Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Original 'Batman' TV show will receive movie adaptation with Adam West and Burt Ward

Believe it or not, Batman wasn't always quite so dark. The post-9/11 era of American blockbusters and Christopher Nolan took Batman in a grimy, pitch black new direction to the hero and had a lot of success with The Dark Knight trilogy. Tim Burton's Batman also had a bit of an edge to him, but if you go back to the origins of Batman in the entertainment industry, it was as goofy as possible. The 1960's Batman TV show features a heavy dose of campy entertainment and introduced a lot of silly members of the Batman Rogues Gallery. I watched a little bit of the 1960's Batman when I was a kid, but it also felt like something for a very young audience. It seems like Warner Bros. (who retained the rights to the series) and stars Adam West and Burt Ward have realized this and will move forward with a bunch of new projects.

At the Mad Monster Party in my hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, West and Ward announced that they will be commemorating the 50th Anniversary with a new 90 minute animated film. Ward also hinted that there could be a second film, which is quite exciting. Batman is my favorite superhero and I love seeing different iterations on the character. I hope that this new animated flick goes to theaters, because I think that it would really clean up at the box office. The campy animated Batman will certainly not be on par with the live-action flicks, but I'm just hoping for a good bit of fun. In all likelihood, this new animated movie will debut in early 2016, and as Adam Holmes noted at Cinemablend, just around the same time as Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

'Vacation' moves up to July 31 to face off against 'Mission: Impossible'

Hollywood's tendency to remake and reboot everything has come back to ruin some classic films over the years, but every once in a while, a remake will actually improve upon the original. While I'm not saying that Warner Bros. and New Line's Vacation reboot will be better than the classic Chevy Chase flick or its famous sequel (Christmas Vacation), but it has a chance to actually be an interesting and fun spin on the original film. Chevy Chase and Beverly D'Angelo are reprising their roles from the original film, with Ed Helms and Leslie Mann taking on the roles of the adult Rusty and Audrey Griswold. Christina Applegate, Keegan Michael-Key, Chris Hemsworth and Elizabeth Gillies are also appearing in the film, which is directed by John Francis Daley and Johnathan M. Goldstein. It's safe to say that there's a lot of promise for this comedy, and Warner Bros. has definitely realized that.

Warner Bros. and New Line have moved Vacation to July 31 in place of its original October 9 release date. Vacation will face off against Paramount's Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation and the second weekend of Pan, Pixels and Paper Towns. Although it is a crowded field, Vacation will be the first true comedy since Trainwreck and has the potential to impress at the box office through August. It likely will be PG-13, which should allow the comedy to reach a wide audience of teens and nostalgic adults. There's no guarantee that this will be good, but I think that there's a lot of potential for Vacation.

Image Credits: Drafthouse

Monday, March 30, 2015

'Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief' review

I've always wondered what goes on in the world of Scientology. In American culture and especially the world of Hollywood, Scientology exists as this sort of enigma, something that everybody knows about, but nobody truly knows what it is. If you mention the word Scientology to someone, they'll probably know that Tom Cruise and John Travolta are members and maybe they'll know a little bit about the basics of the religion, but they probably won't know much more than that. Part of that can be chalked up to the almost paradoxical complexity of the religion and part of the blame can be placed on David Miscavige and the secrecy of the powerful organization. Alex Gibney's Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief premiered at Sundance in January and is just now debuting on HBO, and it reveals an unprecedented, haunting and baffling look at the twisted world of L. Ron Hubbard, David Miscavige and Scientology.

Going Clear chronicles most of the history of Scientology, starting with pulp fiction writer Hubbard and his interest in the occult. It moves on to deal with Dianetics, before examining the modern history of the Church, with its massive abuses of power, blackmail, secret Hollywood dealings and brutal prison camps. Through the use of interviews with high ranking former members of the Church (the most famous being director Paul Haggis), Gibney provides a dumbfounding and intriguing look at one of America's most secretive "religions."

If there ever was a story about the abuse of power and the dangers of faith, the tale of Scientology is it. And Gibney does an absolutely fabulous job of crafting a unique and incredible look into the Church. Scientology began as a way for L. Ron Hubbard to make money slowly without getting taxed and quickly evolved into a dangerous organization. And I believe that a lot of that started with David Miscavige. However, the first half of the film is devoted to Hubbard's tale, and of course, the guy was a bit nuts. Hubbard was involved in a satanic cult at one point and was an abusive and manipulative figure in regards to his relationship with his wife. He used Dianetics as a sort of complement to the psychology and psychoanalysis of the 1950's and he continued to spread the word of the Church with the help of a group of loyal teenagers.

Hubbard eventually became a problem and spent most of the remainder of his life in hiding. The real question that the film leaves open is: Did Hubbard really intend for Scientology to be the awful force that it is? Or were his intentions elsewhere? I don't know for sure and I couldn't possibly speculate. However, I do know that power in the Church was passed down the line to David Miscavige, who is portrayed terrifyingly in this film. Gibney managed to snag interviews with both famous Hollywood figures and former high-ranking members of the Scientology hierarchy. All of those members describe Miscavige as an insane, deluded, dangerous and violent individual.

Gibney structures most of the disturbing and unbelievable truths of the film in the second half, especially once they reach the Tom Cruise scandal and the prison camps. We all vaguely knew what happened with Cruise back when he divorced Nicole Kidman, but this film confirms it. Marty Rathbun certifies that there was a staggering amount of effort put into the Church's involvement and that since, Cruise has become deluded and nearly all-powerful.

The prison camp details are even more ghastly. People forced to clean floors with their tongues. Clean toilets with a toothbrush. In the film's most brilliant and sickening sequence, Gibney stages a reenactment of "Musical Chairs," a game that the members of "The Hole" would play to stay at the camp. It's all set to Queen's ''Bohemian Rhapsody" and it's really amazing to watch.

Gibney's major struggle with this film is finding a good place to begin and end the story. There's no flashy introduction and the ending is a simple, but powerful image. However, that's always the challenge with an incomplete story. The tale of Scientology is far from over and the Church has continued to spread its influence around the world.

What makes Scientology dangerous is that it isn't a religion. It's blatantly and unquestionably a cult. Essentially, the Church preys on young and vulnerable individuals who are simply desperate for something to believe in. I feel like this is best portrayed in the film by Paul Haggis' testimony, who says that he was experiencing marital troubles and Scientology managed to solve it. However, as Haggis notes, once he got to the truth of the religion and once he started to face pressure for more donations, he realized that the Church was too controlling.

Scientology is an organization that thrives on fear, blackmail and pressure. The actual religion is unbelievable even for the most powerful of members. I'm sure that some of the members are crazy enough to believe in Xenu the Galactic Overlord, people born from volcanoes, and Thetans, but the majority are simply suckered in by the psychology of it all. They end up spilling their deepest secrets and that keeps them in the organization forever.

Some may consider this film to be a smear attack on Scientology and say that it's biased. But it's not. Gibney gave Miscavige and the Church plenty of opportunities to defend themselves against some pretty disgusting allegations, and they decline every time. Gibney chalks this up to their attack and not defend tactic, but I will never understand why they've remained in the shadows. Maybe it's because it's all true. Or it just might be because their religion is so crazy that if the truth was revealed, nobody would actually stay.

I've spent much of this review discussing the aspects of this film and less about the craft at hand. In truth, this is an expertly crafted and uniquely interesting documentary. Gibney has a couple of flashes of style, but most of it is tastefully and politely done. There are only a few segments of narration and Gibney truly allows for the victims to tell their story. As the Hubbard era died down, the film became slightly dry, but Gibney manages to keep the film moving forward and it is a delightfully absurd ride.

Going Clear premiered on HBO last night and it's too early to determine the impact that the film will have on possible lawsuits and the future of Scientology. But I applaud Gibney and author Lawrence Wright for giving an interesting and unique look into the religion. I knew that Scientologists were crazy, but I didn't know they were this crazy. In the end, Going Clear is a film about the regrets of a group of people and the maniacal gang of insanity that destroyed their life. And it's an incredible piece of journalism at the same time.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A-                                            (8.5/10)

'Home' provides much-needed hit for Dreamworks, while 'Get Hard' plays well at weekend box office

Concluding a rather exceptional March at the box office, Dreamworks Animation's Home led with a stellar $54 million. The animated comedy, which features The Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons and superstar singers Jennifer Lopez and Rihanna, may just be the saving grace for Dreamworks at a troubling time for the company. The Penguins of Madagascar and How to Train Your Dragon 2 both struggled at the box office, and the outlook for Home was not much better. But somehow, Home managed to pull in a large amount of the family audience. The film also received an "A" Cinemascore, which means that this movie is going to kill it over Spring Break. A final total around $200 million is not out of the question.

Warner Bros.' controversial comedy Get Hard also had a strong debut this weekend, grossing $34.6 million. Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell's star power carried the flick, budgeted at $40 million, which has come under fire for its portrayals of the gay and African-American communities, with some even saying that the film is racist and homophobic. Audiences were split, as the film came down with a "B" Cinemascore. If the controversy continues to be a hot topic in the entertainment industry, then there's a chance that this film could hit the $100 million threshold. If not, it might end it with around $80-$90 million.

The Divergent Series: Insurgent dropped a heavy 58% to third place, pulling in a gross of $22 million. Insurgent has snagged $86.3 million so far, and it will presumably finish with around $120 million. Not an overly impressive amount for the $110 million picture and I think that Summit definitely has to think twice about splitting Allegiant into two films. The fan base just doesn't seem as prominent for these films as it did for The Hunger Games and Twilight.

Cinderella maintained a healthy sum while still dropping 50% down to fourth place. The film grossed $17.5 million, which was enough to raise its total to $150 million. That's pretty great for the $95 million flick, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it conclude its run with $200 million. Disney's formula for these live-action flicks is working, and even though this won't make as much as Maleficent, it's still an impressive showing.

Radius-TWC's indie horror sensation It Follows expanded to wide release this weekend and grabbed $4 million, which is a solid total. The film has now grossed around $4.7 million and will likely continue to expand over the next few weeks. I'm very excited to finally check this one out tomorrow night. Another great R-rated flick, Kingsman: The Secret Service, finished in sixth place and made another $3 million. Kingsman has amassed $119.4 million in the US so far, and a stellar $327.7 million worldwide. A franchise is coming for this one and I could not be more excited.

Run All Night continued to be a bust this weekend, pulling in a lackluster $2.2 million in seventh place. The slick and well-reviewed flick has only grossed $23.8 million, proving once again that audiences only have an interest in Liam Neeson action movies when he's rescuing kidnapped people. In eighth place, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel pulled in another $2.1 million, which raised its total to $28.1 million. Not as spectacular as the original, but a solid total nonetheless.

Do You Believe? finished in ninth place with $2.1 million, which was a 40% drop from last weekend. The film has grossed $7 million so far. And finally, The Gunman rounded out the top ten with $2 million. The Sean Penn thriller has flopped at the box office so far, grossing only $8.8 million.

Next weekend sees the release of Furious 7. It's gonna be a big one. Maybe the biggest in the last year. Check out my predictions below:

1. Furious 7- $130 million
2. Home- $37.5 million
3. Get Hard- $16.6 million
4. The Divergent Series: Insurgent- $10 million
5. Cinderella- $9.6 million
6. It Follows- $3.9 million
7. Kingsman: The Secret Service- $1.9 million
8. Run All Night- $1.4 million
9. The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel- $1.4 million
10. Do You Believe?- $1.3 million

Image Credit: Fandango

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Suspenseful, haunting first trailer for 'Spectre' promises another amazing Bond installment

Furious 7 is going to feature the premiere of a bunch of new trailers, which makes me even more excited for the film. One of the new trailers that will be playing in IMAX theaters before Furious 7 is a brief teaser for Spectre, the next installment in the Bond franchise. Skyfall is one of my favorite films of the decade so far, and probably my favorite Bond film ever, so I'm obviously very excited for this flick. Sam Mendes is back in the director's chair and John Logan is penning the script again, and of course, Daniel Craig is playing 007 for the fourth time. Not to mention the new additions to the cast like Christoph Waltz and Dave Bautista. This is one of my most anticipated movies of the year and this first look delivered the goods. Check out the trailer below:

What a fantastic teaser trailer. Seriously, I don't think that this could have been any better. The first thing that this bit of marketing does right is that it focuses on story. There are no flashy stunts or effects sequences. It's all about atmosphere, mood and hinting at some major developments. As Drew McWeeny said over at Hifix, this trailer reveals more than you think. We see the return of Mr. White and the implication that Oberhauser (Christoph Waltz) is Bond's brother, which would seem to be a major twist. Now, there was no real sense in hiding it considering that the details of the plot were revealed during the Sony hack. I would also say that they might as well start calling Waltz's character Blofeld already. Everybody knows it's him. We don't need a John Harrison/Khan deal. However, Spectre went through some major rewrites recently and some things could get quite interesting. We'll definitely find out more info soon, but for now, I'm just going to be happy with this awesome teaser. Spectre will be released on November 6, 2015.

Image Credits: Business Insider

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ben Mendelsohn rumored to star in 'Star Wars: Rogue One'

Every week, there seems to be some sort of new Star Wars news that causes the internet geek community to get very, very excited. In November, it was the first trailer for Episode VII, which pretty much broke the internet for a while. A few weeks back, it was the surprising news that Star Wars: Episode VIII will be hitting theaters in May 2017. We also received confirmation that Felicity Jones will be starring in Gareth Edwards' spin-off film, which is now titled Rogue One. While we all wait with baited breath for a new trailer for Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens (and just more information on the film in general), the news for Rogue One will tide us over. Tonight, there was another breaking story from Deadline (these guys have scooped several stories in a row) about a big casting rumor for the latest Star Wars film.

After casting Felicity Jones as the lead of Rogue One, it appears that Disney has now moved to casting her co-lead. And according to Deadline, that role will be filled by Ben Mendelsohn, the talented actor who has had bit parts in films like Killing Them Softly, Exodus, The Dark Knight Rises and The Place Beyond The Pines. Mike Fleming doesn't go into much detail at Deadline, as this still appears to be an early rumor. But if this came true, I would be tremendously excited. Mendelsohn is a great character actor and I can already imagine the chemistry between him and Jones. No plot details are known for Rogue One and Disney has revealed next-to nothing about the film, but this is shaping up to be a very promising flick and I'm looking forward to hearing more about it in the near future. From director Gareth Edwards and screenwriter Chris Weitz, Star Wars: Rogue One will be hitting theaters on December 16, 2016. Three Star Wars films in nearly 18 months. That is truly incredible to think about.

Source: Deadline, Collider

Steven Spielberg to direct 'Ready Player One' for Warner Bros.

On the cover of Ernest Cline's Ready Player One, the book is described as "Willy Wonka meets The Matrix." That's an enticing concept, and Hollywood studios were quite intrigued as well. Warner Bros. scooped up the rights to the novel a while ago and the film has bounced around the studio ever since. It was recently reported that Christopher Nolan was involved with the project in some way, but that didn't come to fruition. Now, it has been confirmed that one of the most famous science fiction directors of all time will be directing the project that has the power to change blockbuster cinema forever.

In a very lengthy and informative report at Deadline (the entertainment news source that is currently stuck in a racism scandal after a controversial blog post), it is confirmed that legendary director Steven Spielberg will be directing Ready Player One from a script by Zak Penn. Spielberg will direct the film after he finishes work on Bridge of Spies, his highly anticipated Cold War drama with Tom Hanks, and The BFG, an adaptation of the classic Roald Dahl novel due in 2016. Spielberg also has Robopocalypse, It's What I Do and a new Indiana Jones film on tap, but I don't see any of these films being released anytime soon (It's What I Do, a small war drama with Jennifer Lawrence, might be squeezed in between the bigger blockbusters). Spielberg is returning to Warner Bros. for the first time since A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, as he has spent much of the last fifteen years with Dreamworks, his own studio.

The one of the more interesting things about Ready Player One is the plot and the world that the story takes place in. According to Deadline and Rope of Silicon, Ready Player One is set in the year 2044 and tells the tale of a virtual reality creator who offers his entire company to anybody who can find the Easter eggs embedded within his OASIS game. Teenager Wade Watts is up to the challenge and must use a series of 1980's pop culture references to solve the game's puzzle. Deadline goes into great length in discussing the rights issues that could pop up with the multiple pop culture references involved in the production, but that's not really the most interesting part. The true promise of Ready Player One lies with the possibility of some truly groundbreaking visual effects.

Throughout the latter half of its article, Deadline mentions how Ready Player One is mostly set in a strictly digital, virtual reality world. This technology will be tricky to portray convincingly on screen, but they also mention that the science is there for this stuff to really work. Magic Leap is pushing cinematic reality beyond 3D, so Ready Player One could be the first major film to utilize that technology. All of this sounds incredibly exciting and promising and I can't wait to hear more about this film. For now, I'll just remain very enthused that one of my favorite directors is tackling an ambitious and brilliantly unique project. 

Source: Deadline, Rope of Silicon
Image Credits: Nerdist

Bradley Cooper in talks to direct and star in remake of 'A Star is Born'

For the last few years, we've heard many rumors and developments about Warner Bros.' remake of the classic musical, A Star is Born. The iconic Judy Garland flick is ripe for a modern update, and it seems like everyone has been involved in the project at one point or another. For a very long time, Clint Eastwood was supposed to be directing the film, but nothing was ever heard again about Eastwood's update of the project (Eastwood moved on and did Jersey Boys later, so I guess he got his musical fix). Beyonce was also involved with the project for a very long time, but she eventually departed after her pregnancy. However, it looks like the project is getting a new start with a very big star at the helm.

According to Deadline, Bradley Cooper is in talks to direct and star in the remake of A Star is Born. As soon as the deal gets done, Warner Bros. hopes to approach Beyonce about rejoining the film's cast. Deadline also reports that Eastwood had discussed this role with Cooper (who he directed in American Sniper), so all of this makes a lot of sense. Will Fetters wrote the current draft of the script, but some rewrites are a sure thing for this flick. Cooper is currently filming David O. Russell's Joy and the Netflix show, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp. With only a few small projects on tap, it shouldn't be too long before Cooper starts working on this film. I'm very excited for a modern update of A Star is Born and I think that Cooper and Beyonce will make for a solid pair. This will be an interesting project to follow going forward, and I'm betting that Warner Bros. will position this as a major Oscar player in 2016.

Source: Deadline via Rope of Silicon
Image Credits: Song Book 1 (Word Press)

'The Divergent Series: Insurgent' review

The young adult genre in Hollywood is an up-and-down rollercoaster that makes it hard for studios and critics to predict how a YA adaptation will do. Harry Potter and The Hunger Games were both critically and financially successful, the Twilight series was lucrative but destroyed by film fans, and now, we have The Divergent Series. I enjoyed last year's Divergent, finding that it put an interesting, if not overly fresh spin on the genre. This year's Insurgent is decidedly less enjoyable, despite the presence of Shailene Woodley and the charismatic Miles Teller. Insurgent features some very strong moments of promise, but much of the film drags, spending its time on a bizarre test sequence and lots of dull conversation. Divergent was a decent series opener, yet in order for the franchise to be exciting and invigorating going forward, Insurgent needed to be a knockout like Catching Fire was. Unfortunately, it just isn't up to the challenge.

Insurgent picks up right after the events of Divergent. The evil leader of Erudite, Jeanine (Kate Winslet), has just attacked the faction of Abnegation, but is now blaming the attack on a group of rogue Divergents. Tris (Woodley), Four (Theo James), Peter (Teller), and Caleb (Ansel Elgort) are hiding with Amity in the hopes of assembling an army to attack Jeanine and Erudite. At the same time, Jeanine is in search of the perfect Divergent to open a box that contains a message from the founders of the new society. Tris and Four end up clashing with the Factionless and then move their way to Candor before ending up the clutches of Jeanine. 

Everyone knows that Divergent is a very blatant rip-off of The Hunger Games. The Screen Junkies guys parodied that fact in a very funny Honest Trailer for the original film. However, that doesn't mean that there hasn't been a lot of potential for this franchise. The concept is fascinating and the cast is outstanding: Woodley, Teller and Elgort are engaging, excellent actors and Octavia Spencer, Ray Stevenson and Winslet are all strong veteran actors. The problem with the Divergent series is that the creative material isn't there and the source isn't exactly great stuff either.

I tried reading Veronica Roth's Divergent, but I stopped after a chapter or two. I couldn't take another whiny adolescent book series and I quit in the early goings. The original film's screenplay managed to survive despite the less-than-stellar material, but Insurgent suffers big-time. The screenplay, written by Akiva Goldsman, Brian Duffield and Mark Bomback, jumps from place to place with very little skill and the film's pacing is atrocious. Nearly half of the film is spent on a series of dream scenes that really don't do anything for the story. The final moments of the film manage to recover a bit of poignancy, yet the concluding revelations are simply baffling. 

Director Robert Schwentke takes over from Neil Burger and does a sufficient job. He doesn't hurt the film or help it, except on a few select occasions. Schwentke keeps the film at a quick, but choppy pace and also manages to keep the focus on Tris. The action scenes are well-filmed and there isn't much to complain about Schwentke's directorial eye. He does a fine job with this franchise and I'm fine with him staying on board going forward. 

The best thing that this franchise has going for it is the cast. The Hunger Games has Jennifer Lawrence and a series of strong veterans, but I would argue that Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth are less talented actors than Miles Teller and Ansel Elgort. Unfortunately, those two are wasted in favor of the bland and unintentionally funny Four, played by Theo James. Four is the "dark" and "mysterious" guy who basically has no personality at all. It's pretty funny, especially when his mom (Naomi Watts) calls him by his birth name, and he replies by saying: "Don't call me that! My name is Four." Pure screenplay gold. 

Tris is undoubtedly the focus of the story and the screenwriters emphasize her guilt over the death of her parents and friends. It's an interesting idea, but it's not a fresh one at this point (in fact, it practically rips off Katniss' problems in The Hunger Games and Stark's issues in Iron Man 3). Woodley delivers an impressive performance, but I never found it to quite enough to carry the film. 

As I've noted throughout the rest of the article, the film spends its final half in a testing room with a bunch of different tests that examine Tris' divergentness, or whatever they call it in Faction world. It ends up being a progressing series of fantasies and stuff that they showed in the marketing to make this movie look "action-packed." The movie practically drags to a halt at that point and there isn't much forward progress after that. In fact, it's only in the final few minutes that we see some of the other major characters re-enter the story and it comes off as awkwardly forced. 

In the end, Insurgent is a disappointing middle chapter that struggles to give this franchise the life it needs. Woodley and Teller are impressive young actors who manage to deliver charismatic performances, but the film's choppy structure and tediousness prevents it from ever doing anything interesting. Something just didn't feel right about this film and I seriously doubt that this film will be able to recover from this climatic chapter. The two-part finale, Allegiant, is coming, but I don't really see where this franchise can go for here. 

THE FINAL GRADE:  C-                                             (5.6/10)

Image Credits: Roger's Movie Nation, Coming Soon, Book Fandoms, Divergent Fans

Monday, March 23, 2015

Joe and Anthony Russo officially set to direct 'Avengers: Infinity War'

Marvel is probably the most powerful studio in Hollywood right now, and they will certainly not be slowing down. Last summer saw the release of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy, and this year, Marvel is back with the highly anticipated Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man. 2016 will see the release of Captain America: Civil War and over the course of the next few years, we'll meet all kinds of new heroes like Black Panther, Doctor Strange and a new Spider-Man. However, the most anticipated project on the Marvel horizon has to be Avengers: Infinity War. The two-part finale to the first mega-phase in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Infinity War has been built up since the credits closed on the first Avengers film. While rumors have spread over the last few months like wildfire, we received some confirmation today about the director(s) of the highly anticipated saga.

Devin Faraci at Badass Digest officially confirmed today that Joe and Anthony Russo, the directorial team behind The Winter Soldier and the upcoming Civil War, will be at the helm for Infinity War. The deal was closed very recently, said Faraci, and he expects that there will be an announcement soon. In the report at Badass Digest, Faraci also discloses that the films will be shooting back-to-back in 2016/2017 and that Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely (Captain America trilogy) are in talks to write the film. All in all, as someone who believes that The Winter Soldier is the best Marvel movie, this could not be better news. I really enjoyed the dramatic gravitas that the Russo Brothers brought to the series and I can't wait to see their take on the epic finale of the Avengers series. Avengers: Age of Ultron is set to premiere on May 1 and Captain America: Civil War will be hitting theaters on May 6, 2016, while Avengers: Infinity War- Part 1 will debut on May 4, 2018 and Part 2 will hit on May 3, 2019. Lots of great stuff is coming down the pipeline for Marvel fans.

Image Credits: Business Insider

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Summer 2015 Box Office Predictions- Part 1

We're already nearly 4 months into 2015, and I gotta say, this year has been a disappointment so far. Kingsman: The Secret Service was a legitimately great film and there were a few other decent efforts, but in general, there hasn't been much to get me out to the theater. It's seriously shocking to me that the last review I wrote was for McFarland, USA (I'm hoping to get reviews out for Insurgent, Cinderella and Run All Night soon, but I'm not going to promise anything). However, there is hope on the horizon in the form of the summer movie season, which pretty much starts in April these days. Furious 7 will kick off the 2015 showcase with a bang and the season will continue until the very end of' August. The box office outlook for this summer is lucrative and we could see some huge records be broken. Here are my predictions for the first half of summer 2015, which is April 3- June 12.

FURIOUS 7- April 3

Opening Weekend Prediction- $135 million
Total Gross Prediction- $300 million

The Fast and Furious franchise has found a way to rejuvenate itself over the years and it hit its peak in 2013 when Fast and Furious 6 opened with $117 million over the four-day weekend with some heavy competition from Star Trek Into Darkness and The Hangover Part III. Furious 7 is currently tracking around that same number, but I have a feeling that it will blow it out of the water. There hasn't been a big action film since Kingsman and the Furious franchise has only grown in popularity over the years. Not to mention the tragic fact that this is Paul Walker's last film role (the actor died in November 2013). All in all, this will be a massive box office hit and one of 2014's biggest films.


Opening Weekend Prediction- $18 million
Total Gross Prediction- $45 million

It's another Nicholas Sparks movie, and it looks just as forgettable as the other films. However, there's an audience for these movies that comes out time and time again, so The Longest Ride will rake in a little bit of cash. With no major stars, this will be one of the lower grossing Sparks movie, but it should still turn a tidy profit.

EX MACHINA- April 10 (limited)

Opening Weekend Prediction- $1.4 million
Total Gross Prediction- $10.5 million

Ex Machina is one of my most anticipated films of the early summer, a hot festival property with two rising stars in Oscar Isaac and Domnhall Gleeson. The promise of an A.I. film done right is intriguing, and the buzz on this one is very, very good. Whether or not that translates to box office success is questionable, but I'm pumped either way.

CHILD 44- April 17

Opening Weekend Prediction- $7.5 million
Total Gross Prediction- $23 million

The long delayed mystery about a series of child murders in the Soviet Union has the potential to be a dramatically interesting film, but I don't think that it'll make much of a dent at the box office. Tom Hardy is a big name, but with dark subject matter and a lack of Oscar buzz, this drama will probably fail to gain much traction.


Opening Weekend Prediction- $6.4 million
Total Gross Prediction- $17.5 million

Another year, another Disneynature flick. None of these films make very much money, but they're part of the company's ecological initiative and they help animals in need. So even if this film doesn't make much money, it's for a good cause. A final finish near $20 million is in the realm of possibility for this one.


Opening Weekend Prediction- $30 million
Total Gross Prediction- $105 million

The first Paul Blart was a surprise hit in January 2010, grossing nearly $150 million on a $26 million budget. Five years later, we're getting a sequel that nobody really asked for, but that's okay- this film is still going to make a lot of money. It won't do as good as the original, but I can see it matching the first film's opening and crossing the $100 million mark at the box office.


Opening Weekend Prediction- $27.9 million
Total Gross Prediction- $55 million

The trailer for Unfriended started a social media firestorm when it debuted earlier this year, and I can easily see that excitement turn into big bucks for Universal. The R-rating will prevent the target audience from actually seeing the film, but I can still see teens and young adults flocking to this one in droves, especially on opening weekend. Early reviews are also positive, so that will definitely help.

TRUE STORY- April 17

Opening Weekend Prediction- $900,000
Total Gross Prediction- $15.5 million

While most audiences know James Franco and Jonah Hill from their raucous comedies and Oscar-nominated efforts, Franco is well-established in the indie world as well, and this time, he's bringing Hill with him for a dark and gritty murder drama. This film won't do big business, but it will be an independent hit during a weak mid-April marketplace.


Opening Weekend Prediction- $16 million
Total Gross Prediction- $50 million

Lionsgate did a very good job of getting marketing materials out early for this intriguing film, and early response has been good. I can definitely see Gossip Girl fans heading out to see star Blake Lively in this one, and the supporting cast of Ellen Burstyn and Harrison Ford could bring in older audiences. While it won't be a blockbuster, The Age of Adaline will be a modest hit when it debuts in late April.

LITTLE BOY- April 24

Opening Weekend Prediction- $3 million
Total Gross Prediction- $9.8 million

I didn't know about this movie until just now, but apparently, it stars Kevin James, Emily Watson and Tom Wilkinson and chronicles the relationship between a father and son during World War II. It could be an interesting flick, but the film sounds really sentimental and mushy, and with a lack of a marketing push, I think that this one will fade very quickly.


Opening Weekend Prediction- $8 million
Total Gross Prediction- $24 million

This film has the disadvantage of opening on the same weekend as Avengers: Age of Ultron, but luckily, it's targeting a very different audience. With Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson, Imogen Poots, and Will Forte, this film should be able to pull in some audience members thanks to its star power. Don't expect a big hit, but I think that there's promise with this one.


Opening Weekend Prediction- $225 million
Total Gross Prediction- $680 million

The summer's biggest film will most certainly be Avengers: Age of Ultron, the highly anticipated sequel to the 2012 megahit, The Avengers. The first film debuted to a stunning $207 million and went on to gross $623 million at the box office. Marvel's audience has only grown since 2012, and I definitely see Avengers: Age of Ultron giving Avatar a run for its money at the domestic box office, especially if it's a good film.


Opening Weekend Prediction- $19 million
Total Gross Prediction- $58 million

Hot Pursuit seems tailor-made to be a big hit. It stars Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon and is obviously cut form the same cloth as The Heat and other star-studded cop flicks. However, Warner Bros. is really struggling to market this flick. There was a trailer, but there hasn't been many posters and I'm not sure how much the public really knows about this flick. This could go either way, depending on Warner's actions over the next few weeks.


Opening Weekend Prediction- $5 million
Total Gross Prediction- $14 million

Before I Wake is a horror film starring Thomas Jane and Kate Bosworth. I didn't know that until a few minutes ago, but apparently, it's coming out rather soon. It won't do strong business, since there's two other horror films coming down the pipeline quickly after this one. However, it might be able to pull in a few dollars here and there.


Opening Weekend Prediction- $45 million
Total Gross Prediction- $140 million

Mad Max; Fury Road is an R-rated, high-concept sci-fi flick that is a sequel to a franchise that has lay dormant for several years. Does that sound like a recipe for a hit to you? It didn't for anybody until last July, when the first look at Fury Road dropped at Comic-Con. Since then, there has been a growing anticipation for this film and I think that it's going to really surprise at the box office. The fanboy excitement might be a little stronger than the general audience interest, but Fury Road should still be a huge hit.


Opening Weekend Prediction- $40 million
Total Gross Prediction- $100 million

Surprisingly, the original Pitch Perfect only grossed $65 million at the box office. However, it has since gained a massive cult following and a group of teenage girls who simply love that movie. The sequel should do much bigger business and the film will likely push the $100 million threshold.


Four Day Opening Weekend Prediction- $30 million
Total Gross Prediction- $72 million

Poltergeist is a remake of the classic horror film, and if it's good, I can see it doing major business. But if it's just a standard horror film, it will definitely be overshadowed by Insidious Chapter 3, which will wreck on June 5. It's baffling to me that Fox moved Poltergeist to the Memorial Day date instead of keeping it in late July, where it would have had the horror market all to itself.


Four Day Opening Weekend Prediction- $51 million
Total Gross Prediction- $125 million

Going into 2015, Tomorrowland was one of the most promising original sci-fi efforts. It starred George Clooney, it was directed by Brad Bird and it was shrouded in secrecy. I'm still very intrigued by the film's premise, but the marketing has yet to hook me. Others seem to feel the same, and I feel that could hinder the film's box office. Still, a family action flick with George Clooney seems destined to make at least $100 million.

ALOHA- May 29

Opening Weekend Prediction- $16 million
Total Gross Prediction- $70 million

Aloha got off to a slow start thanks to leaked emails from Sony exec Amy Pascal, who pretty much stated that the new Cameron Crowe film was a disaster destined to flop when it was released. However, the film bounced back a bit with a strong first trailer and audiences were enthused. I feel like this is good counter-programming amid the glut of action flicks, which could definitely attract an adult audience. Aloha might start soft, but word of mouth will carry it through the month of June.


Opening Weekend Prediction- $35 million
Total Gross Prediction- $90 million

San Andreas is a promising film, but it has yet to gain the traction it needs to be a major hit. Dwayne Johnson is a huge star and the film's effects look very good, so I can definitely see this breaking out in late May. And the film really needs to do big business- the production budget is rumored to be around $100 million. But even if San Andreas fails to live up to expectations in the US, it will surely wreck at the overseas box office, making this a guaranteed hit for Warner Bros.

SPY- June 5

Opening Weekend Prediction- $50 million
Total Gross Prediction- $175 million

Melissa McCarthy is a comedy superstar and this is going to be her biggest film yet. The early word out of the South By Southwest film festival was very strong and the mix of action and comedy could bring in a male audience as well. Not to mention the strong cast and the fact that this is a perfectly timed release. This film is going to do very well, and should continue the hot streak for spy films at the box office.


Opening Weekend Prediction- $22 million
Total Gross Prediction- $60 million

Entourage ended a few years ago after a downhill spiral, but a few devoted fans have stayed with the series over the years. Producer Mark Wahlberg finally got a movie off the ground, and there is definitely the potential for a mid-level hit here. Entourage seems to have a very select audience, but those fans will certainly turn out in droves for this big screen treatment.


Opening Weekend Prediction- $38 million
Total Gross Prediction- $85 million

Insidious Chapter 2 was a massive hit, grossing $40 million in its opening weekend alone. This film should do similar numbers, unless Poltergeist is a massive hit. The cast is different, but the series brand remains the same, which will help Chapter 3 become a very big success.

LOVE AND MERCY- June 5 (limited)

Opening Weekend Prediction- $600,000
Total Gross Prediction- $10 million

The Beach Boys are an iconic American band and they hadn't received a biopic until earlier this year. Love and Mercy chronicles lead singer Brian Wilson over the decades (he's played by Paul Dano and John Cusack) and it received very good reviews at Sundance. This film will build off of its buzz and emerge as one of the summer's bigger indie hits.

DOPE- June 12

Opening Weekend Prediction- $6 million
Total Gross Prediction- $22 million

This is another summer Sundance favorite, and this should really do strong business. It's a coming of age flick set in Los Angeles and it seems like a film that could reach a wide audience. Sundance films have disappointed in the past (Whiplash), but I feel like Dope is poised to kill it at the box office.


Opening Weekend Prediction- $150,000
Total Gross Prediction- $13 million

The Grand Jury prize winner at Sundance, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl set off a firestorm at the film festival in January. The premise seems a bit trickier for mainstream audiences, but I still see this film doing decent business. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is also an early Oscar favorite, which could draw in audiences. All in all, this film will have a solid little run in June and July.


Opening Weekend Prediction- $95 million
Total Gross Prediction- $260 million

Jurassic World is poised to be the biggest hit of June and one of the summer's biggest flicks. The Jurassic franchise has lay dormant since the disappointment of Jurassic Park III in the early 2000s, but with young filmmaker Colin Trevorrow at the helm, and a cast that includes Bryce Dallas Howard, Judy Greer, Jake Johnson, Vincent D'Onofrio and megastar Chris Pratt, Jurassic World is set to bring this franchise back to life. The first two trailers were stunning and I simply can't wait to see this film. And if it's as good as I think it can be, the sky's the limit for the box office on this one.

That's it for Part 1 of my Summer Box Office Predictions. Come back in early June for Part 2, where we'll take a look at Inside Out, Ted 2, Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation and The Fantastic Four!

First trailer debuts for newly titled 'Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation'

As we inch towards the start of the summer movie season, the studios will begin to dish out trailers for some of the most anticipated blockbusters of the year. The first full-length trailer for Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens will debut with Avengers: Age of Ultron, a teaser for Sony's Spectre will drop on March 28th (according to Scott Mendelson), and today, we received our first brief look at Mission: Impossible 5, now titled Rogue Nation. This film was originally set to hit theaters on December 25, but Paramount moved up the release to July to avoid running into Star Wars fever. The first teaser for the film is around a minute long, but Paramount will be revealing a full trailer tomorrow. Check out the teaser below:

Mission: Impossible- Ghost Protocol was one of the best action films of the decade thus far and I've been looking forward to the fifth installment for the last few years. The first trailer delivered the goods, with just a hint of plot and enough spectacular action to go around. Not having Brad Bird in the director's chair is concerning, but I'm confident that Tom Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie can keep everything together. With a script from Drew Pearce and Will Staples, Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation is directed by Christopher McQuarrie and stars Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin, Sean Harris and Rebecca Ferguson. The film will hit theaters on July 31.

Image Credit: Huffington Post

'Fraggle Rock' moving ahead with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and The Henson Company

Since the passing of Jim Henson in 1990, his characters have been on a roller coaster ride of highs and lows in the entertainment industry. Sesame Street has been a mainstay through the years and is still a childhood favorite, but The Muppets have been less consistent. The relationship between Disney and the Henson Company has been a positive, but there was a 12 year period where there were no Muppets films made at all. Jason Segel, James Bobin and Nicholas Stoller rejuvenated the franchise in 2011 with the splendidly entertaining The Muppets, yet the franchise was brought right back down to Earth three years later with the disappointment of Muppets Most Wanted. The Muppets franchise seems to be dead in the water over at Disney, but another Henson property is starting to gain steam in Hollywood.

Fraggle Rock was never as successful as Sesame Street or The Muppets, but it had a solid run in the mid 1980s. A film adaptation has been rumored for years and now, the production seems to be moving ahead with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Variety confirmed on Thursday that the project was brought to life with the help of Gordon-Levitt, and that the actor will star and produce the film with New Regency, Lisa Henson and The Henson Company. "The first screen personas I ever loved were Henson creations, first on 'Sesame Street,' and then on 'Fraggle Rock,'" said Gordon-Levitt. His excitement makes me very intrigued by this project, simply because I feel that whenever a star is really passionate about the source material, the film works better (ex: The Muppets). No word on when Fraggle Rock will enter production, but I don't think we'll hear much more about this project for quite some time. Gordon-Levitt has a very busy 2015 ahead (The Walk, Snowden, and Seth Rogen's Christmas movie) so I doubt he'll get to work on this one until 2016.

Image Credits: Muppet Central

Thursday, March 19, 2015

SXSW: Strong early buzz hits for 'Trainwreck', 'Spy' and 'Furious 7'

The South by Southwest music and film festival in Austin, Texas has steadily grown over the years, becoming the definitive Spring festival for movie studios to reveal a taste of their upcoming movie slates. In the past, films like Bridesmaids, Chef and Neighbors have premiered at the festival and pre-dated their massive critical and box office success. This year, South by Southwest's three biggest premieres all debuted on one major night. Sunday saw the premieres of Paul Feig's new comedy Spy, Judd Apatow's latest Trainwreck, and the debut of Furious 7. Kevin Hart and Will Ferrell's Get Hard also debuted later on Monday, but the buzz was not nearly as strong as it was for the other three (in fact, Get Hard was plagued by accusations of racism and homophobia, with one audience member informing director Etan Cohen at a post-screening Q&A that he thought the film was "racist as f**k"). However, the buzz for Trainwreck, Spy and Furious 7 was deafening and made for a major event at SXSW.

Trainwreck premiered first on Sunday afternoon, at a work-in-progress screening introduced by director Judd Apatow and screenwriter/star Amy Schumer. The film was a smashing success at the fest, with many calling the film Apatow's best and a major come back after the disappointments of Funny People and This is 40. Cinemablend's Eric Eisenberg called the film "Hilarious" and "Apatow's best movie in years" emphasizing that "Trainwreck is on pace to be the best comedy of 2015." The Hollywood Reporter and Variety also debuted positive reviews for the film, and it's likely that this could be one of Apatow's biggest directorial hits. Trainwreck stars Amy Schumer, Bill Hader, Tilda Swinton and LeBron James and hits theaters on July 17.

Spy debuted immediately after Trainwreck and was a massive hit as well. The latest film from Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy spoofs the spy genre along with stars Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Morena Baccarin and Jude Law. Variety called Spy "[McCarthy's] smartest, funniest, most versatile and fully sustained big screen showcase to date." The Playlist and The Hollywood Reporter were positive as well, with the only negative review coming from Rope of Silicon. All in all, Spy should be another hugely lucrative entry into McCarthy's catalog when it debuts on June 5.

Finally, Furious 7 had a surprise "secret screening" at midnight, which was met with massive fervor from fans. The screening wasn't announced until a few hours earlier and that started a firestorm at SXSW. The reviews for the recently rejuvenated franchise were very positive in the early goings, with a solid score of 83% through 12 reviews. The Hollywood Reporter called the film "stupendously stupid and stupidly diverting," which was the general sentiment from most reviewers. Jon Lyus from Hey U Guys also said that "there is no better way they could have paid tribute to Paul Walker." All in all, this looks like it will be another fun entry into the franchise and I can't wait to see it on April 3.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

'Star Wars: Episode VIII' to hit theaters in May 2017 while Gareth Edwards' spin-off is officially titled 'Rogue One'

As soon as Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012, the studio announced a massive set of plans for the Star Wars universe. Those plans included theme park attractions, video games, merchandise and most importantly, new Star Wars movies. The first film in a new trilogy, Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens, doesn't hit theaters until December 18, but that hasn't stopped Disney from setting up even more plans for the future. Disney CEO Bob Iger previously confirmed that Episode VIII and IX would hit theaters in 2017 and 2019, respectively, and that several spin-off movies would be debuting in between. We also knew that Godzilla director Gareth Edwards and Chronicle phenom Josh Trank were on board to direct two of the spin-off films. Now, we know quite a bit more about the future of the Star Wars franchise thanks to several reports from a Disney shareholder's meeting.

After The Force Awakens, the next film up is Gareth Edwards' Star Wars: Rogue One. This was officially announced today, and it was also confirmed that Felicity Jones will be starring in the film. That news broke a few months ago, so today was just official word from Disney. The film will be hitting theaters on December 16, 2016, a year after the debut of The Force Awakens. No word on what the film is about yet, but the rumors (via Rope of Silicon) are that the film involves a group of rebels attempting to steal the Death Star plans. Sounds intriguing to me, and I like the idea of having Jones in the Star Wars universe.

The other big Star Wars story of the day was the official release date for Star Wars: Episode VIII. While many had assumed that the film would snag a December 2017 release date, Disney announced today that the film will be in theaters on May 26, 2017, a mere 1.5 years after The Force Awakens. That's an insane turn around, but with a different director and a new team of screenwriters, this isn't too surprising to me. Rian Johnson will be writing and directing this film, with little to no involvement from JJ Abrams. As Star Wars.com notes, this film will be hitting theaters 40 years and 1 day after the original Star Wars hit theaters, which will make for a fun anniversary celebration. It's safe to say that I'm very excited for the future of this franchise and I can't wait to see everything that Disney has in store for us. The fact that we'll be seeing three new Star Wars films in an 18 month period is very, very exciting.

Source: Rope of Silicon, Star Wars
Image Credits: Hollywood Reporter, Fandom Fest

New trailers for 'Tomorrowland' and 'Inside Out' highlight Disney's summer slate

As long predicted by box office pundits, 2015 will likely be the biggest box office year in Hollywood history. We already saw the massive successes of American Sniper, Fifty Shades of Grey and Kingsman and the rest of Spring should also feature some major box office hits. Each studio seems to be getting in on the action, but the undeniable fact is that Disney is going to totally clean up this year. Cinderella is going to do strong business this weekend, and Avengers: Age of Ultron and Star Wars: The Force Awakens will break all kinds of box office records. But Disney's reign will not end there. The studio will also be releasing Tomorrowland, the new Brad Bird sci-fi flick, and Inside Out, the latest original film from Pixar. Both films received new trailers earlier this week (presumably to premiere with Cinderella). Check the first full-length trailer out for Tomorrowland below:

Tomorrowland was always one of my most anticipated movies of the year, but unfortunately, this trailer did nearly nothing for me. The movie still looks good, but the trailer did not take my anticipation to the level that I had hoped for. George Clooney and Britt Robertson look solid but Hugh Laurie's villain seems like it could go either way. The film's marketing just hasn't done it for me so far. However, I trust Brad Bird and I'm hopeful that he can deliver a spectacular final product. Tomorrowland hits theaters on May 22. Now, check out the trailer for Inside Out, Pixar's latest original offering:

This is a movie that I am very excited for. Pixar hasn't made a great movie since Toy Story 3 and this seems like a return to that kind of innovative, emotional style of filmmaking. Pixar has always been at their best when they're creating new characters and new worlds and that's what Inside Out is looking like to me. The voice cast seems to have done a great job and I'm just very intrigued by the film's concept. Inside Out hits theaters on June 19.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Sony developing new 'Ghostbusters' film with Channing Tatum and the Russo Brothers

The Ghostbusters universe has been constantly in turmoil since 1989, with a wide variety of reports on sequels, spin-offs and reboots. Ghostbusters 3 with the original cast of Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and others was rumored for a very long time, but the news finally seemed to stop late last year. Eventually, Paul Feig decided to tackle a female-led reboot of Ghostbusters with Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Melissa McCarthy and Leslie Jones. The film is headed into production soon and will be hitting theaters on July 22, 2016. Most assumed that was the new direction for the Ghostbusters franchise, but apparently, those are not the end of Sony's plans for the classic comedy series.

According to Deadline, the Ghostbusters universe is expanding with a new project more akin to the original franchise. Captain America: The Winter Soldier directors Joe and Anthony Russo will be heading up this new project with Drew Pearce attached to write the script. And finally, Channing Tatum will be producing the project and hopefully starring as one of the Ghostbusters. This is all part of a new production plan called "Ghostcorps", which will be led by Dan Aykroyd and Ivan Reitman to create a marketing and merchandising plan for the new Ghostbusters franchise. Reitman told Deadline that he wanted to "expand the Ghostbusters universe in ways that will include different films, TV shows, merchandise, all things that are part of modern filmed entertainment."

Reaction to this news has been an eclectic mix of outrage and excitement, with some seeing this as a betrayal of Paul Feig and the female cast of Ghostbusters. I can definitely understand that anger and I must say that I don't truly get why Sony is doing this. There was genuine excitement around the Feig project and I feel that the Russo brothers project could definitely cause issues. I don't see much franchise potential for the Ghostbusters series, but obviously someone at Sony does. Part of it seems like desperation to me. In the end, this should be an interesting project plan and we'll see what happens very soon. 

Source: Deadline
Image Credits: AMC Theaters

Tim Burton to direct Disney's live-action 'Dumbo' film

After all of the news relating to Disney's Beauty and the Beast last week, word is beginning to get out on a new Disney project: Dumbo. The animated classic about the flying elephant with big ears is beloved in many circles and has pretty much remained untouched for the last seventy years. However, with Disney's new trend of taking their animated flicks and turning them into big-budget live-action films, it was only a matter of time before Dumbo became a new blockbuster project. Tim Burton turned Alice in Wonderland into a billion dollar hit during the 2010 3-D boom, and it looks like he'll be doing it again for Dumbo.

According to The Wall Street Journal (via Rope of Silicon), Tim Burton will be taking the directorial reigns on Disney's Dumbo. There's no word on the screenplay or the actors involved, so it's unlikely that we'll see this film until 2017 or 2018. Burton is a talented and visionary director, but I'm definitely worried about his latest dip into the blockbuster world. Alice in Wonderland might have been a big hit, but it holds up terribly on rewatch. Dark Shadows was also a massive misfire, both critically and financially. Big Eyes was a huge step forward for Burton last year, so I hope that he can bring that kind of dramatic gravitas to Dumbo. But to be honest, I sincerely doubt that's going to happen. With Burton at the helm, my confidence level is low in this new project.

Source: The Wall Street Journal via Rope of Silicon
Image Credits: Movie Pilot, Disney Wikia

Saturday, March 7, 2015

'McFarland, USA' review

Disney's sports movie formula is pretty well-worn at this point and everybody seems to know it. Fish out of water comes and turns a team of losers into champions while learning valuable life lessons along the way. It happens every time. However, that doesn't mean the team over at Disney can't turn their predictable plots into something special every once in a while. Miracle is a legitimately great film, Remember the Titans is very impressive and Million Dollar Arm was one of the more underrated films of last year. McFarland, USA falls a little bit behind that esteemed pack, but it's still a decently enjoyable experience.

Jim White (Kevin Costner) is the football coach of a failing team who ends up being fired after throwing a cleat at a student and drawing blood. White moves with his wife Cheryl (Maria Bello) and his two children to McFarland, California, a poor Mexican community dominated by poor sports performance and hard work in the fields by the kids. However, Jim realizes that these teens are fast runners and he decides to start a cross country running team. With a running team anchored by troubled star Thomas Valles (Carlos Pratts), McFarland is able to fight to the top and compete with the best cross country schools in the state. And along the way, Jim becomes closer with the community and finds a place to belong.

When this film was first announced, a lot of people rolled their eyes at the premise. Many conversations about the film probably went like this "Seriously? A film about cross country is gonna suck!" But despite those odds, Disney strikes again. They have a formula for a reason, and it works every time. While not as emotionally involving as Miracle or as vibrantly alive as last year's Million Dollar Arm, McFarland takes a dash of both to create a pretty satisfying flick. Kevin Costner, the king of the sports movie, is impressive as always and Carlos Pratts gives a vulnerable, deeply emotional performance that could break him into the mainstream. You likely won't remember McFarland in the long run, but it's a pretty good flick for what it's aiming to do.

McFarland is a movie that relies on its heart and that's a good thing. If this movie didn't have such strong performances and a good emotional core, I doubt that I would have been so positive about it. The film is nearly twenty minutes too long and it's not exactly a knockout film. There's nothing inherently special about it and the story is fairly standard territory. But credit must be given to director Niki Caro and the team of screenwriters for making this an interesting, heartwarming and consistently engaging movie. These guys do a lot with some merely decent material.

The screenwriters and actors work together well to create a team of characters that are likable and compelling. They play into cliches but never seem completely uninteresting. I knew where Jim White's arc was headed, but I still found myself interested in his actions and I found him to be a good guy. I knew that Thomas would eventually join the team, escape his troubled family life and become successful, but I was still sucked in by Pratts' terrific performance. I knew that Thomas and Jim's daughter Julie (Morgan Saylor) would eventually date. And in the end, I knew that McFarland would come out victorious. But despite all of the predictability, I was still consistently engaged and entertained by this flick and it's all because of the care that the filmmakers took with these characters.

Caro also manages to create some certifiable dramatic tension with the race scenes. There's intensity and humor during those sequences and I enjoyed them to the fullest. The film has some strong, sun-bleached cinematography as well and the soundtrack is very good. Overall, this is a well-directed film and one that has many great aspects to it.

McFarland, USA is a standard Disney sports film and is similar to everything else that they've done so far. If you liked the previous Disney films, you'll find a lot to enjoy with this one. It's well-executed, highly entertaining and filled with compelling and impeccably written characters. Kevin Costner and Carlos Pratts make for a great acting duo and I was impressed by the depth of the relationship between the two. McFarland isn't a masterpiece, but it is significantly more impressive than most of the films we've seen so far this year.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B                                              (7.1/10)

Image Credits: Awards Daily, Hollywood Reporter, Joblo

Dan Stevens and Luke Evans join Emma Watson in Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast'

If there's one Disney animated princess film that I truly love, it's definitely Beauty and the Beast. A magical, delightfully entertaining film, it pretty much never gets old and has been a classic since the year it was released. I even acted in a middle school theatrical version of the show. Disney's new favorite trend is to take their animated films and make live action films out of them (Cinderella is their next film and it's poised to make a lot of money at the box office next weekend). Beauty and the Beast is set to get the live action treatment next and the cast is finally coming together for the film, tentatively set for a 2016 release date.

Earlier this year, Emma Watson signed on to play Belle in the film, which is a perfect choice in my mind. I seriously don't think the filmmakers could have picked anyone better. Luke Evans is now also joining the film as Gaston, the arrogant villain who is constantly trying to get Belle to marry him. Evans is a good actor and a decent choice, but I'm not sure if he's right for Gaston. He tends to play cold and reserved characters and unless that's what the producers are going for, I don't think he's the best choice. And finally, The Hollywood Reporter broke the news a few days ago that former Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens will be playing the titular Beast. Stevens has really broken out since he left the Masterpiece theater show and this film could break him into the mainstream. He's a good pick for Beast and I'm excited to see this cast in action. Beauty and the Beast will be directed by Bill Condon and will hit theaters sometime in 2016.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Third trailer for 'Avengers: Age of Ultron' promises bigger, badder sequel

For most general audiences, there are two movies to really get excited for this year: Avengers: Age of Ultron and Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens. Unfortunately, we won't be seeing the latter until December 18. However, we're less than two months away from the release of the highly anticipated Age of Ultron and Marvel has premiered a third and presumably final trailer for the superhero extravaganza. The first trailer was a chilling introduction for the supervillain Ultron and featured a creepy and unnerving rendition of "I've Got No Strings" from Pinoccio. The second trailer debuted during the College Football National Championship game and continued the momentum with more stunning visuals. Could the final trailer find a new way to get fans excited? Check it out for yourself below:

In 2014, Marvel debuted two of their best films yet with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy and everyone is pumped to see what Marvel has in store for Age of Ultron. From the looks of the trailer, Marvel has outdone themselves again. This looks like a truly spectacular film and my excitement is at an all-time high. The dark tone is spot on and the villains and characters seem to have interesting arcs. Not to mention the stunning visual effects work and set pieces. This is shaping up to be another highly promising entry into the cinematic universe. Avengers: Age of Ultron is directed by Joss Whedon and stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johannson, Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson, Paul Bettany, Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba and Hayley Altwell and will hit theaters on May 1.

Image Credit: Hollywood Reporter