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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Looks like an exceptionally crappy weekend for new releases.
The most high-profile is Power Rangers (44). Do kids even know Power Rangers anymore? When they were around I was too old for them, so will today’s adults drag their kids on a nostaglia trip. Supposed to be bad, anyway. At least they have a gay character, which is progress considering an actor on the TV show was fired for being gay.
Another odd bit of nostalgia is Chips, (29) a TV show that no one I knew watched. Apparently the small group of die-hard fans are even angry at this film, which somehow misrepresents the integrity of the show or some such nonsense. Is Dax Shepard in anything good?
Life (55), not named for the game or the cereal, is about a space mission that finds life but it turns oh so wrong. Sounds like an Alien rip-off. With Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds. Note in the trailer that it looks the black guy is the one who gets attacked first. Nice to see racist tropes are still alive.
Woody Harrelson plays a lovable misanthrope in Wilson (50). There was another film called Wilson, back in 1944, about Woodrow Wilson. And Harrelson’s first name is Woodrow. Coincidence?
Finally, and appropriately, is The Last Word (40), about Shirley Maclaine trying to craft her own obituary, and hires Amanda Seyfried to write it. Of course they bond after initially hating each other. So original.
The big opening is Beauty and the Beast (65), which may become the biggest film to ever open in March. I saw it today in a theater where it occupied about eight screens and still had to sit in the second row (but they were reclining seats, so it was all good). This is the next Disney wave–making live action remakes of their animated hits. I will have a review up soon.
The Belko Experiment (43) seems like a good rental for a rainy Saturday afternoon, and the fulfillment of a fantasy of many an office worker–killing off all your co-workers, especially the one that steals food out of the break room frig.
Finally, The Sense of an Ending (62), which was a fine novel by Julian Barnes about an older man who discovers something abouty his past from an old diary. Again, probably a rental, but I can’t see paying $10 to see it. With Jim Broadbent.
Only one film opening this weekend, Kong: Skull Island (63), which is the umpteenth resurrection of the big ape. This seems interesting enough that I want to see it–I’m kind of intrigued by the allusions to Apocalypse Now (and by extension, Heart of Darkness). It’s setting up for a King Kong vs. Godzilla movie, but don’t you know that there already was one: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Kong_vs._Godzilla. I have a pleasant memory of watching this film in my local library when I was about six or seven. If I remember correctly, it was a draw.
The big opening this week is Hugh Jackman’s swan song as Wolverine in Logan (77), which is getting good enough reviews that I’ll go see it, even though I haven’t seen the other two Wolverine solo films. Jackman has now played the character eight times, and except for actors who appeared in the old serials I don’t know of one who has played a character so many times. No one has played James Bond that many times. I guess Robert Downey Jr might be close with Iron Man (including his cameo in the second Hulk film). Anybody else have some suggestions?
Also new this week is the art-housey A United Kingdom (66), starring Rosamund Pike and David Oyelwo as a mixed-race marriage with the caveat being he is king of an African country. I’ve seen the trailer many times and it looks obvious and boring.
Anna Kendrick, who I found to be delightful, is in another romantic comedy, Table 19 (39), about a spurned bridesmaid. Though I like Kendrick, she makes movies that I don’t want to see. She should step out of her comfort zone more often.
I’m not quite sure what The Shack (31) is about, but it seems to be about faith and forgiveness, and a little too spiritual for my tastes. Sam Worthington, who you think would have been a bigger star after Avatar. The title sounds like a horror movie to me.
Finally there’s Before I Fall (58), based on a YA novel about a girl who must live the same day over and over again. I remember reading a story with that plot forty-some years ago. I’ll pass.
Three sequels hit Connecticut multiplexes this weekend. Two have been well-received by critics and one…not so much:
The Lego Batman Movie: You’d hope that the folks behind Warner Brothers’ floundering live-action franchise might look at this wonderful Batman-centric spin-off of 2014’s The Lego Movie (featuring the voices of Will Arnett, Ralph Fiennes, Rosario Dawson and Michael Cera) and find inspiration, but that’s doubtful. As it stands: it’s easily the best Batman movie this decade.
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%, Metacritic:75%
Personal interest factor: 10 (yes, a rare 10!)
John Wick: Chapter 2: Keanu Reeves returns in the sequel to his 2014 action hit. I didn’t get into the original the way most did, probably should revisit it at some point.
Rotten Tomatoes:: 90%, Metacritic: 75%
Personal interest factor: 5
Fifty Shades Darker: Hell, no.
Rotten Tomatoes: 8%, Metacritic: 32%
Personal interest factor: 0
A long delayed horror sequel and a B-list tearjerker are Connecticut’s only new releases this weekend.
Rings: Shot in early 2015, culturally relevant in 2006. A rare case where a remake would have made a lot more sense than a sequel. Beyond asking themselves “does the target audience even know what a videotape is?” the studio should have asked “does the target audience even know what The Ring is?”
No Naomi Watts in this one, obviously.
Rotten Tomatoes:: 5%, Metacritic:24%
Personal interest factor: 0
The Space Between Us: Silly, but harmless-looking teen romance picture about a human boy raised on Mars who falls for an Earthling. Asa Butterfield and Brit Robertson play the “star crossed” pair and Gary Oldman plays a scientist or something. And he yells a lot.
Peter Chelsom (Serendipity, Hector and the Search for Happiness) directs.
Rotten Tomatoes:: 18%, Metacritic: 33%
Personal interest factor: 1
Quiet week, as I catch up with Oscar nominees.
One holdover from 2016 that did not get a nomination is Gold (50) , with Matthew McConaughey playing a sleazy prospector. It is the lowest opening of McConaughey’s career, so maybe the McConaughsance is over.
I don’t know if this reflects on my memory or the quality of the films, but I honestly can’t remember if I’ve seen a Resident Evil film. I think I saw the one that takes place in a Las Vegas covered with dirt, but I don’t know. The latest, promisingly titled Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (54) (at least until the reboot) will probably go unseen by me.
Finally there’s A Dog’s Purpose (43), which seems wholesome enough–a dog is reincarnated through several owners, and eventually returns to the owner he had in childhood. But a controversial video about a German Shepherd forced to swim in turbulent water has ignited anger from animal rights groups.
Who would have thought M. Night Shamalyan had a comeback in him? Split (64), a thriller about a man with multiple-personality disorder, earned a whopping 40 million this weekend. Shamalyan was thisclose to being permanently relegated to television. Maybe there are second acts in people’s lives. I probably won’t see this, though, and wait for DVD.
Underperforming was xXx: The Return of Xander Cage (42), maybe because of its stupid capitalization. I’m surprised this didn’t do better, because it looks for all the world like another Fast and Furious film, and they all do well. Not likely to see this one, ever.
The Founder (67), a 2016 holdover and Oscar hopeful for Michael Keaton, was reviewed by our own Marco. Seems interesting–the story of the ruthlessness of Ray Kroc, who bought McDonald’s and turned it into one of the largest brands in the world. Still, I’ll probably wait for DVD.
The movie I’m most likely to see in theaters is 20th Century Women (83), the second film from Mike Mills, who also made Beginners. Looks like a family drama set in 1979, a year I remember very well. Oscar buzz for Annete Bening and Greta Gerwig.