Category Archives: Openings

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

Opening in Las Vegas, March 24, 2017

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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.

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Opening in Las Vegas, March 17

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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.

Opening in Las Vegas, March 10, 2017

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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.

Opening in Las Vegas, March 3, 2017

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

Movies Opening in New Haven – Weekend of February 10th, 2017

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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

Movies Opening in New Haven – Weekend of February 3rd, 2017

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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

Opening in Las Vegas, January 27, 2017

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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.

Opening in Las Vegas, January 20

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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.

 

Opening in Las Vegas, January 13, 2017

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Lots of expansions of Oscar bait this week, plus some usual January trash.

The long-awaited Martin Scorsese film, Silence (79) is the top release this week. Scorsese has wanted to make this movie for nearly thirty years. As someone who has seen all of Scorsese’s film (and I do mean all) I’ll be there tomorrow, even though it’s an almost three-hour film about missionaries in Japan (seems more Kundun that Mean Streets).

Live by Night (48) the fourth feature of by Ben Affleck, seems to be his first dud. That’s too bad, because I read the book and kind of wanted to see it. Reviews indicate what I suspected–there’s too much in the book for a two-hour movie. He should have made an epic or a miniseries. It’s an old-fashioned gangster tale, and yes, it takes place in Boston (among other places).

Speaking of Boston, Patriots Day (70) is getting decent reviews, except in the Boston area (there’s some gripes about Mark Wahlberg playing a composite character). I can’t see myself actually paying money to see a Peter Berg film. I did that once for Very Bad Things and got what I deserved. I may see it on home video.

Elle (89) just won Isabelle Huppert a Golden Globe, as well as Best Foreign Film. While Huppert, a great actress who has never been nominated for an Oscar, may get one, the film will not, as it’s not on the shortlist. Anyway, the film is a highly regarded if violent film from Paul Verhoeven. When’s the last good movie this guy made?

The January trash starts with Monster Trucks (41), which seems like an idea based on putting the words monster and truck together and going from there. So, these trucks have actual monsters in them. Not my cup of tea.

Sleepless (28) shows how far Jamie Foxx has fallen. Topic for discussion: can Foxx’s career be saved? Typical cop film. Set in Las Vegas. May have to rent someday to see if any local landmarks are used.

Finally, The Bye Bye Man (35) seems to be an attempt to cash in on the Slender Man rumors as well as the creepy clown phenomenon. Tonights showings will be full of teenagers.

 

 

Opening in Las Vegas, January 6, 2017

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Two leftovers from 2016 and 2017’s first new release! And of course it’s shitty.

Sorry to say, but Hidden Figures (74) looks dreadful. It’s certainly a worthy story–African American women who were mathemiticians helping the space program, now getting their due, and it may pick up some Oscar nominations, but the trailer makes it seem like a pandering exercise in “see, black women are smart, too.” Anybody who doesn’t know that already doesn’t deserve to be able to go to the movies. I’d much rather see a documentary on the subject.

A bit more intriguing to me, though I probably won’t see it in a theater, is A Monster Calls (76). It looks like a variation on the very popular theme of the beleaguered kid having his own personal bodyguard to wreak havoc on his enemies. When I was a kid I longed to have a robot like the one in Lost in Space to avenge myself against bullies. “Danger, Will Robinson!” I have a feeling the monster in this film is just inside the kid’s head, but I don’t know for sure.

The fifth in the series, Underworld: Blood Wars (20) is a typically horrible film that gets released the first weekend of the year. I guess it’s counter-programming for all the good movies that are out there now. “Gee, Martha, there’s so many of these durn quality films out there, I want to see something really stupid.” Well, here you go. I actually saw one or two of these movies on DVD just to see Kate Beckinsale. I’m not dead, you know.

By the way, not all January releases used to be terrible. The Grapes of Wrath was actually released in the first week of January, 1940, when all types of movies were released at all times of the year. Topic for discussion: what’s the best movie you can rememeber that was released in January? (and I don’t mean an expansion of a movie released in December).

Opening in Las Vegas, Christmas Weekend, 2016

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I’m in Michigan visiting the family, but most of these films are opening nationwide Christmas weekend across the country.

I just reviewed Fences (78) below. Denzel Washington: great actor, Denzel Washington: director, not so great. Should get a few Oscar nominations for acting.

Passengers (41) is the big team up of two of today’s hottest stars: Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, and it appears to be a dud. Probably will wait for home video for this one.

Favorite headline this week was the New York Times review of Why Him? (38). “Why Him? Why This Movie?” James Franco has fast become a warning to not see a film.

Jackie (81) is Oscar bait for Nataline Portman as Mrs. Kennedy, and is getting all-around good reviews. On my must-see list.

Lion (68) is the kind of movie I usually avoid–boy is adopted by Australian parents, tries to find his real family in India, but Nicole Kidman (not much of a fan of hers) and Dev Patel have Oscar buzz.

Sing (60) seems to be an aminated version of American Idol, which means I will probably never see it. Lots of big names in the voice talent, though: Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Matthew McConaughey, and Jennifer Hudson

Worst movie of the week seems to be Assassin’s Creed (36), as we still wait for a good movie to be based on a video game. Topic for discussion: what is the best film based on a video game, or have there been none?

 

Opening in Las Vegas, December 16, 2016

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Just a few openings this weekend, but among them are perhaps the highest-grossing film of the year and the Best Picture Oscar winner.

We’ll start with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (65), which was critic-proof anyway. Most of the brickbats are for the script, which apparently offers nothing new, but Star Wars geeks are turning out in droves.

The presumptive Oscar winner is La La Land (92), which I saw last night and will review tomorrow. It is grand, albeit escapist entertainment, with some charming lead performances. Since it is about Hollywood, it probably has a leg up on the competition (see Argo, The Artist).

Finally the bomb of the week is Collateral Beauty (23), getting ripped apart by critics, some who can hardly believe its existence. Topic for discussion: can Will Smith’s career be saved?

Opening in Las Vegas, December 9, 2016

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We missed last week, but it was only a second-rate horror film called Incarnate and another bomb, Man Down, which has this priceless quote by Richard Roeper: “Sometimes we talk about seeing a performance so real, so believable, so authentic, it takes our breath away. Then there’s Shia LaBeouf’s work in “Man Down.””

This week offers better choices. I saw Manchester by the Sea (96) today (review on Monday) and you can believe the hype. It’s a film about grief and family, and it’s not the feel-good film of the year, but it’s one of the best. I haven’t seen Denzel Washington in Fences yet, but Casey Affleck has got to be the Best Actor frontrunner.

Miss Sloane (64) is about a controversial subject: gun control. Jessica Chastain stars as a lobbyist taking on the N.R.A. Might not play well in Trump country. I’ve always been fascinated by lobbyists, especially those who work for repugnant issues. Who could live with themself as a lobbyist for the tobacco industry? Someone needs to make a film.

Lighter fare can surely be found in Office Christmas Party (42), which probably brings the raunch, but is strictly a rental (if that) for me. Starring T.J. Miller, whom I’ve never heard of before but gave the film a little extra publicity by getting arrested this week.

Tom Ford gives us his second film after A Single Man with Nocturnal Animals (67). I’ve read about the plot, in which a woman (Amy Adams) reads a novel by her ex (Jake Gyllenhaal), which becomes a story-within-a-story, but some critics are finding the film head-scratching.

On the 15-film shortlist for the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature is The Eagle Huntress (72), about a Kazakh girl who is trying to break into the male-dominated world of eagle hunting (which looks to be like falconry, but with a bigger bird).

Opening in Las Vegas, Thanksgiving Weekend, 2016

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A cornucopia of fims opening this weekend, some for almost every taste.

The likely box officer winner this weekend is Moana (81), an animated film from Walt Disney. A studio ever interesed in diversity, this time the story is about the people of Oceania. My interest in this is whether Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote songs for the film, will get an Oscar, thus completing his EGOT.

Some Oscar contenders for above the line nominations opening this weekend include Loving (79), directed by Jeff Nichols, about the couple whose Supreme Court case ended anti-miscegenation laws. As we enter the age of Trump, it’s always good to be reminded the battles we’ve already fought and don’t need to fight again.

Allied (60) is a World War II drama with Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard as French-resistance fighters that is being compared to Casablanca, at least in its plot. The trailer looks strong, I’ll probably catch it eventually. Directed by Robert Zemeckis.

Warren Beatty has wanted to make a film about Howard Hughes, and he finally did in Rules Don’t Apply (60) , but it seems to be something of a romantic comedy, which is odd, with Hughes not the central character. I had thought Beatty retired, so I’d be curious to see what he’s up to (of course, I never did get around to see his last film, Town and Country) but it may have to wait for home video.

Finally is Bad Santa 2 (40). I yield to no one in my appreciation of the first film, which was over a decade ago, and is as vulgarly funny as any film I’ve ever seen, but none of the creative team remain and this one is getting harsh reviews. I probably will yield to temptation and at least rent it some day.

 

 

Opening in Las Vegas, November 18, 2016

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Lots of high profile openings this week, including the launch of another J.K. Rowling empire.

That’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (65), which if I understand correctly Rowling published as mainly a picture book. Well, they’re turning that into five movies. It’s the same world as Harry Potter only in New York in the ’20s. Joe Webb, I hope we get a review from you, because you know this stuff best. Moira Macdonald: “So there’s room for improvement in the “Fantastic Beasts” universe; perhaps we’ll see it in the next installment or two. Meanwhile — even if you, like me, are a bit Pottered out and wish Rowling would devote herself instead to her marvelous Cormoran Strike detective-novel series (magic comes in many forms) — it’s still a pleasure to revisit the author’s world.”

A teen movie, with a title taken from a Stevie Nicks song? Could be dreadful (though I’m a Nicks fan, I admit it) but The Edge of Seventeen (77) is getting great reviews. Hailee Steinfeld is the teen. Barry Hertz: “If hell is other people, then high school is a four-year journey through all nine levels of Dante-ish misery. But while most teen-centric films skip over this harsh reality, The Edge of Seventeen embraces it with a refreshing zeal.”

Most of the conversation about Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (53) has been about Ang Lee’s use of 12o frames per second (the usual is 24). But unless you live in L.A. or New York or Hong Kong, you haven’t been able to see that. I read the book, which was fantastic, so I’ll probably end up seeing this despite it’s lackluster reviews. Rodrigo Perez: “Lee’s clearly going for a hyper-realness with these images, but it undermines the drama and the few beats of moving honesty about who we are, duty and sacrifice. Ang Lee is undoubtedly a visionary filmmaker, but the distracting unpleasantness of his movie’s highly attuned visual clarity, makes for an undiscerning and artificial experience the eye just won’t follow.”

We have another example of a boxing movie when boxing has waned to almost nothing as a popular sport in the U.S., which I find fascinating. Bleed for This (62) is a true story about a boxer who came back from a devastating injury. Matt Soller Zeitz: “Bleed for This” starts out like a traditional underdog-fighter-makes-good flick, based on a true story, pivots and becomes something else, then goes back to being traditional.”