Get On Up Movie Review

Get On Up never fully finds a way to break out of the typical biopic conventions that we’ve come to anticipate from the genre. The same holds true for some of the prevalent flaws we find in these types of pictures. The rough edges of the central subject are mostly glossed over. Family dynamics including mother abandonment issues, no matter how true, are too familiar.

What director Tate Taylor has going in his favor are two big things: James Brown is one hell of a subject and Chadwick Boseman was born to play him. Told in a non linear structure, Get On Up explores sixty years of history for the Godfather of Soul, from childhood to the early 90s. We witness his troubled and poor upbringing, his rise to stardom, his business abilities that earned him more money than any other African American musician at the time, and so forth. There’s also his well known history with women that includes domestic violence and infidelity yet that subject is not a primary focus.

Taylor enlists some of his cast from his blockbuster The Help with Viola Davis as his mother who left him and Octavia Spencer as the aunt who raised him. Dan Aykroyd appears as Brown’s longtime business manager. The real Brown, by the way, had a cameo in Aykroyd’s The Blues Brothers in 1980. The second best performance belongs to Nelsan Eddie as best friend and JB hype man Bobby Byrd.

Just as Mr. Brown (his preferred method of what to be called) owned every stage he was on, the man playing him owns this picture and makes it worthwhile. Boseman embodies Brown and is quite remarkable during the musical numbers. Those sequences are the best thing about Get On Up. One of them includes mingling Boseman with the real Brown and it’s thrilling. Let’s face it: by now we have witnessd a lot of biopics that include the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War, musicians with inflated egos, addictions, and Mommy and Daddy issues. The music isn’t usually as impossibly funky though with an actor expertly channeling a complicated legend.

*** (out of four)

Last Vegas Movie Review

Redfoo comes away the best in Last Vegas. Who’s Redfoo you ask? He’s one half of the hip hop party group LMFAO and he has a scene as a DJ for a bikini contest in the film. Redfoo will, for the rest of his life, be able to say he shared a scene with Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline. That bikini judging sequence is one of many obvious and comedically flat sequences in the picture. Yet for Redfoo, I suppose it’s pretty cool for him. The same cannot be said for the rest of the performers listed.

The film has been referred to as The Hangover for old guys and that’s a fairly accurate description. Douglas is a lifelong single man who finally decides to tie the knot with a woman less than half his age. His friends of 60 years are enlisted for a Vegas bachelor party. They are De Niro, who is a recent widower and whose late wife was involved in a love triangle long ago with Douglas’s character. There’s Freeman, whose family coddles him after he suffered a mild stroke. There’s Kline, whose sole character trait is that his wife gives him a weekend pass to sow his oats.

Once in Sin City, we experience every tired cliche one would expect to find in this type of material. The geezers are given the awesome suite due to Freeman’s gambling abilities. There’s amazement on their part about the price tags of bottle services in the club. Mary Steenburgen becomes the object of Douglas and De Niro’s affection as a lounge singer who they both manage to fall for in about 30 seconds. There isn’t a moment in Last Vegas that feels original or inspired. I didn’t expect this to reach much past the level of tolerable mediocrity, but it doesn’t even reach that unimpressive category.

50 Cent has a cameo as himself. He was supposed to stay in the Big Daddy suite and gets bumped for our grumpy old bachelor party. Even 50 gets the short shrift though as he doesn’t get to share air time with these legendary actors who are seriously slumming it. That honor, once again, belongs to Redfoo. He gets a good story out of Last Vegas’s existence. The audience? Not so much.

*1/2 (out of four)

Black Or White Box Office Prediction

Kevin Costner is certainly pumping out the movies and this Friday comes Black or White, an interracial drama that finds the actor trying to maintain custody of his granddaughter. Octavia Spencer and Anthony Mackie costar. The small budget pic premiered last fall at the Toronto Film Festival to mixed reviews. It was released in limited fashion in December for an Oscar qualifying run which didn’t pan out whatsoever.

The film stands at a meager 38% on Rotten Tomatoes and it’s hard to imagine this gathering much buzz. Additionally it’s being released on a relatively low 1500 estimated screens. It has been quite some time since Costner had drawing power at the box office and Black or White should be in line for a minor debut.

Black or White opening weekend prediction: $5.6 million

For my Project Almanac prediction, click here:

For my prediction on The Loft, click here:

The Loft Box Office Prediction

The thriller The Loft, out Friday, may be the definition of a January dumping ground picture. Both Warner Bros and Universal chose against distributing it. The low budget murder mystery was filmed three and a half years ago and collected dust on the shelf and the marketing campaign has been lackluster.

Even though it features recognizable faces like Karl Urban, James Marsden, Prison Break’s Wentworth Miller and Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet, it’s almost surprising the eventual distributor Open Road didn’t choose to go the direct to VOD route. I don’t see much room for The Loft to gain much traction this weekend.

The Loft opening weekend prediction: $4.8 million

For my Project Almanac prediction, click here:

For my Black or White prediction, click here:

Project Almanac Box Office Prediction

Paramount Pictures and MTV Films are hoping to squeeze more mileage of the found footage genre with Project Almanac, out Friday. The pic stars a cast of unknowns and centers around the discovery of a time machine.

Shot for a meager reported budget of $12 million, the studios are wishing for a similar result to what Chronicle did three years ago around the same time frame. That found footage release managed a terrific $22 million out of the gate. I’m not as confident that Almanac will generate the same heat. Yet I will predict it grosses mid to high teens, which should be solid enough for a #2 showing behind the American Sniper juggernaut. In doing so, it would easily make its budget back in one weekend.

Project Almanac opening weekend prediction: $16.4 million

For my prediction on The Loft, click here:

For my Black or White prediction, click here:

Lucy Movie Review

Your capacity to enjoy Lucy may deal with your willingness on what to do with your brain capacity while viewing it. It’s a ludicrous concoction of science fiction and action that nonetheless provides yet another showcase for Scarlett Johannson’s talents. And another for Luc Besson, known more lately for his involvement in the Taken franchise than his earlier work. That previous work included 1997’s The Fifth Element which I count among my favorite guilty pleasure flicks of the last two decades. Thankfully Lucy contains a similar spirit. It isn’t every picture that manages to weave familiar shoot em ups with Asian gangsters and a scene with a dinosaur. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, leave this alone. If you appreciated that bizarre giant blue alien creature singing opera mixed with techno in the aforementioned Fifth Element, Lucy has that kinda vibe from time to time.

The title character is played with gusto by Johannson. When we first are introduced to her, she’s a college student in Taiwan who’s tricked into making a drug delivery to a dastardly man known as Mr. Jang (Choi Min-Sik). Turns out it’s not your regular narcotics drop when she’s knocked out and a mysterious substance makes its way into her stomach. The synthetic drug know as CPH4 soon gives her capabilities not thought humanly possible and she begins accessing portions of her brain in a…. shall we say limitless fashion? 10%. 50%. 99%. We know because flash cards show us where we are at in Lucy’s cerebral uptick clock while the bad guys try to chase her down.

Oh… And there’s Morgan Freeman as a professor who kinda knows about this stuff. Clearly he’s cast because what student wouldn’t wanna listen to him drone on about scientific gobbledygook all day? My theory is Lucy could have picked lots of people to partner with, but her extreme intelligence led her to the best voice.

Interestingly, Besson’s take is that the more smart you become – the less empathetic you are. When her brain function is just beginning to increase, she cares enough to make what she believes to be her last call to her parents and provide medical assistance to her unhealthy roommate. Soon though, her actions lead to massive car pileups and rows of innocent dead people that she couldn’t seem to give a flip about. I suppose if it weren’t that way, we wouldn’t get the violent scenes we need every few minutes.

Lucy clips along at a quick runtime of an hour and a half. Nothing about the gunplay (which has an occasional Matrix-y vibe) brings much new to the table. What causes this to be worthwhile in my eyes is the vibrant central performance and Besson’s devil may care, throw in the kitchen sink and dinosaur sighting attitude that I missed. He knows this premise is as silly as The Fifth Element before it. Somehow he’s able to make it fun.

*** (out of four)

Box Office Predictions: January 23-25

Three new movies take on the daunting task of attempting to unseat the box office juggernaut that is American Sniper. They are the Jennifer Lopez thriller The Boy Next Door, Johnny Depp comedy Mortdecai, and George Lucas produced 3D animated pic Strange Magic. You can find my individual prediction posts on each here:

We’ll cut right to the chase here: not a one of them has a chance of taking on Sniper. I look for Lopez’s flick to appeal to a female audience and generate the best debut among the newbies that should be good enough for a #2 opening. As for Magic and Mortdecai, neither look to make much of a dent.

As mentioned, the jaw dropping opening of American Sniper should mean it easily retains its top spot. Both Paddington and The Wedding Ringer premiered solidly and I look for them to be right behind Door in their second weekends. If either Magic or Mortdecai fail to perform even up to my meager expectations, it could mean Taken 3 remains in the top six as it should gross around $7 million in its third weekend.

And with that, estimates for this weekend’s Top 6:

1. American Sniper

Predicted Gross: $50.4 million (representing a drop of 43%)

2. The Boy Next Door

Predicted Gross: $14.7 million

3. Paddington

Predicted Gross: $12.6 million (representing a drop of 33%)

4. The Wedding Ringer

Predicted Gross: $12.1 million (representing a drop of 41%)

5. Strange Magic

Predicted Gross: $8.6 million

6. Mortdecai

Predicted Gross: $7.4 million

Box Office Results (January 16-18)

This weekend, Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper became a cultural phenomenon. No one saw a gross this huge coming as it performed similar to what a superhero summer tent pole would earn. It took in $89.2 million over the Friday to Sunday portion of the weekend (I predicted less than half of that at $40.6M). For the long MLK weekend, it made $107 million. Unreal. Clearly the combination of critical acclaim, Oscar nominations, and highly effective trailers and TV spots did the job.

The Kevin Hart comedy The Wedding Ringer had a sturdy second place opening at $20.6 million, however it was below my $29.4M estimate. Over the four-day it made $24 million.

The children’s bear tale Paddington took in $18.9 million from Friday to Sunday, under my $22.3M projection. The well-reviewed pic amassed a pleasing $25.4M over the four day portion of the weekend.

Taken 3 dipped to fourth in its sophomore frame with $14.7 million, under my $17.1M prediction. The action sequel stands at $65 million at press time.

Selma was fifth in its second weekend in release with $8.7 million – not matching my generous $12.5M estimate. I thought the MLK holiday might assist a little more in bumping its grosses, though it’s worth noting that yesterday’s holiday gave the pic its largest single day during its run. It’s earned $31M so far.

Finally… Blackhat. Oh boy. The Michael Mann directed thriller with Chris Hemsworth bombed placing 10th with a pathetic $3.9 million. I predicted $13.6M. Oops. The heavy competition, weak reviews, and middling marketing campaign sunk this project, which reportedly cost $70M. Blackhat easily qualifies as the first enormous failure of 2015.

In case you didn’t notice, everything but Sniper grossed less than I figured. It’s no accident. Sniper unquestionably had an effect on the viability of the other releases and Sniper‘s debut will definitely rank as one of the box office top stories of this year.

And there you have it! Until next time….