Monthly Archives: May 2016

Captain America: Civil War Movie Review

The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand in often thrilling and impressive ways in Captain America: Civil War, which is by all intents and purposes a third Avengers pic where Hulk and Thor are apparently on a well-deserved vacation. It walks the tightrope of introducing new characters and finding new dynamics for the old ones without seeming gimmicky or overloading the audience with all its activity. To that end, director Joel and Anthony Russo are to be commended for mostly succeeding in this latest effort where our heroes are often unmasked and sometimes emasculated.

Civil War presents a chasm in the MCU that centers on Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) aka The Winter Solider from this trilogy’s slightly better second movie. His history with Captain America (Chris Evans) garners understandable sympathy from our title character. That isn’t the case with Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) when it appears Bucky may be responsible for an attack on the United Nations.

There’s also the question of whether The Avengers actions across the globe are worth the collateral damage that sometimes comes with it. The U.S. government proposes to put some serious checks on their powers. Tony agrees. Cap does not. And the rest of the crew (minus Hulk/Thor sipping Mai tai’s somewhere) must choose which side to join. This include Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye (who comes out retirement from his boring home life Age of Ultron subplot), Anthony Mackie’s Falcon, Don Cheadle’s War Machine, and Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch. We also have Paul Rudd in the mix less than a year after his debut in Ant-Man, which was the other underwhelming MCU summer 2015 experience (along with Ultron). And then there’s the two newbies introduced who will soon have their own stand-alone features: Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. Spidey is good for some solid one-liners and I enjoyed Holland’s take on Peter Parker. This budding franchise should hopefully eclipse what we saw the last time around with Andrew Garfield and company. That said, I actually found Black Panther’s plot line to be a bit more interesting here and I equally anticipate that solo pic.

Civil War also continues the tradition of rather forgettable central villains, with the exception of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. Here it’s Daniel Bruhl as Zemo, whose motives are murky for most of the running time and who stands as just another baddie in a world where the heroes are the focal point. This entry isn’t really about a main villain, however. Rather it’s about deciding if you’re on Team Cap or Team Iron Man and the screenplay is smartly written enough that the answer isn’t automatic.

The MCU continues to build on itself and this one does so in the most entertaining way since Winter Soldier. By the time we get to the final Avengers pictures, Hulk and Thor will return. Guardians of Galaxies will be in the mix. And with the Mouse Factory behind this with their extensive array of characters, who knows who else we shall see? Will Rey and Finn cross star systems to appear? Which team will Mowgli align with? Will Kermit and Miss Piggy agree to follow Cap or Tony or split? As long as it’s satisfying like Civil War, I’m still curious to find out.

*** (out of four)

Alice Through the Looking Glass Box Office Prediction

Nowadays, moviegoers are accustomed to a yearly live-action remake of a Disney classic in the form of your Malificent‘s, Cinderella‘s, and Jungle Book‘s. Yet it was six years ago that the ball really got rolling when Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland opened to a fantastic $116 million on its way to a $334 million domestic haul.

Now the Disney machine (who’s been having a banner 2016) has produced the sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass and it brings back Johnny Depp as The Mad Hatter, Mia Wasikowska as the title character, Anne Hathaway as The White Queen, and Helena Bonham Carter as The Red Queen. Sacha Baron Cohen and Rhys Ifans join the party. Tim Burton opted not to return to directorial duties (he executive produces) and James Bobin, who made the Muppets reboot, fills that role.

Competition over Memorial Day weekend is considerable with X-Men: Apocalypse also debuting. The biggest hurdle Alice faces could be the six-year gap that it took to produce this follow-up. The original didn’t receive very positive reviews and the story for Looking Glass is even worse with a current 27% Rotten Tomatoes score. I could actually see this performing closely to what another long gestating sequel accomplished over Memorial Day 2012 when Men in Black 3 earned $54 million for the Friday to Sunday portion of the weekend and $69 million for the four-day holiday frame.

Alice Through the Looking Glass opening weekend prediction: $53.6 million (Friday to Sunday), $67.7 million (Friday to Monday)

For my X-Men Apocalypse prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/05/18/x-men-apocalypse-box-office-prediction/

 

X-Men: Apocalypse Box Office Prediction

The Mutants are back in the multiplex as X-Men: Apocalypse hits screens this Memorial Day weekend. Bryan Singer (who directed the first two well-regarded entries in the original trilogy and 2014’s Days of Future Past) is back behind the camera with franchise regulars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, and Rose Byrne returning, in addition to Oscar Isaac and Olivia Munn.

The pic is likely to rule the holiday weekend, but it is worth noting that competition is fiercer than two years ago when Future Past debuted on the same weekend. In 2014, the only other newcomer was the Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore dud Blended. This time around, it’s Alice Through the Looking Glass, another high-profile sequel.

This is the 8th X-Men franchise flick in the 21st century (counting the two stand-alone Wolverine features) and the best opening so far is ironically 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand. Despite being generally regarded as the worst of the X series, it premiered to $102 million over that year’s Memorial Day Weekend from Friday to Sunday with $122 million for the four-day holiday frame. Days of Future Past was second with a $90 million Friday to Sunday and $110 million Friday to Monday.

Apocalypse would love to match Last Stand‘s debut or exceed it and there’s another common bond between them. This is the third movie in the current trilogy that began with 2011’s X-Men: First Class and like Stand, it’s receiving the weakest reviews. First Class earned an 87% Rotten Tomatoes score. Future Past improved slightly with 91%. Apocalypse currently sits at just 53%. The somewhat negative word of mouth and more significant competition could cause this to gross under what Past managed. However, I don’t think it’ll be much under.

I look for Apocalypse to post a low to mid-80s start for the traditional three-day with a gross just eclipsing the century mark for the holiday weekend.

X-Men: Apocalypse opening weekend prediction: $82.8 million (Friday to Sunday), $100.4 million (Friday to Monday)

For my Alice Through the Looking Glass prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/05/18/alice-through-the-looking-glass-box-office-prediction/

 

Oscar Watch: Hands of Stone

Having premiered at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday, the boxing biopic Hands of Stone hopes to be the next film in that genre to garner Oscar attention, much like Rocky, Raging Bull, and The Fighter before it.

The pic focuses on the legendary Roberto Duran, played here by Edgar Ramirez and casts Robert De Niro as his trainer Ray Arcel. Of course, Mr. De Niro won his only lead Actor gold statue for his lauded role as Jake La Motta in Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull in 1980 and he would competing here for Supporting Actor.

Hmmm. A legendary actor with an acclaimed pugilist picture to his credit maybe making a return to the Red Carpet? Sounds a bit like last year when Sylvester Stallone was nominated for Supporting Actor for Creed and surprisingly lost to Mark Rylance in Bridge of Spies. In order for Hands of Stone to receive serious Academy attention for the big race (Picture), it would’ve needed even better reviews than Creed. While early reviews are fairly solid, that didn’t happen and you can pretty much count out that possibility. Same goes for Ramirez in Actor.

As for De Niro, the Weinstein Company (who are no slouches at awards campaigning) may pull out all the stops for their actor being recognized. It’s unlikely to occur, however. The great story with Stallone was the near 40 year lay-off between nominations and the connection with him playing the same role being recognized so many decades apart. De Niro, on the other hand, was just nominated four years ago for his work in Silver Linings Playbook. 

While Hands of Stone (being released domestically on August 26) could be a mid-size hit come late summer, Cannes has shown it’s improbable that it’ll be on the minds of Academy voters.

 

Box Office Predictions: May 20-22

The third weekend of summer 2016 brings some intrigue into the season as the Seth Rogen/Zac Efron raunchy sequel Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, app based animated tale The Angry Birds Movie, and Russell Crowe/Ryan Gosling action comedy The Nice Guys all debut. You can peruse my detailed prediction posts on each one of them here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/05/11/neighbors-2-sorority-rising-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/05/11/the-angry-birds-movie-box-office-prediction/

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/05/11/the-nice-guys-box-office-prediction/

All three titles have question marks. All three titles could over perform or under perform. And as I see it, it could create a genuine three-way race for the top spot between Neighbors, Birds, and current two-week champion Captain America: Civil War.

Meanwhile, The Nice Guys has been the beneficiary of solid reviews and a robust marketing campaign and it could certainly rise above the mid-teens gross I have it pegged at. Having said that, it’s difficult to see it moving into the top 3. The Jungle Book should round out the top five.

The closeness of that top 3 reflects my belief that there will only be about a $4 million difference between those pictures, with Neighbors being the victor, Captain America and his avengers friends and foes in second, and those Birds taking third. We shall see how it all shakes out in this highly unpredictable frame which will get even more interesting when potential heavy hitters X-Men: Apocalypse and Alice Through the Looking Glass arrive Memorial Day weekend.

And with that, my top 5 predictions for this weekend:

  1. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

Predicted Gross: $38.2 million

2. Captain America: Civil War

Predicted Gross: $35.1 million (representing a drop of 51%)

3. The Angry Birds Movie

Predicted Gross: $34.5 million

4. The Nice Guys

Predicted Gross: $14.4 million

5. The Jungle Book

Predicted Gross: $10.9 million (representing a drop of 36%)

Box Office Results (May 13-15)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier easily remained #1 (as expected) for the second weekend in a row as it grossed $72.6 million, just under my $76.8M estimate. The Marvel tale has amassed $295M in ten days. It will come in under the number of the two Avengers entries but has already become the highest grossing Cap flick as The Winter Soldier topped out at $259M domestic.

Disney held the runner-up position again as The Jungle Book swung another $17.1 million (in range with my $18.6M prediction) for a five-week total of $311M.

The George Clooney/Julia Roberts thriller Money Monster debuted in third with $14.7 million, managing to come in at the top end of its expectations and managing to top my $12.7M prediction. While it will almost surely drop out of the top five this weekend, look for it to have fairly smallish declines and maybe reach an eventual gross of $50-$60M.

Opening lightly in fourth place was the Kevin Bacon horror flick The Darkness with $4.9 million, just under my $5.6M prognosis. Look for the low-budget Blumhouse offering to be VOD ready soon.

Mother’s Day plummeted in weekend #3 since it didn’t have that whole actual Mother’s Day holiday working this time around. The rom com earned $3.2 million (below my $4.7M forecast) for a total of $28M.

And that’s all for now, folks! Until next time…

Oscar Watch: Loving

loving

Earlier this year, I wrote an Oscar Watch post for the Jeff Nichols sci-fi drama Midnight Special, which premiered to mostly positive feedback at the Berlin Film Festival. Yet since then – it was released to soft box office numbers and its awards prospects have considerably dimmed.

Nichols, director of acclaimed pics such as Take Shelter and Mud, may have another Oscar ace up his sleeve though as Special is not his only 2016 feature. His 1950s set interracial romance Loving has just premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and early word is encouraging. Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga star as a Virginia couple whose marital union was illegal at the time. Both performances are garnering strong notices and it’s possible that both could find themselves factors in the Actor and Actress categories. Frequent Nichols collaborator Michael Shannon has a supporting role that’s said to be too small for any legit chance in Supporting Actor.

Helping even further, Focus Features has set a U.S. release date of November 4, right in the heart of Oscar season. If Loving is able to break through with audiences in the way it’s currently doing with the festival crowd overseas, it could find itself receiving Academy love in the Picture and Director races, too. Time will tell.

The Revenant Movie Review

Chewing scenery.

It’s a movie term used for describing when performers overact. Think Al Pacino or John Travolta over the last 20 years. In Alejandro G. Inarritu’s The Revenant, we can use it differently. The landscapes presented here are a feast for us. They’re stunning. This is a tale of revenge best served cold with wintry scenes of blood soaked beauty.

Set in 1823 in the U.S. territories that later became the Dakotas (though this was mostly filmed in Canada), Leonardo DiCaprio is Hugh Glass, based on a real frontiersman. Along with his half Native American boy Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), widowed Glass is assisting a team of trappers through the rough terrain. The group is attacked and the few survivors includes schemer Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), who clearly has not taken a liking to Glass and his mixed offspring.

The violent scenes of the trappers being massacred pale in comparison to the grisly scene that soon follows courtesy of a grizzly bear that attacks Glass, pummeling him to within an inch of his life. The surviving crew (including Domhnall Gleeson’s Army captain Andrew Henry and Will Poulter’s noble Jim) do what they can to help him. Fitzgerald has other ideas and his plan leaves Hawk dead and Glass left for dead.

The Revenant follows Glass’s journey back through the wild to find Fitzgerald under hellish conditions. Famously, Inarritu’s production reportedly could have used the same word for its conditions. The pic is shot using only natural light courtesy of master cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who might as well been given his Oscar the day shooting commenced. There’s also little reliance on CG effects. That bear attack looks real. Frighteningly so.

Whatever harsh times Inarritu and his team experienced, the rewards are present onscreen. DiCaprio is one of his generation’s very finest actors and his commitment here is evident. In Mad Max: Fury Road (what a 2015 for Hardy), the actor barely said a word. By contrast, he’s a chatterbox here who’s constantly rationalizing his devious behavior in his Southern drawl. DiCaprio is the quiet one. He grunts more in pain than verbalizing it. Both performances are remarkable.

The unflinching violence comes infrequently in The Revenant, but when it does it is effective and jarring. Yes, the two and a half hour runtime probably could have been trimmed. After all, this is essentially a B movie revenge story told with an A Team of technicians, led by its director. Having said that, it would’ve left less minutes for those landscapes. Those amazing landscapes.

***1/2 (out of four)