Opening in Las Vegas, July 20, 2018

Standard

Another dull week. Spend time with your family.

We already have estimates in and the surprise winner was The Equalizer 2 (49). I haven’t seen the first Equalizer and have no plans to, so this will remain unseen by me. Denzel Washington seems to be still a reliable fox office force.

Another sequel, even less likely to be seen by me, is Mamma Mia!…Again (60), which is kind of a threatening title. A movie mostly for older women, it brings on Cher to play Meryl Streep’s mother (Meryl wisely declined to participate) when she is only three years older. I won’t see this even though it features Lily James, one of the most beautiful women in film today.

And yet another sequel, Unfriended: Dark Web (53), is another in a series of horror movies in the digital age. I think I have the original on my Netflix queue, so who knows, I may see this one day when I’m in a nursing home.

 

Advertisements

GE Meet-Up: Vegas, Baby!

Standard

IMG_0006.jpg

There was a Gone Elsewhere Meet-Up last night as our old pal Nick was in Las Vegas and had enough time to quaff a few adult beverages at the city’s premier dive bar, The Double Down Saloon. We had a great time, and Nick has promised to post again. I think that he must be the only man in Sweden who has been to both Double Down locations (see the last meet-up in New York City).

AGEBOC X – Week 12

Standard


Deadline is Thursday, July 19th at 11:59 pm (EST)

    1. What will Mama Mia! Here We Go Againearn this weekend? (+4 for closest prediction. +2 for second closest. Additional +2 for prediction within 500k)
    2. What will The Equalizer 2 earn this weekend? (+4 for closest prediction. +2 for second closest. Additional +2 for prediction within 500k)
    3. What will Unfriended: Dark Web earn this weekend? (+4 for closest prediction. +2 for second closest. Additional +2 for prediction within 500k)

Current Rankings:
James: +77
Jackrabbit Slim: +59
Marco: +33
Rob: +24
Juan: +16
Nick: +4
Joe: +4

Opening in Las Vegas, July 13, 2018

Standard

A weak weekend. Time to catch up on reading.

Skyscraper (52), which as James pointed out, is about as generic a title you can get, is another cliche-ridden Dwayne Johnson action flick. Question: will it make more than San Andreas (which at least had Alexandra Daddario in a bikini).

For the little ones in Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation (54). When I was teaching I put on one of these films for my students but I didn’t pay much attention. I probably would have liked them when I was at that age, because I loved monsters (still do, but now I prefer them scary).

Finally, a film I will probably catch on DVD, Sorry to Bother You (80). It seems to be a film about someone in a call center, which I know something about, and getting along while being black in a white world. It’s directed by the greatly-named Boots Riley, and also stars Danny Glover (!)

 

AGEBOC X – Week 11

Standard


Deadline is Thursday, June 12th at 11:59 pm (EST)

    1. What will Skyscraper earn this weekend? (+4 for closest prediction. +2 for second closest. Additional +2 for prediction within 500k)
    2. What will Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation earn this weekend? (+4 for closest prediction. +2 for second closest. Additional +2 for prediction within 500k)
    3. What will Ant-Man and the Wasp earn this weekend? (+4 for closest prediction. +2 for second closest. Additional +2 for prediction within 500k)

Current Rankings:
James: +63
Jackrabbit Slim: +59
Marco: +27
Rob: +24
Juan: +16
Nick: +4
Joe: +4

Opening in Las Vegas, July 6, 2018

Standard

The big opening is Ant-Man and the Wasp (70), which looks like decent fun. I’ve always liked Paul Rudd–I hope he plays me in my life story. A ton of money looms, as Marvel continues the streak. In other Marvel news, the great Steve Ditko, who took part in creating Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, died this week at 90.

The First Purge (54) is not really the first purge, at least it’s not the first movie. It’s following the old, “we’ve run out of sequel ideas, so let’s do a prequel.” I saw The Purge, but I can’t remember if I saw the second one. I’ll skip this, although I love Marisa Tomei, almost as much as George Costanza.

A documentary about Whitney Houston, simple titled Whitney (75), is in a lot of theaters for a documentary. I was never a fan of hers, and her life story doesn’t interest me. Getting good reviews, though.

In limited release (one theater) is Boundaries (49), a lame family comedy road trip film, starring Vera Farmiga (why isn’t she a bigger star?) being put upon by her rascal father, Christopher Plummer. The definition of middle-brow entertainment.  Pass.

AGEBOC X – Week 10

Standard


Deadline is Thursday, June 5th at 11:59 pm (EST)

    1. What will Ant-Man and the Wasp earn this weekend? (+4 for closest prediction. +2 for second closest. Additional +2 for prediction within 500k)
    2. What will The First Purge earn this weekend? (+4 for closest prediction. +2 for second closest. Additional +2 for prediction within 500k)
    3. What will Sorry to Bother You earn this weekend? (+4 for closest prediction. +2 for second closest. Additional +2 for prediction within 500k)
    4. Will Sicario: Day of the Soldado fall UNDER or OVER 65%? (+1 for correct answer)

Current Rankings:
Jackrabbit Slim: +54
James: +52
Rob: +24
Marco: +18
Juan: +16
Nick: +4
Joe: +4

Review: Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World (2012)

Standard

seeking_friend

When ‘Seeking A Friend For the End Of the World’ came out in 2012, I was eager to see it as ‘end of the world’ plotlines have always intrigued me for the potential scope they have and perspective they can take. You could make a dozen films with that concept (dramatic or comedic) and they could all potentially be interesting viewing.

Alas, it never arrived in Australian cinemas as despite Steve Carell starring, it was a box office flop and had a lackluster critical response. I eventually saw it recently because, in a funny sort of way, the film’s failure made it more intriguing to me as I was curious to see where the film misused its premise.

As is often the case with these types of films, the film begins with an official pronouncement that all attempts to prevent an incoming asteroid colliding with the earth and ending all life on it have failed and only weeks to live remain. In New York City, middle-aged Dodge (Carell) is understandably lost as to how to react to this situation. While friends around him devolve into debauchery, Dodge initially sticks pointlessly to his dull daily routine (his wife having left him when the end of the world was official) until a chance encounter with British neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley) who is grieving over her breakup with her boyfriend. While polar opposite personalities, they develop a friendship bordering on romance but will it survive the end of the world?

SAFFTEOTW can be analysed in two sections; as a broad comedy and as a melancholy take on romance in the worst possible situation.

As the former, the film is a failure. Its attempts at comedy fall consistently flat as they either misfire through poor execution (a workplace meeting where new job opportunities are discussed with weeks till the world ends sounds a lot funnier in concept than it does here) or scenes that just go nowhere. A scene where Dodge attends a party that turns into drug-taking and orgies (off-screen) drifts on aimlessly forever without even a mildly funny moment.

While the writing and direction (both by Lorene Scarfaria) are to blame, Carell’s performance doesn’t help either. He plays his character so inert and passive that he gives nothing to the other characters around him who then tend to overact as a result and any comedy possibilities are largely snuffed out.

Another issue is that there’s a seemingly endless array of fairly prominent TV/movie personalities in minor/cameo roles (Adam Brody, Connie Britton, Rob Corddry, Melanie Lynskey, Gillian Jacobs, William Petersen amongst others). This has become a bit of a trend in modern comedy to cast like this and it often is distracting more than entertaining, especially when they try to ‘steal scenes’. Most of them don’t work here.

But as a melancholy take on romance when the world is ending (which takes up most of the film’s second half), the film is much more substantive; Scarfaria is clearly more at ease with the romantic and melancholy aspects of the film and perhaps felt obliged to put the comic elements in to make the film more appealing to potential audiences.

As well, Carell’s performance is much more suited to this part of the film as someone who transforms from a dull sad-sack to one who is reborn by finding love and challenging himself. Knightley is OK in her role although the rather forced quirkiness of her character (especially how much the film hammers home her love of vinyl records) is somewhat tedious.

What the film gets right is seeing a couple enjoying and getting to know each other so that basic scenes like them spending an afternoon at the beach is deftly charming. And a brief bit where Dodge sits on the floor of his apartment listening to Penny’s vinyl records is quite effective as well. These seemingly simple scenes work much better than the forced effort of the comedic scenes.

Also working well is the segment where Dodge visits his father (Martin Sheen) who he’s been estranged from for decades. The concept – a father and son reconciling at their final opportunity – seems somewhat unpromising as a rather cliched concept, but thanks for the sincerity of how it’s filmed and the performances of Carrell and Sheen it works surprisingly effectively.     

Even in the second half, the film isn’t perfect. There’s a segment where Dodge and Penny spend a night in jail which feels unnecessary and filler material. And it never really gets its timing right as a comedy.

But by its moving finale SAFFTEOTW has despite its flaws become a worthwhile viewing experience, quite touching and sweet in its own way. It’s easy to see why the film failed critically and commercially upon its release, but there are rewards for those who seek it out now.

Movies Opening June 29, 2018

Standard

Sicario: Day of the Soldado: Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin and writer Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water, Wind River) return for this sequel to Denis Villeneuve’s excellent 2015 film. Stefano Sollima (Gomorahh) directs.

Despite less favorable reviews from critics, this appears to be opening quite well. Sheridan has said he intends to make a third picture (with Emily Blunt’s character from the original back in the mix) and he should get to do it as long as it doesn’t fall off a cliff box office-wise over the next couple of weeks.

Uncle Drew: Basketball comedy. Surprisingly decent reviews given that the trailer was legitimately torture.

Review: American Animals

Standard

Maybe you’re like me and occasionally be in a bank or some other place with valuable things and take a look around and wonder how, if you were to rob it, what would your plan be? I, of course, would never do it, because I would never, ever want to go to jail, but in the 2018 film American Animals, some college students decide to give it a go.

Set in Lexington, Kentucky, this true story involves a young man who attends Transylvania College (the coolest name of a school in the U.S., if you ask me). Their special collections room in the library contains some very valuable manuscripts, the cornerstone being a first edition of Audubon’s Birds of America, valued at twelve million dollars. The young man (played by Barry Keoghan) sees that it is very lightly guarded, and shares this information with his best friend, a loose cannon (Evan Peters).

Using Internet articles and old heist movies as their guide, they plan to steal the books. They end up recruiting two others. Though the audience can see how stupid this is, they want to escape their humdrum existence, and as Peters said, have a life like the ending of The Shawshank Redemption. Keoghan rightly tells him that only happens in the movies.

Written and directed by Bart Layton, American Animals is an examination of quietly desperate youth, who want to have adventures and a great life but have no idea how to do it. This might have made a crisp little crime drama–the robbery itself is masterfully suspenseful–but Layton decides to elevate it to being some kind of metaphor for the eternal chasing of the American dream. A painting of a flamingo in the book is a frequent image–Keoghan even imagines he sees one on a road late at night. I can only suppose that a flamingo represents the exotic, the coastal paradise that the boys long for.

American Animals also makes another mistake that I see all of the time–it references movies that are better than it. Reservoir Dogs gets a lot of mentions (Peters decides to give them names that are colors, including calling the macho driver the moniker of “Mr. Pink”) and there’s even a clip of Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing. When I see or hear these references, it makes me realize I’d rather be watching those films.

I think Layton has a future as a director, but could probably use a stronger editor (the film is just under two hours but feels like it’s half again as long) and can save the messages. If you want to send a message, we all know, call Western Union.

Movies Opening June 22, 2018 / Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom Review

Standard

jurassic-world-fallen-kingdom-jw2_adv1sheet_trex_2_preview_rgb-720x1139

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom: This past weekend’s sole new release was the fifth installment in the Jurassic Park franchise.

This series has had enormous difficulty with sequels in the past. The problem is that once you move away from the terrific central concept of a dinosaur amusement park gone wrong, there’s really not much you can do beyond “characters return to depressing, abandoned island for ________ (MacGuffin)”. It’s difficult from both a storytelling and marketing perspective. There’s no easy hook for general audiences.

Unfortunately, the first half of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom falls into the same trap as The Lost World and Jurassic Park III. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard return to a decaying Jurassic World in order to rescue the island’s dino population from an impending volcanic eruption (and of course things doesn’t go as planned). This section is just lame and tiresome and terribly written. We’ve seen it all before.

Things pick up significantly in the last hour as the dinosaurs rampage through an estate in Northern California in true horror movie fashion. It’s dopey and fun and different enough that it satisfied me. The ending positions the series for a whole new direction that does not feel right at all, but we’ll see how far they go with it.

The direction (from series newcomer J.A. Bayona) is fine. It looks nice and I appreciated that he made the third act a gothic horror film with dinosaurs.

Chris Pratt is just a void in these films. Dull as dishwater. His character clearly doesn’t exist on the page so he ends up playing it as “generic action hero” with his Guardians of the Galaxy charisma dialed back to 25%. He seems emotionally detached from everything that’s going on around him. Even the comedic scenes that should be a lay up for him fall flat. Howard is ok, even if she’s essentially playing a completely different character in this one.

I’d recommend it with reservations based on the last act even if it’s the dumbest non-Michael Bay blockbuster I’ve seen in a long time.

C+

Review: The Incredibles 2

Standard

The Incredibles, from 2004, is considered one of Pixar’s finest films (I rate it behind Toy Story 2, but reasonable people can disagree). Fourteen years later, we get a sequel, again written and directed by Brad Bird, who has won two Oscars for Best Animated Film, and just might win another for The Incredibles 2.

This is not to say that the sequel is as good as the original. At many points the film feels like it’s trying too hard. The action scenes are so fast that I felt a little numbed by them. And the plot seemed recycled from other superhero films, including the original: what is the place for superheroes in our world?

The film picks up right from the end of the last one. Superheroes are illegal, and when Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) attempt to stop a bank robbery, they are admonished for wreaking destruction, and told the money is insured. Their funding is cut, and they are living in a motel. They seem resigned to getting regular jobs until a billionaire who loves superheroes wants to get the law changed. He needs just one hero to prove his point–Elastigirl.

So the film bifurcates. Elastigirl has adventures involving stopping a runaway train, saving an ambassador from a helicopter attack, and unmasking the Screenslaver, a villain who hypnotizes his victims through a screen. Elastigirl thinks it’s been too easy, and savvy viewers will agree and have this figured out beforehand.

The other half of the film is the family’s domestic life. Mr. Incredible has been reduced to taking care of the kids, and he discovers that the baby, Jack-Jack, has superpowers. Many superpowers. He can shoot lasers out of his eyes, erupt into flames, travel through different dimensions, and multiply into several Jack-Jacks. Much of this is shown off in an amusing fight with a raccoon.

The baby stuff is very funny, and I enjoyed hearing the little kids giggle at it around me. The action scenes, as I said, seemed old hat, though the animation is breathtaking. A whole new bunch of superheroes are introduced–my favorite is Reflux, who has such severe heartburn that he can vomit lava.

If there is an Incredibles 3, I hope they veer off in a different direction where the debate about the legality of superheroes is resolved.

One more thing: I haven’t heard too much about this, but Elastigirl, in her costumes, has the kind of body that women have spent decades complaining about. She has a figure more ridiculous than Barbie, with possibly 44-18-44 measurements. The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane did write about dads possibly feeling a little awkward getting turned on at a kid’s animated movie. Of course, she is elastic, so maybe that’s just the dimensions she wants to be.

AGEBOC X – Week Nine

Standard

Screen Shot 2018-04-24 at 1.21.44 PM
Deadline is Thursday, June 21st at 11:59 pm (EST)

    1. What will Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom earn this weekend? (+4 for closest prediction. +2 for second closest. Additional +2 for prediction within 500k)
    2. What will Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom earn from Thursday PM / evening shows? (+4 for closest prediction. +2 for second closest. Additional +2 for prediction within 500k)

Current Rankings:
Jackrabbit Slim: +48
James: +46
Rob: +24
Marco: +18
Juan: +16
Nick: +4
Joe: +4

Movies Opening June 15, 2018

Standard

The Incredibles 2: Long-awaited sequel to the Pixar classic. Director Brad Bird and the core cast (Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson and Samuel L. Jackson) return along with franchise newcomers Bob Odenkirk and Catherine Keener.

It’s an enjoyable film, but it plays it safe and does not deviate from giving the audience exactly what they want and expect. Kids will love it. Adults will probably forget about it by the time they hit the parking lot. Rotten Tomatoes: 94%, Metacritic: 80%

Tag: Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Hannibal Buress and Jake Johnson star as childhood friends who have been playing the same game of tag for decades on end. It’s earning slightly better reviews than I expected, but the only thing that interests me are Renner’s CGI arms (the result of an on-set accident that broke his real ones early in production). RT: 56%, Metacritic: 57%

Side note: the number of Bad Movie Signs in this (Helms! Hamm! Johnson! Isla Fisher!) = overwhelming.

SuperFly: Remake of the 1972 blaxploitation classic from the annoyingly named “Director X.”  RT: 54% Metacritic: 64%