Sunday, July 15, 2018

Hotel Transylvania 3 Makes Waves At The Top Of The Box Office As Skyscraper Dies Hard

Audiences decided it was time for some R&R as they took a trip with Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, which got off to a great $44.1 million start (it's grossed $45.3 million domestically thanks to grosses from a June 29th screening for Amazon Prime members). Though below the $48.4 million bow of Hotel Transylvania 2, this is still above the $42.5 million debut of the original Hotel Transylvania film and the second biggest Sony Pictures Animation opening weekend ever. A premise about the Hotel Transylvania characters going on a cruise ship wasn't enough to take the franchise to the box office heights seen by recent early July animated hits like The Secret Life of Pets, but it was good enough to ensure the franchise held better in its third installment than many prior animated second sequels. If it holds like other conventional summertime animated family fare, there's a good chance Hotel Transylvania 3 manages to crack $150 million domestically.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Sorry To Bother You But Sorry to Bother You Is Excellent

It's always a treat to watch a movie that feels so much like it's own one-of-a-kind creation, a movie that wears its own unique personality as proudly as one might do showing off an Olympic gold medal. Sorry To Bother You is one such movie, with Boots Riley, previously known for his vocal work in bands like The Coup, making his debut as a director here on this satirical dark comedy to remarkable results. Riley's exceptional work as a writer and a director here echoes numerous past great satirists, most notably cinematic satirists like John Carpenter and Paul Verhoeven, in how he uses the most absurd off-the-wall storytelling details to prop up thoughtful explorations of weighty social issues.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

We Finally Get A Good Purge Movie With The First Purge

It took them four movies, but we finally got a good Purge movie. Not a great one, certainly, and it still feels like the full potential of this franchise's basic premise has yet to be tapped, but this is the very first Purge movie to actually work for me. Going back to the very first night of The Purge could have been a recipe for a fan-service heavy prequel, but aside from a laughable explanation behind where the name Purge comes from in the opening scene (still not as bad as that explanation we got for Han Solo's last name at least), The First Purge avoids the worst tendencies of the worst prequels, like shoehorned in cameos from younger versions of characters from prior movies.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Van Helsing Was Putting Universal Monsters Into Boring Blockbusters Long Before Tom Cruise's The Mummy Showed Up

Don't you hate it when a movie has an excellent opening scene and then everything that comes after it is just crummy? It's like chowing down on a delectable appetizer prior to being served rotten meat as your proper meal, the already substandard main course gets its awfulness hammered home by coming hot off the heels of the delicious appetizer you just scarfed down. That's what happens with Van Helsing, which opens with a black-and-white sequence that feels like Universal Monsters Fan-Fiction come to life as Dracula (Richard Roxburgh) plots to use a new monstrous creation of Victor Frankenstein for his own wicked devices, a plan that Frankenstein's Monster (Shuler Hensley) does not particularly care for. This results in the monster grabbing the corpse of his now deceased "father" and running to a windmill that is promptly set on fire, resulting in the apparent death of the creature much to Dracula's anger.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Excellent African Queen Makes Phenomenal Use Of Its Two Exceptional Lead Actors

Akin to my experience with watching Casablanca for the first time two years ago, I realized just as The African Queen began that I was unfamiliar with the specific plot of this highly regarded 1951 motion picture. As it turns out, the story concerns missionary Rose Sayer (Katherine Hepburn), who, while being situated in East Africa, loses everything, including her brother, to the hands of destructive German forces. World War I has begun and all that Rose holds dear has become one of the early casualties of this conflict. Seeking revenge on those who destroyed her life, Rose procures the help of Charlie Allnut (Humphery Bogart) and his boat The African Queen for mission to destroy a ship that proves crucial to enemy forces.

It's Tough To Be A Bug But That Didn't Stop Ant-Man And The Wasp From Having A Solid Opening Weekend

The third Marvel Cinematic Universe movie of 2018 and the twentieth movie MCU movie overall debuted this weekend to solid numbers as Ant-Man and the Wasp grossed $76.5 million. That's 34% bigger than what the first Ant-Man opened to back in July 2015, the seventh biggest opening weekend of 2018 and the thirteenth biggest opening weekend ever in July. On the downside, this was one of the more frontloaded Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, with a steep 30% decline from Friday's grosses on Saturday that can be partially attributed to its Thursday night gross ($11.5 million) making up a larger share of its eventual opening weekend than last year's early July MCU movie Spider-Man: Homecoming, which actually made more on its Thursday night showings.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Two Acting Legends Can't Salvage The Disastrous Crime Thriller Righteous Kill

Let's not beat around the bush here, in the 21st century, Robert De Niro and Al Pacino have both been known to star in some crummy movies. That can be mostly chalked up to how, when you work as an actor consistently for over four decades, you're bound to show up in some dud movies, that's just the law of averages at work, but it can also be attributed to how both Pacino and especially De Niro have taken a lot of roles in subpar movies looking to either lampoon or ride the coattails of the duo's groundbreaking work in the 1970s, work so exquisite that even a billion movies as bad as Righteous Kill couldn't dilute their quality, though this 2008 disaster that unites Pacino and De Niro certainly tries its hardest to do just that.

Friday, July 6, 2018

There's Lots of Well-Done Fun To Be Had With Ant-Man and the Wasp

As the great mid-20th century philosopher The Cat In The Hat once proclaimed "It is fun to have fun, but you have to know how." That's oh so true under any circumstance, but it's especially relevant when talking about making movies that are supposed to be just light-hearted fun. If you make these kinds of films well, they can be oh so enjoyable, but if you make them in a rushed or otherwise subpar manner, you end up with something empty that's grating rather than entertaining. Just compare the best Will Ferrell comedy vehicle like The Other Guys to his worst comedy vehicle like Daddy's Home, both movies are aiming to be entertaining yukfests, but one shows craftsmanship in creating its comedy, whereas the other is a lazily constructed cash-grab that just bores rather than delights you. Both are aiming for fun, but only the one that's actually well-made hits that target.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

With In Bruges, Director Martin McDonagh Made A Phenomenal Foul-Mouth First Foray Into Helming Feature Films


Something I just discovered about director Martin McDonagh, the man behind Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Seven Psychopaths, is that he's been primarily a man of theatre in his writing/directing career. He did about a decade of consistent work in the world of plays that was showered with acclaim and Tony award nominations before deciding to direct his first feature film, 2008's In Bruges. Directing motion pictures may have been unfamiliar terrain for McDonagh, but the process of directing, in general, was not and his experience with directing plays likely informed the assured hand that guides the one-of-a-kind nature of In Bruges to such exceptional success.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Uncle Drew Drops A Character From A Pepsi Commercial Into A Traditional Sports Movie

A movie based on a Pepsi commercial? Well, if Battleship could get a movie, I suppose anything is possible! Yes, Uncle Drew, directed by Charles Stone III, is based on a series of Pepsi commercials starring basketball star Kyrie Irving, adorned in old man makeup, getting into wacky antics as the elderly Uncle Drew. These commercials went viral a few years back and now they've spawned this theatrically released motion picture, one that has decided that, in order to make the character work in a longer narrative, he should be just one player (no pun intended) in a larger cast in a straightforward inspirational sports movie, a smart move that allows the marketable Uncle Drew to headline a feature film while minimizing the risk of the character overstaying his welcome.

In Laman's Terms: Farewell VeggieTales

In Laman's Terms is a weekly editorial column where Douglas Laman rambles on about certain topics or ideas that have been on his mind lately. Sometimes he's got serious subjects to discuss, other times he's just got some silly stuff to shoot the breeze about. Either way, you know he's gonna talk about something In Laman's Terms!

About a week ago this past Monday, I came back from a glorious trip to New York City that was basically life-changing, I spent five tremendously exhilarating days up in the city that never sleeps with a whole bunch of the best friends you could ask for. Obviously, such a high-quality trip would deliver all kinds of fond memories for those who went on it and one of the best memories I have in my time in New York came about when me and my friends were walking about at night en route to a tavern. One of my pals, a native to New York, calls out "Just keep walking guys!", prompting me to start to sing out some lyrics from the VeggieTales song Keep Walking.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Tag Is It, With It Being "A Middle-of-The-Road Comedy"

For over 30 years, five childhood friends have managed to stick around in each other's lives thanks to engaging in an expansive game of Tag that takes place every single May. Once that month starts, all bets are off and this group of guys never know when one of their best buds will show up out of nowhere to declare that they're "it". The five friends are Hogan (Ed Helms), stoner Randy, paranoid Kevin (Hannibal Buress), cocky businessman Bob and the king of this tag game, health nut Jerry (Jeremy Renner). Jerry has never been "it", not even once, but Hogan is getting the other three guys together with the intent of finally making sure Jerry gets tagged just once.

A Man of Kindness Is The Subject of The Excellent And Emotionally Powerful Documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Kindness is so important. Considering how pervasively cruel the world can be, we owe it to ourselves and to those around us to try and impart kindness whenever we possibly can, even if such kindness manifests in the smallest of ways. But that's not really the default behavior of far too many in this world, with selfishness instead being the de facto behavior that people (myself, unfortunately, included) tend to engage in even subconsciously. If only we could look beyond ourselves and think about the well-being of others, maybe the world would be a better place. Maybe the world would be a little bit more like Fred Rogers, the subject of the documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor? and a source of hope for so many over numerous decades.

A Tennis Rivalry Makes For Erratically Interesting Drama In Borg vs. McEnroe

Borg vs. McEnroe is the movie version of a cake that's been taken out of the oven too early. All the ingredients are in place for something delectable, but it's managed to come out undercooked. A little more time spent in the oven, or in this case more time spent polishing up the script, and something truly special could have been created here. The version of the movie we do get is about the real-life rivalry between tennis players Bjorn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) and John McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf) that came to head in a pivotal 1980 Wimbledon Championship tennis match. We get to see them prepare for this major tennis court duel as well as flashbacks showing how they got to their current stages in life.