Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Marvel reveals entire "Phase 3" slate; "Black Panther", "Captain America: Civil War", two-part "Avengers: Infinity War" among films announced

I'm speechless. When I heard that there was a top-secret Marvel announcement today, I figured that Marvel would officially announce the Civil War storyline, Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, and maybe a few directors. I hoped that Spider-Man was involved, but I knew that was unlikely. However, even in my wildest dreams, I couldn't have imagined that Marvel would reveal their ENTIRE Phase 3 slate. But that's what happened, so let's break it down. This account of the events at the Marvel panel is from Latino Review insider Umberto Gonzalez (aka El Mayimbe) and Collider editor Steven Weintraub.

Marvel started the panel with the official trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron, which received a rapturous response after it debuted last week. Studio head Kevin Feige then delved right into the slate for Phase 3. The first announcement was that the third film in the Captain America franchise, titled Captain America: Serpent Society, would hit theaters on May 6, 2016. We pretty much knew that was happening already, so the only big news was the title.

After that, Marvel moved on to Doctor Strange, which will hit theaters on November 4, 2016. Scott Derrickson will direct the film. However, we don't yet know who's starring in the film, despite the supposed confirmation from multiple sources that Benedict Cumberbatch would be playing Stephen Strange in the film. Looks like that hasn't been made official yet.

Marvel then shifted to 2017, where some things have changed. Feige  revealed that Guardians of the Galaxy 2 will now debut a bit earlier in 2017. It was originally set to hit theaters on July 28, 2017, but it's been moved up to May 5, 2017. A better date for what will surely be one of the biggest upcoming Marvel flicks.

July 28, 2017 was the next available date on the list and that date will now see the release of Thor: Ragnarok with Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston. From what I can tell, Ragnarok is the Norse Apocalypse, which should make for an interesting story. The Thor franchise is the least interesting one in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so I'm glad that they've decided to do a big story to presumably close out the trilogy.

Black Panther was the next film to be announced and it generated a ton of excitement on the internet. The film will be released on November 4, 2017. After that, Marvel revealed that Captain Marvel will debut on July 6, 2018 with Carol Danvers as the lead character. Captain Marvel will be Marvel's first female superhero solo flick so it's definitely something to get pumped for. Finally, Marvel revealed that Inhumans, another intergalactic team-up movie, will debut on November 2, 2018.

But that's not all. Feige then revealed that Avengers 3 will be titled Avengers: Infinity War and will be released in two parts. Infinity War Part 1 will hit theaters on May 4, 2018 and Part 2 will debut on May 3, 2018. However, Feige didn't even stop there. Marvel proceeded to announce that Get on Up and 42 star Chadwick Boseman will play Black Panther.

Some fans were disappointed when Marvel announced earlier in the panel that Captain America 3 was going to be entitled Serpent Society. That changed towards the end of the panel when Feige announced that the real title was Civil War. Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans joined Feige on stage along with Chadwick Boseman.

That was the main bulk of the news today, but some more interesting tidbits were revealed in the Q and A with Feige afterwards. Here are some of the main points that Weintraub and Mayimbe made in tweets during the Q and A session.

-"We will see Black Panther in costume for the first time in Cap 3 Civil War."- Weintraub
-"Feige says Hulk will appear in all the Avengers movies and a solo film is still a "we'll see""- Weintraub
-"Black Panther will be a big part of Civil War."- Mayimbe
-"Spider-Man is just a rumor per Feige."- Mayimbe
-"Black Widow is going to be featured in the Avengers movies and not solo movies."- Weintraub
-"Feige says Civil War is not about secret identities and more about who do superheroes report to."- Weintraub
-"Feige says anything not revealed today is just a rumor till its worked out."- Weintraub

Weintraub also discussed how Inhumans Easter eggs are coming soon and that Feige is meeting with Reggie Hudlin soon for Panther. All in all, some very exciting stuff is coming.

Look for more reaction from me later. This is just too much to process right now.

After the reveal of 'Interstellar', where does the Best Picture race stand?

The fall movie season started a while ago, but the Oscar race is finally heating up. Most of the major awards players have premiered, and some movies can definitely be eliminated from competition at this point. However, big movies like Unbroken, Big Eyes, American Sniper, The Gambler, Exodus and A Most Violent Year still need to debut. However, one of the big ones debuted yesterday: Interstellar. It definitely stirred the Oscar race up. Here are my current Best Picture predictions with additional analysis about the state of the race.


1. Birdman
2. Boyhood
3. Interstellar
4. Gone Girl
5. Unbroken
6. Foxcatcher
7. The Imitation Game
8. The Theory of Everything
9. Whiplash
10. American Sniper

Until yesterday, I was certain that Interstellar would be our Best Picture winner. I had heard nothing but spectacular things and the talent involved was too much to pass up. But then the reviews hit. I was blindsided yesterday when the first official reviews for Interstellar debuted and were decidedly mixed. Some praised the film (Variety, Time Out), some lambasted it (The Playlist), but most fell somewhere it in the middle, calling it a good film that just isn't perfect. The film is sitting at 69% on Rotten Tomatoes and 77 on Metacritic. Not terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but not stellar (pun intended) either. This doesn't mean that Interstellar isn't going to win Best Picture. It just means that it isn't the hands-down favorite anymore.

Before I delve into the top ten, let's talk about some of the films that I don't have nominated. Fury was a question mark going into the month of October, and having seen the film, I think it's still a question mark. It's an odd little film and it doesn't seem like one that is tailored towards the Academy. I also took A Most Violent Year and Inherent Vice out of my top ten. A Most Violent Year could definitely surprise, but at this point, it looks too small to crack the final ten. And Inherent Vice is apparently just plain weird. Reviews have been good, but it don't see it making the cut. 

So where does that leave us? Certain films we know will be nominated. The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game will be Best Picture nominees. They're too generic to win, but they're well-liked and feature performances that will be nominated in many acting categories. American Sniper also had a terrific trailer, but which Clint Eastwood will we see? The one who made Million Dollar Baby or the one who made Jersey Boys? It's in my top ten for now, but I feel like this is one to be hesitant about. Whiplash feels like a movie that could sneak in to the final ten as well. It's a beloved film and J.K. Simmons could definitely win Best Suppoting Actor. It's just not a movie that's going to win. Same can be said for Gone Girl and Foxcatcher. Gone Girl is one of the best movies of the last several years, yet I don't see it having a chance at the win. Foxcatcher is another film that is highly admired, but also very dark. 

That leaves us with Unbroken, Interstellar, Boyhood, and Birdman. Unbroken is the one unknown quantity in this group. However, I dare you to watch that trailer and not immediately think of awards glory for this film. This movie practically screams Oscar contender. It definitely is not a film to sleep on. Boyhood is another film that I believe will be in the race until the very end. It's an incredibly ambitious film and I refuse to believe that the academy will not want to award director Richard Linklater in one way or another. I've already discussed Interstellar in great detail, but I'll wrap it up by saying that we can't count this one out until the very end. 

Right now, I have Birdman winning Best Picture. I've heard some pundits discuss how odd of a film it is, but it has so much going for it. For one, Fox Searchlight is great at promoting these movies. They led 12 Years A Slave to victory last year and I think that they can do the same with Birdman. Box office has also been huge and reviews have been spectacular. Not to mention the fact that it's a Hollywood movie and the Academy loves those. It's not a surefire thing, but right now, Birdman is my pick. 

Image Credits: Hollywood Reporter, New York Post, Moviefone, Coming Soon

Monday, October 27, 2014

'Ouija' and 'John Wick' lead middling weekend at the box office

A new horror film and a well reviewed R-rated action flick hit theaters this weekend with both seeing solid results. Universal's Ouija, the microbudget horror film from Jason Blum's Blumhouse Productions, debuted in first place with $20 million. That's a solid result for the low budget flick, but it is nowhere near the numbers that Annabelle reached earlier this month. With the PG-13 rating and the built in audience, Ouija should have done much better. Reviews certainly didn't help (10% on Rotten Tomatoes) and word of mouth will be awful (the film got a "C" Cinemascore). However, this movie practically cost nothing, so it will turn a profit in the end. 

In second place was John Wick, the new Keanu Reeves action flick. The film pulled in $14.1 million this weekend, which certainly isn't awful. But with reviews hanging around 86% on Rotten Tomatoes, I can't help but feel that this movie should have done better. The "B" Cinemascore is solid, but indicates that audiences were expecting more. In the end, this is another movie that couldn't have cost much, so a $14 million debut is nothing to sneer at. 

Sony's World War II drama Fury fell only 45% to third place and grabbed $13 million. Fury has now made $46 million and will likely hang around for the next few weeks. It hasn't held as well as Gone Girl, but it could hang around and gross as much as $80 million. Speaking of Gone Girl, David Fincher's psychological thriller finished in fourth place with $11.1 million. The R-rated drama has now grossed $124 million and is one of the year's biggest hits. A finish around $150 million is to be expected. 

The Book of Life also held spectacularly well, Fox's animated comedy dropped only 42% and pulled in $9.8 million in fifth place. The film, which is budgeted at $50 million, has now made $29.9 million. It's going to need some really good international grosses to end up in the black. In sixth place was St. Vincent, one of the most pleasant surprises of the weekend. The dramedy, which stars comedian superstar Bill Murray, pulled in $8 million in just over 2,000 theaters. The film also received an "A-" Cinemascore, which is quite impressive. This movie should do pretty well over the next few weeks. 

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day finished in seventh place with $7 million. The family comedy has now grossed $45.5 million on a $28 million budget. Not too shabby at all. The Best of Me took a steep 53% plunge to eighth place and grabbed $4.7 million. The poorly reviewed romantic drama has now made $17.6 million. 

The Judge finished in ninth place with $4.3 million this weekend. The mediocre drama has now made $34.3 million, which is not good considering the $50 million budget (I'm curious to see where that money went). And finally, Dracula Untold rounded out the top ten with $4.3 million. The film has now grossed $48.3 million in the US (the film has done much better internationally). 

In the limited release world, Birdman continued to impress with $1.4 million in 50 theaters. It expands further next weekend. And Citizenfour, the Edward Snowden documentary, grossed $125,000 in five theaters. 

Next weekend sees the expansion of Birdman and the release of Nightcrawler and Before I Go To Sleep. Here are my predictions:

1. Nightcrawler- $16 million
2. John Wick- $9.5 million
3. Fury- $8.6 million
4. Gone Girl- $8 million
5. Ouija- $7.5 million
6. The Book of Life- $7 million
7. Birdman- $6.9 million
8. St. Vincent- $5.7 million
9. Before I Go To Sleep- $5 million
10. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day- $4.5 million

Image Credits: Reel Entropy, Screen Rant

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Marvel debuts spectacular trailer for 'Avengers: Age of Ultron'

Marvel has pretty much entirely taken over the entire cinematic world over the course of the three years since The Avengers destroyed at the box office. Iron Man 3 made over $1 billion, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor: The Dark World grossed more than their predecessors at the box office and Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel's biggest gamble yet, became the highest grossing film of 2014. So it is certain that Avengers: Age of Ultron will come with highly inflated expectations and insane anticipation. The first trailer was supposed to debut on October 28 with Marvel's ABC show Agents of SHIELD. However, the trailer leaked online last night and Marvel decided to bite the bullet and release the trailer. Check it out below:

Avengers: Age of Ultron looks pretty freaking awesome. The trailer hints at more of the grounded action that we saw in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and less of the comedy that we saw in some of the earlier Marvel flicks. Ultron also appears to be a formidable and creepy antagonist and the special effects look terrific as usual. I'm very excited for this movie and I can't wait to see what Marvel has in store for us. Avengers: Age of Ultron stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johannson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Paul Bettany, James Spader, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Samuel L. Jackson, Andy Serkis, Cobie Smulders, Hayley Altwell, Stellan Skarsgard and Don Cheadle. It hits theaters on May 1, 2015.

Image Credit: Marvel

'Fury' review

The last time Brad Pitt did a World War II movie, it was Inglorious Basterds. The last time David Ayer did a film about brothers in intense combat, it was End of Watch. Naturally, people were excited for Fury, Ayer's gritty, violent war drama set during the final months of World War II. With a cast led by Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Michael Pena, Logan Lerman and Jon Bernthal, Fury is a highly entertaining drama with great performances and some of the most exhilarating battle scenes of the year. It does wander in the middle a little bit, but the pure filmmaking on display in Fury is worth the price of admission and more.

A man rides on a horse through a battleground littered with bodies. The white horse stands out among the dead bodies and shattered tanks. Suddenly, a man jumps off a tank and the man straight through the eye. The man with the knife is Sgt. Don "Wardaddy" Collier (Pitt), one of the last members of a five-man Sherman tank crew. Wardaddy, Bible (LaBeouf), Gordo (Pena) and Coon-Ass (Bernthal) manage to get the tank moving and head back to a war camp. A fresh young rookie named Norman Ellison (Lerman) is then assigned to their crew. Norman has strong ideals and is highly opposed to killing. Of course the team immediately dislikes him. However, through many lethal experiences and dangerous missions behind enemy lines, the crew bonds together before facing their most dangerous threat yet.

Fury might not quite be as viscerally graphic as Steven Spielberg's masterpiece Saving Private Ryan, but it is certainly up there with that gruesome film. This is a viciously intense film filled with indescribably perfect moments and strong performances from its lead crew. They all have strong chemistry with each other and manage to make you care about the characters. Not to mention the absolutely astounding battle scenes. Fury has a few problems, yet still manages to impress because of its outstanding filmmaking qualities.

The opening scene of Fury is something worth talking about because it wowed me immediately. Ayer's camera appears to be looking at a mountain range, but it's actually a patch of dirt littered with bodies. The way that it so perfectly captures the horror and oddity of war is mesmerizing. The simple beauty is then interrupted by the shocking outburst of violence I mentioned earlier. After that, we're then introduced to the entire tank crew. It's the perfect way to open this movie and simply one of the best opening scenes I've ever witnessed.

Fury's opening represents the best of this film and the pinnacle of what Ayer was trying to do with this movie. It's not to say that it's all downhill from there, but the opening perfectly expresses Ayer's themes and the power of this film. War is quiet dialogue and simple, unusual conversations with surprisingly disturbing violence intermixed every once in a while. Despite the fact that Fury is not a completely perfect film, it's an exceedingly well made one and a film that inspires thought even days after the initial viewing.

Five strong performances also highlight this thematically and emotionally involving war film. Brad Pitt doesn't quite have the same brash gusto that he does in Inglourious Basterds, yet he still manages to give a quietly thoughtful performance. Shia LaBeouf is also impressive as Bible, the most philosophical member of the group. Despite the fact Jon Bernthal and Michael Pena have less to do, both manage to chew the scenery at different times. In the end, Logan Lerman surprised me the most. Granted, he's the only one with a dynamic character to work with, but it's still strong work.

The sheer adrenaline rush of the battle scenes is terrific as well, managing to find the proper balance between horror and excitement. The crew's final stand inside the broken tank is an amazing war scene, a perfect mix of blood, atmospheric cinematography and brilliant sound design. And throughout the early parts of the film, there are other impressive battles, especially the one between a German Panzer tank and the Sherman. It is purely awesome.

On the technical side of things, this is a perfect film. The sound design was insanely good, and even if this film gets shut out in the major categories at the Oscars, it will surely be nominated for a lot of the technical stuff. The sound makes you feel as if you're really there and it is spectacular. The cinematography is perfect, capturing every single detail of the World War II atmosphere. It's especially impressive during the final battle of the film.

Fury runs into its only problem around the middle of the film. It's a movie without much of a narrative, which has worked in many previous war films, but in the case of Fury, it makes the film feel a little aimless after a while. The second act is also dreadfully slow. The crew heads into the house of a German family and then proceeds to stay there for over twenty minutes. It's a long scene without much purpose and it doesn't really impact anything for the rest of the film. I remember hearing that some scenes were added to Fury to strengthen the bond between the characters, and if I had to guess, that was the scene that was added.

In the end, this is great filmmaking from director David Ayer in a very solid flick. It's a movie filled with extraordinary battle scenes and strong acting. Fury lost me a little bit in the second act, but managed to come back stronger than ever with an intense and emotional third act highlighted by an awesome and intense battle scene. In all likelihood, Fury is a movie that will last in your memory for quite some time after you watching it. That, along with the strong direction and sense of atmosphere, makes Fury worth watching.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B+                                            (7.6/10)

Image Credits: Red Carpet Refs, Shock Ya, Geek Tyrant, Film School Rejects, Fat Movie Guy

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

'The Conjuring 2' moves to 2016; new horror film from New Line to hit theaters on October 23, 2015 instead

After the massive success of The Conjuring last year, Warner Bros. and New Line immediately realized that they had a new franchise on their hands. They greenlit a spin-off movie titled Annabelle, which would star the creepy doll that appeared in the first few minutes of The Conjuring. That movie was released earlier this month and has made $166 million worldwide so far on a paltry $6.5 million budget. All of the signs were pointing to The Conjuring 2 being one of the biggest horror movies of all time. However, that is most certainly not going to happen now. 

Deadline is reporting that Warner Bros. and New Line have pushed The Conjuring 2 back to an unspecified 2016 release date. The studios will now release a different horror movie on October 23, 2015, which was when The Conjuring 2 was scheduled to debut. The rumor over at Deadline is that the October 23 date will be occupied by either Crawlspace or Superstition. Crawlspace stars Michael Vartan and is about a widower who moves into his new house with his new wife and daughter. Superstition is about a family who moves into a house where a witch was executed. Neither one sounds all that interesting to me. There is currently no word on when The Conjuring 2 will be released, but I'm betting on a summer 2016 release. 

Image Credits: USA Today, Screen Crush

DC announces several new films set for release between 2016 and 2020; 'Aquaman', 'Justice League' included

After the shocking bit of news that revealed Marvel's plan to pit Captain America against Iron Man in Captain America 3, which would effectively bring the Civil War storyline to life, Warner Bros. responded by announcing their plans for several DC comics films over the next few years. While most people knew that DC and Warner had these plans all along, this was the first time that we officially knew what was going down with the DC universe.

Unsurprisingly, director Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice will kick things off on March 25, 2016. The mega-blockbuster will star Ben Affleck as the Caped Crusader, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and Henry Cavill and Amy Adams will reprise their roles as Superman and Lois Lane, respectively. Dawn of Justice will obviously be the set up film for this whole universe and will be an important experiment for Warner Bros.

Dawn of Justice will be followed by Suicide Squad, which will hit theaters on August 5, 2016. The first screen adaptation of these characters will be directed by David Ayer, whose previous credits include End of Watch and Fury, which just hit theaters this weekend. Ayer is a talented director (Fury is a gritty, violent and engrossing war film) and I'm very interested in this film. I'm betting on a hard R rating at this point because of Ayer, but I wouldn't be too surprised to see this film get slapped with a studio-mandated PG-13.

Suicide Squad is a film without any well known characters, so DC is going to have to rely on big-name actors to fill these roles. And according to Collider, DC is going to be bringing some stars to the table. Per Collider, Warner Bros. is looking at casting Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Tom Hardy, and Ryan Gosling. Those are some big names and I truly believe that Warner will be able to snag some of those actors. Smith and Robbie just did work for the studio in their new romantic drama Focus, and they seem to really enjoy working with each other. There's also a decent chance that Gosling could appear. The only actor I have a problem with is Tom Hardy. He's a brilliant actor, but he's already rumored to be playing the lead villain in X-Men: Apocalypse. Therefore, he might not have time to do Suicide Squad. All in all, Warner Bros. is going to go all out when it comes to making this obscure superhero flick and I bet that they'll knock it out of the park.

But the news doesn't stop there. Warner Bros. also announced that Wonder Woman is getting a standalone movie as well, set for release on June 23, 2017. Gal Gadot will star and it will be the first major superhero movie starring a female. A very impressive step forward for the studio.

After that, DC will unveil Justice League Part 1, with Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, and Amy Adams with Zack Snyder in the director's chair. The film will debut on November 17, 2017. I would be more excited for this movie if Snyder wasn't directing, but I guess I'm still interested. If there's a good story and a good screenplay, it'll be fine. But right now, it's a question mark.

2018 will see the release of two more standalone DC movies. The first one hitting theaters that year is The Flash, which will hit theaters on March 23, 2018. The Perks of Being A Wallflower star Ezra Miller will be playing the character. That has sparked debate among fans who had hoped for the star of The Flash TV show (Grant Gustin) to appear as Barry Allen in the movie as well. However, Ezra Miller is a supremely talented actor and I'm very happy to hear that he is going to be in this movie. DC's second 2018 flick will be Aquaman, with Jason Momoa. The film will debut on July 27, 2018. I'm actually really excited for this one. I just love the idea of an Aquaman movie.

Two more films will hit theaters in 2019: one standalone film and one major sequel. Shazam will premiere first on April 5, 2019, with Dwayne Johnson starring as Black Adam. Shazam is another movie that I'm excited for, but I'm honestly surprised that Shazam is coming out in 2019. I would have thought that this movie was much farther along than Wonder Woman or Suicide Squad. However, Johnson is often busy so maybe he can only fit the movie in near the end of the decade. Finally, DC will close out their 2019 with Justice League Part 2 on June 14, 2019 with Snyder directing again.

After that, DC will release two more standalone origin films in 2020. Cyborg, starring unknown actor Ray Fisher, will hit theaters first on April 3, 2020. Last time I checked, Fisher will also be appearing in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League, so I'm surprised that they're waiting so long to give him his origin story. And finally, DC will release a Green Lantern reboot on June 19, 2020. No real news on that one so far.

There's no question that this news was revealed in response to the surprise announcement that Marvel was finally moving forward on the Civil War storyline. I'm optimistic about a few of these movies, but I really hope that DC isn't planning too far out. In 2008, Marvel might have had plans for more films, but they surely didn't announce all of them. In the end, I'm excited to see how the DC Cinematic Universe plays out, but I'm undoubtedly more excited for Marvel's next movies. Marvel still has the upper hand right now.

That's all the DC news that I have at this moment, but I'm positive that we will be hearing much more about the DC Cinematic Universe in the near future.

Source: Collider, The Hollywood Reporter
Image Credits: Variety, DC Comics, Screen Rant, Grant Land

Sunday, October 19, 2014

'The Judge' review

During each and every Oscar season, most pundits and critics find it necessary to separate the real-deal Oscar contenders from the awards bait that studios dish out every year. Pretty much as soon as Robert Downey Jr.'s latest film, The Judge, premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, it was lambasted as a mediocre Oscar grab by Downey that pretty much falls flat. So with those low expectations set, The Judge entered theaters with little to no fanfare. Despite a massive marketing campaign that must have cost millions, The Judge has made very little cash so far. And I can't honestly say that I'm surprised. This is a very mediocre film with moments of greatness, but also an excessive amount of storylines and a tone that shifts every five minutes. Downey is great and Robert Duvall is solid as well, yet they just can't save this movie from being completely forgettable.

Hank Palmer (Downey) is an arrogant and selfish Chicago lawyer who is able to pretty much find any way to save his guilty clients from jail time. When his mom passes away, Hank is forced to return home to Carlinville, Indiana, where the rest of his family lives. He reunites with his two brothers (Vincent D'Onofrio and Jeremy Strong) and sees his ex-girlfriend Sam (Vera Farmiga), but Hank runs into trouble when it comes to seeing his dad again. Hank and his father, Judge Joseph Palmer (Duvall), have never gotten along and their rocky relationship becomes troublesome again as soon as Hank returns to Carlinville. Hank and the Judge get into a fight after the funeral, and Hank decides to head back home.

However, Hank is forced to return after his father is arrested for the murder of an ex-convict, who was recently released from prison. At first, Judge hires an incompetent small time lawyer (Dax Shepard) to defend him, but eventually, he realizes that Hank has to be his attorney. Hank and Judge unite to fight against a smug prosecutor (Billy Bob Thornton), who's ready to nail Judge on a first degree murder charge.

The Judge isn't a bad film. It isn't a good one either. It is just exceedingly mediocre. Downey Jr. and Duvall own their roles, and D'Onofrio and Strong round out the cast with strong supporting performances, yet I couldn't help but feel that some of the talent had been wasted. Some of the dialogue is realistic and entertaining, but some of it is cliched and completely ridiculous. Director David Dobkin struggles to shift the tone between overly sentimental family drama and intense legal thriller and it makes for a choppy and uneasy watch. There are good things about this film, but it's such a bumpy movie that feels like a hodgepodge of tones and plots that just doesn't completely work.

The best thing that this movie has going for it is Robert Downey Jr. He's a charismatic actor and he gives an emotional and raw performance in this movie. Robert Duvall also manages to carry some scenes as well, but his character is just such a jerk. Granted, Downey's Hank Palmer isn't exactly the best person either. However, Duvall's Judge is so unlikable. You understand his motives, yet I can't see anyone liking him. I liked Hank. I didn't like Judge. Therefore, I believe that Downey gave the better performance since you're really supposed to like and understand both characters.

This movie also has a stacked supporting cast. They really managed to get a lot of great people in this movie. Too bad the screenplay by Nick Schenk and Bill Dubuque wastes the talents of half of the actors. Vincent D'Onofrio and Jeremy Strong have meaty roles as Hank's brothers and both characters are ones that I managed to relate to. However, the rest of the cast doesn't have it as good. Vera Farmiga's subplot just adds to the lengthy 142 minute runtime, and Leighton Meester has even less to do as her daughter. Dax Shepard and David Krumholtz also have pretty tiny roles, but the biggest crime committed by Dobkin and the screenwriters is that they waste Billy Bob Thornton. He's an actor who can be absolutely magnetic when given something to work with, and in this film, he has nothing to work with. That was sad to me.

The Judge has major flow issues, which is a real problem. It's one of the choppiest movies I've seen all year and that hinders the movie quite frequently. The pacing is really good and I was always engaged, but I couldn't help but think that this movie needed a much better editor to get it put together the way it needed to be.

Somebody also should have cut down the screenplay and edited out some of the subplots. Each character seems to have their own individual story and it's all kind of revolving around the central story about the relationship between Hank and Judge. However, some of the stories are just plain unnecessary. In addition to that, the biggest problem this movie runs into is that it has no clue what it wants to be. It changes tone seemingly every other minute and is drowning in cliched sentiment quite often.

Bad movies are never good. I hate a movie that is so horrible and so painful that I want to leave. However, it can often be just as terrible if a movie is so incredibly mediocre that it just doesn't even really warrant a reaction at all. The Judge is one of those movies. It isn't aggressively awful. It's just there. You can watch it and be mildly entertained, but I dare you to feel anything passionate about this movie one way or another.

The Judge is a generic, mildly enjoyable movie that feels like a rough cut of a much stronger product. There are some great performances and terrific moments in this overly relaxed film with no real sense of tone or flow. In a season filled with terrific and audacious films, that's just not enough for a recommendation.

THE FINAL GRADE:  C+                                            (6.5/10)

'Fury' leads with $23.5 million, 'Gone Girl' holds well and 'Birdman' stuns in limited release at weekend box office

After two weekends that saw David Fincher's topical drama Gone Girl top the box office, the Brad Pitt-starred war flick Fury finally overtook the mystery thriller. The war epic snagged $23.5 million this weekend. Not a spectacular opening, but solid for such a violent and intense film. That opening is the fifth highest ever for a World War II film and director David Ayer's highest opening as well. Fury also received an "A-" Cinemascore, which will help the word of mouth over the next few weekends. With a budget of only $68 million, this film should have no problem recouping its investment. It's a very solid movie with some really spectacular action scenes and great performances. My review will be coming soon.

Gone Girl fell to second place, but it didn't fall too far. The film dropped only 33% and grossed $17.8 million this weekend. Gone Girl has now made $107 million and will likely pass $150 million. This film has created a conversation and with the Oscar buzz thrown in as well, I'm betting that this becomes David Fincher's highest grossing film by next weekend (that title currently belongs to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). 

Fox's The Book of Life finished in third place with $17 million. That's not a terrific opening, but solid enough for a modestly budgeted animated flick ($50 million). The film will likely connect more with international audiences. However, the "A-" Cinemascore will help word of mouth until Big Hero 6 hits theaters and destroys the competition. But for now, I'm calling this a victory for Fox and director Jorge R. Gutierrez.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day fell only 34% this weekend to fourth place and snagged $12 million. The $28 million family comedy has now made $36.8 million and is already profitable for Disney. The film will probably cross $50 million and could end up with as much as $60 million. The new Nicholas Sparks adaptation, The Best of Me, was close behind in fifth place with $10.2 million. Shockingly, that's the lowest opening for a Nicholas Sparks film in history. However, considering the 7% score on Rotten Tomatoes, it's not all that shocking. The "B+" Cinemascore is solid, but also unspectacular. In the end, this is a minor misfire since the film only cost $26 million. 

Universal's Dracula Untold plummeted 58% to sixth place and grossed $9.8 million. The poorly reviewed monster flick has now made $40.7 million in the US, which isn't great considering that the film cost $70 million. However, the film has already grossed $95.7 million overseas and will definitely recoup its investment. It's a good start for Universal's new monster franchise. 

Warner Bros.' The Judge held rather well this weekend and grabbed $7.9 million. That's only a 39.5% drop for the legal family drama. The film has now made $26.8 million, which is not good because the film cost $50 million (I have no idea where that money went). It's an okay film, but there are so many better movies in theaters right now, so I'm not truly surprised by its performance. 

Annabelle finished in eighth place with $7.9 million. The horror flick has now grossed $74.1 million. That's incredibly impressive. The film will probably close with $90 million, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it make less since it faces direct competition from Ouija next weekend. In ninth place was Sony's The Equalizer, which grossed $5.4 million this weekend. The Denzel Washington-starred action pic has now made $89.1 million and will crawl its way to $100 million. And finally, The Maze Runner rounded out the top ten with $4.5 million. Fox's YA actioner has now grossed $90.8 million and could possibly finish above $100 million. 

In the limited release world, Fox Searchlight's Birdman blew away the competition with $415,000 in 4 theaters. That adds up to a $103,750 per theater average, which is the second highest of the year. Birdman expands to more theaters next weekend before a nationwide expansion on October 31. Dear White People also had an impressive showing this weekend, snagging $344,000 in eleven theaters. That's a per theater average of $31,273, which is pretty strong. We'll see how the film does in a wide release next weekend. And finally, Jason Reitman's Men, Women and Children tanked in 608 theaters, grossing a paltry $320,000. That's one of the worst wide release openings of all time. Pretty horrible. 

Next weekend sees the release of Ouija and John Wick, along with the nationwide expansions of Dear White People and St. Vincent. Birdman is also expanding. Here are my predictions:

1. Ouija- $36 million
2. John Wick- $17.5 million
3. Fury- $13.4 million
4. Gone Girl- $13 million
5. The Book of Life- $10.5 million
6. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day- $6.9 million
7. St. Vincent- $6.5 million
8. The Best of Me- $4.8 million
9. Dracula Untold- $4.7 million
10. The Judge- $4.5 million

Image Credits: Shock Ya (Image 1), Screen Rant (Image 2), Fat Movie Guy (Image 4)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

'Stretch' review

Sometimes Hollywood works in ways that nobody can quite understand. Joe Carnahan's latest film, Stretch, was originally scheduled for a theatrical release in April and Universal was signed on as a distributor. But in the end, Universal ended up pulling the film off of their release slate and decided to unceremoniously dump it into the VOD market in early October. The film, a satirical comedy about a limo driver set in Los Angeles, stars Patrick Wilson, Brooklyn Decker, Jessica Alba, James Badge Dale and Chris Pine and is a high-energy action comedy with charm and wit to spare. Why was this possibly sent straight to VOD? We'll never truly know, but Stretch is still a film that you really need to see. It might not have the tightest story, but its characters and mood are infinitely appealing. This is an entertaining film from start to finish.

Stretch (Patrick Wilson) is a limo driver with little to no motivation in life anymore. He's a recovering alcoholic who was also addicted to cocaine and gambling for a long time. He eventually cleaned up, but his bombshell girlfriend (Brooklyn Decker) dumped him for an NFL quarterback. Now, he's depressed and stressed and constantly seeing the ghost of the greatest limousine driver of all time, Karl (Ed Helms). One day, gang leaders inform Stretch that he has until midnight to deliver $6,000 of his gambling debts or he will be killed. To gain the necessary money, Stretch decides to drive a crazed billionaire client (Chris Pine). Throughout the night, Stretch experiences all sorts of wacky adventures involving FBI agents, secret clubs and wannabe rappers.

Stretch is a weird and bizarre movie, but it's a good kind of weird. The absurdity of the humor was quite endearing to me and the characters in this movie are funny and entertaining as well. Mix that in with great performances from Patrick Wilson and Chris Pine, along with a great soundtrack and just a terrific vibe in general, and you've got a movie that is just plain fun. The story gets a little messy and wild at times, but this is a movie that is nuts and crazy and never slows down at all.

Patrick Wilson is an actor who's done good work in the past, but this is the first movie where I've been truly impressed by his acting. He manages to be manic, likable and crazy- often at the same time. Wilson's Stretch narrates the film and is constantly providing funny insight. I don't typically like overbearing voiceover, but it worked in this case. In addition to Wilson's great central performance, Chris Pine does brilliantly unhinged work as Roger Karos, eccentric and possibly insane billionaire/criminal. Whether it's skydiving nude or dressing up like a samurai for a sexually charged party, Pine is down for anything and completely owns the role.

Stretch also doubles as a wicked Hollywood satire, so it's not surprising that there are numerous cameos and small bit parts for famous actors. Ed Helms is awesome as the ghost as a depressed limousine driver legend who haunts Stretch during the day. Jessica Alba and Brooklyn Decker manage to have really good moments with their limited screentime. James Badge Dale lights up the screen whenever he shows up, which really isn't shocking anymore (he's a very strong actor). Finally, we get cameos from Ray Liotta, Shaun White and an especially memorable appearance from David Hasselhoff. Great cast all around.

Director/screenwriter Joe Carnahan is really the reason this movie works. I've praised the cast like crazy, but without Carnahan's deranged and hilariously vulgar script and his terrific direction and pacing, this movie wouldn't work at all. The story isn't the strongest, so Carnahan really had to create a bunch of creative and audacious misadventures for Stretch and company to experience. And that he does. This movie has a lot of outrageous material and it easily could have gone completely off the rails, but for the most part, Carnahan manages to keep the movie focused.

Stretch's pacing and sense of style work to its advantage as well. With bright colors and a strong Hollywood atmosphere, Carnahan manages to create a terrific sense of place. And the pacing is pitch-perfect. This movie just never slows down. It's funny and entertaining from the first scene and it just keeps going. It's also a compact film at 94 minutes, which is a nice runtime for a film like this.

In the end, Stretch isn't a masterpiece, but it's a movie that I can imagine watching a few more times and being entertained each time. The wacky situations and strong performances are quite memorable and Carnahan's dialogue is deliciously hilarious and vulgar. I'm disappointed that this film isn't getting more exposure, but I'm also glad that Universal let it see the light of day. It's extremely enjoyable and a movie that a lot of people should be seeking out.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B+                                           (7.7/10)

Image Credits: Screen Crush, Geek Tyrant, I Watch Stuff     

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Robert Downey Jr. set to appear in 'Captain America 3'; film will kickstart Marvel's Civil War storyline

Variety dropped a massive scoop yesterday that quite possibly will shape not only the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Hollywood as a whole for the next several years. According to the Hollywood insider source, Robert Downey Jr. is nearing a finalized deal to reprise his role as Iron Man/Tony Stark in the upcoming Captain America 3. The sequel to this year's superhero smash hit is set for release on May 6, 2016. Why would Stark appear in Cap 3, you might ask? Because it would all set up the biggest story in Marvel movie history: Civil War.

Variety confirms that the addition of Downey to the cast of Captain America 3 will set up several films over the next few years that will focus on the clash between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. Essentially, Civil War is a Marvel storyline focusing on a Superhero Registration Act (a congressional bill that would require all super-powered people to identify themselves to the government) that divides the heroes. Stark feels that the heroes should be held responsible for their actions, while Rogers is weary of the bureaucracy. The other heroes take sides and a seismic clash begins.

Bringing Iron Man into Cap 3 would set up Avengers 3 or  4 (Badass Digest and Variety seem to differ on this subject) and would impact the rest of the MCU. Variety also reports that Downey will receive a massive $40 million sum for this film, which is only $10 million less than what he received for The Avengers. Apparently, original negotiations were for a small role for Stark and Downey didn't want them. Marvel exec Kevin Feige brought everyone back to the table and agreed on a deal that would set up a lot of films for a long time to come. All in all, Variety's report contains many massive developments and kudos to them for getting all this information. This is a lot of fresh news and it's pretty overwhelming so let's summarize what we know so far with a few bullet points.

-Downey as Stark in Captain America 3
-Introduction of the Superhero Registration Act and a clash between Iron Man and Captain America
-Will impact the MCU for a long time to come; Avengers 3 or 4 will be the final Civil War film
-Downey is getting $40 million

However, the news didn't stop there. In a report from Badass Digest's Devin Faraci, he reveals more interesting tidbits. According to Faraci, this scoop has been out there for a while and it might have been the reason that DC moved Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice back to March. He also mentions that the title of the film will be either Captain America: Civil War or Captain America: The Fallen Son. Besides those two things, Faraci's report is dense with important things so I really think the best way to break it down is with bullet points. Here we go. Possible SPOILERS for Avengers: Age of Ultron.

-The effect of Age of Ultron will be felt in the MCU for a long time. Lots of destruction.
-Captain America 3 will be more of an Avengers 2.5 than anything, with Cap's new team from the end of Avengers 2 running the show (that team may include Falcon, War Machine, Quicksilver, Vision, Scarlet Witch and Black Widow).
-These films will likely set the stage for Civil War in Avengers 3, with Thanos and the Guardians likely having an impact on Avengers 4.
-Fallout from Age of Ultron will impact Tony Stark the most.
-The Russo brothers are in talks for Avengers 3 and 4 possibly.
-The death of Captain America at the end of Cap 3 or Avengers 3 is a possibility.

All in all, I'm super pumped about this latest bit of news. Marvel's turn to the serious in Captain America: The Winter Soldier was refreshing and exciting and I can't wait to see what they do with one of the most epic Marvel storylines ever. This is a lot of news to digest and I'm looking forward to seeing what people have to say about this over the next several weeks.

Monday, October 13, 2014

'Gone Girl' holds strong and tops 'Dracula', 'Alexander' at weekend box office

It's been a strong October so far with the surprise success of Gone Girl and Annabelle, and this weekend, we saw some more impressive showings. Gone Girl remained in the #1 spot with $26.8 million. That makes for a remarkable 29% drop, which is very strong. David Fincher's dark and topical drama has now made $78.2 million. The film has received Oscar buzz and critical accolades over the past few weeks, and it's really a film that gets people talking. Gone Girl will probably top $150 million and will almost certainly become David Fincher's highest grossing film.

The most successful new release was Universal's Dracula Untold, which took in $23.4 million in second place. The vampire pic, budgeted at $70 million, is still probably in trouble financially. However, this is a promising start and with Halloween just around the corner, people could flock to this film. Dracula Untold was lambasted by critics (25% on Rotten Tomatoes), but it managed to receive an "A-" Cinemascore, which is quite surprising. If this film holds up like I think it can, it will probably hit $65 million. Dracula Untold will likely rely on international grosses to make a profit.

Disney's Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day finished in third place with $19.1 million. The low-budget film (it cost only $28 million) received an "A-" Cinemascore from audiences, which is pretty solid. However, it does face direct competition from The Book of Life next weekend. That film could severely cut down Alexander's grosses. Nonetheless, Disney will have no problem making a profit off of this one.

Annabelle, the big horror film of the month, snagged $16.3 million this weekend in fourth place. That's a relatively solid 56% drop (good for a horror movie), which means that people like this film quite a bit. Annabelle has now grossed $62.1 million and could possibly make a push to $90 million. The biggest disappointment of the weekend was Warner Bros.' The Judge. Robert Downey Jr.'s R-rated drama took in a light $13.3 million in fifth place, which is pretty disappointing. The $50 million budget is certainly not going to help things, but the "A-" Cinemascore is encouraging. Unless The Judge holds exceptionally well, it will undoubtedly lose money.

The Equalizer finished in sixth place with $9.7 million. The Denzel Washington action pic has held rather well in the last few weeks and has now made $79.8 million. Addicted, another new release, took in $7.6 million in seventh place. The film only debuted in 846 theaters, which makes its debut all the more impressive. It will probably keep up the momentum and take in somewhere around $21 million.

The Maze Runner ended up in eighth place this weekend and grabbed $7.5 million. The film has now grossed $83.8 million and will probably make the push to $100 million. The Boxtrolls grossed $6.6 million in ninth place and has now made $41 million. Not bad, but not spectacular either. And finally, Left Behind rounded out the top ten with $2.9 million. The film has now grossed $10.9 million.

Documentary Meet the Mormons also had an impressive showing in eleventh place, grossing $2.7 million. And Kill the Messenger took in a weak $939,000 in a few hundred theaters.

Next weekend sees the release of Fury, The Book of Life, The Best of Me and the full expansion of Men, Women and Children. Here are my predictions:

1. Fury- $33 million
2. The Book of Life- $30 million
3. The Best of Me- $19 million
4. Gone Girl- $18.6 million
5. Dracula Untold- $11.5 million
6. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day- $10 million
7. Annabelle- $8.5 million
8. The Judge- $7.8 million
9. The Equalizer- $6 million
10. The Maze Runner- $4.4 million

Thursday, October 9, 2014

'Bridesmaids' director Paul Feig officially set to direct female-led 'Ghostbusters' movie

Sony has been trying to make a third Ghostbusters movie for a very long time, and it looks like they might finally getting one off the ground. However, it might not be what we initially thought it would be. A few months ago, director Paul Feig said that he was interested in directing a Ghostbusters 3 with an all-female cast. Bill Murray (who has been skeptical about another Ghostbusters film for years) said that he thought the idea was great, and even suggested a few stars for the cast (Emma Stone and Melissa McCarthy were mentioned). We never heard anything about the film for a while, but now, it appears that Feig has gotten the green light from Sony.

Feig, who has directed The Heat and Bridesmaids in the past, announced on Twitter yesterday that he is officially directing a female-led Ghostbusters movie.  Feig tweeted:

"It's official. I'm making a new Ghostbusters and writing it with @katiedippold and yes, it will star hilarious women. That's who I'm gonna call." 

The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that Katie Dippold (The Heat, Parks and Recreation) will be penning the script. I'm not sure if this Ghostbusters film will be a reboot or a sequel, but I guarantee that Sony will be trying to do a shared universe a la Marvel. I'm more interested in this than Ghostbusters 3, but I still can't get that excited for this movie.

Image Credits: We Live Film, Ghostbusters Wikia

Sunday, October 5, 2014

'Gone Girl' review

David Fincher has made some of the most thrilling and shocking films of our time, so when he decided to tackle Gillian Flynn's best-selling novel Gone Girl, people were undeniably excited. It seemed like a perfect match for the director who has directed dark thrillers and character studies like Fight Club, Seven and Zodiac in the past. Mix that in with a screenplay by the book's author, and a cast led by Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, you've got a movie that cinephiles were chomping at the bit to see. And I can't see a single one of them being disappointed. Gone Girl is one of the best films of the year, if not the best. A dark, hauntingly brilliant film with twisted satire thrown in for good measure, Gone Girl is deliciously entertaining and addictive. It's a film that will grab you and it will never let you go. David Fincher knocked this one out of the park.

Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) wakes up on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary. He drives off to get some coffee and after that, he heads over to the bar that he co-owns with his sister, Margo (Carrie Coon). Nick returns home to find a glass table broken and discovers that his wife is gone. Nick is concerned and immediately calls the police. Detective Rhonda Boney (Kim Dickens) and Officer Jim Gilpin (Patrick Fugit) are assigned to the case and instantly grow suspicious of Nick. Lots of things just don't add up and everyone seems like they're hiding something. The media jumps on the case with furious, Nancy Grace-esque journalist Ellen Abbott (Missi Pyle) leading the charge. Nick's life becomes a circus and he finds himself at the center of the most hotly-debated crime case in America.

While these events are occurring, the audience also gets a glimpse into the life of Nick and Amy (played by Rosamund Pike) before her mysterious disappearance. Her diary tells a different tale of a marriage gone sour and that's when we realize that everything might not be exactly what we think.

Gone Girl is a tough movie not to spoil, but in all honesty, it's a movie that can't be spoiled. This is an absolutely terrific thriller and one that me blew me away completely. Darkly addictive, acidic, biting, satirical, disturbing, invigorating- these are all adjectives that describe Fincher's masterwork. He controls this film so tightly and adapts Gillian Flynn's script perfectly for the big screen. Ben Affleck is very solid as Nick and Rosamund Pike gives a mesmerizing performance as Amy Dunne. In the process, Pike creates one of the most memorable characters in recent memory. The cinematography is also stunning and the score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is flat-out awesome. This pitch-perfect film is one of the best in recent memory and a great time at the movies.

What's most impressive about Gone Girl is the way that Fincher paces this film. I wouldn't say that it starts slow, but I would most certainly assure you that it continues to get better as it goes along. Like any celebrity media case, Gone Girl starts off looking a little boring on the surface, but you just know there's more to the mystery. By the half hour mark of this movie, I was hooked and Flynn and Fincher kept me transfixed until the credits rolled. As the media circus enters and twists comes in, Gone Girl becomes a movie that you can't turn away from. It's a truly exciting and invigorating experience.

Fincher and Flynn also manage to balance several different genres and tones throughout, which is an extremely impressive feat. They are able to have several of those tones together at the same time as well, which is even more impressive. Gone Girl is a twisted satire of media culture and domestic American life. It's a Hitchcockian thriller with delicious twists and shocking outbursts of violence. It's a horrific and disturbing Fincher-style procedural. And it is so much more. How many movies are able to be one of those things, let alone all of them?

Fincher's ability to add twisted humor to such dark and nasty material is what stood out to me the most at times. Awkward moments of laughter were pervasive throughout my screening and it's all because of how dead on this movie is. The dark humor about how men and women truly hate each other connected with me a little bit, but I was very impressed by Fincher's satire of the media. Our media culture pervades through our life like vultures and Fincher and Flynn play off that for most of the movie and it's awesome. All of their problems with the media culture are embodied in Ellen Abbott, who is played with a delicious insincerity by Missi Pyle. Abbott is clearly modeled after Nancy Grace and she jumps on the Nick Dunne case faster than an Olympic sprinter. She's a despicable character and Fincher truly makes you think about the way media is consumed and our current culture. It's very interesting.

The elements of Hitchcock truly come out in the third act, but they are delectably macabre and totally awesome. A few scenes specifically reminded me of classics such as Psycho and North by Northwest. Fincher mixes sex and violence very much like Hitchcock did and I was surprised by that. We've seen him make disturbing satires and gripping procedural thrillers before, but this is something entirely different. Scenes crackle with palpable suspense and I loved every second of it.

Fincher and Flynn do a great job with the themes and the blending of tones, but the actors surely play their part. Although Ben Affleck didn't blow me away, he still delivers a very good performance. He's able to be a sympathetic victim, an angry brute and a dastardly scumbag at various times and his range truly shows. Rosamund Pike, on the other hand, blew me away completely. I can't say much without spoiling what makes her character special. I'll just say that Pike makes Amy Dunne one of the most memorable characters of the 21st century.

The supporting cast is led by terrific character actors and stars who wouldn't seem to fit this material, but surprisingly do. Neil Patrick Harris is miscast as Desi Collings, a creeper from Amy's past. Yet I still managed to find a lot of redeeming qualities in his performance. Tyler Perry does great work as Tanner Bolt, one of those celebrity lawyers that you always see pop up during these kind of cases. Carrie Coon manages to give a sympathetic performance as Nick's twin sister who gets sucked into the madness of the case. And Kim Dickens and Patrick Fugit are very strong as the cops assigned to the case. Fincher managed to create quite a cast for this one and did an absolutely terrific job.

This film is also a technical masterpiece, filled with beautiful, brooding cinematography, a disturbing, gripping score by Reznor and Ross, and terrific sound work overall. The darkness of the camerawork is appropriate for the film and Jeff Cronenweth does a terrific job. Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor and his collaborator Atticus Ross create a score that starts off quite sublime, but grows into something more disturbing and frightening. In many ways, the score mirrors the film itself.

And despite the fact that I'm heaping tons of praise on Fincher for his brilliant work, Gillian Flynn's screenplay is masterfully tight and it grips the audience throughout. No scene feels unnecessary, and she balances the multiple stories with assurance and it's never confusing whatsoever. Flynn also manages to keep the momentum up and make the movie progressively and progressively more interesting as it goes along. That is very difficult to do.

What can be said about Gone Girl that I haven't said already? It's a masterpiece of a film, a tantalizing, addictive, violent drama that grabs you and doesn't let you go until the last frame. It's a film that I only see getting better with time. It balances multiple stories perfectly and it's a crackling, intriguing mystery. Simply put, it's the best film of 2014 and a movie that I will watch for years to come. Fincher's darkly comic and disturbing Hitchcockian masterwork.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A+                                            (10/10)

Image Credits: Screen Rant, Awards Daily, The Independent, Movie Pilot, Fat Movie Guy, Yahoo, Shot on 35

'Gone Girl' narrowly beats 'Annabelle' in close race at weekend box office

Although the September box office was extremely low overall, I noticed an upswing over the last few weeks with The Maze Runner and The Equalizer and all of that culminated this weekend with the release of Annabelle and Gone Girl. The two R-rated thrillers were always going to be close this weekend, but this ended up being a true race to the finish. Fox's Gone Girl, based off the novel by Gillian Flynn, barely snagged first place with $38 million. The dramatic thriller with a significant amount of Oscar buzz opened well above expectations. It was the highest opening of director David Fincher's career and one of the best openings in Ben Affleck's career as well. The film did receive a "B" Cinemascore, but this is a very topical film and one that we'll be hearing about for a while. I expect a finish around $160 million.

Warner Bros./New Line's Annabelle finished in second place with $37.2 million, only $800,000 behind Gone Girl. The spin-off of The Conjuring certainly had an impressive debut, which built off of goodwill for the first film and a lack of strong horror films in the marketplace. The film did receive a "B" Cinemascore as well, but with poor reviews, I doubt that this one will be able to do as strongly as The Conjuring did. A finish over $100 million is entirely possible, yet I don't see it being likely.

Denzel Washington's latest vehicle The Equalizer had a very strong hold this weekend, finishing in third place with $19 million. That's a very light 44.3% drop and the film must be playing very well. The brutal action pic has rounded up $64.5 million so far and will likely cross $100 million by the end of its run. Very good for the modestly budgeted film ($61 million).

Laika's The Boxtrolls also had a solid hold, dropping only 28% to fourth place, while pulling in $12.4 million. The well-made and likable animated film has now grossed $32.5 million and will continue to hold strong. It's first direct competition comes this week in the form of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and then The Book of Life will hit theaters on October 17. So I'm not honestly sure how much The Boxtrolls has left in the tank. A finish around $60 million is to be expected with all of the other children's films headed into the marketplace.

Fox's The Maze Runner took fifth place and made a solid $12 million this weekend. The film has continued to hold strong over the past few weeks and has now grossed $73.9 million. While a finish around $90 million is a sure thing, $100 million is not out of the question. All in all, a solid hit for Fox. In sixth place, Freestyle's Left Behind disappointed with only $6.8 million. The Christian disaster film was lambasted by critics (2% on Rotten Tomatoes) and audiences weren't much kinder- the "B-" Cinemascore is pretty disappointing. Religious films are typically driven by word of mouth and it doesn't look like Left Behind will have that luxury. A finish around $15 million seems probable.

This is Where I Leave You dropped to seventh place and snagged $4 million. The family drama has now taken in $29 million and will likely close out its run soon. Dolphin Tale 2 was close behind in eighth place with $3.5 million. The family drama has now grossed $37.9 million and will struggle to turn a profit. The film cost $36 million and it hasn't even made a dent internationally.

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy finished in ninth place and made another $3 million. The blockbuster has now made $323.6 million. Very impressive. And finally, No Good Deed rounded out the top ten with $2.5 million. The thriller has now grossed $50.1 million.

In the limited release world, the Bollywood release Bang Bang had a pretty strong showing this weekend with $1.2 million, which was good enough for a twelfth place finish. Warner Bros.' The Good Lie received an "A+" Cinemascore, but only managed to pull in $935,000. And Jason Reitman's Men, Women and Children grossed a paltry $48,000 in seventeen theaters. I'll be seeing Reitman's film on October 15 and my anticipation is slowly dwindling.

Next weekend sees the release of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Dracula Untold, The Judge, Kill the Messenger, Addicted and the limited release of Whiplash and St. Vincent. Here are my predictions:

1. Gone Girl- $23.5 million
2. The Judge- $18.4 million
3. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day- $17.7 million
4. Dracula Untold- $16 million
5. Annabelle- $15.9 million
6. The Equalizer- $12.5 million
7. The Boxtrolls- $8.3 million
8. The Maze Runner- $7 million
9. Addicted- $2.7 million
10. This is Where I Leave You- $2 million

Image Credits: Screen Rant, Shot on 35

Saturday, October 4, 2014

'The Boxtrolls' review

I was wary of The Boxtrolls simply because of the company who produced it. Animation studio Laika has only made two films before this: Coraline and ParaNorman. I really disliked Coraline and never even bothered to see ParaNorman. However, as early reviews trickled in for The Boxtrolls, I started to become more and more interested. While critics weren't as high on the film as they were on Laika's previous films, the comparisons to Monty Python and the supposed kookiness of the film were quite enticing possibilities to me, even though I wasn't actually that excited for the movie. And in the end, it was pretty good. It's a unique film and the characters are lovable and entertaining. The villains are a lot of fun and the Boxtrolls are truly awesome creations.  This is a fun film and one that kids and adults alike will enjoy. It's not a perfect movie and if the trailers and reviews didn't excite you, odds are that you won't like this film. But if you're even slightly interested in this, The Boxtrolls won't disappoint.

The Boxtrolls centers on a British town named Cheesebridge, where mysterious creatures called Boxtrolls live underneath the surface. One night, a group of Boxtrolls supposedly kidnap a young boy and Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) immediately starts a massive witch hunt for all of the Boxtrolls after consulting with Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris). The young boy that the Boxtrolls took grows up and is given the name Eggs (Isaac Hemstead Wright voices the older version of the character). Eventually, Eggs runs out at night with the other creatures and meets Winnie (Elle Fanning), who is immediately curious about the boy who acts so different. After a narrow escape, Eggs realizes that there's a sinister plot to destroy the Boxtrolls and that Snatcher will do anything to get a prestigious white hat. An epic adventure filled with action and cheese ensues.

The Boxtrolls is not a tightly scripted movie, but it's an incredibly entertaining one most of the time. The animation is gorgeously odd and I really enjoyed all of the characters in the film. The voice work is extraordinary and even though the cast is filled with celebrity actors, I was never able to tell who was voicing who. It's not a perfect film. The script is meandering and not all that good and the film is about fifteen minutes too long, but in the end, this is a highly odd and enjoyable adventure that I believe everyone can find something to like in.

The writers of The Boxtrolls (Irena Brignull and Adam Pava) do a really terrific job of creating characters that are vivid and intriguing. They succeed in making their creations either lovable or despicable, sympathetic or dastardly. While the film is slightly messy on a story level, the characters are what carry this movie the whole way. And even though I thought that the character of Winnie was an extraneous addition to the story that was unnecessary, I still found her to be a well-written character. The villains are also exceptionally entertaining. Archibald Snatcher's goal is clear and his henchmen are consistently hilarious.

Part of the credit can go to the screenwriters but the voice actors definitely bring the characters memorably to life. Young actor Isaac Hemstead Wright is pretty solid as Eggs and Elle Fanning does an impeccable British accent as Winnie, but the real standouts are the colorful supporting characters who are often voiced by notable British actors. Ben Kingsley is terrific as Archibald Snatcher and Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade and Tracy Morgan do brilliant work as his henchmen.

The Boxtrolls also succeeds in creating a deliciously beautiful world that is awesome to behold. I was sucked into the world of The Boxtrolls almost immediately, and although the story was lacking at times, I found the characters and the world to be appealing enough to carry me through this movie. I know some critics believe that's the fundamental problem with Laika, and I've happened to agreewith them in the past. However, this is definitely not an example of that. This is an emotional and well-written film on a character level that just can't bring it's story together completely. It's a good film overall, even though the film hits at brick wall at various times.

As I've said, the story in The Boxtrolls is not the strongest and some characters are merely passable (Winnie and her father especially). Those two things are the root cause of all my problems with this movie. The story meanders along and never manages to really feel fully cohesive. It just moves at a natural pace and it felt unfocused quite often. It felt like the filmmakers seemed so enamored with the characters that they forgot to tell a properly intriguing story.

Nevertheless, whenever the Boxtrolls or the villains appear on screen, this film comes dynamically to life and I loved every second. When The Boxtrolls is good, it's stunningly mesmerizing and brilliant. But when it's bad, it's really bad. Thankfully, it's only truly awful in a few spots. Most of the time, The Boxtrolls is quite good. The animators did a great job with the world of Cheesebridge and the writers splendidly bring the characters to life. It's about fifteen minutes too long, but I digress. This is a very entertaining animated movie and it has enough creepy, interesting, unique and funny elements to warrant a viewing.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B                                                (7/10)

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

First Oscar Predictions for 2014!

Oscar season is upon us and it is shaping up to be quite spectacular. Venice kicked things off a few weeks ago with the debut of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Birdman, Telluride kept things going with The Imitation Game and Wild and Toronto closed out the early Fall festivals with the debuts of The Theory of Everything and Nightcrawler. Last week saw the premiere of David Fincher's Gone Girl at the New York Film Festival and this Friday, Paul Thomas Anderson will reveal Inherent Vice in New York as well. And don't forget about Boyhood, Foxcatcher, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Whiplash- all films that premiered earlier in the year.

After New York, Hollywood will turn its eyes to London, where David Ayer's Fury will premiere, before finally shifting back to California for the AFI Fest, which will debut A Most Violent Year and possibly The Gambler, Big Eyes, Unbroken and American Sniper. And then there's the gigantic elephant in the room: Christopher Nolan's space epic Interstellar. The film has been seen by select audiences and minds have been blown. All in all, a lot of exciting stuff has already happened and plenty more films will be debuting in the near future. Here are my initial predictions for the main categories at the 2014 Academy Awards.


1. Interstellar
2. Boyhood
3. Birdman
4. Gone Girl
5. Unbroken
6. The Imitation Game
7. A Most Violent Year
8. Foxcatcher
9. The Theory of Everything
10. Inherent Vice

The Best Picture race is tight this year and I could not be more excited for some of the films involved. To me, Interstellar is the clear favorite at this stage in the game. I haven't heard a single negative thing about this film and what I have heard is praise of an insanely high degree. If it's as good as the hype, I see no reason why Interstellar won't take him the gold. Close behind Nolan's space epic are Boyhood and Birdman, two highly ambitious projects that could definitely get some Oscar love. Gone Girl and Unbroken are sure things for me as well, and I'm betting that the Academy finds a way to fit The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game in there too. A Most Violent Year could get in the mix (it looks great) and Foxcatcher is too good to pass up. Finally, I'm betting Inherent Vice slides in at the very end. The trailer was brilliant and I simply cannot wait to see the movie.


1. Richard Linklater, Boyhood
2. Christopher Nolan, Interstellar
3. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Birdman
4. JC Chandor, A Most Violent Year
5. David Fincher, Gone Girl

The sheer ambition of Linklater's Boyhood is what will get him the statuette. While Nolan is certainly a force to be reckoned with, Linklater's masterpiece might be too strong. There's always the possibility that Nolan makes an even greater film in the future. This is undoubtedly Linklater's crowning achievement (although I wouldn't doubt that he makes a better film in the future) and a film for the history books. He must be recognized. Inarritu could be competitive as well and Chandor and Fincher will probably get nominations for their strong works.


1. Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
2. Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
3. Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
4. Michael Keaton, Birdman
5. Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler

The Best Actor category is fiercely competitive this year, with actors jumping into the race left and right. For me though, Steve Carell is still the clear favorite for his work in Foxcatcher. The performance has been praised since the film debuted in May back at Cannes. However, it won't be a cakewalk for the actor. Eddie Redmayne and Benedict Cumberbatch burst onto the scene at Toronto and Michael Keaton will make for some strong competition as well. Finally, I've heard nothing but great things about Jake Gyllenhaal's performance as Lou Bloom in Nightcrawler. He looks spectacular and the movie looks great. Hopefully he finds some Oscar love.


1. Amy Adams, Big Eyes
2. Reese Witherspoon, Wild
3. Julianne Moore, Still Alice
4. Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
5. Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything

Best Actress is a tough category as well, but I'm predicting that perennial Oscar bridesmaid Amy Adams will come out on top. She has another good role in Tim Burton's Big Eyes and it could definitely work in her favor, especially with Harvey Weinstein backing the film. Reese Witherspoon is also a strong contender for her work in Wild, which has been praised since the film debuted at Telluride. Julianne Moore broke into the Oscar race for her turn in Still Alice and many think that she could win the statue. And Rosamund Pike and Felicity Jones should make it in the final five as well for their highly praised performances.


1. J.K Simmons, Whiplash
2. Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
3. Edward Norton, Birdman
4. Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
5. Josh Brolin, Inherent Vice

Simmons looks to be a true revelation in the Sundance favorite Whiplash, so I can't make anyone else the favorite in this category besides him. In addition to that, the Academy is going to want to reward Whiplash in one category or another and I think this might be the one they go for. Ethan Hawke and Mark Ruffalo will be in the mix as well and judging by the trailer, Josh Brolin will be one of the standouts in Inherent Vice. However, I'm betting that the biggest threat to Simmons is Edward Norton. His performance in Birdman has been highly praised and it seems like the kind of supporting part that could take over the whole movie.


1. Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
2. Laura Dern, Wild
3. Rene Russo, Nightcrawler
4. Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
5. Emma Stone, Birdman

This is a really weak category, so I'm betting on Patricia Arquette taking the win here. She's great in Boyhood and the film is beloved by cinephiles everywhere. Close behind her, I have Laura Dern and Rene Russo, who were highly praised coming out of Toronto. Keira Knightley and Emma Stone will be in the mix also, but I don't see either one having a legit shot at the win.


1. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, and Armando Bo, Birdman
2. Christopher Nolan and Johnathan Nolan, Interstellar
3. Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinness, The Grand Budapest Hotel
4. Richard Linklater, Boyhood
5. J.C Chandor, A Most Violent Year

Best Original Screenplay will be a highly competitive race and it will likely go down to the wire. Any one of these five films could win and there are some films that I haven't listed that could win as well. Birdman is the favorite in my eyes, but the Academy could want to honor Wes Anderson or Christopher Nolan, two talented screenwriters who have been screwed over in past years. And we definitely can't count out Linklater or Chandor just yet.


1. Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl
2. Paul Thomas Anderson and Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice
3. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson, Unbroken
4, Nick Hornby and Cheryl Strayed, Wild
5. Graham Moore and Andrew Hodges, The Imitation Game

This is a much less packed race and I truly believe that it's a two-film competition at this point between Inherent Vice and Gone Girl. The two ambitious, two hour-plus adaptations of popular novels look to adapt an interesting tone for the big screen and both look to be remarkably successful. I've got Gone Girl in first right now just because all of the buzz is with that film, but PTA could definitely do something great with Inherent Vice. But never count out the Coen Bros., who wrote Unbroken, one of the big fall films that we haven't seen yet.


1. The LEGO Movie
2. Big Hero 6
3. The Boxtrolls
4. How to Train Your Dragon 2
5. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

The LEGO Movie is the single best film I've seen all year and it's beloved by critics as well. Unless Disney manages to make Big Hero 6 something truly special, I can't see anything but The LEGO Movie taking home the gold. Look for Laika's pleasantly surprising The Boxtrolls and Dreamworks' How to Train Your Dragon 2 to be in contention as well along with The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.

Next time around, I'll take a lot at more technical categories and update my predictions for the major categories!