Category Archives: Openings

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

Opening Thanksgiving Weekend, 2017

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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.

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Opening in Las Vegas, November 17, 2017

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Opening in Las Vegas, September 22, 2017

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A quiet week, with nothing to leave the house for.

If I did go to a film this week, it would probably be Brad’s Status (72), with Ben Stiller and directed by Mike White. But I’m sure this will be available on home video in about a month, and it seems like Stiller has played this kind of role–a middle-aged man who wonders what happened to his life–many times.

The likely box-office winner, if it can pass It, is Kingsman: The Golden Circle (45). Didn’t see the first one, won’t see this one. Just seems like an Avengers/James Bond rip-off. Anyone here see the first one?

The one Oscar-bait film his week is Stronger (76), with Jake Gyllenhaal as a survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing and his rehab. I’m sure this is a very inspiring story, but I’m a cold cynical bastard when it comes to inspiring stories.

I’ve liked the Lego movies I’ve seen so far, but I have no idea what a Lego Ninjago Movie (55) is. I guess the Lego fans do, so they can see it for me.

Finally, there’s the lousy cheap horror film of the week. This time it taps into social media, and is called Friend Request (33). It should do decent business on Friday and Saturday night and then be consigned to oblivion.

Opening in Las Vegas, September 15, 2017

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Now that the summer is over it’s time for Oscar bait.

First up, Darren Aronofsky’s mother! (75) (the lowercase m is the film’s choice), a horror film of sorts with Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem. Rex Reed has called it the “worst movie of the century,” so it’s bound to be good.

Not having any Oscar chances, except maybe in the sound awards, is American Assassin (46), with Dylan O’Brien as a guy out for revenge being trained in black ops by Michael Keaton. I’m kind of intrigued by the use of “American” in titles. It’s very popular in books as well as films. There must be some market research that suggests that using that appellation increases sales. Maybe Americans are so narcissistic that they can’t help reading or watching things about themselves.

Opening in Las Vegas, July 7, 2017

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The 800-pound gorilla this week is Spider-Man: Homecoming  (73), the third iteration of the character in the last 15 years. I am still fascinated that Sony gave up on the Andrew Garfield series after only two films (leaving a post-credit mystery that will probably never be known), but I suppose that going into the MCU they wanted a fresh actor who looked more like a teenager. For purists, it’s blasphemy that Iron Man is his mentor, but whaddayougonnado? I’ll see it.

The only other film opening this weekend is The Big Sick (87), a well-reviewed romantic comedy which is the true story of its star, Kumail Nanjiani. Despite it’s good reviews, this is probably a rental for me–can’t see going out into the heat to catch it.

Opening in Las Vegas, May 26, 2017

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As James mentioned, it seems like Memorial Day weekend used to be a bigger deal for new movies. This year we get the fifth Pirates of the Caribbean movie, getting awful reviews, and a movie based on a TV show that was never known for being any good. Instead, I’m going to an Indian pow wow.

I think we know now why Johnny Depp continues to make the Pirate films. It’s usually the big star who has bailed after two or three, but there he is, in Pirate of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (38). I saw the first two, and even bythe second film I smelled cash grab. I can’t imagine who actually wants to see this, but apparently it will do enough business to keep Depp afloat during his spend like Nicolas Cage period. If he keeps it up he’ll end up like Nicolas Cage).

The other megaplex opening this weeekend is Baywatch (38), and I also can’t imagine who will go see this. Die hard The Rock fans? Boys who like girls in swimsuits will probably wait to watch this at home, so they can fap to Alexandra Daddario. What enrages me is that money that could have spent on an actually good film was wasted on this nonsense.

On Netflix this weekend is War Machine (51), starring Brad Pitt in a dark comedy about the military. I might check it out, though dark comedy is tough to do right.

Also opening this weekend are The Lovers, featuring Debra Winger, who has been doing talk shows explaining where she’s been all these years, and Chuck, with Liev Schreiber as Chuck Wepner, supposedly the inspiration for Rocky (this was settled out of court, with Stallone throwing some money Wepner’s way).

For those having a holiday-weekend, enjoy!

Opening in Las Vegas, May 19, 2017

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In the sixth Alien film (the first was 38 years ago!) Ridley Scott helms Alien: Covenant (66), which is both a sequel (to Prometheus) and a pre-quel (to Aliens 1-4). It’s getting good enough reviews that I think I’ll venture out. I’m surprised to realize I’ve seen all the Alien films in their original releases (even Alien 4, but that was because of Winona Ryder).

Everything, Everything (51) seems like a take on the old Boy in the Bubble movie (who else remembers Glynnis O’Connor?). Probably will do a lot of business on Friday nights with teen girls and then disappear into oblivion.

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (41) is a reboot. It’s been five years since the last one (where has the time gone?) and the kids had to be replaced. My sixth-graders love these books, probably because they are written in a handwriting font and take about ten minutes to read. Needless to say, I’ve never seen one of these and hope never to.

Richard Gere is now playing old men (again, where has the time gone?) and his latest is Norman (76), which is subtitled “The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer.” It’s hard to tell what this movie is about, and despite its decent reviews, the title and Gere seem to be pushing me away.

Opening in Las Vegas, May 12, 2017

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Two high profile films, both seem like critical and box office disappointments.

I have waited and waited for a good King Arthur movie. I suppose the best is John Boorman’s Excalibur (technically speaking, the best movie with King Arthur is Monty Python and the Holy Grail), but since then has been shit like First Knight and King Arthur, which supposes that he was a Russian. There’s great stories out there, but few directors want to stick with it and turn it something else. So does Guy Ritchie in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (41), which looks like the first big bomb of the summer. During an interview Kenneth Lonergan said he wanted to make a film of T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. Someone, please greenlight that.

Amy Schumer’s star is still on the rise, but her latest film, Snatched (46), could slow her down. Trainwreck was okay, but lacked the cuttinge edge of her TV show and stand-up act. It’s nice that she wanted to give Goldie Hawn a role, but the film isn’t impressing many.

Also this week is The Wall (57), a war film about two soldiers pinned down by Iraqi snipers. Stars Aaron-Taylor Johnson and directed by Doug Liman. Seems like a rental.

Opening in Las Vegas, May 5, 2017

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The only megaplex opening this weekend is Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2, (67), which is critic proof. Most seem to say it’s got the same stuff as the first film, but just not as original (well, duh). I’ll be there opening week, as I am part fanboy (but not all). Love the use of Sweet’s “Fox on the Run” in the trailer.

The only other film opening this weekend in Vegas is The Dinner (58), starring Steve Coogan. No, it’s not one of those films with Rob Bryden where they do impressions of Michael Caine, it’s a drama with Richard Gere and Laura Linney. I like Coogan immensely, but seeing him do an American accent in a dramatic film just takes everything I like about him away.

Films that opened in America on April 28-30, 2017

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How To Be A Latin Lover (imdb rating 6.0) – Comedy about a middle-aged playboy starring Eugenio Derbez, who is apparently hugely popular in his native Mexico. In one of her very rare film appearances of recent decades, Raquel Welch. Film looks broad and obvious with the usual modern ‘comedy’ clichés but it did well at the box office and may see Derbez become a global name in cinema comedy.

Baahubali 2: The Conclusion (9.2) – This Indian historical film made some waves over the weekend as its box office broke records for an Indian based film there and are perhaps a highlight of the growing value of non-English language cinema in an increasingly diverse and immigrant-based country.

The Circle (5.2) – A tech conspiracy thriller starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks sounds like it has possibilities but the critical and IMDB reviews suggest this is a stinker. Watching the trailer, Hanks as a tech genius who does those solo talks in front of huge stages that Steve Jobs used to do just doesn’t convince. And the trailer makes the film seem small and amateurish.

Sleight (5.9) – Sundance entry from 2016 now getting a release about a street magician. Reviews are fairly lukewarm.

Battle Of Memories (7.0) – Chinese film with an intriguing premise that has echoes of the works of Christopher Nolan and Charlie Kaufman; in the near future a memory manipulation service sees a man caught inside a serial killer’s mind.

The Mayor (6.2) – South Korean film looking at the machinations of a battle for political power. I’ve seen these types of films by the bucketful from America & Britain but it would be interesting to see whether such a film from a different region tackles the subject in a unique way.

Natasha (6.9) Canadian romance made in 2015 gets an American release; 100% on RT

Buster’s Mal Heart (7.1) – Surrealist mystery film which going by the trailer (and indeed title) that feels like a typical American indy film, although this one does look interesting. That it’s fronted by the star of the popular Mr. Robot TV series means that all of the YouTube comments on the trailer clip reference the series.

One Week & A Day (7.0) – Israeli drama

Bang! The Bert Berns Story (7.6) – Doco on acclaimed 1960s pop music writer/producer who died very young 50 years ago. Currently 100% on RT.

Opening in Las Vegas, April 7, 2017

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Crap at the multiplexes, but in the art houses some interesting stuff. It can’t be a bad week when a new Werner Herzog movie comes out.

That film is Queen of the Desert (39), which unfortunately is getting bad reviews. It stars Nicole Kidman as Gertrude Bell, who was the female Lawrence of Arabia. Herzog has been mostly in the documentary field for quite a few years, and may have lost his touch on narrative filmmaking, but I would like to see this, perhaps on DVD.

The other interesting film that I would like to see someday is Your Name (79), an anime feature that has two high schoolers exchanging bodies. It’s not a Studio Ghibli film, but was a huge hit in Japan, becoming the fourth-highest grossing film in that country’s history.

Now for the crap. Of all the movies to remake, why Going in Style, a 1979 film starring George Burns. I suppose every thirty or forty years this film will be remade with a trio of codgers. This version (50) stars Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Alan Arkin, directed by Zach Braff. It seems to have standard old people humor, like the hilarity of an elderly person trying pot.

And for the kids and the parents who must suffer for them, there’s Smurfs: The Lost Village (40). Nothing more needs to be said.

Opening in Las Vegas, March 31, 2017

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Interesting mix of movies this weekend.

The likely box office champ, if it can knock off Beauty and the Beast, is Ghost in the Shell (53), based on a popular manga (I’ve never read a manga in my life) starring Scarlett Johansson in a tight body suit. There’s flak that the part is not played by an Asian actress. Getting lackluster reviews. I’m on the fence about seeing it in a theater, but seeing Scarlett kick butt in spandex is good for a rental.

The other major release this week is Baby Boss (50), with the voice of Alec Baldwin as an infant born that can talk and hold meetings. Sounds like a cute idea for a short, but I would be loathe to see a feature-length film of this. I believe Baldwin does get a chance to say “Always be closing.”

In the art houses are a couple of worthy films. Personal Shopper (77) is the latest from the intriguing if enigmatic Oliver Assayas, and stars Kristen Stewart. For fun, check out the comments on the review in the New York Times, and see the extremes on Stewart–some proclaim her the worst actress in the world, others the greatest. I still haven’t made up my mind. They used to say to judge an actor watch them all play Hamlet, I suppose for women it would be Cleopatra or Lady Macbeth.

Also out this weekend is one of the nominees for the Foreign Language Oscar, Land of Mine (75), a Danish World War II film. It’s about German POWs sent to Denmark to clear land mines, so the title is apparently a pun, but maybe that’s just the English title. Getting a job clearing land mines can not be a good thing.