Monday, June 29, 2015

'Jurassic World' and 'Inside Out' top box office for 2nd straight week, while 'Ted 2' suffers from stiff competition

Although Ted 2 promised to deliver Jurassic World's first direct competition, the dinosaurs still stomped all over the competition to conquer the box office for the third weekend in a row. Colin Trevorrow's reboot/sequel pulled in another $54.5 million in domestic markets, raising the film's total gross to $500.3 million. Jurassic World is now the fifth highest grossing movie of all time in the US (without adjusting for inflation of course), and the sci-fi pic still has The Dark Knight and The Avengers firmly in its sights. Whether or not it passes Titanic is a different story, but by the end of its run, Jurassic World will surely be the highest grossing film of all time not directed by James Cameron. Overseas, the film is now standing at $1.24 billion, which makes it the 8th highest grossing film of all time. In the next few weeks, Frozen and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- Part 2 should collapse under Jurassic's weight and the film will shoot to overtake Furious 7 and both installments of The Avengers franchise. Juggernaut numbers all around and this run isn't stopping anytime soon.

Close behind Jurassic was Inside Out, which took in another $52.3 million in its second weekend. Pixar's biggest hit in years dropped a mere 42% and has now made $185.1 million. With the Independence Day holiday to work with, Inside Out should be able to pass $300 million before Minions rolls into town. This is definitely a massive success for Pixar and it proves that good, original animation still sells in Hollywood. That is very important. Internationally, the film hasn't excelled quite as much ($81.5 million so far), but its worldwide total of $266.6 million and counting should be more than enough to make up the film's budget.

Universal has enjoyed a lot of success with Jurassic World, but it may have come at a cost to Seth MacFarlane and his profane talking teddy bear. Ted 2, one of the most anticipated comedies of the year, grossed $33.5 million in third place, which is over $20 million below what its predecessor opened to three years ago. Universal and many pundits had projected an opening between $45-$50 million and the film just couldn't match up. The CinemaScore was a solid "B+" but I just don't think that the fan excitement was there. Unfortunately, this is two misfires in a row for MacFarlane and I'm starting to think that his career in movies might be running out of gas.

Max was the weekend's other opener and it performed right in line with expectations- a $12.1 million weekend and an "A" CinemaScore. Family and military audiences seemed to be the target for Warner Bros. and I would imagine that they came out in droves. This is no American Sniper, but it's a solid opening for a film that has probably already made back its budget.

The only other big surprise of the weekend was that Spy continued to hold spectacularly well- something that I'm very happy about. Melissa McCarthy's excellent secret agent comedy grossed another $7.9 million this weekend and is firmly on its way to $100 million. Its current total is $88.4 million. A total around $110 million would be very good after a lackluster opening that disappointed many box office pundits.

On Wednesday, Terminator: Genisys and Magic Mike XXL will be hitting theaters for the five-day Independence Day frame. Here are my predictions:

1. Magic Mike XXL- $51 million
2. Terminator Genisys- $45 million
3. Jurassic World- $44.5 million
4. Inside Out- $43 million
5. Ted 2- $25 million
6. Max- $11.4 million
7. Spy- $7 million
8. San Andreas- $4.6 million
9. Dope- $2.3 million
10. Insidious Chapter 3- $1.3 million

Image Credits: Screen Rant, Slash Film 

Ezra Miller joins Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston in Warner Bros.' 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them'

Beyond Star Wars: The Force Awakens and whatever DC has planned for Batman and Superman, one of the most anticipated projects in Hollywood right now is Warner Bros.' Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. A prequel/spin-off trilogy set several years before the events of the Harry Potter saga, Fantastic Beasts hopes to bring back the spirit (and box office riches) of a series that is a cornerstone for an entire generation. With Potter author J.K. Rowling set to pen the script and franchise veteran David Yates in the director's chair, fan interest is definitely starting to increase. There isn't a whole lot that is known about the project as of right now, but we do have some brief character descriptions and a basic plot summary. In addition to that, two of the principle cast members have signed on- Eddie Redmayne and Katherine Waterston. And now, a third star can join that group.

On Wednesday, Variety reported that The Perks of Being a Wallflower star Ezra Miller has joined Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as Kredan. While no official offer has been made, Variety seems assured that Miller will join the cast of the film. That puts the final touches on three of the film's five main players, with the roles of Queenie and Jacob still left open. According to Variety's sources, Alison Sudol is the favorite for Queenie and Michael Cera and Josh Gad have emerged as the front-runners for Jacob, the villain of the film. While Miller is definitely an excellent pick for this franchise, he's going to have a lot on his plate. Warner Bros. has already appointed Miller to star as The Flash in the Justice League franchise and that is definitely a critical role. Between those two franchises, Miller will have a lot on his plate. But no matter- he's a great actor and I'm sure that he will do a brilliant job with both roles. Miller will likely make his first appearance in the DC universe in Batman v Superman on March 25, 2016 and will jump into the Wizarding World of Harry Potter on November 18, 2016, when Fantastic Beasts is set to hit theaters.

Image Credits: Harry Potter Wikia

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Tom Holland to play Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Jon Watts to direct stand-alone film

After months of ridiculous speculation and supposed confirmations, Marvel finally confirmed on Tuesday that actor Tom Holland will play Spider-Man in an upcoming reboot. Taking over the mantle from Tobey Maguire (who played Spider-Man in a trilogy of films from 2002-2007) and Andrew Garfield (who had two outings as Spidey in 2012 and 2014), Holland will star in a Spider-Man stand-alone reboot that will hit theaters on July 28, 2017, as well as numerous appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Holland's Spidey will have a role in Marvel's Captain America: Civil War, which will feature a massive showdown between Cap and Iron Man, as well as a presumed appearance in Avengers: Infinity War. It's safe to say that Holland has bagged one of the most coveted roles in recent cinematic history and that his Spider-Man is here to stay for the long run.

Although Spidey is back in the MCU, he's still technically a Sony property. Tom Rothman and Amy Pascal both released statements about Holland, who they called "special" and a "vibrant, talented young actor." Holland impressed many critics in 2012's The Impossible and also has a role in Ron Howard's In the Heart of the Sea, which is an early Oscar favorite. Not much is known about the Spider-Man stand-alone reboot, but Marvel and Sony did surprise audiences by announcing that Jon Watts will direct the film. Watts, known best from the indie world, has a lot on his hands with this one, and fans will undoubtedly be picky about the third new series of Spider-Man films since 2002. "As with James Gunn, Joss Whedon, and the Russo brothers, we love finding new and exciting voices to bring these characters to life. We spent a lot of time with Jon and find his work and take inspiring," was the statement from Marvel head Kevin Feige. Marvel fans will get another look at Watts' work in the upcoming thriller Cop Car, but for now, fans have engaged in fervent discussion over the casting of Holland and the choice of Watts to direct the film. Holland was impressive in The Impossible, but I'm not overly familiar with neither him nor Watts. Hopefully we get a good look at the future of the web-slinger in Civil War when it hits on May 6, 2016.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Will 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' break all box office records?

Nobody saw Jurassic World's success coming. Although Universal's massive blockbuster was predicted to be one of the biggest hits of the summer, many simply assumed that Marvel's Avengers: Age of Ultron would top the box office with ease. And while the latest superhero team up flick has done very well (it's currently at $449.4 million in the US and $1.36 billion worldwide), the dinosaurs of Jurassic World have ruled the summer. Through ten days of release, the Colin Trevorrow-directed extravaganza has broken nearly every record in the book, and is currently sitting at $402.8 million in the US and nearly a billion worldwide. With continued success throughout the month of June and through early July, it's quite possible that Jurassic World will end up being the second highest grossing film of all time in the US, behind Avatar, and the third highest grossing film of all time in the worldwide markets. But despite this unprecedented success, fans and prognosticators are already looking to the future and deeming that these records won't hold up for long.

Here is a Twitter conversation that I found today and it got me thinking about quite a few things:

"Even more remarkable than these Jurassic numbers? Knowing they'll all be crushed in December."- Seth Grahame-Smith

"@sethgs yep. An exec tell me the other day he feels STAR WARS does $4 billion including $1 billion in China alone and was being dead serious."- Justin Kroll

Grahame-Smith goes on to say that he thinks that $4 billion is a bit much, but believes that The Force Awakens will be the first film to pass $3 billion at the global box office. Now, I definitely believe that The Force Awakens will be a monster smash. And it will be an even bigger smash if it's good. Currently, it's positioned to open on the exact same day that Avatar debuted on back on 2009, and we all know that the James Cameron sci-fi flick is the highest grossing flick of all time, with box office receipts totaling $760.5 million in the US and $2.78 billion worldwide with $204.1 million of that coming from China. Does The Force Awakens realistically have enough to beat that box office behemoth?

There's no question in my mind that The Force Awakens will be the biggest hit of the year. Even with Jurassic World likely finishing anywhere between $600-$680 million in the US and $1.5-$1.7 billion worldwide, Star Wars should still easily top those numbers. There's a lot of passion surrounding this franchise and it has been 30 years since we've seen some of the characters in this upcoming film. The Force Awakens will see the return of Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and most importantly, Luke Skywalker. It has also had a killer marketing campaign so far, with two teaser trailers that broke records and generated a lot of excitement from fans. Anticipation for The Force Awakens is at an all-time high and people are rabid to know more about this film. With more information expected to hit in the next few weeks at Comic-Con and D23 (Disney's version of Comic-Con), expect the excitement to continue to grow.

The Box Office History of Star Wars

But is the precedent there for Star Wars to gross $2, $3 or even $4 billion dollars? Out of curiosity, I headed over to Box Office Mojo to examine what the previous Star Wars films had grossed at the box office. The comps for the original trilogy are a little messy because of the lack of a true way to adjust. But boy BOM's standards, all of these titles have been adjusted for inflation.

Domestic Totals

Star Wars (1977)- $1,159,000,000

Empire Strikes Back- $640,361,400

Return of the Jedi- $657,585,100

So, basically, every movie in the OT was a big smash hit with Star Wars approaching astronomical levels. Empire and Jedi were big as well, and if they had been released in today's market, the overseas numbers would have been huge as well. Now, let's take a look at what the prequels did at the box office. As always, all numbers adjusted for inflation.

Star Wars: Episode I- The Phantom Menace- $688,785,500

*Does not include 3-D re-release

        Opening Weekend- $103,611,500
        5-day total- $168,891,600

Star Wars: Episode II- Attack of the Clones- $422,339,600

        Opening Weekend- $111,846,100
        4-day total- $153,971,500

Star Wars: Episode III- Revenge of the Sith- $481,715,600

        Opening Weekend- $137,363,300
        4-day total- $200,719,400

Adjusting international numbers is very difficult due to the true lack of a common currency between nations. So we'll never really know how the prequels can compare to this new trilogy in overseas markets and we'll definitely never know much of anything about the international grosses for the original trilogy. But, for the sake of throwing the numbers out there, here are the unadjusted international totals for each of the prequels.

The Phantom Menace- $493,229,257
Attack of the Clones- $338,721,588
Revenge of the Sith- $468,484,191

Jurassic vs. Star Wars
Those are all big numbers. Each and every Star Wars film made back its money and more. But it does lead me to question Grahame-Smith and Kroll's assumption. Can a Star Wars film really approach $4 billion? Will The Force Awakens even realistically make it to $3 billion? As a fan of the franchise, I say yes, but in the real world, I'm beginning to question that. For a comparison, let's look at the adjusted numbers for Jurassic Park.

*Does not include 3-D re-release

Domestic Total- $699,991,400

Opening Weekend- $92.2 million

International Total (not adjusted for inflation)- $557,623,171

Basically, Jurassic Park lines up very closely with The Phantom Menace. And Jurassic World, in the domestic market, is shaping up to look quite a bit like its predecessor. The important thing to note here is that it is NOT shaping up like The Lost World or Jurassic Park III, the two much-maligned sequels to Steven Spielberg's acclaimed classic. The Lost World snagged $405.2 million in the US and $389.5 million internationally, while Jurassic Park III made a mere $259.9 million in the US and $187.6 million internationally, when adjusted for inflation. To me, this signifies a very important bit of info for Star Wars: The Force Awakens- it's a fresh start.

A New Hope

As many know, people really don't like the prequels. I mean, they REALLY don't like them. Granted, they still made a ton of money, but there is a lot of hatred in the film community and the Star Wars community for the George Lucas-directed films. The Force Awakens promises to not be more of the same. The Force Awakens has a young, fresh director in JJ Abrams, original cast members who were sorely missed in the prequels, new stars set to appeal to a new generation of fans, the Disney marketing machine and the benefit of having released two terrific trailers. People are pumped and ready for a new Star Wars film and the international market has only grown since the last film hit in 2005.

If The Force Awakens is as good as we think it will be, and if it pleases both die hards and casual fans, then the sky is the limit. There will be no telling how high it will go. It could hit those astronomical numbers that Grahame-Smith and Kroll discuss in their respective tweets.

The Records in Jeopardy

Now, in my mind, what records will go down with Star Wars? For one, the seemingly impossible record that could go down is the all-time midnight release record, which currently belongs to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- Part 2, the final chapter that grossed $43.5 million back in 2011. Many have speculated that that number is forever untouchable, but I think that the excitement for The Force Awakens is there. Every fan of Star Wars is going to want to turn out for that (expected) 7:00 PM release, and every theater in the country will be pretty much devoting their entire multiplex to JJ Abrams' space opera. I'm betting on at least $45 million on Thursday night and possibly up to $50 million. The all time widest opening record which currently belongs to The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (4,468 locations) will likely go down as well, as I'm expecting an opening in surplus of 4,500 theaters and over.

After that massive Thursday opening, it will be up to families and casual fans to carry this film to success. The Star Wars crazies (myself included) will see it two or three or four times over the course of the weekend, but it's a matter of getting other critical audiences to check it out like they did for Jurassic World. If everything falls into place correctly, I think that we could see an opening day that nears $135 million and an opening weekend near $250-$300 million. The anticipation is really that high.

Or, something completely different could happen. The Force Awakens could snag around $175-$200 million on its way to a very leggy run a la Avatar. But I just don't see that happening. Even though Christmas releases (like Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies) usually have longer runs and smaller openings, I don't think that The Force Awakens is a film that many people will wait for. People are going to want to see this film as soon as possible, and I think that will result in a worldwide opening of $550-$700 million.

After that, it's unclear exactly what will happen. It could play out like Avatar over the holiday frame, everybody and their entire family could go see this film, and it could end up topping Avatar in the US and nearing $900 million to $1 billion. And in the overseas markets, it could sail as high as $2 billion and play out very well, for a total worldwide gross of close to $3 billion. Or, it could end up being a little front-loaded and end up with $2 billion total worldwide. But in my mind, with the combination of a marketing campaign that really entices fans, and a lot of nostalgia for a Star Wars sequel, there's no way that this doesn't make at least $2 billion and push Titanic and Avatar for those big records. There's just too much going for this film.

Early Predictions

As we near closer to the film's release and see more information, we'll definitely get more insight into the box office prospects of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But for now, my current projections for the movie go like this:

-Thursday night- $46 million
-Opening Day Total- $135.4 million
-Opening Weekend- $289 million
-International Opening Weekend- $425 million
-Worldwide Total Opening Weekend- $714 million
-Total US Gross- $800 million
-Total International Gross-$1.6 billion
-Total Worldwide Gross- $2.4 billion

My predictions will undoubtedly change over time and depending on how Disney works over the next few months, these numbers could go down significantly. But if everything falls into place exactly like it should, then we could be seeing the biggest box office juggernaut of all time by the time that December rolls around.

Image Credits: Hollywood Reporter, The Guardian, Apple Trailers, Flickering Myth, Latino Review, Variety, YouTube, Screen Rant

Sunday, June 21, 2015

'Jurassic World' and 'Inside Out' break records, lead another massive weekend at the box office

UPDATE: Jurassic World, indeed, did break the all time second weekend box office record, grossing a stellar $106.5 million to top The Avengers' previous record. The film will cross the $1 billion mark at the box office today. Inside Out's final tally was $90.4 million.

Original Article

Led by the one-two punch of Universal's Jurassic World and Pixar's Inside Out, the box office was ablaze again with over $236 million in total grosses. At the front of the pack was Jurassic World, the bona fide box office phenomenon that has been tearing it up since it debuted on June 12. Over the course of its second weekend, World grossed $102 million, which was enough to claim the title of the second best second weekend in history (quite an amusing stat). By the time that the dust settles tomorrow, Jurassic World may actually have broken The Avengers' previous record of $103 million. The dinosaur pic surprised last weekend when the actuals rolled in, and I'm betting that it takes the crown again. After 10 days in theaters, Jurassic World has now made an absolutely stunning $398.2 million and it will undoubtedly hit $400 million on Monday. So the question is now- how high can Jurassic World fly?

The word of mouth on Jurassic World from critics was mixed to say the least, but fans have been incredibly enthusiastic. That is proven by the exceptionally strong hold this weekend. Jurassic World has also broken pretty much every record in the book in the speed department, as it became the fastest to $100, $150, $200, $250, $300 and $350 million over the course of its first few days in theaters. It will also end up being the fastest to $400 million regardless of the actual results tomorrow morning, and should end up passing The Avengers for fastest to $450 and $500 million. So it's safe to say that Jurassic World is picking up steam and moving very quickly. With a current standing around $400 million, I firmly believe that it will skyrocket past The Avengers' $623.3 million US total and fly towards the James Cameron duo.

Currently, the two highest grossing films of all time in the US are Titanic and Avatar. Titanic stands at $658.6 million and Avatar is sitting pretty at $760.5 million. In my view, passing Titanic is a possibility, but Avatar is firmly out of reach. If Jurassic World continues at the current pace that it's moving at, it will probably finish near $650 million. With a push, it passes Titanic. Let's say it makes around $50 million this week and another $50 million next weekend. That puts it around $500 million for its first 20 days. Not bad at all and if it keeps up that pace, it should have enough gas left in the tank to pass Titanic.

Now, let's move onto the other success story of the weekend- Pixar's masterpiece Inside Out absolutely crushed it at the box office. The original Pixar film opened to $91 million, which is the second highest opening ever for a film from the California animation house, and it's still near the top if you adjust for inflation. Inside Out is the first Pixar film to open in second place during its opening frame, but it was the highest opening for a second place finisher in all time history, easily topping the $68 million that The Day After Tomorrow pulled in (although inflation makes this one a bit closer). Top that off with a spectacular "A" Cinemascore and Pixar has the makings of a summer smash here.

With no animated competition until Minions comes in to make its killing on July 10, Pixar really has time to destroy the box office. They have next weekend and the Fourth of July period to work with, and thanks to the solid word of mouth, Pixar could be seeing a total around $350 million by the time everything wraps up. In all honesty, I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest to see Inside Out finish in first place next weekend. It should have a very good hold.

Dope was the other new release of the weekend, and it grossed a merely decent $6 million, failing to make back the $7 million that Open Road spent on it. The "A-" Cinemascore is promising, but I don't know how this one will hold up with all of the competition. I wasn't a huge fan of the film, but others seemed to really enjoy it. So maybe it'll find a home with the art house crowd.

Next weekend will see the release of Ted 2 and Max, the dog movie. Not to be confused with Mad Max. Here are my predictions for what should be another massive weekend as the summer box office begins to heat up even more:

1. Inside Out- $61.5 million
2. Ted 2- $55 million
3. Jurassic World- $52.5 million
4. Max- $14 million
5. Spy- $6.9 million
6. San Andreas- $4.8 million
7. Dope- $3.5 million
8. Insidious Chapter 3- $2.4 million
9. Pitch Perfect 2- $2 million
10. Mad Max: Fury Road- $1.6 million

Image Credits: Screen Rant, Forbes, Hypable

2015 Rewind- 'Focus' review

To continue my 2015 rewind series before I wrap up the first half of the year, I took a look at Will Smith's latest movie Focus. Billed as Smith's return to adult filmmaking, Focus also stars the gorgeous Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro and a few other actors in a con man thriller that works at times, and fails miserably at other times. The chemistry between Smith and Robbie is spectacular- in fact, they both give very good performances in this film. But as a movie, Focus is bogged down by a layer of artificiality and a series of twists and turns that will leave you saying "What was the point of all that?" It's an adequately made, occasionally alluring comedy that ultimately fails to deliver much of substance.

Nicky (Will Smith) is a classically trained con man who has spent years perfecting the art and craft of getting people to trust him. One night, he pretends to be conned by a woman (Margot Robbie) who has just entered the game. She tries to con him, but he knows what's going on and the deal falls apart. The woman, who's real name is Jess, sees value in Nicky and wants to learn more about stealing things from. Nicky and Jess travel down to New Orleans to start a job at the Super Bowl. Nicky teaches Jess about how to con people and they sorta start to fall in love, but before you know it, Nicky has left- the job is done, he tells Jess.

Three years later, Nicky is in Spain working on a race car con for Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro). There, he bumps into Jess, who is apparently dating Garriga. Nicky tries to reconnect with Jess, but she seems adamant to leave their past behind them. Through a series of bizarre twists and turns, the movie wraps up......I guess.

I could easily play this review pretty safe, praise Robbie's impressive performance, Smith's charisma and how smoothly made the film is. But I'm not quite going to do that. Because the script for Focus is so bad. Written by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, Focus is so haphazardly and pervasively twisty that it feels almost ridiculous and pointless. Literally, by the end of this movie I was very frustrated by the whole ordeal. You can watch Focus, turn your brain off, and probably enjoy it. But there's no real plot, no true character development. The level of insight is minimal. Focus shows promise at times, and is always mildly amusing, but it doesn't do much that works on a conceptual or story level.

No matter how many problems the movie runs into with its pain-stakingly set up twists and turns, the performances are always stellar. Robbie, who first appeared in 2013's The Wolf of Wall Street, is a terrific leading lady and will certainly get more roles down the line. Smith is impressive enough as well, and the supporting cast fits the bill well. I'm excited to see Robbie and Smith take on Suicide Squad in the near future, with a (hopefully) better script.

The thing that struck me the most about Focus was the pointlessness of it all. The movie is trivial to the point of frustration, settling for a never ending bag of tricks and allusions to distract you from actual character development and story. The movie opens with a thinly detailed con in New Orleans before it moves on to a thinly detailed con in Spain. The twists are either impossible and completely implausible, or obvious from a mile away. And the ending is unsatisfying, leaving our characters in a position that feels awkward and forced.

Focus entertains in spurts, but on a character and story level, it never really comes to fruition. Smith and Robbie are great, the movie looks good and some of the con stuff is fun. But, like any good con, Focus tricks you into thinking that it's a good movie. Look a little beneath the surface and there's really nothing there. The twists start to accumulate and by the time the third act rolls around, there's not much left to give this movie. It starts out flavorful enough, but it becomes dull and preposterous after a while. And that's sad because the talent deserved better.

THE FINAL GRADE:  C-                                             (5.4/10)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

2015 Rewind- 'Chappie' review

Before I wrap up the first half of 2015, I'm going back to take a look at some of the titles that I missed earlier this year. Let's call it my 2015 Rewind series. The first movie that I went to check out was Neill Blomkamp's Chappie, which hit theaters in March this year and just debuted on Blu-Ray/On Demand. When Chappie hit theaters, critics pretty much destroyed it, giving it a mere 41 on Metacritic and 31% on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences didn't have much of a reaction either and the film left no cultural footprint, leaving many to question the status of Blomkamp's career after his second straight disappointment. But is the film really as bad as many seem to think? No, but it's definitely not that good. Bogged down by a plot that runs in spurts, performances that aren't very compelling, and an incredibly inconsistent tone, Chappie is certainly a misfire in many aspects. I enjoyed some of Blomkamp's action beats, but I simply didn't believe what the film was going for.

In the near future, South Africa is policed by a group of robots who keep the streets safe and have sent the crime rate plummeting. The robot scout's creator, Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) loves the machines, but wants to build something more. He wants a machine that can think, feel and become sentient. Basically, Deon wants to create an A.I. and that's his biggest passion in life. Meanwhile, Ninja and Yolandi (played by Ninja and Yo-landi Visser, the two members of South African punk group Die Antwoord), need money to pay off their boss. Ninja comes up with a weird plan to kidnap Deon and force him to shut down the scouts, so that they can go rob a place.

They kidnap Deon, but he tells them that he simply can't do that. So instead, he gives them Chappie, the robot that he was going to use to test his new A.I. against the wishes of his boss, Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver, completely wasted by this script). Chappie begins to talk, and do very creative things, but all Ninja wants is for Chappie to be a gangster. To help them with heists and stuff. A lot of stuff goes down with Chappie, Ninja, Yolandi, and their friend Amerika, but the main plot revolves around Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman), the vengeful weapons designer who really doesn't like Deon or the scouts. He sends the city into mayhem in order to promote his technology, and it just gets more convoluted from there.

I had no idea just how convoluted the plot of Chappie was until I wrote that synopsis. Man, this is a movie that has just way too much going on. And not much of it is very interesting. Blomkamp films the action scenes with a certain pizzazz and flair that makes them interesting, but at the same time, the film shifts in tone all the time, causing the audience to be left in a jarring situation. One minute the film is a rollicking action thriller, and the next, it's a sentimental story about a boy becoming a man. Blomkamp never commits to the idea and everything gets so bizarrely sloppy that nothing in the movie really works. And the ending is magnificently awful, settling for a concept that feels haphazardly handled and not thought out very well. Chappie is not a good film because of this messiness, but it is an interesting miss, and one that continues to show promise for Blomkamp's career.

Blomkamp is, first and foremost, a visual filmmaker. And visually, Chappie is a very interesting film. It continues the rich South African vibe of Blomkamp's previous efforts, with that griminess that has always pervaded through his films. Ninja and Yolandi are incredibly annoying characters, but their warehouse is a sight to behold, accompanied by a lot of weird graffiti and some other cool visual tics. It's just too bad that Blomkamp couldn't carry that visual richness over and create a tight narrative to go with his landscapes.

The performances are all pretty one note, with a lot of great actors doing merely decent work. However, I was unconvinced by Sharlto Copley's performance as Chappie. It felt like a weird dynamic between Chappie and the actors on screen, and that was a problem for me. Patel is pretty good, yet Sigourney Weaver has next to nothing to do. Jackman is solid, but his sideplot felt forced and uninteresting. And Ninja and Yolandi are horrible, just annoying additions to an otherwise mediocre cast.

Chappie's fatal flaw is that it's overlong, overstuffed and tonally jumbled. The tone ranges from serious to sentimental to silly to borderline ludicrous. It never settles down and it never works for the plot or the themes of the film. Also, at two hours long, Chappie feels much longer and that's because of the straight-up atrocious pacing. This movie moves in spurts and it just never catches fire. Too many subplots also cause problems and as much as I enjoyed aspects of this film, it just feels like too much of a mess.

Chappie has some good action scenes, a few tender moments that work and a visual style that is always compelling. But there's simply too much going on, and it's crystal clear that Blomkamp didn't know what kind of film he wanted to make. He still has a promise as a filmmaker and Chappie shows flashes of growth, but the more I think about it, the less sense it makes. However, it does have a sense of style and that is something that can't be said about most sci-fi missteps. But still, this is a bizarre entry into Blomkamp's young portfolio. 

THE FINAL GRADE:  C                                                 (6/10)

Image Credits: Wired, Reddit

Friday, June 19, 2015

'Inside Out' review

Pixar has been in a real slump lately. After the studio dished out two masterpieces in the form of Up and Toy Story 3, Pixar went on to produce Cars 2, Brave and Monsters University. Not terrible films by any stretch, but they all paled in comparison to instant classics like Toy Story, The Incredibles and Monsters Inc. After taking 2014 off to rework The Good Dinosaur, Pixar is kicking 2015 off with one of their most impressive features in years. Inside Out, a heartfelt, emotional film bursting with imagination, is Pixar in its purest form and one of the very best movies of 2015. It will make you laugh. It will make you cry. But most importantly, it has remarkably smart insight into the way that the human mind works, the loss of innocence and the feelings that carry us through our darkest moments.

Riley (voiced by Kaitlyn Dias) is a bright and happy 11-year old girl who lives with her Mom (Diane Lane) and Dad (Kyle MacLachlan) in Minnosota. She has a great family life, fantastic friends and she enjoys playing hockey on her club team. All of this is thanks to a perfect internal balance, led by the five emotions inside her head- Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Anger (Lewis Black). Joy is the one who is mostly in control of Riley's world, and she prides herself on the fact that most of Riley's memories are happy. Everything seems perfect until Riley's family moves from the safety of Minnesota to San Francisco.

Riley tries to keep it together, but the emotions panic and Joy and Sadness end up being accidentally ejected out of headquarters and into the long and expansive world of long-term memory, dream productions and more. With the help of Riley's imaginary friend Bing Bong (Richard Kind), Joy and Sadness must keep Riley's mind from completely collapsing, and learn to cope with the changes that are happening all around them.

From the moment that Inside Out started, I knew that I was in for a truly special treat. Pixar is known for dreaming up new, unique and fascinating worlds to tell their stories in, and Inside Out is no different. I can't even begin to discuss how breathtakingly original this film is, or how masterfully the ideas are handled, or the pure, uncompromising emotional impact that it has. But I will try. Inside Out is a return to form for Pixar in a big way, a fun movie that is daring, thought provoking and honest. With all of the buzz and the hype, I figured that Inside Out would be a return to form for Pixar. But I never quite expected the bittersweet mastery that Pete Docter's film provides, an emotional wallop and a blast of imaginative filmmaking that is Pixar's newest instant classic.

The best animated films are not only fun and visually stunning, but thematically compelling as well. That's where Pixar succeeds the most. The Toy Story trilogy is about accepting change and dealing with loss, Up is about letting go of the past and moving forward with our own adventures and Finding Nemo is about the endless love that parents have for their children and their desire to keep them safe, even if that's not always possible. Pete Docter has said that he came up with the idea for Inside Out while watching his own daughter grow up before his eyes and seeing the way that she changed and matured. In that respect, Inside Out is one of the most personal films that Pixar has ever done. It touches on some of the themes that I mentioned from other Pixar films, but it hits on something that is entirely fresh and new- the loss of innocence and growing up.

In that respect, Inside Out has more in common with Boyhood than it does with anything else we've seen from the Pixar catalog. Sure, Toy Story 3 hit on it a little bit with the final scene, but Andy wasn't really losing his inner child. He was moving on from one stage of his life to the next. That transition just happened to create one of the most profoundly sad scenes in movie history (I'm crying as I type this right now). But Inside Out is something different. As Joy proudly describes in the film, Riley has pretty much been happy her whole life. Joy has done everything she can to make her life beautiful. But Joy can't protect her forever. The move from Minnesota to San Francisco kicks off the film and it leaves Riley with a mess of emotions. I won't discuss much more of the plot of the film for fear of spoiling a magical cinematic experience, but I will say that Riley's maturing process and loss of innocence is definitely handled in this film. The world is no longer such a happy place and memories aren't so clear cut anymore. 

There's a time in everybody's life where the world becomes a darker place, a more unforgiving landscape where it doesn't always go your way. Riley hasn't hit puberty yet, but she's nearing that time in her development and her life is really starting to change. And it's all personified perfectly by Bing Bong. Voiced by the pitch perfect Richard Kind, Bing Bong is Riley's lovely, happy imaginary friend who has been with Riley since she was very young (and according to famed Pixar fanboy Jon Negroni, is one of the critical ways that Inside Out fits into the Pixar theory). Bing Bong used to go on all sorts of adventures with Riley. But of course, imaginary friends don't stay forever. 

I'm a deeply cynical person in some aspects, but at the same time, I've clung to my inner child and I don't want to ever let it go. I still have a collection of toys from when I was a young kid (mostly stuffed bears), and heck, I still even play with them sometimes. Maybe I don't want to lose that spirit. Maybe that's why Toy Story 3 hits me the way it does. I can't ever see myself losing that part of my childhood. I want to keep my imagination, I want to keep the fun that my brother and I had together. I don't want to lose that. And maybe that's why Inside Out was the second film that I ever cried at. 

I've been teared up at films before. Schindler's List hits me in an emotional spot. So does Saving Private Ryan. I got a little choked up at the end of Furious 7. And Me and Earl and the Dying Girl left a huge emotional scar on me. But nothing hits me like some of Pixar's best. Nothing. For me, Inside Out ranks among the best because of that emotional impact. I cried twice during Inside Out. Once because of how well the story had been executed and the catharsis that the filmmakers had earned and once because it hit me on such a personal level. I won't discuss what made me cry because it heads into such spoiler-filled territory, but know that it's near the Toy Story 3 level of brilliance. 

I'm afraid of growing up, and I know that I'm almost there. I'm 16 now, and in a couple years, that scene in Toy Story 3 is going to have a whole lot more meaning to me. Inside Out connected because it felt like something that I'd already been through, emotions that I'd already felt. Life is starting to become more fun and less fun the same time. New doors are opening, but old ones are closing. Deep down inside, the magic of Pixar is that these filmmakers understand and acknowledge the how hard letting go is, but they also understand that the future is just as bright as the past, if not brighter. 

The end of Toy Story 3 is sad, but in the end, there's hope. Hope for a great future for Andy and hope for the toys and their new home with Bonnie. The opening scene in Up is one of the great moments of cinematic poetry, a long and occasionally tragic life told in a few short minutes. But ultimately, what's the message of the film? Have your own adventure. Pave your own path. Don't be stuck in the past. Inside Out will make you sad. It will make you long for your childhood happiness, the time you shared with your imaginary friends, and the time that you jumped from couch to couch pretending that the floor was lava. And it will reveal emotions that you hadn't felt in a long time because of the loss that we all share as humans. But it has an ending that is overflowing with optimism. And that's amazing. 

So yeah, Inside Out felt personal to me. But as a movie, how good is it? It's beyond good. It's mind-blowing (pun not really intended). Pixar is back in fine form, with brilliantly realized ideas, complex themes and a voice cast that does top notch work. This is one of the most clever films in recent memory, once again proving that the mind is a blank canvas for filmmakers to really do some fantastic work (Inception is another great example of this). I won't spoil some of the film's most smart and witty elements, but I will say that Docter's world-building is phenomenal. 

The voice cast and technical prowess is equally astounding, bringing Docter's ideas vividly to life. Poehler, Smith, Kaling, Hader and Black all bring unique and funny qualities to their emotions and they balance out the weighty aspects of the film with some truly hilarious moments. Seriously, this is one of the flat-out funniest movies of 2015. The rest of the voice cast beyond the core emotions is stunning as well, with Richard Kind doing some truly magnificent work as Bing Bong, the one character that you will probably fall in love with the most in the film.

Beyond that, Inside Out is just a dazzling work of creative thinking that will amaze you with its cleverness. The film is smart and sophisticated, and it works overtime to get you to understand some of the abstract concepts. The only knock I can see anybody having against this film is that it's possibly too clever for its own good, but I certainly didn't think that way. I was consistently amazed by what Docter and the team at Pixar had dreamed up.

A stroke of genius filled with endless creativity, Inside Out will mildly amuse kids, but penetrate straight to the heart of anybody old enough to understand the film's emotional core. Inside Out has a deep understanding of some of the most difficult parts of life, but is ultimately an uplifting film and one that will make you laugh and cry in equal measure. It's an easy call- Inside Out is one of Pixar's best films and unquestionably the best film of 2015 so far. This is a film that works on so many levels of brilliance, but also feels very personal to me. It's a tricky balance but Inside Out works beautifully.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A+                                            (10/10)

Image Credits: YouTube, Forbes, Hypable, Variety, YouTube, Hollywood Reporter, MovieWeb

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Tom Hanks to play Capt. "Sully" Sullenberger in Eastwood-directed biopic

A few weeks ago, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that American Sniper director Clint Eastwood had signed on to direct Sully, the story of airline pilot Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who famously landed a US Airways flight in the Hudson River after an emergency situation prompted a disaster mid-flight. With Eastwood's current success with big biopics (American Sniper was the top-grossing film of 2014 and surprised with 6 Oscar nominations), I felt like he was a natural pick for Sully when I heard the news and reported on it myself. Less than two weeks later, Deadline is now reporting an even bigger steal for the film and one that feels like an even more obvious choice. But I'm not complaining.

According to Deadline, Tom Hanks is in negotiations with Warner Bros. to play Sullenberger in the biopic, which currently does not have a release date. No more information was given by the insider source, but I don't think there's that much more that needs to be said. This will certainly be a major awards player and many are speculating that Warner Bros. might push Sully through production to get it in theaters by the end of this year. Personally, I don't see that happening. And here's why.

Hanks has three films set to hit the cinemas before the end of the year, and he has wrapped production on all three. Ithaca and A Hologram for the King will find an audience, but Hanks' other 2015 release is the one that could prevent Sully from debuting this year. Bridge of Spies is going to be an Oscar heavyweight, with a strong theme and Steven Spielberg in the director's chair. Hanks will undoubtedly be campaigning hard for an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, and frankly, I don't think he wants to compete against himself. Plus, he's in the middle of filming Ron Howard's Inferno right now and I'm not sure how fast Sully can be produced. In all likelihood, they'll hold out on this one until Fall 2016 if it's good, or they'll dump it into the Spring/Summer months if it's more Jersey Boys than American Sniper. We shall see, but I definitely like having Hanks in the cast. He's one of my favorite actors and I can't wait to see what he does with this character.

'Dope' review

If Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was the buzzy Sundance comedy that lived up to all of my expectations, then Dope is the one that falls short for me. With a stunning cast and a slick vibe that seems to give off a lot of energy, Dope is the kind of movie that tries way too hard to be hip and cool. The locales are cool, the acting is solid and the movie is breezy, passable fun, but it never comes together in the way that it should. Director Rick Famuyiwa is a promising directorial talent working with three good lead actors, and yet, there are still a lot of rough edges. Dope is both manically entertaining and manically confusing, with a plot that constantly twists and turns into sometimes clever, and sometimes redundant directions. Dope is still worth a watch at some point, but it never quite becomes the sum of its often fantastic parts.

Dope follows a group of teenage geeks living in Inglewood, CA, a poor neighborhood run by drug dealers, gangsters and other nefarious criminals. Malcolm (Shameik Moore), Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) are different from their peers because they love 90s hip-hop, actually study and do work, and have ambitions beyond staying in Inglewood. However, after a chance run-in with Malcolm's crush Nakia (Zoe Kravitz) on the street, Malcolm and his friends end up at a drug dealer (played by rapper A$AP Rocky)'s birthday party. And after another series of coincidences, Malcolm ends up with a gun, and several packages of Molly in his bag. With the dealer now in prison and the supplier angry because of the mix-up, Malcolm and his friends must sell all of the drugs on the internet themselves, with the help of perpetual stoner Will (Blake Anderson).

Part Breaking Bad, part teen comedy, Dope is a uniquely flavored mashup of genres. But that doesn't mean that it always works. With a plot that leaves more questions than answers, Dope is both twisty and absurd, and it left me with a bizarre taste in my mouth. The ending, though completely unwarranted and heavy-handed, is good, but the film fades from memory instantly. It's an energy rush alright- but not one that you'll remember very far down the line. Dope lacks that kind of emotional impact needed to create good characters that we really care about. It's fun, but it's a relatively inconsequential film that could have been much better.

Out of all of the characters in the film, the one that we become the most emotionally involved with is Malcolm. And he's a likable guy. Malcolm is a considerate, caring and most importantly, nice kid. There's a really critical scene in the film where Nakia and Malcolm are having a conversation and she says "Well, you must get all of the girls." Nakia doesn't mean it sarcastically, but Malcolm replies with "Are you making fun of me?" It's a very vulnerable moment for Malcolm and it cuts deep to the heart of his character. Unfortunately, Famuyiwa never really latches onto that theme. Instead, the film devolves into a lot of convoluted plotting and reprehensible behavior that is occasionally funny, but not hilarious.

Dope's cast is large and expansive, with everybody giving their all to Famuyiwa's premise. Shameik Moore has a lot of great material to work with, but he's undoubtedly the standout of the cast. While many of the characters aren't particularly interesting, Malcolm has depth and part of that should be credited to Moore's impressive performance. Tony Revolori and Kiersey Clemons get the most screen time beyond Moore, and they don't do much of anything for most of the film. Revolori broke out in last year's The Grand Budapest Hotel and Clemons has appeared in a wide range of TV shows, but here, they have to deal with some very poorly written characters. Diggy is a lesbian and Jib is a nerdy guy who really wants to go to parties. Both want to help their families out. Beyond that, they don't do much of anything for the rest of the film.

Zoe Kravitz gives one of her best performances yet as Nakia, and her subplot features some of the most interesting moments of the film, but Famuyiwa puts it on the back-burner for most of the runtime. Chanel Iman has some funny moments as the coked-up Lily, and A$AP Rocky is incredibly funny and impressive as Dom, the drug dealer who spurs off the whole ordeal. Blake Anderson does some amusing work as well, but I wasn't overly fond of the section of the film that he appeared in. A few other acclaimed actors round out the cast, including Rick Fox, Kimberley Elise and Quincy Brown. None of them have all that much to do, but they fill their parts well.

The problem with Dope is that for all of its boundless energy, it lacks focus and a real sense of style. Much of Dope feels incredibly artificial, and believe it or not, this film can become quite dull at times. It's funny, but never really laugh-out-loud hilarious. The drug dealing plot can be quite convoluted and it's occasionally difficult to know what is going on. Mix that in with a few other subplots and an absurd amount of secondary characters, and you should start to imagine some of the film's problems.

By far, the most enjoyable section of the film takes place at the Lily's house and the drug-fueled escapades that take place at the massive mansion. It's filmed at a manic pace, just like the rest of the film, but there's a sense of fun to it and the sequence is as outrageous as anything in a modern studio comedy. And that's the problem with the rest of the film. The energy is high, but the subject matter can get quite dark and that just didn't mix well for me.

Dope is not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination. Director Rick Famuyiwa is a filmmaker with vision and energy, even if his screenplay can't quite match up to his technical abilities. And parts of this movie can be quite enjoyable. Shameik Moore is a very talented performer, A$AP Rocky smoothly movies from being a great rapper to an actor with a lot of promise, and the film's ending connects on a story level and a political one.

It's just unfortunate that the film can't quite match up to the various parts that work quite well. Despite all of the visual flair and musical touches, the tone is never quite right and I never felt like I was having that much fun. For this kind of movie, that's a near fatal flaw. Most of the characters aren't that compelling and I felt like the film was monotonously dull at times. Unlike many critics, I enjoyed the message of the end sequence and it felt like an inspired bit of filmmaking from Famuyiwa. But the rest of the film can't quite match up- it's scattershot, a tad bit forgettable and it tries too hard to do too much.

THE FINAL GRADE:  C+                                            (6.3/10)

Image Credits: Variety, Rapwave, Hollywood Reporter, Music Times, Hollywood Reporter

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' director Rupert Wyatt to helm 'Gambit' with Channing Tatum

Fox was able to keep the X-Men series afloat for years with just the core franchise and a few side movies for Hugh Jackman's Wolverine, but now, in the aftermath of the Hollywood shared universe machine, the studio must go bigger. In addition to more Wolverine movies and X-Men: Apocalypse (which will conclude the Bryan Singer era in the X-Men universe), Fox will release Deadpool and Gambit next year. Both of those films are spin-off movies based on characters who previously appeared in other X-Men movies. Deadpool will once again star Ryan Reynolds and will hit in February 2016 (with an R rating), but before yesterday, very little was known about Gambit. We knew that Channing Tatum would be taking over the role from Taylor Kitsch (who played the mutant in X-Men: Origins- Wolverine) and we knew the release date, but beyond that, we've been pretty much in the dark on that title. Now, thanks to a report from EW, we know a bit more about the possible direction for this franchise.

EW has confirmed that Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Gambler director Rupert Wyatt will helm Gambit for Fox. The report was not much more extensive than that, and very little is known about the plot of the film or additional characters who may appear in the movie. But still, this is promising news. I was a big fan of what Wyatt did with Planet of the Apes (I liked Rise significantly more than Dawn), and even though most people seemed to dislike The Gambler, I feel like Wyatt is still a very promising directorial talent. Gambit isn't near the top of my list of most anticipated films for next year, but it is an interesting title and I'm hoping that this can finally be Channing Tatum's breakthrough into the action cinema world. Tatum has had a lot of success with comedies (21 Jump Street), female-driven flicks (Magic Mike) and even dramas (Foxcatcher), but his forays into the action world (Jupiter Ascending, White House Down, even the G.I. Joe franchise) have been decidedly less successful. Hopefully Gambit can turn things around when it hits theaters on October 7, 2016.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Forest Whitaker in talks to join the massive cast of 'Star Wars: Rogue One'

After Jurassic World snagged the biggest opening weekend of all time thanks to a mixture of perfect marketing, great casting and fan nostalgia, the Hollywood arms race is now beginning. Universal will continue to construct their Jurassic World and Fast and Furious franchises, Warner Bros. is masterminding the DC and Harry Potter universes, Fox is keeping X-Men afloat, and Disney is working on Avengers, and most importantly, Star Wars. The Force Awakens hits in December, and you can bet that Disney wants those records. Expect a new trailer for that film around the time that Ant-Man hits theaters before the marketing campaign ramps up in September. But Disney is looking even further into the future than that. Episode VIII will debut in May 2017, but before that film releases, the first Star Wars anthology film will smash its way into theaters. Star Wars: Rogue One will debut in December 2016 and fans are already excited by the buzz on this one. And today, another piece of the (reportedly) massive casting puzzle for that film came into place.

According to a report from Variety, acclaimed actor Forest Whitaker is in talks to join the cast of Rogue One, which already stars Felicity Jones, Riz Ahmed, Diego Luna and Ben Mendelsohn in a villainous role. I like the casting of Whitaker, and I especially like everything that I've seen from this film so far. Most Hollywood insiders have indicated that this will be a huge ensemble cast and will have a "dark and gritty" war movie feel. Director Gareth Edwards experimented with this in 2014's Godzilla and it will be interesting to see him tackle it again with Rogue One. Even though the story is one that we're already familiar with (the rebels attempt to steal the Death Star plans in an effort to save the galaxy), I have a feeling that Edwards and Lucasfilm will inject enough personality into it to make Rogue One feel fresh and unique. Although all eyes are on The Force Awakens right now, Rogue One has definitely piqued my interest. Star Wars: Rogue One debuts on December 16, 2016.

Image Credits: Screen Rant

Katherine Waterston to star alongside Eddie Redmayne in 'Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them'

Even though the Harry Potter saga ended in 2011 with Deathly Hallows- Part 2, everybody knew that Warner Bros. wouldn't be able to let go of their iconic franchise that easily. They couldn't really make sequels to the series, but spin-offs and prequels were always in the realm of possibility. In 2013, Warner Bros. and Potter author J.K. Rowling announced that they'd be producing a spin-off series known as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Based on a textbook from Harry's school days, Fantastic Beasts would allow for new stories to be told in the Potter-verse, and with a screenplay from Rowling herself, as well as the return of director David Yates, fans began to get excited for the impending spin-offs. Earlier this year, Warner Bros. confirmed that Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne would star in the film as Newt Scamander, the magizoologist and author of the novel. The hunt was on for a female lead to star in the film, and as of today, that search is over.

Warner Bros. announced this morning that Inherent Vice star Katherine Waterston will star in the film along with Redmayne. Waterston will play Porpetina, a US-based witch who crosses paths with Newt during his adventures in New York. For those who haven't kept up with the news, Fantastic Beasts will be set in the 1920s in New York, and could possibly involve an American magic school akin to Hogwarts. So while we don't know much about the film, it is clear that Warner Bros. is really trying to do something different here.

As for Waterston, she's a fantastic actress and I'm excited that she was cast as the lead. Out of all of the actresses who reportedly tested for the role, Waterston was undoubtedly the best choice and I'm glad that the producers went with her. The interesting thing is that Waterston is British, and according to the Warner Bros. press release, Tina is an American character. Certainly interesting, but I'm sure Waterston will make it work. This cast is shaping up nicely so far, and I'm glad that Warner Bros. is insuring that good actors will be appearing in this movie.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is one of the most tantalizing projects in recent memory, because it could go in so many directions. The Potter franchise was an integral part of my childhood, and part of me wants them to leave the Potter-verse alone in fear of a trilogy that can't quite match up (think The Hobbit or the Star Wars prequels). Yet with the talent involved, I can't help but get excited for this film. Rowling is starting from scratch here and she has an awesome sandbox of tools to work with. Hopefully she can make something great out of this promising material. Fantastic Beasts hits theaters on November 18, 2016 and I'm sure that we'll be hearing more about this film in the near future. 

Image Credits: Harry Potter wikia

Sunday, June 14, 2015

'Jurassic World' breaks records with $208.8 million domestic weekend, $511 million worldwide

UPDATE: As many expected, Jurassic World played better than expected on Sunday and ended up toppling The Avengers to win the all time opening weekend record. According to Universal's stats, Jurassic snagged $208.8 million, which is $1.4 million higher than the $207.4 million that The Avengers took in back in 2012. Stunning, insane results and Universal will be celebrating this victory for a very long time.

Original Article

Who saw this one coming?

Jurassic World, one of the most anticipated movies of the summer, was expected to take in between $100- $130 million this weekend, which would have been an impressive opening in its own right. But Jurassic World far surpassed those expectations. After solid Thursday night receipts and the biggest Friday and Saturday grosses of all time, Jurassic World ended the weekend with a dazzling $204.6 million, the second biggest opening weekend in history. And some believe that World could go higher. When the dust settles tomorrow morning, Jurassic World may have surpassed The Avengers, which currently holds the opening weekend record with $207.4 million. If that were to happen, I'll be back tomorrow morning with another update.

The most surprising thing is that Jurassic World might not be done yet. Although Inside Out and Ted 2 could take a little bit of Jurassic's thunder in the coming weeks, there is no direct competition for the large-scale blockbuster until Terminator: Genisys hits on July 1 (and that film could end up being a huge disappointment). Plus, Jurassic World is one of the most universally beloved films from audiences in recent memory. It received a strong "A" Cinemascore and everybody who I know that saw it, loved it. Kids are out of school, people want something that feels like a summer movie and Jurassic World delivers that on every front.

In addition to Jurassic's stunning domestic total, the dino blockbuster grossed $307.2 million in international markets, which amounts to a worldwide total of $511.8 million. That's the biggest opening weekend of all time, easily surpassing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- Part 2's $483.2 million. Although most box office prognosticators expected World to be one of the summer's biggest hits, everybody just presumed that Avengers: Age of Ultron would be the biggest. And depending on how front-loaded Jurassic is, Age of Ultron and Furious 7 still might be ahead of the blockbuster when the dust settles. But the current event movie climate has been shaken and some things in Hollywood will definitely change.

Some have theorized that reviews hurt Avengers: Age of Ultron earlier this year, or that the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao fight took a big chunk out of the opening weekend grosses. But I don't believe that was the case. Despite how good or bad you thought Age of Ultron was, even the most avid fan of that film would have to agree that it was just another cog in the Marvel movie machine. The band was back together, but that communal event feeling that was around with the original Avengers simply wasn't there. Jurassic World went ballistic at the box office because it felt like a true event. Everything about the film screamed bigger, badder and more fun.

Of course, Jurassic Park nostalgia and Chris Pratt's newfound superstar status helped as well. But ultimately, Jurassic World looked and felt like an old-school, big-scale blockbuster, the likes of which we hadn't seen in a while. It was a sequel, but it was also a fresh start and Universal did a great job of turning it into a four-quadrant smash. In a summer where most of the action films look good, but not great, Jurassic World was one of the few films that everybody had on their list.

If Jurassic World does set the record, I don't think it'll hold onto it for a particularly long time. Disney has marketed Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens in a very similar way to Universal's strategy with Jurassic World, and if the film is good, The Force Awakens could be a juggernaut the likes of which we've never seen before. But for now, let's not look to the future. Let's celebrate this perfect box office storm and congratulate Universal on what has been one of the most spectacular years I've seen from a studio ever.

It's also worth noting that this weekend was the biggest in history, totaling $262.2 million. That broke the previous record of $259.9 million, which was set in December 2009. Pretty impressive stuff and we can thank Jurassic World for creating a true box office phenomenon. This momentum should carry throughout the rest of the month, and it's safe to say that we don't need to worry about falling receipts right now. The box office is doing just fine.

With Inside Out and Dope hitting theaters next weekend, it'll be a little bit closer of a race at the box office. Here are my predictions:

1. Jurassic World- $96.9 million
2. Inside Out- $73 million
3. Spy- $10 million
4. Dope- $9 million
5. San Andreas- $7.6 million
6. Insidious Chapter 3- $4 million
7. Pitch Perfect 2- $3.2 million
8. Entourage- $2.8 million
9. Mad Max: Fury Road- $2.6 million
10. Avengers: Age of Ultron- $2.4 million

Image Credits: Red Carpet Crash, Daily Mail. Screen Rant, Slash Film

Saturday, June 13, 2015

'Jurassic World' review

Dinosaurs attacking people.
Dinosaurs fighting each other.
Things blowing up.

Need I say more?

If you're even considering going to Jurassic World, you already should have a general idea of what you'll be getting into. Jurassic World is big, bombastic and set at a breathless pace that never lets up for the entirety of the film's 124 minute runtime. It's also one of the most entertaining movies of the summer so far, a massive thrill ride that delivers everything you could possibly want and more. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard are great, but the real stars of the show are the dinosaurs- and boy, they are impressive. Director Colin Trevorrow has the occasional misstep, yet for the most part, this is an exciting spectacle with a Spielberg touch. Jurassic World is worthy of its iconic predecessor.

Set 22 years after the horrific events of Jurassic Park, Jurassic World follows a new set of characters as they embark on a journey in the dino theme park. On Isla Nublar, Jurassic World is a fully functioning theme park with corporate sponsors and thousands of visitors a day. The late John Hammond passed control of his park down to Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan), with Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) as his second-in-command. As Jurassic World opens, it's Christmas break and Claire's nephews, Zach and Gray (Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins) are visiting for the holiday season. Gray is in love with everything at the park and Zach is your typical emotional teenage dude. Claire gives them free VIP passes and they run around the park, having a pretty good time.

Meanwhile, Claire and Masrani are finishing development on a new genetically modified attraction that is set to be the most terrifying dinosaur yet. The Indominus Rex, created by mad scientist Dr. Henry Wu (BD Wong), is a hodgepodge of T-Rex and whatever else Wu decided to mix in. The Indominus is a violent creature, and Masrani wants to make sure that the attraction is completely safe before they open it to the public. He brings in raptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to examine the security of the exhibit, reigniting a tricky relationship between Owen and Claire. But after a series of missteps and accidents, let's just say that things don't go as planned. Dinosaurs escape. People get eaten. All hell breaks loose.

Jurassic World is on its way to being one of 2015's biggest hits, after grossing a stunning $82.8 million yesterday, on its way to a weekend that could break all sorts of box office records. And there's a reason for that. Jurassic World is an event film in every sense of the word. It's big, it's filled with awesome moments, and it feels like the kind of movie you want to see in the summer. No goofy cynicism or ridiculously over-the-top humor- just a good, old-fashioned thrill ride that works on so many levels. Sure, there are some cheesy moments and the dialogue gets a little hammy. And the pacing isn't always perfect. But I dare anyone who loves monsters movies to go see this film and not walk out with a big goofy smile on your face. It's just a pure blast from start to finish and I'm so glad that this franchise has come roaring back to life.

The cast is filled with veteran actors and newcomers, who all are pretty solid. Some get to have decently written roles, most are dinosaur chow, and only a few stand out. Chris Pratt, hot off of his success with Guardians of the Galaxy and The LEGO Movie, is the unquestioned star of the film, and he has a gruff charm that is infinitely likable. Pratt can carry a movie, and Jurassic World is more proof of this. Jessica Chastain lookalike Bryce Dallas Howard is the other principle member of the cast, doing a solid job of conveying Claire's strengths and weaknesses. The romance between the two is forced, but Pratt and Howard did a solid job on their own.

Ty Simpkins and Nick Robinson are the token child actors of the cast, and they do a serviceable job of acting scared during dangerous situations. Their family drama is a little forced as well, but it's tolerable. Vincent D'Onofrio has a pretty interesting part as the militant leader who really wants to turn raptors into weapons. This little subplot with D'Onofrio and BD Wong is going to be the basis of the inevitable sequel, so it was interesting to watch that develop throughout the film. Irrfan Khan always brings his A-game and he's very good as Masrani. Finally, Jake Johnson stands out as Lowry, the film's only bit of true comedic relief. Johnson has been in some bad movies before, but he's consistently funny and I was really glad that he got his chance to shine in Jurassic World.

None of the characters are particularly well-developed or interesting. But I'm sorry, when a film is as fun as Jurassic World is, you don't need a bunch of depth. This movie isn't a slow burn thriller or a complex horror film about the dangers of creation. No, this is an action thriller in the purest sense of the word, an exciting, fun film that feels like a theme park ride from start to finish. Jurassic World begins its rampage in the first thirty minutes and it never lets up. You might not get complex human emotions, but you're gonna get to see a series of raptors chase down a terrifying, genetically modified dinosaur while Chris Pratt rides on a motorcycle. And that was good enough for me.

Jurassic World may go astray in the script and pacing (occasionally) department, but it makes up for that tenfold with a terrific sense of scale, tone and story. In some ways, this is a rehash of the original film, but there are enough little kinks and twists that Jurassic World becomes interesting. Plus, the scale of this film is enormous. I've seen World twice now- once in IMAX 3D, and a second time on the biggest screen in my theater. Watching it the second time, the screen wasn't nearly big enough. It's a film that demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible, with the loudest sound possible and the most dazzling 3D projection available. We're not awed by much anymore in the special effects, but the third act of this film really amazed me. That's saying something.

The pacing of Jurassic World can get a little rough- the Indominus gets out early in the film, but it takes a little while before total destruction is unleashed on the park. Yet when director Colin Trevorrow catches his groove, the pacing of this film is as smooth and effortless as you'll see in an action film. He also happens to have a firecracker of a third act that works on so many levels. Let me say this- the final battle of this film is as extraordinary as we'll see in 2015. I won't exactly say who is fighting or what happens, but I was slapping my knee in giddy joy throughout the final act.

Jurassic World works because it has that sense of grandeur and awe that is missing from many blockbusters these days. Surprisingly, most of the great films this summer have found a way to bring back that charm, but Jurassic World does it particularly well. Maybe it was the fact that I've gone to so many theme parks in my life, or maybe I just like watching dinosaurs eat people, but I had a terrific time with this movie despite its flaws. This is a summer blockbuster on the grandest scale possible and director Colin Trevorrow did a great job of bringing this film franchise roaring back to life.

Chris Pratt certifies his movie star status again, composer Michael Giacchino provides the argument that he's the next John Williams, and Trevorrow comes close to creating a sequel that matches its iconic predecessor. Jurassic World works as one of the best pieces of pure blockbuster entertainment I've seen in recent years and I can't wait to see where this franchise goes from here. Sure, it's cheesy at times, but nobody should be looking for Shakespearean drama here. Jurassic World is the best monster movie of recent years and another terrific flick in what has been a great summer for movies thus far.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A                                              (8.9/10)

Fox moves 'The Martian' to October, shifts 'Victor Frankenstein' to Thanksgiving; 'London Has Fallen', 'The Equalizer 2' set new release dates

While the film world is occupied with the total takeover of Universal's Jurassic World (the film has a shot at breaking the all-time opening weekend record, which is a truly stunning result), a few of the other studios are shifting the release dates on their upcoming slate. With a very crowded late summer and fall season ahead of us, the studios are rushing to make sure that their films are set for success in the later months of the year. Let's move through a quick breakdown of some of the release date changes that have occurred in the last week or so.

Earlier this week, Fox released the first trailer for The Martian, Ridley Scott's new sci-fi thriller. The reaction from fans was very strong, and it looks like Fox could have a hit on their hands here. The film was originally set for release on November 25, 2015, but has now moved to October 2, 2015. And I can't decide whether that's a smart move or not. By shifting the film to October, The Martian avoids a jam-packed November, led by Spectre, The Peanuts Movie, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay- Part 2, Xmas, The Good Dinosaur and a few other titles that could break out. However, Fox is now moving the film into the equally crowded October slate. 

On its current release date, The Martian will face off against Robert Zemeckis' IMAX thriller The Walk, Bradley Cooper's new film Adam Jones, and the limited release of the buzzy crime drama Legend. Throughout the rest of the month, The Martian will face tough opposition from Pan, Bridge of Spies, Steve Jobs and Crimson Peak, among other titles. So while Fox may be avoiding some big blockbusters, they're running into quite a tough slate here. Hopefully everything works out for the film. The Martian is directed by Ridley Scott, stars Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Donald Glover, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Sean Bean, Kristen Wiig, Sebastian Stan and Mackenzie Davis, and will now debut on October 2. 

Originally set for release on October 2, Focus Features has now moved the Gerard Butler action sequel London Has Fallen to January 22, 2016. Olympus Has Fallen was a surprising hit back in 2013, grossing nearly $98 million in the US and $160 million worldwide on a $70 million budget. The sequel should have a lower budget and will probably do great in January. The film will hit theaters on the same day as CriminalRisen and The Boy, and one week after The Nut Job 2 and Ride Along 2. With a cast that includes Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Melissa Leo, Jackie Earle Haley, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster and Aaron Eckhart, London Has Fallen should do strong business in January.

To occupy The Martian's empty slot, Fox has moved Victor Frankenstein to the November 25 date. The Frankenstein origin story from Paul McGuigan stars James McAvoy as Dr. Frankenstein and Daniel Radcliffe as Igor. I don't know much about this film beyond what is provided in the IMDb plot synopsis, so this one feels like a wild card to me. However, it is entering a tough month and if it doesn't gain some buzz, I can see Victor Frankenstein moving to next year. Currently, it will hit theaters in the aftermath of Mockingjay and on the same day as Creed, The Good Dinosaur, Xmas and Midnight Special. Tough crowd and it would be easy to see this film get lost in the shuffle. 

Finally, Sony has now set a release date for The Equalizer 2, the sequel to last year's Denzel Washington action hit. The film will see the return of Washington, and will now debut on September 29, 2017. Nothing else is known about the film as of now. That's it for today's release date recap, but with such a crowded fall season, I'm sure that some more big news will drop in the near future.

Image Credits: Fox Movies, Screen Rant, Joblo