Category Archives: Openings

What happens in Chicago….ends up here every Friday.

Opening in Las Vegas, March 23, 2018


The likely box-office champ, and the first to knock Black Panther off the top spot after six weeks, is Pacific Rim: Uprising (44). I saw the first one and thought it was meh, so I have no interest in this one. I suppose it will find its niche.

Of more interest to me is Unsane (63), the second feature (plus one TV movie) that Stephen Soderberg has put out since his “retirement.” It is the second, after Side Effects, that deals with someone being involuntary committed to a mental hospital. Perhaps this is Soderbergh’s greatest fear, like Poe was afraid of being buried alive. Anyhoo, this was shot on an iPhone. I might see this if I get bored.

Another faith-based film, Paul, Apostle of Christ (48) opens this week. Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, plays Luke. How many  Biblical characters will he end up playing? Not for me.

For the kiddies is Sherlock Gnomes (40), and while this looks torturous for adults, I’m on board with anything that might get kids interested in reading Sherlock Holmes. Fun fact: I’ve read all of Conan Doyle’s Holmes stories, but I am missing one of his novels: The Valley of Fear. Seems like I could take care of the easily, doesn’t it? As I have no children, I will never see this.

Finally is Midnight Sun (36), a disease of the week movie (girl can’t go in the sun) which only interests me because it stars Bella Thorne, who is very easy on the eyes. I may see this someday when I want to see every movie she’s ever made (I have even seen the Netflix film You Get Me, but not The Babysitter (not yet).



Opening in Las Vegas, March 16, 2018


The big new opening this week is a reboot of Tomb Raider (46), with Alicia Vikander taking up the role previously played by Angelina Jolie. I believe I saw both of Jolie’s Tomb Raider films, but I remember almost nothing about them. It seems that may be a problem with the new one, too, but Vikander is an appealing performer. I’m just not sure she’s an action star. I’ll see this on home video.

Love, Simon (73) is a mainstream teen comedy about a gay kid, something of a historical occasion. Will straight teens go see it? Estimates show it getting 12 million for the weekend, so it seems the answer is sort of. I’ll probably wait for home video.

A suprise hit may be I Can Only Imagine (27), a faith-based film about a Christian musician. It remains to be seen when one of these Christian-themeed films will actually be any good. Not for me, I’m afraid.

When I first saw the trailer for 7 Days in Entebbe (49), I thought, “Hasn’t his film already been made?” Indeed, including TV movies, this is the fourth cinematic look at the Israeli raid on Entebbe, Uganda. I don’t know what gave anyone the idea we needed another one. I doubt I’ll ever see this.

Finally, the movie I plan on seeing this weekend is A Fantastic Woman (87), the Oscar-winner for Best Foreign Language film. It centers around a transgender woman, which means it is pushing the zeitgeist, but hopefully it also a good film. I’ll let you all know.

Opening in Las Vegas, March 9, 2018


The big opening this weekend is A Wrinkle in Time (52), based on the popular children’s novel (I read it some fifty years ago, but can only remember that the dog’s name was Fortinbras).  It is so important, but not well received by critics. Maybe if they it weren’t so important. I’ll probably catch up with this on home video.

The Strangers: Prey at Night (48), is a masked-murderer film set in a trailer park–those can be scary. Will probably do great business and then sink like a stone. I’ll never see it. Stars Christina Hendricks. Question: what Mad Men star will end up being the break out film star (if any). Jon Hamm doesn’t seem interested.

Gringo (44) has a good cast, including David Oyelowo, Charlize Theron, Thandie Newton, and Paris Jackson, but has the old “regular guy gets caught up in crime caper” plot. Maybe I’ll see this on VOD, but certainly not in a theater.

What a pitch: it’s bank robbery, during a hurricane! (not availabe for screening, but of three reviews on MetaCritic none are above a 50). It’s The Hurricane Heist! One of the reviews says it’s utter excrement from start to finish. Directed by Rob Cohen. Question for those who know: why did Cohen only get to direct the first Fast and Furious film? I’ll never see this.

The best reviewed film this week is Thoroughbreds (76), which a blurb on the poster reads, “Heathers meets American Psycho,” but reading the summary, sounds more like Heavenly Creatures. Stars Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch), and Olivia Cooke (Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl). I may see this today.


Opening in Las Vegas, March 2, 2018


Red Sparrow (54), starring Jennifer Lawrence as a Russian ballerina turned deadly spy, is getting very mixed reviews. It is supposed to be very violent and apparently JLaw gets naked, which is making the most news. I will likely see this in a theater.

The only other major release this week is a remake of Death Wish (31). Whether now is the time to have a movie about gun violence is questionable, but it should be remembered that the original film was against vigilantism. Director Eli Roth is certainly not subtle, so I doubt this film has anything to say on the subject. The Times calls it an “imbecilic misfire.” I will probably never see this.

Opening in Las Vegas, February 9, 2018


I’m going to add a little something to my Openings. I will indicate whether I will see it in a: theater, home video (streaming or DVD rental) or will never see it.

This week’s box office winner was Fifty Shades Freed (32), the third in the trilogy based on the mommy-porn novels by E.L. James. I saw the first one and liked it more than I thought I would, basically because it seemed to get the S/M stuff right. As a movie, though, it was terrible. I plan on seeing the second one soon and will eventually see this at home, if only for puerile interests.

Peter Rabbit (52) opened above expectations. When I saw the trailer I thought it looked funny, but reviews have been unkind. It goes to show that parents will take their kids to see anything. I will never see this.

Coming in third was The 15:17 to Paris  (45), Clint Eastwood’s picture about the young American men who stopped a terrorist attack on a train in France. The men are played by themselves, which sounds good but not anyone can act. I will probably see this at home.

Opening in one theater this weekend is the 2017 holdover, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool (65). This film fascinates me because it seemed to have absolutely no marketing. Annette Bening stars as Gloria Grahame, an actress who won an Oscar and had all sorts of drama in her life. Since Bening is in the category of “due for an Oscar,” if this film had been more visible she might have gotten a nomination. I guess Sony Pictures Classics wasn’t interested. I will see this in a theater.

Opening in Las Vegas, January 26


Not much this week. One holdover from 2018 is Hostiles (65), a Western starring Christian Bale. I will probably see this, as I am a sucker for Westerns, and am glad they keep getting made, even though very few become hits. I’m especially interested in this one, since it is about American Indians, another favorite topic of mine.

Maze Runner: The Death Cure (51) is the third film in the series, based on a YA book series. I have seen none of them, so I’m not likely to start with this one.

Streaming on Netflix is A Futile and Stupid Gesture, (54) the story of Doug Kenny, the founder of National Lampoon. I will probably see this, as I was a National Lampoon reader and this is aimed squarely at my generation, who still worships the original cast of SNL and Animal House. Not getting great reviews, though.


Opening in Las Vegas, January 19, 2018


Here in Vegas we’re getting a mixture of Oscar bait and the usual January flotsam and jetsam, which are actually well-reviewed.

I’ve already seen Phantom Thread (90) and loved it except for the ending. It’s on the bubble for a Best Picture nomination, but surely Daniel Day-Lewis and costume designer Mark Bridges will get noms. Though it’s not perfect, any film by P.T. Anderson is worthy of seeing.

Also a Best Picture contender is Call Me By Your Name (93), a gay-themed drama that has earned fabulous reviews and a string of precursor nominations for its star, Timothy Chalamet. It’s kind of amazing to think that inside of fifty years, from Boys in the Band to now, that gay themes in cinema have totally been accepted. Brokeback Mountain was a hit, and Moonlight won Best Picture last year. Some progress can’t be stopped, no matter how hard some people try.

Now for the January releases, of course there is a Nicolas Cage movie. He’s in Mom and Dad (63), which is getting higher reviews than most Cage movies of the last decade. It’s about parents turning on their children and killing them.

A 9/11 drama, 12 Strong (55) is about a special forces mission immediately after the attack. One great selling point is that it stars Michael Shannon, one of our most interesting actors.

Den of Thieves (56) looks like a cut-rate Heat, but for those who like crime movies this will probably scratch the itch. Especially looks ideal for home-viewing.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower (75) is not from Studio Ghibli but certainly looks like it. Getting very good reviews, so for those who savor animation looks like something to check out.

Films that opened in America, December 22-25 2017


Jumanji: Welcome To the Jungle (7.2 IMDB, 76% Rotten Tomatoes) – Probably the surprise breakout hit of the American holiday period, it’s probably going to end up being one of the top 5 most popular films of 2017. What odds a few months ago this would easily outdo ‘Justice League’?

The reviews have been surprisingly good considering it’s directed by Jake Kasdan who’s made some ordinary films in the past. If nothing else, the hit that The Rock took from the Baywatch misfire has proved only temporary.

Pitch Perfect 2 (6.3, 31%) – This finale of the trio of films has done far less well than PP2 did and perhaps that’s because the general reaction to the first sequel was one of disappointment and the box office impact came one film later.

The Greatest Showman (8, 53%) – This PT Barnum biopic has had lukewarm critical responses (and was found underwhelming by our own Jackrabbit Slim) but the IMDB score and strong box office globally suggest an underutilised section of the audience has taken by what appears to be quite an old fashioned film.

Downsizing (5.8, 51%)I reviewed this Alexander Payne film favourably last year but judging by the critical and audience response, I’m one of the few to have taken something positive out of it. Actually, judging by the box office performance (only $7m outside America!) I’m one of the few outside America who’s actually seen it at all. I suspect it’s reputation will grow over the years though.

Father Figures (4.9, 26%) – This Owen Wilson/Ed Helms comedy has been a disaster in all aspects, and judging by the trailer it’s not hard to see why; full of that cringey, crude ‘humour’ that seems to make up 95% of mainstream Hollywood comedies these days. Bit sad seeing Glenn Close in this.

The Post (7.5, 88%) – Spielberg’s decision to make the children’s film ‘The BFG’ was a curious one as it seemed to be an attempt to recapture his glory days of when he was the king of the quality mainstream family film. Especially curious as he’s developed a fine reputation in recent decades of real-life major historical events. His name probably more than any other helps ensure box office viability to films like this tale of the Watergate saga from the publisher’s point of view instead of being on Netflix and HBO and it did very well on its first full weekend of wide release (Jackrabbit Slim’s review is here).

Tiger Zinda Hai (6.7, 57%) – Hindi action film; did very well relatively speaking in its opening US weekend of release, especially as it’s 165 minutes long!

Along With The Gods: The Two Worlds (7.8, 50%) – South Korean fantasy drama

Hostiles (7.2, 74%) – Despite good reviews and the likes of Christian Bale & Rosamund Pike in it, this Western has made little impact at the box office, just showing how hard it is for that genre to succeed these days

Happy End (6.9, 67%) – A Michael Haneke film starring Isabelle Huppert usually would be expected to one of the film events of the year, but the RT score illustrates how many critics were disappointed by the film and felt Haneke was treading familiar territory

The Lucky Man (7.2) – American drama about a preacher who scams people with his fake mystical powers only to find he really has the gift.

Films that opened in America on December 15-17, 2017


Star Wars: The Last Jedi (7.7 IMDB, 92% Rotten Tomatoes)  – I haven’t had any interest in this series for a couple of decades (I’ve only ever watched the original trilogy) but how overwhelmingly it dominates pop culture fascinates me. Here in Australia we even have sporting events involved with Star Wars themed rounds so it feels like almost mandatory to go and see these movies.

As for this particular film itself, the most interesting thing is how the critical reaction has been much more positive than the general public reaction; already it’s IMDB score is lower than the previous two SW films and only marginally above the Revenge Of The Sith. I can’t say who’s in the right without having seen it but I suspect that some critics decided to give it a pass because it’s such a cultural phenomenon that people are going to see regardless that it’s just easier to give it a pass.

As for how long the series continue and be the biggest film of its year, I think things will become more difficult once the main stars from the original films are no longer regulars in it.

Ferdinand (6.8, 71%) – Animated film about a bull and various friends. Doesn’t seem to have done particularly well at the box office so far in relation to its budget which means Kate McKinnon’s almost flawless film career of appearing in misfires continues.

Youth (7.3) – Chinese drama

The Thousand Faces of Dunjia (5.9, 25%) – Chinese fantasy film with less than stellar reviews

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (7.5, 100%) – The second Spanish animated film to get a release in America this month; this one has gotten excellent reviews

Permanent (5.9, 50%) – American film about a family where the daughter wants to get a perm… yes it seems to be that thin a plot. Judging by the trailer it seems to fit pretty much all the clichés of an American independent film; despite the presence of Oscar-winner Patricia Arquette it doesn’t seem to have caught on with critics or the public.

The Ballad Of Lefty Brown (6.4, 76%) – A modern rarity of a film that used to dominate the industry a couple of generations back – an American western. Amongst the cast are a very old-looking Bill Pullman and Peter Fonda

Miss Kiet’s Children (7.8, 100%) – Dutch documentary about a teacher dealing with just-arrived refugee students

Films That Opened in America December 1-3 & 8-10, 2017


The Disaster Artist (IMDB 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes 92%) – Sure, the clips I’ve watched of ‘The Room’ but the obsession with it leading to this film I find rather baffling. As someone on Twitter observed, why is this film singled out as a particular low point when there is so much bombastic, big-budget dreck made so often on an annual basis? The film’s gotten a lot of critical praise (and received a generally favourable review by our Jackrabbit Slim) but this feels like a pointless film made for hipsters; naturally James Franco is directing and starring in it.

The Shape of Water (8.1, 94%) – Very well-received sci-fi film that has an intriguing premise (a mute janitor in a 1960s research facility discovers a mysterious underwater creature). May be worth seeking out, especially as I’ve never seen a Guillermo Del Toro film.

I, Tonya (7.8, 90%) – Even in the pre-Internet, pre-social media early 1990s, the Tonya Harding saga became a major news event not just in the USA, but here in Australia and I remember it quite well. Has been getting very good reviews and star Margot Robbie is definitely being talked up as an Oscar contender.

Wonder Wheel (6.3, 30%) – Woody Allen’s latest got a favourable review from our Jackrabbit Slim but going by Rotten Tomatoes, seems to be close to the worst film Allen has been associated with. Heck, even the notorious misfire he acted in ‘Scenes From A Mall’ has a better RT rating. Can the film really be that bad? I can’t help but wonder what’s happened in Hollywood post-Weinstein in the last few months (and the refocus on Allen’s past personal troubles) has led to critics subconsciously treat the film harsher than they otherwise would have.

Just Getting Started (3.8, 5%) – A Ron Shelton film starring Rene Russo, Tommy Lee Jones and Rene Russo surely will be one of the most anticipated films of the month… if it were 1992. As it’s not, this film sank without trace and judging by its RT score deserved to. Judging by its trailer full of broad and inept comedy it deserved to. Also in the cast is Glenne Headley in one of her final film roles.

Titanic Re-Release 20th Anniversary (IMDB 7.8, RT 88%) – I actually didn’t realise this film got a re-release until checking Box Office Mojo. I guess all that I want to say in the film can be found on a 2007 article I wrote on here looking at 10 years since the film’s release (and it’s still the only film on it’s initial release I’ve been to the cinema to see multiple times).

The Polar Express re-release (6.6, 55%) – Why this film is getting a re-release is a mystery to me. Wasn’t this largely derided and considered a particularly awkward example of that live-action animated trend which seems to have mercifully gone out of style.

The Swindlers (6.2, 40%) – South Korean heist film

The Other Side Of Hope (7.3, 91%) – Well-reviewed drama from Finland looking at the refugee crisis

Big Time (6.5, 91%) – Looks at a famed Danish architect and the challenges around designing one of the buildings that will replace the World Trade Centre buildings. Based on the trailer, seems pretty thin material to base a cinema documentary on.

Naples ’44 (6.5, 57%) – Narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch, this is the documentation of the thoughts of a British solider who arrived in the famed Italian town late in WW2 and how the town survived and prospered afterwards

Quest (7.5, 100%) – This documentary of the struggles of a working-class family in Philadelphia over many years has gotten universal praise from 43 critics on RT so obviously is quality, yet seems to have not broken out amongst audiences as yet even by documentary standards

Another Wolfcop (4.4, 60%) – The title says it all, it’s about a… wolf that’s a cop. Canadian-made comedy is a sequel to a 2014 film and this film seems most notable for having a movie poster parodying the one from Sylvester Stallone’s Cobra.

Brotherhood of Blades II: The Internal Battlefield (6.9, no RT score) – Chinese action film set in medieval times

Shadowman (7.3, 92%) – Doco on a famed street artist whose destroyed by personal demons but has a chance of a comeback decades later

Tad The Lost Explorer and the King Of Midas (6.4, no RT score) – Animated Spanish film.

Badsville (8.5, no RT score) – According to its IMDB page it’s about “A violent greaser gang is ripped apart when their leader finds love and is determined to leave Badsville – a town where love doesn’t exist.” !?!

Oro (5.5, no RT Score) – Spainish adventure drama about the search for gold in the 16th century

Kepler’s Dream (6.2, 50%) – American film about an 11 year old girl’s search for a rare book that hopefully will explain the troubles in her family. Holland Taylor & Kelly Lynch are amongst the adult members of the cast.

The Tribes of Palos Verdes (5.3, 67%) – Family drama set in California. Jennifer Garner is one of the stars.

Opening Thanksgiving Weekend, 2017


The prestige movies keep on coming, which is keeping me busy at the theaters.

Pixar’s latest, Coco (80) is about the Mexican Day of the Dead, which is exactly what Book of Life was about. I suppose there can be as many animated films about this topic as anyone wants (the Pixar film was in production before Book of Life was). Pixar hasn’t been batting 1.000 lately, in fact, I think the last film of theirs which bowled me over was Toy Story 3.

In Oscar bait, there’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (87), from Martin McDonagh. I saw it today and I’m still sorting out what I thought of it–half of it is the best film I’ve seen this year, the other half is not so great. Frances McDormand has a shot at another Oscar, but Sam Rockwell steals the show.

Denzel Washington’s plea for another Oscar comes in Roman J. Israel, Esq. (58) but the film is being greeted by meh reviews. He plays a lawyer who doesn’t play by the rules (there’s a reason that there are no movies about lawyers who simply do their jobs), sporting an anachronistic ‘fro. I’m not interested.

From Netflix, there’s two series debuting of note: Spike Lee comes to cable with a series based on his first She’s Gotta Have It (78). He directs all ten episodes. Godless (76) is a seven-episode Western created by Scott Frank with Jeff Daniels.

Opening in Las Vegas, November 17, 2017


The big opening this week is Justice League (46), getting bad reviews and perhaps not making as much as its studio would hope. I suppose I’ll see it, out of some kind of masochistic need to see all these comic book films. But I still haven’t seen Thor: Ragnarok. This is Las Vegas Weekly’s take: “The action is rote, the special effects are surprisingly poor and the character interactions are only occasionally entertaining.”

A much better film to see would be undoubtedly be Lady Bird (94), which is not about the first lady but a coming of age film written and directed by Greta Gerwig. All indicators point to a Best Picture nomination and a Best Actress nomination for Saorsie Ronan. I would love to see Gerwig get nominated, too.

Interestingly, Last Flag Flying (66) is based on a book that is a sequel to The Last Detail, the 1973 film starring Jack Nicholson. But director Richard Linklater severed the connection, apparently to its detriment. Steve Carell plays a Vietnam vet who enlists two of his comrades in arms to bury his son. They are played by Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne, and my first problem is these guys don’t seem like the same age. Carell is younger than I am, and the Vietnam War ended when I was 12.

I’ve not only read Wonder (65), but I’ve taught it to my students, so I have a curiosity about the film version. But there’s so much else out there to see that I may not get to it before the DVD release. Getting decent reviews. A very good book, hard to see how they could improve it with film, especially since the main character’s disfigurement is better imagined than seen.

The Star (43) is an animated film about the birth of Christ that seems suspiciously like the old TV Christmas special The Little Drummer Boy.



Opening in Las Vegas, November 10, 2017


The Oscar bait films, as well as some Christmas trash, open this week.

I’m eager to see two films. One is The Florida Project (92), from Sean Baker, who made a good film with a smart phone (Tangerine) and now gets to use 35mm. It’s about poor people who live in motels near Disney World, and from all indications seems to be a shoo-in for a Best Picture nomination, as well as one for Willem Dafoe, the only professional actor in the cast.

I’m also dying to see Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck (72). Here’s the summary from Metacritic: Ben and Rose are children from two different eras who secretly wish their lives were different. Ben longs for the father he has never known, while Rose dreams of a mysterious actress whose life she chronicles in a scrapbook. When Ben discovers a puzzling clue in his home and Rose reads an enticing headline in the newspaper, both children set out on quests to find what they are missing that unfold with mesmerizing symmetry.

In the I’ll pass category, there’s Murder on the Orient Express (53), perhaps the most pointless film of the year. This is the fourth filming of one of Agatha Christie’s most popular books. Anyone who has seen the film with Albert Finney need not see this one, as I understand the solution to the murder is the same.

Tragedy Girls (58) is kind of a Heathers for the social media age, as two girls go on a killing spree to get more hits. This subject could be the making of a good black comedy, but apparently this isn’t it.

And then there’s Daddy’s Home 2 (29). We’ve noted here that Will Ferrell’s career is in the crapper, as he seems to be only interested in the paycheck now.

Opening in Las Vegas, November 3, 2017


After a couple of weeks of doldrums the box office is set to pick up this week with a film from Marvel and a sequel to a popular films. It also (gasp!) has the first Christmas movie of the season.

The third Thor film, subtitled Ragnarok  (73), is getting decent reviews, mostly because of its comic nature (it is directed by Taika Waititi). I’ve always found the Thor features the weakest of the MCU, perhaps because Thor just isn’t that interesting. Every film gets stolen by Loki.

Bad Mom’s Christmas (42) is the yuletide sequel to a popular comedy. I didn’t see the first one, and have no desire to, so unless I’m kidnapped I won’t be seeing this one. From what I heard from people I know, a lot of women went to see the first one.

I’m very much looking forward to The Killing of a Sacred Deer (75), Giorgio Lanthimos’ follow up to the wildly original The Lobster. The reviews are disappointing, but I’m up for anything he has to show. Starring Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, and Alicia Silverstone (!)

Lyndon Johnson, the 36th president, has been quite visible in films and plays lately, from Tom Wilkinson in Selma to Bryan Cranston on Broadway. Now comes LBJ (54), with Woody Harrelson as the president. This seems unnecessary, as indicated by the meh reviews. Another dud from director Rob Reiner.

Streaming on Netflix: Alias Grace (82), another adaptation of a Margaret Atwood novel. It’s about a murder in the wilderness back in 1843. I’ll definitely watch it.

For you in America, don’t forget to set your clocks back one hour!



Opening in Las Vegas, September 29, 2017


Battle of the Sexes (73) is reviewed by our own Marco below. I saw it, too, and it’s a good movie but not a great one.

American Made (65) looks like it might be fun, but seems like a rental. When Cruise plays characters like this, a pilot turned smuggler, he’s at his best. Doug Liman directs.

In another of a series of unnecessary remakes, Flatliners (30) will make no one forget the original, which was a decent sci-fi effort. I’m waiting for Ellen Page to fulfill the promise of Juno, and so far it hasn’t happened. She’s been mostly making indie films, which is noble, and I suppose she did this film to subsidize them.