Sunday, August 31, 2014

RESULTS: Summer 2014 Box Office Predictions

Yay! As a long-time fan of James Gunn, I'm so happy that Guardians was not only awesome in every way, but kicked the box office's ass despite being a "new" property (the 'Marvel' brand alone is apparently as strong as Pixar's used to be). It almost makes up for Transformers making over a billion dollars worldwide...almost.  The biggest surprise this year was just how mediocre How to Train Your Dragon 2 did, especially with no animated competition whatsoever; the "kids" movie to beat this summer was Disney's Maleficent, which smartly chose to hop on the Frozen-train of female-led fairy tale flicks.

Overall I think I did pretty well on my predictions, but if you kids have been keeping score at home, let me know how you fared against me!  I had fun keeping track throughout the season, and I'm looking forward to next year - though it will certainly be tough to predict with a slate including Jurassic World, the new Pixar film Inside Out (my personal most-anticipated), the Fantastic Four reboot, a Wright-less Ant-Man, Brad Bird's Tomorrowland, and a little ditty called The Avengers 2!

The November Man, As Above So Below, What If Reviews

The November Man
Dir. Roger Donaldson

I always really liked Pierce Brosnan's James Bond; even if the films weren't the greatest, I think he just nailed that suave super-spy attitude better than most of the other Bonds.  So I pretty much saw The November Man purely because I was feeling nostalgic for seeing Pierce Brosnan do spy stuff, as I'm sure most people seeing this are.  Though the film isn't a complete disaster, I have to say, this was just a total mediocre destined-for-the-5-dollar-bin cliche-fest.  There aren't any unique action scenes, all the bad guys are generic Russian dudes, and apparently every woman in a spy film has to look like America's Next Top Model.  

Friday, August 22, 2014

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, The Giver, Magic in the Moonlight Reviews

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
Dir. Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller

Just under a decade ago Robert Rodriguez changed comic book movies.  With Sin City, he literally translated the art and style of Frank Miller's graphic novels onto the big screen, with a ton of beautifully crafted shots that felt peeled right from the pages.  The neo-noir brought us a world of hard boiled detectives, hulk-sized thugs, leather-and-lace prostitutes, and one weird ugly yellow guy in a way that felt totally fresh and original.  But that was a decade ago.  Since then we've had a trove of previously "unfilmable" mature comic books brought to life like Zack Snyder's Watchmen, the 300 films, and countless others, and the novelty has worn off.  The sequel, A Dame to Kill For, released way past its expiration date, feels like an outdated exercise in pointless pulp.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Into the Storm, Calvary, Monty Python Live! (mostly) Reviews

Into the Storm
Dir. Steven Quale
Watch Trailer

Even though it's been done to death, I personally enjoy the concept of found-footage movies.  Whether it's a small-scale horror flick like The Blair Witch Project or a giant monster movie like Cloverfield, I just find that personal, on-the-ground perspective of events to be a really fun change of pace.  So the idea of taking that concept and applying it to Twister seemed cool.  Into the Storm seemed to promote itself solely on its effects, but I still wasn't sure how Steven Quale (2nd unit director for Titanic, Avatar) would be able to make a movie like this using the format.  The answer? Throw the found-footage concept away whenever it's most convenient for you.  It's a shame this didn't attempt to really show a mega-storm from a first-person perspective, because this film, though it lacks any decent story or characters, does have some great special effects and set pieces.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, A Most Wanted Man Reviews

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Dir. Jonathan Liebesman

Through its initial life as a cult-hit comic book series, to the beloved TV cartoon, to the original 90's movies and beyond, for better or worse the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are part of the cultural zeitgeist (enough to even land a reference in last week's Guardians of the Galaxy).  It's no surprise that in 2014 we're seeing a re-imagining of the brand, because the cross-generational appeal is at that sweet spot where nostalgic twenty/thirty-somethings from the 80's and 90's and the current swath of children being brought up on the new Turtles cartoons have converged to make the box office green in more ways than one.  Taking the Batman Begins formula, this is an unnecessarily dark take on the Turtles, featuring large, hulking creatures with gravely voices in place of the more kid-friendly, round faced, "Cowabunga" characters fans are used to.  While there are a few fun moments here and there, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a juvenile, tonally imbalanced, poorly-written cash grab.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy Review

Guardians of the Galaxy
Dir. James Gunn
Watch Trailer

Guardians of the Galaxy is Marvel's big gamble.  Even though this is the tenth film in the successful "Marvel Cinematic Universe," it's by far the most offbeat; it doesn't have any iconic hero like an "Iron Man" or "Captain America" to sell the movie, it's set almost entirely in space, and it's directed by cult-favorite personality James Gunn, writer and/or director of such violent, R-Rated films as Slither, Super, and a smattering of Troma movies - it's amazing that this film even exists.  Guardians, based off of the 2008 comic series (there's little in common to the original 1969 comic), follows a band of interstellar outlaws, including the man-child leader, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt), the green-skinned femme fatale/daughter of Thanos, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), the muscle-headed, unaware-of-sarcasm Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), and finally Rocket Raccoon and Groot (Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel), the Han/Chewie of the movie, a gun-toting raccoon and a talking tree, respectively.  Every character in this movie is a ton of fun, and the world that Gunn created made me feel like a kid again.  Every inch of the film is littered with detail, and I'm currently thanking a God I don't believe in that Gunn's personality wasn't lost in translation.  Guardians of the Galaxy is definitely one of the best Marvel films yet.

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