Aquaman Movie Review

In movies nowadays, the superhero genre has become so popular that a rule now applies to well-known thespians. You can play a hero or then you act long enough to see yourself become the villain. Or vice versa. Patrick Wilson was a good guy in Watchmen and now he’s a bad guy in Aquaman. Willem Dafoe was the key villain in SpiderMan, but he’s an ally to the title character here. As for Nicole Kidman, she was Bruce Wayne’s love interest in Batman Forever. Now she’s Aquamom.

This is all in a feature-length experience that HBO’s “Entourage” treated with humor. The thought back then… who would really buy this comic book creation in his own two-hour saga? Director James Wan’s weird but often endearing take ups the ante by padding nearly an extra half hour. It sorta works. It does by knowing that it’s silly most of the time despite occasional meanderings into thinking it belongs in Lord of the Rings territory. While it doesn’t, some of the battle scenes approach that grandeur.

We’ve seen Aquaman before in the DC Extended Universe. He was introduced briefly in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (which I still think is a little better than its reputation) and his role was expanded in the sub par Justice League. He gets the whole origin treatment here. In 1985, the Queen of Atlantis names Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) washes up on shore after a storm in Maine. She makes the acquaintance of the local lighthouse keeper (Temuera Morrison) and Splash style romantic sparks fly. Leaving her King hubby behind underwater, Atlanna and her new flame bear a son named Arthur and that little tyke eventually becomes the heavily tattooed punk rockish muscle man embodied by Jason Momoa.

As we witnessed in the previously mentioned pics, Momoa’s Aquaman becomes a mysterious superhero above water when not chugging beers with Dad. Atlanna, on the other hand, is long gone after being hunted down by her husband’s henchmen and returning below the surface so her new family isn’t harmed. She’s said to be dead.

Soon enough, Arthur is pressured to see Atlantis for the first time. His half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) is hell-bent on becoming the ruling Ocean Master. That means the destruction of Earth is on his to do list. Mera (Amber Heard) is the daughter of an Atlantean  King (Dolph Lundgren) allied with Orm. She disagrees with her father and along with Arthur’s old mentor (Willem Dafoe), they attempt to recruit our hero to become the King himself.

The family drama is a very familiar plot point in most movies in the genre – no matter which cinematic universe it takes place in. This is no exception. Orm is the Loki to Aquaman’s Thor, but he’s not near as memorable. Mera is the love interest and she has some humorous moments due to her unfamiliarity with our land. Those light moments reminded me of Gal Gadot’s acclamations to her fresh surroundings in Wonder Woman. And while we’re talking similar plot themes, this will remind you of Black Panther from time to time.

There’s only so much you can accomplish with this well-worn origin stuff, but James Wan conjures up a visually vibrant tale with an engaging lead. Momoa’s Aquaman is a bit of a Hulk like creation who seems impervious to harm. Frankly, the tension is a bit watered down because it seems like he could swat Orm off like a fly. Yet the action sequences are effective when they’re not too weighed down in confusing CG mayhem. The best one takes place in Italy when all the players remain dry. Aquaman is worth the watch, despite its flaws, as it builds plenty of worlds we’ll see again and with more details. This uses what seems like a record of title cards to tell us where we are as the plot moves along. Unlike other films where we might see “St. Louis” with The Arch in frame, they’re necessary here. Most of the places we visit come with acceptable levels of entertainment value.

*** (out of four)

Aquaman Box Office Prediction

Blogger’s Note (12/18/18): Update here as I’m increasing my $74.3 million estimate up to $77.3 million.

We don’t have Vincent Chase from TV’s “Entourage” starring in it as portrayed on that show years ago with James Cameron directing. Yet DC Comics hero Aquaman finally gets his stand-alone experience next weekend. Instead it’s Jason Momoa reprising his role as the waterlogged warrior after first seeing him in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Justice League. James Wan, who made the Conjuring entries and Furious 7, directs. The supporting cast includes Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Dolph Lundgren, and Nicole Kidman. In a bit of irony, Julie Andrews has a voice-over while Mary Poppins Returns serves as competition over the pre-Christmas frame.

Aquaman marks the sixth DC Extended Universe feature that began in 2013 with Man of Steel. The lowest grossing opener of the series was Justice League in November of last year with $93 million. All others (Steel, BvS, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman) took in over $100 million. Forecasts and expectations aren’t as high here, but Warner Bros is certainly hoping for a sizable hit. The film opened in China last weekend to robust results. Reviews are fairly solid with a current Tomato rating of 78%.

No previous DC Universe production has premiered in the crowded holiday month of December. Direct competition comes from both Poppins (family crowd) and Bumblebee (action crowd). With Disney’s famous nanny getting a two-day jump on Wednesday, Aquaman appears in good position to grab the #1 spot.

My feeling is that it will do so with a gross in the mid 70s.

Aquaman opening weekend prediction: $77.3 million

For my Mary Poppins Returns prediction, click here:

For my Bumblebee prediction, click here:

For my Second Act prediction, click here:

For my Welcome to Marwen prediction, click here:

Entourage Movie Review

Vince, Eric, Drama, Turtle, and Ari are back in action in Entourage, the film that continues the HBO comedy that ran for eight seasons and concluded in 2011. Creator Doug Ellin handles the writing and directing duties and even producer Mark Wahlberg cameos (the show is based loosely on his experiences and his posse). When the show premiered, it had a nice run of being an entertaining novelty that allowed audiences to feel like bystanders watching a megastar and his buddies living the high life in Tinseltown. By about the midpoint of its existence, the show kind of ran out of steam. Simply put, said novelty started to wear and many of the principle characters simply weren’t interesting or three dimensional enough to sustain an eight year airing.

Unfortunately, Entourage: The Motion Picture does little to seem any different than a padded episode in the series later weaker seasons. To catch up: huge movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) is recently divorced after a nine day period of wedded bliss and looking to direct. His manager Ari (Jeremy Piven) secures $100 million plus for a strange looking sci fi/action rendering of Jekyll and Hyde dubbed “Hyde”. The fact that it goes over budget creates problems with the picture’s co-financiers, a wealthy Texas businessman (Billy Bob Thornton) and his sleaze bag son (Haley Joel Osment). Eric (Kevin Connolly) is still in his ongoing off and on romance with a very pregnant Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and sowing his oats during a break. Vince’s always struggling actor brother Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) is still struggling and living under his baby bro’s more attractive shadow. Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) is living the high life (literally and figuratively) from his thriving tequila business money and in a potential romance with Ronda Rousey.

We are treated once again to the glamorous life of this crew and their huge parties chock full of celebrity cameos, including a number of the New England Patriots. Like on the show, many of the genuinely funny moments do come from Piven’s always high strung Ari, including his therapy sessions with his long suffering wife. As for other performers, both Grenier and Connolly are a bit dull. Dillon’s Drama veers between humorous and annoying (as he did on HBO). Turtle is Turtle. And for those wondering about Haley Joel Osment after all these years, he doesn’t do himself many favors with this over the top Southern yokel part. If you truly loved the show, you might eat this up. Yet if you’re like me and believe it got long in the tooth, this will likely feel highly unnecessary.

** (out of four)

Box Office Predictions: June 19-21

Another record could be broken for the second weekend in a row as Disney/Pixar’s Inside Out debuts this Friday. It will take on the sophomore frame of Jurassic World, which exceeded all expectations this past weekend – to say the least (more on that below). You can read my detailed Inside Out prediction post here:

If Inside Out holds to my prediction, it will provide Pixar with its third highest and largest non-sequel debut in its existence. However, that will probably not be enough to get it to the #1 spot considering what Jurassic will make even it drops close to 60%. That means Inside could set the record for highest non #1 opening in domestic history, which is currently held by 2004’s The Day After Tomorrow with $68.7 million.

The only other newbie this weekend is the urban comedic drama Dope, which I expect to open outside the top five with $4.6 million (I didn’t do an individual post on it).

**Wednesday June 17 bloggers update: I have upgraded my Dope estimate after its announced 2000 screen rollout which is higher than I expected. New prediction is $7.7 million.

And with that, my estimates for the weekend’s top five:

1. Jurassic World

Predicted Gross: $88.3 million (representing a drop of 57%)

2. Inside Out

Predicted Gross: $71.4 million

3. Spy

Predicted Gross: $9.1 million (representing a drop of 42%

4. Dope

Predicted Gross: $7.7 million

5. San Andreas

Predicted Gross: $5.2 million (representing a drop of 52%)

Box Office Results (June 12-14)

In a word… WOW! Jurassic World. No one really saw this coming as the dino reboot accomplished the #1 domestic box office opening… not of the year, but of all time! Its gross of $208.8 million edged out three year record holder The Avengers, which made $207.4M. I predicted a meager $123.5M debut for Jurassic and, was I way off or what?!?!?! So was everyone else. Clearly the nostalgia factor stemming from the 1993 original and the fact that every kid in America wanted to see it (and Chris Pratt and mostly positive reviews) turned this into an event experience. This puts Jurassic World in a position to be the summer’s biggest hit, something everyone assumed Avengers: Age of Ultron would have little trouble achieving. Amazing.

The dinosaur love contributed to pretty much everything else in the top five dropping more than I anticipated. Spy was second with $15.6 million (I said $19.7M) and its two weeks total is at $56.5M. The Melissa McCarthy comedy may just clear $100M when all is said and done.

San Andreas was third with $10.8 million compared to my $12.6M projection and its total is at $119.1M. Insidious: Chapter 3 made $7.3 million in weekend #2 (under my $8.9M estimate) and it’s made $37.3M. Pitch Perfect 2 was fifth with $6.3 million (for a $171.1M total) and I incorrectly had it outside the top five. My #5 prediction Entourage was sixth with $4.3 million, under my $5.7M prediction and its two weeks total is at a weak $25.8M.

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

Box Office Predictions: June 12-14

Just like they did 22 summers ago, the dinosaurs shall rule the box office this weekend as Jurassic World should easily dominate. The fourth entry in the franchise looks to score the third best opening weekend of 2015 (following Avengers: Age of Ultron and Furious 7). You can peruse my detailed prediction post on it here:

With Jurassic being the only new film in release, that leaves holdovers. Current champ Spy should have the smallest decline while Insidious: Chapter 3 is likely to suffer the largest, as horror pics usually do.

And with that, my top five predictions for the weekend:

1. Jurassic World

Predicted Gross: $123.5 million

2. Spy

Predicted Gross: $19.7 million (representing a drop of 32%)

3. San Andreas

Predicted Gross: $12.6 million (representing a drop of 51%)

4. Insidious: Chapter 3

Predicted Gross: $8.9 million (representing a drop of 61%)

5. Entourage

Predicted Gross: $5.7 million (representing a drop of 45%)

Box Office Results (June 5-7)

As expected, the critically acclaimed Melissa McCarthy comedy Spy debuted at #1. However, its $29 million take did not match the openings of her 2013 efforts Identity Thief or The Heat and didn’t come close to my $42.1M prediction. This is still a solid opening for McCarthy and it should suffer smallish declines in coming weekends.

San Andreas dropped to second with $25.8 million, just above my $24.3M projection. The hit disaster thriller has amassed $98.4M in its two weeks of release.

Insidious: Chapter 3 couldn’t come close to what part 2 accomplished, but it still managed a commendable $22.6 million, under my $26M estimate. As mentioned above, look for it to fade fast, however.

The film version of HBO’s Entourage had a muted opening with $10.2 million, just below my $11.2M prediction. The five-day gross of $17.6 million (it opened on Wednesday) did just manage to outpace my $16.5M projection.

I incorrectly had Pitch Perfect 2 at fifth with an estimate of $8.4 million, but it was sixth with my $7.5M (its total stands at $160.8M). Mad Max: Fury Road ended up taking the five spot with $7.8 million to bring its cume to $130.6M.

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


Box Office Predictions: June 5-7

As the June box office session begins, we have three new pictures opening in the marketplace: the Melissa McCarthy action comedy Spy, horror sequel Insidious: Chapter 3 and the film version of HBO’s Entourage. You can read my individual prediction posts on each here:

As I see it, Spy (which has received rave reviews) should easily come out of the gate at #1. The battle for second could be fierce between Insidious and current champ San Andreas, which had a larger than anticipated premiere (more on that below). I expect the third Insidious to just make it to the #2 position. I have Entourage placing fourth with Pitch Perfect 2 rounding out the top five in its fourth weekend.

And with that, my top five predictions for the weekend:

1. Spy

Predicted Gross: $42.1 million

2. Insidious: Chapter 3

Predicted Gross: $26 million

3. San Andreas

Predicted Gross: $24.3 million (representing a drop of 55%)

4. Entourage

Predicted Gross: $11.2 million ($16.5 million predicted for its five-day gross)

5. Pitch Perfect 2

Predicted Gross: $8.4 million (representing a drop of 43%)

Box Office Results (May 29-31)

Dwayne Johnson’s disaster flick San Andreas had anything but a disastrous opening with a higher than expected $54.5 million, easily topping my $43.4M projection. The pic was pretty much critic proof and audiences responded with a solid A- Cinemascore grade to give its star yet another hit, not even two months after his participation in the massive Furious 7.

Holdovers dipped further from their Memorial Day grosses than I anticipated as Pitch Perfect 2 was second with $14.8 million (I said $18.5M). The high grossing sequel has amassed $147.5M so far.

The bad news continued for Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland, which has undeniably become one of the season’s early disappointments. It experienced a precipitous drop in its sophomore frame with $14.3 million for third place, below my generous $19.1M prediction. Its two week total is at $63M and it probably won’t reach the $100M mark.

Mad Max: Fury Road took fourth with $14.1 million, just below my $15M estimate for an impressive total three week tally of $116.4M. Avengers: Age of Ultron was fifth with $11.4 million and I incorrectly had it outside the top five. The Marvel superhero juggernaut has made $427.5M at press time.

Cameron Crowe’s critically panned Aloha was DOA for a sixth place debut with just $9.6 million, well under my $18.2M projection. Audiences weren’t impressed with what they saw either with a lackluster B- Cinemascore grade. You can read my review of it here:

And that’ll do it for now, folks! Until next time…

Entourage Box Office Prediction

Vinnie, E, Johnny Drama, Turtle and Ari go from the small screen to the big one as Entourage debuts in theaters this Wednesday. Based upon the HBO series that ran from 2004 to 2011, the studio is hoping to recapture the magic that allowed Sex and the City to become a huge silver screen blockbuster.

Kevin Connolly, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Dillon, Jeremy Piven and Jerry Ferrara reprise their aforementioned roles with Billy Bob Thornton and a host of celebrity cameos in the mix. They include Liam Neeson, Tom Brady and the show and picture’s executive producer Mark Wahlberg. Entourage may suffer from hurdles preventing it from becoming a success at the multiplex. First, while the show was acclaimed – many critics and viewers felt it had worn out its welcome and lost quality by the culmination of its pay cable run. Second, there’s another comedy in town premiering as Melissa McCarthy’s Spy looks to have a solid start. Its most hardcore fans should push it to a mid to high teens five day haul and it’ll likely fade soon afterwards.

Entourage opening weekend prediction: $11.2 million (Friday to Sunday), $16.5 million (Wednesday to Sunday)

For my Spy prediction, click here:

For my Insidious: Chapter 3 prediction, click here:

Summer 2015 Movies: The Predicted Century Club

The 2015 Summer Movie Season officially kicks off two weeks from today when Avengers: Age of Ultron blasts into theaters. It will compete for the largest domestic opening of all time (where it needs to beat its predecessor) and is highly likely to be the season’s highest earner. That got me to thinking – while Ultron is poised to gross $500 million or higher, it’s been the $100 million mark that studios still like to brag about. This prompted me to look at the past five summer flick seasons and how many pictures reached that milestone.

In 2010, it was 13 movies that reached the mark: Toy Story 3, Iron Man 2, Twilight Saga: Eclipse, Inception, Despicable Me, Shrek Forever After, The Karate Kid, Grown Ups, The Last Airbender, The Other Guys, Salt, Robin Hood, and The Expendables.

Things improved in 2011 with 18 films reaching the century club: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Hangover Part II, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Cars 2, Thor, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Captain America: First Avenger, The Help, Bridesmaids, Kung Fu Panda 2, X-Men: First Class, The Smurfs, Super 8, Horrible Bosses, Green Lantern, Bad Teacher, and Cowboys and Aliens.

The low mark was the following year in 2012 with just 12: The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spider-Man, Brave, Ted, Madagascar 3, Men in Black 3, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Snow White and the Huntsman, Prometheus, Magic Mike, and The Bourne Legacy.

Yet the high mark came the following summer in 2013 with 19: Iron Man 3, Despicable Me 2, Man of Steel, Monsters University, Fast and Furious 6, Star Trek Into Darkness, World War Z, The Heat, We’re the Millers, The Great Gatsby, The Conjuring, Grown Ups 2, The Wolverine, Now You See Me, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, The Hangover Part III, Epic, Pacific Rim, and This is the End.

2014 dipped with 14: Guardians of the Galaxy, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Maleficent, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Godzilla, 22 Jump Street, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Neighbors, Lucy, The Fault in Our Stars, and Edge of Tomorrow. 

That averages out to 15 pictures earning $100M plus per summer over this decade.

So where do I have 2015 matching up? Not breaking records, but in good shape. My predictions for the year’s $100M earners is 16 and they are as follows (in order of release date): Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mad Max: Fury Road, Pitch Perfect 2, Tomorrowland, San Andreas, Spy, Jurassic World, Inside Out, Ted 2, Magic Mike XXL, Terminator: Genisys, Minions, Ant-Man, Trainwreck, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, and Fantastic Four. 

Of course, there’s always sleepers. And there’s others that I could have predicted but think will fall short: the Reese Witherspoon/Sofia Vergara comedy Hot Pursuit, horror remake Poltergeist, the film version of Entourage, the Adam Sandler video game inspired action comedy Pixels, the Vacation reboot, and the NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton are among them.

As predicted, summer 2015 should see its number of century club inductees on the slightly high end without reaching the heights of 2013. And as always, you’ll see box office predictions every Saturday from me on each and every one of ’em!