Tomb Raider Movie Review

Tomb Raider finds Alicia Vikander following in the career footsteps of Angelina Jolie – win yourself a Best Supporting Actress Oscar and headline a big-budget adaptation of a well-known video game. Lara Croft is back in a reboot that finds this London girl’s life as a bike courier interrupted by her tomb raidin’ father’s discoveries on a remote island.

Vikander’s Croft has been separated from father Richard (Dominic West) for seven years after he took off on a mission called Himiko and vanished. His task was to locate the resting place of a mythical queen on a remote island who can destroy the world. When Lara finds clues to the island’s whereabouts, she sails off with Hong Kong captain Lu Ren (Daniel Wu) to find it.

Once there, she finds ruthless archaeologist Mathias (Walton Goggins) also looking for the grave. He’s got a group of mercenaries commanding a slave labor force. This portion of the running time could be deemed “Get Back to Work!” on the Blu Ray, since that line of dialogue is shouted loudly and repeatedly. Lara also discovers a lot of Papa Croft’s motivations on the island when not preoccupied by grand action set pieces. Both Mathias and Richard are guilty of neglecting many a daddy/daughter dance due to their occupations.

One of these days, the protagonist in an adventure will be faced with an extremely long jump over an object that is disintegrating quickly. They will make said jump and clear the crumbling item by about ten feet and be shocked by their solid performance skills. In Tomb Raider and everything else, that hurdle is cleared by approximately one inch and then the fall and then the subsequent Herculean effort to pull oneself back up. The first feature where the hero manages to do it with room to spare will elicit deserved laughter from the audience, if set up correctly.

Moving on, Tomb Raider doesn’t reinvent the wheel but earns some points by embracing its video game heritage. There are segments where it truly feels like the action could be generated by a controller. And it’s a testament to the direction of Roar Uthaug, the sturdy work of Vikander, some gorgeous scenery and well-placed humor that Tomb Raider is as engaging as it is. It’s far from perfect, but it’s more impressive than your typical video game adaptation and that includes both of Jolie’s Croft works.

*** (out of four)

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I Feel Pretty Movie Review

I Feel Pretty offers an often amusing, if certainly not profound, twist on the mistaken identity comedy with a star who fully commits to her performance. That performer is Amy Schumer, who had a breakout role in 2015’s often inspired Trainwreck. She followed that up with the totally unimpressive mother/daughter pic Snatched. Considering those titles, I was a bit and often pleasantly surprised by its lack of reliance on the raunchy factor.

Schumer plays Renee, who works on the website for a high-end NYC based cosmetics company. Her works places her in a basement and she dreams of working at the headquarters on Fifth Avenue. Renee doesn’t even care if that means being the receptionist and taking less pay. In her mind, her inability to get that position is due to her non-model looks. However, when she bumps her noggin at a SoulCycle session, she wakes up thinking she looks exactly like those beauties.

What follows is a mistaken identity movie where only the lead is mistaken about her identity. Her confidence (as she perceives from her outward appearance) gets her moving up the corporate  ladder and developing a rapport with boss Avery (Michelle Williams, trying a rare hand at comedy with a Kardashian-esque high voice). Renee also begins dating the sweet Ethan (Rory Scovel), who’s attracted to her self-assurance.

Renee’s newfound outlook on life puts her in bikini contests, but it also negatively affects her dynamic with her two besties (Busy Philips and Aidy Bryant). Emily Ratajkowski turns up as Renee’s definition of the perfect girl. Surprise… we find out stunning women have issues too.

The blurred lines of our protagonist’s perception leads to some rather obvious developments in a screenplay from Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, who also direct. Schumer does her darndest to elevate the material by giving it her all. Watching her false reactions to those around her provides a number of chuckles, though the script struggles to keep it fresh after a while. It’s no Trainwreck or the near train wreck that Snatched was, but I feel it reminded me of the qualities of its lead.

**1/2 (out of four)

Oscar Watch: McQueen

It’s been a summer full of documentaries that could receive attention come Oscar time and we can add another one in the mix with McQueen. The picture focuses on the life of the late British fashion designer Alexander McQueen, who took his own life in 2010.

Reviews have been quite strong and it stands at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. That said, it stands behind at least two other docs from this season when it comes to a nomination possibility. Those would be Won’t You Be My Neighbor? and RBG and we also have Three Identical Strangers and Whitney out there. I’d say McQueen is probably above Whitney, but let’s not forget we’ve got an entire autumn full of possibilities waiting as well.

Bottom line: McQueen is in the mix for consideration, but competition is steep.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

Annabelle: Creation Movie Review

The 2014 Conjuring spin-off Annabelle didn’t exactly leave me clamoring for an origin story of the motionless demonic doll, but here we are with Annabelle: Creation. Set 12 years before the events of its predecessor, this prequel manages to be a slight improvement. Unfortunately that isn’t saying much.

A prologue documents toy maker Samuel Mullins (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife Esther (Miranda Otto) tragically losing their young daughter. Dad’s profession reveals that he’s the creator of the doll that first appeared in 2013’s The Conjuring. We suspect his child’s demise will later tie into Annabelle’s evil ways.

We skip ahead to a dozen years later in the mid 1950s as six orphans and their nun caretaker (Stephanie Sigman) are looking for a home. They are taken in by the Mullins family on their sprawling country property. Janice (Talitha Bateman) is crippled by polio and quickly stricken by a feeling that something isn’t right with the creepy doll she finds at the house.

Those familiar with the franchise know the technicians involved in the film’s making pretty much take it from there. Creation wishes to generate its suspense through sounds and lighting reveals. David F. Sandberg, who last directed Lights Out, is behind the camera.

The original Annabelle felt like what it was – a quick cash grab to build on the success of The Conjuring. It also looked a little cheap. This doesn’t. It’s just not very scary. If you add up all the time throughout several pictures where the camera lingers on its title character, you might have enough screen time for a fifth entry in the series.

The makers of Creation succeed occasionally at putting together a fast scare, but it’s nearly two-hour runtime seems drawn out and routine. All the camera tricks and sound works cannot ultimately make Annabelle seem more than a mostly dull ploy to keep the franchise rolling.

** (out of four)

Summer 2008: The Top 10 Hits and More

We have arrived at part 3 of summer nostalgia looking over the cinematic seasons from 30, 20, and 10 years ago. If you missed my posts on 1988 and 1998, you can find them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/07/11/summer-1988-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/07/12/summer-1998-the-top-10-hits-and-more/

This brings us to 2008. It was a vaunted superhero summer to be sure and there’s some humdingers for our flops. Here are the top ten moneymakers in addition to other notables and bombs.

10. The Incredible Hulk

Domestic Gross: $134 million

The second feature in the Marvel Cinematic Universe found Edward Norton taking on the angry green giant from Eric Bana. While better received than Ang Lee’s Hulk, it was mostly met with a shrug and Mark Ruffalo would take over the part four years later in The Avengers. It stands at lowest earner of the MCU.

9. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Domestic Gross: $141 million

The follow-up to 2005’s The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe made less than half of what that picture achieved. Like Hulk, it may have placed in the top ten, but it was considered a bit of a disappointment.

8. Mamma Mia!

Domestic Gross: $144 million

The ABBA infused comedic musical was a major sleeper hit and its sequel hits theaters this Friday.

7. Sex and the City

Domestic Gross: $152 million

Fans of the HBO series turned out in droves for the big screen treatment. A sequel two years later yielded less impressive returns.

6. Kung Fu Panda

Domestic Gross: $215 million

Dreamworks Animation found itself a franchise with this animal fest led by Jack Black. Two sequels have followed.

5. WALL-E

Domestic Gross: $223 million

Yet another critically lauded effort from the money minting machine that is Disney/Pixar, this would take home Best Animated Feature at the Oscars.

4. Hancock

Domestic Gross: $227 million

Despite mostly negative reviews, this superhero effort proved Will Smith’s potency at the box office. Director Peter Berg has mostly moved to true life dramas with Mark Wahlberg.

3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Domestic Gross: $317 million

Nearly 20 years after The Last Crusade, Harrison Ford’s iconic hero returned and teamed up with Shia LaBeouf. Critics and audiences had their issues with it, but Indy is slated to come back again in 2021 (when Mr. Ford will almost be 80).

2. Iron Man

Domestic Gross: $318 million

It’s crazy to think now, but the idea of casting Robert Downey Jr. as a superhero less known than Batman or Superman was considered risky business at the time. We know what followed… the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This started it all.

1. The Dark Knight

Domestic Gross: $533 million

The sequel to Batman Begins turned into a genuine phenomenon with Heath Ledger’s incredible work as The Joker and an experience that has influenced numerous franchises since.

And now for some other notables of summer 2008:

Get Smart

Domestic Gross: $130 million

Steve Carell experienced a box office bomb the summer prior with Evan Almighty. He got back into the good graces of audiences with this big screen rendering of the 1960s TV series alongside Anne Hathaway.

Tropic Thunder

Domestic Gross: $110 million

Ben Stiller’s comedy was a hit with crowds and critics. Robert Downey Jr. earned an Oscar nod for his work here and we see Tom Cruise as never before.

Step Brothers

Domestic Gross: $100 million

It didn’t make as much as Adam McKay and Will Ferrell’s previous collaboration two summers earlier, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. However, this has achieved serious cult status in following years.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Domestic Gross: $75 million

Guillermo del Toro’s sequel managed to out gross its predecessor and it was another critically hailed comic book adaptation in a summer filled with them. A reboot of the franchise with David Harbour comes next year.

The Strangers

Domestic Gross: $52 million

This low-budget horror flick turned into a sleeper. A sequel was released this March.

This brings us to the flops…

The Happening

Domestic Gross: $64 million

M. Night Shyamalan had his first flop two summers earlier with Lady in the Water. This one focused on killer trees with a lackluster performance from Mark Wahlberg. Audiences were laughing at it more than frightened by it. The director has since rebounded with Split. 

Speed Racer

Domestic Gross: $43 million

This was the Wachowskis first picture since the Matrix trilogy and it fell far under expectations at the box office and with critics.

The Love Guru

Domestic Gross: $32 million

Mike Myers couldn’t make this creation anywhere near as iconic as Wayne Campbell or Austin Powers. Moviegoers simply ignored Pitka.

The X-Files: I Want to Believe

Domestic Gross: $20 million

Ten summers after the first adaptation of the FOX show did well at theaters, audiences didn’t want to believe in its long gestating sequel.

Meet Dave

Domestic Gross: $11 million

This sci-fi comedy was a massive bomb for Eddie Murphy, making a small percentage of its reported $60 million budget.

And that does it for my recaps of the summer! You can be sure I’ll be back next season covering 1989, 1999, and 2009.

Teen Titans Go! To the Movies Box Office Prediction

**Blogger’s Note (07/20): My estimate for Titans has dwindled from $17.4M to just $13.4M. That could mean a debut in the lower rungs of the top 5.

Teen Titans Go! To The Movies attempts to be the next animated hit of the summer when it debuts next weekend. This is a big screen version of the Cartoon Network’s series that debuted five years ago focusing on some fresh DC Comics superheroes. The cast of the show is here to voice their characters including Greg Cipes, Scott Menville, Khary Payton, Tara Strong, and Hynden Walch. And we have some familiar faces joining the voice over party including Kristen Bell, Will Arnett, Jimmy Kimmel as Batman, James Corden, Halsey, and Lil Yachty. Nicolas Cage, who was supposed to play the Man of Steel in a scrapped live-action Tim Burton pic nearly two decades ago, finally gets to be Superman.

Fans of the series won’t propel this to the heights of other animated efforts this season like Incredibles 2 or Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation. While Mission: Impossible – Fallout will undoubtedly dominate the charts next weekend, Titans will make a go for the #2 spot over holdovers Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again and The Equalizer 2. 

A mid to high teens gross might be enough to achieve it and that’s the ballpark where I have this landing.

Teens Titans Go! To The Movies opening weekend prediction: $12.4 million

For my Mission: Impossible – Fallout prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2018/07/17/mission-impossible-fallout-box-office-prediction/

The Dark Knight Legacy: 10 Years Later

Ten years ago tomorrow, The Dark Knight was unleashed into theaters. Looking back at the summer of 2008, you could argue that the two most important superhero pics in recent memory were released in that short time frame. Two months earlier in May of that year, Iron Man kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe which now stands at 20 films strong. Yet it was The Dark Knight that set box office records and brought critical appreciation of the genre to new heights. In a genre that has exploded in the 21st century, many consider this to be the crown jewel. I believe it’s certainly up on the Mount Rushmore.

A decade prior to its release, Batman had run into some trouble at multiplexes with the deservedly derided Batman and Robin. It was a disappointment both commercially and with reviewers. Joel Schumacher’s two run experiment with the iconic character had dissolved into campy non-fun. In the new century, Christopher Nolan was brought in to resurrect the franchise after making Memento and Insomnia. 

2005’s Batman Begins would achieve that goal, but that was not apparent immediately. Despite glowing reviews, Begins started with $48 million at the box office and $206 million overall domestically. Those are solid numbers but some context is needed. That’s nearly $50 million less than 1989’s Batman made 16 years earlier. In other words, it wasn’t obvious that the eventual sequel would turn into a phenomenon.

That’s what happened. The Dark Knight had the advantage of pitting Christian Bale’s Caped Crusader against his most known foe, The Joker. Many questioned whether Heath Ledger (coming off an Oscar nomination for Brokeback Mountain) had the goods to fill Jack Nicholson’s shoes. Early trailers indicated the answer was yes. And he nailed it with an unforgettable performance. As we know, Ledger never got to witness the acclaim. He died six months before the picture’s release and it added a tragic level of publicity leading up to the premiere.

Once Knight was released, expectations were sky-high and it earned $158 million out of the gate. That was an opening weekend record which has since been surpassed by 14 movies including its sequel The Dark Knight Rises and seven other comic book themed experiences.

The Dark Knight still stands as the 10th highest grossing movie of all time and fourth biggest superhero effort behind Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, and The Avengers. It received eight Oscar nominations – something previously unheard of for something in its genre. That stands as another portion of its legacy. While Ledger would posthumously win Best Supporting Actor for his work, many figured The Dark Knight should and would nab a Best Picture nomination. It didn’t. And that caused the Academy to expand Best Picture from a finite five nominees to anywhere between five and ten (nine has been the major number most years in the decade following).

While no comic book film has managed a Best Picture nomination since then (Black Panther could change that this year), that rule change has perhaps allowed non-traditional awards material like District 9, Nolan’s own Inception, Gravity, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Mad Max: Fury Road, Arrival, and Get Out to garner nods.

And The Dark Knight, for many moviegoers, proved what comic book lovers had known all along. This material, done right, could truly be a work of art.