Monday, August 31, 2015

RESULTS: Summer 2015 Box Office Predictions

Back in April I predicted which summer flicks would reign supreme at the box office, but as per usual, the numbers proved to be just as unpredictable as ever (I swear I'll do better next year!). Here are some of my observations, in convenient bullet-point form:

Sunday, August 23, 2015

American Ultra, Sinister 2, Ricki and the Flash, Irrational Man

American Ultra
Dir. Nima Nourizadeh
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All of the marketing material for American Ultra seems centered around the magical pull-quote "It's like a mix between Pineapple Express and Jason Bourne!" It's a simple hook that could very well be a great jumping-off point for 21 Jump Street-style action-comedy. What had me most excited going into this though was the writer, Max Landis, who I'm a big fan of (writer of Chronicle and the amazing Youtube short The Death and Return of Superman). Landis is generally a master at taking an established concept and tweaking it in fun and interesting ways, so to see his take on the spy/stoner comedy genre I would guess would be a fun time. Unfortunately, like his fellow Chronicle writer/director Josh Trank (who similarly belly-flopped this year with Fantastic Four), Landis' story kind of falls apart in a laughless, unenjoyable mess.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Straight Outta Compton, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Shaun the Sheep, Dark Places Reviews

Straight Outta Compton
Dir. F. Gary Gray
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The time just seems right for a biopic based on the artists responsible for the gangsta rap anthem "Fuck tha Police." N.W.A. (an acronym for "Niggaz with Attitude") was a groundbreaking musical outfit from the late 80's to the early '90s commonly referred to as the "World's Most Dangerous Group." They were among the first artists to rap about the reality around them, dealing with explicit lyrics that some viewed as glorifying drugs, disrespecting women, and encouraging the gangster lifestyle.  Although their material is rough, and it's right to question some of it, N.W.A. remains an important piece of hip-hop history, and in a world where it seems like every day we hear of police officers shooting unarmed black youths, their raw "reality rap" seems more relevant than ever. It's very strange for such a hardcore group to get the traditional music biopic treatment, but Straight Outta Compton is an absorbing re-telling of the group's story with some great performances and (obviously) a kick-ass soundtrack.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Fantastic Four, Vacation, The Gift, The Look of Silence Reviews

Fantastic Four
Dir. Josh Trank
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Fantastic Four is really one of the saddest movies of the year - for what it could have been. Josh Trank, the relatively young director who directed the surprise success Chronicle in his late twenties, seemed like the perfect choice to revitalize this franchise from the dopey first two Tim Story films into something much richer. Chronicle took the superhero genre and spun it on its head; using the "found footage" format, it was a much more realistic take on what a group of teenagers would actually do if given telekinetic powers (which turns from pranks at the supermarket to unchecked destruction - it's a great film if you've yet to check it out). But after many stories of Trank's backstage problems with Fox Studios and the actors not getting along on set, things weren't looking bright. Fantastic Four (2015) shows some promise in its first act, but by the end, everything derails. You can pretty much see the studio's meddling on-screen, and it's a shame, because it will likely ruin the "Fantastic Four" brand for years to come, and also Trank's chances with another big project like this.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Mission Impossible 5, Mr Holmes, Tangerine, The Stanford Prison Experiment Reviews

Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation
Dir. Christopher McQarrie
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I'm pretty sure Tom Cruise has a death wish. At 53 years old, he's still trying to top himself with death-defying stunts, and Rogue Nation, the fifth movie in the Mission: Impossible franchise, is filled with ridiculously dangerous situations that Cruise chose to do himself, without the aid of a stunt double. What results are some of the most exciting action set pieces you'll likely see all year, including Tom hanging onto an airplane taking off, Tom holding his breath underwater for minutes at a time, and Tom riding a motorcycle at really high speeds without a helmet - all the while being more in shape than I will likely ever be in my entire life. Even though Rogue Nation has a bland and generic spy plot, and doesn't quite have the same level of humor and camaraderie between the characters as Ghost Protocol (the best in the series), the action is so well handled that it will certainly whet the appetite of any action junkie or Cruise-ophile.

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