Wednesday, November 26, 2014

'The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1' review

The new trend in young adult adaptations is to split the final book into two parts. Harry Potter did it. Twilight did it. The Hobbit even split one book into three movies. So it was inevitable that the final book in The Hunger Games series would be split into two movies. The thing is, Mockingjay is only a 400 page book. And not much happens in the first half. Unsurprisingly, Mockingjay- Part 1 is kind of a bland movie. Things happen, but they all feel like a teaser for bigger and badder events to come. We get a deep dive into the psyche of Katniss Everdeen, but all the other characters get put on the backburner. In the end, Mockingjay- Part 1 is a perfectly serviceable film (if you can call it that), yet it's nowhere near the level of the other films in the series.


The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1 continues the story of Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) as she deals with the aftermath of fighting in the Hunger Games two times. Katniss wakes up in District 13, which was thought to have been destroyed. However, District 13 is alive and well under the ruling of President Alma Coin (Julianne Moore). Soldiers from District 13 rescued Katniss and Finnick Odair (Sam Clafin), but left Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) and Johanna (Jena Malone) for the Capital to capture.

With Katniss now in District 13, the leaders of the district know that she's the one to lead their revolution. Plutarch Heavensbee (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) encourages Alma Coin to get Katniss to be their Mockingjay, the face of the revolution. Katniss eventually agrees and Coin assembles a team of film directors to create propaganda with Katniss for the revolution.

Let's face the facts here first: not much happens in Mockingjay- Part 1. It's a lot of quiet conversations and bombastic propaganda with a few action scenes added in for good measure. However, I felt that it laid the groundwork for a stellar second installment that will disturb and entertain in equal measure. Jennifer Lawrence is as good as ever as the mentally scarred Katniss Everdeen and the supporting cast is solid, if underused. It's hard to judge Mockingjay because it's not really a full film. There's sort of a conclusion, but there's still a lot of story left to tell. And I'm excited to see how it plays out next November.

Jennifer Lawrence keeps this movie afloat. There's no question about that. She gives another towering, emotionally vulnerable performance in this film. Lawrence has managed to make the character of Katniss dynamic and interesting, which is something that a lesser actress would have struggled with. If you ever find yourself doubting that Lawrence is one of the most talented actresses of her generation, just pop in one of these films. That will change your mind in no time.

It's just too bad that Katniss is the only character who gets any real screen time, or is actually developed into a fully fleshed-out human being. Josh Hutcherson gives a strong performance as Peeta and I'm certain that he will be explored further in Part 2. Since Peeta spends most of his time in the Capitol, Gale (Liam Hemsworth) gets more of the spotlight this time around. And Hemsworth makes the most of it. I found Gale to be quite interesting in this film and I was very happy about that.

However, several other fan favorite characters get little to no time to shine in this film. Woody Harrelson's Haymitch Abernathy is barely in this film and his charisma and humor is sorely missed. Finnick is reduced to a mentally damaged and lovesick wreck. Johanna is literally in there for only a second. Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) has a more interesting role, but her wickedly disgusting humor is gone.

Katniss' sister Prim (Willow Shields) also gets little development in this film, which is sad because she plays an integral role in Part 2. Beetee (Jeffrey Wright), Snow, Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci), Cressida (Natalie Dormer)- in the end, all of these characters get shortchanged. It's really a tragedy. I know that Katniss is the most dynamic and interesting character, but there are fun and compelling supporting characters too and the filmmakers don't seem to recognize that.

Despite its script shortcomings, this is a well-directed film. I give Francis Lawrence credit. This guy knows how to make a compelling film. Even for a movie where nothing much really happens, I was consistently compelled and intrigued by what was going on in Mockingjay.

I was also impressed by the production values in this film. This was a franchise that started off with shoddy CGI and poor camera work, so I was pleasantly surprised by how well this film looked. The action sequences are stellar, the sets are realistic, and the CGI is great. This film has a sleek look and feel to it and I really dug that.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1 is half a film. That is literally the conclusion that I reached at the end of this movie. It's hard to give a full opinion on this movie, since it's only one half of a story. However, I can definitely say that this is a compelling movie with a strong central performance and a great story. I like where this is going and as long as the screenwriters can give a little more attention to the other characters, I feel like Mockingjay- Part 2 could be the best in the series.

THE FINAL GRADE: B                                                  (7/10)




Image Credits: Comic Book, LA Times, NY Daily News, Salon, Huffington Post

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mike Nichols has died at the age of 83

Some rather sad and shocking news this morning as famed director Mike Nichols has died at the age of 83. The man behind classics like The Graduate and Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf died suddenly on Wednesday. Hitfix is hearing that the cause of death was cardiac arrest, but that has not been confirmed by anyone close to the story at this point. His passing was announced by ABC News President James Goldston. In a short statement, Goldston said "He was a true visionary, winning the highest honors in the arts for his work as a director, writer, producer and comic and was one of a tiny few to win the EGOT- an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony in his life time. No one was more passionate about his craft than Mike....Mike and Diane were married for 26 years. He leaves behind three children- Daisy, Max and Jenny- and four wonderful grandchildren.....The family will hold a small, private service this week, and a memorial will be held at a later date." This quote came from Deadline Hollywood, who was one of the first outlets to report the story.

Nichols was married to Diane Sawyer and was also one of the most esteemed theater directors of all time. His last film came in 2007 in the form of Charlie Wilson's War, which was nominated for one Oscar. He also directed Angels in America, Biloxi Blues and Working Girl over the course of his career. Nichols really was an incredible talent. I remember how stunned I was the first time I saw The Graduate, and it still is one of my favorite films. Nichols did a lot to advance both the medium of film and the art of theater, and he will be sorely missed.

Sources: Deadline, Hitfix

Sunday, November 16, 2014

'Interstellar' spoilers discussion

Interstellar was one of the most anticipated films of 2014, and it did not disappoint. Not everybody loved it, but it has incited fierce debate between film fans. I've seen the film three times now, and I believe that it's a masterpiece. A fantastic balancing act between genuine human emotion, dizzying spectacle and breathtaking twists, Nolan hit another one out of the park in one of his best movies yet. I love it when I don't fully understand a film the first time around. The first time I saw Interstellar, I didn't get it all. I missed some pretty obvious stuff because I was so amazed by what I was seeing. My two subsequent viewings have solidified my opinions and I'm ready to discuss every facet of this movie. Let's delve into spoilers for Christopher Nolan's Interstellar.


Warning: If you have not seen Interstellar, turn back now.

SPOILERS 

WILL 

FOLLOW

Let's first break down the exact plot of this film and then dwell on a few certain aspects. The Earth is dying. Wheat is gone, okra is about to die and all that's left is corn. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a farmer and one of the few educated men left on Earth. He lives on a farm with his two kids and their grandfather (John Lithgow). He has a special bond with his gifted daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy). One day, a gravitational anomaly in Murph's bedroom leads Cooper to discover a series of coordinates that lead him to a mysterious location. When he gets there, he's detained by the monolithic robot TARS (Bill Irwin) and then led by Dr. Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway) to a room where all is explained by Professor Brand (Michael Caine). The professor reveals that Cooper has stumbled upon the underground headquarters of NASA.

According to Professor Brand, the Earth is dying and NASA is prepping for an interstellar journey to the farthest reaches of space. NASA already sent twelve astronauts to the other galaxy to find a home on the Lazarus missions a few years back. The astronauts were sent through a wormhole that leads to another galaxy with habitable worlds. The wormhole was placed by "they" (otherworldly beings, future humans, aliens) out near Saturn. The astronauts, led by Dr. Mann (played by none other than Matt Damon), were told to sent out a signal if their world was habitable. Professor Brand needs Cooper for this mission (Coop flew for NASA before becoming a farmer). Cooper is hesitant to leave his family and is curious about the plan to get people off the planet. That's where Plan A and Plan B come into play.

Plan A is the ideal plan. The one where the people on Earth get saved. While Cooper finds a new Earth, Professor Brand and others will work on a gravity equation that will solve the problem of gravity and find a way to send people to space on a giant space station (a detail that is easy to miss). That's Plan A. The other plan is just to find a world to live on and start a colony using the resources on the Endurance spaceship and the incubated eggs on board. In the end, Cooper decides to leave his children and save the human race. His parting with his daughter is rough, but he has to leave no matter what.

Cooper, Amelia, Romilly (David Gyasi), and Doyle (Wes Bentley) are blasted into space with TARS and CASE (voiced by Josh Stewart). They spend time in hypersleep before they arrive and travel through the wormhole. When they're in the wormhole, Amelia seemingly has contact with "they" during a handshake that distorts space time. They arrive on the other side of the wormhole and find themselves with a dilemma. The first planet is Dr. Miller's world, which is very promising. She's still sending out a signal and appears to be in good shape. However, her world is close to Gargantua, a nearby black hole. The black hole makes time go faster and one hour on Miller's planet is seven years on Earth (the theory of relativity). In the end, despite a lot of hesitation, they visit Miller's planet. Cooper takes the shuttle down and lets Romilly stay just far enough out of orbit to work on the gravity equation.

Cooper, Brand and Doyle visit Miller's planet. It's all shallow water and large crashing waves. Turns out that Miller's planet is a death trap. Miller's dead and her satellite and shuttle is wrecked. Brand gets stuck in some wreckage, but is rescued by CASE. They rush back to the ship before the next wave crashes down but Doyle doesn't get back in time and gets killed. The wave waterlogs the ship and Cooper and Brand are forced to spend another hour on Miller's planet. Eventually they head back to the Endurance. When they get there, they realize that they've been gone for 23 years. Romilly has been alone for 23 years and all of the people on Earth are 23 years older. Thanks, relativity!

Cooper goes and looks at his messages and sees that his kids are all grown up. His son Tom (Casey Affleck) has two kids and a wife and his daughter (Jessica Chastain) is grown up as well. Turns out that Murph is now working with Professor Brand to solve the gravity equation and find a way to make plan A work. Back on the shuttle, the crew faces a dilemma: go to Dr. Mann's planet or go to Dr. Edmonds' planet? In the end, they choose Mann's planet because he's still transmitting and because Amelia is in love with Edmonds and Cooper feels that her love compromises the mission.

When they get to Mann's ice planet, they find Dr. Mann (Damon) and start preparing to set up camp. However, back on Earth, Professor Brand dies and reveals on his deathbed that plan A was a sham to motivate people. He solved the equation years ago and just didn't have the data needed to finish the job. Cooper and Amelia get this transmission and Mann knows all about this. He claims that it was an ingenious plan to motivate people to fight for the greater good. Cooper can't take the lying anymore and decides to go home. However, Romilly gets him to take one last crack at the gravity equation by sending TARS into the black hole, where he could possibly get the quantum data needed to solve the equation. The astronauts head off to different places on the ice planet to set up satellites to communicate the quantum data should TARS find it and relay it back to them in the black hole.

Cooper and Mann go off on the planet and start talking. Turns out that Mann is one evil dude. He beats up Cooper, cracks his mask and leaves him to die. Mann faked all of his data just so someone could rescue him. There's no chance for life on this planet. Mann goes off to the shuttle to leave. Romilly dies trying to recover data from one of Mann's machines, which was rigged to self-destruct. Brand rescues Cooper and they head off to stop Mann from docking his ship on the Endurance. Mann ends up depressurizing something and he dies in a massive explosion and part of the Endurance blows up. Cooper docks the Endurance while the ship is spinning in an amazing sequence. After that, they decide to slingshot around Gargantua and send Brand to Dr. Edmonds' planet and send Cooper and TARS into the Black Hole.

Cooper and TARS fall into the Black Hole. Cooper's ship is decimated and he then ejects out. He then falls into the Tesseract, somewhere in the fifth dimension of time. Cooper then realizes that he was the ghost causing the gravitational anomalies in Murph's room, sending books off of shelves and writing messages in Morse code and Binary. Cooper realizes that he was affecting the past from the present. He led himself to NASA and he led himself to this moment. It was all destiny. TARS reappears and tells him that he has the quantum data. At the same time, we see that Murph has also realized that her dad was her ghost. Cooper sends her the data in Morse on a watch that he gave her before he left. She gets the message and solves the equation. The fifth dimensional tesseract begins closing, which is when Cooper has his final revelation that the Tesseract, black hole and Wormhole were all created by future humans with a superior knowledge of five-dimensional physics. The Tesseract closes and Cooper is rescued just outside of Saturn.

Cooper wakes up on Cooper Station, the giant space station just outside of Saturn. He's 124 when he reunites with his dying daughter, who tells him to go find Brand. Edmonds planet ended up being habitable and a colony was set up. Cooper blasts off to find Brand and start the human race anew.

Phew. That was a lot to break down. Every detail of that summary is important and this is one of the most dense films I've ever seen. Let's break down some questions, theories and other ramblings I had about specific things in this movie.

-Wormhole vs. Black Hole

Interstellar deals with some very weighty science, but it also deals with some really cool theoretical stuff that we've never seen on film before. The basic premise of this movie is that Cooper and a select group of NASA's finest will travel through a wormhole to another galaxy to find a new home for Earth. The wormhole was placed there by "they", a group of beings that we kinda learn more about later in the film. When Cooper and the astronauts finally reach the wormhole, Romilly explains Cooper how a wormhole works using a simple diagram. He describes the wormhole as having the ability to bend space and time to create a portal between two places. They go through the wormhole and one really interesting thing happens, which I'll talk about later.


On the other side of the wormhole is another galaxy of planets and a black hole. The black hole is different from the wormhole. It's very easy to get the two confused and I'm not sure I completely got this the first time, but I get it now and that's all that matters. The black hole is known as Gargantua and has a strong gravitational pull and orbit. But where does the black hole lead? It's pretty clear where the worm hole leads. It's a quick short cut between two galaxies. I've always seemed to understand that a black hole was a naturally occurring phenomenon that essentially leads to nowhere. However, Cooper actually gets inside the black hole and then finds a way out of it. I know what's inside the black hole, but where does it lead and how different is it from a wormhole? Was the black hole actually constructed by fifth-dimensional beings with a superior sense of space-time or was it a natural occurrence? Those questions remain unanswered.

-Relativity

One of the coolest aspects of this film for me was the way that Nolan depicted relativity. From what I understand, Einstein's Theory of Relativity means that time is relative and can go faster and slower depending on the gravitational orbit. Relativity is depicted many times in this film, most shockingly when Cooper, Brand and Doyle go to the water planet. Cooper and Brand return (Doyle is murdered by a wave) and Romilly is 23 years older. It's a chilling and haunting scene and it's made all the more frightening by the fact that we only spent a few minutes on the water planet. I loved how Nolan worked with this theory to do something that we hadn't seen before.

-Inside the Black Hole

Cooper goes inside a black hole at the end of this movie. If you think about it outside of the context of this film, it's a really gutsy move because there was no way to truly tell what was going to be in that black hole. When Cooper gets in the black hole, he finds the Tesseract, essentially the fifth dimension of time and space. Inside the Tesseract, he finds all of the memories from inside his daughter's bedroom. The memories haunt Cooper and he starts getting mad, punching the bookshelf and knocking books off. All of a sudden, Cooper realizes that he was the ghost that Murph thought she had as a kid.


This is when the movie gets really wacky. First off, is it actually possible for there to be something inside a black hole. I always assumed that black holes were just emptiness. Nonetheless, when TARS shows back up, he tells Cooper something very interesting: "They didn't send us here to change the past." Cooper replies by saying: "They didn't send us here at all. We brought ourselves." My interpretation of this is that "they" only set the path, humans finished it. Cooper is the one who sent the coordinates of NASA, he's the one who sent the Morse code back to his daughter and he's the one who saved the world. It goes back to the theme that humans can achieve anything.

-Who are "They"?

Wormholes are not naturally occurring. That is revealed early in the film and Professor Brand says that it was placed there by "they." Who is they? Why did they place the wormhole there? Are they trying to save us? All of these questions remain unanswered until the final act, when Cooper finds himself inside the Tesseract. There isn't a lot of ambiguity about who "they" are, but their motives are mysterious.

As the Tesseract closes, Cooper realizes that "they" are incredibly advanced future humans with a superior knowledge of five-dimensional physics. They aren't aliens. They're humans. And they're trying to help the humans of the 21st century. They placed the wormhole out near Saturn so that we could get to the galaxy.

What the future humans did with the black hole is a little more ambiguous. When in the black hole, Cooper finds himself in the fifth dimension of time. For the future humans, time is a physical dimension. As TARS describes, the humans have constructed the three-dimensional space to help Cooper understand their five-dimensional world. Somehow the future humans have harnessed the ability to explore black holes and construct spaces in them. Here's my theory as to how that happened.

Using the quantum data that TARS and Cooper get in the black hole, Murph is able to solve the gravity equation and transport a space station to Saturn. What other data did TARS acquire inside the black hole? Could the black hole data have contributed to the future humans immense knowledge of five-dimensional physics? That's my guess.

-The Gravity Equation

A large portion of the plot centers around the gravity equation, a mathematical system constructed by Brand. Solving the gravity equation will allow them to massively transport people to space. But according Mann, the equation couldn't work because of a lack of quantum data. Later in the film, Cooper and TARS get the data in the black hole, relay it back to Murph and then send a huge space station to space. What did solving the gravity equation do? And why was the data needed inside a black hole?

I feel like this is just something you have to go with, unless you have a really strong grasp on theoretical physics. Nolan probably could have explained what was going on with this a little bit better, but I think that it would have made the film feel like a science lesson, which he certainly didn't want to happen.

-The Future of the Human Race

At the end of the film, Cooper wakes up on Cooper Station, a massive space station just outside Saturn. It's obvious that Murph has saved the human race and that the space station is in a safe location. But is that it? Are they just gonna hang there or is there a way to get the station through the wormhole? It's clear that Cooper is heading to the colony to be with Brand, but what about the others? That question is left unanswered.

-"The Tesseract is Closing"

Once Cooper has relayed the necessary information back to Murph, the Tesseract begins to collapse. Cooper finds himself flying along in space and he makes a very interesting connection. Earlier in the film, Brand appears to make a connection with the otherworldly beings. Turns out that was just Cooper's hand sticking in the wormhole. Cooper then finds himself floating outside of Saturn in a very 2001-esque moment. He is then rescued by two rangers.

This scene is quite bizarre. It's one of the more ambiguous moments during the film. My interpretation is that because the five-dimensional beings had constructed the Tesseract for the purpose of saving the human race, they also rigged it to send him back. After the Tesseract collapsed, Cooper was ejected from the black hole, moved through the wormhole, made contact with Brand and then arrived outside of Saturn. I'm not sure that this all logically works within the continuity of the film, but it's my interpretation of it. We'll see if Nolan ever comes out with a full explanation for this scene.

That's my analysis for Interstellar. I'm sure that this movie will incite lots of discussion in the future and it's a film that will be remembered for a long time. It's a very complex film and you will miss several obvious details on your initial viewing because of the sheer amount of information being thrown at you. However, Interstellar is an experience like no other and it's a unique and brave film that is dealing with amazingly fresh topics. Not to mention that it is exciting and perfectly executed. After three viewings, I understand almost everything that this film has to offer and I can't wait to watch it again and unpack it as a pure piece of amazing entertainment.



Image Credits: Hollywood Reporter, Mashable, Huffington Post, Hollywood Reporter, Huffington Post, New York Post, Wordpress, Hollywood Reporter, Huffington Post, NY Daily News, Hollywood Reporter , Hollywood Reporter

'Dumb and Dumber To' leads with $38 million with 'Big Hero 6' and 'Interstellar' close behind at weekend box office

It was the calm before the Hunger Games storm this weekend at the box office, but that didn't stop people from going out to the movies. With three top-tier releases in theaters, people flocked to theaters. Universal's Dumb and Dumber To led the pack with a strong $38 million, which is quite an impressive debut. I was really low on the film, since I had already seen it and knew that it wasn't very good. However, the lesson here is that we should never underestimate comedies. There hasn't been a mainstream comedy in a very long time, so people dashed to see the sequel to the 1994 hit. But that doesn't mean people liked what they saw. The film received a "B-" Cinemascore, which means that this movie will fizzle rather quickly. Nonetheless, this was the best opening ever for The Farrelly Brothers and a very strong outing for Jim Carrey. As long as this film had a relatively low budget, it should be alright.


Disney's Big Hero 6 finished in second place this weekend, falling only 36% and pulling in another $36 million. The animated hit has now grossed $111.6 million, which is very impressive. It's pacing ahead of both Wreck-It Ralph and Tangled at this point. All in all, this film should make as much as $200 million and will be one of the biggest hits of the season.

Interstellar also had a fantastic hold, grabbing $29.1 million in third place. The divisive space opera fell only 39% this weekend, which is very impressive. This film has generated a lot of discussion and I'm not surprised to see that it held well. So far, Interstellar has grossed $97.8 million domestically and its worldwide total is over $230 million. That's fantastic for an original sci-fi film. Look for Interstellar to keep going strong throughout the rest of the month.


The other new wide release this weekend was Relativity's musical drama Beyond the Lights. The film snagged $6.5 million in just under 1,800 theaters. Not awful, but I'm sure the studio had hoped for better. However, the film received an "A" Cinemascore, which indicates stellar word of mouth. This film should finish with around $20 million. Gone Girl finished in fifth place with $4.6 million. The dark psychological thriller is nearing the end of its run and has made $152.6 million so far. Pretty spectacular for a violent adult drama.

In sixth place was St. Vincent with $4 million. The light family dramedy has made $33.2 million thus far, which is very good. The Bill Murray-starred film has connected with audiences and will probably finish with around $45 million. Fury finished in seventh place this weekend with $3.8 million. The violent war dram has now made $75.9 million domestically and is currently sitting at a worldwide total of $127.4 million. With a $68 million budget, not to mention marketing and distribution, this film may have a hard time breaking even.

Nightcrawler landed in eighth place with $3 million this weekend. The low-budget psychological thriller has now grossed $25 million, which is very good considering the film cost only $8.5 million to make. Nightcrawler should end its run with about $30 million. Ouija plummeted 49% to ninth place and made $3 million. The horror film has now made $48.1 million. And finally, Birdman rounded out the top ten with $2.4 million. The Oscar favorite has now made $11.5 million.

In the limited release world, Rosewater led the pack with $1.2 million. The Jon Stewart-directed film opened in only 371 theaters and should expand in the coming weeks. Foxcatcher made $288,000 in six theaters, for a per theater average of $48,000. The film will have a very slow rollout over the next few weeks. And finally, Tommy Lee Jones' The Homesman grossed $48,000 in only 4 theaters.

Next weekend sees the release of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1. Here are my predictions:

1. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1- $150 million
2. Big Hero 6- $26 million
3. Interstellar- $21 million
4. Dumb and Dumber To- $15.7 million
5. Beyond the Lights- $4.9 million
6. Gone Girl- $3.4 million
7. St. Vincent- $3 million
8. Fury- $2.7 million
9. Birdman- $2.5 million
10. Nightcrawler- $1.9 million


Image Credits: Huffington Post, Movie Pilot, Mashable, Flickering Myth

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Fall Box Office Predictions- Part 2

The fall season has had a few big hits so far (Gone Girl, Annabelle, Big Hero 6), but the biggest hits are yet to come. November is a rather light schedule, highlighted by the megahit that will be The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 1. However, December is packed with major films like Unbroken, The Interview, Exodus and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. It's an eclectic mix of commercial hits and Oscar favorites. Let's take a look at the second half of the fall box office season.

DUMB AND DUMBER TO- November 14

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

Dumb and Dumber To comes out today and I honestly can't see it doing very well. It's facing off against two word of mouth dynamos in Interstellar and Big Hero 6 and there's seemingly no buzz around the film. Mix that with the poor reviews (27% on Rotten Tomatoes) and there's only a very small chance that this film breaks out.

FOXCATCHER- November 14 (limited)

Opening Weekend Prediction- $500,000
Total Gross Prediction- $25.5 million

Foxcatcher is one of the premiere Oscar players this year, and with a cast that includes Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and a chillingly different Steve Carell, there's a good chance that Foxcatcher will be one of the biggest independent hits of the year. Reviews have been great, but many have discussed how deliberate this film's pacing is. That could be an issue, but with the Oscar buzz and the all-star cast, this film will do just fine.

ROSEWATER- November 14 (limited)

Opening Weekend Prediction- $900,000
Total Gross Prediction- $5 million

If the buzz for Rosewater had been stronger coming out of Telluride, this number might be a lot higher. Reviews were solid, but this seems like a very niche film and it would have needed stronger reviews to break out. It does have the benefit of being directed by comedy superstar Jon Stewart, but I doubt that this will make more that $5 million.

BEYOND THE LIGHTS- November 14

Opening Weekend Prediction- $8 million
Total Gross Prediction- $28 million

Beyond the Lights is the kind of film that doesn't usually make a lot of money, but I think that this one has a chance. The reviews are stellar (86% on Rotten Tomatoes) and there's very little competition for this film in the marketplace. It could end up being a minor hit in a season of major extravaganzas.

THE HOMESMAN- November 14 (limited)

Opening Weekend Prediction- $100,000
Total Gross Prediction- $6 million

This western is led by an all-star cast including Tommy Lee Jones, Hillary Swank, John Lithgow, Meryl Streep and Tim Blake Nelson, and is directed by Jones himself. That kind of star power will certainly get the film somewhere. I don't see this being a big hit, and it could get drowned out by other Oscar season power players, but I feel like there's still a place for this film in the market.

THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY- PART 1- November 21

Opening Weekend Prediction- $145 million
Total Gross Prediction- $390 million

The Hunger Games is one of the most consistent franchises in Hollywood, but I'm thinking that this one will end up making a little bit less than the other films in the series. Anyone who has read the book version of Mockingjay knows that the first half is incredibly tedious and I'm certain that the producers are packing this film with superficial action for the sole purpose of making this film longer. Early reviews have been solid, but not spectacular. This will undoubtedly be a major hit. Just not as huge as the other two films in the series.

HORRIBLE BOSSES 2- November 26

Five-Day Opening Weekend Prediction- $43 million
Total Gross Prediction- $105 million

The first Horrible Bosses was a big hit and with a dearth of R-rated comedies in the marketplace, Horrible Bosses 2 should make quite a bit of money as well. The trailers have been appealing and the all-star cast has only grown with the addition of Chris Pine and Christoph Waltz. This will be a very solid hit over Thanksgiving weekend.

THE PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR- November 26

Five-Day Opening Weekend Prediction- $70 million
Total Gross Prediction- $150 million

The Madagascar franchise still makes bank for Dreamworks after all these years and The Penguins of Madagascar will be very important for the studio. The animation house is coming off a string of misfires and they need a big hit to come back. This film could be it, but I don't see it making over $150 million.

THE IMITATION GAME- November 28 (limited)

Opening Weekend Prediction- $400,000
Total Gross Prediction- $50 million

The Imitation Game is one of the most accessible Oscar favorites, so I'm betting on a total of at least $50 million. With superstar Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role and a lot of buzz surrounding this film, there's a good chance that this breaks out. There is quite a bit of dark subject matter in this film according to many critics, but I still think that this film will be a pretty solid hit.

THE PYRAMID- December 5

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

There really isn't much to say about this film. It's a low budget horror film set in Egypt that will likely disappear quickly. It does look kinda creepy, but not creepy enough to break out during this extremely crowded season. It is one of the only horror films of the season, but it looks simply too low-budget to survive the torrent of Oscar movies.

WILD- December 5 (limited)

Opening Weekend Prediction- $300,000
Total Gross Prediction- $15 million

Wild is the latest film from Dallas Buyers Club director Jean-Marc Vallee with Reese Witherspoon in the lead role. Dallas Buyers Club made around $27 million, and with significantly less buzz surrounding Wild, I doubt that this will break out. Not to mention that the film looks flat-out depressing. Witherspoon will undoubtedly get a lot of attention for her portrayal of the recovering drug/sex addict who walks 1,000 miles, but this film still is not going to make more than $15 million.

EXODUS: GODS AND KINGS- December 12

Opening Weekend Prediction- $45 million
Total Gross Prediction- $160 million

Exodus: Gods and Kings is in an extremely tough position. It looks like a fantastic movie, and it has a terrific cast that includes Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, Sigourney Weaver, Aaron Paul and Ben Kingsley. Yet it is coming out at a very difficult time. The final installment of The Hobbit franchise opens only five days later and that might make things tough for Exodus. Awards buzz would be very helpful for the film, but I'm not sure it will come. Exodus will still be a hit, but the question of "How big?" will depend on many different factors.

TOP FIVE- December 12

Opening Weekend Prediction- $15 million
Total Gross Prediction- $55 million

Top Five came out of nowhere at Tiff and was scooped up by Paramount for about $12.5 million. With stellar reviews and an all-star cast, it's now being thrust into a holiday season packed with much bigger films. However, there is still a lot of promise for Top Five. The cast is highlighted by Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Cedric the Entertainer, Kevin Hart and many other superstars. Rock also directed the film, which could bring in some fans. All in all, this could end up being a huge Christmas season breakout hit.

INHERENT VICE- December 12 (limited), January 9 (wide)

Opening Weekend Prediction- $400,000
Total Gross Prediction- $35 million

Inherent Vice had one of the best trailers in recent memory and its great cast features Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin and Benecio del Toro. Not to mention that it was directed by indie superstar Paul Thomas Anderson. However, early reviews have highlighted the oddball nature of the film, and most seem to think that its tone will be off-putting for the audience. A prediction of $35 million is pretty reasonable at this point.

THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES- December 17

Five-Day Opening Weekend Prediction- $120 million
Total Gross Prediction- $310 million

The Hobbit franchise has received a lot of hate over the last few years, mostly for the fact that it really shouldn't be a franchise at all. Yet each and every time, people show up and pay to see the new Hobbit film. The final installment in the franchise will be no different. In the end, this will most likely be the highest grossing film in the series.

MR. TURNER- December 19 (limited)

Opening Weekend Prediction- $150,000
Total Gross Prediction- $7.5 million

For a while, Timothy Spall was one of the front-runners for Best Actor for his performance in this film. Now, that buzz has kind of slipped away. If Sony Pictures Classics can find a way to thrust Spall and Mr. Turner back into the race, maybe this film makes over $10 million. But Sony Classics has bigger Oscar contenders (Foxcatcher and Whiplash) and this film will likely be drowned out by the tons of other Oscar films.

ANNIE- December 19

Opening Weekend Prediction- $26.5 million
Total Gross Prediction- $90 million

This film actually doesn't look egregiously awful. I think that it could be a lot of fun and the cast, which includes Jamie Foxx, Quvenshane Wallis, Rose Byrne and Cameron Diaz, is fantastic. Not to mention the fact that the marketing campaign got started very early this year. I'm low-balling this projection because of the competition, but the sky is the limit for this one.

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: SECRET OF THE TOMB- December 19

Opening Weekend Prediction- $35 million
Total Gross Prediction- $115 million

Now this is a film that looks awful. The trailer was so incredibly atrocious and so frighteningly terrible that I can't even imagine watching this film. However, this franchise is powerful and I'm betting that this film manages to pull in at least $100 million. Not to mention that this is one of the final film roles for beloved comedian Robin Williams. All in all, Fox should have a hit with this one.

THE GAMBLER- December 19 (limited)

Opening Weekend Prediction- $200,000
Total Gross Prediction- $40 million

This all-star crime drama looks very good, but has an uphill battle in front of it. First off, the reviews coming out of AFI Fest were solid, yet unspectacular. The film is currently hovering at 50% on Rotten Tomatoes and 58 on Metacritic. Granted, it's early, but that's still not good. Secondly, this is not an art house film, but it's getting a limited release in December and then going wide in January. Will it thrive in December? Probably not. It might pick up steam in January, but I doubt it.

AMERICAN SNIPER- December 25 (limited), January 16 (wide)

Four-Day Opening Weekend Prediction- $300,000
Total Gross Prediction- $50 million

This dark, violent war drama will likely perform on par with most of director Clint Eastwood's recent efforts. American Sniper had a great first trailer and early reviews were mostly positive, but not glowing (63 on Metacritic and 86% on Rotten Tomatoes). However, this is a darker character study than say, Lone Survivor, so I doubt that it will make too much money.

BIG EYES- December 25 (limited)

Four-Day Opening Weekend Prediction- $200,000
Total Gross Prediction- $35 million

Like American Sniper and The Gambler, Big Eyes also premiered at this week's AFI Fest in Hollywood. Early reviews were mixed, with the film hanging at 67% on RT and 61 on Metacritic. Not bad scores, but not nearly good enough to find a way into this tough Oscar race. As for the film's commercial prospects, they're good. Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz are stars and Burton brings in crowds. Yet I just don't see it breaking out.

SELMA- December 25 (limited), January 9 (wide)

Four-Day Opening Weekend Prediction- $600,000
Total Gross Prediction- $140 million

Selma is now the front-runner for Best Picture. Crazy, right? This film barely scraped its way to a premiere on Monday night at the AFI Fest, but it received absolutely glowing reviews. Critics praised the film and it is now one of the top films to beat. That will translate to a lot of success at the box office.

INTO THE WOODS- December 25

Four-Day Opening Weekend Prediction- $45 million
Total Gross Prediction- $120 million

This star-studded fantasy musical drama will likely be one of the go-to picks for families this Christmas. It's a Disney movie, it's got Oscar potential and it's based on some very famous fairy tales. Not to mention the cast that includes Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Chris Pine and Johnny Depp. Unless this film is awful (which it could be), there's a good chance it's a hit.

UNBROKEN- December 25

Four-Day Opening Weekend Prediction- $36 million
Total Gross Prediction- $150 million

This is one of the few remaining Oscar question marks, but it is certainly going to be a major box office hit. It's directed by Angelina Jolie and has a solid cast, yet the film's biggest draw is that it's based off an incredibly popular book. Everybody I know seems to love this book and that will bring a lot of people in to see this movie.

THE INTERVIEW- December 25

Four-Day Opening Weekend Prediction- $40 million
Total Gross Prediction- $110 million

James Franco and Seth Rogen have been on a roll lately, and their latest premise is just too good to pass up. A film about going to North Korea to kill Kim Jong-Un sounds like so much fun and that will bring in a lot of people over the holiday weekend. It won't be as big as Neighbors, but this will be a sizable hit.

A MOST VIOLENT YEAR- December 31 (limited)

Opening Weekend Prediction- $250,000
Total Gross Prediction- $27 million

Neither of director JC Chandor's previous films broke out at the box office, but A Most Violent Year could be different. The film stars Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac and is a sprawling crime drama set in New York City. That should translate to some box office success, especially if the well-reviewed film starts getting more Oscar buzz.

That's it for my fall box office predictions. It's shaping up to be a great season for movies.

'Rush' star Daniel Bruhl joins 'Captain America: Civil War'

It seems that almost everyone in Hollywood has been in a Marvel movie so far and Marvel is adding another fantastic actor to the mix. Rush and Inglourious Basterds star Daniel Bruhl is joining the cast of Captain America: Civil War. The news was announced by Marvel yesterday afternoon. Marvel gave no other details on the story beyond a quote from studio head Kevin Feige, who said that "With Daniel's ability to deliver intense, nuanced performances, we knew that we had found yet another great actor to share the screen with some of our biggest heroes." Marvel broke the news before Latino Review's El Mayimbe and The Wrap's Jeff Sneider could break the story. However, Mayimbe and Sneider both delivered some more interesting details.


Sneider was one of the first people to tweet about the casting, and in his tweet, he reported that Bruhl was playing a villain in the film. In his article over at The Wrap, Sneider also reported that Bruhl may have signed on for more than one film. According to Sneider's sources, Bruhl could be playing the main villain in Doctor Strange, which would be big. Many people then asked Mayimbe who Bruhl was playing in the film, which he replied to be tweeting "BARON MORDO!!!" 

I'm not familiar with Baron Mordo, but I'm very excited about this casting. Rush was one of my favorite films of 2013, and Bruhl gives a terrific performance in that film. He's also very good in Inglourious Basterds, one of my favorite films. It's safe to say that Bruhl is one of my favorite young actors and I'm very happy that he's taking his talents to Marvel. Captain America: Civil War is being directed by Joe and Anthony Russo and stars Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Chadwick Boseman and Daniel Bruhl. It will hit theaters on May 6, 2016. 


Image Credits: Schmoes Know

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

'Big Hero 6' review

Disney Animation has been on a roll lately, churning out hits like Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph before producing one massive, game-changing blockbuster in Frozen. Disney is now the premiere animation studio in Hollywood once again, and it looks like they have another hit on their hands with Big Hero 6. Quality-wise, Big Hero 6 is a slight step back for the studio. It's a fun film and it's a film that's easy to love, but it's predictable and flawed. The relationship between the central characters is strong, yet I expected to love it much more than I did. Disney will undoubtedly get a franchise out of Big Hero 6 and I can only hope that they realize the strengths (emotion) and weaknesses (story) of this film.


Hiro (Ryan Potter) is a budding young scientist with a lot of potential, who really only wants to do robot fighting. However, when his brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney), brings him to the glorious and incredible "Nerd School", Hiro immediately finds a new passion in life. But after a terrible tragedy and the emergence of a new supervillain in town, Hiro must team up with four other scientist friends (TJ Miller, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez and Jamie Chung) to save the world. Hiro's strongest bond ends up being with the cuddly and cute robot Baymax (Scott Adsit) who helps him overcome tragedies and learn to let go.

Big Hero 6 is an endlessly cute film, with a lot of surprisingly mature themes and fun action. So I've had trouble trying to figure out why I felt let down by this movie. Maybe it was the lackluster and tedious first act. Maybe it was the forgettable supporting characters. Maybe it was the predictable plot and even more obvious twist. In the end, I think it was a combination of all of those things. However, despite the movie's shortcomings, Big Hero 6 is enjoyable thanks to emotion injected into every scene and the awesomeness that is Baymax. He's one of my favorite movie characters of the last few years. Big Hero 6 will entertain kids with its Marvel-esque action and funny characters and will probably be enjoyable for adults as well thanks to the relationships. It might be contrived and predictable, but it overcomes that by being a film injected with sadness, passion and joy.

Big Hero 6 starts off well, with an exciting and hilarious robot fight between Hiro and a fat Japanese gangster. Despite that quick start, Big Hero 6 quickly falls off. The first act of this film is surprisingly bland and laborious, dwelling on the "fun" science aspects and the less interesting supporting characters. Hiro's relationship with Tadashi is strong, but Tadashi isn't exactly the most interesting person in the world. All of the supporting superheros are also introduced during this time period and none of them are particularly entertaining, funny or compelling. I definitely liked TJ Miller's Fred the most, but Go-Go, Honey Lemon and Wasabi are kind of uninteresting, one note characters.

The movie comes alive with the arrival of Baymax, the appealing and adorable robot character. Baymax is a weird mix of the Iron Giant and Mary Poppins. He was designed by Tadashi as a healer and was made for the sole purpose of helping others. That is an interesting story device because Hiro is trying to overcome the pain of losing someone close to him (even though it's revealed in the trailers, I won't spoil it here). Baymax helps him to let go and it makes for the sharpest emotional point of the movie.

The animation is also breathtaking and shockingly realistic, undoubtedly some of the best work that Disney has ever done. Every single detail on the characters is fantastic and perfectly articulated. Setting the film in the fictional world of San Fransokyo was a stroke of genius from the filmmakers, allowing them to do a lot of cool stuff with the animation. The action is perfectly constructed as well, although as someone who has experienced countless Marvel extravaganzas, this was really nothing.

The story is another trouble spot for the film, because it is so egregiously predictable. I typically am not bothered by predictability in films, but in Big Hero 6, it was extremely obvious. I give the film credit for throwing a twist in there, yet I figured that out as soon as they began hinting at it. Disney's typically innovative storytelling is truly not present in this film.

The action in the third act will probably appeal to people of all ages, but I think it will be the biggest hit with children who haven't seen the big-scale superhero blockbusters of the past few years. Kids who have already experienced films like The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy will likely still enjoy this. Just not as much as those who haven't seen those movies yet. The final act is an appropriate mix of big-scale Marvel action (not surprising since Big Hero 6 was based off a Marvel comic) and down-to-Earth human emotion. It's a fantastic conclusion to an imperfect film.

In the end, Big Hero 6 gets by thanks to its raw and surprising human emotion. Even though it's packed with so-so action and poor storytelling, Big Hero 6 is a film that everyone can relate to thanks to the love and care taken by the filmmakers to craft an affecting film. Days later, I'm still thinking about the film's emotions and I realize now that this is a much deeper film than I initially thought. It's a light achievement, but any film that can find a way to my heart is a film worth watching.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B                                              (7.2/10)


Image Credits: Hitfix, Yahoo, Screen Rant, Cartoon Brew, Disney Wikia

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Margot Robbie to play Harley Quinn in DC's 'Suicide Squad'

Late last week, the news broke that Jared Leto was being recruited to play the Joker in DC's Suicide Squad after megastar Ryan Gosling passed on the role. The Dallas Buyers Club actor has not officially signed on yet, but I wouldn't be surprised to see something get finalized in the next week or two. A few weeks back, we also heard that Tom Hardy, Margot Robbie, and Will Smith were in talks to star in the film. A scoop that Collider got on Sunday gives us a much better idea of who Robbie will be playing.

According to Collider and their sources, Robbie will be playing Harley Quinn, the love interest of the Clown Prince of Crime. Quinn is one of the most famous Batman villains not yet portrayed on screen, so this is an interesting move. Margot Robbie is also one of the hottest actresses in Hollywood right now, with roles in major films such as Focus and Tarzan. She seems to have a good relationship with Warner Bros., the studio behind Suicide Squad. I'm excited for this movie, but I hope that DC manages to create some new and exciting characters in addition to the stalwarts like the Joker and Lex Luthor. Casting Robbie as Harley Quinn is certainly a strong opening move.


Image Credits: Comic Vine

Sunday, November 9, 2014

'Interstellar' review

Christopher Nolan has made some of the most terrific films of our time, and some of my personal favorite movies. The Dark Knight and Inception are insanely brilliant and that's why I was pumped for Nolan's Interstellar. A grand, sweeping epic in themes and in scope, Interstellar is an ambitious movie that emerges as one of the most amazing films I've ever seen. The film is dense and complicated and you surely won't understand all of it the first time you see it (I've seen it twice and I still have questions). And it's not a perfect film either. It has flaws, but it's a film that you just can't shake. I sat in the theater in awe, fully engrossed by the grand and sprawling vision that Nolan had put on screen. Interstellar is another brilliant masterpiece from my favorite director and it's a film that will be sticking around for a long time.


Interstellar is set in a ravaged future America, where food is scarce and crops are dying. It's essentially a futuristic dust bowl and society has fallen apart. Innovation is scarce and humanity is focused only on surviving. Our hero is Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), a farmer with two kids who is way too smart for his job. Cooper is a pilot and an engineer and he is unsettled by the lack of imagination in society. The Earth is slowly dying and nobody seems able to do anything about it. However, when something leads Cooper to the underground headquarters of NASA, things change.

Dr. Brand (Michael Caine) is heading up a top-secret NASA project that will utilize a wormhole just beyond Saturn to travel to another galaxy. Cooper is the only chance that NASA has, so he has to take it, leaving his son Tom and his beloved daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy). Cooper leaves Earth with Doyle (Wes Bentley), Romilly (David Gyasi), Brand's daughter Amelia (Anne Hathaway), and two artificially intelligent robots, TARS (Bill Irwin) and CASE (Josh Stewart). Their journey into deep space will reveal some of the greatest discoveries in human history.

If you found Inception to be confusing and overly difficult, get ready for Interstellar. This labyrinth of a space opera is packed with heady science ideas including relativity, alternate dimensions, time travel, wormholes, gravity, and much, much more. It's almost too much for one film, but Nolan's brilliant direction and superb script make the film go down with ease. Even if you don't understand all of the science, you'll still be engrossed by the drama at hand. There's a lot of material packed into this film, but it's spread out across a sprawling 169 minute runtime that goes by in a flash. Interstellar is a brilliant film with a lot to unpack and a lot to enjoy. That's what makes it so special.

The film is very much separated into three acts, and the first act takes place completely on Earth. In fact, we don't even get to space until an hour into the film. And that's okay, because the Earthbound action is spectacularly entertaining. Nolan, like David Fincher among other directors, has a knack for making everyday conversation seem interesting. There's an immediacy to the dialogue that I love. I know that some people find Nolan's dialogue flawed, but I've always enjoyed it. He also creates an interesting vision of Earth in the future that is both distant and familiar, scary and comforting.

When the action moves to space, Nolan runs into his biggest problem (which is actually pretty small). There's action to get to, but there are things that have to happen first. He needs to get through plot points, but you can tell that he had to rush through some of it. The transition between Earth and space is rather jarring and once we get there, things become slightly choppy. The crew jumps from being in space to being in hyper sleep to being in the wormhole to being on the first planet in a matter of about thirty minutes, and it's slightly rushed. I know that Nolan had to keep this film at a reasonable runtime, but I really wish there had been more time to look at some of those aspects. But I digress. I was never bored during the second act, I just wish that Nolan had more time to let the characters and the situations breathe.

The third act is where things get crazy. I won't divulge many details about what goes down, but it's what makes this movie extraordinary. Nolan cranks up the action to 11 in the third act and it makes for one of the best theater experiences I've ever had. The film was thrilling and yet it blew my mind at the same time. Try to go into the film with as few spoilers as possible, because it will be so much more enjoyable.

With the exception of Heath Ledger's performance in The Dark Knight, I've rarely been blown away by the performances in Nolan's films. They're always good, but rarely extraordinary. For the most part, that's the case with the actors in Interstellar. Matthew McConaughey is  great as Cooper and you really care for his character. Hathaway also shows great restrain and creates a nuanced character. Mackenzie Foy is a standout as young Murph and as many critics have noted, David Gyasi does a great job as Romilly.

This is a massive cast, with several supporting roles for big time actors. Bill Irwin and Josh Stewart bring life to two fun AI characters, Michael Caine is fantastic as Brand, and Wes Bentley does good in his limited role. Casey Affleck and Jessica Chastain are good, but underused as Cooper's older kids. Topher Grace is pretty good in his small, yet integral role and one of Hollywood's most famous actors (who I will not mention in this review) does a great job of creating a complex character.

Nolan's script is incredibly precise, with a level of detail that only he could get away with. The script was co-written by his brother Johnathan Nolan and he does a great job of mixing complex and trippy scientific ideas with genuine human drama and emotion. It's a terrific high wire act and I loved it. I honestly wish that this movie was closer to 200 minutes. It feels rushed at 169 minutes.

On the technical side of things, Interstellar is an amazing achievement. The cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema is grainy on Earth and beautifully clear in space, comparing and contrasting the environments nicely. Hans Zimmer's brilliant score is fantastic, mixing the usual action movie score tropes with the sound of organs blasting through the speakers. Interstellar is very much a visual and aural experience, and Zimmer's score contributes to that. The visual effects are undeniably amazing as well. Some of the visual effects work is completely groundbreaking and I was very impressed.

If this movie had been done on a smaller scale, its issues might become more problematic. But Interstellar is done on such a majestic scale that the issues feel minuscule in the grand scheme of things. The film spans hundreds of years, conquering themes that no other filmmaker would dare touch. To call it one of the most ambitious films I've ever seen would be an understatement.

Interstellar is not a perfect film. Nobody will say that it is. I doubt that even Nolan would call this a perfect movie. But it is a film that is incredible on so many levels. On my initial viewing, it hooked me in the opening minutes, lost me for a moment in the second act, and then blew my freaking mind in the home stretch. The second time around I was even more enthralled- my problems with the second act were pretty much gone. Like Nolan's other films, there's just an indescribable feeling that came over me when I watched this movie. It was a strange mix of excitement, love and wonder and it was incredible. It's a film that only Nolan could make and it's one of the greatest cinematic accomplishments I've ever witnessed.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A+                                            (10/10)



Image Credits: Wired,  Huffington Post, Impact Magazine, Huffington Post, Movie Pilot, Hollywood Reporter

'Big Hero 6' leads with $56.2 million, while 'Interstellar' has a solid opening at weekend box office

This weekend was one of the biggest box office weekends of the year and a dream lineup for the industry. Highly anticipated films Interstellar and Big Hero 6 both opened, but unsurprisingly, Disney's new animated flick opened on top. Big Hero 6 snagged $56.2 million, which is an improvement on both Wreck-It Ralph and Tangled. It wasn't as monumentally high as last year's Frozen, but it's still an incredibly impressive opening. Big Hero 6 also received an "A" Cinemascore, which should keep it near the top of the box office charts for the next few weeks. I enjoyed the film, and I've got a review coming soon. Meanwhile, the film also took in $29 million overseas for a total worldwide opening of $79.2 million. Not bad at all. 


Christopher Nolan's epic sci-fi drama Interstellar finished in second place with $50 million this weekend. It's likely that Interstellar will end up falling just shy of that number, but it's still a solid opening. The good news for Interstellar is that it's become a national talking point, with debate across the internet. I see this film being a divisive word-of-mouth dynamo like Gone Girl and I wouldn't be surprised to see it hit $200 million. The film received a "B+" Cinemascore, which is the same score that Inception got a few years back (according to Deadline). International grosses were even stronger, totaling $80 million. The film has grossed $132.1 million worldwide, which is very impressive. I know that I'll be back to see it a couple more times. It's one of the most extraordinary films I've ever seen. 

After that, the box office becomes much less interesting. Gone Girl finished in third place again with $6.1 million. The psychological thriller has now made $145.4 million and will likely finish with around $160 million, which is very impressive for a dark adult drama. Ouija was just behind Gone Girl in fourth place with $6 million. The critically lambasted horror flick has now grossed $43.4 million on a $5 million budget. This is why we can't have nice things.

St. Vincent continued its impressive box office run with $5.7 million this weekend in fifth place. The low-budget indie comedy has now grossed $27.3 million. Open Road's Nightcrawler dropped only 47% to sixth place and grossed $5.5 million. The critically adored thriller has now made $19.7 million, which is solid considering its modest budget. All in all, I can't wait to see this movie and I hope it continues to do well. 

In seventh place was Sony's Fury, which took in $5.5 million this weekend. The fantastic and gripping war drama has now made $69.2 million in the US and will probably crawl its way to $80 million. Not overly impressive considering its budget was $68 million. John Wick was not far behind in eighth place with $4 million, which was enough to raise its total to $34.7 million. The film only cost $20 million so Lionsgate is already making profit off this one. 

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day finished in ninth place this weekend and snagged $3.4 million. The Disney movie has now grossed $59.2 million, which is incredibly impressive considering its $28 million budget. Finally, The Book of Life rounded out the top ten with $2.8 million. The film has now made $45.2 million.

In the independent film world, Birdman was in front once again with $2.3 million. The Oscar favorite has made $8 million so far. The Theory of Everything also had a solid debut in five theaters, grossing $207,000. Very good opening, and this film will likely be a powerhouse once it expands to more theaters. 

Next weekend sees the release of Dumb and Dumber To, Rosewater and Beyond the Lights, along with the limited release of Foxcatcher. Here are my predictions:

1. Big Hero 6- $36 million
2. Interstellar- $32.5 million
3. Dumb and Dumber To- $22.5 million
4. Beyond the Lights- $6 million
5. Gone Girl- $4.9 million
6. Rosewater- $4.7 million
7. Ouija- $4.5 million
8. St. Vincent- $4 million
9. Nightcrawler- $3.5 million
10. Fury- $3.4 million


Image Credits: Yahoo, Wired, Screen Rant, Disney Wikia

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Jared Leto in talks to play The Joker in DC's 'Suicide Squad'

DC's Cinematic Universe is finally getting started up and they have a lot to prove at this point. Warner Bros. and DC had a lot of success with Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy, but they struggled to find success with Green Lantern and even Man of Steel didn't live up to box office expectations. As DC attempted to salvage a cinematic universe, Marvel decided it was time to take over Hollywood with mega-hits like The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy. So with Marvel firmly in front in the comic book arms race, DC is ready to prove that they're a legit powerhouse. Nine films were announced a few weeks ago, and one of the most curious properties is Suicide Squad. The film, which focuses on supervillains, is being directed by David Ayer and will hit theaters on August 5, 2016. I'm interested in the film, but I don't think it's a good idea to have such an obscure property so early on during the construction of the cinematic universe. However, some very interesting steps have been taken by Warner Bros. already when it comes to Suicide Squad.

A few weeks ago, Collider reported that DC was targeting Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Tom Hardy, and Ryan Gosling for the film. Big name stars and very good actors, so I was initially impressed. But I knew that DC wasn't going to get all of those stars. I'm still certain that Tom Hardy will be going to play Apocalypse in the next X-Men film and now, according to The Wrap, Ryan Gosling has left the project as well. The Wrap reports that Smith, Hardy and Robbie are still in talks, but that Gosling has ended talks because of the studio's insistence on a multi-picture deal. That brings Jared Leto into the picture. According to The Wrap's source, the Dallas Buyers Club actor will be playing the role of the Joker in the film if the deal gets finalized.

Suicide Squad is becoming a more interesting project by the day and I'm excited at the casting of Jared Leto. I'm not overly excited that they're doing the Joker again (after Heath Ledger's nightmarish portrayal, where can you go?), but if anyone's going to do it, I'm glad it's an actor like Leto. The report from The Wrap mentioned other important details including that Jesse Eisenberg is also reprising his role as Lex Luthor in this film, which means that some of the biggest baddies in the DC universe will be in Suicide Squad. Also noted in the report is that Latino Review caught a scoop that Cara Delevingne could be playing Harley Quinn in the film, which could be interesting. All in all, I'm pumped for this movie and I'm hoping that David Ayer can deliver an awesome action flick. 


Image Credits: Comic Vine, DC Comics

Friday, November 7, 2014

'Dumb and Dumber To' review

I should start this review with a caveat: I'm not a fan of Jim Carrey. His manic, over-the-top comedy is occasionally funny, but often gratingly idiotic. I know that's the point. It has just never appealed to me. So I went into Dumb and Dumber To with a lot of trepidation. In the end, I laughed a lot in what amounts to an exceedingly mediocre and poorly concocted film. The jokes are quite funny at times and I was actually surprised by the cleverness of the humor. However, there are long stretches of tedium and blandness in addition to the inspired moments. Not to mention the nonsensical and frustrating plot. This is a funny, yet oddly disposable film that you likely won't remember not long after initially watching it.


Dumb and Dumber To continues the misadventures of Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) and Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey). When the film begins, we find Lloyd in a mental hospital, where he's seemingly been for 20 years. Turns out, that was all a big gag to fool Harry. Lloyd leaves the mental hospital and the two best friends are reunited. However, more problems arise when Harry reveals that he's experiencing kidney failure and that he needs a new kidney soon or he will die. The two then set off on a series of adventures to find Harry's long-lost daughter in the hopes that she will give him a kidney.

Dumb and Dumber To is an unquestionably bad movie. It's a poorly written story, drawn out over the course of an incredibly long film and it has long stretches of averageness. And honestly- who would have expected anything else? But the real crime of Dumb and Dumber To is how extremely and incredibly forgettable it is. Few jokes warrant more than a brief chuckle and the number of true laughs pales in comparison to 2014's comedy instant classics, 22 Jump Street and Neighbors. Dumb and Dumber To is crass, crude, surprisingly raunchy, stupid, moronic and ridiculous, yet it just never truly connects in the way that it should.

Despite the fact that I didn't honestly like this movie at all, I will admit that I laughed a lot. For a movie franchise that thrives on rudimentary fart and poop jokes, Dumb and Dumber To is packed with clever gags that poke fun at the characters' idiocy. How smart the dumb humor was actually ended up being quite shocking to me. You can definitely have a lot of fun with these characters and Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels portray Lloyd and Harry quite well. The supporting cast is decidedly less spectacular. Rob Riggle is quite funny in two roles and Rachel Melvin plays a total idiot well, but they're really the only bright spots.

I also appreciated the idiotic brotherly bond that the two main characters have. The Farrelly Brothers know what they have in Carrey and Daniels and they often exploit their chemistry to great comedic and sometimes emotional success. You truly feel the connection between the characters and it was a bright spot for the movie.

Nonetheless, the story in this movie is so basic, so crushingly uninteresting that you can't help but groan. I know that nobody is truly going into Dumb and Dumber looking for a compelling story or a consistent tone, but I feel like that's just a cop-out excuse for bad movies. One could say that they're just going into 22 Jump Street or Superbad for the laughs, but they'll more than likely still be interested in the story. That's why I don't think that the tedious, convoluted and nonsensical story in Dumb and Dumber To should be excused.

And say all you want about wanting to see this movie just for the laughs, but there are long stretches during this movie where no laughs are to be found. At certain points during the movie, I realized that I hadn't laughed for the past 15-20 minutes and that was concerning to me. This is also a very long movie and to be honest, it felt much longer than Interstellar did (which is saying a lot). Another misstep comes at the end of the film, where it is essentially revealed that the plot of the film was entirely pointless. I won't discuss more here because of spoilers, but this ending frustrated and annoyed me to no end.

The basic problem with this movie is that it is so blandly generic and forgettable. There's just nothing there to remember or care about. I saw this movie only a mere two days ago, and I've already forgotten all but a few of the really memorable gags. There's truly nothing in it that distinguishes it from the original film and there's nothing that made it stand out from any of the other great comedies this year. It wasn't a movie that I actively hated watching. It just reeked of mediocrity and tedium.

To absolutely no one's surprise, Dumb and Dumber To is a moronic, overlong, drawn out, poorly scripted, poorly structured and just plain bad movie. However, it is quite funny at times and if you liked the first film in the franchise and really don't care about any of the things that I just listed, then go for it. But for the rest of the world, this is a movie that will fall from the collective consciousness faster than the blink of an eye. It's that forgettable and disposable.

THE FINAL GRADE:   C                                             (5.7/10)


Image Credits: YouTube, Nuke the Fridge, The Independent, Flickering Myth

Cast list and synopsis revealed for Quentin Tarantino's 'The Hateful Eight'

Quentin Tarantino's films always inspire a lot of discussion and controversy, but The Hateful Eight became controversial before it even began filming. The script for the film leaked before production and Tarantino had a mini breakdown, initially scrapping the project. However, he came around eventually and decided that the film was worth doing. A teaser poster was revealed a few months back and there was a small teaser trailer attached to Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Now, we know much more about the cast of this film and the story. Check out the press release from The Weinstein Company below to learn more about the film:

"The Weinstein Company (TWC) announced today that an incredible list of top acting talent has come on board to star in Academy Award winning writer/director Quentin Tarantino's upcoming post-Civil War western, The Hateful Eight. The Hateful Eight are: Academy Award nominee Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained) as Major Marquis Warren, Golden Globe nominee Kurt Russell (Escape From New York) as John "The Hangman" Ruth, Golden Globe nominee Jennifer Jason Leigh (Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle) as Daisy Domergue, Emmy nominee Walton Goggins (Justified) as Chris Mannix, Academy Award nominee Demian Bichir (A Better Life) as Bob, Academy Award nominee Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs) as Oswaldo Mobray, Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs) as Joe Gage and Academy Award nominee Bruce Dern (Nebraska) as General Sanford Smithers. Also, Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher) has signed on for a role in the project. This will be Leigh, Bichir and Tatum's first film with Tarantino, while the rest of the cast has worked with him in the past. The Hateful Eight is the eighth feature for the filmmaker, whose last film Django Unchained earned him and Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and grossed over $425 million worldwide."

The Hateful Eight is supposed to be coming out in late 2015, and I really hope that it makes that date. This seems like the kind of violent, vicious revenge dramas that will suit Tarantino perfectly.

Press release via Deadline

'Star Wars: Episode VII' receives its official title

Ever since Disney announced that they had purchased Lucasfilm in late 2012 and revealed that Star Wars: Episode VII was in the works, fans have been chomping at the bits to know even the smallest piece of information about the film and Disney's plans for the Star Wars universe. First, we learned that JJ Abrams would be directing the film and spearheading the universe in a way. After that, Disney revealed the stellar cast list and a few more additional directors for future films. Another big piece of information was revealed yesterday when Disney announced the official title of Star Wars: Episode VII.


When Disney made the announcement that Star Wars: Episode VII had completed principal photography on Twitter, they revealed that the official title of the film is Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The internet immediately exploded. The title has spurred lots of discussion between Star Wars fans and there are all sorts of rumors about what the title means. Screen Rant has a whole article breaking things down and it's a great read. In my opinion, it's a solid title and I have to say that I'm getting increasingly excited for this movie. Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens is directed by JJ Abrams with a cast that includes Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Andy Serkis, Max von Sydow, Lupita Nyong'o and Gwedoline Christie. The film will be released on December 18, 2015.

Image Credits: CNet

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Disney officially announces 'Toy Story 4'; John Lasseter set to direct

In my mind, the Toy Story trilogy is one of the few perfect film trilogies. I believe that it's up there with Nolan's Batman movies and The Lord of the Rings franchise. And to be honest, Toy Story 3 ended on a major high note. The end of that movie makes me cry more than any other film and it's the perfect ending to the perfect trilogy. But let's be realistic here- we knew that Toy Story 4 was going to happen. The third installment grossed over $1 billion worldwide and still is the second highest grossing animated movie of all time. That's just too much money to pass up and Disney has finally given in.

During an earnings call with analysts, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced that Toy Story 4 is coming and will be directed by John Lasseter, who was responsible for the first two films in the trilogy. Later on, we learned officially that Toy Story 4 will hit theaters on June 16, 2017. I first caught the news on Twitter, but Deadline was one of the first to report the announcement during their live blog of the earnings call. As Rope of Silicon notes, that puts it right in the middle of an incredibly crowded June that also includes How to Train Your Dragon 3 (June 9), Wonder Woman (June 23) and Despicable Me 3 (June 30). 

Despite knowing that it's a cash grab, I can't help but be excited for Toy Story 4. The trilogy has been a huge part of my childhood and I love those movies. Plus, Toy Story 4 will be hitting theaters during the summer before I head off to college so it will undoubtedly be insanely emotional for me. As long as it's good, I'll be happy. No word on the cast, but I have to imagine that the principal cast from the trilogy will return. All in all, this is huge and I'm sure that we'll learn more about this news in the near future. 

Sources: Rope of Silicon, Deadline

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Christian Bale drops out of Steve Jobs biopic, Michael Fassbender now in talks to star in the film

Steve Jobs sorta kinda got a biopic back in 2013 in the form of Jobs, but the one we've truly been waiting for is still in pre-production. The latest Jobs biopic, written by Aaron Sorkin (Moneyball, The Social Network) and produced by superstar Hollywood player Scott Rudin, has hit a brick wall in recent months. Iconic director David Fincher, who worked with Sorkin and Rudin on The Social Network, was originally set to direct the film. However, Fincher left after Sony denied him a $10 million upfront fee and control over the film's marketing. According to The Hollywood Reporter's April article, Sony was disappointed in the results of the marketing for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and didn't want to give Fincher control again. That ended those discussions very quickly.

Later on, Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle joined the film and is now set to helm the project for Sony. But the movie has run into an even bigger problem now: finding its star. Christian Bale was originally in talks when Fincher was rumored to be directing, but he departed the project rather quickly. Leonardo Dicaprio then entered the picture. In early October, The Hollywood Reporter ran another article reporting that Dicaprio had departed for Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's The Revenant. Bale then came back into the picture later in October, but has now left once again after deciding that he wasn't right for the part.

That brings Prometheus and 12 Years a Slave star Michael Fassbender into the picture. Variety's sources confirm that Fassbender is in talks to play the Apple co-founder in the film. Seth Rogen is also in talks to play Steve Wozniak in the film, but according to Variety, no formal offer has been made. It wouldn't surprise me if Fassbender left the film as well, but hopefully Sony can get everything together and make a push for the talented actor.

Sources: The Hollywood Reporter, Variety