Fist Fight Movie Review

Fist Fight is not worth it. It’s not worth the involvement of a decent cast that’s provided laughs in other projects. It’s not even worthy of that bloopers reel that you just know is coming once its 91 minutes thankfully concludes. Even they’re not very funny.

This is a loose remake of 1987 cult comedy Three O’Clock High, a fun little exercise that’s earned its status as an under appreciated flick. The common thread is the long buildup to an eventual brawl in a high school. However, this time it’s the teachers and not the students. In one corner, we have wimpy English teacher Mr. Campbell (Charlie Day). In the other, we have intimidating history instructor Mr. Strickland (Ice Cube).

These two educators are in the last day of school when a dispute leads Cube to challenge Day to its title at 3pm once the bell rings. The circumstances leading to it are not particularly relevant, though they certainly call into question why Cube’s character should be anywhere near a classroom. That’s common here. Most of the characters from faculty to the kids are dumb and constantly doing dumb things. Jillian Bell, who stole scenes in 22 Jump Street, is that teacher we’ve all had who does meth and wants to hook up with the seniors. This is one example of several where the script goes for extreme vulgarity and non-PC humor. Nothing wrong with that, but it rarely lands with its crass chuckles attempts.

Cube scowls his way through. Day plays up the always nerve-wracked weakling. Somewhere in here is an attempted message about bravery and not backing down to powers that be. If only some of the talent here could have been brave enough to punch up this lackadaisical screenplay.

*1/2 (out of four)

RIP Bill Paxton

Sadly, this morning I write a post I didn’t expect to with the news that Bill Paxton has passed away at age 61. For even casual movie fans, Paxton was a very familiar face that starred and co-starred in blockbusters such as Aliens, True Lies, Twister, and Titanic.

Upon hearing the news of his death, I began to realize just how present he’s been in my movie watching existence over the last three decades plus. I first knew of him as Chet, the bullying older brother in Weird Science. If that is a guilty pleasure pic, his performance is one of the best pleasures in it. It’s a terrific comedic performance.

Just one year later, his role in Aliens stuck out in that fantastic sequel with one-liners like “Game Over, Man!” That same year, he starred in Kathryn Bigelow’s vampire cult classic Near Dark.

All told, Mr. Paxton has about a dozen DVDs and Blu-Rays sitting on my shelf. Like I said, he was truly a part of many of our collective filmgoing experiences from the 1980s on. He was alongside Tom Cruise just three years ago in the solid Edge of Tomorrow and was a rival tabloid cameraman to Jake Gyllenhaal in my favorite picture of 2014, Nightcrawler.

His TV credits include headlining HBO’s “Big Love” and just a few weeks ago, his CBS crime drama “Training Day” (based on the 2001 Denzel Washington film) premiered. His final movie will be The Circle with Tom Hanks and Emma Watson. It opens in April.

Other notable onscreen efforts range from Predator 2 to Tombstone to A Simple Plan and U571. Today I wish to highlight a trio of lesser known titles worth seeking out:

Two are from 1992. Trespass finds him and William Sadler as firefighters who find a treasure map that pits them against drug dealers Ice Cube and Ice-T. It’s great gritty fun. One False Move is an intense crime thriller from director Carl Franklin and written by Billy Bob Thornton. Gene Siskel named it as his favorite movie of that year and it is impressive.

Paxton turned to directing himself in 2001 with Frailty, an underrated and effective thriller where the actor plays a religiously fanatical father. I just watched it again recently and it made me wish Paxton had directed more.

What Bill Paxton did leave us with is his own treasure trove of performances to enjoy. He will be missed.

Fist Fight Box Office Prediction

Ice Cube and Charlie Day headline the comedy Fist Fight, which hits theaters over Presidents Day weekend. A loose remake of the 1987 cult pic Three O’Clock High, costars include Tracy Morgan (in his first film after his auto accident), Jillian Bell, Christina Hendricks, Dennis Haysbert, and Kumail Nanjiani.

Mr. Cube has had his share of laugh inducing hits and franchises over the years with Barbershop, 21/22 Jump Street, and Ride Along. Day is best known for TV’s “It Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and the Horrible Bosses flicks.

Fight pits Cube as a teacher challenging his fellow educator to a schoolyard brawl. With its simple concept, known stars in the genre, and really zero competition when it comes to comedies (save for Lego Batman I suppose), I’ll predict this manages a mid 20s four day debut. It could even fight for the highest opening among the two others newbies (The Great Wall, A Cure for Wellness) over the holiday weekend.

Fist Fight opening weekend prediction: $25.1 million

For my The Great Wall prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/02/09/the-great-wall-box-office-prediction/

For my A Cure for Wellness prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/02/09/a-cure-for-wellness-box-office-prediction/

xXx: Return of Xander Cage Box Office Prediction

Lest ye forget, the Fast and Furious series isn’t the only franchise that Vin Diesel has been a part of and I’m not talking about Riddick or Guardians of the Galaxy. Next weekend, Mr. Diesel returns in the title role of xXx: Return of Xander Cage. 

In 2002, the star (hot off the first Fast feature) headlined summer action blockbuster xXx, which opened to $44 million with an eventual $142M domestic haul. Yet, just like the first Furious sequel, he decided to sit out the follow-up, xXx: State of the Union which featured Ice Cube instead. That one didn’t fare so well with just a $12 million debut and $26M overall gross.

Cage finds D.J. Caruso taking over the directorial duties with a supporting cast that includes Samuel L. Jackson, Donnie Yen, Toni Collette, Ruby Rose, Deepika Padukone, Nina Dobrev, and Tony Jaa. The question is: will moviegoers return to the super spy action series nearly 15 years after the original?

The answer: to an extent. Diesel has obviously gotten max exposure in recent years with the well-received Furious extravaganzas. There is the cautionary tale of 2015’s The Last Witch Hunter, which he hoped would turn into a franchise but sputtered with just $27 million domestically. xXx may earn that and then some in its first weekend of release. I’ve got it pegged in the mid to high 20s and even though that’s not reaching what the first Cage opus made a decade and a half ago, it’s OK.

xXx: Return of Xander Cage opening weekend prediction: $25.4 million

For my Split prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/10/split-box-office-prediction/

For my The Founder prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/11/the-founder-box-office-prediction/

For my 20th Century Women prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/12/20th-century-women-box-office-prediction/

For my The Resurrection of Gavin Stone prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2017/01/12/the-resurrection-of-gavin-stone-box-office-prediction/

Barbershop: The Next Cut Box Office Prediction

It was a good day for Ice Cube in 2002 when Barbershop debuted to $20.6 million with an eventual $75M domestic gross. It was another good day when its sequel Barbershop 2: Back in Business opened with $24.2 million and a $65M overall haul.

Twelve years later, Barbershop: The Next Cut marks the third entry in the franchise with Mr. Cube returning alongside series regulars Cedric the Entertainer, Eve, and Sean Patrick Thomas. Regina Hall, Nicki Minaj, J.B. Smoove, Tyga, and Common also join the cutting crew.

The Next Cut continues the all of a sudden hot 2016 trend of comedy sequels to pictures released early in the 21st century. My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 has posted decent numbers. Zoolander – No. 2? Not so much.

My feeling is that fans of this franchise will welcome its return, even if it’s been 12 years (not counting its 2005 spin-off Beauty Shop). I believe the possibility of this over performing is significantly greater than underperforming and have it opening just below what 2004’s sequel managed.

Barbershop: The Next Cut opening weekend prediction: $23.1 million

For my The Jungle Book prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/04/06/the-jungle-book-box-office-prediction/

For my Criminal prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/04/06/criminal-box-office-prediction/

Ride Along 2 Box Office Prediction

Kevin Hart and Ice Cube are back together again in Ride Along 2, exactly two years after the original became a breakout hit. Reuniting with director Tim Story, the action comedy sequel also features Olivia Munn, Ken Jeong, and Benjamin Bratt.

Ride Along kick started Hart’s burgeoning movie career with a three day debut of $41.5 million over the 2014 MLK Day weekend and $48.6 million over the long weekend on its way to a $134.9M domestic haul. Both stars have kept busy over the last two years, with Cube getting a special kind of exposure in last summer’s monster hit Straight Outta Compton. 

This follow-up should be in a position to possibly even improve on the original’s numbers. It helps that only a couple years have passed and the first Ride is still fresh in moviegoers minds.

I’ll project Ride Along 2 does just manage to top what came before it and the pic should be the one to finally knock Star Wars from its perch atop the charts.

Ride Along 2 opening weekend prediction: $45.5 million

For my 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/01/07/13-hours-the-secret-soldiers-of-benghazi-box-office-prediction/

For my Norm of the North prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2016/01/07/norm-of-the-north-box-office-prediction/

Straight Outta Compton Movie Review

Chronicling approximately a decade of time following the three most notable members of gangsta rap supergroup N.W.A. and named after their landmark debut album, Straight Outta Compton is a musical biopic that often approaches the large proportions these artists deserve. This is not “Behind the Music” nor the chintzy examples of this genre that we sometimes find on VH-1 or Lifetime. F. Gary Gray’s movie is a timely tale about timeless music that was thought to be a total fad when Dr. Dre first spun his iconic beats for fellow group members Eazy-E, Ice Cube, DJ Yella, and MC Ren.

It begins in 1986 with the group’s formation in the drug infested Los Angeles suburb of Compton. Talented DJ Andre “Dr. Dre” Young (Corey Hawkins) recruits local drug dealer Eric “Eazy E” Wright (Jason Mitchell) to help fund the group. O’Shea Jackson aka Ice Cube (played by Cube’s real life son O’Shea Jackson Jr.) is the fiery rapper and lyricist along their side. MC Ren and DJ Yella… well, they’re also in N.W.A. I don’t say this to minimize their contributions. The film just really doesn’t spend any time exploring them. This is understandable because Compton has a lot on its plate and packs a lot in during its two and a half hour run time.

The period of time covered here does explore two managers who both helped make the group’s and Dre’s solo masterworks occur and employed nefarious tactics that wreaked havoc. For N.W.A., it’s Jerry Heller (played with gusto by Paul Giamatti) and later on it’s notorious Death Row cofounder Suge Knight (R. Marcos Taylor). For those familiar with the story, we get the expected high and lowlights beyond the corporate intrigue – the young men adjusting to fame, Cube’s controversial exit, Eazy’s eventual health issues, and the group’s dealings with police brutality both before and after they achieved fame. Of course, some of those instances lead to their most notable tracks.

What helps Compton achieve more than most of its contemporaries is likely due to director F. Gary Gray, who early in his career directed videos for Cube and Dre and helmed 1995’s weed classic Friday, which starred and was cowritten by Cube. Mr. Jackson and Mr. Young are also producers and this all leads to an air of authenticity that permeates the production. It elevates this material to superior heights, even if we’ve seen these tales (whether based in truth or not) before.

Mitchell stands out as Eazy and he is given the most emotional story arch to work with. Jackson, as you’d expect, has probably had plenty of practice mimicking his old man and does a commendable job and Hawkins is a suitable Dre. And of course, there’s the music. A sound that was dangerous to so many ears and still is. It was also brilliant and Dre’s incredible contributions to the sound of the last 30 years is given its proper due.

Straight Outta Compton sometimes does feel like its trying to pack in so much recent history that it feels fragmented. The N.W.A. tale and Death Row saga could easily be separate pics (brief glimpses of Snoop and 2Pac make you wish for that 2 1/2 hours of devotion). For what we’ve been presented, though, Compton is on the higher (not a Chronic reference) end of these tales with beats by Dre that keep its propulsive rhythm humming.

*** (out of four)

Oscar Watch: Straight Outta Compton

Last weekend the N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton became a cultural phenomenon, grossing an astonishing $60 million out of the gate. This rocketed past even the most lofty expectations. The film’s A Cinemascore grade prove audiences were very pleased. Its 89% Rotten Tomatoes rating show critics are behind it too.

This brings up a question that I wouldn’t have thought to ask even a week ago: could Straight Outta Compton get some Oscar love? The short answer: it’s possible but unlikely. Compton will need the help of at least two or three hotly anticipated autumn releases not to meet their awards potential. That often happens, but one other summer release (and a much different one) is currently the front runner for this season’s potential Picture nominees: Pixar’s Inside Out.

Still – Oscar voters could certainly show a cool factor and express themselves by bringing Compton into the mix. Its only real shot is probably a stand alone Best Picture nod. Director F. Gary Gray and the actors shouldn’t be a factor. For now, this blogger will say it’s a long shot, but we shall see how the next four and a half months plays out.

Straight Outta Compton Box Office Prediction

Telling the story of one of hip hop music’s most iconic groups, Straight Outta Compton hits theaters next Friday and could be poised for a stealthy debut. Centering on the story of N.W.A. and its members Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy E, MC Ren and DJ Yella, Compton is directed by F. Gary Gray, who made music videos for Dre and Cube back in the day prior to becoming an accomplished maker of Friday and The Italian Job, among others. A cast of relative unknowns formulate the cast with the exception of Paul Giamatti as band manager Jerry Heller. Cube’s son O’Shea Jackson Jr. plays his pop.

Fans of the hip hop genre should flock to this. Shot on a meager $25 million budget, it stands to top that (probably easily) in its first weekend. Dre and Cube served as executive producers and Dre has a highly awaited album coming out tomorrow that’s inspired by the film. Reviews have been strong with a current rating of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes.

While Compton is unlikely to reach the heights of Eminem’s 8 Mile ($51 million debut) in 2002 when that artist was at the top of his drawing power, I think believe Compton should rule its weekend. I believe it could approach and maybe surpass $40 million for its premiere, I’ll go just a tad under.

Straight Outta Compton opening weekend prediction: $39.3 million

For my The Man from U.N.C.L.E. prediction, click here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2015/08/06/the-man-from-u-n-c-l-e-box-office-prediction/

Dre Day

For a hip hop fan like myself, I recognize that I’m lucky to have grown up in what I consider the golden age of the genre: the early to middle portion of the 1990s. It was a time of Wu Tang Clan and the Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur. It’s when Outkast and Jay Z and Nas started their careers. It’s also the unforgettable era of Death Row Records – with its notorious co-founder Suge Knight. It is, of course, the label that gave us Snoop Doggy Dogg and Tha Dogg Pound. Most notably, it’s other founder is Dr. Dre, the beat maker behind legendary rap group N.W.A. That rap quintet will be the subject of Straight Outta Compton, out August 14th. The pic is already generating positive buzz.

Speaking of positive buzz, the first release on the Death Row label was The Chronic, released in late 1992. It is a Dre solo album, though none of his works actually are. It featured a smorgasbord of guest stars that Dre allowed to shine – Snoop, Kurupt, Daz, Nate Dogg, Lady of Rage and more. It gave us classics like “Ain’t Nuthin But a G Thang”, “Dre Day”, “Let Me Ride” and more. The funk drenched gangsta rap epic is often called the finest rap album of all time. I don’t disagree.

Flash forward to 1999. Dre had left Death Row three years prior amid issues with Suge and formed new label Aftermath. The long wait between Dre albums had been made easier with his production work in between – on Snoop’s brilliant debut Doggystyle, Pac’s All Eyez on Me album and others. Chronic 2001 came in late 1999 with a difficult charge to keep – holding up compared to his first “solo” work. It did. Chronic 2001 was another masterpiece, complete with assists from Dre’s new protégés Eminem and Xzhibit, as well as Snoop. Singles like “Still DRE”, “Forgot About Dre”, and “What’s the Difference?” tore up the charts.

And then… The music stopped. Sort of. While rap’s most ingenious producer kept putting out hits from Eminem works to Mary J. Blige’s “Family Affair” to 50 Cent’s anthem “In Da Club”, the music community kept waiting for Dre’s promised album Detox. And waiting. And waiting.

Detox was announced as his first final solo album. Official word of its eventual release was first discussed in 2001. Known as an extreme perfectionist, fans just assumed he was taking his time. A lot of time. Finally it late 2010, it seemed Dre’s long gestating project was finally coming to fruition. A first single featuring Snoop – “Kush” – was put out. A follow up track “I Need a Doctor” with Eminem quickly followed. And then radio silence again.

In recent years, Dre has been known more for his successful line of headphones that’s made him a billionaire. The hope of a new album with his name on it seemed unlikely at best. And then… some news broke over the weekend from the Doctor himself. He has made a brand spanking new album called Compton – The Soundtrack, inspired by the film out in two weeks. It features, among others, previous collaborators like Snoop, Ice Cube, and Eminem. And after 16 years of anticipation – Dre casually announced that it’ll be out Friday. As in THIS Friday, August 7th!! For hip hop lovers, it’s tough to properly describe how exciting this news is.

I’ll sort of try. The first two Chronic albums are essentially the rap version of the first two Godfather movies. They’re untouchable and pretty much perfect master works that hold up as well today as when they were released. For many who proclaimed hip hop a fad and “not real music”, Dre provided a prescription of stunning production that made their argument tougher to make. The Godfather comparison is not one I would make lightly, but the comparison is deserved.

And the news that we are at last getting another album from this certified genius was music to my ears. We shall learn Friday if it’s worth the wait. The Godfather comparisons continue. Sixteen years passed between the release of part II and the much lesser received Part III. It will be coincidentally be the same passage of time between Chronic 2001 and Compton. I am hopeful the Doc has some more wonderful work left in him. Frankly, he rarely disappoints. Therefore, I will be his willing patient on August 7. Friday, to be sure, will be Dre Day.