the second act and it's only when the action ratchets up in the third act that 21 Jump Street regains some of what it lost.

In the end, I liked 21 Jump Street, but I didn't love it. It's a movie that's fun to watch, but not that memorable and it certainly isn't Lord and Miller's best work yet. 22 Jump Street looks to be a lot of fun, so I'm still very hopeful for that movie, even though I was slightly disappointed by 21 Jump Street. Tatum and Hill are great and if Lord and Miller can make sure that the unlimited imagination that they apply to their animated movies applies to their R-rated comedies as well, I think that 22 Jump Street will be just fine. But for now, I just simply enjoyed 21 Jump Street for what it was. It's a good buddy cop movie and nothing more.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B                                               (7.1/10)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow review

Up until now, 2014 has been a bad year for sci-fi. The only major true science fiction blockbuster that I was really looking forward to, Transcendence, was terrible and Godzilla, which could be considered sci-fi, was a bit disappointing. In addition to that, the Wachowski's Jupiter Ascending was just moved to 2015, which is flat-out depressing. However, 2014 has been a great overall year with many great films in many different genres. It was only a matter of time before we got a great sci-fi movie, and I'm here to tell you that Edge of Tomorrow is that film. It's a tremendously exciting, funny, thrilling adventure film with great visuals, a fully realized world and terrific performances. This is an all-around great film and it holds up on multiple viewings (I've seen the movie twice now). Edge of Tomorrow is one of the best films of the year and a brilliant summer movie.

In Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise plays Bill Cage, a cowardly military officer who pretty much does public relations to avoid fighting in a war against the Mimics, an alien race that has invaded Europe. When General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) of the UDF (United Defense Force: the combined military might of all the world powers) orders that Cage go onto the battlefield and film promotional videos for Operation Downfall, a large-scale, D-Day-like invasion, Cage tries to run away, but ends up being caught and sent to the military base. 

Cage is immediately greeted by Sgt. Farell (Bill Paxton), who informs him that he has been labeled as a deserter and will be sent down with J-Squad as cannon fodder. Cage ends up landing on the beach, where he kills an Alpha Mimic, one of the higher-ups in the alien army. Cage immediately wakes up the next day and repeats the same scenario. Eventually, he meets Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), a figurehead for the war, who tells him the source of his new power. Rita then has to train Cage to become a better soldier so that they can find the thing that will win them the war. 

I was interested in Edge of Tomorrow for a long time, but my excitement hit another level once the reviews started pouring in. The critics were really digging it and I hoped that the movie would deliver. It truly does. This is one of the best-constructed summer blockbusters of the modern era, a film that is entertaining, compelling and well-directed from start to finish. Edge of Tomorrow simply blew me away. 

Exposition is really hard to get right, especially for original movies. The audience has to know what's going on in the movie, but it can't be too obvious. One of the few problems in the otherwise-great X-Men: Days of Future Past was that it literally spelled everything out in a three minute conversation. It was so painfully straight-forward. Edge of Tomorrow has one of the best first acts in recent memory. Director Doug Liman and the screenwriters establish what is going in the story, who the characters are and what is about to happen with precision, setting up the film spectacularly. 

However, I also thought that Godzilla's first act was brilliant, the second act solid and the third act lacking in awe and wonder. Edge of Tomorrow is a feat of action filmmaking because it keeps up the pace throughout the entire film. In addition to that, even though the film does feel slightly long, each and every scene has some sort of purpose to the plot. When I first saw the movie, I felt that a couple scenes were out of place, but on a second viewing, the scenes feel just right. Everything moves smoothly and it leads to a conclusion that is a little murky at times, but also quite stunning. 

The characters in this movie are very memorable and they're played by actors who have a clear vision for what they want to do with the character. Tom Cruise is in every scene in this film and does a really good job. He's very funny in the movie and he plays an off-type character. Career-best is a bit of stretch, but he's great in the film. Emily Blunt also knocks it out of the park as the tough-as-nails Rita. Blunt plays Rita as a tough woman who also has some hidden emotion. Like Cruise, Blunt injects a lot of humor into the film and does a fantastic job. The supporting cast is also strong. Bill Paxton is splendid as Sgt. Farell, an American officer from the Deep South. He's simply excellent. And Brendan Gleeson is fantastic as always. 

The action and cinematography are also pitch-perfect. Each action scene is well-filmed, with a few stunning shots and just the right amount of shaky-cam. The beach invasion is stunning and the suspense is built from the beginning. Some have complained about the third act of this movie, but it really is a perfectly executed climax that features some spectacular action. There's also tension throughout this whole movie, which is hard to find these days in big blockbusters.

What surprised me the most about this movie though was the humor. This is a hilarious movie. It is so funny. And it's not funny in the way that the Marvel movies are. Edge of Tomorrow has a dark sense of humor and it helps the movie become a lot more enjoyable than it should be. The humor and the characters and the visuals are what set this movie apart from every other disaster action movie. It's just a fresh, exciting, funny, well-directed movie all-around.

It's tragic to see that a movie like this isn't doing well at the box office. This is the kind of brilliant Hollywood action movie that deserves to be making money. Now granted, most of the movies this summer have been good, but Edge of Tomorrow is my favorite so far. It's a brilliant film filled with energy, suspense, humor and a surprising amount of heart. Edge of Tomorrow is simply one of the year's best films, an action movie that I'll remember for a long time to come.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A+                                             (9.8/10)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

'The Fault in Our Stars' leads with stellar $48.2 million, Tom Cruise's 'Edge of Tomorrow' finished in third at weekend box office

Recently, YA adaptations have flooded the market. Earlier this year, Lionsgate's Divergent performed right in line with expectations, taking in around $148.8 million, which was enough for the studio to greenlight three sequels. However, the film didn't make as much money as The Hunger Games, which was a comparable title. Fox's The Fault in Our Stars became one of the first surprise hits of the summer and made a lot of money this weekend. The romantic drama took in $48.2 million and received an "A" Cinemascore at the same time. The film also added another $17 million overseas this weekend for a global opening around $65 million. However, it wasn't all good news for The Fault in Our Stars. It's Friday to Saturday drop was one of the largest in history, indicating that this is going to be an incredibly front-loaded film. I plan on seeing it in the near future, so stay posted for a review.

Disney's Maleficent fell 52% to second place this weekend and took in $33.5 million. The Angelina Jolie-starred fantasy flick has now taken in $127.3 million and is surely headed for a finish above $200 million. The film has also taken in a stellar $208.1 million overseas for a $335.4 million worldwide total. The film should tap out at around $500 million. Obviously, word of mouth has been solid and the film will continue with limited competition throughout the rest of this month.

Tom Cruise's Edge of Tomorrow became one of the first major blockbusters to disappoint this summer, despite being one of the better ones out there. The brilliant action flick took in $29.1 million in third place this weekend and also received a so-so "B+" Cinemascore. Hopefully the lack of competition in June will help this film reach $100 million, but I'm not so sure. However, the news for Edge of Tomorrow was better overseas. The film has taken in $111 million after two weeks of release, with stellar openings in China and Russia happening this week. If the word of mouth can stay strong, and international grosses continue to impress, Edge of Tomorrow might be able to save itself with a $350 million global total. Expect a review of this movie up soon.

Fox's X-Men: Days of Future Past finished in fourth place this weekend and took in $14.7 million. That's a pretty big 55% drop from last weekend. Expect the film to keep dropping from there. Days of Future Past has now grossed $189.1 million. A final total around $215 million seems likely. Universal's A Million Ways to Die in the West landed in fifth place this weekend and took in an additional $7.1 million. As expected, the film fell off pretty quickly and has only grossed $30 million thus far. And with only an additional $20 million overseas, it looks like Universal will be taking a small loss on A Million Ways to Die in the West.

Godzilla ended up in sixth place this weekend with $5.9 million. The big monster blockbuster took a 50% plunge from last weekend and has now grossed $185 million. It's looking like this film will fall short of $200 million. If it does, it would be the first film to open above $90 million and not finish with more than $200 million. Universal's Neighbors took the seventh place spot and grossed $5.2 million. The raunchy comedy has taken in $137.8 million so far and will probably finish with $150 million. Not bad for an $18 million comedy.

Blended finished in eighth place with $4 million. The PG-13 Warner Bros. flop has now grossed a lackluster $36.5 million. It will probably end up with around $45 million. Meanwhile, Chef continued its stellar run this weekend, finishing in ninth place with $2.6 million. The film has taken in $10.3 million thus far. And finally, Million Dollar Arm rounded out the top ten with $1.8 million. The baseball flick has now grossed $31.3 million.

Next weekend, 22 Jump Street and How to Train Your Dragon 2 will head into theaters. Here are my predictions:

1. How To Train Your Dragon 2- $94.5 million
2. 22 Jump Street- $57.6 million
3. Maleficent- $17.4 million
4. Edge of Tomorrow- $15.9 million
5. The Fault in Our Stars- $15.6 million
6. X-Men: Days of Future Past- $8.1 million
7. A Million Ways to Die in the West- $4.1 million
8. Godzilla- $3.4 million
9. Neighbors- $3.3 million
10. Chef- $2.4 million